Four Poems


By Justin Greene

Image: “Nana bleu,” by Niki de Saint Phalle, 1987. 

Nuclear Family Bricolage

“The dog dies
if I don’t feed it.”
A woman finds family

in dependence. A man’s mother
is carried on his back. He jumps and
the bones jangle in his bag. They clamor

an aftershock. A crisis rhythm suspends
in the wake of disaster. There are no bodies
but salvaged slabs of drywall, eyes and ears cut off
at the edges of photographs, dog bones, bones of dogs,
of your dog, your dog who may now be your mother when
things all look the same. Scrub the relics clean (when did this
become an archaeology?). The waterspot becomes a watermark;

the soiled polaroid becomes a new family history. “I’ve come to feel
narrow in this low-ceilinged room.” “When we sat we never actually sat
at square tables or even octagons, only at circles. This was to avoid all of

the edges that divide us.”



I didn’t have a problem with it; I just
didn’t have an idea of it. I bridge
the mimetic bucktooth gap with

lingual orthodontics.
Doctors can fix anything these days:
just put different sets of pressures on

the efficacy of a poem,
the weapon against capital, no
poems until there are no drones.

I forgot to wear my retainer
last night was when the government
shut down and I ran out of words.

Short-circuit the expectation that
everything is going to get resolved and
I fucked this up but I’ll fix it later.

Start over: title as a metaphor for process, the
title that disciplines the poem, the
title as the violence of form inscribed on

a body without
Imagine the skeleton but
teeth are not made of bone, no

the gap between what really is and
what could be is what really could be is
nothing but train tracks across

at least two points of access.


A Pop Song for Sad Youth

Youth becomes the boys, the wild
boys out for blood and giggles
and the girls don’t turn heads; they
make looking an aggressive act. The lens
turns scrutiny into the pleasure of being
watched. We have power, the power to pose
a threat when we pose looking up through our
browsers with so many hits we aspire to this
recognition with the flatness of photographs.

The word “teenager” is between two hoods,
bordering the word as a wedge and the
wedge means money, a brutally direct address
to and from the camera.

The photographs are in black and white and
this system of coloring signals it’s real, this
high-contrast system accentuates my trouble as
a youth-in-trouble, youth-as-trouble troubling
the art of window dressing. This if life
in a glare economy, us at the camera glaring
at the window glaring back since we like
pretending to be bright.



Go to an interview and show the
boss your open mouth. Confront him
the threat of guts, the impatient uvula,

your body inside-out. This is humiliation.

I haven’t let myself vomit since age nine.
I am a person who exercises a great deal
of caution with regard to fluids and solids.

If he doesn’t feel the burn of my bile or
he doesn’t make me cum, then I am not
being humiliated: I am just unfortunate.
But no, I flamed on his lap. Humiliation

is arson, hairy legs in middle school
gym class, an erection made apparent,
a punch in the mouthshut masculinity,
taking a shit that looks like my face.

He looks at the sludge on his crisp white shirt
and, surprised, he shows me his open mouth.


Read an interview with Justin Greene here



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s