Something strange is creeping across me. La Celestina has only to warble the first few bars Of "I Thought about You" or something mellow from Amadigi di Gaula for everything--a mint-condition can Of Rumford's Baking Powder, a celluloid earring, Speedy Gonzales, the latest from Helen Topping Miller's fertile Escritoire, a sheaf of suggestive pix on greige, deckle-edged Stock--to come clattering through the rainbow trellis Where Pistachio Avenue rams the 2300 block of Highland Fling Terrace. He promised he'd get me out of this one, That mean old cartoonist, but just look what he's Done to me now! I scarce dare approach me mug's attenuated Reflection in yon hubcap, so jaundiced, so déconfit Are its lineaments--fun, no doubt, for some quack phrenologist's Fern-clogged waiting room, but hardly what you'd call Companionable. But everything is getting choked to the point of Silence. Just now a magnetic storm hung in the swatch of sky Over the Fudds' garage, reducing it--drastically-- To the aura of a plumbago-blue log cabin on A Gadsden Purchase commemorative cover. Suddenly all is Loathing. I don't want to go back inside any more. You meet Enough vague people on this emerald traffic-island--no, Not people, comings and goings, more: mutterings, splatterings, The bizarrely but effectively equipped infantries of happy-go-nutty Vegetal jacqueries, plumed, pointed at the little White cardboard castle over the mill run. "Up The lazy river, how happy we could be?" How will it end? That geranium glow Over Anaheim's had the riot act read to it by the Etna-size firecracker that exploded last minute into A carte du Tendre in whose lower right-hand corner (Hard by the jock-itch sand-trap that skirts The asparagus patch of algolagnic nuits blanches) Amadis Is cozening the Princesse de Cleves into a midnight micturition spree On the Tamigi with the Wallets (Walt, Blossom, and little Sleezix) on a lamé barge "borrowed" from Ollie Of the Movies' dread mistress of the robes. Wait! I have an announcement! This wide, tepidly meandering, Civilized Lethe (one can barely make out the maypoles And châlets de nécessitê on its sedgy shore) leads to Tophet, that Landfill-haunted, not-so-residential resort from which Some travellers return! This whole moment is the groin Of a borborygmic giant who even now Is rolling over on us in his sleep. Farewell bocages, Tanneries, water-meadows. The allegory comes unsnarled Too soon; a shower of pecky acajou harpoons is About all there is to be noted between tornadoes. I have Only my intermittent life in your thoughts to live Which is like thinking in another language. Everything Depends on whether somebody reminds you of me. That this is a fabulation, and that those "other times" Are in fact the silences of the soul, picked out in Diamonds on stygian velvet, matters less than it should. Prodigies of timing may be arranged to convince them We live in one dimension, they in ours. While I Abroad through all the coasts of dark destruction seek Deliverance for us all, think in that language: its Grammar, though tortured, offers pavillions At each new parting of the ways. Pastel Ambulances scoop up the quick and hie them to hospitals. "It's all bits and pieces, spangles, patches, really; nothing Stands alone. What happened to creative evolution?" Sighed Aglavaine. Then to her Sélysette: "If his Achievement is only to end up less boring than the others, What's keeping us here? Why not leave at once? I have to stay here while they sit in there, Laugh, drink, have fine time. In my day One lay under the tough green leaves, Pretending not to notice how they bled into The sky's aqua, the wafted-away no-color of regions supposed Not to concern us. And so we too Came where the others came: nights of physical endurance, Or if, by day, our behavior was anarchically Correct, at least by New Brutalism standards, all then Grew taciturn by previous agreement. We were spirited Away en bateau, under cover of fudge dark. It's not the incomplete importunes, but the spookiness Of the finished product. True, to ask less were folly, yet If he is the result of himself, how much the better For him we ought to be! And how little, finally, We take this into account! Is the puckered garance satin Of a case that once held a brace of dueling pistols our Only acknowledging of that color? I like not this, Methinks, yet this disappointing sequel to ourselves Has been applauded in London and St. Petersburg. Somewhere Ravens pray for us." The storm finished brewing. And thus She questioned all who came in at the great gate, but none She found who ever heard of Amadis, Nor of stern Aureng-Zebe, his first love. Some They were to whom this mattered not a jot: since all By definition is completeness (so In utter darkness they reasoned), why not Accept it as it pleases to reveal itself? As when Low skyscrapers from lower-hanging clouds reveal A turret there, an art-deco escarpment here, and last perhaps The pattern that may carry the sense, but Stays hidden in the mysteries of pagination. Not what we see but how we see it matters; all's Alike, the same, and we greet him who announces The change as we would greet the change itself. All life is but a figment; conversely, the tiny Tome that slips from your hand is not perhaps the Missing link in this invisible picnic whose leverage Shrouds our sense of it. Therefore bivouac we On this great, blond highway, unimpeded by Veiled scruples, worn conundrums. Morning is Impermanent. Grab sex things, swing up Over the horizon like a boy On a fishing expedition. No one really knows Or cares whether this is the whole of which parts Were vouchsafed--once--but to be ambling on's The tradition more than the safekeeping of it. This mulch for Play keeps them interested and busy while the big, Vaguer stuff can decide what it wants--what maps, what Model cities, how much waste space. Life, our Life anyway, is between. We don't mind Or notice any more that the sky is green, a parrot One, but have our earnest where it chances on us, Disingenuous, intrigued, inviting more, Always invoking the echo, a summer's day.
Thanksgiving 2004: I’m thankful for
Columbo’s eye, Peter Falk’s indivisible
from the other’s vitreous dupe that he can pocket,
rub into, off of, and shine the crystal eyeball after
it subs in a game of table pool. Oh yeah!
The future of fortunes is manufactured revelation
of a snow globe: when the right someone gets his hands
on such a world, that world is shaken to pieces, the glass
is tapped in the aquarium, semitransparent arowanas remain
inexplicable, a tapper’s desire breaks out: oh to become glass,
to slide the foot into a transparent baby slipper arowana
and dance with a prince whose glass toenails
shatter when he runs after glass-footed beauties
born that way, skin so thin it hides nothing
without actually being clear, sneak peak
at the friable optic nerve, the components
separated only by glass
through which all seen becomes transparent, criminal
activity obvious, the put-on of opaque alibis
exposing a fear of crime’s transparency:
finger prints on the latex interior of the gloves,
imprint of a face on the wrong side of the mask:
at some level, a matter of seeing eye dog versus unseeing
eye dog, culture of breed, hole-in-the-wall expectations, cash
transactions, motel by the half-hour versus extended stay
opulence just to sleep there for real
with seeing eye dog sleeping on a braided rug half-under
the bed of a blind girl, the girlishness not an issue,
the dog not meant to be her guide into decisions, just
crossings to which she becomes committed independently,
regarding the cool dark of evening, the lapse
of the feel of light as day’s form of breathing,
getting illumination off its wide chest
until able to face again the responsibility of light
that even this girl must accept behind glasses:
day is hers too, given by an internal clock
that wants all the bright hours, odor of rising,
flowers opening with the bakeries, stunning
synchronizations, a pas de deux, she steps, dog steps
into the crosswalk at the same time as a man heading
toward them with coffee, led also but by the Arabica, hookah
descent, descant now to the caffeine
that doesn’t adhere to the glass mug: it is all for him,
her too if they merge at first sight: the world of coffee,
the culture of glass
bottom boats, success:
liquid assets: if solidity is the basic state
that matters, it’s obvious what happens:
The dog retires, seeing what canines see
for himself, fleas cross
his coat without help other than his receiving
no special treatment,
tied in a twenty-foot yard frequented most
by sunflowers, each seed
like the eye of an insect. An alley of a yard
that from time to time becomes a crime scene
in the blink of an eye
the glass one melts last.
This is a day when truths will out, perhaps;
leak from the dangling telephone earphones
sapping the festooned switchboards' strength;
fall from the windows, blow from off the sills,
—the vague, slight unremarkable contents
of emptying ash-trays; rub off on our fingers
like ink from the un-proof-read newspapers,
crocking the way the unfocused photographs
of crooked faces do that soil our coats,
our tropical-weight coats, like slapped-at moths.
Today's a day when those who work
are idling. Those who played must work
and hurry, too, to get it done,
with little dignity or none.
The newspapers are sold; the kiosk shutters
crash down. But anyway, in the night
the headlines wrote themselves, see, on the streets
and sidewalks everywhere; a sediment's splashed
even to the first floors of apartment houses.
This is a day that's beautiful as well,
and warm and clear. At seven o'clock I saw
the dogs being walked along the famous beach
as usual, in a shiny gray-green dawn,
leaving their paw prints draining in the wet.
The line of breakers was steady and the pinkish,
segmented rainbow steadily hung above it.
At eight two little boys were flying kites.
If Kali were a car, what kind of car would she be? A Batmobile? She, as primordial vehicle. She with emanations to wiles of any mother. She with hair on fire. Mouth a flame with wrathful breath. This is the feminine speaking, this is the mouth and body and curse of the female. See her on the street, in the subway, at the endless-wait terminal. She waiting. Many storms of waiting. Just below the surface. Red eyes, gaping mouth, lolling tongue. Definition in a defining way the deafening roar of Kali which is the roar of Time. She is Time. And She devours Time. Naked Time. Naked Kali. She is an open system. She eats energy and manifests energy. No concept need apply. She is the flickering tongue of Agni, fire. She is the mother of language and mantra. She is all 51 letters of the Devanagari alphabet, each letter a form of energy, a twinge of energy, a torque of energy. Each letter a star, each letter a sign, each letter an empyrean gesture, each letter a captured sound, each letter a resolve, each letter a rune, each letter a whiplash, each letter a scorching brand, each letter a flame, each letter a twitch, each letter a bundle of firewood, each letter a thirsty pioneer, each letter a charnel ground, each letter a rice harvest, each letter a cooking pot, each letter a treasure, each letter a tide now rising, each letter an eolithic moon, each letter a sun in shadow, each letter a love affair, each letter a possible mistake, each letter a symbol of change, each letter a wheel, each letter a wheel of change, each letter a triumph, each letter a solar wind, each letter a storm, each letter a cameo appearance, each one a treaty, each one a place where plutonium safely resides, each one an hedrumite resolution, each one an epitrope, each one an orchestra of many gongs, each one an evening, a morning with snow, a morning with scorching heat, each one a necessary tribulation, each one a massacre that will be revealed, each one a torture that will be revealed, each letter a bamboo thicket, each one a candle lit to all the deities in all ten directions of space, each one a pillow, a mat, a blanket, each one a water buffalo, each one a bride, each one a hag, each letter a palpable hit...
No matter what life you lead the virgin is a lovely number: cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper, arms and legs made of Limoges, lips like Vin Du Rhône, rolling her china-blue doll eyes open and shut. Open to say, Good Day Mama, and shut for the thrust of the unicorn. She is unsoiled. She is as white as a bonefish. Once there was a lovely virgin called Snow White. Say she was thirteen. Her stepmother, a beauty in her own right, though eaten, of course, by age, would hear of no beauty surpassing her own. Beauty is a simple passion, but, oh my friends, in the end you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes. The stepmother had a mirror to which she referred-- something like the weather forecast-- a mirror that proclaimed the one beauty of the land. She would ask, Looking glass upon the wall, who is fairest of us all? And the mirror would reply, You are the fairest of us all. Pride pumped in her like poison. Suddenly one day the mirror replied, Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true, but Snow White is fairer than you. Until that moment Snow White had been no more important than a dust mouse under the bed. But now the queen saw brown spots on her hand and four whiskers over her lip so she condemned Snow White to be hacked to death. Bring me her heart, she said to the hunter, and I will salt it and eat it. The hunter, however, let his prisoner go and brought a boar's heart back to the castle. The queen chewed it up like a cube steak. Now I am fairest, she said, lapping her slim white fingers. Snow White walked in the wildwood for weeks and weeks. At each turn there were twenty doorways and at each stood a hungry wolf, his tongue lolling out like a worm. The birds called out lewdly, talking like pink parrots, and the snakes hung down in loops, each a noose for her sweet white neck. On the seventh week she came to the seventh mountain and there she found the dwarf house. It was as droll as a honeymoon cottage and completely equipped with seven beds, seven chairs, seven forks and seven chamber pots. Snow White ate seven chicken livers and lay down, at last, to sleep. The dwarfs, those little hot dogs, walked three times around Snow White, the sleeping virgin. They were wise and wattled like small czars. Yes. It's a good omen, they said, and will bring us luck. They stood on tiptoes to watch Snow White wake up. She told them about the mirror and the killer-queen and they asked her to stay and keep house. Beware of your stepmother, they said. Soon she will know you are here. While we are away in the mines during the day, you must not open the door. Looking glass upon the wall . . . The mirror told and so the queen dressed herself in rags and went out like a peddler to trap Snow White. She went across seven mountains. She came to the dwarf house and Snow White opened the door and bought a bit of lacing. The queen fastened it tightly around her bodice, as tight as an Ace bandage, so tight that Snow White swooned. She lay on the floor, a plucked daisy. When the dwarfs came home they undid the lace and she revived miraculously. She was as full of life as soda pop. Beware of your stepmother, they said. She will try once more. Looking glass upon the wall. . . Once more the mirror told and once more the queen dressed in rags and once more Snow White opened the door. This time she bought a poison comb, a curved eight-inch scorpion, and put it in her hair and swooned again. The dwarfs returned and took out the comb and she revived miraculously. She opened her eyes as wide as Orphan Annie. Beware, beware, they said, but the mirror told, the queen came, Snow White, the dumb bunny, opened the door and she bit into a poison apple and fell down for the final time. When the dwarfs returned they undid her bodice, they looked for a comb, but it did no good. Though they washed her with wine and rubbed her with butter it was to no avail. She lay as still as a gold piece. The seven dwarfs could not bring themselves to bury her in the black ground so they made a glass coffin and set it upon the seventh mountain so that all who passed by could peek in upon her beauty. A prince came one June day and would not budge. He stayed so long his hair turned green and still he would not leave. The dwarfs took pity upon him and gave him the glass Snow White-- its doll's eyes shut forever-- to keep in his far-off castle. As the prince's men carried the coffin they stumbled and dropped it and the chunk of apple flew out of her throat and she woke up miraculously. And thus Snow White became the prince's bride. The wicked queen was invited to the wedding feast and when she arrived there were red-hot iron shoes, in the manner of red-hot roller skates, clamped upon her feet. First your toes will smoke and then your heels will turn black and you will fry upward like a frog, she was told. And so she danced until she was dead, a subterranean figure, her tongue flicking in and out like a gas jet. Meanwhile Snow White held court, rolling her china-blue doll eyes open and shut and sometimes referring to her mirror as women do.
Abortions will not let you forget. You remember the children you got that you did not get, The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair, The singers and workers that never handled the air. You will never neglect or beat Them, or silence or buy with a sweet. You will never wind up the sucking-thumb Or scuttle off ghosts that come. You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh, Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye. I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children. I have contracted. I have eased My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck. I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized Your luck And your lives from your unfinished reach, If I stole your births and your names, Your straight baby tears and your games, Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths, If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths, Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate. Though why should I whine, Whine that the crime was other than mine?-- Since anyhow you are dead. Or rather, or instead, You were never made. But that too, I am afraid, Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said? You were born, you had body, you died. It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried. Believe me, I loved you all. Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you All.
'The devil must be forced to reveal any such physical evil (potions, charms, fetishes, etc.) still outside the body and these must be burned.' (Rituale Romanum, published 1947, endorsed by the coat-of-arms and introductory letter from Francis cardinal Spellman) I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra, sidewinders in the saloons of fools bit my forehead like O the untrustworthiness of Egyptologists who do not know their trips. Who was that dog-faced man? they asked, the day I rode from town. School marms with halitosis cannot see the Nefertiti fake chipped on the run by slick germans, the hawk behind Sonny Rollins' head or the ritual beard of his axe; a longhorn winding its bells thru the Field of Reeds. I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. I bedded down with Isis, Lady of the Boogaloo, dove deep down in her horny, stuck up her Wells-Far-ago in daring midday getaway. 'Start grabbing the blue,' I said from top of my double crown. I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Ezzard Charles of the Chisholm Trail. Took up the bass but they blew off my thumb. Alchemist in ringmanship but a sucker for the right cross. I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Vamoosed from the temple i bide my time. The price on the wanted poster was a-going down, outlaw alias copped my stance and moody greenhorns were making me dance; while my mouth's shooting iron got its chambers jammed. I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Boning-up in the ol' West i bide my time. You should see me pick off these tin cans whippersnappers. I write the motown long plays for the comeback of Osiris. Make them up when stars stare at sleeping steer out here near the campfire. Women arrive on the backs of goats and throw themselves on my Bowie. I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra. Lord of the lash, the Loup Garou Kid. Half breed son of Pisces and Aquarius. I hold the souls of men in my pot. I do the dirty boogie with scorpions. I make the bulls keep still and was the first swinger to grape the taste. I am a cowboy in his boat. Pope Joan of the Ptah Ra. C/mere a minute willya doll? Be a good girl and bring me my Buffalo horn of black powder bring me my headdress of black feathers bring me my bones of Ju-Ju snake go get my eyelids of red paint. Hand me my shadow I'm going into town after Set I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra look out Set here i come Set to get Set to sunset Set to unseat Set to Set down Set usurper of the Royal couch imposter RAdio of Moses' bush party pooper O hater of dance vampire outlaw of the milky way
He had driven half the night From far down San Joaquin Through Mariposa, up the Dangerous Mountain roads, And pulled in at eight a.m. With his big truckload of hay behind the barn. With winch and ropes and hooks We stacked the bales up clean To splintery redwood rafters High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa Whirling through shingle-cracks of light, Itch of haydust in the sweaty shirt and shoes. At lunchtime under Black oak Out in the hot corral, ---The old mare nosing lunchpails, Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds--- "I'm sixty-eight" he said, "I first bucked hay when I was seventeen. I thought, that day I started, I sure would hate to do this all my life. And dammit, that's just what I've gone and done."
We live our lives of human passions, cruelties, dreams, concepts, crimes and the exercise of virtue in and beside a world devoid of our preoccupations, free from apprehension--though affected, certainly, by our actions. A world parallel to our own though overlapping. We call it "Nature"; only reluctantly admitting ourselves to be "Nature" too. Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions, our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute, an hour even, of pure (almost pure) response to that insouciant life: cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing pilgrimage of water, vast stillness of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane, animal voices, mineral hum, wind conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering of fire to coal--then something tethered in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free. No one discovers just where we've been, when we're caught up again into our own sphere (where we must return, indeed, to evolve our destinies) --but we have changed, a little.
I have done it again. One year in every ten I manage it-- A sort of walking miracle, my skin Bright as a Nazi lampshade, My right foot A paperweight, My face a featureless, fine Jew linen. Peel off the napkin O my enemy. Do I terrify?-- The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth? The sour breath Will vanish in a day. Soon, soon the flesh The grave cave ate will be At home on me And I a smiling woman. I am only thirty. And like the cat I have nine times to die. This is Number Three. What a trash To annihilate each decade. What a million filaments. The peanut-crunching crowd Shoves in to see Them unwrap me hand and foot-- The big strip tease. Gentlemen, ladies These are my hands My knees. I may be skin and bone, Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman. The first time it happened I was ten. It was an accident. The second time I meant To last it out and not come back at all. I rocked shut As a seashell. They had to call and call And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls. Dying Is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well. I do it so it feels like hell. I do it so it feels real. I guess you could say I've a call. It's easy enough to do it in a cell. It's easy enough to do it and stay put. It's the theatrical Comeback in broad day To the same place, the same face, the same brute Amused shout: 'A miracle!' That knocks me out. There is a charge For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge For the hearing of my heart-- It really goes. And there is a charge, a very large charge For a word or a touch Or a bit of blood Or a piece of my hair or my clothes. So, so, Herr Doktor. So, Herr Enemy. I am your opus, I am your valuable, The pure gold baby That melts to a shriek. I turn and burn. Do not think I underestimate your great concern. Ash, ash-- You poke and stir. Flesh, bone, there is nothing there-- A cake of soap, A wedding ring, A gold filling. Herr God, Herr Lucifer Beware Beware. Out of the ash I rise with my red hair And I eat men like air.
23-29 October 1962
An unemployed machinist An unemployed machinist who travelled here who travelled here from Georgia from Georgia 10 days ago 10 days ago and could not find a job and could not find a job walked into a police station walking into a police station yesterday and said yesterday and said: "I'm tired of being scared I'm tired of being scared."
It would have to shine. And burn. And be a sign of something infinite and turn things and people nearby into their wilder selves and be dangerous to the ordinary nature of signs and glow like a tiny hole in space to which a god presses his eye and stares. Or her eye. Some divine impossible stretch of the imagination where you and I are one. It would have to be something Martin Buber would say and, seeing it, point and rejoice. It could be the mouth of a Coca-Cola bottle or two snakes rolling down a mountain trail. It would have to leap up out of the darkness of a theater and sing the high silky operatic note of someone in love. And run naked slender fingers through the hair of a stranger, or your mother or father, or grandfather, or a grassy hill in West Virginia. It would live on berries and moss like a deer and roam the woods at night like the secret life of the woods at night and when the sun rises you could see it and think it is yours and that would be enough and it would come to you as these words have come to me--slowly, tenderly, tangibly. Shy and meanderingly.
The three witches, casting a spell
Round about the cauldron go; In the poison’d entrails throw. Toad, that under cold stone Days and nights hast thirty one Swelter’d venom sleeping got, Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Fillet of a fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bake; Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark, Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark, Liver of blaspheming Jew, Gall of goat, and slips of yew Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse, Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips, Finger of birth-strangled babe Ditch-deliver’d by a drab, Make the gruel thick and slab: Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron, For the ingredients of our cauldron. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.