Guest Poet C.E. Chaffin

Off Lithium 

I'm glad I took off that lead helmet.
My brain isn't kryptonite for God's sake.
They said I needed it-yeah, like a hole 
in the head for all my original thoughts 
to leak out like ear wax on my pillow.  
Now I see the stains of my dreams. 

My tolerance for alcohol has increased--
drank a twelve-pack and didn't feel it  
slept three hours and woke refreshed
with the marvelous idea of making shoes 
with living grass for insoles, have seven pairs, 
wear each once a week, put it in the sun 
for a six-day Sabbath recovery, here I come
Birkenstock, man was meant to walk 
on grass and soil not linoleum and concrete 
it's the shoe companies in bed with the tile 
and concrete folks I'm sure of it it takes 
a fresh idea to bust that monopoly
but I got a patent lawyer. 

Sometimes the earth seems small
overwhelmingly vulnerable to asteroids
then so solid beneath my feet
with layers of fossils and in Montana
where they dig the sky is big 
the stars are angels and everything is 
what it is supposed to be, you know 
perfectly itself no form against function 
or separation but constant evolution 
toward the center because progress 
is an illusion like time.

When I see my initials carved in clouds
and hear my name whispered I understand  
others can't see the subatomic ether 
that connects us in an embryonic way
where the acorn is the oak and the oak the acorn
everything that rises must converge not diverge 
Einstein knew it but couldn't prove it 
while Hawking is being punished for his atheism 
by being slowly absorbed by God 
am I talking too fast? 

                 Of course with your smarts 
you can follow me when no one else 
can possibly follow the ferment
of my quicksilver mind beechwood-aged
like Budweiser Kleidsdales how's that 
for mixed metaphors pinafores semaphores 
Texas whores?  Saw a whorehouse 
in the middle of nowhere landing strip 
aluminum huts cowboys and congressmen
I could go there right now at the speed of light 
no cop could catch me with my radiator 
iris nothing by trying something immense 
as a thigh royal condition neutrino shield
no cretins aloud am I talking too fast?

May, 1998

C.E. Chaffin's Questions:

How well does the experience of reading this poem propel one into the feeling of a manic psychosis?  What would make it more powerful?

Correspond with C.E. Chaffin at 
with your ideas about this poem.


In this early September heat 
with no hint of October, 
thin hair plasters my scalp 
like spaghettinni  
and I am fat. 

I wasn't always fat.
In home movies I am 
skin stretched over a xylophone,
taut as a kayak. 

Now my body 
inflates like a spacesuit 
thick and foreign as a sleeping bag.

I understand breasts better now
but there is no bra 
for these sacks of coins beneath the skin
whenever I move.

As an antidote I try to see me  more 
as the sum of my existence 
than a single frame, 
and base my weight 
not on this moment 
but on the average 
of all my weights since birth. 
Using this method
I'll never be as fat as I am.

May, 1998

C.E. Chaffin's Questions:

Does this transmit the experience of middle-age weight gain? And is it funny?

Correspond with C.E. Chaffin at
with your ideas about this poem.

The Albany Poetry Workshop