Michael Baruch


Eau de Tennis

Hey thanks for being here,
I’m starting this conversationally
in an attempt to gain your trust tennis
balls smell like late night adults
only candy stores wherein rind-y
lime taffy, rather  the idea of taffy
sublimates into a spacious electric
3D-printed grassland. Will you trust me
enough to go? To know
feelings are nothing like sheep
except to move you nowhere well
you can try counting them. Numbers and facts
have metallic heft we need. I mean they are
weaponized. Petroleum,
the dead baby boomer era relative
of recycled plastic is responsible
for what Slovakia tennis beauty
Dominika Cibulkova refers to as heaven
in a can. Of the ethereal sheep herd
their wools slough off tumbleweed
all over the manufactured grasslands
and I have lost count. There is
no fence. Return to the metal facsimile
of knowing facts and numbers and words
like approximately and maybe water
down how risky it is to own an opinion,
participate in expression’s double
jeopardy. Across the ocean
there is a warehouse in Australia
where approximately 13,000 cans
of tennis balls each with its own vertical
trinity are sealed and blessed by Quality
Control Inspector #7 who some of the balls
call God maybe, some balls want to know
exactly how much petroleum is contained
or what petroleum really is, others wait
for the carriage of the automatic forehand spitter
so they can fail valiantly to attain the perfect
thwack, which is their tennis ball smell.
Which they know to be past way above
the fence magenta and pinprick like
implausible receding day-stars bowing out
behind the bluest curtains I can hang for you.




Thimble mountain frogs, each with a thin black racing
stripe on its back: their lifespan withers at winter.
Their genetic arc is piecewise, elliptical.
At night there’s mist on the river, the sky is low-
low-volume pink fuzz trees shrug closer below the neon dot,
moon. Light begins to fill this sink as a faucet
would sluice a spout onto its metal, slicked invisible.
The alpine in the air edges on anti-gravity.
Red creeps from burnt sugar, mature salmon, cadmium orange, pale coral,
alpine stone withers into ancient pumpkins. Rose ion light
finally glugs up the valley. A bouquet of bubbles. Thin racing stripes
flutter how a colony of black grass scrubs the ocean floor,
wagering to fluid currents their blood, the fruit of star cores. 



Make the End of the World So Beautiful

As I took Rock for a walk I thought, lavender
growths on the clouds fixing the sunset
make the end of the world so beautiful. 

But that's incorrect. It's not The End
because nothing ever really ends.
Once begun an indelible mark exists to exist. 

Rock has to take a shit. He's new here
at the end of the world, and he's got
some pre-fight jitters. You've seen pugs 

play poker, but you've never seen a pit
hit the speed bag. Up on his hind legs, bob 

and weave, float like a butterfly, sting like, ah, shit
you know the rest. Popping the bottle cap from his Yoo-hoo
before a gulp, Rock agrees about the clouds, which I know 

contain visually killer smog that yodels in the key
lysergic acid diethylamide trips over robbing the paint store. 

Magenta. Turquoise. Tangerine. Pewter. Here's a Rorschach
what do you do with it? Eco-poetics is terrestrial blues music.
Rock was an amateur pugilist 

before the War. He adds, I only ever went
after the ones that made me bleed a little. And when 

he went, he left his dog wife, their puppy children. Or maybe
he kept a lover, doggy style. Who knows anything at all. He forgets
his chocolate milk when he remembers how to growl. 

Rocky Earl served in the 118th, a shock-drop lieutenant,
storming Normandy, that saccharine European ballroom
jazz that passes for American myth in American twilight. 

The city sunset looks like the northern lights live among us,
but got high, deflated like one of those human balloon 

PSAs D.A.R.E. made that, if you're with, statistically,
mean you're more likely to do or have done drugs, Rock
did you know that? All I can think about is 

before the war, and before the war, he says
is before the ruse. The mythic parameters
we depend upon for socio-narrative cohesion 

so we don't tear each other apart in the dog eat dog, after all.
But Rock didn't really say that, instead what he does is 

he looks at me. Kid, I 'aint ever wanted to see a sunset this bad. So I say,
hope is like a poisonous gas, it diffuses throughout the air
and before you know it, every cell of your body 

is fighting what makes the end of the world so beautiful.





Michael Baruch is a poet and (most recently) financial reporter from Ellicott City, Maryland. He studied Math & English at the University of Virginia, then received an MFA from Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn, and rides his bicycle through the park as often as possible.