Biography of Randall Mann
Randall Mann is an American poet. He was born in Provo, Utah in 1972, the only son to Olympic Track and Field medalist, Ralph Mann. He is the author of Breakfast with Thom Gunn (University of Chicago, 2009), Complaint in the Garden (Zoo Press, 2004), winner of the 2003 Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry, and co-author of the textbook Writing Poems (7th ed. Pearson Longman, 2007). His poetry often describes Florida, San Francisco and contemporary gay life. Mann currently lives in San Francisco, California.
Randall Mann Poems
The Mortician In San Francisco
This may sound queer, but in 1985 I held the delicate hands of Dan White: I prepared him for burial; by then, Harvey Milk
Prince Rogers Nelson, 1958-2016 "Adore" was my song Back in '87— Cool beans, I liked to say, Desperately uncool. Except for you. Florida, a dirty hand Gesture; the state, pay dirt. Headphones on, I heard, In a word, you were sex, Just in time. Who was I Kidding? Then, as now, Love is too weak to define. Mostly I just ran, Not yet sixteen, Overreaching. Track star, Pretty uniform. Queer, of course. Adore. Rewind: my beloved teammates Sometimes called me Cinnamon Toast Crunch, or CTC, being neither black nor white. Until the end of time. Vanity would never do it for me. Would you? You were definite, the X in my fix. And now, You're gone. The old, on repeat. The new Zeal: zero.
A Better Life
It's silly to think fourteen years ago I turned thirty. How I made it that far I'll never know. In this city of hills, if there was a hill I was over it. Then. (In queer years, years are more than.) Soon it will be fifteen since the day I turned thirty. It's so remote. I didn't think I'd make it to fourteen years ago. Fear lives in the chest like results. You say my gray, it makes me look extinguished; you make me cringe. I haven't cracked the spines of certain paperbacks, or learned a sense of direction, even with a slick device. But the spleen doesn't ask twice, and soon it will be fifteen years since I turned thirty. Which may not sound like a lot. Which sounds like the hinge of a better life: It is, and it is not.
Like eelgrass through a glass- bottom boat on the Silver River, I see the state, obscured yet pure. Derision, a tattooed flame crackling underneath the lewd, uncool khaki of an amused park worker. I was the sometimes boy on a leash, my sliver of assent in 1984 — as if it were my decision. The I-75 signage, more than metaphor. As if I had the right to vote. The slumber parties then were hidden wood; the tea so sweet, the saccharin pink and artificial, like intelligence. The science sponsored in part by chance. I made my acting debut with the red dilettante down the street, "Rusty" Counts, in Rusty Counts Presents: Suburbs of the Dead, straight to VHS. My parents phoned a counselor. A palmetto bug read Megatrends on the fold- ing chair by our above-ground swimming pool ... The pool shark lurked, but not to fear. The end unknowable, blue, inmost, and cold, like the comfort of a diplomatic war.
the relationship between blackbird and fencepost, between the cow and its egret, the field and wildflowers overrunning the field— so little depends upon their trust. Here, in God we trust to keep our cash and thoughts in line— in the sky, an unexplained white line could be the first of many omens. But this is no country for omens, the line as chalky as the moon, bleak and useless as the moon now rising like a breath of cold air . . . There is gullibility in the air.
The Fall of 1992
Gainesville, Florida An empire of moss, dead yellow, and carapace: that was the season of gnats, amyl nitrate, and goddamn rain; of the gator in the fake lake rolling his silverish eyes; of vice; of Erotica, give it up and let me have my way. And the gin-soaked dread that an acronym was festering inside. Love was a doorknob statement, a breakneck goodbye— and the walk of shame without shame, the hair disheveled, curl of Kools, and desolate birds like ampersands... I re-did my face in the bar bathroom, above the urinal trough. I liked it rough. From behind the stall, Lady Pearl slurred the words: Don't hold out for love.
The End of Landscape
There's a certain sadness to this body of water adjacent to the runway, its reeds and weeds, handful of ducks, the water color manmade. A still life. And still life's a cold exercise in looking back, back to Florida, craning my neck like a sandhill crane in Alachua Basin. As for the scrub oaks, the hot wind in the leaves was language, Spanish moss—dusky, parasitic— an obsession: I wanted to live in it. (One professor in exile did, covered himself in the stuff as a joke— then spent a week removing mites.) That's enough. The fields of rushes lay filled with water, and I said farewell, my high ship an old, red Volvo DL, gone to another coast, another peninsula, one without sleep or amphibious music. Tonight, in flight from San Francisco— because everything is truer at a remove— I watch the man I love watch the turn of the Sacramento River, then Sacramento, lit city of legislation and flat land. I think of Florida, how flat. I think of forgetting Florida. And then the landscape grows black.
The palms are psalms. The nail salons, manicured lawns. This is some phase. The park has been razed. I miss the hip, hours at a clip, their dopey glazed Dolores haze (sorry). I worry about basic stuff: my graying scruff, Ambien addiction. Eviction ... — But there's another story: this site was once a cemetery. In 1888, the late were stirred, disinterred, carted somewhere calm, a nothing place called Colma. By then the dead prohibited in city light. They thought this was all right: the dead have nothing to lose; the dead were Jews. Hills of Eternity, Home of Peace: the dead were put in their place.
I was someone's honor's student once, a sticker, a star. I aced Home Ec and Geometry; I learned to stab a fork, steer my mother's car. Old enough to work, I refreshed the salad bar at Steak & Ale, scarcity a line I couldn't fail. The summers between university, interned at AT&T, in the minority outreach they called Inroads. My boss, Vicki, had two roommates, whom she called, simply, The Gays, crashing on her floor. That was before I was gay, I won't try to say with a straight face. Like anyone really cares, I care. What I'm trying to say: all this prepared me for these squat blinking office accessories. The dry drinking after the accidental reply-all. By now there's a lot to lose. Little by little, I have become so careful, no talk of politics, or orientation: I let them say, he's "a homosexual," without an arch correction. At a fondue buffet in Zurich, our dumb- founded senior group director—when I let slip, damn it, my trip with a twenty-year-old—inquired, They're always over seventeen, right? I told her of course, god yes, and, seething, smiled, which I'm famous for. I didn't want to scare her. But I tell you, I'm keeping score. E-mail is no more than a suicide I'd like to please recall. Note my suicide. I'm paid to multitask, scramble the life out of fun: Monday I will ask— every dash a loaded gun, every comma, a knife— you to bury the black-box file.
One last meal, family-style — no family, and with suspect style. November first, my almost-groom fresh off his flasher costume discharge at the office. Harris tweed. I read it on his antisocial feed. The motel life is all a dream — we were, as they say, living the dream. I appreciate our quandary, hot-plate dates and frowsy laundry. Face tattoos are never a good sign. I hope his tumor is benign. I won't forget the time he lent me Inches, which I gave up for Lent. Our love was threat, like phantom pain. An almost-plan for a bullet train. I'm weaning myself off graphic tees, not taking on any new disease. I walk along Pier 5 to kill the myth, of course another stab at myth. I pull my output from the shelf and wildly anthologize myself. I've adopted another yellow lab. I hope to die inside this cab. My lack of faith is punctuation — no wait, the lack of punctuation. Every intonation, one more pact with injury; my latest one-act: "Flossing in Public." In the spattered glass of the republic
is only something on which to hang your long overcoat; the slender snake asleep in the grass; the umbrella by the door;
Poem Beginning with a Line by John Ashbe...
Jealousy. Whispered weather reports. The lure of the land so strong it prompts gossip: we chatter like small birds at the edge of the ocean gray, foaming.
Out of the fog comes a little white bus. It ferries us south to the technical mouth of the bay. This is biopharma, Double Helix Way.
Breakfast With Thom Gunn
We choose a cheap hotel because they're serving drinks. We drink. I hear him tell a tale or two: he thinks
This is what he dreams of:
a map of burned land,
a mound of dirt
in the early century's winter.
A map of burned land?
A country is razed
in the early century's winter.
And God descends.