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up, up, away

Harrison Friedman

The Pier


the waves, when they come up to meet you

are tall, and flat, and they laugh

salt and snails and open their maws

but there was a statue, and a clank,

and you elevate. stuck in the air.


what hoary jaws! what golden teeth.

hands of stone, never rubble, and he looks like

he’s been through about a million of these

and he’d just about leave you alone. a reed

that pierces darkness and the waves that yearn

and cry. it moves, he moves, and 

you have two feet again. 


fool! for the first time a fool. not you, 

but he’s got his book and he can’t 

pull you out. where’s he come from?

“why the south; why of course the south,

that’s why i talk like this;” his teeth chatter,

but he’s not wet. “i went straight up 

in the radio car.” 


the boardwalk elongates, and you go

halfway; and walk more, and it’s

another halfway; but he’s talking,

and he’s enrapt, and his fingers twirl 

and soften. he’s done this before, 

but he’s done it for the first time.


woooo oooooh oooh oooh ooo


fooled around fooled around fooled around

not free not free not anymore


“why i could be free but i’m 

in the dark; could be free but 

they keep me in here; could be free 

but you’re on the lower level. do

you speak for me? idea or man?

are you telling on my tale?”


The Pitch


tall, sitting down, on the tv screen

but you’re empty, in the big house

the room there is empty; the room here

has no guests; and it’s a break. but across 

there’s someone, fuzz in fuzz out. 

the night air warms, and pushes you forward

to the place you don’t go; people were here 

and there, and places are people but people 

are not places. so it’s empty. 


you walk in to be pinned, and a bird in flight

pins you there, and all your life you’ve never seen

quite who does it. a cat in the dark whines,

but you’re quiet. who promised heaven? 

this is not it. 


you watch from above you, and civilization

crumbles to rubble. a snap, a crack, they fall.

a factory cart burbles by, and that’s it again,

and your needs are here but not 

in the slightest 



dark; the dark breeds it, and you,

and fuzz in and out and 

you need to leave right away

i’m coming

no i’m not 

yes i’m coming back

no go away


will you ever win?

no; and no; and no;

you will never win; there is no victory;

no one does


you say to the dark

“i’m not interested in you; i want someone

who’s interesting; i want to love everyone;

i want your interest without your care; 

there is no block inside another

i want sublimation from everyone’s eyes.”

The Fight


“have you ever taken flight? have you ever

looked down and seen your importance

how needy they all can be

and no one is more relevant than you

and everyone lacks you and always will?”


you scream; you drown him out; no 

you can’t because he doesn’t drown;

he’s a statue after all; he won’t twirl

and he can’t bleed on his back

and he can throw a rock and go through 

three people. and he can’t feel anything at all.

maybe don’t use english. he was bored. 

he was in a band. you weren’t born. 

surrender already.


it started, he says, in plasma. empty plasma, 

a skeleton of glowworms and torn watch-straps. 

why did he create himself again? die

to come back new? why weren’t you there?

who made him if not him? his face isn’t there

a black blotch across his neck, another, two on his arms,

his feet blister and pop and it comes out

black pus from which he’s made

but he can’t come back new

since he’s blue and alive

eternally six feet above the ground.


you’ll be a million and one now

he’s crashed into the waves when you can’t

his head didn’t break upon the rocks

space spared the breath in his lungs 

fire lapped at his hair but didn’t melt

still a statue that won’t crumble

ozymandias looks up at him.

lowest of the low,

you despair but won’t blow away

like sand on a beach;

your decay doesn’t await.


mishehu yachol l’galgel

et hachalonot calphei mata,

yesh li machelet tenuah regshit

“ze lo ya’avod; ani natzchi;

ani bli mavet.” can you just

surrender to the sound.


“you all know me; i am 

your screen; but i will connect

nothing with nothing,

because nothing ends;

nothing ever ends. where you cut me  

give me some air!”


The Desolation


if anything defines you it’s a scroll;

if anything watches you it’s your face;

if you can become anything it isn’t you;

try to die outside yourself

try to survive to live

try to become

no becoming;

but there can’t be nothing,

there can be anything but nothing,


the back is wind whistling

and the front is the white sand 

the sky is neon, burning, pink,

coast stretching to a sea you can’t

drive yourself into;

drive yourself away to become yourself

this duct tape makes you hush.


not building makes it all crumble;

think, he’s dead and you’re out

of the dark; but the sun makes it rust

and beans fill your belly

empty your belly on the sand;

work? try to work? that crumbled 

with him and it’s quiet before

and quiet after. bigger gears

don’t turn; bigger gears halt. 


oh won’t the days trickle away

oh won’t freedom die; 

oh won’t choice drive into the ocean

falling to fall, removing rope

there isn’t a statue, there’s a black wave

and its face is a grinning skull.



screams whirring away into a groan.


oh lord make my problems eternal;

oh lord make my answers temporary;

oh lord make the streets empty;

oh lord make the buildings full;

oh lord we need no homes;

oh lord we need more offices;

oh lord tear us apart;

oh lord don’t let us come together.

oh lord make it desolate;

oh lord make it desolate;

oh lord lord make it desolate.


The Fantastical


you float through flat and gray

pavement unto pavement 

the footsteps echo long and downwind

an unceasing eyeline

because the air is murder

because the air will kill you 

because all you have are eyes and all you will have

are your eyes

here no ghosts wander the streets

here the ghosts stay home


close your eyes. the fear.

you look for answers but the rain

slaps your eyes and your car skids

isn’t it out of place? aren’t you leaving?

the streets bully but you stay

there is no reason to change

standing in the pouring rain

standing in the garden

you are happy and alone.


“pannnndemic! get your pandemic!”

“wmd! wmd over here!” 

get a job? this is the only job. 

the street is empty but you need money.

the street is here. the court. the port.

city hall bleeds but turns in on itself.

step backwards into your goal. nothing is new

because you are institutional and without vision. 

you are too smart to break and too stupid to build.


they sit in screens but you sit in grass.

they are scared and you revel

you roll

you laugh and it’s the only sound.

it gets warmer and warmer

and from above

like you once came

he descends. “isn’t this real? 

i can’t end it otherwise.”

you both ascend into the killing air.


doot doot do doo do doo do dooo.

peace of mind is in the past; it seems

like yesterday but you have slipped past

you’ve gotten away and left age;

left the end of an age.

“oh i can’t explain what’s going down.

but you were alone and now

you stand next to me.”

no need to hide your face.

you have a smoke. 

the sun sends you into a dream.


look at the city. 

look at the city stand there.

you cannot leave the city; you are born 

and you will die in the city. stand and watch it.

why would you ever leave? when you left

you sold your soul. find your answers 

somewhere hiding in the city. 

wander the streets with no beat,

your uniform in a box;

it will never love you.

but you don’t have to love home.

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