Amy King

A Contemporary Life



I pour infections from other countries into my path;

I embody the path’s impurities, the degradations of prostitutes

and mediocre doctors doing overnight shifts.

They make middle-grade wages & earn worldwide access to the internet.

I’m better than your next stranger, the one with a whip

who can handle words of a complex ilk without defining your face.

Oh like, you know it’s impossible to die

alone in these global end times. They telescope your days now

in such a way that you can no longer be alone

in a nanosecond or with echoes

to spare before the next consumption. You’re simply in it

and the violence is riveting you to only be beside yourself

as you watch and repeat nude dads on acid, as if saying

anything could mean something else.

I remain good at connecting people to their names – the self

is a favorite subject, even if you’ve never met one.

Like one room fucks another too, you’ll never be alone with me

here or outside of us.

We laugh at ancient aliens and how that guy fell down with his pants

around his neck or the woman at the next bar over

who cries herself into love with a bowl of suicides.

Adolph Hitler had a feeling for such feelings,

which is why he became so popular with films

about deadly birds and women

who weren’t there: he sensed the fear of death that snuggled up

with people and is the same reason David Lynch

has such a complete following

in the spiritual and thespian realms. It wasn’t just Hitler or George Bush

but Hitchcock too. I’ve been ashamed

to say these things until tonight

when the epiphanies rained down at the milk toast concert:

A brain is made mostly of water

traced by language and dissolved in ideas.

They danced up on me, the New York inhabitants I started

to live alone for. We grow closer every rush hour.

Logic doesn’t make sense in a place like this,

in a place like this. I didn’t know South African, so I took away

from the rapid-fire pigeon: invest in

pretend silence, pretend pitch perfect, pretend a round ball

is a star dying to know the great design of self.

Your good faith in me too has left a smudged impermanence,

though every self-aware puppet knows:

They’re making dumb sailors of us, we automatic

line workers of the culture wars where there is no fight left,

dying just to be our own market demand, endorsing

each other from fault lines, holding on for a less than flash mob lifestyle.

I walk the lone pregnant seconds, and from this

end of the dragging torso, I can see my own feet close up.

Strange Beauty



Because they are not easy, the clouds are like writers

asking for bread, for the sperm of the sun

and for that which brings us outside of ourselves

into our own.  Franz Kafka’s doll parts

are Rilke’s childhood faces with white powder on

akin to lotus leaves and kabuki dolls

that have nothing on their cousin,

the Naomi pages of Bill Knott’s hysteria.

She is the beauty of remembering in pieces a person

who was never present except in her leaving.

I am your female Jesus, the beauty I’ve stolen

that discontinues artists. We go full art

now with our bills of sale, our trench warfare

from desk chairs. Don’t forget your protective fear

when hitting at brands that should not be masks;

brands should not be windows either.

Brands are both and then some.

Just like the weekend is a tease when we will write

the revolution, but no revolution comes

except in things

that grow food, heat and time away from the GDP.

If we are not what Naomi stands for,

if we are not what if Naomi is,

we are all alone in any moment,

waiting at the mouth of a bus stop,

a sky filled void of nowhere to go, behind the park bench

of rolling green smoke of a small patch

at city curbsides, creeping inside of a building,

cube after cube, boss head of upending sleep

that gives way to the bottomless jejunum of unrest.

I’ve heard of Jerusalem, Buddha, the great stallion riding

the world on its back; I am inappropriate

in my incestuous partnering

of visions where I hold out for the bottle to uncork

Baudelaire’s walks or Naomi to overtake my words again.


Of I Want to Make You Safe (Litmus Press), John Ashbery describes AMY KING‘s poems as bringing “abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living.” Safe was one of Boston Globe’s Best Poetry Books of 2011. King teaches Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College and works with VIDA: Women in Literary ArtsCheck her latest blog entries at Boston ReviewPoetry Magazine and the Rumpus.