Chris Nealon grew up in Binghamton, NY; went to Williams College and lived in Boston after that, then Ithaca, NY, then Seattle, before moving to SF to teach at Berkeley. He has written two books, Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Emotion Before Stonewall (2001), and The Joyous Age (2004). He has poems forthcoming in No: A Journal of The Arts. Chris lives in San Francisco and in Washington, DC.

The Joyous Age

Three Poems by Chris Nealon


This one time? We went out into the street

The horns impressed us with the emptiness of every defiant gesture, and
      the drums suggested a permanent delay

But we went into the street, in goliardic joy and eternal mischief

Night fell; day broke
I want to write we felt like [      ]-orists but even partial words are
      searchable now so let’s just say a band of outsiders

Politics had been given the name of a woman and I was fine with that

I thought, if I have children, will they still feel like this in 2046?
I thought, does having been a soixante-huitard make you young and
      beautiful until the day you die?

Fog rolled in; lyrics floated by

And if disport could yield in fools simplicity completely unlike foolishness,
      we felt like that

Simple like the hymns that greet creation

Bonjour! we said

Hi, this is the riot act? Hi.

(I know prose ... )

I know prose is a mighty instrument but still I feel that plein-air lyric need
      to capture horses moving

      Surplus of capital; economy tanks; you get called a faggot more

On red seats all around me children learn abstraction and heckle each
       other in affordable new media

      “This cold world we’re in is full of fresh champagne”

      Un snack sólo para mi

When I was a child I thought, In Homeric fashion I will speak to each of
       you in turn while laying you low

Now I stick to fragments      transmissible, perdurable      and the
      crossword beauty you can make from them

To all the young Apollos: I’m aiming for the intersection of your swagger
      and your ashes

Not that I don’t get it: looking eagerly offends the lords of scarcity

      But check those dactyls, fabulous

      It’s just too hard to live as though there weren’t some other kind of

To the masters of prose: Greetings!

I will die before I worship your god

Greek Fire

In my apocalypse it’s teenage girls, they save the world a lot.

Wide open eyes and averted glances –

            they can see what’s coming forming, how excellent is that?

“Seleucid”: extreme clarity / short interregnum

            The window after Alexanders that seems super-upward

On the other side I greet them –

            Welcome to the shortest century

            Welcome to the reconstructed poem, scored and leavened                      by forgotten proper names

I am here to praise your wisdom and your knack for pantomime

Your job? Just keep cracking Demeter up

            Make earth bounty
            Supercharge the particles

Combustible rag of world and underworld

“Trapped in those interiors, partying really hard”