Tim Staley

20 Exercises in Elitism

Imagine a helicopter meets wind power

Imagine the Allegory of the Cave meets The Big Bang Theory (2007-present)

Imagine a man at the top of a mountain meets irrepressible loneliness

Imagine dual citizenship meets ROBOCOP (2014)

Imagine a big sorrel vibrating beneath you, snorting with impatience, one hand 
in his mane, one on the reins meets a steel mill all boarded up

Imagine Socrates’ cup of hemlock meets Miss Teen USA

Imagine drawing a Card Against Humanity meets European war dogs ripping your 
body apart

Imagine a John Lennon half Mexican, half Afghani on American Idol meets the 
Mariana Trench

Imagine Melania meets the man of her dreams

Imagine a policeman and another policeman and another policeman and a Secret 
Service man meets a series of black vans arriving to your house, your address, 
your fair hair 

Imagine Rosa Parks meets the electric chair

Imagine a hairdryer meets a strand of hair at the bottom of the ocean

Imagine the rise and fall of the Irish elk meets the Grand Old Opry, the Grand 
Old Party

Imagine a Luger in the top of Scott’s closet meets an AR-15

Imagine quixotic optimism meets Mark David Chapman about a quarter mile from 
the scarlet fields meets the front door of The Dakota 

Imagine fleeing to Canada meets not making it in time

Imagine an application for your smart phone that tells you how to dress, how to 
hold your hips meets the House UnAmerican Activities Committee 

Imagine Barney Fife’s bullet meets the NRA seizing their moment to play offence

Imagine being the one talking meets the end of the world

Imagine the scarlet poppies over an old battle field making us all narcoleptic 
and livid, narcoleptic and livid, meets zero humidity 

Note: This form is stolen from Anthony Discenza's audio installation: A RISING 



I’m just a white American male
in a seated position. I’m a staple
in a box of 5000. 

Clouds coast across the bluffs.
Little winged bugs land on me,
here’s one with a green body,
here’s one secreting a sex hormone in a swarm, 
here’s the last gnat of summer.

I hear men up and down the canyon firing guns. 
210 staples in a strip and I’ll be the one 
that’s not reckless, the one hung up 
in the machinery. I’ll watch the fire die
from a cot inside my van.

Arms Dislocated

Air conditioning 
approaches the ear 
of a drone pilot
his finger in Nevada 
on the joystick’s trigger
his cockpit with the top down. 
Most the time my mind
flaps around the patio
like a maniac dove. Right now
where is your mind? Is it here 
or is it faking it somewhere
like Vaseline smeared in the air 
above a highway in summer.
Is it worth fighting about?

This is the ideal: unalarmed absences. 

A good day is drawn by a 5 year old
with an ice cube on hot pavement.
Shapes drying fast as they’re drawn. 
No one is thinking about the slaying
on a good day. No one I love has sadness 
hidden in their stomach on a good day.

I’m trying to say I ignore the killing gracefully.  

There’s no post-war poet today
blood is too actively shed
and I’ve read enough women poets
to know they bleed for life
and men bleed against it. 

I’ll stop reading. I’ll be a 10 foot ladder on the ocean floor. 

Bramble stream, white rocks poking out.
The sky is Hope Diamond blue.
Look at me hiding under a stone
in the Aldo Leopold
in the dark home of some
black spider who kills 
but killing to eat 
isn’t anybody’s fault. 
Touch the Hope Diamond 
and you may get stabbed 
or blue-eyed parricided
or worse.

Neruda says poetry is an act of peace, is that only war poetry?

I buried the soldier in me
like a placenta that still
pulses underground. 
Lynn Strongin says 
tough-minded poetry
will necessarily 
be the most triumphant
in the end. 

A mind isn’t tough at all, it’s blown to shreds in a second. 


I chop a dozen locust trees 
with a spade
from their mother roots. 

The transplants ride in milk cartons 
and Walmart bags in back of the van.

I’ll dig holes for them the opposite of graves.
They’re too young to know 
they weren’t wanted in their birth lawn.  
They clench the sphincter of their leaves
as the wind pounds on.