Aug 272015
 

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Plain poems of experience, with a twist of eloquence

by Gregg Glory






Rehearsing Repetitions Sections List

  1. he found her here and there;
  2. know, noelle, this nothing that round
  3. when i wish upon a scrawl of star
  4. here by the her of ocean,
  5. you stepped from the bus-stop
  6. round and round, the circulating vast
  7. am i a seed of fire or its soot?
  8. i meditate between the cracks,
  9. it’s hard to say just what one feels
  10. to say despair, despair, despair
  11. let us attend these voices in the dark,
  12. past the charcoal doorway moon-white leaves
  13. what one says is never what
  14. what transmits our pinch of if?
  15. is there more to voice than its
  16. on the river that flitters
  17. the blue men march, march, march.
  18. one grows tired of the infantile,
  19. after a time to be no more
  20. the visible world is made of
  21. patchy frost that stuccoes the styx,
  22. the whole stale globe is fixed
  23. how tired one is of the umber river
  24. the long hour’s dread, the water’s calm
  25. do we make contact with a kiss?
  26. the patient good of going nowhere
  27. i dream of infernal pallors,
  28. in twilight the river came
  29. the river is full of wet surprises.
  30. whatever rivers endeavor
  31. the history of a seed, blind tear
  32. undulations of mud and river
  33. the reflective river, reflecting,
  34. rosy rappahannock, dance on, dance on,
  35. to lie where the river ends,

What the Cyclops Dreamt

A voice wakes me with its pin
Niggling in my ear.

I can't quite catch the lapsing sense
In the folding moan of words.

The moon embalms the ocean.
Enhanced stars are blown about the sky.

The sea sneaks so close, I can hear
Its little million feet.

And there, beyond the crinkled cliffs,
A splinter of sail. . . .

 

Three Versions of “The Teenager with the Glittering Hair”

He thought at first he was Mark Spitz,
Slickly triumphant in Speedos,
Because the mirror kept its own counsel
Between more amenable poses.

Then he thought he was the Mutant X,
Of a DNA not quite fixed,--
Because his brother used furious crayons
In the TV's square glare.

And last, he thought his death might be 
A captain's statue, heroic, unruined,
Because the sun was shining blandly
All that day.


Winter Without End

The optimist without pants
Supposes plagues of pantaloons

Or, better still, intenser still
Imposes strippages like chaps

Above, beneath, or somewhere--
Nakeding the trousered things.

The best of all possible pants
Are numb and naked nothings.

The philosopher's frosty fundament
Sat fatly enthroned in a world

Stripped bare of pants, but not
Of their conception, their conceit.

It was a world where no pants were
And were never spoken of again.


All Must Dance

All must come and dance, and dance
With my friend, my friend Michele.

Michele, Michele, wild, wild
Michele who streams along the clay hills

Wild as lightning, light as nakedness
Or kindness;  wild, wild Michele.

Kind, kind Michele, who answers
The dance's insistence

With diffidence, lively, lively
With her eyes, wild Michelean eyes

So lively and kind, kind, her eyes---
Lamps in a deep place, and a dark.

All must come, must dance, with my friend
Wild, wild Michele;  kind, kind Michele.


For Tenor Semblance, Who’s Dead

 "What things real are there but imponderable thoughts?"
~~Ahab
  
     There was Tenor in his party grave, sharing 
     All of the same old sick jokes with himself. 
 
1 
He says, "What is there besides imagining?
These four occasional walls will not bring 
Spring or sorrow to any unsuffering thing. 
It is the will that wanes, in summer dark, 
After clogged stars have scraped the sky and left 
A newer dark for some cold singer's questioning. 
Rusted apples gathered, honey melons dusky gold, 
Cherries rosing in the tinted sun, what was invented
If not these things?  Shall my hand remain 
Unfloured by its own effort?  A pointed oar 
Plunges and plunges in a white war and remains 
An oar.  The mind is not so meager;   it becomes,
Once its rent raiment roars, in polychromes 
Above chalk waters that it held and gave, 
That of which it sang and did not hear, because 
Too busy singing in undivided, tensile mystery." 
 
2 
If, on the wings of sparrows, men's feet shall flesh 
Who shall fly, in contrapuntal destiny,
In waltz time, alone, beneath 
The unceasing testament of the waves?
Tenor Semblance in his water-wings, bulbing 
At his back, held his breath and dived, at 4, 
Into the tossing terror of a tame sea. 
Once caught among the coral's shadowing, he saw 
The flash and error of dying fish in that dim maze.
Their antlered looks and opalescent eyes 
Placed a holy horror in his slalom breast 
Racing, among more mobile lights, out of death's 
Abrupt shade.  He knew of earth by this buried paradise. 
He told his parents of the sharking waves and sea. Alone, 
His executed gestures in scarred sunset seemed 
The switch-back hesitancy of leaves. 
 
3 
It was his mother's going, her poignant death,
Like still water, that made him hear 
Curlicues of God's named trumpet, world. 
A French horn paddles in his ear; 
Finches mocked the minister at her wake, his frown 
Emitted solo labyrinths, corona icicles of sound.
Tenor Semblance, leaving, knew his feet 
Were tambourines, clashing in the grass.
And when he whispered, it was with sorrow 
That he could not sing himself a barrow. 
In her twinking time upon this mortal orb,
In laundered air, tender sequences 
Of love and love, flashed from her bright center 
Like perpetual suns that sang and knew their tune. 
It was because of her he sought 
A personal, vocal dew. 

4 
Semblance swelled in his soft decor.
Like an awkward Alice, he used his vital eye 
To distill a separate scenery in the dwindled grass. 
Little thunder smoked the mountaintops. 
Gnats as vultures bulked silence on their prey. 
But a swung censor, sacred scenting, never lends 
Its incense to these more airy tendencies. 
Neither garland of flowers, in a stiff ring, 
Nor any distincter bloom was worn.
Victim in winter, he tried to say 
The measureless landscape he became: 
Desolate branches, details of packed snow,
Paired tracks of deer, or south-seeking geese 
Dispassionate as the sky. There comes
A crowd of moths, an abrupt lamp flapping 
In discontinuous circles as he speaks. 
 
5 
But should we sacrifice infinite finesse for that 
Snowblind and last, fatal profundity? 
Sonless Semblance once, with gagging glands,
Turned abrogated Pa;  the wincing world 
Trickled from his groin.  He clawed out an eye
And dived, lost in a reef, resulting in a sky 
Made blue, by harshest imagination, by 
Exclusionary rules.  Was it a mincing butcher's 
Cleaver thumb, his abusement of a One, 
Chopping up the single digit we pretend?
False finesse?  The sky was blue; he claimed 
To be the author, and his grave 
Was dug in blue clay;  bluets brushed the edge. 
His mineral bones are scavenged by worms that die. 
Thus we see, beyond cut division or misty ending, 
Death is daughter to imagination's venting. 
 
6 
A man is image and is sound, 
Imagining sounds;  a blare of being
Scribbled like a cloud, pinched nothingness 
Palely resembling himself, in a mirror;
Unalterable shadow, that falls 
As seasons fall, in whitest trumpeting. 
Thus was Tenor in his dirty grave, 
In severest evening, uttering 
A few, essential words.  In his halter,
Dawdling day undid the staunching fist 
Of night, and materbirds like mandolins 
Twanged his very song.  They were his toys, who,
Hautboy accountant, made of his breast 
Final register.  A second heaven, set
Beside the first, is best, when we forget 
Ourselves in what our wish of death becomes.


Dissembling Semblance

 Lie there, my art -- Prospero

1
Ho-ho!  From out his party grave, up-popped
The skeletal self that Tenor'd tamed.
Dewy longings drift half-wet, in ziggurats,
Down the dirty sticks of his dry fact,
Lending a silver-inlay to his polar bones.
Desire sniffs for roses through groutless nose-holes
And musty wines slalom a gorgeless gob.
Nothing of the lover, of the brother
Lingers here.  I stick four mournful fingers
Through his clackers for a tongue, wagging
Idiot digits in mime Shakespearean.
No Yasunarian voice, Horatio, ensued.
No Ophelian sonnets rained in daisy-chains.
Lipless ivories inferred infernal grins.
Tongueless Tenor Semblance, disinterred,
Master-man and mirror-me, was DEAD!  And I?

2
I am no Poet-Frankenstein, evoking souls
From wounded earth.  For me, a hole is a hole
Is a hole.  Love caressed, love cupped, love cuffed
Suckles living teats, not this bony xylophone.
Still, I loiter here half-longingly and toe
Pale parabolas of a pelvis furred with mold.
I, too, shall one day come undone, un-
Buttoned before the mawkish gawkers in the wood,
Dining on no niceties but dusty praise.
And you, and you.  Bluets brush my boots,
Sans author in penless processional.
Tallied Tenor here, pure loss, is less and less,--
A condensate escaped in Gobi air.
What last farewell, or goodbye cry, can I 
Cachinnate for such luckless kin?  
Feral fate!  The day, the hour, is late. 


3
Though crass and cursed and cloistered
In a hole, my man of clay, who I made, 
Unmade me.  Iffy gift!  Solitude still knows:
To live our lithest days in sackcloth is a sin.
My vampire mirror blings, bingeing on blanks.
I miss the mischievous elf I myself had minted,
Wry coinage of a brain love-benumbed.
Impresario of puppets, piccolo fish
Waving in a world wigged with sideways seagrass,
I command my scarecrow scalawag, Tenor
(Whom I marched off to death, alas) a last
Resurrection reappearance imagineer.
Coffin-lid, crack!  Earth erupt and burp-up
Voodoo me, vanished voice and vair ermine.
Pffft!  And see, through misty mazy day,
In his water-wings and goggle-gear. . . .
 
4
"Irksome apparition!  Clavicle and skull
But prank the picked-out polychromes of life
More sullied dull. Pink is less pricked than pinky.
How can twanged canaries out-crow sepulchres?
Muddy mausoleums high-rise our tipping tropes.
No quip out-kids a skeleton's ghastly grin."
So I solemnized in my preacher's best.
But cut-rate Tenor in his rotted tux
Retailed another fable, made gritty
By eternal Time's half-sandy clasp.
"Birds of paradise in their jungle mung
Whistle fluent waltzes more queer than square.
When kisses come twitting 'tween the stars,
Their ache is more than mausoleums are.
The softest-rose of live lips out-quips
Clown-corpse midgets and their brazen cars. The curds 
Of life are sacred, but only as we sip."

5
So I sat in puzzlement complete.
Head-hanging, feet-dangling, I weeped.  I kicked
Spic hobnails against the grave's gouged walls.
I did not want to hum, or ham, the mournful measure
A mealy mouth had found.  Must I have more to say?
To do, to be?  Was wishing up to me?
Argent star and pentecostal ghost!  It was.
The prolog past was mere evaporate because.
I zipped upon the slipping ice, slouch-hatted,
As I myself alone, floe to floe.
Tenor was my made-up man, my solo ghost;
Of his fragile form, I was holy host.
Vital tailor!  Sledding immortality but slips
Us in our heart-stitched skins again.
Thus we see, beyond Death's batty beam,
Is is brighter than the vim of seems.

6
How, in all this claustric Ought, ought I
To utter and confess my consummate 
"Ow to Joy"?  Life is pain, and fidgets 
As it sings.  Dr. Formaldehyde in his lab-coat, 
Peering in, thumbs an icy stethoscope to quiz 
All coughs, all crimes.  What Rabelaisian 
Parable am I in?  What sly reply does this 
Inquisitive pin in my inflated thigh 
Giggle to confide?  None, none.
All my splendid spillages funnel down to One:
"Paradise is simple as the simple dew.
Blond Life, raw, unadorned, 
Is apple enough when we feel adored.
--Settle quick the pipping kettle, Kate,
And kiss the kittens twice.--  Unintended 
Heaven whistles wettest, when we forget

Ourselves."



The Ever-Arriving River

How do we know we have arrived?

No gate blows open, no trumpet swings wide
Giving boogie-oogie oogie-boogie to the countryside.
Our horses must feed on grass, or perish.
So, too, our souls.  Having gone down the long defiles
All night, in a night that is not sure of ending,
Our souls paw their bellies and howl.
Even a ghost craves ghostly sustenance.

Have we arrived then, when midnight creaks
And starved souls howl at the wolvish moon?
Or must we still, in our hunger, kneel and pray?
Must a glittering track shiver in the sleepy pines
For the last mile shimmied on our knees?
Bend at that track, and drink with tragic hands,
With hands encased in silver to their wrists.

Drink and drink;  drink deep, O traveler--
Tomorrow we must find this river again.


Rehearsing Repetitions on the Rappahannock

There is no foreign land;  it is the traveler only that is foreign, 
and now and again, by a flash of recollection, lights up 
the contrasts of the earth.  
-- Robt. Louis Stevenson

You are here to kneel
   where prayer has been valid. 
-- Little Gidding, Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot

"O mind like a river!"  
-- Scott Carroll





I He found her here and there;

With flare, afar; presidentress Of the dew and morning star. She was the river valley where he lived; Her a.m. sheen was more, more real Than dreamy creams his sleep had pearled. From invisible to veriest She shone in vermillioned morning mist On lungs, on eyes, and on the hairy grass. Her liquid shine, napalmed gold, Glossed immensest midnight's diminuendo. No nightmare alligators crawled Prickling plain or blue bayou Flattened from the mountains of a dream To the drear of here and nearer. Dry exegesis of our watery sphere.

II Know, Noelle, this nothing that round

Us wends is not the nothing That follows when we descend Into each others' eyes. There We re-meet, there forget The ruddy ruts that shaped our feet. There our eyes are shiny rings Of tambourines, shaking as we sing. In the guttering firelight On the blackened beach, we sing; We sing the shining sea, the river's ring: Just there, just out of reach. "O salt and blood, o half-hewn thing, Propound, propound these nothings that we sing!"

III When I wish upon a scrawl of star

Scribbled in my mistress' hair, I in splendid isolation look Into the nook of night as into a book, Where the green slope goes down into green eve To touch the emerald river's reprieve. . . . Then I consider, in my moody dark, The owl's coo, the fox's bark. Dooms of dovish dulcimers Pluck up the cold, the forceful chords Where the river's green thigh still thumps Such human, nocturnal warmth. . . .

IV Here by the her of ocean,

She-sea ever-changing Against my fraying lea, feelings Are colors and paint the scene In delicatest pastels and pinks; Rollers ripe with rainbow inks Pivot round my radiant core,-- Oft-clouded, oft-kicked,-- rolling worlds Beyond my words. Let these rays, Resplendent raspberry and rouge And orange and cottony apricot, Colors from my core, my wealth, Add some pinching tincture to your health. And if the colors of my desire To touch cannot infect, do not Condemn my wanting such.

V You stepped from the bus-stop

Into the sun; it is a death To know you are gone, are gone. . . . When the ding-dong bell dong-dings Is it your foot upon the stoop? Hi-yii! My imagination slips out The door and up to very heaven Flagrant as any tingling lark Into sunny realms we'd known Hours maybe, hands folded Like wing in wing at rest From frantic flight, and yet In that duel quiescence, what recompense! Silent ecstasies of skies made dense.

VI Round and round, the circulating vast

Echoes the cold shadow that it casts. Round round dials the running hands Give chase, though no central sun Commands. Here's no heavenly cove, Perfumed and wreathed, rolling rich And blue beside our inside seas. Is it a death to stand without you On the riverbank, and look? The solitary sun revolves In bare space, tinting each Uplifted face. Is this enough Of love, of grace? What satisfies? Eh! At best, an arid paradise.

VII Am I a seed of fire or its soot?

Does dust or flame claim me for a root? Worms, lie quiet. Your bellies Give me pause. Digest your outcomes, I would seek a cause. Is imagination Phoenix enough for all this caustic ash? Let sun be stripped of its ocularity And spin, burning blindly Unpinned from beginning or end, Begat or begot In the blind vat of space. Burn, spin, and then, Spin and burn, burn and spin again! Rage, you fiery heavens, rage! Who destroys the Earth but burns a stage.

VIII I meditate between the cracks,

And, knowing nothing, proceed to weed, To tidy into squares the things I need: The things, if given, I'd not give back. From my ivory dome upon the ivory hill Jack must tumble and follow Jill Until reality has touched them as they are: Children still, but blessed with scars, With maps that parse them into parts Frankensteinian and sparse.

IX It's hard to say just what one feels

Following sunlight that exits the field. What one feels. . . is what. . . one says, So notes propose composed in haze. It is too much-- my page is damp: Wrappers splayed at a tarnished curb. There's no order to tonight's white stars Or to dawn's harassing tassels come up so far. A rhyme is a rhyme, is just what comes Going round and around as one does.

X To say despair, despair, despair

Tearing our hair, our hair, our hair Has such a circular air! The eye contracted with weeping Sees only its own bleakening, Whatever the fun, the pleasure Available in an alternate measure Where the gyroscopic beat sways heart, sways Feet that had never felt Another shoe than despair, Its black and blare and shuffled stomp. O heart up-swayed and ladled-- Show shoe, grow hair, to tap, to there, With such a circular air!

XI Let us attend these voices in the dark,

Vocal human bruises that leave a mark Even in the deadest night, Deeper empurplings in a voluptuous blank. What can they say? What can we hear? Sit attentive at the splashing pier; Watch stars fall from the enclosing clear. What words come dropping In the failing light? These, too, Are voices; this, too, is night.

XII Past the charcoal doorway moon-white leaves

Rattle littery charms on winter's eve. Paper things ourselves blown into speech We can't quite catch what tumbles into reach-- A fidgeting wind whose fit refrain Says what had not been said again. As if words were any more ours Than winds', going their mournful courses, Saying what had not been said again: A fitful wind and a fraught refrain.

XIII What one says is never what

One meant; our voice is merely leant. Our source, if source there is sans ostinato, Is the silence where all speech goes. What's done is done dumb at last-- All else is ache above the grave. No verbal sangfroid relieves What the heart keeps bitterly. Timidly the diarist Records the cause that sprained his wrist. Pick sticky words from the alphabet of vomit; All memorial's of no moment.

XIV What transmits our pinch of if?

What throws the pale light of words And what catches it? What grinds it Into rote and lets it die, This highest longest note pulled Aloud from the violin of speech? Is there any resurrection to be had? Has this dissolution of desire, Fallen mask and fallen face, Left in thinning air a trace? Triumphs and catastrophes, Forgotten as last week's strawberries, Are fertile fictions we pursue To tears, to grace. Anything To keep the blankness from our face.

XV Is there more to voice than its

Retreating sound, echoic gloss On love and loss? Tympani dimmed To a sweep of rain on the roof . . . . Bid adieu, adieu, fond ear, fond eye, To each eviscerated sigh-- Gold bullion of goodbyes pile high, And not one lace handkerchief's discased In warm memorial of departure, Tracing effervescences of past rapture. The tattered retreat of a lapsing wave Is all the Rappahannock gives, or gave.

XVI On the river that flitters

And flutters and flubs, I float: Irreducible litter shorn of because. What I am, I am; what was, was. An ephemeral caliphate Scribbling down his fix of fate. . . . On a foolscap scroll that lolls, I write Wry words to puzzle the animal, Adumbrate the damned and pierce The ghost that keeps our feelings fierce.

XVII The blue men march, march, march.

The green is gone, and brown remains. Is there a hupping repetition only In this becoming mud, oozy-oily? Each thing repeated, as if bereft, As if tearing our hair alone was left us. The muds shift, closing oily over The puddles of our tread, and over Our faces on that final, fatal day.

XVIII One grows tired of the infantile,

The tamely true, the tritely right. One would rather a slap in the chops, An angry onion intensely teared, A uterine wrong belatedly revealed Among candles at the retirement home-- An explosion under the tea-cozies. Anything, oh anything, mein Gott! Anything but this maundering usual, This placid sunshine square on the floor, This tepid, interminable sequence Of will-be, was, and serenely is. Let some black lightning fork to earth That leaves the sky more mortal, torn.

XIX After a time to be no more

The balm and butter of desire, Damned to dawdle and adore Tussled husks of cobs gnawed raw In a moonlight that was true, In the decapitated orbit of recollect. . . . What love, at best, should let drop No hammer and no forge Can resurrect. . . . the flight of a fallen leaf Whose gold is almost gone. Desire, the anaconda in the groin, Turns to stone the tenderness It had kissed, crimps in moaning tongs Tender hands prayer had held aloft And leaves, at best, a remaindered sigh -- A cruft.

XX The visible world is made of

Ashes, chirriguresque ashes: Compact, compiled, complex, And incomplete without our moaning bones Singing hollow and alone Above dirty tides of dust and stuff The visible world is made of. The visible world is made of Histories grown rich in ruin: Reichs, Romans and religions gone down To soften our tumble into the now The visible world is made of. Yesterday's news and today's maybes And all the clocks that ever crossed hands In our walk from the mailbox To breakfast oranges and eggs Are ashes, ashes that sift From if to the gift The visible world is made of, The visible world is made of.

XXI Patchy frost that stuccoes the Styx,

The frost at my temples, both touch death The way kisses confer fullness Or how a cheek upon our cheek Can suddenly give us the whole girl-- So I lean at autumn, the tree leans Touched by frost's disfigurement. I hunch into age's alpaca parka. All afternoon the river stiffens, All afternoon the river shoulders on Below, despite the stiff, the cold. And the children slide by smiling.

XXII The whole stale globe is fixed

And finished. No spastic blanks Fringe or freak our maps. All we had desired, in one Cloudy shell is clamped, a cataract Eye clubbed by interior damps. Round and round a blue wash basin rolls The marble of our wants, our soul. How, inside this stormy island shell, Dare we pip a pearl? Discovery but brushes back the curls From brooding brow's proscenium to Hell. The conquistador's poise or plastic pose Can but woodenly suppose our more Consummate imaginings of rose.

XXIII How tired one is of the umber river

Losing its green toward autumn. Is our real sum the sum Of what we have forgotten? Additions scrawled in margins Haste discarded at a truck stop. . . . Pages flap by the wetted sill, And the river writhes through rusty hills Like rotted moss, but liquiform. How tired and how feeble one has become Staring at shapes that will not stay; The river, as always, keeping low, Unregarded by animal or eye, A fluid whisper forced between rocks, A sum of nothings always the same-- If one could remember what went or came.

XXIV The long hour's dread, the water's calm

Do nothing, nothing to defer The immortal, immoral and amorous fact Of love in a narrow coffin Stood up on end and talking Hour upon hour of the water's calm. The peace of infinite lakes, Hazards blue and hazes deep, The quiet claptrap of the shore And mopey pebbles rusticating Do nothing, nothing to deform Desire's deep, expressive needle. Eon on eon the coffin talks Of moony amours, and the long dread.

XXV Do we make contact with a kiss?

On what do two lips meeting Two lips insist? Did Cleopatra Really kiss, who never climbed The ratty scaffolding behind the stars? Does love demand reality? O fools, is what we feel all folderol? Do hearts connect both ache and cause? Have we really any more Than a projectionist's panache, Lighting up our solitary dark With scenes? Dreaming in daylight What our lonely dreams may mean? I hunger for reality under pinking skies At one, at one, With the inward of my eye.

XXVI The patient good of going nowhere

In the balloon of the mind (That something, half air, half real) Is, I declare, a laudable poem In the tone of time (that somewhen Of buzzing was and will-be). To live in circles, going nowhere In a clime that is timeless. . . . This circuitous circumlocution Of life, is life. And the poem of life is patient, good, And of articulate merit Like a muffled chime; the poem, Disturbed by chilly ripples from the mind, Hushes the shivering cymbal. Hush, hush, between heart and thumb Into a silence not yet manifest. And yet. . . . There's a music there, too, a stubborn thrub.

XXVII I dream of infernal pallors,

Lily-dead smokes infesting Switchback rivers that snake The peace-bedizened landscape-- Full of river verve and tribal tums. Full, too, of the fulsome motions Of desire-- its bleak, expressive needs Coiled in the chocolate dark of dreams. I sketch red arroyos with my Fingerend, carve clouds with my breath, And roil the Rappahannock with swales of tears. . . . By inches I enrich the night grasses, Dibbling endless seed as carelessly As the storm-strong river veers.

XXVIII In twilight the river came

Sighing, sweeping, fresh. Stuttering dawn flared palely, With just enough wick to scritch Midnight waters into day, and usher them Into glassy existence once again; Troughs and shadows among the gems Astound the verdant vertices. . . . Then dying afternoon struck heightened whites From the pulsing wave, over and over-- Too bright to look at, too hot To sit in the shade, feet in the water. . . . Now night's arriving eyelid seals the river All-at-once in nothingness. I am here, now, without it. Sighing, sweeping, fresh.

XXIX The river is full of wet surprises.

Reaching in a hand, you pull back A hand, wet with the glistening wish To be all wet yet still be hand. Look at your wet hand, fingers dripping Blazingly glazed as if never dry, As if never needing to kneel again In the plunging wet, the enveloping mist. Shake hands with the evasive river, full. You are you. You are the river. Lean over yourself wetly, without Expectation, again and again.

XXX Whatever rivers endeavor

To mean in their molten going, Erudite in their silvery swiftness, Knowing in their golden slowness, They mean without meaning, Without needing to mean meaning. Whatever rivers mean they elide, Wetly content to be wily river Once more, flowing without following, Going after what went before, Flow after flow like honey going Gold in its golden slowness, Its prow of now humped high, humped high, And goldenest too at its going down, Golden in its flowing going. Faultless the flotsam upon it.

XXXI The history of a seed, blind tear

Crying an eye in the dirt, Unfolds a flower's talking stalk Without meaning among murky hills. Why this incessant spur to grow, To know, to dominate with words A landscape we cannot escape? To vomit, void our inscape Until all the dome of stars are seeds Of me, me, me, me, me? Blind need and blind tears, and less Fit purpose than this mustard seed That blindly grows its heats and dies Without complaint In a dirt that does not wait.

XXXII Undulations of mud and river

Moss a hollow self cored of seed-- A self without a future self, Sourced to now alone, sans past, Sans progenitors, sans history. For him, the hollow one, river flowing River is enough. In this slatted light, The intermix of mazy leaves And slap-slap patterns on the Waterlogged log all the logy Afternoon now and always Is enough. This jelly yellow Light of the flow suffices,-- Flowing nowhere and everywhere, Now and always, In a land of undulous muds.

XXXIII The reflective river, reflecting,

Reflects leaves, trees, themes, memes, Men and me, flat landscapes Of people skating round bonfires, Feasting high summer with buttery cobs, Raising a red barn in pilgrim hats, Or rolling hoops with clickety sticks; Mirrory people and their alluring concerns,-- Hacked from the fabulous, Greasy with pig and pie. As if sky and rock and river Reflected human magnificence alone And not some deeper current: Red, real marrow of the world's bones.

XXXIV Rosy Rappahannock, dance on, dance on,

Supplest at your merging marge, Fluent shoe on softening sands. . . . Imagined dancers in their ritzy habiliments, Top hat and cane and folded gloves Solidify the watery waltz, Red-faced and breathless in cane chairs. A skirt skirls among moldy reeds Enhancing the dance with measurement Of step, swirl, step and stop; "Once upon a time" is primed, Enlivened from the vividest ick Where bullfrogs bow to damselfish Furling weedy gowns as they stop-- Stop in a static of silks and crinolines.

XXXV To lie where the river ends,

To lie in the velvet moonlight Observing a landscape that is dry-- To hear the vulture's convulsive cry, To see how slowly the river ended here, Scraping dehydrated rocks, The licked whiskers of its own Envanishment, alone in being, Is a kind of final sumptuousness Of torpid nothingness. . . . Or, more morose, more awful, to hear The Rappahannock's oracular voice Grow indistinct at the ocean's verge, Suave murmurs gone down to a mauver Sea, full of desolate cries, Like a mother who loses her son Among seas of soldiers embarking at the station: Riding away, away, never to return Even in flashes of untrustworthy thunder, Makes a finish of heaven.

Revanches of Reality

Cataracts, rapids and furious plumes
Smoke at the waterfall's foot in one
Purgatorial plunge.

Hot clouds of chaos in a boiling sink
Sterilize steel, and kiss the quick
Motions of two hands.

These two images of water, two images
Of ourselves in austere imagination,
Wetly flail.

The yellow raft tips up at the blue, trembling lip
Above the whole effortful journey
In naked air.



Milky Day

Roguish locals on their jaunts
Display the labial blasŽ 
Of conchs.

They puff their roguish way
Down the festooned avenues
Ringing brass spittoons. 

Braggadocio furiens, 
Their chests huff high, puff hard
To charm the curtained demoiselles--

Under surreptitious eyes 
Under brightest milky day.


X Shoots Y Shoots X

Duelists remarking the shoreline's fair,
Suave and snakelike grace, are debonair.

To see Beauty in the tooth
That loots you of your life, is truth.

So they thought as they paced the sands
And took the air, having shaken hands.

Blessing gracious life's most gracious feast,
Pinky to pinky, they tinked teacups 

With the beast.  Redder sands rubbed hourglass
Hands, ticking as their seconds ran.

Debonair as dandies though they stood,
The sizzing sea hissed in her maternal moods.

No one attended their marginal funeral
Save one awl-beaked dull-eyed slue-foot gull.


After the Singing

Hey you!  Settle them with cigarettes
Or with fabulous lassoes cast high corral
The jittery arpeggios of choristers,
A most disorderly sorority, drunk
On song and wit as their hale hosannas 
Divot the friendly sky.

The time for uncounted choirs of praise
Zagging the azures in brightened blaze
Is over.  Call the kiddies to their vittles.
Settle down around the plain broad board.
Line the bench with fat behinds, and tuck
The checkered napkins tight
To quell the singers' appetites.

Sit still like an emanation of content,
At the end of singing, at the end of day.
Let blue silk robes fall stately to stiff feet.
Let there be, at last, a last reality,
Without suggestion.  A cold bean soup.
Let leaden lentils lard the golden guts.


In Pan’s Cavern

The annotationist's florid inscription confirms:

    His songs were chiseled jagged
    From grey granite crags,
    Not smarmily charmed
    From the skittish scampering of mountain goats
    By afternoon noodlings on his flute.

    His songs were sharp shavings
    Of diamond symphonies
    Titanium-lathed, 
    Not labial dithyrambs lisped
    By moony romanticists.

Here is the rock's heart
Quartered, mortared, and staidly laid.
Here are the stacked bricks of grief
And cold colonnades of ladies' tears:
The grand, airless mausoleum

Of a windy soul.


“Rehearsing Repetitions on the Rappahannock” Structure Notes

A.	Romance, Love
i.	She = landscape;  love and desire explain our place on the earth
ii.	Landscape is just beyond lovers' concern and understanding; address to Noelle
iii. She = landscape;  stars in her hair;  harmonious completion on nature by 
    imagination in tune with desire; night has a human warmth
iv.	Landscape = she; desire leaps out, coloring what is
v.	She is missing;  object of desire dies, yet desire remains;  memory transforms 
    moment to sadness

B.	Futility, Repetition
vi.	Landscape is self-contained and repeats itself;  will this be enough without her?
vii.	Seeking after cause of all;  trapped in objective world
viii.	Organizing separated consciousness;  imagination takes in what is, maps it
ix.	Difficulty of saying what is in terms of self;  repetition calms, gives clues, 
    reduces chaos of what is
x.	Despair, repeat of moods, is our weather;  links self to reality by sharing 
    repetition and circularity

C.	Speech, Words
xi.	Listen to outer reality;  it too speaks as self speaks to itself
xii.Words are not just human;  they are an expression of reality as it is as well;  
    refrains of wind
xiii.	Silence sources the mis-match of words and reality; failure of final correspondence
xiv.	How does speech work to encode our desire to connect with reality;  do these words 
    interact with what is real or not?
xv.	Questioning of what is heard;  is it real, or mere self-projection?
xvi.	Speaker finds his identity in writing down gestures of what is in a way that 
    sharpens inner feeling;  feelings are the inner reality that matches objective reality

D.	Aging, Death
xvii.	Time marches on;  self will die one day
xviii.	Desire for contact with the real inside the limit of time
xix.	Loss of attractiveness;  but not death of desiring;  this is aging;  our hearts are 
    less supple in response to reality, tempted to be didactic
xx.	Mundane reality is insufficient to the spirit's deepest needs
xxi.	Age focuses desire;  its force grows as its time diminishes
xxii.	Nothing new in outer reality is available to be learned;  connection with the 
    spirit of imagination replaces reaching out into the real
xxiii.	Wish for certainty;  weariness at the insufficiency of what reality has delivered
xxiv.	Speech continues to express imagination's desire even in age's lengthening ennui

E.	Meditation, Creative Urge
xxv.	Imagination is considered as capable of tying together inner and outer reality
xxvi.	Meditation = motion in the world.;  the poem is an object
xxvii.	Creativity is in all actions of the mind, shaping and even creating the 
    reality we experience
xxviii.	Reality changes;  we carry its impact with us even when reality is not directly accessible
xxix.	Experience, approached by imagination, can continually refresh the spirit
xxx.	Figurations of reality do not deform that reality;  what is continually re-asserts 
    its completeness independent of imagination

F.	Final Sequence
xxxi.	Humility before the self-sufficiency of reality's self-creating process of Life
xxxii.	Self in the now can be content in contact with reality
xxxiii.	River reflects both reality and our wishes as they project into reality;  
    something there is that is deeper than words or desires
xxxiv.	Reality dances on, we with it;  reality is enhanced by our questioning of it, and 
    our re-imagining it;  experience is sharpened
xxxv.	Reality comes to an end;  and, with  it, the imagination completes its project of creation

Jan 312013
 

Mustering trust in “wild, whole-page insertions” to read-between-the-lines of

Dissembling Semblance

Lie there, my art. — Prospero

1
Ho-ho!  From out his party grave, up-popped
The skeletal self that Tenor'd tamed.
Dewy longings drift half-wet, in ziggurats,
Down the dirty sticks of his dry fact,
Lending a silver-inlay to his polar bones.
Desire sniffs for roses through groutless nose-holes
And musty wines slalom a gorgeless gob.
Nothing of the lover, of the brother
Lingers here.  I stick four mournful fingers
Through his clackers for a tongue, wagging
Idiot digits in mime Shakespearean.
No Yossarian voice, Horatio, ensued.
No Ophelian sonnets rained in daisy-chains.
Lipless ivories inferred infernal grins.
Tongueless Tenor Semblance, disinterred,
Master-man and mirror-me, was DEAD!  And I?

2
I am no Poet-Frankenstein, evoking souls
From wounded earth.  For me, a hole is a hole
Is a hole.  Love caressed, love cupped, love cuffed
Suckles living teats, not this bony xylophone.
Still, I loiter here half-longingly and toe
Pale parabolas of a pelvis furred with mold.
I, too, shall one day come undone, un-
Buttoned before the mawkish gawkers in the wood,
Dining on no niceties but dusty praise.
And you, and you.  Bluets brush my boots,
Sans author in penless processional.
Tallied Tenor here, pure loss, is less and less,--
A condensate escaped in Gobi air.
What last farewell, or goodbye cry, can I
Cachinnate for such luckless kin?
Feral fate!  The day, the hour, is late.

3
Though crass and cursed and cloistered
In a hole, my man of clay, who I made,
Unmade me.  Iffy gift!  Solitude still knows:
To live our lithest days in sackcloth is a sin.
My vampire mirror blings, bingeing on blanks.
I miss the mischievous elf I myself had minted,
Wry coinage of a brain love-benumbed.
Impresario of puppets, piccolo fish
Waving in a world wigged with sideways seagrass,
I command my scarecrow scalawag, Tenor
(Whom I marched off to death, alas) a last
Resurrection reappearance imagineer.
Coffin-lid, crack!  Earth erupt and burp-up
Voodoo me, vanished voice and vair ermine.
Pffft!  And see, through misty mazy day,
In his water-wings and goggle-gear. . . .

4
"Irksome apparition!  Clavicle and skull
But prank the picked-out polychromes of life
More sullied dull. Pink is less pricked than pinky.
How can twanged canaries out-crow sepulchres?
Muddy mausoleums high-rise our tipping tropes.
No quip out-kids a skeleton's ghastly grin."
So I solemnized in my preacher's best.
But cut-rate Tenor in his rotted tux
Retailed another fable, made gritty
By eternal Time's half-sandy clasp.
"Birds of paradise in their jungle mung
Whistle fluent waltzes more queer than square.
When kisses come twitting between the stars,
Their ache is more than mausoleums are.
The softest-rose of live lips out-quips
Clown-corpse midgets and their brazen cars. The curds
Of life are sacred, but only as we sip."

5
So I sat in puzzlement complete.
Head-hanging, feet-dangling, I weeped.  I kicked
Spic hobnails against the grave's gouged walls.
I did not want to hum, or ham, the mournful measure
A mealy mouth had found.  Must I have more to say?
To do, to be?  Was wishing up to me?
Argent star and pentecostal ghost!  It was.
The prolog past was mere evaporate because.
I zipped upon the slipping ice, slouch-hatted,
As I myself alone, floe to floe.
Tenor was my made-up man, my solo ghost;
Of his fragile form, I was holy host.
Vital tailor!  Sledding immortality but slips
Us in our heart-stitched skins again.
Thus we see, beyond Death's batty beam,
Is is brighter than the vim of seems.

 
6
How, in all this claustric Ought, ought I
To utter and confess my consummate
"Ow to Joy"?  Life is pain, and fidgets
As it sings.  Dr. Formaldehyde in his lab-coat,
Peering in, thumbs an icy stethoscope to quiz
All coughs, all crimes.  What Rabelaisian
Parable am I in?  What sly reply does this
Inquisitive pin in my inflated thigh
Giggle to confide?  None, none.
All my splendid spillages funnel down to One:
"Paradise is simple as the simple dew.
Blond Life, raw, unadorned,
Is apple enough when we feel adored.
--Settle quick the pipping kettle, Kate,
And kiss the kittens twice.--Unintended
Heaven whistles wettest, when we forget

Ourselves."

Gregg Glory
2010

The Vim of Seems

When academy was a euphemism for ‘brothel,’ those who worked there were called academicians.~~Euphemania

I doubt indeed if the crude circumstance of the world, which seems to create all our emotions, does more than reflect, as in multiplying mirrors, the emotions that have come to solitary men in moments of poetical contemplation.~~W.B. Yeats

The title, “Dissembling Semblance,” begins with a pun on dis-assembling, taking apart into its component parts–a touch of an audial shadow of dismissing–and the regular meaning of dissemble (to disguise or conceal a feeling or intention). Such puns are the first of many disguises in this follow-on poem. This poem follows “For Tenor Semblance, Who’s Dead,” which is a poem full of evasions about identity; it even raises the doubt if the protagonist of the poem, the eponymous Tenor Semblance–to who’s wake the reader is summoned–is either alive or dead! Equally, the “Semblance” of the title both names the returning hero and denies that that is who we are talking about since this is a dissemblance, and not a likeness. The greasepaint on the putative corpse of the potentially dead-and-alive-at-once Schrodingnarian Tenor Semblance is thick–perhaps even an inch thick, my fellow vaudevillian thespians. You see, the poem is already assembling some the tropes of the theater, where one dissembles in order to better resemble the chosen, created character invoked by the playwright. But, in this scenario, who wields this mightier-than-death, swordier-than-a-sword pen? Who is the poet behind the curtain? Let’s investigate…. Follow the sleuth with his slouch hat and wacky magnifying glass which shows only his own enlarged and swimming eyeball!

Lie there, my art.–Prospero

This epigraph is from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, where the speaker, Prospero, is a magician-wizard who has been shipwrecked and is the sole master of a forlorn isle, whose only other human inhabitant is his daughter, Miranda. Prospero is talking with Miranda, and lays aside his mastery and his magic cloak to come clean with her.

PROSPERO
                             'Tis time
I should inform thee farther. Lend thy hand
And pluck my magic garment from me.
             [Miranda helps Prospero remove his cloak.]
Lie there, my art.--Wipe thou thine eyes. Have comfort.

So, perhaps the author of “Tenor Semblance” is finally going to come clean with us and tell us the truth of his creation, his self-son, and we can wipe the webs of glamour from our story-woven eyes. Despite the terror and trauma of Death, there’s really no need to cry. Our powerful and trustworthy author is going to give us the straight dope at last. The hidden context of our lives will be lovingly revealed from on high; our past will be made sensible, and our present comforting. The author, like Prospero, is going to set aside his bag of tricks–Felix the Cat will become just a putty-tat in need of a lap once more. He must be tired of the footlights; he must need some simple, human ear to which to confess after his endless years of manic prestidigitations. Then again, in The Tempest, the scene where Prospero lays aside his cloak momentarily is Act 1, Scene 2, and a shipwreck full of sailors from his hometown have just crash-landed into his hand-crafted Fantasy Island.

1
The number one. Om, er, or perhaps “um” in this case. The stanzas are numbered, like scenes or acts, creating an extra level of proscenium-like distance between the vignettes enacted, or the tableaux vivants tidily presented.

Ho-ho!

What is the point of poetry anyway? Does this multiform monster have a singular purpose? And, given that its form is relentlessly verbal, can mere verbiage give expression to that purpose? Can an eye examine its own process of sight? Can an ear hear its essence? Is there a divergence between essence and purpose? Is purpose imposed, while essence has more of the character of helpless self-expression, a fountain mooting through its range of motion without a chance for meaningful choice? Are poets born or made? “Ho-ho!” Welcome to the funhouse of life, death, and everything. Evidently the comedy club that had been built in Tenor’s grave is still in operation in this first verbal volley–less of a word and more of an essential upwelling, an expression without syntactical content. A something… surprising.

                 From out his party grave, up-popped
The skeletal self that Tenor'd tamed.

We have the “party grave” of the first poem’s epigram incorporated here into the first line of the follow-up poem: the “dirty jokes” include the rude humor of the weedy burial place as well. There can be no doubt that we are at the same graveside, discussing the same Tenor Semblance as before. This time, Tenor isn’t content to lie within his “four occasion walls” (the four dimensions of x, y, z, and time). The “skeletal self,” the dead man, the ghost, of Tenor pops up, perhaps like one of those toy coin boxes with the glowing bone hand that snatches coins into the coffin-like bank vault from which it emerges. Is this poem turning into B-movie zombie-flick fare? Never fear, Tenor’s here! Indeed, this is no ordinary skeleton, but the one that “Tenor’d tamed.” Even the tough double-T, double-D sounds, which may indicate how tough the taming struggle had been, also show the completeness of the mastery over death. Like the phrase “locked tight,” there can be little doubt of eternal containment here, can there?

Although dead, and indeed no more than a skeleton now, the imagery suggests an on-going tie with life. “Dewy longings,” “musty wines,” all cling to the “dry fact” of Tenor’s skeleton. Although dead, “desire sniffs.” The boundary, the barrier between life and death is muddy at the edge of this man-made portal-hole to the beyond. The connection between living desire and the constructive impulse toward civilization is alluded to in the description of the dew-drops on Tenor’s bones tracing a “ziggurat” shape–one of the oldest kinds of monumental architecture ever constructed; many mausoleums, holy sites, temples, and other buildings are ziggurats–the fore-runner of the Egyptian pyramid.

Nothing of the lover, of the brother
Lingers here.  I stick four mournful fingers
Through his clackers for a tongue, wagging
Idiot digits in mime Shakespearean.

The poet, visiting Tenor’s grave, plays with the skeleton as Hamlet did with Yorick’s skull. In the case of Tenor Semblance and his “dirty jokes,” turn-about seems fair play. Robert Frost claimed poetry was a kind of “fooling with words,” and here we see just such a jest-fest going on. The poet makes Tenor talk by waggling his fingers where Tenor’s tongue used to be. No affectionate kissing as Hamlet did with Yorick, no childhood sentimentality–just jokes and the hard facts of demise. The “idiot digits” of the poet’s fingers write no love sonnets, give no voice to any supposed creation of Tenor or the poet; at best, the poet can only “mime” a lame imitation of Shakespeare. “O O O, that Shakespearean rag,” as T.S. Eliot might say. This poet is kind of an inept schlep. Do we trust him, as Dante trusted Virgil, to guide us into the mysteries beyond the grave?

This would all be gallows humor, but our fellow Tenor is beyond the gallows now. The superstitious caution to “speak no ill of the dead” is blithely ignored. The poet is juggling torches in a matchstick factory. Will there be a price to pay for his flippancy?

No Yossarian voice, Horatio, ensued.
No Ophelian sonnets rained in daisy-chains.
Lipless ivories inferred infernal grins.

Evidently not. Horatio is conjured to hear the poet’s Horation oration, but Tenor himself remains mute. Not so much as the jokey voice of that modern Yorick from Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 pipes up. In Catch-22, you had to be crazy to get dismissed from the Army; but applying for dismissal on grounds of insanity showed that you were sane; this was the catch-22 of the title. Doubtless some of this circular logic applies to poet and Semblance in this graveyard comedy. The main character in the novel, Yossarian, is basically a coward who scrambles with paranoid frenzy to stay alive in wartime. This same cowardice is often assigned to Hamlet, and there’s a nice talk that Robert Frost gave wherein he distinguishes between “escape” and “pursuit” in terms of discerning motivations and their, as I’d put it, inherent nobility or lack thereof. For my money, Hamlet transitions from escape (from reality, responsibility and death) through most of the play until he embraces his tragic chance and begins to actively pursue death–finally winning through to the fatal showdown that immortalizes him as an exemplar of his timeless human dilemma. Frost says, in justifying his preference for pursuit over escape, that “I’ve got to have something that’s a little aggressive, and that’s so with a poem, too.” I’ve always thought the gravedigger scene in Hamlet more aggressive than hilarious: the humor digs at the characters and won’t let them look away from life’s fatal outcome. It hones Hamlet’s conscience. That’s the use of the unrelenting humor in “Dissembling Semblance” too, I’d say; it’s aggressive, pushy. Certainly, the high drama and romance of Ophelia’s burial scene where Hamlet out-does Laertes’ love for his own sister is out of the question. Instead, all we get is the answerless “grin” of Tenor’s skull.

The very basic question left unanswered in “For Tenor Semblance, Who’s Dead” is answered in an all-caps affirmative in “Dissembling Semblance.” Tenor is, like the Wicked Witch of the East, not only “merely dead… but really most sincerely DEAD,” although no Munchkin coroner is on hand to issue an ornate death certificate. Indeed, there’s no Horatio, no Ophelia, no battling Laertes, not even a goofy grave-digger to witness the unnamed poet’s exploration of death and identity–his contemplation of his deceased “mirror-me.”

     2
I am no Poet-Frankenstein, evoking souls
From wounded earth.

The poet disclaims his powers of creation, even the morose, mangled powers of a Halloweenesque Dr. Frankenstein. He’s no stitcher of zombies, no fanatic trying to dissolve the border between life and death. Indeed, such human hubris would “wound earth.” I’d take that claim with a grain of salt, though, as the poet plays on Tenor’s “bony xylophone” of a skeleton. If not a Dr. Frankenstein, perhaps he is at least some sort of dusty archeologist seeking to imaginatively recreate the creature he had so elaborately eulogized. But, the poet claims to be interested in life and love, the “living teats” of being vibrantly alive.

Still, I loiter here half-longingly and toe
Pale parabolas of a pelvis furred with mold.

The poet then questions his own pro-life claims. He finds himself fascinated by the borderlands and loiters at the graveside “half-longingly.” This echoes Keats’ “half in love with easeful death” from his “Ode to a Nightingale.” The poet is winking at Mr. Weeks’ criticism. The pelvis, locus of the generative organs procreation, are “furred with mold” rather than the short-and-curlies live lovers commingle.

Even while examining the bones of Semblance, the poet doubts which reality is the more supreme–the bald, dread facts of “tallied Tenor,” reduced to death and thus “pure loss,” or Tenor’s fading story told in “For Tenor Semblance, Who’s Dead,” through which we were first introduced to Tenor. This current poem, after all, is an act of human speech as well, and is dissipating its vaporous cry. Tenor’s story seems to be not much more than an evaporating “condensate in Gobi air”–a temporary puff of syllables that cannot last. Every thing that is becomes a was, another exemplar of “pure loss” and “less.”

What last farewell, or goodbye cry, can I
Cachinnate for such luckless kin?

What eulogy can be said over the bones of a story? Do we weep for those who have gone, for their actual departure, or do we cry because the memories of them still remain with us? Is grief really a selfish self-memorial? Tenor seems dead in reality and in story, and our memories are not to be trusted as objective because they are self-involved. We cannot say goodbye, for there is nothing of the actual Tenor left to address–nothing, that is, but our own memories. Indeed, such utter annihilation seems a “luckless” lot.

Feral fate!  The day, the hour, is late.

As with Shakespeare, although there is death and shaped language aplenty, there is a definite lack of religion, of appeal to outer (or upper) authority to untangle the buried umbilical that had led to Tenor’s once-upon-a-time putative birth. Surely his death, his skeleton, is poof enough that he was once alive. The poet, in his decided lack of religious reference, wants to take on the eternal troubles the bible blabs about for himself, on his own, with only his own ugly imaginings for revelation and guide. There will be no angels to wrestle with in this grudge-match to discern ultimate meaning. To hide or not to hide, that is the question. And an altar, let alone an outsized Oz-God, would be too tempting a curtain to quiver behind for the slender identity of the poet to resist. Thus, for all the graveyard stage-props of this poem, it remains a mostly pagan meditation. (It is interesting to note in this connection, however, that the poet, Gregg Glory, had read aloud the third stanza of “For Tenor Semblance, Who’s Dead” at his mother’s memorial service. Even then, a pagan pastor.)

3

The numeral three (3). Sacred in many traditions, a magic number that encompasses the Holy Trinity of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. Is there an implication that a third member of the grave “party” will make an appearance? We have two members already: the poet and Tenor’s skeleton (the memory of Tenor living, if he was ever more than imaginary–although if “imponderably” imaginary, that’s as good as any reality). Who shall be the third that walks behind?

Even though Tenor Semblance is no more than a dead body and a (perhaps fictive) memory, still he has a hold on the poet, and indeed so parlously has plumbed the poet’s depths of identity that Tenor has “unmade” the poet, changed and perhaps even dismembered how the poet understands himself as a self. An “iffy gift” indeed. Still, the poet holds onto the sensations of life, and states his intention to not live that life staring eternally into a grave. This poet doesn’t want to lie atop Tenor’s make-believe tomb chanting “Annabelle Lee” to the full moon until his social security checks start to kick in. He does not want to share in Hamlet’s dim guilt at being alive whilest his father moulders, living his “lithest days” in “sackcloth” like a penitent sinner.

My vampire mirror blings, bingeing on blanks.
I miss the mischievous elf I myself had minted,
Wry coinage of a brain love-benumbed.

The idea of the speaker of the poem being the poet in persona propere is played with here. Having been critiqued as being too-much the Joycean composer trimming his fingernails from a cloudbank as he looks down on his characters strolling and unrolling their lines, the speaker-poet checks for his existence in a mirror (recall that Tenor Semblance is his “mirror-me”) and finds that–like the mythical vampire–he has no reflection. Perhaps the poet doesn’t exist here in his created world! He needs to interact with his character Tenor in order to see himself. It is this creative exploration of reality, identity and harassing character that lets us see who we are–not only in interior intention, but in imaginative fact. Tenor, the “mischievous elf,” is described as the creation of a loving and lonely brain–perhaps a reference to the disordered romanticism of Keats’ dreamland.

The speaker as poet is an “impresario of puppets” in that he creates characters and voices for his poems. “Impresario” is a claim to be a master at such creation, and this lavish claim is followed up by an extravagant example of the kind of outrageous metaphors in which the poet deals. Like “piccolo fish” that blend in with the seagrass, the poet’s creations seem very real; this reality is then metamorphosed further into a “wig” (perhaps a British judge’s wig). No transformation is too zany for the impresario’s imagination to encompass or create.

The poet then goes on to invoke the “resurrection” of Tenor, his “scarecrow scalawag.” This is described as a Disneyfied act of “imagineering,” which is some Hollywood-style mix of engineering and imagination. Perhaps there’s more of Dr. Frankenstein in our poet than he understands, or is willing to admit. To be resurrected, one must have lived before and indeed have been truly dead, as the first stanza of the poem established. Of course, resurrection is famously a matter of faith rather than science, so, as in “For Tenor Semblance, Who’s Dead,” we can’t be one hundred percent certain that any Tenor who can be resurrected was duly and truly dead. There is an ambiguity introduced that only our own inner exploration of our own identities via our own hand-made “voodoo” dolls can resolve to our personal satisfaction. Knowing the author rather well, I would hazard to guess that he might even think of this as an on-going process inaccessible to any final resolution. There’s always another layer of the onion to peel away, more mist to fan to clarity in the fens of self, more mazes to zigzag through, more past to uncover tomorrow than we can remember today.

In the fourth stanza, the poet directly addresses the dead man–with a tinge of fear, much as Hamlet upon the battlements of Elsinore, where both the guard Marcellus and his school pal Horatio refer to the ghostly king (as the poet here calls his reanimated dead one) as an “apparition.” In this case, the “ghost” is referred to sarcastically as an “irksome apparition”–which includes a premonition of all the “icks” in the line “Pink is less pricked than pinky.”[1] The poet makes his argument for the relatedness of death and the imagination; how the ultimate character of death “out-crows” the more limited living “canaries” like the poet (a singer himself, like the canaries). Death spices and raises-up the limited reach of imagination’s “tropes.” Imagination proposes, and Death disposes. Death is the final arbiter of the meaning the imagination creates: “no quip out-kids a skeleton’s ghastly grin.” The language is still that of the aggressive gallows humor that has saturated the poem thus far.

By this stanza, Tenor’s resurrection has been effected, at least in part. Is he as “rotted” as his burial tux? Or has he been fully restored like the leprosy-lousy Lazarus? The boundary of death has been breached; Tenor is emphatically not the poet as they hold this somewhat contentious wit-battle.

"Birds of paradise in their jungle mung
Whistle fluent waltzes more queer than square.
When kisses come twitting between the stars,
Their ache is more than mausoleums are.
The softest-rose of live lips out-quips
Clown-corpse midgets and their brazen cars. The curds
Of life are sacred, but only as we sip."

Here we have Tenor Semblance, the artificial spokesman for the eternal twin realities of Death and the Imagination piping up for the partial, obscure, incomplete “jungle mung” of life. Tenor, a rogue representative from beyond the bounds of martality stands up and insists that life, “more queer than square,” is “more than mausoleums are.” Life requires no imaginative or abstract justification. It is itself, and it is enough, whether we accept that truth or not. Tenor is significantly different from Hamlet’s father’s ghost, who returns demanding revenge and more death for his wrongful poisoning. Tenor demands that the poet give up his “brazen cars,”–an image out of Yeats’ “Who Goes with Fergus?” that has the main character spend his life looking for Faeryland. Life, made of Wallace Stevens’ fragile “concupiscent curds,” only maintains its sanctity while we actively engage in it, taste it to its fullest, sip by sip.

5

So I sat in puzzlement complete.
Head-hanging, feet-dangling, I weeped.  I kicked
Spic hobnails against the grave's gouged walls.

Confused beyond endurance, the poet has been dismantled by his “mirror-me.” Undoubtedly, this is an unexpected result. Wasn’t this graveside visit supposed to settle Tenor’s hash? And yet, it is the poet who is recreated by Tenor’s resurrection. Perhaps there’s more of give-and-take between ourselves and our creations than is commonly supposed. This is a paradigm of ‘constant surprises’ that any parent would be familiar with from dealing with their kids!

            Must I have more to say?
To do, to be?  Was wishing up to me?

Tenor’s words seem to have struck home with the poet, who now reconsiders his entire take on what makes meaning meaningful.

Argent star and pentecostal ghost!  It was.
The prolog past was mere evaporate because.

The poet embraces his ultimate responsibility to create his own future (and thus, from his past, his present). The ghost of Hamlet’s father has lost none of his potency to motivate and help create the living man’s understanding of his life and what he must do within that life.

The “sledding immortality” recalls Tenor’s “slalom breast” from “For Tenor Semblance, Who’s Dead.” The whole movement of “slipping us” back into “our … skins again” recalls Yeats’ famous lines about “gravedigger’s toil… but thrusts their buried men/ Back into the human mind again.” Here, the mind is not the foundation of reality it is in Yeats–here it is the more tender, temporary, living “skin” that contains our meaning. Like God, the Mind (with Platonic indifference to the body) has been exiled from this poet’s contemplations. He is either more modest or more hopeless than most spiritual writers. In this case, I’d say that the more the poet claims to have created Tenor (his “solo ghost”), the more the poet is created by his creation, made real, manifesting in life as an imaginative creator. The poet is Tenor’s heaven (“holy host”), and Tenor is the poet’s manifestation in imagination and in death. They complement each other’s incompleteness, as Jesus completed the project of God’s instantiation.

Thus we see, beyond Death's batty beam,
Is is brighter than the vim of seems.

Again, a reminder from the first poem (“beyond Death’s cut division or misty ending”), and an affirmation that life (“is”) is the supreme place of meaning, above “the vim of seems.” This parley-playing poet has some skin in the game now!

6
How, in all this claustric Ought, ought I
To utter and confess my consummate
"Ow to Joy"?  Life is pain, and fidgets
As it sings.

The “claustric Ought” recalls the confinement of the coffin, where Tenor in the first poem made his confession and shared “dirty jokes” only with himself. This time, he has had the poet as an active audience. Has Tenor made an impact on his hearer? The poet appears to be determined now to celebrate life, while fearing the pain of that life. Instead of Beethoven’s hymnotic, rapturous “Ode to Joy” about the brotherhood of all mankind, the best that this ironic, modern, diminished, self- and death-obsessed poet can manage is a wincing “Ow to Joy.”

The poet is not Dr. Frankenstein, but there is an authority figure who desires to make his way into the poem–and it’s not God. “Dr. Formaldehyde in his lab-coat” is more like one of the kooky characters that populate Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita. Dr. Formaldehyde is equipped with Dr. Berhens’ “icy stethoscope” from Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain, where inner illness and morbid fascination with death from rotten lungs is transformed into a “talent.” The good doctor will leave nothing beyond the scope of his inquirey, and is determined to “quiz/All coughs, all crimes.” With echoes of the Last Judgment, the real crime, it seems to me, is to be hanging around a graveyard when you should be living life sans sackcloth.

The poet sees that the tables have turned. Now it is he, the poet, who has been consigned to the status of a storybook figure–he has been swallowed up into a “Rabelesian parable.” If he is all story now, to what degree is he still a part of life? The “inquisitive pin” of his procreational organ is still giggling! But, the poet can’t figure out what that means; its “reply” is a null “none, none,” reminiscent of Hemingway’s “nada” at the end of his short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.”

"Paradise is simple as the simple dew.
Blond Life, raw, unadorned,
Is apple enough when we feel adored."

The “splendid spillages,” coming so soon after the thigh-pin, take on the suggestion of seminal fluid. So many ghostly lovers crowd this memorial chat with the poet’s shadowy self buried here! It seems that determining identity may be less imperative twenty years on from the first Tenor Semblance poem; who we are is what we do. It is the doing, and the being done to, after all, that grants its additive beauty to our mortal circumstance. When we are alive and connected, when we “feel adored,” that’s all we need to know, even about such grand subjects as Good and Evil (as the presence of the apple implies). So, if the penultimate activity of life is to kiss and be kissed (before the ultimate act if dying and frying, or dying and flying) — as discussed at the gnarly graveside in stanza numeral four–where is the girl? Enter Kate, stage left….

--Settle quick the pipping kettle, Kate,
And kiss the kittens twice.

The poet is fully distracted from his death meditations and is jolted back into action and into considerations of mundane life. He is taken almost completely out of the poem proper, and we get to overhear him in his real life, in his proper person. All the acts, all the curtains, all the images, are dropped; the show is over. And with the tea kettle and the kittens, could it get any more cozy?

                                   --Unintended
Heaven whistles wettest, when we forget

Ourselves."

“Whistles wettest” is a nice echo of the tea kettle. What we attempt and intend to do is secondary to manifest experience itself. Experience is what happens while we pursue our intended heaven: the goal, the pursuit we desire. Life is a place for our exploration, and gives us all we can get, and more than we can understand. Whoever we are, or think we are, or pretend to be, while all of that life is going on around us matters less than the fact that life is going on. This death-obsessed poem ends on an affirmative, if inconclusive, note.

Like Hamlet, the soliloquist in “Dissembling Semblance” has been undergoing a longish regime of “reality therapy.” He is gradually reconciling his life of imagination and desire (symbolized by the non-spiritual–but still non-living–stand-in character Tenor Semblance) with the mundane entrapments of negotiating the limitedness of a human life. But what, you ask, what could ever induce the plangent, punning poet’s inner-Prospero to lay aside his magnificent cloak and be content to live within the precincts of life’s “four occasional walls”? In the crib, the most fascinating object for a puling babe is not some spinning and glittering mobile of stylized stars, but a leaning-down human face–greasy nose and all. Prospero has his love of Miranda to help him “drown his book” and diminish into his humanity. The verbally profuse Hamlet is eventually reconciled to a reality where “the rest is silence,” and takes his exit from the stage in peace. But what incentive to life and littleness does our poet her possess? Ah, yes, his peeping Kate and her “pipping kettle” (a kettle at once piping hot and growing with life-possibilities like a “chicken when it’s pippin’/that has no bones” as the folk song sings). Not to mention those kissable kittens….

The name Kate calls to mind the Katherine of Taming of the Shrew–so we can rest assured that the poet’s reality will not be a bland one after the sign-off of the final stanza. And another Kate is there too, the cutie Frenchie at the end of Henry V, whom the king informs that she and he will be “the makers of custom”–and so imagination, we can feel assured, will not be completely exiled from the poet’s onward life. Indeed, the entire arc of the two poems–an extended reality vs. imagination world-wide wrestling smackdown–could be encapsulated by Yeats’ formulation:

                        The abstract joy,
The half-real wisdom of daemonic images
Suffice the aging man as once the growing boy.

The one difference of emphasis I’d point out here, though, is the decisive wish for less abstraction and more common reality that our poet settles on. The device that serves the poet best in this pursuit is his “forgetting” of himself–either as a man or as a boy. Indeed, there’s a sense in which his adopted “mirror-me” persona of Tenor Semblance is itself a form of this forgetting-therapy. The more the poet pursued himself into his creation Tenor–the less himself he was–the more of himself he could actually manage to manifest.

Well, well, is this mere paradox–or, perhaps, magic?

ENDNOTE

These notes are on the order of an author’s bare-knuckled canoodling with the muse–or his fidgety graffiti on the hind paw of the Sphinx. Here are no graven words brought down the mountain by a lighting-limbed Moses, or the knowing code-nodes that might unlock one of Thomas Pynchon’s illuminati modules. No nodal knowledge here. So, as any bartender might recommend after last call: “Take care. Beware.” Do drive your brain safely–or as safely as you can manage at dead midnight in an overloaded produce truck stuck in second as it creaks across the cracks of a lonely, frozen lake (in whose depths skeletal sailors toss their tittering bones in unspoken prophecy).

Unlike Mr. Weeks’ essay “Paddling Toward Byzantium” that followed the first of this battling pair of brotherly poems (and which of this Castor and Pollux spars more divinely, who can say?), these notes retain an air of utter incompleteness (Notes Toward a Supreme Friction, mayhaps) and deserve to be spanked–er, I mean, to be superseded— by a less authoritative, but more monarchically benign, interpretation of their intentions and achievements. Mr. Weeks, I believe, is in the next-at-bat position for this devilish task. So, Mr. Weeks, step up to the plate, the batter’s box awaits. Knock those cleats clean and aim for the bleachers, kid!

January, 2012



[1] “Pink is less pricked than pinky.” This line has several layers of puns. Here’s a sampling: “Pink,” as a color, is an embodied abstraction. Tailors also use “pinking shears” to trim loosely woven cloth (like the tapestry of our reality) and minimize fraying. As an abstraction, pink will feel the painful pricks of life less than a pinky finger will feel it. But, as an abstraction, “pink” also has a less lusty engagement with life (less “pricked” in love-making) than I have in my little pinky, as the taunt goes. In context, we see that the poet at this point in the poem, contra Tenor, feels that this “pinkness beyond the pinkness of things” is a virtue–at least of sorts. The poet may cry out, like Hamlet: “Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt.”

Oct 022012
 
The Ever-Arriving River

How do we know we have arrived?

No gate blows open, no trumpet swings wide
Giving boogie-oogie oogie-boogie to the countryside.
Our horses must feed on grass, or perish.
So, too, our souls.  Having gone down the long defiles
All night, in a night that is not sure of ending,
Our souls paw their bellies and howl.
Even a ghost craves ghostly sustenance.

Have we arrived then, when midnight creaks
And starved souls howl at the wolvish moon?
Or must we still, in our hunger, kneel and pray?
Must a glittering track shiver in the sleepy pines
For the last mile shimmied on our knees?
Bend at that track, and drink with tragic hands,
With hands encased in silver to their wrists.

Drink and drink;  drink deep, O traveler--
Tomorrow we must find this river again.

The themes of this poem can be said to be paradise, pain, and persistence.

The first line of the poem immediately creates the context and then throws it into question.

How do we know we have arrived?

In the title it is the river that is arriving. In the first line the question is about our arriving. There is some confusion between whether it is the river arriving or us who are arriving. What is the relationship between these two arrivals?

What does arriving mean anyway? If the river is ever-arriving how do we know we’ve ever gotten anywhere? If we don’t know that we’ve arrived somewhere what is the problem that creates? These are the sorts of questions that are created by the tension between the title and the first line of the poem.

The reader and the narrator of the poem both seek reassurance on this point. The second stanza begins with a frustration of that seeking reassurance. Traditional signs of arrival, signs of having completed your journey, are denied the speaker and the reader both. “No gate blows open.”

“No trumpet swings wide,” the horn of Gabriel, the official welcoming at the gates of heaven, is absent from the countryside. There is no sound of welcome available to the traveler. Indeed the silence seems to mock the reader and the seeker. The “oogie-boogie” of 1940s swing music is unavailable to the traveler, and hides another pun in the poem only a footnote can provide.

This lack of welcome, this lack of acknowledgment, this lack of arrival, then create an intolerable tension in the poem. We are not only mocked, we are in peril. “Our horses must feed on grass, or perish.” The horses, representative of purposeful onward motion, must find some sustenance or die. Our sense of arrival is frustrated. We must seek a way to go forward even one more step in this unwelcoming countryside. The analogy to the spiritual context is made explicit in the first half of the next line. Our souls are directly compared to the horses which carry us onward. The long night of the soul is vividly evoked as “the long defiles / all night.”

The spiritual context of the seeking, the lust for Paradise, is underlined in the last line of the stanza “even a ghost craves ghostly sustenance.” So here we are. We are suffering, we are seeking. When will we arrive at this fabled “ever-arriving” river? The ever-arriving nature of the river is reminiscent of Heraclitus’s observation that one may never step into the same river twice. Will the river be the place of our renewal, our welcoming? Is it truly to be the destination that we are seeking?

The hope is set up in the poem that indeed the river will be the paradise our souls are craving. But on what sustenance Olar soul survive in the meantime? Is our desire for paradise itself the sustenance we seek? The third stanza asks these very questions. The conditions of “arrival” are mixed up with the conditions of seeking, the “starved” nature of the spiritual quest is itself considered a sign of arriving someplace. Our hunger for spiritual fulfillment has lifted us out of the ordinary daily context of our lives. We’re no longer simply mortal. We are mortal and spiritual creatures, locked into a quest. This seems a bit medieval and some ways. Like Parsifal with his vision of the Grail, we are beset with a vision of an overflowing, ever-arriving river. Our thirst is great in the darkness of our long spiritual night.

But mere spiritual hunger, mere spiritual seeking, are not enough to fulfill the requirements of arrival. We must still “in our hunger, Neal and pray.” To wish for spiritual fulfillment to seek the river is not enough. We must, even without the grass that are horses require, even without finding anything yet, we must “kneel and pray.” We must, even in the midst of our suffering, be grateful. But this is jumping the gun (or the gate) a bit here. First the poet ratchets up the tension of the seeker’s dilemma a few more notches. The pervasive use of the the communal perspective, “our horses,” “our souls,” draws the reader into alignment with the speaker’s quest. It is not dissimilar to the old preacher’s trick of addressing his disparate congregation confidently as a single community, a united entity, small before the greatness of The Lord.

In the desperation and tension created by the prolonged absence of paradise or the goal to which the traveler is headed, a vision of this final destination appears. In the middle of the woods, in the middle of the countryside a “glittering track” appears uncertainly in the moonlight. Is this the long-awaited “ever-arriving river”? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. But our approach to it (whether it is real or imagined only among the “sleepy pines”) must be prayerfully attempted; we must move forward the “last mile” on our knees. But even here, even in extremis, the mocking humorousness of the situation is not neglected by the poet; this last mile, oogie-boogie style, is “shimmied on our knees.” It seems that we are to chuckle at ourselves in our spiritual seeking, our thirst to arrive. Perhaps there is some nobility in such a sly acknowledgement of our perpetual “shortcomings.”

This uncertainty of our arrival–emphasized from the first line of the poem–is no doubt why we are instructed to drink with “tragic hands.” And then there is the brilliant image of the hands, wet with this very ambivalent arrival, after our midnight creeping, after the anguish of our hungry souls “howling” for sustenance, “encased in silver to their wrists.” Our desire has brought us here, has manacled us to this destiny of seeking. Even in the very act of fulfillment there is to be no satiation; we are locked into a cycle of spiritual seeking. It is a rather grim image of that meditation many traditions label a spiritual practice or discipline.

But what other choice does the howling soul have? Given the poverty of our spiritual circumstances, given the hunger for arrival, we can only continue to seek. But now that we, with sufficient gratitude and desperation, have arrived at this temporary river, we should drink. Tomorrow we may seek, but tonight we drink!

Drink and drink; drink deep, O traveler–
Tomorrow we must find this river again.

Gregg Glory
[Gregg G. Brown]
Oct. 1, 2012