The Jivin' Ladybug

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David Capps

Smoke Detectors


New smoke detectors were put in today to prevent the loss of souls. My father remarked: “You take a breath, it changes everything”.



What’s down the Elevator Shaft?


At the bottom of an elevator shaft I encounter an old British woman.

“And what are you doing here?” she says.

“I’m spelunking—what’s it look like?” I say and unharness myself. “You?”

“I’m having a tea party, obviously”. She reaches for the knob on the TV— “The Queen”

“The Queen” we say, both noting the slowly descending darkness, like folds in the funereal getup of royalty.





Once an ancient world was swallowed up whilst its inhabitants were asleep. Waking in the belly of the beast, they believed it was night yet. All rolled about in bed, belaboring the dawn. Of course, all this commotion affected the beast, who soon vomited up the world. And no one knew the difference.



The Reheading


We are reheading the beheaded as best we can, however there is of unknown cause a severe shortage of French monarchs to attach to heads to, so, we’ve resorted to beheading peasants, which, as you can well imagine only creates more heads. Therefore, it is fortunate that heads of peasants are wild enough to fit two to the lion or bear body while lions and bears’ heads are stately enough to complement the corpses of royalty.





Two men met in the street to discuss some small matter of business. Upon concluding the meeting the first unsheathes a samurai sword and cuts himself in half. The other walks away with only half the money he would have gained had the man not cut himself in half. Both are equally content.



Mutual Relations


A man rises half out of his chair and a woman says I know a woman rises half out of her chair and says I know a man rises half out of his chair and says I don’t know a woman rises half out of her chair and says I know.



Conversation Stoppers


“There must be a way to end every conversation abruptly” thought Sam. “Indeed, there must be a way to end every conversation before it has started” his own brain told him.





What poems of a young man making gestures as an old man who misremembers being an intensely sensitive not quite morally minded young man unable to forge a real link between these two identities consisting in what poems of a young man making gestures as an old man who misremembers being an intensely sensitive and not quite morally minded young man unable to forge a real link between these two identities consisting in…



The Gambler


There was a famous gambler in the region of _____. It is said that when he died, and the coroner put two coins on his eyelids, the gambler exclaimed: “That is hardly a way to place a proper bet!”



My dream with Debussy


I am waiting on a street corner with Debussy and others. We have enormous leaves for eyelids, like tobacco leaves, or corn husks, but only Debussy has the strength to open his eyes.

That, or hysteria is wind-borne.





An eye, encrusted with spheres, tears, mutable points, attempts of a god to fill a sphere with an infinitude of smaller spheres, failed model world, ocular substitute. Cyclops.



how to describe a yawn as a projectile:


he threw himself into his yawn

his yawn as a teleological cause

of his throwing

which itself demands

some final cause

some wrist slitting garbage compacting discus enabling


some broad censure of being

which can only be traced

as though by a blind hand

to the missile tip

of whoever’s mouth it is

fits the yawn,

which it is fitted to,

together, with the projectile


no, that’s not right either.






Who says: listen to your heart,

has not heard all it has to say.


Light forms a broken trail,

sighing by your mouth


something that has been

here before

like a crack in an Etruscan vase,


for prayer lies inestimably beyond


the swarm of netting,

swampward wading


as I wait, listen:

an owl in the night,

oracular. Like you,

but shaped differently,


another mouth

twists into a clay oval,

ripples in the backwash

of the outboard motor


leave a wake

of foamy pearls



with long viscous ears

that can pick up the slightest whisper.






The skeleton wondered:

am I a skeleton

disguised as a serpent,

hidden over by mounds of dirt?

Or am I a serpent

wondering whether I am a skeleton,

as the length of my tail

spans two eye sockets

obscured by piles of earth?


Lacking any organ of touch,

he goes on touching,

never sure.






There was a famous gambler in the region of _____. It is said that when he died, and the coroner put two coins on his eyelids, the gambler exclaimed: “That is hardly a way to place a proper bet!”





you can’t hide food

in the sky

it keeps falling

and falling

and falling

denounced by

cloud-like marshmallows

peepingly seditious eyes

who likewise never understand

your attempts to hide

thoughts in your brain

that keep falling

and falling

and falling

out into a too long





Poem (after Derrida)


something upright about writing

not upright to lie down

one cannot write lying down

one cannot take it lying down

one cannot take it writing down

laying into dawn, laying, layering

one cannot


dictation one can

lying down

one can dictate to a spouse

is a dictator to a spouse

a dictator espouses to a dictatee

espouses to a dick taker

espouses to a dictator

a spouse poses for a dictator

poses as a note taker

for a dictator

who takes

and takes


yet whose lying down is the taking

for he is taking

he is talking

she writes

and he is talking


then it is necessary lying down

for the two

to not write

it is necessary lying


layering down

laying across dawn

the two.




The Wave


When the same old woman waves

as I pull out of my driveway,

I know better:

She not even carelessly traces

her hand over what used to be

a smaller world,

like a blind woman who has seen,


And the world is one where, if only for an instant,

I would have known her.

So really, it’s not wave at all.

And she’s hardly surprised

that I don’t wave back.



A ‘Merz’



          Just then, a boy S had never seen before on the playground came up and asked: ‘Would you rather be happy, or be a stick?’ And the moment S responded he dropped to the ground as though lifeless. He was long and slender with thin papery bark, and a kind of open dark spot at the top of him so that it looked like he had been gnawed by some small animal-perhaps the strange boy, or perhaps it had been where he would have broken off from a tree, if he had broken off from a tree, which he didn’t, because he was a boy, and boys don’t break off from trees.


S was not the best at keeping his different trees straight and he did not come equipped with a pair of eyes and a mirror, so really it would have been hard to tell which kind of tree he had come from—but surely it must have been some kind of tree, since he appeared to be a stick, and sticks come from trees, after all. So he lay there in the wet grass and would have been looking up at the blue sky, again, if he had had eyes, or perhaps the aid of a telescope, which comes to much the same thing. You couldn’t very well grow a telescope from your bark though, or so it seemed to S.


He was never one to panic though; he had been in this situation before and knew that it was really just a matter of time until someone found him. And since sticks have no natural predators, there would be no reason to be afraid. It would be like when he agreed to let Charlie ‘mummify’ him with duck tape—yet that was different because when Charlie left him, S did panic—after all, he felt trapped, and writhed to make his escape: a finger here, an elbow here, like an inch worm wriggling out of a mesh of leaves, and finally the eyes slits that reveal the world, still there, with Charlie, laughing.


Actually, he was more like a Mexican jumping bean—eventually he would just move, displaying to everyone once and for all that he was still himself! And the school should find out and his parents should find out and the matter quickly settled. But there was not the slightest desire to move, or rather S-the-stick did not have the same desire to move as S-the-boy, or had their desires cancelled each other out? And how could he compare himself to Mexican jumping beans when they are Mexican jumping beans and he is not a stick, because, after all, he was a boy and boys are not sticks? What was he talking about? It was as plain as day: you are a stick, even if there is nothing like being a stick!


And as S began yet another day dream, or would have, if sticks could dream, which they can’t, this time about presenting his finding before The Important Panel of Highly Esteemed Scientists that, in point of fact, humans are biologically sticks, and that what he was, was evidence to prove it, a little girl snatched him up and began to beat him against the chain link fence, to which he did not out rightly object because it was rather beneath his stature to object, for doing so would only put him on the same moral level as his assailant, and, after all, humans who recognized their true natures were above those who did not.


She beat him and beat him and beat him until he broke into several tinier pieces, and that was a difference he could perceive—it was as though a bird had spread out its wings in mid-flight and yet they just kept spreading until they detached from its body altogether, so that, to speak truly, it was not the bird but the bird’s wings that flew—yet somehow his pieces were still him, the way the notes of the severed songbird’s song were still its, even though they were what made up the song. And if it was a listening that made the notes a song, and the wind that made the bird’s wings fly, what was it that made those sticks him? Well, if it was a listening that made the notes that song and the wind that made the bird’s wings fly that way, what it was that made those sticks him-wedged-between-fence-links was rather obvious: a little girl.


But it wouldn’t be for too long, because a whole flock of birds soon snatched him up and delivered him to their nests. Each bird had him, or a part of him, and from what he could tell it would be even more difficult for him to be discovered. How would the school get up the trees and into the nests to rescue him? Fire departments would have to be called from all across the state, that was for sure, or else a real army of birds would have to be called in to help—and they could, for people, being sticks, are actually much lighter than they look.



The Next Big


The next big serial killer’s smile

gets up off his face,



like the reconstitution of a molecule 

from its parts—his eyes dead as stones

and therefore vulnerable,


or the ethereal soul, holographic

and blue, dancing outward

from the window pane of the body,


gets up off his face

and creeps away in a very serial creep,

like you the last time you donated to charity


with the click of a mouse, got up off your chair,

in the middle of your living room,

no one else around,


you were  absolutely beaming.




To Sleep Talk


You said in your sleep once:

I want to have a baby—not in the way a dying man sits up in bed

and cries shrilly like a woman in labor,

almost unutterably,

that he wants to live,

for no men do that;

nor was it the way of a woman hanging

onto a rope, or a snake, or a rope,

not so far removed from the man at the tractor pull

(who was once a screaming baby)

if you think about it in the abstract; 

nor was it matter of factly

on the order of: ‘could you hold that’

in earthy dream, for you did not

dream it, or want it in a dream.


No, you rolled as you said it,

and you gurgled a little onto the pillow

as you rolled,

and it was much softer, softer, in fact

than anything, so soft, in fact,

that you did not say it at all—

so certain am I that you did not say it,

so loud that neither of us said it,

that I must remember it quite distinctly.







The law of large numbers


over snowflakes, errata

            of the shifting heart


the unalterable piece of idiocy

smiling onward


seed. lips. The generality

with which they kiss

falling like a translation out of a suitcase

at the airport


                        it hurts to think

that eventually



Osaka: Pink District


mottled pink. dirty pink. sick pink.

and stars wavered as stars waved.

caving in on the secret ubermensch

or comeuppance of a nut who precedes him,

a pink urchin’s gobs of candy God—

buildings high-lit in neon pink

least/most completive, and template—

for my body under a box

lined in pink Styrofoam

like the gunk of ears.

And this is where I’ll lie,

atop the love hotels and lonely

starving, exhausted, pink-lipped bodies



Holy Roman Numbskulls










in Rome

we meet our masters,

they remember us

and All

is conjugal


how I tire

of feasts

of All,

yet to yawn

is wrong


to mean

is mean





Annoyed by the scamper

of limabean feet, chutes

of baggage, all cuffs, crumbs,

scruff marks and motherless 



Least he smiles, fellow caught

under pond so blue, clinking

its lucky go. And a lady on the beach

says Hi William When

Did Your Flight Arrive? 


It took a winter, makeshift

goggles and a flock of geese,

the erasure of memory,

and fees for piloting seminar.  


Passenger, passenger, my one

and only, he said to me

wings drooped on the tile,

listening lightly, pink spinning thing 


Outrunning time, solar shoes

on the flare, but No, No, boon

here there, streets ugly peopled

filings I'm somewhere there.  





Our faces are like the wheat

of a field rolling into shadow—

we have come to pray.


The sun loosens in the sky,

and in its comprehension

clay turns to brick.


That a father dies by his son

is the foundation of shame.





What does it mean to lie to oneself?

It is said that Thomas Aquinas was the first person to read

without moving his lips.

Now we all do, even as children.



Tracks in Winter


In the fenced-in area

of the backyard

hundreds of deer tracks

crisscross the snow.


They are a product

of several deer

over several weeks

trafficking over the snow.


Or two deer madly in love

leaping across the snow

caught up in an undeniable scent

while the world dissolves into white.


Or a single lunatic deer

who takes himself

to be within asylum’s walls

free to leave at any moment.


Yet this much is true: if there were no tracks

in the snow, we should have none to interpret.





I am sovereign.

There is nothing that is left of organic process.

There is nothing that is left of conceptual wandering.

I have traced the origin of the first smile, the first blush.

I have inoculated myself against all doubt.

I have watched with calm the trees of life and knowledge

of good and evil uprooted.

I have emptied my soul of soul.

I have cleared myself of desire to do anything, to be anything,

until such impulses grew faint.

I have constructed a theory of everything.

All that is left is to read it.





Tumultuous house,

all in the burning light

except woe, cool kisser

whose boiling arms reach

into the sky


hostage to the unknown—


my point is this, O strange house—

where chains get you, legs will

carry you quicker


nouns kissing coiling

around the silken fate


God cuts off your exposure

to real light

in his dark room—


slips out of his skin

to take a shower

as though done with the job

for good.





slumped here

in a forever wood,

my sight broadsided

by distant oceans

and eyes that move

only at twilight,

shaking between their fingers

a delicate dust of mind


my thoughts

center on you, tomorrow, and God


twisted into every filament

of being,

every shadow in which my body

stretches fully out, and sleeps—


how long have a I slept

that the trees have become streetlamps?

that the oceans have become skyscrapers

shouldering high winds

in broad daylight,

casting that shadow in which I have lain—

for how long?


The base of a marble wall that is my home

reminds me of your untended grave:

each reflects everything, yet gives nothing back.

Flowers wilt. Breath dissipates.

We have taken every step we will take.

I see for the first time a strange, haggard man.

He walks into the sun.



An Imperfection


J. thought to bake Jesus a birthday cake, but knowing it would take infinitely long to blow out the candles, so that everyone would be dead by the time came to give thanks, decided against it.





I was born in a conch shell

my mother having realized

there is only one good way

to lose one’s mind—

and so at pleasure’s end

I return to the sea.

I tuck into a much larger shell,

the world that barely recognizes me,

for things are as they should be.

There is one last wizened cloud overhead

for me to say goodbye—

a messenger, my father, finally come.



Failed Moral Systems


Suppose we made it our one cardinal sin

not to cause in ourselves a headache.

This would be a great start for a moral system,

were it not in need of immediate refinement,

or, I should say, rejection.






How can I ask what I want when it sits in solace before me as a beloved

whose tempered gaze masks any desire that I might have had?

It is enough, sometimes, to observe contentment in retrospect,

futile animal that it is, lacking proper paws to wipe away its own tears.


But after many years, laws vanish. There grows up an elderberry bush

between two trees, crouched so near the center of adjoining trunks

that impossibility alone would have claimed it as an offspring. Hope,

silence, where winter tops prefer to remain in ignorance, send down leaves.


Tears, icicles. Leaves, interpretations without a right to claim any affinity, or heir.

Each falls, bearing seed indistinguishable from itself, lying until spring.

I came to you as a young man who saw in you a solid woman offering her solace,

who bent her green branches down to me that buckled under my growing mass.


Now, in spring, there is a renewing, a crushed mirror, because what prevents

the growth of a sapling but the shade, and what use are rotting logs

revealed in the rain, made human in suffering? I look away, and down,

having said the same things of you that you will say, looking down, away.




Poem as Body


An apex of muscle comes to an end:

soft shield absent traffic, caress, or error.

There are fields swaying beneath the softness

of green eyes which, the moment they enter

are remembered, and the moment they exit

are forgotten.


We find ourselves without zookeepers.

We find ourselves without the least nourishing fact.

We find ourselves loveless and soulless

and the strongest among us

are the first to starve.


Do you want a poem about the body?

It is a story without a beginning, middle or end.

It is a gladiator consulting paradox

as though it were an extension of himself

and failing necessarily.


The lifespan of any organism is extended

by restricting its caloric intake. Does a person

waste away on love and friendship? You smile

as though you know the answer. But what deep guilt

belies your smile?



The Mitten


I found her mitten in the snow, partly frozen, lying low

in respite of a fir whose base breathing embraced last breaths,

doubtless where I should have been, having covered many miles,

having dragged the earth in tow.


It was alone, dull brown against the ground, signifying nothing,

useless as its partner was, on a single hand, pointing

against the drift, into the wind, towards me,

back to where she traveled from, and would not return.


I was left to lift her out of ice as a prisoner of winter sun, 

cruel friend, eternity, who explores in shivering

the last of life, but who goes on living long in me

as a single impossible throbbing frostbitten lobe.


Mindful of a story about two lost deer hunters

whose last act revealed their last wish: to have a cigarette,

leaning against the tree, where they were found together,

disarmed, still wrapped in fading orange camouflage


I am dumbstruck by the clouded intentions of men

having been clarified for this one moment,

while hers remained in clouds, deathless wishes, 

a supreme loneliness, a brown mitten warm in my hand.





It is impossible to be here with you

but it is not impossible to be


with you


At least it ought not be, as the clocks

around us melt


the children point          for all around them

at what they do not understand

but what they do




in Salvador Dali paintings          that put up

such a resistance to a flight of stairs

a rose, an elephant                    having learned the hard way

to clear a forward path by upward elongations


a height of hiccupping laughter   that nearly shrieks

that there is nothing to be done


is it from such a future that you look upon me

as upon all that is personal                     all that decries a will

as mindless negotiation


a delicate reminder that I was wrong to burrow into other lives

a single eyelash falling continuously                    towards me?


let’s the two of us just the two of us just go and the two of us just gods


forgetting all the while that gods most of all can make themselves ignorant.





It would be strange


to take up the habit of worrying

about this and that,

it would be like taking up a polytheistic religion

doting on people as on idols:

a frown means sadness

a smile means happiness

raised eyebrow mean surprise,

etc. etc. to have to construct

a huge manual

to predict the slightest wince

the dizzying calculation of ripples

across the face, a result of the smallest

passing pebble, is too much for me,

or anyone, yet demanded by this strict interpretation

of supposed facts.


Remember this when you claim that I do not care.


Letter to Eve


That summer day I could have loved you,

even as white flesh turned in your mouth, between your teeth,

as you looked in his direction, because I had gifted the idea of giving

which you corrupted into the concept of knowledge.


What grace it took to move as you did, lithe in all ways

avoiding light—what faith to disregard the unspoken wishes

of my burning face, so that I was quick to approach you

in Eden, where last we met, long before you were repulsed.


So it was that I offered you the only part of nature

that I knew, its stem snapping through slit-tongued whisperings

of that summer wind when I could have loved you, when you were not afraid

of my gentle coiling, before love itself was unthinkable.


I have since nurtured vast silences, like unyielding trespasses of granite

sprung from minutest sheets of shale, that in your rose-wept speaking

were so many frozen arms of God lying inert at our sides, in your heart,

whose shadows grew from the ground, compelling me now, as then.





we both found it kind of funny

the way you didn’t even bother cleaning

the fried rice off the coffee table

but I knew you wouldn’t have it any other way 


we both found it kind of funny

the way the money clip bulged from your pocket

as you walked out the door

like somebody was happy to see you


we left like two grey pigeons from the fold,

one sick and dying, the other’s belly extending

like that of a well-fed man, yet with a look

between the two that unites


there were things I wanted to say goodbye to,

like they do in the movies, not walls or beds—

people, but you can’t really say goodbye to people—

word gets around too soon that you’re gone


we left together so that he would suffer our leaving together

and even now I bet he’s fuming over it, cracking his knuckles

wondering what did he ever do to us—and I like to picture you

hovering over him, laughing just like you used to.





Your presence bares facts:

I hear a light switch off

I hear a gate close

And soul to soul I hear a gentle crying

that rises up gradually,

the kind of mist that wants you

to become accustomed

to its presence.


When I go to close the window

I find myself suddenly immobilized

When I go to turn on the light

the bulb suddenly bursts

And when I start to cry

there are two of us

and neither of us knows

who started this chain of events.



The Center of the Lake 


We swam to the center of the lake,

near Orion's belt,

and planted ourselves like lily pads,

no word spoken in the night-grazing water.


Our stems reached down, into,

tarantellously as possible, serenely un-entwined,

when a bigger kid swam out and punched us down,

ripped our lilliputian ears, stirred up a lagoony mess,


yet that same thrashing let loose all those jarred fireflies from the clear sky

to descend on his giant grin

and drew together all those ragged gnats whose torn wings 

beat in unison against his permanent boyhood mask—


until it eroded completely, in a single act of cosmic overcorrection. 

Such was his expression when we rose from him, again,

this time as pure clay,

            the shells of our grey bodies dripping in the sun.



The Cherry Tree


I was younger

                        and the cherry tree my elder,

outside myself and beside me,

                        from its branches hung the laws

of wandering

                        and I often thought to sprout

a tail    

                        to swing in the breeze.


I played in the sun,

                        its raw form and possibility

alive, spilling into my hands

                        which were as huge as buildings.

I thought about how careful the shadows

                        must be. In turn, the sun chimed

on the rooftops of spring

                        breathing in my hands still spring

and cherries to anticipate in joy.


Joy wandered, rough handed and bark-eyed

                        as unaware of me as I was,

for some reason cast down

                        his black eyes to worn earth,

long-grassed and strewn with cherry



That evening my brother hanged himself.



Music Gone


Grey is night, and long,

and long is grey,

music gone.


They open the tops to sing

what shifty paradises brown-gold

mugs may bring.


Night is muggy, muddy, wrong—

the ears grow along, and the turn—


I’m in bed, my grey arms converge.

I’ve gone from the bark of dogs

to my turn, to petty stabs of birds. 


Morning—grey, no fog disturbed,

my desk an open book, the drift of feather

to page, frill of fandango gone.


My company, nothing obscene

in the lyric, a driftwood knot,

an obscene nothing,


which took the place of music

in my hung over body,

covered in mosquito bites.


In my reckoning.

you cannot say to them:

you took the song,


anymore than you can

see through the stare

of rapturous light,


which is also gone.













                        me                       to                          what




could                                                                                         tell








Moons                                                                                     Mouths









                        Voice                                                   Moods















Oms                                         skirting                                     across



                        the                                            galaxy




The Candle


She searches for more light

by the fuzzy head of a candle,

cypress of dark places

surrounding flickering graces.


Spoon, switch, nightgown, keys

lie awake, because things are melodies

interrupted in their sleep,

and slowest slippers are loudest whisperers.


Her breath must be especially fragile,

stripped as it is of invisibility.



Occasionally you will hear David call out from within the crucible of his philosophical yearning. Some of his current projects include writing a mockumentary about the life of an ‘outsider’ poet during the heyday of the beats, revising a couple poetry collections entitled (tentatively) The Beginningless Middle Through to the End and Why the Quest Shuns and sweating through a dissertation in metaepistemology.

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