Saturday, October 16, 2004

“George [W.]’s first English assignment [at Andover Prep] was to write an essay about an emotional experience. He chose his sister’s death. He struggled to find the right words. He wanted to write ‘and the tears ran down my cheeks,’ but he had already used the word ‘tears’ several times. So he turned to the thesaurus his mother had given him when he left home. He searched for another word for ‘tears.’ He wrote: ‘And the lacerates ran down my cheeks.’ “ --Kitty Kelly, The Family (2004)

“Delivery Failure Notice”

our children is learning to die
the lacerates ran down
in khaki, in flannel, in black
the lacerates ran down
with fancy toys, in the broken streets
the lacerates ran down
& their cries is not news
the lacerates ran down
their blood is not news
the lacerates ran down
their pain counts for nothing next
the lacerates ran down
to the immortal
the lacerates ran down
glory of Donald Trump’s haircut
the lacerates ran down

09 28/29 04

Friday, October 15, 2004

Today is Vergil's birthday.

The Aeneid Image Gallery.

The Laviniad (a sequel in English).

“Exile in Noywynd”

--NHHHHHHH. A dull roar flooded her mind. --NHHHHHHH. When she thought that she would probably puke no more, she reluctantly unlocked the narrow door of the jumbojet’s restroom, & staggered to her seat down the rock-steady aisle, brushing shoulders & sleeping heads & hats along the way. There she resumed her headache-beset perusal of an old issue of “Sporangium Fetish”, the one where the prize-winning poet had sent his last published poem under the strange alias Flel
Osta. (It wasn’t much of a poem. It started: “PPPP. PPP. RRR. RRR. LM. SSS...”)

She had anagrammed out: Lost Leaf.

As a journalist of some experience, she ought by now to have absorbed enough background to confidently approach her subject, who by the usual rules of the game would have prepared the shiny translucent mask he wanted the world to see; & thus the only awkwardness would arise from the necessary pretence that they were both making it up as they went along. Not this time. Instead, he had proved not only impossible to reach directly (as if a hermit of some silicon- & wire-bereft era!), his very umbilicus to the literary scene, a perpetually stoned publisher whose pigeon-hued dreads made him look like some prankster had dropped a mop atop his hapless dome, --refused to divulge more than the bare name of a coffeehouse where he “might be found”; & her determined research at last had produced but this junket to a crumbling back-province capital where at one time, according to an old phone book (not verified by any data on the Net) a place with that name once existed.

Almost at one her gorge rose anew. This time, with bemused resignation, she availed herself of the bag on the back of the seat ahead.

The “Golden Pilbug” looked a lot older than it could possibly be. Situated in a strangely timewarped block amidst all else renovated yuppie playground & overchromed boutiques, its letters barely showed through the grime; & she doubted whether the marquee’s “Live Jazz Tue” belonged to this staid & jazzless decade at all, much less the Month of the Fiery Dragon.

Inside it was very dark. Indeed, it smelled less of constant steeping in the vaporous byproducts of injavination, than of a strong old-warehouse mustiness quite the lair for a day-hating pillbug, & she made a mental note to set the poet at ease with this tortuous witticism should the chance allow. She almost fell over in one place where the floor dropped without warning. Cursing the bravado that’d made her leave her cane in the hotel room (a standard roboticized superhotel she’d instantly forgotten the name of upon turning the corner), she clambered up the stairs to an even darker balcony (presided over by the faint aura from a string of magenta Xmas
lights that climbed like ivy up the central supporting column) & hearing voices further up. No one would know anything, of course. Even if they did they wouldn’t share it with an interloper...

A scattering of seedy regulars were already lounging & smoking around on the secondhand (or even roadkill) livingroom furniture, the arms scored by burns like Paleolithic calendars, & the proud shelves of books as scrambled as if a tornado had ransacked them. Towards the back a couple of ambery lamps limned the waists & shoulders of a small knot of onlookers surrounding, she saw as she came closer, some ricketty chess tables. Silence reigned, emphasized by a low mutter when temporary triumph would from time to time require the Black player to take White & vice versa.
She scrwed her eyes up, standing a respectful distance back, & tried to take her mental image of a yellowed newspaper photo (sadly pixillated on her laptop monitor’s screen) & run it forward in time some sixteen or seventeen years.

The effort threatened to bring back her migraines. For fifteen seconds, her vision flattened & spread out horizontally, while she swayed in the gloom with a familiar anxiety. Nobody noticed.

With a shrug, she reached into her shoulderbag & removed a small square of handmade paper. On it were numbers dictated to her by his publisher over the phone (beaten down at last by her persistence, or else the rising of his own despair). It was, he told her, a Magic Square.

“What’s a Magic Square?” she’d blurted.

“Something geniuses used to make in their spare time,” he said with a sneer in his voice. “Your computer can do one in less time than it takes to ask.”

Was it her fault a computer now had gained the World Chess Championship?

One of the older men cursed oddly. She decided this had to be her quarry.

“Can I have the next game?” she said brightly, with a clench in her diaphragm only just inaudible.

“Five dollar,” he growled, after a moment of awkwardness unusual in its intensity even in her history of buttonholing junkie pop icons & terrorist tsars-in-exile. She realized, as the loser stood & shuffled off, this man was not so much old as broken by long misery, with a look she had almost let vanish without registering, it was so piercingly pitiful. She had seen this look in refugee camps along shell-cratered squabbling borders, & in cardboard shantytowns under the pterodactyl wingspread of freeways, but never on a face that had graced more than one national magazine cover; a rewarded, an educated man...

His agile fingers belied the deadness of his eyes. Before she was quite oriented to staring at a horizontal surface, the two armies stood arrayed in neat ranks. Some of them came from different-sized sets.

He held out two freckled fists & she chose the right. She got Black, so he rotated the board in one smooth motion. His first move, Knight to Queen’s Rook Three, she had never seen before in any of the books.

“What’s that shit?” she said softly, almot without the question inflection. Might as well plunge in.

Annoyingly his eyes rose no higher than her cleavage, then fell to the table with almost a thunk.

“Durkin’s Attack,” he said at last.

About the middle of the third game, she drew the square of paper out, & laid it beside his resting hand.

“Nice paper,” he observed, & exchanged a Bishop for a Knight. She knew it had struck him, though, for the move he had made was clearly inferior to a retreat. She smiled. there in the smoky dark, for the first time.


“That hasn’t been anyone’s name for a long while.”

“You’ve hidden yourself.”

“Deus absconditus.” He appeared to lose interest in the game, to crumple with the weight of being personalized. “I paid all my debts.”

“Karmic included,” he added.

“I only came to talk,” she said with a little more forcefulness.

“Good. We talk. We’re talking. We will have talked.”

“Do you have the time?”

“I’m here every day. This is my job.” He waved an arm vaguely at the books & the now-withdrawn gaggle of spectators, as if to indicate a whole world. “Five dollars a pop.”

She considered this, a puzzle akin to some of his famous puzzlepoems, that only made sense when you read them vertically, or at an angle, or taking every third word.

“Instead of poetry...?” she said.

“Poetry never paid. Not even for the Greatest Living poet,” he spat, with such selfdirected scorn she had to wince. Her temples throbbed, & she hastily scrambled in her purse for a pill, while never taking her eyes from his face. She saw a sandy haired man of later than middle years, fading to gray but his expressive face unlined & set in a melancholy grimace, his trimmed goatee disheveled by frequent nervous fingerings. He wore a scarlet suit that had been carefully mended over & over, till it had become a sort of patchwork quilt of slightly unmatched reds, like a painter’s monochrome color study.

“I would have sent you away at once, if not for that Saikou,” he said mildly, noticing the tears in her eyes. (They were due to the headache, but she didn’t need to tell him that.) He pushed the gold-threaded paper more fully into the lamplight. “I loathe & despise journalists. --Simplifiers!” He started to replace the chessmen in their home bases. She touched his arm to stop him. The game hadn’t ended. Was he running away?

“You win,” he said, & shook her hand.

He told her, not his own story, but the story of Poetry.

“A lot of this will have to be condensed,” she arned gaily.

“Let the idiot box crunch it,” he sniffed. They were midway athwart a huge latticework bridge, periodically deafened by passing trucks, & constantly slapped by blowing spray. It had just stopped raining, on one of their rare excursions. Apparently he wanted to give some of his more acerbic appraisals far from the tender ears of his board cronies.

“Everyvbody puts down Tennyson,” he resumed.

“Who’s Tennyson?”

Up ahead, beside his stalled tow truck, a driver was coughing violently. As they drew nearer, he eructed the parts of a dismembered green frog.

“Looks like that one indulged a bit too much,” observed the poet.

Sometimes she was confined to bed by her illness.

When she returned, he was always surprised. And happy. She couldn’t help noticing that. But he resumed without acknowledging the lapses, every time.

The weeks passed, & still he hadn’t talked bout the reason she was here. They sat in the dim bulb’s glow, where the chess fans had learned no moves of interest to them would be found, & now stayed away.

One time he stared hard at her (following a tremor that knocked over three chesspieces) & asked, “Is it that bad?”

“I won’t die, if that’s what you mean. I only will become more & more useless,” she answered in her usual way.

That was the last he mentioned it, though from that time on, he seemed less embittered, indeed almost tender in his lucid exposition of mysteries she could have done without. He should have gone into teaching, she thought at one point: that would have saved him. But for his pride...

And every day he checked the coffee house mailbox, as if expecting a windfall promised in a dream.

By this time he had reached the mid-Twentieth Century.

“It’s heavy going. You won’t like it,” he smiled.

“It’s where you come from.”

“No, it’s what I’ve resisted all my life.”

“Same thing.”

She knew he was dreaming of her dark hair & thin pale limbs, quite as certainly as if he had placed a poem about her at the end of his unauthorized Selected Curses (for she was psychic, a little). Against all her professional scruples she was wondering how to turn this to her advantage, when a particularly severe attack put her in the hospital for a month. From there she instructed her liege-corporation to reimburse him automatically for the money he would have made
playing chess & winning every game, & booked a rocket flight back to the home country. It was time to wrap up this assignment.

She as lying half-propped up in bed with her fingers twitching at the console, often having to redo whole lines, which reminded her unpleasantly that at one time she’d been a typist of 70 words per minute, when the phone rang with the sound of an Amazonian parrot.

It wasn’t Jasper, but his publisher, Stramonius.

“He wants to know, like, when you’re coming back to finish the E ighties,” said this estimable personage, whose real job was tending bar on one of the Permanent Barges. “Is he in love with you?”

“With the sound of his own voice, possibly. On the other hand, he might just have a few scores to settle with the Eighties. How the fuck should I know,” she snapped & hung up, then instantly shuddered when a wave of remorse collided with a counter-wave of vertigo. The resultsere unfortunate.

But the ad the ad! she kept shouting mentally, through a long fugue of eyeclamp red & no no no sleep.

When she awoke, with perfect clarity & no pain, simply an immense languor...she remembered what she had seen.

The owner of the pawnshop held her little computer ith no more gentleness than a butcher with a cow’s head. One that had just been knocked to the floor.

“This gizmo costed two grand?” he leered. “Naah. I’ll front ya two fifty.”

She glided to the case of handguns, & indicated a blunt swollen-looking one the color of weathered stone.

“That’ll be seventy five dollars in addition,” he said briskly.

The ad had read: “Pretentious old fart longs for beautiful maiden in black to end his charade. Determined & amoral only, need apply.” She’d circled it idly one cloudy afternoon, when even the intention of standing up had made her retch. Then, for days afterwards, shivering to hear the poet’s voice match those marks on the page.

In New York, she’d faxed a reply, in several ingenious ways suggesting a very diferent identity. They corresponded regularly for half a year, with growing confidence, on his side that he had found a way out; on hers, that she had found a way to help him after all.

Their appointment loomed, a Rubicon without water. She rode the subway to a nasty, polluted winter park where the wind had pushed drifts of rotting leaves into long sinuous glyphic patterns & nothing remained that could move of its own volition.

He hadn’t changed, in suit or demeanor, since the time of that abortive article. She couldn’t tell if he was fooled by her disguise or grown hardened in his self-absorption; he greeted her with drab manners, apparently much rehearsed. They walked in silence. In the distance, a two-headed angel statue tried to merge with the mists.

“Once more, O ye Laurels, and once more,/ Ye myrtles brown--” he kicked some leaves, “with ivy never sere./ I come to pluck your berries harsh and crude,” wrenchingly, to one who knew how he felt about words. He threw them to the opalescent sky, to the unending wet pavement, with a wild verve wholly unrelated to joy. “Shatter your leaves before the mellowing YEAR!”

Then: “You don’t know, you can’t imagine what this means to me.”

She thought she did, & could.

“I’ve been dreaming of this all my life.”

“Longer than you were a poet?” (forgetting she wasn’t supposed to know).

“Much longer.”

When they came to the bridge of the island, he hesitated.

“You did bring wha I asked for?” as if only now beginning to think of dying by gunshot wound, as an experience.

She showed him, queasily, as if revealing some organ of intimacy more secret than genitals, more terrible than a vampire’s teeth. Its concentrated weight unbalanced her walk. She wondered what would happen if she toppled into the pond, but they reached the artficial island without mishap.

“The Gazebo,” he indicated. She finally realized he had shaved off his beard & this, she had been unconsciously aware of all along, made everything wrong.

She thought of protesting they were still within sight of the road (though hardly likely to catch the notice of early morning commuters, mesmerized by the drone of a dozen interchangeable deejays), as in keeping with the role she’d been elected to play, but it grew more & more threadbare with each moment of falseness. She sighted down the barrel before he told her to.

“Jasper,” she whispered. He jumped.

“What? What? Did you say, ‘Jasper’?!”

“Bang,” she said, pulling the trigger with three fingers.

He fell with a horrible snarl on his reddening features, of baffled rage, of betrayal, of grief, but he couldn’t speak a word before the drug carried him off into legend-laden darkness.

Later, she thought. Later he’ll have plenty to say.

And will it be poetry? Who knows?

It was all she could do to try.


Et invenitur in omni loco et in quolibet tempore et apud omnem rem, cum inquisitio aggravat inquirentem.

Rosarium Philosophorum (1550)

(‘And it is found in every place and at any time and in every circumstance, when the search lies heavy on the searcher.’ --quoted in Jung’s Philosophy and Alchemy)


Thursday, October 14, 2004

Pangngae. (Not Pangaea.)

On Not Translating Hafez. (via wood_s lot)


Thrips appear to adhere
to joints, to the base, to napes,
to the underface of numerators on foot.
Thrips and thrums from lupine heaps.

As the lee of each caravel, unraveled
without Americanizing, snorts loudly,
carriage perches collapse in a calamitous spasm,
with a puny pulse unfortunately given
to blowing its nose on the back of its wrist.
And the most high-pitched sopraneity
tonsures and hobbles itself, and gradually
ennazals toward icicles
of infinite pity.

Spirited loins wheeze hard
on bearing, dangling from musty breastplates,
cockades with their seven colors
below zero, from the guano islands
to the guano islands.
Thus the dirty honeycombs in the open air of little
Thus the hour of the records. Thus the one with a detour
to future planes,
when the innanimous gerfalcon reports solely
failed silence-deserving crusades.

Then thrips end up adhering
even in trap doors and in rough drafts.’

--Vallejo, Trilce (tr Eshleman)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Playing Indian.


At nightfall, as the sea darkens,
A depth darkness thickens, mustering from the gulfs and the submarine badlands,
To the sea’s edge. To begin with
It looks like rocks uncovering, mangling their pallor.
Gradually the laboring of the tide
Falls back from its productions,
Its power slips back from glistening nacelles, and they are crabs.
Giant crabs, under flat skulls, staring inland
Like a packed trench of helmets.
Ghosts, they are ghost-crabs.
They emerge
An invisible disgorging of the sea’s cold
Over the man who strolls along the sands.
They spill inland, into the smoking purple
Of our woods and towns--a bristling surge
Of tall and staggering specters
Gliding like shocks through water.
Our walls, our bodies, are no problem to them.
Their hungers are homing elsewhere.
We cannot see them or turn our minds from them.
Their bubbling mouths, their eyes
In a slow mineral fury
Press through our nothingness where we sprawl on beds,
Or sit in rooms. Our dreams are ruffled maybe.
Or we jerk awake to the world of possessions
With a gasp, in sweat burst, brains jamming blind
Into the bulb-light. Sometimes, for minutes, a sliding
Thickness of silence
Presses between us. These crabs own this world.
All night, around us or through us,
They stalk each other, they fasten onto each other,
They mount each other, they tear each other to pieces,
They utterly exhaust each other.
They are the powers of this world.
We are their bacteria,
Dying their lives and living their deaths.
At dawn, they sidle back under the sea’s edge.
They are the moil of history, the convulsion
In the roots of blood, in the cycles of concurrence.
To them, our cluttered countries are empty battleground.
All day they recuperate under the sea.
Their singing is like a thin seawind flexing in the rocks of a headland,
Where only crabs listen.

They are God’s only toys.”

--Ted Hughes, from Wodwo (1967)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Online Eunoia. (via Mad Ink Beard)

Persepolis signing as a comic.

"A great war leaves the country with three armies – an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves." —German proverb (via Love During Wartime)

Peaceweaver. "Most critics agree that the peace-weaving process is an unsuccessful undertaking but in order for this term to come into the Anglo-Saxon lexicon the act of uniting two kingdoms through marriage must have been successful at least once."

"Poetry: a language without a homeland." --fait accompli [hint: see the foregoing]

The Shadow Tractatus.
While Rome fiddles.

"It would be as if Ahab were put out of action but Starbuck, that most decent of men, still felt compelled to follow his captain's commands to the letter."
--Cahiers de Corey
Yeah, well, from the standpoint of someone else on the ship, it does indeed matter whether the captain "knows a hawk from a handsaw" & is willing to sink the whole ship in the process...

Bern Porter Lives!
Izzy the Bootblack.

“Murder on the Surface of Titan”

Outfox balefrost, Dragoman.
Imbibe owlish ebony.
Consort with dreamfolk who wage
Great moth of undoing here.

Orchid mists summon askew;
Comes the blind fury cerise.
A seer’s oblong feldspar
Badtz Maru do the rainbow.

The whiteness of your smile bleeds
Evil vampire witch queen time.
Out of shards, out of shadows,
Balefrost comes the blind fury.

10 11 04

Monday, October 11, 2004

A paradoxical Scholasticism is still Scholasticism.

"In the 1980s, the script to this movie [Casablanca] was sent to a readers at a number of major studios and production companies under the film's original title, "Everybody Comes To Rick's". Some readers recognized the script but many did not. Many complained that the script was not "good enough" to make a decent movie." --Tom Laughlin

Lovecraft en espanol. (via Blindheit)

‘Roller Coaster

For half a century
Poetry was the paradise
of the solemn fool.
Until I came
And built my roller coaster.

Go up, if you feel like it.
I’m not responsible if you come down
With your mouth and nose bleeding.’

--Nicanor Parra

“Let us take, for example, Flora, and see how a game of lawn tennis would be managed. The very slightest blow of the racket would drive the ball a prodigious distance before it could touch the ground; indeed, unless the courts were about half a mile long, it would be impossible to serve any ball that was not a fault.”
--Robert Stawell Ball, Star-Land (1899)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

There’s a show where newlyweds volunteer to have their home-to-be completely redecorated by a team of resourceful pro designers. The lovebirds return from their honeymoon for a big surprise. For, all they get to keep from their previous possessions for sure, is a single “protected item” each. Anything else is liable to be radically refashioned, given away, or simply fed to the woodchipper...

I see in this, as so many--if not all--of the so-called “reality shows”, whether by accident or design, the heavy hand of the totalitarian agenda at work. We are to accept without question the decree of the collectivity, as embodied in interchangeably telegenic “experts”, even in such matters as formerly were left to personal discretion: our vaunted “individuality”, however, being symbolized by one pitiful relict item--like the “flesh-strips” which guaranteed the humanness of the cyborgs in Moderan.

Elsewhere wardrobes & whole bodies are likewise being subjected to complimentary “makeovers” (& they don’t even keep a “protected feature”, either!)--our pleasure in watching this exercise in voyeuristic disempowerment, is really not so very far from that of the Roman Circus, where the stripping away of dignity, & then life itself, became the daily fodder of ever more demanding citizen-consumers flush with imperial hubris.