In Memory of the Rock Band Breaking Circus

By Stephanie Burt
Feature image: Fight by Ján Novák

You were whiny and socially unacceptable even
to loud young men whose first criterion
for rock and roll was that it strike someone else
as awful and repulsive and you told
grim stories about such obscure affairs
as a man-killing Zamboni and a grudge-
laden marathon runner from Zanzibar

who knifed a man after finishing sixteenth

Each tale sped from you at such anxious rate
sarcastic showtunes abject similes
feel like a piece of burnt black toast
for example threaded on a rusty wire followed
up by spitting too much time to think
by fusillades from rivetguns by cold
and awkward bronze reverberant church bells

percussive monotones 4/4 all for

the five or six consumers who enjoyed
both the impatience of youth
and the pissiness of middle age
as if you knew you had to get across
your warnings against all our lives as fast
as practicable before roommate or friend
could get up from a couch to turn them off

Read More

The Immortals

By Rick Bursky

In the painting of the young couple kissing
on a bench in a museum hallway
I’m the subject of the portrait
hanging on the wall behind them.
I’m wearing the blue velvet jacket
of an eighteenth-century Prussian cavalry officer
standing beside a white horse that’s too large to be accurate.
Though I’m rendered with lifelike precision. Obviously,
I couldn’t have served in the eighteenth-century Prussian cavalry.
I don’t speak German, and was born centuries late.
I’m not the first person to pay
a famous artist to be in a painting.
Though I wanted to be the man being kissed.
Unfortunately, my famous artist didn’t believe
a girl that lovely would kiss me in public.
I offered photographs of previous lovers
but unless one was kissing me on a bench
in a museum hallway his answer was no.
That’s unfair. Otherwise I’m pleased
with the painting. The couple kissing,
I suspect, also paid to be in the painting.
Though I’m certain they were strangers.
Her eyes are open, peering at where
we might stand admiring the painting.
Instead of resting on his cheek, the palm of her hand
is pushing, proving that while she desired
to live forever in art, her desire didn’t include him.
I once fell thirty-seven feet
from a railroad bridge into a river.
Riding the ambulance to the hospital
is when I decided to pay a famous artist
to put me in a painting.
What brought the woman to the painting
is something I’ve often fantasized about.
The oxygen mask’s elastic strap
pinched the back of my neck.
I kept the discomfort to myself.


Read More