Home > Poetry > Nervous Forces
Published: Fri Oct 15 1982
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Nervous Forces


Years-dug channels reversed in a day?
Drained? Obliterated? I am wrecked to this
Daily, hourly, pounding at my skull

Not my surroundings, hating
Always my mind in pluperfect agony. Och, I
Collapse I describe it so crudely.

Faith and simplicity elude me,
They are lures through the endless design.
Inarticulate gagging, tenths of sentences,

Bitter starts dead at inception,
Targetless aimlessness, amuse
The never-distant, months-squandering gnats

I must denominate my thoughts.
Agonarch, agonistarch, contestants!
It is this perspectiveless

Concentration on one atom at a time,
One brimful second at a time,
Nervure by vibrissa by pore looking,

And shallowly, at the perfect items of nature.
I am smashed to pieces,
Pulverizing the smashed pieces,

A self-pulverized pulverizer!
I don’t know French!
Stop. To a halt. Slap
That fat boy from the provinces,
pampered PFC, prissy Mr. Disdain,
Who thought he knew sweating from riding his bicycle uphill.

Teach him humility.
All right, if I deserve nothing, then what I have
I’m lucky I have.


This has helped me, sweetest friend.
Sweatest, friend, also?
How many times I pedalled up the damned hill . . .

I feel sheepish, in all my tantrum I forgot
The other antagonist,
I forgot the slopes of the slenderest age,

The halting voice of, the virile shyness,
The weak arms growing less weak,
The foreign belly, and its foreigner neighbor;

In an isolated neighborhood indeed.
You are of course—how do I say it?—
A welcome…visitor, a dear, uniquely dear,

Friend. How else do I say it?
(Gus the earnest volcano—unrest, squattest
Conservativest tumbler—has also grassy

Tumuluses, and is privately or primarily
Quiescent.) But you did not neglect these things.
Your eyes, large limpid man, did not close.

Is it your father’s tenderness that you possess,
Aloes’ balms, which your sister more hesitantly possesses?
You are truly my brother,

Marty, brother pollinator.
Endlessly painstaking masculine lips
Who will not rob mine!

Ochone, my only brother!
Cater-cousin, tercel-gentle,

I am past reverence,
You have saved my life twice.
My life! Nest of cuckoos, knessest of loons.

Why do I feel like a flake of putty?
Have I drawn a bead on my previous inaccuracies?
I’m a jess-evasive haggard, fuckwind.


Unrelieved eleven scuddy days all the sky
Was the bison-shaggy surface of a March-cold sea,
Faulted, gust-pocked, miles-square liquid fossil

Lucid as a lashed back!
Scud-shuttered belvedere!
Tundra-quarried frazil-paned rotunda!

The twelfth day, today, the monks’
Mechanical mercantile thoughts,
Vatican-intricate, leucocyte-curdly, sunless,

Ended. Then dawned, clear and cool,
A child’s dawn, blue and bright,
Radically trappingsless as Martin Luther.

** II.

Each tufty, brackish, each undesigned mass
That mottles the earth while masking the sun
Exaggerates—each brow, each contour, of
Each squirrel-tail raggy, squirrel-gray cloud—
The weathers of the weather-trawling mind.


The exasperating splendors of clouds—
O clouds’ squanderings of titanium
White! Petulant girl’s not a passionate
Woman’s pique-flung O not wrath-flung
Cotton dotting the boudoir’s royal blues!

O thrift-indifferent lambs of lithest steam!—
Elude the voluble Quick like the dead.
When clouds are most nimble the mind’s most null.
O derange my remaining allegiances!
Seduce me to lie on my back in the grass for an hour!

** III. (3 a.m.)

Now my mind is drabber
Than literary criticism,
My blood
The consistency of snot,

My bowels as youthless
As civilization. I’m a hound-
Hemmed stag,
In a gauntlet of the hate

Of my Gus-soured friends, I’m an
Antelope in a gantlope. In my
Moose mood!
Low Canada sun, torn pelt

Pennoning my rump like
Last year’s carnival’s bunting. I range,
Fat with wrongs, endlessly through

The endless past, past endless
Endings. Chaplin-fastidious,
Can I snooze under the one

Folio of newspaper
I possess: unbent my length defeats me,
Bent my width, rotating my

Circumference, erect
The rootedness of the bench. Forgive me!
Is my typicalest news.

See what's inside AGNI 17

Jeffrey Gustavson’s poems have appeared in Grand Street, Ploughshares, The New Yorker, AGNI, and elsewhere. (updated 1991)

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