Spotlight: “Starting Small” the new chapbook by dan raphael


Post-Beat virtuoso Dan Raphael, his poems “able to swing out in any direction,” bare souled like a later day Corso, he, too, with mad mouthfuls of language, offers these pages brimming with wonder about such things as “freeways made of pasta, poisoned rivers / diluted enough to give you a buzz.” Raphael knows “only music is more attractive than words” and fills his pages with symphonies of word music drawn from the far reaches of the universe by way of the street running past his house, even as he remains all too aware that “some things / you don’t want delivered to your home.” Come joyride with this un-cautious bard, brilliant and blessed with shamanistic pathologies, his ravenous soul pointing yours toward a light somewhere past polite, agreed upon wavelengths. This book may be Starting Small, but it waltzes with glory in the great, vast world native to our secret hearts.

-Jeff Weddle


One Foot in Front of

My right foot breaks something

My left foot gets sticky

I don’t duck i hit my head

I duck and i don’t see something

I can sit at a T intersection for minutes

Unable to  keep going straight

Or get a coin out of my pocket to flip

When i don’t want to use either hand

Or both reach out and get in the way

Sometimes i think i’m standing in the middle

But take one step and find the edge

A time to be paralyzed through dispersion

A time to lash out uncontrollably

Months of several prescriptions

Starts with a Breath

Starts with a breath

inadvertent sound, constant city sound

if all the cars stopped you could hear the houses

& buildings so close together they sway and rub,

almost touching, aching to feel cause they have no eyes

As all my windows could be monitors

my roof keeps out the rain but not the waves, rays,

signals, neutrinos, most unsourced, spontaneous, directional

choices from an ever-changing menu of uncertainties,

never-tasted-befores, evolving on impact

My pico-thin vocal range

what i see without correction

how many things am i hearing at any moment—

only music is more attractive than words

all conversation is a capella, though we’re never without percussion

breath looking for the narrowest, loosely walled gap

to run through with all its thousand tendrils spread wide

like striking a match for music, not flame

People Get Ready

Down the road, a  network,

veins on the back of an 80 year old hand

street of compressed mayan alphabets.

How the wind views traffic, crowds

why it always rains the first saturday of june

has nothing to do with the parade held then

the key i turn to start my car doesn’t have to be a key

transferring electricity when i snap my robot fingers

My studio with murphy bed, built in chests,

a table rising from the floor, kitchen sink converts to shower

windowless with glowing walls means i could be underground,

it could be night—how would i know, my clock

could be anywhere in the world or above it,

my lunch could be interrupted by someone

demanding a 2AM dream

Bed like a xerox machine, bed like a toaster,

a floodplain, a topographical map used as a musical score,

2 biceps of lava, footprint filled with beans cheese & peppers

The car across the schoolyard looks small enough to fit in my hand

i’m not overweight—those are speed bumps, albino asphalt

not a speed limit but how much can i carry how far

i took a bag of groceries to safeway but they wouldn’t pay me

i put my Leaf up on blocks & plugged my house into it

Falling fast

Pedestrians crossing in the middle of the block

big pickup bullying his way into my subcompact’s right of

construction delays popping up faster than fall mushrooms

3rd shirt of the day, 3rd shot in the 3rd bar

more clouds in my head than the sky

When i feel comfortable enough to talk politics it’s time to leave

sunless sky confusing my compass, 2 crows almost collide

either i walked here or my car was stolen

how could i know the bus was a food truck with seats

i want gravy, not sauce; stew, not soup; a small bread melting butter

3 months from now the main differences are colder and darker

higher utility bills, holidays stormfront approaching

i move the clock ahead 6 hours but nothing changes

i wonder about freeways made of pasta, poisoned rivers

diluted enough to just give you a buzz

Do i melt like the snow falling elsewhere

stars breaking through the clouds in all the colors of

christmas tree lights,  we gift-wrapped the turkey

stuffed small presents into large ones and baked them

it’s last call and the sun’s barely set

Every City’s Got One

Used cars, cheap burgers,

questionable groceries, frequent police

no one walking casually

More intestine than artery

more stomach than heart

82nd s more retrograde than mercury

though nothing moves that quickly here

car lot banners distracting walkers from

the obstacle course where a sidewalk should be

from the occasional slowing vehicle

who’s not asking for directions

82nd  will never be gentrified

never unnecessary:  some things

you don’t want delivered to your home

Signs say “avenue of roses” but no flowers,

business association call this

the jade district, though so little green here

and no gems:  82nd ‘s  precious metals

are cars, needles, and shopping carts—

portland’s most diverse street

also its most american.

I live on 78th

82nd mostly stays on 82nd

only the sirens there are loud enough

to not be drowned out by the interstate

half a mile east, hundreds passing every minute

with no idea what urban splendor they’re avoiding

Rained In

So much rain falling

none of the drops can be connected

as one way as time

crossed by the wind running from—

the pressures always lower on some other side

where people forgot to grow

no stream to follow

the trees swore the birds to secrecy

The street looks like a river

too dazed to flow

my doors not ready to open yet

a change in data

a high probability of the same old shit

odor free ennui

The lone crow can’t fly in this rain

looking for an overhang to hop to

Don’t know the rain’s color

‘til it pools, too glutinous to bow

the street is imagining soup—

salt, fat and simmered roots

If leaves decided to pull in and never let out

seed going the wrong way on a one way

when roots flower, when we gather enough pollen to rail

before the wind clears the stage for more rain

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