Here is a box of fish marked tragedy.
Is it different from the dream
in which your alter ego kills the girl?
You are the same, and everyone knows it,
whether tracing the delicate lip of the oyster shell,
or sharpening your blade in the train car.
The marvelous glint is the same.
Though you think you sleep, you wake
and walk into the hospital, fingering
each instrument, opening each case with care.
The scales fall away with a scraping motion.
You are the surgeon and you are the girl.
Whether you lie like feathers on the pavement,
or coolly pocket your equipment, and walk away. . .
You are the same; and you are the same.
You only sleep to enter the luminous cave.
A PIT, A BROKEN JAW, A FEVER
When I say pit, I'm thinking of a peach's. As in James and the Giant, as in: the
night has many things for a girl to imagine. The way the flesh of the peach
can never be extricated, but clings — the fingers follow the juice. The tongue
proceeds along the groove. Dark peach: become a night cavern — an ocean's
inside us — a balloon for traveling over. When I said galleons of strong arms
without heads, I meant natives, ancient. I meant it takes me a long time to get
past the hands of men; I can barely get to their elbows. How a twin bed can
become an anchor. How a balloon floating up the stairwell can become a
person. Across the sea of the hallway then, I floated. I hung to the
fluorescent fixtures in the bathroom, I saw a decapitated head on the toilet.
I'll do anything to keep from going in there. I only find the magazines
under the mattress, the Vaseline in the headboard cabinet. A thought so hot
you can't touch it. A pit. A broken jaw. A fever.
The Main Line, a clump of suburbs and business interests
would seem to be an odd locale for explorations of, and interrogations into,
the very fabric and potentialities of poetic language, all under the aegis of
the clamped-down monotony of a major national and global recession. It’s not
just that there is no rich Main Line arts tradition; the Main Line is so
resolutely about business, materiality, and the maintenance of surfaces against
possibilities of depth, and determination which amounts to sangfroid to regard
everything else from a stance of laissez faire complacence (edged with naive mistrust
and condescension), that moving forward here with an ambitious aesthetic agenda
is a “far be it” scenario. If I have managed to do so, its because something of
the Main Line, an ambiance of
desolation-within-implacability and despair beneath contrived assurance, has
managed to touch me, and take me (and my Apparition Poems series) to a new
place, where a novel relationship has been forged and consummated. Recessions,
I have learned, have an enervating tendency to take those with sensitive minds
and hearts right to the edge of deliverance, transcendence, and grace, and then
push them back into the cloistered cubicle from which they began. So has my time
been on the Main Line. The subtext of all the
pushes and pulls has been a plummet into the revelations of age and experience—
that the curtains of youth and innocence have been yanked back (with some
force) to reveal a human landscape, starting from the Main Line, of corruption,
fraudulence, and unending duplicity. El Diablo en musica is the flatted fifth;
in language, human voices with every intention of enacting pantomimes and
staging the fullness of empty lives, set in place for evil, arbitrary purposes,
have assailed here who is left of those with an honest purpose.
Trilogy begins and finishes from this set of concerns and
purposes— the Main Line as microcosm (for America, for the West), the evanescence of transcendence and the transcendental impulse, and, past that,
the evanescence of existence itself, and of humanity. Formally, Trilogy
maintains the signature elements of Apparition Poems and Cheltenham—
internal rhymes, assonances, alliteration, and head-split gist-phrases still
constitute my solution for raising free-verse to the level of Keats,
Wordsworth, Shelley, and Milton. Because Trilogy is being written and
released in 2014, less than halfway through a decade heretofore undecided by
anything but a devastating recession, my hope is that the Teens may yet emerge
as a decent time for major high art consonant poetry and literature. Oddly, and
as many of us did not expect on the evidence of the Aughts, it looks like any
advances in English-language poetry must transpire from within the United States; entropy has overtaken the UK, and UK poetry, to such a pervasive extent that
contributions from Britain
seem unlikely. The connection between Philly and Chicago in the Aughts was fortuitous, and has
remained so in the Teens— if Philly-Chicago becomes the hub of substantial
aesthetic progress for poetry in the Teens, and a kind of anchoring
conjunction, it would be both a positive and a grateful event. But who knows.
Trilogy was born out of the arid, and aridity— the specific form and function
of psycho-spiritual aridity on the Main Line. Its
projected fecundity, over a long expanse of time, is a contradiction I am happy to have engendered.