Andrei Codrescu

History (redux); Walk on All Fours; Sirens in Queens: Andrei Codrescu

History (redux)

When I was a child I had no trouble destroying the world
with mind-rays. The neighbors who communalized our kitchen.
The empty ghost-houses in the overgrown bushes
behind the crumbling cement walls where ghouls screeched.
The stepfather who wrestled my dog Nemo out of my arms
and gave him away to someone I’m still looking for.
The classmate who tried to buy the frog stanza I didn’t sell him.
Fathers, cities, trains, empty skies, the shadow police, school.
I was moody and destruction was the vivid product of my mind.
I observed ants and bees and wild cats and I was sad for them.
I was happy for the birds. I didn’t know how cats destroyed them.
The clouds looked fluffy until they filled up with info instead of water.
Like stadiums they now belong to corporations they are going dark.
The politics are as bad as the environment gasping for breath.
We won’t make it to that nitrous oxyde planet, friend.
We won’t laugh involuntarily when our teeth and eyes are gone.
Walk like the goats, straight up, what is this rock for anyway?


Walk On All Fours

I remember walking out of the ocean. What struggle!
Millions of mollusk years and shell games that hurt.
I remember getting up from all fours and looking down
on all my astonished variously shaped former friends.
Not one of them wanted to look up at me now I was up.
Bipedal and lonely until there were a bunch of others.
I remember the first scene in 2001 where I killed another.
I remember that every time I bent down to be closer
to the busy world of things that crawled loped or burrowed
I was condescending and they moved away from me.
I remember towering over everything that wasn’t me.
I remember the day I howled in pain because my back gave out.
That was the day I knew my body was weakly hinged
at the place where it first stood up, and I wanted down again.
Lord, help me walk on all fours again. I know that it’s late.
We only grow taller now like the towers we can’t stop building.
Since we got language not one nonhuman creature deigns
to speak to us though we pretend in vain to understand them.
Animals find it more understandable when we shoot them
then when we kneel down and pretend we are their friends.
We do kneel down often to pray not to commune but pray
that we won’t suffer from the back pain that is our sign of Cain.
I remember that I can still return to water and do flips
but I’m in charge now of all the things I covered over.
I remember kneeling to gods who were so tall I couldn’t see them.
Their heads were in the clouds, we barely reached their sandals.
Even the mono god was so tall he dropped the tablets on Moses
and made lightning to scare us all to the death we knew was coming.
In the little world I live in I sell diminishment at one dollar an inch
and practice quadrupedal yoga every morning in my living room
hoping to walk one day into the street with my quadripedal brood.
It will be the day of no pain and of trading language for nozzling.
If we succeed it won’t be so hard to hope that learning screens hurts
less than when we first left the ocean, equally pushed by hubris.
Our new weak spot is memory. A bad back and a lousy memory
may smooth our way to becoming humble and wild again and good.

Sirens In Queens

March 13 2020 in the age of CoVid
In exile in Tomis Ovid wrote letters to Augustus
about the painted natives and the brutal winters
there were physicians and a Lyceum in Tomis
a Greek seaport of vivid spectacles and goods

Augustus received Ovid’s Tristae and ignored
the poet’s exaggerated plaints and sorrows
and enjoyed his gloomy verse of the province.
Rome was much safer without the amorous lech

Exiled to the Ozarks I aroused pity in New York
The City as its inhabitants called it for its splendors.
In the Ozarks survivalists juggled snakes in caves.
I had two caves saw snakes there was no doctor near.

In Siberia Pasternak the doctor was kidnapped
by armies to tend to their wounded and their goals
that were as hard and cold as their winters
and out he trudged in the movie through the snow

Some plagues were real some were not
in retrospect many people died in history’s show
for historians heirs poets and film makers
there is no better subject than great distance

social or forced or voluntary or just geographical
people willing and unwilling to grow the space between
others even lovers kin or parts of their own selves
distance is the only subject to sing and emote for

Under house arrest in Bucharest
there was a policeman watching at your door
if you got sick and needed to get to the hospital fast
you just called your guardian and got there in a jiff

Under house arrest in Queens
everyone is in their own dens listening to sirens
if you get sick nobody will come for you
by the time you hear your siren you’ll be stiff

Andrei Codrescu ( has published poetry, novels, and essays. His recent books are: “Whatever Gets You Through the Night: a Story of Sheherezade,” “The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess” and “The Poetry Lesson,” published by Princeton University Press. His collection “So Recently Rent a World: New and Selected Poems” was a National Book Award nominee. He lives in Brooklyn.