Paper Was a Body Once: Poetry by Frank Sherlock

Frank Sherlock is the author of Space Between These Lines Not Dedicated, Over Here, The City Real & Imagined (w/ CAConrad) and a collaboration with Brett Evans entitled Ready-to-Eat Individual. Poems beyond the page have found their forms in installations/performances/exhibitions, including Organize Your Own: The Politics & Poetics of Self-Determination. He is a 2013 Pew Fellow and 2014-15 Poet Laureate of Philadelphia.

Paper Was a Body Once

The day is short here w/ these papers

feeling FOMO about

the orgy at someone else’s place    Funerary lighting

provides ambiance while trying to nail

down logic of a ghost   the present as future

eventness of events only to

smite     lay still & openly remember

lovers that are sort of gone   There you are

atop a building w/ sewn-on wings &

not even thinking of jumping   Resemblances

scan for experience of what it’s like

to be at once born into life & in

death   rescued from shame only to be

thrown to lions    You come through ripped &

not in a bad way   wearing fur in the desert

or a barrel in the cold   angels at war

for whatever this is cannot

help but stare   I know them since

I walk w/ a slight limp favoring

the side of brutes   Their burrowed brows

become swallows in mid-flight

for an instant   Proximity then distance

then proximity   Darkwave snowflakes

reflect dazzling auras thanks to

that hole in the sun   The world is

bigger than us   no kidding

I dream of you further away

than you are to keep you close

In wolf-light between the last gasp of day &

the breaking water of night

what were once tears here have bloomed

into berries   Don’t be so scared of parasites

Some are evergreen that keep

people from staying apart   I am up until

tomorrow writing dirty stories on

your dress that I wear to sleep

What Could Be the Last Day of the World

So much     transit     so little     purpose

This body-city-myth is busy

tasking for questionable reasons     Me &

the pets are coping w/indecision     to drop the toy or

not     to cry like a baby or play fetch or play dead

Weak in the face of the abstracts of love

the kissy noise becomes a lure     It comes from a shirtless

boy w/ an eye patch called paul that goes by the name severe

My shirt reads     service animal     in a developing or given-up font

One if by ass     Two if by song

symbols of a set are gathered     weaponized     then treated

like the pitbulls of children     Where now

A suicide bomber has destination but is

clearly out of ideas     You w/ the knife

cook for a date     You w/ the van

pick up a hitchhiker     Feel better

If the people need bodycount there’s dj haram

moving basement dwellers along w/ principals

from a german ballet     Sure people

smile while doing vile vile shit but they can only destroy if

the offended come off as broken     Me & a wrestler share a hand mirror

tracing frown lines & listening for a crowd out there

Static noise comes through two cupped hands     Upon reflection

is a dream of the coming body slam wearing

next to nothing for an audience w/ all the rage of belief

Yes we are many yes they are few but I’ve been

hit on the head many times     I hit back

when I’m sick & tired of remembering

the times I ran for my life

Right now all is well     sunk into a bench of domestic

imaginary reading ulysses aloud on what could be

the last day of the world   This   could   blow   at   any   time

So what     It’ll be built again on a movie set if

all this goes away     Oh wait     the process requires

more than just actors     There are invisible

creators that are always being told to leave

Today I do not want to die so I started

calling a migrant species my family     Me & the siblings are

distracted by cathedrals doming the skyline

a stone’s throw away     Some days I stare w/ a slingshot

Right now it’s just the rocks & my reach     So much schism &

not enough fun cum     It’s a no-brainer

that stones will smart but the breeder money is on

replicating a brutal me vs. window model

Scenes of children dressed in

white run across fields to sell healthcare     I can

have my dream & drive it too

but recall kicks in once I confess that

I really don’t care about cars     Alone again

  there is a need to move at least as fast as traffic     Before

this goes too far it’s time to entertain

where I’d like to be taken     somewhere lovers

wrap in blankets as they

sit & face the sea     or lie in a river w/ friends

while petals of flowers pass through

Staycating to talk to myself for too long

has crowbarred me into this ramble

All I’ve got so far is momentum

& an unpaid fact-checker job     I crush hard

on diastemas looking for

brilliance somewhere in a sliver of dark

There’s joy to be found

when the body fails its indenture &

moves by feelings that refuse to take dictation

Me & strangers find FWBs because spring

then hop away in different directions     Bunny shit

is supposed to be cute because of where it comes from

but waste is waste     So much time gone

by     Pay-stand-wait behind the yellow

line to remember magical strays

& desires to burrow deeper

Nice for a moment but VOG

pops through an intercom     Oh no     another lesson

Enjoy!     There’ll be no rain in hell     Enjoy!     No

subway smells in hell     Enjoy!     No bittersweet in hell

Flight instinct kicks in to rise up into a space

that is all clouds & fur     Comely & fierce

a raccoon a unicorn a

girl called richie that goes by the name shazam

Crap or crisis or whatever gets tracked

find me amidst a gang of creatures     song & tail

gathered     surrendered     arriving

from Music of Each Slain Creature




the mirror’s
leads to
an attempt
to rinse
doom from
the mouth

specks the
cabinet is
that he
could be
a cop
an informant
a secretary
of defense

The chest
is a cavernous
just north of
the commode




Sensual engagement

is a breach of decorum when it comes

the state


does not always accommodate

                                                              so     >
                                                    >                               >
                                       of rumor                                 circulates w/
                                                      <                               <
                                                              the ease

from shared space to



Open the books       See money as evidence

of the brothel as labor camp

occupation as cheap labor scheme




The archive is pregnant & soon to be

            aborted by fire




I kept

her hair in the shrine


evidence locker

because it

got me



to do



When I say crime I mean





In a pitched
battle to stay on
this earth
he presents again
as diseased

sketching what
the unthinkable
looks like

He cannot
YouTube how to
live in his
head as
guest star
on Lifestyles of
the Delightfully

Wondering where
irritable mouth
syndrome comes
from     he kisses
the ATM when
cash comes out
shit stains & all




I dreamt the egg that hatched

did not

get broken by my

own hunger

That I didn’t

just lay there

a hesitant martyr

thinking each neighbor

a spy or

rescue worker if

I had the smarts to stay quiet




This Is It whatever

that means     It is



The feast of the wandering

lanterns was once so

alive & now is a bag of sand


He emerges from the sweat bath to roll in

the dust a memory of flesh caked w/ flakes of remains


It started as a dare to leave more

than submission & debt


A feather is placed

behind the bed to remember




That was a perfect dead dream





fucked up &

got caught

on the wrong

side of

the barricade                       while I

was in



Espy her shrink & blur

A petroleuse leaves me blockaded


the burnings




The halfway

house only

gets us

halfway there

The building

did not

build itself

& will not

destroy it




Fractured faces crudely heal

to create new forms of defiance




I am not here to determine
                            but to share a song
                            that continues to be


The light
that made us I
carry w/ me
like an actor
w/ a piece of
the Commune
wall in
their pocket


We know how it ended but
            right now the rock doves coo
            by the cemetery & eat & shit
                                                  & live




Laughter has a life
beyond its point of origin
harmonizing w/ the sounds
of tears     A voice from
the dark can be heard
saying a newborn world is
coming     Yes we are
clumsy midwives so
HAHAHA       I will
return to life a bird &
be heard w/o this language