Dusk-Star Utopia

SO WHAT if Encounter rode the CIA's dole; so what if Henry Luce, shaving in the mirror
saw himself all the more Roman Senator & cold-warrior for PAX AMERICANA
by publishing the spread on Pollack; his girl, sleep-warm, coaxing "Hen-ry, Hen-ry...."
Instead of an early lay, she gets another French chocolate & BEAUTY SLEEP. The little canary
annoyed, too, at the ascetic hours his press-lord keeps, chirps & chirps. & all their various thoughts & songs, are nothing, really, to the swarm of sensuous utterance in Number 1, 1948.

& Louis M., who wrote the book on COLD WAR theology (or whatever we're calling my childhood now), avers in glossy pages no single context defines the work of the artwork--thanks for that Louis.
Not even the radix of the HEART, that tangle of ideas & nerves—& swarm of sensuous utterance
on my best days—I'm looking thru, defies the context of the work of day or the art hung
under its sun for some relent. Never, thru the exterminating blank addiction of despair, "that white sustenance" our Amherst sorceress called it, never yet has my heart wilded like a troupe of horses
munching on the stubble-grass that shows through the frozen field, now, in the small relent of sun-thaw. Now for the small relent in the regime of the yet-to-be—but no relent is in the offing.
Only the blank road, & yet to be that field of perception in which those horses, hungry for ruckus 
& grass, play—pure perception, fluid, golden (what else would CAPITAL allow as desire)—driving the route
home, thinking how that farmhouse there could be the start of something free. The tattoo-
totem of fists & faces snaking my forearm, as the road, too, coils, impels an urge to feel any form of liberty
against the blank road, against the closed day. Is it there in every MUST & muscle flexed in the drive
to be abstract? Insinuated in every denial of the accident?—HISTORY, I mean, unrolling its chaotic
masque of CAUSE manifest as pure atoms of EFFECT: the show snow flurries make of this car-park.
So Clive-Mister-Critic-Man, your cleverness dogging Pound's "black-clad book—black as a shirt,"
your cleverness loose as the TURKEY WADDLE of some old whore bitter & over-used, really, so what
is CLEVERNESS "before hell mouth," cleverness weighed against the image of BLAKE'S EYES.

What is your criticism stacked against the naked stomach & vision of his anti-lyric, the "limbo of chopped ice & saw dust." 
Sure, Pound is overcome, insinuated & entangled left scratching out his "genealogy of demons."
There is a limit to SO WHAT, I admit that; there is a limit-case at the radix of every HEART, 
that limbo of black-ice & that-something-there-that-could-be-the-start-of-something-free.
For the record, YOUR HONOR, my copy of the Cantos is COPPER, like the shuffle of pennies in the dashtray 
by the gear-shift, where now I've laid the scorched aluminum-foil, which is not for memory but its annulment:
the no-place, the city of OTHERWISE & IF we're trying for, even if only at the level of this misruled body. I'm writing—BLAKE'S EYES—now against the steering-wheel: for STARS take these streetlamps
(burning coal a remove or two behind their halogen glow, beneath that burning, the stripped wreckage of KENTUCKY, the coal-dark wreckage of WEST VIRGINIA), take these dusk-stars
& all those like them switching on, in the thick of the daily & unrelenting catastrophe of AMERICA. 
EVEN STILL, Madrid, I believe (with Revell) "poets everywhere to be Americans in the necessity & abandoned stewardship of bliss."


The Beard Is a Strange Sea Beast

THE beard is a strange sea beast. You ever seen the footage?
The astronauts coming out o' that bobbing thing, beards all over 'em?
You ever been to Rome? Naw, you ain't seen the Eternal City 
'Til you've sat in a tub in Baltimore, your mouth full of chocolate.
I ain't looking for an apology. I'm running up my phone bill,
Standing out here in snowshoes, in the nick of Nova Scotia.
Supposedly the sun's a star: "medium-sized," "yellow." 
I'll believe it when I see it. Anyhow, I ain't here to look at books.
Cause and effect, left and right—each is the other's upshot.
You turn a solid inside out, it's like running a projector backwards.
And people still love that story with its turn-of-the-century logic:
A man is his watch, a woman's her hair, and Christmas is all platitudes.
I never said I wasn't! My dick don't know it's over. You see that 
Line of cars out front there? Not even kidding. That's all me.
One canary, two canary, three canary, four. I shove in 
Another songbird, I'll be able to shave with a snowflake...
Be able to shave with a snowflake, use an ice cream for a razor. When you're 
Battling the forces of Evil, you're allowed to be evil yourself.


Spirit of ’86

THE ASTRONAUTS I remember were fiery after liftoff, and we, for a moment, a fiery collective looking up at those stretches of smoke over FLORIDA, a collective of peeled eyes and hearts peeled open thru TV, but without any knowledge of what would be required to sustain a FIERY COLLECTIVE—and we wouldn't sustain it—how could we? (And who had the cheat-sheet that day?) I was hot for Mindy Shula, you were probably hot for someone, too, likely a Jennifer, they were everywhere in MCMLXXXVI, and kissing a Jenny was like being water in a zero-gravity environment: suddenly weird and perfectly spheroid and floating. And even after liftoff, CAPE CANAVERAL sounded almost like a new ice-cream flavor. Our teachers, in their polyester skirts, stood off by themselves not a Jennifer among them.
Not a Jenny among them as they looked at each other to see who would break—in case of NATIONAL TRAGEDY—the little glass case and take out the book of platitudes. And what the teacher-voice didn't say, but what I heard was the (sublime) day is a book, you gotta put your nose into. "At least they didn't feel anything," Danny, his dad a navy pilot said. At Least They Didn't Feel Anything, that's a book of lucky names. Infinite Debt; The Ship, Night; Hey Da' Build It; Seabeast / Songbird; The Count Of December; The Brother—so goes my circulating calendar. If I didn't know better Madrid, I might think that copy—dog-eared, littered with flags, spine so broken it's bound in cords—of Guantanamo, Mon Amour was something more like a secret fetish | than an object of study: Don't take your eyes off "the forces of Evil," that's what's ablaze and spinning in BLAKE'S EYES. And the book that could be the start of something free, The City of Otherwise & If.


I Know Not Love Unless It Be a Boar And Then I Chase It

THESE bridge-builders had ambition: they pitched their JAVELINS into the clouds.
I pass over the bridge, I look off the edge into the map of North America.

I must find the woman CABRERA. It falls to me to prevent
Her falling into another dispute on this idle, much-handled theme.

The text is old; the orator, green; and here is a girl named Zelby. Good
Friend, for Jesus' sake, forbear. We need to run it by Legal.

What is thy body but a swallowing grave? Or a chew on a leaf of lettuce?
Being a girl has its advantages. I am your slave; now do what I say.

With a heavy, dark, disliking eye, I bless you from the top of your haircut
To the bottoms of your Doc Martens, and even a foot and a half below that.

In Mary Beth's school, they have a strict rule: if the knee shows through the fabric,
The leggings are considered "sheer," and you have to change 'em in front of the Principal...

Like a dive-dapper (peering through a wave) is the poet Mary Oliver. Yet she
Cannot but disappear in due course—like all mild-mannered reporters.

THOUSAND BUCKS says you miss. Yeah, the marrow-eating sickness
Whose attaint disorder breeds is gonna plumb my double helix.

I'll be a park and you be my deer. The dewy cool conveyed
On the beams of the silver moonlight'll soothe my drama queen mitochondria. 

Will soothe my Dracula nerves—and my drama queen mitochondria! Are ya
Sick of these self-appointed trickster gods? You're sick of them; they're sick of you.

EVERYBODY WINS! And oh, what a war of looks was between 'em! If I
Back a truck over a penny, I can tell if it's heads or tails.


Poem Made of 4 Stations

A Short Film With Missing Figure: digital video, running time 6min 57sec
Driving, empty highway. Dusk. Music plays low against roadnoise. Out the driver's window: deadgrasshills against the dusk grey flat—drier, deader, browner. RANGE BURNING AREA flashes by. Driving, then a skein of smoke, then another and another less attenuated still, then thick tendrils. Seconds later, dense smoke then he's driving blind. Then barely hazards.
He pulls to the shoulder and parks. The other car, stopped across the center-lines. He takes off his shirt, douses it with water and wraps it around his mouth and nose then gets out—silence for the first time. Roiling smoke: tendrils of black smoke punctuate the vast gray majority. He walks through the nothing but smoke. Then hazards. The driver's door is open; the car is littered with roadtrip detritus. The engine is still running.
He steps over the guardrail and sets off for the hills. Through the dense smoke there is no sound. Two full minutes then smoke thins to black and gray-black tendrils, then a layer of slate colored atmosphere. Burnt-black hills, a weird reprieve against the privation of seeing nothing solid. Thinner smoke still, as when pain recedes transforming the person in its wake and residuum. He walks farther out.
Burnt-black hills and no one. Then the distant fire-line against the night coming on. He stops and takes off his wet mask. He spits—sound resumes—and coughs, then breathes clearly. He buttons the thin-cotton shirt, (white) grayed from the polluted air. He walks farther out, quickens his pace to a jog then breaks into a full run up a large hill. Reaching the hilltop, he stops, catches his breath. The burnt-black prairie: no one, | a distant fire-line.




Untitled: ink and graphite on 3" x 5" index cards
Appalachia-gloam over highway,
back country then mountain-tunnel:
light-oasis    like sudden end to rain.
Night-driving: the mix-tape spinning 
autobiography on AUTO-REVERSE
for miles now hours thru the coal-dark
wreckage of trying for that something 
somewhere that could be the start 
of something free. So what
that the body is a swallowing grave:
"medium-sized," "yellow." So what
that the day is debt, that Legal
(so called) fingers the systems of systems
and apparatuses: fine print
a nanotechnology
for sucking for cancering 
for the circuitry and disappearances
for insinuating debt into the day-
bright-day she said yes | then we went swimming,
and after lay (wet skin) on summer-hot 
concrete, drank cokes, getting high: that day was
a body, sure a grave—beautiful fuse—
now, how do I know I'm not a butterfly
dreaming I'm a dreaming kid salvaging oil
from supertankers on a ship-breaking
beach in Bangladesh: barehanded, knee-deep
in the sludge—some butterfly, me: better,
maybe, to get in the head at 29 like Marlowe, 
maybe, or so what—alienation (fuck) isn't 
mere affect it's a critical stance: we reject
humiliation in spray-painted 
Arabic spinning as some kids outrace
the riot police (so called) some gunned down,
the graffiti wheeling under moonlight,
and adrenaline, spinning—BLAKE'S EYES—
fiery collective of letters, | of lives.




Empty Park, No Deer: 7" vinyl record 45 rpm, salvaged turntable
seabeast/songbird green-breasted orator 
greenest the first greenness after
fire-lines then rain fire-bombs then rain
seabird/beastsong out over or thru ruin
walking or I drift you know most 
of the time you know what I mean beast-
sea I drift | birdsong gone Jenny gone too
so that fiery collective of two
we abandoned so we chose against our better
universalism the meanest orator




Decalogue of the Young Turks, unfinished letter addressed to [Anthony] Madrid: 6" x 9" grey stationery, Smith Corona typewriter
early winter, 2011
Dear Madrid,
I hope the new year is off & running for you & N. and with luck it ain't sticking to your shoes: i'm wishing for little wings to grow from your ankles, for a kitchen pot to transform into a cap of invisibility, a lightning bolt to appear on the chest of your reddest shirt & your keyboard click-clatter to sound like Mercury running on water and the diss. disappearing in your wake. As to your question about what I want for Versus Editions: is it to be a visionary project, partisan for a certain poetic or just fun to put on a play? I suppose my answer is a cheat: both, or how's this: something cosmopolitan & open to discovery, so that, to the greatest extent possible, the catalogue would be shaped by surprise/discovery & my starting position. I basically think that every publisher should have an open reading once or twice a year, since no one can be perfectly sensitive to the state of the art, you need a way for someone unknown to show up at the door with a new magic show. And not all the magic tricks would be poetry: if i can get my friend in St Louis to pull all his Heraclitus riffs together i'd like to do an edition of that, maybe some books that ride that shortfiction / prosepoem vague & chapbooks of poetics & weirder stuff still: i'd really like to do a critical—& really beautiful—edition of Whitman's hospital diaries. Have you ever seen these things? After taking P. to school this morning, i was re-reading a pdf of one of them from spring & early summer of 1863——it has entries like this:
From Hooker's Command Ward E bed 47
Hiram Johnson
Co. K. 157th N.Y. Vol.
wound in left hip
this is the bed of death
he is failing fast—the
muffled groan, the laboring
panting chest + throat,
the convulsion without
intermission, the attitude
of the hands, the restlessness—
the contraction + dilation
of the nostrils—fortunately he is
out of his head, poor fellow
He was very private about these diaries: "I have dozens of such little notebooks left, forming
a special history of those years for myself alone, full of associations never to be possibly said or sung." As he records details of the soldiers' companies, their wounds & where they got them, he also notes requests from the soldiers: a letter to a dearest friend or family, or something they need. Sometimes the soldiers go unnamed like here: "bring bed No.4 Ward H. a pipe." Sometimes the entry is more personal like here: Henry Benton of the 7th Ohio Volunteers wanted "a little jelly + an orange," and then there's this refrain of "some peaches" or "some peaches / don't forget" that recurs throughout the diary: it's at once a sublimity & an ordinary fact that summer peaches would bring some reprieve from the hospital conditions, just even thinking of the bright peach flesh in that scene is like a terrific turn in a poem, or that shock of pleasure that a sudden shift in a film's palate gives; it's also this real & objective tenderness. And reading the diary now, within the context of 21st century poetics (or reading culture), it seems like a kind of serial poem and all the more powerful for how its notational music plays against the eloquent sentences of Specimen Days. The diaries even look like chapbooks: hand-sewn with red thread, made of pages folded in half—real DIY stuff.
*  *  *
I've had this title (and a line) in my notebook for a while now, and when it first came to me as a title, i thought it would lead somewhere—and fast. But it's confounded me so far, maybe you can do something with it? maybe we could work with it as part of the exchange?
"Decalogue of the Young Turks" 

Without the construction worker's know-how the barricades would have never lasted so long, risen so high.
(kind of has an antepenultimate tone, to it??)
*  *  *
I'm lowdown with this long drag of underemployment. and the consequent anxiety makes time always already impending as if something worse is in the mail, heading my way—it's perverse that the pages aren't flying out of the notebook into more substantial shapes: unemployment & its discontents, sometimes the content of time is a sick nothing. And my brother's suicide (still) weighs heavy & hard inside me, the guilt/grief is obdurate & ulcerous, and the writing of Striven was sublimation, i didn't know it at the time, but that's what it was, and now that's it basically finished, the book is less & less a channel for coping. And the prospect of it languishing unpublished feels like a null-field inside which the book—and the work it did for my psychic health—disappears: what i sent you is not a first draft, but i take your point when you wrote: "languishing is pretty much what manuscripts do. you know this." I do know this, but i can't live don't know exactly how to live with this book too long as a (merely) private document, it has all the wrong energies for a sentence like that. I really get how Burton kept augmenting the Anatomy, kept writing against the blacksaturn gravity of his melancholy: Geoffrey Hill has this essay that talks about the theological dimension of Burton's masterwork, how writing & writing & writing it kept him from despair, kept him from feeling the absolute absence of the possibility of grace. I should do my best imitation of early modern melancholy and make Striven 300pp of poems & pages of epigraphs: i should set my insomnia to work as a sub-sub-scholar combing googlebooks for suicide quotes.
*  *  *
I haven't been back home for a couple of years now, not even for a visit. I've had a series of dreams recently about the landscape & the architectures of where I grew up: the beach, the bridges, the suburban stretches of stripmall stripmall stripmall, the highways. Had this near-lucid dream/memory of a long drive my dad and I took to Newport News to see a ship-launch. He's real taciturn, but maybe cuz it was just me and him driving for a while, or maybe it was cuz he'd just quit smoking (after like 40 yrs) but we had a long really great talk. He talked about stuff he never talked about like his childhood, highschool, the war as a kid & later a different war as a marine in Korea, and until this drive all this was a mystery, not even a mystery cuz there was nothing to go on. And my dad had this one sentence: "Owing to general scarcity and rationing, all through the war-years we ate buckwheat pancakes, drank buckwheat—grilled, then milled—as a coffee substitute; it thickened our soup, browned our teeth." I remember it perfectly cuz of its weird (& pleasurable syntax); it was like at one time he had come to this formulation, maybe he once thought about writing this in a novel or something & he kept this artful-shape inside his most personal language: everything else was much more conversational, not necessarily improvised—everyone retells stories—but the bits about eating mustard-sandwiches or later as a teenager diving for golfballs in the water-hazards, cleaning & selling them back to the country-club golfers were casual, of a totally different character. There's a picture of my dad and his dad (who i never met) from this time at their little kitchen table, it's a kind of half-candid shot, like maybe the photographer (my dad's older brother (also never met) is trying out the camera. My dad is super skinny, maybe 15 or so, a lacrosse stick is propped against his leg, (they used to play against Mohawk kids), he's got a glass of water in front of him and he mugs for the camera. My grandfather, a machinist, is smoking a cigarette, the salmon-can ashtray is full of butts; he looks tired, a little bemused by the happening of the photograph: bemused sure, but mostly tired—his lungs' bronchial forest already ridden with tobacco-tar & metal dust. For some reason this image sits like a bookmark in my memory of this drive. We talked—and he storied—and then you know how in longer drives or roadtrips a quiet overtakes the car; it isn't a decision exactly or an even an ordinary lull in conversation: it's like the lull assumes the momentum of the car's progress, the silence is a body at rest & stays at rest. So that inertia. And then the event: the shipyard, all the workers, the guys who'd built this amazing dreadnaught, and the sun making the weedgreen Atlantic translucent in patches, in wave-flashes & then hitting the hard black metal of the hull, hitting it unreflectingly, unable to free itself from the gravity of the hulking ship. At the launch suddenly the ship became two things at once: pure bulk & tonnage & buoyant—i've been thinking about the work that might come out of the vocabulary within this experience, not just the weight & measures of the ship-launch, but the drive, the talk, the whole circuit of the day—but not retrospective not memorial: work that extends this vocabulary.
*  *  *



Aren't pronouns just nouns. Why do we have a special category for that. I see no warrant for the category. "He walked into the room" versus "Dad walked into the room." Don't tell me a pronoun "takes the place" of a noun. What does that even mean. "He pulls to the shoulder and parks." We don't know who "he" is. Yeah, well, I don't know who "Dad" is either. Somebody's dad. The word Dad "takes the place" of that actual guy. Yet Dad is not a pronoun. "A guy walked into the room." Is guy a pronoun. We don't know who he is. If guy is a pronoun, everything's a pronoun. But it's not.
A stanza and a strophe are not the same thing. All right, why. Because stanzas are just whatever is separated by white space. That shit can be any length. Strophes, on the other hand, for it to be strophes, they all have to be the same length. So is a {poem couched in equal-sized stanzas} strophic? Yeah, almost never. Not these days anyhow. Look in any magazine. Look in Crazyhorse. None of those poems are strophic. They're all in 3-line and 2-line stanzas, but they're not strophic. The white spaces, like the line breaks, are just for the eye. Has nothing (or next to nothing) to do with rhythm. Strophes are all about rhythm. Tick, tock. You get in a hole and start shoveling out same-sized language gobs. Each scoop is a strophe.
Here's a real insight into childhood. You don't even know when you're turned on. You knowsomething, but you don't know thát. Or not necessarily. Listen. I sat there in study hall, eleventh grade, surrounded by these three girls. All three of them completely did it for me. I seethed with lust for all of them. But I had absolutely no clue this was going on. Zero. How can I not have known. Because it was an illegal thought. They were all so disgusting. So, so disgusting. As was I. But there ya go.
In childhood, you can also idolize someone without knowing it. Or fear. Or just anything. In fact, something like 40% of my childhood memories center on moments where I had to recognize, at long last, what was really going on in a situation. That humiliating sense of being forced to admit things. That flash. It had (and still has) a special power to "bookmark" a memory.
I'll put this crudely. There's the stuff where you understand the whole thing. Boom: old-fashioned, 100% normal poem. Then there's the stuff where you understand the stanzas all right, but what the hell they're doing together and in this order you can't say. That's your "middle" case. It's what happens when you make a list of proverbs or aphorisms. You have to accept the jump-around. Then there's the stuff where, even at the level of the individual stanza (or maybe even the individual sentence), you don't know what's going on. This is your super arty level.
Now, different people are going to be downright uncomfy in the second and third levels there. That's natural. The WTF factor gonna get to 'em. And I know just where they're coming from, too, 'cuz I usually can't deal with Level Three unless the person is being Gertrude Stein or Ted Greenwald or something. I.e. play. You can heap up the WTF factor to the sky as long as I think we're in Candyland, but the more I think you're serious, the more I want the overall poem to build, shape and complete.
APHORISM. I'm perfectly willing to make out with you in total darkness, but if we're going to be doing eye surgery, I want the room flooded with light.
You ever wonder what the "jing" is? Dao De Jing. You know what the "dao" is. And you know what the "de" is. But what's the jing. Or, take the Yi Jing. Same jing, right? Yes. So what is it. Or the Shi Jing. You heard of the Shi Jing: the "Book of Odes." So is jing"book"—? It ain't. But that's close. It means "classic." The Way/Virtue Classic; the Changes Classic; the Poetry Classic. But here's the fucked-up part. We have the exact same books. Plato is our Way/Virtue; Ovid is our Changes; Palgrave is our Odes. Here's something interesting, though. Most writers aren't at all trying to make a jing. Doesn't cross their minds. Dante was, though. He made the heaven-and-hell jing. Edward Lear made the nonsense jing. Vatsyayana made the screwing jing.
I wanna make a jing. Yes I do. And now I have to pick out something to make the jing of.
I had an exchange with MR lately, been thinking about it ever since. He asked me if I thought Anatomy of Melancholy was worth anything. I told him it's the kind of book ya dip into, marvel at how perverse it is in every way, savor the weird diction/syntax, maybe pick up a cute phrase, and then snap the fucker shut and forget about it. His reply: "That's my procedure for every book."
At first I was like: "Yeah, exactly. That's why you suck." But then I'm all: Hmmm.