John Yau

Supermarket Blues


There are fewer syllables to learn now that love

Has shrunken into a smaller project, and cold fronts

Have departed, all bundled up, like yesterday’s cravings

I began drawing what I saw in bathroom mirrors

Sans my face, wishing to record the fabricated world

I had been passing through, a reptile curd on its way to heaven

Record this printed world where trees are photography cylinders

From another century, where cars do not crowd streets

And planes do not do their best to poison pockets of air

Record that singular isolation you feel in a supermarket

While carefully placing shitake and oyster mushrooms

In their respective plastic bags, thinking: what

Gook of gobble have I become in this embalmed

Corridor, outlandish playroom, badly programmed acre


Round green sky brimming with clobber

Another fleet of ogling scowls takes up residence

What will you do with this shabby body

Neighbors abhor, nobody wants to sleep next to

Are you stricken bleak by these macaroni choices

Want to step up to the gate and place your fear

Inside its pearl inlaid trays of warm ash

Starve, freeze and feed your long-lost egg

In bean counting dispensary fish pond

Share morning glory ice cream lanterns

In lingering spar, not that keeping your

Underwear world hot enough is the only goal

Do you feel your life is not worth stealing

Call it a poem, if you like, it still won’t yelp


When I crawl out the window and begin to speak to you

When your secret door is actually a refrigerator

A chemically enhanced reinforced stash ceiling

Call this version a Las Vegas drive-thru

Magnifying all you can be beaten by

Blowing bubble balloons on a unicorn’s horn

Ordered to grow thinner in valleys of white sunlight

Old forehead reclined on cactus yellow napalm tree

Didn’t you used to be a hot neanderthal horn player,

Not your average grinning bowl of sludge porridge

Who is in charge of replica control got a rodent problem

Followed by a long stretch of making no difference

Sunlight’s floundering succession of attempts

You got any interest in my latest set of Marco Polo condoms


John Yau has published books of poetry, fiction, and criticism. His latest poetry publications include a book of poems, Further Adventures in Monochrome (Copper Canyon Press, 2012), and the chapbook, Egyptian Sonnets (Rain Taxi, 2012). His most recent monographs are Catherine Murphy (Rizzoli, 2016), the first book on the artist, and Richard Artschwager: Into the Desert (Black Dog Publishing, 2015). He has also written monographs on A. R. Penck, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol. In 1999, he started Black Square Editions, a small press devoted to poetry, fiction, translation, and criticism. He was the Arts Editor for the Brooklyn Rail (2007–2011) before he began writing regularly for Hyperallergic. He is a Professor of Critical Studies at Mason Gross School of the Arts (Rutgers University).