Saturday, September 18, 2004

“The Last Pastimes of Major Tom

Nobody’s price was very high.

What grievous disappointment or superb humiliation first made me a ‘tanist, I no longer recall. Perhaps it was only, living so long in the shadows, one grows to hate the sun.

We all drove great big old gas hogs, decrepit wheels was all we could afford so we made a fetish of it, as was the case with so many of our strange customs. To cultivate your monstrousness, a la Rimbaud, was the game. --One of them.

Against us were arrayed not only the usual economic forces of a harsh crowded time, & the punitive engines they engendered, but also the chimaera of a Loyal Opposition, which we despised even more. In our dogma it was only allowable to seem wretched or iniquitous, & we spent a deal of trouble in that pretence. Of course we did have almost no money. That was hardly the point.

Like the others, I practiced my little sorcery.

In my garret retreat, I had a purloined orange cone, my broken effigies & rescued trash. Smashtannies aplenty, suitably modified. It was enough that a thing should be singular, & useless. We spent much of our days searching.

These gewfgaws formed our map of the world, nor had we another. The riddle they posed was the secret we all knew but couldn’t say. It was manifest, however, at each corroborree.

In my DAV herringbone threads I felt secure. My hat was vintage, my gloves were strictly noveltystore & quite begrimed. I shielded my eyes with tape-repaired shades I’d found on the ground in Prague. (“Pivo” I could say, & little else. But those spires haunted my dreams, & enchanted my wakefulness.)

Tonight I would not read; probably not next time either. The Open Mike had grown to be a joke. It wasn’t that we were unsuccessful poets, I could dig that. But I hated having to talk about it afterwards. My aesthetics were private & sacred to me, more so than my dime life or my sex. When others spoke of magic I simply smiled. This was how I got my monicker.

I wrote of obscure degradations, temping, despair. In my poems I made promises to Death like a sorrowing ecstatic lover. I spilled it all, except for the truth. Who could have handled that?

There were three I respected. I barely spoke to them. It was stupid, I don’t know why, but I wouldn’t let anyone be friends. I guess in the end we loved each other. Our power was pretending, among ourselves, that pity did not exist.

My story only now begins. I was afraid you wouldn’t understand otherwise. A neophyte broke our turf. Usually we just tried to be polite--a deadly insult. But I saw she had potential. She looked gravely ill, or worse. And her poems were about nothing.

Now, nothingness was a subject I was expert on. They called me the Void Kahuna.

“We have joy, we have fun, we have seasons in the sun,” I observed sagely as the ugly yellow rays from a single bare buglight bounced off the surface of my eyes. “Is it always this crowded,” she said. I took off my gloves, then put them back on. (One of the snaps had already broken.) Her tunic was the exact color & texture of a mackerel sky at sunrise. Her bare arms were like birch saplings, & her hair had been done up in a way that suggested drugs had had a hand in the making of it. Or else inordinate haste. Her eyes smouldered, dark, dark-ringed. “Death has undone so many,” I shrugged.

We sat at adjacent tables, each otherwise empty, in a corner my sense of interior feng shui had determined to be almost
ÿÿÿÿÿost habitable. I didn't like people sitting so near, but I let
her stay.

She looked like she wouldn't last the night.

Between stanzas of a bellowed ode to the abolished apostrophe, we carried on a desultory, disjointed banter. Such became our customary vis-a-vis. It didn't matter very much.

Somehow we both badly needed it not to.

Which would've been fine, except for the plague rain. The streets rippled with olivegreen slime. Attendance went down. Her poems carefully omitted all reference to that hue. One of us was certain to die.

I dreamed of stripped cars burning, lost in fields of broken glass where each particular faceted shard returned her image. The dreams did not progress. How could they?

I related how all the street signs had become for me jumbles of unpronounceable scramblegrams, & she responded by inviting me to share a raspberry-clove cigarette outside on the fire escape. Under a maroon plush sky the pullulating or abandoned quarters of the city seemed only so many clear or dust-shrouded star lanes, & a personage of several turfs, such as yours truly, could be seen as a sort of modern voyageur...

The pillar, crisscrossed with pinkish Xmas lights year round, equivocated as we departed the huge, gloomy echoing chamber of measureless apprehensions. Outside the chill bit into us. My fingers welcomed the tiny shell of heat emitted by the ember end of the saffron-yellow cylinder. The smoke, however, raked my lungs like an inhaled holly bush... "Tell me more."

Before us the lights of the city melted together & separated, in uneasy waves. I said, "We come here each to find our niche in a collective illusion that's different from the usual one. Nothing more." Her fingers brushing mine seemed colder than the cold.

I remembered a snarling two-headed angel statue I once encountered at the end of a dim blind alley in Prague. Its touch had been as unexpectedly cold. --No, its gaze: as unexpectedly intimate.

"Well, I'm not interested in anything so counterproductive," she muttered in a piercing monotone. Pushing back one lace sleeve for me to see, she unveiled a network of paler smooth lines that zigzagged the pale smooth flesh. I couldn't tell, in that crepuscular pinkgold flutter, whether they were souvenirs of suicide or vicious needle tracks or, just possibly, something worse.

"One does not renegade religion. You only end up inventing your own," I slowly answered. If she recognized my quote of Graywyvern, she gave no sign.

We went back in without further word. The kretek glowing balanced on the black iron rail. Someone was reciting a drab list of atrocities onstage. Our tables were as we left them.

Two weeks later, after a harrowing day involving the towing of my Oldsmobile, I had resumed my station in that corner of vantage. Almost without realizing, I had come to require the other table filled. Cassandra came near, her tattooed scalp raw in a new place. She stood a good distance away & addressed me. "That new chick is strange."

"Oh?" I said, & laughed. "She listens to everything. She watches all of us. But she never does give anything back." "What do you mean? She goes up there. We all do." I felt evasive.

"You know. In her poems. Not a word about anything we recognize. Whatever world she's in, it's not ours." She shifted stance, crossed her arms, which were also tattooed, in vivid cartoon characters. "That might not be so bad," I said. "Think again," was the automatic reply.

Her name, as it transpired, was either Belladonna or Archaeopteryx. The smells of the city excited her; she told me so. Where did she emigrate from, that such a thing could be true?

"I am from Southern Roumania/ I was a mogul there," one of her poems began. "I was a peasant/ Who made good..." This I very much doubted. Another time I inveigled her into coming home with me; the upshot of which was finding, on the drafty mezzanine that led to my garret room, my neighbor Grue Juliette already knew her & greeting us then, the shadows pressing close & the smoke of incense staining our poet-garb, she called for a spontaneous threesome, which ensued. Not without hilarity, bongs, & a device I had never seen before, but grew to appreciate; & the night gave way to a dawn of colors, through the broken windowpanes, like rags left by a circus. Skin dead white, the feel of sheets that needed washing; an exhaustion beyond movement, & an amity prior to words. These would have been good days, if only we could have forgotten the unpleasant sense of imminent doom that hovered over every table, every bed. I stood on the next landing down, shivering, with a sudden touch of mortal acuity. Juliette only tolerated me when she was chemicalized; clearly, my date had been the lure & I feared less for the rivalry of a better poet, than for the sanctity of her secrets I had a right to, more, as one who had also suffered strangely.

"Where are you, Puckster?" called a croaking voice from above. I wanted to go back, felt it in my marrow like a craving for candy. Instead I continued down.

When the night returned, our true game resumed.

Warmth dispelled, & even its possibility seemed inscrutable & fantastic. "You were quick to skedaddle," however, was what she said. Her fingers interlaced above a glass of something turquoise. It was early, no other poets or few had arrived yet. "I couldn't think of what to say. Does that ever happen to you?" I unfolded the sheet of paper I carry on my person at all times, & began to write. "You have words now," she said.

The walls were covered with bad paintings crookedly hung. I thought to myself that they were like images of the dreams we would have been having if, instead of this closed, dim half-life, we had chosen another; one of sunshine & night diamonds. The one nearest me depicted a purple dog behind an executive desk, in a meticulously rendered office, but the dog itself seemed slapdash or cartoonish & its expression signified little beyond doggish good-humor. I turned my gaze to the next one, but there wasn't enough light to tell even if it was an abstract or a picture of something. For some reason my eyes remained riveted on the cloudy square. "The hare has lost his spectacles," I finally blurted.

"This poem is about the smell that old vacuum tube televisions from the Fifties used to have/ A sort of clotted, hot dust smell," I was reading from the stage.

This was another night, or the same one later on. Cassandra & Speed Racer waited their turn from the edge. I saw Belladonna, or Smoke as I'd began calling her, far in the back, staring intently. It was as if she knew I was writing about her (now that we no longer spoke); & this connection, tenuous & precise, we both understood to be the only one possible for Whigs such as we.

Her secrets had become mine. Her poems simply told the life of things, from those things' own perspective; & this telling took the form of intervals & positions, juxtapositions & the nearness of absences. People did not figure in them at all except as passing shadows. When I finished reading, she listened just as raptly to the next person. Even the intensity of my fear had not touched her.

I found I could only maintain normalcy by the pretence she was dead. I wrote elegies for her. They were the best things I'd ever made. Outside, an abandoned car was burning. Orange & green flickers lit our eyes. It was hard to go back in.

Brokendown bodies in brokendown cars. And these words, helpless, feral, like maggots.


Her funeral caught me by surprise. How many of us had gone, flailing & raving, into the fell beyond, while behind them remained that sempiternal chorus of malingerers, these compeers of avid illness? But she did die. I was shaken, though i strove not to show it.

Glistened the raindrops, ever augmenting, fast on her lustrous ebony lid; rose our keening voices above the tumult of traffic. "Let this end our dazzling numbness," said one eulogist. "Nay, we shall never feel anything ever again," chimed in another. I took my place, shivering. I never got used to these things.

Even at my twenty-seventh.

I had ceased to declaim, as you know, at Open Mike. Tonight i knew better. "For awhile he rocked with his yard inside her cunny," i read, "till /Fearful of dislodging the glove, he desisted. Her/ Hand closed on his around the moistened knurl,/ As together they withdrew it." Applause.

Lies. This had happened instead with a stranger, whom i'd met at the funeral & implored with reddened eyes till sighingly she acquiesced. Later we'd sent out for artichoke heart pizza.

The club, unchanged & immutably rank, bathed us in its rich squalor vibes. If anyone could be said to be happy, we were. "He watched the droop, as awkwardly he scrambled/ To the chrome basket next to the bed. It/ Seemed to signify the passionate futility/ Which passes for our lives, but also/ Merely a length of flesh, needing to be/ Washed."


Friday, September 17, 2004


" In the end, all of those feelings crumbled away as she read the last letter from her deceased son. I began feeling a sympathy I really didn’t want to feel, and as she was walking in the streets of Washington, looking at the protestors and crying, it struck me that the Americans around her would never understand her anguish. The irony of the situation is that the one place in the world she would ever find empathy was Iraq. We understand. We know what it’s like to lose family and friends to war- to know that their final moments weren’t peaceful ones…" --Baghdad Burning

'From the power to transform him into a thing by killing him there proceeds another power, and much more prodigious, that which makes a thing of him while he still lives. He is living, he has a soul, yet he is a thing. A strange being is that thing which has a soul, and strange the state of that soul. Who knows how often during each instant it must torture and destroy itself in order to conform? The soul was not made to dwell in a thing, and when forced to it, there is no part of that soul but suffers violence.'--Simone Weil, "The Iliad, Poem of Might" (in: The Simone Weil Reader, ed G A Panichas, 1977)

1. Zombies are vampires without the poetry. Nobody wants to be a zombie. If the secret of the zombi myth has already been discovered, sensationalized, then cast into oblivion, there remains, beyond the kitsch of zombiedom, a metaphor that still has us in its teeth.

2. Descartes thought animals lacked feelings & defenestrated a cat to "prove" it; the practice of infant circumcision depends upon a similarly-unsubstantiated idée fixe; zombies, of all adversaries, feel nothing--not even the pain of their final rendering. They are empty vessels animated by what appears to be blind hatred, a tireless compulsion to attack. Immediately one is reminded of that archetypal predicament, a driver among other drivers in traffic, whose communications are limited to feint & honk, & whose desires seem to have dwindled to a futile but incessant effort to get past the driver ahead. The driver will never finish his race. The zombie will never be satiated.

3. Zombies come out of nowhere, they don't remember how they got that way, or what their name is now. And the assembly of zombies is a tribe without a history. Their zombieness is a given. How is this any different from the consumerist monad, faced from day one with a landscape composed of dollars & packaged things with prices? Whether puffer fish venom, voodoo, a virus unknown to science, or the invisible hand of the market, something set this army on the march.

4. Why don't zombies fight each other? Zombies are like the separate ants of an anthill. Together they embody a single tyrannical will, a will that cannot be dissuaded, only overwhelmed by superior force. The zombie tide. The proliferation of zombies is a parody of procreation. By killing people, zombies make more zombies to kill more people. It is obvious that in a world with zombiehood, ordinary nature is at a standstill. The paralysis of nature is the triumph of the zombies. Though zombies may be defeated for now, there will always be another zombie movie.

5. The betrayal of love is the anguish of the zombie movie. This anguish is only quelled through murdering the loved one. Zombification is stronger than love, but murder is stronger still. Love exists only to be betrayed or at least threatened with betrayal. This radical disquiet outlasts the zombies' defeat. Forever after, a kiss will echo the bite of the teeth of the zombie. The only certainty in a world gone mad is the act of murder.

6. To flee from the devourer is ancient instinct & a primal necessity. But zombification is not natural selection because it contains no procreation. It is nature's antithesis. To imagine the true counter to zombification is to imagine the reclamation of human beings from zombiehood. This possibility does not exist in the myth of the Zombie. Just as Capitalism does not envision any alternative save other devourers, to be defeated by capitalistic means. Everyone is a zombie, or else food for zombies.

7. But people do have feelings, even as unwilling components on an assembly line. Most of all, it is by their fears & insecurities that they are made to act as competitors. In every worker & in every moment of consuming, there is a contest between zombification (giving in to rapacity) & a truly human response. For "zombies" are only the way humans in aggregate are seen to behave; in fact, as a corporation (which is incapable of discerning individuals) sees us. The myth of the Zombie is a story about how we seem to our creation, the capitalistic corporation; & while this is true for the corporation, it is utterly false for humans. The myth of the Zombie is an exile-myth which does not contain the existence of any (social) condition to be exiled FROM.

8. What solace is it to harbor, even for the length of a movie, the myth of the Zombie? Its principal audience is teenagers, whose condition--of bodily alienation combined with their ordained role as nonproductive consumers--makes it easy to conflate metaphorically the two. It seems to authorize the process they are undergoing; & its catharsis is to allow them to vent their revulsion toward their own terrible desires & powerlessness.

9. By identifying with the humans who are able to defeat individual zombies, they can believe that in this universe of infinite zombification, there is yet shelter for another kind of consciousness. But zombies, who have no language, force their opponents to engage them at the same rudimentary level; to become, also, killing machines.

'Suicides prefigure the far-off fates of humanity. They are harbingers, and as such we must respect them. Their hour will come; they shall be celebrated, given public homage, and we shall say that they alone, in the past, had envisaged all, had divined all.' --E M Cioran, The New Gods (tr Richard Howard, 1969)

10 09 03

Thursday, September 16, 2004

"Companions of the Morass

I have seen also your angel,
In the isolation where we had descended
To frequent the naked heart.
Many a time a dove from the thorny branches,
And now one dewy, feathery, tender,
From your eyes will start.

The earth is heavy, and the clouds drop rime,
And night descends without stars;
What does it see, white creature, what do you see, O eyes?
For so at the innocent lady's feet
The blond, the young, delicate ones of heaven,
Stare on the pretty, painted skies.

It is a ground getting demons, but we call no honest demon,
We cannot conjure the swart breed;
The brooding devil at our heels has trod,
But it is he, lord of the circumscribed pit.
Here where holy and unholy are as weak as water,
We encounter the damned god.

It is said, by pinioning the angels
They keep the terrible footway; it is said,
The hardy have traversed the morass,
They that cast out devils to live without sin;
But we, coming between the devil ashamed
And a strayed angel, shall not pass.

How shall we forsake this angel and this devil?
You bottomless tarnished lustre,
And bosom pressed upon the hollow cloud,
How do you visit us, symbols without body?
We are weak earth, we run before the wind
By which our hearts were bowed."

--Léonie Adams
Listening to: Live Rust.

God's Chinese Son.

Jem and the Holograms.


for what

hasn't gone yet

09 15 04

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


happen here

until it did

09 15 04

"Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor." --Garrison Keillor (via Poetry Hut)

"Little Hans

Each sockeye of adulterous claim
The prawns which is, which cannot be
In I, like others, surds the name
Enamel edge antimony.

The weight that Sandinistas flip
Where spoons before a face I face;
The squeekers of the Squares that rip
Pedantic antic paragrace.

In words like cannot cannot choose
A glass rim's rhyme, vertiginous;
The hands (which) signal/ize & lose
the closet porcelain to us.

Though ears rang from the nose that broke
No longer there as asterisk,
Three feet above the artichoke,
Spit sunspot's claused in amethyst

Pentameters, that blunt the thumbs
And mark for models this disguise;
As succulence a calmed benumbs
The mumps of noise that nieves surmise.

Claustration's plank? But plot's bemused
And line, that on a thigh stays sure,
Abstracted in a fold, refused
The buckled logic sauteed through her.

If these are risks took parallel
To moon and Hymen's Plato Blinds
Inside a phallus--asphodel
Glebed metaphysic's double binds

When so I climb. Apostrophize
With concept "copper." Symbolize
The bobbin's sort und da while sighs
Not eyebrows, grammatologize.

Recovered (or "recouped") Sublime,
A cultured ordeal cut apart
In intervals of terms that time
The onomastic Bonaparte.

Electrostatic fields?...but "smell
Still IS (an Aristotle spelt)
That represents "noun's caravelle"
In contumed space--an uberwelt.

The syllables place formal pace,
The way sperm dictums lumps not sum;
Defined as minds that crants deface
As if the why not had come

To obfuscate as insight why
The themes conventionalize the drinking.
The macrophysics of the lie
Locate a choired symptosis thinking

Speech is the way i fry my eggs,
The bald sarcophagus that disappears
Some jazz, the hypotactic legs
In diaphragms of arrears.

Frond's cullisance returns a plum
And am I am is all i tries
Cathected through each axiom
The postcard fiction signifies."

--Steve Mccaffery, in: Messerli op cit

Sunday, September 12, 2004

A Tale of Three Zines.

"Having mastered the art of verbal invention to perfection, he particularly prided himself on being a weaver of words, a title he valued higher than that of a writer; personally, I never could understand what was the good of thinking up books, of penning things that had not really happened in some way or other; and I remember once saying to him as I braved the mockery of his encouraging nods that, were I a writer, I should allow only my heart to have imagination, and for the rest rely upon memory, that long-drawn sunset shadow of one's personal truth.

...At the beginning of his career, it had been possible perhaps to distinguish some human landscape, some old garden, some dream-familiar disposition of trees through the stained glass of his prodigious prose...but with every new book the tints grew still more dense, the gules and purpure still more ominous; and today one can no longer see anything at all through that blazoned, ghastly rich glass, and it seems that were one to break it, nothing but a perfectly black void would face one's shivering soul." --V I Nabokov, in Nabokov's Dozen (1958)