THERMOS 1: Nico Alvarado

If I remember right, we started THERMOS because we wanted to publish some particular poems by Mark Leidner and Nico Alvarado. So, these three poems were originally included in our first issue, released in May 2008. That issue is largely unavailable anymore, but we still love these poems as much as anything we’ve ever published. — AS

Last Poem

Don’t die, little lemon.

It’s neither dark nor light inside the sun.

The awning’s runoff hits the rail.
It flowers hard.

Sufficiency is plenitude.
The tanager flickered and stays.

The sun with its ten million keys or notes.
Poetry itself its only end.

We measure solar music
to determine what its heart is like.

It is like nothing we can know.
Even so.


The difference from good to not-so-good, or between
ravaged and incontinent, goes unspoken
but doesn’t go without saying. When asked
for a name, the child gives Hey Man
or Mao Zedong, and I don’t want
to argue with that. I can’t because I’m bound
by circumstance, and circumstance
is predicated on orientation.
Some people like to exercise–whatever,
I bet the only good thing about being
particularly fit and gorgeous is that it makes
you less nervous about ordering
in restaurants. Oh look, old people
in that sun-spotty way they get will say,
doesn’t that look like Art’s cousin Tina?
And it does, mostly. Which is less
an indication of things coming out right
than it is of the fact that we’re still capable
of surprise after everything that’s gone
wrong. My grandfather pisses himself daily
and I enjoy our idiotic one-sided conversations.
When he comes into focus enough to say something
dirty about the nurse, even my grandma laughs.
It would be great if stepdads didn’t make kids
kneel bare-kneed on grains of hard white rice
for hours, and it would be really neat
if kids didn’t have to take bats to stepdads
to make sure they never hit their mom again.
The grammar of absurdity is grammatically correct
in an absurd world. “After learning of the plight
of the starving Burmese, she learned to skydive”
is a sentence I wouldn’t like to hear said
in seriousness, and still I see the plane
on the horizon. My only beef with the movies
is that it’s cheaper to get fucked up instead.
My only beef with getting fucked up
is that there isn’t any popcorn here.
Have your tutor check your work, and let’s hear it
for a poetry of punchlines, a poetry of cashing in
on grief. Let’s hear it for the kid who stuck
a crochet needle in his rectum so as not to have
to leave his awful home. And once more for his name
I don’t remember, and for the fact that I don’t care
to try. Inclement weather is imminent, the sign
said, but turns out: only immanent. At any given moment,
there are between one hundred and two thousand
varieties of parasites in your lower intestine
alone. There are lots of important things
on which nothing much depends. Conversely,
there are lots of trivial things on which depend
lots of other trivial things. There was. A noise.
The noise. Was loud. The lady. Screamed. The dog.
Bit me. I made that up: I don’t know anything
about dogs, and my grandpa isn’t losing his mind
at all. The sonofabitch is still thirteen and driving
a stolen car full of cantaloupes from Coachella.
His mother claims to have invented the taco.
When you’re completely desperate and alone is when
you’re at your most hilarious. Only you’re too busy cleaning
the shit out of your drawers to notice. But we
see it for you, we always take good notes.
The Ford is dusty black. Late peaches rot on the trees
and the growers leave them there. All axioms
worth repeating are made of heat and rust
and blood. Look at it swing crazy
down the street. All axioms worth repeating
aren’t worth much else besides. Look at that
fucking kid. Look at him drive.


So many people I love having become
corporate lawyers there is clearly nothing
to do but get very drunk & put my hand
through a window but happily happily! Yesterday
I turned 28 in less than 10 days it will be
15 years since my mother died which is
2 years more than I was alive when it happened.
Her name was Cecilia. It’s on my arm in ink
forever, or for the terribly finite number
of years allotted to me I like to call
forever, which as you & I both know is anything
but. I call you you & I call myself I
but you & I both know the self has called
itself terribly into question is there anything
more boring? Racism is boring, less
because it is lacking in wit & more because
it is “one of the too many ways we’ve learned to hurt
the people we love, or ought to,” which is a clumsy
paraphrase of something the woman I love,
who isn’t a corporate lawyer, said to me
& messed me up with, which she does often & which
is one of the too many reasons I’m falling apart
with happiness. Her name, or one of them, is
Cecilia–strange, no? I’m terribly sorry
if I’ve ever done anything to cause
you hurt you don’t deserve it. Everyone
I love is either a genius or very depressed
or a corporate lawyer or some combination
thereof. They don’t deserve any of it,
even their genius, sadly, but they have it
or are it all the same. I deserve nothing
& yet here I am, full of a somethingness
called love, called grief, called Cecilia. & here
I’ll be for the rest of my little forever, calling
my lawyer, my broker, my advisers on the phone
every night & laughing hysterically at
their terrible racist jokes. I’m done. Hi Mom!

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