ERIC THOMAS NORRIS
Eric Norris is a founding editor of /KIN/ poetry journal.
He is the co-author (with Gavin Geoffrey Dillard) of
Nocturnal Omissions, from Sibling Rivalry Press. He is
also the author of Terence, Cock Sucking (On Mars), and
Astronomy For Beginners, available on Lulu.com and Amazon.
His poems and short stories have appeared in: Classical
Outlook, Assaracus, Jonathan, Knockout Poetry, The Raintown
Review, Everse Radio, Peacock Journal, Glitterwolf, and many
other publications. He lives in Portland, Oregon (USA).
A Poet's Prayer
If blue is a color
My eyes can get lost in,
If salt is the water
Which flows through men's hearts
If time is the tempest
This planet is tossed in,
Lord, let me be Jonah,
If we must choose parts.
June 16th, 1998
Give me chastity and continence, but not just yet.
St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
This must be my first time. I've never kept
A writing journal for a workshop class.
What should I confess? I overslept
Today. I called in sick. I woke, at last,
Outside a café Uptown, with a hot
Coffee in one hand, and apricot
Hammentaschen humping on a plate.
I watched a horsefly land and masturbate
His long proboscis, hungry for a bite,
A crumb, a taste, if possible, a limb.
The pastry pair—oblivious to him—
Jiggled merrily—lost in their delight—
Whenever a garbage truck, or a tour bus,
Thundered past, spewing fresh exhaust.
I whisked the fly away. The sugar pour,
His perch—a column of pure sin to me—
I gave to Annika, my waitress, for
A wipe down. Coffee refills being free,
I crushed my cigarette and stepped inside
To fill another cup. Also, to hide
From Norman who was strolling up the street.
The stalest Camel butt cannot compete
With Norman's strange aroma: cat urine
And mothballs. But, we're friends. We dismiss
Poetry as shit. (Mostly.) Norman is
An urban hermit, having lost his mind,
His mother, and three teeth, so far this year.
I reappear, he's sitting in my chair.
"Nigga Norris! Norris Nigga! My
Main man on the Narcissus. Gimme five!
How's it hangin'? Who you bangin'? I
Found a pool Downtown where we can dive."
He serenades me when we meet, sometimes
With Mother Goose meets Kendrick Lamar rhymes.
"Eric, Eric, so choleric, prithee, cuz,
I want know: does your vibrator buzz?"
The madman holds his hands against his sides,
Going stiff, like a giant jack-knife,
Faking an electric shock. My life
Is so ridiculous, tears fill my eyes
When I start laughing, saying only, "Ugh."
Norman is a pretty silly thug.
He's 56: dressed in a threadbare blue
Blazer (minus buttons), a tan T,
Gray rayon slacks, legs crossed, bouncing a shoe
To DJs no one hears, evidently,
Except himself. Heard melodies are sweet,
But those unheard are sweeter on a street
Like Amsterdam: ambulances hurtling
Toward oblivion. Or Obstetrics. Sing,
Ye Sirens! Screech! Be damned the destination!
I'll sit with Norman! Let Society
Brand us a pair of New York nuts! We
See through the fireworks and see Creation
Flashing by—births, and deaths, and worse!
I light a cigarette with these two words:
"Lux fiat." "Smoking will kill you, son."
"I certainly hope so. Hammentasch?
They're apricot. They're really good. Take one,
Norman. I'm not here. I'm sick. My boss
Thinks I picked up pink eye this weekend,
Swimming. I lied. Last night, I made a 'friend'
Along the Hudson. I screwed away
Ten minutes by moonlight. Can't see today."
Norman took a hammentasch. I said,
"I fucked him too hard—like an idiot:
My glasses bounced into the water— Plop!
I lost my vision. But I'm better bred
Than most. I found my inner Churchill and
Kept calm, and buggered on, for England."
Norman nibbled pensively, unaware
That my astigmatism was so slight.
I bought those frames in Boston, Kenmore Square.
I hated them. Half of the time daylight
Would flee my face in terror. Au revoir!
If I can read a menu, John Keats, or
Continue writing drivel in this book,
Distinguish Norman's dandruff—with one look
Appreciate the nuance of a papi
At twenty paces, leaning on a rail,
Looking left and right, and O—so male—
Unaided, I foresee a longer, happy
Life—like that Greek youth—Tiresias.
Tomorrow I will buy replacement glasses.
I will. Just not today. I want to share
Another secret—no apologies:
I've never had safe sex. But do I dare
Go into my addiction—my disease?
Those shivers by dark rivers, the great gasp
Of disbelief, believing I have grasped
A piece of Heaven in the velvet void
Of suicidal strangers who enjoy
Raw experience: total freedom, total
Contempt for others, life and death, stars
And planets, distant galaxies, as cars
Scream past, honking, cheering, leering. All
This a small mutation granted me:
Beauty, brains, and AIDS immunity.
Love's blind. Not me. I see the Cathedral
Across the street: the great stained glass rosette,
A pool of beauty, non-judgmental,
Begging light to flood its cold transept.
A tour bus advertising Cabaret
Pulls up, has second thoughts, then pulls away,
Leaving nobody. Or maybe God
Got off, and we missed Him. It did seem odd.
Norman licks his fingertips. Flies swarm.
The peacocks in the church garden are calling.
Al Lewis, Grandpa Munster, smokes appalling
Cigars nearby. Norman shows me his arm
Where several bedbugs have bit him. Bad.
Real bad. "Norman, why am I so sad?"
The Phoenix And The Nightingale
"I think there must be more to it than ashes,"
Observed the nightingale. Tentatively,
Above, a lovely and light-fingered dryad
Softly strummed her guitar of air.
We three were sitting in a lemon tree,
Just looking upward, through the leaves, into
A sky with strange embroidery. I nodded
To the nightingale. The dryad played. I loved
My friends. I had nothing to say. I could
Not stop the stars from burning. Nor could they.
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