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About this Poem 

“Karaoke translates into English as ‘empty orchestra’—a portmanteau of sorts from the Japanese words for empty (kara) and orchestra (ōkesutora). I can hardly sing a lick and my limited range yields Karaoke choices that are more talky than sung. And yet I love the idea and essence of the act. Singing lyrics that we learn (or read) parallels what we inherit—as family members, as inhabitants and citizens of particular places, and as poets—from whomever and whatever we follow. What follows is a kind of genesis, a making in which we simultaneously borrow and add our own stamp.”
Michael Morse

Void and Compensation (Karaoke Genesis)

Since when did keeping things to ourselves
help us to better remember them?

We need tutorials from predecessors.

To restore what’s missing makes a science
of equating like with like, or touching
small pebbles on a larger mental abacus.

We hitch a memory of order to ourselves:

From rotating bodies in space comes wind,
by which we’re buffeted, cooled, or graced;
The sun warms both the sunflower
and the angel with whom we might wrestle;
We get some lyrics from a higher power
and then we act on or for each other.

In calculated reunions of broken parts,
the latter must always feel the former,
inherit both the track and the turn.

A situation like an empty orchestra.

And when we try to sing above it, intuit,
and even in our singing are mistaken—

if pitch is something sought and never pure,
if latter sounds like something we can climb
as opposed to where we find ourselves
more recently in our relations, in time,
having been left or starting our leave-taking—

something happened—someone followed someone.
Someone had. Even held. Our formers.

We’re doppelgangers, saintly or undone;
pick a song and listen for your cue.

Here’s the void. Now sing some compensation.

Copyright © 2015 by Michael Morse. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Michael Morse. Used with permission of the author.

Michael Morse

Michael Morse

Michael Morse is the author of Void and Compensation (Canarium, 2015). He teaches at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City and lives in Brooklyn.

by this poet

Ideal: to drive the lane and look for dishes,
to see the open man, give him his bucket.

The one-on-one for which we are now counseled
blueprints a perfect symmetry that’s hard to hold.

Like my friend who dreams of his ex
and wakes to find a moonlit lawn of deer.

In our nightly houses
the dolls insist that we
If most things speak for themselves, can't it be said
that really you're doing the thinking for them? 

The first step is all about obsession with exclusion, 
the cold front coming in and forcing you to hunker down,
the migrants winging their way to some gold coast
with enough fat in their chests to burn down a