Patrick Rosal
Check (Incantation Composed on the Occasion of Being Classified as Inadmissible)

Too rowdy for the hallowed

galleries      Too


for the slaughters    

      Too toothsome

for daughters   Too

      couth    to dig

what’s hip   Too blissful

      to moan with the crows Nose

too wide   too flat

      too peasant Too punch-

drunk Too much muscle

      in the jaw   Too pauper Too

pansy for gangsters Not gook

      enough                    Not book-

ish enough for the bland man

      standing at

the gate   Check Too     lummox 

      to scuffle Too       late Too slow

for stoners    Too swift

      for varsity

track Too  slacker Too

      slant-eyed        Too brave

to bounce Too wistful

      Too bird-like

(Too many birds

      to begin with!)   Check Too

fobbish       Too fleeting


I’m this     then

      suddenly I’m that   Too

many windows

      to see into Too many skulls

to bust   Too bright

      for my own good Too fugitive     

Too  gruesome Too green Not        

      enough     crooning         off -

key         out of            

      time Clocked Check

the pocket Too

      solemn Too here Too

there Too queer

      In this era     every world I enter

checks a passport      And

      every room   is a world    Every crime

       a virtue              Every hunger

      sin Too corny Too            thick-lipped

and wicked-dicked

      Too horny

Too funky

      in the armpits and

ass-crack Check! Too prayerful

      Even kneeling

too potty-

      mouthed Too much

      hops for the scrubs

Not enough bunnies

      for the big-boy

courts Not lion but

      monkey Too dark

Too pissed

Too joyful Too

      prone to exuberance

and fits of mad

      dancing Too

b-boy Not Boogie-Down

      enough which is

to say too Jersey Not

      Philly enough      which is to say

too much New York Too


Too giant Too thick

      in the cock Too

rooster Too rueful Too rich

      for the poor house

too poor for the White

      house Too wild

Too stylin Too

      much decibels

for the downstairs

      neighbor Too quick

with the tongue Not enough 

      laughing Too fast

with the hands Not

      thief enough Not genius

enough Too dim-

      witted Too

wrathful Catholic

      Too cautious Too taut-

o-logical Not

      begotten enough Not

sorry   Not on my knees

once more      Too doggish

Too fishy Too much

      water Not enough

meat Too tough

      Too easy to ravage 

Too savage Too loose

      in the hips Too smooth

Too      mutable Too Abel 

      Too Cain Too groovy

to be so goddamned

      grave Too tune-less

for conservatory Too con-

      servative Too

straight Too twisted

      Too hammered

Too screwed

      Too lifted Too bruja

      Too blessed          Too blasphemed

on the verge of a third millennium

where everyone        I profess                                

      to love is inclined to the same Amen

Hallelujah Yes                    

      I find I        have agreed I find it all

      so        agreeable     


                 I begin to feel some kind of way

      I feel      a way       

      This is what dissent is:   to feel

away                  from myself    

to travel a distance by feeling

to make some   ground by feeling And then:                              

      whoso loves us      maps us out

      which is to say:    Love

is a feeling      away

      Love is a dissent

(a vexation         as in the Latin

vectus       which suggests    a carriage

      a vehicle)

      for Love is a repertoire

of migrations                         And whomever you love

is an argument      an agony

a version of you                      

and I      a version of my Beloved               

One self      multiplies and one expands

      and another         contracts into pity

into its exquisite miseries and shame

           the self     the size of a fly

      or just      one of its thousands of eyes Too

      small Not

even molecular

      and sometimes

I have migrated

far away enough from myself

      I’m alone

And even loneliness hasn’t killed me

Even solitude

      has kept me Even my apartness:

a gestation for a miracle       by which

      I must simply mean        a kind of looking

                 Not worship          Not muttering

in disbelief     but this week-old sheet of ice and snow

on a bright roof     beginning to melt in March

      gathering into fine streams

that split         and join again toward

      a gutter’s ragged edge

where             this first liquid bead hangs

scintillating    at the brink

              dilating like one utterly gleaming  eye

through which you can see the vast

      empty destination           of a psalm

then dozens of such small glassy droplets follow

      They pause          at their limit

      then fall         

one      by one            in cascading angles 

      all these glistening

hesitations now that collect finally

      in a small          shallow pool        

clear to last summer’s muck   below my ledge      Spring

is coming       you

      idiot    You could sip

from all those eyes    Too

      many Too    thirsty

And never too            old

      for damnation The cup

from which you drink

      is bitter (Right

I’m talking

      to myself again) Too gro-

tesque Too tramp    for sweetness Too

      slapstick All the boats


into the streets

      by tropic floods     

All the ribs of every

      hand-hewn hull crushed Too

frail Too beggar

      for touch  Today

there are only three

of me    to go around            Too

      archipelagic         atoll

Austronesian Too

      coastal           Too

ghastly    In advance

      of dying    alert Too

dagger Too keen      

      Too slick Too


      with my several

hundred ears —      

      Too idle  Check!

Too chill Too

      bovine     Come

kiss me    Check! Two

      good hooves one

good knee      Check

      beneath flow      

Check under-

      ground     This is what

water sounds like

      at the end

of winter

      at the edge

of a city to which

      I’ve been admitted

on condition

      of my loyalty

to several


of flags      Check

      Sorrow          Check yourself

for sorrow      No noose

      today     The rope’s

for climbing

      Not too high

now        Too brave

      Too nimble Too

agile for perpetual

      mourning       I once

set fire 

      to a whole piano

in my mother’s yard

      Mother dead        Check

Too woeful Too manly

Too handsome for ransom

Too boastful    Too dark

      to spark a J or light

a candle Too devout

      Too distracted

by the little spines

      of a fish       I’ve done

some killing

      Someone has done

some killing

      on my behalf

I’ve done some

      living Too

much living

      In this country

the dream

      is the living

And for some

      the living

is too much






Found In Volume 46, No. 06
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  • Rosal
Patrick Rosal
About the Author

PATRICK ROSAL currently serves as inaugural Codirector of the Mellon-funded Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers-Camden, where he is a Professor of English. He is the author of five full-length poetry collections including The Last Thing: New and Selected Poems.