Gregg Glory [Gregg G. Brown]

Gregg Glory [ Gregg G. Brown ] has devoted his life to poetry since happening across a haiku by Moritake, to wit: Leaves / float back up to the branch-- / Ah! butterflies. He runs the micro-publishing house BLAST PRESS, which has published over two dozen authors in the past 25 years. Named in honor of the wild Vorticist venture by Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, BLAST PRESS is forward-looking and very opinionated. He still composes poems on his departed father's clipboard, which he's had since High School.

May 142021
 
  1. sunday morning
  2. captain black
  3. the consummate pageant
  4. cold calling
  5. coffin nails
  6. slaves of glory
  7. black triangles
  8. downtown
  9. the elitist
  10. gentle ben
  11. rehab doll
  12. the dogs of kamari
  13. the true season

13 STORIES HIGH

LORD DERMOND

COPYRIGHT 1998 DANIEL B. DERMOND

 

For Troy and Joseph

 

Disclaimer: Any resemblance
of any character or incident in these stories to any persons living or dead is
purely coincidental.

 

CONTENTS

-SUNDAY MORNING

-CAPTAIN BLACK

-THE CONSUMMATE PAGEANT

-COLD CALLING

-COFFIN NAILS

-SLAVES OF GLORY

-BLACK TRIANGLES

-DOWNTOWN

-THE ELITIST

-GENTLE BEN

-REHAB DOLL

-THE DOGS OF KAMARI

-THE TRUE SEASON

 

SUNDAY MORNING

Childhood has killed all the faith I may have had in my own immortality…

My
father hated life and, being his son, I was on the receiving end of his
emotions on a daily basis. He was my first model of perfection, strange as
that may seem. The fact that he, who I held in unquestioning esteem, chose
to treat me like garbage led directly to my low self-opinion. The alcoholism
that developed in my teenage years and the self-destructive death-trip that followed was a result of his
abuse. Had I been taught early on to
value myself, it would’ve saved years (and pages) of pain. Sadly, this was not the case. My father would reduce me to a
walking void not long after my first
conscious memory, a hole that could take a lifetime to fill (maybe,
if I’m lucky).

 

The
house I grew up in was a dead-end ranch in an anonymous stretch of the suburbs constructed
of dim bricks and wood shingles. Inside, the walls were yellow and smoky,
covered with disease and nicotine instead of sunshine. Death hung in the air
along with cigar smoke and tension. My father
smoked green Optimo cigars and drank Scotch. He drank everything, but I think he preferred his drinks
mixed with White Label Scotch. He could tell you he loved you, and in an
instant turn your warm tears to blood.

He was a cop in the town of
Millwood before opting for an early retirement that enabled him to drink around
the clock. His hair was short, cut in a military buzz. Blues veins bulged from
his temples when he was in a rage. He was quite tall with big fists and
terrible black eyes. My mother was
his lap dog and I was his scorn. I could never figure out exactly what it
was about me that disappointed him, but for him to show me any kindness, let alone love, was impossible.

I was trapped in a vicious
cycle. The more he’d beat and berate me, the more withdrawn I became. The more withdrawn I became, the more he’d attack
me for not being normal By the age of nine I had an ulcer, and a considerable amount of self-hatred. I was, however,
incapable of hating him. To me, it
would’ve been like hating God– an impossibility for a young child.

Saturday nights were an
exercise in terror: It was my father’s one day off, so he usually began
drinking around noon. There was one memory from my childhood that so scarred my brain, I imagine I’ll recall it on
my deathbed, when I am unable to
remember my name. It is probably such a vivid memory because it was the first
time I ever entertained the notion of killing
myself, just to get away from it all.

It was
around 5PM, and a solemn fire was licking the brick. My father’s dinner
was cold, so he went off on a tear — smashing things and swearing. I remember
he cornered my mother in the kitchen and I watched as he pounded
her skull into the wall, breaking her glasses. I watched in helpless
fear as the tears from her eyes were smacked across the room, splashing
my cheeks. Her face was dead and bloodied, all terror and fear had been
beaten out and replaced with an empty acceptance. He grabbed the
receiver of the phone and pummeled until it exploded into piercing shards
that gouged her face unmercifully.

 

If you’d like to make a
call, please hang up and dial again…

 

The anonymous voice was
like a lifeline from the outside world, a place where I imagined people laughing occasionally.

“What are you looking at? Go get your mother a cold cloth,” he screamed at me.

I ran into the bathroom
and poured some chilling water into a face cloth. Tears ran uncontrollably from my unbelieving eyes. I handed him the rag.

“Get the fuck out of here and go to your
room…”

Afterward,
he sank back into his throne and began to inhale the Bloody Marys that my
bruised and beaten mother brought to him. At that point, it could’ve
gone one of two ways: He’d just mumble himself to death until he finally
passed out, or he’d find some reason to beat on me before that occurred.

That night I was badly beaten.

I went to bed with blood running down my back.

I couldn’t sleep at all. I hadn’t had dinner, and my back was
so sore I couldn’t escape the pain. I just
laid there listening to the cold rain smack the roof. I felt dead inside, trapped in the mugging darkness with the feeling that I’d never escape, laugh or be free. I
would scream soundlessly into the
emptiness of my bedroom and cry until dehydrated. The furniture glowed in the golden braids of moonlight
that sliced through the blinds into
the vague spaces of my bedroom. I felt completely exiled from my own heart.

The church spoke a lot
about death, and my unsleeping thoughts had turned to this, knowing my father and I would be attending mass in the morning.

The
sound that had accompanied the first ray of sunlight to lance my eyes was my
father vomiting into the bathroom toilet. Sunday morning.

I’d have to say my father
was a religious man– in love with dogma and commandments.

The
church scared me– eternal damnation, the angry godhead and all that. What made it worse was
the fact that I was made to believe I was evil by a man who seemed to me so
close to God. I just knew he had stitched up a deal with the heavenly Father, and that my continued punishment in Hell had all been prearranged.

From across the hall, I
watched him get into his charcoal blue suit with the cross on the lapel. I
remember dressing carefully, so I didn’t reopen the back lashings and bleed
into my pressed white shirt. My shoulder blades ached. I was starving, but
wasn’t allowed to eat before visiting the Lord. That, my father had told me, was sinful. I guessed hunger made you
holy somehow.

We drove along the ocean
as though the night before had never happened.
My father’s cigar smoke choked me as I stared through the car window into the unceasing
green of the sea that seemed to be painted in divinity. Lime trees beheld the sun’s rosy glow.

“Now,
I want you to keep quiet in church… No goddamned noise, hear? You listening
to me?”

“Yes
Dad.”

The car purred quietly into
the church parking lot and hissed to a halt near a dying holly bush. The church
was a large and stoic looking cathedral with large weathered shingles whitened
by salt. The cross on top blasted like a glowing dagger thrust into the
heavens. The stained glass windows
glittered with religion, depicting our frail human conceptions of goodness.

I entered the church holding
my father’s rough hand. We were greeted by a pair of dour looking ushers, one
of whom took us to our pew. The church was
very dark, the only light being the white vestments of the priests and a
deacon. The odor of incense was dizzying. I began to feel nauseous as I inhaled
the consecrated vapors that vilely smoked from the ornamental altar. Two tall
tapers glowed in elongated yellow tears that melted into my reeling vision.
Along the side isles, huge ivory carvings were hung that enacted the stations
of the cross. The pain on the face of the
victim terrified me. The expressions of cruelty on the lifeless faces of his
torturers evoked the emotions of last night. I knew those faces well.

It was a long and dull
service, full of archaic scripture and uncertain salvation. I was becoming uncomfortably sick to my stomach as I watched
my father take his first drink of the day at the communion rail. My head was
spinning as my father sat back down next to me, the stale taste of Jesus on his lips. As the procession of redeemed
parishioners filed back to their seats, Reverend Hulse went to the pulpit and
cracked open the big book. His
sermons were heavy in tone and had an eloquence that could only penetrate the existence of an invisible world
that was occupied with illusions.

From Deuteronomy, he read:

 

and the Lord released us from bondage and set light upon our living spirit, the image of ourselves created in Him.
And for this, his commandments we are to keep. For the Lord, your
God, is a jealous God and he shall inflict eternal punishment upon the
children of the wicked…

 

I was
no longer able to focus. The two candle flames melted into a blur of
constricting blackness. I was slipping into sightlessness.

 

…so that you and your son may fear the Lord, and keep
his
commandments.

 

I was
going blind, and was absolutely terrified! What was happening? I couldn’t
have imagined.

Being a
small boy who’d had the fist of God rammed down his throat, I assumed
I was being punished by the Almighty. I didn’t know what was happening–
I was losing my sight in the presence of a vengeful god.

 

as an instruction to the children,
God said to teach all of his commandments. To
do what is right with unfaltering sight, and observe all the statutes of the
Lord in fear…

 

I
watched the Reverend’s face recede into the flame of blinding whiteness that was slowly
swallowed up in a hollow that spread like a liquid
stain into the minuscule pindrop of vision that disappeared just before I passed out.

 

*****

 

I wasn’t blind, and I knew
it wasn’t a dream. The next thing I remember
after losing my vision in church was being in my bed at home, overhearing my father cursing to my mother about
how he had to leave with me before
the sermon was over. It was years later, as an older alcoholic Atheist, when I realized that low blood
sugar due to lack of food had caused
me to lose consciousness.

Nonetheless, it seems I was
never forgiven.

 

CAPTAIN BLACK

I
couldn’t shake the vision of my father’s fist spinning into my face.

“Val, you just can’t piss your father off
like that,” my mother said.

I
walked outside. It was cold, but I didn’t feel like going back in until it was
absolutely necessary. I lit a cigarette I had filched from my mother’s purse
earlier that day. The smoke burned my lungs in a way that can only be
described as enlivening. The ground was covered in a down of gorgeous snow. I
stretched out on the frozen ground, my bones trembling in the mortal shadow of
the moment. I drew melting circles in the heat-thieving snow, clothed in
a cloud of fire brought on by a shot of blackberry brandy I took from
my father’s liquor cabinet earlier in the day. My hands trembled slightly, my
body partially buried in the motionless snow. The huge grey sky stretched
tightly over my eyes like a defiant caul shrouding my anger and despair.

I felt
like a human wound, opened by a blade from my father’s sheath of rage.

“Val… it’s time for us to go, “my mother called out into the yard.

 

*****

I was around eleven years
old when I began seeing the child psychologist. My father thought it would help
me to become a good soldier, I think. My relentless depression had done nothing
to arouse my father’s concern, but
when he discovered I’d been going into his liquor cabinet, he felt I needed dealing with. It seemed
that beating me senseless was
getting him nowhere, though not for lack of trying.

Dr. Karac was a greyish
man, with tortoise-shell specs and an expression
that changed like a flame as he spoke. He seemed to offer little advice, but
rather, listened attentively to what I’d choose to share. I’d tell him what I
wanted from life, and he’d tell me what I could expect. Nothing he told me made me want to live, so I gradually became less verbal as the therapy went on.

I focused on my father’s
mistreatment of me in vague terms only. The depression I felt was something I neither understood nor could begin to explain. I began to sense, not hostility, but a
bit of frustration on his part during our last private session.

Due to a lack of results in my individual therapy, Dr. Karac
had finally decided that a family meeting was in order. He sensed my pain, but
I’d never let him in. He felt he needed to
examine the family dynamic in order to give himself a fuller picture of
what was happening at home. After a good deal of haranguing, my mother had
convinced my father to take part in an encounter
session.
Of course, my father
wasn’t concerned with helping me, I
think he just wanted to clear his name, so to speak.

The family drove in
silence for most of the
ride over to the doctor’s office. My
mother was filing her nails in the passenger seat, and I was in the back gagging on my father’s pipe smoke. I
watched the light of the sun carve
angles on the passing landscape. The simple matter of existence consumed my thoughts in some nebulous memory that
mingled with the attar of roses. If I
could just get out of here, I
thought.

“Do you have to file
your fuckin’ nails now? Jesus Christ!” my father screamed at my mother.

Occasionally, my father
would yell an obscenity at one of the other drivers on the road. They couldn’t hear it, but I figured it made hint
feel better.

Then he asked me,
“Well, how did your last session end … what did the man say?”

I realized my father was
preparing his fallacious presentation– getting ready to handle the situation as though he were going into battle.

I
answered slowly, “He said, ‘With an attitude like yours, I’m afraid I find it
impossible to help you. “‘

“What
the hell did you say to the guy, for chrissakes!” His ebony-eyed glare
stared back at me, his teeth gritting on the stem of his pipe. “I
just told him I wanted to be happy.”

“No
wonder you’re not improving in there with a bunch of esoteric bullshit
like that.”

“I just told him
the truth,” I replied with foolish honesty.

“Why the hell aren’t you happy? I didn’t
have shit when I was your age, you
spoiled fuck.”

“I know,” I said, not wanting to get him
started.

“Well,
let’s save this for the doctor, can we?” my mother said. “You interrupting me, huh?” my
father yelled, staring over at her. “No, I just thought it…”

“Look,
some goddamned doctor ain’t gonna tell me how to run my house. I’m only seeing this guy
to find out what can be done with Val-�what the fuck I should do with him. Do you think some asshole
doctor is

going to intimidate me?”

My mother sunk into the seat as we continued on
our way. My father noticed the
redness around my right eye, as he looked into the rearview.

“Can you do something with that goddamned
kid’s eye? It looks like someone belted him or something.”

My mother cautiously said, “Someone did… you
punched him last night.”

“Like hell I did!”

“Honey, you did. Don’t you remember?”

“You
telling me I did something when I say I didn’t? He paused for a few
moments and seemed to consider the possibility, then said, “Well, keep
your goddamned mouths shut in there. I’m not coming here for any problems.” I found thatinteresting.

My father had pummeled me in one of his blackouts.
I had trouble believing he had no
memory of the one thing I couldn’t seem to get out of my head. I really don’t
think the reality of his own brutish behavior ever concerned him. It just seemed normal somehow.
Being a cop on the force, he was probably lauded for it.

Our car pulled in front of the building which
looked dark and hollow, with marbled
steps and smoked glass. My father wore a state police T-shirt– dressed to impress. I believed he
actually thought it would somehow garner immediate respect from the doctor.

We
waited in the outer office for a short while. The room had a strange smell,
like recycled air that had once occupied the lungs of every person who had
entered the building since it was built. I picked up a copy of The New
Yorker,
and laughed at the poetry inside. I heard the lady at the
desk whisper something to my parents.

“This is goddamned bullshit. Who the fuck
does she think she…” “Please, honey, it’s O.K….. They
just don’t allow it here. We’ll be home soon.”

My
mother had to calm the beast when the receptionist informed him there
was no smoking allowed inside the building.

“Listen,
Miss, I don’t wanna be a pain in the ass, but is the doctor coming
out soon? I’m on the force; working the three to eleven shift, you know.”

“He
should just be a few moments; he’s finishing up with a patient now,” she answered in an even tone that betrayed her annoyance with my father’s
nonsense.

“Dumb cunt; don’t
know shit,” he whispered to my mother. My mother just nodded in agreement. As I tossed the magazine
down on the table, I couldn’t help
wondering if my parents knew how fucked up they were.

A young woman, who I
figured to be about twenty five, emerged from the doctor’s office and stood filling out a form of some kind at the receptionist’s desk. She had long wavy blond hair
and appeared to have been crying.
Her green eyes sparkled sadly across the waiting room as she searched her mind for the correct date to put on
her check.

My father again whispered to my mother, “There’s a nice
ass on that.”

“Hello. I’m Doctor Karac,” the doctor said as he
came into the light of the waiting room.
“I’m so pleased to meet all of you. Please, follow me in and take a seat wherever you’d like… Hi Val,
how’re you doing today, son?”

“Hello.”

“How
are you doing there, doc? I managed to get a few moments to come
over before going over to the station. I’m on the P.D. over in Millwood.”

“Ah
yes, Mr. Daniels… I believe Val had mentioned that fact to me… Now,
before we begin, let me just say that I think Val is a fine young man and
I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know him these past few months. I thought perhaps
I could be of greater benefit to Val in his therapy, were I to know some
of the details regarding his home life.”

The
grey light of day was like a sterile gauze that bound the three of us together.
The office was rather dark except for a solitary band of light that
played on my father’s tense head. My mother sat next to him, clutching
her purse in an expression of tolerant denial that only she could make
endearing. The doctor sat facing us, poised and professional behind a bulky
mahogany desk.

My
mother began to speak, “Well, we want to do all we can to help Val…” My father cut her sentence off in mid-pitch, “Listen,” he
said, “whatever goes on in here between you and this kid
is confidential, I understand that. But, the way I run my house is my
business, see?”

“Mr. Daniels, I wasn’t…”

“I know what you’re
doing. You’re interested in finding some explanation
for Val’s unusual behavior by looking at the parents. They call it blame
displacement, you know; we may not do everything right but…”

“Mr.
Daniels, I’d simply like to get some background information here in order
to help Val.”

“You know, in my line
of work I have to deal with social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. I’m a certified counselor on the
substance control board down at the department.”

“And?”

“Well, I’m just
saying that I know the ropes. I mean, when some spook holds up a store, I don’t go and arrest his
parents.”

The doctor let a moment
pass, just to let the fumes clear. It was obvious that he had not expected what he was getting in
this session. I just sat there
quietly, knowing that whatever happened, I’d be blamed.

“Mrs. Daniels, what’s a normal day like
around the house?”

“Um, well, Val
usually gets home from school around 3:30 or so, and plays until dinnertime.”

“I don’t see how this matters,” my
father jumped in.

“Please… Mrs. Daniels, continue,” said
Doctor Karac, wincing a bit.

“Well, depending on the shift my husband is
working…”

“If you can, give me an example of a day
where you’d be spending the

most time together interacting.”

“Val
and I sit in the kitchen and have our dinner. His father likes to have dinner
alone in front of the television. After supper, I do the dishes and prepare my
husband some coffee along with his brandy.”

“Is your husband with your son during this
time?”

“You
can ask me the question. I mean, what the hell did I come here for,” my father interrupted.

“Mr.
Daniels, I’ll have plenty of things to ask you in a matter of moments.
I’m just trying to hear from everyone… Please continue, Mrs. Daniels.”

“Where were we?”

“I’d
asked you if your son and husband were able to spend some time together
while you’re out in the kitchen.”

“Oh… No, Val usually goes to his room so his father can
quietly relax.” “Really?” the doctor queried, his
clinical disposition fading into a thinly
veiled expression of disbelief.

“Then
I bring him his Manhattan. That’s a drink with whiskey, bitters and…”

“Yes, I know the drink. Where is Val during
this time?”

“He’s
in his room either reading books or listening to those goddamned
records. That fucking shit he reads is probably…” my father interrupted.

“Does
Val come out of his room at all during the evening?” the doctor

asked my mother, patiently trying to ignore my
father’s input.

“Sure, if I need to take a piss I’m allowed
out,” I said, smiling into the

darkness.

“You’re full of
shit, sonny. You’re not locked in that room.”

“Well, where the hell
am I going to go without disturbing you?”

“Watch
how you’re talking to me. I don’t care where the fuck we are!” my
father roared.

“Alright
Mom, where are we? On the Manhattans now, or the Scotch that
follows? Maybe the gin he finally passes out with?” I asked, trying to sound
innocent.

“You little son of a bitch, I’ll…”

“No. Now Mr.
Daniels, we’re here to speak openly and without fear… You wanted to speak before, and now I have
something to ask you. Do you think
you have a problem with alcohol?”

“Absolutely not!”

“That does seem like
a considerable amount of intake in the course of an evening. Did you ever consider…”

“Listen, save the
psycho-babble. I have to listen to this kind of bullshit all day long on the job.”

“It also seems to me
that you have a bit of a problem controlling your anger. I’ve seen you glare at your son a number of
times since you’ve been here. How do
you think that might make him feel?”

“I don’t really give a shit how he
feels.”

“Then why are you here?”

“To find out what’s wrong
with
him.”

“Although
my private meetings with Val are confidential, I can tell you that he
looks up to you quite a lot… You have a good son. Aren’t you just a bit
worried that your persistent anger aimed at him could cause him some distress?”

“He’s
distressed alright. I don’t know what the hell his problem is.”

“I
need to ask one other thing.”

“What is it, aren’t we done yet?” my
father said.

“No, not quite yet. We haven’t even heard
from Val… But before we do, I have
one more matter that concerns me.”

“And that is?”

“I’m concerned about the bruises I’ve noticed
on his forehead at various times. And
it appears that there may be a bruise around his eye as we speak. What’s going on?”

The room grew silent. I noticed my mother
clutching her bag and wincing a bit.
My father’s face grew chalky and slack. He looked nervous. I was terrified.

“Just what the hell are you saying?” my
father asked, gritting his teeth .
“I haven’t said anything, I’m asking a question.” “Don’t play word games with me! I don’t
appreciate this sort of third

degree for chrissakes.”

“Val?” The doctors words hung over me like a black cloud. Karac had really
gotten to my father. I felt like the bait he was dangling into the black cage
of my father’s soul, trying to get him to strike. I’d gone to school
with cuts and bruises on my face before, but I don’t think it was ever
questioned because my father was a cop in the town– a pillar of the community
and all. I stammered momentarily, and then said the only thing
I could.

“If
you mean to imply that my father hits me, it’s not true. I’ve never told
you that in our private sessions and I don’t know why you say it now…
I slipped on the ice outside the house this morning and went down face first.
My father ignores me, but that’s all…”

I felt the tension slowly lift out of my pores as
I said what needed to be said.

“Alright Val… Well,
our time’s up for this session. I’ll see Val for our usual meeting next week. If we can have another family discussion again soon, I think it’d be helpful.”

“You’ve got to be kidding. You accuse me of
battering my son, and expect me to
come back for more. You better have the facts before you go around accusing someone…”

“I wasn’t
accusing you Mr. Daniels, but the question had to be asked.” “Thank you doctor,” my mother said
extending her hand to him. “Union, let’s get the hell out of
here,” my father said lighting his pipe and
storming out.

 

*****

My
father got home very late that night after working the evening shift–
angry at the world. I remember lying in bed, shivering into the sullen
darkness. My bed was slightly illuminated in a powdered moonlight
that misted through the curling drapes. I felt entirely numb in the chilly
haze, noticing only the black pang of expectant terror clawing my insides.

Like a shot in the dark, my
father landed on me. His hands were like bombs dropped repeatedly into my
stomach. My eyes burst open as all the air
in my body was sucked into the vicious onslaught of his fists.

“What are you going to
do now, tough guy, now that your faggot doctor isn’t here, huh?” myfather screamed, the smell of liquor on his breath
filling my lungs with disease.

He cursed his way out of
the room, his black shadow smearing into the hallway like a cloud of tar.

I could
only lay there, wrecked and broken among the twisted pile of blankets, with my pink ribs
burning and a face untouched.

 

THE CONSUMMATE PAGEANT

 

She stood like black smoke, all eyes and airy
darkness, like a pink rose dyed black, retaining but a trace of the April
sunset. When she spoke, it was real.
You knew you were alive as each syllable pried the mind awake from the slumber
of routine consciousness into something more akin to what God had intended. Her
arabesque gestures lashed magically into the unabashed nothingness of all that surrounded her. We walked together in a world enlarged, armed only with the passionate clarity
of our momentary intentions as we sought some new form of self expression.

Everything
was up for grabs.

 

I remember that afternoon, like so many others we’d
spent together over the few years
that I knew her. She had introduced me to drugs, anal sex, mysticism, theft, dumb love– all the
meaningless things I’d dreamt of.
This was all long before I’d become a ritual alcoholic, when I�d pass my years alone and broken. I watched her fade from my
daily experience the more I retreated into booze, but secondhand stories
of her always got back to me. I’d grin
knowingly, as people told me of her continuing antics and her savage attempts to be herself– whoever that
was.

There
were the rumors too. Talk that she had joined a cult, idle gossip of a nagging
heroin addiction, topless jobs and petty prostitution.

Anything
was believable and everything was possible in Carla’s world because nothing was
limited by necessity. Nothing had to be, it just could happen. Back then it seemed to me like an
interesting way to live– a one way
ticket to freedom. It always scared me though. I was always more comfortable with the familiar roads of escape
rather than such unexplored escapades. I was afraid to risk and really live.

I remember the morning I
met her. I was creeping down Main Street in my old brown convertible, a
wheezing beast of a machine, on my way back
from the liquor store with a fresh pint of 4 Roses on the passenger seat. The clouds were barely
visible in the wakening sky, like tearless sachets of azure. The spring sun splashed the smoked glass of my windshield with a rough suddenness as the draping
trees drowned lilies in my rearview.

My mind was still reeling
from the alcohol I’d consumed the night before– I remember that vividly. As I think back upon our meeting, I
can actually feel my head begin to
throb as it did that morning, after a long night of heavy lager and a half bottle of tequila. I had come home from
the corner tavern close to midnight,
vomited in the toilet and curled up like a frozen embryo in my hollow apartment.

Every bump in the road made
me queasy, as did the smell of overbaked bagels that fumed toxically in
the early morning breeze. The only relief for
me was silently contained in a brown paper bag on the passenger seat beside me, or so I thought.

On a
corner three blocks ahead, she appeared– a minor pile of scarlet and
black rags flailing wildly in the blood-coral airs. A slack mass of black
tangles fell from beneath a grey military beret that was tilted to one side,
concealing her artful features and black-magnet eyes. A sloppy violet pinafore
moved with a life of its own beneath a ripped black cardigan, and scuffed
leather combat boots grew halfway up her calves, kicking and screaming
in the newborn heat.

I immediately pulled over. As the car approach
her, she flicked what was left of her cigarette into the oily streets. The girl
jumped right in and swiftly made
herself at home. She smelled of sweat and patchouli, or some such exotic oils.

I remember her having a clear see-through purse in
which gum, tampons, a lighter, black licorice, a few bloody tissues, 3 joints,
some spare change, a rubber spider and crumpled papers could be seen. It hung loosely off her shoulder like a bland
afterthought. I watched her sway lightly with a slight smile, her dress sliding
high upon her thighs as the oversized
boots scuffed my dash. She pulled my bottle from its brown paper bag and her shy smile grew into a shining
glimmer.

“Don’t
I know you from somewhere?” she said, as she lit another cig.

“Nope… Don’t think so … Well, I
mean … I don’t know. I don’t know you, if that’s what you
mean.”

I had
the car radio on at a barely audible volume. A Clapton song was wailing its dumbstruck heart
out on one of the classic rock stations–Layla, I think it was– as broken fragments of conversation, sirens, whistles and sounds from other cars rushed past
our brown bomber.

I
turned off Main Street, a warm and liquid mass of ecstatic human content.

“Where
ya goin’?” I asked.

“Oh,
just over to the beach I think …. You goin’ that way?”

It
was a question, but it sounded like a command. Maybe it was the beret. I
watched her squirm in the seat, break the seal on the whiskey bottle and take a hearty swig of its mind numbing
contents. Suddenly, as though she were
squashing an insect, her left boot came down violently on the station selector and purged poor Eric from the
airwaves. Amused, I looked over…

“People
are awful.” I heard her say in what I imagined to be ‘the Bronx accent
of purity.’

“What do you mean?” I inquired earnestly,
always anxious to learn something, entirely awake and wondering.

“That
shit … That stupid shit on your speakers,” as though I were the program director
of my chintzy car radio. ” People
whining about themselves as if any of
it actually mattered.”

I
paused for a moment, a bit lost between ‘how do you do,’ and any meaningful conclusion to the abrupt metaphysical knot
she was slyly tying around our throats, around any and all shared human
understanding. So much fury about a damn
song.

I was without adequate
comment. This would become a familiar feeling in the years that followed. She was the one and only person who ever left me groping for words, for any
meaningful reply that seemed worthy of her ears.

“Uh …. Well,
why are you going to the beach?” I stammered unconvincingly, trying to figure out just where
she was. I didn’t realize at the time
that she could not be found.

“What do you
mean?” she said, her voice a tad indignant. “I like the ocean. It’s this deep writhing thing that’s
completely empty. The ultimate blankness.”

“See… there’s something. Something that matters. You see
possibility when you look at
the ocean. That’s good. It’s important. You keep talking like this and you’ll be writing songs.”

My joke didn’t go over. We
were never able to connect, which made her a mystery to me, more an object of
intense interest than a close friend. I glanced over to find her staring into space, intent on what seemed to be
some private obsession of momentary
significance.

“Why
not? It’s all lies anyway…. Don’t listen to me– I’m a miserable fuck.” She said it simply, as a matter of fact, snapping back from her whiskey trance beneath the
silent blue wreathes of cigarette smoke that threw haloes over her secret
thoughts.

“What’s
your name?”

“Why?”

“Oh, I don’t know…”

“Good answer … Carla.”

I’m Val,” I replied, a bit unsure.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes … For
today I’ll be Val. Val Daniels.”

“Uhuh… nice initials.”

“Yeah, I suppose…It’s good nothing matters.”

The
words rolled off her tongue that afternoon like a drunken actor’s tragic lines. It was as
though she spoke in some strange new theater, my car becoming the dishonored monument of her discontent and dreaming. Her voice was grounded in embladed parables and
other veiled transparencies that
enabled her to enact the purest creations of mind. What she said, no matter how
sibylline and distant, was always extremely revealing to me. Despite all the outpouring of soul that we engaged in
that afternoon, and in the coming
years, I still felt that I never truly found Carla. Nevertheless, I was pleased to be a stagehand for her great play.

Thinking
back on it, the conversation seems unreal– impossible. But then, all of our
moments together were these unforeseen instances where we
skated along the precipice of the real and unreal, our young souls struggling
to be seen in the blindspot between the meaningful and absurd. This was the
first of many such conversations we would have over the years, and she left me
strangely elevated in the great spaces we shared.

She shook
her hair full of shadows and took unfair advantage of the grace
of light. I watched her lean out of the car inhaling deeply to feel the full
effect of the wind. She spit straight up, her sleek ass mounted on the top of
the car door. She’d gobbed high enough so that the car could pass under
before it kissed the pavement.

I could sense the ocean approaching. You’d feel it
first, before the smell of the hot
asphalt began to commingle with the salty air and lusty refrains of the sea. Finally, the ocean rush was
all we could hear. The motor gave up
as a clashing of waves overtook our senses.

At this point I noticed Carla was a quarter of the
way through my whiskey. Her lips slid
on the neck of the bottle as though she were giving head. A simple exchange of pleasure, I thought. It
was nice to see as we parked and
stared into the Atlantic.

Her knees were scraped and bruised and I could
make out a long straight scar that cleared a whitely elevated path just
above her ankle. She sat there, without
getting out, holding onto the bottle like a Baptist clutching her prayer book.

It was glorious. The ocean
looked grand in her eyes.

Handing me the whiskey, she dove suddenly onto the
floor of the car. I looked up to find a restless town cop approaching. I
couldn’t help wondering what she had
done, or why she was hiding.

“You got a
registration for this piece of shit, son?”

“Uh.”

Carla
had started biting my ankles and licking my leg in order to get me to
laugh in the guy’s face, or simply twitching around enough to arouse
his suspicion. The biting turned into these warm and tender kisses that I
imagined placed elsewhere.

“Well,
it’s a fucking eyesore for chrissakes. Get the goddamned thing washed
or get it out of my town.”

“Yes,
officer.” By now she was reaching up and squeezing my crotch. “Absolutely,
I’ll drive it right into the fucking ocean if I have to.”

He
ignored me, turning on his heel to continue down the boardwalk looking
for other innocents to harass.

Carla
popped up from the depths laughing excitedly. “Let’s go,” she said
pulling my hand in her direction. We ran onto the beach, kicking the grit into a swallowing sun.
She did handstands in the sand as I watched with
amazement. Suddenly, with a pair of olive colored panties down around
her shoes, she got close to the earth to dispense an endless stream of piss. I looked up to make sure no other cops
were around.

“Do you got to do
that here?”

“What the fuck– am I
supposed to mess up the ocean?”

She dried herself with the hem of her dress and hiked up the
panties, which I noticed had a
large worn hole over the crotch.

She began to dance around with her arms stretched into the
heavens as it rained white miracles around us. It was as if all beauty had
chosen to converge upon us, a surreal light
pouring into the random union of our two
ludicrous souls.

“C’mon in…” she yelled to me, an inheld assumption in her
voice that I would follow her wherever she chose to take me– here, now and
forever. I stood near the edge, watching her disappear into the
swarming void of the sea.

I’m
glad I never got the story– I didn’t want to know. People wondered if it
was suicide, an overdose or some other sordid demise. I’d never met a more
purposeful person who never did anything deliberately, if that makes
any sense. I figured it didn’t have to. It simply didn’t matter and shed no
light on what finally became of Carla.

I
slipped a small bottle of whiskey back in my coat pocket and pulled the curtain
on her memory, morning light beating into the forgotten green.

I
pulled up my collar and walked over to Harper’s Ale
House.

 

COLD CALLING

Jack Paterson was speaking,
a savage brute of a man all dolled up in a Brooks
Brothers suit, green suspenders and cheap cologne.

I sat
in a conference room receiving his dull tones with ten men and women from
our department. It was like a sweaty coed locker room, and the
coach was giving us our pre-game pep talk. Paterson’s ruddy complexion
and greased crewcut made him look efficient. His voice was loud
and overconfident. His best technique was fear. A former high school all-star
on the football field, he now endeavored to break any and all sales records in
the insurance field. He always made sure I knew lie was our division’s
sales leader.

Heyasshole, get on that phone and
start dialing. You haven’t made a sale all week,” he’d said earlier that
morning.

I lasted little more than a month selling life insurance.

I hated the job. It seemed to me like one step above generating business for a funeral parlor.

Todd Hartman was there. He
was a new salesman who had started the same
week I did. I remembered him from high school, a toad stoned on dope. At that time, he was the most unmotivated
person I’d ever met. Chewing pot
seeds in health class would’ve been the only activity that the yearbook committee could’ve honestly placed beneath
his silly grinning picture. These days
he was overly enthusiastic about everything, a weird guy who probably wished for nothing more than a
shiny new BMW in which to play his Grateful Dead tapes.

‘…Perhaps of all the human needs we try to merchandise, the selling
of immortality is the most astounding
of all efforts.”

Paterson’s
voice tilted nimbly in the curling shadows of the compact conference room, his
spit-driven syllables drowning in the stale air as salty
spears coursed down his porous forehead. One could only comprehend
the full impact of his aching speech by seeing the veins bulge
on his neck to the rhythm of every over enunciated word.

“One of the most serious problems we face calls for creative
thinking… a new plan of action!
Ladies and gentlemen, how do we increase our market share of new policies to a population of aging adults without reminding them of the inevitable?”

The
pewter coned mesh of the microphone glistened, a grey globe floating
along with Paterson’s monotone illuminations. His question just hung there,
dead in the air that smothered a tired assemblage who were intent on
nothing other than going to lunch, reading the sports page or taking a shit.
He just stood there, silently waiting for a reply while the microphone hummed to the peach-toned bricks. His figure was a flexless
hinge slightly stooped in adamantine conformity and his fingers tapped in
clipped friction against the broken
podium.

Everyone noticed it had
begun to rain outside. Lights from the street glared through the black needle-streaked windows, fluctuating in crimped
cinders upon Jack’s sweaty and pleading brow. Cluttered with dead enthusiasms, he finished his pitch. “So, we
must remember that in this youth
culture of ours, we must be sensitive to the needs of the older adults who are
our bread and butter. We have to think as they do and attempt to supply them with peace of mind.. Now let’s go out
there and knock ’em dead… “

My collapsed cornea
elevated slightly as his words began to fade. The clock was already ten minutes into my lunch hour–
the blessed escape that I’d usually
begin to envision each morning upon entering the building. The conference room door hung half open like a sulking boundary of overdesigned drama. I practically ran
at full clip, bumping shoulders with
the All-American on the way out. I rushed the outer doors of the building,
intent only on leaving their dead souls in the dust.

The rain’s tinsel fingers
froze my swollen head as I scuffed down the pebble capped escarpment to my car. “Goddamned rain,” I
muttered uselessly. There was no time to head over to the Marriott for
my usual orgy of gin. I remembered that I
had a potentially profitable client meeting
with some old broad in twenty minutes, so lunch was blown.

An iridescent mist was
painting my windows as the thickest steel key on
my ring pinched the grooved tunnel in the side of my old brown car. The inside smelled damp and claustrophobic as I lit
a cig and exhaled into the rearview. I
retrieved an airplane bottle of vodka from the glove compartment and poured her love into me. Ah… that
kiss was as close to paradise as I’d
been that day.

Silently driving in the
rain, my isolated high beams were like raining haloes in the cold and dripping
glare. The marble folly of a cemetery unfolded
past me, my mortal soul stretching ahead into the eternity of the sizzling
pavement. It was like a christening. The lights in the houses lining the grove glowed like sculptured diamonds,
almost motionless beside the
refractive action of the sea. The ceramic moons threw themselves into my driving windshield, blank
yellow pebbles cast from a grey fist
of silk.

I remember pulling up in front of the house
feeling cold, heartless.

“Mrs. Amelia
Weiss,” I mumbled glancing over my phone notes. I wondered if her old man had left her a bundle, if
there’d be any reason why she’d want
to carry life insurance. Did she have children to think of, mortgage insurance or so much money that it didn’t
matter?

My
leather heels clicked up the slippery flagstones as I approached her home. It
loomed before me like a ghost, a cold and glowering apparition. The
porch was littered with wicker and other unused remnants of Americana.
Huge black shutters huddled around the large medieval windows that stared
lifelessly upon the sea.

I
clanked the gothic door latch, rocking in my oxfords. There was no answer. I
turned the knob and pushed the door open listening to it swing ajar on rusted
tin pins that were fastened to decorative hinges of silver. I stared in…

Her
home was like an uninterrupted vision from an opium dream. Everything was silk
and smoke. I followed the red carpets that rolled endlessly
beneath the crystal constellations that hung from high ceilings, freighted
with light. “Mrs. Weiss?”

“Hello…
Mrs. Weiss?” I approached a matronly Etruscan vase that languished
in the oblivion of her living room. “Mr. Daniels here to discuss
your insurance…”

There
was no answer. A pristine sofa spun paisleys into the shadow and I could
hear nothing other than the cold rain on the roof and an uneven buzz
that seemed to travel in circles.

I
continued through the dining room calling her name and ducking around
artifacts. My eyes wandered over the black blotched contours of glowing China
cabinet doors, above a mirrored counter flooded in the ensuing
lacquers of a newly polished floor. The dull buzz continued to hum in
my head as I hunched in my woolen clothes and turned and leave.

What caught my eye was her
nail polish. I could see the fiery pink from down the long dark corridor that
separated the dining room from an indoor
patio. “Hello?” Her nails seemed to be slightly buried in the wooden
arm of the chair she was slumped in. I moved forward and called softly, afraid
to abruptly awaken her…

And I stood frozen, her soft grey face materializing
before me as the obscene fly that had been buzzing drunkenly landed in the
center of her unblinking eye.

 

COFFIN NAILS

There was nothing to do
now that I was jobless, except sit around my apartment and pop pills. The huge grey divan that swallowed up the livingroom held me like a velvet tongue as I stared
into the useless TV set, a bottle of
Valiums and a glass of gin beside me. I was just killing time until the bar
opened.

I drove over to the bar,
semi-comatose. All that the morning’s gin and Valium had managed to do was
revive me from the dead. I felt numb, but there was no pleasure running through
me. I parked in the gravel parking
lot of Harry’s Roadhouse. I’d decided
to go there rather than Harper’s,
since it served dollar drafts and cheap shots.

The bar glowed in
immaculate illumination. The room was loaded with smoke even though there were few smokers there.
Empty tables of light glowed in the unwatered darkness of the bar dining room.
Cheap mirrors with beer advertisements lined the walls. The bar itself was a
large oval made of old stained wood–
a roundtable for the loser’s club. Only a few diehards or truckers ever bothered to come in so soon after opening.
Lonely women, not Friday night party girls, sat alone nursing a scotch cocktail or vodka mixture. I took a stool away
from the television and reached into my pocket for some money.

ooooooh, what a lucky lean, he was…

Classic
rock rolled generically from the huge speakers on each of the four walls. I had
to lift the shake off of my bones– the hangover. There was
only one way to get rid of the sickness, and that was with another dose.
My hands trembled as I lit a cigarette. What a fucking mess I am, I thought, as I ordered a vodka
baybreeze from Wally, the bartender.

Wally
was probably about thirty-five and slightly balding. He had a paunch
that he was barely able to conceal with his Mets jersey. He knew all the
sports statistics, and was probably the coolest kid in high school. His
skin was smooth and pasty, slightly sweaty as he moved with lazy ease around
the room. I liked him.

 

I’d
brought my Valium prescription with me, and popped a couple more V-10s
with the first sip of my gorgeous pink drink. I needed a sweet drink–
scotch right off the bat would’ve made me puke. I had to work up to the
nasty stuff.

I
downed 4 vodkas in the space of a half hour. I listened as Wally, and a few
cronies argued about sports scores and Earned Run Averages. I tried to
remember back to when I played Little League to figure out exactly what those were.

What a
strange existence the rest of the world was living. It seemed as though no one
other than myself seemed to notice. Everyone seemed so damned pleased
with themselves, and I could never understand why.

‘Set the Controls for the
Heart of the Sun,’ by Pink Floyd came over the radio. That’s getting closer, I remember thinking as the Valiums and vodka had
begun to work their magic. The booze lit my face on fire and I loved the effect– that first moment when I’d
begin to notice the alcohol bringing
me back from the dead.

“Two more when you have a chance,
Wally.”

He
walked over to the mixer and then brought two luscious pink vodkas over to me.

“One
of these is on the young lady across the bar,” Wally said, giving me his
shit-eating grin.

I hadn’t even noticed anyone across the bar.

“Who is it Wally… do you know her?” I
whispered, a bit suspect.

“Never saw her before. Maybe you should go
over and find out.”

This
impulse was immediately met with the resistance of my paralyzing shyness.
However, the booze was beginning to lift that veil, and I was
starting to feel as though there’d be nothing to lose.

I walked
over to the girl, who seemed very young. She was not thin, but hid her weight
well in a denim skirt and loose fitting sweater. She had a pretty face, and
sorrel swirls of tangled hair that hid her eyes which were the color of opals.
The air around her was like a dim penumbra that softened her shape. She
seemed a bit shy, like a seductive child, with a dark pink mouth and breath that was cool and
antiseptic. I looked at the distant image of
her face in the mirror across the bar. She peered at me through pink neon and
cigarette smoke.

“Hi,” I said looking
at her in the mirror, “my name’s Val.” “Hey, how’re you doing. I’m Jennifer.”

“Wally… a shot of bourbon please, and… what is it, you’re
drinking?” I whispered in her ear.

“Golden Marguerita.”

“A Golden Marguerita, please. “

Jennifer’s
apartment was like a cavernous hollow of velvet and lace. I walked
in behind her as she hit the light switch. Dust hung in the subtle lighting of her livingroom.
Her kitchen smelled like potpourri and spaghetti.
She pulled out a couple of beers and handed me one.

“All you have is light beer?” I asked.

“Yeah, I ran out of the other stuff.”

“But, you don’t drink beer…”

She didn’t
answer. I swilled down the light beer as though it were water and
grabbed another one. I took 2 more Valiums out of my pocket and washed
them down while Jennifer’s back was turned. I drank the beer down
effortlessly and walked over to the couch where she was sitting. I could
smell the whiskey coming out of her pores.

I began to lick her neck tenderly, but my mouth
was terribly dry, so I stopped. I
noticed a picture of her on top of the television set.

“College graduation picture,” she had told me before I could ask.

“How old are you?” I softly asked.

“Twenty three.”

“Did you just graduate?”

“Yeah, I’ve been out
for the last half a year looking for a job.” “How do you afford this place?”

“My father owns it. That’s his house out front.”

“Oh. Well, I can think
of one job opening. You wanna sell life insurance?”

I put
my hand around her waist and pulled her close, cradling the softness
of her stomach. She responded as though it were routine, as though
it was a daily thing to be fondled on the sofa by a drunken stranger.
She knew the score, it seemed.

We were frantically undressing as I jammed my
tongue down her throat. Her mouth was
like a sweaty cave, the teeth like stalactites or something. Her tight blue skirt was the last thing
to come off, along with pink cotton
undies.

She
didn’t know how to kiss. Her lips did nothing. She had a large pair of
tits that jiggled lifelessly beneath me. Her nails dug into my back with each
violent and sweaty thrust. I pulled out and began to lick her vagina as she
moaned quietly into the empty air of her apartment. After it seemed as
though she had come, I crawled back in, exploding faintly, before passing out
in the middle of her two sweaty nipples.

We passed out together.

 

I woke up, trying to
remember where I was. I looked down at the girl I’d been using as a bed for the last couple of hours. Her face was
suffused in the shadowy light and her mouth bore an expression of compassionate
sadness. I arose into the vacant
darkness and stumbled naked into the sleepy
silence of the kitchen.

I took the remainder of my
Valium and swished them down with another
beer. I grabbed the last two cans out of her fridge and walked over to the couch and began to get dressed. I looked
down at the sleeping girl, whose closed eyes had bestowed a serene
virtue upon the blandness of her face. I
pulled a blue afghan off a chair in the corner, tucked it around her naked
torso, and left.

I drove
alone into the mugging blackness, trees casting morbid complexions into my
hollow carriage. I held one of the beer cans over my left eye
to keep from seeing double. The Valiums were really screwing up my
equilibrium, and making it impossible for me to steer straight. It seemed
as though I was driving in circles, spinning endlessly– out of control.
I could see nothing– all sound was a distant memory, as though I’d
been swallowed up. I turned left and vanished into oblivion.

I had disappeared– spinning and spinning.

I spun, my heart throbbing out of my chest as my
eyes shot open. I reached desperately to grab hold of the steering wheel, and
there was nothing. The room was
spinning around me, nothing but the closet door of my bedroom hurling before me.

I was home, alone in bed.

Sweaty, and trying to regain the ability to focus–
I wondered just how the hell I’d ended up here. Like an axe, the pain
sliced down the center of my forehead. I was shaking uncontrollably, and my
mouth was Sahara arid.

I rolled out of bed naked, with nothing on but my
muddy boots. I still wasn’t completely sure where I was or how I’d gotten
there. I remembered the bar, and some chick named Jennifer’s big tits–
but after that, nothing…

I
pulled on a silk robe. I walked, like a victim of the twilight zone, through the stale haze of my
apartment– half-alive.

The
sunlight outside was cruel. I walked out into the parking lot, not quite
able to control my shaking body. I’d found my brown car parked jaggedly
over a concrete abutment at the end of the lot. A huge scrape ran along
the length of the driver’s side, and the side-mirror was dangling off and
cracked down the middle.

What the fuck?

I pulled the loose chrome strip off the side and
walked back toward the apartment. The
skies were bleeding indigo into my murky brain. The sun was like a brilliant
bullion– blinding. It burned my eyes. The newspaper was on the ground outside
of my door. It’s blurry print was swimming inside the plastic bag making me nauseous. I wondered what I had smashed into last night, as I picked up the paper
and walked back into my coffin.

I pulled out the local section of the paper, and
scanned the police blotter to make sure that I wasn’t wanted, or that an old brown convertible wasn’t involved in a hit and run last night. A
wave of relief slowly washed over me,
when it seemed as though I hadn’t killed anyone during my night in the void.

I threw down the paper and
looked at my watch, wondering if I’d be able to make it until the bars opened again.

 

SLAVES OF GLORY

I had
just taken some Demerol, and was lolling in the warm effluvia of my own
thoughts, the ocean injecting my pupils with a silence of tears as he spoke.

“Life’s
a death-trip played backwards,” said Eliot Gilman, propped up on one elbow in the moonlit sands. The apartment
where I lived was $100 a week from September to May, at which time I left due
to a ten-fold increase in rent. It
was truly an isolated castle by the sea, to use Gil’s words. He did have quite a way with the language,
hurling it gracefully into the
building’s lonely alabaster. He looked particularly brilliant that evening, in a double-breasted crushed velour
waistcoat, lavender ascot and red day-glo shoes. He had an insane glare at all
times.

Carla had introduced me to Gil back in college.
He was a poet-philosopher and, at the
time, I would’ve had no problem pledging testament to his grinning idiocy.
However, when I read his poetry, I knew I had found a rare individual, a spark that burned like no other, who
would burst into a raging flame that was ignited in a spectrum of delicate
intensities.

By the
light of a youthful willingness, all of our passions were brought to
bear upon whatever routine and ordinary acts came to our minds. He always spoke
of the scorch his words would leave upon the souls of all who’d
dare live to the fullest, the eternal brand of his tortured paradise scarring
miracles into human hearts everywhere. Every so often, he’d come
down to my apartment to light the night alive, just as he had on this particular
occasion.

“The sunset’s got a bloody nose,” he said, staring into the sea.

“Nah, she’s just on her period,” I said
slurring… It must’ve been the Demerol.

It was starting to get cold out on the beach. We
were sharing a pint of Christian Brothers brandy and hurling our celestial
mediations into the raging sea.
Sometimes, when we spoke, it was as though we were shouting slogans at each other.

“You
ever get the feeling, Gil, that the whole world came into existence at the moment of your birth, upon your first
conscious memory… I sometimes do.”

“Reality is not dependent upon my cognizance for its uninterrupted flow.”

I felt like the loneliest person in the world as
I stared into the ocean’s speckling
glow, and although I always enjoyed Gil’s visits, nothing seemed able to change my isolated mood. The
Victorian apartments loomed
like a tomb before us. I got up, brushing the sand off my jet-black jeans.
Gil jumped up and carved a huge heart in the sand with the bloody red
chisel of his foot.

“My heart’s a budding flower…”

“You’re drunk. C’mon, let’s go inside and get some more. You want some Deal?”

“No, I’d rather inject myself with a love of the soul. Besides, I’ll be driving.”

“Where we goin’?”

“Who the fuck cares, let’s just get out and go.”

Two souls, high on the tranced endeavor of living and our ingestion of
cheap booze, we stepped inside my apartment.

“How’s that new girl you were telling me about, Val?”

“Oh, Melissa? She’s
great. I have to plan my drinking bouts between the times I see her though.”

“Yeah?” Gil said
laughing. “You have to get your shit together.”

I
walked over to the fridge, pulled out two ice-cold Molsens, and tossed one to
Gil. The house felt empty and cold. I took a deep and loving swig on the lovely
green bottle.

“Gil… Do you think I drink too much.” I could take
hearing it from him easier than I could from myself.

“Hell
yes, you choose to make your body a graveyard. What the fuck?” Gil
said, laughing. It was all amusing to him, the train wreck of my spirit.

“I do?”

“And once the body goes, the soul follows.”

“You sound like a fucking preacher.”

“Well
you asked me. Besides, Christ is nothing more than the supreme model of an individual
man.”

“Yeah, maligned and crucified. C’mon, let’s get going.”

We walked outside into the cool Atlantic air as
if pulled by the lure of rapid contemplation, the horrifying and glorious
thoughts that enraptured us. I handed
Gil the keys to my bruised and battered old car and dove into the passenger
side. Gil was a very bad driver.

“Hang on, we’ll both be dead in a
minute!” Gil laughed. He was always laughing at things I never seemed
to understand, the clown-prince of poetry. The car gargled and lurched forward.

“Hit reverse for chrissakes, Gil.”

Any moment that required anything other than a
pure operation of mind left him a bit awkward and confused. He more than made
up for his mental agility with an
unsubtle lack of bodily coordination. He managed to get us out of the lot in one piece as we tore up the hollow ocean
road. Bits of glass shone from the
pavement like glistening jewels winking out of velvet.

I was
still drinking the Molsen and not saying much. ‘Pill Shovel’ by Monster Magnet exhaled narcotically
from the tape deck as Gil went off on one of his endless rants.
All of his lofty concerns and demented enthusiasms always seemed to
require a great deal of elocution.

“There
is no eternity: Eternity is a dead relic of the past. The void is an infinite
concept though, ain’t it? There can be no resolution, only unending
conflict.”

“Yeah… so what’s
the point in doing anything,” I said. Not that I cared.

“Creation
is the only thing that matters– the reason for doing anything and everything. C’mon, you know that’s true…
Creation is how you come completely in touch with beauty… like in the
Oedipus trilogy, where his awareness of beauty becomes so intense he enters
heaven an equal with all that he sees. I’m working on a new version of Antigone.”

“Cool.”

“What
I’ve decided to do, you know, is… Well, I’ve always loved the story.
I just want to give the characters the best poetry I can.”

“Yeah?”

“These
rewrites usually wind up being different plays entirely when I’m
done.”

“How could they not?”

Gil was swerving a bit, and driving into the rough pavement of the shoulder.

“Watch out for that
tree, Gilly!” He regained his focus, and tightened his grip on the wheel.
Nothing could stop him.

“Beauty is truth and
truth beauty, what the fuck else is there besides our restless imaginings? “

“My
heart is old,” I mumbled drunkenly, just not giving a fuck.

“You are an individual in a universe of voids. Man, I
wish you could see that.”

Stars pulsed like sequins and the moon had an
expression of dissension imprinted on
its face. The road stretched endlessly into the darkness that swallowed up the
dirty brown hood of the car, the haloed lights of our highbeams sucked into the
blackness. Blowing sand smacked into
the side of the car as we flew by, no job to go to and nowhere to be.

“Pull over here, Gil. Let’s get some Gin.”

“Are you fucking nuts?”

“Yeah, a soul straining to achieve that void
you seek to escape. Motherfucker, it
doesn’t get better than this… We’re in a handicap zone, but I suppose you
somehow qualify.”

“Thanks a lot,” Gil said laughing.

We got out of the car. Gil’s head had the color of
an over-ripe grapefruit, swollen in
the splendorous moonlight. It was a small seedy bar, with a store for packaged goods
in the front. The neon glowed dully in the window, illuminating a few
loose paint chips and dead flies.

“You got ten bucks?”

Gil reached into his trousers and pulled out a crisp twenty.

“I’d like a quart of Beefeater.”

“You
got some I.D.?” said the old coot behind the counter peering
over a pair of rimless specs. My balance wasn’t good and Gil had to grab my arm to
steady me as I reached into my wallet to show him my license.

“You got anything else?”

“No.”

“Alright then, $13.50.”

I handed him the cash, took the bottle and proceeded
to take a swig in front of him, wiping my mouth on my sleeve.

“You’ll have to get out of here now.”

I stared at him and let some of the warm burning
liquid run down my chin and into the open collar of my shirt. I must say, he
seemed unimpressed. Gil was cracking up just like he always did when
I made a complete spectacle of myself.

We got back in the car and tossed up some gravel
on the row of parked cars. I was behind the wheel this time. I gave the bottle
back to Gil who was swigging
liberally from the brown paper bag. We talked, as we always did when we were together, the big talk. It was as
though there was not a moment to waste and we could not leave one thing that
mattered unsaid. Gil always did more
of the talking than me. He was either completely convinced of his own
revelations, or else was trying to convince himself along the way. Either way,
I listened.

“Beauty is the flower of morality, you know.”

“Yes,” I said, the silver dashes on the pavement melting into the windshield,
my eyes blurring horribly.

“…beauty demands nothing of an individual,
other than his or her own individuality. My girlfriend and I were
talking about the role of consciousness as
it relates to creative endeavor.”

“Oh yeah? How’s your girlfriend these days?”

Gil just rolled his eyes, and turned to look out
the window, “We were talking about feminist literature, actually.”

“I still want somebody to tell me what that is!”

“It’s
an incomplete sentence,” Gil said, laughing into the dash. ”
We were talking about how every kind of speech, art
or expression is the invention of convention, you know.”

“Well, the question is, how aware of that invention is one?” I said.

“Exactly!
If you’re doing it unconsciously, that’s a different level of art than doing it self-consciously. The least
self-conscious of all are the people
who say certain words or specific modes of idiomatic expression are theirs by
right, by virtue of certain life experiences or cultural identities that render
them exclusive.”

“Privilege based on deprivation, eh?”

“Yes… I am a black woman… You can
never know my experience… therefore, you
are alienated from it. Poets have sort of been cashing in on that for
years. However, none of the great poets said, ‘These are my views or
experiences, and you may not share in them.”‘

“Yeah.”

“To exist wholly in the world, means that
everything I am has to exist for the whole world.”

A light rain began to fall and the road suddenly
looked like a sheet of mirrors. My distorted gaze rendered me helpless as
simmering leaves leapt wildly from the pavement, throwing themselves into my
blind and bloated eyes.

“Pull
over,” Gil said, handing me the bottle. I lurched over to the guardrail
that was hidden among the weeds and watched him hurl his newest creation into the
void. Disgusting pink chunks that looked like stomach lining shot from his throat in a vile chorus of
revolting heaves. I watched tiredly, wiping the neck of the bottle with my
shirt and taking another swill.

As I
prepared to continue our misdirected journey, I noticed the whirl and
howl of a police car’s lights, flashing spasmodically in my rearview. Fucked.

I shoved the gin beneath the seat and propped Gilman in the passenger seat and
told him to look straight. He passed out on the spot, his head cracking
into the passenger side window.

The
next thing I remember was the intense glare of the cop’s spotlight exploding
into my face. It was as if by automatic impulse that I slammed the car
door into the cop and managed to land a left-handed punch into his
unflinching jaw. He cracked me twice with his stick and cuffed me. He went
back to his car and, I assume, called for backup, since two more cars arrived
shortly thereafter. They pulled Gil out, who was still unconscious, and
threw him in the back seat of one of the cars. We were on our way to prison.

My father, who was a retired cop himself, knew the
pig I’d punched and came down to bail us out. I had apparently passed out not
long after refusing to take their Breathalyzer test. When I came to, it was
like someone had stuck a knife in my
brain and massaged broken glass into my
itching skin. I remember thinking that when I got old, I’d sure have a shit-sack of memories to dote on.

The walls of the cell were cold. A puddle in the
middle of the floor had a rainwater and piss mixture that was enough to
make one’s nostrils bleed. I wrapped my
leather jacket around Gil. My companion had an innocent grin as he drowsed in unconscious delirium. I
pulled a torn piece of paper from his shirt pocket that said:

O heart of nothing:

where hast thou been sister, killing swine?

 

Ecstasy is indifferent to tune,

but memory gives the poet

his lasting line…

 

BLACK TRIANGLES

 

The streets glistened in the distance as the whole
of creation seized my sacred
vacancies. Completely alone, I shot along the river on my way to Harper’s. The
waters pulsed like an enflamed vein as trees hung in the sky like charred skeletons; longing effigies that
were reaching for heaven. Leaves,
like silver prophets, were descending upon the earth in abundant tongues–
foretelling the end of color as the earth and all that aches and breathes bared
its mortality.

There is
no divinity, only a hollow longing. The trick of addiction is to cradle
the small glass tit of hope, trying to milk a dream from nothing,

I remember thinking.

The river held a tentative resonance– hushed by
the silky wings of the grieving
willows that lined the water’s edge, swirling in jade minuets. My spirit was
composed of orisoned air and the sky folded into the closing rose of itself as
if the whole world was preparing for a long sleep, a reprieve from breathing.

Capes of light licked the bitters.

My feet
stepped in rhythm with my thoughts as I approached the bar. The
shiny cars of the cocktail crowd were gleaming in the late light while the
pickup trucks of the guzzlers grew rustier under the sun’s unstrung yellow.
A chill entered my head as I ascended the steps that seemed to rise without
end toward a liquid salvation just beyond my grasp.

This was
my church, the place of confession and forgiveness-�somewhere to wash away the
sins of the world.

The regulars prayed over the bar, sipping
sacraments and telling lies. I crept
like smoke to an empty spot over on the river side of the place. Naomi was
running around with a pint glass in one hand and a shaker in the other,
a ratty bar towel about her waist. She had a round face, made more so by silver spectacles that inflated her
milky eyes to saucers in the dim haze.

“Hi Val! How’ve you
been?” I remember her asking.

“Calculus is killing my spirit! Please get me
something ice cold in a green bottle
and a shot to kill the pain.”

She hustled quickly over to the beer chest and
pulled out a fine Heineken, popped the red star, and slid it on a
coaster in front of me. I watched her
retrieve a dusty bottle of Canadian whiskey from somewhere on the bottom shelf, near the dirty glasses. She
poured it slowly before my eyes. I
watched the thick liquid hang and steam, clinging to the side of the glass.

“Hey, you still
working that insurance job?”

“Nope…
had to give up that sick gig. It got in the way of my drinking.” “Yeah,
you know… I could never imagine you in that job anyway.”

“Fuck
no. I lost my license pretty soon after I quit the job, so I’m not working
anywhere at the moment.”

“Shit… were you drunk? What
happened?” she seemed genuinely concerned.

“Of course I was drunk, but they got me for
refusing to blow. Hell, had I blown
into their machine, it would’ve
puked.”

Naomi was a single girl, about 22 I figured. Like
me, she seemed to be searching for something beyond herself. I liked to
listen to her when she complained how there
were no decent men to take her out. I never broached the subject since I was sure I didn’t qualify. But, she was
cute and began to look downright
irresistible as nights such as these progressed. Yes… I’d definitely take her out, I thought.

“You take care of yourself. Please… you
scare me sometimes… I mean, you…”

“I know what you mean. I’ll be alright. Can I
get another beer along with a side
glass of brother Jack?”

“Sure.
Hang on.”

It
felt good to be there, parked at the bar. Naomi brought me the drinks and I
noticed my heart begin to quicken in jagged repetition. The final embers
of the retiring light grew more furious through the huge windows that
watched over the tides, throwing the last of her roses into the darkening
clay.

I
hoisted the bottle to my lips and drowned in the cool pleasure it brought.
I downed the shot in the same manner in which one pulls a tooth–
quick and painless. I began to feel my memory arranging itself in images
of innocence. The moment burned in my brain like an eternity, and I
was floating in the warm lymph of my own soul– too beautiful to die.

With the empty beer bottle and shot before me, I
asked Naomi to bring me some gin. I
watched her eyes roll in honest admonishment as she poured some Bombay into the
crystal.

I loved her so much that
night.

I lit up a cigarette, chuffing nic into the brick.
Then an old guy asked me, “Hey
buddy, you got a light?” I was close to salvation, and getting there…

The gin passed my lips and all was purified. I
looked outside into the silver
glades, and reclaimed a grace that had been lost on the other side of the wall of glass that saw through me. Drowning in
a sea of reprieve, I shoved my glass
to the edge of the bar and said nothing. I flicked some spilt beer off the bar and splashed Naomi’s ass.

“O.K.., just give me a second.” I stared into myself and the image was holy.

I watched her pour me a
double this time.

“No
vermouth,” I said staring into a shroud of whiteness. I watched her pour the beautiful
liquid that looked like spring water with a ghost floating in it. She threw a
green blob on top and said, “On the house.” The sun was gone, nothing but a crimson slash
outlining the horizon. My mind unearthed
from its shell in the warm liquid embrace of ecstasy. The drink was so strong, I shuddered with each irrevocable
sip– my senses perfected.

He is risen, indeed…

I
staggered off my stool with a nod to the executioner and burst upon the cool night air. Marbled stars smoked the sky
as I stared into the sullen dusts.
The heart-shaped leaves were falling as before. I moved among these black triangles, a longingless alone of motion among the peerless swirls. I struck into the blacks of the night like
some enduring corpse– an aspiring eternal ember.

 

The trees whispered, ‘go lovingly… �

 

DOWNTOWN

Every
autumn, I used to take an all-day excursion into the city.

I remember the sky from one particular morning,
floating before my half-dreaming
eyes like a silver page, the unscarred parchment of some great book yet to be opened and inscribed. A thin
mist of autumn dust clung in
desperation to my unflushed throat. As I walked, I remembered a warm and liquid tension clinging to my knees.
Lightness licked my spirit with the
tenderness of a coital kiss, skyscrapers throwing smiles into the liquid breeze.

The sun was high, like a burning pellet flung from
a god (or goddess, I should say). With the simplicity of a wish, I stepped off
the curb into the street’s rich ink
wondering what my verse would be on that gently turning day.

I
strode in the enflamed possibility of the moment. There was the feeling
of some newborn dream waiting around each untraveled corner. Continuing
down Second Avenue until the bustle and emotion of midtown was safely imparted
to memory, I spiraled in the vast freedom that seemed to
tumble out of the blackness of all that surrounded me. It was like being in a
tunnel, the buildings denying the sky. Finally, I realized I had reached
Greenwich Village from the few trees that lined the sidewalks.

St.
Mark’s Place had a few old bookstores that were always worth checking out, and
I was not above doing so on this particular occasion.

Across
the street I saw an old thrift outlet. I watched a young girl carrying three
large boutique bags move with the warm air into the shop. I’ll look at books later, I thought
as I followed her in, riding the same unburdened tide. As I stood
behind a ratty row of men’s suits that hung in disuse, the girl’s face
moved among more agile raiments, a blooming rose among the moth-eaten
appurtenances. I secretly watched her subtle silhouette poise against
the plush hollowness of the store as a golden light from the street kicked in,
illuminating a solid shaft of swirling dust that pierced her throat. She
plucked a purple rag from the clothes rack and walked along the Edenic
flame of sunlight that poured through the heavy glass. A man
dressed in shadows stood behind the counter. The girl handed five dollars
into the darkness before drowning in the light of the street. I moved
over to the door to watch her disappear silently up the street like an ivory
figurine into the sightless ease of memory. I couldn’t help feeling some
strange loss of potential that the day had held only moments ago.

I left
the shop and emerged into a leering glare that flared to the darkest
corners of the street. I passed storefronts blazing neon and alternative
culture. I stopped to read a ripped CBGB’s flyer announcing

The Existential Moped & Mystrons, Sat.
November 3rd.
There was

a picture
beneath of a starving child with the face of a Rolex watch superimposed
into his forehead like a brainbomb. I walked on.

I cut
down West Third, past languid voices and rows of cars. I caught a glimpse
of a bald man smashing a woman’s head into the crimson hood of a Jaguar down
one of the side-alleys. A few joggers and bicyclists slashed past me as I
headed into Washington Square Park. Now all I had to do was walk, I thought. It wouldn’t take long…

People
with dogs, chirping birds, falling leaves, laughing children– I was immune to them all. A man approached me
talking on a cell-phone.

“Hey, man… Yo there, man… you
smoke?” A young man with dreadlocks
and perfect black skin whispered as he swiftly approached me. His eyes were
black and yellow and his breath smelled like shit. I saw him signal to his man with an orange crewcut who was
standing near the dog run.

I
emerged from the haze and said, “No, I don’t… I want tens…
V-tens.” “I can get dat shit. How many?”

“50.”

“Aw’ight man, shit,
50? But you owe me for dat.”

“Yeah,
right… I’m gonna be over at The Vault. Real close. It’s a gin mill over on MacDougal, a few blocks away. When I
see you come in, I’ll follow you to
the last stall, quick and painless.”

“Ha… young out of
town white boy telling me how’s it done.”

“O.K..?” I asked.

“Aw’ight brud, you got
it dis time,” he said smiling.

I
began to walk out of the park beneath the sedate clouds that lightly cottoned
the afternoon sky. I moved in hurried footsteps that scuffed the uneven slabs
of sidewalk until I arrived before a charred tavern door– the place.

Upon
entering, I observed a row of desolate souls drowning in reality. I
always stopped at this bar long and last when I visited the city.

“Image
without substance is bullshit, or so said some model turned whore
who made good on her claim last night,” I laughed.

“Val? Is that you?
Where’ve you been?”

It was
good to hear Katie’s familiar voice emerge from behind the bar. I first met her about five
years earlier after seeing the False Prophets at the A7 club. She stood before
me in her pale composure, the lined climate of her face like rings in
stone-skipped lake. Rail thin, she was one of those older women who never let
an ounce of fat compound the problems of her face.

“Yeah…
well, it’s been a while.”

“Shot and a
beer?”

“You know it.”

Katie
brought me a steaming draught with a double shot of cheap whiskey.

“Is there any greater
glory than one’s mind completely dripping in alcohol?” I could really talk bullshit in a bar.

“You know I don’t
drink. Don’t you remember? You’ve asked me this before.”

“Sacrilege!
Off to the chopping block. We must get you a new head!”

Katie laughed unconvincingly, probably wondering
just what the hell I meant. People never got it. The place felt warns.
Something sharp poked my ribs. I looked up
from my spoils to see the orange-haired guy heading for the men’s room on the far side of the bar. I
downed my shot and took a swig of
beer before staggering off after him.

“That’s a Grant, my man.”

“What, a buck a
tab?”

“Yeah, well there’s a delivery charge. This
is a special order, we don’t usually
run this uptown shit, man.”

Who cared. I peeled a fifty bucks off my money clip
as he handed me an anonymous vial of dry yellow pills. I shook the container to
take a crude count– he left without saying another word. I walked over to the
sink and dropped three beans along with a handful of water, then placed the vial into the inner pocket of my worn black
suit jacket.

I walked back into the bar, an angel. The bar was
made of knotted pine, ring- stained
from the whiskey glasses of years gone by. I stared into the gleaming bottles
that lined the shelf and saw more majesty in their power to rise than I saw that morning in the New York
skyline.

I was hooked.

It was the way I saw things,
and it was my curse.

 

*****

 

I
scrawled ‘Tranquillity, as long as it’s convenient,’ on a bar napkin and ordered another beer as a blessing for the
poet who was about to rearrange the universe– making nothing better than
something, and momentary cessation the
most glorious verse…

 

THE ELITIST

 

We
drove through the black hole of night, away from the ocean’s clear shadows
toward the empty town. I had my window on the passenger side rolled
completely down to let the dark atmospheres bleed over me. Tim was
driving high on nembies. He had miraculously managed not to lose his
license yet, so he became my chauffeur on nights such as these. Our car
pulled out from the silence of a side street onto the main drag.

I held a cold bottle of beer on my black eye. I’d
challenged some young Spaniard to a
brawl at the Hess station
where I was waiting for Tim to pick me
up. I gave it my best swing, missing completely, before he smacked me into the pavement. I remember staring into the
men’s room mirror inside the station
toilet. A bruised and bloody face stared back at the that I did not recognize. I spit cold water into the shiny
red image.

The road spilled out before us like a flowing tap
of Guinness Stout, the golden street
lamps liquefying the tar in amber pools of light. As we rode through the burnt-out remnants of buildings, my
eye throbbed in unison with the white dashes we passed that divided the street.
We rolled like royalty through a
hollow shell– the heart of town. Tim drove cautiously. I

don’t
think he was too messed up, though I was too far gone to really notice.The Red Devil was a revamped old
warehouse off the main strip, a few blocks from the ocean. There was always a
cop car or two parked in front of the club. The cops probably liked hanging out
there, since it was near the ocean and gave them their easiest busts. They
seemed to steer clear from the real shit happening on the west side of Main
Street.

I opened my door and
stumbled into a puddle along the curb, bashing my knee on the car door.

“What
the hell are you doing?” Tim wondered. “Fucking spilling my
beer,” I said.

“Leave
that shit under the seat, this fucking place is full of hungry pigs,” Tim said, in an angry whisper.

I
tossed the can, half-full, into his back seat and walked across Ninth Avenue.
The cops glared at us from behind their mustaches, oozing lazy authority.

There were a lot of people
in front, hanging out. Most of them were clad in black rags of some sort. The
salty air was strong, but the hot air and huge sound of the club seemed
to suck us through the doors like a magnet.
The walls of the club were painted blood red, and the ceiling was gold. A funhouse mirror lined the wall behind the
band, casting huge distorted shadows that hung over the club like smoke.

The
narcotic strains of Acid Reich crawled like paraquat-laced
chaos off of the stage. It was like Satanic carnival music
echoing into the darkness. I noticed Nikki in a leopard spotted miniskirt
talking to Gilman. Gilman was dressed in roaring reds, his hair
dyed an emerald day-glo.

Nikki looked
as though she were made of porcelain– untouchable. “Hey, how’re you guys
doing,” I called across the boot-scuffed floor. “Hey man!” Gilman laughed enthusiastically. “You guys know Tim, right?” I said
by way of an introduction. “Yeah, I know Tim. I threw up a belly of Vodka
on you last time,” Gil said, drowning
out the band with his laugh.

“I remember,” Tim said, feigning amusement.

Nikki was swigging from a bottle of port wine.
When she licked her lips, it was as
though she was sodomizing the air. Nikki moved her body with an illegible elegance of self.

“So what happened to your eye– your
girlfriend smack you for drinking too
much?” Each syllable dripping from her mouth in gorgeous cynicism.

“Fuck you! Hey… how’d you know I have a
girlfriend?” I laughingly wondered.

“Gil was telling me…
Why?”

“Where’s
Veronica?”

“I
just gave her a gram of coke to bring her around. She was all fucked up.” Nikki’s cigarette dangled like a silver swizzle-stick. “Really?”

“Yeah.
She’ll be O.K. She’s probably still in the bathroom getting her shit together.”

 

This next song is called ‘Diesel Freak.’

 

“What
did she take?” I asked, wondering if I could still get some. “A
black balloon… sniffed a full quarter T.”

“Fuck,
what’s that?”

“Quarter teaspoon of
brown smack.”

“A drug condom? That
sounds like fun,” I said.

“I’m gonna get a beer,” said Tim, walking
disinterestedly over to the bar.

“With all the
fucking shit you’ve been swillin’, you probably won’t even notice it,” Gil said laughing.

“Hey Tim!” I yelled across the room, past the
whirling madness of broken children who
danced like heroes under the white stage lights. Tim was slumped on the barstool, his head bobbing
slightly to the bass-heavy throb of
the Reich.

“What?”

“Two shots of tequila
gold!”

“That fuckin’ girl is
weird, man– gives me the creeps,” Tim confided.

“Why?”

“She’s so goddamned
righteous.”

I couldn’t help but laugh as I downed my shot, “C’mon,
don’t be a fucking hermit,” I said to Tim, trying to get him into it.

“Nah, I’m just gonna
hang here and check out the band. Those two are a couple of art fags.”

“Yeah,
that they are,” I slurred, a silver current of ecstasy burning up my spine
as I set the emptied shot-glass on the bar. “I’m going back over.”

As I approached Gil and
Nikki, I could tell that they were contemplating
some rough-cut facet of the existential dilemma. I picked up the end of one of
Nikki’s confessions, her words ringing in affected indifference.

“…
Neither my tears, nor the sound of my cries belong to me.” “That’s
because you’re removed from the nourishment of your elemental
consciousness,” Gil grinned.

I noticed Veronica across
the dislocated assemblage, sitting along the wall smoking a cigarette. I waved over, but she didn’t see me.

Gil continued, “I
must inspect the meaning of my own flesh, you know. That’s the poet’s burden! C’mon, Nikki… You know that’s true.”

“Consciousness
for me is a black emission, and poetry’s the oldest joke. Creation is only the
destruction of everything that forbids a projection of self.”

“What
more do you fucking want!” Gil said, tearing a green shank of hair from
his head. “A creative engagement of your mind is the only intoxication
that matters,” he continued, as Nikki dropped a tab.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Quaalude.”

“… when the spaces of consciousness are consumed
with a true

impression of freedom, and pure possibility,” Gil
finished.

“That sounds good to
me. I’m gonna go hang with Veronica for

awhile.”

“I said true, Val!” Gil yelled into the back of my ear.

Veronica
looked like a lost angel adorning the lonely wall. She wore tight
black jeans and an old Grateful
Dead
T-shirt, on which she’d placed a halo
of safety pins above the iron-on skull. Her hair seemed to float in an aureate
swirl of silk. With flawless skin, the red of her lips was the only thing
that seemed to bring any color to her stare.

“What’re you doing
stuck over here?” I asked, in place of a greeting.

“I just feel a
little…”

“What happened?”

“Oh
shit, let’s not bother, and I’ll promise not to ask you about your eye.”

“Alright…
So, do you have any left?” I said, letting nothing go. “Just
a bit… ain’t shit though.”

“Let’s
go!”

“What
are you, a fucking’ junkhead too, now?” she asked with motherly incredulity.

“Nah, I never did it before. I just want to get
high.”

“Like you’re not already… Alright. C’mon. What the
fuck?” She said, sounding somewhat
bored.

We entered the murky haze
of the ladies room. One thinned bulb strained over a sink. We pulled open the
yellow plastic door on the last stall, and Veronica dumped some clumpy greyish-brown
powder on the lid of the toilet. With
her nail file, she chopped it up into a fine grain, her ass swiveling with each tiny stroke. She used the
blade to divide the shit into four
powdered strips.

Veronica erased one of
the lines with an agile swipe of her nose along the lid.

“How’d you do
that?”

“You have a big
enough nose, you figure it out,” she said, radiating in the confines of the porcelain palace.

“The rest is
yours,” she said.

The booze was swimming in
my limbs, throwing me off balance a bit. Veronica’s eyes were closed lightly as
she leaned into the plastic wall rubbing her tits tenderly.

I
snorted the lines sloppily, and licked the remainder. “Ain’t I supposed
to puke, or something?”

“You might, but you aren’t entirely normal,
Val.” I took it as a compliment
as I threw the lid up and spewed my guts into the shit-stained bowl.

I stood up, and leaned
into the rusted yellow wall of the stall. I was sweating into the piss-soaked
air as a warm flood of comfort folded over my soul. The tiles had slowly turned to shadow and the ceiling became a sky of jeweled blue. Purple stars exploded behind
my eyelids as I poured into a smooth
vapor of pure soul that hovered slightly above my body. I could feel myself just drifting there in this
perfect womb, inspired textures and a
celestial grace enacting the symbolic drama of my spirit just beneath my eyelids.

I had made the connection–
the violent pleasure of my body the only thing keeping me on the ground. I pulled Veronica over toward me and kissed her cheek lightly. She began to suck my
tongue rhythmically as though she were working a cock. I shoved my hand
down the front of her jeans, my palm full of
thick sweaty curls and a fingertip dipped in bliss.

Her face melted into my neck– the last image I
have of the night that wasn’t lost forever.

 

GENTLE BEN

I remember nothing more than the sounds of a siren.
My vision was blurred and I was incapable of noticing anything other than the
shadows that rolled like fog over the
white metal roof that I stared helplessly into. It was the dead of night.

Two EMT workers dressed in white squatted beside
me. I was slowly able to focus on the
two huge bandages that were bound tightly around each of my wrists. My brain was swimming in a godless amount of alcohol.
My mouth felt like a graveyard. I
tried to speak but was unable to form words.
I felt the ambulance pull jaggedly into the parking lot of a hospital. I knew where I was headed: I was being taken to the
only place that would have me. I
managed to get a peek out the back window of the van. The moon hung in
the sky like an oracle as we passed the terminal tower, a high rise luxury hotel for the diseased and dying,
and pulled in front of the ER.

Somewhere along the line, between the parking lot
and the white waiting room they’d
apparently wheeled me into, I had lost consciousness.

“He’s
waking up,” I remember hearing someone say.

Silver
shadows smoked like devils on the white lacquered walls hurting my eyes. People
rushed around me, tending to patients and pushing medical trays and I.V. poles.
A large black security guard stood out of the way, near the door
beside a shiny fire extinguisher. The smudged tone of his patient face
momentarily soothed my nerves. I stared at him, wondering what the hell he
thought of a fucked up white boy like me.

My mother, who I noticed had been standing beside
the gurney I was sprawled out on,
asked me how I was feeling. Her eyes were as wide as saucers and she was shaking.

“What
the fuck happened?” I wondered aloud, finally able to produce syllables.

Tears
soaked her cheeks upon hearing the words escape my throat. My voice
was rusty. The dry heat of the room was choking. A needle dripped a little
into my arm. None of this made me want to live.

My
mother told me I had called the house the night before, hysterical and
incoherent. After we had hung up, she dialed 911 and then could do nothing but lie there and
wait beside her man, my father, who had gone back to sleep– still pissed that
I’d ever think of waking him with my psychodramatic horseshit. The hospital had
called my parents back to let them know I
was alive. The call probably awoke my enraged father again, who was no doubt trying to do nothing other than
sleep off the gin he drowned himself
in each evening.

It hurt me to see my mother looking down at me,
but I knew it hurt her more to be
seeing the pitiful wreck of a son who lay damaged and bandaged before her.

“You
really blew it this time, Val.”

I knew
that she was right; I had. I’d figured out where I was and how I’d gotten
there. Huge portions of the preceding night were washed away forever in the
gallons of alcohol I’d consumed, but the essentials– the realities that could
generate the most pain-filled shame– began to smother me quite soon after
regaining consciousness.

In addition to the booze, I was taking Valium
tens, Placidyls, Percodan, even some
Xanax– all the colors of the rainbow. It had gotten past an attempt to escape and transcend– I needed
anything I could find to blot out the
existence of myself. By the end of a solid week of non-stop toxic intake, I couldn’t live another minute. I had to
leave this place, a world that could
make me hate myself so unrelentingly.

After
hanging up on my mother, slurring my intentions of self�extermination, I
stumbled into the bathroom and stared helplessly into the mirror. I could
barely move; my eyeballs ached. I crashed to the floor, unable to stand the sight of myself. Opening the cabinets under the sink,
I began to root through rolls of toilet paper, soap and other amenities of ablution
until I found an old straight razor that my father had given me. It dawned on me how he’d truly given me everything I’d
need in life, right down to the end.

I sliced twice, a kiss on
each wrist. I went as deep as I could go without passing out on the spot. A pale red mixture began to clot among the watery
beads that clung in uselessness to the sink basin. I hung along with them, dreaming angels, until I’d finally found
myself staring into the glaring roof
of an ambulance.

I remember laying there in the ER , the
minutes burning like slow tapers into eternity. The nurse would come in every
so often to drain my blood. My blood
alcohol level needed to come way down so I could legally admit myself to the psychiatric ward, the cage on
the thirteenth floor enclosing all sordid human misfortunes– kept out of
sight, and just too painful to look at. I believe I was on that stretcher for
close to ten hours, dying inside. Sick
and reeling, I still wanted out.

Finally my blood alcohol level was below .01. It
was almost evening again, I think.
They brought me down the hall and into a small brown office with a back-lit
black desk and reams of medical books. The room smelled like witch hazel and
dust. Bruised and cut, I pleaded to the psychiatrist, who sat glowing in sanity, limed in the cool light of contentment. He was intent on convincing me to
join his deranged cast of mad souls
upstairs. For reasons I no longer remember nor care to imagine, he got me to sign the paper.

I was wheeled along by a short thin nurse with big tits and
long fingernails. She smelled like oatmeal
and blood. An odor of sterility hung like gauze over the stench of puke
and human defeat that consumed me. Young
black orderlies pushed shaky old ladies to the toilet. Inmates screamed in terror. The unbearable lights grew dim
and out of focus as the nurse and I
rolled out of an elevator and into the top floor hallway. Most of all, I remember the feeling that none of it
was real. It just couldn’t be, I thought. It was simply too much for one
human soul, who was actually quite sane when sober, to reckon with.

We came through the large glass double-doors into
the heart of it all-�the ward. She
pushed me to the front desk and I was introduced to the on�duty nurse. He was covered in white and obviously
couldn’t care less about the new piece of debris that was wheeled before him.

“Here’s his papers. The patient’s name is
Val… And this is Terry, and he is
the nurse on duty. If you need anything you can see him.”

“How’s it goin’?” Terry asked. I had
nothing to say. He had Greek features
and a squeaky voice, high-pitched and irritating. His manner was sharp and sarcastic. He probably just wanted to be
home with his family enjoying a normal life. Terry was about my age, but it was
as though working this ward had reduced
any compassion that may’ve existed in him
to sneering contempt. I had regained a good deal of self-possession by this point and was able to pick up quickly on
his smug fucking attitude.

So he
thought I was shit, but at that time I wasn’t arguing. Every time I’d see him, I couldn’t help but wonder what the
hell was wrong with me-�why couldn’t I
have made a life of success and contentment for myself. What was wrong with me?

I was
placed on temporary suicide alert; at least until morning, I was told.

“Now
Val,” said Terry, “you have to take off your belt and remove your
shoe laces… You’ll get them back, don’t worry…”

“Here,” I said, “don’t hurt yourself with these,” as I placed my killer apparel
into Terry’s sweaty hand.

The short nurse and Terry walked over with me to
my room. The ward was horrible. Terry
barked out admonishments like an animal trainer. “Horace, stop grabbing her body…. because she doesn’t want you to… No,
you’ve got to leave her alone. Why
don’t you go into the pantry and see if there’s some Jell-O… I thought I saw some lemon stuff in there…
yeah, go ‘head.” My only thought
was that Terry should’ve been glad they were paying him to be there, unlike the rest of us who seemingly had no
choice. Aside from a few certified fucking nuts, most of the inmates were
temps.

My room was small and blue. Two grey beds were
slightly illuminated, white sheets
appearing from beneath the spreads like ghosts in the moonlight that poured through the window. Maybe
they were hospital lights, I’m not sure. There were also two small bureaus
against the wall. On top of one of them was a box of chocolates,
Snickers bars, a chess set and an unopened package of underwear. Next to one of
the beds, I noticed two worn out brown
shoes that had no laces in them.

My
mother came up to see me one last time. She’d brought me a few clothes
from my apartment along with a couple of other things I would need for
my unfortunate stay. She kissed me goodbye as I stood-frozen and I
watched her leave. Images of Little League games and Christmas morning came
uninvited into my brain, along with other warm memories of the
love she had tried to fill my life with over the years. She took most of the
hard hits for me, like a shield against the hammer of my father’s hatred.

I looked around, regaining focus. Everyone looked
disgusting. The night nurse had given
me some Librium an hour earlier which was not nearly strong enough to return me to human form. I was an animal. Everything hurt– the overbearing light, the
cotton of my clothes on my skin, my
guts, my heart and the like.

I tried calling my girlfriend. She’d left me a
week ago, unable to stomach another
minute of my death trip. I missed her perfect smell, the feeling she could produce in my body simply by
speaking. I loved to be swallowed up in her heart, the rose of her soul.
I never got to speak to her because her
fucking mother decided to hang up in my face, and I’ll never forget that.

I
walked over to Sheila, the night nurse. She was almost five feet tall and
shaped like a tear. Wide kind eyes warmed her face, making it the only human
thing in the ward. I begged her for another pill which she slipped
me without noting it. Maybe she had kids my age or something, but I
was grateful for whatever it was that made her feel sorry for me.

I
stumbled into my room, barely noticing my new roommate kissing his mother goodnight near
the bed. I noticed she’d brought him–some more
snacks and cigarettes, which were forbidden on the floor. Aside from the usual no-smoking regulations that go along
with hospitals, the loons had set the
wing on fire a year earlier, so the rules were even stricter. They embraced one last time. “Now you take
care, Benji,” I think I heard his
mother say. She bobbled out into the crude light as he rolled into bed and doused the room lights. I didn’t even get a
look at him, but didn’t care.

I stared into the blackness around me. I remember
trying to discern the strange
patterns that appeared in my unseeing eyes, the strange swirling images that a mind sees when there’s no
light to entertain it. Visions
appeared like skulls, glowing white and eyeless in the infinite void.

“Want a cigarette?” His voice was gruff,
but tender in the broken silence that
moved in warm rings to the corners of the room.

“Yeah. Sure, I just don’t want that nurse to
come in,” I replied.

“Nah, don’t
worry. I’ve been here before. My name’s Ben.”

Great, I was rooming with a regular. His voice
sounded sane enough, but who knew
what sort of shit they had him loaded on to keep him even.

“Thanks. How’s it going? I’m Val.” It took every ounce of effort just for me to lie about caring how he was. I lit the cigarette and exhaled into blackest space.

“I’m
alright. That was my mom in here earlier. She brought me the cigarettes.”

Who gives a shit, I thought.
“Oh really… good,” I said instead. “There’s some
candy over there that my mother brought earlier,” I offered.
We were like babies away on retreat.

I
remember us just laying there, blowing smoke into the airs that devoured
our individual thoughts. There was some noise outside, so we began
to blow our smoke into the air vents so as not to tip off the night nurse.
Then I spoke.

“People
are cruel. Without cruelty, they don’t exist.”

“Your
only crime is being sensitive in a world that isn’t,” Ben said. “That’s
not my only crime, but it is what makes me a criminal.” “You
miss that girlfriend of yours, doncha?” “How’d ya know I had
a girlfriend?”

“I was in the pantry. I
heard you trying to call her. No luck?”

“No…The worst thing about this is the double pain. The need to have other
people in your life in order to feel complete, while knowing at the same
time that you are the cause of all the incompleteness you feel. It’s a co-dependent
thing… It’s the type of shit that a father like mine indoctrinates
you with from your earliest memory. The feeling that you are
unworthy of happiness… the feeling that you are the shit that other people
scrape from their shoes until they get tired of it and buy a new

pair…
You know? You’d rather get rid of yourself, fuck things up– throw yourself
out for them if for no other reason than to retain some sort of familiarity
or. control.”

It
seemed amazing how a cigarette between two strangers could unleash
the beast.

“In my entire life, I have never seen a
person resist the opportunity to do
something selfish and cruel, something that is completely their own and entirely themselves,” I continued.

“I’ve
never been able to resist that impulse,” Ben said. “C’mon… I’m
serious. I mean, people seem to find this need irresistible.”

“Yes…. They do.”

“And even knowing this to be true, I find it
utterly unbearable when I realize
how much I’ve hurt people close to me. It’s like I’m shrugging off second hand pain. I can only do it drunk. It feels
so good to rid yourself of the filth
that has been poured into you by others, but I’ve found no way to do it without hurting myself and others. If I
was stronger, and didn’t provide people like my father with the opportunity to
abuse me, there’d be no garbage to
dump on anyone else. I’d probably be complete– on an island beach right now, nursing an umbrella
drink.”

“You’re
just a little mixed up. You’ll be fine. You’ll go home and hook back up with that nice girlfriend of yours, and…”

“Do you want to see a picture of her?”

“Sure.”

I
extended a piece of laminated plastic that contained Melissa’s picture.
Ben lit a match and stared long at it. I couldn’t make out his face from
the tiny flickering glow of the match, but his head looked huge and furrowed.

“She’s a beautiful girl..”

I silently began to cry, knowing that he was
right, and that I was entirely
responsible for removing the one thing from my life that was pure.

“You’ll be alright.. You’re a good man. You’ve
got a good heart,” he said.

“Thanks,Ben…” His words had a remarkable gentleness to them, a healing
quality that I’d never found. Perhaps I was never in need of such vast
healing before, but he was able to cradle my heart with only a few true words.

“Why’re you in here, Ben? You should be a
fucking analyst or something,” I asked, genuinely curious and trying to
lighten my own mood a bit.

There
was a bit of silence followed by his creaking bedsprings. I listened
to him speak with an unearthly tension in his voice. It was the sound of a
single human soul being poured through the strainer of some unimaginable
pain.

“I belong here. I need to be here.”

” You
do? How come?”

“‘Cause
I’m a bad man. You, you probably just drank a little too much last
night… but I’m a drunk.”

“Why, what’s the matter?”

Ben
began to sob lightly in the sterile air. The sound of it was terrifying.

“Did
you see my mother before?” Ben asked. “Yes.. I did.”

“My mother takes care of me.. but when I
drink I do bad things.

Things
I sometimes can’t remember… Things…”

“I know, you’re like me… It hurts you to hurt others… you’re just too

good.”

“No… Val. I’m not.”

He raised his voice in a way that horrified. The
first rays were coming through my window and I tried not to look over at him,
afraid of making him feel emotionally over exposed.

“What’s the matter, Ben?” I asked, not
really sure if I wanted to know anymore.

“No, I should be here. This is where I need
to be. Somewhere I can’t get drunk.
Somewhere I can’t rape my mother.”

The words were more chilling than I knew any
words could be. I remember thinking in horror that I’d traded my angel to sleep
next to this animal. I was thinking of myself.

“Ben… you what?

“When
I get drunk, I rape my mother. I don’t remember doing it, but I do.
I poured boiling water on her the last time and listened to her scream
while fucking her in the bathtub.”

I flicked the light on
and stared at a sullen, malformed gargoyle that writhed on the other bed. His head was completely shaven and covered with scars. His 300 pound carcass sunk defeatedly
into the bedsheets. His wrists were
covered in deep purple wounds. He looked at me with the gentle expression of a child.

It was morning as I sat
on the edge of my bed staring in disbelief, unable to speak. I’m still not sure how long I sat there. 1 watched Ben
get dressed, covering his fat hairless
body in cheap dime-store garb. He hid his
cigarettes under a broken tile in the floor that I assumed he’d probably loosened on a previous visit.

“Do you want to go to breakfast with me
Val?”

“Uh…No, no… I think I’m just gonna rest here a while.” “You’re still thinking
about her,aren’t you Val?” “Who?”

“Your girlfriend.”

“No… not at the moment, actually. I was just thinking
about how many times I’ve blacked out
in my life.”

“Oh…”

There
was a light tap on the door. Ben’s mother popped her head in.

She
had a red wig on, along with a warm smile. She was dressed in a royal blue
church dress and was holding a prayer book. A small hat that was probably
fashionable in the thirties hid her eyes. I realized it was Sunday.

“Hi Benji… How’d you do last night. I brought some
more things from home that I thought you
might need.”

“Thanks
Mom. You sure you don’t want to come with us to breakfast Val?”

“I’m sure.”

As Ben strolled out next to his mother, nurse
Terry came in.

“Good morning. I’m glad to see you made it through the
night,” he said. Sarcasm
at sun up.
I could tell by the
tone of his voice that nothing would’ve
made him happier than if we all had jumped out of the windows last night.

“Yes… I made it. Barely.”

“Good…
Here’s your belt and shoelaces. By this time tomorrow, you’ll be good
to go.”

 

REHAB DOLL

Rehab was a blast.

I took a cab from the
hospital, the passing trees casting blue shadows into my staggering brain. The driver was good, and kept silent during
the entire ride. The psychiatric counselors
back at the bin had convinced me that
if I didn’t admit myself to a rehabilitation facility, my chances of survival were next to nil. Either I was crazy or
beginning to get healthy, depending on your perspective, but I strangely found
myself wanting to live. So, I gave
rehab a shot.

Actually, I felt
privileged. I wasn’t on my way to the dead end job I had lost, or jail– this was supposed to be an
isolated country club for bored cork
sniffers. The cab rolled ominously through the dense black trees that lined the winding driveway of Merrion Clinic. It
was almost dark as I paid the cab
driver and walked into the admitting office. I removed the necessary insurance
information from my wallet and proceeded to the front desk. A young woman with jet black hair and heavy grey eyes
entered my policy numbers and other assorted data of identification into a
little white computer and then had me take a seat in the outer lounge.
There was a video playing to the empty room
about families recovering from addiction.
I sat in blandness until my forms were processed, and then was escorted upstairs by a brawny male nurse.

The
patient rooms were large and dark. Two full-sized beds stretched dead
into the room like toppled headstones. I was told to go into the bathroom
and strip. The edge of the sink felt cold against my thighs as the nurse
examined my ass for smuggled substances.

“O.K., there’s a meeting down the hall in the auditorium
before lights out. You’ll go to
that.”

“Sure,” I said, pulling up my jeans. “But aren’t you gonna fuck me now?”

I
thought I’d see if the guy had a sense of humor.

“Listen, you fucking
piece of shit. There’s a meeting in the auditorium in fifteen minutes, which
wouldn’t give me enough time to do you right. But don’t worry, by the time you’re through with your term here, you’ll
be fucked so many ways, you won’t know
whose cock is coming at you next.”

My mouth shut. I emptied
the contents of a small plastic shoe bag I’d brought from the hospital. I threw my toothpaste and shampoo in the bathroom, and any clothes I had in the bureau
closest to the window. I was happy
there was no one else in my room.

The
halls were dimly lit as I left for the auditorium. I could see a few stray
souls lagging ahead of me. A sign stuck out from one of the doors in front of
me that had an embossed cross on it. I ducked into a small chapel room. A
huge Wurlitzer clung to
a wall beneath a picture of God. the Son. The beige and gold painting was
the only light in the room, a haloed Jesus with his arms outstretched
exposing bloodied wrists and a skull full of light. I looked at my own
wrist scars, which were now uncovered and scabbed over. I stared down into
the church organ, clicked the red on button, and hit a few low
notes.

“Hey,
who are you?”

At the
door stood a slightly mangy red-haired girl with nice knockers. She
wore frayed and faded black hip huggers with an orange tank top. She looked
on fire.

“Well,
I guess I’m on my way to the auditorium. What is it down there?”

“NA and a few AA speakers, the evening liturgy around
here.” I walked toward her slowly, a bit unsteady on my feet. “What’s
your name?” I asked.

“Jana.
We only go by first names around here, you know, as part of the AA
indoctrination.”

“Oh..I’m Val Daniels.”

She smiled like Satan,
“Jana Sabin. C’mon, let’s get a seat in the back so we can breathe a little bit amongst all the
stifling righteousness.”

I’d
always dug a girl with a good attitude. As we walked down the hall, I noticed
the building’s overly cool air conditioning vents had produced a pair of perfect
nipples budding into Jana’s bright cotton shirt. She walked like she had
nothing more to lose, with purity and a looseness of motion. Her eyes
were green and glinting, her teeth beautifully crooked. Her looks were
pure fucking evil.

The auditorium was large,
an oversized amphitheater of sorts. We found
seats near the exit sign, away from all the other human refuse sadly deposited in that place of defeat, and slouched
in an unlit corner.

“Alright… testing … testing…
Do we have everyone here yet? Dr. Felton, will any patients be brought over
from detox who are about to go to
level one?… No? This is it then… Hi, my name is Dick, and
I’m an alcoholic.”

“Hi Dick,” said
his crisp and cheery entourage of born-agains. The inmates were silent. Dick proceeded to go into a
long and unconvincing recap of his
own years as an alcoholic. I looked over at Jana. She’d sunk into the shadows, a bead of spittle poised like a
pearl upon the edge of her sleeping
lips. When the speech was over, we were free. I woke Jana up and asked what was next on the schedule.

“Oh
yeah, we get an hour to do nothing now before lights out. There’s a movie in
the TV room, or you can go outside and hang.” I told
her I’d meet her outside.

The nurse on duty at the
night station was an obvious old whore. She glowered at me with hatred.

“Who is my doctor?” I asked.

“And your name is?”

“Val Daniels. Room 6.”

“Mr.
Daniels, Doctor McKinnon is assigned to your care.”

“Well,
has he prescribed any medications for me? I mean, I’ve been here
for two hours, and aside from some clod staring up my ass, I’ve gotten no
personal attention.”

“Listen,
young man, you are scheduled for an appointment with the Doctor
at LOAM tomorrow. If you’re feeling sick or sleepless, I can beep the physician
in detox to see if he has something for you.”

“Yes… Do that. I’ll be outside.”

I walked outside into the gorgeous air. It was
intoxicating. Jana handed

me a stick of Marlboro and I lit up. There were
approximately six picnic

benches littered with drunks and druggies. A
plump brown haired boy

plopped
down at the bench seating Jana and I, and began talking. “How’re
you’all doin’? I’m Theodius. I just got here from detox.” “The-who-dius?” I asked.

“Theodius. Theodious Goode.”

“Really?” asked Jana, mockingly.

“Yeah, I mean are you sure? You look like a Bill,” I said.

“Val…is there a Val out here? Val. There’s someone on the phone for someone
named Val.”

“Alright…” I said to the short wiry black guy at the door scanning the substance
hungry assemblage.

I
hurried in expecting a nervous call from my mother. “Hello?”

“…Val,Val is that you? It’s Melissa.”

“Melissa,” I said melting into the tiny phone holes. It was the first time I had
heard my girlfriend’s voice with a sober ear in nearly two weeks. “Val… Are you alright?”

“I’m O.K., are you?”

“I
can’t stand being here with my mother. She’s the biggest asshole. Are you gonna
get better in there?”

“I
don’t know, but I am going to try and get better.” “Val?”

“Yes, Mel.”

“If
you can get better, I’ll be here for you.” “Really?” I was
truly surprised.

“I have to go now.”

“I miss you.”

“Me too. Goodbye.”

“Goodnight.”

“Val…
I really still love you.” Click, she hung up.

I
walked back outside, floating a bit, ready for another cigarette. “Thanks
Jana, I’ll have my mother bring you a carton on visitor’s day.” “No
problem.”

The
warm air smelled like lilac and dandelion. My allergies brought a cool
itch to my eyes that were enflamed from a lack of rest and the airborne
nicotine. Crickets and other sounds buzzed in the fields. I had no idea
where the fuck I was.

“What
did you do to your wrists?” Jana asked cautiously. “A futile cry for help
that obviously went unheard.”

“O.K.,
last call for
cancer folks… We’ve got ten minutes ’til lights out,” said this afternoon’s
ass grabber. What a swell guy, I remember thinking. Mr. Complete.

“Shit,
I hate lights out,” Jana said staring up at me from behind a wisp of
gentle red that caressed the edge of her glistening lips. “I hate to go tobed alone.”

It was
a hard comment to ignore, but I tried. I remember thinking that if Mel hadn’t
called, things at rehab would’ve been different, but she had, and
they weren’t.

“So Theo, what do
they got you in here for?” I asked, still looking at Jana with a slightly uncomfortable smile.

Theodius
shifted his position to face Jana and me. “I got caught selling dope on
the Internet.”

“Ha… Fucking rock dot com,” Jana laughed.

“Yeah, pop it, shoot it, sniff it, drop it– I had it
all. I was so fucking wasted in court I
could barely stand up. The judge remanded me to a rehab and I’ll have 180 hours
of community service, but I thought my fucking
ass was up river.”

“What’s
your community service?” Jana asked. “Free fucking dope for the masses!” I
cried.

“Nah,
I’ll probably just have to be a shit picker on the parkway.”

*������������� ��������������� *������������� ��������������� *

The
second day in Shangri-La was much like the first– group therapy, physical
reconditioning, as it was called, some AA lectures, cigarette smoking,
Jana’s wise ass come-ons, and of course, my initial meeting with the
doctor. McKinnon was a nervous and frail old tart. He prescribed Tofranil to
ease my depression. It also caused my mouth to become severely
dry and inhibited my natural ability to piss. This didn’t really bother
me at first, but when you are not rife with talent in the first place, losing
this skill is a bit demoralizing.

That
night, there was another strange outdoor smokefest between Jana, Theo
and myself.

“Why
you in here, Jana,” Theo asked while lighting a menthol. “Cause
my mom hates my heroin.”

“The unfeeling fiend,” I remarked.

Jana laughed saying,
“Yeah, the stupid bitch keeps saying I leave needles laying around on the
sofa when company comes over.”

“What
do you do when you’re not getting high, Theo?” I asked.

“Nothing.”

“You don’t have a job?”

“Yeah,
I’m a software analyst for a computer company.”

“Ah…”

“And you, do you have a job, Val?” Theo
implored.

“Not any more. I
sold life insurance for a while. I was the shut off guy for the water company too. Turned off all the
assholes who didn’t pay their
bills.”

“No
wonder you�re a fucking drunk,” Jana said. “So, you have a girlfriend,
don’t you?”

“How could you tell?”

“Well, it was either that, or you are a
fag.”

“It
never occurred to you that I just might not be attracted?” “Are
you kidding?”

“Hey Jana, I’ll let you give me a blow
job,” Theo said.

“Fuck you,
asshole,” Jana said flicking the fiery end of her cig into his forehead.

We were all laughing.
“Christ Val, I can’t believe you’re a week away from the blade, and you’re still hung up on a
social convention as contrived as the love- girlfriend- ownership thing.
Weren’t you at least a little liberated staring� at death in the mirror?” Jana said, searching into my eyes.

I laid
in bed that night staring up at the ceiling, unable to sleep, thinking
of Jana and her words. She cut straight into me. Her words had no
bullshit in them.

On the
third day, I rose again. I had to sit on the toilet in order to relax my
bladder enough to piss. Barely any urine came out and my stomach hurt. My
mouth was dry and coated with a white foam. I rinsed with Listerine
and brushed my teeth while the shower water warmed. I stepped in the
shower a bit weak from a loss of appetite that was produced by the medication
I was taking. The shit was making my mood worse in the bargain.
The water felt good on my body and I ran it hot to open my pores,
trying to detox from the wretched shit I’d been prescribed.

As I turned around and
reached for the shampoo, I noticed Jana standing there watching with the shower curtain pulled back. She wasn’t
looking in my eyes when she said, “C’mon, let’s go to breakfast.” She
had a red shirt with a hole over the belly button that said, Pussy
Galore.

What the fuck, I thought. “O.K., hand me that towel over there on the chair.” I stepped out of the stall and stood
there drying off as she watched with
obvious enjoyment. She began to root through my clothes drawer and pulled out a few things she liked.

“You don’t have much here, Val.”

“What?”

“I mean in your clothes drawer, of
course.”

As I finished dressing, the nurse stopped in with my morning meds. She gave us a strange look, noting what I thought to be my
dosage on a small pad, and left.

“What
the fuck’s her problem?” Jana wondered.

“Who cares.” I
said, flushing the Tofranil into the sewer along with a few of last night’s illegal cigarette butts.

After breakfast, Jana and
I went to group therapy. Some social worker named Sherilyn ran the group in the
manner of one who has learned things
from books, rather than hard knocks. She was an odd bitch.

“Jana, Val– you
know, you two aren’t really doing yourselves any good by isolating yourselves over in the corner. Would
either of you like to share
today?”

I shook my head and Jana laughed.

“I’ve got something
to say,” said a heavy set guy with a red tongue on his T-shirt. He was nervous and twitchy.

“Yes, Joe?” said the group counselor.

“I
saw Keith Richard’s at the Meadowlands.” “And?”

“And… and that’s it. Boy, that motherfucker can play.
Man, I love The Stones.”

Jana
threw some paper at Joe’s head. He was strung out on Haldol, which
is some sort of anti-psychotic medication. It kept him placid, dreaming
of Keith.

Sherilyn came back to the problem of Jana and I.

“You
two really ought to try to mingle with some of the other-folks in this
place.”

“Why?
They’re just as fucked up as us,” Jana said.

“Yeah, I mean there’s
nothing to learn here. I’ve never seen a more uncaring and callous group of
people in my life who purport to call themselves health care specialists. All
this is, is a fucking lock-up to keep us
away from the bar for awhile.”

“To you, we’re
nothing but a bunch of sewer babies,” Jana’s voice was shaking.

“Now wait a minute,” Sherilyn said, her
eyes tearing up a bit.

“I mean, if your only
solution here is to treat us like garbage and call it tough love, then there’s no point in any of us
being here. To find a higher power? That doesn’t really help when you have a
father who rapes you– or is the
point of all this to simply find a safer crutch,” Jana

continued.

“I care deeply about each and every patient
in here.”

“No you don’t. You
like to think you do. It helps you sleep, and gives you something to do with that expensive graduate
school degree your daddy paid
for.”

Ah, to
be nineteen again,
I thought
upon hearing Jana’s words.

 

*****

 

I remember lying on my
bed shortly after group, when a young blond haired nurse came in.

“Time
for your test.”

“What
test?”

“I
just need a urine sample.”

“Oh, alright… I’ll
try. You know, I told the nurse at the front station that the drug McKinnon has me on makes it
impossible to piss.” “Here’s
the cup.”

“O.K., I’ll be right out.”

“No… I have to stand here and monitor.”

“Oh,
really? That’s interesting… I know… I left any and all rights as a human
being at the doors when I came here. Can I at least turn my back, or
would that give you a reason to believe I was slipping you the Pope’s piss.”

“No… that’ll be fine,” she said,
looking a bit annoyed.

I strained, producing only
a few golden milliliters into the bottom of the specimen cup.

“That’s all I can do. Sorry.”

“There’s
not enough here to test. Are you sure?” “Yes… Get
out!”

No sooner had my head hit
the pillow, an inch away from my first sleep
in over a week, when the day station nurse came in. She told me I would have to take the drug test again.

“No
fucking way. Where’s Doctor McKinnon?” “I believe he’s in
session with a patient.”

“Oh,
that’s nice. It’s good to know he sees someone around here. I’m going
to his office.”

“Mr. Daniels!”

I rushed down the freezing hall, past the lounge,
gym and the open

courtyard. I made it to the doctor’s wing and
passed Joe coming out of

McKinnon’s
office with a new script for some Haldol. “I got some Haldol,
man.”

“Great,
I knight thee Haldol Man. Is McKinnon in there?” “Sure
man. Go in.”

“Mr.
Daniels. I don’t believe we have an appointment.”

“Of
course we don’t, you don’t even have me down on the schedule. These pills you
are feeding me have a lot of unpleasant side-effects,” I tried to
explain.

“Perhaps if you just
chew a few lemon wafers, your mouth won’t seem so dry.”

“Listen… These fucking pills keep me from pissing. And
now they’re shoving a cup at me every five
minutes and ordering me to produce.”

“Oh yes… and I
have been apprised of the situation. It seems you’ve been spending time with a Jana S. No? And it seems
there is some suspicion that you are taking substances of some kind, things
that she is giving you.”

“What?”

“Yes, the nurses have been observing you.
Jana is a girl with a lot of� problems. She’s been here quite often in the
past, and we’ve caught her

abusing
medications or having things brought in for her. It would explain

why
you are unable to urinate at this moment, wouldn’t you say?” “This
whole thing is obscene. Are you accusing me of…” “It certainly
seems obvious to the staff what…” “Well, I’ll take a blood
test then… Can I do that?” “No, I think we are
finished here.”

“Fuck you. I can’t believe you’d treat
anyone like this.”

I
rushed down to the central nursing station and filled out an immediate release form.
“I need to call my girlfriend,” I said to Nurse Piss-Cup.

“You
know that we don’t allow calls here until between 8 and 8:15 PM. Besides
we just called your Melissa,is that it? And she won’t be coming.” “What?”

“Well,
we had to fill her in on your recent relapse and certain objectionable
activities with one of the female patients.” “Is
this for real?”

“Oh
yes, she told us to call her with a progress report as soon as we knew
anything.”

“You dirty motherfuckers.”

I
grabbed the phone from the nursing desk and dialed my mother. “Hello?”

“Mom,
come get me out of here now!” Click.

I ran into my room and I
noticed a newcomer on the bed closest to the door, fresh from detox.

“The room’s yours,” I said, gathering my
things.

“Oh, I know… I’ve been here eight times
before.”

I threw a few of my
clothes in a bag and walked down the hall. I walked into Jana’s room intending
to leave her a note. I heard the shower water running in the bathroom. I peaked in grinning. She was wearing nothing but some suds and a slice of cherry pie.

“So now it’s my
turn, Jana… Hey, why are you in here in the middle of the afternoon?”

“I’ve lost my grounds… Yeah, apparently for supplying
you with pills. Well that’s what they told me, and they implied other things
too.” “Yeah, I just went through all that with those assholes. I’m
leaving.” “You are?”

“Yeah,
I can’t take this place. You take care of yourself. You were the only
good thing here,” I said, kissing her lightly on the cheek. “You
too. And get rid of that girlfriend.”

“I
don’t think I’ll have to. See ya.”

 

*������������� ��������������� *������������� ��������������� *

 

I stood alone in front of
the grey building, waiting for my ride, as the sun strobed behind the glowing oaks. I had no idea when my mother would get there. It was starting to get a bit
cold as I stood holding my shoe bag
of clothes.

So this is recovery, I remember thinking.

 

THE DOGS OF KAMARI

 

One thing I learned in AA that
actually made sense to me was the idea of
changing one’s scenery– new places, new people and a new life. Since the insurance wasn’t going to cover any of my
medical costs, I was heavily in debt. With nothing more to lose, I took
out a cash advance on my Visa for another
$3000 and booked a trip to Greece. I figured if Melissa and I were going to
have any chance of salvaging our relationship, we might as well do it in the theater of the gods.

The eleven hour flight was
a breeze. Melissa, who suffered from chronic
insomnia, unwisely brought a 3/4 full bottle of white Xanax. I figured it wasn’t booze, so what the hell. 35,000
feet above ground, and feeling no
pain– every pill was gone by the time she got back from the toilet. Even though they were white, the weakest
dosage, there were enough pills to
relieve me– heart and soul.

We landed in Athens. The air was hot and arid as
the sky assumed the shape of infinity in the radiant expansion of the
afternoon. The cleansing smell of salt permeated the busy city. We had a 3 hour
layover before our flight to the island of Santorini, so we went to the ruins.
It wouldn’t have been much for most I
suppose, but upon entering those hallowed grounds my spirit came alive for the first time after a
long and unyielding death.

Above us was The Parthenon, caged in scaffolding.
With a running start, I burst upon
her and set the world free. The air seemed to be composed of old souls. Oblivious and swirling in my private orb of
glory-�a chorus of poets rejoicing
in my ear. I suddenly became aware of security whistles being blown from every direction.

“Val… You better get down. I don’t want you
locked up in some foreign jail.”

Prometheus Unbound.

Mel was right, there were Parthenon park guards
ordering me off of the sacred
monument. It seemed to me that, for my small contribution to the unaging muse,
I was slightly entitled. I jumped down and the whistles stopped. Melissa and I
embraced under the glorious sun. I must say, it was certainly well worth it.

By the time we landed on the island it was dark.
We traveled to our hotel by cab. The
buildings were all white, some festooned with leafy vines that gleamed in the
Mediterranean moonlight.

The hotel room was huge. It was actually like a
small apartment with a loft for the
bed and dressers. There was a balcony, a large downstairs kitchen and wash
room. We loved it.

“Well
Melissa, what do you think of the room?” “I think it’s grand,
simply lovely.”

We’d
begun to kiss slowly. I had to be gentle. I’d put her through so much
with my wretched disease.

“Let me shower,” Melissa said.

I fell
on the bed and slacked out. The walls were mostly bare except for a few
woven wall hangings and a built-in radio. “Honey?”

“What is it?”

“Did
you happen to see my sleeping pills? I had them in the small travel bag.”

“Uh… No, no I haven’t.”

“Where the hell did
they go,” she mumbled to herself. “Could
they have rolled out of the bag on the plane?” “No, I don’t think so… Maybe.”

It hurt
me to fool her, but the truth would’ve been the worst thing for us, I
thought. I wanted us to get away from the things of the past– to make a new
start. How was I supposed to do that with a bottle of the pills along for
the entire trip? I did it for the both of us, I remember rationalizing.

When
she came out from her shower, it was time for us. Our perfect embrace
carried us into elevations we’d never known together. I called her my ‘precious
peanut butter fudge angel of love,’ and undid her bra. In no time at all, I had
my face buried in her and was going for the gold. It was the
first time I’d had sex in quite some time. I’d forgotten her silky skin, the
simple joy of being so close to another beating heart– all the things that
alcohol had erased from my life. We fell asleep in each other’s arms. Finally,
after so much defeat, I felt complete.

The
next morning, the sun hung brightly in the sky like an ancient coin.
The air had a quality that was unlike anything I’d experienced before.
An atmosphere composed of some sort of purifying substance overwhelmed
my lungs and fortified my soul. I walked out on the balcony and
found a bread and juice breakfast that had been delivered by the hotel staff.
Melissa joined me soon after wearing nothing but her sheer white

negligee.

“Well, what do you think
of this place. Is it unreal or what?”

“It’s beyond words that
this simple poet can find for it,” I replied. “How’d you sleep?”

“Like
a rock for the first few hours. Then I was restless. I think we have to
get used to the time change. We’re six or seven hours ahead over here, I
think.”

“Yeah,
I didn’t do too bad. Still wish I had my pills though, just in case.”

“I know…”

“Oh
Val, can you feel the beautiful wind on your skin? This is what it means to
live.”

Yes, I
could feel it. It was a pleasant contrast to my body’s normal ache–
the ache of recovery.

“You
know, we’ve been through so much these past few months. I think this was a great idea. I think we both just needed
to get away.”

She was right. I knew I needed to get away and it
made me feel good that she seemed happy. It almost came close to
absorbing an ounce or two of the guilt I
felt for running her through the ringer. Melissa was the only girl that I could
honestly say I ever loved (or who ever loved me). The sunlight made the pores of her skin sparkle. Her
hair danced in the gentle breezes. I
watched her breasts loll beneath the silky toga-like nightgown that seemed to float upon her body.

The white light of the horizon poured over us like
a silk cupola as we walked out into
the flooding sun and exchanged our American traveler’s checks for Greek cash. If I remember right, a
dollar was worth about two hundred drachmae. It took some getting used to.
Buying a bottle of spring water and hearing the man behind the counter
say ‘400 please,’ can throw you off. Anyway,
we walked down to the beach, which was composed of glistening black ash. Being
a volcanic island, these crushed volcanic pebbles washed in with the tides. The
sea cast silvery specters of rain on the
blackness of the beach. I noticed that the women were topless. It seemed like
too much– beaches in my favorite color and nude women! Melissa looked over at me for my reaction, which I
downplayed for her benefit. She wasn’t
fooled, and whipped off her bikini top right in front of me.

“What are you
doing?”

“What
do you mean? I’m getting into the spirit of it.”

I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but went along
with it. It’s a strange feeling,
rubbing tanning lotion on your girlfriend’s breasts in public.

After the beach, we went back to the room and
fucked. I mean, if last night had been lovemaking, then this was a fucking. We
thrashed around until we passed out, sweaty and satisfied in the warm
aquatic air.

After lunch, we decided to take a hike around the
town and countryside. The
architecture was predominantly white. The houses were like ivory boxes jutting from hills, each adorned
with simple windows and clean porches.
The sun sweated the leafy green palms as the charred land crusted our shoes in
shards of steely grey. The air was so pure and clear it made me high. Rehab
seemed a million miles away as loose dogs gently roamed the countryside, stray
and unloved, looking for scraps. It was sad to see, and Mel wanted to
take them all home with her.

We climbed a large hill until the beach below
looked like a black fuse ignited by
the omnipresent blast of the sun. We could see the cliffs and peaks of
the surrounding Greek isles. We could hear the faint strains of a Greek band playing in the streets below.

“I
can’t believe you agreed to do this,” Melissa said, clutching my hand.

“Why not. I love to walk when there’s something to see,
somewhere to go.

“Wow,
that looks so high. Maybe we should’ve rented a moped or something.”

I
watched as a moped, carrying two of my own sloppy countrymen, farted past us up
the side of Mount Kamari. I pulled my shirt off and wiped my face before
shoving it into the rear pocket of my shorts. Dark rocks
lined the path like broken rosaries as the hills rolled out beneath us in
antique folds and ruddy hues. The root-veined paths etched solemn incursions
into cliffs of red ochre. The light carved sharp angles on the landscape
as the shadows of clouds left islets of crimson on the rough sketch
of creation unfolding before us.

Melissa
said, “you look good, but maybe I should learn to cook to fatten you
up.”

“You look pretty edible
yourself,” I said as I licked the sweat off her neck.

“I’m
getting tired.”

“C’mon Private Pyle…
Push yourself… Glory cannot wait,” I said grabbing her ass.

“I like it better when
you call me your angel of love.”

“Yeah!
I’m going to climb out on that cliff,” I said with a grin. “On
that cliff? No, you’re not.”

“I’ll
be right back.” I crawled out onto a rocky overhang that hovered above
the valley. The view was more intense than opium. Trees hovered on the rim of
my vision like transparent spirals that were burning into foam above the pale
gravel.

“You’re gonna get
hurt. That’s stupid.”

“I’m
the King of Kamari,” I said in mock heroics. “Very
funny. I suppose that was worth doing, right?” “Yes,
come out on the edge with me.”

“No way. I’m not going
out there.”

We
began to walk up the winding path of dust to the peak. As we approached
the summit, Mel spoke.

“Val,
do you think you’ll ever drink again?” The question was almost pleading.

“What? No… No I won’t drink… I’ll try.”

“I couldn’t take it,
you know?”

“Alright.”

“I’ve never known
alcoholics before.”

“You’re lucky, I
suppose.”

“I’m glad I decided to
come. It’s great to see you so happy,” her hair like a halo of honeysuckle.

“You too,” I
said.

“And
I can really believe you about that rehab? They told me all kinds of…”

“Yes, you can.” I wasn’t lying on this one.

“‘Cause
I really want to,” Mel said, pausing in a perfect silhouette against
the thinning azure of the elevated sky.

“I know… Do you
wanna rest a minute?”

“Yeah.” Melissa sat on a large boulder
in a small alcove near the top of the
mountain.

“What are you
doing?” She asked.

“Come and see.” She smiled into my arms
as we looked at our initials that I’d
just carved in a small blossoming tree.

 

We went to dinner later that night and it was
wonderful. We dined for two hours.
The people at every table applauded as the sun threw its last exquisite kiss of light from beyond the distant
cliffs. I toasted our lasting happiness with a 6 ounce bottle of Perrier,
clinking Mel’s crystal goblet of homemade
red wine.

“This
is almost as good as getting toxified,” I said, slipping into an unintended moment of brutal candor.

“What?”

“Uh,
just kidding. This is the best…” She held my gaze until I was forced
to look down at the tablecloth to avoid her harsh glare.

We went home soon after
and threw our clothes on the floor.

“I’m tired. I’m just
going to shower and hit the rack,” Mel said.

I
followed her into the bathroom, kissing and fondling. I watched the warm
water flow down her skin as I sat on the edge of the sink.

“I
hope we get to do a lot of new things tomorrow. I love this place.” “I
dig a girl with hope in her soul,” I said grinning. “Haha… hand me the towel Val.”

“You’re not mad, are
you Mel?”

“No, I’m just tired,” she said as I watched her dry between her legs.

We got into bed. The smell of warm air
commingling with Melissa’s skin was
irresistible. I kissed her as she squiggled into the sheets.

After about an hour, I realized I wasn’t going to
be able to sleep. Visions of rehab
danced in my head, along with worries of the life waiting for me at home. I was without a job, had huge
medical debts, and an empty bank
account.

“Honey… I think I’m
going to take a night walk.” “What?
It’s late.”

“I know. I just can’t
get used to this time change. I’ll be back soon.”

“I
can’t believe you’re not tired after that hike,” Melissa said groggily. “Be careful.”

I kissed her cheek and headed out the door. My
head was slightly sore and my mouth
dry. I strolled along the glistening ash like a self-anointed lord under the glowing moon, a pink bouquet
flowering light upon the evening sea.

I
walked into the sacred initiation of night, beneath the ardent stars that paved
the sky with light. Kamari was buzzing– parties roared from the gorgeous
cocktail bars and promenades that lined the leafless, stone roads. I walked
past the chalky buildings and balustrades, seeing sophisticated
Europeans sipping martinis and laughing freely into the cool
night airs. It all seemed quite life-affirming to me.

It got to me.

It was as though I’d discovered paradise here on
this island, and it was not quite
good enough. If I could just shake the shame I was still feeling from my
misfortunes back home, I’d be free. The warm air, the rushing music, the people– I had to become a part of the
sinister beauty of it all, one last time.

I found the grungiest pub in Greece rotting in an
unlit alley on the far end of the island. Roadhouse
Blues
poured like melodic water
into the dusty streets, and I was
hooked. Dionysus kissed my cheek, drawing blood. I stepped inside.

The place was like a black cave that smelled of
clogged keg lines and stale whiskey.
The walls were mirrored in some spots, and the tables glowed in neon. It looked like a low-rent biker
hang-out from back home, filthy and dank. Whiskey bottles littered the back
wall along with a few shot glasses
and black-light posters. It was a mean, drinking place. I was

home– ready for one last
drink with the gods.

I took
out some money and laid it on the bar, which was as cold as marble.
I began drinking shots of VO with
tap beer, and after about an hour, I was lit. My glance strayed in a vague blur
of spinning images as the blood of the pub flowed in my veins.

I
noticed that the bartender spoke perfect English and that the table scrubbers
only knew Greek. This was the way it was. Since the island was basically
surviving on the tourist dollar, Greeks who knew English got the preferred jobs (if you call
bartending a preferred job). I was tipping liberally
that night, anyway.

“Hey
bartender! Do you know that Breton said that the only divinity is
temptation?”
Ibellowed, enjoying the bitter
aftertaste of the vitreous liquids I’d just
swilled. He only smiled patiently, and brought me another beer.

A girl in a light blue shirt came up and started
talking about something I no longer
remember. She let me pour cold beer on her tits. I stared at her nipples and bought her a shot. I know that
somewhere in my inebriated brain, I
must’ve wondered whether I could get away with fucking her before the night was
over.

I probably could’ve, but didn’t.

A guy in a black doo-rag and leather vest came up
to me and threw 20,000 drachmae on
the bar and said, “I can drink you a mile under the bar, brother.” I noticed an angel in his ear
made of tarnished silver and a strange
accent in his voice. The girl moved off to the side with her drink,

looking wistfully around
the room.

“Alright… you’re
on,” I said as I dug the rest of my money from my pocket and tossed it up alongside his.

“Fine… But, we
drink tequila, you see.”

“Tequila.
That’s for fags! Alright, I don’t give a shit what it is.”

“What’s
your name, huh?”

“Val.”

“I’m Jurgen. I’m
traveling across the world from the Netherlands.” “United States. I’m here with my girlfriend,” accidentally
exhaling a lungful of smoke in the
guy’s smiling face.

“Ah,
land of cash and cows. I’m visiting New York this fall. Maybe we can hook
up.”

“Sure, why the hell
not… Now let’s get going.”

The
bartender poured two gorgeous shots of Cuervo. I raised my glass and
said, “to the glorious beaches of Greece.” The shot went down like gasoline.
My head spun a little, as the liquor grazed my mind. I tried to focus on the
bartender’s tattoo, which I remembered being a bloody dagger
protruding from an electrified skull.

Jurgen drank his down,
reeling a bit with his hand over his heart.

I wiped my mouth with the
back of my hand, “let’s go motherfucker…

Hey bartender, my man,
two more Cuervos– pronto!”

“Hold on there Val…
We’ve got all night.”

“I don’t. There’s no
time to waste in this place,” I said reverently. We each gulped our shots. As I downed mine, I fell back into the bar,

but Jurgen’s drink sent him flying over a table of young
women with umbrella drinks.

My ribs
hurt from laughing. “Dumb fuck,” I hollered drunkenly. The girls
were at a loss, not sure whether to be pissed off or help him up. Jurgen
walked back over, looking sheepishly.

“Does
this mean I am the new king? I’m ready for more.” “No
way! Are you nuts?”

“Then I’ll drink your shot as well. A victory
drink for the righteous.” I threw
all of my money across the bar and told the bartender to give me what was left of the bottle. I drank the rest in
a few violent swigs. Sweat was
pouring from my brow as I emptied the rest of my beer glass as well. The mirror
behind the bar turned red, as though blood was spilling over the image of myself, before everything faded to
black. There was no sound. I was
gone.

It seemed there was some passage of time, though
how much, I couldn’t be sure. I came to consciousness in some back-alley weeds behind the bar. I was immediately aware of
someone’s shit-stinking breath and
the sound of my shirt ripping. A huge bluish blur sharpened into focus before
my opening eyes, and I realized that I was staring into Jurgen’s blue and paisley covered head.

“What the fuck are
you doing? Jurgen!”

“C’mon, man…”

“FUCK–” I smacked his head, knocking the doo-rag into the weeds, “Jesus
Christ, I told you I was here with my fucking girlfriend…” Jurgen
just sat there on the ground, his face filling with tears.

“What the fuck? I gotta go man. See you
around.” I walked away with a vague
sense of passion and a gentle melancholy. I was a bit sad that Jurgen and I would not be hooking up in New York
that fall. The first stunning purple
ray of the sun prowled over the water. I walked into a grocery store, half stumbling, and bought a
Heineken with the loose change I’d discovered buried in the bottom of my
pocket. I sat on the beach and stared into the whispering waves. When I’d
finished, I tossed the bottle into a
bin and headed back to the hotel room.

I opened the door gently. Melissa was sitting on
the edge of the bed. I’d been there
for no longer than a few seconds…

“You bastard!”

“Melissa…
Don’t.”

“Fuck you! How could
you? After all…”

All excuses died on my tongue. I walked out the
door into the convulsive silence–
the simple matter of existence. I couldn’t bear to watch her leave me. It just hurt too much. I
didn’t want to see her in pain. I
knew it was my fault. The sun sparkled over the Aegean. There was no applause.
The sea was speechless, and I was composed only of regret. I knew I’d never see her again.

One of the stray dogs that had been hanging around
the hotel followed me into the
streets. It was a little black and white spotted thing with missing fur. I knelt down to pet the poor bastard.

We
walked alone, the sound of the sea beating violently over my heart.

 

 

THE TRUE SEASON

My
apartment is like an empty chest. It’s completely stripped bare, my hollow
heartbeat echoing inside the four empty walls. I stand and gaze into the
absence, imagining Melissa’s doll cabinet glistening in the space it once
occupied. I listen in the silence and hear the absent kewpie’s voice…‘it’ll be alright Val, just
take a rest and the world will be right in the light of morning…’

 

The
days fade into each other, the murk of routines taking hold in the absence
of expectation. I’ve managed to land a job running a forklift at the paper
plant and each day I walk to the local convenience store before work.
I’ve gotten into this routine of morning coffee, I suppose, to replace the
vodka and orange juice that had usually begun my earlier workdays.

 

I walk
into the store, which is brightly lit and mirrorlike. I notice a strange
man stocking shelves, his face dissolving into the silver tangle of a beard.
He’s muttering something unintelligible.

‘Butterfinger, butterfinger… That’s not correct… We go back down to
zero… Butterfinger, butterfinger– I’ll take 600 Jack… That is not correct.

I fasten the lid on my 20
ounce cup and walk to the cashier. I hand a bill through the artificial light to a rotund lady with spiky hennaed hair.
Cheap earrings hang lank from her
sagging ears as she stares blankly from
behind her purple makeup. She looks like an exotic animal.

The streets are covered
with orange blossoms, brightly undulating in the warm breeze. I can think of nothing other than the fact that I’ll be
wasting the day loading paper. The
coffee burns my lips. I don’t entirely dislike
the sensation. The asphalt shines black through the resonant petals

blazing like treasures in
my eyes. I must learn not to be a slave of my crippling desires, I ponder,
as I walk away from the golden ball of the sun

into the black shadows of
the factory. Everything seems muted and slow. Blue shadowed faces lined in defeat walk past me without smiling and everything is filtered through a dense craving for
alcohol.

As I
perform the dull task of loading and unloading paper, I dream only of
sleeping in the lonely nook of my empty apartment, the white flowers
of dream pouring into my head under a necklace of stars. The factory
is a mirror of my heart– huge and empty. Everything strikes my

eyes
blandly, without the impressed boldness of palpitating urgency that alcohol
maintains. Impressions slide over me into an endless parade of memory, the
colors of time. I dream of walking along the ocean-at dusk, when I feel
the most free, the tides my faithful companions. It is only by allowing my mind
to unwind in the cold spaces of the factory, that I make it
through these impossible days.

I call a cab from work.
Tonight I have an appointment with Doctor Maxson, who I’ve been seeing twice a week since chucking the hooch. His office is a small and anonymous-looking building
just outside of town.

I walk into the outer room
and am struck immediately by the smell of pipe tobacco. It’s the same
brand my father smoked. I suppose it gets me in
the proper mood to unleash the sickness that has created my life. Most of the time, I’m acutely aware of a dull pressure
in my cheeks, just below my lower
eyelids, as though the pain of many years seeks to pour out of me in a
torrent of tears. No matter what I do, I can find no way to shed these rains and bring myself some relief.

A man who appears to be in
his late fifties and out of shape, files past the couch that I’m sitting on and walks into the parking lot. I look up
from a magazine, bad easy-listening music polluting my ears, and notice Dr. Maxson looking from his office.

“With you in a moment,” he says to me,
before going back in.

I go to the bathroom to
piss and stare into the mirror before closing my eyes to concentrate on the simple and immediate pleasure of evacuating my
bladder. I wipe the few amber beads that have misfired on the porcelain rim,
wash my hands, and leave.

I knock on the open office door.

“Yes… Come in, Val… c’mon. How’ve you been?”

“I
feel a bit stranded.”

“What are you now, a
month or two into your new job? How is it, the least of many possible evils?”

“Yes, definitely.
It’s just nothing. I spend all day driving for miles in little circles inside those four grey walls, but
at the end of the day I’m still taking
cabs.

Doctor Maxson laughs and
nods in affirmation. I take a seat in the red leather armchair facing the doctor. His face is brightly seasoned and
bears the expression of having
experienced a life well lived. A light blue suit jacket that doesn’t match his tan trousers lends an air of placid benevolence to his relaxed movements. He draws
upon a large black pipe at distant intervals, exhaling a light grey mist that
hangs in liquid circles in the soft spaces of his office.

“My mother’s in the
hospital again,” I say. “She’s smoking to the point where she’s completely unable to breathe. Quite
heartening. They dose her with pills and fill her with oxygen until the
symptoms subside, then she’s back
off, sucking on death. I suppose I should quit myself, but figure I’ll deal with one crisis at a time.”

Dr. M strokes his chin,
nodding slightly as he listens attentively to what I’m saying.

“I
find it really hard to be around it at all. Things seem to have gotten sicker
in that house since my dearly departed father divorced her and fled to
parts unknown.”

“And
what do you make of that?”

“I
don’t know… I did get a note from him last week, believe it or not. He
actually admitted that he had messed up my life in many ways.” “Now,
I find that absolutely fascinating… It’s the first acknowledgment of any
responsibility for his own behavior that you’ve ever told me about.”

“Either that, or it’s
another grand manipulation on his part to arouse some sort of guilt in me, or
sympathy for him to accompany his self-imposed
exile.”

“Well, he would never acknowledge any
wrong-doing for your benefit alone.
It seems to be more about making himself feel better rather than making you feel anything.”

“O. K.”

“Of course, manipulation with him is old
art, because you allowed it to work for
so many years and allowed the way he made you feel to control you. But, it is my belief that he was never
thinking about you. It was always
about him.”

“Well,
what I am allowing his note to do is to make me question whether I could’ve
done anything more for him as a son. Could I have made things work?”

“There’s no way, I think you know that. But
you’re manipulating yourself with his
words… words he wrote to make himself feel better about his own situation.”

“Yeah,
I know.”

“Don’t
short change yourself… In a very short time, you’ve broken away
from this sort of dependent need for his approval, the need to always rescue
yourself from the horror of his world. The fact that he acknowledges some sort
of complicity in the demise of your family in general, and your own
downfalls specifically, may be all well and good for him.
You should only take it for what it’s worth.”

“Ands what’s that?”

“The first time your father may’ve ever
spoken to you rather than at you– the first time he may’ve truly communicated something
he feels to you other than rage, assuming it is real.”

“I
suppose I must take that on faith, like a good Christian, eh?” “So,
have you made it sober through your ninety days?” “Yeah,
so far I’ve made it…”

“That’s just great. Well, maybe those meetings
that you were initially resistant to
attending are helping. You’re maintaining the job, no matter how rotten it is, and you’re starting to piece
your life back together.”

“I’ve been thinking about drinking quite a
bit this past week. It lands on me like an animal. I sometimes spend the
whole day trying to toss off the urge.”

“So
what do you do?” Doctor M asks, genuinely curious as he huffs a little smoke from his nostrils.

“I just get through it.”

“It doesn’t seem like a
yearning for the good old days?”

“Those
days are not that old, and are starting to seem less and less good.
The filth comes flooding into my mind pretty soon after contemplating
a drink. The immersion in those old memories is what I think
stops me most of the time.”

“Distance, only if
it’s ninety days down the road, often brings objectivity. When your laying in the hole detoxing, wishing you weren’t
there, the temptation to blot out
those feelings by any means necessary is often strong, although the memory of what landed you there is as well.
The further you get away from that, the more you can look at the overall picture rationally.”

“I see.”

“As
the recovery process continues, feelings of wanting to enhance the good
in your life will become more prevalent and the feelings of wanting to blot
everything out will subside.”

“Yeah.”

“You
may have to do what the cavemen did.” “What’s that?”

“Well, back before
artificial methods of altering consciousness were discovered, they’d just go out and bang their
heads on rocks or spin around ’til
they got dizzy, threw up and said ‘Hey, that was pretty cool.”‘

He gets me laughing for the
first time that day. The good doctor always
manages this miracle at least once a session. I make an� appointment
for next week, shake his warm hand, and head out into the cool night air.

The moon glows like a
benevolent oval over the cobalt waves that roll over my vision. It feels good
to be going home, a place where I have nothing to be other than myself. I
inhale deeply the sweet smell of nectar, blossoms tingeing the salty air with a seeded possibility. The smell is
intoxicating– a true pleasure for me. I can’t help wondering why I’m cursed with allergies as I sneeze into the silent
streets. Why is my joy always spoiled
with some opposing reality that renders it an impossibility for me?

I grab hold of the rusted
stair railing and jump up the cracked stained steps outside the apartments where I live. A few empty crushed cans of
cheap domestic beer litter the carpeted steps that rise to my apartment door. The animals below just toss their garbage
wherever they please. The stairs have
the dank odor of wet carpets. The halls are well lit, but I’m too tired to find it irritating. As I open the
apartment door, my eyes slide down a
solitary shaft of light that sparks into the inceptive hold of Melissa’s
waiting gaze.

May 042021
 
  1. the eternal muse
  2. unforgiven
  3. ode to a young girl
  4. her hyacinth eye
  5. violet sublime
  6. evening on church street
  7. patti�s prayer
  8. the wake
  9. the monumental grunt
  10. o� manifesto
  11. the holy men
  12. renaissance man
  13. charred remains
  14. evening litany
  15. alexis trailorpark
  16. rushmore at sunset
  17. speaks to the soul of man
  18. the unknown beheld
  19. in sight
  20. gone dead
  21. to recover yourself
  22. ragged senses and sundered selves
  23. ritual winter
  24. once more for alexis
  25. full of grace
  26. death of the kiss
  27. the aftermath
  28. life by fire
  29. round her mortality
  30. the dying sea
  31. farewell girl
  32. resurrection
  33. the epitaph
  34. soul to solitude
  35. the witnessed prophecy
  36. �twilight lake�
  37. the laughing tragedian
  38. the yearling
  39. the haunting summer
  40. n. y. c.
  41. the eternal
  42. innocents
  43. the deviled breast
  44. my grief lies deep
  45. angel of winter
  46. womb of deceit
  47. whispers of the eternal leaves
  48. the mortal words
  49. at the end of the path

The Mortal Words

“I am the master of the flaw. Nothing I do is very good, is very talented,
but the way I recover from it is exquisite (extraordinary, astonishing, endearing,
profoundly endearing, fairly beautiful).”


– R. Hell



... and so she stands still
like a rose among realness
imperceptible.



By Lord Dermond
[Daniel B. Dermond]




Published by:
BLAST PRESS
324B Matawan Avenue
Cliffwood, NJ 07721

gregglory@aol.com
gregglory.com











The Eternal Muse


In my soul, she lingers softly
within the tenebrous haze and
is now embodied by remoteness.

Eyes, that clutch sweet lavender
from the rain perfected skies,
passionately embrace all time
as veiled perdition dies....

Inventing her solace, my angel
consumed a heart, not her own
as I dreamed of her- adored her
so divinely and unknown.

She will shine and hypnotize
in cruelly naked radiance
for his distending gaze.


Unforgiven


Returning to the sanest of light
I do not escape trembling drowse

   and recollections-regret!
   My bloodied eye foretold,
   compelled to disturb this
   sinister grace. Remaining
   as I will in hourly veils
   awaiting the vilest soul.




Ode to a Young Girl


Entering upon this sanctity
swept in by her uncertainty
I peer inside a broken sense
to reveal my shattered self.

Tides asunder, I loved her eyes
clear as night in bloodless skies
green like all her souls eternal,
she possesses all my whys.

Lone wraith of laughter, she
sends color to my pale cheeks
as I have loved and hated thee
and scorned my own defeats.

Your sweet mouth, Intoxication-
I revel on your cold salt tears
that quench my fire, a sorceress
mad, in sun-reddened tresses

hurled to the sky! an angel has
penetrated all this divine impurity-
that tempts her by passion and fears
of dreaming, and I too, who confesses.

Sweet girl, lithe-limbed in
this heart’s own creation- she is chosen
to drown in my shrines of sacrifice, when
sometimes I hear my own blood has frozen.



Her Hyacinth Eye


Her hyacinth eye,
O’ grandiloquent nimbus.
An eye canted, ebullient
to the moonblind sea
ethereal, incessantly clenching
untilled verity.
Below enamelled sky, opulent
eyelids in a pondering
ballet
of dispersed echoes
memories enchained,
like suffused litmus pools
espousing melancholy
to impinge my soul.



Violet Sublime


From the moment of her leavened inception
upon a placid beam, eclipsing bloods
she rendered, her countenances redeemed.
She swims in strangled magenta pediments
that wend reinvented themes.

Her sapient manacles of emollient light
bend her blues! by dilation or those
vast minions of rage that will rule
and bring God to this wisdom created
among her legions of coral rue.

She poured herself to reflected unison,
complected in the insistently starred
night of lighthearted prosody that
embraced her falling soul and elusive
light, playing to her fictive schemes.

Does our icy conception sequester and
congeal my maundering spirits, imposed?
Unwrapped mists that her imaginings construe
enfold me and pinch this disconsolate eye
with a most ephemeral hue.


Evening on Church Street


Pentecostal chimes summon saffron
lights unfold rose in stone
and shed these frail inceptions,
our priested tear concedes.
A tinctured church hoists
the cloistral barb and recedes
to the impatient weather-prophet
who deludes the gradual moon.

‘Impatient souls renewing tongues
imposed angels conjure thy tune,
a braided ear inhales its ceaseless
cry amid temporal swoon.’

...and so said Miss Straw
   who strummed to us all,
   with a love for words
   and stories of the dead
   wisteria she cared for
   it troubled her so, orison
   with unbuttoned head.

She held a poem to her heart.



Patti’s Prayer


Her cool jeweled eyes met upon
a tug of lure, born of a sea
and sky that conspire all time,
foam blanking the effulgent stone
wave lapse into minuets of mime.

The ocean swells upon crystal
sands and drops its sweet jade
like blame to the sullen shells.
Rimed wine left the stale taste
of Jesus on her lips and remained
as stars lie to naive skies and
kiss veins in shy spores of light.

"Tonight it is clear
a good night to die
or ride the virulent tide-
ride desires of sea and sky
and purge my resurrection."




The Wake


It’s hard to rend ritual
that enflames my soul,
when all is lost! alas
(hope and the like)
rusted bloods of retort.

"Generations upon generations came
on humps of wood with twisted brain."

Purged heads stuffed
with gods, no centuries
to hide my pain.
Waters blanche my spirit
at both ends
like Chinese fingertraps.

Chalice in terrified hands
they sing...

"Generations upon generations came
on humps of wood with twisted brain."




The Monumental Grunt


She bathed in balded moon’s
Warm poultice, with quavering
Lip to the scarlet hissing

She bleeds essential form
In the rife sunlight, pearled
And plucked.

Melodious light, insurgent
On mended eye, exhaling pride
To unbidden suns, filial-

Eyelid in lecherous oration
Like a rend communion wafer
Limpid by the ruck.

Hesitancy of procession,
My vengeance of memories decay
And dissuade.








O’ Manifesto


for the girl of a laughter unheard 

I
O’ elusive angel. What purpure penitence
does she so eloquently bequeath unto me
in a love without bound but so unrequited?
My sanctified soul’s but a tendinous shell
coiled and pearled from within her as indigo
silks, spired in the blessed elements
that evolve among our intricate divinities.
My dried eye, slow rising in credent regale
the solemn temperance of her crescive blues,
to summon up the virginal tear, she bestows
jeweled testimony with a shard marbled fist
speaking sacral tongues in infinite bliss.

II
O’ lone one. What pondering mind will try
to disfigure her in all this radiant still?
She was found in sabellian rue, glories!
bound in ciphered light, sacramental
and forever among cerulean vagrancy,
the exalted night for her reified raillery.
Her vision enwounds like a velvet glove
and cradles the hallows of this profane skull
no centuries confined upon her to rely as
she swims within a purest of sky, entrancing
my memories that in a lingering song die-
as she, obedient to beauty’s last
passing breath, pilfers laughter in a prayer.

III
O’ girl not my own. Why denied this embrace,
with I bereft of your most vermillion grace?
Your suspended essences which dance eternally
play upon this loneliest of face, as you evolve
in sweet orchid muses, from the dusts of the sea,
the incessant intellect of the living wind’s plea.
Eyeballed moon casts its glinting wink upon
dawn’s foibles, inclined to sleep among the ilex,
ancient trees that imbrue hope on a hollow soul.
You exhale revelation that God has consumed to
anointed perfection that conspires your moods,
as I held you intently- alone and exhumed.



The Holy Men


Holy men descend
With souls too nil
In forlorn eloquence

From false distil
Our dried wines,
Are full of heart

Opaline eye shy
Lyra spied upon
A sonorous moon

My dead memory
Of delicate nymphs
Sister of thorn

Forests of green
Without deceit,
My veins darken

Venus, barbarous
In endless skies
Sister of clarity.





Renaissance Man


I 
It was in his laughter
that he had known
that all that was
was not his own.

He stared into time
with a dissipated face
that tricked the minutes
with a slow forced grace,
until he remained
above the highest sky,
aerial suns sent solace
from a heavenly sigh.

The angels descend
and the antlered oak climbs
like open bones, shaking in mime
as the tottering wren sings
in roisterous altitudes
his remembrance brings.

Let the oceans’ repeal
the sad moon’s cold tug,
the lost burning prayer
Despair, O’ Despair.


II
Sunlight stumbles to consciousness
in the rudely blued luminescence
as the sacred light coheres
among bruised and showy oaks,
that deepen in the green tears
of summer’s long cloak.

The sainted strains of coral sea
that salts the air, mockingly
in the dream’s eternal glide
the incendiary keepers
tame our uncertain tides.
Disconsolate shards of a wave
recede on the tables of blue,
with coruscate delicacy that perishes
within the lung-dead spumes.

His furtive stares are darkly said
rolling in winds like rimpled leaves
that shriek existence in wishing reds
out of all this rage, still spilling free,
over thumbing sands to a silent sea
the world’s calmed blossom had to be
his last token rose and godliest plea.


III
Escape! and let this day be shattered
that spent its hordes in trembling shreds,
out of all the desolate days that mattered
and disturbed the sleep of sleeping heads.
The innocence of your step is ghosted in time.

Each tongue of night returns
to priested ears seeking
words from the wise,
and severed recollections
from the old world of lies.

The words and the trees
are hanging in steam
of the blades of his face
finding their fruit,
alive against the sky
detached and solemn
in a grave-struck place.

Retire, and let this day be done
that left you senseless, a call of the dead
from within your will, you shall regain
the rise sublime, with all your fears shed.
The cradle of your soul is freed from all pain.



Charred Remains


Our aspiring minds
lost in flux, rolling up
the soured detail
save dying.
Hollow; rolling a stale
poem on stone ears
he persists.

How much is lost?
Echoes shelving recollection,
ringed with words, it remains
crashing to excrement-
and does not cease

untouched by roar.

Your face.
A flower opens
bride of terror
Shall your rose close
screaming with light?

Alight the striking!
in slanted freshness,
be presumed present
in careworn splendor
semi-naked.

recover, recover!



Evening Litany


Blackness shed its stare on all
Closed by the moon’s big hole
     Whose glow is idle.

The mind flowed, smothered in bloods
The children with eyes on a man
     Unseen hands kill.

The stroke of repentance seeks a
Strong heart, till soon it lies
     In the silken lair,

Whitely flourished and knowing torment.
The funeral candles’ flames ascend,
     Promising salvation

As they huddle into this stroke of grace,
The fires of Hell unveil dead memory-
     Burying indigence.

Solemn vigil sways the slow evening rout
Of crescent tongues and aging flesh,
    A fulvous multitude

Whose disembodied shudder blindly rises
In a song of remembrance, passing
     From look to look.




Alexis Trailorpark


Alexis watched the sea renew its salty bloods,
The sinless welling of the blessing waters

That taunted her to rejoice in ringing infinity.
Pinkened roses edged the weedy grasses

Weeping to the sultry blush of fertile skies.
Such beating upon her breast as the clouds

Noble crepe lined a tender lullaby, dreaming.
Melancholy winds, deep in thought on sands

Wild and solemn as a living voice, considering
The oceans that she held in her hands.

She stared into the night of aimless dignity
Punctuated with longing, bareheaded stars

Tenderly straining to atomize an answer
To awaken her sleep twisted heart.




Rushmore at Sunset


I 
Beyond the clearing of unspoken contemplation
darkness absolves lowered sun’s furious stare
tragically abrading a fluent circle of tongues.
The glow remained, an imagism of stillnesses,
spurning the obstinate measures of hired will
awakening in the all-sudden melancholy of doubt.
Golden flowers knew no bounds; jasmine dream
slept petals overturned watery world’s scheme
while sinking into the dying eye of blackness.
The suncured day grew into a few pale syllables,
blinking its retiring rose upon those living
rivers of quartz that arose unto Dante’s view.
Light uncorrupted by its concession to night,
the blush-touched mirage set desire on the rock
imploring man’s profundity in a granite sprite.

II
Eyes inviolate, unshaken in their prideful vision,
are like wired red torches at a moment’s imagining
swarming the ages to see what strain the peerless
pursuit of those absolute truths shall bring...
The rimrose earth remains in its risible dance,
the tilted pirouette with a lunatic perfection,
proudly affirming the sacred fires born of stone
that are raging unashamedly in a free man’s mind.
Vivant winds repeat their hymns, nimbly shouting
to the rocks and the lonely dusts of incessancy,
awaiting radiant grace and man’s conquering hand
that carved its soul, tracing in the dead shades.
A shining divination of Minerva bled, on cliffs
and from the curls upon heaven’s white head, to
purify all eternity that springs from her breast.



Speaks To the Soul of Man


I
Must we live among this suffering still
that calls the dull ache of sacrifice forth
by a series of doubts or by folly bring
the nodding flowers to wink at the sea?
A man’s intellect is his supreme mastery
that revels in a blink or in oceans that be;
the spirits of sweet Shelly must ring free!
And from every airy spire that a man adorns
with fiery vision and torrents of thought,
shed these inhibitions that touch our grace
and spurn no beauty within thy golden wraith.
For these are divinities of highest testament
that consume fervent choirs in tender embrace,
the solemn shades of our untendered sacrament.

II
Shy sunlight became the masonry
its variations on a single theme,
the inexhausted symphony screams
to the sculpted heart of reason.

Our dreams are as the centuries bringing
their struggle to the elements, awaiting
their final expression upon this sight,
welding the courage to face a lifetime.
I refuse to quell this mind to serve
in sacrifice upon your altar, if only
for the sake of some ghosts in heaven;
for consciousness is not born of some
dull erudition of wood nor the evil you
dread facing and terror of its proof.

The loves that we keep so divinely,
indelibly holding our sacred bound
remove the slimmest whimper of doubt.
A lone soul crying upon the mountain
tonight is blessed in these old eyes,
that have seen the tortures of the wise
and pleas of solace to the dimmest decree.

III
The lucid sunlight blinks its minutes
upon stale ground and shifting trees
that smear their reds and golds and greens
to the silence of your sighs, opposing dreams.
O’ insolent tendency! and sorrowful guilt,
the hopeless mythic endowed corpse and ghost
to know the unknowable, no soul in revelation
speaking from your freedom’s deathbed I say:

“To love a man for his virtues on high
 is noble and human, your emotions divine.
 Fight for your life and the virtue of your
 pride, the raving goddess of your purpose.”

“To you who think the mind a passive effect or
 are unwilling to wish, must recapture your soul!
 for you are but an omnipotent spiritual embryo,
 O’ ye of burgeoning faith.”


IV
Upon these burrowing lives I must leak light!
as the shallow moon pursues its own ignorance
obscuring the glory of summer’s proud song
that swells sublime within independent minds.
The exalted flowers beckon bright at lisping sea
as desire returns, magnitude of my will unreviled,
and rise, rise rises to this youthful sanctity.

so go on and remain certain in your stead with
a mind unobstructed- eye to eye in opposing fires
with utterance in the  skies of uncorrupted rose,
resolved to every solemn circumstance now dying
in the intemperate rages of wandering nights.
Fall will return to pronounce your crimes as
moody heavens pour peerless judgments upon all
this forgiveless grace, our leaning benevolence.


The Unknown Beheld


Arisen to the temptress cloudcrack
of a lonely autumn day, skittering
in alternating floods of sunlight,
undeciding flows bending graciously,
throwing out a limb for the ivies.

I sit idly in heaven’s cloudy palm,
divinity living in unsubdued grace
with fire in the eyes of the beaten,
until bodies are but a visible flame
in the voices enfolding our darkness.

Cunning night galled dead vanities,
craving forgiveless in godly respite
and bent toward a choiring foretold,
the inviolate bending of stars leak
in anonymity like colored enigmas.

Winds rub the sea’s winnowing knee
as I dived heedless tides of infancy
only to find my heart out of praise,
tumbling through our blue-salt seeds
and shivering among the roving spray.




In Sight


Does my ripened eye, glistering
In tearful moonlit hold,
Disguise its blinded hollowness?

We tread beneath a thriving sky,
A desert of roses dusting the brow
Of one more flowing skull,

To exult the torn shadow, something
Rising from our loss of conscience
Or the unmeditating of a heart.

One recalls with disinterred shame
The faint glissade the soul intends,
Stripped cold in our misting rains,

To soothe and purl the elusive char
Of presaging joys, mothering salvation
And perishing in the laudable hour.

Our semblant souls ache and yearn
As from the wrath of all human hope
We breed eternal dreams.


Gone Dead


My hands made numb, the salve
For my soul gone dead, all by itself
Dancing warm alone, alone,
Likely to die by crucifixion’s ply,
Pushing its vile on tideless stone.

More, no more the lusted lip sings
(memories fade the singular dream)
How do I soot the raw edge again?

Retiring rain drops spiritual head
All to drain of the sensual rale,
The sinking eye stares cold
Black shot, half itself, flat
Or gone dead.



To Recover Yourself


The trick of it is to cradle
The small glass tit of hope,
That no longer exists, trying
To milk a dream from nothing.

Rise if you must, inhibitions
For the drowning of a prayer
And behold a coma’s leggy soul,
Dust churning unsung umber.

Swill the rebus of coral gist!
Pinchblades all desiring a rive
In the jubilate of curing seas,
I am the womb of faineant stasis.

The divorce craved the miraculous
In the torrent of naked vocables.



Ragged Senses and Sundered Selves


Ragged senses and sundered selves
Remain faithless as I, no more alone
Than bones feeding the sodden fold,

Shining through things so often true
That shackle me where sunlight blooms,
My unknown selves hiding in the deep

Of a mansouled tomb, the black blessing.
Wind bled endlessly from shattered hills
Like living prayers of the unborn root,

And mankind’s fathering creation too;
Waves crowd closer as I move to death
And shed sullen husks of salty breath,

Crouching in the eternal flames of dawn
That grow from the dead angelus flames,
Warming the seeds of a humbling youth

As the salt pounds in my waking wrist.
Wandering upon these soulless shores
Light breaks upon her watering heart,

Pushing tides below the oil of stars
Staining a night with monstrous wits,
My spirit clouting the quaking roar.

The dreaming darkness assumes a mood
In a hush of divinity, heart of scars,
Or the haunting afternoons gone astry,

The ring of receding devotion endures.
Wedding pearls the waters of solitude,
Shedding the scuttle in the furies of clay

That forsake her dismay, unabating awes
of the sea’s disparities of nimble blue.
I lure her shadow beyond undying recall.




Ritual Winter


A ritual in the winter of the soul
Sheds light to limb; the red cloud
Assembles on the fluid grave.
An infancy of anchored pickthorns
Twined the moon-bitten rocks; bloods
Forewarned the headless night.

The winds of winter chill the bones
Of Eve; the grey crested seas
Prowl over watering wounds,
In the drowning eyes of unfed womb,
Choking dry kisses as life leaks down,
Lost within the weeping ruin.

A ritual in the winter of my soul
Speaks to the newborn rose, undying
Within its freezing skins.
The sea-born wringing of the senseless
Christens the stillborn heart,
Whispering to the intemperate dead.



Once More for Alexis


She is set ablaze
  All within.
The blankless sun

Pinned a pearl drop
Upon the hollow blue,
Radiant pinions swoon

In crystal vision
  She consumed.
The heavens round,

Angelic spheres arising
Encircling each moment,
Is no less painless.

Fluency of holy shadow
  Born to stone
Pours incessantly

In rarified repose,
Her eternal flames
Of fury abound.

She is beautiful,
  To be seen
As beautiful by me.



Full of Grace


Black airs haunt
The unnested child
Empty as a prayer

 ‘full of grace’

God! My soul’s perjured,
Mourning her glass coffin

My black eyelids
Awaiting the judgment.

 ‘full of grace’

Into the spiritual
Of the golden ball,

Graves of roses
Pinning up the moon.

Hail Mary,
 ‘full of grace.’




Death of the Kiss


When full skies hinge the fields once more
Swallowed up in their graze of nerves,
Uncocking the magic bones or fire,
A matter of fluids that sucked me dry
And fused its sight upon burial stones,
The sun unscrewed the night’s turning tide.

Though blind mother’s dawn was nearly drawn
And all those plum voices, rerobing my birth,
Assumed the witnessing hiss that cannot atone,
Nor bend nor burn the air-banged bride
That, unfired to her seedless vine
Had hung her cross by mother’s eye.

Remember me who struck the nodding shores,
The ghost who strode a sea’s snapping rim?
and did not suffer, the unentered skull
That refused to smile but could not cry,
That sipped mortal bloods from unknown rivals,
Steered cold laughter as upgiven hearts died.

Death glided by but soon spun its bud
That palmed beheaded trees in the deadweed,
Bent in the tilting sundries of infant scripture
That are flowering in the late galleries of snow;
Under known cloud strokes of the celebrated skies
Fate unwound endlessly and left me all alone,
Alone and faithless with her dying christs.



The Aftermath


I can only liken it to
Childhood...

"Now this won’t hurt
a bit."

My last Halloween
Caught in Fitkin,
Water on the brain,
Gilding stillwells.

Torn into the truth
In moon-clung silver,
Tapping the spine,

I watched the goblin
Masks of death,
I shall retire
The artist within.

"Now you’ve done it,
raised a spineless liar.
How are you the better
for it?"

My gaze falls unto heaven,
Wonderously lumbering
This mood,
Watching from without.



Life By Fire


Silence abounds the white-fire tides
Those misting swells bend the corals.
The noblest seas and bloods arising,
Unsoil the blues of the holiest light,
The centuries gave form to lost truth!
Proclaiming the moon by torch-lit ring,
Prometheus inherited god’s twelve golden
Flames, he lit the eyes of a lost angel
By oiling the condemned wing.
Undoing the reins of a higher love,
The rose goddess unbound Ypsilanti,
Her venerable soul so perfectly sings
To crackle the crown napping bramble.
Euphonies bloomed the unearthen skull
Dance O’ Soul of a primal solitude!
Balancing creation atop sky’s vanity,
She consumed mother’s eye of its sea,
The immortal waters of time.
The living testament burning within,
Recalling a tale from under the rib,
Auguries kiss the virgin spring hymn.
Alas! Atlantis beckons resplendently,
No lone bloods rust upon the damned.
I am the center, orange, peeling---
The flesh of Lazarus began revealing,
Revealing itself to the revived choir,
Wristing in the purloined fires.



Round Her Mortality


It was in the harangue of winter
When heavens bore their humble ode
To the sea’s eloquent tint and rove,
Pleasuring in the pauses of rapture.
Music abounds in the deepening glow,
The roar for love; I cannot conceal
Who I am alone, so forever alone.
The awesome shades of unseen grace
Fled the mysteries of amorous air
Like a sunbeam or the dead thoughts
That visit memory from sea to sea;
The human heart and spirit willing,
Spin like her shining starlit bead,
Or the tender hues of vital beauty
That consecrate this solemn moment.
Skies composed a thin veil of tears
Within a desolate rainbow, dreaming
Daylight in the hearts of ever more,
Bleeding life in congregating vapor
That encircles those vain endeavors.
Uncertain moments echoing eternity
In the immortal strains descending,
Become mute in our liquid sleeping,
Lined with grief and twisted heads.
Winds reply to the bluing fountains
That lorn the yearning lip once more
Or seek the mimes we pined in murmur,
As we discover the shadows of remorse
Through the intricate change of days,
A quickening of morning immersed us,
In a strike of earth’s bursting tide
Drowning her forever in sacred lights
That lamp the renewed moment of joy, 
We thirst for the spiritual dawning.
Profuse wings settle their red ghosts
Out of all these holier abandonings,
Rising out of the autumn afterbirth
With a saddened rose, her atmosphere
Had left its wound, visible as mist.
Her thin caress must live once more,
The burning kissed from eternal lips
That can never depart or sound again
Through rock or heart or trodden den,
She’s fled to a kindred heaven, fled!
Azure lids and delicacies of breath
Were cold among our purgatorial fall,
Aching for the soul’s aqueous knells
That chimed sweetly when beauty died.
Weeping clouds grab the sanded wave
Bidding the taste of salt-sadnesses,
Strenuous tongues cold rising rung
The haunting excrescences of revelry
Disconsolate angel’s upward firing,
Whispering unto heaven’s emblazoning.
The moon soothed the blissful tune
A sound of pureness, forever free,
Like a saint worming the icy dream,
Embracing the witless with melodies.
Ethereal hands deceived the vermeil,
The longing of her ocean’s strains
That risk the bride’s shrinking scream,
Beset with her darklings of miracles
Gathered into the crescent of tears
To touch the ripples of melancholy.
Cruel as it may be, a reaping decay!
But chooses no other god to roam for
In the tremulous presence of truth
That recalled what fell rings,
The hearts of flowers, half opening.
Flint-like, stars dimming asunder,
Bowing to the children, washed away
In the raven dwellings of innocence
Where night returns, no tempest spent,
Or on the bloody stones of remembering,
The virgin who killed lost sentiments
With the careless rage so momentarily
Held as to pretend godhead confessions,
Wielded in the deep deadened turmoil.
The twisted tree is hewn from greys
Like a hidden river of orisoned air
Laughing in rapt inflections of veins
Pulsating under the moonbound lair;
Its jubilant hands extending beyond
The thresh of untempered horizons,
Dipping into the sea’s despairing,
The poinsettial blowing of her love
Washes into this immaculate sleep.



The Dying Sea


The barbarous tasseling of dawn
Chills the sun’s feckless effluence
With careless hands that duly scribe
Its stuffless expiation and imbibes
The choiring paradigms of ‘dulia.’

Tumult, the moon lit idioms rose
In bedlamite strings of bullion,
The inviolate sacristan has borne
Earth’s paradise, whispering unto
The Cherubims, forsaking the eye.

Scriptures encarved the permanent
Tears of silence tumbling blindly
In the swilling waters of the heart,
Lost lights burning the skinning
Tides, slitting the tuneful throat.

Dispersed innocence hailed summer’s
Sprig, spurned from within a longing
Unlamented urn of esurient heraldry,
Dazzling immortality in leafy whispers,
The spirit rekindles its wakeful rose.

Purgatorial orations ride upon golden
Tongues in the lordly dwells of elegance,
Violent souls dream of death’s kingdom
In a shapeless void, to lift the gates
Of the unknown sea.

=

Searching in the narrow veins of thought
That hover ‘round the transient mould,
Awake! elemental as the windless bloods
Stealing upon a sky, raising the fires,
Inspiring blush on the brimming head.

A moment’s ornament, worlds not realized
In the darkness of our choking graves,
Relinquished man’s unspent mortality
From the indemnifying hollows of the
Dying flame, exhaling a tender spirit.

The incantations of the unwatched dreams
Immerse themselves in red-crescent spheres,
The unerring wilderness of an untamed heart.
The verdurous souls pour, and the haunting
Eye sheds no violet, I can no longer see.

I can no longer hear those begone woes
Or the gallows sense of ineluctable time,
Embalming some viewless plot or glide
That beams divinely in the mocking eye,
With shining wiles, unwilling to sleep.

Can I ascend from this blackened gyre
To ride upon the flames or flower?
Let no agonies curl from my breast
Or break to save an untold prophecy,
Chilling the lifted sea.



Farewell Girl


Her mutinous glance
Comes to vision,
Eyes that mollify

Endlessly, the night’s
Stony endurance, misting
The pliant blues,
Christening the ocher.

Her raveled lavender
Will walk forever,
Acquiring the gods!
Of vermillion whorl.

Sun, the yellow
Spur smoldering
Ceremoniously
In uneven seasons,

Dissipates the wry
Horizon,
Seas insinuate.

Lost girl, elusively
Leaves in light
Circles of air,

Disappearing on
A wave’s gentle
Turning.



Resurrection


The blind winds have striven
In their clarion verse,
Floating in the filigree
Of unseen awakenings
Like the wintry leaf
Breathing in empty airs,
Uplifting lone heads.
Clouds, like tiny fists,
cleave to starlit harmonies
In life’s thorny hour,
To weave a dream, thought
Or unconstrained memory.
The heart’s faint echoes
Writhe in the flux,
Rendering immortal strains
From intimate treading
Of our bloodiest waters
That salt the torrents
Of a skull’s purest breath.
The fiery tear ministers
No pain, enduring purblind
Crimsons; angel of melancholia
Rousing the unbound ages,
The living stream of evermore.



The Epitaph


The poised white faces
Murmur in piteous mouth,
The brows of azure
Climb the Almighty
Into the raftered airs.

Standing in repose
Of God’s golden fire,
Never shall it happen,
This young man’s repair?
Consumed in tall thought,

I weep in suns of comfort,
Worshipping a sinned image
Filling my head,
Unchilding the blaspheme,
Naked on undinal seas.



Soul to Solitude


The lost mourning of my
Unsoiled eyes,
Divining the unwrinkled sun
Of darkening bone, break
Upon the violet sea’s shake,
Blessing the threadbare spirit.
The blue-winged trees
Are ridden to sleep,
Rain-rung and always rising.

Her4 death was composed
In the gardens of progeny
With marble hands,
I sought the obsequies
Of a more solemn rose,
A beauty reborn
Of our heavenly root,
The blossoming elegies
‘O’ innocence of youth.’



The Witnessed Prophecy


All gentle innocence converged
upon this one sight.

The spellbound sea enshrouded
her reverent perceptions, inspired
to awe and held in stillness
with blackened eyes, eternal.

A heart consumed of holy fire
for all whose soul had met,
in naked revelation, upon her
does this autumn sky beget?

Fingers of the sea, tenderly
assumed the contours of her sole,
imprints upon departing sands
the shapes of dreams too visible.

Her time wounde3d eyes emote
their scorn, and hold fury as
she’s descending, blinded by a
moon halo, so goldenly remote.

Eyes, and the complexities therein
collect the momentary hues within her
tender rainbow and are cleansed in
the waters of a purified heaven.

Rapturous skin, as a shell
made smooth, whitened in the
ageless hands of the sea, she
sings among the moonlit tears.

She, from all her hallowed anguish,
reveals this living apparition!



‘Twilight Lake’


The air grows to sugar.
The anemic trees

Are drained, mouthing
Beneath the sky’s
    cracked lip

Toneless and austere,
    inheriting
Heaven’s unstrung yellow,

Dusk impounded cruel
Fluencies of sight,

Needling the eye,
Blind to abrading red
    tumuli

Pinching the black stone,
The rose-cut bluster.

Pondering the silence,
Wind rived the grey
    waste

Of the bay
Insolent head, unaware.



The Laughing Tragedian

‘fOR tHE cOLTS nECK pOET’

Your fatal assertions are astutely made.

A voracious flower grips the black essences
Of a rich recital, blessing the breath of life
As the ranting imperative of a tearful infancy

Unfolds us blindly in the thundering tirade.
Forgathered tongues shed devilforked lights,
Bleeding infinite blues from reds spines of fire,

Carving their eloquence from a cold vacant mouth
In the soulful compliance of your conscience construed.
Elegance purged the unimaginative scribbling,

Etching the awes of a Greek intention,
Sculpted in ligaments from eternity’s limb
That climbs to find your symphony unfinished.

The philosopher, tucked in the holiest whisper
Above the warm bloods of uplifting profusion,
Asks questions of all this substanceless grace,

The unclouded spirits of your ritual perceiving.




The Yearling


Tainted dreams leave me
Bloodied and red-blessed,
Displacing pitiless tears.

Bodiless wisdom loosed
The tongueless myths 
And elixive wicks,
  imageless.

Too much is lost,
  unrecoverable
And brutally endless,

I walk beneath
Paring earthskins
Commanding god-tang,
exiled white hands.

The night desecrates
A sky of indolent
  flint

Clouding my veins
Of gritted indifference,
Capes of light
Lick the bitters.



The Haunting Summer


Water illumes in the dwindling skies
Skittering like sorrow, from eye to eye.

In the solar suavity of evening’s stare,
Fading and falling to ash, unreal,

It is lorn night with a forgone light,
Crimped with espousals of poignant white.

And so the dealiest of our imaginings
Is fiercely real, but like a flash of rain,

the tearful elocution of a profound soul,
So thinly torn, idly shaking sticks

To brood pursuance and weather a feeling,
The thrown stone drips, imposing cold tears.

Those silvery hopes, restoring old magnificence
Place their frail sequel upon the everlasting head.



N. Y. C.


The sapphire dreams shall daunt this moment
flowing in lone spokes of ambivalent light,
breathing their life into our minds of fire
with the sapient veins still severed by sight.

Threads of desire will haunt the bone-bent
skull pinching the shoals of holiest torrent.

We must try learning to launder the impure
hearts of our memory and the endless elusion
of the new night’s warm broach, pinning its
romanticism on the dried heads of autumn.

Catching my burnt tears in a vertiginous lilt
of bluebell emulsions on a smooth-throated sky,
with dead expectations and a veil of grey smoke
that choke my praises in the black wedge of nigh.



The eternal


Trees line the shapeless marrow
like dead Braille as our perilous divers
hardened in the arterial waters
of the hourless grail.

Images roar from the desolate claw
mystifying all this ageless jibe,
the keeper of our virgin tide
that drums on stone.

Free all your water-gods!
erect among the unrelenting rose,
the blood stringed hills lie
where she will grow.

Wasted plenty in brotherless dust,
a blackened rind or citric bide
that boxed my love, gristled
in her velvety bale.




Innocents


White dressed and wholly mortal,
Death set upon my glass heroine
By chipping at my soul,
So bare when she died.
The grave like the seas
Drown our ills,
Bloods bending a tide
Of lunar silences,
Tangled in distemper.
Praising blind origin,
The unbidden ascension
Endured so, to mourn
Forever our following
And her christening down.



The Deviled Breast


The deviled breast
And shawls of night
Shale the dry
Hatchlings of fire,
Housing the shroud
And feeding the spry
Tide-swung ghost.

The toe-snubbing sea
Grooms the solid eye,
Loved to a dullness,
And absolves no rain
By our watering sight
In waves that forked
The moonbled cries.



My Grief Lies Deep


My grief lies deep
In unanswering skies,
Those lime innocences
That dark veins unwind.
Delusive nights of autumn
Sung, raping the senses
As vagaries chilled
The flame that raves
Infernal sinfulness,
Wed to heaven’s dead.
Strangers stir under lids
Of slowly spoken light
In the lull of the hour,
rapt on torrid thrones,
Hindering the silences
That spiral to oblivion.



Angel of Winter


Darkness stamped its womb-eyed heel
On the invisible winds poising lordly moons;
Mortal ribs grew as my famine flew
From gracelessness unto a rendered death
That fades from around her holy face.

A repetition of the soul in continual airs,
Torn over rags as your wily sins shed
Bloods of white, so scrawled in tune,
Shooting up the frozen angel’s wintry spoon,
Torn contraries of the always blue flame.

Dry eyes lash a sweetly tear-stained cheek
As the sky raised its virtue unto heaven’s head,
Undoing leafy veils to kiss her mortal wells
As perfection heaves and nobility escapes
Our thinning sleep; your forever is dead.



Womb of Deceit


My past hangs over me
like a time worn cliff,
beaten and made hollow
by winds’ cruel fist.

More like the cave
hiding secretly below
the baleful old tor,
once holding shelter
for the mystic Indian
Who dared not venture.

His sepulcher of days
removed his soul, the
wounded medicine man
who razed his senses.



Whispers of the Eternal Leaves


We walked together down a path of green,
the cumulus leaves turned their veins up
unto a sauntering sky with its cloud like
fat white spiders who spin their silken soul.
The path seemed to float among sunlight
as we came upon the shining river of time
flinging its silver minutes into our hearts,
awaking to flee the silence of our rhyme.

Surrounded by autumn’s burning of dreams, we
consigned to always be as one. A love rejoiced
in by the voice of the leaves that sings and
soars in a violet reprieve. A thunder-struck
rock floods the rivers long breath, drowning
the aimless passage of the mystery fields,
to the sea as it sleeps in infinity; free
to fling salts among the wind dumb trees.

Alas! we would never be alone again, no sad
bloods against the head of tomorrow, light
had leaked its prayer upon a burning thistle
and opened pour hearts on this finger-locked eve.
Unconscious skies elude the clearest eye, truths
uprising within their tide, as prose, all night
blowing pink and white among the flambeaus reeds,
a glistening face glows in the torch-lit breeze.

Every delicate leaf I mourned promised its
miracle to me--and to us, as we awaited the
heart-shaped rain of spring. Life’s offering
exhibits no irony on the untrodden path as sly
dryads seek their fortune within the tacit rose.
But she is the mistress of these virgin lands,
an endless uniting of here and eternal, of
all those mystic choirs that sway in her grace.

I speak to you at the end of the path as
we stare into the sea’s pensive wave and
emulous remittances of a multitudinous sky.
Mourning echoes call up forever’s faint ear
in the boundless fertility of my unused heart,
as light falls out from the tremulous rocks.
We look ahead to the remainder of nature as
age and ages return their certain intervals
with irresistible horizons that linger above
the mingling of seas; we exist in reminiscence.





The Mortal Words


Everything I seem to touch dies as desolation
Unwinds among these mind entering elements.
Do my suffering baptisms propel a new moon
Of upending blues that grows to lax stature,
Performing the sleepless rotations that feign
My slavishly glued tombs of pursuant hauteur.
The falter child found joy among sunflowers,
Pollinated with racemed vision, of one grace
That had the recurrence of an unbidden cortege.
The one bluest day of my childhood, ogling the
Prosperous orange, I climbed cliffs and rolled
In nobility as the crimsoned sphere paused above
Spring fields, the sincere majesties of the air
That inhales life from within a celestial chest.

You no longer look at me like your son, a child
Writhing in the candled filaments of your hooded
Glances that squint at blacker souls in undone
Calumnies, the mortal words pronounced so well.
The old day drops its breathless yellows to the
Colossal pine pennants of recovery that quilt the
Dead earth warmly within a lost watching hour.
Infinite seas refuse to decay, my heart flubs—
The greys and greens of sharpened persistence,
All at once, my purgatorial loss of solitude,
Gilded in whiteness that still retains my dreams.
Regain the burning soul! out of shapeless ash,
The eternal voice can never diminish or hush.

Speaking of the wind a prosperous spring curses,
Violence creates drama with my restricted eye
As I dwindle and die in one lonely lost whimper.
Within the rushed and dusty days, found amiss
In the mind’s collect, we forgive secret lies of
Collusive time, a lurking cry in veils of smoke.
We watch the melancholy hours repeal these days,
Concealing themselves in life’s deeper strains,
As if by receding spirits that tomorrow retains
Or by spilling of guilt retaining yesterdays,
Watery hands close grip around my senses and in
Sun-like fortune that is exultant in our darkest
Heart, we shall find the strength of unborrowed
Will that slowly repurchases a shiny new soul.

I continue pursuing the vireo’s theme, closing
Within the intimacies of an aimless air dancing.
the soul continued in soundless motion, striding
Toward torment to find its palmary regale that
Uprose before me in the greeting circle of hail.
The clouds conspire to close upon me, altering
Untillable silting on the bleakest of sands that
I sink into with a bewildered knee, o’ terminus.
Wandering in sleepless nights of retrospection,
The pinging light buffets my past parturitions
As I watch the roiling waters oscillate wildly.
I, the extoller of the exhibited principle, orb
Swallower of the eternal march, repeat peerless
Chants that ring, deathless throughout the ages.

Exploring the inward, O’ celabrateur of bygones,
Purporting the heroism of conquerors and kings!
Who rant to the masses with a spiritual flame,
The vivifying cry they carry lovingly with them.
Bludgeoned by the motherly hands of unpent hope,
Flaunting the spar with the living Achilles, for
The sake of each perfect childhood kiss, I’m held.
Will you seek the plexus of rolling words or find
The limbus where pulpits descend, touching a psalm
As you touch a friend, giving its body back again?
The aria of the ecstatic atmospheres, I sing here
Uselessly with leaves rustling at my feet, or at
The liquid rim of life, with the sea pushing white
Upon the shivery land below the pyro-blue crescent.

Will you never understand me, and these languishing 
Rhymes, although they are so hard to follow or admit,
The spirit that I see lightly rising, can no one see?
Moving in the breath of rousing unrest, I ceaselessly
Envision the corpse of me and the burial of my words.
Murmurs and echoes still summon me with their charm
Invoking a sadness inherent in the tympan of waves,
The sources of my perpetual rains, so faint-so far.
I shall create like a ‘Vesuvius Man’, summoning an
Angel to this hallowed land, the proving grounds of
My glass soul that glitters with a radiance unknown.
The sun sets, and the sea’s waves lapse into silty
Tides, ebbing and quelling the universal time as I
Return like slim Silvanus to the silk-cotton trees.


At the End of the Path


Grant me a wisp of sunlight
From the silent undulations
	of blue,

Playing in momentary splendor
Upon the softness of your face

As you leave and are leaving.

	‘There is no divinity
	only a hollow longing.’

The gentleness of our caress
Warms my stubborn beatitudes

As I inhale your tender spirit
	with a crushed lung;

I use every breath of my being.

So now you leave me, your warm
Rings encircling my empty soul
	unseen, unheard.



Dec 272020
 

Riverside reflections on writing “Rehearsing Repetitions on the Rappahannock”

The Rappahannock River’s switchbacks cross a flattening Chesapeake basin to the sea. On the old map in front of me, the unfolding river moves with a flourish of quill-quickened calligraphy—a declaration of blackness fattening toward a monumental invisibility beyond Virginia’s rich shores….

The multifarious fantasies of river-watching reach out to jaded consciousness, fingering perhaps the sad man’s brain-sac after experiencing the the riprap ravages of tragedy….

There’s comfort and confrontation in the repetitions of ripples. Like the sighs and rhymes and glottal agonies of actors repeating their run-on lines, the ripples kiss and disperse—both welcomed and dismissed by inviting consciousness….

The waves rise and ride the rude fire of sun’s tumbling over the hill, creating green brims of their own in liquid display. Hills and waves are much alike, and the tired mind finds itself in finding out the degrees of their similitude….

Yes, there’s a lot more of lucent than lunacy in “the patient good of going nowhere” as even the most ingenious ages attest. Indeed, this sitting in the coracle of consciousness and watching the objective world and subjective mind interpenetrate is what makes us humans such superb interpreters! But interpreters of what and to what, well….

This poem is about the satisfactions of being a knot in that web. About remaining supple while the evidential pulse of existence passes through the tree of ganglia above your neck. About knowing without knowing for sure….

On the rap,
Again,

Gregg Glory
2020

Sep 212020
 

 

Novella about a WWII vet who returns to civilian life as a deep-sea diver and confronts his war-past through a series of hallucinogenic undersea visions.

Gregg Glory

[Gregg G. Brown]

Published by BLAST PRESS

 

ORDER OF CHAPTERS

  1. dr. kilmer’s ocean-weed heart remedy
  2. lost in space
  3. an ice cream cone of sulfur
  4. u2s moved on the condensed sweat
  5. a fish suspends itself
  6. militant in pinnacled rows
  7. the four sacred roses of the jellyfish
  8. the mating pipefish pair are suspended
  9. a tinted fish backs into
  10. without wires the wrasse tilts
  11. the cartoon hermitcrab’s claws
  12. the stinging cell
  13. damselfish retire among clumsy spines
  14. a starfish protests on a clamshell
  15. someone has drawn the venetian blinds
  16. the sea sunfish takes its colossal
  17. the pulseless pod
  18. the formal sky blue tiles
  19. the chainsaw falls through a redwood
  20. the high tide moon blocks
  21. the comber telescopes down
  22. the blank “pebbles” the glaciers
  23. the whole gale starts at 56 knots
  24. the house exploded in broad daylight
  25. a ceramic statue of clark gable
  26. the triassic period painted dolphins
  27. neat as soldiers in their union blue
  28. “sea dragons and flying freaks.”
  29. what is the face in this trio
  30. in the petrified shallows of kansas
  31. the squat sea bug emanates its death
  32. from the dismembered hood
  33. the suave sex of an otter
  34. it is a deaf cleft
  35. cradling a camera
  36. prodding the cariaco trench with a humongous
  37. the straight knitting needle of the piston-corer
  38. a waterfall sugars down the cliffside
  39. neon dna spirals
  40. the flounder flattens out
  41. a plate of squiggles, extravagant as pasta
  42. in meditative aspect, the inverted rockweed
  43. el niño does not threaten its hot arrival
  44. red algae in a tidal pool
  45. one-island volcanoes, bone ribbed
  46. sea palms cling to the rock
  47. verbena break the stiff riff
  48. this is the submerged cunt of asia
  49. the dye tank at woods hole
  50. the 14-toothed triggerfish dismantles
  51. evolution knows no death is sin
  52. circuitous route
  53. the tabernacle prism skin undulates
  54. plankton grows in the sea
  55. the one-celled diatom
  56. an arrow painted on highlighted plywood
  57. the mid-atlantic ridge and rift, echoing africa
  58. the gulf stream falls on snow-blue paper
  59. chocolate-striped like a dapper cookie
  60. mussels crust the rocks
  61. inverted antlers of the mangrove roots
  62. the angola abyssal plain is burnt
  63. manta ray. devilfish.
  64. the crimped sail of the emergency
  65. a lighthouse at midnight steams
  66. it is a matter of energy
  67. the iris accumulation
  68. nightshade and venus forced to bloat
  69. the angry whips exist in gems
  70. the deep-sea eel lies folded like a carpet
  71. it comes from the demanded drama
  72. the striped spikes radiate
  73. therefore:
  74. straight from the inked and crisscrossed terrors
  75. the goat-eyed squids in the pebbled foreground
  76. pol pot’s potato head expands
  77. in an era dominated by dinosaurs, the quick lizard
  78. a subtle pteraspis sucks my will
  79. a dime shines brightly in a dark bar
  80. my life’s a wreck. the vital squeal of will
  81. tremendous music billows from the plush
  82. coda

 

 

 

Lost in space

, my stale head clunking in a tin globe, I view a grey paste through temporal cracks and volcano holes. I can make nothing of my present situation except that I am trapped in static; bounced by automatic satellite between two steel grids, I turn my hamburger-raw back under rough canvas in search of a flame, some ignited center of attention in this dimensionless mist. I can’t breathe, a broken lightbulb fizzing on my flesh in the dark.

I am embedded in the sulfur solar plexus of the sea. The poison spits its grey plume, obliterating nothing in darkness. A sunken vent spews swift heat in a pure blood loss. Comfortable as occupied couches, flesh familiar, warm as afternoon vinyl, the submerged currents of these vents—settled at the bottom of the sea, the impossibly cold deep—spear about their thin exit crack in radiant rivers, a thermal Japanese flag.

Weightless in abeyance, I take this limbo-time out to count up my spiritual gaps, close over unmarried miscarriages with an institutional brand of scar tissue. I stare into the grey paste, a blank static fizz onto which the film in my head flaps spastic, sticks and skips, as burnholes and memories appear and disappear in queer procession:

The cut-out construction paper face of my first slim girl, sweet Christy, rises from the red pulp background of her dad’s borrowed car. Her crystal face hovers in photographed abstraction over our awkward manipulations on the squeaky backseat; the next time I saw her wealthy daddy’s face, it bore the worried maze look of a bisected head of lettuce…. A tense FDR, still smiling in his fourth, fatal term, floats behind his tin-lizzy glass-rims above my remembered draft card…. Every newspaper burned with new tales of the war’s apocalypse, bursting the pictureframe like a volcano….

These images disassemble in a brown boil. Nothing builds toward significance in the heated sea. My head sweats. I feel as if my liquid body were terminating in steam. No war welts my agile hands to fists. Nothing is delicate to me but Christy’s nipples, her left breast the size of a grenade I have brought here to bury.

 

*****

An ice cream cone of sulfur

kills the fish. Rock erupts upwards. An infant island takes cubist form in the Hiroshima mist; a cloudy crown envelopes the cut stone semblance of new land. This is a birth. It carries the elemental authority of dreams. It is the flayed-up and cock-craved skirts of mother earth, balling through space, turning on her blue fauvist side like a lazy hippo.

Clumsy in canvas gloves, I give my tinsel instruments a quick feel. Poverty hands under sackcloth. A glowing dial, perched above my thumb and index finger like a windshield, says in accurate millimeters that this volcanic pimple won’t wake a new Hawaii; it will simply pile invisible cinders in a submerged underworld made devoid by liquid fire of all vegetation. Perhaps the warted frame of a chemical company exhausts its livid fumes through the cracked rock nipple. Surely, nothing in nature has developed a mouth for this….

Through my faceplate, like an invisible dinner dish, I am confronted with a corrupted image of myself, my society. According to recent evidence, a hive of life will be pulled here like a collapsed puppet returning to the puppeter’s high hand. An albino hive that won’t extend twenty feet beyond the rim of heat this sulfur source emits will arrange itself around this live vomitus. Like the floursack faces of 19th century city workers, receding in paleness beyond a discernment of features in a bleached summer sky of converging August, a hive of uneating worms, drained of their red earth color and inflated to tractor innertube dimensions will crawl among mouthless crabs with welded jaws sulking in their seamless exoskeletons. Every stone garden monstrosity will be brought to able life, electric Frankenstein mobility, minus the vital punctuation of weeds around this cracked sulpher vent—an emission leaking from what Hell? They will gather their oblique underlit countenances around the flaming ashcan in front of me. They will bring a sculptured darkness to the poisonous atmosphere, moving oddly sideways in habitual blindness, blocking or isolating themselves randomly in this usherless movie house.

 

*****

U2s moved on the condensed sweat

of the Mediterranean past charbydis with motors out. Civilized tears escape from Lebanon, shake wet from the shouting Greeks, shoot from the opera of Italy, slap off the clean beaches of an annoyed France, tumble from the dark oil film of Spain, scream from the internecine nightmare of Africa. History is bathed in such weeping, and yet it is never drowned. The heavy current slides out over the pedestal of Gibraltar. The light Atlantic Ocean dazzles in. The level of this sea is constant.

On my first trip to Europe, I killed a Gothic town. I was burning in the 121st regiment. It feels like it was just the other summer. Black in my wax-sheen wetsuit, I blew up an Italian munitions factory with waterproofed dynamite. I hid behind the tread of a German tank some plaster church had swallowed. Holy glass lit up with the explosions. Job smiled beneath his multi-colored boils, and the sinister sulk of the tank’s sway-back body inherited his outlines: bright, abstract as flowers. And then, my watery commute complete, my deadly itinerant business enacted, I returned to the buoyant teardrop of the Mediterranean quietly as a cyclist.

With my light head half under water, the dark sea seemed to encircle the incinerated star of the town.

 

*****

A fish suspends itself

in whiteness. It untangles its blue form in air. It is dying for air in the distorted ocean of its origins. Its body is the worn hammer-weight of an overused sinker smelted from horseshoes. Its days pace out the ocular round of its sky-affixed eye. This is the religious fish that will clamber through evolution and onto Jesus’ tunic. The stiff back of the Thelodus is ready to work. Its inflexible lobster-skin will spring into hands that preach or divide bread like a factory blade, incomparable in its impartiality. One can see in the dull lumps of the fins, blurred as a breast restoration, the infant hands that unearth a Lazarus among us.

I think that’s what I see among the razorback rhythms of the fan coral, the empty blue tankards of anemones. A red timberline in ghostly horizon flames marks the faded boundary of my imagination, the worn slur of distance and underwater weather that lets golden instances flare in the generalized haze. These are the metal insecurities of the light that I can own, that can float in a distant flatness I can project images upon, like the corners of Christopher Columbus’ blanked-out sea map. I see the once-thought extinct and hide-bound fish glide in the water before me. The Thelodus has never died out at all, it seems. What was needed, what bled to life, is still needed, still bleeds. Nothing finally dies; no one is killed; no one is a killer.

It opens the asshole oval of its sucker mouth like a VP of sales. It could have survived the atomic war, the whittle of evolution, time’s shuttle and all that, in its executive shelter. Its monotone suit alone proclaims its elevated station, one runty fin above its fellows. It flashes into the exotic underbrush, a grey shadow among shadowy greys. Complicated as a paisley, the ragged edges of this reef defy the engineered stencil of a visible boundary. My Thelodus still lives, and I still live to see him here: an exiled emperor poking out of his concrete hut, striped by far-away fingers of light—dodging the mistaken assumption of his extinction, rare as any saint, breathing pure Perrier in his hidden castle.

 

*****

Militant in pinnacled rows

, a single live spike detaches itself from wave after wave of flesh-grass and seaweed. A small whip of licorice wraps the vertical snout of the spike, which could be the stump arm of a Nagasaki victim. The whip (a whiplet, actually) attaches like a supple twig to the long cut of the pipefish mother’s mouth. It is one of the broken wire attachments that used to manipulate the sewer-lid keys of a tossed out clarinet. The thin thread of the baby feeds, suckling at its mother’s slit jaw; it could be the strict wire of an accident victim, a dietary aid of last resort, the wasp end of a cartoon bubble left blank for speech. They are perfectly alike, this madonna and child, perfect as seahorses in their filigreed presences, the bass and high notes together, the swift attunement of their flagellating dance, as if born attached, the grotesque body of communal amoeba fluctuating in the invisible heaven of their mutual desire like a golden steam organ.

Simmering four feet in front of my hothouse eyes, is this bright pair a lacramae memory from childhood or a shimmed-up sham and puppety vision of the afterlife?

 

*****

The four sacred roses of the jellyfish

trap a baby pipefish under its transparent proscenium. The roses close over a head as fine as a horse’s, made in miniature as if inscribed in the face of a wristwatch or carved on the triangle side of a class ring.

The pipefish’s tail extends beyond the plastic-wrapped death engulfing its head. The tip of the tail contains baroque serrations of Renaissance metalwork and is the exact shape of a scallop whose mouth has been glued shut. As the pinhead eye of the pipefish begins to dissolve in the overhead garden-guts of the perfectly round, serene as Krishna, jellyfish, the shivering tail continues to exhibit its supreme artwork, the unenclosed fan of its tip beating and beating.

I feel like that, clamped in my Greek bronze helmet, shaking a furious whip of attached tin cans, my implements, my instruments. They create a cheap echo of fate in the full-of-sounds water, a cramped rattle of mockery, the stolen and paperclipped-on style of some Augustan age that was incapable of original tragedy. Flirting visions hold my head in a vice, creaking like Uncle Fester, popping towards health, the last release of an unwanted freedom to remember, and death’s gelid industry. The clear panes of the jellyfish flinch. Reverse sweet pangs of birth.

I take a hard breath.

As if graduating out of a salt sea meditation capsule, (locked against light or the undue radiation of others’ actions, the plashing appearances of their variable mood ring existences—hueing towards a dwarf blue) I feel the shrinking pressure of wetcap death crowning my clenched cranium in its soulful honorarium of persistent consciousness—the held flame of my name flickering defiantly behind the nervous protection of a claw. Closed in the translucent condom of this perception, I watch the tied-shut iridescences of the nascent pipefish’s gills stop their fluctuating struggle upwards. Dull beneath the milky substance of the jellyfish there is a miniature, expressionless face.

 

*****

The mating pipefish pair are suspended

in a tinsel cross, opposed clockhands or the gold hilt of a knight’s sword held in aquarium illumination.

Unconscious weeds drift in dullard imitation of them, aching for the delight of life, watching their medieval Adam and Eve pronounce like Chaucer on the flat cart serving as a stage that contains hell, heaven, and earth with its brakes locked. The pipefish themselves are barely able to be distinguished from the drifting mass of the weeds, except when in this position, or paying their taxes, or when at last they die, abandoning the spear forest of their slow friends, silently floating on a full air bladder towards the sky.

Later, I see their embarrassed bodies curling over themselves in contemplation, dull among dull tall weeds, every live egg of the female deposited in the male’s pouch, whose musical skin, rubbing through the water like a sandpaper accompaniment to the marimba, is reminded of past lust by his fat abdominal sack, which now bulges with the uninstructed young. Ten thousand Cains and Abels.

My heterosexual middle will never thicken like Tiresias with fatherhood, ready to burst with abandonment.

 

*****

A tinted fish backs into

a yellowy puff mushroom. Actually, it is an anemone, with Buckminster Fuller’s forehead and all the self-centered attentiveness of a yogi. Mom used to say the poison dust from a puff mushroom big enough could kill a careless dog if it wasn’t raining. A fish is dying in the anemone’s drowned arms that slowly digest its center into nothingness.

Noticing nothing, the lion-yellow interior of the anemone begins to act like a furnace with the plutonium control rod just shoved in. All the movements of its tentacles are now placid. It is as if all of a life’s intricate manipulations had been shuttered like a camera that operates by the pull of a single string. The anemone settles down to its digestion. Slavered slivers of the fish fray in its inflated lemon belly. That the now casually fisted anemone did not bend back for a nearby beer surprised me, it was so numb and plump in all of its diminished motions—its glossy squalor and pear-plush nether half, lust saffron, static as an inverted top.

My flounced-by-tides form floats before its sun colors. Something clicks in my ticker, an emotional diminuendo reverses and expands, but what is it? Angled towards its pure helium burn of beginning, of destruction, I see its squat shape as a hepatitis icon of the combined-in-oil and set alight desires of my life; my military insistence of goal and instant zen rejection of same. The anemone has the minor glow of a soon to be devastated hill, blown bald by dynamite, hunching behind me in sunset robes, the only accomplishment I could accept and deny. This was my twisted paradox of worthless achievement realized.
My bounced and dissolved baseball.

Squeezing towards the retinal echo of its fierce yellow, my glasshouse eyes return to the citron hut back at basic, the raucous grenade target we were supposed to explode. I am there and here at the same time, with only a wobbly wash of a film-dissolve between the scenes of then and now….

Pinching off the exposed, unpainted fishhead for a safety pin, I toss the open pineapple of the anemone, uselessly stinging my Catfish Hunter hand, and lob it into the lush face of some swaying coral, blotched as my broken-mirror reflection.

 

*****

Without wires the wrasse tilts

in blare-red connected by alternate electric-blue and carnally virgin-white square stripes that target its squad of buck tusks that emanate from the rectangle of its mouth like candy corn. The ejected side fins are perfect oriental fans blasted to a clean sun-yellow active as Van Gogh’s yellow—a rocket ejection of energy necessary to paddlewheel it towards its prey.

Flying at my facemask with underwater velocity, the wrasse’s eyes begin to clear to a bullet-black that must be absorbing the flattened and torqued image of itself from the silver blip of my diver’s mask. If its clumped cornea, increasing at an angry speed, were the uninhibited diameter of the Astrodome, its small bulb of perceiving midnight would be the destructive size of an MX missile.

The wroth wrasse veers, an expanse of striped circus tent canvas disappearing quick as a staff car’s flag, past my peering mirror oval, shy as an obese lady. As I turn, an abrupt minute-hand clicking my weighted feet over, I see the disturbed flutter that follows its shivering tail. It bit water.

The far waters began to unfocus into a generalized glow, the depleted spray of a hydroelectric plant’s deenergized water, a misty limpidity almost, a distorted effect of dust such as August lifts in the heat of the open road. This shimmering hinges on the wroth wrasse’s tail, leaching its colours, paling it out from a Muslim paradise to a puritan heaven, making me ache to be instantly against it, a sealed condensation unable to penetrate its slick unchosen glass. I flower open my folding-chair soul, rivering ribbons of veins perhaps, from the agitated central fan of my ice heart. I long for a boundaryless existence, pure liquid in that liquid, mercury among the motes and flashes of the sea, delineating nothing, characterless, permanently crippled into the blank inability to caress a trigger, or ring a blush nipple with the same finger, unable to decide and divide at all.

 

*****

The cartoon hermitcrab’s claws

hook like a surgical clamp. Already it has removed its tumorous questionmark body into a larger shell stiff as a plaster cast. Picking its way through sand for rocks and food, it has found an injured companion that now crests its shell, an incandescent anemone that outgrew a perch, or whose crispy coral, slick with a surface of new cells, was broken in awkward halves by the local trade in human feet. The two-inch hermitcrab grinds through the fabulous coral canyons on his paws like a camper in search of a campsite with his burning backpack.

I follow the path of his armoured tongs on my paws. I have surmised that he has the practical man’s knack for finding an operational Shangri La, open to paying visitors in a tourist season. The hermitcrab hunches past the intestinal flower of a sea cucumber with a steady awkwardness. A paramour of pastiche, he heads for a mismatched clump of coral that suggests the richness of the Great Barrier Reef in its grocery display. As I tug a paused limb from the hungry obstruction of a lobster, I can see the torchbearing body and shell of the crab disappear into a black oval beneath a bone-dead outcropping of inaccessible coral.

I do not give up. It is a sexual experiment, daring me to rush through and manipulate its symbols like a frontline deck of marked cards, played under the covered glow of cigarettes, dogeared by subtle evolution, a cheapskate. My world-first feet hit the soaked sand with a soft crunch. I bend down slowly, inflating an intestinal tension in my belly. From the jagged Rorschach hole, penile breast implant absence of darkness, no anemone illumination exits. Too small for the exaggerated metal outline of my ego to enter, I shove a condomless fist into the mixed feeling of that black-ink territory, bottomless as my memory of home.

I wait for something nameless to attack, detecting nothing.

 

*****

The stinging cell

of a jellyfish contains a long thread coiled like a spring. Its transparent skirt shifts. Delicately, flutteringly, afloat—a transpaent helmet that dissolves along its edges into its environment in unprincipled undulations of living. This balletic creation is so far from the detested abstraction of a war death that my soul unloads like an orgasm at its darting flutters. Flummoxed.

Phosphorescent in a field of dark blue, this animated medal of some dead Union soldier collapses its soft helmet, along with the sheet-thin helmet’s few cells of contents, into a ridged point, like a tripled arrow whose edges intersect each other to form a starburst pattern as it enters the eye. The minuscule jellyfish, enlarged by my dollop of attention, shoots and pauses forward like a politician. Now it hangs, a glowworm’s eaten inch away, caught on the nail of a decision that could rip the heart-like flutter of its transparent brain cells into an unlabelled pulp.

No bigger than a displaced eyeball, it is strangely watched and identified with, a voyeur’s introspection. One’s mind releases toward the thin purple jelly in the water, a peignoir outline, the light aurora of a watch magnet barely magnified. Its aquatic undulations are infectious. One begins to move in phosphorescences. Pulse. Pause. Pulse. Pulse. Inside my suit, an inner film of black rubber echoes my translucent actions. One tumbles in elongated taps on the gigantic head of a drum membrane. Being in this way an ear, eyeing ones way through unclear liquids, one starts to pick up the buried syllables of the sea, the shovelled whaps of the waves, sharp arguments of urchins in stiff sine curves that almost translate into surface sounds, the sharp tack of a competitive bat… the blunt nose of an unloved and hungry shark almost entering ones cellophane flesh in words.

 

*****

Damselfish retire among clumsy spines

. Their black bodies are striped in lime and lemon; the lime-green spines dangle their pink tips placidly above them, circulate in cool coos around their fins. Like all women, they are indifferent. They are pleased by their nonchalant dance, or delighted. The south sea anemone which encloses the dozing bodies of these fish is as fat as a forsythia bush. The green limbs excrete a protective juice filled with the intricate codes of peace; this is how each stinging spine, blind, knows not to attack its neighbor, how to avoid the human convulsions of guilt and self-flagellation; Einstein hair on a weighted corpse gone wild. The ladylike fish in their ringed skirts inherit the flower’s secretions. Hooping in and out of the rose-tipped and saturated pine needles, sewing-in the contractual tears, the slow bleed of each live leaf that sweats an aura against death, the damselfish become aware of some minor victory, a distorted rumour from defeated Greece perhaps, become proud and exhibit a matronly swivel, know that they possess some important inoculation against desire.

My rape hand commands them. Counselling a caught fish to my cloth breast, I whisper Caesar desires into her unblinking Cleopatra eye. I unzip the reluctant crest of her sweet spine. Wild against my hidden palm, her gnostic body declares. Light enters my stung and swelling heart, a complacent poison that raises a Byzantine cathedral in my rib cage. Suddenly compelled, I unfist her.

Almost post-coital in my underwater jumpsuit, I find myself sinking among anemones. Knees twist like a sleepy hinge. Distorted adumbrations against narcoleptic fits arrow by. Their green ignited spines console my spine, swamped like a snake among its frittery children.

I cry and cry. My dark helmet is dashed with mercury.

 

*****

A starfish protests on a clamshell

against a seawind. Orange arms waver backward silently in a grey blue. An argot rock underpins the dramatic tightrope dance. One clown end fingertip cupped a C. The clamshell rocks with a cockle sound. It holds the unconscious hand of the starfish like a candle on an antique stage edge; the set is bathed by an indifferent light from an outside source, making the isolated scene look as dimly backlit as Plato’s cave, standing on the still horizon, the verge, of full colour, awaiting an increase in the light, the embarrassing high-beam of Fate, perhaps, some ushered-in notice from a void, shotgun applause, something to make the central knuckle of the orange dockworker starfish, sunk in its anonymous union and manipulations, begin to develop a face.

But for now, the fluttering tentacles of the starfish, riding its serrated clamshell like a spur, remain the held diminishment of a candle, opening on emptiness, illuminating nothing.

This is how I wobble, indecisive against the indifferent curtain of the ocean. Its thick, blocked blues diffract the hot spot of the sun, which creates an illusion of other-attention in the minimalized, fried-oyster flesh of humans. Desert Indians especially fancy the universe in constellation around themselves. But here, pale in a pale light, one picks up on the subtle differences, the switched alphabets, the garbled typefaces of life-forms finally allowed to blink a thin halo of identity out of themselves in the dark lack of interstellar competition.

One sees the starfish instead of oneself. Its leggy flames open an orange inside, a silvery cocoon of exposed mirrors, detailing shoplifters, noticing the neon outposts of the beings next door. One sees its litter of suckers, aching for attachments. One touches its sandpaper back.

 

*****

Someone has drawn the Venetian blinds

down, separating the dusty parlor from the street. In the walless room, someone has thrown a tremendous circus tent on its side, or put convict stripes on a whale. The regular lines of the tent in front of me shimmer, like those triple advertisements hanging in sexy judgement in Idlewild airport; in one snap, it disappears. The flooding flesh of ten thousand fish disappears.

This is how the porkfish, elegant in their magician suits, school their fragile young. All of the fish are dramatically striped, as a warning to sharks. The scarred alteration of a half-loaded or stiff paintbrush marks the flaking shingles of their old-house bodies from front to back. Quick with the reduced drag of their foreshortened foreheads, these fish remember how to grow old, the antelope speed of a dispersed pack confusing the thousand hungry teeth of the barracuda that follow.

I find my bald bearings in the swirled silence of this sudden emptiness, the fish vanished. I feel the shifted gravity of an astronaut, released from the hot thermos of the spaceship, fanning his domestic mind with its mute closetful of notions into the distant ache of periwinkle stars. Even an inveterate slob would be sucked into tidy lines of abstraction. This is our original garden, winking under the distortions of distance and watery atmosphere, allowing, in holy stillness, contracting diurnal pulsations of breath, a far swerve in the murkiness to be perceived. Our image of God, once out of the bright shadows of ourselves that we create and chase, is founded on something like this—a dimple in the black felt, a small warp of uninstigated motion in an uncontrasted blank that the instant, unpredictable shattering of appearances has dropped us in.

A sharp reef or quartered moon interrupts my vision.

 

*****

The sea sunfish takes its colossal

namesake’s ball of mass to make a solid 49 square feet of flesh. It’s half a fish, ending abruptly behind the kayak paddle fins that slice its treetrunk body symmetrically. Looking at its injured condition, one suspects in a few billion years its remaining hydrogen will eddy into the blue halo of a supernova.

It turns the green ocean like a tugboat. It is neither whole nor happy, but chopped and wounded, a veteran of some harmful sword that time has welded together and weilded with a viscious animus.

It is a dwarf, this tight ton of fish, maneuvering its fixed and oppressed expression through the sea like a cerebral palsy poster. Its fist of mouth pouts in a permanent oval; yet it has nothing to say. Despair is silence personified, it seems to imply.  All art is trash. The warped bones buck out under the castor-oil skin taut as arching bows, strong as the diseased determination of a kamakazi pilot.

By the sheer effrontery of will it swims, chugging forward, a thrown Acheulean stone axe, leaving an awkward whistle behind it as it splits the air. Now it plunges into a confused underworld of jungle growth. I follow its bumblebee speed on finned feet, hanging a several ells over a neon-orchid orchard of coral. In the puffed-out blimp-bulge of my hand-sewn suit, I dive on an aircraft carrier acre of reef. Dodging a control tower of patched pink and irregular amber (tilting at a steep heil-Hitler angle), like a retarded Mercury, I see the cerebral palsy path of the sacred, almost Mayan, sunfish move into a clotted grotto of colours. I kick my feet with a spastic rapidity, the crayon strokes of a freezing child, in order to catch up with the compact fat of the distant sunfish. Moving through a green cloud of seaweed, struggling towards the physical lightness of a greater depth, I reach the black, bunched roots of the plants and grab at the covered rock support to propel myself further downward into the dark cove where the fish has hidden itself. I feel the blunt outline of the diffuse rock slip along my hand as a sharp vagina of pain opens in my palm. My punctured skin explodes in a linked stream of red-black globes, chugging towards Auschwitz, mushrooming upwards in an underlight like umbrellas flooded on all sides, phosphorescent over a Nagasaki of industry, an intense weave of activity on all scales, busy as a bombed anthill.

Forcing my way by a blood hand, leaking air in pneumatic gasps, I gain the gold cove of the sunfish. It has set itself up in a solar system of brain coral, a central hub amongst warts or cartwheel rivets on an overturned wagon-wheel spinning against the sky; I take up the cold Pluto position, swamped in black at the periphery, invisible among dim pewter stars, with the stinging spin of a closed fist for asteroid-orbiting moon. The sunfish fluctuates its cut gills in a steady state. Losing a galaxy of red interstellar dust from my trailing unconscious right hand, I circle in the deteriorating spiral of an electron, ready for quantum action, the only diminishment towards a central authority that emanates light.

Swirling past the Jupiter clump, crimped as a living cortex with knowledge, I arrow in towards the solar bullseye, a clean burn of hurt animating a ghost arm starting at the balled socket of my ragged right shoulder. My suit is growing warm and heavy with invasive water or renegade blood—I can’t tell which.

Mars moves under me like a silent movie, a red tear in my unconsciousness. A film of lukewarm water encases me up to my chest, a fresh blanket of apostolic charity. My light mind is slowed and drugged by salt erosion. Mercury boils just ahead of me, flooded yellow, slicing a planet of shadow from the yellow ache of fan coral supporting in pentagon altar fashion the unlimited caliber artillery shell of the sunfish, humming an atomic solipsism to itself, aiming at everything.

My drained-out-of-blood limbs detach in a flash.

 

*****

The pulseless pod

of the sea cucumber eats with its belly out. An anal blossom appears when it is calm. At any alarm, the blossom retracts, the intestinal flag struck in panicked surrender, and it resumes the use of its tanklike rigid skin. I have never seen one move. A contented chess piece, it lets the aqua wind spoon-feed it plankton and digestible parts of the dead. I think that no sea cucumber corpse exists. It is one of God’s Eternals. Its recurrent ubiquitousness has a quality of permanence, of subservience to fate.

Could this fat blob of pickle think? Sunk in the lumpy tour-bus outlines of my oversized diving suit, I extend my gauntleted Godzilla arm and lift the cucumber like a fake train made of incubated high-impact Japanese plastic. I am a fake man in a rubber suit, appearing in my avant-garde get-up before a cameraless sea. The hungry delicacy of the cucumber’s flesh-flower withers, an innercity reaction, a lopped desire, the Puritan reaction of oppressed and pressed-in blacks, Buddhistic refugees stabbing themselves like christ on a nail bed, bursting like jellied napalm with gospel tunes and blues.

It is a religious instrument, this mindless gherkin, waving in my godless hand like a distorted wand. I am suddenly struck with the idea of how like this inert tube I have been all my life! Invoking no music in the restless gurgle of the gastrointestinal sea, I shove the holy mass away from its duplicate blunder, myself, God’s blunt stroke of efflugenceless pink—my soldered-in, wind-blown, inert body. I am beach trash blown and sunk into the waiting sea, a mistaken treasure no one will ever find. I breathe my registered air like an under-glass candle, burning littler and littler, like Alice, the longer I look at what silently exists in the sea under us as we walk the ignorant earth. No one rolls their eyeballs under the mirror of the sea.

Unbuckling the lead tarot cards of weights belted like Orion at bellybutton level, I start skyward instantly as a bubble; demagnetized from the Maya grief of reality; fantastic as lust rising in a dream towards dryness, a final dehydration of altitude and perspective. With a weatherballoon’s sensitivity of registration, I rise caught in a cirrus crustacean vision perhaps, and break into the ordinary air to hear a tin echo of electronic trumpets loudspeaking Farsi from the permanent carnival beached nearby: the sporty tans and turbulence of Daytona Beach.

 

*****

The formal sky blue tiles

of the crab’s adept legs hinge and point. What do they indicate? Polite as a tuxedo, psychedelic as nightmares, the blue crab’s pincers close on empty water, sift sand. It is a mobile arena of drama, this crab, caught on its tension-line of hunger so intense only a pinched child from the submerged Third World could understand. The claws, red and black at their business tips, have evolved from want. Unbruisable, the claws demonstrate the interminable craving of a blunt digit split into two, dividing its sky-mass to diminish into the scissoring ache of necessity. But, intuitive as Henry Moore, the projectile desire arches from expression into usefulness. The castanet claws (in the endless repetition of practice) conduct the compass pinions of the skipping-rock flat, radar-round center of the crab in the timing of those precise, impinging, untranslatable marks that start across the opinionless sand.

I try to read the cuneiform marks as my toes burrow into the warm pie-crust of the beach.

For all his crunch of claw, bruised paramour, his jerky way among auburn rocks, his flash of Scottish steps upon the plain, plaid skirt of rocks, it is his dwindled eyes that receive the diminished sacrament. This sacrament of sight is everlasting, in its whir of hues, despite the empty manipulation of empty hands, perfect for uninvented levers. The blue crab huffs against the shouting coral, the crimson skull of the sunken rock frmation—universal skeleton, chalky relic, omnipotent bone. Distorting snowy sinews in a distracted winter of effort, it is, with its medallion of unbitten blue, the perfect semaphore of fate against a red alphabetic coral, absent autumn, the latest phosphorescence of life’s green, tumescent metaphor. Liquid identification in a rippled world is all the crab’s angled banner, its concrete cape of sky, will allow. It is, stiff against the grown stone, the total mariner of tidal inconsistencies.

I break the unbabbling water, diving deep.

 

*****

The chainsaw falls through a redwood

. A day off from Monteray Bay has brought me out to the California forests. There’s some moss here that resembles undersea scum when squinted at through a microscope, the latest Nature says. I look up from the magzine. The swallowed purr of the chainsaw’s motorcycle chain repeats its highs like an addict—its adjacent handles out for cash, unable to applaud its own stiff, buzzing performance as it falls through the divided redwood trunk. A red sugarcube of heat is all that can be seen outside the thick toothy envelope of the tree, the dry-river bark. This is the man raised by wolves in France and unable to speak of his happiness.

I watch its slipping progression downwards—averse to heaven in its joy, it seems. A stuttered mirage, bending under its own asphalt heat waves, it makes, with the momentary crimson bulb of its exposed engine, breeze blown against the stalwart tree, the illusion of a blossom—not wholly unlike a bubble of struck blood on an ancient face. I came out of the sea to study moss, and instead witness this sacrifice, a robot chainsaw undoing a pacifist tree to its roots, this wart of worsening, the world’s endless demand for effigy and death. A uniquely Californian flowering occurs in me, plastic in its persistence, violent in its detailed volition, its surrealistic accuracy and Hindu caste.

O M N I

 

*****

The high tide moon blocks

the sun. It is the overwhelming arch of spring rising and rising, this tide. It will pull the planet into the shape of an eye. The white pupil burns in its nickel light. It is a divided eye, the pupil dot cannot extend into its recesses. The spring coriolis of this diurnal water will tear the world apart.

The famous chinese brother with the infinite neck would be stressed to walk these waters’ renewed depths, rubbernecking at the sky, his silk-slippered feet on the foundation rock and subconscious core of the earth. Registering against the chalk cliffs of Dover, clean as a nightgown, the sleeping sea lifts up its delicate, jellyfish hem each spring, licking the cliffs. Determined as clocks in their multiple ticks, confident of exactitude or inevitability, the salt swells in their new suits leave a snail trail of wetness against England. Like the wound-up coil of an oven-thermometer, the tall cliffs relax and soften, until, finally, they are submerged by the rising spring tide—becoming one with the puffed sheep in the meadow, who, surprisingly, do not float, and whose white backs going under are the last marks on the fever chart.

Maybe it would be alright to enter the deluge. To drown and drown… a sparked canopy of green and blue overhead the formula of human blood. Maybe, tenseless in the Freudian dream, it would be like flying, paddling through the treetops, examining a drowned bird in its inaccessible nest.

Here is a slim branch brought to bud; encased in jade now, and confined to a permanent chrysalis until winter relaxes the ocean, congeals the polar eyelids into unsalted ice, unstinging tears—pure water draw up and away from the mixed, green wine. This is when the sweet tree, possibly a pussywillow arrested in its amber coffin of the too-tall waves, will absorb from the fresh subzero air the freedom to die.

Rolling back awake from my detached sleep-stung hand, I find that someone has placed my disconcerted head on a beach.

 

*****

The comber telescopes down

the beach. A blue tube culling itself towards destruction. It is an extended Lemming headed in the wrong direction. It tries and tries to dry its tears. Every day the handkerchief whiff of beach absorbs the long rings of the ocean’s Narcissism. It eats the green sin. It eats the circulated sins of the earth.

A pointillist display of heads tumbles in the surf—vacationing heads in various stages of decay and tan. What are they trying to spell at the roaring moment of their absolution? Maybe they are afraid that they will cease to exist, that they are all sin, a wicked-witch-of-the-west confection with chrome-plated show business six-shooters and wet caps. It is difficult to think with the long green line of light rolling and rolling; the unceasing sun strikes a straightness through its rounded angles. The stagnant swamp of the self is ordered into an emerald mind. You take a chance in the unsteady shuffling. You think you will be totally erased. I have floated in on the red resistance of a body board on many occasions. Every slick head enters the final wave or tube horizontal and wide-eyed.

I watch the heads, black and gold as royal walking sticks made enlarged for sea titans, dissolve in fiery whites. These are the furious exchanges edges induce. The uneven edge of a halo’s emanation. Compact as sea turtles, the waders and boogie-boarders are conveyed in bullet enthusiasm into a spilled treasure chest of sand. Pearly curls crown them. Rolling laughing from their accelerated fall, they rise and walk along the intense beach bright, illuminated as Lucifer’s angels in the pilot-light of hell.

My cold instinct for humanity is baffled into blankness.

 

*****

The blank “pebbles” the glaciers

left could turn an elephant’s foot. Long Island’s squat eye stares into the gullet of the Atlantic. This is where the ice flowed back, like a retreating fortress, the sudden appalling disappearance of a white sky, and startled prehistoric birds accustomed to the age’s deep cold. Bewildered mammoths stomped a newly green dunegrass under an instant sun that appalled. The birds circled in their warm freedom. Cro-Magnon hands sharpened the stones into faces the axe-size of their wives’ grimaces.

Even today a beachcomber will arrive from the edge of some dead time to blink at the sea. A pale belly, unbalanced as a stork, makes its way like a metronome toward land’s end. The dry ostrich-egg rocks, in their ages old attempt at birth that have scarred even their moony surfaces, are trying to tip the uncertain belly, which is heavy and white with doubt about itself and its slipping income or ego in an uncertain society of bellies, bleached as banjos, inflated as used condoms, into the cerulean saline solution of the ocean’s crusty contact lens.

The swung sack consciousness of the belly is narrow-minded. The belly perceives by hungry insinuations of events, the buttoned-down needs of its blind enzymes aching outwards with the magnetized, undeniable claims of a turned-on TV tube. The outrageous albumen belly asserts a name against the shitty sea; a modern appellation, a single syllable of dry ice clipped from a frozen-stiff tongue, barely audible: “man,” or, even more dimly, “me.”

The pendulum belly, becoming pensive as a wilted teardrop in the chill air, hovers under a sad expanse of sky, mostly mauve, waiting to be dumped by the glacier-emancipated lumps of occupied land into the unceremonious, baptism-blue sea. Instead, wordless at his soliloquy cue, yet imbued with the awkward impulses of a kindly stage manager, the scenery-shaded invisible duffer signals the intoxicated sky to rain.

 

*****

The whole gale starts at 56 knots

(Beaufort #11). TheDiamond Shoal oil platform drew lightning to its needle. The central sky absorbed its hypodermic cure. My new fiberglass boat rode on an open throttle. Moving like Caruso’s blood-lettered goat skin in a coconut-corked bottle, we angled at the absent, invisible tit of North Carolina’s shark-sharp shore.

We raced to make it back to dirt before the Atlantic’s limbless hug drowned us.

 

*****

The house exploded in broad daylight

. The stitched, interlocked siding of girdle-white aluminum distorted to mobius strips in the fist of a dirt-brown wave. Its plumbing, and its unplumbed interiors are distended. The wave collapsed landward in a fury of liquid, dousing abandoned cars to their alert headlights, crystal in a crystal spray.

A neighbor dog straddles the roof of its house. Owning abandonment with its thumping tail, excited by the high water as if finally allowed on the family sailboat, the clenched sail of the billowed shingles transports him to his dog heaven. Indifferent to the Arabian miracle of the magic-carpet canine, a jerky bird, sparrow-diminutive in its dun aspect, picks out its new nest in a spilled jewel box; iridescences darken in its eye. Looping under a splintered joist, my salt hands pull me over shifted junk, around an uneasy toilet balanced on a black spattered carpet remnant, past an unsmashed rack of wineglasses, white as penlights in their acrylic cabinet. I look toward the gigantic spill of the songbird’s throat.

It is ecstatic, this bird, indescribably and completely. Has it fallen from heaven to sacralize these beastly leavings of the storm? What dirty water has wrecked, can the stooping sky amend?

The splay German shepherd bays above a promontory of cracked angles, under a planetarium sky soaked with dawn and polite exit signs blinking cheap red. Crossed paws return to the house’s crest. Moony markings double the apparent size of his tragic and decided, coal-nosed face. St. Peter has left him to his happiness. Lost gestures struggle in his mink shoulders. The house shivers. It detaches from its underwater moorings in a gasp of flotation pressure, like a thrown card revolving towards the paddlewheel of the Carribean. The happy shepherd is underweigh at last.

The songbird dabbles in its gauds. Depressed under the screwed-down clouds, I tap along a swiveled fragment of mosaic Mediterranean tiling (a perfect imitation) in my used Italian loafers, crimping the vein-blue dolphins’ skulls, slipping on their rainy tails before regaining ground on the pale traction of their square-filled bellies. Reaching the scuffed songbird, distracted in its jewel haloes, I touch its crimson cap, purpling in my shadow, and trash its egg frame like eroded foil.

 

*****

A ceramic statue of Clark Gable

sizzles in the aftermath. The dynamo of a waterspout knocked it over beneath the bruise eye of a hurricane. Breakfasters in Malibu exit a room littered with peppered eggs, spilled chairs and unfinished OJs. Neon backlighting indicates palms on a sky-painted wall. Doric half columns offer an illusion of distance. An overturned wicker chair crowns the grass-green carpet—it appears to be freshly mown. The giant square sunrise windows fill up with water from an oncoming wave. A perrier bottle tips over and crests a dropped designer purse with effervescence. Shocked outlines of fish press against the glass of an air aquarium in a tourist mood. The tall glass in black reacts. Nobody has paid their checks in the abandoned opulence; the fish enter with an established crack; their slit gills commune with soda water.

God, in his aesthetic perfection, has tossed off a waterspout from his great throw wheel.

 

*****

The Triassic period painted dolphins

for the Greeks. They have the accentuated look of mosaic depictions. Tired eyes blink behind the thin comb of hunger their three feet of tooth-pronged noses proclaimed—gallows humor of a working-class air-breather in a pre-tuna sea, each tooth a mosaic chicklet. The ancient sea was dominated, it seems, by these dolphins wrestling with the irony of their existence: a brain the size of a man’s and no hands to kill with. Above the two thick toes, abrupt fins set at arm-and-leg intervals and outlined in rubber like a scuba suit, above the butcher blade side-fins jamming their fat handles into a convolution of washed blues and fluorescent highlights, there stands unfurled on the dolphin’s back the shark triangle, the noble sail, of the dolphin’s dorsal fin. This is the hook that has dragged the sobbing lungs and soaked heads of thousands of refugee sailors to the thumping shore in storm time. Perhaps this is what happens when the clubbing instinct to kill is defeated by chance circumstance and allowed to fester in a meditative state. Maybe this is why that armless vet in the paper spends his dolloped and subsidized time writing immaculate sonnets with a fountain pen stuck in his mouth.

My hands can kill. Detached as the empty rubber stumps sold in the magic shop, they hacked up a nazi my bayonet had pierced. Thrilled at the nicking end of a latent homosexuality, his left lung sighed like a fart through a scree of medals; he flopped into the sliced earth pitkin of the ditch. Out of his loose hand an instant luger loomed—it staggered after my swaying face, bloomed with blood from the struggle. The luger’s barrel was as nice as a dolphin’s nose. My angry molars crunched the nazi’s knuckles. I heard his index digit crack. My unarmed hands smashed his Adam’s apple open, a crisp snap.

Rifling through the gloomy tones of a mesozoic history magazine, a death erection, pulsing out of my aching life, raises the coned noses of depicted dolphins like a benediction, a proffered communion wafer.

 

*****

They return to the surface

, neat as soldiers in their Union blue, visually offset by a flat TV-tray of uninflated lion-yellow life preservers yoked around their sunburnt necks stiff as oxen-necks. These two submariners stand in a floating safety-orange bucket like telephone repairmen, waiting to be picked up from the metal cornice of their bottom-scraping bathyscaphe. They have seen depths, odd recesses, creatures and causations, no other living observer has witnessed. Proud as wrestlers under the flash page of the unrolled newsmagazine I sit here reading, they know that they have triggered something strange. The newsman writes of them obliquely, and their speech is clipped and off-kilter to us surface-dwellers. They are aware—having arrived at the ocean’s hammer in fit condition, spliced out of the secret (even to themselves) training camps of America, ready as today’s bread to be consumed—they are aware that no moonwalker’s fame awaits them, that they will maunder through a grove of deep-haired women towards their children, towards the imitation of a future they can no longer apprehend; their experience has voided apprehension of the flat world they came from, the solid, horizontal mud flats of mid-America they sprang from like lungfish, thirsty as hindu mystics for the last return to water.

What have they seen?

Looking down from their pumped-up and astutely muscled height, a pair of self-contained Everests, these underwater astronauts speak of ocean-space in closed quotes: “It was like not being watched. No ‘mom’ to make
you do anything, either. Nothing to do until you hit the bottom. Just the radio link.” They mention voids in ellipses: “You feel like the only thing living… like being alive is rude.”

Square faces above honest jaws, they describe the outer darkness of the deep in scientific jargon, metres of visible penetration before ray fray encroaches on the megawatt stage lights they packed in their untarred, waterproof Miracle Play oxcart that represents Heaven, Earth, and Hell and won’t unfold. They have brought all history into these uncharted depths with them, their air-crafted toolkit leaving them hamstrung and helped at random under the dark pressures of water. They prepare a face to meet the faces they can’t unsee—their amorphous undersea audience. Electric with pre-show jitters in the dim backstage regions of their mental landscape, they whisper: “I feel unplugged… planetary, really alone.”

 

*****

I flip the heavy book open and begin

at “Sea Dragons and Flying Freaks.”

The eternal convergence of the sea tucked the peabrained Tylosaurus under. Bellies pale as shaving cream, swift teeth yellow with victims, the ripped nubbins of a black-green picketfence goes shirring over the Tylosaurus’ suave spine. The exaggerated, fat tail is ready to execute a 90 degree turn and become a fat fin. Evolution marching on, even in the legless sea.

This 25 feet of Marvel-comics creature, thick in the middle like a toddler, could have been dropped from the orbiting aquarium of a UFO it is so alien. After a squalid hour at the study carrel, I return to the weary Sunday funnies in my stifled hotel room after a sick work week of grotesqueries, unimaginable buboes running blood, nitrogen hallucinations impinging on my sacred underwater soirees day after day. I grow old with looking.

At the hotel table, runny eggs engulf a frilly plate. The sun sinks below the tan blinds, churning its fiery bucket of snakes beneath the windy flap of injured skin. It is an injury just to see the things that I have seen. My awful eye makes this.

 

*****

What is the face in this trio

, coconut swirl of eyes with the crimped pie-edge beatific as Buddha? This ancient fossil resembles a design rediscovered by the Sumerians, and yet it also resembles photographs from Apollo missions scored off the sunken surface of the moon when looking back at the planet we inhabit. The face turns its filigreed edges made of overlapping questionmarks like a slow prop fan in sand. Did the astronauts remember it in the holy fabric of their bodies and overawed eyes when they looked down at the swirls of cloying clouds? This fossil has neither phyla nor classification, and hangs like candy in an Islam of mystery we obey.

First seen by an Aborigine, one wonders if it is a round footfall straight from space, an alien reconquista; this is the depth of the impression one receives. Why wouldn’t some out-of-atmosphere angel in geosynchronous orbit decide to visit the abundant ocean instead of us? Vanity won’t answer it. It is not a grey mirror made to absorb us. An Aborigine tribe preserved the dry fossil as a sacrament, an insistence of mystery, something to prop up a Catholic resolve in people.

Honest in our ignorance, lacking pride, this one time we have decided to let this rock imprint remain unclassified. What else remains unclassifiable in all this strangeness of being alive?

Making love in my ardent sunburn, I think I have felt such desert attractions, a willingness or need to sink and sink. Christy whistled beneath me, her face crooning abandonment with the triple Os of eyes and puckered mouth. Is this hard fossil the deflated ambition of sex? A confessionless communion? A hairy fly lights against my lips. An uncontrollable grimace, streaked as rust, makes it leap away from my unshaven face, carrying its instruments.

The squeezing image of Christy leaves me, leaving sticky tracers down my athwart hips like tears. I am convinced she was here in the pre-Xtian carbon-dated year of 3000 to 100000 B.C., fixing her red hair, slouching towards my unborn ghost her incarnate mystery.

 

*****

In the petrified shallows of Kansas

the old sea shows its golden waves, that precursor sea of loafing evaporation that has turned into endless wheatfields. It is here that a twelve-foot creaking bone-saw of face was unearthed, the face itself the face of the dance that would eventually translate such dino-fish into red men and herrings. This face was a mirror; it was the totentanz of gluttony. Through the jail grill of its ribs another herring ancestor swims toward the larger fish’s simplified rectum; the smaller fish is six feet long under the wave of Kansas grain. Six feet in the scaled and degraded grave of its totem-faced cousin, the face of the dance. The big dancer eating the littler dancer forever.

The black bones lie at the bottom of a pit a gigantic square spade might have gouged. It is the first flight on an inverted Inca pyramid, funneling towards the crystal jewels of the first dynasty of life. The single cells, exact as regimented cubes or individual as the spinnaker needle of the Eiffel tower, suspended in saline, floating in uncried liquid before the first eye, knew from enlightened self-interest perhaps that cannibalism, even interracial, even international, that attacking one’s fellow cubes of light surmounting the smooth elevations of a prow-tall tower, is universally caustic—and, so, the little gems of life sucked off the altruistic sun instead.

White sweat bleaches my back.

 

*****

The squat sea bug emanates its death

, proclaims shamelessly its sham of life, petrified in the rock that has replaced its slowly growing, pulsing even, shell as hard as dry leather. The trilobite’s two frontal protrusions serve as stone eyes peering weirdly from the 100 million year depths of its defiant extinction.

In the skeleton negative written in the fossil record, white powders permanently cascade like the flashlit interior of an indian cave. Its heavy organs are veils traced in refrigerator dust; the shell is a sad face composed of pick-up sticks, a fire-bombed umbrella from Dresden.

I dust off its mortician’s grin with an efficient hand, clarifying the instructional chalk sketch. It detaches from its geologic base, the thumbed history of sediment rock, like Christ waving goodbye to Peter, floating apart, and shudders in my mind like a kite. I looked more penetratingly at the abashed fossil, its white violence like a prizefighter’s knuckle. Its deadly implications take up a shrill position above my competing cortex lobes, settling their heaviest bone fragments in the interior absent space of my skull like an acid umpire eating at my self-conceptions comfortably as a spider at rest after pushing out its web’s purile expulsion. I am trapped.

Alien intuitions come to me. My Maine hands learn Latin rhythms, Appalachian repetitions. Even the gnarled Nazis begin to make a slanted sense to my manipulated perceptions. Their sinister guns were an expandable picket fence inflating against garden moles. Jews, weeds. The anthropologist in me trashes the victor’s history. Something black and stabbing as a bureaucrat’s pen rewrote those grim men, grey as bayonets in their tailored fighting outfits, into mewling victims, wronged by international weather, engaged in constructive behaviour under psychoanalysis. The meaning of meaning is meaningless this afternoon.

I pour my hot face into grey dusted hands and weep.

 

*****

From the dismembered hood

of a Chevrolet these flying fish arrive; caffeine stiffens their mercury wings. Trimmed slim by accident and flashing at everything, they bear the uncorked confidence of California surfers inside the puritan management style of their identical IBM business suits.

They skitter at the side of the ship. Above their shellacked and spastic skipping, a paid-off group of playboys fondle a pingpong ball with green paddles that web their stiff-fingered hands. They sound, in their playing, like the unremarkable, humped scuffle of suddenly marooned seals on the dry deck, one tier up. These unwinged angels slap balls (tough, glowing, and empty as souls) above and over my shoulder. Their immature voices take off in giddy spirals, resound in low laughter echoey as a bowling alley. Meanwhile, the silver fish scissor in the sea; the fat ship rips.

Entombed for the weekend in this steel tumor of my civilized race, this trim racing yacht, I turn away from the aerodynamic expressions of the ocean, manipulating existence by pure blood pulls, the genetic tug. I am not made for such malignering, but I try to relax, to turn away from the feeding existence of the sea. I look over at Dildo and Ovum, my bicycle-maker pals, trying to fly in dull hops as they bat the ping-pong ball, giggling as if garroted when the ship slips under them during their momentarily airborne, parasitically high and gulping jumps towards the sky.

OK, that’s enough.

I climb down the steps, a kind of lazy metal ladder, really, tugging on the flexless side-cables that have been industrially spray painted, like the universal whites I am wearing. My foot, slim in a bright boat shoe, grinds on the cheese-grater surface of the top step, shams forward like a basketball star, then finally slides down the saw-toothed assemblage from peak to peak, a reverse Everest ascent, and deposits me, a small charge of loose change shaking in my pocket with each bump, harmless as a Himalayan monk, on the nubby rubber decking in a sprawl.

Maintaining a Buddhistic balance against the ship’s yawl, I bite off my friends’ eviscerated fish heads (in my damned and drummed imagination, really it is a tin of sardines left out) with Shiva teeth, watching the fleet fish race beside me, as their blank static jet laughter roars above me.

 

*****

The suave sex of an otter

swooping through water. Its feather-paddles offer its furry belly to the sun. This soft center of muscles coddles crack after crack, thwacks hammering against the cold tongue of an oyster’s black and blue body opening under the tempo of a sharp rock. The otter’s eyes are under water.

The spilled ink of the ocean dazzles in perfect blues. The otter handles the oyster with efficient blind bureaucratic hands. The cocaine-holding claws rattle blackly against the soiled and closed oyster’s perception of itself, visible to others in the cragged and chalky, quietly accreted, shell that shelters its spitting soul. Exhumed from its shell and raised to the uniform, opinionless zero-G of outer space, it would be an exact sphere of thinking water: every point along the zeppelin-grey surface equidistant from an imaginary, infinitely small dot in the exact center of its being.

Snapping down the purple God-globe of the medieval oyster’s body in a slurped growl, the otter celebrates its licked desires under the sun. It burps. Its fuzzy belly flutters in the seawind. Its black eyes blink out salt nostalgias, silent semaphores full of the dark light of pupils. The eyes’ signals direct our attention to unidentified plane wrecks—whose radar-tipped nosecones, painted black as otter noses, were only searching for a few oysters, anyway—a vacation, a warzone.

The sun embitters me, bright; too much light, too much looking. I watch the party group of otters flap, and observe the dignified isolation of the oysters as they disappear into the swallowing tension of throats, fisted in darkness, bathed and anointed in the oyster’s own ceremonial liquids. A similar pressure closes around me in the bright air, and my throat tightens. Am I the eater or the eaten? A metal yellow is creeping into the sea waves. Maybe it’s the tossed-back reflection of the ship’s side, drowning in sunlight. The narrow heads of the otters are crowned in light, pure gold, jagged at the ornamental tufts, jellied to fatness by the water’s insecurities, slap and slide.

Looking down over the taffrail, the sun makes me ruffle as a shadow in the water.

 

*****

It is a deaf cleft

, a crevice in the face of an Aztec god chunked and regularized out of lava stone and into terror. The fixed expression on the map is the staggered opposite of Monet’s water lilies, a toboggan’s split track in black. Such is the Blake escarpment, deep and perilous as the derriere indent between brain halves.

This is the deep sea. Near the record outrages of Cape Hatteras the Nansen bottles go down; they check in thirsty burps the unheated salt and oxygen levels of the seawater the eyeless denizens of the deep filter and sanctify. The small gills of those who live here, the large slashes, the Spanish comb dentures, fine as a blue whale’s sifting equipment, pronounce a silent benediction with each watery breath. They use and renew what the cold ocean gives.

We release the sealed instruments into the deep, molten mirrors of ourselves. Drowning the effigies with a scientific attitude, Ray and I find a certain illumination, a lightness, in our dry detachment, scanning the array of glowing scopes washed by laser bars of light in the sea-cabin’s closed interior. We analyze and sort the the data we have hauled back up, samples and sums of we know not what. On other screens, cameras and radar outline the escarpment and return grainy images from the alien deep. Occasionally a photograph is filmed-over in green or blue, highlighting veiled faces snapped onto the microscope-slides of negatives—indecipherable surfaces. My center screen blips, oxygen content registers, a graph of our ignorance appears, tracing the jilted jag line of our single certainty up and down the chart with a drunk’s attention to a thrown-in-the-ocean scotch bottle.

Ray rakes his hands along the table. He screws a jeweler’s loupe deeper into his eye socket.

Information spills from the seismographic chart-maker, brightens in the screen’s confines. My breathing tightens. Suddenly, I am underwater again in my rubber tension suit, swishing with a dynamite pack to TNT my Italian desires, my Aeonian home. The impartial screen, rigormortis emotionless as any president repeating his crimes, relates a mass of disasters. The very atmosphere is elliptical! Nothing crumbles or slickens to an armoured resolution, a military intervention, a sabotage attempt. The sorry ocean, slurring its eternal apology, scrapes me toward the viny outline of the shore, clumped in tux blacks and sedate midnight to avoid the flying punch of an airstrike. My froggy body bumps ashore. I sniff around, locating myself in the uncoloured bushes under the absence of a bruised-over moon. A yuletide great dane yeowls its warning warble; my heart knots; but the dog is fuzzily ignored by the drunk and slumbering axis. Their guardhouse has become a sleepover party giggling among the dull Italianate hills, their laughter louder than the dane’s high-voiced welcome.

Slouching into the fabulous sweep of the square screen bleating its sorrows, I wait for an angry face to resolve itself from the stinging dots, to coalesce out of the maze-haze of facts, to jump into me and eat out my napalm heart, chastising into tameness my licking tiger impulses.

The radar light, with intimate access to the deep darks of the sunken Blake escarpment, wipers back and forth, hesitating at the edges of escape.

 

*****

Cradling a camera

, the aluminum tepee frame puts a campfire light on deepsea slugs and albino crawlers. We have set up this intrusion of nous into the depths with careful dexterity. A bleached crab attunes blind eyestalks to the unknowable instrument. It is a memory of sight, of lightness, of a world that does not crush under 10 atmospheres of junk and salt, but floats, cannot help but float, inescapably buoys up until one learns the trick of weighted belts and lead moon shoes. This is the life at the bottom of everything.

A prehistoric fish, cauterized at birth to existence at these depths, was thought to be extinct, a frail eyelid outline in mountain lime, until, one heated day, a restless skipper, tapping the limits of his arrowhead deck, his distempered brain baked to boredom, attached his nerve-damaged hands to a double-length of steel fishing line and let it plummet, tied to an aerodynamic, unpainted plumb the approximate shape of a sci-fi space shuttle, until it scraped the ultraviolet sand fathoms below and tricked the fish like a balloon to the surface with its carnival lure, where, after a credible pause, it exploded.

My voyeur video tells me about its pressurized existence, its dime-thin swimming aching to expand in condom desire to the sky. Grey fish swish in static. They turn about like tanks, occasionally washed-out in their intricate maneuvers by an aluminum glare that bleeds onto the screen’s square cell. I check the ocular wire, lying lazy as a fuse, that wriggles out the window into choppy water to bury its head. I have the end that rattles.

The blind images of life stalk around the tilting table, stable as anything at sea, nosing after pheromones for food, nagging toward white worms in lip-acute nipple reflex. I tongue a striped straw into my worn mouth, sipping proteins, waiting myself to be snagged by some aberrant attraction and lifted to my annihilation.

 

*****

Prodding the Cariaco Trench with a humongous

thermometer for a core sample, a team of men resembling Norman Rockwell before death thread a six-inch thick chain through the narrow gully of a pulley. The enclosed probe is an extension of themselves, an implacable attempt to confute the rapture of the deeps by sheer insistence. And yet, these men never win at cards, cut their sandwiches on the diagonal, and marry the first women to give them sex.

What black sweetness made them set out? The licorice taste of coal veins can’t spark here. Their physical selves would be crushed in the water’s deep hush. Desire and impossibility occur together. They make the inhuman attempt to go deeper as if dreaming, subtle and faceless in a siphon of will, made communal and strong by anonymity. They chant around a black and white monitored image of the drillhole they create. An undrilled hole in themselves responds.

“Destruction is creation,” they say to themselves in white smocks tidy as atomic scientists’. As a simple cluster of male members, they wonder if this grinding and boring is the unspeakable secret of sex. Transported from the postulated cubby holes of universities by sonic jets, the mandolin absence in their chests, resonating, tells them in unattached adolescent phrases, in a man-made world, in swift whispers, of an untimed, soulless and heuristic, distant, Neanderthal initiation. They dance around the monitor.

The pulley jumps on a snag, an invisible opponent, whipping the dangerous weight of the chain against the gunwale with the sound of metal thunder.

 

*****

The straight knitting needle of the piston-corer

bears no relation to the Rock Drill skeleton sculpture of Epstein. It is the pure explorer of the sediment fat of history. It steals knowledge in 65-foot ribbons of dust and mud from the Grand Canyons of the sea floor. It creates an audience in its instant separation of context, extracting the once-living fall of fin or ash from its last rest, and greedily reads the implied documentation of the object’s finish, its death.

This is an electrifying situation. For the man at the top of the piston, laughing perhaps at the unspilled crest of a mill-wheel, there is the vividness of voyeurism, the compressed rush of seeing the lightless stream of materials brought to light by the corer’s muscled unconscious force. The piston-corer snags him as well, keeping him peeping from the high-point of the spinning mill-wheel. This curious man was pulled abruptly upright in evolutionary dawn by the flat mill-paddle’s hesitation and stiff crossgrain. His ingenuity walks over a desert of hidden colours, examining one detail at a time a whole ocean current of simplified mud—the dark slop of all our beginnings.

Desires warp away from me, my white image stiffening under the increasing pressure on the canvas sack of my diving suit as I lower into the loured-over ocean, dropping to check on the stifled rotation of our communal piston-corer. Its whining diamond rotor, whirling away like a girl in her fresh crinoline dress, spins on a nick in the unglossed dance floor, stuck, sputtering up musk dust from the dirty gym periods that dried down in layers from the pore-popping exercise sweat of some ancient Cretaceous June. An unidentifiable heat increases at the back of my waterproof suit, some crucible-eye spun on stage-angel wires. I sink down to the presumably unstoppable pinhead of our suspended boat’s attentions, the gaping barracuda bit.

Cirrus scuds of dust attack me. My hanging lights angle in towards the impenetrable middle of the brown hell. Everything appears to be okay, banging away. I peer and maneuver. Nothing. Everything is fertilely active. Like a good lover, I give up trying to understand it, and give it a metal kick, a swoozy boot in slow-motion. Kite-coloured silts volcano up. I spur away. A green approving light goes on in my head.

 

*****

A waterfall sugars down the cliffside

. It is a fuzzed spill, seen through a dark occulation, a perverse diminishment of the gulping eye’s usual click-and-grab. The winds underwater are infinitely slow and heavy. A see-through syrup disrupts the falling flow of the sand. The psychic’s crystal ball refuses to grow clear as a teardrop and focus on a managable future. The sunken landslide sucks the tourist sand down, an endless hourglass. I peer into the granular hash.

     "Thou one blind sailor, rich in joy 
     Though blind, thy tunes in sadness hum 
     And mourn, thou poor half-witted Boy! 
     Born deaf, and living deaf and dumb. 
     Thou drooping sick Man, bless the Guide 
     Who checked or turned thy headstrong youth, 
     As He before had sanctified 
     Thy infancy with heavenly truth." 

by William Wordsworth runs through my head, with a torch, the gasoline lit-up arm of a guilty terrorist innoculating himself against life. The flame-light of my lamp blends with the sand-fall, the orange threat of a molotov revelation itching the back of my fishscale skull. Aimless as a prototype buzzbomb in my creature-from-the-Black-Lagoon suit, I waver in the wake of hallucinogenic sand falling down my faceplate, an unfocused beach of LSD that doesn’t dissolve in the eye. I am being buried in a sandy landfill, a veil of grains. My immersed perception bifurcates towards chaos. Uncertain rivulets form in the Nile-delta dial of my diving mask, split blurrs of clear light in the gritty vista I can no longer transform to cloud-canyons, or sky, or clouds. One staggered stream, the quavering shape of a tear-track, opens in my Cleopatra delusion to the sea-blue suavity of an asp. My diluted mind staggers at the watery aspect of death uncoiling its clear tail. Unleashed by an Egyptian identification, I stare up at the Rameses aspect of the dissolving cliff, the high grim dimensions of rock, and see my sediment-father frowning there—full of trash and sifted, unerodable junk.

And I whisper in undecipherable syllables against glass: “Peace, peace!”

 

*****

Neon DNA spirals

of a sea anemone enfold a silver fluke. Someone has ruined a hundred screendoor springs and painted them. The springs ignore the tension of the death they inflict, dimensionless in a flat black universe. The fish darts outward in agony, an arrowy imitation of a scream in its attempt to escape. The powder-blue springs, attached to the fish by tiny stingers at their simplified ends, follow in sweet and agonized silence the bullet body until stretched to maximum tension. They are taut as a barber’s razor strap.

Eternal victim at the end of a string. In a deepness of attachment, abstract in blackness, the fluke grows stiff by the light of its executioner. It resembles a deep sea-lure handmade in Mexico, with a metal lip that twists a grin into the imitation corpse as if dropping from the instant end of a hangman’s noose.

My voyeuristic impulse is charged with dissatisfaction. Silver death is not enough. The iron holds of a delicate garrote achieve nothing. My strings twinge with anticipation. I will put on my nine-year-old’s halloween skeleton and dance, bright bone, bright bone. Just watching will not weld me to the meaning aching here, the spar and strike of the flowery anemone.

I unscrew the survival tension of my patched-up and cauterized rubber righthand glove, I expose the Frankenstein mesh of my sutured and anxious right hand. Cold water bites it like a dog. The filling sleeve explodes its airs.

Under a wet weight of ice in my sagging suit, a rigor mortis extends my naked blade palm into the jumping center of the anemone’s acetylene springs. With a psychopath’s Olympic detachment, I note the chemical death of Jewish civilians as the initial stinger lights up my scar. Burning babies, small as Mexican beans, twirl along the open arena of my attacked palm. Atrocities unstitch and restitch themselves into my wounded skin—some new understanding that rips and nips. Fast air, turbulent around my wrist, makes a few of the barbed curls refrain from striking and miss their victim. But I am burning now among the acetylene stings; I am real and realer than ever, at least for this minute. Water is climbing inside my unsealed suit, with only my nose above the frigid brim. I fold into my baggy pants with the steel guilt of a bedwetter.

Even the fluke has ceased its piccolo actions.

 

*****

The flounder flattens out

from its codfish shape. One of Dürer’s darlings, it is trying to enter a renaissance painting, before perspective. In this pressurized and sinking attempt to comprehend surfaces, one eye slides toward the crest of its forehead, gravitating innocuously aloft, and then reverting to an Indian mandala drawing in colored sand.

Circular as coins the deflated size of a midget Roman soldier’s leather skirt, the European flounder was transported from the overcrowded public housing of the nuzzled and overgrazed shelf of the teacart-delicate
Dutch coast by a man of British citizenry, one Walter Garstang. He put them, as an experiment in living evolution, on a domestic pedestal—the barren underwater mesa plaice in the middle ocean of the North Sea, surrounded on three sides by concretelike land, frosted with dead ice on top for good measure. In this emptiness, the flat fish lived, down among the frigid bones of burned and drowned Viking funerals. The Dutch flounder, in abrupt punch hole outline, and abandoned to the wild west of a cold sea, increased the muscular, solar-cell black, blankets of their bodies to four times their innercity dimensions. Evolution in realtime, agaile enough to fatten both purse and paunch.

I sink into the North Sea to peek at their secrets, the engines of revolution and change that beat on under their slumped gaze and come-hither-never camoflage.

There is a sandy field of flounder in front of me: finned landmines alert as hunger, pumping the flat circuitry of their two-dimensional hearts. Distant equations of dust go off in silent bangs when they swim, skimming the desert floor silently as brooms. Perfect in their pasted-down adaptation, fish-faced stamps, they remind me of the exaggerated jungle leaves I used to cut in kindergarten, licking sticky the thick taste of illegal glue (“You will die” says teacher), faded now to the D-day graininess of these half-buried fish, tacked flatly among the paper perfumes of mother’s closet.

Angling my gauntleted head, I raise the new rubber of the speargun against my shoulder elastically taut. The nearest flounder, having just eaten its neighbor, is glazed over with happiness. Its left eye shoots out when speared with the underwater sound of a diver going down, entering from heaven.

 

*****

A plate of squiggles, extravagant as pasta

, spill ochre octaves of light against light. Sea lilies, as full of pageantry as a row of can-can girls lift their skirts before me, a paying and waylaid customer, here to study their suavities. You can almost hear them say in red, white and blue: “Dear Dolly, they’re singing to your legs—they’re worth more than eggs… or even but-ter too.” Flamingo-flared skirts beat around their pink ears. In underwater wind. In shelf light.

The fast hammer of my heart, the nailed corsage of veins affixed in my breast, follows their flutter. I reach down with underlit shadowless hands and detach a soft bell of blossom. Arteries of spent light, reflected rainbow patterns, race up and down my bulging arm, dry in my rubberized canvas suit, moving slowly in the warm bathwater of the shore. There is a clipped insistence to the picked lily’s skirt now, a series of short jerks, adjusting her carnation slip in a high, angry wind. Perhaps this headless lady is trying to kick out of the brutal claw my fat five fingers make, complacent in their collective power of disruptive friction; her leggy desperation flubs—a dull lump under my machine-stitched gloves.

Stretching a marbled arm, I let the pink powders of the sea lily go into a fold of light…. My troubled heart floats after her. Coronary pain cracks my arm in another country, far below the low distances of pewter clouds. I am having a heart-attack, a stroke. Bellying after the interstices of the sea lily’s dress on a powerful flood of 98.6° salt water, I ache towards an infinitely recessed, infinitely desirable, damp light.

My forgotten body shrinks from my consciousness to become a dwindled anchor, a copper hairpin pronged in the sand, vaguely attached to my mind from under a mile of ice by a taut monofilament. The cold light ceases to retreat with my steps. I can go no closer to it, and can drift no further away; the light hovers in mid-air above a coliseum of coral I can no longer see.

Something rises and I rise with it.

 

*****

In meditative aspect, the inverted rockweed

hangs above the blood-red crisscross eyes of a suede rock crab. A mass of dead hair veins itself in Green Giant green above the crab’s brow of stone. The crab is hiding out in his vegetable disguise. Time means only getting through another day, and another: the crab’s blank succession of days, its muffled shift of an existence, shuffles back and forth over a worn spot. Veins of green luft suspended in sea water, fat with a valved inflation of salt water, stiffening them to a shifty, shifting, shiftless pattern of shadows on the muted sand….

Grabbing a sweet branch the consistency of latex vomit, I place it like a mustard patch on the top of my head until the burn comes through. I hope to grow from the weed’s peppery power in rank imitation. I too will hide under the sea and endure. This is the voodoo sympathy magic of a foster child taking the temporary father’s driver license and eating his picture in ritual. Let me be grown up and good. I’ve sat here for hours, tied to the surface by 60 feet of blue snorkel hose, trying to attach to the rocks. I want my burnt-out heart to learn paitience, to slow its Bhudda-speed, its irritable fibulation. I give up. My finned feet, astute as a pelican’s, flutter against the aching emptiness of the sand, disturbing nothing.

A world of angles open to me as I reach the feathered disturbance of the surface, hacking its whites, seeing the trembled green-on-green—insecure as a thunderized dog to infinity….

Quirky boats ride the jade indecisions. Immense wings of waves oscillate around me, requiring nothing, letting me skim the mercury envelope of the ocean, shadowing the downstairs tenants with a broken shadow, an approximate cross the size of a man. That is attached to the rock—myself, my shadow—with all its dwindled disturbance of shape, its buzzbomb dimensions perhaps, marking the x spot, exploding in silent dark, filling the available crevices of the rock with black tar, my angel projection that cancels the sun.

The intense whine of a gasoline-powered crane makes me ascend, flapping my cardboard seraphim parts as the line cinches under my armpits, bidding goodbye, goodbye to all that awful wetness, the fat wart of my second womb, the only safe place where nobody wants me. That lower coldness lacks drafts.

 

*****

El Niño does not threaten its hot arrival

this year. The timed prick strokes of its killing heat are momentarily abated. Perhaps it is afraid of STDs. Plankton clouds the guano sea; anchovies swim here, thick as beetles on a corpse. The y-wings of seagulls dip into the soupbowl of fog with its spiritual mist-edge rising higher than the horizon—an horizon which cannot be seen over the cold uncirculating stream of the hidden ocean. Sounds ping more clearly in the infinite mist.

Lacking any lovely, unencumbered wife, other than the tied-down South American coast, El Niño simmers around on its Pacific oils, trembling here, coiling coyly there, posing in seductive ceremony somewhere else, silently venting his Polynesian preoccupations in a predawn preemptive steam, wilting nothing, only fostering a flurry of algae. Tightly applied duct tape cramps my hands as I haul in the little fish. Seagulls caw their punctured notes. Sea heat ferments against my face as I bend double over the rising gunwale—my face full of blood and flapping like a dog’s jowly jaw.

We are here to witness it at a great distance from its usual tide of attack. I empty myself of expectations, and keep my eyes peeled, my pencil sharp, and the ears open.

My revolving arms piston the appropriate ropes of the net upward. A metal kaleidoscope of flipping fish appears. They circulate in the net, using subtle bodies of their flashing companions for their ocean. Triangle heads and awning tails reverse and interlock and grimace in meeting. There is a logical end to the mutating combinations, but the switching rhythm is endless. Even their drying scales compose a leitmotif, a harmonious repeat, almost. I spill their grainy carcasses onto the splintered deck. We will weigh measure these specimens, and then grind them into powder, burning them into their constituent chemical spectrums like a star.

Standing to stretch out my snapped rubberband back, the frail lights of the stilling fish, racing against evaporation, form a flickering image of Christy for a second among their multiple positions. She shows up in a shimmered wink as if on the newly found shroud of Turin. She is a revelation, an accusation, a wish most devoutly wished. The wandered lights that compose her face trigger an old epileptic response and make me faint.

Astutely recovered in the dark hours later, I can feel the subterranean thumping of the newly accumulating El Niño burning beneath our yawing boat as we ride it toward Peru.

 

*****

Red algae in a tidal pool

. Soft coral lifts its green velvet antlers overhead. Low tide dries the cycle. The sun burns this miniature Roman colosseum to dust. Coral colonnades stiff in the sand mock the dry plastered algae, its weak-backed inability to defy, to die like the classic Irish kings, tied to a stone column, upright in misery, loose deerskin boots stuck like a hairdryer in the red tidal pool of blood. The moonstruck inconsistencies of the sea can’t touch the thin, scarlet foreskin of the coral. Dying in cycles from its bitter pride, the candelabra burns its death into the exploding face of a sun it cannot see. Darkening in dehydration, the spent tips will snap off in midair, transforming to lungfish before they hit the resurrection edge of the wet world far below.

I hobble down to the burning dust of the tidal pool, fauvist in the frying pan flames of the copper sun. My cut-open hand is still sore, and my bruised, mauve knee retaliates at the mechanical tension of a weight-bearing bend. Close enough to see the sandy pimples of the coral’s bone surface, I kneel on my best knee and use the uninjured fingertips of my hurt hand to pinch an onionring off one of its Parthenon columns. Here is what remains of a life lived by the tides, pulled and nurtured equally.

It balances like a bread puff on my taped palm, not quite deciding to be blown off by the paramour breezes. One side is rough with clumsy jags, a handmade medieval crown, washed in hot water, machine-dried and shrunk to fit Tom Thumb. I wear it teasingly around my index knuckle so that it sprouts a blank forehead swirled with the intense logic of my identity, my flush fingertip a face. Under a strangely bearish and nonvocal impulse, I crush it to pink powder in an improvised fist. I sniff the remains of its girlish composition and decide nothing.

Thinking of my previous life with pretty Christy, I snuff it against a dead rock, making it blush, and ripping my stitches in the process.

 

*****

One-island volcanoes, bone ribbed

and eruptionless, emerge from a mass of moss. Twenty-fingered sponges tower over the white limpets like orange, demented clouds of industrial smoke torn on a jet stream. From the small, single cells of anger the limpets have distilled into, an iguana’s black eye might bulb.

Marcel Duchamp would argue with my trying to strangle meaning from this mysterious limpet. This impersonal monument won’t even obey the final significance of death, the eternal Achtung! of God. It simply refuses, with its sloped sides hipped like a thatched cottage roof, falling away from itself, from the signal of its pinnacle, as if it were a girl’s dress made of etched lime.What fertile and subjoined joints of significance would appear if I could decipher it! Duchamp clamps his gamey mouth shut, unable to forget himself in overrational expressions of his sublimation, exact as Freud in his thanatos hat—which bears the suspicious slant and slash pleats of a sexy limpet. Duchamp is the bearded and slouched Jonah kicking the naked Mediterranean docks in Moby Dick.

Back on the beach, I turn one of the pimple shells over and over in my sandy hand. I wait for it to express itself from under my projections, a stranger’s face asserting its muscular ridges in front of a movie screen, a wavered surface of corrugated colors as baldly signifying as a tattoo. But what is it saying, with it stone ritualized moue, its eternal blemish? I toss off its coned bone of adolescence (regularized statued memorial of embarrassments) and let it fall face down in the sugar sand, a bleached acne scar. Some wave will wash it away.

I remember the stiff fluff of Christy’s prom dress, her breasts rising like dough, my pulsed spur of desire. Our forehead zits touched with a hammer’s thwack, producing electric Athenas, fully armed, who let us see, soft under their iron ritualized curls and noseguards, that we, sacred christy and I, were only the moment’s embodiment of some more permanent, less ephemeral, deisre—quivering slugs inside a Platonic ideal of lust. We were bodies, mere bodies, praying to and touching the incarnate the gods, the eternal passions, pimpleless and pure.

 

*****

Sea palms cling to the rock

. An ocean throws its bitterness at their existence. The bald presumption of these mangled heads! These storm-flat scalps of trees! The blue consumption and bile of the ocean’s demonic stomach condenses into the salt insistence of insults. The dank waves slash; the waves slash back.

Is this the insulted rhythm of an artist? Or is it the fake anger of a histrionic hack? That the unspeaking sea itself is divided on the aesthetic issue is obvious: each attack (or is it the attempted blue spur of an alien communication?) resolves itself into tidepools and undertow, a radical racing back to its origins that delivers oxygen to the trapped crabs and weeds of the tideline that any enemy child could stoop to eat.

Perhaps it is all an untranslatable offering, a gift from the foreign eyelid of the sea; a genie blinking a fecundity of tragedy onto us; an educational attempt. The gist of wetness begs for the interpretation of some inspired Atlas, some communicable fellow, some brother, anything other than the ghost displays of the ignorant and uncomprehending creatures the sea creates and expells, in automatic Jehovah justice, from its paradisiacal depths, the luminescent registers of its elongated, angelic choir.

A long black wave, running suddenly unexpectedly forward, plasters my bare foot with foam. Somebody’s kid is kicking a related part of the dark wave back to its sliding coils. The male child, sporting intense satyr’s curls on his wet head, is screaming insensibly at the sea. A tiger’s smile distorts his handful of face, his lighted eyes as concentrated as the down-point of an ice cream cone.

Without thinking, I toss a carnival beachball (which was lolling alongside my ear with a paper-static sound), light as my thoughts, into the endless awning of the sea. Would the sea return it to me, a gift, an insistence, a lesson?

And I watch the stupid boy, propped up by young pride, bear it back to me, smiling.

 

*****

Verbena break the stiff riff

of lines in the sand the air arranged. Their secret roots go down among the miniature stones of the beach, which rises smoothly to spears of foxtails, mounting eventually to the lazy yawl of a palmtree on a dune, a protean sweetie who swings her swank hips in a verge of green against the hot land. At least, this is what will happen. Given the instigation of a dropped seed—a sexual gesture, invisible against the blank heat of the open sand, time will unwrinkle a leather leaf, start a sprout, and erect a permanent column of water over nothingness in the cellulose rivers of the palmtree. The irreducible quartz grains of beach sand click against each other in rough whispers at regular intervals, exact spaces that imitate with their shifting footing the clocked increments of increase and life.

Lonely out of the wide water, jumped forth from an improbable froth, clapping against sanddust in my maudlin departure, a pale bipedal stalk, I straighten up, arrange my dusty leaves, and take two-fisted cuneiform shapes of sand, condensed by sweat, and hold them dutifully opposite, at the shoulder-high extremities of my arms, like charged electrodes, waiting in a fixed posture for the feathery green sprouts to start from my fists, a Zeus with duelling bolts of palm-fronds, an ample statue of my vegetable self.

I am praying for life to begin its sins. I am done with the old scars of war, the haunted thoughts that edge into my labcoat with me, pin me speechless with slashed flashbacks. Kick-starting the irregular realities of a simpler existence with my tree-stillness, I feel the grains of the sand begin to shift, spelling nothing, but opening, like live pores, a skein of sifting opportunities for any errant seed, asleep in the swaled dust, to initiate its Buddhistic cycle that culminates in escape from the dull transcendence of eternity. My new seed will propagate its idiocy, its unstoppable, leaf-blade blunt idiocy, into limitless generations of death.

I am unbearably happy.

 

*****

This is the submerged cunt of Asia

, the Marianas trench. Exotic slot. Looking at the topographic maps, I see how islands are outlined in a sealevel halo of light, the continents in a stretched ribbon exact as a crag. The flat map, whose scar of mountains is etched with shaded skirts to resemble 3-D, jerks to one side like a smirk. The double triangles of a bikini-clad girl, dangling in Babylonian garden blush beneath her imperial Rameses face, have smeared the sullen bumps of the drawn landscape into instant erection.

As I fold the flat depiction of empty oceans towards my cross-legged lap, the third great pyramid of her set opens into view. She is stark scarlet.

“Is it OK if I sit down?”

“Um, sure.”

Her taut legs buckle under with the graceful instantaneousness of a sand crab.

Her body is full of scars. Tattoo erasures perhaps. At her age, not so old, not so young, she has expended an effort at newness. Her red ass shifts into the sand. Above the surreptitious mobility of her breasts, full yamakas, her rye-ripe voice starts out.

“Maps, I see.” She charts me out with her eyes.

“Yeah.”

A fixed constellation, I wish I could disappear with the sun. She swings her agile lumps onto my lap. I look furtively around us. The empty beach impresses me, the uninterpretable phases of the light. There’s a burning double impression of a cartographer’s nightmare here, beach and water and sky intersecting too quickly, plane slicing through plane, expanse and cohesion of unexpectedly overlaid bodies of water. I roll with the cradle sensation of her motions. Her hooked palms, clamped into my back, begin in scratches to strike a match.

 

*****

The dye tank at Woods Hole

in Cape Cod looks like an inverted cyclopes diver’s mask. The water is a pure chlorine blue. Two students belly-down on a diving board watch a red infection that has been scientifically introduced into the tank’s precision tides. Lamps, crimson as road flares, double for sunspots, cooking the water hot. Long tubes of air-pumped breath imitate jet winds on an incrementally rotating platform the shape of a clock. Behind black glasses with grey-frosted rims, a man in a plaid shirt points his drawing compass at the tank and squints at the deflected pupil of the world written in water.

The pool is as accurate, in its miniaturization, as a welded Swiss watch serving stand-in by religious metaphor for the watchworks universe. It is as complete as Schrodinger’s unopened box. It is the wet model of a child who couldn’t bear to hear the news a dead seashell whispered him at the age of four. Only scientists could be this literal. This obsessed with detail and the quaantification of the puzzling world’s isness.

Beyond the Woods Hole intitute’s regulated grounds, the far waters of the ocean beat and repeat, an industrial East Coast grey—harassed, and vomiting pollution-choked horseshoe crabs from its dismal waves onto the breakered rocks and graffiti-indignant shores suburban timidity has paid for. Is a lab, with its own graffitied labels and imitation horseshoe crab-incrusted beakers, really that different from childhood’s less tame investigations pursued in the wildness outside the institute?

Banks of instruments clicker with information. Ray, grown up now, stoops over the frying pan of water, listening intently. Terrible hisses rise and enlighten him. He is learning the fundamental syllables of life, of death. His hearing ear (the left one), never hit with anything intense enough to puncture it, bends to the babble. It is shaped like a seashell, an eroded horn.

I respect his dead-white wish to read the world. Strolling closer, descending from the awful speed of my electron orbit and decisionless energy level, I reach around Ray with a subdued glance, not wanting his shallow-water knowledge of this world, not really. I’m OK with my chilish ignorance, my own small spill of messes and guesses. Over Ray’s shoulder, intently hunched, I see the glossy colors of an illuminated drama spill and melt over a Mediterranean-tinted spot in the pool, a Jupiter eye.

 

*****

In the experimental tank under close observation,

the 14-toothed triggerfish dismantles

a pickup-sticks sea urchin with its eyelid-bright florescent lips. Head down in no atmosphere, it could be orbiting Jupiter, sent out last minute to disassemble a Sputnik satellite. Its outlined rear-end signals to frock-coated, thick-lensed men hunched over a deep dish of radar emanations. The radiant scopes inscribe pies on their faces while a smooth light wipes their faces clean at regular intervals.

This triggerfish is a queen in the lab. She swans the controlled and patrolled lanes the watertank creates. She has reined in her attitudes towards death in order to eat. Her world is regally equitable, even the infinite pain of the half-dismantled sea urchin’s spines seems a matter of indifference rather than grievance or need. She is in complete control of her compulsions. Decked out in the royal blue of an acetylene torch, her traced body seems a halloween skeleton, suddenly alive on a child, or the fishingline-thin bones of her devoured husband, the king.

I slap Ray’s back, Christ-skinny under his tenting shirt. He stands back from the oscillating scope and breaks his bone face with a smile.

“Lemme study this stupid fish, willya?” His eyebrows rise.

“Learn away.”

I turn toward a bank of unlabelled knobs as he hooks himself toward the glowing water. A spiritual indecision settles over me like dust. My bold shoulders hunch under the powders. Knobs rise on the machinery like melted towers, ruined religions warting the simple metal of history. Each arrowed fist, each dial, demands a conversion, an action. Each will swivel like a new girl when picked. My numb fingers slip from the slick trousers, fluctuating with the motion in stylish grey. Perhaps the fate of a nimble triggerfish rests along my itchy finger. I confront the manipulating knobs whose identifying chants and mantras and rites have been worn away by science to one hum. An abstract hand decides and rises, reversing arrows, trailing evaporate sweat over the pinched plastic grips. A world turns.

And Ray, underlit by faith, stiffens as the triggerfish wavers under a new Gulf Stream.

 

*****

Evolution knows no death is sin

. Christ knew this, and died accordingly. Pteranodons in their era snapped Elizabethan-green bat gowns above rapid, big-skulled bait making wakes in the ocean. Their leather lips require lipstick. They demand the drama of a madam, shitting and eating between four fast hands of claws. It is an elemental fireplace poker, this abstract head, twisted like a red diamond on those Alice-in-Wonderland cards sprouting potato limbs. The Pterandon carries an executioner’s air of authority. The red head shifts with a pouched twist of its sagging neck angling like a torn awning, above the long rows of ocean moss burning white at the high edges of their aspirations.

The unlovely Pteranadon strangles the interrupted arc of a fish—a winner pinning his dinner. The fish twitches fish-eyed; the split fish begins to flip its aerodynamic tail beneath a blood streak, flying with its oxygenated rust scar towards an unblinking blue heaven where it can breathe a pure, clean solution, so much like home.

 

*****

Circuitous route

. In its circus suit, amplified for business, trimmed in white for the splayed wedding day, the clown sea-slug appears on the clipped twig of a Cyprus coral, inches underwater in a phony lab still. Two snowy lips, discrete as labia, float on the orange flecked, shapeless (except for its no-shape), stippled slug. These silent creatures, flapping in erratic colors as if a somber judge’s robes had been turned inside out and stung alive, tumble hieroglyphs in water with a matador’s flair. To them, traveling in a straight line is not traveling at all; all forward motion must be ellipse and oblique advance. They are students of subtle connections. The Zeno-infinite barrier of distance is overcome with sheer style and the unknowable tao display of a blind-at-birth mime.

I check on the crenellating subject, held up for picture-taking by an invisable fishing line. It is partially wilted with an anxious school boy’s over-effort, like the fresh photograph in my drippy hand. Its oranges are only slowly alive compared to the artificial contrast induced by the stringent chemicals of the padlocked darkroom, the creator’s void of imitation, my buzzing brain-borrowed light of reflected objects, the womb water fixative, the steel pan for extra organs, faux alcohol-soaked clothesline necessary to evaporate the newness from the cribbed text, a Japanese copy of chinese characters made wonderfully foamy by the choppy effort to transport the image’s infantile watercolors over a wet trench without introducing a humped sea change. The clown slug’s Rio Grande curves diminish to a drenched mop’s motions. This sun-melted buttery slug is disappointed with its glassed-in life, its bureaucratic habitat, the artful spine of snapped-off coral that provides no restful net of shadows under the carefully articulated modeling lamps an artist named Lenny leant me.

Its life as a model, a subject of lustful study, is about to return to its pre-Twilight-Zone, Pierrot normal in a polaroid moment.

Readjusting from the bright blank dark of my elaborately gloomy Civil War Reconstruction Era developing chamber, as birth-bathed with chemical fluids as Frankenstein, I disconnect a Job-string from the sensitive boil of the subject’s squirming body and let it fall from its artificially natural arches back to its relaxed, laughless ruffles. It no longer need exhibit the rough exaggeration of pain my jabbing birth-pangs created for the sad clown; back it goes to the limp insistence of limits its measured salt aquarium existence allows at my sad command. I am maestro and minister and photographer to is miniature existence.

This poor clown cannot even choose when to wither.

 

*****

The tabernacle prism skin undulates

in purple. Hairy legs soft as pine trees fluctuate in time with a dark internal mechanism visible through the stained-glass skin. The claw of its face is black and hard as a tiger bite. Red TV antenna substitute for eyes. The slouched beast emerges from the paranoiac landscape of a microscope. It is the size of a grain of rice.

This is a sea flea, lost in water, and stuck on a microscope slide like a Kansas suicide with nothing to jump off of. In nature, it hits bottom continually, forced by gravity to live there; it despairs of fighting, a retired trapeze artist hopping beautifully out of bed to face the shaving razor. To the depths of the ocean’s muddy bottom, the obscure fecundity of sea sludge from which everything else sprang, this stained-glass amphipod, obscured by the dirt it eats (an artist-journalist), is forced, thoroughly defeated. Trapped in the coiled expectation of a long siege, unsprung in the sea’s springing bed, this creature’s histories, its diaries and trials, will be buried with it in its burrow, beneath its pure body, a bud of amethyst, indecipherable under the shrunken will of its miniaturized state.

I shake the microscopic slide clean. Its contents curl from the glass with the extended glitter of oceanic spittle under an artificial wind. They head from the initial anus of the chrome drain to the settled ignominy of the infertile freshwater sewer. I settle the purified pane on the laboratory sink’s edge and wash my bandit hands like a raccoon.

“Somebody has to burn the libraries,” I say to myself and cast an empty eye around the room for a new start, a fresh slide, an unmolested history.

Historic, or almost historic, bolted bronze plaques announce my ogled accomplishments from the field of a daffodil-shaded wall. Name, doctorate, rank. I lean in a wet wind from the tilted open aluminum window, angling toward the inherited clutter of my cynical experiments like an implicit critic: I will drop the repetition of habitual gestures, doff all hats and tin workplace smiles. I will become myself, history-less and fresh. Absolutely original in my invisible motion of forgetting, my unsponsored touch, arising simultaneously out of everything, will readjust the ant-footing of a monarch butterfly on its momentary redwood; or, like an oily tsunami arisen from zero, I will smash the
Mardi Gras coast of Louisiana back to its mud blacks.

 

*****

Plankton grows in the sea

. It is like a mold forming a perfect radius of health on nothing. Pythagoras knew this geometric truth, that the smallest plants, the infinitesimal animals, pock the sea like bread mold, and swamp the unbrushed teeth of humpbacked whales with the cold food of their diminutive souls. The whale’s great soul is composed of these million points of light.

The moldlike plankton manufacture themselves in a Judasless slaughterhouse. None of them considers their sacrifice, or considers themselves as sacrificing; they all want to be president. Pure in their McGovern ambitions, the machine of an amphipod, with the registered extent of a flour bug, can dismember 100,000 of them per day in bursting good health. Their circular minds, absorbed in mathematical rotations and schemes, are as fiercely happy as Joan-of-Arc in the sea acids of their upward digestion.

Perhaps there is nothing to them. An altruistic enzyme machineguns them towards birth, the selfless myth of multiplied corn, oiling their gold envelopes to be crushed or punctured with rupturing heat. The combined plankton sizzle the soulless sea-sounds of their miniature pleas into a cloudless air. Am! they shout, rather than I am! They are manipulated by design, a flaw in the manifold of time-abiding Darwinic success, fueling the entire system. Whales loll in their green abundance, thin-lipped fish initiate rituals to celebrate the inexhaustible tarp of food some benign fish-faced god has sprinkled over the surface of the waters.

Caught in a rubber daze of cyclical dancing, as if vulcanized by the abrupt discovery of sex, the spinning fish, sleepily full of blank plankton, are unable to avoid the taut closure of a dolphin’s mouth. Blue dolphins signal in watery ultrasonics the tasty news of a miracle. Annual frenzies arise around stupefied twirls of fish. Sharks or barracuda, attentive to blood, are themselves magnetized toward the white action. Bottom plants, fixing the nitrogen of leftover flesh into their stiffening stems, raise a myriad of obsequies toward the sun.

In the warm, ignored wallows of the water, unmarried masses of plankton, pregnant beyond the borders of their bodies, aren’t even attempting to avoid the red tide dishonor of suicide.

*****

The one-celled diatom

of the mind resigns. Its intricate crystal resistance voids in a single spike the aims of a weltred lifetime. A few rectangular cells assemble a xylophone to play a showtune on; the mind returns to its constituent thoughts, the blocks of being definable in a simple philosophical grid diagram. Who am I when I’m not who I think I am? Looking away from these primative shapes in the microscope, like waking up from a dream of simplicity, the once-dissolved will reabsorbs itself into the lie of a remembered face, the stage set of inspired eyes, articulated gestures of a mouth, the sag disappointment work-weary cheeks assume over their disappearing bones.

We assemble our origins. This soup of clothes, pool of pretenses, adjustable cells of selves. My flashing dreams manipulate these amoeba constituents in the lens into sea birds, dragons. I am looking into the cold source of life’s hothouse wildness. The steel microscope kicks out of focus. My wristwatched wrist and pale hand, contemptuous of culled possibilities, have shoved the prepared slide to the chipped edge of the worktable.

My tired eyes rise to a blind room. Over a dimensionless floor, condensing into a scuffed mist, my disjunctive consciousness suspends itself, waiting to be resolved to clarity, to have a clarity imposed. The sturdy table tilts its bitten outline into lost clouds. The microscope mirror flashes indecipherable signals, telegraphing to invisible confederates. I stand up in the directionless steam, and snap my slowly dissolving head towards the remembered frame of a window. A bright square of sky, of possibility, leans toward me. Remarkable landscapes appear and disappear past its flexible edges, soft as new aluminum. Miltown melts in my sleepy intestines, nuzzling lunch’s third highball toward stepped pastures. Sweat scalds across my thin forehead, sudden as a shadow, a fired iron blade.

My disparate parts disintegrate to their diatom units: a dragged hand registering numbers: a sickle-shaped back crouching against wildflowers: a nimble knee sinking in my brother’s ten year old stomach: a detached cock shrunk in its caul of underwear, now alert in a haze of Christy’s hair. An elbow knocking against nothing immediately identifiable.

An asleep mouth sucks and disperses. Drawls towards silence, an awake blank of wax. The first cheek registers a cheeky substance. A muscle fluctuates in warmth. And now, there is an incredible spinning as if I am in orbit around a huge and black and furiously burning furnace. The insane spinning stops, a sudden calm out of an unexpected east. Only one drop of pure wax remains, infinitely impressionable. Who am I?

The far floor stiffens into stasis.

 

*****

An arrow painted on highlighted plywood

points to H2O. The wroth broth flat-out refuses the cool sweep of the complaisant sky. The sea’s simmering blues are unabated. Two days of storm still mark the eduring pewter. It is restless, whitish now, an abrupt shrill surface of active champagne.

An awkward stork in hinged steps bobs before the divided scene. It is neither sky nor sea. Maybe the stork is the white intercession of an archangel, its wings the sweep of a savior’s gesture. The ambiguous figure in tall starts adjusts wings edged with charcoal. Wrecked vegetation all around the scene frames its weighted motions in busted lumps as it draws a pictograph of utter astonishment in the sand.

Indecipherable stones grind under the stark sea, negligee pale. Birth water. Out of the combative source of blue, red-blue, the slap of terror, knives of finding, deposited on a heaving plain barren of obstacles, flat blank of personality, hands of sands dissolving, the biting face of my enemy myself emerges. Detached from the retinal umbilical, thrown into lightning sight, one of my divided selves emerges from the alert eye of night’s hypnoses as slow definitions of consciousness go up like smoke from the wreck of being. In a smashed-up spaceship on ovoid rocks the shapes of breasts, I had landed on the dead quiet beach. The Italian air smelled clear of enemies, but my hair was on fire for sabotage and singed my nostrils with the ache for action. This was my first war.

Back in the present, I see the delighted sign, its florescent arrow pinning my pumping heart against my snapped spine. It indicates, if you follow its point, a renewal of battle, the breaking panes of the sea. Perhaps a salt whiff of annihilation rises, one unity among many others. The tall stork balks. It is unable to bring off the idea of birth in this quickening desolation. Small stones sizzle at my feet, a rash jazz.

The sky, ignored in its flamingo tones, demands, one gigantic pale bruised eye, an answer. Who will I be?

Droning in a daze beside white slippage of the combers, I regret the 100,000 names I found in a book of names for baby boys.

 

*****

Looking at a sea map,

the Mid-Atlantic ridge and rift, echoing Africa

in its Westward bend, aches like an underwater breast, in outline, toward starved American shores. The Atlantis and Plato Seamounts intersect the inverted question mark of the ridge at the start of the neck, just above the absent dot. With its comforting layer of fat and water removed, the earth is an old bone ball, a dry eye.

This image seeps into my dreams, snapping me back to wartime Italy and my first deceased stormtrooper. I see him repeating his dazzling entrance, shocked hair blond as fire, chipped eyes lost in a face too brutal to be useless. I attack. There is a wheeze of butchery, and his unblanketed body beside me all night long….

 

*****

The Gulf Stream falls on snow-blue paper

like a tree trunk. In the elaborate over-definition of his age, Benjamin Franklin, the author of this view of the sea, has magnetized the stream with the grain of a board. A security of something known in the face of such wide ignorance. It is an assertion of style, the flash of Marlowe, with feathered indian arrows drawn in the stream to indicate the general sweep of the just-discovered mystery of the water’s secret motion.

Clipper ships in three-quarter view slice a confused white wake in the fallen branch of the Gulf Stream. Maybe they are exposing the tender sap that runs beneath the all-weather bark. Save two weeks West on the right vein, the feathered shaft indicating the rapid cupidity of our founding fathers. Mandrake-men with split beards to fork off the devil.

New in the primeval woods of New England, they confronted themselves without limit, without the collective stare of their peering superiors, the reflective glare of history, that under-the-trout-neck tanning device that slits against me now, plowing through a pile of books on the windless beach. Nightmares began their elemental glare back then with the colonial men—the simplified outlines of dream and disaster, the rough circumference of gigantic trees rising out of their capped and buckled minds. Heathens breathed their air. Savagery escaped the projected woods, the wolf-dark biting out from under their brown brows.

This earth nurtured their paranoias; it nurtures mine. The dark of history begins behind my eyes, a blobbly blossom like a blood blot; all this caustic light of now is a bright deception, a bangle to trick the tourists, the Cambridge kids drinking after graduation, their pilgrim hats a buckles lying askew on their beer-stained beach towels. The injected vein-arrow of their flight, drawn by Franklin, begins to ribbon into leaf and purple vine. The sandy soil allows expansion of the ripping roots, the iconoclastic impulse that rivets dreams to the barked-over real.

Primly on their birch-painted canoes, tourists glide like seconal past the intersected circular trunk of the bright bay. One, a student, out for a day at the end of the semester, yet rigid in the remembrance of his dreams, the strict rictus of imagined knives, tips his heavy load of books back into the winking sea.

 

*****

Chocolate-striped like a dapper cookie

, crisp in a white linen under-canvas, the snail’s shell appears to be arranged in geologic layers, the scrap snippet of a seismograph emerging from the minute jarrings into serried chocolate lines. But this is all history, dead as day-old newsprint, precise as Egyptian scribe transcriptions, perfect as the eviscerated papyrus curling in broken Red Sea jugs.

 

*****

Mussels crust the rocks

. Scavenger seagulls pimple the heights, the mid-region of rock covered by the spitting shells. Below them, in a fallen arc of the viewer’s attention, a slime so green it is black, swells. Kelp and surfgrass dynamite to life in blasted tidal pools. Bladdered seaweed swivels in the backwash. This civil society cusps itself on the unpredictable edge of air. A political wind will agitate their shallow order. They are essentially Americans living in the degraded sixties, slouching at dead water midnight towards their limited and manipulated image of the seventies. The sky is a blank TV screen their aquatic eyes can’t unblurr from static.

In a few more words, they will be enough like me that I can ignore them, almost. Safe distance of identity. A cynical condescension. A projection. On the solipsistic beach, flooded with sun, even the eternal line of the unceasing sea fuzzes like an uncertain section of hair in front of my eyes. Imagining cat-slits on my ocular bulbs, I could manipulate the sea’s lazy blues away. The easy blink of nonexistence reddens my inner eyelid. Its minor frictions hesitate. I do not want to be the womb that ejaculates a world. What has forced me to this destruction, this creation?

Rich algae explodes its black flak on the rocks. It is a mural by the artist of jet. His fast ebonies. I shape it, in erotic octaves of imagination, beating with the tousled sea, into the midnight depiction of a copulating couple. Invisible birds cry out.

At one time, my Shiva-fingered hands, caressing dresses of invention, were dumb globes, fumbling at knobs, decisively incompetent. Now, in the low drama of the tide, murmur of insurrection, my slender fingers fatten, away from their piano-agile competence. I feel them begin warmly to bloat, asleep in their injuries, their laughable murders of men I invented and stuck like cardboard in their designated worlds, to swell and to bloat back to globes.

 

*****

Inverted antlers of the mangrove roots

hold a stag’s bark-brown prick in the air. Sea urchins gather in the tangle. Salt-water marks the chalky mangrove arches black. The urchin mouths suck at the swamped roots. They are entering an ancient city, a druid wood, the arched mathematical construct of a gigantic space station. Formal as archbishops in their starched doctrinaire robes, the urchins move through a dimpled distortion of shallow water, keeping a pointed distance from each other as if they were active tips of a single hundred-fingered hand. They agonize over an obstacle of corralled rock, tip their bride of Frankenstein armament on an incline of sand, and disappear with a spiny motion under dry mangrove groins.

I measure myself against the mangrove’s stiff triumphal arches. It is a cold comparison, excluding appearances, excluding dramas. I am as nothing to this living intensity.

Lowering my crew-cut and lopsided head through a decently large Gothic V, I shoulder my bundled back through the four-foot high space-portal, dodge the shrill hair of sea urchins, and hunch uncomfortably among the shattered reflections of pissy tidal water. I am inside a nuclear missile’s nosecone; radiant nodules of urchins darkly flash the countdown sequence. Or else it is a full-body electric hair dryer, hovering pastel above the wincing faces of women, and rusted to the dim patchwork colors of tank camouflage. I examine my cockpit in the dim light if the wooden tank’s visor-slits.

The contained heat of the hunched space is making my fresh fur sweat. Perhaps I am overdressed in a considerately too-warm hospital examination room, an antechamber to Hades perhaps; perhaps war is such an chamber, full of ammo and empty of meaning.

I lean against the massy tangle of mangrove roots and see the frozen halo of one of the sea urchins approach my charmingly naked, sea-slug white, right foot. It seems curious and efficient, a doctor checking recruits before deployment. Am I headed for fight or flight? War’s razors, or the open spaces of astronauts? I, in turn, examine the medical authority of its motions, its stiff timidities; it looks as if it were diagnosing the open throat of the sand beneath the cathedral mangrove. I wait for the cool judgment of its touch, the cold stethoscope, the hot needle. Voiceless, it bulks up and onto the lump of my foot, a ball of foils in the sidelight, and adjusts its one doctor eye to my foot’s arch. No injections; I am not needed for either outerspace nor earthbound battles. The urchin tumbles off toward the glow-spines of its fellows, clumping for take-off like a bag of icecubes in a steward’s bin. A tense rivulet of sweat unzips my back, spilling nothing vital.

Alive at least in the green tree-water reflections, I realize that I will never rise or dry.

 

*****

The Angola Abyssal plain is burnt

. There, miles under the smashed mirror of the slave trade routes, volcanic ochres ripen. The evaporated congo river on this map inflicts a “fan” of scored, lasagna-wavy edged lines on the otherwise smooth, completely tense anger of this ocean plate shaped like a chicken leg, or a footprint, resonant as drums made from human soles.

I tap the map and move back miles and years into my russet-dusted memory….

I slap my foot in the dead trench. Dust puffs up. It is a robin’s egg afternoon, ready to smash apart. Fragment jags of blue stab out of my back in enemy territory. I carry a conspicuous brightness in my spine, scalding open spina bifida style, a pretty radiation winking from the eyelike wound of bone, the removed hatchet absence in my back. This eviscerated field in Italy is scissored apart by shells, by sky, by every unpredictable whirr of shrapnel.

Abandoned objects thrust up under my padding foot, trying to jack my sweat-black head above the dirt crest of the four-man foxhole, a baked lake unable to shake its dry ocean connections, its long blades of clay exposed by spade and a gouged taste for the desperate. This is my shoveled hovel, my own Abyssal plain, my stared-at waxy page of sea-floor map, dropping me without its salt water and toilet flotation device straight into the crummy memory crevice of WWII.

Pacing past a dead nazi’s body, slumped and slashed with swirls of clothes-folds like last night’s laundry, I tap a slim cylinder cigarette into my numb hand. The blaring battle action has sagged. Occasional emphysema coughs erupt from either side of the front at random, scattered noises of a sickness-stricken zoo.

Orange plains. Blue pressure of sky or ocean. My life has crawled between these two extremes. I fold the depopulated map and accept the waiter’s iced drink and red ink check.

 

*****

Manta Ray. Devilfish.

Picking delicate shrimp the shade of a girl’s fingernail from an abstract plant complex as a beehive hairdo, the Manta Ray scrolls its flexible scythes. Those fleshy loops that bracket the wide mouth in a semi-funnel, corral a pink crustacean like a wedding-cake rose through the flush water. The devilfish’s caped bachelor suit is perpetually neat.

Netted like Christ off the paradise shores of Acapulco, a huge ray reveals, in its flying diamond complexity, nothing vital about itself. Like me, slashed with accusative shadows, this black stump-shape of pork loin is sold and wrapped in self-attractive plastic that bonds with anything stretched to the requisite drum-note. Any sufficient insistence of alien hands will capture it, for it is always obeying the pressures that surround it. It submits with the subtle elastic bowing of attic stairs.

The captured ray is willing to be walked on, or raised into faceless symboldom. We are alike as ciphers. And that attracts me, that lazy covalent bond among men, the unity of marxism and christianity, Lenin and christ; they swiped pagan attitudes towards nature, the native numbness of faces ritualized into significance; i.e., doing what their grandparents did, seeing the void under the same warp of magnetism, Christ or Lenin, bland values out of a past that seems so milk-consoling, stabbing away real life’s inevitable loneliness—the singluar one-on-one of intimate killing, for instance…. My gold man, razoring over a ditch edge in Italy, died surprised as sunshine on my unrusted bayonet. I want to be what he was: young, able to rise and fall in the war ritual, a premature fetus swinging his mother’s womb by an umbilical lasso, tied by hand into the social concept of a pretzel and considered edible, able to be sacrificed because so thoroughly a part of the communal body, a spare pared nail.

The Manta Ray sways in a rigorous confusion of dark diamonds as our high-handed hands haul him onto the deck. The butter-cuts of the monofilament net that had scored his skin like a chessboard, are disentangled from the beast and thrown over the side, lowered for something new.

 

*****

The crimped sail of the emergency

life-raft bakes in sunlight like the edges of Mrs Stahl’s under-pressure needlework on a circular wooden frame the size of her shrinking and wrinkled husband’s face as he waves to me from their oval window, his hand enlarged as a claw under a red reading lamp, undefined as a tentacle in its slurry of motion behind the green-tinted glass.

The waves themselves are the icebreaker wakes of her angelfood cake. Pure air honeycombed in sugar dough. Two-inch candles, twisted under the spiral undulations of the flames, melt into the white icing. It is the birthday of a stranger, a remembered ceremony, the cancelled reverberations of a faintly German song marching into our empty yard. Watching through the uninvented view of a window, I can see the small yellow tinsel flames sequentially extinguished. A new light appears that shares the outline of my hungry body.

The sunlight is intense beyond my closed eyes, my lips thristy as I sit seesawing on the ocean. Only memory calls me out of my daze, a phone call full of static and passion. Whose birthday was it all those years ago? I see a miniature Christy smiling eyes-closed in the spat of candlelight—the old light moving farther and farther away, a dim blue hole closing in the clouds until I only feel the waves beneath me again, the broken rocking-horse of the birthing sea.

Set adrift by a hull-splitting scurry of accidents, I see in the submerged matchstick eyes of an agitated knot of sharks under my safety orange rubber lifecraft, the happy last image of a sea-marooned and starving man.

 

*****

A lighthouse at midnight steams

in the spermy Switzerland of its outlet. It stands alone on a craggy escarpment, a warning. It is a dark block of hewn night, assembled from arrows bound in cat gut or from the eye-strings of enemies, they twist single single single switches of field grass tightly together to create this obelisk; the black bulk indicates a determination; the direction, a god.

The enormous peppermint stick in enameled spirals, torques towards an emotion. It is a reverence for technique in the bald face of overwhelming odds; given a solid, upright engineered form becomes, through its unique engagement of resources, technology. The icepick enters an elephant; light enters the darkness; the lighthouse darts into a flank of sky; a spout of blood illuminates its way. This is the sweet method of technology.

Halfway underwater, my tin head keeps its glass lamps dry. On the inside. The sea breaks its Greek shards at the phallic foot of the lighthouse smaller and smaller. Chromey water oils my view. Bright slant stripes pinwheel into distorted sleeves with a Renaissance puff. The tower crouches among the sea’s uneven blacks, ebony sickles spurring against the one ray of dusk’s first star still hanging in the late sky.

Out of the ecstatic spotlight, I watch as the hooked edifice blurs into thick-margined lines, shapeless chimpanzee fingerpaints, distorts upward toward the doughnut oval of its own bright, swinging desire. The simple assertion of the lighthouse, high as my pre-war suburban dream, and flashed with crimson insight and latex waterproofing, curls at its foot in the priestly intercession of a wave. It sizzles skyward, away from all the tilting war zone of the water, trying by the luck of combined angles to puncture a new revelation through Hollywood heaven.

Solipsistic in the shallows of the given year, I feel the interfering wave fold over the Marconi-sensitive, mantis prayer shell of my body as I drift witless in revelationless shallows.

 

*****

It is a matter of energy

. It is a matter of energy, and not time. Trigger shoals blade into the soft sides of ships off Nantucket. The bone shoulders of this fanned out and convoluted sand catch many fish. They are hoping to pull together a critical mass of dead parts and sea junk. Rust stains swirl away from the coral bed like an effloresence of bloods. This is the aching
Gertrude of thoughtless men; the switching sea channels that changed Hamlet, squeezing the birth of resolution through the sea’s mixed metaphor and chaos.

Generations of New England whalers killed themselves against these shoals. In a detached spree of American independence they did not even recognize their farming, rock-turning and wall-building, fathers as fathers: only the sea.
But the sea was mother too. So abstract father became God, became a constellation, became a guide to navigation. They step-fathered themselves to maturity against the suavity of these rocks. In a radical arc of action they killed their fathers and now must kill themselves. So they load up their iron hooks and needles, a rapier-minded sewing klatch, into the long shells whose edges are turned up like dry leaves, a carved mask, a breakable wooden persona, and give chase to the most basic image of themselves: the roiling, blue and diving, burning and plumed sperm whale.

Stark shoals are humming underneath the men, deeply attractive as magnets in their primal and nuclear weight. I float through the hole of a snookered frigate, ripped and displayed here in its still effervescing death; there is a morbid freshness in its continuing decay. Compacting to a photographic plate, an unclear x-ray, this rippled under-pinning of the Atlantic, shoal upon shoal, has culled debris into clumped and whitening clouds of disease. Here lies a general indication of the nation’s ailment, a pensive weatherhead of cancer, the puritanic accumulation of an under-achieving child’s pervasive and general sense of guilt. Men have died here to deny their fathers, to cut themselves free from the land, from history.

Looking at the sand-bagged and rusted-out outlines of shadowy hulks shifting in the hallucinatory sand, I add my throw-away and sag gravity to this drowned black hole that eats the light of identities.

 

*****

The iris accumulation

of the coral is a spaceship. Its aerodynamic UFO edge gives it the bloated elegance of a zeppelin. Honeycombed with the bone blossoms of its species, you can see a few of the living cathedral windows have been punched out; perhaps by the agitated scrabbling of an octagonal crab, perhaps an organized squad of escapees exiting Iran with the traditional hem of their robed garment regularized as a jet contrail.

Indeed, the coral outcropping has the fractal appearance of a mosque—the religious injuction to never depict real life made by Mohammed in his Arabic visions; an expression of the secret faith that the solipsistic powers of people can’t project with any real idiosyncrasy, any ability to emanate from a unique center that Islamic preconceptions have not altered and epoxied into stereotype. An Orwellian will to affix reality. A Soviet determination. An IBM-like regimented insistence to instill. And yet, this is real, this humped clump of coral, an effort of individuals disappearing into a circular edge of stone flowers incisive enough to pry apart the entrenched, presidential pearl of a sullen oyster. Something in me begs to disaster this built-up rigging of perfection, this blind obedience to obedience as if willed by Allah Himself.

Unclenching my gloved and hovering fist, I realize that just one manipulative hand is required to bring about this feat: to topple a religious, political and social environment, complaisant in antagonistic harmony. This supreme society of choral corals is vulnerable to disruption. A simple fist will do it, or a levering lift of insistent fingers.

My bound hand having ceased to bleed, I idle above the pleased symmetry of its oval edges in irreversible recovery. I could bring this edifice down like a deer, melting its sudden confusions and wound-open hexagons, crumbling like Bambi’s broken mom. I pause; a velvety evil inside me piles up like tar and ebbs. The aerosol hairspray of my intentions sprays and frays, stiffening nothing into desire. The unencumbered blood bank of cellular aliens simmers its engines; the sharp-edged coral vibrates, a marooned UFO. It rocks from its anchors like a parade float as I push, a dim orange emanating in laser diffraction beneath its sinister weight. Its slick energies engage in a silent rage of red, axing itself into the shifting sky.

This sissy reticence is as close as I will ever come to birth.

 

*****

Nightshade and venus forced to bloat

pregnancy under ultraviolet light. A Portuguese man-o-war sacked with bbs and given a face to chew hubcaps. An airport string of runninglights imparts a permanent curve to the niger’s scoliosis sides, shoved 4,000 feet away from air straight down as if allergic.

Deep in its unpollinated Utah of water, the Chiasmodon niger prowls for miniature shrimp and bleating flotsam with an invisible scowl. Upsidedown on its predescribed belly, plush violet and heavy, a false fin, like a mittened and spastically stiff hand, emerges reversed from its spine like a backwards jet engine. It could be a tossed dart, this purple fin, aimed at the rollercoaster lights along the ruffed spine and missing with a drunken lover’s lag of carrythrough. Hanging mid-way beneath the two-inch terror’s anus is a blind eye, the false eyelash of an eye, perfect as a target and intended to distract the tiny attentions of its immature victims. They’ll never see him coming.

It was in a similar spirit of illusion that my parents hired a magician for my fourth birthday party, crowded indoors by an unexpected rain. The room was rosesoft with balloons, their silver luminosity melted into the shapes of hearts gave back the triggered activities of the room’s closed square. A quilt of healthy children, bouncing about like apples in a tub, their heads rising under dark mats of hair split in the mercury-shifting crevice of the strapped-to-the-ceiling hearts, roaming with our collective breaths, misting with the birthday boy’s gigantic candle-killing puff, insistent as the bearded North wind, that put out myriad candelabras arching to the edges of the bloated hearts above us. I grew older.

And then, suddenly punctured by the magician’s gloved hand, the nearest balloon, dark in the dimmed bay of the room that had made the burning cake dramatic, dropped an instant glitter of confetti against my upturned face. I shake a new knife into the niger’s black gut, my SS present, and find my distant faceplate nubbed with unexploded eggs. And I am unable to smell the fragrant rain.

 

*****

The angry whips exist in gems

; they flick behind a curtain pure as pearl, immune to the sloppy cycles of sun or moon. The tide is a tent-top ten-thousand feet above the whips, undulating in the wind strongly and slowly as if composed of desert dunes that move by hours and eons. The tent-waves cover high, tiny unicyclist dolphins and tightrope-treading flying fish in alternate bands of bluegreen light that are almost stripes—when all at once the enormous tent’s surface is startled by a summer breeze.

Like all angry objects, the miniature whips are attached. They connect to the clawless form of lobster, the deep-sea prawn. The four-inch prawn is actually a shrimp, expelling against all odds its gilded screen; it emits a glitter from the small links of its body, this tiny prestidigitator with enough arms to be a stage manager, or a 1914 movie heroine, mouthing curses in bitter silence, beating her endangered arms in practiced distress cutely against the chest of her captor. This is how the prim prawn flagellate their innocence against the snap-jaws of viperfish—their retreating and troubled antenna writhing like rubberbands behind their staged gold smokescreen.

One pink prawn retreats from my fingertip. A fat prawn in mortician’s black, my index digit guesses at the prawn’s pale disposition under the expulsed golden gloom of its miniature escape cloud; moving in the rest of my hand, a militant quorum of morticians jab past the hokey gold mist and grab the skittering bracelet shape of the prawn. Something blacker than my rubber glove lurking behind all that metal swirl crushes the reddening resistance of the prawn’s crimped body in an invisible explosion, its small exploded guts tracing twirls around my knuckles.

The whipped glitter of the flagellant curtains the corrosive drama—a drama without redemption entirely.

 

*****

The deep-sea eel lies folded like a carpet

unrolled down a staircase. Its eye is not blind, its bulldog jaw crushes the political rhetoric of its banner body with instant death. A red Roman tassel flashes over its orange eye the size of a mortar barrel. Paired arrow-fins, florescent red, enter its circulating gills as an eccentricity of design expressing the personality of their owner. Perhaps they are the red cry of a death-wish, or the lust of a hunter to feel the strength of its own bite, its fatal superiority.

The eel’s tensionless crest buzzes by me. My canned hair edges up. This far underwater, I must boost to the silver surface in creeping stages, dangling by a looped-over air line in mid-murk, waiting without a nicotine fix for Grendel to grump his way home (perhaps after unpacking a crumpled tin of me, hanging in helpless piñata profundity, buoyant as a girl clawing along an empty bar with her balanced drink). I watch the tremendous butch abundance of the bleak eel peal past. I hold my glistening innards still. Nothing bleeds in fish-whiffs from my skin to trigger the eel’s instincts, except perhaps a clenched stench of oil, spoiling from my suit’s robotic joints. Tin man in the magic woods, I want this punk Dorothy with her razor wig and slicing edges to purl along, leaving me to the rusted-in shackles of my interrupted industry, the riveted stove-pipes of my bolted Andy Jackson bearing—stolid and without a horse in the coalblack battlefield of my chosen eternity.

If its steel teeth were to bite colonies of errant air from my made-in-Malaysia suit, I would have to rise towards light and bend.

 

*****

It comes from the demanded drama

, the poet’s tweak and thunder, that the old stonefish in her alcove recess blends an ordinary carapace with dismal murk. Double-mossed fins elaborate as a lady’s slip make a mundane skirt for the hidden venom of the stonefish’s lips. This race of fish is all female in their long wait and poisonous anger abrupt as a matchstick in the dark.

And yet, there is an undeniable maleness in the stony surface of its eye. Scratched as an ancient temple wall, the registered sled tracks fall off into an abyss of pupil, dark as a dream of hunger, a hunger satisfied only by Abraham’s sacrifice. If miniature aircraft, adroit as flies in their landing maneuvers, had skidded unwitnessed on the dust of a discarded monocle, the marks would not be different. This fish, sunk to the bottom of a pile of unkempt rocks, has lifted a line from Yeats and has “cast a cold eye/ on life, on death.”

I declare this fish to be my mannikin image, in my bloated stoned perception, something I can fall down to become. Crusted with mossy petticoats, it blocks definition with an androgynous sulk and an armored brow, the pasted-up attitude of a library lion, all terror in its frozen sleep. I, too, can erase my outline underwater and live as a camouflaged rock. When it looks out from its hidden nook, does it see a mirage of existence perhaps? Or is it locked in the iron meditations of a motherlode? Its grainy gills blip. It is living towards some catastrophe, riveted to silt and lost like a discarded breadloaf among rock imitations of breadloaves, too stale for anybody to eat. Maybe Prometheus, sizzling to this depth, would take a bite of such compacted bitterness.

Suspending a wicked hook of chum, detached from my own thigh, in front of its split trumpet-lips, I wait for the earth to move, concentrated down to this one glum chunk of quarried rock, this detached scion that will stand for all the meanings of mundi my imagination can muster. I will catch it and kill it and be free.

 

*****

The striped spikes radiate

from a striped body. It is an indecipherable geometry. Its jut of action as it swallows is complete as a turkey gobble. The zebrafish studies a line of desire to its last implication; Louis XVI puffs of assertion motivate its jagged going. It is always arriving. Identical in black and white or cinemascope, it has an androgynous aspect, a political evasion of identity even as it declares itself in loud stripes.

I think of this as it murders a flamingo newt with an unconscious poisonous spine, and passes on with an iron stomach and stiff brocade of spines as the ballet tissue of the newt death-convulses in pure pink. I see that the zebrafish, bullying forward on its hollow chest—replete with insistence as a stock broker—has made a sacrifice for its successes, its big entrances slick and gliding under a silk hoop skirt; it is the assassination of character under image.

I want that faceless existence: the lightning-striped facepaint so outrè and extreme the face disppears. Something under the totally reflective silver circle of my diver’s mask bubbles after anonymity. I swallow a lump of regulated air. The sedate zebrafish ruffles its facade. A living curtain of spears, slashing in their accuracy, saunters against a comparatively blank backdrop of an actor, hysterical and minute. It rolls its Buddha-placidity forward, making the remote tips of the spears fluctuate like the hem of a girl’s frill….

Swimming in uniform in ’44, the tight black-code outfit of my assigned scuba unit, I swiveled into sand with a bright, almost electric, erection under the rubber, trying to find the sunken shallow-water eggs of my misplaced mate. When I looked up, wet-faced, from the ancient uterus of the
Tyrrhenian Sea, Christy’s serious face, detached as if reading, rose halo-style over the soon-to-be-exploded factory town.

Trapped in the active definition of myself, moving in secret, I lacked access to the Mardi Gras ingénue anonymity of the zebrafish. There was no revitalized Southern-belle entrance to make my decisions for me, no grand staircase to ascend, nothing but the agreed-upon goal to destroy the target and erase my responsibility. What social protocol could I evaporate into? What assimilated sky would accept my frantic atoms? The casual boxes of the town bulked up, obscuring with a quenched clocktower Christy’s luminous left nostril, and fractured like a highrise her hovering smile.

Tracing her filigreed reflection in the pattern of the rained-on streets, I passed crossed out, or closed, carbon-copy shops, greengrocers, butcher shops, innocuous duplicates of any Italian town—a singularly diminished essence that would not suffer any loss when compressed flat onto a postcard, flashing in a tall stand that twirls.

I am almost ready to insert the confetti-brilliant causality of the explosives I have carried here with my unique guilt and make my zebrafish exit, indifferent and visciously suave—and then return to the sea entirely absorbed under the gigantic crisp combers of Christy’s rainbow hair, coiffed high and lovely as a romantic sunset over this doomed town, the rainbow stripes of her pleated perm vaulting down to the water’s edge.

 

Therefore:

 

*****

Straight from the inked and crisscrossed terrors

of the 19th century, two behemoths wrestle under water. The boiled cleats of a monster lobster claw-clamp the smoke-hole of an octopus. Its segmented feelers and tux-tiled waist, starting just behind the giant head, hides beneath the mottled skirt of the octopus, avoiding the tentacle ovals NASA learned to design air locks from, waltzing with a Southern correctness under the ballooning brain bag into the perfectly centered beak of death.

This Godzilla contest bucks across the abandoned ground of the ocean floor. Struggling for supremacy in a meaningless sea of counterpunches, the octopus puts an Atlas foot on the nonporous rock face and slides for a better grip on its tanklike opponent. Exposing its splotched vitals in an attempt to use its brown parrotlike beak, the octopus ties itself down like a tent. Strapped and rippled by the different tensions of its suction anchors, the octopus’ unmoving eyes stare straight out from the opposite sides of a no-nose. It carries a dream of Arabia perhaps in the still unsettled bob and forehead of its jello sack of brains; in its expectation of a feast, the octopus curls the feather tip of its farthest anchor-sucker into the cinnamon swirl of a princess’ slipper.

I close the old fable book edged in gold. The outrageous swallowing body of the octopus lies frozen in the plaster bulk of my night lamp, its feminine hips and leg-like stripes of art deco molding. Out of water in the stacked bones of this dry New York aquarium hotel, high as a hundred-year pile of baseball cards played face down, I bounce from the velvet bed toward the half-buried silver ball of a covered tray, resting like John the Baptist on the thrown angle of a serving cart. Steam bleats out from under the fogging edges of the tray as I raise the bright cover up an inch. Steam flares under the oblique rays of the veiled eye of the octopus lamp right as I throw the silver cover over the happy jumble of an uneaten salad, revealing a hot cooked lobster, gigantic on its plate swilled with limpid butter.

The fight of the fable, its titanic struggle and wildness, has emerged from my subconscious fully clawed and cooked.

Shivering like a high wire under snapping winds, the pale epileptic shakes of my abusive right hand cannot resist cracking the innocent curves of the boiled lobster’s red back, the solemn lobster’s laboring arch, cracking it wide open to expose the pure white plumes of death.

 

*****

The goat-eyed squids in the pebbled foreground

are wearing party hats. It has a hundred legs made of compressed oil. This nautiloid that farts into its skullcap to keep afloat; its empty head, elegant in length as an Elizabethan announcing trumpet, carries the
Aztec herring-bone pattern of a 3 a.m. motel room TV left on between cable channels.

I fall asleep against this image with my lobster bib still tied around my neck like a cowboy’s kercheif. Maybe a miniature me will ride its wild party hat in my dreams.

 

*****

Pol Pot’s potato head expands

in the coriolis effect of the earth’s motor rotation. The split tides of his mind divide into opposed currents, dirty water rotoring counterclockwise in
Argentinian sinks. All this within the Richard the Second circlet of his skull. It is a political whitewash. A deflection. “Watch very carefully as with stunned efficiency this shuffled pack of Tarot cards disappears into your life,” a carbine voice announces in paced words.

Somebody is selling a copyrighted (and incorrect) method of ascension. The television, bolted by thick bars to the textured ceiling, screams in blasé hypnotic grey over the tortured and ripped up edge of my aquarium-size Map of All Tides, O Man. The pretty lady with a smeared face and painted nails fans her demonstration pack in a way that implied colors. My dramatic memory drips in black and white, awful absences of blank for the washedout faces, scolding scabs of tattoo ink, pure black, blotching out the subliminal bone structure, the cow’s skull. Her wide mouth flabbergasts at coincidences. She cites the celestial influences of stars, million-eyed. My map folds along its wavelength warp, squeezed light allowing a quantum distinction in the delicate overlay of atoms, their cloudy orbits and evasions. crunching the map down to a large card’s size, I begin to see the aquatic relations of the swirled world unblurr. It is a solar connection, an oven of insistence roiling the arrowed whips of the tides to an arterial beat, a constant game of cessations.

Playing with the skirted pleats of the blue map, I notice a secret drain in the TV accessible only to the completely insane, a buzzing bore hole leaking away the trapped and renewing tides to a dark, electrical place: the cathode-ray gun tube.

 

*****

In an era dominated by dinosaurs, the quick lizard

, no bigger than a man’s pizzle, splashing through a housing project swamp packed with matched dragonflies and killer-leaved ferns, sway-tailed his way down the delta to the open water—the first of billions of returns that life would make to the freedom of the amoeba, the diatom, rotoring and noseless proto-life. The lizard’s unmown curbedge of teeth is half of its length, seaside tough and overgrown. Once returned to the sea, what will this serrated lingam become? What rearrangement of DNA will life invent—for the millionth time! Balanced in its whip rapport with speed, its cartilage core, and its slight, tiger-tattooed sides, the whole assemblage could curl with undulant comfort into my grandmother’s sewing basket.

No commanding parent, clustered over the toilet with his cramped child, sane and domineering, would flush this ball of terrors into the rank fecundity of a sewer.

 

*****

A subtle Pteraspis sucks my will

.
Armored under the dome of ocean, its unfinished tail-end, awkward as a 50s car, embodies an innovation. A segmented series of calcium deposits allows its armor shielding to melt into skin. It is an ancient burn victim scored and mottled with sudden flexibility. The slick tail slashes. The water washes back. They disappeared with the appearance of more salesmanlike fish sporting hinged jaws.

As an extinct type, they gather an academic sympathy. Their brown bullet-heads batter history into existence. They make the Hegelian ghost of evolution batter and repeat. Immense transparent constructions arise full blown in the afternoon mind, tinted by the fake shifting light of imagined details. White water feathers from the tap, floriate. Ghost faces melt in its water flames. My German enemies, bouncing blond over the blond autumn landscape, blond wheat, blond fire at evening eating the cold grapes. Also, native Italians are invited to the massacre. We looked around, a glum group of big-boot Americans, at the Nero ruins of Caligula’s famous floating battle boat in the empty Nemi. Even this theatre of war was at last trashed to cinders. Something beyond the copper shields of history, distorting our summer ambitions with an unearned tan, flashed and burned here, the decimated dell staring into space after god like a bruised eye.

Spinning toward darkness, I watch the open archeology books, stolen snickeringly from the public library only to be punctually returned, flip their pages beside the window with nobody reading. Fantastic facts and slick shapes, streamlined by a constant razor of grief and necessity, practice their trained curves in front of me, starving girls or dolphins. History in a swimsuit dancing its rank striptease. But I am a boy, a thoughtless boy, let in late to the neighbor’s berry patch, after the crows.

 

*****

A dime shines brightly in a dark bar

. Square, ruined faces, like the torn off ends of a shoe box, turn into holy ovals in the reflected light. A hollow shotglass with a racingstripe lip sit primly beside the sluched bundled body of a man a foot away. His padded figure hovers above the bar top.

“What’s the shortest distance between that dime and this shotglass?” A slim grin divides his face with an ironic shadow.

“I don’t know.” My rye voice is fallow.

“Wanna bet?” A yellow leer.

“I said I don’t know.”

He coddled the shotglass in his ravaged hands, torn by sea-salt perhaps, and soiled with tobacco fidgets. He pulls a comic strip bubble of blank air through his teeth with a squeak, crimping a tired lip. Rescinding speech, I sink into the thin foam of the mauve barstool. Out of a violet crossfire of reflections, his stout voice clips out:

“A straight line.”

Neither of us laugh.

Crumpling money in a rose spotlight, diverted by a suspended glitter of beer mugs, I tuck my puny bartab towards the rich edge of the unmirrored bar, stuffed with leather. I turn like an electricity meter on the screwtop of my seat, ticking a perpetual increase in eaten amperage. The stranger’s “straight line” has fished a decision out of me, my plum-colored depths. Something purple in my heart proposes action, any action, any flat-out and rippling delta overwash of movement. My mind grinds in its socket. A grotesque propeller of hooks tries to beat out what my glands know, what I am going deliberately—in idiotic deliberance and absurd consciousness, a walking talk-show host fired by an immense desire to occupy time—to do.

Under pink floods of scribbled neon, my feet cross the steel threshold past the uncertain waver of a glass door.

I am going to the ignited Empire State Building.

 

*****

My life’s a wreck. The vital squeal of will

, a surreptitious scar that forms over past malfeasances that, by subtle dissolution, become yourself—playing ego, acting id—crashes a black heaven of act over yourself as a kind of stand-in guilty superego. Above I, above I is flight. I am whatever this slight-of-hand somersault is, this thing in me that is never able to fall, to learn how to fall, to tumble in unmentionable silence to the quick pits, the tarry essences that stick and restrict. This truth is what the terrible two-year-old rejects. Naysaying freedom. The blessed ability to abrogate, invent by distortion, the counting up of bleak blocks, grey tiles of effort, stories of will rising over fields of circled and invisible indians chanting central park into luminous, criminal existence. These are the imagined yous you drag with you into whatever existence is, the ripples that expand and demand—cresting finally into the art deco topping of the blessed and fluorescing Empire State Building: my high soapbox declaring nothing, denying nothing.

The building’s glowing ribs ignite to a peaking diminishment, a stiff definition, a delineation of character (as created by its stopping, its refusal to rise any higher) increased and eternalized by its stony pile-on of story after story, its sweet repeats of format and style. This is how everything begins to be; it can only go so far, and then it must stop, sheer exhaustion leaving a trail-shape in the sand behind. My chest aches with the underlit rock waterfalls of its needle. I near its chopped out valley of sky, its girlish window on infinity.

Iceskating down the avenue, stumbling on stilts, wilting towards the dissolved disaster of decision, provision, a mental projection including everybody, lying millions into existence, steeped in the erect sleep that will cause this monumental train wreck of consciousness, I pay my way into the carpeted elevator that will steam me upwards to the injection tip of my awake dream.

The steel grey doors cuff shut. My day-glo ribs ripen open.

 

*****

Tremendous music billows from the plush

planking; soft as a cassette ejection, the audible tremors buffet my rising body. Dirty light exits a centered and welded-in-place lamp. There is no sliding sensation of motion, no fresh ruffle as we fall upward through the resonant aorta valve, and then sink three inches in wet cement to a rocking stop at the top of the Empire State Building.

The sore doors hiss apart.

I am underwater. The few windows are something from Namo’s Nautilus.
The submarine portals, sallow in their green copper frames, play out a design of darkness, washing away the sinister stark stars, humming a phosphorescence of waffled-by-low-currents coral at their lower, binocular rim-edge. I step up to the high, round focus of one portal, the punctured moon’s secret exit. UnAmerican McCarthy, I stall at the view, glancing back at a glitter-trash of gumwrappers and the labial glare bleating off the ruddy remains of smashed coke cans. Still, I can’t turn toward that awful black, the hole-punch hole pulling the spinning jet’s passengers to a communal void. What’s outside will tell me nothing of what’s inside myself, will it? And I want to find out something about myself, anything valid, as if speaking alone in a hollow room, that skeletal clarity.

“Here I arrive, boisterous off the hot winds of chemical New Jersey.”

Tin reflections refuse the words, returning their welter complexities with inanimate overtones. It is a tough tin buzz. A sealed circuit fostering a wicked fray of feedback. My spun skull, candy-cotton delicate in its inalienable prejudices, falls again toward the Golgotha window, my slick forehead perching against the greased glass at perfect witness height.

 



*****

coda

       Night, night, 
and the city in consequence high above itself, 
illuminated skeleton 
as on dirigible 
as on the deep fish,
        the hatcheted faces.
  No mouth showing
        where the moon-circle blots stars, 
a hole of darkness, 
the telescope eye painted over.  
One falls through the skeleton to stars, 
meaningless stars,
  meaningless, meaningless.
             Threaded lightning 
not apparent in the flash and beat—
Nor the streets, also, 

invested with sleet  

Sep 022020
 

 

Gregg Glory
[Gregg G. Brown]



Published by BLAST PRESS


Copyright © 2017 by Gregg G. Brown





Stuff and Nonsense

 
Dark Poet, your pen scratches at the heart of life. ~~Antonin Artaud

Nonsense is often the most sensible kind of sense. This is counterintuitive, but trust me for a moment as we proceed. This is no three-card monte. Nor is it like the wonderful magic of Emmett Kelley the clown sweeping his spotlights into a single circle, and then putting that circle in his pocket, patting his pocket and smiling like Einstein after he’d eureka’d light into a corner.

Nonsense reveals all of us—our self, our situation—in a single pop of recognition as we are trampolined from our usual assurances and then forced to regain our footing, to regain our meaning, on the fly. Like an old-fashioned photographer’s flash powder, we are exposed to an extreme of light, with no visible space left for secrets or lies. This is part of the odd exhilaration of nonsense. And, don’t get me wrong, nonsense isn’t some sly encyclopedia where all hidden truths are stored and we must simply discover the index—oh, no. Rather, the puzzles that nonsense reveal are genuinely unsolvable. Gregor Samsa will never come back from being a cockroach; his transformation in the story “Metamorphosis” has simply revealed the pickle he was already in, but didn’t know that he was in.

What nonsense reveals, at its best, are genuine mysteries.

And, like Gregor Samsa, the character in the poem “Nagging Question,” who wakes up with a pile of feathers at his feet after having torn his pillow apart in his sleep, all he can do with a true mystery, once it has been revealed, is to go back into the realm from which the mystery emanated. Gregor cross-examines his family situation, and the character in our poem returns to the realm of sleep and dream. But, with new, perhaps sharper, questions in mind with which to confront the mystery that has been revealed. Or, it may be, with no questions at all, simply with one’s eyes widened.

This process resembles the scientific method, except for the fact that there is no control group. What variables could nonsense ever control for? There may one day be a science of comedy, but never one for true mystery. The only control group we have in poetry is every other poem ever written. Their mysteries abide, and it is into them that we go to confront those mysteries again and again—and to find more of ourselves more truthfully (or at least more fully) revealed.

 
   [With] the pillow exploded uselessly between
         your hands
   And what looks to be a chicken carcass
   Piled in an inscrutable white mound
   Headless between your bare feet [...]
   There’s only one place for you to find your answer.

Gregg Glory
August 28, 2017




Other
(How To Be Invisible)


Disappearing Act

The shaggy sea wagged its big, wet tail.
I walked right into its open mouth 
And was never heard from again.




Culprit

This entire time
I’ve been stealing peaches
That look like my face.

My hand’s shadow
Grows crooked over their innocence
As if I were shaving them.

Soft as they are,
They talk softly in my pockets together,
Accusing me of many crimes.



Ruby Woo

I knew a girl who began disappearing
From her feet up.
First her toes faded out, then her heels,
Her arches were twin bridges to nowhere.
You could still hear her clicking down the sidewalk,
But she no longer stopped at the shoe store
To windowshop.

Her knees gave her some trouble
And you could see the kneecaps gleaming
Like little cat skulls.

She was so relieved when her ass finally disappeared
She threw a big party and danced all night
But mostly alone since no one was sure 
Exactly where her feet were, or if she still had any.

Last week I went around to visit
And had to let myself in.
She was just a pair of lips on a throw pillow 
On the couch.  I spoonfed her a little chicken broth
And blotted her dry.

She talked a lot, various histories and opinions.
We talked over each other quite a bit,
And I wasn’t sure if she could hear me.

On my way out, she asked me
To apply some lipstick for her, ruby woo.
But, I couldn’t oblige.  I’m all thumbs.



The Poet Wild

 for Joe Weil

An echoing bear snuffles woodward.
His head sways heavily back and forth,
A shovelful of earth.

The bear has eaten the world.
His eyes are full of sorrowful stars
Typed like whited-out asterisks.

The bear pours out his voice,
Black licorice poured on roaring waters.
It echoes in the earth and air.



Reading in Eden

The books are more like trees.
Tall, with letters like people bending.
You run across the pages naked,
Roll endlessly into the binding laughing
At your clumsiness, the pages like cream,
The sun warm applause on your back as you struggle.
The flat people around you stare wide-eyed as Egyptians,
Silent, your foot caught in the plot.



Evaporating Lines

The magician disappeared into his hat.
The rabbit had hopped off long ago,
But, there was his shadow.

*

I am ferried everywhere on the back of an ant.
A leaf, an aphid.

*

I am disappearing like a silk scarf pulled through
     a ring.
A small hole, an ear.

*

Disappear with me, the best is yet to be.
Quoth Browning, quoth God.

*

I ride in upon a magnificent wave of birth, raving
    and foamy.
When I retreat back to death, I leave behind
A salt grit, a stink.



A Hard Wind

A hard wind is bending 
The wintry world.
Tree after skeletal tree 
Seems tentative
That had been solid 
As wainscoting before.
Walls holding in, 
Windows looking out.

Blue corners of the sky 
Are being torn.
The straight line of the horizon 
Weeps like eyes 
Bowing downward 
At their sad corners.
Sad world.  
And no tissue big enough.





Life

Life is shit
They all said.
But, they didn’t
Really mean it.

Life is suffering
The wise man said.
But, he
Didn’t really mean that.

Life is… is… is...
Unavoidable!  one blurted.
And they 
All laughed at that.



The Reader

Politely, devoutly, 
With head bent down, the reader 
Asks permission of the text:
May I see what my imagination
Has already cooked up?
Can I smell the key lime pie, 
Lick the great comedian’s face?

Loyally, I wanted to kill Issac, too, 
But I stayed my hand.
Isn’t that right, little book?  
Didn’t I chase a white whale 
And feel the harpoon’s spur?
I kissed with Eve, 
And I hissed with the snake.

The pages fell over me 
Like wings, like ashes.

Pages spangled 
With ant-like letters.
Walrus words thundered 
Into the sea 
After the good fight,

Their white tusks 
Hidden underwater, 
Their eyes mysterious,
Human as a mermaid’s.



Riding Fido

The last time around I was a flea for sure.
Dodging the dog’s teeth, the dirty claws of his foot.
Mounting the spine of an eyelash to make love
Or see the endless dogscape.  How the world moved
With the slow gait of an elephant, tilting
Precipitously as a great sailing ship in a storm.
Such vistas of grass and sky and dingy living room furniture!
The dog was splendid, a saber-toothed bear in battle
Who slept all afternoon after a meal.
Speaking of which, there was always plenty to eat,
You bet, steaks of skin and gobbets of blood to spare.
Pull up a chair.  Hair of the dog and all that.





Words Without Music

Whenever I think 
Things are going too great,
That the total amount of joy 
Is adding up 
To one fantastic finale, 
One oceanic applause line,

I stop eating for a fews days.

Just to remind myself 
How things really are, 
Or usually are,
Or are often enough, 
Or were once,
Just to remember those things

That come to mind as your stomach shrinks.

Like carrying a goldfish 
Home in a bag with a leak.
The fish flips 
Harder and harder 
In a smaller and smaller 
Corner of the plastic bag

As its gills get bigger and bigger.

Under the transparency,
Red and agitated
As a cut under a fingernail,
You feel them
Desperate against your palm,
Golden under your thumb.



God’s Hooks

Who could’ve put the stars up to it?  
Shining up there like God’s hooks.

Bait for what fish?  A soul in a gown?

Only our satellites have gotten so far.
Tossed burning from the Earth 
In a dash of hope, like poetry.

They send back pictures of vastness.
Same as the view from here: vastness.

Who knows?  Maybe we’re already hooked, 
Already being reeled in.  Our invisible line to God 
Already tightening, already shortening.

Eventually, even the satellites we sent blink off,
Drawn out of black water and eaten raw.




How to Be Invisible

Look like yourself.
Find the average wavelength of conversation
And neither exceed it nor cut it short.
When strangers approach you assume
That they are looking at something 
Over your shoulder.
You’ll almost always be right.

Try to go around feeling
Like you’ve just stolen an apple,
Or a dozen, your sweater pockets bulging.
Carry on with an anonymous air of savior faire
Pasted on your face
As you exit the supermarket.

Getting married can be very effective.
You’ll be talked to half as often,
And couples are twice as hard to see in a crowd.
Soon, you’ll be like a cloud no one remembers,
A misty uninsistent thing.  After a few years, 
She won’t even know you’re there.
But, trust me, save it for a last resort.

And don’t ever, ever call the police.
They’ll just take your fingerprints
In ten little puddles of ink,
And you’ll have to start 
Filing them off daily.

One last piece of free advice
To feel invisible as fishing line, as sky,
As all those assumptions you make.
Don’t buy a dog.  Seriously,
Whatever else you do.

Dogs never let you forget
That you are loved.  Loved utterly.



Objects


Water

Water.  
I keep trying to think of it.

I only get as far as thirsty.


Consider a Stone

It’s already too late.  Whatever lava
Roared like a furnace in the Permian period
And made it a stone, has been stopped cold.
A stone is a stasis.  Chipped littler and littler
By gossipy neighbors nipping at its reputation.
Locked in grey skin and quiet, there’s endless time
For regrets—like after getting married or arrested.
I’d say it’s a frozen tear, but that’s too lachrymose.
In your hand, there’s weight enough for murder.
When you put one up to your ear, you realize
At your feet everywhere roil fossilized bubbles,
Drowning men crying for help. 



Pinpricks

Remember that movie Hellraiser?
All those pins pounded in his skin?
An army of darts.  

When something creepy happens
We get those same
Pins, prickles of intuition.
Hackles raised as if we were
Reverting to wolves.  

There’s a parable I know about that,
But I’m too tired to tell it—
Trying to get back to sheep, I mean sleep,
Turning over and over again
As if basting in an oven.

And all those pins digging in
Right where the wings
Are starting from my shoulders.



Cages

Step right in, ladies and gentlemen--
Gilded and ribbed, there’s
A cage for every occasion.
One for being born
Nubile and pink, soft cordons
Confused in the wet umbilical.
A cage for work, oh yes,
All varieties, from rust
To resolute platinum.
A cage for marriage
Red with love, red with strife.
Rattle them, my inmates!
Make sad music with your cup!
Sway when the master walks with you
Down the streetlamped way.
A cage for every occasion,
And a cage for happiness, too,
Fit as a shoe and able to dance
A whirligig jig or two.
One last cage, a bonus cage,
A cage of stars for your soul
Where the mind peters out
In the dark, far, far before
Its ragged hands reach the bars.





Spoon

A spoon lays down 
Like a droplet,
Or buries its head in the soup 
Like a ostrich.

In the mouth, it’s like 
An extra tongue
Wrestling 
For a dollop of ice cream.

Confined all together,
They clang in the drawer.
A folded xylophone,
A music of muffled intent.

Turned over, a flock
Of silver peahens arrive,
All of them pecking
For a beakful of feed.



House

How can I be alone in my house
If I’m not alone in my soul?

Folded together from memories
A house imitates a home:

The buried dog’s outstretched skeleton,
The cozy oven, Christmas omelettes.

In the empty street the houses
Blow about like paper lanterns.

The windows wisely lock me in.
The trees keep count against the panes.

My mind’s not right, when so much night
Pours ink upon my sins.

Voices vanish, yet whispers stir—
A fly that lands upon the skin.

Time keeps to the clock.
I was, but now am not.



Wiping My Lips

The seamstress is feeding
Bat wings into the sewing machine,
Doves’ wings, pecking
My stitched initials.

The finished handkerchiefs
Flutter at my neck,
Crouch in my lap,
Kiss me after dinner, a peck.

Once I got this set of six,
Mixed, semi-transparent,
Just clouded enough to keep
Me embroidered.


Buttonhole

Come to me, little blue button.
Stop up my gaping smile.
Be held and whole.
Serve our warm closure,
Sure as a handshake.
Let’s survive another loveless day
Together, hugging.



Electric Fan

A whispery fan 
Brushes 
My exposed skin
With coolness.

Its brushes rush
Over me
Eagerly 
As dog wags.

I can’t quite
Make out
Whatever it keeps 
Insisting.

Its blowdart
Has missed and
The propellant breath
Is delightful.

Whatever it’s saying
I’m sure that
Eventually I’ll 
Agree completely.





White Threads

A needle traveling
In the dark is not
More mysterious
Than I—

Seeking its splinter 
Of light, it’s gap
In the night
From which

It can emerge
With its
Terrifying face
Intact.

A needle is less 
Insistent 
Than a question.
It pricks,

But it doesn't 
Gnaw.  There’s 
A politeness in needles
I hadn't considered,

Pulling their surgical 
White threads
Again and again 
Through my skin.



Chairs

Once I saw a man make a pyramid of chairs.
A dozen, perhaps.  Gangly, ungainly cane chairs
Threaded together somehow, linked leg to leg,
A strange assemblage Duchamp would’ve painted,
And hoisted in one elegant lift to his chin!

Our hands applauded in a burst of gunfire.

He continued to stand like that for some time.
Arms out, eyes fixed on the swaying chair bottoms
Which made a sound like trees in winter.
They twirled like a chandelier hung over his nose,
A little smile spreading under his mustache.





The Far Side

The windows are falling.
They are pieces of sky falling.  Or pieces of air.
At first glance, a window seems like a kite stuck
    in a tree,
Something simple, a thin pane of clarity trembling—
There to help us feel the tug of flying.
That’s what windows are, in essence, 
This sense of something falling that keeps on falling.

We fall through windows with our eyes,
Arriving at the far side of walls, in open space.

Words have windows in them, too, vowels and ladders,
Invisible squares we fall through to an otherness.
We sit reading in an attic with Anne Frank
Or a tree suddenly grows in our Brooklyn.
Our parents faces change when we look at them,
And we are no longer who we were before.
We have fallen through this invisible thing.



TV Remote

It’s a Rosetta Stone by design, a solution stone,
A Stonehenge with the eld symbols still visible 
On its tall, crooked tooth.
Combine them at will and light appears
Square and docile before you, a rag quilt
Pulled blurrily over the entire room, a cloak
Of fire
That gives a ghostliness to the life
You inhabit.

The Rosetta Stone in your lap
When held before you like a wand
Will help you to make sense of the ghosts
Thrown like sheets all about the room,
Your life now softened by their omnipresent glow.
It will help.  You will find it helpful.



Two Supplicants

Shoes take the first step.
They come to us like petitioners,
Their tongues turned out for a drop
Of holy water, the impish benediction
Of a toe.

They wait below the waterline of our attention
To embrace
The calm presence of an arch,
The elastic pressure of a ball,
The flat command of the heel.

After a while, years maybe,
Having given their soles to our direction,
We peel them off like grapeskins and 
Examine their pulpy interiors dark as clotted grottoes,
Rank as dead fish.

And then we discard them
Without noticing even once
How perfectly, like supplicants, they have taken
Our image inside themselves, the weight of our identities
Shaping them and breaking them at last.



The Washing Machine

Its face is a Charybdis 
Full of soiled underthings.
We come to it as to a confessional,
Shed our daily skins like dirty snakes
And pour ourselves in for punishment
To leave with a watery burden.

Refreshed, we drag the burden
Out and pin it on the line to dry.
The human figures dance, though the sky is grey.
Soon the sun looking down makes us
Ashamed, and we pull our old sins back on,
Clean-smelling, one leg at a time.



Thing

The name of the thing is Thing.
But it’s really a hand in a box
That shuts itself in with a lid.
Sometimes it pops out of another box
Or shuts another lid, after helping
To hold a nail or straighten a tie.
Thing’s shadow-puppets are dramatic and informative,
A kind of one-handed hula.  Today,
Thing loops a lariat, or is it
A noose, and leaves it neatly coiled
On the old-fashioned table for later use.
Now, what am I to make of that?
Thing dances a little, gives a firm OK.





The Beginning of Spiders

Not, certainly, a splat of teriyaki on the tile
Which then wriggles and walks away.

Not that shadowed corner of dark crinkles
You ignore at the edges of your eyes.

Nor spider veins that invade the body, spikes
Of blue midnight, cracks of live lightning!

None of these is how spiders started,
Those inveterate inhabitants of nightmare.

Spiders, with their crowd of eyes like pustules 
Of blackberries, began just the way you did.

Just the way Socrates got started all those millenia
Ago: by cell division: wheels within wheels.

Like Socrates, spiders may be given poison
To drink.  Unlike Socrates, they’ll bite you first.



Green Apples

Sweet isn’t the word I’d use—
A parrafin, a first bite of sour gum
That never gets chewy perhaps.
Juice like a fourteen year old’s kiss, syrupy, thin
Waterfalls down your chin as you laugh
And go in for another green bite.

Thoughts are green like this apple.
Timeless, bright, with a circle of brown seeds hidden
In all that sour whiteness.

When my stomach is full as a fist,
I reach back into the packing crate
And start whipping them against the side
Of the Eden Orchards barn.



Shadow Puppets

All night spent practicing
The flop of rabbit ears,
They grey trunk of an elephant,
The giddy-up of a horse.

Later, there’s the legs
Of two lovers dancing on the wall,
Getting the narrow feet to leap
And land just right.

Around 4 a.m the lamp
Tilts a bit drunkenly.
Or is it the yellow moon
Leaning in on the fun?

Last thing I do
Before dawn takes the wall
Is work on the little, square
Eye of a crocodile.



Paper

Alone as a dot
In a snow-filled meadow
Your pencil tip 
Sheds black feathers
Like an old crow.

The sheet is ice
Or desert,
Void or supernova.
It doesn’t say which
And you don’t ask.

You slide down whiteness
Holding hands
And stop on tiptoe
To acknowledge 
The endless cliff.



Sex


Difficult Clasp

It is when you were absent,
Visiting your mother, or missing,
That night most advanced
Its absence.

But it was when night was gone
And you were here again, that
You, wearing your hat or not,
Were most absent. 



Solving for X

Lab tables of fireproof resin
Kept partners paired
In their experimental setup,
X and Y chromosomes gleaming.

The Bunsen burner’s flame
Like a needle between them,
And a walnut crucible balanced
On young tongs.

It was delicate, wasn’t it,
The way her curl
Was drawn like smoke
To the blue fire?

My fingers still sting
Where I patted her out,
Leaving a small scar
Visible behind her ear.



Exes

Long ago she stopped asking about you.
Stopped making inquiries into your welfare.
Or wondering what you were doing right then
As she puréed the skinned tomatoes from the garden
And poured another tall afternoon Bloody Mary,
Falling asleep in her trashy novel on the chaise lounge
Where you’d made love to her with careful athleticism 
Letting the little wheels help ribbon the rhythm,
Her face turned aside for an imperative sidebar with God
All while you’re cursing and grinning like a demon
     possessed
To the cool applause of the pool.



Dinner Engagement

My tongue loops over my tongue 
Slipping into a slippery knot
As she shifts out of her dingy peacoat
And sits down to dinner with
Me again.

Her hazel eyes are to die for
But I resist their deadly insistence,
Cooling my heels and blowing my soup
While daintily she slurps her minestrone
Like a lizard.

Finally we’re alone on the roof
Holding hands with the moon—
Hot as two dinner rolls, making out,
Buttering, unbuttoning her tight top,
Tying the knot.



Romance

Gussied up, the broom
Wags its golden wig
Over the debris, the dust, the days
That have fallen to the floor.

I like to think of it as a romance.
The broom, beautiful and slender
Picking up after her drunken husband,
The lout in dirty work boots

And no time to talk.
But, years ago he would sing Johnny Mercer tunes
So beautifully to her in the car.
Like I say, I’m a romantic.


Cherry Lozenges

Here she comes again
Handing me another
Cherry lozenge because
My throat’s stuck coughing
Like a motorcycle choke.

She comes back a bit later
With spoon after spoon
Of blown-on broth, and a
Palm on my teakettle forehead
Like cool water.

Whatever patience is
It has a face like hers,
Bending over a car wreck
Like a tree bending over a river, 
In its leafy hands a wrapper

And a cherry lozenge.



Editor’s Note

How, if it happens all the time,
Can it count as being a surprise?
This moonlight 
Alive in dark rhododendrons,

This tension in a whisper,
If it’s you whispering in my ear?


Third Attempt

Ducking, dodging 
The swipe at my puss 
Like a pro I land 
A kiss like a fly
Six-legged, delicate 
On your apple cheek.





Time



One by One

The senses arrive
With daylight,
Like birds 
Lining up to sing
On a wire.

They take the small 
Seeds of dawn
Into their alert beaks
And break them

While the pale shells
Pile fluff
Between the claws.



Too-Early Morning

Sunlight makes everything grow up.
Yet still the night comes, is coming again
Even though it is barely past pink dawn
And the friendly mirror is waiting for me
To comb my unruly hair like a good boy.

The cereal is waiting there in its white box,
The patient milk in its red carton.  Spoon, bowl,
In their dark drawer and closed cupboard wait
Like springs in a clock. Tick and wait, tick and wait
For the morning the owner winds down, and rust

Covers the clock.



Knifefight

Between the stabs of rain,
I remain.


Vernal Equinox

The first cigarette of the morning drifting
In through the open window.  Ah, Spring!



Life Forms

A few disheveled 
Bits of scenery.

A bus that drives by
In the mid-distance.

The little girl’s bicycle waiting
For her return from school.

Every day this neighborhood
Becomes a moonscape.

I’m the only alien left
Typing on my magic box:

The man in the moon
Made of shadows and craters.

The sundial ticks,
My nose grows longer.



The Bite of Memory

Bite your fingernails.
Bite the clouds,
If you’re up for it.

You could spend hours practicing
Biting smiles in faces,
Spitting out the seeds of teeth.

Your mouth will empty itself
Eventually,
A bucket done with fetching.

Look, in one day you’re old,
Maybe even a little lonely.
You will be bitten back.





The River Forever

Watching the snaky surface of the river forever,
Dim in the river valleys, light on the river crests,
I ask myself: “Is the river moving downstream, or is it
I who am moving down rivering time forever?” 

The river only hisses, shows me snakes of sunlight
That writhe in a pile like spilled lines of mercury,
Seemingly going nowhere, the striving river flowing so.
I—who?—watching the snaky surface of the river forever.


Death

 
   Hurry home, dark cloud.
   ~~ Charles Simic


Just Like Heaven

That little corner in my dream
Where the buildings are made of Legos:
A pretense of an apartment, a town, a country.
Little brick dogs sniffed other brick dogs.

People shook hands like constructing a friendship.
The clouds were a heavy, discolored white, drifting...
Large rudderless cruise ships or giant squarish sheep.
My best friend was there, his face a grey diagram.

He had died some years before, but here he was.
The clocks moved their crooked, blocky arms.
It was always the same day, again and again.
It was my favorite place.





Loitering After the Funeral

Misfortune scrawled her phone number on my hand,
Curled my fingers shut slowly, my hand in hers,
And whispered: Call me.

Bad luck follows me like toilet paper sticks to your shoe.
You never know that it’s there, trailing whitely,
But everyone sniggers as you go by.

Sadness isn’t so horrible if sad things are happening.
There’s a congruence to it, not some hangman laughing
At the radio as he pulls into work.

Tragedy, frankly, is more than I can lay claim to for myself.
Even on my bleakest, blackest days, I’m not tragic.
Rained out, sure.  But tragedy is art.

This isn’t art.  Wheedling a cop out of a ticket on the way
To the funeral home, shoes clubbed with mud
     and crying
Because your friend or mother has died.



Dead Feathers

Children circled around to look inside the wheelbarrow
At the dead owl, its eyelids blue like Grandmom’s,
The dead feathers speckled, not yet full of fleas leaving.
There’s a solemness in the little ears like marked pages
Never to be returned to, never to be read again. 

The claws are amazing, longer than a lady’s red fingernails,
Tines still sharp at the end of their forks.  

Tommy looks under one eyelid, bravely touching it;
The great eye seems alive between his fingers,
The head just about to swivel 180 asking “Whoo, whoo?”
That’s when Steve backs off toward the woods, 
Uninterested.  

From his back pocket there dangle
The two rubber arms of his slingshot.



So That

 for my Dad

I don’t remember what he called himself.
Lank as a construction crane,
He passed through town like a hook through a fish,
And taking the town with him so that
I’m missing him terribly at an empty table.

The four corners are the four corners of a map
That’s all Sahara, blank as a sandbox.
He’s nowhere now, the back of a Möbius strip.
The toys have run off to play with the neighbors,
The child who smiled here has died.

I feel this answerless vastness, not even an echo,
Like spending all day counting graves,
Walking to where two iron fences meet
And turning back through graves again, through
A few trees, a wind like a scratchy record.



Long After

Long after you are dead
—Yes, you are dead—
As your head lies in a bridal veil
Of galaxies, and your feet 
Have rotted through your shoes,
And everyone you knew is written off 
And has written you off,

You will begin to find
A way back, a secret hole
That leads to your old self,
No matter how far you have gone
No matter how dead you are,
Like waking up still drunk
To the acrid smell of coffee.



Spare Parts

 
   One passed in a fever.
   One was burned in a mine.
   One was killed in a brawl.
   ~~Edgar Lee Masters

It came with less surprise, less and less,
With each iteration plucking
Eyes out of those wayward dolls.

Now they are lined up naked
Blind and dead,
These waxy cadavers of the field.

Time had been as broad as daylight, 
Fiery as wine.
They ran around the house like secondhands.

Now, no houses will be built in this field
Except little stones ones leaning on crutches,
Grooved with names

Evening fingers touch and pluck.



The Quotidian


Morning Routine

Cut a slip of door
Open to find the light
Spill like a lampshade
Into day.

The sun’s an old man
With his beard on fire.
Quick, before it goes out,
See everything.



The Statistic

A chalk stick figure 
Written on the blackboard
Jumps off to sit beside you 
On the train to Long Island.

You worry he’ll rub off 
On your suit sleeve.
But you ride out together, 
Eventually leaning back,

Crossing your legs in sync.  
You two are much alike
You decide, whistling tentatively 
As the scenery passes.

The chalk figure 
Picks up the melody easily, 
Its lips 
A perfect circle, 

And you harmonize until 
He rises at the next stop 
To hop off, his slim center bend
Leaving a white dot on the seat.



Winter Waltz

Winter picks its way carefully
Over the rolling summer meadow,
A big fat ball of snow
On stilts.

If you stand under the winter 
You get rained on, 
Cold and salubrious 
As a fever bath.

If you follow the winter
All summer and into the fall,
Tracing its tipsy steps
Blue shadow by blue shadow

You’ll wind up back 
In the meadow, only this time 
Everything’s sheeted white
Like a corpse.

Wrap yourself up in the sheets
And start rolling!
Don’t forget to grab the stilts
On your way out.



Blood Light

Small reddening lines creep under the curtain,
Cracks in a delicate shell.
Dawn is welling like a cut, a blood light
To walk dogs by, piss quietly beside the sea
Before the dark tide of tourists unpack.

I follow the dog as I follow my body outside
As we go beyond the scalloped alcove of curtains.

For now, the rocks are still sublime, green outlines
Like pensive bottle shards huddled close
And the sea fitful between them.
White spray lifts in bliss, in blessing
As the small moment passes. The dog tugs my leash.



Dim Air

God must be at home in this muddle.
Dim air heavy, a hot muggy wig
As Suzanne says, her blond hair
Limp and damp, a slap of yellow paint.
Dots of sweat fit for a goblet 
Pinprick her fatal forehead,
Clear and lickable as champagne 
Poured down in glimmering lines.
My beer is blind and wet with sweat.
Insects were born for this hot, humid glue
That has me losing my dry binding
Until I fall apart soft and crumbled 
In your hands again, Suzanne,
Neither God nor insect.



Night and Day and the Poet

The painter looks up at night’s enormous suave.
The singer listening to the choir of stars is calm.
The poet is unhappy in the sweaty bed.
He counts the fleas in summer’s threadbare fleece
Groaning on arthritic knees.

By day, the painter packs a lunch, details the regatta
Like a thousand flags blazing all at once in the sun.
The singer is trilling and making her tea.
The poet waits for the mail, but it’s always late.
The box sticks out its silver tongue,

Eloquent beyond his labored sonnet
Lying misspelled in the cluttered grass.
As they trot back down the drive,
The dog looks up at him with hope 
But is always disappointed.

A hundred birds erupt from the bushes as they pass,
    singing mightily.
Shut up! the poet screams at nature and himself
And goes in to lie down on the threadbare bed.
I know, the poet decides finally, sweatily,
I’ll just write down whatever the birds were saying.



The Optimism of Opening a Window

What’s out there,
I find myself asking
Like irregular clockwork.

I’m stuck in this
Air-conditioned stasis
Listening to flies.

Such know-it-alls!
Cruising the fruit bowl
Or praying on the television.

And then I spot a thumbprint 
Of sun on the windowpane.
Let’s touch it!

A moment of pain,
An almost sizzling gold
Mixed with Bhuddhist orange.



Pure Arithmetic

Thousands of invisible mice
Are pulling the shadow of the barn
Eastward as the sun drops West.

Millions of unfindable doves 
Race upward with matchsticks in their beaks
To light the wicks of stars.

Billions of underwater sleepers
Lie swimming in their beds
To arrive at island dreams.


Endless

The children have been playing 
Their endless games
Of hide-and-seek, 
Waterslide, hop-the-sprinkler

Like so many flowers 
Uprooting themselves 
From the field
And running around 

Screaming in endless joy
Under a sky 
Scuffed with clouds
Or endless blue

Over a yard called home, 
With father and mother 
There
Endlessly tall

Cleaning up the icky barbecue,
Packing up fork 
And plate and 
Enormous soda bottles

As sunset sets 
And everything goes slightly
Lemonade-tinged.
And the children at last

Are called in by their 
Roundelay of names
For the endless walk back 
To the house and to bed.



Usual Procedure

The songs of birds are for other birds, mostly.
So I figure that laws are for lawyers to obey, mostly,
And taxes for accountants to pay, etc. etc.

Leaves seem so at home in trees, why do they depart?
Clouds move from place to place so peacefully, then
A zipper of thunder, and they pour themselves away.

Are the birds lamenting the leaves’ hasty departure?
Are the clouds paying their taxes all-at-once?
Lawyers stamp around on the damp ground,
     looking satisfied.
     

     

Walking Later On

Countless pebbles 
In the darkening road 
Look perfect
As statues’ eyes—  
Blind white,
Round as clocks.

As we walk together 
The late afternoon 
Closes them shut,
And evening leaks 
Upward like rust 
On an empty shed.

The pebbles chuckle 
Like hens, even though 
They are just eggs.
Leaning here, we find 
Time for silence 
Despite ourselves.

The country sky 
Opens, unfolding 
Its somber umbrella
As we continue 
In the small rain 
Of pebbles falling.





Getting Lit

Over the summer tavern with its rocking chairs
A cheap electric string tenses in the wind
And then relaxes back into a lighted smile.
The clear globes have one filament of brain each
Like a jellyfish, flashing dimly yellow
Above dim patrons dipping into beers:
A row of bar birds, like those ones you see
With little tophats and thin beaks of glass.

Drinks are emptied, and laughter shoulders
Pamela high enough to nab some bulbs
And pitch them against the swinging tavern sign
With the plosive softness of puff mushrooms
While glitter gathers beneath it in the dirt.
A stray dog whines and circles excitedly.
Above them darkness recedes, who knows how far?
The moon seems close enough to unscrew.



In Praise of Moon Rocks

All the grasses like green minutehands
Are keeping westerly.
They stop when the frost arrests them
At quarter to midnight.

I want to feel the grass barefoot.
I step outside
Through moonflower wings of faintest gauze
And sliding glass—

Or through flies’ wings, and the frozen buzzing
Of metal grinding backwards,
I think when my feet crackle the miniature shivs
And a shiver undoes my back.

I proceed to the old garden patch
Guarded by stones.
When I pick one up and inspect it closely,
Dense as a brain in my palm,

I’m holding a moon rock.



Commute

The 6 a.m. train coming on is a lion’s roar
With a mane of carbon sparks.
We ride inside an electric eel
And read the illegible graffiti of frogmen.

Cold tunnels appear and swallow our longings,
Holding us in echo after echo.
When the station platform arrives like a diving board
We rewind onto it

Graceful as exclamation points!
We swim off to work.



Lesson

The teacher erases the blackboard so carefully!
So carefully, so completely.
The equation that explained time and motion,
The history of East Texas—gone!

What’s left is this presence from behind the stars.
A black potentiality, a malice
Demanding never to be marred again,
Chalked, degraded, colored-in.

The first letter, an I, lands like a feather
From a passing tern.
Soon the whole silent universe is crusted over
    with feathers:
Crabbed letters, a line of hunchbacks, rockettes.

At the end of the day the teacher
Exhausted with explaining everything once again
Removes all evidence of herself
And goes home, wherever that is.



Snow

Everything was peaceful at first.
The wheelbarrows brought in the whiteness
Silently overnight—and everything looking clean 
Like a napkin before the soup course.

Little by little during the day, the edges
Get a bit soggy, or a corner tears open
Revealing the black, dank eye
Of a log in the woodpile.

More and more of the napkin
Gets dirtied by passing cars, by lipstick, by soup.
Random dark spots appear on the x-ray
And start connecting like cancer.

Soon, all that’s left of whiteness
Is a grimace or a grin here or there—
A stray piece of spaghetti
Stuck in your teeth.

The final photograph in the series shows everything
Exactly as it was before the snow
Began to fall all over itself.
But now, everything’s miserable, cold and wet.



Stealing Kisses

 
1.
Winters I talk to the mendicant fly on the wall
Of metaphysics, starry-rayed emanations,
The sunlight falling filtered and pale.

2.
Each spring I grow a new leg, or two legs,
Just for dancing, for running
Up to new lips to steal a kiss.

3.
In the fall the leaves do all the talking.
I practice being a beetle, opening and closing
The valves of my coat.

4.
In summer—have I said what I do in summer?
In summer I drink wine
And let my beard catch my meditations.



History

  
Whether the knife falls into the melon or the melon onto the knife, the melon suffers.
~~African proverb

Conjuring a Yawn

Before the world turned
Into a computer screen,
I watched leaves play
In the scuffed yard.

Each leaf was a little country
On a map, an outline,
Or a man standing up
Like a shadow,

Arms and legs wide.
Sometimes at sunset
The man, the country
Would flare up on fire,

Burning incandescent red
(A sacrifice, an emblem)
Before rejoining
The dark conversation.

Once, a wind came.
The whole sea was burning.



Hitler’s Gardener

Ah, here they are now,
Fresh from their decapitation.
For your vase,
For your buttonhole,
To bring out the blue in your eyes.



Day After Tomorrow

The police artist is drawing my face
In charcoal, line by line, in grim brimstone
For a stranger, one who attended the ill-
Attended impromptu poetry reading
Under a chilly streetlight flickering
Where we used the forbidden words 
With facile ease as in the old days:
She is as in a field a silken tent.
Genders, pronouns, she, he and all that.
The stranger hadn’t seen much, though, 
Just a zee zaying zomething, a blur 
Like a face wearing a beard or sprouting one,
Two feet, or maybe one was fake, the stranger 
Hesitated to say: other-abled, some color
Or other.  Yes, yes, I think zee was a shade.



Watching Rain

Watching rain gathering in a street gutter
As it picks up twigs and leaves along the way,
Little by little, on a growing gush of silver,
The hurrying water twists like a wet
Towel as it swans down the drain...
As it goes cavorting down the black grate
Like oil returning to the dinosaurs, bearing as it does
A red ant rowing a broken stick to oblivion, looking
For all the world like Christopher Columbus.



Picture from Life

The newspaper unfolds like a bird
Flapping, squawking, almost extinct,
Its chicken scratch of facts
Passive as mirrors passing
On the side of the glassworks van
Developing pics of sidewalk life
In their instant emulsions.
A slouchy kid, a happy couple strolling.
An armed guard with his rifle
Tipping the lids of garbage cans.



Good News

It always feels like you have to go too far back
To find any good news to report.
Men all across Germany shaving their Adolph mustaches
Just before the Allies roll into Berlin.
The breadlines getting shorter as the war machine
    cranks up.
Chamberlain’s “peace in our time,” the pages flapping
As he descends the long gangway of the cruise ship.
The war before that ending, the one to end all wars.
Then there was the invention of canned foods,
But that made the Civil War drag on, I think.
Or was that Napoleon driving a bayonet through Europe?
In any case, the French Monarchy was toppled at last,
And there was a moment of holiday in Paris
Before the guillotine was trotted out for L’Terror....
At least the king’s old chief of secret police kept his job
After the revolution.  That’s something.



The Way of the Dodo

Without fuss, friendly, meaty, flightless,
They make their dim-bulb way
To the sailor’s tin dinner plate.  They talk 
Among themselves of evening things,
How pearly grey a rainy skein of sky is,
How docile the nest with its beloved egg!
So many good eons gone by scratching
Among roots for adorable grubs, edible
Bugs—scratch-scratch, whistle, coo and cackle—
As among them long white legs angle, and night
Comes, ever so gently, swinging its club.





Story Time

The story where the boy set sail for the South Seas
In an overturned hat.

Or the one about the old woman who lived in a shoe,
Her children tightening the laces.

That one where all the animals stood around talking
After killing the farmer.

How about the Chinese protester and the tank?
The flea who ran away to the circus?

Reminds me of the story where the mad composer
Conducted a beautiful sunset.

Or the story where the surgery was a complete success
But you died anyway.

That story.  And the one after that.



Sleep Perhaps


A Man Asleep Under His Hat

 
for Charles Simic

Everything’s normal at first.
The trees are just trees,
His dog is not a wolf,
The wife is not an electric chair.

So slowly it is unnoticeable 
The flowered wallpaper
Becomes a waterfall
Of beautiful roses.

Then, a waterfall of thorns,
Then blood,
Blood with teeth 
Salted in,

Hands trying to swim,
Butchered feet drowning.
The smell is atrocious
And abiding as an abattoir.

The wolf wakes up
And starts chewing on everything in sight,
The wife clicks on
And her voice is 10,000 volts.

The hat shifts 
In the sunlight,
A hungry fly 
Lands on his nose.





Nagging Question

The last feathers fall like slow licks of snow,
The pillow exploded uselessly between your hands
And what looks to be a chicken carcass
Is piled in an inscrutable white mound
Headless between your bare feet.

What the hell had you been doing in your dream?
The blue pajama stripes lead nowhere, the feathers
Curled up like questionmarks everywhere else.
You lie back down carefully, no pillow now.
There’s only one place for you to find your answer.



Sleep

Sleep unfolds a staircase from its magic bag.
I walk into its countryside in the ceiling,
Elbowing clouds awkwardly away.
My head pops out of an especially fluffy one,
Impertinent, pale, as if on a pole.
This is where I’ll unpack my suitcase
And set up shop for the holidays.

I lay back on the couchy cloud’s flying carpet,
White plush like a plucked sheep,
And look up where the observatory roof splits open
Abruptly, serenely
Into a perfect square of stars—
As if the night sky were lifted there just for me,
For my dark and my dreams.



Nighttime

 
if the night is long remember your unimportance
    ~~ W. S. Merwin

Four walls of tissue paper
And the stars behind;
Eye in my bed, a stone,
Alone and blind.

Days come like forkfuls of food
I’m forced to eat;
Night shines a moment, red wine
Acid when I drink.

Night opens a little door at the foot
Of my bed.
I follow its black thread
Spooling in my chest.

Dreams come like forkfuls of cloud
I’m forced to eat;
Dreams of doors and stars
And shining thread.



A Student of Insomnia

The table walks 
Like a pterodactyl 
In my dreams,

Steps its highheel 
Spikes on one nipple
Then the other—

Until I stop it 
Cold by dumping 
Granite study books

Quarried
From my backpack 
On its sweptback wings.

These earliest vertebrates 
With the power 
Of flight,

I read.  I read 
About their voices 
Of torn aluminum,

Their extinction, 
The dissecting table, 
The surgical table,

The butcher’s block, 
The map table
War rooms use, 

With battle units
Pawed like pawns
Around the globe 

By rapier 
Croupier sticks.
The kitchen table’s 

Wings 
Give an indolent 
Flap.

Mom’s tropical plant 
Elongates 
To a green beak.

I panic, 
Double down on elbows
And eye the clock.



The Doorknob

The doorknob keeps saying ‘turn me.’
Then when I get outside, I look back
At the other doorknob saying ‘turn me,’
And I am tethered by my mind
Inside.

Night folds me in its leathern wings,
And I fold myself in my nest.
From my bed I often hear a voice,
The doorknob’s plaintive squeak saying
‘Turn me.’

And my mind goes there, I am neither 
Outside nor inside, myself nor
Someone else, sleeper nor dream.
I turn all night in my bed,
A doorknob.



Pantsless Naps

Only two more words.
Two more,
And I can swing myself 
Off the hook.

After all this banter,
This panting—
The pantsless naps and
Apelike perspicacity:

Carving poems in a boulder 
With a toothpick,
Blowing hundreds of clouds
Into the perfect

Shapeless shape.
One, two,
Then sleep:
THE END.



Sep 022020
 

Dark Poet, your pen scratches at the heart of life.
~~Antonin Artaud

Nonsense is often the most sensible kind of sense. This is counterintuitive, but trust me for a moment as we proceed. This is no three-card monte. Nor is it like the wonderful magic of Emmett Kelley the clown sweeping his spotlights into a single circle, and then putting that circle in his pocket, patting his pocket and smiling like Einstein after he’d eureka’d light into a corner.

Nonsense reveals all of us—our self, our situation—in a single pop of recognition as we are trampolined from our usual assurances and then forced to regain our footing, to regain our meaning, on the fly. Like an old-fashioned photographer’s flash powder, we are exposed to an extreme of light, with no visible space left for secrets or lies. This is part of the odd exhilaration of nonsense. And, don’t get me wrong, nonsense isn’t some sly encyclopedia where all hidden truths are stored and we must simply discover the index—oh, no. Rather, the puzzles that nonsense reveal are genuinely unsolvable. Gregor Samsa will never come back from being a cockroach; his transformation in the story “Metamorphosis” has simply revealed the pickle he was already in, but didn’t know that he was in.

What nonsense reveals, at its best, are genuine mysteries.

And, like Gregor Samsa, the character in the poem “Nagging Question,” who wakes up with a pile of feathers at his feet after having torn his pillow apart in his sleep, all he can do with a true mystery, once it has been revealed, is to go back into the realm from which the mystery emanated. Gregor cross-examines his family situation, and the character in our poem returns to the realm of sleep and dream. But, with new, perhaps sharper, questions in mind with which to confront the mystery that has been revealed. Or, it may be, with no questions at all, simply with one’s eyes widened.

This process resembles the scientific method, except for the fact that there is no control group. What variables could nonsense ever control for? There may one day be a science of comedy, but never one for true mystery. The only control group we have in poetry is every other poem ever written. Their mysteries abide, and it is into them that we go to confront those mysteries again and again—and to find more of ourselves more truthfully (or at least more fully) revealed.

 
[With] the pillow exploded uselessly between your hands
And what looks to be a chicken carcass
Piled in an inscrutable white mound
Headless between your bare feet [...]
There’s only one place for you to find your answer.


Gregg Glory
August 28, 2017

Sep 022020
 

Once all wilderness was innocence. Later, all wilderness was sin. What does it say about wilderness, that it could be both sin and innocence—a space of condemnation and reprieve—at once? What does it say about us, limber interpreters of vastness? Every day someone takes a snapshot of themselves with the Statue of Liberty on his shoulder, or the moon upheld in her palm, the violent grandeur of the universe turned by metaphor and pixel-flash into a beachball.

Now we find our wildness in suburban glimpses: long weekends away to a campsite, the unwonted sting of a bee. Yet we were made by wildness; we were wolves before we mellowed to dogs. When observation and observance sharpen beyond the roar of words we soothe ourselves with, the tickertape of conscience and prayer unspooled to silence, we can see the action of life plain. The constant taking, the inevitable greed, camouflage, and waste inherent in all things.

The sun knows nothing but to burn. The salmon little else than to breed and feast. Our arteries are red with burning, veins blue with hunger. A paranoid, irascible eye sees many raw things civilization has regretfully gilded; an eager ear—with its vestigial muscle for turning still intact—may yet attune itself to the strangeness of what is. Listen.

Parables are everywhere is our daily doings if we listen, the ear of consciousness arranging random notes and facts into pattern, the flare of consciousness illuminating new mosaics in the old catacombs. Life itself, in all its accident and happenstance, is transformational because our consciousness is partial.

We can’t see all sides of an object at once like a cubist artist. We cannot even experience ourselves consistently across the daily divide of sleep; at best we are strips of stuttering film. We bridge these gaps with memory and imagination. And reality is the perpetual testing grounds of that self-invention—and poetry, at its finest, with its honest looks at what is—is the checklist for that reality. Words are the net we use to draw reality into us. So use that net, anxious to add meaning to your ultimately unknowable life—the omnipresent wilderness.

Gregg Glory
April 1, 2018

Aug 252020
 

Vivid Ovid. His humanizing tales of metamorphosis (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the literally alien context of the interaction of gods and people have drawn the eyes and admiration of readers for eons. How often I longed to trace with my own tongue the temptations and graces of such tales! Who wouldn’t want to be master of a matter so fantastical, so outlandish—and yet still be able to draw homey homilies from the consequences of such fables? Daphne praying to be turned into a laurel tree rather than endure a rape in the god-clutches of a “divinely maddened” Apollo; or the unfaithful Jupiter stashing his part-time squeeze, the ravishing beauty Io, not in some kept-woman’s studio apartment, but in another living form by transforming her…into a cow—albeit a beautiful cow. And Ovid’s touch of detail that makes both god and man acknowledge their wayward foibles, their vulnerability to desire. Such is our condition: half angel, half satyr. What, ultimately, could be more compelling than this poetic recognition of our limitedness adrift in the infinity of our desire?

Always it is against chaotic Nature that human success in the arts in measured. Versailles with its to-the-millimeter immaculate gardens, Jesus with his cracking of Lazarus’ catacomb—leading the experienceless child within each of us on to eternal life, the absence of Death. But Ovid’s fables transmute nature to nature, violating the continuity of life within life as it proceeds from the womb to tomb—rather than through some transvaluation of all values via a post-death resurrection, or the living-death deletion of meaning that narcissistic nihilism provides. Ovid’s metaphor is metaphor emphatic, metaphor literally embodied (were such transformations to actually occur anyplace beyond the agile chambers of the mind). This makes him a prankster in some respects, a comedian of life’s myriad deceptions and switcheroos, slips and oopses. Instead of the authority of Justice (or the inevitability of the furious Eumenides) appearing at the end of a tragedy, enforcing cosmic meaning by the rending apart of life’s tender fabric, we have instead the inescapable acknowledgement of a rueful chuckle forced from the aghast reader at the transformation’s literal unreality and too-intimate horror. To be moved at all by the pageant Ovid presents is to acknowledge our own culpability in the lusts and greeds he lampoons. Yes, I, too, would so covet, so fail of my ideals, so mangle my heavenly morality with my mortal mischief. There, lacking the grace of God, go I; every I that I can imagine being or becoming, in all my rhymes of form and story.

Existentialism is one moral response to the nothingness modern man confronts now that we’ve blown the Holy Ghost from the churches—the stained glass left colorless and drained of ecstasy. The bareness, the thisness, of place, of Everyman in every place, replaced the altar that had once signaled the savior’s triumph over the reality of Death. The very sepulcher became the resonant cross, embossed with neither promise nor stoic resignation, but instead enriched with the simple elaboration of emptiness itself. Ever more intricate become our minuets above the void. As Mallarme noted: “The beautiful, gratuitous, turns into the ornamental, repudiated.” Mallarme’s For Anatole’s Tomb is a restful counterpoint to our innate desire’s torturous wish for the infinite, desire’s tensile beauty making every moment its own gravesite, its own elaboration of the endless dust and nothingness we face. I like the moral stance emblemized in the Pagan torch-passing of praise and memory a bit better myself: an endless relay of meaning lit to life by the burn of magnificent poetry. Such a contingent arrangement must strike modern artists as too hopeful, too communal an enterprise after the wick of self-conscious Romanticism was ignited. But, don’t bet on it! Romanticism itself is a response to the stocks and manacles of Kant’s “no you can’t,” the vivisecting separation of object and subject—a spastic cast of empirical dice—and nothing more than that.

Is it any wonder that Shakespeare took up Ovid as a foil for his first funning with verse? Titus Andronicus pushes the dry coracle of black humor into the slick swamp of tragedy in an ever-modern mash-up going nowhere. Existential titters accompany the gruesome and aghast pies stuffed with human flesh as they are served up piping hot and tucked into with an ignorant will. Who does not eat of Life with the same ignorance as the rapists Shakespeare depicted at the table, pinkies up and kerchiefs to chins? I, too, like the wily Bard, love Ovid in all his miracle and mayhem. So much mayhem!

Our current crop of graphic novels and grim heroes are of Ovid’s mold. Think of today’s Batman, the caped crusader, the Dark Knight, transformed by a desire for justice into a nightwinged bat, who turns his midnight vengeance into a secular grail tipping over with blood. Catwoan, Aquaman, Doc Oc—all half-breeds wandering bewildered in landscapes of existential angst. I, too, had wanted to honor with the sweat of inspiration and the grace of rhyme of one of Ovid’s raving fables, but as I toured the crazed slop-house of the Greek gods, the Roman gnomes, as Ovid had carved and enlarged them, I was struck by the fiery violence his tales told of—and, I admit, I was afraid to retail such gory goods in my modest mall of art.

I turned the prized pages of my Ovid over once again. Even the fable of fey Salmacis, I noticed, with her “weak, enfeebling streams,” ends in a dual-sex hermaphroditic unity that is still illegal in many countries. The lovers’ tentative rapprochement has some of Absurdio’s hesitant desire in its outlines—an expression of being’s ignorant need to be, and therefore be loved. So twined together is our self and our sex. Salmacis and Hermaphroditus was almost the tale I re-told. What if Absurdio met a wet, eight-armed Venusian princess in her tidal pool of green chlorine? The denouement was still too horror-genre for me to proceed with that story, but the delicacy of Salmacis and Hemaphroditus’ meeting was a model for Absurdio’s first grope toward hope—the challenge and comfort that concupiscence provides:

The boy knew nought of love, and, touched with shame,
He strove, and blushed, but still the blush became;
In rising blushes still fresh beauties rose;
The sunny side of fruit such blushes shows,
And such the moon, when all her silver white
Turns in eclipses to a ruddy light.
The Nymph still begs, if not a nobler bliss,
A cold salute at least, a sister’s kiss;
And now prepares to take the lovely boy
Between her arms. He, innocently coy,
Replies, "Oh leave me to myself alone,
You rude, uncivil nymph, or I’ll begone."
—J. A.

I settled, perhaps a touch too reflexively, upon the pageantry of Pygmalion’s tale. After all, the story had been exampled brilliantly by Shaw, and there’s even a musical modeled from its bones—though fleshed with sexism and an elitist tone of triumphalism (to which I am not, confessedly, adverse). This story has no goopy, blood-bludgeoned ending, no comeuppance, no disastrous consequence where Nature regains the reins of Justice and executes the feckless nabob who knew well enough into whose guarded garden he had trespassed. No, here Venus stoops to conquer, and extends a merciful pity on her inspired subject. It is the love story of the artist and his object, his sculpted creation, a female mate conjured from pure desire and art’s millimeter-mania for perfection. Yes, a fine tautology to lead me down the garden path. What post-modern word-whittler could resist the inevitable levels of self-reference, the circumference of innuendo bound to grow Falstaff-fat? And, with luck and cunning, perhaps my Absurdio could be as happy a sinning creation as my fellow Ovid-fan Shakepere had managed? To what Mediterraneanesque setting would my gods and goddesses descend? What glamorous goods would press against my alluring shop window?

The main item in the inventory of Venus and Vesuvius, as you will soon plainly see, is an adolescent male I have dubbed Sir Absurdio. Absurdio is left alone on the planet Venus where he was born, the only son of two intrepid scientists appointed to explore our over-heated solar neighbor. Why he has been left so tragically alone, and at such a crucial age, our tale will unfold. I myself was so ill as a teen with an ulcerative onset conjured by the psychic injuries of my parent’s divorce, that I missed the last two years of my American high school experience. I grok some aspects of Absurdio’s puzzling solitude. No friends from our 3,000-strong clan of Marlboro Mustangs possessed the fortitude to visit a lonely, pimple-ridden writer-to-be in the forested enclosure of his one-boy farm-forest prison. The only friends who favored me with their presence were Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, Phillip K. Dick, J. R. R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, and other luminaries of the imagination’s intergalactic parsecs. They are the reason I placed my Ovidian vale in outer space.

Now, if you’ll strap on your muse-provided jet-packs, let’s zoom to the moon—and beyond!

Gregg Glory, August 2013.

Aug 242020
 

 

A curiouser and curiouser work of science-fiction narrative poetry

 

Gregg Glory
[Gregg G. Brown]


COPYRIGHT © 1998 
PUBLISHED BY: BLAST PRESS 

His kind heart was obedient to truth's troublous pulse. 
 [*troubling]  


I have not loved the world, nor the world me; 
Never flattered its rank breath, nor bowed 
Patient knee to its pale idolatries, 
Nor coined my cheek with smiles, nor cried 
Aloud in worship of an echo; none of the crowd 
Deems me one of such a throng; among them 
I stood, but not of them--- in my furled thoughts 
Shrouded, which were not their thoughts, and had I not 
Defiled my mind, I still might myself thus subdue. 
 
 
Beyond a mortal man impassioned far 
At these voluptuous accents, he arose, 
Ethereal, flushed, and like a throbbing star 
Seen mid sapphire heaven's deep repose; 
Into her dream he melted, as the rose 
Blendeth its odor with the violet,--- 
Solution sweet: meantime the frost wind blows 
Like Love's alarum pattering the sharp sleet 
Against the window-panes; St. Agnes' moon hath set.  
          --- J. K.,  St. Agnes' Eve


The Poem



On this page

  1. [On Earth]
  2. A tale strange, soft-focused, distant, then clear,
  3. My dark muse eyes me, sullen-silent as the night
  4. A ruined foil flashing back fabulous suns
  5. Should I take up the Author’s patrolling pose?
  6. I sigh, my ruffian hearers, whose ocean silence beats
  7. [on Venus]
  8. Enigmatic clouds crimped a divine skyline.
  9. All this, and more: honey-blood serenades
  10. Sad years sequestered Absurdio to his mournful room
  11. His pubis, freshly ringletted with dirty thoughts,
  12. His curdling thighs unbundled boings and sprang,
  13. He cramply encamped in a humid, drenching tent
  14. In the hell-lit incline of his velvelour lax-o-boy,
  15. The see-through water of his ice-light heart,
  16. Cold skies collated from his wish-index nipped him.
  17. She, the sphinx, the minx, discovered was,
  18. Her maiden, sundial, shattered hand ticked up,
  19. A lonely cloud, flumed crimson, bounded by
  20. Absurdio was shanghaied by his consciousness
  21. Never would one lunar hair of her crisp coiffure
  22. Genuine Absurdio in patient prayer genuflected,
  23. Absurdio resumed his restless tour
  24. A strain, a stain was upon everything like black snow,
  25. Astronaut Absurdio tumbled,— uncapsuled, lost
  26. Desire freeze-framed him in his vouyer’s foyer,
  27. Peeping through a hiked skirt of curling Alpine pine
  28. Should he bridegroom first with attendant touch
  29. He touched, or his seeming hand seemed to touch,
  30. The furred head, moribund, profound, turned
  31. “Forgive my flash of hubris, while I loiter to insist,
  32. “I wonder just what happened to this merry pair
  33. “What catastrophe’s haphazard track did they pace,
  34. “Timeline.” Absurdio sighed against his hammock’s
  35. Absurdio, desire’s soldier, soldered on
  36. Spilling balm into the mini-labyrith of his brain.
  37. Her (was she warm?) form poured in oblagattoes;
  38. Created conscious again in his dream-ripple,
  39. As if to dissipate, a distraught wisp
  40. Deciphered sounds now entered her transparent ears
  41. Yet where was this wizard woman’s twinkly spark
  42. There was always some sort of gangly changing going on
  43. A freckled Mrs. Frankenstein whose veritable veins
  44. Her happenstance phantom, her tech-lechery
  45. For this sceptred instant, grinningly alive
  46. Love herself had jokingly sponsored their sparring war
  47. And the nasty narrator choked on their lifesaver

Condemning shadows quite. — A. & C.

“Stop moping!” she would cry: “Look at the harlequins!”

“What harlequins? Where?”

“Oh, everywhere. All around you. Trees are harlequins, words are harlequins. So are situations and sums. Put two things together– jokes, images– and you get a triple harlequin. Come on! Play! Invent reality!”

I did. By Jove, I did.

— V. N.

[on Earth]


1
A tale strange, soft-focused, distant, then clear,
As when a movie cures myopia, or a drear
Nightmare that startles us, shelters;– or sordid dream’s
Thematic shadows get ripped by a flashlight pen
Oblivious to mood and setting. Such a tale, my friends,
As Satan commences in blasphemy, with commentary,
But listening saints can hear in holy choir,
I begin, here, with you, though it changes in an hour.

2
My dark muse eyes me, sullen-silent as the night
Whereon with insect wings she glides, flapping late.
Exotic quixotic, I depict her on my verses’ vase
Inverting the immortality her throne supposes.
The castled moon below her, she’ll glare on,
Past marbled Mars to veiny Venus, if she must
In that post-lunar landscape sift gold words from dust.
My dragged heart blackens and thuds its tars. What roses,
What Sols I scribble, she dictates. I am her pawn.
I am too mild-modest to unveil the thundered stars.

3
A ruined foil flashing back fabulous suns
Whispers lightnings in my wilted breath. Strip-
Teased away from the Ultra-nutribar I eat
To aura languid limbs in rugged health, the slashings
Shatter my dry attentions into balmy tears.
I teeter too near dissolution to feel the fear.
The velvet chitter of my needleteethed pets,—
My pens, my peers, my pellucid, inventive cheres
Pallidly rattle in the inky stand. They hold my soul
In the slangy, charmed embrasures of their Latinate script,
Their nibbed hubbub of syllables and shivery tongues.

4
Should I take up the Author’s patrolling pose?
Hover ponderously, an editor’s eyebrow
Above witchy Reality? Or ride, randily astride,
My meditative pen? Amused, my muses?
Perhaps, a precocious Iago moulting mirrors,
I’ll lose my ahhing audience in appalling smokes—
A magician of the moment consoled by disappearance.
Tranquil, lamplit in night’s lousy shroud,
My selves assemble at the clarion bic-click
That drum-taps my unruly soul’s tribal pow-wow
To warrior order; even my fibulating, lying heart
Capitulates, fisting the spurious spirit-spear
Of its found rhyme, off-rhyme, rhyme again.

5
I sigh, my ruffian hearers, whose ocean silence beats
My aching soul’s sharp shoals to eloquence;
I sigh, and, if you’d spare an ear to hear me,
Take my caddish, candied language from me; mug me!
Or, if you’d be vooshed to Venus, succumb to me,
Turn the cheap keys of your failing spirits over
To me, a hoarse, corrupt rocket-car,
Tar-catarrhed in ineluctable sin, and begin.
Harrum. I sigh. —Oh skip it, skip it!
Skip this daft narrator’s gnarly part;
Such naughty nihilism ill-becomes me. Instead,
I return the guilty pearl of our veiled tale noir
To you, viewers. Vide, lecte, dears. Now start.

* * *

[on Venus]


6
Enigmatic clouds crimped a divine skyline.
Lacy ices drifted on acid, carbolic pools.
Lurid skies, vague purple or angst incarnadined,
Shone on no birds twanging tangled lutes.
Spilled dusts of galaxies in staid starlight burned.
Intricate dusts hurly-burlied burning snows
Blown to walking nightmare by outre genomes.
A fetid, festal energy spooned from sherberty clouds,
Lime bright, or mocha coffee brune, or confusedly infused
With venusian magenta, a trying shade
For human retina unused to alien marvels.

7
All this, and more: honey-blood serenades
Of ochre-aquamarine, a sheer fantasy’s phantasm
Poured the gorgeous poisons of a world of hues
On our young, shiveringly young, hero: Absurdio.
His tintinnabulating spine rived, racked with spasms;
His single organism sizzled in Venus’ puzzle.
Down in an unpleasant dome he homed. Absurio dozed,
Ruminating ruin on his quiet couch; half-deranged
His tender head rested, like an exhausted comet.
Such a new, human arrival among the strange!

8
Sad years sequestered Absurdio to his mournful room
Alone, as only a circus clown minus patsy may be found,
Leap-frogging loneliness in life’s third, unattended
Ring. His parents (in previous incarnations now
Photographically enhanced) had evaporated by mistake,—
Measuring tinselly elements at an underground lake
Of caramel kerosene, and smoking during break.
Wretched, abused Absurdio rewound the fatal video
Until their surprised incinerated faces aged to silvery frays.
And now, eons later, alone, adolescence pounced.

9
His pubis, freshly ringletted with dirty thoughts,
Like a haloed moon arose. In the winsome autumn
Of recent nights, It came upright, red-shafted, huge,
A crooning bone pronged among wronged sheets—
A blushful lighthouse’s thirsty straw agog a spermy sea—
The perfectly predictable consequence of testosterone
Spritzed by time’s Tom Thumb into both boy and man.
His hands grew awkward, strong, with hardened palms.
His bearding chin squared beyond childish qualms.


1 0
His curdling thighs unbundled boings and sprang,
Pirouetting poignant manipulated triplets
Upon the pulsing pointer of his moaning groin
As he swam Pan’s ancient, ardent australian crawl awash
In the Caribbean crucible of his sweat-swaled dreams;
His sleepy teeth ground against giant, tiaraed teats.
Wounded by his own desire, Absurdio spawned
Unseemly lesion-dots on his knotted pajama bottoms,
Paler than the snaily paisleys already winding there.


1 1
He cramply encamped in a humid, drenching tent
And coughed awake still aching, torqued in shrunken pants.
His furring, burgeoning body’s once lucent form
Clouded toward stormy adulthood’s horny, knuckled norm.
Only the marginal innocence of his virgin lips,
—Pouted to receive an apparition’s dissolving kiss,—
Retained their fulsome, petulant, purplish childishness.

1 2
In the hell-lit incline of his velvelour lax-o-boy,
One saw a cowling shadow parachute slo-mo from his skull
In the delineated darkness of a filmed dream.
His silent eyes, closed to heaven, endured
A durable pair of bug-ugly goggles, snapped
Primly in place by a pinkish plastic tether at his ears.
His nimble, impaitient thumb drubbed adagios
Against his impaitient, tempted temples. Ohs
Yawned from below his sweet, nasal declivity;
The VR headset warped, a double bow upon his brow,
Poised to twinge and whang its dodgy target,
Those red circles centered on just one misty wish.

1 3
The see-through water of his ice-light heart,
Fuel-injected by the rude roar and vodka-boil of sex,
Was doubled in the VR goggles’ shotglass apparatus.
In tonight’s tittering iteration of his single,
Searing dream, where was the girl, the She? Let us
Scan the fake, pick the pixels, lozenge the rengas
Of programmers’ pop-eyed loops, swallow suns
Or do whatever, whoever, however need be done
To spotlight in life’s divided cell the primogenic One.

1 4
Cold skies collated from his wish-index nipped him.
An earthly Arcadia appeared; a galvanized valley
Tinny under aluminum heaven, was sourced
From whacked smacks of aberrant bits of static,
Enhancing his whims with imagination’s majesty;
Inverted mountains, tipsy on their starch peaks,
Ranged still lakes loaded with shotgunned verbaneum;
Mossed redbreasts creeped across the angled lawn
Mooing at woodpeckers who chewed trees of lead;
Star-flowered vines screwed absent-present oaks of air
And purled like invisible trellises, going nowhere.

1 5
She, the sphinx, the minx, discovered was,
A downcast abandoned statuary whose ass ascends;
A shadowy mute among the academic ivy’s gloss,
Her stiff stone skin was one exquisite blank
Compounded of rare lights bleeding as they fell
Through other, farther, fainter taintless lights,
Defining whiteness. So, above. As for below
Her nether half a blue fluid ink remained,
A disfigured shadow semblance that attached,
A skittish circus tent, to her body’s upper whiteness.


1 6
Her maiden, sundial, shattered hand ticked up,
An apostle pointing at a sky-blue book,
Shafting through Nature’s monstrous greenness
With a simple whiteness summed of simpleness,
As if to spill a bell. Attendant hours tolled
Cumulus-slow through soft forenoon’s sways
Momenting toward the slave existence Absurdio had always
Intended to be hers. His cola-fouled breath he held,
Dithering her splendid image with his swan-soft,
Slightly perspiring palm atop the swervy curve and cup
Of the alarmingly mobile, docile, swift control ball.


1 7
A lonely cloud, flumed crimson, bounded by
The imitation-shape of her complex suavities,
Half-geared to swell a summer rainstorm’s tears
In puddly, ploppy pluvial benediction upon
The evil coeval heat of his hot delirium.
“O half-groped, untouched, doped isotope
Of this radon-free semi-demi-reality! All if, if, if!
Will you never swivel or pivot ever
From your smooth stagger-pattern on the TV
In vivid splinters? A decadent Miss’ shaggy quiff?”

1 8
Absurdio was shanghaied by his consciousness
To a heroin-incertain fairyland of ifs. Poor Ab!
No angelic integers or numeric mumbles ever spazzed
Original anger or new-budded love
From the mutant look of her elect electrons’
Seamless electric face. Thrill and chance,
Those boiling bodings that hurt the nerves,
Braked their roulettes and rollercoasters, moped —
Exiled by inconsequent conquest’s certain grace.

1 9
Never would one lunar hair of her crisp coiffure
Split off, twirl, or dangerously dawn orange
Like the burnt inhaled singe of a spliff. Never, p’fft!
All love was dead, desire defunct, hissed flat
In the monumental deflation of the sure.
Where was to be the wrenching fix, the heady remedy?
What cure could toy his totem-world to stark reality?
Absurdio plunked his whole mind in his heart
And thought. And thought. And thought. Could it hurt to pray?

2 0
Genuine Absurdio in patient prayer genuflected,
In patient prayer did patiently inspect his knees;
Any glance listing against those lucent eyes
Saw God reflected, a profounder Blank in blankness.
Deep in the gothic fundament of their tombs
Responsive saints spun shriveled, shrived cadavers
To hear the holy moistness of so undevout a mouth
Spout “God.” And yet, no rent heaven yawned
Anointing him with day, nor remade what he was,
Nor she, the ecstatic static and the playful clay.

2 1
Absurdio resumed his restless tour
Of the prismatic computer’s chilly rainbow rooms:
Phony noon presided in tangerine, heart-rending hues
Over the local, erotic focus of his loves.
A spouting, sympathetic cloud maneuvered near
And passed on again into frisky sunshimmer;
A clammy aftertouch of lemony shadow lingered
On the moat-dark undersides of fractal leaves.
Snoring backwards in his spraddled chair
Silly birches flickered streaked with oval droops of cool,
While galloping Cupid’s reigning love-thoughts trot
Down his sleepy cheeks and trace
A crystal bridle drawn by drool.

2 2
A strain, a stain was upon everything like black snow,
And felt more wicked ice within his stalactite heart
Than raw outward aberrance dared to show.
An iridescent darkness, a deepness of absence
Soiled the unpointoutable apparent to his witness soul.
Her dimpled elbows, simple bends, digged
Into the soft argyle turf with wounding runes.
In her empty, happy lap, sidelong sifted sapphires
Of quiet light dashed and spilt their milky stars,
Spattering trace evidence of some slight, damp want.

2 3
Astronaut Absurdio tumbled,— uncapsuled, lost
Among Beauty’s forlorn flotsam, a jetted jerk
Whose sour foreknowledge coffin-mittened dripping hands
Clenching and unclenching in a madman’s clasp
After stark Snow White who twirlled eternally repelled
From the lurching, avid lunges of his untutored touch.
The magnet-magic that created her kept her from his crush.
Then his naked, nasty, gnarled, marooned left foot
(Or was it thonged and handsome, a Greek god’s ped?)
Intruded, thus, into the afternoon’s spooled storyline.

2 4
Desire freeze-framed him in his vouyer’s foyer,
A randy stallion-statue displayed above his mare,
Plumply morose in his recreated shyness, same as ever.
What further use was doubt— unless by addition’s error
He wished to subtract himself? He became devout, dissevered
All annoy of anguish from his mirror-minon
Dunce, each ounce. His on-screen he was there, here,
The really reel, real deal. And yet…. (and yet!) And yet,
The wet, generated earth still presumed to bountifully bouy
His calculated weight. This dream ‘he’ within a dream
Dispersed his doubts of truth with hopes of joy.

2 5
Peeping through a hiked skirt of curling Alpine pine,
Absurdio sunk binoculate eyes against her buck
Naked, pale, and blue-washed bod, drunkly tipped
Against Venus’ fin-de-fawn and sine curve vale.
A sun-crouched lioness, but blue-lipped, she lay
Keeping her cold secret, at once lit hottentot hot
And known freon-cold to the potential touch.
Our boy, the trembling man, only then began, at first,
By frittery extentions of his film-self to engulf
Her palpable sides with his ghost’s caresses.

2 6
Should he bridegroom first with attendant touch
Her shoulder made lemony by sunlight, sponging his lust
On what was some Venus Eve’s first, bitterest, citrine brine?
His space-gloved hand went floating toward her
Side,— the sly, slippery side nearest, dearest him.
Intermittettent abscences were eradicated, bit by byte,
Solving sober Zeno’s ouzo-drunken paradox
In the gross, closed glance of Absurdio’s dreaming eye,
(Though God’s ultra-fine squint might more acutely stutter)
Closer to her faux female beavery smoothness
By pixel-quantum amplitudes of dotted light brightening
Toward the ultimate touch of her molten shoulder.

2 7
He touched, or his seeming hand seemed to touch,
A pebble-cool graininess of skin for one firm instant,
As if heaven had been reached by pounce and poise;
This hesitant touch faze-shifted to a hasty dissolve
—Sugary sands sifting sinuously
Though tightening fingers crooked to close at last
An empty angry fist upon her nothingness. He gasped!
A hatted rabbit in a worn mauve waistcoat laughed;
Its albino eye from a daubed laurel’s closure
Laughed, as that funny-bunny Fate has always laughed
Whenever overreaching man guessed his guesses sure.

2 8
The furred head, moribund, profound, turned
And spake: “What neglected nail spurs these pauses,
Pulling slurring the nimble wiggle of our narrative thread?
Do I skip a blip in my story, hoary hearers?
Has consumation’s consumme soured to confusion?
Flip back a windy, lefthand page, sages, and see.
Returned, dears? Me too. I’m here, waving gravely.
Tain’t so easy to dismiss a self-eulogizing myth, is it?
This story’s story is insular and thick with tricks.

2 9
“Forgive my flash of hubris, while I loiter to insist,
Exonerating myself like a murder defence’s memoirist:
But I’m guiltless, guiltless! My omniscient narrator’s
Rumored Diety is in fine effect. I’m winged
Jove-King of these greek acres of pasty pages.
Bored of my bon homme odyssian maundering? Well, then,
Page down, my d(r)ear, inscrutible cherubs,
Pass my unflattering flounce of digression’s procession
And surpass in a click the dark prow of my tale.

3 0
“I wonder just what happened to this merry pair
The He and She of everyone and everywhere or when
During her gentle dissolution’s final cue?
Did she, nameless, moan cognomens in the approaching
Pinch of his garrolous, approaching claw?
Did she shudder like clawed rainbow trout when she saw
The roaring boy-bear’s troglodytic unencumberd maw
Lathering after her innocent, undressed tresses?
Or did her thin skin whip him, a scorpion pinned?
Did formaldehyde smear her wincing sides?

3 1
“What catastrophe’s haphazard track did they pace,
Hand in hand around the rosy road’s fated bend
Skipping to some bland fabulist’s quickly scripted ‘The End’?
Among what sunset’s sullen yellows did he reap
Her raped, awakened wheats, if he did? Or did
She winnow her weeping self away, flossed dust,
Ere his sly scythe could sigh thro’ her flaxen fields?
—But, I’m done with this stuttering narration’s
Nervous tick, and clock you back to our mainline’s


3 2
“Timeline.” Absurdio sighed against his hammock’s
Narrow netting,– for so much potential so absolutely lost
Must give one pause. His ungainly goggles
Crested a slicker pate, slid syruped perhaps,
On a ski-slope nose crinkled at some sodium
Odor, or perhaps a tinge of things ranker and fainter.
Absurdio cursed. Gangly in her dropped socks, her half-
Strangled form performed, in soliel-licked imagination,
Astericked tricks beyond conception. —A-hem,
The sinuous mystery of that trapped tadpole, Desire,
Increases in the pale, ectoplasmic tale below:


3 3
Absurdio, desire’s soldier, soldered on
His mountain-rhymer’s gogs again, divinely tighter
To his thrusting skull, blotting out svelt Venus’
Ambient, intermittent light. Slowly those eyes
Settled into stellated iris-wideness, as inside
His interior landscape darkened by degrees,
And nightrise, calm and serene, came caressing
His openness with her ever-maiden obscurities.
He scanned half-doubtingly about. And she
Was there, scarcely visible, a luminous intrusion,
A pressure of touching light that arced and ached,


3 4
Spilling balm into the mini-labyrith of his brain.
The setting exactly trite and tragic as before,
Ressurrected when he thumbed ‘Restore.’
Ilex trees, or their avuncular, venusian
Mulberry mirror doubles, dappled lashy elongations
On the foreshortened, deforrested ground of his being
In leopard blotches. His smaller, computer-generated
Self stepped sprightly a miniaturized horizon,
Lent a tightrope-walker’s lightness nightly
By a sparse, spectacular gravity that doubled
The veiny, vulnerable, fluer-de-lis neck-lengths
Of the arising flowers that haunted dawn.


3 5
Her (was she warm?) form poured in oblagattoes;
Her breasts’ concupiscence floresced and finished
In attentive nipples; he shivvered, diving
Inner-spacewards again, unstoppable, blushed
By the program’s thoughtful prop of rose backlight.
A soapy sigh scrubbed from his bubbling lungs;
How he tautly longed to eye her mufflered infinite!
That which hung encoded, skiffed and scudded, behind
Scratched cataracts of her teeming, purblind eyes.


3 6
Created conscious again in his dream-ripple,
Delux-outfitted in apple pants and a velour-
Lined waistcoat swarming with swan buttons,
Potted and puffed, germily germinating Absurdio
Bloomed, attempting the Tristian romantic manouver
But abandoned by the stern narrative frame
Of a contrite Christian’s uber-grace.
His hands, as pawns, nakedly displayed
His emotions’ opening gambit in a dream-slur
Of utter lovliness. He touched, she shuddered,


3 7
As if to dissipate, a distraught wisp
Or shy butterfly flittered from a lepidopterist’s
Urgent lurch, more cuffed than coaxed;
A cranky collapse inaugurated by the drastic lack
Of available, unavailing, RAM space.
She shivered, but held. Her spongy shoulder
Underwent a faint shimmer, as if conscious-
Ness were being beamed aboard. Her patient skin
Was still all ash and shale, but her awaiting hair
Lost its stiff crispness, gained a honey-tone
And the delectable bubble-bounce of “body”.


3 8
Deciphered sounds now entered her transparent ears.
A distant bird minced its watery treblings
With the gorgon terrors of her first, lurid heartbeat
In her registering brain. A pale breath escaped,
Although Absurdio would’ve sworn he had not heard
Any inaugural breath tipple and enter. Her eyes reared
To know what stun had touched her as they flared
Into wet, instamatic life. Their pristine prisms
Socketed a world within her newly permeable skull.


3 9
Yet where was this wizard woman’s twinkly spark
Among all the engrossing chaos of her fabulous mass?
He had not yet eyed within her eye that smarmy,
Human cloud of becoming fogging her skyey iris
Which marks troublous love’s trembling, intrepid step
Contra-distinct from lisping lust’s insipid limp.
Not yet, not yet. His playful paradise was still
Too innocent in its ivied, idyllic clarity
To boast of that human ruination dubbed Love.
Stars crossed gaily, like kites, in night’s meadows above.


4 0
There was always some sort of gangly changing going on
Within the weathery swirl of this inner world
Beset by the dramatic setting of Romance’s
Hurrying hurricanes and tortorous calms.
Her addled belt slipped at his toying touch
To couch in the creative vulcan valleys
Of her slippery thighs. His dizzy head
Danced, lassoed with animate, singing stars,
As in Disney-visions where cool cutlery
Carols hausfraus and bold boy hunters subdue, solo,
Lugubrious bull-moose. He was in love, she lived!


4 1
A freckled Mrs. Frankenstein whose veritable veins
Pulsed bloomed beads of blood up her supple neck.
Living swans lounged in her frowning brow;
Honey lozenges waterfalled her scuffy alto
Into azure pools of purer contralto. She spoke!
Her new words, her first, purred: “Absurd—….”
But he had already stopped her half-
Articulate baby talk with the sweeter understanding
Contained in a kiss he hoped unending.


4 2
Her happenstance phantom, her tech-lechery
Semblable, spasmed by benign self-deceit,
Flowered into frissoned being on his primped lips.
He let the solipcistic kiss linger, linger,
As a royal rosepetal will huddle on kinked, kingly lips.
The gamey wind was game to applaud their parading,
Clapping aspen leaves whose whirl on them was hubbed.
What they knew somehow was what was love.
Of the universe’s immensest aviary, they knew
That they themselves were the central doves.


4 3
For this sceptred instant, grinningly alive
In their sparkling cave and sprinkled spire,
Absurdio and his girl were joyously joined,
Twin instances of some remoter, scumbled One,
Identical startled arcs of a single desire.
A stately elm jigsawed the rooted stars
With wagging shadows, while moonlit music tooted.
Oh, they kissed and kissed until heaven split,
And split again in moody, Mandelbrotian, fractal fit.


4 4
Love herself had jokingly sponsored their sparring war
Of embraces, each deep cincture tighter and tighter.
Her teasing taffeta said slurring, silken mumbles
Against his entranced hips burning rope-burn sudden
At her cloistered damsel’s clotted knot veiled within.
She did not hesitate, but with rapid hand
And palliative tongue urging extra surges
Moved with the remover to remove.
Had History’s grainy memory vouchsafed their names
Their wantonness had been famous. As is,
They tickled and tilted, strained and parted;
And strained again, until joy’s jubilant hulahoop
Rattled to napping quiet at their intermixed feet.


4 5
And the nasty narrator choked on their lifesaver
Halo (rubyfruitier).

finis

 

Unused Bits

 
[for climax] 
On her home-town Mon Venus, the swarthy pitcher mounts 

Against death's delerious impact and mossy Time's 
Verdant verdict, that takes back (not yet, not yet!) 
Our personal, rag-tag, tattered, hole in the ground 
With wild mounds of lushness. Held winceless

Aug 242020
 

 

First Works 

Copyright ©1994 by Gregg G. Brown 

Published by 
BLAST PRESS 

    


Diminution

 Smaller than a shut nut in its
 Candy can skin, 
 The silken icecube melts, 
 The compact cricket swells to distant hymns, 
 And the tough grass suffers into seed. 
 
 (It is a bantam birth.) 
 
 Many of the big things in this world 
 Can be described as 
 Small. 
 
 The delicate ballet of 
 Mountains bowing low 
 As bathtub waves between 
 The popsickle peaks 
 Is 
 One example, 
 
 But there are many others. 
 Many many; ask the brilliant 
 Corn-kernel sun, and he 
 Will tell you. 
 
 I myself will tell you and tell you 
 Until finally, balled like a baby, 
 I diminish into happiness.


April Mechanical

 Organized neatly between the
 divisive particles of air 
 near the old scratched moss 
 of some ending season 
 
 grey beneath green as 
 anxious among concrete park 
 benches it spreads, the air, 
 blue in imitation of the 
 
sloshing fountain water, the water 
not an expression of thought 
but rather in its deepening 
stance a mirror for 
 
angry clouds cherry-red 
with the long brittle atoms 
of a slashing sun, a few 
rough trees deport 
 
their skinny limbs 
into the jealous sky, naked 
to speak to us with their 
completely unhinging buds


Quote

'She who hesitates is
lost," she declared.But 
what is there to 
lose?Only innocence 
 
in the small pale and 
not completely impartial turn 
and plod of her delicately 
dancing feet.Only notice 
 
the impartial fervor 
of that tilting lily-head 
against whose stone we (approximately 
may measure ourselves. 
 
Our faults lie open 
and are described in an 
amazing minutiae by those 
thin dim cracks between 
 
the feathered petals.They 
only serve to emphasize 
the fact with their apparently 
indifferent oblivious blooming


Cold Moles and Dreams are Roots

Creative as the curl of candles, 
When they burn, the going deeper 
Of winter shrews or summer friends 
Asleep and burrowing out their 
Blankets.That calmest of thinking trees, 
The dream, divides and redivides its sunken 
 
Cells; placenta tentacles lie down 
To the birth of buried baby 
Shrews, hatched in dreaming imagination; 
And the dreaming sleepers scuttle, crab- 
Like on their hands, lid-full eyes 
Dull as old spoons.Disordered bits 
 
Of life rise to fill their empty 
Minds as grey and pearl as parachutes.Star- 
Nosed moles furrow through their drowsy sight, 
And crab-like on their hands they dig 
And dig between the different darks 
 
Of night and sleep.Rooting for 
The peace of meals kept deep in dirt. 
Oh, turn the naked number down! the failing 
Sleepers cry --- flustered fingers still 
Half-dragging through the sheets.... 
 
And the red sled, snaky arm without fingers 
Ferries its bald insanities back 
To the cluttered basement of old dreams.Yet, 
Nothing sinks but clatters when it lands. 
And the long awaiting eyes, cool as a moist 
  Mole's nose, wake at last and eat the day.
 

 

A Bar of Ivory Soap
Sitting Near the Faucet

Just manufactured.Its original skin has been thrown away.It is no
Longer needed, the pure self has emerged, Virginal and white.White
white white!Expansive plantations of snow or one dimensional
lilies.The souls of St. Francis of Assisi and Thomas a Beckett look
something like this, I have been told, Precise in its new rims it is
the magic castle from a distant story.In the high dark window there
is a tiny, elegant woman waving and waving.



Destination

I have thought of heaven, often,
And of hell, 
 
Everyone is hurrying to get there, 
To be in the big rooms with the wide floors, 
And the carpeting up to your armpits, 
And the smooth marble corridors 
As empty as thought. 
There are no urns to clutter up 
Your mantelpiece, and to become, by dote, 
As big as a baboons chest 
And as blue as his anger. 
 
Everyone is hurrying to get there and see 
Just how big 
The windowpanes are.




Night Lures (I Am Sleeping)

Softly, 
The moon blues, 
Substanceless as any dead day. 
Like the loyal marsh at Baybridge who jingled 
And who I liked 
In the high August frosts and mists. 
It was like a large drunken friend waiting 
For me to find the misplaced knees and socketless stray arms 
And admire them.And wait. 
The ground there was soft 
As broken-in shoes. 
I used to 
Bank off those marshmallow shores, 
My father's shallow boat clipping neatly under me 
 
Under a cool noon.I 
would like to have my stomach launched into 
Me like that again. 
 
The grey-green water lies all around me. 
 
Two catfish leap 
But do not dazzle. 
They hover in the timorous mid-air. 
Their fins half blue from shadows. 
A fine detail of foam follows like a sketch 
  Their fast bodies 
The shapes of moonhills. 
The white commas of their undersides pause silently 
Before me.I love to watch them in their 
Paradox.They are helpless 
In their joy. 
From behind one reed thin as a needle 
A blue fly's head pokes. 
Curious with eyes 
It is amazed at these otherworld avians 
As wet and smooth as washed stones. 
 
I landed home empty-handed.
 


The Eagle has Landed

Ralph, the man who saw with feathers spread, 
Leaned his bones over (they were golden in the dawn 
And said: 'I'm not an eagle am I?' 
 
“No, you're not.” 
 
Vertebrae, vertebrae 
In arch of back to circle rolling. 
The red rolled east.It was a perfect morning 
For flight.His beak was red in this bent light. 
His beak was red shaped 
And ready. 
 
“'Tis time for bed, my Ralph, 'tis time to sleep.” 
 
Ralph was gleaming golden in his forward shoes. 
'Am I not an eagle?' His arms were lit like down 
In this light, The man put fingers spread 
And leapt. 


The Dark Roots

Hugeappletree 
appetite big enough 
to eat 
all your own 
fruit-- 
 
The sun 
circular on the leaves 
and echoed 
in the production-- 
the 
dangerous droplet 
 
An apple, 
it will suffice 
in one bite 
to dissuade you 
thinking of the sun 
 


from out the tomb like a cloud

Above this town where I lay sleeping 
young happily birds convulse minutely 
one tremendously blown hilarious 
green leaf of wind (in ochres of eve 
it is dying) come suddenly finally up 
from compactly hysterical graves.Bliss 
fully mindless is of these faces 
on the pickets these sweatless heads 
in dole attire; these pink purple blades 
 
who are flying who are the dentings 
my footfalls have said along the edges 
of day and crisply space and down down 
dwindling once wells of when remit (for 
it is summer and pregnantly snowingly dusk) 


Display Against Society

One day, cloudless, 
Refined to a clarity, to one colour 
        as with a wall, 
The famous international explorer, 
Saint Jacque, to escape the strictures of his race, 
Leapt (formally dressed) 
Off of three bridges, leaping 
With triple-reenforced rubber bands Celastics") 
Gripping his British African ankles. 
‘I go to save all men,' indignant, jumping, 
'After the manner of the Afriks.') 
 
His tux-tails catching the airs wings, he went. 
 
Be pulled up just short 
Of the water (or the rocks) whichever 
Was appropriate in whichever case. 
       And after, when I proposed: 
Why why (the background sistrums sheathing 
Sounds with sounds) 
His teeth cried out (smiling): 
To feel as if alive. 

NOTE: The ritual described here is taken from a reclusive tribe in the Congo where it is a rite of passage for young boys intended to make them independent of the shrewdness and courage of women, the story being that a woman ones, to escape from her husband into the arms of her lover tied vines to her ankles and jumped from a cliff; the husband was too scared to follow, thus making good her escape and happy her life. (Now a common sport in North America.)

 

 

Last Year

the dogs were in the house and sniffing 
the last decayed amours of left lasagna; 
clack and tap the toes, fur stuck out 
between the friendly pads the entire 
summer, no other noise, 
everyone dead or gone, vacationing with cameras 
to return with a foreign inspiration; 
'thank you,' and my thin lips vomit at the grace. 
To no other sound but the happy clacks 
and hanging, painted tongues 
I wrote; I even wrote: 'the flowers nod 
and peck like too many a sun.' 
Today: 
'the day grows down in dismayed capitulation.'
 


India

An idol 
tall as three big men 
curving lines 
 
bridge 
of the great green nose 
to the still arches 
 
drawn without motion 
above the poignant half-sad 
lips with the same 
 
memory of 
decayed gardens princes 
lazy about the 
 
common grounds smiling 
at the women to the women the women only 
faintly portrayed 
 
by the best artists 
linens 
close about their bodies thin 
 
unfraying silks 
on them about them 
unconsciously 
 
as the air itself 
or breathing 
lightly 
 
the final descending lines 
of the chin 
raising 
 
the ogling eyes 
of visitors here gathered 
strangers to the courtly 
 
past lust 
back upwards thereby 
putting 
 
the whole 
face into focus assembled 
block by block
 


Ritually

the amoeba 
squeeze and bulge 
their green and 
thinly syncopating 
bodies while, 
at their sides, 
there are (beating) 
the smoothly 
flagellant supplicants.They 
will suffice. 
 


Mated Pheasants

Their carriages are upright
in a dry green.They stand 
at once passionate and familiar, 
 
His beak is respectful, level, 
rather than diffident in uptilt, 
his tail a downward sloping tube 
 
like a story.His face is bright 
and remembers everything, one formidable claw 
hangs, while flat the other holds him 
 
steady to the earth, hangs gloved 
in dust immeasurably.While she 
in straight grass stands 
 
Popped-up from an unexpected bush.


12 Bowie

Here and now the kindly frost invites 
The snow.Ice along the large pond 
Buckles for breath in he thin season 
Over spacious spans of silence.The pipings are 
Hushed, the geese put to flight and quiet. 
Grass does not grow but waits 
With a small eternal presence, the mantle 
Warm and lightless.It is a white lid 
To a green furnace, waiting.Patience is long 
Along the meadow along the pond along the frozen, 
Drift-thick ice.The oaks with the sharp melting current 
Are patient, through their trunks, the tilted hills' 
Green soldiers, bent for the calling, the sea 
Straining its wide tides.All are patient all 
Are waiting.But shortly 
Their patience 
Will snap.
 


At the Theater Doors and Almost In

Again and again.The tickettaker's hands are
Emphatic.Her shirt is red 
Above the useful elbows.In her small hands 
The last cries of startled paper 
 
 Unger. 
 The thin red tongues that dribbled out 
 Of the faceless window 
 Are shredded and shredded. 
 
 Her careful fingerends 
 Are red with little screams. 
 And at my back a blank anonymous bear 
 Reminds me of duty. 
 
 Slowly, I offer up 
 My tiny victim.In close air.At last, 
 At last, I stumble towards the common dark 
 Without a tongue. 


The Timid Stars

 
 It is
 among the stars 
 that I stick my shaggy head. 
 They sag and turn crimson, 
 sag in a sky 
 
 bruise blue 
 because winter has struck 
 straight across 
 (negligently) the heavy 
 blood-filled breasts in stretched cotton. 
 
 Has struck 
 as they shiver 
 (appreciatively) has struck shining 
 like a bronze cymbal.


The Seasonal Dead

 
 Winter kills the cruelest of the deer,
 the ones that want to live, freezes 
 their heart-stubble, runs them  
 past the dawn grey fields 
 and trips them up on the subtlety of a stream, 
 solid with its fear.They lie down dying 
 in the rising floe; the stag, the fawn, 
 and the doe, collect their shivers severally 
 and blanket their wet fur 
 with the whitening glass.See 
 Their dark long legs are so softly 
 bent that they extremely seem to be 
 too much alive to be an accurate model of death. 
 They fly with sinking passion to he snow.


How We Die

 Perhaps
 It is like walking straight upwards 
 From a clear shore 
 Until the wren's singing 
 Is only water.And we float about freely, 
 Completely under. 
 
 Or, perhaps, 
 Flying and stinging like wasps, 
 We leave half of ourselves dragged out behind us, 
 Beating and hurting.


TV

Multifarious on the miniature screen 
the tiny greyish teardrops trickle 
out of sympathy; out of luck 
they land in a ponderous conflagration 
like butane-drenched strange paratroopers 
invading every eye. they only come 
to liberate the lusterless, glitterfy the gone, 
unwanted melodies curled uptight asleep 
in moldiest mind.Melodramatic 
the chromatic tube revivifies its display. 
All the misconceptions of real-life rant 
in flesh-tone undeniability.The biggest baritone 
saunters to his place, steps upwards 
at the Met, decked in best brightest tent array, 
 
to sing until his face dissolves to truth.
 


June

The abyss in the iris
Darkens. 
The lilac's cones shrivel, 
Impotent nubs. 

And the waterfall wings 
Of grackles gnash, 
Impatient as teeth 
For something to eat. 

Blossoms or buds hang 
Lazy as puppets 
In their nets, or masses of colored balloons 
Tied to vulnerability. 

Rubbing their silk heads to static and still can't think! 

Everyone breathes beneath 
Wide woven hats, -- 
Lying, breathing, 
Lame as shot seals on the lawn furniture. 

And everything is hot. 
The garden is is still and hot. 
And the conservative gardener buzzes about planning, planning 
For next spring's eruption. 

A uniformity resides 
In all this damp lessening, 
inexorable and 
Irretrievable 

As ants or gold lice, tiny and metallic, 
Ticking past the plastic petals. 
The entire arrangement 
Walls and withers, 

Tribally. 
The folded flowers scream. 
White as live eyes, the trees 
Scream, steaming. 

The magnolia's 
Fists sweats.
 


After July

The one cop
cracks his beat, tuesdays, 
thursdays... the tapped cracks blurr into the blue, 
days join years, rim to rim 
a used pile of hubcaps rise 
to topple the sky. 

He lowers his eyes. 
He frets the shiny lower buttons 
off his coat, in the off hours, 
in a silver-tinged sort of 
maternal sublimation. 
For him 

the end 
of labor, and the quench 
of thirst, lie bound-- a single note-tone-- 
in a fist-sized, pawable 
golden glob of pocketwatch. 
We wait 

for the crinkled, 
the time-worsted, the failing 
cusp of a summer's end, expiring 
in teacups.Your mother's 
handstitched, colorful, orange and yellow, gingham quilt 
wilts with August. 

Nearby, some butterflies, 
a handful, hover over 
the midtown intersection parking lot 
of our pin-sized Pepperell village, watching 
the sky-dark cop 
endlessly circle himself, wishing 

that they had stings.
 

Contents

Slate Steps Descend the Hill

The blue stones
drop away from the self 
like ash 

dumped from an open freight car 
going 
a hundred miles an hour 

easily
 


Aside to a Crying Child

Do not fear.
The globe in your room 
Has no place to be going. 

Its greens are gold, properly arranged; 
Its browns 
Mountains of dried sugar.



Thinking About a Dead Man
I Wonder Why the Fireplace
Looks Emptier than it Ought to

Have you ever seen
The dark trolleys 
Transport the ashes 
Of a leaf 
Into a hole in the valleys of the moon? 

I have. 

It is a small hole waiting 
On the moon's 
Reverse side.


Pissing in the Snow

one finds among
the melting crystals 

the impartial 
pattern common 

to any 
work of art


Falling

In the tympany of the shattering glass there
is this: there is this photographic effect, It
occurs when, dimmed and fugitive, I see my own raw
face new as a pound of freshly ground beef in one
of the shaken raindrop particles faltering. (They
falter because they have forgotten the balance of
air.They are senile as snowflakes.) It is this
effect that makes me measure and measure the
millimeters of my pupils’ shufting. (They are black
as a circus seal’s fur, and wet as sweat.) It is
a little like what I think it would be like to find
a mirror at the bottom of the lake in which I am
drowning, The window bleeds its little glitters
down.They shine like pennies out of a shotgun….



The Holly Tree

 
The holly tree
as a figure 
not 

of dance (since 
that is too gross-- 
too many 

arms like tentacles 
hanging their appeals 
straight out) 

instead as, each leaf 
green against the sharp frost 
equally 

an equation 
it is conceived perfectly 
divisible 

by that love 
which makes the berries 
hard small 

and almost 
exactly round 
grow red


Seasonal

 There, sidewise from the
 breasting prow, between 
 the hushed and vertical 
 bob and weave of the 
 whitest icebergs, there is 
 the winter sea beneath it all 
 still green.


Foxhounds

 A trumpet whistles and the slow, 
 paced doily-work of discovery begins. 
 Soft, snow-petalled dogs descend 
 from higher ground to astound the dell 
 with the multitude of their white bodies' shuffle; 
 So many crowd into the little hollow 
 that the hand-held sky, time's mirror, 
 leaks a salty supplication to their lust. 
 They ground the dying grasses down to dust. 
 The ascending, coal-soft noses tender towards 
 the pay; the fox works well their mouths 
 of blackness into foam. 
 Abundance will reward most laborious chase. 
 Living feet stamp and paw the fertile ground.


The Gardener’s Lot

 This blade of land
 engendered by the sun 
 dances round and around 
 like everything-- 
 like you I exact 
 and supercilious 
 of all forms, even 
 flowers, for christ's 
 sake, bluebells 
 hollyhock, clover 
 goldenrod, sprints 
 of purple something 
 
 and, of course, the 
 wild carrot, even 
 the wild carrot, how 
 do you manage it'.? 
 Were not all things 
 in some measure 
 constructed (with 
 welds of cells in this 
 case, perhaps) you 
 could not overbear 
 them so with your 
 tweedling eyebrows 
 -- agh! how 
 can you stand 
 yourself! mirrorwise-- 
 look at it! looking 
 at you.Wont you 
 splash, red-handed, 
 into it?Won't you 
 break a cracker 
 and make it flesh? 
 Turn the pool to wine! 
 The way it stares! 
 
 Well, then, stand 
 there (ox/ ox/ 
 pool) dirty and 
 locally misshaven you 
 ugly cuss! --and 
 get stabbed by the 
 rust-colored sun 
 increasing on the 
 hill's edge.

Contents

Staring at My Face in a Hushed Brook

 On my knees I deeply kneel 
 to all you who are wailing and wallowing 
 before the fallen wall 
 and in it 
 
 Oh there is someone trapped 
 in those clouds there purely serene 
 
 As (lithely) I kneel 
 to kiss the mute stranger 
 he explodes 


What the Mountain Saw

 Embryo of blossom is dissected
 and without shame-- removed 
 
 to a further Light 
  one where guts 
 and stuff is not displeased by the eye 
 not made to squirm or plead 
 against the logic of sight, with their only 
 velvetvoiced argument, which is that they 
 were always here 
always cupping 
 their premature round faces-- to heaven 
 or storm without regard 
   until like tissue 
 they let their countenance fold 
 into dimness 
down to spring.


Do Not Know

 
 We do not know what 
 to do anymore--- 
 the high, evening voices 
 of the crickets 
 silver again 
 to grass.Grass and time. 
 
 A small, humped 
 frog is croaking 
 above the circle of his 
 
 swimming.Everything-- 
 everything is left 
 undone, 
The small, 
 red, perfectly predicted 
 perfectly in place, red 
 line of thought still ties 
 the 12 fat apples 
 to a bending limb. 
 
 3 dogs at a hollow distance 
 bay 
 to shake the leaves.


Watching Trees After Rain


In this sunset I am alone among many trees, the day a light stonygrey.
They don’t sway, but like a thousand notes of music they seem too deliberately
articulate their leaves in a mass, visible green chorus. Each leaf at its base
diverges to return in a point, the many pinnacles loping to their purpose;
they slouch down so low that a few of them almost touch the ground. The dark,
firm springs of wet pines straighten their voices like efficient women.
And in a steady glowing small, face-like leaves burst softly forward in slowly
growing fountains.The roundness of some of them sings to me like fishmouths,
silently and purely their praises go upward.



Night

 Darkness is not 
 a going of light but a coming of light 
 only 
 it is too solemn for us to see 
 

The Stone in Water


It is the round 
beauty 
of all things 

immaculate immobile immute- 

able to the last 
syrupy 
drop 

of that fine 
liquid 
which we drink into drunkenness 

on those lovely 
shaded nights 
of 

the black curtains 
hanging down 
like stars' beards 

whiskery to infinity 
The truth


My Blue Period

"I sti11 live inside an icon of despair,
abuse the abutment for my failing hands 
that once would gesture music; I grow 
into my age, see icecubes marching by 
like icebergs and notice theirflat shadows 
spinning to diminishment 
in the exaggerated weaflness of my 
mind, my lights lefting out like twin pack dogs 
lost to snow.There is no settlement 
of objects, half-arraigned and now 
abandoned to decay.There is 
no happiness here of the clean straight line. 
My abstract mind falters into particulars 
... it's the light that turns the lampshade round."


In Living Rooms

The
piano glassy 
the clock 

From 
a time of 
grandmothers 

And 
widows grayly 
done dancing 

Are 
clicking round 
sonorous moments. 


Lying

Lying
up In a hayloft 
my dreams fill the owl rafters 
with thin loops of gold. 

A few float down.


Sequence


I. Somnambulance

The mourning does are lying in leaves
For summer bleats and funeral ash. 
Somewhere shipwrights are planning for ghosts. 

II. Aftereffects of Silence

Singing, I thought there was a second 
Voice behind me. 
Only one dove was bowing. 

III.Promenade

In a forest strung with lanterns 
Night was slowly staring in after me. 
It stirred with a flutter of gigantic wings. 

IV.Pre-Evening Autumn

The mourning doves in thousands septembered 
Themselves to my yard and never departed. 
The sun rained all that day. 

V. Lesson:

The best notes are musical 
And exact; two doves 
On a dogwood at sunset. 

VI. Post Christi

Twelve silent doves are sifting in the snow 
And wishing they were white-- 
With their feet crossed. 

VII.Pre

The bald and aging Socrates 
Was last seen sleeping among mourning doves. 
Their slipperless feet were cool, 

VIII.An Eye at the Window

The extra room provoked much controversy 
Until, in the stifled minute it takes lilies 
To be imagined, the dove moved in. 

IX. Intimations of Salmon

I knelt my mind behind a thin steeple 
And embroidered the sky with memories of sea. 
They are even here. 

X. Image of Transparency

The moons settled themselves in a red cradle. 
The woman settled herself along with them, they 
In her arms.It was snowing doves all that evening. 

Contents

On the Neighbors Having Lost
a Daughter My Father’s Words

 'Who told them to swallow down their sorrow? 
 This year as much as last the rain will dig 
 New gullies near the roadside- even without 
 Their help.So what's the use of holding back 
 A g ief?They don't moan, but they still shuffle. 
 What's a man to do with relations 
 That won't cry?Beg it out with salt? 
 I won't pity them.Pity's too mean a thing 
 For living creatures, and, besides, its a sham 
 Emotion: it only makes the hawthorn wither. 
 And they themselves wouldn't even see.--- 
 Damn it, I myself have lost a son. 
 You remember that year, in late declining 
 Summer; we took down that small net 
 Of trash trees hemming in the garden. 
 Just their shadow would have killed off half 
 The crop that demanded al I the sun. 
 He left the sticky tree-stumps alone to stare, 
 A little like some human faces, 
 And then clomped off into a rain of maples. 
 Who could put out the details of his last 
 Living day?Do they think they own disaster7 
 Yet how anxiously they horde it!As if 
 Their slack jaws and ground-geared eyes could feed 
 On such distresses.It has been a year already. 
 I wish that they would just cut out the show.' 


Marina


1. Almost, Marina, Almost

Once, walking in the garden by the wood-- so close
Under leaves, the ponderous weight of unlighted leaves 
On trees, I overturned the mandrake root and found 
It'd grown in two; remember now, remember7 One for 
Me, for you? 

0 my daughter 
My daughter 
I have no boat to build. 
Zodiacs must come, they go, I yield. 
There are the seas-- no, no longer. 
Only time to slaughter 
0 my daughter 

Hold my dry hand, lean lean, as the dandelion bloom 
Of skeleton inflates; all is withered, each vine strangling, 
Dangling, collapsed within.All is late; 
Hold my dry hand 

Ice uncovers Icicles and cold lays on to cold. 
Spices of the Orient in my mind take hold. 
I remember now 
I remember how; 
Surgeon, scalpel, suction tube, then a pill for ease... 
0 my daughter 0 

You have bit the mandrake root, does April stir and 
Start in fits?Is twice too much for prayer? 
Layer on by layer, each thought uncovers brain; 
There is no pill for ease of pain. 

The mandrake is an ancient root 
Wearing none butwrinkled suit. 
And now and now and now 

I shall hold your dry hand now 
For I have not held have not held it long. 

Zero may be warmed to naught, my daughter, 
Zero may be warmed 

My daughter 


II. The Gardens

In the shadowed garden, dim
Remembered strains 
Played among the acorn shells, and left 
Dampened hands on the plastered grain. 

Jonquils died in torrents 
That summer, how I regret 
Time's contingency, and Death's. 

We had letdown the curtains 
That sheltered away the sun, 
And shelved it, 
Long ago.The house had tinkled like the rickets 
With the wind, long and orange 
Out of the west Our shadows 
Grew into the trees like years, that summer. 
Our blue hands turning blue, until 
They were the trees and the trees 
Were still. 
 
All the days were beautiful, 
And all the children sang. 
And all around the widening block 
The gossips snickered in; 
And all their blathering, chattering talk 
Could not 
Prove the littlest sin. 
A box is a box is a box. 
Not even the littlest sin. 
 
I might go back outside, given 
Satisfactory incentives towards that move.I might 
Reverse one summer's indiscretions, dear, 
If the picketfence of autumn 
Had not come.And only come to show 
How round the circuit of our fears 
Is expressed in every apple.I might 
Have dressed the dolls with leaves again 
And set upon a stage 
Their small white forms in the white sun's 
Glare.


The Abandoned Farm

All's astir.The slick, sick heat
of vegetating August lights the leaves 
with growth.The upright quizzical, 
Fire-white picketfence rails 
at its own perfection.Even 

the starved copper cock 
twirls and reflects he sun. 
Even the big red barn is actively bleeding 
cheap red paint in gallons 
to stain the soil. 

All day 
the cockleburrs sway and crack 
with misery, there are too many 
in their school; their sheer, high numbers 
the barnyard green. 

The fur-thick, dark-eyed groundhogs graze 
and waddle in the fields like cows 
now; free from shotgun-blaze 
anxiety, they lower their square heads to sup 
on farmers bones. 

Once, 
the dolled-up, rickety barn was gorged 
on spoon-fed hay.Its golden maw 
glittered edible riches, 
pure as a tat, fat duchess and all decked-out. 

The heavy hay 
would creak and rustle in the barn, 
and the land was gold.The torn mouth 
stands and stutters emptily, its innards 
whittled hollow 

by poverty and rot. 

The penny-colored 
weathervane crows and crows in the whistling wind. 
The saw-tooth boundary of the picketfence 
is lost in a sizzling 
sea of weeds. 


August

Unscreened weatherworn 
the doorjamb melts 
into what I remember 
was our private yard: 

The flowers on the trees 
(once red, some white, all 
green) have blossomed 
into leaves sung at noon 
drooped by four. 

The chickadees twitch 
among trunks for pebbles. 
The young birds eat them up 
and eat whatever else they find 
which pleases them. 

By some hidden wind 
they ruffle to wails 
in the usual hollows together 
with a few early leaves. 
Yellow and sun-white predominate. 

These are the colors 
of fullness and wait.But 
somehow my shrill eyes 
are missing you among 
all 
August sways on 
the stem because it is warm 
as flowers go. 


After July

The one cop
cracks his beat, tuesdays, 
thursdays... the tapped cracks blurr into the blue, 
days join years, rim to rim 
a used pile of hubcaps rise 
to topple the sky. 

He lowers his eyes. 
He frets the shiny lower buttons 
off of his coat, in the off hours, 
in a silver-tinged sort of 
maternal sublimation. 
He sees 

his patriarchal, 
moon-sick mom in every 
overripe, mindless bag lady creeping 
by like a bee, down the antique, tinselly street 
the shower blossomed blacker.His mom still hones 
the compact, lunar silverware 

every day at three.Nothing changes. 

One woman runs 
and ages.The black and yellow bags 
balloon around her like a raft.His mother's older. 
The traffic-light mud-dauber dabbles in adobe. 
The sweet air stares and stales. 
Nothing blossoms. 

His hands 
tick and scuttle like stop-motion wasps 
looking for the honey-drop watch.At noon 
the unprofessional, octagonal sunday school 
lets out like a pregnant cat.  The bleating 
bells tell. 

The tooth-smooth 
legs and necks of children 
nod, pollen-heavy and thin 
as goldenrod.He cannot remember 
the ridiculous number of years anymore.The vernal 
season's shorter. 

Nearby some butterflies, 
a handful, hover over 
the midtown intersection parking lot 
of this pin-sized Pepperill village, watching 
the sky-dark cop 
endlessly circle himself, blinking 

their still-wet wings like wings. 


Message Towards Morning

“Hey... shush!Rattle
of the half-starved bird, beak-bone 
clatter and snap of the throatless young, 
cry of the crow, the grossest crow, subtle 
after-echo in the back-wash; 
stilted king-fisher breaks glass, again 
shatter of the placid 
silver shingle of the pond, level, flat, 
beaten down with completion as 
up he comes!The air complex with industry, the shrill 
sound of the jay, oriole, blackbird, cricket-call 
singed feathers in the after-light, 
the pocked, pregnant moon in stately decline.'Just 
quiet down and get to work.”


2 Watercolors of 4 Birds

Jade-smooth the green
Head a mallards defines 
itself its limits 

against the frayed edge 
of a faded 
paper sky 

as together with her he 
climbs upon her 
blue wing 

foot to feather foot 
to feather to 
escape with their bodies 

from 
a scattering 
of just exploded cattails


II The Pintails in Spring

Black and yellow
the 
segmented stalks 

show the winds 
to be 
against them as frozen 

they beat on 
to 
turn the page 


The Spectrum is Discerning

Roses huff out of the afternoon train.
They cry 
At the dye 
Of the blue blue sky:

'Come, 
And we shall fuse you 
Into our red red selves 
Like 
Shot diamonds 
Into water. 

We are dead plain 
As in an empty room the strange 
Echoes 
Of 
Painted tin cans clapped 
Together.' 

Winnowingly, the terrible eddies 
Utter 
Themselves, seductive, 
Against the listening skin 
White 
As a rabid rose. 

 

Herr Professor

The stars revolve on darkness. 
A green moon thaws the black sea. 
And the beautiful regular young women 
       pat and pat their hair 
In anticipation of the spring. 

But none of this interests him. 
He drops his eyes.He has 
'Already read about all that.'


Mendel’s Garden

Ordained by necessity
--- the necessity 
of mathematics--- 

the blossoming sweet pea plants lie 
red pink white 
in rows 

orderly by a neat man well 
placed and spaced 
but not 

overly so the sex 
fused in them 
in 

the modest veiny petals 
center of the 
display 

there are those tall short and 
ones round and wrinkled 
the peas 

themselves encased the ovum 
grown fat with potential 
the seeds 

dangling cocooned in green 
from the stalks 
the stems 

the sepals dried up out 
of the attracting 
juices 

a withering 
revealing 
the fruit 

near these over a few 
feet a simple step 
bending 

ready at hand to put in the seed 
in his quiet black 
suit white 

collar strapping his 
neck hiked up 
to the jaw 

to put the seed 
to bed the 
man 

a cleric who named the traits 
himself dominant 
and recessive


Magnolias in New Jersey

Deep between the conifers dark as deacons,
And near the thawp and clump and utter of new-born grackles, 
And back round the minarets of foxglove like a picket fence 
They slacken their buddings to stars. 

But somehow it is vain, with the bloom of universe surrounding, 
And my feet cold and sunk in growth, 
And the spiritual white and pink-white leaves in bulbs fermenting, 
Somehow to lie and breathe into the upwards evening is vain.


Illness is a Calumny

I want you to know
Every day, twice a day, 
My heart turns blue. 
The shell of my skull 
Blackens to fragments. 

There is nothing not left. 
The tulip tree begins to talk, 
And I begin 
To listen. 
There is nothing anymore to keep 
The pearly ears of crickets from hearing 
What I think of you: 

The frozen shapes of tadpoles quicken 
In the edges of the ice. 
Soon enough, ' 
Their long black minds will turn 
Green with growth. 
And cats will quicken to eat them. 

My body lies to me, sometimes 
Three times a day.


Seeing It Is Evening I Watch the Mill Men
Being Let Out from Work

He breaks the wind with his shoulder.
He ducks into apples for home. 
Or hunger, 
He threads a blackeyed bluejay 
Through his skin. 
He is out of luck.His heels have thinned. 
His long, lonely face 
Sags, the color of a chipmunk's rib. 
His once dark hair is trying to lighten 
Into heaven. 

The effort fails. 
His strong, shy chest will blink 
Into the hard, open slit of the waters, 
Or the sky, 

He tries and tries 
To begin to breathe, 
But, 
The lake is as heavy as buffalos. 

There is nothing left here. 
He starts along the orange fields and 
matted grasses 
For apples.


Cranes in the Back-Yard

Suddenly-- in the middle of what was
the only green and subtle meadow that I knew, 
a dozen cranes or so with jagged wings 
settled their legs in beads of old snow. 

A dozen heads or so with accentuated necks, 
are staring me again, down twenty-four years like eyes, 
and I begin to see;-- they are stained so white 
that I think their wingtips cannot be as black as they are. 

Then, and slowly, their wide arms begin to beat 
until legs like straws let their linkages down 
above the lush wave that presses my throat 
so I cannot think except to gaze at their feet 

not touching the earth the least.


Piccolo: Notes of a Suicide


I. Entant with Needlepoints

Twice I stitched and watched her 
Sewing.The images of the horse and man 
and curling trees were imperfect.

II.Prelude in December

When the snowball diminished beyond 
The circle of my eye 
I was diminished. 

III.Adagio

The sun was a long slow line running through 
Rows of willows shaking their leaves in rows. 
A single green light transfixed the time. 

IV.Minuet Under Glass

The myriad black-headed chickadees flocked 
Through whiles and whiles of a white sky. 
Still this was not enough. 

V. Tablecloth quartet and Mints

The dining room was a room of space 
Holding four minds like circles in squares. 
The meal was vivid with a sauce. 

VI. The Through Nine Panes Bridge

The upright piano commonly lent notes 
To the couch.At once we found 
That the azaleas were blooming.Were red. 

VII.Fugue In Green

Pacasandra on the lawn exchange colors 
Of themselves between themselves, shrewdly. 
Their bodies In multiples are expanding. 

VIII.Wine at the Cotillion

The woman is softly, at night in the 
Dark in the stars, waving her veins at me. 
The quilt is a quilt that is warm. 

IX. Jazz Dance of August

Now the snowballs are falling 
And like moons are falling.And I am increasing 
Beyond my own eye like winter. 

X. Explanation

I once have seen the quiet energies 
Of a world building with the littlest hands 
One thread on a web in the comer. 


Anna, Eighty-Six

 “Oh, is he a persian?  They have a tendency 
 towards deafness.He's alright yet? That's good. 
 He's beautiful.I suppose you've had him fixed; 
 that makes them grow.It's like a plant 
 that's all circusy and wide 
 in the extent and circumstance of its foliage. 
 Ever seen an elephant-ear?Have no roots 
 at all.Half my first husband's breath would find 
 such a one crunched over, in green and disarray. 
 Al 1 headstrong and hurrying to out-race their limitations. 
 I know them.Oh, you have water here!Is it 
 a reservoir? And dammed up to the south?Yes, 
 we caught sight of that on coming here.What 
 an out-bound view!All slow anger turned to slow froth....” 
 

>

Tete da Femme

This lady is dead, I think,
her marble eye set straight 
into the eye of the viewer 
like a target.Her high nose will bridge 
the concept of her forehead 
     like an arrow! 
Her ear is round, and hangs 
as perfect as a cracker. 
Her mulberry lips 
are barely there and are not touching 
the tightly limed forward cut 
of her face.Here the brightness, 
which is too much for the checkerboard scores 
of her scored face to contain, 
meets with the absolute black 
of India ink that corners the edge of the page. 
Definition.Outline of darkness.The light 
enclosing like oxygen 
the rigidly formal cardboard grains 
of the symbolized female features 
of her face, in profile, in 
detail, in the profoundly crooked rivers 
of her darkly commaed hair. 
Just who is she?Tapped by some large hand 
into the tiny alleyways of the gopherwood... 
Squinting for a close-up, one guesses that 
perhaps she was a prophetess.And one sees 
that, at the center of the heart-shaped 
bulge in her head, there is 
a blankness, a clarity, a 
moment of resolution--- 
I Ike on the flat back of the served cure 
of a Moses-pill.Or in 
the carved hollowness of a period 
at the end of a sentence put 
on a rock, There is also, 
in this portraiture you will notice, 
a deep scar running 
below her eye 
       and above it.
 


Wild Azalea Blooming

 Only the test monotone pattern 
 Can touch your still cry. 
 Rival little red necks, little white lips. 
 
 You are unstoppable!Yet constrained in a place 
 From a pure prism hefted and chopped 
 To a block of a wheel. 
 
 A wheel wounding itself outwards. 
 Blooming to death. 
 Little red sticks stabbing the eye, proceeding 
 
 Away from the eye as well.At once. 
 Your bodies, 
 Disposable, 
 
 Are clear in memory 
 To December. 
 Brightly you travel 
 
 Under a small grey wood. 
 Each thin skinny 
 Clarion is color of dolor too.
 


The Bullfight

 The furry neck of the bull is 
 black, the sky a grey in this 
 black and white of a color lithograph, 
 Avant la Pique, the point of which 
 in a blunted splinter does not 
 advance or pretend to be 
 the concentrated nozzle 
 of any future or sequence of events, 
 unpredictable and true as above 
 the nail-shaped head of the matador 
 it tilts in a sequestered white- 
 ness like the bands of his 
 arms the v in his chest and 
 the downturned paintbrush ends of his feet. 
 There is besides this a knuckle 
 in the center of the leg of a horse 
 the picador has with careful aim 
 chosen for the day's events 
 and which is tall and solemn and sure 
 of its place in the scheme 
 overall.There is as well a cape 
 poised black above the well-dark bull 
 like avoid somewhat sheltering 
 the sight of the first blow (which is tied 
 by custom and thought, to the 
 last) from his, In this picture grey, 
 eye.


Melancholia

 Grey, dead-grey & black
 are the requisite composites of this composition; 
 sad Durer had looked too long 
 in mirrors, seen too many vicious invocations 
 of the holy hand upon the plainest blades 
 of grainy growing grass.Poor Durer 
 he has seen too many hollow olive 
 eyes; has stared too much at the imported monotone 
 African masks filled brimming and still ringing 
 with authentic bellowing sighs 
 and horror-filled innocent tears 
 from behind the widening whites of the eyes. 
 Pitying Durer in the savage dark 
 of accustomed thought saw the red in black.
 
 

Hieroglyphic

Delicately
she bends 
to readjust the rose 

its stem 
too thick the petals 
about to fly 

off and shout 
but, having initially 
advanced, 

she 
fails at everything 
the frail limbs disposed 

as before exactly 
everything 
unchanged 

she 
smiles they are 
too beautiful

 

sonnet

When (singing to the silent wide of your
eyes) I find that small almost innocuous birds 
have dealt with the thunderous evening increments 
by shedding their shells (into your eyes) orange 
speckled crying (for to breathe is to die) will you 
my most sweetly taut unstrummable note 
(placid in pride of your calm) will you (I 
want to know) take my new unfolding hands 
spread for a dismal uncommon febuary sun, 
sky dancing in the light of forever, breezed 
with original ironicless laughter, cackling dawn, 
and sew them up with a seamless surgary 
meticulous, as a rose locked away in its leaves 
eternally fruitless unbudded disaster or what?


When Into the Mouth the Death Cry Comes

When into the mouth the death cry comes 
Unamazed and odorless, 
Crammed by the ticking fingers of perpetual crime 
Down the rattling throat to sound 
An agony of conscience in the unshelled ear 
Of too much unlived living 

Then will the eyes start up blind 
And hair sprout hands for the head 
Then the unmuffled will of the stilling heart 
will damn activity, haul up dock to decision, 
Bless the unpaid mind with rest, tell toes to grow into feet, 
Knuckles reverse to blunt, loved palms, 
Shoulderblades dwindle to wings, 
Red ribs uncage to drop dead lust, 
And lagging heart kick all away 
To fall to a faraway sky, 
And all of these be mine.


These Atlantic Letters


1. From Brussels

The clematis in my window winds the wounded birch, and hangs
heavy with rain, this day of days- 
Your glad letter come back to me in the flat black crystal 
of your luxurious ten-dollar ink (bought 
in Brussels, shipped by clinking caseloads 
home somehow through evenings, the fat 
Atlantic waters hissing twice as dark.Will 
these waters burn?The glowing ocean oil thickens 
like a welt.Who can haul your miles, 
vainglorious spout and womb 
of history?Who, who, who?) 
These electric letters fly to reach me like a shock; 
they try but cannot read my white eyes boiled up 
like eggs, And you, in sympathy, writing: 
‘The silence today again has made me see.’

2. In Milan

“Statues rise like specters out of the blank sand
and bang the nose with their black batteries 
of dark pollution-dirt and rot, 
Oh, it's not like living was 
when we were young!Its not the same 
at all.My two beach feet flatten-out to overfill 
our honeymoon shoes, I look down 
this alleyway, past the piazza place I stay, 
and reckon up the centuries.What dewy crime 
or ruby mind cracks this asphalt 
like a face? 0 Milan, Milan, 
your buildings fumble into plots 
like popes shot down by time—you are dying; 
but you still breathe.... All the rest is gravy.”

3. From N.J.

The ragging rantings reach me, from your hand
like a fleshy kiss, lovers in the park 
so much disillusioned they clam their eyelids shut 
and think of Wagner's autumnal, crashing 
ocean music sandblasting out their inner ears. 
Its nerves.The paper that you use, dear, is tan 
and perfect as a Florida dawn; it shows 
to disadvantage the snow-white spiders of 
my hands --- webbing, webbing through your 
thin script; let me link it closer 
to the leaf-work of my veins, bleating 
only to themselves it seems, of late appallingly 
as sheep, I flat-down the third creased valley 
of the New Mexico plains, and read:

4. The Postcard

The congenital hoarfrost moonlight makes
this 3x5 of paradise a jail. 
Its edges catch, and ruddy people shine 
along the sunny beach, the sunny Florentine, 
fragrent with smiles.... 
Dear heart, dear life, you glare and goggle 
before my eyes with the faint flash and upward fade 
of fireflies: I miss you.And you 
dance on toes with skull-crossed death 
against eternity.... You bow & plead 
that your poor dress is stained, and then stand off to stare 
and lounge through crowds, the dying match.The vacationists 
are primed and primped for ecstasy, they 
drop hot hands to a warm salt sea.

5. In Florence

She speaks: ‘One dark night, unjust soul's repose
sunk in a midnight past my midday's cure, 
I rattled blind down corridors, stuffed 
my loud bright watch beneath a pillow 
to keep the silence out (the between ticks tick). 
I danced with mirrors, slept in blinks, 
threaded whiskey like a life-line to my glass. 
I spun our wedding ring to gold globe 
and waited the balance out; how it rang against the stone! 
I cannot think; the one world whirls.... 
The world's pink ears are crammed with speech; 
I, I, I, I, becomes a hollow sound, you 
infect my eye, enlarge to a troll.... 
My bruised head floats in a goldfish bowl.’

6. Near the Hudson

The palisades are golden in this light;
a washed bowl shines, bending heaven 
to its single-serving size.All the green leaves 
have rainbowed out to sea.It is September. 
The worst cold stays forecasted by the grass 
looking over, bending back 
from its view of the bottom of the cliff; 
one's attention's held, these days, 
by some old whittler's shavings as they pass 
and darken in the dew.Everywhere the clouds 
meditate shrunk foreheads into snow; well, 
it is almost snow.... Now it is an eye, this bowl, 
staring like a clock, knowing nothing not its own. 
Little comfort stays here, little goes.

Contents

Sun Song

 Where are you going? 
 Where are you going? 
 Velveteen hills are rusting to silver. 
 
 They grow old.Sweet dews gather and drop 
 Numberless, 
 Then brighten to burn, little caustic stars. 
 
 The rickshaw mantis' kneel and rust. 
 Sadly, they are singing 
 Without voices. 
 
 Their stiff attached wings, the colors of oil, 
 Vibrate, 
 Machete late lawns leap and shudder, 
 
 Taut as an eardrum against you, 
 You answer. 
 You answer. 
 
 Green knees bend and bury themselves, 
 Clean in dirt, 
 New at an acid altar. 


Freezing Autumn Willowtree

 Green, the pure prismatic color
 left its little stalling footprints 
 in the edges of the leaves.


The Change

 Behind a square stucco
 church (where daily there is 
 praying) a buttercup 
 
 lifts crookedly 
 
 its crown announcing 
 by its nature 
 
 the fall.Little 
 singing sacraments droop 
 and drop down leaf 
 
 by leaf 
 drawn to the ground 
 by a force 
 
 one opposite that 
 which pulled the petals upward 
 yellow to heaven


El Gato

 
 Mouth open 
 red 
 as a hawk's 
 
 the pout of sleep 
 limed 
 around the small 
 
 wide eyes all 
 almostall 
 gone as she lifts 
 
 the smooth head 
 seen 
 in no carving 
 
 at last 
 
II. 
 at my shirtbutton blue 
 as a sky 
 it nods 
 
 my 
 red carnation 
 nods 
 
 almost in sleep 
 equal to her 
 vastly silent roar


Polemic

 Cross over, cross over
 Without 
 Utility or art. 
 
 Nothing is of any use anymore. 
 
 I tell you. 
 
 I saw three grasshoppers 
 Sifting on a leaf 
 Until, until 
 Until 
 They had eaten it up, 
 
 I dreamed I was the king of the world 
 And rode the seas for horses. 
 I dreamed I was the king of the world 
 And rebuilt all the churches. 
 
 I saw three grasshoppers 
 Living in a dream. 
 They sat on a leaf, 
 They ate it up.


Visiting

 The Saturday cold rattles like a candy wrapper.
 The thin air 
 Weights my lungs with honey.A blue stew. 
 
 The old ford mourns skyward, 
 Heaving its wheels in circles. 
 We halt so slowly 
 
 It is almost flying.We fall out 
 Sideways; our petals drop and blanche. 
 I am so heavy 
 
 My feet 
 Almost touch the floor.The familiar 
 Fears near. 
 
 We are almost there. 
 The dirty mausoleum squats on the hill 
 Like a birthday.It's so big 
 
 It's obscene.Green 
 Laurels hunch in the corners like shadowy dwarves 
 Awaiting the signal to push.... 
 
 The starched arch, snow-simple, bent 
 Floats above our silly heads. 
 Counting: Two-hundred ten, eleven, twelve 
 
 And my father's father arrives. 
 We glide in ghost-clothes about the grave. 
 This is a family day.The inherited rings 
 
 Click and skim 
 As loves the shapes of hands pass over 
 The deep, square-edged name. 
 
 They rub and rub, 
 An eternity.Quiet. 
 They are finally clean. 
 
 When everyone else has gone blindly, 
 Over the blunt edge of the curved world, 
 Striding like heroes 
 
 Why am I left, weightless and colorless, 
 To stop 
 The flat slat light the tossed urn burns?


Behind 12 Bowie

Canadians lap and settle here through the equinox
Pond rough or pond white, they ruffle 
Skinny shanks in lank air.Indian memories 
Follow the goldfinch.Old mole brown and 
Groundhog grey the arrowheads.Webs find 
The old leaves soft below the Rowan red 
And Oak not.Coincidence labors in the clay, 
Turning red green and green red, at home 
Along the plough's length of idle irony.Poor 
White boring of the dove, And the dogwood 
Its white echo.The placid confusion of evening 
Is on, white on the spread webs, the 
Soft furled soil cooling.Again.


Not Until the September is Past

Not until the September is past 
And the grave dead all lie, unshakled, unburied, 
Alone in the frost's mouth 
(All dying done, all berthing begun) 
And every crooked, ear-marked child is led, 
By the dimming blood of a failing hand, 
To play away from the clock's haunts 
 
And stars are incited to shrink again 
The cragging moon's corruptible sphere 
To less than a pinnacle’s pinched inch of sky 
(Not until the September is past) 
And every weed grows down to die 
Up where the miracle dead were tossed 
In a frozen field gone over to snow 
 
And the cold wind in a cold throat like glue, 
Dying of wanting; and the blossomless trees 
Lift their skirts to let me fondle 
The bark-notched knees of autumn's parts, 
Sold old home of my father's wants, 
Will I catch cure in the cuckold wind 
For inextricable laughter and hate. 


A Mosquito’s Wing Along the Rail

It silvered where it had fallen
where the wind played it back and forth 
and the top of the lake considered it bluely, 
and the man rustled his feet on the porch 
 
As if they were leaves.Every moment separately 
considered the veiny object and drew 
the object in comparison with itself; 
the rail paint peeled and flapped 
 
In those places where it could flap, 
the wind and the lake crusted themselves 
with silver, the wing replied from where 
neglect had lain it And the man rustled his feet 
 
in repetition.


End

Aug 242020
 
 
Character poems of then-current events and personal romantic sonnets
 

 
By Gregg G Brown 
 
Copyright © 1991

Published by 
BLAST PRESS 

  

Jonathan Miller, U.S.M.

"It is night. Date-palms are rocking on the leash 
Of Time, the hurricane, that straddles our defeat 
With two-legged winds, and stalks the dusty town 
With a sheriff's clinkered heels until we're mown 
Down by our ambitions to police the world. 
Tonight the Mid-East's bunkered sandlots lash 
Dynamos of fire into the throttled air to crash, 
On cindered houses abandoned years before. 
The generals' camouflaged tent is staked 
In the vampired heart of our affairs of state; 
Our bloodless motive moves in for the spider-kill, 
Touching each fly-fat thread centered on our ill. 
 
All things are playthings, and the roar 
Of the black ocean here consumes our speech at night, 
Lifting its frail levities in a matchstick's 
Minute light. God knows I was not born to kill--- 
Who grew up in Indiana's tidy wheatfields tilled 
By machines as patient as mothers, giant-wheeled, 
That came sighing with sweet scythes when autumn cooled, 
Keats-like, and the silo's sundial shadow 
Met itself in the empty auguries of the meadow. 
Unhoused thousands are beating to our copter's mill; 
Prayers raise them cresting to their crescent moon 
And Allah's sweet-water paradise filled with girls. 
 
These are God's sufferers and wear his brand 
Of salvation creased in skin and hand; 
Doling out bags of rice and reconstituted milk 
From the throbbing helicopter's side, half tilt- 
Ing into the begging sea of faces, I wish 
For a lunatic's rare absolution of my guilt, his bliss. 
Stigmata almost washed away by weeping still 
Eat into the innocent wrists. Now, at Easter, 
They hold their small hands up, robbed 
Of all that held them, tongue-tied, to earth, 
And rise like moons, balloon-willed, lovely, free 
At last, to their creatured deaths; until we die 
Nothing stops the cresive wanting of our breath." 


Schwartzkopf, Duke of Iraq

"I will go wash; and drown these desert honors 
that stick in my throat. Three weeks before the grand 
defeat of our enemies, I dreamt my tent squalerous, 
ruined lieutenants killed by infiltrating mustard gas 
that couldn't sniff out the winning colors 
of our almighty flag. My aide snored on 
under his moony brow, refusing to wake 
for anything less than the Judgement Day; I'll pass. 
In the wheezing trenches we squeezed off rounds like mad 
in an unending philippic against the damned. 
Dust-erased faces blink skyward from their rust lakes 
of blood, off, on, off, on. 
Now downed in a North Carolina airplane hanger 
and tired of the itching laurels that itch my scalp 
I stare bemused at what our wanting has brought us here: 
Disinterred love scrambles up my lap." 

 

Nixon Now

"Broadbacked noon has come humbling among our wicked spires; 
I came trumping in, Ike's prat-boy VP, 
flipped the sinister death-ace on its head in Laos 
to a vermillioned flush, a cornucopia of flowers 
scissored off by dear Pat for my tweed lapel. 
Coronated by my foreign policy's jewelled accretions, old man 
of the treasons, whispers stitched to whispers, 
I age in New Jersey; grown familiarly bland 
I confer my Ovaltine-sweet opinions on the mass, 
saddled with a politician's over-zealous over-friendliness still. 
Whatever has happened has happened. 
Smooth-trunked Atwater by a humorous tumor felled; 
How many more must wither and lessen? Stopped 
at the bullet-proof pane all day, I watch 
the dogwood whiten and the rich magnolia finish... 
What love cannot conquer I leave to my will. 
The winning children still swing back 
to their crooked papa at Xmas... a few bright, colored lights. 
I am no thin-spined De Sade, adoring thorns!" 

 

William Casey

"Hitler once appeared to me in dream, grim, 
repentant, towing cowed Eva like a swallowed soul... 
a hang of flapping hair shut one demon-eye in, dimmed, 
wrestling with itself, whirlwind angels laughing in his skull. 
We killed him eventually; a few, true things 
penetrating to the innermost. I feel the arrow still 
my brother lumbered from my leg; atop a joyous swing 
I rubbed where its rubber cutting nose had thrilled. 
Our afternoons were resplendent, unhurried, vague, 
as we tumbled as cowboys and indians in an unholstered rush 
killing the shuffling vegetation and lizards that plagued 
our simmering summer patio. They would blink and push 
their low bellies in and out, alien, slow, 
themselves. I wish the doctor would come and kill my tumor now." 
 

Warm Tomb

Dad, high on inscrutability and his unconscious drive 
toward the meretricious, undoes the buzzing crust 
that baked him in place and disinterrs himself to give 
one final, lacerating lecture; weeds crush his memorial bust 
with an enduring, gorgeous green he'd scorn. 
Fearing the CIA and copper Kremlin in his West VA cave, 
his fevered eyes dripped in a marsupial's querulous skull 
as he cradled a shotgun's bucking butt to his shaved cheek 
rummaging for snagged fowl on the waste acres of his estate. 
"Interlopers... Boys, when the world inverts this time 
and the kikes come howling for your heart, nothing will be saved." 
His fat breathing heaved, "buy gold coins." 
What we cannot remember cannot save us. Blinking and appalled, 
I dream that the sun is one of us, like my dad, 
foredoomed, fated, monstrously alive. 
Disasters livened him, the minor death 
of a fly, stumbling and stumbling against the windowpane; 
the gross head all eyes, one damaged eye, limned in light. 
Dust leaps from the stone I skip, dust falls... 
I circle back: dust laps his grave. 


Middle Ground

Abandoned by our party in the garden park 
of Avon, I feel you shaken 
with a queasy stiffness; brackish 
as our garbaged New Jersey beach 
something's rising, radiant-spiked, 
rising, rising, to burst as light... 
Rocketing up from your ulcer's pit 
I ask myself, what is it, what is it? 
O how often have your hysterical, profound 
distemperate electricities hit ground! 
 
Spliced fire shams and sparks 
the matchstick held between us in the dark. 
Now undone by age, the spooky, loved 
hegemony of our plush masonic torch 
putters into mush in the gutted mud 
of the here and now, fading vivant, untouched. 
Still here after thirty remorseless years 
and too weak to laugh ourselves to tears, 
we lean like water against the sand: 
No world will hate what we cannot stand. 
 
Still posting for our finished race 
we stand outlined, awaiting grace 
that creeps against the boardwalk 
and seethes between the planks that cut our feet. 
Once, aching with a haltered wish to win 
and chalked white by spindly dawn 
we cantered to our easy beginnings and scoffed 
Bruno Latini on the loser's green. 
Remember winning? Scarred by crusts 
we cannot forget, that cannot forget us. 
 
Once, swelled by dreams, we labored down 
the awkward, parnassian slope, and stumbled 
crown over crown when we attempted Ararat... 
Religion had us stoned, overloading 
our middleaging ballast, filled 
with stones; they sat soldierly, 
round, white, yellow, white, alone. 
Look at what our childish 
urgent hands have crushed! 
An Atlantis lays buried between us. 
 
When the fatal plane zeroes on my heart, 
faint Fay Ray with cactus drink in hand, 
unerring in the air, amazed, alert, 
will you, love, move where I hurt, 
or like the gruesome Gorgon sprouting hooks 
spit useless fire still, caught in the traffic's brawl? 
Conspicuous the loss of consciousness.... 
rehabilitation the final joke of our crowd. 
Concentrating on the unmediated throb 
I think of you, myself, eyeing the prop. 
 

Election Day, Nov. 7, 1988

(A dying New Dealer looks askance at the changing of the guard)

"All night the grating visions. Curled 
in my electric bed against the prating arias of wind 
I watch my country go tiptoe towards the whirl 
.... The President's domineering, branded hip's unpinned 
by his eight typhooned, bleary years at the mast. 
Our older brother's younger rung squat-thrusts to the oarlock, lashed 
by the gold oar snapping from his grasp, spinning in quicksand... 
One Yalie summer nicknamed him, The Antidote. 
Unplugged by my heavy coronary, I lay lapsed, small. 
A tongue-red heart comes bleating like a wart 
sawn-off in the intern's dish, anxious to clasp my held-out hand... 
The anesthetist drops his mask. Mailing in my vote 
I weep for America's wrong, unflagging heart 
marooned like rescued Crusoe in the hospital." 
 

Edvard Shevardnashze

"Lenin in his tomb is white and weary. 
Before the world exploded into shards 
His voice was the bull-roarer, and it soared 
In waking syllables above the dreaming dead. 
Life's green branch is snapped above the boulevard 
Where we march shouting, and the stick 
Is in our hands whose slurring fire flamed 
The Kremlin's egg-shell spires back to ash. 
The ruling house is rubble rucked with tars; 
Tsars' bones cluck where dinosaur skeletons are. 
 
Smooth-skulled tanks from one-eyed turrets stare 
And move out like mastodons from their simple pits of ice, 
Rolling up the capitol with a wish to kill and eat 
The man-shaped offspring that teethed on mother-meat. 
It is incessant springtime now, and a rash 
Of bursting apples cracks the wintered bough 
Stunned by expectation and by prophesies; 
When I resigned Gorbachev to his statesman's fate, 
Telling off the congress with a blue face, 
What, love, rattled to the empty chute? 
 
Now we saunter and talk by the renewing river 
That sighs and shifts and corkscrews through Gorky Park 
Where the ferriswheel is shivering to its height 
And Moscow skaters wobble new-foaled, released 
From their eternal moment when Stalin stopped the stream, 
His mustache powdering like a giant Jack Frost pleased 
To see his humid hometown freezing into dream. 
Churches hold their quiver of new crosses up to light. 
Marooned in the humming populace of the Platz, larks 
Disperse with the bright bells beating like a gun; 
 
By starred asters starred children lamb and race 
Past buoyed parents walking, and cannot wait 
To see themselves staring up from the water's face. 
Dripping workers grown cold in soldered light 
Rivet the future's extinction together bolt by bolt... 
The Comintern's cragging inmates stare and scream  
Like storks in pilgrim plumage from their bobwire nest 
Topping the charring stacks; how long will stapled feathers stick? 
When the atom bomb blisters and their faces melt 
Before the torn waters of the burning lake 
What will rise in ecstatic showers to dissipate?" 
 

“All those who in roaring triumph died…”

All those who in roaring triumph died 
Must live in us, and, living, must suffer still 
Some bright ache of sacrifice enforced 
By a doubtful will. Aim no spade at that 
Chaste composure gods guard in forgetfulness. 
Remember the Fates' forgiveless testament, 
Nailing Prometheus to his crag at dawn 
For high hubris that was man's first sin; 
Or nodding Narcissus, winking at his twin 
Among gold flowers loaded with their own sweet dew, 
Until beauty like a surgeon's knife 
Had sawn him out of life to adorn a pool. 
 

When we lie with the hot worst of our beings spent

When we lie with the hot worst of our beings spent 
And may with the tired betters of our natures speak 
Conferring solidity to what had been lent 
When passion's cry had come amidst our squeaks, 
How can all our honest talk supplant the boast 
Perjured lust had disinterred with sighs 
Or gird our tropic with an icy coast 
Who had viewed spare reality through panting eyes 
That embroiders fine over grievous faults 
With threads of desire, spurring false shapes from dross, 
By peck and pull of the seamstress's wanton art 
Covering our many minor shames with one gross? 
When we into a twinned couplet twist our spans, 
Our bodies' rhyme is more than others can. 
 

Nothing is in a little space confined

Nothing is in a little space confined, 
And, once, confined, is finished in its effects; 
Not so the love that your eyes divines, 
In speculation out-vying philosopher's packs, 
In dwelling on what has no inward bound-- 
The sovereign rarity of a single soul-- 
Blessed with magnifying power to catch sounds, 
Showing your dimmest whisper true to all; 
That love which your eye to all eyes shows 
In universal application spills, 
Healing sick knots of hate that in loved bowers grow, 
Erasing from men's sins their stain of ill. 
As there is no staying of the sun by obstinate night, 
So there is no caging of such love's light. 


When, all insecure, before howling mountains

When, all insecure, before howling mountains 
Thrown, I make my breviary all of pleas 
And pull a dark choir of fears from one tone: 
That you forbid with "No" my devoutest "Please." 
When begging poorly after with my poor bowl of want 
Some thrifty grain of your rich rice to eat, 
I repeat my fervent graces for that sup 
Until all my kneeled body a trembled flare 
Of stark uncertainty resembles, 
My hopes all poured in the concentration of a cup 
That I might from the spices of your eye unpent 
Some seasoning of affection by my heat. 
But whether it is a matter of soul or bowl, 
The sum is this: from your least grows my all. 

 

My silent love is ripped by warring thoughts

My silent love is ripped by warring thoughts 
That troop to rebellion from my crowded heart 
And from my tongue's enemy camp cry all my cause. 
Armies in my veins raise blushing fires 
To burn me out of hiding towards your tender smile. 
But since I am so modest shy of light, 
And like the gloomy groundhog room in caves, 
My dark eyes may never touch your pure sight 
Or caress with lurid roll the motive of your sighs 
Which like a bonfire from space, neatly tucked 
Beneath quilted clouds of opposing rain, 
Burns obscured, or lies damped to dross unless 
Your dripping eyes these fired words drift across. 


The wasteful sun wakes blinking in morning’s weeds

The wasteful sun wakes blinking in morning's weeds, 
Stoking bland buds until they burn as leaves 
Adding shade while the sun must spend his seed, 
And end generation in a spilling breeze. 
Crowded near the generous golds you smear 
Greedy plants, like myself, stand wiped by light, 
Offering hungry faces that all in green appear 
To feed on molten surplus of your beams. 
Do not with banker's measure judge too hard 
All those who live in interest of your sight; 
Such scales would swing me too lightly into clouds 
And judge my weighty love a zero dram. 
Paymaster of all my joy's fees, with me descend 
Or cycle skyward, where all our wages end. 

 

Time has set his eating stamp on your kind face,

Time has set his eating stamp on your kind face, 
Infecting more deeply what each day's renown 
Promotes, until he has all smooth grace consumed, 
Raking acid trenches where flowered fields had blown. 
But you shall be revenged on what thief time can take, 
For though every flower dies that in April had its head, 
And woodpeckers mark seconds while they make, 
And blossoms burst, their shriveled petals shed, 
And mountains wash eventually to sea,  
They have nothing of what your soul intends--- 
For effortless beauty cannot from you leave 
That have in mental gates stored beauty others lend. 
In your mind revolves an uncorrupted rose, 
As in a glass ball, whose petals cannot close. 
 

Out of time’s cramped oblivion let

Out of time's cramped oblivion let 
Your gentle nature shake glad tomorrows 
That goes all honied now with sorrow 
And walks in shrouds of sighs blaspheming heaven 
That ever spiked such bitter in your palette 
Which only youthful sweetness had leavened. 
Do not tread in anger at the skies 
Which melt and change indifferent to men 
And all their waste of importuning cries. 
Return to dewy looks of love again 
And let the sad house of death, draped with pall, 
The merry carpenter delight reframe 
And with each love-look build new chapel halls 
Arched against the tart recurrence of your pain. 
 

Who can mourn what time has stripped bare

Who can mourn what time has stripped bare 
And left standing with an empty purse? 
If you cannot breed sighs for fleas, by time's char 
Defaced, and drained, weep not for me, nor curse 
That my descending bier, like the locust, 
Must hibernate some days in winking earth. 
My long shadow still scuttles on the crust 
In these crabbed figures you now rehearse; 
As long as men use some ounce of breath for speech 
My weight will not be all in bones dispersed, 
But may by their moist utterance some white heaven reach. 
All things in all things somewhat mingle; 
Death, whose wreath is thorns, but compounds the tangle. 

 
 

Let me not drape with too much dignity

Let me not drape with too much dignity 
The little sinful wishes of my will; 
For when I come cajoling from the wanting sea 
That beats within me, my dripping wishes make me chill. 
But even so, all sogged with indecisions, 
And trailing everywhere dark seaweed thoughts, 
My desires throng past watery hesitations 
To overpress your protesting shore of rocks. 
Then the cold squid that wraps my tepid heart 
Contracts, urging me all my wickedness retract, 
Who blusters lack-breath still among your parts 
While my inner sense eyes the sea's retreating tract. 
So it is I have come to love too all-sudden 
And with sighing whim walk backwards, begging pardon. 
 

When love’s swelling wound is by conscience pricked

When love's swelling wound is by conscience pricked 
And all the propping stilts like lily stalks 
Are with comic's timing out from under kicked, 
What is left that may be bandaged by our talk? 
Attraction's balloon, which gave us mild rise, 
Has had all its static power neutered 
By our cross looks, and no new-issued sighs 
Come lowing from our bellows here abed. 
Our tender wide swaths of kind regard 
Are stapled through by compelling argument 
Until we, bloody-fingered, but prop shards 
Against the next assault on our separate sinking tents. 
Still, when I feel you lying here, I think 
There's fire in us yet to swell our loves 
And all our rubber war of hatreds shrink. 
 

Have I not, laden with my melancholy

Have I not, laden with my melancholy 
Dose of liquid dreams, poured all out at your want 
And gilded laughter on my lips' disease 
Til your lips Midas' taste? And have I not 
A little nation of desires spent 
In the sovereign country of your thigh? 
Or the fission of all my atoms burnt 
Like a penny candle, extinguished by your sighs? 
And have I not, the gold of owning love 
Out of my pockets picked, made towards you 
With all the winking signals of a delighted ship 
No matter what tars in my ballast moved? 
Still I'll burn my tars, and my weightless body wreck 
If you'll still prove a catching coral for my wrack. 

 


Although you shrink in all the world’s commend

Although you shrink in all the world's commend, 
My eye, being so bound below, must see your state 
Exalted forever, and in lisping wish hear commands, 
Training all my weak powers to stand as your prelate. 
Although you wish stern winds in changed motion blow, 
Or face themselves, and in opposition end, 
They shall bend and stop as your desire goes; 
Although you wish time's ruin to suspend 
And keep vital death inactive that yearns to kill 
Or erase all your age's scars back to birth, 
Each small wish shall be the everything of my will, 
Overturning Atlas and his tipsy earth 
By my modest course; for what your least dream has said 
Speaks prophecies to my ear of lead. 
 

You had grown quiet in a snowy field

You had grown quiet in a snowy field, 
Stood a little near the fence, did not move 
But led sleeping flakes on your blushing tongue to yield 
Their bodies back to water, misting love. 
How like those little crystals, though in large, 
My solemn wishes harmless fall on your magnificence 
To dissolve in the huge waters of your marge 
And, losing all themselves, add nothing to your sense. 
For you are more, in your silent warmth, 
Like constant earth that wears seasons for her veils, 
Changing summer green for autumn's gaiety,-- 
More constant, more true, more everything of worth 
Than the fretful melts that touch your least detail 
And must, with touching, the seasons of their being interchange, 
Losing their winter dignity in your kissing spring. 


You into every raging ache of nature

You into every raging ache of nature 
Extend some modest drop of placid bliss. 
Have I not seen the self-conflicting features 
Of some close friend melt to joy at your sweet kiss? 
Have I not myself myself reviled, 
Meditating bruises in a moody wood 
Where mild leaves hiss seeming accusations 
And all my discontented soul moved hooded 
By low-flying thoughts, until you stepped brightly by 
Whistling secret smiles from my black shards? 
Each good that thrives steals some good from you, no lie. 
Until you stooped in grace, with leaning eye 
Peering from heaven into my sad case, 
And turned all my wrath to froth, I was waste. 
 

Sweet delight that perishes on the hour!

Sweet delight that perishes on the hour! 
How many more, to amend your faded score 
Of graces, must here attend and pass? 
Cakes left at Diana's virgin temple cannot sour 
Nor marching corruption force that holy door 
Blossoms have stopped up; those flowers are of glass- 
And sacred plantings cannot die. Although sore 
To go with you, and not one extra empty minute 
Be commanded to rehearse, I must die 
Now sometime after rarest bliss has left 
A lonely globe abandoned by delight 
Where birds twitter riches to impoverished skies 
Dumb of answering song. O, look, the light 
Is lashing westward once again, extending night. 
 

Bronze eyes that stare unmoving at the sun

Bronze eyes that stare unmoving at the sun 
While living glances wince, can no more stare 
At that which dances here beneath, and runs, 
Shouting dying cries to the deafened air. 
No sinking eye can raise re-lauded 
What went hissing down, no monument of tears 
Fountain forth what sadness mixed with water. 
Memory must her crowded chariot forbear 
And carry nothing, until statued grief 
By gradual time has her banded sands dispersed 
To stand no more; those distraught features lapsed. 
Distemperate art but paints a shadowed wreath 
Not real roses, nor can pinch dull clay to breath 
As spent as Adam's, and nothing near his worth. 


Prometheus Bound

"Do not think my penitential silence pride 
Or arrogant stubbornness. It is not. 
No, it is a consuming meditation 
That works in me when my mind considers 
The subtle hurts that load my outcast state, 
And of how in past time my estimation 
Showered ignorant honors on my jailers, 
Gilding their crimes before their doing of them. 
But enough; of what your hearts know how should I speak? 
Listen to mortal suffering,-- how I 
Spied them fumbling with their helpless wits, and helped. 
It is a tale briefly told. Not to scold 
Erring man, but to show how much his stature's grown. 
In their uncouncilled sight first spread vain webs 
Of woven pride that gave far-seeing judgement 
Close cataracts, obscuring heinous crimes. 
And into their young hearing they had poured 
Not mellow summer songs gathered from the air, 
But stuffed deaf ears with brays of their own praises. 
They were not men, but instead resembled 
The shapes we see in dreams, mingling all. 
To their burrowing lives I broke some light 
That had been darker else. Like timid ants 
They lived and ate, and kept house in foul caves. 
Neither stars of winter nor the presaging scent 
Of springtime did they know by counting moons, 
Nor was laden summer by signs revealed. 
But every matter was pursued in ignorance, 
Full of wrong causes, false heads and false tails, 
Inverting logic until I came and gave 
Risen stars names and mapped their difficult settings. 
I ferreted out the art of numbers 
That put in the simple scope of man's discretion 
The control of nature, and lettered rude mouths 
With speech that made but oohs and ahs before, giving thus 
Discursive memory its mothering talk 
That nursed the nine. By my gentle bough 
Beasts came lowing to the yoke and plow 
To perform with docile thanks hard labor 
Men laid idly by. I made them love the rein 
Who move lordly chariots with prideful steps. 
And from the burning tongues of gods brought down 
Stolen fire 
All these fool's arts I made for man alone 
Who can't glue together some salvation for himself. 
But when gods threat, saving devices perish 
And cleverness holds up stumps, not hands, to pluck 
This downcast body from its tortured state." 


Among Fugitive Hills

Caught in sweat under a May moon's baleful eye, 
Trembling in his stripes, the rapist's case 
Twists against him: cops are rooting in the cleft 
Where he has hid, and has bloomed his mortal joy; 
White was ever the webbed habiliment 
Of innocence, of youth not yet betrayed 
By aching age, the body stretched and splayed 
That had known quiet concentration for a toy 
And stared down blowing hours at a spider's weft. 
A spotlight loiters up the cliff in searing zigs. 
 
Red sirens in a burning forest moan, 
Stage left; another crooked mountain over, 
Another tragedy. Our killer in the brambles 
Mumbles curses, thumbs a furious bee 
Out of his dirty ear, and spits against night clover. 
Scratched like Christ, but cynical-tired 
As prosecuting Pilate, he must pause and puff, 
And stain the winter hawthorne that upholds a spray 
Of indifferent spring, swelling the sublime 
With idle odors under a star's demurring haze. 
 
But round again, like a repeating hymn 
Flashed the indicting needle of their light 
Pinning him, an ape-man up a tree, pinned 
Him who thought to leap and bite and still escape. 
Every downstream salmon dreams the ocean's home, 
Their first mistake. The manhunt's gripping snare 
Inches in, a time-lapse bullwhip zeroed on a tiger's nose, 
To ring an empty hawthorne hollywood moonlight spots. 
He'd fled nimbly bleeding from the hot 
Pursuit, but left his card; in an oozed gash 
Of one snapped limb, it read: "Fred, Illusionast." 


To A Young Man

I 
Close up the grave that called you idly by 
And bid you linger who, lingering, must fall. 
Although death's embassy out of tulips blows 
And spins fine madness from the spider's crowded eye 
And purls about the dusty adder's tongue 
Hissing salvation, and is by soft promise pressed, 
Do not listen; Ay, although it reason  
With a multitude, and fix the staring crowd 
On the last things, and make each one a ghost,  
Out of straining vapors traced, do not;  
The mournful tones of those forgathered tongues 
But make a solemn moan of bone to bone. 

II 
First stitch love to every circumstance, and sail 
The round horizon through, sunset-stained, 
To flat heaven, which holds all joys in one wide view... 
Then melt scars from the very hardness of all life 
And be resolved to a contented water-drop 
Before you question death. Was there ever sound 
Of trammelled corpses startled laughing from the ground? 
Although you tear at eyes decayed, begging see, 
And from dead tongues crave lavish answer, 
That can never come; those hearts are sunk through bursting ribs, 
Unmanned by living wind those lungs, that once 
Shouted down the busy sky's testament of thunder. 

III 
Walk a humbler track, kiss pilgrims' dust, 
Set your laurel down to shade a sleeping bee, 
Or leave some lonely sacrament in a hilltop wood 
Where it may go to seed in the depthless shade 
And sprout new sanctity to untutored wilderness. 
But first shake off those saddest looks that weight an unwiped brow, 
And lift clear smiles to those now clouded lips 
That indulged love, and from passion's unwearied kiss 
Grew frenzied, to touch, and stretch, and touch again, 
The final mystery with whitened lips. 
Then drown the hop-toad sorrow in anonymous wine, 
Let afternoons unravel in the sun, and rest, 
And drowse in each moment's uninstructed joy. 
 
Ay! Throw stones at your accusers' mirrored scorn 
And see yourself perched in their curled frowns no more. 
Life was a happy adventure first, where dewlaps sang 
In an undiscovered dale in secret Arcady 
Where grass was higher than our eyes. Once again, 
Though embattled powers and misted storms profane, 
Race to meet that child cringing in the din. 
 
[ NOT USED  II ]
 
When a man stares in his face, 
By rich deceit and intricate age undone, 

Teach the spirit that is your rich inhabitant 
To foster lilies 
For your portioned bed, to sleep and wake upon. 

 

Kennedy’s Inauguration Night, Nixon

 
"Eisenhower was a rube, I know, I loved 
to watch his pinned medals glitter against the sun, 
out-shining heaven in our low human eyes; 
even a deaf man hears the exploding power of a gun 
that's pointing at him. So I heard 
that hissing voice escape from a head bald as a tire. 
Unshaved in my happy rush to greet him at ugly dawn's 
each initiation, I kneeled and scraped 
the dog-lickings from my master's unwashed plate, 
revelled in the white-house grease, and after that 
displayed to my warm house-mate the tired, flat 
unscolded coating of my obsequious tongue 
unleavened by any pentecostal haste, or arching stab 
of truth's spirit, that catches fire on the worst dross 
to drag a grand thing back to its humble embers 
topped by a smoky spire. I would brood my ruins. 
But I knew how to keep my acid grumblings down. 
One knew what one was and what one wanted to be. 
But how did one know what wanting was worth? 
Have I closed up too much of what I ought 
to have left seething open? Was I too-much a mouse 
waiting for the lion's roaring chance as I peered 
out from my walled hole? The drain-hole 
that saves a whelming lung could suck my zest; 
I crest the world's wash, and watch 
the lancing TV-eye mount my blubbered burn, an Ahab 
on his wild whale, ready to needle me open again 
and sip my ambitious innards into its downward din. 
Around me grin and whiten the papers' lettered teeth. 
O Horatian mouth, drooling sibilants, o 
ocean hunger raising the rage of insistent seas 
that grind all my lifted fakes of paint to one grey truth, 
please forget me, a shrimp among your inks, a tired tale 
to regale dry old maids with, not a storming nation.  
After my quiet time I shall cut flesh 
to tailor my new suit with, all golds, 
to implore the masses' adoration. Eh, Checkers? 
so, absorbent nation, swear in your Kennedys and Johnsons; 
i swear, before the world has spun its globe to mush 
under a forgetful sun, I'll come back to win, 
surprising the reeling competition with a smile as thin 
as a knife-edge, and grind 
these snowy pediments under my heel to dust. 
But for now, turn in your watered sleep, bury me 
far back behind the advice column, or cramped ads 
for toothpaste. Sleep, o recumbent nation, 
while dreams are cheap. When teased into the arena 
by Fate's fickle feather once again 
and treated traitorously by our desires 
until we long for the approach of the lions, 
lying in the dusty sun, we listen to 
our overdue bruises mumble invective against us." 
 



End

Aug 232020
 
Aug 232020
 
Aug 232020
 
Jul 162020
 



A play about the words and deeds of Revolutionary Hero Thomas Paine.

GREGG GLORY

Text File
Web Site



"...our honored flag... asks no monarch
           to support her stars...."

    --- Philip Freneau, 'On Mr. Paine's Rights of Man'


****


Top^


THOMAS PAINE


In protestation of his time
He found the human mind divine,
Found the talk that made it up,
Spoke aloud, and would not jump.
"Clear words beget clear heads."
Clarity in life, clarity in death
Is the best man has to hope or dread.
In protestation of his time
Man completes the balance of his rhyme.

To rip at the savage face
To tear out the tyrant's heart
Was his only mellow wish, when once
He tottered at his infant start.
"Poetry's the soul in the hole
Of all our deluded union."
Never again to read in dread
What any briary tongue
Or lashed heart had said.

A pauper's son, a poor man's daughter
Live their fused lives upon the waters,
Bless the vision that lifts them in a trance
Beyond their haunted circumstance.
A steady voice, a glance like Fate's,
"All the million reductive deaths
Of a single soul in resistence
Find their measure, and their truth in Time
In the balance of a rhyme

Not otherwise."

Top^




SCENE ONE

[PAINE spins a globe outside of FRANKLIN's London office.
Books are scattered all over the floor.]

PAINE
Spin, spin!
Iron ring I am whirled within!
Arbitrary midget measure of my unconfining infinite!
A span of bands all flicked from flat
to this uniform globedness to ring my aching head
whose every thought is centered
on the latitudes you winningly bend.
Dear iron thing pinged from iron ground, rent
from flatness to the shape of Earth one man's brain intends,
you laurel my lauded humanity when
to my invented center and gravity you tend.
Spin, spin!
Those laws of nature that great minds reveal
may in yet greater imaginations strip repealed.
Only my blue eye (and my diamond eye within)
give credence to the luminous architecture you pretend,
flowing shined lines
through space and time
to end where they begin.
Chaplet-circlet of all the circumnavigated seas,
it is in my wide eye you thrive
and give me the image
my imagination divines,
plushly hover to deliver there, in picked increments
the measure that I had made back to me again.
Ah ha!
If cold-hearted Columbus knew you
through and through
I doubt that I'd be splayed here to beg
(an impertinent impatient menace to my own peace)
old Benny Franklin for his lettered word
to push and passport myself through one half of you
from the old drab world toiling here
to the Edenic new whom
that Italian's ballet-tighted stride
had mistakenly discovered. Meritorious maritime error!

[Inside FRANKLIN's office.]

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
There's too much talk of America for my comfort.

FRANKLIN
And not enough action for my satisfaction.

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
You know full well, Dr. Franklin, that your American
interests are represented in Parliament by your worrying
English brothers.

FRANKLIN
Yes. They worry our poor stag of freedom
to the poorhouse by their taxes.

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
Well, there's not exactly an exactness
in the extraction of your tithes, it is true,
but there is an approximate proxy of your solemn wants
figured in Parliament as near as our charter may permit.
Realistically, Benjamin, I don't see that changing any time soon.
This policy of ours of virtual representation serves
all our colonies around the mounted globe. Soon
the British flag-pole shall be her axis;
what you ask for is uneven, unfair,
and would knock our other more peaceful provinces
to rash action by its example.

FRANKLIN
But we are Englishmen like yourselves, and not
a conquered land. Surely that difference penetrates.
Our skins are as white as the flag's X-ing stripes.
We're blood and blood through and through.

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
Our wisest heads here at home have endorsed
the virtual representaion policy. And besides,
you are free enough in America.
What's the point of making trouble?

FRANKLIN
What's the point of being free?
We are virtually represented, you say.
And you say well. Would the King be as pleased
with us for nearly paying our taxes
and almost obeying his laws?

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
I have small doubt that it would be considered
a most treasonous rebellion.

FRANKLIN
A king is under an obligation to those
he proposes to rule, no less than those ruled
are obliged to him and to observe the laws
they make in common. You see my point.

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
And I shall take my leave. Proposes to rule?
He is our donned soveraign. These words of yours
deliver a treasonous treatise. And I, for one,
would not have my trunk separated from this crown I wear.

FRANKLIN
I spoke only, friend Terrence, as is my scientific habit:
in hyperbolic hypothesis alone. A junture of conjectures
conducted within the safe parenthesis apparatus
of our dear friendship, Terrence. I hope you do not
take me too amiss, sir, or ferry it too far astray
and deliver my words' import into the hellish harbor
of another's ears, who may be less disposed
to levy my enthusiam with his love.

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
Trust my silence, and my self-interest.
Goodnight, friend.

FRANKLIN
As benevolent friends let us always part
until these tight-stretched times tear us apart.

[MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT exits by far door.]

PAINE
Ah, Chris, expecting old India and getting America,
were you pissed at the switch
the whirling world had slipped you?
Ah, Chris, Chris, you knew, you knew, didn't you
that the whole world is in the mind
and no place other;
and of the world, and of that mind
I am the lonely citizen.

FRANKLIN  [Entering.]
A jake jenny will spin as pretty, son,
and you might even do
some more useful woolgathering then.

PAINE
Turn a profit or turn the world:
which majestic enterprise
do you choose to pursue?

FRANKLIN
Few revolutions ever rotate to a profit.
Those that do most often mis-aim their circles
and round on nothing worthy, or had too low
and ungolden a stock to start with, sir.

PAINE
Human happiness is ever the right and highest aim;
and doesn't that slap of happiness
demand an infinity of wish lived the minute
we experience the weird, willed, insistant rush of it
wired alive from the prison of skin?

FRANKLIN  [Laughs.]
The blank page in the annihilating brain?
Maybe. Sir, I don't believe we've had a proper introduction.
I'm....

PAINE
Propriety be damned! Perdition it!
Have all hell environ its vetted
shalls and shall-nots in walls of fire.
Propriety, manners, graces sociale, the plume
of grooming, and the pander of please-easements:
junk all to a rump-superstition
trying to tell me by poxed signs how to relate
in the uncreated minute
I share with my glorying fellow-man.

FRANKLIN
But what ever should I call you, sir? Mr. Blank?

PAINE
If I really gave a damn about that...

FRANKLIN
Even my pussycat purrs to his syllable. Right Rog?
Unnamed is nihilism, for we must name to know.

PAINE
Well, sir, Sir won't do for a start.
Neither Lord, nor Your Majesty, nor You Jackass,
which my ex was so pricker-burr fond of.
All too stratospheric for my loving muddiness;
and yet, to say honestly, not high enough
for my fired-high Babylon-in-the-sky desire, either, sir.
Sire... has a ring to it....

FRANKLIN
But... I sense a hesitation in this gestation.
Beasts and kings both sire offspring; it seems
a wide enough label by all accounts.

PAINE
Wide indeed. But inaccurate when applied to my amours;
all have ended without such tissuey issue, you see.

FRANKLIN
Perhaps I'll call you rootabaga. And perhaps,
like a ruminative root,
you could cull your tongue a minute
and raise a squalling brood
by its intermediate burial.

PAINE
Point taken. I'll laugh aghast at myself
and flap about gashed to uselessness
if you keep me in your wit's crossfire longer.

FRANKLIN
Point taken. I guess I must wait contented
in the bathing aftermath of your compliment
for you to spit out your alias.

PAINE
Honest Tom Paine, you may name me,
if you wish to follow my mother's custom
who had it, as she puts it, from my dire father.

FRANKLIN
Dire...?

PAINE
A grim man; internment improved him
(his only writerly quality, now that I think of it).
Prisons and genius are linked by locks
stronger and stranger than any heaven's Destiny.
And, well, he did save me from the Navy;
that blasted ship went all hands down and had to crawl
on their water-buried fingers to hell.

FRANKLIN
Pray tell.
And are you yourself a writer, sir, uhm, Tom?

PAINE
Given to scribbling. Blood and ink
charactering forth the teeming memes
of this spade's-worth of pink brain, and all that.

FRANKLIN
Well. This has been most amusing, but I'm afraid....


PAINE  [Looking around impaitiently.]
Now where in bloody beavered double hell
is that fat bastard Franklin? He's kept me
waiting here in his rump room hours now,
all afternoon the sun has blazed through those wavy panes,
and there's not a tract in his pick
I haven't raped over my spry eyes
a million times before, an annoying hoard
of dead words clapped between these reamed boards.
I myself am near as dusty, and near as dead.

FRANKLIN
Well then, Tom, let me be an Adam to your ignorance
here in my habitable Eden, and name myself:
Dr. Benjamin Franklin, at your service.

PAINE
Blimy. I never met
an ingenious fellow as fat as you;
usually, they're skinny as cadavers
and rude to boot.

FRANKLIN
You seem to fit like a snug glow into your own
indandescent description, like a wick
nipped into its tallow, Tom. As for me,
I've decided my girth should mirror, not mask
the chubby depths of my inner resources.

PAINE
A plummet-line down the bellybutton to the soul...

FRANKLIN
And there you've got my spiritual and intellectual measure.

PAINE
A veritable globe unto yourself, eh?

FRANKLIN
The ladies like a fellow of some substance.

PAINE  [Laughs.]
Well now you've turned the coinage upon its maker
and whacked the spitting image home with a vengeance;
my trim economy is disastered by your brutal wit.
Still, I've never met an opponent I haven't bested yet.

FRANKLIN  [Pouring.]
Scotch and soda?

PAINE
Ay.

FRANKLIN
Health, Peace, and Fraternity.

PAINE
To the survival of the ideal in the real.

FRANKLIN
An interesting toast.

PAINE
I always toast that. Nothing else exists
worth getting drunk about.

FRANKLIN
A champagne extreme, it seems to me.

PAINE
Life's lace and ashes, Doctor, roses and dung.
I like what I toast better than that flat
Quaker oat bread I was raised up on.

FRANKLIN
We're both Quakers, then.

PAINE
Civility, insistent peace (but not a any price),
a solemn or wondering longing for God, yes,
by those totem tenets shall I keep,
and expurgate the speakers from my picked text;
winos, mostly, more interested in ass-sniffing
civil authority than in living up
to the bold moral obligation to treat
each reaching individual as your soulful equal.
Such cowed cows!

FRANKLIN
An upright stance before both man and God;
and no superstition warps the stature of your bones.
Highly commendable in a man sent
to myself for commendation's stamp.

PAINE
I cannot take a compliment while I seek a favor.
I'll take this as a taste of your liquorish taint.

FRANKLIN
Squarely said. Do you have an ample sample
of your writing? A quillful will do withal.

PAINE
A sample pamphlet's on the table. Written on behalf
of the King's excise men, of which I was one
haranguing his Highness for a raise.

PAINE  [As  FRANKLIN reads.]
Maybe here in England we're a little bit clearer
who have less spavined freedom from the powdered Parliament
than our water-separated neighbors, and so I'll not relent
from tugging you a bit nearer health by my stitches,
which these bitching words you pull at
by your nickering lip in fastidious judgement, are.
America's a right yummy ripe prize
the mincing king in his house-robe has sworn to squeeze---
scouting the palace for yesterday's newspaper,
   his shoes a hurry
of velvet on velvet while his ministers mangle
the masterful quadrangle of his royal foreign policy;
But when he with his fey ringed hand, almost a glove
of golden mail it is so richly ringed, enrings to wring you
with every sort of constricting blockade and strangling tax
don't say that I didn't warn of choking, even until
I myself did croak! And then your theoretical, heretical,
unEuropean Britishness shan't stay his envious, pretty mitts
but more merely spike the dregs with a tough clump pulp,
soon enough swallowed as a single undissolved sweet
in his gargantuan majesty's gargantuan gullet.
You'll rebel, we see that plain and clear.
Now, you folks won't say as darn much, that's clear too.
But when the itching squeeze arrives,
most intelligent types on this pitted isle surmise
(and not without some sour pips of bitterness)
that the reaching King will stretch and find
an aching fist of hawthorn thorns adorning
his shilling-supple grip, and not a lazy goose
or pioneer-reared American turkey on the table
hankering to honk:
"Where'd ye like yer golden eggies, Majesty?"
nor any docile dove cooing full eagerly
and baring a plucked pink breast to put
a bit of neat meat on his heavily buttered table.

FRANKLIN
An awful willful quillful.

PAINE
For a mind to hear its thoughts,
               they must be said:
and no one's howled it loud enough before:
my human loves move and near compel me
to root and roar in ramping brashness for your cause,
which, even if you don't see what that is as yet,
yet still it must be shouted about, and louder shouted:
for America, for Progress, for Humanity and me:
listen, my bespectacled aquaintence: INDEPENDENCY!

FRANKLIN  [Shaking paper.]
Quite a paean to procure a pittance, Paine.
A love-libretto to Liberty that might inspire a riot.

PAINE
The drug of love never slavvered me to much of a lather---
but Liberty!--- Well, I'm her most adoring whore.

FRANKLIN
I'll write out a note. Take ship with this
and find a printer's apprenticeship
at harbor for you in my beloved, brotherly
big-time backwater, Philosophical Philadephia.
Here's my impress. Whomever you deliver it to
will know its trueness in that colonial city.
Come. Take it.

PAINE
Thanks!

[PAINE exits. Outside office door.]

PAINE
No reason for me to keep middle-aging in England;
to woodlands wild I hie,
and to pastures new retire my ire!

[PAINE begins to whistle, then sings.]

PAINE
    Cap'n William Death was of bitter worth
    And he sailed aboard the Terrible;
    A crow their flapping emblem was
    And flamed down to the bitter seas.
    For defeat came blowing in French Vengee's sail
    Under clouds confused as a bruise:
    O the dead men's storm-breath was terrible
    Under clouds confused as a bruise.

    O Cap'n Death was of bitter worth
    For when the weather and cannons were wroth
    He sent his unpaid men ten fathoms down
    To collect their coral crowns.
    Beside their chattering skeletons goes,
    Serene as if in the sky,
    The burning bodkin of Ol' John Crow
    Who fluttered high but now's below.

    Black brother Crow's flap warns us all:
    For as ye rise, so must ye fall.
    Dead men's storm-breath blows foul and used
    Under clouds confused as a bruise.

Now to America I wing,
Of America I must sing.


Top^






SCENE TWO

[PAINE enters with a fresh copy of the Pennsylvania Gazette.]

PAINE
All language takes some stain of ill or good
from the character of the man that yaps it.
In my own zone of rights I write and knight reality,
and kneel to no mental soveriegn but the muse imagination
I rum-reelingly pursue. Come, blood-potent rum,
and serve the prophetic office of a tired Tiresian tit,
reveal to me in this minute's less some more consuming All.
Come! attendant angel or ministering harlequin
to the splay water-palace of my mighty-tided heart!
Overwhelming Fate's one gospel of 'Obey,' spill to my glum gullet
and trash the fabulous furies' fang-gaped destruction, come
and in my pleasant dreaming take up a torching seat,
for you in molding fire all shall choir 'I am free!'
and I shall spatter out the language to make that freedom ring.
....Ah! Argh-oh how I am spun to dumbness
in this walling world that prisions me!
Here evil ministers jangle unreachable keys of speech,
deny me paper and shout down my rising voice;
through the dawn-dashed bars they hack at my words
and unstitch my life-lexicon to mere mumbles.
Witness well their degredation of-- of themselves!
They steal my speech and claim my saying as their own,
hollowing out its virture by their rotten lives.
How shall my hard-held honor this dishonor sustain?
How renounce this attack on the very sound
of myself, the very soul of my talking enterprise?
Prised apart and pitted empty, my words are spit-spattered
away from their durance-resistant usefulness
and let to loll unacknowledge in the gutter
of common discourse. My words! A told tool
I would not trade away for the nothings
so plangently proffered me by nothings.
I walk and talk these Philadelphia Gazette steps,
round-robining all day all the old news-of-the-day
with these current estimables, a smashing
cash crop of the red-nosed best of America,
merchants and others with enough free time
to pay their way to freethinking like me!
Here's the meritocracy, paying enough
to buy the public opinion away from those
who tax it royally to their blue-blooded side.
Pennies well spent! Their wary copper
buys golden souls that would offer themselves for lead---
and some day shall--- some day soon, too soon,
mark my history-honest words. I'll tell a tale  [Shakes paper.]
will kill some men.... Damn, the things I say!
Half the time I don't know why I say 'em;
half the time they're nothing but all that I've got.
What will my penny-a-day words pay me?
Let my ripping talk unstitch this trans-oceanic union;
it is a challenge to roll a world on one's tongue, non?
My loves have disappointed, and my eyes all are maimed
to see that kniving inhumanity until they are too much cut
to look a moment longer dry, and must perforce
weep out a ruin of pure blood on the blood they see.
I feel all a bear, and would tear a thing apart.
Here's the coffehouse where all the future stife and rule
of our not-yet-nation is avidly debated, and yet
through some causeless niceness is left to languish unpursued.
The noble word finds not it noble counterpart
in honorable action, and all lies undone;
we speak and spat of self-governance, who have none.

[Enter FRANKLIN.]

PAINE
Come, old tongue, let's talk a new union
into its existence by the brashness of our wish.

FRANKLIN
Paine! Paine!

PAINE
In the ass. In the ass. I know, I know.

FRANKLIN
Oh, really now Thomas, I was just wondering
how you were getting along here in the city
of brotherly love. Not quite the debate pit
you're used to.

PAINE
Much more so actually. Many fine talks indeed.
But if you mean, by how I am, how goes the cause
of insect-winged locust Liberty (how many years
since Athens first heard the wings!) well then, I must say
the locust is bursting through the ground in Concord
and Lexington; just yesterday as a matter of fact.


FRANKLIN
What in heaven's name do you mean, man?

PAINE
Read it in the Gazette, and you'll see soon enough.

FRANKLIN
Have some shocks in store for us?

PAINE
Just honesty, Franklin. A common enough trait.

FRANKLIN
If you say so. I'm on my way to our coffeehouse.

PAINE
Ah, yes, where all you continentals discuss everything.
I think I'll join you.

FRANKLIN
Here we are.

PAINE
In, in! What're you waiting for?

FRANKLIN
Anxious as a slaver with his unsold load of darkies!
After you.


Top^






SCENE THREE

[PAINE and FRANKLIN enter the coffeehouse.]

ALL  [Variously.]
Benjamin! Franklin!

FRANKLIN
Popular as ever, aren't you Thomas.

PAINE
Gentlemen! The continent has shouted out loud
for Liberty, and strikes at the chains that bear away
our taxes and our freedoms. And the first heart-blow
has landed in Massachussetts!

ALL
[There is a general outcry at this news.]

DICKENSON
The man's a tear-sheet specialist.

PAINE
There's a lady or two who might attest to it.

DICKENSON
His news is no news.

PAINE
Which then must be good news too.

DICKENSON
Would you trade wits with me?

PAINE
I'd not have your wits with a pound of gold.

DICKENSON
And if you had 10,000 pounds you could not buy one of them.

PAINE
No, for there's not one of them to be found.


JEFFERSON
Of all the noise and bother, man, spit it out!
What've you got under your tri-corner?

PAINE
Hold your horrors, and your tipsy cups contain
in steady hands while I my steady tale relate.
Listen to me, breathe all silent, and follow
on subtle steeds of imagination while I ride
to a distant dark that's yet too near our hearts.
No tall tale do I trip in here to you to tell,
all grenadier and gnash, no not so tall as they are,
nor as viper sharp as a Redcoat snaps, all brass
and splash and flash, but merely a minor story simply told
in amiable note, of small acts and large hearts
where a simple standing steady has effected
what all the bravado of words never could.
Men of the hour? No, not so grand as that,
but of the minute? Yes, they'll
          stretch to that extent
and be remembered as they have named themselves:
Minute Men.

RANDOLPH
Isn't that the Massachusetts militia?
Those old groaning fellas that put
their earlier steel to riotous trial
against raping Indian raids and those
French incursions of years ago?

ADAMS
Yes. And they've kept up their drumbeat,
the ancients,-- and the youngbloods beside 'em,--
putting away powder and blasting balls against the day.
They weekly drill their assembly on the town green
"at a minute's notice," as they so baldly claim.

JEFFERSON
And the Sons of Liberty all call from there,
their terrorist pranks and wild high times
making the ruinous incursion of the Brits
a laughing matter as much as anything else.

ADAMS
I swallowed all my light laughter the last time
they rifled through my havoced house in Boston,
and now grind all my guffaws to grist.

PAINE
While we all dreamed headlong on our pillows
in pleasant Philadelphia yestereve, and of shooting
heard only the hooting of the rustled town owl
or the low growling of a dropped locked-box
knocking the cobbles, men awake in Lexington
were laying about their harrassed ears with fast hands
to stopper-up the deadly bombast of British lead.
But wait! I do not want to jump the story,
confusing conclusion and lead, spiking titles
with the weedy inference of an afterword,
but shall lay instead this narration in one row only
that corn shall grow by corn in serried succession
and we all reap its meaning at once.
Well you know that Concord is the provisioning-house
of precious gunpowder and hard-caught musketballs
for our fierce Northern friends in liberty
who look to disengage the English Gage
from our Boston's harbor where he's sunk at anchor,
bottoming out our hopes of independency.
Well, that Gage last night had aweighed anchor
and shoved his dumb humpers into longman rowboats
to swish the blue inch on our maps
from Boston proper to the peaceful Back Bay swamps
(see page two of your Pennsylvania Gazettes, gent'men),...

[The assembled company all snap thier papers open to page two.]

PAINE
...his gross ranks breathing heavy in their bishops' hats
and tack pants, faces moony-garish and powdered,
squeezed cheeks carmined to set a raucauous red
to the parade red of their dandy red coats,
moved in uneasy union against the giving mush of marsh,
sucking away the calm silence of the night
with each bootblack boot's approaching gasp.
Who among them, in their defensive tenseness,
hunched into the long round hour before dawn,
regretted their intention to leave defenseless
their outback colonial charges by destruction
of Concord's hidden charges? Who among them knew
that in quiet Lexington lay a fuse to ignite the night
and out-firework all the stars that shined on them?

ADAMS  [To FRANKLIN.]
The garrison's active; this is a solemn business now.

PAINE
They approached the town with the unwiped mud
still clinging guilty on their soles. And then,
on the minute, and at the trial telling of a bell
a racing Paul Revere, pacing Prescott and daring Dawes
set clanging at the redcoats' coming on,
some few men assembled on the town green
exchanging nervous grins and greetings
cheated of their normal charm and pleasure.
And as those few stood shouldering difficult guns
a reasserted quiet fell from an empty sky
from which, it seemed, God's face had turned aside.
And then those brave few heard a heartless haloo
ranting anarchic through the rumoring wood
and the soul of each man-at-ease went bell-wild,
ringing each steady steeple to splinters, or nearly,
and yet each man still stood his minute stilly
to look on coming ruin with the same eyes they used for love.
Useless monks spend their closeted lives in sackcloth
righting their minds for the divine, but those 80-odd
knew more of all of God, and what God might
helpfully trumpet down to our skunking circumstance
than a million such widowers of miracle,
prayering self-abasers crooning to high heaven
for just one more fix of some diviner substance.
White heaven was in their mustered hearts, which red-eyed
Redcoats marched from the scarlet sea to bleed
into a single lake of blood.
These Minute Men, assembled mixed upon the green
whereby a red flood of near-enemy troops
must pass and parade, mustered softly in quiet pre-dawn,
waiting for the landscape to rouge aroused
           with their future. All alert,
and steady-still as ever their starting hearts
might make them, they heard the trooping song:
     Sam Adams and damn'd Hancock
     We'll take the bunch and clap the lock!
     And watch our leaderless colonials scurry
     Back to our royal order-- in a hurry!
     Every Englishman cry ho! Ho!
     We are the law where'er we go!
     No more talk of rights and shit
     When Sam Adams and damn'd Hancock are in the pit!

DICKENSON
How was the conduct of the troops? Did they
brandish anger, or seek simply to keep the peace?
How lawful was their goal?

ADAMS
Tell us a story we can live within. My taste
is not for such a bloody tartness.

PAINE
I'll sharpen your ardors to the spur
with the whetstone of my story, and nag to neighing
our native horse's sleepsome flanks until they hang
in bloody flags of victory!

DICKENSON
Yet, how was the conduct of the troops?

PAINE  [Pointedly ignoring  DICKENSON.]
Maximum courage mustered then!
Eyes straight, backs clicked, men sixteen to sixty
who knew that their stiffness here would put
a backbone in their new-made American nation
stood steady and at ready when those Redcoats
bled into their sight. Old Jonas Parker,
spavined captain of the ticking Minutes
kept his roll-call of boys at regiment-ready
against the bright influx of Major Pitcairn and his men,
neither giving offense, nor yet bending his neck
to the black boot of wrong law; steady
for themselves more than against the troops.
"Ye devils! Ye rebels! Lay down your dour arms
and disperse! Space to your waste acres!
This is Britain, and I am Britain's hand,
you the smacked rump of incivility," cried Pitcairn,
and Lexington's men, outnumbered two or three to one,
did not pretend to obey his voice, but waited
with civil incivility in their paitient ranks
until they heard good old Jonas Parker call "Dis-
missed!" and, patting each shoulder as he spoke,
bade his men each one to "Go on home, son,"
with a "We've taken our stand for today, friend,"
or "no God's peace'll we break this day,
nor yet obey the slimy blackguard limping by."
Tis a point easily missed, but vital:
no deadly offense was taken, nor none given
as our men walked slowly toward their homes and beds
or out to reap private fields, arms shouldered
and not thrown down, a rifle each by their ears,
and no offence given, but all a slow obeyance
of their own chosen man, Old Jonas, and none other.
And then it came! The glory of this story!
An empty shot snapped apart the infant dawn.
Calamity! Heart-wrench! Confusion! Death's
hovering covenant that seals all pasts and
pollutes all futures with its bloody baptismal
made his harrowing entrance upon the scene of retreat
and came raining vengeful down on that innocent crowd;
none knew the source of that discordant noise,
all were witness to the shrapnel result of it.
Bodies crowned the common ground; gaped corpses,
chipped limbs, shouts, distortions imposed by force,
wild, angry, bitten faces, lightning arms,
trigger clicks, astonished blasts, after-effects
of numbing thunder, displacement of peace, fists
ramming renewed shot into a musket there, beside
a dead friend's final look or dying stranger's howl,
the British line all a pall of gunsmoke
as if in angel's wings they were enshrouded.
A deadly start has this adventure of the heart.
Let none shrink from it! Our men fell there
blanketed by defeat, and swaled to their final home.

ALL
[Various expostulations.]

RANDOLPH
Do my ears hear truth, and that
from the long-faced scoundel Paine?

PAINE
My tongue does bear a true and fruitful report.

RANDOLPH
Fruitful is it? And bloody hell shall be
our orchard. Your words grow from a cannon-mouth.

ISIAH
Yes. We shall make a strange fruit a hanging
from a gallows-tree.

PAINE  [Throwing his gazette.]
You can read about our eventual victory that day
on the overleaf.

ADAMS
Victory?

PAINE
The British marched on to Concord, destroyed
some spoil of goods, a trifle of shovels, and some other
warlike items, and were greeted shortly after
by some hundreds of our "armed farmers."

ADAMS
And they fled Concord?

PAINE
And with a heavy cost. Two-hundred sixty-three
British were picked off by our harrassing fire
between wronged Concord and their Boston barracks.

ADAMS
And how many lost we?

JEFFERSON  [Reading.]
Forty-nine.

ADAMS
It's a miracle. Against crack troops....

JEFFERSON
And you think we can carry this fight
against the King?

PAINE
Who can know what is to be? I see not;
although my hopes rise with your honors.

DICKENSON
Yet how was the conduct of the troops; did they seek
a lawful goal or no?

PAINE
Their conduct was wounded,
their argument was death, and their goal
our sacred Liberty.

RANDOLPH
I don't know if I've the stomach to digest this talk.

PAINE
Have you a stomach then to eat the King's balls?
For it is your self-assurance of free days
that he cuts up on a golden platter you have paid for
and then feeds to you.

RANDOLPH
We are all free Englishmen here.

ADAMS
The Parliamentary system of government
is the best in the world. Peers speak
clearly to their causes and interests, and often

against the king. Are we without redress in this?
Surely our safety clamors somewhat in their mouths.

RUSH
Was it to the cause of our safety and future
that British muskets clamored at dead Lexington,
as Paine here reports?

ADAMS
I don't rightly know....

PAINE
Every evil law penned and passed against our interests
sped to our shores from that paid den the Parliament.
Oh, they parled our parleyed desires into their purses;
there's not a man among 'em who wouldn't sell
our birthrights to their bidders for one shelled-out
shilling! A damned evil bunch, I say!

FRANKLIN
Overstating the case, perhaps, but this notion
of virtual representation hardly seems to hold water.
Don't you agree Adams?

ADAMS
I do. To say that our rights and problems
are under the care of those who live in England
who have similar rights and problems, is the same
as being in England and voting for members of Parliament
ourselves, is well, as my Dad says, a stretcher.

PAINE
Virtual representation is actual tyranny!

ADAMS
Well, things are not so desperate as all that.

PAINE
Intolerable!

FRANKLIN
All our honest merchantmen have been hard hit
by these recent taxations and exactions,
these duly lawful Acts of Parliament.

PAINE
These Intolerable Acts impose the King's misrule.

ADAMS
The Parliament is the best system of government
yet devised by mankind.

FRANKLIN
Surely, though, not perfect.

ADAMS
Nothing is as perfection would have it.

PAINE
Let us take our chances as they spasm at us!
Democracy's a caffeinated wind in our choiring quarter;
let's let an able nerve convince arms to move
and not a tongue alone. Our dearest object
forever is and must remain: INDEPENDENCY!

DICKENSON
Revolt! Treason! It's death for us all by your say-so.
It's not for honorable English boys, as I swear
we are all, to knock so glimmering a thing
as a royal crown into rabble-democratic dusts.

RANDOLPH
I am not ready to dissolve into revolution yet.

PAINE
Resolve, I think you mean, for all's now certain
that had an airy unrealness to it before.

ADAMS
But what method of independence do you propose
beyond the bloody dawn of anarchy? How can these colonies
hold together for a common purpose without a common center.
This is what the living symbol of a monarch provides.

RANDOLPH
He's the father, we his children. Let's let
our loyalty prove as royal as our parentage.

PAINE
That fucking rex-hex is a veritable Saturn of paternity.
He eats his spawn in the gross pleasure of his table.
All monarchy is crime, and steals its air of authority
from the soveraignty of the common people, who can only
consent to be ruled. That consent denied, all is crime.
We have no voice in Parliament, yet must obey their laws.
Gentlemen, help! Are your reasons so impaired
you see not your chains? Am I not to see
where I stand on earth, and make conjecture
of my future state from a concern of self?

DICKENSON
Is not our soveriegn our source of soveriegnty?

RANDOLPH
To kill a king is no good work for those
born beneath the throne.

PAINE
Kill a king? O to crush a dirty worm
is every infected party's part. To cough oneself to health
the irretreivable right of every sick man
in protesting protection of his natural vigor.
And tyranny is a foriegn ill indeed. No thing for men
on this untried continent and infinite land, all future
from our shores past green-infinite mountains, to... where?
We cannot see to the far end of this paradise, sirs!
And would you be the wasp-coated servingmen
to dish it up as if it were a new sherbert
to midget empery's appetite? O tell me you would not
docilily serve such self-serving vanity!
What faces shall we wear so that our souls
start not back appalled? Look to India
if you would see how the King will treat us
by slavish domination: sell us to a corporation
for eons of unendurable lackey-work.
Under the elephant's stupid foot! Not a place
for me, at least; I'll resign my part on earth
before I'd crimp my free white neck
beneath such a ton of gross fat greyness.

FRANKLIN
And killing the king was never seen by me
as necessary to assure our own liberty.

PAINE
Even a moronic ox knows that once he's thrown his yoke
he needn't trample out his guide-man to stay ramping free!

DICKENSON
A moronic ox!

PAINE
He eats his children! Lexington was a snack, and he's
a starving robber defending his filtched appetite.
What could be clearer?

FRANKLIN
An old man gnawing on his pile of bones.

PAINE
Thirteen piles of bones, make no mistake!

FRANKLIN
A strong image, Paine.

ADAMS
A painful one. Do display more taste, Thomas.

RANDOLPH
The king has promised to hear our late sent
ambassador with his good ear, and overview
all our penned petitions with a nearer eye.

PAINE
That eye of his put out Concord in the dark;
how shall it see honest parlance in its home-hole?
Of his cheap, deaf ear----

ADAMS
Paine, Paine, Paine, Paine, there is no
easy touch of pleasure in this tough talk.

PAINE
If it is in the hard touch of truth to hurt you
take the wound stoutly, and put into your endurance
conviction to hold those bruises honorable.
The pain we take for the convictions our best mind
judges right enhances the goodness of their ends,
and with this right end in view the intermission
transmutes itself to a bearable necessity.
Pleasure herself is a sort of raunchy taunt
when dandled from a master's open toy-box, and not
earned by a more decent labor of our brows and backs.
A Dad's treat to trick his ranting child
to a returning calmness, and then an ignorant sleep.
But pain, if deep enough applied, can hack at lies
and leave us without those false comforters
or with none but that rough comfort-burr of truth:
on such a thorny ground I would barefoot go
and discount the cheap tinsel promises we have now.

[PAINE exits.]

RANDOLPH
Can we come to no agreement or cordial compromise
on these impending matters?

RUSH
And what of the dead at Lexington and Concord?

JEFFERSON
I wonder if they'd be pleased to know they died
in the spirit of compromise.

[JEFFERSON exits.]

DICKENSON
Independency! Really!

FRANKLIN
Our old lives lie extinguished by a fiery word.

RANDOLPH
Shall we make adventure with all our lives and loves,
even unto the death, upon the thin subsistance
of a word?

ADAMS
Let us make our banqueting hearts eager to eat up
the roaring employment of our days ahead.

[PAINE and JEFFERSON outside collide with a PASSERBY.]

PASSERBY
What do we have here? What's this?

JEFFERSON  [With a warning note in his speech.]
Paine....

PAINE  [Blissfully ignoring him.]
A moment, my friend, when speech and circumstance
might intersect, and the right word tell all.

JEFFERSON
Well. Now independence is on the tongue.

PAINE
Soon it shall be in every farmer's hand
and each rough-and-ready plow-black hand
shall be flexed alive against the tyrant-ranting King!

JEFFERSON
Well, I don't think everyone's exactly convinced yet.


PAINE
Oh, but where the able tongue purloins the sense
long enough for uneasy conscience to make
its essence's slippery entrance, why then
how long laggard will the deciding mind remain behind
that sets its sharp fence of reasonings against
any backward step? This trined tongue of intent
but once insinuated into the clear air here
where our most honest thinking occurs
overturns an eon of inherited predjudice
and flatters us to action.

JEFFERSON
Revolution occurs first in the minds of the people.

PAINE
And words alone may make the mind revolt!

JEFFERSON
Total treason.

PAINE
Common sense.

JEFFERSON
Paine....

PAINE
Are you ready for the revolution?


Top^






SCENE FOUR

[The Rush household. PAINE is hunched over an apparatus, intently.
RUSH is at a second table.]

PAINE
Back when I took the book at the Headstrong Club,
obnoxiously orating on my dual theme
of free and freer, I never thought I'd race to a Rush
who collapsed history's wide actions to his narrow minute
and then decided to make that pressured minute EXPLODE!
Oh ho! I've homed in on the Homer I adore,
into American image has the Greek passion passed surpassingly,
willful Iliad, all fight and farce; that was the book
the most ornery, obstinate talker packed back home
from our rum club there in pederasted England.
How can you hear a man's ideas clear
when all he want's is you to tiddle his slumming bum?
Here the air's freer, even the gal-pals I've got
would sooner nail me for my abolitionist views,
and hear them articulated through and through,
than dwell adored in the moony blues of my open eyes.
They turn my ocean of appeal into a puddled pond
of "whys" and "why nots"--- defending deafeningly--
and deftly!-- each of their own articulate points
with finnicky pricks as razor-exact as any man put forth.
Rush! Rush! That vile white thing, spin it here.

RUSH
I've measured it to the grain, Thomas.

PAINE
Against the grain were better service in our cause.

RUSH
I've gotten enough splinters trying to get this damned...

[PAINE lights a short dry rush upon a tallow and inches it towards
 the apparatus.]

PAINE
And now...

[A loud blast, fire and light stains them. BETTY rushes in, with
 needlepoint.]

PAINE
Ha ha!

RUSH
We need to run a confirmation trial.

BETTY
What is all this noise? You and your songs, Mr. Paine, really!

PAINE
Music it is dear lady; the potent pop
of your own soma-dose of freedom, madam.

RUSH
Betty, you'll never guess. We've probably got
a home-source of gunpowder to gag the gaggle of Brits
clipper-shipped to liberty-clipping port
in old New York.

PAINE
A practical means of resistance.

BETTY
Resistance? Oh, like that slow glow
that goes along a spiral wire
because its fighting the shock-circuit of electricity,
like Dr. Franklin showed us that one time.

RUSH
Uh, yeah, I guess so!

BETTY
Nice. That's got some potent potential for that handsome,
non-spurious, supposed future you reference so sweetly,
I suppose. Maybe my granddaughters in that then
will reel alive in the freedoms that you scribe, Mr. Paine.

PAINE
Miss Rush, your brother and I have been systematically
eliminating the apparent obstacles to the inevitable
separation of the United States, if I may so term it,
and heather-buried England. That is all.

RUSH
I'll be damned-- uh, pardon me sis, if that ain't ALL.

BETTY
And do you think this swivel-switch from hitched
to ditched and unhitched inevitable, too, Benny-boy?

PAINE
I'll make my glad-handed geopolitical appeal:
The interests of two such mighty continents cannot go
forever together. Nature's stitching plates pull apart
all such useless causes in havoc and catastrophe.

RUSH
Volcanoes and earthquakes are the makings of such
opposite energies; their spumed fumes increase the splendor
of our sunsets years after such upsets, and that's a sign.

BETTY
So now you believe in signs, brother, whose medical studies
seek to have the physician's hand rain tender cure
upon itself, opposite the stupid superstitions
back-land indians chant and leech-hacks quack at the corner?

PAINE
The coming hail that'll separate us and England
shall be in a maiden's mittened mit minted in a trice,
a housewifely confection of saltpeter, etc.
playing the displayed hand of raging nature
on the timescale of one human mind's design.

BETTY
And how will you pay for your halo, Mr. Paine?

PAINE
In bliss increments, and laughing all the way.
How, dear Miss Rush, will you dividend your sorrow?
No thing in nature is sad that follows
and fellows its natural qualities.

[PAINE hunches back over the apparatus as BETTY and RUSH talk.]

RUSH
Let's pick unlocked snoring Pandora's
sweet locked box.

BETTY
         Would you midwife chaos
out of so infolded a coffer?

RUSH
And stand a panting paterfamilias to a punchy Paine?
For shame-- if I would not!


BETTY
Hmmm.

RUSH
Sweet sister; think of how all the world would unfurl
in that stolen moment's triumphant freedom.

BETTY
Hmmm.

RUSH
The blood of Concord is on our souls!

BETTY
The colonies in congress assembled have not yet
resolved for independence. Indeed, they seem more willing
to barter back King George's oppressions
for some few tax concessions and call it victory.

RUSH
After the story Paine told everyone today, you wouldn't
talk like that, sis. If you had heard it, felt it.

BETTY
Would you rush to war all alone
my imploring little brother?

RUSH
I'll race to it!

BETTY
In childhood you were ever an utter terror
and leapt to grow up to my mark upon the doorjamb,
crying, "I'll be bigger than Betty, ever!"
As, indeed, now you are. And I had washed you
in the cradle, and given you all my light-touched cares,
and tended to you every way-- no matter!
You still would raise up your eye at me
and say, a very presumptuous seven then,
"You are but a woman; I will be a man,"
as if that made all the difference.
As, indeed, it has. For you outpace me every way
in the world's affairs, and take the stick
to idiocy, where I may merely, indeed, I must
creep contented to crosshatch stitch my sayings
and put all of my wry commentary, all the luster
and insight of my rich story and view-point
into needle-pointed pillows for your big feet
that have battered back home at a flat run
from high deeds indeed, wherein (or where-out, rather)
I had been by my sex excluded.

RUSH
But you are a woman, sister, and all
the revolutions of the earth cannot turn
that fact about. What do you think of him?

BETTY
He's a rude man, and a strange.

RUSH
He's a great man, and right when all of an age
lavishes itself in wrong opinions.

BETTY
A kingly man.

RUSH
Don't say that, or he himself will blow
before ever another report of powder sounds.

BETTY
Do you not now note how that he hears us not,
but is all by his fluid mind engaged awash
in the high-tide flooding of his destructive pulse
whereby he sees a world engulfed; and yet he sings,
and that not humbly and to himself, but loud
and tunelessly. Has that hanging face of his
ever tied on a smile that was not a one
tried out in high irony, a sort of victor's ribbon
of sly teeth grinning his awkward opponent down?

RUSH
There is something in a man's part to love
that which sparks some friction in its giving,
and thereby's not too slickly conquered.

BETTY
Indeed, he is a great contrarian,
and takes it as his pleasure to be opposed.

RUSH
And yet he'll answer you point by point in argument,
broadsword aside his million rapiers how you will.

[RUSH hands PAINE something for the experiment.]

BETTY  [Aside.]
I'll give his wits a trial, and spot out
the color of his cholor with my brightness.

PAINE
Thank you, Rush. There. Now we must wait a minute.
Now, what were we discussing?

BETTY
Why men must make war on their common sense.

RUSH
Like that soused Davy Rittenhouse who failed to perfect
his skyward-aching inch of telescope from his couch?

BETTY
His Orrery accomplished the opposite,
downing downy heaven to the ground.

RUSH
You can peer at the Plieades from a squatted perch
and still reach pleadless your two finger's-worth.

PAINE
Say, rather, that he and I raise man into his sphere,
and there see celestial fire. For man's all vision,
a heavenly eye widowed to the earth,
an interplanetary planetarium of one.

BETTY
And what of India, Mr. Paine, what vision operates
to manacle that subcontinent in so white a vise?

RUSH
Everyone knows that its simply appalling over there,
all lice and infection, and worse, and more;
this sick world itself has how many untreated sores.

PAINE
Let's get black Sam in on this one: Sam!
Samuel Lemuel, alert, arrive, at once, speed,
hoist aboard, hop up, jump the gun, jam with us,
spike the volley man, and get your ass in here!

[SAMUEL enters, stands in solemn silence by the door.]

PAINE
Listen.

BETTY
Again, what do you think of the British errancy
in India, Mr. Paine? Is it an experiment
in increased slavery-efficiency, the turn
of mankind on man, a lesson in whips
and a pungent moral on productivity,
sprung all awry and a-wrong, or is it a thing
more simply evil in its derivations?


RUSH
They really do clobber those people over there
something awful; the stories that pour from there.

PAINE
Is it really much worse than the charmless oppression
a moody husband may in law dagger upon his wife?

RUSH
The white Rajah last month put twenty men to death
for disappointing his wife at her afternoon tea-taking.
The relatives of the dead men were hard-put
to pay their burial fees, since before killing them
the white Raj had fined each man the sum total
of his back wages to purchase the repair of his wife's
"injured tranquility." Can you imagine?

BETTY
Don't have to, quite obviously.

PAINE
No more barbarous analog of man's inhumanity to man
do I know to shout about.

BETTY
Is it the worst I've heard, or felt on my flinching skin?
I couldn't honestly say.

PAINE
To honestly say: it's such a treasure.

BETTY
Wifely obeying, sisterly sashaying,
is there not to be more of me than the female means
to some redoubtable, spouting male end?

RUSH
Sin, sin; to so self-slay and self-say so.

BETTY
And yet I'll still be the one to cook up
the skunking gunpowder at home, so you wild boys
can be out and shooting off your guns. Hmmm.

RUSH
Why don't you write it up, Paine? Put out plainly
why American and Britain should part ways?

PAINE
Perhaps I'll start. I foresee a day
when the tripartite freedoms of 1), America from Britain,
2) blacks from the whites, and 3) women from
the scourging and scouring positions, will occur.
A good day. Let's purge the scourged. Why can't
the spastic rest of humanity see as me, and know
the limitation on the freedom of one consciousness
claps chains about the rest? Severe delimitations
of the honey of one-one-one-i-oneness. Why the output
of every nation would double on the morrow
if every slave hand and female back could see
an honorable profit in their own actions,
ain't that plain?

RUSH
Sounds like common sense to me.

PAINE
Common Sense. A good, solid Scot's title.

BETTY
You're an alarmist. Always shouting wolf
when most folks don't feel that bad off.
It's a comfort-level thing, and not much else.
This tissue of issues tears to nothing
when pressed to the pins of daily affairs.
This talk and bluster, what's it ever accomplished?

PAINE
Then let's be precipitate! I'll call all the hail
aghast from heaven onto our current crop of snotty
not-problems, and crush the grain until all's level!
An Alarmist? Yes, I like it. Alaruum!!
Unshell the clarion bells in carillion tones,
each note echo-honing on its brother tone-- oh ho
what a mastery of symphony would America then be!


BETTY
You want to be under the thumb screaming bloody
murder awhile, then you'll see-- most folks, well,
if they're not in hell with you, they don't
give a damn. When you're in a coma long enough
you get inured to the hurt. Worse thing you can do,
sometimes, is raise the hopes of the injured.

PAINE
Well, Samuel, you've been silent as Pylades
and cool as a Pharaoh;
ywhat's your take on this?

SAMUEL
Seem Mis Betty got de view o' de oppressed.

RUSH
True enough.

SAMUEL
Ain't no easy thing living out in dese times
gots everything of yourself shackled to another
his words switching you every way which and back
running your life around an' no respite
no water-break on dem dere hot backbreakin' days.
Over your own shoulder go your eyes, instead of front,
to see what the future got in store for you
at the mad hands of another, no wife-hands there,
no chil' touchin' a knee you can keep, no folks
or other love-thought guiding the master's hand
or tempering dat man's any act; damn no humanity in dem things
got all twisted about some who-knows-how!
Your eyes all lookin' and no sass passable
out ov your mouth no matter: damn, the things I give
jest ta say my mind right out once afore I died.

[PAINE has been busily re-doing the experiment.
A loud blast, fire and light stains him.]

PAINE
Rush, our hypothesis is uncannily and without con, confirmed!
We've got the unlocking formula for cheap gunpowder
sifted from shelf-available ingedients! O pretty Betty
and damned Samuel-- you'll run free and rack the world with cries
of all-ecsatic exultation unassailed soon enough!







SCENE FIVE


[PAINE sits composing Common Sense. He is drinking steadily.]

PAINE
A searing halo-scab crusts my forehead;
I do not know how to make my imaginings real.
Not God, but my own luminous mind has brought me here,
a shuttle of empty light over tar-dark waters.
How intemperate is this life's little tempest that
convulses the scarring rictus of my neighbors' hearts?
I paddled the black Atlantic on my sheer wings to say the one
right word that will flame this marsh-gas bay
of waiting rebellion into the manifesting Heaven
    my vivifying vision begets.
Destruction and creation are chopped from but one block:
the diamond iceberg of imagination is my worker's pick
I pick and choose with, editing the mired files of reality.
It chimes and rings against-- against I know not what, but yet
it rings-- oh-- it is against itself it rings the hardest,
chimes and rings with a futile fury, as if
it burned light to so strike itself and be thus made
illuminable. And I am a charitable, black matchstick demon
chained to the whirling mill-wheel of this work,
striking and striking in the blinding brightness of the Pit.
Oh, well, I know not how well I am, or yet
how well I may be; there's a soapy hope, shall I grab it
merely to have it slither from my gripping?
Each hour's a blinked link in Life's gold chain:
we demand our days be daisies and link them in vain.
Every boiling colony seethes hissing against the king;
his trans-Atlantic scepter rusts in the salt distance.
Wild opinion everywhere is corrosive against this tyranny,
this thing mouthing royal order and tradition
against a fraying wind. So this is how my magic mist of Liberty
begins its insinuations: in the libelous acid-bath
of naysaying complaint. Well, you never know what
you want until, like a baby denied its nipple,
its tickled from you. Sore feet pay the cobbler, as they say.
How will the common people my Common Sense ingest?
History has its tides, yet I'll surf the crest
on my hand-made revolution for the masses, by the mass!
I'll be the first to print what they niggling feel
and reduce all loyalty from monarch madness to sane
themselves--- as infinite human potentiality, nothing less.
Hunched in my prision of skin, how insanely rips
my ineluctable spirit towards its transcendence!
A free bird will shread its wings against a cage,
no matter how golden. Men will in one blood-thumped second
destroy the finest system of governance devised on earth
in all her generations to get back a single whiskey-lick
of the uninhibited Liberty they had tasted heretofore.
One reckless pulse, and all the noble past
            is pushed to the stinking heap!
Desire is infinite; possibility is finite;
but the true, determining actions of men that shape
their crowded cowed lives hived striving together,
even to the half-done mark half as well
as a lazy anthill's improvisational organization
are few, few indeed-- and sparely placed in history.
This is my minute to push the wisp toward incandescence,
my arriving fire's the one to transmute rebellion's bonfires
into individual Liberty's multifarious candleabra,
the thousand stabs of light burned true out of today's
inflammable haystack of discontented "maybes."

[PAINE pulls a quill from an inkpot.]

PAINE
Come, my feather, and fan the damning flame,
we're fallen angels all and still squeak at the light
like deluded bats in our hopeless caverns: fly,
my feather, on hopeful airs and the destruction's
daring updraft, on into the sun of reason, a winning Darius
fuelled by his whipping ambitions from light to light.
Below us, all the old monarchy's fluxed in immolating ruin;
above, the reasonable sun draws us on until as sweet mists
we rise to his imperishable realm: a radient and radical
farmfield of high Enlightenments. Flock to freedom,
my angel minions, or perish dully all in hesitation's flames.
  [PAINE begins to write.] I write in light!






ACT II



SCENE SIX


[Before a tavern. Enter three idiots.]

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 These are suspicious times.

TIM RIDDLE
 Then it were well to suspect everything, and keep a watch-out.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And our civic duty too.

DICK CIVIC
 And if you keep a watch out, you shall find the time to
 be roundly burgled. Watches are rare jewels in a poor place.

TIM RIDDLE
 Well, then, how else to find out the time we're in?

DICK CIVIC
 And if we're suspicious, we can deduct it.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Well, it is night plainly enough.

TIM RIDDLE
 Know you by the dark, or by the lack of daylight?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Why, by the lack of daylight, for there's many seasons
 for it to be dark in.

DICK CIVIC
 Ay, my wife will put me to 'em oft and oft.

TIM RIDDLE
 It's tyrannous tough to be a bride's thing.

DICK CIVIC
 If the bride have a thing, I would suspect myself,
 and think me no true man.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Then what if you give her a thing?

DICK CIVIC
 Why then I would respect her under near examination, and
 have no more doings with her, if a divorce could not
 settle the peace between us.

TIM RIDDLE
 Absence then would keep the peace.

DICK CIVIC
 And a peaceful piece is a pretty peace.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And the maids will be warring their skirts over their heads again
 to get out the piece.

TIM RIDDLE
 [Looking around.] This is someplace hereabouts.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 It behooves us to entrance it-- if it is a tavern.

DICK CIVIC
 I have some reading. I shall spy out the sign, if I see any.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Spying is a bad offense, unless it be plain.

DICK CIVIC
 Then, if it be a plain sign, without marks, I shall spy out
 if I shall read of it, or no.

[PATRON exits.]

PATRON
[Sings drunkenly.]
    Lib-bert-ty tib-bert-ty tree!
    Lads of Athens, faithful be
    to thyself
            and Mystery!
    All the rest is perjury.
    Lib-bert-ty tib-bert-ty tree!

TIM RIDDLE
 Well, is he a spy or no?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 I see he is a plain man with nothing to doubt him above
 the average.

TIM RIDDLE
 Are you well-knowing of it?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Ay, he is enough like me to leave no assurance. And I am as
 plain a man as never took note.

DICK CIVIC
 Well, then, if he is as plain a man as you, I shall attempt
 a reading of him.

TIM RIDDLE
 As long as there is no sorcery about your business. I am
 from Salem.

DICK CIVIC
 My business has no beginning to source it, sirrah. Not even
 a passim Salem.

TIM RIDDLE
 Well, and he was as drunk as a skunk, was he not?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 A plain drunkard, as I ought to know who owns a mirror.

DICK CIVIC
 I revelation that he was drunk, sirrah.

TIM RIDDLE
 And what think you well of that?

DICK CIVIC
 Well....

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Well...!

DICK CIVIC
 Well....

TIM RIDDLE
 Come, sir, what think you well of it in all these wells?

DICK CIVIC
 Well... I think it be as plain a sign as any that we're
 come to a tavern.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Oh, well then, let's make a boldly into it, and mark an
 entrance where he did come out-of-doors.

TIM RIDDLE
 Come; let's subtly then.

[They enter. A RECUITMENT OFFICER is signing men up for the war.]

DICK CIVIC
 What are all these men a-standing about and signing?

TIM RIDDLE
 It is a signal that I am suspicious.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Ay, then let's sniff slowly.

DICK CIVIC
 I for one had rather not smell.

TIM RIDDLE
 Then nose about without breathing.

DICK CIVIC
 And thus sufficate? I had rather smell myself.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 No you wouldn't.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Why do you men stand in such amazement?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Why, because we've found ourselves in a maze, and cannot
 wend about of it.

TIM RIDDLE
 As long as there is beer, I shall bear it.

DICK CIVIC
 Ay, in your gullet.


TIM RIDDLE
 As long as my money holds out my arm shall hold out too.

DICK CIVIC
 Ay, and a mug at the end of it.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And your gullet too; pouting out fat and burpish.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Are you men ignorant?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 I suspect.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Are you ignorant of the news that the Continental Congress has
passed a resolution for independence?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 If I am, they have kept it independent of myself, and assorted
 their cause of independence right well.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
There's a maze in such a speech.

DICK CIVIC
 Ay, true said, friend.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
According to the resolution, we are now to be no more of England,
but only of ourselves.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And if I am not myself, I am as Englished as any that
 never spoke a true tongue.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Well, then. Have you read the Common Sense by Tom Paine?

DICK CIVIC
 Say yes.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Yes.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Then you know he makes the case plain to every faculty,
that we should be a separate peoples, and that the king
is no more than a brute beast to oppose us.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 The king a brute beast?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Ay, and tyrannous. And that we have the power to form a
better self-governance than his could ever be. And that we
have the power to make the world over again in our lifetimes,
if we but put our shoulders to it and follow our hearts
and hopes.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Then, if the King rule us, we are no governors, and lack a rule.

TIM RIDDLE
 Why, that's plain anarchy.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And if we would run about under that, it were a dark day.

DICK CIVIC
 Ay. And no light to see a tavern by.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 But I see one plain. Or what else do I spy?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Your friends are in some confusion....

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Ai me! Then it is anarchy come down among us from on high,
 as they say.

TIM RIDDLE
 It is the crucible of God's will.

DICK CIVIC
 Very plain, very plain.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Then we must be governors at once, and no delay for light
 to see ourselves by in suspiction, lest the time fly by.

TIM RIDDLE
 That's a truism.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And a friendly one to lead me on. [To RECRUITER:] Say,
 if I sign this, is governance back among us all?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
We shall fight for it to be so.

DICK CIVIC
 And blood shall be spilt in the contest?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Ay, or else it were no fight.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And all this is Common Sense?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Very common.

DICK CIVIC
 Oh. If you read this thing, friend, your eyes are traitors.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 For certain a traitor.

TIM RIDDLE
 Ay, it's very plain, very plain.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And did I say I read this?

TIM RIDDLE
 Ay, you did, and with no little prompting of friendship.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And if my friend lead me on to traitor my eyes, shall
 the rest of me be anathema?

DICK CIVIC
 Ay, very much so. And if you are anathema, you are
 no friend of mine to my nose to stick out stinking so.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Oh, and if I am no friend of yours, I am no traitor,
 since then no friend did lead me on to read this
 Common Sense.

TIM RIDDLE
 There's the king's man!

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And none no more so loyal as I.

DICK CIVIC
 Then are we ready to look down at your papers and
 sign up, sirrah, being no eyeing traitors, but that we
 give out an equal naying to all.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Here's quill and ink.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 But yet hold off. And if I sign this, what shall I be?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 From your loudness, I'll put you down as an ordinance officer.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And if the ordinance be of a great enough caliber to keep
 the peace easily, I shall be a peace officer too.

TIM RIDDLE
 Only if it break the peace.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Ay, truism enough. And then either way I shall be an officer,
 which I was in England.

DICK CIVIC
 And that's as sure a truism as ever I heard, or they all be false.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Let them all be false, these truisms, so long as that mine is true.

TIM RIDDLE
 And if it's true, your shooting will go well.

DICK CIVIC
 If it makes others go astray, it shall.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Truism enough, friend.

TIM RIDDLE
 [To RECRUITER:] And what shall I be in the lists?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
A dead man, most likely.

DICK CIVIC
 You're a true enough large caliber target to get killed.

TIM RIDDLE
 And as long as I count as two hits, I will be satisfied
 to have played a bigger part than most.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 That you do already, friend.

DICK CIVIC
 And if I witness such purgation, I shall be happy.

TIM RIDDLE
 And I too, if I should live to see my death.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 God save you! And if you should chance to see it not,
 I'll report it to you in the hereafter.

TIM RIDDLE
 Slow your oath! If God saves me, we shall miss each other
 in damnation.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Ay, I had forgot that. And I would not miss you for all
 the world.

DICK CIVIC
 If you miss him, you are no ordinance man at a shot.

TIM RIDDLE
 True.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And if I am true, I am an ordinance man; so I shall not
 miss you, friend, on either the field of battle here or
 hereafter; and if I am an ordinance man, then I am a peace
 officer again as well, and serve the King by example what
 my loyalty is.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Ay, all that, if you sign here.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And then we should be back among the English by your scheme?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
Yes. And many a man better than you.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Why, there is no better Englishman than myself, God save the
 King, sign me up.

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Sign you up, sir. Can you make your mark?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And if I was not as loyal an Englishman as the King, I could
 sign my name as well in any language, mark me.

AMERICAN RECRUITER [Offering paper.]
 Here then.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And will I serve the King a good turn, if I assign this?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Ay, if you disturb his sleep enough to give him a turn.
 But truly, sir, you can do the King's service no better
 service than to remove yourself from his.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 And I will be among English again, if I go my name here?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Ay, I have said so. You'll be thick among the thick.

TIM RIDDLE
 And what was our aim among 'em?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Why, if it's a right good aim, to rid the land of them all
 by death or expulsion.

TIM RIDDLE
 Back to England?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 Ay, or hell.

TIM RIDDLE
 Oh, well then, you were a constable in Exeter, were ye not?

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Ay.

TIM RIDDLE
 And you will be back among the pushers to Exeter then.

JOHNATHAN PLOUGHBOY
 Oh, and I will be at the front of the pushers, policing
 my fellow Englishmen back to district, as was my wont at home.
 Oh, now, if this is my duty again, sign me up, and God save
 the foundation!

DICK CIVIC
 And I might be a legal spy, among the Englands, with no threat
 of the interminable?

AMERICAN RECRUITER
 If we end this conversation, and you all sign, there is
 no more interminable thing on earth that has ended.

DICK CIVIC
 I see your meaning hidden plain. Sign me up too, Johnathan.

TIM RIDDLE
 Ay, me too. I cannot mark to write, whether I will or no,
 so mark me-- I am as loyally suspect as either of you two!

ALL:
 God save the King!

[They sign.]







SCENE SEVEN


[At General Howe's Long Island Headquarters. The three man
troop escort in this scene are the same three new recruits
from previous scene.]

PRESCOTT
At Bunker Hill and Breed's demoralizing debacle
we showed his highness' ass-men something of our toughness.

FRANKLIN
But we were defeated!

ADAMS
I'd sell them a thousand such hills, such defeats,
if they paid such a price for each overweening tiptop.

PRESCOTT
We wouldn't crouch and scat at the first smacking.

FRANKLIN
Indeed. We hissed a something spectacular
from the advantage of our barricades. While we held them.

ADAMS
And now we are off to the foul Howe dispatched
by the snatching patch-work of Congress
ambastardored to sew our mini-victories
into this truce-rag of defeat. We come to combine
our bilious biles in one puke of peace,
nothing more. It's foul, I say.

FRANKLIN
Then be the watchdog, Adams, and, if things issue foully,
lick back up such peace to its initial indigestion.

ADAMS
If I must, I shall.

FRANKLIN
Tom Paine put a pretty piece of the populace
behind our designs with his invective.

PRESCOTT
My brother signed up the moment he finished his first
read-through of Tom's lopsided Common Sense.

ADAMS
I have offered my corrections to his ill-digested ideas
as Publius Civis; there's no way we can live with
his spastic democratic demands.

PRESCOTT
And yet, without him, we'd be almost armyless.
I can't tell you the crowd of talk his
pamphlet shouted out of hiding.

FRANKLIN
And such a groundswell re-geared the keel
of our Continential Congress, Adams.
You know it. The July Fourth resolution for
independence would never have passed without
that tippling inch of doing pressure
undoing our tentative members' insecurities.

ADAMS
Yes, yes. The man's a genius demagogue;
I'm just glad he's on our side.

FRANKLIN
And now we have a real war on our hands.

PRESCOTT
Speaking of which, I don't like the way
our sullen Sullivan came limping back captured
from our host Howe's enemy camp so fat and feted,
legging it to Philly all hot and ready
to pant a peace and plant upon our honors
a king's kiss.

FRANKLIN
We're well to walk here warily, inching our steps.
It's certain no compelling king, in his habit of command,
ever gave his executing general his full mind
since time and kings began.

ADAMS
You step into my argument like a trace-horse, Franklin,
and make my meaning race at double-speed. Let's circuit
our commission to its finishing here and now
and decide against Howe's howsoever persuasions
before he licks us nickering to a different ribbon.
To whatever he says, we'll be Yankee stags,
and bray all nays.

PRESCOTT
Yea, I say, if ye'll have me
stamping after your quick fetlocks, Mr. Adams.

FRANKLIN
Too fast, too fast! My coursers, discourse!
Often has a score of words done more good than blood.

[Inside Howe's Headquarters, as a servent lets the Americans in.]

HOWE
Bunker Hill was not worth the blood that muddied it,
all with sour redcoats harshly sauced. We're alone
on a continent of able axes anxious to hack at us.
Our detatched detatchment runs too ruinous a progress
against the tartness of their muskets' invective;
force of arms, so detatched, is too gruesome a prospect
to assure our royal appetite's respite. Where's dinner?
These cordial colonials who served us comeuppance
in the cups of our own heads are coming mustered now
to my marooned house in strategic Long Island,
stepping to the drum-tap I command. With a swelled sweetness
will I greet them, and with honeyed words defeat them.
There's enough lush fat in this America to go round!
Take the damned lamb off its twisting spit at once, Pierre!
We'll throw these rough-housing, somber blue boys a tax break
and mate them back to the hungry bum of our loving monarch:
a king's kiss! God save the king!

[HOWE toasts. Party enters.]

FRANKLIN
We had some difficulty in finding you.

HOWE
Old grievances are like old shoes
and make every new step painful.

ADAMS
We'd gladly give you the royal boot
so you would only be forced to paddle back
to England, and not march on to war.

HOWE
Your tongue's too sharp-- upon my soul!

ADAMS
Do not make it slash practice upon your heart
or you shall bleed for it.

HOWE
Come, let's to dinner, and bury our hatchets
in some four-footed meat. This Paine of yours, with his
Common Sense, prates like another Pericles,
but instead of honorable union with his King, his tears
and tearing protestations rip a fetidness from fertile fields
and from the bludgeoned dead of cold Concord
draws out in dark and dusk the musky fungus Discord,
and lets set florescing the million attendant lichens
of intolerable Democracy. Surely such a scheme
set rotting in so pure and wide a garden as America
is anathema to gentlemen such as yourself.

ADAMS
Democracy's a mob in a garish coat of laws
so patched and pinched with imperfections
the crazy wind of Anarchy will chill its wearer
to the bone.

HOWE
There's the fellow!

FRANKLIN
Not all of us are of a color to tinge
our constitutional formulation to his solution.

HOWE
There's the fellow! So, know from me
that the King shall all his purse of taxes
pour back out upon these shifting shores
and leave to the discretion of yourselves
all nattering money matters in the future.

PRESCOTT
So Sullivan said, who jogged to jar
all our apprehensions with your words.

HOWE
If Parliament permits, of all this I can assure you.

FRANKLIN
That smacks of a start.

ADAMS
If the King is willing to resign in principle
his sovereign right to tax without consent....

HOWE
In principle? Never; how could he lose those rights
that God and all law's precepts align to grant him?
But he shall relent in the unspecified interregnum
and let your novus ordo seclorum play alone
along these shores' as-yet-untested serrations.

FRANKLIN
Let's taste more.

HOWE
Here's another slice: but re-swear your royal loyalties
to crown and England as we down this swish of wine--
and all the rebels shall stand with a pealing repeal
of soveraign pardon upon their clamoring crimes.

ADAMS
Come you here with the power to pardon?
So you may say. But you are wrong. You have not that power.
He who can pardon can only pardon one who has
by erupting interruption of some hallowed right
done some wasteful wrong. Since we did give no such offense
your presumptive pardon lacks its puissance.

HOWE
Not swear back again to the King?
How then could you be his loyal subjects?
How then could the fraternal breach be healed?
What other budding buss should be our business
if not that?

ADAMS
And should we swear our allegiances to this King
and against our sacred Liberties? I think that each
man-jack among us would rather die today and be free.

FRANKLIN
Our enduring liberty is to live and be
self-deciding, self-governing, and free.

HOWE
The King himself is now more royally aware
of all your colonial gripes and groanings;
should he now go deaf to them? But trust his majesty!
He feels your pain.

ADAMS
Should the mugged man trust the cut-purse?
One who then, to palliate the offense
promises to pardon those he has offended?
Only the drug-addict and his pusher continue
in mutual love when all basis for trust is cut.
I'm not so high on the purled word Sovereignty
to muster up my trust for absent kings
absent the gravest assurances.

HOWE
Grave assurances shall we all have in eternity
if we four cannot conduct a living peace
to this entreating table tonight.

FRANKLIN
Yet you yourself declared your guarentees
provisional to Parliament's approbation.

HOWE
How could it be otherwise? I own not a man of them.
They are free to vote their conciences before the King.

FRANKLIN
You see my point then.

ADAMS
They vote freely, and with free voices,
while we are bound in a virtual reality.

HOWE
But they shall approve at home what I do say
in the field; I know it. I know they will.
I have the King's consent in this, and his voice
shall over-master their static, if they profess any.

ADAMS
One voice is no voice if it rules others to silence,
but is itself rather a sort of pestilent silence,
choking all.

HOWE
But the King is the State.

FRANKLIN
If that state is a desert.

HOWE
I am a man of worth, and a worthy gentleman;
my voice will float upon the controversy of these waters
and oil to a calmness the place of Parliament--
My voice and impress shall not there be ignored.
Mercy or annihilation is mine to procure.

ADAMS
And yet, you have no power to say the last.

HOWE
Dash it! I am an honorable gentleman! And that
is enough; or else there is no England for you
to spurn or rejoin.

PRESCOTT
Any who would consent to these bribing bids
loves not himself, and deserves not his Liberty.

HOWE
Let your rebellious feet leave my premises
and walk alienate from soveriegn sod forevermore
if you are all of a mind to decline this overture.

ADAMS
My Liberty is not so cheap as your threats.

FRANKLIN
Nor is mine available at the price of your promises.

HOWE
  [To an aide-de-camp.]
I hereby proclaim a general amnesty to all
American troops; post it on every tree.
Any who would come in to us, bring in,
and in they shall dart, back to the royal right;
oh they'll come, and at a run, to the fraternity
they had so unbrotherly abandoned.
And you shall all be hung on the yardarm
like damned pirates, without so much dignity
as a peasant who expires in the dirt. Get out.

ADAMS
Come. We'll pull ourselves away.

[They exit.]

PRESCOTT
Howe's amnesty could scuttle all our hopes,
and leave us with not a man at the yawning gunwales
of our ship of state.

FRANKLIN
Ought we to have been so obdurate, Adams?
Perhaps our perversities will scurvy us
on these ominous high seas of independency.

ADAMS
Our fruits at least shall be of our own growing
and not vined tentacle-like from glum London's
emcumbering Parliamentary hothouse garden.

FRANKLIN
We'll go forward then, and not froward.

PRESCOTT
Damned be any backward hand now.







SCENE EIGHT


[By a campfire.]

PAINE
I sit here, in seared hearing of this bleak defeat
of stormed Fort Washington across the bleary Hudson,
tapping out my day's thoughts atop a resting drumhead
with my slim measure of ink and brain. There's England,
arterially red, pulsing well against our held position,
crashing in on our cornered troops. Gate's smashed;
the flimsey picket fence is overrun with stumblers and others.
My ambling hands stain with this useless soot of words
while those patriots gore the earth with blood.
Did certain sniping words of mine send out
certain men the English shot? I've nibbed my quiet quill
to loud killing, and redden my shameful papers
with unlucky deaths, haphazard as a rash of dotted i's.
Its what I wanted, non? And yet: to win is all.
To half-carry our half-escape hunchbacked into raw dawn
and not to win by our hard-bearing turtle-crawl
I count a sin against myself that I cannot grave
in any shape of peace. We must win. We must.
How to do it, though? That's the fucking crux---
and my dreams all harshly in my lumpen throat
cry me quiet until I wake unworlded, and quite wordless.
How much harder will it be for us to win free?
I follow my boyhood dream of liberty like a beir
from funeral to funeral.... How long til it's my own?
Our boys tumble in the grass with graceless playlessness
and speed toward the imagined safety of the dark.
We haven't the boats to nip across the uneven Hudson
and tuck our losing men back into New Jersey's nighttime.
As thin and blue a line as my retreating vein
scatters from the hazard of the onslaught, a blood splotch
of advancing redcoats; all green's blotched black
in the firelight's withering fritter of light.
Tiny legs, tiny arms, tiny, silent screams
that only roar back awake in my rearing dreams.
What deserveless death is coming to those humble ones?
All the hard hopes I had stitched together in a gale
to reach these unimpeachably peachy shores
are forced apart oh so easily in the deadly breeze.
I watch these snows thunder silence upon the dead.

[A BOY enters.]

BOY
Sir, Genr'l Washington's requestin' your presence
respectf'lly next time he hits a camp in the sticks.

PAINE
That'll be Hackensack or some such.
Danke, boy.

BOY
Danke? What's that?

PAINE
German for "Thank You." Something to say
when the Hessians overrun our frail position,
our wickedly thin picketline of foundling blood.
Not your own, I hope, of course.

BOY
Nor you neither, sir. [Pause.] With respect, sir....

PAINE  [Thinking.]
Yes? You still here? What is it?

BOY
Am I dismissed, sir? I think I gotta drum retreat.

PAINE
Hmm. Yes. [Hands BOY the drum.] Scat!






SCENE NINE


[At WASHINGTON's tent.]

PAINE
Today I shall wowingly reimagine my swatted world
and its crookedly connived constitution with truth's force;
divinity, with a little human imagination,
can get the job done. These are the times....
I shall orate an augerful of frothing truth
and not swallow back a word while I live!
This dirty tent, thrashed in the back-sizzle of new hail,
tied frozen down in these grimy woods,
here's a place to lay sweet newness on the earth,
inaugurate a heart to the swift weird will of one,
here's a place, an altar of activity to actively
announce my grown-tough truth, a fabled place, perhaps,
where future disaster or glory laps at circumstance
and sheer human will overturns all the tides that meet!
Ha ha! I in my mock coracle-cockle will toss the turbulence
in my humanly mouthed direction on towards perfection,
and not drop dropsey-sick into the old worm trails
that so lovingly lattice the past with irking defeats,
the benighted unlightedness of my predecessors.
What have they ever lived to light their way to
besides death and the present tyranny?
This present tyranny and trumpeting injustice that makes me
curl curdled against it and call to the remote sky:
I must! I must! Can Justice exist when all are not free
to imagine it into some hammered shape of perfection?
Come rain, come storm, come snow,
   withering blizzard or puffing drift,
      I see the forecasted crests' shapes
and do not spurn my own straightness of purpose!
I'll knock at the tent-- and may that tent let me enter!
   [Crowing:] I've come! I've come! I've come!

WASHINGTON  [Waking up.]
In God's name, who the hell is that!?!!

PAINE
Tis I, in the blaming name of no God but my own:
Thomas Paine. I was sent for, and adjudged the cause,
and, having backhanded the winter that would stop me,
I have arrived.

WASHINGTON
Out of the rocks themselves, it would seem.

PAINE
Out of the furious snow storm, certainly.

WASHINGTON
Sir, you have arrived with the chill swiftness of a ghost
swirled from the white nightmares of my dead sleep.
Even this midnight entrance brings my writhing mind
to the one thing, one problem constant as a drumbeat:
desertion. My ranks are as thin as Franklin's pate
and as hungry as if he had sucked up all their suppers.
General Hamilton corralled his men on Boston Commons
and harangued them in a shaming speech to ask 'em
if they'd extend their rebel enlistments by a stretch
of even four days forward from the new year nearly here,
and not one in four stepped forward. A general amnesty now
would unman us down to zero. I thank the Deity
that Howe had lied to Adams and them on Long Island;
our cause could not survive his generosity today.
This is our first hard year of winter, man,
and is like to be our last. Our cause
in bloody abortion stands, and the restless snows
are cherried with our deaths. Exhaustion cannot rest,
but churns on harrassing dreams even in ditched sleep.
We cannot win. We must not lose. What brave words
do you bring to one so confused?

PAINE
That liberty is no ghost, genr'l, but our only reality;
as alive as the men and women that imagine it.

WASHINGTON
As fiery as your pamphlets, Paine.
I wonder, are you as soon burnt when tossed
into the crossways rash heat of war's crucifying fire?

PAINE
The test! The test! My tongue itself's a flame
and my heart smoulders knowingly enough aghast against
cold England's distant injustice, heart-pressed
by the eager evil of those Tory lords
to our honest American breasts, jammed
by that pampered tyrant rattle-ranting
from his damned castle to pull our pitch
of mutual coalition back into the spastic Atlantic.


WASHINGTON
This damned seige of defeat has the men down
and near drowned. They won't take it, and it's
hit them hard in the balls, by God.

PAINE
Self-slavery will hit them harder.

WASHINGTON
Well, if the troops could be fed upon long letters,
I would believe we have the best commissary on earth.
Until that time....

PAINE
If they live long enough to take their ease
after a beating defeat by the Despot
(those who don't go hanged, or bang-banged by a squad),
they will live to sire enslaved great-grandsons
on an English fiefdom, a Parliamentary playground
carouselling their dear ideals into bright, shining lies.
They'll mint their new mine of liberties to cuffs
and not coins of free exchange for their inheritors.

WASHINGTON
It's hard watching your soldiers starve.
Nursed in the pilgrim night by three generations'
crazy liberation, I don't think they're ready to back out
blackened in the eye and soul by imperial men.

PAINE
I'd hope no man so backward and willful
against his own golden chance. This hour'll
not come round again in our winding down, Washington.
This glad hour must be held aloud and told on every wind
or die soundless as a tear in a velvet coffin.

WASHINGTON
Still have to shoot 'em if they go south on you,
can't have commiseration turn to dissolution,
shoot 'em in the back if they won't turn round and take it;
damned hard to take, giving out the orders for that,
and their own blood frozen on their broken feet,
      swaddled in scraps, feet looking like bloody babies,
both the feet of them that get shot, and those
that do the shootin'. Nothing good in any of it.
Can't even bury the ones you shoot, really, pile ice
over the snow, call any whiteness sticking up ice
and hope you're not in the same place same situation come spring.
There was one we near buried just today,
        how young was his soft-seeming face
turned brutal-hard. I looked down at him, the neutral shovel
splashed the lime like powdered light upon him,
down on his face, down his shoulders, and on down.
Little hope and great heartache. And the Brits
sit in fine fettle, fat Hessians eating Christmas goose
and other potables denied us in this war.
Stings, hurts; too tough to tell of,
      even to speak a word, in some ways.
War's not for honor. Little accomplishment, vain days
blizzarded against us. No gentleness left in nature
or ourselves....

PAINE
No gentleness....

WASHINGTON
So, you're the demented Brit who gloveless shoved
the demos-rabble toeward towards sabre-rattling self-
emancipation. So, what do you think of the present situation?

PAINE
My divine mind, in uncluttered creation of itself,
followed out the currents of the current, royal knot
and proceeded by hard thought to daringly undo
each weave-waver of the fiber that I could
back to the looming first pluck and spool
of their dreaded threads, the initial conditions
that made tyranny the inextricable inexorable
tangle of that spun thread's outcome; primary causes
and first principles alone I allowed my by-myself mind
to trace, fingeringly unravel and sinlessly unstitch.
Let us begin as I myself had started: since the king
is as cipher-zero without his thousands of subjects
(and since my ton of words is a weightless nullness
in his Highness' lead-adapted ear, a nothing of disgruntlement)
I interviewed those who knew of their self-soveriegnty.
And in this I came to the native wildness
of individual Liberty, the unsold self we each
reach into the create a god or nod to a soveriegn,
or rebellingly unleash a quicksilver rain of disdain
on these things that had kited over us
in the temporary high-wind of our self-ignorance!
The clowning crown has clasped these freedoms to crow
a know-nothingness of impressive feats and feasts
and dangling fates down the echo-alleyway of tin-eared history:
here a man is pinned to a rickety stick
on Golgotha, there a Spartacus rises whip-angry
against a reviled slaver's salveless hand.
In the caved-in carved tomb of our own commonwealth
there is glorious evidence and incident enough
to black the tides with ink of their telling.
But these secret histories of freedom's shouts
I'll not relate beneath your tent tonight.
To those others who knew it not, I reminded them
that they are born free and only sell themselves
into the ruined pool of subjugation by their actions:
the daily prayers to resign their wills to a blank diety,
the dread repeat of illegal laws obeyed, and not examined,
like a stupid boy camp-following a dumb drum
for its deaf, mesmerizing beat, and not because he knows
the red fields of timeless agony he's entering.
By these simple repetitions a life is lived---
and if it makes me spit my charming heart
like a ravaged, bloody flag upon the nation-stick
of my invective pen...
well, then, that's the least I could do,
moved to make a human sound at all I see and feel.

WASHINGTON
You know, don't you, that I never toasted
"King and Country" after I had read
your damnable scribble?

PAINE
A sound decision. Redounds unbounded to your
inevitable credit as a freethinker, Genr'l.

WASHINGTON
Oh, things redound to me from all directions,
Mr. Paine. Hundreds of things come cannon-balling my way
daily. It's a fell acre of hell out there. Fell indeed.

PAINE
Your Americans need you, Washington.

WASHINGTON
My Americans! Fuck, I need a drink. The rum, Tom.
To splash my unbelieving eyes with horrored sights
and tear out my clear hearing with death-sighs
seems this war's only purpose. I swear
this retreat eats out our hearts before the Brits
can shoot them out of our chest, via the spine.
To all tyrants' demise!

[They drink.]

PAINE
Tyrant and subject, master and slave....
WASHINGTON
Master and slave are the old world's vaunted divisions.

PAINE
A vision of divisivness! Old blind-maid Fate!
Such a damned dumb mummery, an antique peep show
unfit for the finer feelings of mankind.
Why would I rape my innocent innards simply
to be declared, by my own owned slave, the winner?

WASHINGTON
A thin satisfaction for an enslaved brain, I agree.

PAINE
Where's the meat for a heaving heart
in that withered domninion?

WASHINGTON
I don't know. I don't know. It seems
an unreal disease to me, a Macbeth infliction,
going to bed on empty ambitions to awake in nightmare.
Its a dirty world, and Hackensack is the center of it.
Now it seems, at least. But you are a fine man
with a pen, Paine. You're Common Sense united a nation,
named it, gave it a sense of itself, etc., etc.
Can you turn the trick again on my demoralized boys?
They'd like a vigorous victory, a proud hour
upon the field of honor, but if we took on England
full force to force in coercing battle, we'd be down and out
in a minute, bayonetted embarrasingly back to colonial status.
This retreat through New Jersey has been a heartbreak
to every barefoot dogface shivering with us.

PAINE
I'd love to, but I'm plumb out of rum.

WASHINGTON
  [Opening a trunk, pulling out a bottle of rum.]
Sit your cockney ass down and have a few;
we'll warm the warning ink over the fire here.

PAINE
I always keep a juicy pouch in my crotch-pocket;
if it freezes down there, I'd just as soon
snap off my whole career as a pen-man, monseuier.

WASHINGTON
Have another.

PAINE
To the survival of the ideal in the real.

WASHINGTON
What can we do for each other but get dunking drunk?

PAINE
Fabius, baby, the best of life is but inebriation.

WASHINGTON
You know, don't you, that after I read Common Sense
I could no longer toast 'Long live the King?'

PAINE
Go to bed, Washington, go to bed.
Your head's in a rum sack, and my heart's
far too tense-excited to beat asleep now anyway.
I'll write, I'll write, and give these fragments of a dream
hard words. Let no tyrant sleep tonight
but that some oppressed slave
goes by his bed breathing nightmares
upon his naked neck. Open wide your restless eye,
for I shall be a scampering Scavola, I swear,
with a rib-tickler of heart-stopping razor words.
[Pause.]

WASHINGTON  [Dead drunk.]
I'm going to bed.

PAINE  [Also drunk.]
Master and slave, master and slave,
what ideals are these that I, I Tom Paine,
give my rewinding, revolutionary mind
a flickering minute's undecided pause?
Oh, I'll do it as an exercise for my right mind,
to think on the world as I wouldn't want it,
as it really is without our devout success:
all sliced into that dicotomy of master and slave,
saved and burned, trashed and polished, sweet
and sour... heh heh. That'll clear my brain
for the real theme free selves, even stuffed in slave-skins,
tragic masks of forced labor wearing gulag scalplocks,
get crucified on the high wire of history for: Liberty.
If I were a wailing slave, a murderer and a bum,
what would my outlook look like? I'd sing:

I trod to prison on burning feet
Accompanied both before and back
By squadroned angels in heaven's black
Receding into the abject divine;
They ferry souls upon their backs;
I was trussed against the horizon's line
But had no captors I that could see
But my squad of angels to accompany me.
I am John Brown and will not come down;
Cold murder of the one or the all.
   Spartacus defied when hard men called
   And deified more angels than God.

My hands were bound in threads of blood;
I struggled against harsh cordage once
And was blinded by a golden hood.
My guilt has come and gone many times
As I recalled or forgot my crimes,---
Yet all about me I feel the wings
Of my locust angels on everything.

The Executioner flips his lash
In mockery of innocence:
Irrational murder has made him
One with the common tide
Raising his spade with the bladed wave
That falls to his own side;
By every blue, angelic face he may erase,
By every thought he kills, he's less.
I am dead but still can chant
All a passing artist's passions out:
Interior echo of the outward shout.
   Spartacus defied when hard men called
   And crucified more angels than God.

Are my grim limbs, hanging inverted here,
Above the midnight chrurchyard's grave
Above all that ghostly-priestly rant and rave
All exalted sacrifice has won
All ecstatic triumph has known?
All scatters backwards madness-chased
Into a rolling blizzard-ball;
Insect angels surround my ground
And their wailing wings buzz-sing:
Whore or chaste, the world's laid waste

 Come kill the one or the All.

These are the times....

[PAINE begins writing.]






SCENE TEN


[At the tent the next morning.]

WASHINGTON
In God's name, Paine, get your fucking ass out of bed!

[WASHINGTON kicks  PAINE in the head.]

PAINE
In God's name, never. On my own account, well,
I'm still too curious to see how the sun goes round
to not get up. I suppose.

WASHINGTON
Hmm. That was one fuck of a twister
we had on ourselves last night. Hmm.
Got your damned words?

PAINE
Yes, yes. They're all here. I'll need
a windless spot where I can be tender
with the stiff sheets, though, the midnight ink
froze on the pages before it could dry right.

WASHINGTON
Stand in the shadow of my horse's ass.
That should almost be cover enough. The men
are trembling assembled in the field outside.
God, what a poxy lot! Yet I need more
of their innocent number if we're to remain
free in theory, and grasping after the fact.
Wipe your sandy eyes and read, Tom.

PAINE  [Reading.]

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the
sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his
country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks
of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have
this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious
the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly: ‘Tis dearness
only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price
upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as
Freedom should not be highly rated.”

TROOPS  [Singing, sort of.]
    Rum and water for old Tom Paine,
    With rum and water he'll save our ass again;
    The angels he'll entreat
    To parliament and debate---
    Convinced they don't exist,
    They'll dissipate for shame!!

PAINE
I am a glorious boy and spiral where I will,
giving ground to none on history's high dunghill.






EPILOGUE



SCENE ELEVEN


[Seven years later. PAINE and WASHINGTON are on a small skiff
at Rocky Hill, testing the waters there for marsh gas.]

PAINE
Fart in the jar, George.

WASHINGTON
Thomas, hand me the fucking wine.

PAINE
We only have champaign; you know that.

[There is a loud, resounding sound.]

WASHINGTON
This patriotic celebration is costing us a fortune.

PAINE  [Hurrying, knocking  WASHINGTON out of the way.]
Cap it! Cap it! We'll have to seal this with wax
as soon as we paddle back, duck and stroke home
to test the gas' composition and capacity.

WASHINGTON
Yes, Tom, yes. By all means, immortalize my farts.

PAINE
Ah, George, can you really believe its all over?

WASHINGTON
Oh, I can. I can.

PAINE
What's next then for our interminable freedoms,
our unfinished zip to achieve and be?
What new-foliaged laurel shall we yearn
to pursue, where will our dragonfly likes alight?
What driven-down or under-rated item
shall we ressurrect to its original worth and virtue
as we have the Roman Civitas regained,
regained and raised to a serious, religious,
real and human highness?
WASHINGTON
Good God, Tom, do you really need a cause
beyond the simple one of peace? Look around--
our continent and countrymen are at liberty;
we do as we choose in loose co-mutuality. Ain't that
enough to subdue your rough wishes and manicness?
I could live a thousand years on a simple acre.
And if we keep this acre free, I shall.

PAINE
My future includes a rupture of the ancien regime
and a spectacularly faceted new Republic for France.

WASHINGTON
I've heard of the stacatto of disturbances
from over there. You'll have to be quick.

PAINE
They themselves have seen our experiment go aright.
They themselves have helped it come to be.

WASHINGTON
Their country's perhaps high-tide high enough to try.

PAINE
They elevate the meaningful mind
to a fair height.

WASHINGTON
I believe they might marshall a martial example
from the flying bayonet involvement thay had here.

PAINE
Layfette and his flueur-de-lis lisp
took some narcotic quench of our opiate trip
and trapses to try his new tropes
against the Paris galleries' rope.

WASHINGTON
Salons and sinister men. Old guard Admirals
fin the dry land like sharks there, Tom.
You be careful.

PAINE
If I take my naked innocence with me
who can denude it?
I'll add my optimistically throated note
to their plangent Plantagenet choir.
We'll uncrown a king
and set a fresh French 'mister' on his feet.

WASHINGTON
Nothing like seeing how unhinged reality really is
to buck up those with a new good thing
to begin to believe in.

PAINE
Amen. [Pause.] And I've an iron bridge design
I'd like to place across the commercial twirl
of a swinish seine over there. Someone may buy into it.

WASHINGTON
I wish you well with your ungovernable,
fanatic fondness for newfangledness.
Harness it as best ye may.

PAINE
I shall. I think each day somehow
has a new, untried trueness in store for me,
if I can but strike an aim at its burning center,
release myself,
and fly fast enough to the alarming target.

WASHINGTON
Perhaps your iron bridge will arrow you there.
Good thing we weren't trying to unrivet one
of those things as we retreated from the British!
We might've lost the war if your ingenuity
had quicker tempo, Tom.

PAINE
Some new solution for it dissolution
would've come to dismantling hand at the time.
Of that I haven't the slightest doubt.

WASHINGTON
Neither the Continental Congress, nor any
private subscription among the victors in this contest
has been ferreted to light to fund you Tom
or underwrite out of sheer gratitude your existence.

PAINE
It figures. Just as well I'm on my way then.
In fact, I might construe my dear adieus as overdue.

WASHINGTON
This ingratitude of an entire nation, and that
nation my own, and yours, the nation we invented....
well, it shames me deeply, and I am weak
against the shame, dear man.

PAINE
I gave every penny-ounce of my thousands of pounds
earned by my copyrights of Common Sense and the Crisis Papers
to buy wool mittens and good socks for our soldiers.
I don't regret that for a second.

WASHINGTON
You gave the cause all. And now they'll let you starve.
It sheds a low dishonor upon our high enterprise.

PAINE
History and latter ages will whip 'em with it.
Ingratitude's a monster. And folks love
a good monster-show.

WASHINGTON
If I catch 'em first, I'll tan their asses
and pick their clicked wallets to the last centavo.
By my word, Tom, I will.

PAINE
We'll spat first. After all, I'm a real bastard,
don't forget.

WASHINGTON
I will never forget you.  [Pause.]

PAINE
Here I sway, myself a slender reed near under,
assailed by restless visions, atop my mass of swamp
and lurching as much as any church
from my crow's nest tip of tippling star-farsightedness;
yet out my mechanical uncertainty I'll fix up
a metronome of reform and dance its spectacular minuet
until all the thin paper-writ music is trashed
to my stamping, and then revives, recomposed as ashes!
Beyond this midnight miasma, past the trinking taunts
of revellers drunk in their assumptions
or dear friends ready to measure their coffin-acre
of sweet peace and lie quiet down until
(all egregious through torn lips) their skeleton-smiles
appear, I see a certain city arise, arise and assert itself
in the indefinate halo of a final outline
amidst this subtle shower of soft-starring sparks.
Amongst the plush pastures of memory, and still
here in this present dark of work and hope
I see a filiment-winsome construct of pure light arise
and flicker about me over the sussurations of these reeds.
O barbarous clearness in this evening's dark! I see
great cities of new men and new women, full of
free sex, free life, kindnesses, harlots and cymbals!
But of their dancing souls they have made no whores;
hazeless lightness and two million souls alight and free....
When morning's blue minute ticks over me, her hands
fallen gently upon my upward dreaming face,
her few, revolutionary rays tempt me from the haze,
her igniting light reviving the shapes of angels
in sculptured flight, cracked as this faint lake
in the river, whose soft sounds fall lonely and proud
on ears so attuned to softness, they seem of stone.
Tonight, the Alleghanies sharpen our idea of the sky,
and each unknown height we arise to lifts our expectations
higher than ever the simple fickle breeze allowed.
What pealing vistas now sound me out from core to pore,
each real thing I see sprouts me new inward eyes
to view the renewing of my own blue-black soul!
Tonight, newborn and pure, there are angels
in my heart's moist architecture. Hyped
on the hypnotic caliber of my ressurrected senses'
insistence to feel and be free, I spot about
and find myself the solo founding clown
of this: the uninheritable! A dynasty of wishes,
with each free man or woman their own subaltern of want,
the maker of their own aching,
              where the capacity to make
tidal-waves above our cloud-shrouded heads unimpeded!
The sea's free step mingles music with my quick swishes.
I am a pounding Poseidon commanding nothing
but the high wet wailing of my own hard-held heart,
a thing never suspected before in history!
Now, and for the first time (ever!) we arise aroused---
unknown music vibrates in booming theaters of real sound;
our bones flare out in trumpet-expectation. Shall
we squeal revealed, and arise in no reprise, but first
and then forever, born unchristened and new? Hopes dome
a billion glass minarets of spinaretted thinking.
My tongue injects the sky; each soveriegn tongue
carols its own beloved self-knowingness into new skies,
each cry an alternate universe electrified to life!
We walk amazed, with new muds upon us, of new births,
new daring, new enterprise, new eyes staring to new noons;
forever unsettled in our wish to wish again.

WASHINGTON
Ah, yes, yes, Tom, how could any world deny you
her churn of womb as genesis-crucible
for such fierce dreaming?
I pray I don't see this infernal globe decompose
to such an eviscerate, infertile dryness, friend.
A few brief, blind sighs bind us to this life;
and oh if those sighs moaned out all meaningless,
how could I even in this accident be reconciled to live?
My eyes take leave of their dryness once again;
I'll baptismal your departing hope
with their wet graces. And now you transfigure
each dark thing with such a harnassed wash
of wanting, Tom. The light, the light!
I am diamond-shot with stardust.
Only our awkward continent's tough, abrupt newness
can shove above the watermark as mountain enough
for the discovering blues of your high-stepping eye.
I myself love the unlevelled tripping of your whim.
I myself feel somewhat more guyed and bouyed
toward the honeyed fire-frets and fangles of the sky
than I had been before in my drowsy daze of peace.
Yet still, I think, I'll stay here, and if
your iron bridge steps you to a wider France
where armed Liberty in her brightened gown contests
Champagne plains with Kings, and her blooming bubbles
are all of vilest violet blown from bleeding mouths,
as restless then as my self-imposed repose
shall then become, still I'll stay here and endure
an unmourning peace, nor moult a doublet
of fresh eagle feathers for my mounting spirit
but stay here by my doughty rounded hill
and look up at our old stars
in dewy-new happiness still.

PAINE
Let us harnass our unmarked stars tonight
and rip the quiescent swamp with light,
as we've made this empty outlined nation
take our chosen colors of the limitless.

WASHINGTON
Torches aloft!

[They raise their rasping torches on the quiet set.]

PAINE
    Liberty Tree, o Liberty Tree
    What ye are ye know well, but oh,
    What ye mean to be!
    Listen, flusterless swans of the swamp!
    Oh hear the tale, hear!
    Never was one so drear,
    Of how all the tyrranical powers,
    Kings, Commons, Lords and sours,
    United on the hour
    And at one stroke
    Had thought to choke
    Our Liberty Tree, our Liberty Tree.

    But then, and then, hee hee!
    From North to South
    Called the trumpet's mouth
    And when we'd gathered
    With ourselves in a lather
    We united on the hour
    With all of our power
    And far and near
    Conjoined at a cheer
    In defense of our Liberty Tree!

WASHINGTON
You do make the worst ditties, Tommy.

PAINE  [Picking a fight.]
Take your teeth out and say that!

WASHINGTON
If I take my teeth out now, it'll be
to keep myself from biting your fool head off.

PAINE  [Shrugs.]
The marshlights are coming up
in a uniform blue to the left there. See ye?

WASHINGTON
I see. A soft spot of color on the eye.

PAINE
Let us conclude the experiment.

WASHINGTON
We heave ourselves beyond experience with this!

[They throw their torches in high arcs that fall in a swale
of light into the soon-blooming swamp. The swamp catches fire.]

PAINE
Everything is illumination in God's suspiring fire.


THE BEGINNING


===FIND THE ORIGINAL LINE!!===






WASH speaks of death-fears. Paine replys:
These irrational itchings are as nothing
to my sainted clarity; my clear cerebration
shall not scab its supple greys with superstition.



PAINE
Like Pericles, I shall not perish from my time
but live on, an ever-ringing voice of high snap,
regular to the regular folks, a jolt
to those nuzzle-nursed on the old fogy ideas dead-past,
accepted ways batted into raw heads and kept
out of tired habit and petty custom for the sake
of that nappy slap-happy pontifex, Farce.
Today I shall wowingly reimagine my swatted world
and its crookedly connived constitution with truth's force;
divinity, with a little human imagination,
can get the job done. I shall dance to my own tough
and jangled, mangling jingle,
              ice skate over the void,
here in the sweet salt aftermath of creation, my own,
the sweated spray every individual makes and spades from torpor,
his own mossy square acre of oceanic freedom.
Only Poseidon, of the old gods, stood by Prometheus
as I recall, the welter salt spray of water okaying
the backdraft spread of the englightened flame;
he saw their realms as mutually imperishable, no doubt,
the flounce and rash flash of flame no threat
to the underwater underworld wavery haze-vision of Neptune's
misted mirth, the roly-poly water god girdled
in frowning sea-coral fronds and crowned with a spiked squid
petrified by the old wet man's honor in choosing it
from his wonderous habidashery. Ai! Electric eels squeeled
in dry delight at Prometheus, friend of the free--
they, whose dear god took every shape and sweated ecstatic
up to heaven to weep back down in the ramming rain.
I am wild lightning in those black swells, and a fire
on the highlands of this first and best time of men!
These are the times....
I shall orate an augerful of frothing truth
and not swallow back a word while I live!
This dirty tent, thrashed in the back-sizzle of new hail,
tied frozen down in these grimy woods,
here's a place to lay sweet newness on the earth,
inaugurate a heart to the swift weird will of one,
here's a place, an altar of activity to actively
announce my grown tough truth, a fabled place, perhaps,
where future disaster or glory laps at circumstance
and sheer human will overturns all the tides that meet!
Ha ha! I in my mock coracle-cockle will toss the turbulence
in my humanly mouthed direction on towards perfection,
and not drop dropsey-sick into the old worm trails
that so lovingly lattice the past with irking defeats,
the benighted unlightedness of my predecessors.
What have they ever lived to light their way to
besides death and the present tyranny?
This present tyranny and trumpeting injustice that makes me
curl curdled against it and call to the remote sky:
I must! I must! Can Justice exist when all are not free
to imagine it into some hammered shape of perfection?
Come rain, come storm, come snow,
   withering blizzrd or puffing drift,
      I see the forecasted crests' shapes
and do not spurn my own straightness of purpose!
I'll knock at the tent-- and may that tent let me enter!
   [Crowing:] I've come! I've come! I've come!








FROM
SCENE TWO
If an upright fellow speaks low, why the poor word's
discredited and given some high sheen of his
moral height and more sober quality, against
the insistence of its syllable; and if a man,
a base, a twisted, a poor and lunatic soul
to whom the phasing moon is monitor and mirror
of his unsteady moods and inconstant thoughts,
backlighting the weird proceedings of his strange eye
turned blank inward on a sick imagination,
if such a man, a vile, distemperate wretch
should speak in clear ululation, as even
the reckoning of God on his last Judgement Day
(when all is overtaken by his mystery of mercy)
would have all men speak, in accents to shame the angels
with his bright crystal syllables and sweet tricks,
why then the very heavens themselves take a taint,
a very palpable taint, from his silent loud-spoken
bastardry. His very perfidy will roar him down,
though he sing a hummingbird to stillness.
No matter how clean, no matter how absent of evil
go his words to their intended hearts
they shall inherit an afterburn all of black
and burnt miming umber umbrage by his stooping use
of those chosen words, and not others, those words
until all that was thought fit for tender human ears
is blasted, blocked, confounded, drowned in deaf tones,
poured void upon the incomprehension of the world,
erased from the tight mating poets crave
of sound and sense. The entire penning tenor
of my trial of life is to the language of its use
blameless stranger in this respect, and pleads in tongues
a real nearness at the docket of the hours every day,
a nice binding of human man and mouth-motion
which no other ordination I know of so obdurately requires.


END

Jul 162020
 
		Experimental adaptation of Euripides' 'Bacchae'
		    to modern-day South-Central L.A.
 
 We're the kids, we're the kids
      and we don't give a
                   shit about tomorrow.
            Anonymous Song.
 
  Rightly to be great
 Is not to stir without great argument
 But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
 When honor's at stake.
   Hamlet.
 
 Words are no satisfaction for words.
   The Code of Honor.
 
 There exists in our country a privileged class, soi disant,
 men of honor, who have established for themselves a higher
        law. They put their foot upon the criminal code and trample it
        in the dust.

        They may and do commit murder with impunity. I have
 no objection to a privileged class built on virtue and
 intelligence. But I protest, and shall to my dying breath
 protest against an aristocracy of crime.
  Reverend Arthur Wigfall, mid 1800s.
 
 There is no one here but carries arms under his clothes.
 At the slightest quarrel, knife or pistol comes to hand.
 These things happen continually; it is a semibarbarous
 state of society.
  Alexis De Tocqueville.
 
 "God damn you," Goode swore, standing over the dead man
 and firing twice more. "Maybe that will satisfy you."
  Fox Butterfield, All God's Children.
 
 These heavy-headed revels make us traduced of other
        nations.
  Hamlet.
 
 
 

SOUTH CENTRAL L.A.

      

No work in the hood,
nothin comin up;
violence is drunk by us,
violence makes us drunk.
Pistol, Whippets, China Doll,
Tammy, Shakedown, Dog, Larry,
Monster, Crip-boy, Terri,
Linda, boyz and girrls all;
As men and women we must fall.
Toke it, smoke it, better not choke it;
hammer comin down all over dis town.
Back on the street, I is Fleet;
killer nigga witha attitude,
killer stare killer cool;
my hatchet will wack it,
PCPs in my blood will hatch it.
Mayhem is my plan,
Chaos is my tool;
rod and rocket,
fuck you we gonna lock it.
Tribalist hate, lying in state,
Crips whip sissies,
sissies gotta take it.
Make it, can't fake it,
my blood is buzzin
cause your death isa comin.
.44s, .32s, sawed-off righteous,
teflon bullets come'n kiss this.
Workin down the alley ccol as a cat,
our feet like moonlight, light like that.
Nevah mutha-
fuka gonna fuck ya;
cap in yo nappy head
lickin asphalt dead,
my rule is crimson
hatred is my brimstone;
walk this world stone alone,
put a cap in my enemy befo I's gone.
Victory, victory,
chaos gettin inta me,
wildnight action,
adidas-fast traction.
One dis and you get this;
muthafuckin nevah gonna miss.
Handy, dandy, my colt .49;
effortless, endless,
these scraggy streets is mine;
highest, wiredest,
my flight's so tragic-magic
I paff out the rest best;
I kite it, I bite it
no matter how windless.

This which is in me
is my only kin, see,
nothin else can win me.
Violence, violence,
put its crooked root in my tooth,
grow outa my shadow
to shatter the vacum.
Outer space gonna waste
when my god give the nod
and unleash what's within me.
Up from the Dime,
down to 299,
all the way I'm gonna riot
ride it, abide it, alla that fly shit;
nothin ain't no sin, Jammers
just so long as you win, Bamm!
John Wayne Gacy, Dick Tracy,
they all say it and lace it
inside like a sidewinder,
just a little reminder;
Like a Medusa, we'll reduce ya
until you crawl in hip-deep;
make your little sister weep.
Yeah, yeah, yo mamma gonna cry
river a tears, bye n bye.
Ain't no offer, I'm gonna off ya;
no amnesty served up with your tea.
Wackin and swackin
and crazy-ass crackin
is all you're gonna get
from the boyz wit the hit.
The God a Din
growing mighty within;
I puff him and huff him,
I'm down with the dragon,
your blood, my religion.
Deflower is power
and I get it by the hour.
Every tear of your fear
I lick until it tickles.
Runnin with a Mustang
chillin with the Gangsta gang
baffin' with the master man.
Yo, color! Yo color!
A militant flip-off
is enough to get ya knocked off.
Adrenelin
rushin in,
flamin it
never taming it,
my juice is a mighty tower,
my snakey spine's a howler.
Whip it, drip it;
cordite smoke, I lip it.
Givin every sign
I'm possessed by the most divine.
Yes, it's spastic
but the girls dig my brass stick;
unwavering they savor it,
gettin humble just to flavor it.

Now this night is diving
like wine from a shiv in
somebody, a stranger,
a kid in a manger;
don't matter, it splatters
its darkness that flatters,
making me restless;
I'm up and I get dressed.
Night combat black
to match the sky's black attack;
Under my old stereo
my hand spans, there it go,
just like in the rodeo;
I pick up my pistol,
neveah gonna let it go.
Oh no, ho no,
out the house, I'm on Patrol.
Who's dat comin
My heart starts thrummin;
whatever's out, I'm in.
Nothin's ever prettier
than me and my boyz sittin sure.
Our waistbands are packin
when we start the dragnet
It's an old old story
rosy, erect-reared phalloi,
testosterone to the bone
bring tha muthafucka rollin home!
Pot smoke, ropes of dope,
crack-smackin, our heads be whackin
with honey-nugget naked dreams, oi!
We smash with the mastering noise of the Boyz!
Our eyes like blazin .38s,
heaven's angels at the gate,
satan's flamethrowers just can't wait
so we shout
while our arms sparr routs
pickin up the little ones
to teach em all the killin fun;
In our enemy's fear
our hearts sail clear;
our dreads sled better
when they're deader and wetter.
Snortin and flarin
wild and darin
like some high-wire act
we dance in the flak
hotter and hotter,
demented as otters!
Mighty in our joy
boyz among boys;
Holy loud-proud
our hand signals make the rounds
til every fucka in the hood
just wishes that he could or would
throw his hand around his heart
and break it flaming like kindling wood!







PREFACE SCENE


[PSYCHO SIXTY holds a gun to the blue-swathed temple
of an enemy Blood, who kneels cuffed before him.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
You rude, intruding Bloods covet too much
what my better glove alone must hold.

[PSYCHO SIXTY shoots the kneeling man dead.
All the other cast members are there, except
BLINDEYE, ROBBER G, and MONSTER. All solemnly 
approve.]









SCENE ONE

 

[In front of ROBBER G's house. His little sister is
leaning at the door.]

BLINDEYE
It's Blindeye knockin-- its time to start rockin.
Let's kick it; we're wicked. I'm sick a just waitin;
tonight there'll be no hesitatin. Yo yo yo
Robber G-- Let's go! We built dis damn town
Now is the hour to tear it damn down.
How else have we got to show our firey crowns aroun?
Li'l Sis, its my wish-- go get yo bro for this.

ROBBER G
Is that you tinkerbellin my door? Yo Blindeye,
here stands your able man in ripped-up Hell.
I'm strapped with my gat; let's kick it.
Let's shotgun our enemies, for violence is sweet!
Rowdy-crowdin these poor-ass steets
we're heroes, we're Neros, one hand smashin
one hand upliftin resistless the gold node of our "set."
Homeboys of the pure noise, we need to bleat.
Duck in your heads, resisters, before you get beat!
On my bike I am strikin.

BLINDEYE
Most merciless.

ROBBER G
With curses I'm rehearsin;
No stick shift help me with my deathwish. 

BLINDEYE
Yeah, deathwish for those suckers.

ROBBER G
I don't care if I die, long as I flyin!

BLINDEYE
I seen death many multiple times.
What his most ferocious incarnation, Robber G?

ROBBER G
We is!

BLINDEYE
Righteous.

ROBBER G
Made like an ace mace in the USA,
I'll split the illin' face of every disgrac-
ful flounder down under our 60th st Parallel,
I'm bulgin and boyish, not old and churlish,
holdin on to all the things I own
as if they'll save me some day. I am
my own creation, built to slay.

BLINDEYE
And that's how we'll stay.
But we still gotta pedal over to Psycho Sixty's
momma's house an get him up together with us.

ROBBER G
All one proud cloud of righteous trouncin!

BLINDEYE
Down in my neves, in my guts, I'm bouncin,
wired to the surprise. Yass, yass.

ROBBER G
This the Tradition. We down with it.
Older'n the hands that slapped down
these mean streets. Our augering god was cuttin
faces from their owners, ruinin unions,
smearing a weirdness over the cold nighttime,
napalm-lobbin our erect status outward
to girls and strangers since before Life,
practically. Damn, can't go gainst that
no way.

BLINDEYE
Who wants ta? I'm a live wire!
I'm burnin to be gettin it on, cuz.

ROBBER G
Let the old beware, and the young take care,
we here to rip their stars from existence.

BLINDEYE
Psycho Sixty! He cool like that.

ROBBER G
Yeah, he wit the hood all the way. 
Do or die, like the goddamn Marine Corps.

[Enter PSYCHO SIXTY.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
Gentle citizens! Has you heard the clap trap
bombasting its wailing rogue spell
into the clits' ears herebouts? Damn,
they sweatin they spandex off for some
new yule log, hotter'n our pistol-whipping
six-inch dicks. Say he like a god over there
and all, got the whole block scooted over
by one bushy nieghborly neighborhood.
Got every black female squattin at his shack.
His residence is "the Presence," what they say.
They shootin and hootin, gettin all kinda
malt liquor drunk over there. I don't know.
Shaneesta never give me no blow but she
down on all four in the bay window for this mo fo.
I thought I was the top cat, blacksters.
Can't no one go howlin at my black moon
lessin' I gives the say-so, you know?
Them girls all pretendin it some tenderness
in they minds that make them wild-ass wild
like that, strayin from they home-made beds.
I put some serious kidnapping on their sleepy asses
this wicked dawn, long befo yo asses was up.
They down in my basement sweatin it.
Rest a them squallers beat it, like a anthill
smashed by a passin holocaust, my death breath,
when I went down their bolted hole,
all ragin and maniac, sportin my mask
time has chiselled to outrageous disaster.
I'll catch 'em out later at leisure
when they come crawlin back to ol' Psvcho, not crowin.
Damn, my own Moms hot-footed it to that party,
she was hollerin and drinkin up with the rest of em;
and she can really do down some brew to, y'all.
Got all this on my iron hands, and what else?
This stranger baps his hip-hoppin ass onto the block,
a juggler, a magician out of Lydia,
head all nappy blond and fire-wild,
ringlets trapsing down his neck sweet-scented,
acne-free and one dear green eye to boot!
Says he got Lady Love on his soul's side;
well damn if he ain't buckin our honies
all day and all night too. Screw, screw, screw.
But I tells y'all-- and watch my scratched eye--
I ain't lying, neither, if'n I catch him,
by his gold-ringletted necklace of honey-locks
I'll shake him so down he can't dance shit,
his left foot be so disconnented it can't find
the right; his partnered hands, which been
snatchin my snatch so near me, they gonna
forget what a clap is, laddies. Yes they is.

BLINDEYE
Damn, man. You gonna bap our happiness away from us,
jest like that? I ain't havin it. You nuts, is what.
Since when you been against a little partyin,
Psycho Sixty?

ROBBER G
Shoot'em up and ride 'em high;
ain't that what you always say?

BLINDEYE
Don't make no sense, gentle citizen.
Gots to respect the wildness that's in us,
give it free let and insane run. Be humble
before the river courses of your adrenelin.
Ain't life just one rollercoaster whore, padre?
You talk like a cat that's swack, but you
ain't makin no kinda solid sense, mistah.
When lovin and hatin come against us, we break.
Our innards scatter outside, and freeze
in whatever shape overwhelming desire or
insurmountable hate has trashed em into.
C'mon, Psycho Sixty, you know. We head up
for that damn party ourselves. Gonna get puss.
Gonna get high. Gonna kill some swell-heads
in the park about damn midnight. What up?
Why not? Our god done grow solid within us.
Rage and chaos dance. Suck my cock
or stuff a sock in it if you ain't down.
What kinda leader is you without your baton?
So this new one on the turf ain't no good?
That ain't what I hear. This Monster, yeah,
that his name; this Monster got a chomp on it,
hold the whole hood in his mouth like it nothin,
he could done damn spit it out again.
He gonna be ridin high Old Gangsta style
quick as a hiss-mist grafitti swish a silver Dutch Boy
hit them splintery city walls. His name
gonna rise and shine; all a all the rest....
They gonna fall. Don't ask me how I know,
I know. You damn know I get them frenzied
sessions when I'm outta breath, trapsin
homeward way after some slash and action.
You know what I see flashin in my head then 
is the God-awfulest truest things there be; 
I get my Blindeyes then, white chocolate and starin'.
Robber G hadda drag my sorry ass off of Florence
that one wilding night, scrapin my heels raw,
I was so blind-righteous with my vision, cuz.
Monster, man. Partyin, yeah. Get your soul,
wrenched from your nervous skin, flyin high
and feelin whole again; ain't that enough?
Ain't that what all the all be all about, Psycho?
Can't feel no wretchedness in us when
you floatin mighty enough to touch dead Heaven,
see everybody there, all my old homies ressurected,
kickin it at a fat-ass barbecue, smilin,
laughing on the butteriest summer afternoon
that ever was. Sincerely, Psycho Sixty, man,
that's what all I seen last time I rolled
into one a Monter's monsta Parties.
And Belinda weren't no shy Aphrodite that night!
Pinned her whimpering body on me like a
shishkabob, bro. My Heaven one wet place,
Lester, I'll tell ya. Your babes, man they
be gettin it on or not once you out that door
just like they please. No monster got
a remote control on all that. They do like natural.
Don't be shootin me those evil looks and all that.
Shaneeta wanna be your li'l princess,
well she'll keep her legs crossed then anywhere;
one party ain't gonna make no horndogette
outa her if she loyal to your poinger.
Shit. You know how it is when you get The Rage,
your eyes roll up red like gumballs,
and your lips bow over theyselves like some
African mask Miss Pederson tripped on the class
last year; sayin about our heritage and all.
Yeah, yeah, that's just a buncha crap. I know.
These streets is my labyrinth, back and forwards.
And Monster, man, he got some kick-ass biceps,
22 inches, and a bazooka forsooth stashed
at his wackin shack over past the rended Hendersons'.
Damn but the mighty eye of him will bend 'em,
even the most honorably ferocious-rough
of 'em, down to a cowardly knot of nerves;
sometimes, anyway, they jes' break and scat.
Seen it happen; they had the guns, and he just
had that moon-blind eye a his, blood solemn.
You think you got the way with all the block
just cause you the Power here? Think again;
something high and wilder goin on when Monster stirs.
Robber G and me, we your loyalest,
shout out Psycho Sixty forever! and blow
more than one rival clean away into yesterday.
You know we done that, how many times together,
clearing midnight with all chambers empty.
How many wakes we drive by laughin our asses off?
Every crib sibling of our troop say first
"Psycho Sixty!" before they pop out "Moms"
or "Daddy," oh yeah. But I tell you, Psycho,
although you the first word round here,
you ain't the last or only. You like being high?
Monster put a zip in it make you think you
pure undiluted sky, commander. You like
to see stitched Xs over your enemies' eyes?
Monster gonna whip those Xs in fast as kisses,
and get you ripped on givin 'em, too.
Whee ooo! Come on down, proud crown!
Step mildly to this new wildness;
won't wear out no welcome at the Monster House,
nobody there see what comin or going.
Their minds is gold-blown, his stash is so noble.

ROBBER G
Blindeye sayin just what he seein, by Jesus.
Priceless advice ain't often gotten so free.
It only a goodwill gesture to take what he givin
at the very lees of the least, my Priest.
I know your holy vesture is crossed with a baretta.
My prayers all open up hot like a hollownose
shot too, Psycho. It ain't about that at all.
If he givin on all whacked and false-like, well,
at least the ecstasy today's gonna be real real.
What more you need to know 'bout that than how you feel?
You don't come down, some a the others may
get smellin that you're weak, put off, shy
of divin inta what's here. Now why would
that be? they might ask. Psycho Sixty,
he the real down with the downest man around.
Maybe he slippin, just a li'l bit. That's it.
Next thing, someones be skating past our wake,
a triple one, gasping laughs into their hands,
and drooling their Coors out they noses, jose.
I don't like it, but there it is.

BLINDEYE
You gonna fade up like a bruise you not careful;
I don't care how black you think you are.

ROBBER G
C'mon, man, Blindeye here right. Real right.

PSYCHO SIXTY
You keep your hands straight off me, now, hear?
I don't want to hear anymore of this Blackenstein shit;
superduper Monsta Trooper. Y'all can just stall all that.
They call you Blindeye... huh... well they gonna
call you Lefty soon, cause all you gonna have left
is your left nut, homie. Don't be pullin no stuntflying
in my zone, Mr Bones. You got it? One more slip,
you won't even know what happenin'.
And that ain't no stale threat, jet. Monster-Man,
I'm a gonna deal with him most harshly.
Yes indeed. Spliff, Fast Matthew, c'mon,
we gonna rouse them lazy asses kickin back round
Yolanda's house. She been diggin his ass
most unrighteously of all. Her and her wondertunnel.
I'll spurn those he's turned away from me first,
that'll burn him most deep and creeply, I know.
Him and his pretty green girl's eye, well hell,
they can just be trippin on seein
all the homies torn away and spurnin him.
You go there-- tell him that. He just
a hissing miss until he take me out;
I'm the wack trap that'll zap him, no pre-lim.
And when time come round to blistex his ass
for the final, humiliating kiss of my colt .45,
let him see the hardy party he been plannin
disintegrate to tears while he wailin.

[Exit PSYCHO SIXTY.]

BLINDEYE
Damn but that one-hundred percent whack!
Monster ain't no threat to his po ass.
Damn! Psycho Sixty is within inches
of being the top dog among top cats, and he
blowin it bigtime. He just gotta go along
a LITTLE with the adrenalin high Monster havocs,
then everything'd be real cool. Ice cubed.
Let's you and me weave over to the Monsta's house
and put a molten spotlight on Psycho Sixty's
good deeds and charming ways. Monster'll see
and make sure Psycho repent his ashen ass
step'n'fetch-it quick. That's sure.
Monster'll play straight, and no mistake.
'Long as Psycho Sixty play along, jes a li'l bit.
Some bowing now will save his sassy ass from howling.
Maybe it'll look like we beggin a little,
but let's throw our whole hearts inta it, cuz.
Everybody get a bit pleady and wrecked when they buzzed.

ROBBER G
That fool talk like a fool.

BLINDEYE
Gospel.




    
Crackin on a six-pack
golden liquor makein eyes slack,
distributing hilariousness
handin over some fleshy miss,
Every kind a lovely sin
Monster pulls pulsin in
with a smoke-wreathed grin.
High times with him be certain.
No troubled hand draws a curtain
on the revelry, the mystery,
the peek at ecstasy.
Don't be bleedin no worry
on the magic carpet he procures.
Harps and snow-flurries
mix it up with the crack now.
Snap it, and trap it, c'mon hands let's clap it,
Monster is a comin in with his wings a flappin.

Thrashin and trashin,
it's anarchy he's hatchin
it's a method of freedom
when your heart is a speared plum
when your eye sockets
feel like a dirty pocket
--seen too many corruptions
to pull together your gumption?
then let thy soul be free!
Take it from me, for yourself take take it,
mindless happiness is in these veins
when you let your blood be insane
and thoughtfully derrange
what happens in the brain; hop that train,
ride the high wire,
club your dick wit desire.
Expand necromancin, with the DJ trancin,
twirl like a girl, no one will be wiser.
Monster, Monster, in us he's exercisin.

Being wise is just for fools;
shake the house of the righteous,
that's the golden rule.
When trouble is floodin
and your thumper be bubblin
a karma-calmness like dew bedights
rage-reared heads day n' night;
forget hurry, forget-worry,
spear freedom's angry page,
take a life but take it sage:
owning every action-- never sorry.
Your eyes smile in the blast,
in the muzzle-flash I'm trashed;
by death's clear light I'm washed.
For every dissin' victim I've executed,
the Monster in me washes pure what conscience polluted.
I'm a bigger bigger bigger
with my finger on the trigger.

Eyes turned inward see your thought;
what's secret becomes what not;
the unconscious, the monstrous,
vomit visible in the roar's hush.
Before you born, who hung your face
before they skulls, cuz? What place
galloped your heart alert
from void and unbeing, the universe's dirt?
Buttermilk skulls harden to a grimace;
death had your face befo you was in it.
Mr. Bones still dance when flesh dismissed;
you be what you be, cuz, not what you wished.
Orgasm's deaf death spasms make eyes inch inwards;
heavy bodies drop lards, skeletons lighten skywards.
When Monsta has gotcha, yo tweet like a bird;
insane only insane for them that ain't heard.



SCENE TWO

     

[Enter SPLIFF and FAST MATTHEW, escorting MONSTER.]

SPLIFF
Man, his ass is silk.

FAST MATTHEW
No spine in his kind. Comes all simpering.
Let us cuff 'im too, wrists out poutin.

SPLIFF
"Truss me, buss me, just don't make no fuss. See?"

FAST MATTHEW
He came sayin at us with his nice green eye n' all.

SPLIFF
Swayin sweet and neat. Got us laughin and
so sorry somehow inside at lockin and knockin him;
Damn, when's the last time I cared I scarred
some stranger's sorry ass too hard? Yet
with him I was all gentleness and niceness.
Something in him. Some potent flow of twining
wine rhyming a wildness under his slick skin,
Psycho Sixty. I swear. Mister Monster,
me n' Spliff didn't take you on our own recognizance.
Psycho here done ordered it all. That his way.
Shoot first.... He crazy for his honor n' all.

SPLIFF
You know all them other folk we got chained
and chillin to the waterheater in your basement?
Well, they angels now, or somefin.

PSYCHO SIXTY
How angels?

SPLIFF
They done flewed the coop.

FAST MATTHEW
Loop de loop, dey flew de coop. 

SPLIFF
Yeah, and wasn't no lock nohow smashed.
Like they had the keys all forged and molded
that escaped 'em, Psycho Sixty.

FAST MATTHEW
Pretty nifty, huh?

PSYCHO SIXTY
You're a magician, ain't you, you Monster? 

MONSTER
What seem like magic sometimes de simplest thing a all.

PSYCHO SIXTY
You think you could undo a lynch in such a cinch?

MONSTER
Got to know what death be to undo a death, I guess.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Where you from? Ain't from no round here.
You infiltratin. What hood's backin you up?

MONSTER
My kind are from all around. No place everywhere;
You see a fire, you see a fight, I'm from there.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Uh huh. Any place more specific?

MONSTER
No. Naw, not really. My folks from out the cuntry.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Why you draggin all your wildass rollin-eye shit
down to my part a town? Don't need no voodoo boo
washing away our homicide outlines and marks a war.

MONSTER
Things I got in me just gotta come out.
Wherever. Whenever. It don't matter much.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah, I can sip that, but I can't swallow
what everyone else gets just jammin away
at your hollerin wild-loud shindigs, stranger.

MONSTER
What they get stay in their eyes, but you can't see it.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Fuck that shit. You just jackin me up
so I'll let you loose just to get off myself.
I ain't buying that. You tell me. Get me off now.

MONSTER
Some things only come out in the doing, not the tellin.
I can't teach you howta fly lessen you jump up
to my piece of sky, Psycho Sixty.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Uh huh. You ain't tellin me shit, genius.

MONSTER
Wise things sound like fool things to a fool.

[PSYCHO SIXTY cracks MOSTER in the head.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
Keep that up you ain't gonna be wearing your tongue
too much longer, Monster. My dog be chewin on it.

MONSTER
Hidden things in you gonna whap your ass backwards,
Psycho Sixty; and it ain't me that'll do it,
it's your own ignorant self. That's a promise.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Damn, that's it! God damn you, you Monster!
Don't nobody step on my respect.

MONSTER
What horrors will you scar me with?
PSYCHO SIXTY
Gonna shave your dread head. That my first cut.

MONSTER
Do that. just know you ain't playing with no Maybe.
These dreads are a river flowing,
and ain't grown out to be chopped. They're sacred.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Girl hair on a man ain't sacred. Now hand me 
your psychoactive stash, massah. Ha ha.
Whatever it is you got a lock on ain't
gonna stay locked away from Psycho Sixty, sister.

MONSTER
I can't give it up. You want to take,
then let it be on you. Your stirring deep shit now.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah yeah; I don't let no bald woman
tell me what I'm doing or not doing.
Now do I fast Matt?

FAST MATTHEW
You the rockin rooster a the roost, Psycho, no doubt.
But still, he ain't done nothing much. And maybe....

PSYCHO SIXTY
Maybe shit. Ain't no maybes in Maybe anymore.
Don't step on my respect.

FAST MATTHEW
No no. Nothing like that Psycho, man.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah. That's fine then. Hog-tie this muthah.
Then drag his scraggy ass back to the basement.
No second escape about to happen on me. And hurry up,
those cocksuckers from over on Hoover lookin for us.
They just be itchin to be triggerin us
to rancid splats on the sidewalk. No more talk.
Lash him, and let's exit this disaster zone.

MONSTER
You bind me now, you be setting somehing loose
even you don't want no peek at Psycho Sixty.

[PSYCHO SIXTY strikes him.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
Trash that backtalk. I'm a martyr your ass.
I'm the master on this plantation. Strafe him.

MONSTER
You don't know spit about what your life really is;
you don't know nuffin at all about who you are.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Chain him to the light fixture with the bike lock
like I showed you. If he moves, he'll be
electrocuted in the darkness. That'll be
his only enlightenment. Fast Matt, Spliff,
move it! I'll grab Betty, Shaneesta and them stupid chicks
back to my dominion lickety-split again.

MONSTER
You sure is crazy Psycho, just like your name say.
What you lockin up wit me can't be kept pent.



Tidal triumph, awash like graves
Come to kill y'all, not to save.
My mind's unbalanced,
Entranced, with wicked motions dance;
But what's more subtle, right, brighter,
Me insane or you in chains?
Psycho's blind to what makes him wind,
He just a kite in this wind;
Now I look myself over, head to toe,
Just what I am, I just don't know.
But not to know is half the score,
Or more, cause Jazz to the soul's a whore.
Rap just happens, spontaneous combustion,
Of will and world it is the junction.
And all my plain "just Ignorance"
Overbrow's that Psycho's show
Of foresightful jurisprudence.

I'm a dunce, I'm a dunce,
I dance like I was drunk;
I drink like a dancer's waver;
Every gold footsole go clunk,
Many a times, not just once,
We live and die forever.
Of this stupid truth I'm treasurer
Cause my mind's expandin ecstaticer,
Ecstaticer until I cannot stir
Without the mutible union come
To do and do til my bones' undone.
Deep in Monster's interlocked skull
Lies a Zoroaster's indomitable skill
Will to swill and will to kill,
Together lie down on the rapist's hill.

But I dance in a trance,
My blood's as bold as an old lance
Dashin fantastic through my happenstance
Like a teflon-infected bullet's truth
That only in death may find a truce.
How we gonna this ecstatic state induce?
It come when it come, and that's the truth.
I won't degrade what's played into spoof,
Or uncoil my moil of heart with ruth,
Things too imposssible
Come and give me thrills
Time and again, as if Time stood still.
Monster and Psycho: are they equals,
Bone's cold truth, and tyrant's hot demand?
Before this play's final line's declaimed,
One'll drink gin grinning from the other's skull.







SCENE THREE


MONSTER
Hey hey, Betty, you gonna get it on with your steady?
Here I am, and I in the clear. Get near.

BETTY
Close as halitosis, Monster. You touch me,
man you put my pants on fire. Say, how you
get outta Psycho's clutches so fast
without so much as a scratch on your wild hide?

MONSTER
Betty, that sold fool Psycho don't know
who he is messin with in the least. Not the least.
I'll cut him up like butter, muthahfucker.

BETTY
But didn't he have you all painfully chained,
or somethin'?

MONSTER
Can't put a lock on lightness, baby.
Can't chain the mainspring, no way, no maybe.
I learned me a few tricks a gettin outta
my Moms' womb. After that trick, every other'n's
simple as snatch, natch.

BETTY
Not always so simple.

MONSTER
Don't even play that with me, Betty.
You was as easy to knock over as a toddler.

BETTY
There's something you're not a-tellin me,
Monster. Those locks didn't just pop off.
Psycho's no fool no matter how many ways you say he is.

MONSTER
Oh no? Catch a ear a this, then.
They had me so locked up, with so many chains
wrapped about my boisterous body, I looked
like a arrested tornado, Betty Boop.
Did that put old Monster down? Did that
crinkle the pure linens of my spirit? Did it?
Ahh, no. You put me lookin like a sunk slave
in your basement rooms and you find out damn fast
that down just ain't where I's stayin.
But, as I was relating, I was so ass-wrapped up
in these chains, that I couldn't hardly move;
so I had my arms out all christ-wise
and Psycho hisself and his helper hadda help
me move to my imprisonment, one broken step
at a time. And they dids. And I had my hands
clapped upon Mister Sixty's exposed neck;
and what was in my mauling hand? Now what
do you suppose was there?

BETTY
Beats me.

MONSTER
I tripped him out with a li'l slipped dose
of something totally morose and potent.
A most engrossing substance; all romance
and moonlight, with no follow-up dawn
to bring his senses back to a sense a belonging
in this ol' world. His nappy head
was in the most far-outest space sayable
inside of thirty seconds of my benediceion.
Soon's as sayin, he was a-wrappin my swayin chains
around the waterheater itself, and handin me
a uzzi from his personal arsenal.

BETTY
No lie?

MONSTER
No lie.
He was fumblin aroun and fiddln with many things
like a blind man with a combination lock.
And I was right there next to him, lookin over him,
him not seeing me at all, or with wasted-out eyss
overviewing my present frame, thinkin me
some out-of-alignment pillar o' the house.

[Offstage.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
He gone! Snap to, units! Get my slack soljers assembled!
Jump to my house, jacks! Monster's gone!

MONSTER
Hah hah hah. Guess we in for a li'l company.
Psycho, Psycho. He a man fightin against flashes.
What is men's meaning in life compared to me?
I'll knock out agony and joy in one wailin heave;
him? He gonna rage all a his days in a blaze,
not seein the true beauty of violence for his fires.
Ass up in the air, wigglin around, sayin
"I'ma shoot mo' fo'. I'm a shoot his eyes out,
gonna cut him up baaad." Hmm hmm. I'm wise
enough to see this ol' world with my own eyes.

[Enter PSYCHO SIXTY.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
My head is swimmin' like to universe's chaotic begining.
I had that Creature Features Monster spangle-bangled
with razor wires in my bloodletting basement,
and now he's out, gone as a hour burned past.
How'd that happen? Betty.... You! Down on your face,
fucker, nobody get me goin and creep outta my house;
nobody douse me with that humiliation.
I'm a drown your stray cat ass immeadimento, Pablo.

MONSTER
Relax. Your incompetence ain't your personal
diaster; everybody round here got a share in it.
You owe it to all to stall out that vengeance shit
until you see for yourself whether I bring some benefit.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Everybody, do a shotgun patrol. Now.
You see one strange head in our hood... Pow-pow-pow.

MONSTER
That ain't the answer, Psycho.

PSYCHO SIXTY
You so wise-ass wise. You got all the answers,
cept when you need to be tellin me true, bruiser.

MONSTER
I'm true when I need the truth. Then I'm truest.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Say your last prayer, pilgrim. This the apocalypse for you.

[PSYCHO SIXTY holds gun to MONSTER's head.
Two guys on bicycles scoot in, squealing to a halt
before the tableaued pair.

PSYCHO SIXTY
WHAT THE FUCK IS IT? I'm ready to waste this shit.

[PSYCHO SIXTY holds a confused hand up to his aching head.]

FAST MATTHEW
Everybody on the block has flocked out of it,
down towards Florence and Normandy, commander.

SPLIFF
It's true truth. And everybody strapped to the max.
They're out wailin and nailin everyone and everything.

FAST MATTHEW
I saw my little bro on his Big Wheel
tricyclin by with a slingshot.

SPLIFF
We arced around in the dark. Slammed
our breaks by a car chillin at the light,
y'know, near Hoover Avenue? Bap-- trashed
that ol' man in it, pulled him out
to old Mrs. Witchett's garage in a red rage,
stuffed his shirt in his mouf, tied him way down.
Left him there wit' some mangy hound lickin round.
Then we took us a fine drive, moving lightning
at our weighted waists and itchin fingertips,
plenty of trouble and noise available to our egos.
Saw Shaneesta, melon-head in a silk dew-rag
walkin sly and stylin outa the 7-'leven.
Damn she a evil beauty in a tropical skirt, Psycho!
So, we trail her, silent as silk out silkworm's ass.
And she stormin down those streets!
Makin time like a rock-climber in zero-G.
Her heels' clickety-click only sound out there
besides the moon's hollow burn-through
where the streetlights was out. Fast Matt
crackin his neck all-ways sideways to see
if any of the Hoover Bloods is in the water
sharkin our exhaust. But everything seemed clean.
Then China Doll meet up with SHANEESTA
after about half a block, not sportin our colors,
but got on instead the purple-blues the Bloods use
twirlin through their fine high hair.
Then Larry and Shakedown show up, movin too
down the same block, same direction,
toward that Normandy whir-pool center of action
and dick and quiff atteniion. The cold moon
smoking over all a us like a spurted gun.

PSYCHO SIXTY
You keep on talkin, Spliff. If
anything he say implicate you, Monster,
your blown-open neck gonna look as sad
as a chil' when his balloon get popped.

SPLIFF
We turn the corner, and whoa Lord! Hordes
a Bloods with zip-shivs, automatics, bats,
are dancin entranced as Manson aborting li'l
Sharon Tate in the white wilderness suburbs;
every fine hand was lifted, every piece cocked,
every hard eye targeted as clockwork
tickin the death-seconds back to the zero-hole
that eats the victim's life away. And victims'
startin to fall too, all over, like a dance
collapsed-- r'member that time we all played
musical chairs at your Moms' house, Psycho?
Like that. But the music stop and nobody here
have a chair, they all fall all every which ways.
Matted blood dull in the moonlight. Street-
lights shot out in favor of nature's dark
long time gone, maybe, as if the dark was forver.
Then me an' Fast Matt gets this queer idea.
Y'know how your Moms was out there an' all,
well, we thought we should go chase her ol' ass
and drag her back to the habitat, so she
here once an for all, whatever else is a comin,
and that's that; Fast Matt give it the nod
and off we shoot, moving through the cruel ballet
and sloppy bodies' hectic sprawl. Damn if'n I
didn't slip more'n once times in black blood,
my heels still bapped with that baptism.
Now we had just passed a smashed-in Sam's
Wont-Mart, not gone too far beyond that at all
when into my flyin ears came a stingin' singin',
can't describe it no other way, high keenin,
stripped of velvet humanhood, a raw caw
but beautiful too, as if every extragance of voice
had been torn muscle by muscle off, and only
this solo bone of hollow knowing, this hurt chruch
of moon-induced croonin was lef'. Shift
every flap of my heart backwards, it did.
And who we see at the quackin head a this choir?
Whose angel-face, intense as a punch,
and masked all from brow to drippin chin
in another's blood, the mask makin' her look
all holy and insane or somethin', but your MOMS
Psycho? No one but her unleashin that wire
of diamond sound down the corntracted alley.
And she flayin' some space cadet like a filet mignon,
right there in de crags a the trash,
makin this wail and tearin a man to pieces---
with her nails! Damn but that sight went mighty
right through me; I quailed; troubled somethings
almost undid my guts like I had the shits.
Moms bringin the life inta this world
and axing it out as weil-- that ain't damn right;
that for soljers and others to muscle through,
not moms whose titties is all molten over
with milks when you puts up o 'em. Not right.
Damn not right. So me an Fast Matt move to her
gonna just grab her ass or knock her outs,
if we have to, no disrespect, Psycho,
when she raise up that strange mask-face,
all Afrikaans or some shit, right from the heart
a the man she disastered, looks straight
through me, through my whole soul in one look,
with dismissive eyes, and then turns her howl-hedd
to the right and bites the night air
with these words-- oh Lordy I won't forget 'em soon!--
"They, untouched by the monster's grace
seek to touch to undoing our violent chase,
as if the mens owned every insanity!
AAhiiiii! Speed with me deathly! Deathly and free!"
Then she and twenty others batted at us,
flapped dark in the darkness, all speed, like she say.
We barely 'scaped. Scraped knees an hands,
pulled the '78 camaro through twenty backyards,
a rile and a ruckus all fucked up,
tearing the air with angry sounds, rippin stars,
alarmin' all who saw us we had such scared looks,
fear sucked up from the bases of our beings
til all I am emerged in my high screams.
No way I'd be goin in there now again.
Shoot me here, Psycho, but I ain't to budge.
But that Monster she talk about, if that
anything to do with this man here, well then,
I'd be piecing him into my future plans
and not tearin' him out at all. No sir.
No disrespect to you Mistah Monstur. No sir.

PSYCHO SIXTY
You talk like that to me again, Spliff,
I'll have no care that you my li'l bro,
none at all. I'll put a cap in you
and not wait to hear the whap your ass makes
hittin' and disintegratin' against the pavement.

SPLIFF
Don't be makin me go back in there.

PSYCHO SIXTY
You ain't worth takin.

MONSTER
I can give you entrance into their madness.
Would you like to see such ecstatic faces up close?

PSYCHO SIXTY
I did NOT tell you to talk. Keep shut, fucker.
Spliff, go get every last asshole you know;
I want all the troops scooted to my front yard;
any riot within my range goin to be by my hand.

[Exit SPLIFF and FAST MATTHEW.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
Now. What the fuck were you insinuating?
What off-the-wall plan you think you capable of
that can't do myself for myself twice as well?

MONSTER
Nuthin'. Ain't my way to be tellin you
how to do and how to be-- that's best
left up to you, Psycho. I don't know no-how nuthin.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah. Your ignorance clear clear enough to me.
But I can see my way clear far enough
to listen to your stupidity in clarity.
Don't let nobody say just my hands and not my ears
has brash audacity. I'll listen. You speak up.

MONSTER
It's not me the women praise and kill for;
it's what I stand for; to unify the tribe of man.
The wicked things and endocrine surges deep in us
that make Crip and Blood divisions a mere whimsey,
and false dividing of one big WHAT IS
into two lesser what's nots. I'm the frenzy
and the rage; I'm the gorilla in the cage,
his wild black heart, his jonesin for the jungle,
brother, nothin else. No more than a killer's 
operatic score. I'm the leopard makes the zebra fall.
I am the tooth. I am the claw. To that feelin'
there's no known way of rightfully denyin.
For that, they'll slice up their sons,
coin treason in their loins, eat sperm
and make strangers' blood fountain for their cause
instead of your petty internicine rivalries.
Crip 'gainst Crip is cursed. Even Bloods
can be unified in the chaotic tide whereon I toss.
Got to give this idea its fealty, Psycho,
or for the rest of your 'hood its no go.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Make chaos my cause! Aii and to it quick!
I'll toss heroes and enemies' heads upon my prick!

MONSTER
You goin' lose big time, that way.
Your bike wheels be spinnin' skywise at the night.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Everything I say, you say is wrong.
I must always cease in silence, while your talk
plunges on strong, strong, strong.

MONSTER
You command these kids. Its all
still up to you to give in and win, or gall.

PSYCHO SIXTY
I just have to give in to their wicked kicks
and kick it, is that it? Hmm, shit-for-brains?

MONSTER
Naw, not at all! I'll git the wommin' an'
others back here without a nick and explain plain.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yes. First I let you go. Then you come back attacking.
Can't play that trick on me, I'm too much a prick.

MONSTER
You want th' right to kick all and be all
but don't offer nuthin' more'n a fist to worship,
and that high fist must be your own. Ain't enough.
I'm tryin' to help out, and you pull your attitude.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Get the flare gun, Spliff. Whiff this!
I'll light up your heart in argent mists!

MONSTER
So you want to see the revelry there on Noir-Mandy?

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah. Crazy broads squallin n' all. Suits me.

MONSTER
And why is your heart suddenly alight for the sight?

PSYCHO SIXTY
Naw; it'd hurt me had to see Shaneesta and MOMS
workin' hard for the Bloods' cause in the splutter-light.

MONSTER
But you'd get a quick-dick in that ripping sight?

PSYCHO SIXTY
I guess. If I could stay away in the shadows,
deep in the dark recesses, myself a doe.

MONSTER
They'll sight you, however ecstatic-blighted;
they're supernatural in this state of excitation. Quite.

PSYCHO SIXTY
I'll go with my boom-box under spotlights, by God!
You're right, where I walk a God must trod.

MONSTER
I know what they all jazzed about; should I help?

PSYCHO SIXTY
Take my arm; I don't wanna stumble, whipped and whelped.

MONSTER
Take off your Crip's crippled reds. Instead
wear the blowsey blues of the Bloods, arm and head.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Snare myself in my enemy's cold colors,
drop my hot reds for the low blues of the others?

MONSTER
Unless you can take a teflon-coated in the cortex,
consider what I say to be your holy text.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah, my ass is grass. I'll do what you say, an' pass.

MONSTER
Wise.

PSYCHO SIXTY
There's a bag a rags in the kitchen, some blues
just my size.

[Exit PSYCHO SIXTY.]

MONSTER
Everything's straight and steady. At the ready.





The hounds mad, chewing their chains,
whines gone up from their darkness,
compact bodies aft of Pentheus,
Pentheus aware now of the wine-smell,
delicate waft of the wine amid mountains
and the howls at first indistinguishable,
grey in the viney greyness, no more,
now unsure wind-whine, now stiletto voices.

Murder's moment is so nearly come. Attend.

Voices arriving out of midair
Pentheus showing his face over his shoulder,
the beard worried, glint in the eye-spots,
this out of darkness, not else, a breath
abstinent, unclouded mind of wonderment,
and hounds sounding like arrows thru the foliage;
thru the foliage, racing, racing,
and Pentheus half-turned to hear them.

Murder's moment is so nearly come. Attend

Musty singing through the still cypress
"Evocci! Evocci! Io Zagreus! Io!"
Slurry chants and maidens singing,
torchlight, shadows crawling upwards,
yellow shapes on the naked maidens
cuneiform bodies in constant motion
by the deep pool throwing the sounds,
strange stabs of light sheeting blackness

Murder's moment is so nearly come. Attend.




SCENE FOUR


MOMS
Get this to the Bloods: all Crips
is either to our side or quits.
Their troops move to disunity,
but not to the chaos that makes us free.
My son's one. Psycho Sixty, they leader.

CHINA DOLL
Electrify his entrails.

SHANEESTA
Strike out his cancelled eyes.

MOMS
Leave him to me. I got him on his Pops,
I'll lop him out. Sisters, keep company,
these displeasures I'll visit on him
are fit remembrances we shall later sing.

[LESLIE and EXACTA enter.]

MOMS
Now where's our Monster got to, you two?

EXACTA
Psycho Sixty, who had him locked in a box
is sneakin into this wild conjuction,
Normandy and Florence, just this minute.
But he actin' all weird n' all. He doth
bend his eye on vacancy and converse wit' the empty air,
Mrs. Sixty. Nobody wants to get in his way
he seem so crazy, talkin' to the air that way.
But I don't see no Monster with him.

MOMS
Fetch out my straying seed from the wilding field,
cross concrete, leap ditches, fathom fires,
smell him out like a martyred fart, anything,
then joyride him back here like the whore he be.

[Exit LESLIE and EXACTA.]

MOMS
Justice comes in chains with pain;
each hurtin put a truth to triumphant test
til all that was silent caterwauls
and the forbidden or hidden leaps clear inta words.
Victor and victim move in unison,
one thin ribbon of blood pulled out by a gun.
Psycho, that boy done earned my curses,
thinkin he could put such a power of violence
into his striking arm, and not have it strike
beyond him. Once a hit has started it,
all the world must bruise and come to our blood blues.

[Enter PSYCHO SIXTY, held at gunpoint.]

MOMS
Who that? That the traitor a my poignant loins?

SHANEESTA
Nearsighted tyrant, it's him.

MOMS
Hog-tie his raggedy ass.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Moms, what you meanin at here? Sweet momma, think
this my 'hood you doin me in in. Hold off,
and love me a li'l.

MOMS
Use the wire there. Now, I says.

[PSYCHO SIXTY is tied down.]

SHANEESTA
Tight, like he say he like it at night.
Tight, tight.
CHINA DOLL
He a traitor staight.

PSYCHO SIXTY
Ain't no traitor trait in me, I'm clean,
merciless ladies.

MOMS
Snap him to the hood. My bastard,
you gonna find out----

[SHANEESTA punches PSYCHO SIXTY in the balls.]

PSYCHO SIXTY
By every kiss we twisted, it ain't fair,
you hittin me down there, Shaneesta.

SHANEESTA
Such sweet wishes risin from a shitpile?

PSYCHO SIXTY
You a bad woman, Shaneesta, givin me lip.
My balls'll stalk your nightmares and accuse ya.
I'm the one that done says what's what in this hood.
Your creamy hands gots better things to do
than strip me of my dignity. What else you to do?

MOMS
Truth time. What right you got hoppin
on our Monster like you done?

SHANEESTA
Tell it straight, cause we know it all.

MOMS
Why you keep him from his connection, son,
makin an enemy outa the vileness you prize?

SHANEESTA
You an' he the same, but you buck his blood.
How come?

PSYCHO SIXTY
A stranger came to me strangely. Scented,
and with a swagger in his swayin'. How I
s'posed to know he was the Incartion? I ain't Karnac.
Somethin' strange about him. I saw that,
him talkin tall and walkin the walk. I stopped him
knocked my questions against him, and that
the finish of it, sisters.
MOMS
Smart.

SHANEESTA
Lies.

MOMS
Where you gots Monster now?

PSYCHO SIXTY
Wherever he got hisself to, I swear.

SHANEESTA
Answer straight. Where wherever? Ain't you locked him---

MOMS
Yeah, where's wherever? Let him speak to that.

PSYCHO SIXTY
I'm blooded, and don't see nothin but wicked fins 
in the troubled waters that surround me.

SHANEESTA
Where's wherever?

PSYCHO SIXTY
I can't gatekeep his blackness, its fathomless.
He tripped from my chains a dozen times;
he turn me to a fool under my own rule.
Gots my own Moms hottin' after his ass;
how he do all that? You treason your sense.

MOMS
Enough. 

PSYCHO SIXTY
Yeah, enough. I'm tired a play-actin' for your pity.
Kill me if you wants, you witches and snatches.
I killed him already, ladies; he dead as ashes.
Glad I done it too. He beggin' and sweatin,
an' running his hands all down the sides a his bald head
I had shaved naked not a hour before,
just before I came out here to get y'all home.
My boys are soarin in even now. We got you.

MOMS
Ain't no seein in your crystal ball.
China Doll, Shaneesta, hurl him hard
to the ground --now hold, hold, while I put
my fingers in his seers, and pull, pull.   
  
PSYCHO SIXTY
Cruel goddess-- you blight what you brought to light, 
throw your own kitten to an ocean night.

SHANEESTA
His balls will make his eyes look awry,
we should shorn them also.

MOMS
No seein' and no breedin' for thee.

SPLIFF
Stop it now. Oh God. I never saw what cruel was
til I did this injustice now allow.
Shaneesta, Mrs Sixty, wait a minute
this angry mist in your eyes will pass by
and you'll see your son in the clear again.

SHANEESTA
What's that, Spliff?

SPLIFF
If I was strapped, I'd snap you out cold,
Shaneesta. It's Psycho there, not some anonimity.

MOMS
Coward boy!

[MOMS strides over and chokes SPLIFF.]

SPLIFF
Look to kill'em all while you can look,
Psycho. Now I'm gone.

SHANEESTA
Dumb scum.

MOMS
Let night be your nightlight, my son.

[MOMS plucks out PSYCHO SIXTY's other eye.]

SHANEESTA
I'll pluck his other nut.

PSYCHO SIXTY
All lost and heartless. Where my posse?
Soljers, jerk awake and let all L.A. burn
til night shames the day with its brightness
and every mansion stares with the hovels
in the emancipated rubble.

SHANEESTA
Die, rebel-lover. Your troops looted
your house first on this night that takes
all down. This town a sensesurround earthquake,
darlin'.

PSYCHO SIXTY
How little harm was in my harming, then.

MOMS
Let him lick his blisters in the streets.
If we hazard into him again, I'll lift
his head spiked upon my fist.

SHANEESTA
Kick him in the balls whiles he pukes
against the ravaged wall, scribbled red with Crip script.

[PSYCHO SIXTY crawls away. FAST MATTHEW follows.]

MOMS
Teach him to walk. I regret that I ever did.

[SHANEESTA toys with ball and eye as earrings.]








SCENE FIVE


[Enter BLIDEYE and ROBBER G holding PSYCHO SIXTY's
headless corpse between them on their bicycles. TVs
and other loot are balanced on their shoulders.]

BLINDEYE
Sad this fate, and slow lows the mourning horn
for Psycho Sixty, for he is dead.
The clear hood which was his home and rapist's habitat
clouds now to the divinity of violence unleashed;
Psycho first yelled the killing note,
robbed and shot to build on human souls
his bone throne. His terror ruled the roost.
But the human heart can't be caught in the cage a fear;
when your bullet-bought superiority
most nearly really real that when it spill and fail.
Every clubbing gun can kill its winsome owner,
no rage obeys even a maniac's harsh rule.
They more in us than our reason can fool.

ROBBER G
O let us cry at th' tongue, and make tears
ruin our hot faces. Let us mourn and torture
those who from Psycho's Sixty's terrored grip did slip.
Let no spoke pop from his deadened hub;
Let all Crips circle him in his absence still.

BLINDEYE
You know that not to be, Robber G.
Can't ration our future days on the past, no way.

ROBBER G
You right, Blindeye. That, I see.
But why Psycho got to go from us the way he did?

BLINDEYE
Psycho out way beyond our rumor and obeyance
both now. This you know. Love done gone hollow
long before this night catched fire.
Extinguish the pity that pisses tears down your face.
Close up your vents of sorrow and see what real.

ROBBER G
And what that? What reality is here?

BLINDEYE
No longer the calculation of skins and winces,
the Crip grip hard-line that Psycho held.
Monster's monster parties are what fallen to us
to behold and motion our current hearts to.
The ashes this city is this dawn fit into his hand
like cig'rette ashes in a ashtray. No maybe.
Why this new sway and danger? I don't now.
Its zappin chaos seems to be what was at center
of all the robbin and high times we had before tho',
that existential clash of wish and disaster.

ROBBER G
Here come a emblem of all hates unhinged;
his Moms has climbed to violence's apogee.

[Enter MOMS and SHANEESTA. MOMS has PSYCHO SIXTY's
head spiked upon her fist and raised high.]

MOMS
Eternal church of the worst of the worst!
My dark griefs I bury with the stone cold hopes
my son's blind fly-ridden eyes symbolically embody.
My joys, like vampires of the night, burst to unhearse
and frighten the skyline with their terror.
Pride riseth not from its golden home, my soul,
to course the darkness with personality.
Neither beauty, as its commonly understood,
nor the apocalyptic treacheries of sincerity
are given root in my dark places, my swaled basements.
Out of my hollows come swelling songs of lust,
trim triumphs, rashnesses; my arias are mighty
and stones leap up from where I spit.
The streets are torn where my vengeance drags
and death adds his weeping to my keen sighs. 
Chipped eyes insinuate the night, daily.
For I have come to the hole of tornadoes in myself;
my voice is no voice, I am witness and doer,
my veins ascend like flowering founts into blood-bloom,
my dooms are meted out to the righteous and iniquitous
with equal vigor and violence. I am no-face,
and voids hallow my passing, a black star eating light.
God's remorseless course is racing through us;
Mother night reclaims what daylight lent us.




No work in the hood,
nothin comin up;
violence is drunk by us,
violence makes us drunk.
Pistol, Whippets, China Doll,
Tammy, Shakedown, Dog, Larry,
Monster, Crip-boy, Terri,
Linda, boyz and girrls all;
As men and women we must fall.
Toke it, smoke it, better not choke it;
hammer comin down all over dis town.
Back on the street, I is Fleet;
killer nigga witha attitude,
killer stare killer cool;
my hatchet will wack it,
PCPs in my blood will hatch it.
Mayhem is my plan,
Chaos is my tool;
rod and rocket,
fuck you we gonna lock it.
Tribalist hate, lying in state,
Crips whip sissies,
sissies gotta take it.
Make it, can't fake it,
my blood is buzzin
cause your death isa comin.
.44s, .32s, sawed-off righteous,
teflon bullets come'n kiss this.
Workin down the alley cool as a cat,
our feet like moonlight, light like that.
Nevah mutha-
fuka gonna fuck ya;
cap in yo nappy head
lickin asphalt dead,
my rule is crimson
hatred is my brimstone;
walk this world stone alone,
put a cap in my enemy befo I's gone.
Victory, victory,
chaos gettin inta me,
wildnight action,
adidas-fast traction.
One dis and you get this;
muthafuckin nevah gonna miss.
Handy, dandy, my colt .49;
effortless, endless,
these scraggy streets is mine;
highest, wiredest,
my flight's so tragic-magic
I paff out the rest best;
I kite it, I bite it
no matter how windless.

This which is in me
is my only kin, see,
nothin else can win me.
Violence, violence,
put its crooked root in my tooth,
grow outa my shadow
to shatter the vacum.
Outer space gonna waste
when my god give the nod
and unleash what's within me.
Up from the Dime,
down to 299,
all the way I'm gonna riot
ride it, abide it, alla that fly shit;
nothin ain't no sin, Jammers
just so long as you win, Bamm!
John Wayne Gacy, Dick Tracy,
they all say it and lace it
inside like a sidewinder,
just a little reminder;
Like a Medusa, we'll reduce ya
until you crawl in hip-deep;
make your little sister weep.
Yeah, yeah, yo mamma gonna cry
river a tears, bye n bye.
Ain't no offer, I'm gonna off ya;
no amnesty served up with your tea.
Wackin and swackin
and crazy-ass crackin
is all you're gonna get
from the boyz wit the hit.
The God a Din
growing mighty within;
I puff him and huff him,
I'm down with the dragon,
your blood, my religion.
Deflower is power
and I get it by the hour.
Every tear of your fear
I lick until it tickles.
Runnin with a Mustang
chillin with the Gangsta gang
baffin' with the master man.
Yo, color! Yo color!
A militant flip-off
is enough to get ya knocked off.
Adrenelin
rushin in,
flamin it
never taming it,
my juice is a mighty tower,
my snakey spine's a howler.
Whip it, drip it;
cordite smoke, I lip it.
Givin every sign
I'm possessed by the most divine.
Yes, it's spastic
but the girls dig my brass stick;
unwavering they savor it,
gettin humble just to flavor it.

Now this night is diving
like wine from a shiv in
somebody, a stranger,
a kid in a manger;
don't matter, it splatters
its darkness that flatters,
making me restless;
I'm up and I get dressed.
Night combat black
to match the sky's black attack;
Under my old stereo
my hand spans, there it go,
just like in the rodeo;
I pick up my pistol,
neveah gonna let it go.
Oh no, ho no,
out the house, I'm on Patrol.
Who's dat comin
My heart starts thrummin;
whatever's out, I'm in.
Nothin's ever prettier
than me and my boyz sittin sure.
Our waistbands are packin
when we start the dragnet
It's an old old story
rosy, erect-reared phalloi,
testosterone to the bone
bring tha muthafucka rollin home!
Pot smoke, ropes of dope,
crack-smackin, our heads be whackin
with honey-nugget naked dreams, oi!
We smash with the mastering noise of the Boyz!
Our eyes like blazin .38s,
heaven's angels at the gate,
satan's flamethrowers just can't wait
so we shout
while our arms sparr routs
pickin up the little ones
to teach em all the killin fun;
In our enemy's fear
our hearts sail clear;
our dreads sled better
when they're deader and wetter.
Snortin and flarin
wild and darin
like some high-wire act
we dance in the flak
hotter and hotter,
demented as otters!
Mighty in our joy
boyz among boys;
Holy loud-proud
our hand signals make the rounds
til every fucka in the hood
just wishes that he could or would
throw his hand around his heart
and break it flaming like kindling wood!
Jul 162020
 
A rhyming adaptation of Sophocles' 'Antigone'

Antigone stood up like a periscope,
discerning truth, descrying hope;
She was battered, borne along
by Time's monumental stream of wrong
until into truth's white crucible
she sullenly withdrew.


their minds on matters of philosophy.
Yet, for all this, Elric's thoughts were forever
turning to Zarozina and the fear
of what might have befallen her.
The very innocence of this girl,
her vulnerability and her youth had been,
to some degree at least, his salvation.
His protective love for her had helped to keep
him from brooding too deeply
on his own doom-filled life, and her company
had eased his melancholy.

---- Michael Moorcock, Stormbringer

SCENE ONE

[ANTIGONE and ISMENE are sewing shrouds.]

ANTIGONE. 
Whose is better, darker, Ismene,
of these silk parachutists' shrouds we weave
to float our brothers Hellward while we grieve?

ISMENE. 
 By our industry and fair eyes
they shall be made to rhapsodise;
Your shroud itself's a masterwork
of timely love and deep-felt hurt;
in its lacy and lovely weave
you help your glimmering eye to grieve.
And its perfect, or nearly, dear,
with but one lose thread... there.

ANTIGONE. 
Oh, yes. You're right. I'll need
to even up the stitches with the needle.

ISMENE. 
 Let justice weight up her scolding scales
with equal wonder where two lives have failed;
with equal equanimity just this once in death,
let our doughty fighting brothers' breaths
the golden grace of their spent days exhaust
as before in the lives which they have lost,
misplaced, they strode in double, loving arms, they two,
alike extraordinary above the common view.

ANTIGONE. 
Are you done with that little needle yet?

ISMENE. 
 Almost done, Antigone, yet
Eteocles' E still needs a flirting filigree,
a flourish to please Charon's craggy eye.

ANTIGONE. 
My shroud for downcast Polynices must
be nice enough for him to win love from dust
and steal Persephone from Hades' heated side;
less success than that in the afterworld he won't abide
who for his own hard-garnered self-regard has died.
Upon the crooked little field of death he stood
with brazen eyes defying, how proud,
the tatter-rattle killing tricks
of his enemies' glittering sticks;
In Hell he should have the bride of Spring
as the smallest help for his pride's comforting.

ISMENE. 
 Eteocles too stood like a god,
as though he were made to live forever, trod
the mangling hazards of our civil war to stuff
and never shiver with the common guff.
Two brothers, both alike in greatness,
now a double duty for two sisters' neatness,
sewing tidy shrouds to twine their griefs
worn by weeping to terminal unbelief.
Here's the thread. Now, watch the needle!
You'll spike yourself if you're unheedful.

ANTIGONE. 
If this needle, potential sore,
yet light enough for maids' endeavors,
could be forged a sword by hate and sorrow
strong enough to decapitate tomorrow
or spark some mercy by a trick of light
from my war-hollow heart poured stiff concrete
I'd lay it in my side though God himself forbade;
I'd consecrate it's bald bold blade
with my every drop of virgin blood
and never sew another shroud.

ISMENE. 
 Don't talk like that! Your heart must yield.
....We're almost at the battlefield.
Here ghosts that died so full of vengeful victory
in the height of useless hubris yesterday
will hear your vow and be offended
that a woman's words so warlike sounded.

ANTIGONE. 
Two brothers, our brothers, who were to rule together
but couldn't manage it, mangled now in heather.
They have died, but the State survives the scrum
and decrees one a hero, the other a hoodlum.
What are we to do with that? What's next?
Calamity,  calamity unending is the great text
our sisterly sorrow-sighs must punctuate.
Sisters in misery, we fare not well
under this hard hail from Hell....
Who's got a better right to cry for vengeance?
The dead have lost their old intemperance
and lay in rotten equanimity all day---
it's us, we need someplace to throw our hearts away,
some bloody spot of ground to shout alone.
Soldiers and women both inter the bones;
but only women have no place to vent
the things with which their hearts are bent.
Our heads are rife with greifs we can't delouse,
while men make all the world a charnalhouse
and for their killing get crowned as Kings,
with ruby wands decreeing royal things.
We women in our low office may only weep;
unceasing calamity, dear sister, is ours to keep.
Oh, that of the royal house of Oedipus
I knew nothing, and cared less!
Topping it off, a rape has rasped my ears today,
sharp soot from the dragon's-mouth polluting lucidity,
dark words evilly twisting the clarity of air,
the few clear things we've scraped together
from the stark wreckage of our hates and hurts.

ISMENE. 
 What words, Antigone, can nail me worse
than those our father Oedipus' horrors
hammer in my nightly terrors,
repeat and echo in my heart's herse?
Keep your words and roarings terse.
Coursing, ribald, disrespecting war
has rivered me from myself so far,
it is the only blood moves in me now;
unceasing seas of inclement reds allow
our brothers' bare bodies on the killing field
no time to mend, or my heart to yeild.

ANTIGONE. 
You have not heard, then,
of Colonel Kreon's creeping dictum?

ISMENE. 
 The battlefield's lousy with lost bones,
kinsmen skinned and left ungroaned;
here sightless eyes may scratch
all night at the stars' hard latch
seeking entrance to a dignified heaven
their unburied state keeps them exiled from.
This I know. This I have seen:
rummagers and mummified mourners
lost among the belladonna
step toe-careful through the loot
and lornly bawl, and to no boot.
This I know. This I have seen:
lovely Polynices
embracing a bruised Etocles
in limitless suffering of the dead
come at last to their simple end.

ANTIGONE. 
Here's ETOCLES. How grave
and graceful are the things death saves.
This solid ground has held long enough
the weight of which I long to feel the crush;
Soon enough the earth in her ruin will get
eternal possession of all I loved, and love yet.
Come, Ismene, help me lift him that I may serve
the office of the earth in brief embrace. Observe,
I hold the brave beauty of his body
that proved too frail a home for his immortality.

ISMENE. 
 Brother, ...

ANTIGONE. 
The soldiers too will shout like lovers,
beat their bronzen breasts, pull out their hair,
toil in tongue-tied oratory toward God's lair
to gasp their grief, and blare upon the air
with trumpets in their lumped throats. They'll tear
and cry for what all their pride did first inter
beneath the dirt with Etocles together.

ISMENE. 
 It's right they should. Oh, brother
let such honors as our customs connive
hold you above the loam awhile, alive
in cheating eyes still blurred by death.

ANTIGONE. 
And Polynices, out of breath,
whose lagging sails and body's ship
the punishing waves have stripped
breasted the selfsame oceans of this war
that Etocles and ourselves abhorred
and from his topmast is drowned as deep
as ever our own Etocles did sleep.

ISMENE. 
 Yes, Polynices, you too shall we wrap,
with balm and comely unguents trap,
until our love-touches may render
your wounds shut up with heavy lavender
that opened such holes in us. But wait,
dear Polynices, just a bit,
while we bind and bandage Etocles,
whose priority in these housekeeping deeds
lies only in that he lay over you.
Thus our one atom of love's made two.
Although in life and war you two stood
on the bitter spectrum of faction opposed
and picked out, like boxers, opposite colors,
yet in death shall you rank together.

ANTIGONE. 
They say that... God curse these crows!
Dread harbingers! That Kreon... No, no!
You'll bear no bit of human meat
obscenely heavenward in your black beaks.

[A trumpet is heard offstage.]

ISMENE. 
 Kreon...? Here comes his motorcade
with flag and bright insignia displayed,
an annoucer reared on the back seat
bearing a scroll that must yet
announce some new decree of law,
applying peace to these new-finished wars.

ANTIGONE. 
Let us attend.

ANNOUNCER. 
Let Etocles be buried with the great,
for Etocles has served the state.
Polynices must rot, for he did not.
Military medals will drip from Etocles' chest
since for the State alone he did his best.
Polynices did not, and therefore must rot.
Tuesday's parade, led by this motorcade,
in triumphal, sumptuous march down ol' Main Street
will shill the war-orphans a special treat.
Polynices, however, our bitter enemy,
stays where he lays for all to see.
Let no hand touch the such-and-such
whose dark swat at our metropolis was too much.
Let no hand in his burial play a caring part,
the State decrees itself quite pleased
that dogs should eat out his heart.
On pain of Death, it is decreed in Thebes!
The hollow longing of his staring skull
will serve as warning for one and all.

ANTIGONE. 
Ismene, here's suds, in this sweet water jug
to lave and love Polynices when we've dug
his gravesite in this battled clay
and put him to rest for the rest of the day
and maybe wrote a poem to help arrow his bones
past the pearly death-gates where he'll roam
half mindless in his fulltime Hell.

ISMENE. 
 Antigone! Perhaps you don't hear so well.

ANTIGONE. 
Public announcements are for public
consumption. I am a person, and shall always click
my consciousness to seperate, private stations.

ISMENE. 
 But that decree means our cremations!

ANTIGONE. 
Ismene, listen. We are just dust.
Cremation's only one more formality
confirming our transient humanity.
Its your own mind you must listen to and hear.
Help me or don't help me. Whichever, dear.
But there is no middle way.
Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not today.
I know this world is muddy, obscure with fear.
But some things that were clear stay clear.

ISMENE. 
 Help? What...? I don't get it. Nothing's clear.

ANTIGONE. 
Help me bury Polynices, of course.

ISMENE. 
 Bury... but... Kreon... the decree....death, and worse!

ANTIGONE. 
A person has to bury their brother,
I know that deep as I know nothing other.
Although no dictator's pen has written it,
yet no monarch's censoring eraser can efface it.

ISMENE. 
 But the risks are hideous! We'll die
and rot out here with Polynices, catching flies.

ANTIGONE. 
Are you coming with me to the farther wall?

ISMENE. 
 But KREON. 
He's so harsh and all.

ANTIGONE. 
What tank could ever outflank a daisy?
The State gears forward, making lazy
figure eights on its rotored treads
searching for enemies and loaded with lead.
All his messerschmitts and schnausers
haven't the justice of a single flower
willing to die to bring to new seed
the blossom of truth its sap decrees.
Political ideas have gone to their heads!
My future estate lies with the dead.

ISMENE. 
 Sister! Our troubles are already triple.
Oedipus in love with his infernal riddles,
ripping his eyes out to see terror better
in the acknowledged dark where life is bitter.
Life's a mess on the family plan,
Jocasta axing herself out of our clan
as soon as she knew just what she had done,
giving incestuous birth, fucked by her son!
Snatching a curtain cord, screeching "umbilical!"
she twisted her life out by the empty sill
full of sunset's exploded glory.
And even that's not the end of the story.
As she lay there, remotely moored
by Fate's crossed strings to the livingroom floor
there came the muffled scuffing of a hundred drums
announcing the pronouncement that our end had come.
War rolled in like an incinerator, wild
to burn up the last dry leaves of our lives.
And when Kreon marched smartly from the officers' barracks,
you laughed impolitely and said he was garish.
But Kreon's was the only steady hand
careful and regular under Etocles' command;
and summer had flashed all our land to one whiteness.
And then Etocles and Polynices
still handsome and young, fell spitted like pigs
playing their opposite numbers, sweet brothers, sweet figs,
tossed on the glory of each other's swords.
It's been enough for me to foreswear the Lord.
You see my point, sister? Our life's a bust.
And now who's left of our whole clan? Just us.
Want us to go down the same way, with a flare and a fizz,
unsure of everything but our own righteousness?
A pair of girls! We aren't part of the army,
we left that to the men; it's far too alarming
to think of fighting them now, all alone,
---not all the men, all the army. Antigone!
The law's a strong word whose only
counterpoint's a punctual "I obey."

ANTIGONE. 
If that's your opinion,
then I don't want you. Shuffle on,ISMENE. 
When exciting multiplicity
withers to single simplicity
from all the coulds imagination displayed
we humble humans inevitably degrade
into the choices that we've made.
I'm not too good at making demands of others,
the dead are best at that, our brothers
whose twilit, silent insistence,
incites a kind of conscience,
knowing we live a little while in pleasure
and that in cool death we die forever.
Go on, go do as you please,
set up a life for yourself, it's a breeze.
I'm burying my brother. Seems he's got
one less sister than he thought.

ISMENE. 
All this battle, and now strife between us.
These offerings of the gods lick of bitterness.

ANTIGONE. 
These offerings offer us a chance at passion,
a head turned to kiss what's now out-of-fashion:
human Justice touching the immortal Right.
And more than that, ex-sister, we can't ask to get.

ISMENE. 
 The gods I know how to honor in their temple,
the repeating seasons each recieve their sample
of my ceremonial devotion on the burning altars.
What I don't know is how to break the law, or alter
the one and only thing that's made exactly the same
for all of us, no matter who we think we are.

ANTIGONE. 
Every renegade must have reasons,
every anxious stay-at-home excuses for her treasons;
Pardon me, Ismene, please excuse me
while I get on with burying Polynices.

ISMENE. 
Antigone, I'm afraid.

[ANTIGONE gives her a look.]

ISMENE. 
So afraid. For you.

ANTIGONE. 
Don't bother. With fear I'm through.
All these furiously luminous fairy tales of yours
scar the dark so serenely that they bore,
dwindle to a blink, and then blink no more.
Your concern is touching, but doesn't reassure;
Got to think about yourself. I understand. Sure.

ISMENE. 
 [Looking around.]
I'll keep your secret, Antigone, I won't peep;
I won't tell a soul, not even in my sleep.
Maybe you'll get away with it, who knows?
Then everyone can be happy, like the first day of snow.

ANTIGONE. 
Happiness is like a dream which passes
out on a punctual pillow, and doesn't hear its glasses
shatter on tiles' evil configuration;
your concern for me, like a strange inauguration,
comes through haphazarded by static, fluffy, wrong, untrue.
Don't stop youself talking. Tell 'em all. It's true!
If you race around the Spanish esplanade
you can probably catch old Kreon
discussing troop dispositions with the gods.
Go on, rabbit after them, go, go on,
chatter with the evil beings posing on the lawn.
Just reason to yourself about how distrustful
Kreon'll feel when he knows you knew it all.

ISMENE. 
Aren't you afraid at all? It makes me cold
to think of being so breezily daring, brave and bold.

ANTIGONE. 
Just doing what's got to be done, is all.

ISMENE. 
But can you really do it, simple as a song?
I bet you can't. Not really, not for long.

ANTIGONE. 
That's a point. When my strength abates
I'll give it up-- when my bones break.

ISMENE. 
 But why should you die for what can't succeed?

ANTIGONE. 
Get out, ISMENE.  Before you know it,
I will be the one hating you. If death bites
for honoring the dead, it will be for me
an honorable death. Get out, ISMENE. 




SCENE TWO

[Battlefield previous day.  ETOCLES and POLYNICES.]

SOLDIER UNDER ETOCLES.
Two valiant brothers in titanic conflict
clear a field of foes with gigantic fists.
What Etocles becomes, Polynices counters;
each for the other's drunken army is the bouncer.

2 SOLDIER. 
Their angers are the rawest in the field.

SOLDIER. 
One to the other will never yeild.

2 SOLDIER. 
Those two conquer countries within:
the soiled uttermost of brother-hatred is their sin.

SOLDIER. 
Etocles becomes a fury,
thousand-armed in his bloody hurry,
and settles widows by the swarm
with every dainty swing of his mighty arm.

2 SOLDIER. 
Polynices no less---
with each great step he kills a mess,
plantations graveyards, and swamps
our alfalfa fields with bloods beyond our mops.

ETOCLES. 
Fore, fore, to the fore!
Let every backward heart cower like a whore,
flailing backward and bedward which should march more!
Let feet be geared to onward use alone:
rearward gapes a retracting cliff.
Fore, fore, to the fore! No ifs!
Let onward men view virtue in the face
of dead enemies whose valor we debase.

POLYNICES. 
Oh worse than night, you bloodblack men, away,
that slow the righteous rising of my day!
A fallen Etocles must my horizon be
or no new dawn shall roar aloud in Thebes.

1 SOLDIER. 
Etocles, ever onward! [He's slain.]

POLYNICES. 
Slave! fear justice and her terrible sword;
I think there are no men that fight for Etocles,
but these counterfeit counters.

2 SOLDIER. 
Death to the invader! [He's slain.]

POLYNICES. 
I do believe the world's all heads
and limbs stuck in its crust; my foot's in a sea of reds.
I should switch my infantry for gravediggers
to get a single square yard of land clearer
that I might convincingly contest.

ETOCLES. 
Brother!

POLYNICES. 
Etocles!

[They argue and kill each other.]

KREON. 
Two mighty hearts in turmoil contest
and beat each other to silence in the sand,
absent boastful besting. [Aloud.] Victory, Thebans,
mounts on lightning wings to our defended city!
Let none say, however unpretty,
that the will of God was left undone;
here you see where his terror shone
upon these dead brothers he once enthroned.





SCENE THREE

[MERCHANT, soldiers, widows, others.]

MERCHANT. 
[From list.]
Funerary candles, fifteen-hundred,
silk shrouds for the cadavers, ten ton,
fifty priests of Zeus with tough knees to say
everlasting prayers, tend everlasting flames all day,
ten days of mourning drama-shows
depicting heroic deaths, and their lives below,
three-hundred twenty-five epitaphs we commission
to give grave-visiting a fab frisson;
a wailing crier to sing out the names
of our honorable dead, numerically arranged.
Other minor matters, too small to mention,
but included in the contracts. Sign here, Kreon.
[KREON signs.]
Good, good. Now everything is bought and paid for;
The last detail of every victory's a funeral.

KREON. 
Dead hands pull palls
to curtain our dark State
which yesterday had bloods full
enough to race in headlong gait
heedless of the finish ribbon that tripped us up.
Now our old dignities, due for a checkup,
steady themselves on the doctor's treadmill,
pausing after the last pant up the final hill
that seemed a topless, insurmountable mountain
inaccessible to our steadfast intent. Yet, citizens,
your dear devotion and plauditory patience
reap hard reward's overdue benificence:
Peace in every suburban hedge is what you've got,
just what unhesitating obedience has brought.
To Laius you bowed in lauded rows;
To Oedipus presented contented countenances;
When he was exiled by the windmills of the gods
to be blown across creation, a poor old sod,
your loyal hearts embraced his kids,
rare exemplars of our Greecian Ids;
dear Etocles and mighty Polynices
accepted loyalty oaths of your future services.
Yesterday, in battle royale, Polynices slayed
Thebes' defender Etocles, who had strayed
from his command post too youthfully enthused
by the sight of his old school chums oozed
across the battlefield like football players
a vengeful god half-massacred, a bluster-
ing coach too tough with his exhausted team.
Yet success' sunlight still on Etocles' shoulder beamed,
and he took for his post-game winner's trophy
the useless life of his traitor-brother, Polynices.
They met in an embrace of bloods their tomb,
who once were pried in sequence from the womb.
I, as uncle to these great ones,
to the inherited mantle of good government have come,
politic, conservative, yet in full power
I walk the corridors of State in a direful hour,
enchanting to the magnates, and brave to the plebes,
I ascend this long-contested throne of Thebes.

MERCHANT. 
Law distributes the rights our leaders construe.
Someone has to know how to
know and what to know and how to do.

SOLDIER. 
Without a body, the lolling head rolls useless;
Let our arms be your arms; our legs, your Zeus'
thunderbolts against rebellion,
dissolution, and damned disunion.

KREON. 
Remember that. Your loyalty will be tested yet.

MERCHANT. 
We're behind you 100 per cent.
But we have to keep an eye to profit,
not every public service can pay the private rent.

KREON. 
Fine; but that's not quite what I meant.
Sixty sentries already walk the bloody quad
and six sharpshooters practice for the firing squad;
I have a plan for an enduring peace, of course,
that I simply want my citizens to endorse.

MERCHANT. 
100 per cent; what more could we say?

KREON. 
It's what's done, not said, that will win the day.
Harbor no lawbreakers in your uptown house,
the State is a dog when its home to a louse.

SOLDIER. 
Disobey, and incur the risk
of sharpshooters six ready to whisk
our souls into idiot oblivion?
I'm not that brave. Or that dumb, for one.

KREON. 
Most solemn comes the State's sharp pen
to delete the life of a citizen.
Yet, coin jingles bright with money's delights
and deep indifferent wisdoms have often been
seduced by its tinny attractions time and again.

[ENTER SENTRY.]

SENTRY. 

Colonel, although I risk my neck,
my breath held steady and my mind a wreck
I have a report that I must make,
though twice on my way here I did a doubletake.
I turned around. Once, just at the gilded door.
Once, when I overheard your passionate disparagement pour
on apperceived disloyalty in basso counterpoint
to your praise of death selected by the State Adroit.
My knees went backward like a bird's
hesitant and repentant at such hard words
to push forward through atmospheres of fear
churning in my gut's hurricane as I neared.
"Go back, you imbecile, why won't you listen
to me, your mind's sinuous apprehension!
Don't go whistling to your deathtrap, halt!
Can't you hear Fate's gears grinding to gestalt?"
So I paced, then heard your soldier's solid loyalty.
My heart took heart, and my stomach calm,
I arrive ready to reveal, as I was ordered,
what my senses in the State's employ recorded.
Although, it may not make much sense, my senior.
So, then, when I got---

KREON. 
Spit it out you crippled idiot.

SENTRY. 
Hey! I didn't do it. Didn't see who did.
The battlefield's a forest of the disloyal dead,
desecrating the State's impersonal decorum,
with faces frozen stiff by death's intimate abhorrence.
But don't you worry, sir, we didn't choke,
we left the cold unburied in the rain to soak.

KREON. 
You should be an advocate at court,
the pertinent is absent from your report.
Just what was this something-nothing that you saw?
I'll need all the details. You know the law.

SENTRY. 
Dreadful... ghostly...
Um, strange, livid, nearly unearthly...

KREON. 
Spit. It. Out.

SENTRY. 
No need to shout.
Beneath, between, the mists that purled and paused
upon the obscure battlefield like first-aid gauze
the corroded dead continued, rigor mortis,
to shout about the pains that caused distress.
But time's silent stuffing fingers in their mouths
gagged to windy whispers all their howls.
Out there, near Polynice's end of the field...
Well... Seems a touch of dust had begun to build.

KREON. 
Dust?

SENTRY. 
A thin, really thin, layer almost, of, of--

KREON. 
Dust?

SENTRY. 
Dirt, sir.

KREON. 
Surely the dead are dirty.

SENTRY. 
And what they smell of....

KREON. 
Dirt....

SENTRY. 
Someone was trying to bury him, sir.
All about, the close-packed earth was stirred
as if Polynice's ghost had rose up in dirge
for his unburied body. This they tried to cure,
whoever they were, spilling wine and soil
over the indignant dead man Etocles had spoiled.

KREON. 
A long battle. Dried blood looks like grime;
sweaty work, things stick to the skin, look like crime.

SENTRY. 
Someone had put him under. Handful
by handful. One foot was neatly buried, the sandal
packed under neat handprints. Dirt in the wrinkles,
not fallen or scattershot, but lovingly sprinkled.
A last ablution of earth.

KREON. 
WHO. DARES. DO. THIS? THE TRUTH!

SENTRY. 
I swear I don't know, Colonel Kreon!
Sir! All that fog. And we boys was tired, gone...
from the battle still; all that fat feasting after.
My ears still rang honky-tonk tunes and laughter.
We looked for signs, but couldn't find none.
Just Polynices put under, not another single one.
Silence all the night. No talk amongst us,
too weird with all those blue bodies in the dust,
some brothers to us, our places so close
but so different. It'd be strange to be verbose,
their restless ghost tapping in at will
from the other side; moon baleful on the fog, a veil
of nothingness smothered in absence, and then,
before long, dawn trundlin' up from Apollo's pen,
staining our apprehensions with day again.
The corporal saw it, not me, I didn't notice.
A small... a extra limning of darkness on the premises.
Somehow Polynices seemed just more not there,
if you know what I mean. It was quite a scare.

KREON. 
I do not.

SENTRY. 
I wasn't me, I swear! Didn't see nothing.
Nothing there, not really, just a thin layer,
of, of.... something.

KREON. 
Dust?

SENTRY. 
A sort of something that the nose
perceives as musk or musty, clottish, knows
mostly from an unread scroll, an eviscerated crust
common sense and experience dub as dust.
But on the wide, absract, identical terrain
one thing by its very absence marked the plain:
scattered among expressive corpses lacking tact,
no indent or dusty comma of a paw or track
appeared, there was never the least sign at all
of even the remotest type of animal,
and this, like a magic trick, to our soldier's acumen
revealed the intruder as something human.
A nest of accusations when I returned to post;
things real quiet for a sec. Boys on my shift,
well, I gotta say we started finger-pointing promptly.
Visciousness on the parade grounds where we'd stomped
or whispered confidences, little things, sought
private views on public topics, where we fought,
such like. All came to nothing, rude
fear in our voices morphing to instant certitude,
rapid logic making airtight cases,
calling back swear words and rushed excuses.
Whole jurisprudence process was rather crude.
All came to nothing. We didn't know who'd
done what, if anything. Bad news, all of it.
Then I have to see you.... sir, tell the tale, spill it.
I mean, someone had to go to tell the Colonel.
Stared the graffiti meaningless in the barracks urinal.
We stared hard at our feet, restless, restless,
and I drew the short straw... my luckiness.
No happiness in the news, none in the bearer.
Nobody shines to see a bad-news man draw nearer.

KREON. 
And you all saw nothing?

SENTRY. 
Absolutely. Not a thing.

SOLDIER. 
Maybe it was the gods did it. A sign.
"Ferocious prophecies first often seem benign."

KREON. 
Gods!? Money! You were decieved and bribed!
Sentry-- you'll wish that you had died
eviscerated on a poinard, if this damned corpse
gets dunked in dirt again, like they taught at church.
Watch steady, night ain't too long. Keep your poise.
Money turn your heads, boys?
....I'll twist 'em off!!

SENTRY. 
[Aside to himself.] Dumpkoff, dumpkoff, dumpkoff.




SCENE FOUR

[ETOCLES and POLYNICES before their troops.
One day earlier, morning.]

LIEUTENANT. 
Where's Polynices?

SOLDIER. 
Gone to view the defenses.

2 SOLDIER. 
Their men are nearly double ours.
For every four grunts they've a dozen howitzers.

LIEUTENANT. 
Praise Zeus we have two arms each, then,
to double up the dead and slain.

SOLDIER. 
It's bad odds, Lieutenant, and what
we've come all this way, tramping at night,
the rutty road waterlogged, horses slipping
and men crying crumpled under 'em, then stilling....
Too far from home or victory to change our places;
tomorrow's unlucky dead today have breathing faces.
Who knows who? Today a riddle's all they'll tell us.

[ENTER POLYNICES.]

2 SOLDIER. 
These warlike jaws that snap around us!
If only we could plant their dragon's-teeth
and grow more men!

SOLDIER. 
         That'd be a relief.

POLYNICES. 
The jaws that snap!
Why, Euroborus, let them trap
on air, or, like the dragon of your name,
engulf its own tail in hungry shame
--- before it slither-slumps away!
Who has the greater cause today?
The greater work to do, honor to win?
Our victory will change the world again.
Nature bites at changes, dogs fleaed,
like sleepy dragons, snap, once stirred
even if by an angel's foot. Such teeth
we do not need, nor would I have them,
for who would so late desert a cause,
even were it the wrongest flag on earth,
him I account of no-account, a less than dirt, no worth,
a thing, and not a man. O traitorous hope!
I hope Etocles doesn't pull back one
ounce of spitting venom. But let us win,
if, by the gods, we are deemed and fated
to win this great contest, against all we hated!
The harder fought, the more our fame's assured,
the greater the odds, the greater god's grace purrs,
moving though our rough ready human limbs
as does our very blood! Roar on, great dragon!
We'll cheer merry swords into your gullet, snake!
Thus your awesome voice shall be slaked
by the loud levity of our shouts, all of one
coiled killing intent when your death comes!
[The lads all cheer.]

ETOCLES' CAMP.

KREON. 
What's that?

HAEMON. 
It seems a boisterous roaring
from Polynices' camp is coming.

2 SOLDIER. 
My heart is struck with fear,
pouring ice for my veins in by my ears.

KREON. 
Courage, swayback.
Here comes Etocles to enhearten us, fool.
Let your cold ears hear his incendiary flak.
Let him pour his dragon's soul into you.

[ENTER ETOCLES.]

ETOCLES. 
No speech given out by the top dog, sir Sir,
ever made a lesser cur bark louder.
No talk, however eloquent, however electrifying,
ever shocked a coward into bravery,
or raised a drooping army to vigorous attack,
or gifted a man with cause to fight who lacked.
Yet it is customary for a commander to give a speech,
and so I will. I guess another usual reason's
to get to know the troops, strangers shanghaied
into some State affair for quick reward.
Maybe that applies to Polynices' troops,
culled from the barbarous Spartan mobs
coming to loot our houses and rape our Moms,
but not to me and you it doesn't apply.
We grew up playing war together, low and high,
wrestling in the same sandlot! Yet,
it is customary for a commader to give a speech,
and so I will. Our enemy, too, is our intimate,
kicked sand in your faces, twisted my arm,
laughed with us and pledged love to our faces,
which love he now demeans and disgraces.
Let the measure of our former love
dole out the extent of our hatred now. So far
as you were his friends, that far
is he a traitor. What's to say? Our
mute hearts are eloquence. Yet, it is customary
for a commader to give a speech,
and so I will....



SCENE FIVE

[KREON sits for 'royal' portrait.]

ARTIST. 
Is it with an awkward moral cognizance
that in the rising star's dark presence
I feel myself, almost, transmuted into trance?
An artist's only error is lack of diligence.
Decay, corruption, malfesience spur my palette
as well as hope, triumph and glory on the mallet
of the supreme sculptor sit calmly folded as a wallet.
All's art an echo of the poised, Platonic Reality.
Chaos and the curule chair both indispensibly
litter the tones and values of my smudger's art;
the frowning brow, the virtuoso heart,
both play, unto rerun, their artist's miscast parts.
Draw your face into a helmet, til resolution
alone still fits on the immortal face of Kreon.
Excellent, excellent. That's it.
[Sounds offstage.]
Is that the lithe Antigone I see? Come in and prance.
Quite a face, ethereal, yet in charge, a strangeness
as if she'd seized the world in a single glance
and found it wanting. A greatness... of arrogance.

SENTRY. 
Colonel! Here's the one who... hey,
is that a crown on your portrait there?

KREON. 
Report, Sentry. Artist, turn the picture.

SENTRY. 
Right here, this one, caught her
carrying the dirt in her skirt, trying to twist
Polynices up in a silk shroud, better his condition,
gentle him up for the far side.

KREON. 
Antigone...?

SENTRY. 
God throws the dice, we play the numbers.
Man alive is born to wonder.
I'd've sworn I wouldn't be back
to see you! ...That ramrod back,
that thundery brow, the artist
got it pretty good there, way it twists....

ARTIST. 
Thank you, young sir.

SENTRY. 
Well, one look at that, sure....
I was shivering half the night, my spear
rattling against my breastplate. Kept me wide-eyed, though,
I'll tell you that, Colonel. Things you threatened....Whoa.
Well, how'd I know she'd prance right up,
kneel by his side, praying and making sup
with drippy libations. "Solved the case," I told myself.
"Arrest the waif, handcuff the little elf."
No short-straws this time: I ran, by hell.
And Antigone kept up with me real well.
She didn't seem shy at all out there by Polynices.
Go on, take her, question her. She'll clear me.

KREON. 
Antigone? A woman, and Etocles' sister?

SENTRY. 
She was heaving the dirt over him, yessir,
I tell you!

KREON. 
IS. THIS. TRUE?

SENTRY. 
What else? Unless my eyes are liars,
what else can they say that saw her?

KREON. 
Details, details. We'll see if your story tallies.

SENTRY. 
[Gulping.] Uh, well,
after all that shouting last time,
me and the boys raced back to Polynices' body,
holding our uniforms over our faces from the smell,
his face going awry; brushed him clean,
touching lightly as this personal grooming
might look itself like disloyalty; knew him
from his place on the field,
more than from his bloated looks, deep stinkpits
for eyes, a blackness of mouth, lips torn
from a skull, not a smile, of course, but
an irony there about the jaws. We sat upwind,
wary and awake, I can swear. No celebrations,
just us scared out of our togs, hearing the mind's moan.
We'd spear each other awake, for the State
must guard its prerogatives vigilantly.
All day nothing, and the wind getting hairy,
seeming to scratch a rash on the land,
dust into our watching eyes harshly fanned,
big afternoon sun obscured, dark as a bush,
plain, trees, debris, all snuffed out in one whoosh,
a whirlwind! That should keep him clean,
we figured. Can't bury no one
if the earth's up and on the go!
Whirlwind lasted a long while, everything unfixed, so
blurry... A dream it was, but, as with dreams,
it passed on into clarity, a semi-obscene
picture developing like a polaroid in the trees,
stars starting to peep out again, colorless clarity,
everything in our eyes pale as a corpse.
Saw a scuffle in the rags, a nervous torso,
and it was Antigone! She'd let out a start
to see her previous day's work torn apart,
Polynices made naked by the night, no cover
for the sake of respect. He's a traitor,
like you say, and I don't hold that he should
get the honors a patriot'd command;
but it was right pitiful, laid out so careless
when we'd all had a drink with him timeless
times before, before it all. She was crying hard
crying, crying over Polynices, and then we heard
her curse us, curse the damned hands on him
that undid the respect she'd risked life and limb
to wrap him in. Then, from her skirt, more dirt, more!
Blessed by a priest I reckon, and three or four
sprinkles of fine wine, our mouths dry as dust
watching her give over for his itchy ghost
the libation to quieten him. That's when we grabbed her,
and she as calm as a kitchen matron,
and she didn't seemed surprised at all, not at all,
but had a calmness in her eyes, "seeing though fate"
my grandma calls it, even when we charged her
with the desecration of the law, she stood steady.
Put me out of sorts, I'll tell you.
She gave me a slug of the wine, held me up.
Told me to take her here, so I did.
Feels good to get out of a death threat,
but lousy to give over another to it.
But she held my hand, said it was alright,
knew what she was doing, that it was her doing, etc.
(Personally, I think she was grief-crazed.)
But, here she is, and I'm safe out of it... right?
Nothing so safe and sweet as your own skin.
KREON. 
Lift up your face. Do you confess,
Antigone, to this tryst with lawlessness?

ANTIGONE. 
I deny nothing. I did it.

KREON. 
Dismissed. [SENTRY exits.]
Tell me. Tell it all. Did you even hear
the proclamation in the tramped agora, dear?

ANTIGONE. 
You saw me standing there. Shit,
when you broke the news to your loyal lieutenants,
lining up your whore-score of votes,
I knew you were a man to whom god's dignity was remote.

KREON. 
And you defied this decree?

ANTIGONE. 
I defy. Resolutely.
God wasn't there chewing the fat,
just you and your poor cohorts.
Justice stays exiled to Hades, deep below,
while men still prate and gape above. I know.
Our laws change with the electorate's indifference,
die when we die, and fail along with us.
Ask Etocles, he'd agree with me.
Your edict, tricked out in consensus,
withers when the Eumenedies fix their eyes
upon its temporary littleness.
How brief a space has man, how great his pride!
An underpaid tailor in a greenroom wardrobe
takes the godly measurements for his lonely soul,
trimming Fate to the requirements of his starring role.
Spotlights add a little glow to the final disaster,
making pride and hubris consummate faster
in the fourth-act pathos of the story
where pride of self consumes the glory
a humbler noticing of exacter circumstance
would assign, in careful retrospect, to chance.

KREON. 
Well, don't you take the prize for pride?
A woman's coarse voice roaring from a child.
Honey, when you, like me, are little older
you'll submit to the wisdom of your elders.

ANTIGONE. 
I won't grow old enough to know.
The edict predicts death, and I go
gladly to my exile. To the state,
my life, I won't hesitate;
to the gods, all that made
my life my life-- an even trade.
I knew that I was doomed to die, even before
that stuffy proclamation of yours.
You think you invented death?
Not so bad, not so tough,
dying after being born.
Death's an eternal grace malingering life adorns.
Life is so filled with evil days and acts,
deluded Oedipus' and Jocasta's sex pact
concluding in the numb triumph of this war
of brothers once equal even in your love, Kreon.
How can Death be anything but my friend,
my darkly needful helpmeet at the end?
Death will free me in its final shout,
while guilt will bind your conscience in a knot.
My death's a footnote at best,
astericked on a forgotten page in jest,
a silly ancillary to the argument
of which your horror will be the trump.
I'm a nobody. A little girl
underfoot about the house, unreal,
who only knows how much it hurt
to see her brother crest the dirt,
cursed by each official, proclaimed word,
and left unburied for the birds.
Each evil beak whose gnaw I followed
bore me aloft and left me hollow.

ARTIST. 
Oh, Kreon, that ironic smile, hold!
You have all the spiffy dignity of a god.

ANTIGONE. 
You think so too, Kreon? Really?
Kreon the Eternal! A fool convicts my folly.

ARTIST. 
The daughter shows her father's scorn,
alike as acorns; hard as acorns thrown.

KREON. 
I know your personal passion
seems necessity and not fashion,
however, what is and seems is a form:
absurdities decreed elevate to norms.
The horrid, undateable hunchback
given public dignity, which he lacked,
goes in moments from abhorred
to Cosmo's 'most winning bachelor.'
And so I tell you that your passion
is naught but a sixteen year old's whim,
come to your head, no doubt just lately,
from late-night reruns of some Greek tragedy.
But if with this smote emoting you persist
not even trying to resist,
I warn you, in your ignorance,
high in your insolent tower of pretence,
that very soon you'll start to teeter,
then the long fall, in timeless millimeters,
passing tidy, illuminated rooms
to one dumb girl's luckless doom.
Even mustangs, in their western estates,
their stiff-necked necks must break
if, once beneath a knowledgable hand they're lain,
they hesitate to obey the rein.
If you go on breaking laws
with no excusable why or licit because,
and then grant a primetime interview
undercutting what I'm trying to do
saying sound bites like "God's
word is my heart's sole command,"
etc. and so on--- damn!
That's when the shit hits the fan.
And all because copper Kreon was nice
enough to let you escape with your life.
If I let you live, let you go,
the law's prestige in the popularity poll
will drop to zero. We're
in a delicate way right now, here
in Thebes, the way things are;
room in our small sky for only one star.
Who's going to be telling the populace
what's what, which regulation face
to wear, how to act, what to do?
Difference 'tween me and you,
when moms gab in the produce aisle
or clerks smoke by their empty files,
well, that difference gets pretty thin,
slim stuff, mere wordings;
the way a phrase aligns, sometimes,
can decide what's cruel or kind.
Me, I need ultra-loyal ears
hearing what I need them to hear,
minds thinking what I need them to think,
Thebes is shoved that close to the brink.
Right words do justice to the State,
give the man in charge, myself, a break.

ANTIGONE. 
What's this got to do with my choice
to bury my brother?

KREON. 
              Your voice,
and not dirt on the dead,
your voice is what I really dread.
[To ARTIST:] Damned girl's bitched in the head!

ANTIGONE. 
My dying going to make you happy?

KREON. 
I'll dance to hear hegemony
honored by the plain folks' horror
shuddering respect at the deathly-whisper:
"Antigone's dead, dead, dead.
Against her right King's rule she rebelled."

ANTIGONE. 
In that case, kill me. Enough!
Talk tires me out, wears my ears off.
Bad taste in my mouth from all this palace palaver,
and I'm sure you're tired of me in a lather
shooting off about the gods like a prophet,
and me not hedging me bets by mandate,
not so half unsure of myself, not cutting it fine,
to increase the temple donation down the line.
These soldier-stiffs propped around here
like clay Kreons-- even they'd agree with me
if it weren't for your mania
for cutting the gods out of the power structure.
Not everybody can shoot off his mouth
like a King.

KREON. 
Only you think that, ANTIGONE. 
Truth.

ANTIGONE. 
Are you really so naive?

KREON. 
The guilt is yours, not theirs. Believe.
They obey, you defy. They are good,
you are not. They shall live, and you would....
and will die. There is no overlap.
You are too naive, perhaps.

ANTIGONE. 
I honored my brother, as any would.

KREON. 
By spitting on the memory of Etocles?
Polynices stabbed him in the heart, you see,
while Etocles was defending his city.

ANTIGONE. 
I wrapped Etocles in his shroud!

KREON. 
Are a traitor and a patriot the same?

ANTIGONE. 
Death has made them brothers again.

KREON. 
And you are their sister. Join them.

ANTIGONE. 
Let the gods be my judges then,
for in every sign that they gave me, in every
inner feeling fallen from heaven, they told me:
"Go on, don't go back on what we ask of you."

ARTIST. 
Her reasons are inspired, true,
every artist must hold them valid.
What are your reasons, sire, I mean colonel,
sir, for prosecuting this difference, so ephemeral,
between the dead and the dead?

KREON. 
Rebellion, you idiot.
That's my reason. Don't you get it?
There was an enemy army
out there day before yesterday,
and a bloodletter of the royal house
waving at its head, leading the grouse.
What am I to do, ignore such spectacles
as if they were parades, spectaculars?
Ring the boring barracks, call out my troops
to stand by and watch the show? Ridiculous!
If all my men need to help 'em think
is inhale the indifferent stink
of your dead brother, a dead enemy,
in order to discourage mutiny
do you imagine I'll hesitate
to let Polynices disintegrate
and whiten into a skull out there?
Don't cry. See here, see here.
It's tomorrow's bloodshed I seek to avoid;
Against that future cost, I'll endure the goad
of all the gods and holy men
women have ever kneeled to. Amen.
And now, when at long last
I think the danger a minute past,
what happens but that there springs
a traitorous viper at my heels' wings.
You, my dear Antigone!

ANTIGONE. 
Me, a threat to the State! Hardly.
I'm barely old enough to get married.

KREON. 
You're old enough to disobey the law.
Should my first edict command guffaws?

ANTIGONE. 
Do you really care about the crowd?
Should pollsters legislate what is allowed?
Is that what makes you more just,
or less. More Kingly than common? It must!
Is the approbation of the mob what's destined?

KREON. 
One must always listen to the winds
stirred up in the crowds' hurrahs, keep close ear
on their early nays and niggling whispers.
A king cannot afford to isolate himself for long,
expecting distant dictation to master the throng.

ANTIGONE. 
But won't the wise and good citizens
suspect that you relented for the dead, their kin?

KREON. 
The mass of men....

ANTIGONE. 
The mass of men don't really matter.
What happens with them is chance and chatter.
They never make a decision for us,
or themselves, in either calm or crisis.
If they did, then they really
would make a difference, the scales reeling....
What a heaven we could engineer today
if alabaster could be made of clay!
What vast paradises of the common will!
The State would be awash in wisdoms, swill
the Dionysian inspiration at the cafeteria
in plastic cups, manufacturing the poet's hysteria;
foolish things and idiot schemes, curtains
of mauve and turquoise, would be an oddity unknown.
But what they do does not matter, for they
know not what they do. And they
cannot be forgiven, no, no,
for what they cannot decide to do.











SCENE SIX

[Outside tavern, fencing several weeks before the battle.]
POLYNICES. 
Oh, what hot work! My throat's the worst.

ETOCLES. 
These make-believe battles fight us into thirst.

POLYNICES. 
Indeed. Let's get back to the tavern, fast.
Haemon! Set us up with some liquid relief.
[Drinks.] At last, I feel a little clear of grief.
So long those funeral trappings held me shut
into my own mind.

ETOCLES. 
             Perhaps our emotional glut
will help to make us mothers of the wounded state
so we can band-aid the hearts tragedy made us inherit.
To Polynices!

POLYNICES. 
To Etocles!

ETOCLES. 
Let's trade bouts of drinks as titans
traded tirades with Kronos long ago.
[They clink cups.] Requited!

POLYNICES. 
Yes. Let's drown out Neptune's trumpet
by the hollow ringing of our tankards' clunking.

ETOCLES. 
Barman, fill, fill.

POLYNICES. 
Haemon, my closest friend still,
besides my brother Etocles, stand us a toast
to prove our friendly happiness is no boast.

HAEMON. 
Which of these golden suns, now glistening,
will rise above our State as King?
With this bright pair my love to dual love has grown;
Let craftsmen dovetail two elaborate thrones
joined at the arm as your two strong selves
are joined.

ETOCLES. 
A dual kingship?

HAEMON. 
                   A salve
to punch us from our crutches, brothers. [Drinks.]

ETOCLES. 
I hadn't thought of it, little brother.

POLYNICES. 
Why not? It seems a good solution.

ETOCLES. 
Solution implies a problem.

POLYNICES. 
Well....

ETOCLES. 
I am the eldest, POLYNICES. 
This you know.
That will not change, although Kronos
was overthrown. You are as special as a lover,
and will continue so, a valued advisor.
Thus trusted and kept, even as you are now,
in the office of brother.

POLYNICES. 
Office of brother? What rites or
prerogatives has that? What armies can
"brother" raise, against a cry of "king"?

ETOCLES. 
Armies? What nonsense are you speaking?

POLYNICES. 
You know our neighbors in Sparta
are ready to invade and divide our
fractured State which tragedy
has already so nearly sundered.
We must have a solid front and ready display
to out-face them.

ETOCLES. 
Kreon has courage enough to confront them.

POLYNICES. 
Kreon is ambitious. Kreon....

ETOCLES. 
Kreon? Heamon's father? His ambition
extends no farther than his duty, surely.
Isn't that so, Haemon?

HAEMON. 
So it seems to me. Up in the morning
polishing his boots and buckler, drilling
with the soldiers back of the barracks at four....

POLYNICES. 
And yourself, Haemon? Is your
duty so small itself? Do you see your life
given meaning by such small-minded stuff,
such meaningless circumscription?

HAEMON. 
Etocles is the eldest. Tradition
would choose him, and so would the law.

POLYNICES. 
Good God.

HAEMON. 
Your sister, Antigone,
as you know, is promised me;
but how should such a promise hold
if all the world of laws were sold
to Hell? My love is with you, Polynices,
but my duty augers
I should support your
brother in this quarrel.

POLYNICES. 
[Aside.] Perhaps I ought to
mosey on along to Sparta
where my arguments, and not my years,
will find more amenable ears
to hear what I have meant.







SCENE SEVEN

[KREON is being measured for a royal gown and crown.]

DRAPER. 
And so, the folds will flow thus and thus,
the sharpest, latest fashion for a king's a must.

KREON. 
I'm not the King just yet.
Coronation casts the only net
that catches rightful kings, and labors
to haul them kicking to the rulers' table.
Law and tradition place on the mind
a subtle weight of story, of a kind
that helps to keep the chessmen of the game,
however shopworn, virtually the same.
And now our story's of a death,
my son's betrothed, and the comdemning breath
must be my own, for all the rules arrayed
are never by king or demimonde betrayed.
I shall play my predestined part.
No kingship thrives that at the start
quakes uncertain as the king's own heart.
Learned that in the army. Taught it, too.
That's not going to change anytime soon.

DRAPER. 
And now the measurement for the crown.
Let me tie this ribbon right. There we are.
Speaking of your son, here he comes now.

KREON. 
I've said my last word on that girl

ANTIGONE. 
Do you march in here loving me, or hating me?
Haemon, you've always been good.
Obedient, chipper. Don't change your stripes, bud.

HAEMON. 
I come as your son, my father.
I remember marching into the long strides
your own footsteps made in the dirt outside our house.
But when you jump into a palace,
I must stretch myself another way for solace
and find my course by some nearer means.

KREON. 
Let that way be the law's way, Haemon.
It touches you as it touches any other citizen.
You are nearer my heart and council than any,
but if you alienate yourself from the law,
you make yourself a stranger to your father
and walk beyond my helping.

HAEMON. 
Won't go that way, Dad. The thing is,
you've always been my guide; you clear things up
for me, turn me straight when I would wander.
I just had to come and see you. I felt confused.

KREON. 
You did the right thing. Good you came.
Obedience profits. Disloyalty consumes itself.

DRAPER. 
Good sense, your majesty,
and done up with braids of dignity.

HAEMON. 
Dad, remember when we walked to the temple,
sizzled the entrails on the ample altar,
knelt, asked about what might god decide
after Oedipus' exile and Jocasta's suicide?
We waited a long time to hear our answers,
Tiresias clickering over smoky coals like a geiger....
and he hedged on several key points, moreover,
shaving himself some room to maneuver.
Wisdom, he called it. Learning how to listen.
You agreed, and said that we in our mortal condition
should never push the gods for sureties.
That reason is the one gift of God to man, you see,
and so damnably easy to be given the shove.
I agree when you warn my reason's lost for love.
It'd be a stunt for a child to engineer
his Dad's tragic fate into the clear,
or show him how to act and think. But,
if my reason is God's gift, hear it out!
Let whatever divinity shines at my lips' brim
light on you, illuminating what's within.
Its reasonable to learn while on your ass,
knocked there or in a paid chair, class is class.

DRAPER. 
My chalks and knots encode my sire's height.
I mean, sir, sire. But, the boy says right,
no uniform complements even the most strict
officer if it pinches in too tight.

KREON. 
A Dad get spanked by his wanking kid?
Oh I'll wail back to my mother's skirts in a trice
before I'll listen to such childish advice.

HAEMON. 
If I'm not right, I'm wrong. Fair enough.
But if I'm right? What notice takes the right
of youth, or age, or anything but being right?

KREON. 
What's right? Right to be on the side
of damned anarchy, boy?

HAEMON. 
No, no I don't. I don't truck with crooks.

KREON. 
Ain't that little girl a criminal?

HAEMON. 
A criminal girl? Because she grieves?
The entire city populace would deny it.

KREON. 
The city, eh? They to teach me how to rule
who's been commanding men since I gained my age?

HAEMON. 
Your shooting off teenage-like enough now.

KREON. 
From one voice comes rule, comes clarity.
Didn't we have enough confusion already
with those two tawny brothers grasping
for the one solar spotlight, both together gasping,
grasping and tearing and muddying things?
One voice alone can bring things plain,
help straighten out scribbled melodies again,
erect all things aright. You'll see.

HAEMON. 
One horn don't make a symphony.

KREON. 
The conductor is the symphony!
I am the State. Way it is, way its got to be.

HAEMON. 
Yeah, if the State's a deserted isle.

KREON. 
My boy... selling out to a mere girl,
the most powerless member of the community.

HAEMON. 
If you're a girl, Daddy,
then I'm a sell-out, proud to be, the only
person I'm worried about now is you.

KREON. 
Worried about who?
Write "love" on your fist
and strike my gut, sinking to the wrist!
All you're worried about is getting even
with the man transformed into Antigone's demon.

HAEMON. 
Is it better that our new King wrestle
against Justice in the streets? Is that your stance?

KREON. 
All I do is within my rights as ruler.

HAEMON. 
Dosen't that attitude strike you as insular?
Rights of the gods don't start from you, Dad.
You're only right is the right you always had:
to listen if the conscience of Justice is speaking, sir.

KREON. 
Shit of a son! Sucked from me by a fucking girl!
What has she done to you? Have you two slept....
I'd have you hung as an example, but hate
the cost of a court marshall, and demure.

HAEMON. 
You're not my Dad, that's for sure.
Out of remembered honor only am I terse
and keep from calling you utterly perverse.

KREON. 
Seduced boy! Pussy-
whipped! Don't you bandy
blank words with me!

HAEMON. 
No. I'll let you be the talker.
After all, you're the State. I'm the gawker.

KREON. 
[To GUARD.]
Every great leader needs a great obeyer.
Now get on out of here and slay her.

HAEMON. 
I'm not taken in by any vileness, father.

KREON. 
But every word of yours is hers!

HAEMON. 
What did she say to you?

KREON. 
That she would gladly give her life
for the sake of the law! Better answer than yours.

HAEMON. 
My answers look after you, seek you.
Trying to find myself, my meaning,
in all of us. Where are the gods in this room?

DRAPER. 
Sir, if I may....

KREON. 
DISMISSED!!

HAEMON. 
Dismissed?

KREON. 
You will never marry her, you know,
not while she breathes. Her only marriage bed
will be the dirty earth.

HAEMON. 
Then she will soon be dead;
but her dying kills one more, now.

KREON. 
One more? Who? Senseless son,
are you threatening rebellion?
Would you hold your life in opposition
to me and your own bleeding reason?

HAEMON. 
How can I oppose my father?
He's already dead. Cancelled, rather,
a prime time TV soap opera type,
glossy victim of his own hype.

KREON. 
I hope you live to regret this son,
regret these airs you're putting on;
in your ripe old age is where you and I
will finally agree, when we lay side by side
in the military graveyard of the State.

HAEMON. 
Yeah, Dad. Yeah. It's a date.
And when the long sullen hearse
glides to the curb in reverse,
I'll load your corpse with tidbits,
honors and flowers and all that shit,
just as much, and to the same degree,
as you bothered with the body of Polynices.

KREON. 
You are nothing. I am the State.

HAEMON. 
Rave on, with your insane mission;
you have no friends who'll listen.
You won't see me again. My eyes,
King Kreon, shall not see her die.   [Exit.]

DRAPER. 
This doesn't look right, my leige.

KREON. 
Doesn't look right? Will you instruct me now
on how to run the country, toga-maker?

DRAPER. 
Sire, I only....

KREON. 
Not anyone's sire yet, ay?
Antigone I will carry far, far away
until she becomes, like an enemy over a cliff,
a worry discarded. Out in the walless wilderness,
sealed in a vast vault of living stone.
Honor the dead, she says? We must atone?
She wants to honor the dead so much,
let her join 'em. Oh, well, I won't, as such,
condemn her quite to death. Requiescat?
Let her gods' laws do that.
Food in the tomb, some vinegared water,
as the custom has it, freeing the State
from the killing cobra-strike
of her demise. I bear no spiking spite.
Let her pious declamations
ring in her ruined tomb unheard, unquestioned.
Maybe then she'll learn-- too late!--
that piety and pity shouldn't be wasted on the dead!
Then let her prate.










SCENE EIGHT

[Four months before the battle,
betrothal picnic of Antigone.]

JOCASTA. 
Let's toll up our tipping pile of lucks:
Plague, with its slopping vomit-buckets,
disinfectants, crosses and cadavers,
has changed its intrusive thermometers
for warm milk, gingersnaps, and peace
how many happy years ago now, Oedipus?

OEDIPUS. 
Enough for the dark daughter of our nights
to have blossomed up to betrothal height
and look on the plauge-sick infant, Haemon,
with eyes that dare tramsform him to a man.

JOCASTA. 
[Ironically.] Then let us give to the nodding gods
good thanksgiving, who might marr our odds
or dog our days with devastation and death's disgrace
if we forget to hide in hands our grateful face.

OEDIPUS. 
Normal joys are worn away by lapping lassitude,
the timerous ticks of waves, days, ingratitudes.
Let the playful peace that we have got
stand a statue, eternal horseman, who trots
forever on his shining, prancing hinds.
Don't throw rotten rocks at his high behind.

KREON. 
Amen.

OEDIPUS. 
And then,
you know today our dear Antigone
is to be betrothed to Kreon's Haemon.

KREON. 
The great gods in their cloudy watchtower
demand our vital vigilance each turn of each hour
or else all our feasts and bridal fetes
decay to fatal famines.

JOCASTA. 
I won't forget.

KREON. 
I lived here through the plague a boy
and discipline was all that held us steady
until you came with your magic words.

OEDIPUS. 
Well... I did what I could.

KREON. 
And were well rewarded with a Kingship.

JOCASTA. 
We were all so glad you gave Fate the slip.
Even you, Kreon, who stood in line just after Laius,
acclaimed our savior Oedipus to the dais.

KREON. 
He who has use of the law must be
respected and obeyed by all, your majesties,
everything you say is quite correct. Never otherwise.

OEDIPUS. 
Here comes your Haemon now, Kreon.

JOCASTA. 
On his armored arm, Antigone.

OEDIPUS. 
And her brothers revelling after the pair.

JOCASTA. 
And teasing them.

KREON. 
While she twirls her glistering hair.

ETOCLES. 
Why don't you loves swear your vows
and stitch your poverty of two into one double dower.

POLYNICES. 
Hold your dovetailed hands like Spring and Winter,
then summer's transcendence we'll truly enter.

HAEMON. 
I'm too young yet. And Antigone's younger.

POLYNICES. 
Oh come on, don't be a stickler.

ETOCLES. 
Leave that to your dad and his hoard of orders.

HAEMON. 
Dad's right about more things more
often, than anyone else I know, including Tiresias.

POLYNICES. 
Oh ho! Colonel Kreon out-guesses
prophets now! That's some soldier's discipline there.
Must be all those camp-outs peering at the stars.

ETOCLES. 
Don't mock, Polynices.

POLYNICES. 
I know, I know. It isn't "nices."

ETOCLES. 
It was Tiresias' boiled-blind eyes that saw
the kinks of Kreon's fate in a shooting star
stitching quick through six constellations
before it flashed and faded out behind the yellow moon.
That forebodes high office and fabled towers,
control of men and fates on earth. Much power.

POLYNICES. 
That's ancient history. You make your chance.
That's what all philosophers of free-trade
in the agora say all day, if you pay your way.

[Boys laugh and go off.]

ANTIGONE. 
I would swear my soul to you today.

HAEMON. 
And it is here, in warm human awe,
that true blue duty shifts wish to law.





SCENE NINE

[ANTIGONE's tomb. ISMENE is decorating it,
funeral-bride style.]

ISMENE. 

Lupin, verbane
leverets, eyebright
kingcup, cockscomb
pennywort, soapwort
speedwell, groundsel
cottongrass, scabiosae
yarrow arrowroot
chervil, marestail, teazel....
Sweet flowers, brighten this tomb around me,
give my eye a safe place for retreating reverie.
Although here is so much of what's beautiful and best,
I cannot think of her but hurt.
I see Antigone, and I cry. Oh flowers,
ephemeral, eternal, sweet, idiotic powers,
how can you still be cheerful, and not crack,
trading all your rainbow looks for black?

ANTIGONE. 
 Do you look at me with pity, sister?
Do not, although the Archeron flow faster
for the down-draw of my downfall.
My voice mixed with Death's will all
be mumbling sleepy night-talk soon,
as I whisper in the ears of my brothers, gone
into that eternal, ephemeral, emerald glade
where all flowers are of nightshade.

ISMENE. 
 Yes, you'll die. Its the common lot
of all that lives to consummate in rot.
Down in your dirty grave, the final horror
of decayed, vampirish, drear decor,
there will shine a kind of honor
alien to those of us who die at random,
killed singly, or undone in tandem---
for you have chosen ruin with willful love
and with brave lonliness all human law
denied. You never bowed before a tinsel sword.
Even to the dead, you never went back on your word.
ANTIGONE. 
Endless rain in the underworld,
they say; limitless drippings, whirled
beneath bone-cold feet, while grave ghosts stare
demanding to know why they are there.
Gathered darks and frozen omens,
the dead themselves only half-sensible
as in an interrupted dream. I feel
the loneliness of death all too well.

ISMENE. 
 So, all glory for you is gone?
None in this world, none in the one beyond?

ANTIGONE. 
You're laughing at me, Ismene.
Tell true, you can't wait until I'm dead, can you?
One less trouble under you legs,
racing to my disaster impelled by dear ideals
the law mocks, and you feel
too self-indulgent to be real.

ISMENE. 
 Far past that brightness where
human hearts alight and dare
your high heart has taken you, Antigone.
Look around. To the halls of justice you have come.

ANTIGONE. 
Trees and rivers of this Thebes,
weep for me, if you will, I have seen
your gods, obeyed, and was unjustly judged.
This is the place you pointed out. I didn't budge.
When I came here, I came flying
to the stone hole of justice, grieving, dying.
Now  I'll sleep in the abandoned bridebed
where my father and his mother did
it, and made me. Crime, crime, deep infection,
bleakness beyond what we see of meaning....
Their marriage worms up from the grave,
eating my hope, killing my marriage.
And now I'm the stranger in my own home-place,
homeless.

ISMENE. 
 You came to death at your own pace,
nevertheless.

ANTIGONE. 
Let me go, let me die.
Truth is a hard word to hear, to say.
The sun removes itself from my eye,
leaving everything vast and cold and sick.
Lead me to my last vigil, quick, quick,
before I dissolve, empty
of lamentaions and of loves.
My passions have drained me.

KREON. 
If a dirge-ditty could keep death back,
the first man would still be wailing at the crack
of the first grave ever made.
Throw her in; the place is prepared.
Distribute the honeycakes. If the gods,
determined to to distribute unevely the odds,
give her sustinace as they impelled rebellion,
she shall live. Our hands are clean.

ANTIGONE. 
Our family darkness gathers in the tomb,
Uncle, pressing every instance of light out of the room
execution has made too suddenly, awkwardly cozy.
I die unbrided, my children locked in me as a rose is
locked and loaded into its miniature seed.
How easily discarded are those things once known as need.
Now deep, too deep, within ungerminating rock
my designs to be a bride eternally are mocked,
a Michaelangelo statue giving me the finger.
Never let my loving Haemon linger
here where all my hopes are bedded,
writhing within the stone that I have wedded.
Be witnesses for me, thin, effectless ghosts!
I poured the holy libation, I covered Polynices,
departed Dead, according to your laws and ways!
My own hand grows spectral before my face,
I dissolve and all my future intent's replaced
by a story told and over with. Remember, Ismene,
my story, although you have opposed me.
Say what I have done, and repeat it carefully
all your days, for the dead forget, they say,
and wander in dimensionless mist,
always moaning on about old crimes, listless.

ISMENE. 
 O passionate heart!
As unyeilding as tormented!

KREON. 
Guards!

ANTIGONE. 
The voice of death!

KREON. 
I can't say if you're mistaken, Antigone.
As these guards bind you, so my duty binds me.

ANTIGONE. 
Last sad daughter of a string of kings,
damned by the confusion of confusing things,
a maiden butterfly bereft of wings.
Unhappy kings, all unthroned to Hades,
where already in thought my thrown shade is,
you will recall what sadnesses have occured here,
here, in my heart. See what I've suffered, dears,
at these hands, incautious, abrupt,
but always royal, even when they cuffed
a girl curled against them in her ribbon stuff.
And still, after all, they think themselves human,
but I kept first the ordinance of Heaven.






SCENE TEN

[Years earlier. ETOCLES and POLYNICES are
children, rollerskating. ANTIGONE a babe.]

POLYNICES. 
I cry with a wild cry.
You chase me just to waste me. Why?
High-speed, here's ETOCLES. 
I feel
in my neck the rollerskate's solid wheel.
Monkey's uncle! Mercy, Etocles!
Your foot is really squishing me!

ETOCLES. 
Say it. Pray it.
This dog's day isn't over yet.

POLYNICES. 
Oh... Etocles.

ETOCLES. 
Say it.
POLYNICES. 
Please... please....

ETOCLES. 
Say it.

POLYNICES. 
You're just as meany mean
as old Unc' Kreon.

ETOCLES. 
Fiend.
Say it. Or I'll make you double-time
march until... until dinnertime!

POLYNICES. 
Dinnertime!

ETOCLES. 
Say it!

POLYNICES. 
[sing-songs.]
When we're ready to be princes
beloved in the world's embraces,
plastered on the summer magazines
kept in adolescent dreams obscene,
poked and prodded, adored, implored,
by the tired mechanics of Fame's one door,
it's Etocles, not me, who'll be
the glass of fashion, and king. You'll see.
It's Etocles, not me,
not me, it's Etocles who'll be....
It's Etocles, not me,
not me, you'll see, it's Etocles
who will grow up to be
king of everthing he sees.
Etocles, Etocles,
not me, not me.

ETOCLES. 
OK. Good enough; get up.
It's almost time to wash and sup.

POLYNICES. 
My neck is cricked
you prick.

ETOCLES. 
Wanna play "soverign and his councillors"?

POLYNICES. 
Nah... What a bore.
It's Antigone I wanta check out.
See if her bunched-up face is normal yet.

ETOCLES. 
All right. To the nurse! Double-time!
POLYNICES. 
You said no double-time.

ETOCLES. 
Did not. I said double-time til dinnertime
if you did not crown me king. That's not
a promise of no double-time, it's a threat.

POLYNICES. 
Same thing, silly.

ETOCLES. 
Not really....

[Enter NURSE and JOCASTA.]

JOCASTA. 
Today Kreon returns with his forecast.
I never saw anyone so certain and self-assured
so anxious about the half-sayings of the prophets
and fortune-throwers.

NURSE. I'd have thought it would fall
beneath his dignity to get any advice at all.

[Enter OEDIPUS.]

OEDIPUS. 
Don't let crass Kreon fool you girls.
His crew-cut style hides feigning wiles.
Half his dignity's his uniform,
pressed and polished, that's his norm.

JOCASTA. 
That's the visitor's pipping trumpet.
Let greedy ears hear what the prophet said.

OEDIPUS. 
Yes, let's.

[Enter KREON.]

OEDIPUS. 
Well, Kreon, what news from on high?

KREON. 
Such news as might make stone men sigh.

NURSE. Oh, sir, look at his face! I, I....

OEDIPUS. 
Here, take a pull on my flask.

KREON. 
A dark and dirty task
has been assigned to hard-pressed Thebes.

OEDIPUS. 
Then we'll launder it to light's reprieve.
KREON. 
Its a pollution from long ago.
A splotch that necessities did throw
from our minds. Can't think about honor
on an empty stomach, or you'll double sorrow.
Nor when half the city's sick with plague.

OEDIPUS. 
The Sphinx gave me a promise. She did not renege
when I solved her riddle about the legs.
I'll do the same for this problem. And simply,
now that I'm the King, and it's my responsibility.

KREON. 
Well, it's a real riddle again, right enough.

OEDIPUS. 
Hmm. These augers often play with double tongues
and curse those who most expect a kiss.
I'd rather not be a patsy in their plots.

JOCASTA. 
But what choice have we got?

KREON. 
None.

OEDIPUS. 
Such is the whim of God. Let's hear the knot.
What can we do, but be good guessers
and attempt all the obstacles in life, the greater and lesser,
tripping and leaping by turns?

KREON. 
Shrewdly said, sire. There is a stain....

OEDIPUS. 
So you said. Make yourself plain.

KREON. 
A blotch... a murder.

NURSE. Murder!

OEDIPUS. 
But there is no murder, unless I err.

KREON. 
Brutal and ruinous, and the culprit
still at large. "Laius," said the voice, I still hear it:
"Laius; find his killer, or mighty Thebes is no more."

OEDIPUS. 
But he was killed long before
I even got here!

KREON. 
Oracles can be pretty rough.

OEDIPUS. 
Oh, this makes the puzzle tough.
KREON. 
Murdered on the open road; the man
and his entire entourage..or, nearly. And
now the gods, going through the oracle's cold throat
command we track the killer or they get our goat.

OEDIPUS. 
Why wasn't this matter devined
time out of mind, long sad years ago? I mind
a regicide loose in Thebes!
For all I know, I could be next!

KREON. 
Anarchies.
That's why we dawdled as detectives.
Wasn't looked into because of the plague;
folks passing out in the streets, faces greyed,
dead as the weather in yesterday's papers. Dead inks.
No time then for any riddle but the Sphinx's.

OEDIPUS. 
Once more it seems my task
to disgorge these dark things until they bask
in the temperate light of day. To my head,
it is good and lawful to honor the dead,
never too late to set things straight with heaven,
blot out evil wherever it lies hidden.
In my own mind's quiet self-report
I can scan nothing more important.

[Enter the children, screaming and running.]

OEDIPUS. 
Children, enough! The time
for play has come and gone.







SCENE ELEVEN

[Coronation of KREON.]

ANNOUNCER. 
Let this chosen of the gods
be shown of special promise and strictest bond
to guide the stray arrangents of our state
with kingly competence, and put no bad act
before the eternal temperance divinely given
when gods attempt to teach justice to men.

KREON. 
Beneath this State vestment I must frown
and find my fellows lacking as I turn round
viewing the world from the gold hedge and ground
of your principle endowment: this crown of crowns
or haughty scepter whose powers enforce
a king's singular essence of moral choice.
These tidings and these trinkets
I accept without a blink, yet
I acknowledge they were only theived
from you, dear citizens of Thebes.
Having so lately defended yourselves
from a most horrible attack upon your homes,
I take it in victory, and in sacred trust,
that civic will and private itch keep us robust.

TIRESIAS. 
Above me, a pretty speech cries out.
Who speaks? He has the rough measure of Kreon
of old, but talks of citizens and kings, not men,
horses, battle, and such warlike use of words
as was his common way when I knew him good.

KREON. 
It's me, TIRESIAS. 
Your boy has eyes.
Doesn't he tell you when to bow before a king?
TIRESIAS. 
King? King? I thought you just said
you were KREON. 
I know your voice. You are.
Now, how is a Colonel a king? Tell me boy,
for this Kreon is trying out a jest.
I guess for everything there's a first.

KREON. 
You've stumbled into a coronation, prophet.
Were you looking to sadden some widow before her time?
Please, don't let me detain you.

TIRESIAS. 
There's many I might make sad today.
Yourself not least, KREON. 
Listen to what I say.

KREON. 
I don't recall ever NOT listening, Tiresias.

TIRESIAS. 
Good. You've done one good thing there, wise.
A good start for a new king, indeed.

KREON. 
Yes, yes. To you I'm indebted for past deeds
and prophacies. But what new fate comes today?

TIRESIAS. 
Listen: Kreon, once more you sway
uneasily on the bladed edge of some great fate.

KREON. 
What's this? Your words discombobulate.

TIRESIAS. 
Kreon, Kreon, can't you tell
from the trembling insistance of my prophet's yell,
I'm giving you a chance too oft denied
by Fate's roulette wheel busy spinning in its pride.
The gods who blinded me are blessing you;
but they've handed it off to me to tell you what to do.
You know that little chair I've got up on the mountain,
set wildly high, where geysers shrink to fountains,
and the humungous ocean is reduced
to a puddle children's feet traduce?
Well, I was sitting there, feeling the sunlight
and the air, and the birds that make it to heaven's light,
and back, swirled all around me, all set a-chatter
(nothing too unusual in a prophet's business matters)
when out of their beaks there came contrasted
this sound that just, well, it sort of blasted
more than anything else; human in that screechfest,
like a child being dissected in an eagle's nest,
a person's voice set alight by the gods and burning,
a bonfire of consciousness, pure flame roaring
out of the anonymities gathered there.
There was a fight set off between 'em all in the air,
a seriousness of division like a war, wing-whirr
and furiousness. I put my hand out for the boy,
got him to swear up and down what he tol'
was what was happening. Didn't trust the, the
extraordinariness of it at all, too uncanny,
I thought, but the gods've left me dangling,
and brought me round to stranger things.
Here's what he saw, the boy, what my ears witnessed,
and no mistake: some of the bigger crows had hissed
a little dove over on its back, flayed out the wings
while a series of flyers looped low to sting
at the virgin breast, ripped and ripped, ceased
when a human voice leapt out of the distressed beast,
far louder than its size, a widow's moan
that in that violence was a sound alone.
When all was done, and no more to be heard,
I put my thumb in the open bowl of the bird,
trying to feel how the heart made out, what state
it was in for the augury, and I gave a start,
almost put my old thumb through that dove's ribs
and out the back, felt liver, and lungs, some greasy tid-bits,
but the heart, well, that was pecked completely
out, an absent mansion in my hand waiting
for it to flap back and start pumping. I was lost!
What could it all mean at this point?
Didn't know what to think, retreated out-of-joint
to my usual altar fires and such like.
But Hephastos failed me. Fire and no smoke,
no sign rising from destruction that should choke
black the heavenly skies. That's a fact.
I was in a panic. All the earth was out of whack!
Sonny, some things start out serious, stay that way
to the grave. This is one of 'em. What I say.
Everybody makes mistakes, no matter how exalted,
diligence is needed to see what the fault is
as well as to carry on with a difficult chore.
The gods chortle at our morose doings, none more
than our puffing up in pride and staying puffed.
But when goodness licks out of a man like holy fire
and by its light he sees his wrongs, and does
something, anything almost, to fix 'em up in gods' eyes,
that diminishes the evil, sets it at naught,
if done timely and with a sincere heart. Kreon,
think about things, who's standing up for the gods'
old ways in spite of man? Don't conflict
by policy with what moves above us... Ain't politic.
Ordering strong men to swim in armor,
march a million miles; orders have an issuer,
but results are not guaranteed. Kreon,
this Antigone thing.... It goes against God.
I've seen it, and ran here. Best tell Kreon, I thought,
he's always kept a level head on and whatnot.

KREON. 
Birds of Zeus! Are you sure your boy
didn't whistle while you dozed in prophetic joy,
perhaps sipping too much of that bacchic wine
that brings insightful frenzy to the near-divine?
Can't my coronation day, in a country wide-
open with a peace we've earned, be free
of these nasty natterings and edgy anxieties?
No, Tiresias, even if your lauded eagles
carried Polynices up to heaven, regal
bit by stinking bit, I'd not yeild at all.
All my life I've put up with fortune-tellers;
He defied me in life, let his death be the exemplar!
I didn't pollute any temples, was always solemn.
The gods themselves are immune to us, no man can smack 'em.
You'll have to go elsewhere, go away
with your filthy business, I won't pay
to have my brightest day ruined by some
sour old blind man with his abacus of curses. Come,
Gather 'round! Tiresias sells his wisdom
to the highest bidder! Worthless words for hire!

TIRESIAS. 
Is there no man left inside you to fear the fire?
Are you so completely withered to this length,
a single conceit of earthly power and tyrant-strength
that you, an armored prawn, would defy augury and all
that heaven gives in grace to the earth? It appalls!

KREON. 
All right. Give us the phony aphorism.
Here's a dangled drachma for your boy-whore jism.

TIRESIAS. 
Is there no man left in you who'll
know that wisdom outweighs any wealth, you fool!

KREON. 
Right. And bribes are baser than any baseness.

TIRESIAS. 
Bribes leave both the giver and taker with less.

KREON. 
I would not presume to counter a prophet
who's so good at counting what's in his pocket.

TIRESIAS. 
Do you still say my prophecy's for sale?
That for some monkish junk I'd sell the Grail?

KREON. 
Prophets have always thought it a touch too keen
to catch the sordid future in a drachma's gleam.

TIRESIAS. 
And kings have always loved warrior's brass,
and the brassy brayings of their own voices!

KREON. 
Watch it! Your king stands before you.

TIRESIAS. 
I know it. I prophecied that too.

KREON. 
You, Tiresias, are not without talent.
But foreseeing my rise may not be thought
too spectacular. No one worked so hard for their fate,
trimming my sails, and staying up late,
stabbing back at intrigue, watching for my chances.
Face it Tiresias, a lucky guess. And now my guess is,
well, now you've completely sold out.

TIRESIAS. 
Sire, fatal words are in my throat.
Do not unclasp their lock. There is no antidote.

KREON. 
Here. Place this coin under your tongue,
that useless lock for those flapping gums,
and unburden yourself of your bleak words.
But remember, no matter what is said or heard,
no further coin will I give you for defiance,
although maybe I'd pay for some uncommon silence.

TIRESIAS. 
Although these words charge your life in fee,
yet, you cannot afford my silent tranquility.

KREON. 
No doubt. No doubt. I'm listening.
Your audience stands attentive, prevaricating performer.

TIRESIAS. 
Very well, then. Take this, Kreon,
and take deep to heart! Not much father will
the days advance upon your royal time
when you shall be charged to pay all
back that you have taken: corpse for corpse
and flesh of your flesh shall pay the price!
You thrust one wondering child of light
into damned antechambers of soul's night---
innocent Antigone, who kept to the gods
and did not stray, into Hades too terribly sudden,
living in night before she's made a shade.
Also, you have perversely kept above the dust
another soul, marooned here on the earth's crust
that should have been with dignity interred.
One graved before her death, the other denied
holy sanction of a burial. These are your crimes,
Kreon. Fear the Furies and the dark of time.
Fear the great, dim gods of Hell:
Their punishment is moving swift and fell.
So swift and sure their flight at you
that you cannot even hear the fatal arrow
fletched by my prophacy. Are these the words,
Kreon, for which you wished and paid?
Soon, soon, as night and day revolve again
around your guilt, targeting in,
your house shall know loud lamentations,
men and women wandering eyeless from tears,
distant curses will come up close.
Cities grieving their unburied boys
will bend in ill will at your policies,
pushing the sink of the dead into beautiful Thebes,
even as high as your palace. These are my words,
Kreon, free of charge. Now you have heard.
[Throws money at KREON.]
Come, boy. We have seen enough.

SOLDIER. 
These words work in my heart, make me cough
like a plague unleashed. Tiresias is gone,
but his bitter knowledge lingers in the air.
Old as I am, I can't remember him lying ever.

KREON. 
Ah. It is hurts to even think whether....
But I cannot remember him ever lying either.
Damn it!

SOLDIER. 
If I may advise....

KREON. 
If not always very wise,
you at least have served me. How could I woo
that troublesome Tiresias and ignore you?

SOLDIER. 
Thank you. I am worried. I think....
KREON. 
Yes? What is it? Speak.

SOLDIER. 
Get Antigone out of her tomb,
and put Polynices in there. Trade 'em.
Maybe the gods will take the hoodwink.

KREON. 
Friend, of all my campaigns, I think,
would you really have me do this?

SOLDIER. 
As old as I am, I'd hate to see
new sorrow bring my old captain down.
Now go at once. You heard how swift
it must be done! The gods are never slow
to punish men who wrong 'em. No.

KREON. 
All my heart's against it, all.
But, yes, all right. I'll
not wrestle destiny for a corpse.

SOLDIER. 
And go yourself,
that's the right way with these things!

KREON. 
I will go. Servents-- fetch axes,
pull shovels from the farmers' hands.
To Polynices first, he's the first thing
I'll take out of the gods' sight and put right.
Quick, quick! The gods are stonger than us
and all our little hubris of polity;
a man must serve them till he die.





SCENE TWELVE

[OEDIPUS in Thebes, answering Sphinx.]

OEDIPUS. 
It's a hard day full of light
as opposite a cramped, paranoic night
as a traveller'd dare to care to have, or get,
until it seems that that old soul the sun, cart-
wheels just for fun, rolling toward oblivion.
The road's all dust, and a plague, they say,
kills a city, Thebes, just one cross ridge away.
There the Sphinx, flinty singer, stone muse of mystery,
riddles every passerby to intermit the plague
but none who've answered lived, or answered as a sage.
But as I was born a wanderer with swell
feet, I might as well
attempt what answer I can make, or makeup what I can't,
--for what use is life without a little of romance?
Life's philosophy's eternal whim;
too much permanence must make us grim,
seize our sighs to breathless glaciers
and put our passions on permanant vacations.
I'll try my maybe answers to get the golden pouches
proffered by the populace. There she crouches....
Now let me take a chance; she's overheard!
Time to make my stand. Sphinx! Lion! Woman! Bird!

SPHINX. 
I am SPHINX. Take counsel, and be afraid.

OEDIPUS. 
Be afraid? And drill myself to silence?
I'd rather be an inquisitor in your presence.

SPHINX. 
Time mocks men that mock their fears.

OEDIPUS. 
I came to ask you what your riddle is,
to delve it out or die.

SPHINX. 
                 I am SPHINX. 

Take counsel, and depart.

OEDIPUS. 
[Aside.]         A jinx.
Take counsel and depart? Where, sorcerer,
would I go, a homeless wanderer? [Aloud.]
I am ready for your riddle, Sphinx.
I'm after this city of Thebes' rink-
y-dink reward. There's advantage for my risk---
enough to allay my fears, maybe, sans mock's 'tisk.'

SPHINX. 
Prepare for death, mortal man.

OEDIPUS. 
Lay it on me, sister.

SPHINX. 
             Answer, if you can:
What walks on four legs at dawn, two at noon,
and three legs when the sun is gone?

OEDIPUS. 
Beats me. I give up, what is it?

SPHINX. 
Your life and soul are forfeit.

OEDIPUS. 
Hey, I was just kidding! Man!

SPHINX. 
Man? Make your answer clear, or soon....

OEDIPUS. 
Yeah, yeah... Man, that's it. Dawn
is infancy, crawling on all fours; noon
is adulthood, when we walk upright, and....

SPHINX. 
I have seen the mighty of all nations
look appalled upon the pit, and die at these equations.

OEDIPUS. 
And evening... evening is, well, uh, would be,
that is, or would be, would kinda haveta be,
well, you know, old age and all that. See?

SPHINX. 
An old age you will never know. Prepare!

OEDIPUS. 
In old age man walks on three... three...
[Aside.] Stick to it, OEDIPUS. 
Stick to it, stick, stick....

SPHINX. 
Stick? Your answer now, be quick!

OEDIPUS. 
Yes! Evening is old age, when man
walks with the aid of a crutch, a stick, when he can,
you know the deal. Well, monster, that's my guess;
am I dead, or delivered from this mess?

SPHINX. 
Live.

OEDIPUS. 
Now to see what the Thebans will give.





SCENE THIRTEEN


[Inside ANTIGONE's tomb.]

ANTIGONE. 
Already I am done with waiting.
Already I wish to be my consummation taking,
and with these waters and flowers sweet
end my too many days in this rock of night.
Never again will the sun come unto my face
unless it be in chinky disfigurence,
rough oblongs that obscure what they set upon
as much as may illuminate. This bride-bedecked tomb
differs less than many might have thought
from the airy daylight world I left,
filled, as that world is, with sights obscured
by ambition and prideful puffings of the self
enough to make this dismal chambered
dark, bright as the broadest noonday to myself.
But already am I done with its smalls charms,
and though it make me a respite from harm,
and all the corrupting rack of earth outside
that seems a more populated dark of brutal tides,
I am done. You have directed my feet, O gods,
to this place, accept me to the afterworld
as in this harried round of menace and ambition
you disgraced my simplicity and devotion.
I am done. Now I'll tear my veil
and shread my neck from breath as well
who should pant upon her bridal bed
like a wild leopard left unfed,
saying "Haemon," and "love" and such smallnesses
as this, which new-marrieds will make to pass
their days in restful glory and in bliss.
[She hangs herself.]

HAEMON. 
[Outside.] This is the most desperate spot
Thebes or the entire earth has got,
which everywhere else has such unequalled good;
This ruined landscape, flat, devoid,
measures well with the harsh expectations
of my empty soul. You, and you, drop your rations,
and tear with me at these false-risen
obstructions obscuring my life's business,
these stones of earth that cage my heart.
My father is the supreme head of State
as well you fingers of his power know
whom he posted here. Now, let's go!
Would you deny me, men? Think on it:
would you deny his son and risk the worst?
Good. Now, to it! O State that makes such men
so concerned with their skins and not what's within.
Antigone! Since I cannot from
the blasted blankness of this rocky womb
deliver you to life and light again,
which life lacks light without your presence,
I've come to bury myself with you
where my heart already lies entombed.
There, it is done. When I am within
this inky place, seal all up again the same
and I shall thank you as though you were my saviors.
Antigone.... do you sleep, or in prayer labor?
My adjusting eyes are hard put
to see you or anything in this murk.
Here's a cup of brackish water, a cruelty condoned
by my father to hurt your last days alone.
What's this? Soft... flowers strewn
almost to heaping! I thought is was yourself, Antigone,
nothing else. Now the chamber's darkness dies
and starts to glow like lurid moonrise
over sandy wastes; things appear,
but not in their true character,
but merely, as it were,
half-aware of what they were in daylight.
I seem to see within my eye, and not without.
What in the very center of this chamber floats?
....A ghost! [Florishes sword at Antigone.]
O spirit restless
whose place I trespass,
greet me as a younger brother born
to share an immortality like your own.
But wait... Oh, I am done with waiting!  [Slashes.]
Collapsing on the stone floor? What? A weighted thing....
[Discards sword.] Now I own again my full sight
to look upon the desecration of my heart.
O Antigone! Were you so impaitient to be hurled
from this sinister fascination called the world?

[ENTER MESSENGER.]

MESSENGER. 
Guards, stop your lawful punishment.

SENTRY. 
This is a trick. We're ordered to finish it.

MESSENGER. 
KREON. 
He's changed his mind.
He spoke to Tiresias, and decided,
better to gamble with the gods than against.
The state is not the only arbiter of mens' estate;
he grasped some greatness within that helped him
do one thing great. He rushed off then,
spade in hand, to bury Polynices' properly.
I had helped, starting out over there with 'em.
We had to... to.... It was awful...
Then he thought it best to post me onward,
here to the tomb, to bring tidings to Haemon
and ease his troubled mind. Haemon!

SENTRY. 
You'll have to shout considerably louder.

MESSENGER. 
Why? What evil is in your laughter?

SENTRY. 
Haemon's in the tomb with Antigone.

MESSENGER. 
In there? Why? He was not condemned.

SENTRY. 
He wanted to be with his bride
to break-in the bed.

[A cry is heard from within the tomb..]

MESSENGER. 
What's that? An evil sound of lunacy.

SENTRY. 
Let's give the honeymoon couple some privacy.

MESSENGER. 
But Kreon orders them out!

SENTRY. 
I'll await Kreon's orders. Don't pout.
You know what a hardhead he is.

MESSENGER. 
He sent me on ahead to tell you this.

[Another cry.]

SENTRY. 
Have you ever known Kreon's mind
to ever change? The man's adamantine.

MESSENGER. 
Out of my way then; I'll dig them out myself.

SENTRY. 
Not while I have breath....

[They prepare to scuffle. ENTER KREON.]

MESSENGER. 
Sire!

SENTRY. 
This man tried to break into the tomb
and undo your orders, sir. You're under arrest. Come.

[Another cry.]

KREON. 
What's that? From the tomb! Those cries!

SENTRY. 
Just Haemon saying his goodbyes.

KREON. 
Haemon! Haemon! Are you in there?
What is this crying out? Dear,
son, speak to me-- I come here on my knees
begging forgiveness. Unloose me
from this parental nightmare of regret.
Let me see my son again obedient
to a wronging father who corrects
himself by the forgotten love he recollects
---I am as new-made as light
within a sharpened diamond's made more bright
by the outer hardness it discards
to redouble illumination's shards
and give back twice to the paitient eye
all the glory looming in a summer sky.
There, through this hasty chink
I see you in the center of the rock,
lying athwart the darkest spot.
But beside you, what's that you've got?
Something white a little to your left;
It looks like Antigone's veil, bereft
of her fine face and flung awry.
I've buried Polynices, Antigone!
Washed him up with my own hands,
first with holy water with my own hands.
And then into the mellow ground, you see,
now all the grime and dirt's on me.
Tiresias knocked sense into me, until I saw
I've no war with the dead, except how
to honor them more highly. Haemon!
Shall a father not be answered by his son?

MESSENGER. 
We're almost through, sire. Here's an entrance.

SENTRY. 
Watch out, this heavy stone is losing its balance!

KREON. 
Haemon-- voice of the damned dark, talk!--
Is Antigone dead, did her body balk
when I criminalized her love?
To my sunken ear her light voice dove,
deformed by aquatic harmonics, till
I only heard her mumur against my will,
my will magnified by water into The State.
I'll dash away these tears and wait
to hear her voice again from under shale.
She has hung herself with her unwound vail!
Haemon, Haemon, let my grief
reverse engineer her death back to relief,
and may my taut repentance
rekinkle our cold aquiantance,
for a father and son should be united;
then her death might be less blighted.
O my son, let my sorrow, my tears, impart
by my new-washed intent, a place in your heart!
Forgive me! All's done ill.
Here, take my hand. No! This chill
and evil fiction in your eyes!
Haemon, the father in me dies
to see you see me through such lies,
a vail of hating falsities.
Nor can I expect a blink's reprieve
from the long stabs inside your sight
that show me as I am, not as I might
have been: a father loving and alive
to all his only son might give.
Ah! now he's stabbing at my face,
stabbing, stabbing at my disgrace,
the delineaments of age and error
that no longer awe him into terror
nor any obedience any longer.
Son, o son, I wish I had been stronger!
and known the fictions of renown
make their victors victims of their poem.
Now... No! No! Haemon, slice
nothing of yourself for your father's vice!
Turn the wild knife's erratic
attention back against the vatic
idiot who forgot his only duty
was to tell his son to love his beauty,
and let young Haemon, and pretty Antigone,
live and love and be.
Come out and kill the wretch
who held a burecratic pen to sketch
a tyrant's tragedy among the stars,
and cut his heart to a hash of scars.
Come out and kill me. Oh fair boy,
whose rose of blood lays unalloyed
on Antigone's dead and paper cheek....
You have won your bride, even as I speak,
and I have lost my son.

[The stone is rolled away. We see
HAEMON and ANTIGONE dead.]

End

Jul 162020
 


a tragedy

by Gregg Glory
[Gregg G. Brown]

Published by BLAST PRESS
copyright 1988




SCENE 1

HAMILTON Cornwalis has overwhelmed our Gates In South Carolina at Camden-town Where the crepey willows hang their sad limbs In liquid embraces that clasp the air Incestuous summer's sultry melting Clots with riotous cries of our defeated. This, and other engagements that went Against us begin to bind the free determination of our course As with water that cannot choose its level But drops indeterminately to the base They that cannot see to steer their courses Funnel blindly to black ends. But we are men, and do not flow unwillingly But rather march our rivers to a sea Of our own devising. Hortatio Gates Being the main hand of our forces south Should bear some load of blame for our flank's wounds That were insufficiently defended. ADAMS But Gates is a good man. HAMILTON But the gate was weak. And others have proved false before this. This is the worst dark year of war Criminal monarchy has knighted on us yet. The British boar gores our youthful state, And the foundling nation bleeds dangerously. ADAMS Each honorable drop the unaccepting earth Will vomit up at warty faces And drown their fatal squeals in innumerable floods Rained so fast dizzy sanity must think All the weeping face of nature broke blood sobs To gape on woeful corpses of Americans. HAMILTON If things stand as they are, we stand defeated. [Enter Messenger MESSENGER Sir, the British, in sharp ambition To retain their sovereignty in these states (Which, by God, and by my blood, they shall not) Have cut the French fleet off at Brest, The harbor of our hopes, with a deep blockade. WASHINGTON It seems dry powder has stopped up What otherwise would flow to our advantage. [Stuff missing...] England has bottled France's valor up And you would launch this tirade instead. Rashness makes a gentleman look ill; It spots him with the indecent cheek of youth Heated by inconstant purposes boiling all at once To make intemperate kettles sing and pipe, Fuelled by logs from his own wayward eye. You have me at a disadvantage in our fencing That I must sit by and seem to straddle it. Congress will have much to say of this. I shall not send a commendation yet, Forced to the narrow end of our sharp argument By outward circumstances. Be at peace-- And know that I shall meditate in state On this grave, vital matter. And I think Even our hissing Southern fires must wait To be quenched in decision's cooler hour. [Exit all but he Discord in these linen ranks does not suit; A more polished rupture in our debate Will make itself felt presently, I fear.

SCENE 2

FATHER Welcome, gentlemen, to all our royal roast. Feed on what your appetites have pleasure To consume: piled tables, music's sweetest note, And ladies liberally dispersed Twitch skirts to the fiddler's cricketing. Formality is left tarrying past sundown. Put out your worries of these flashing times In our pooled merriment which chills those heats. A shooting star is the only shot we'll fear. So, men, summer's last dragonflies let's be: Clip on fancy's wings and navigate these smiles That tell of rustic silence in a booming mire. Ladies, attach your sultry glows; Flit lithesome and into dark rushes blow. [Aside] We've had our country quiet ripped by war Instead of the fiddler's jumping saw. Too much death leaves pleasure at the door. MAJOR ANDRE Cannons sometimes are veiled, and soldiers sleep. FATHER To dream on drums' martial melodies. MAJOR ANDRE Perhaps it is so, but while our joys can stir Drink up the entertainment you have poured And put on the evening's delightful gear That must mask our more familiar faces. FATHER Major Andre, although you must visit Secretly, in deepest danger to your self And of your loyalty make some pretense As might a spy, you've determined me to laugh. I'll speak no more of war. Fiddler, scratch! [Goes off MAJOR ANDRE While my honesty must dissemble here I'll study out how to read these masquers' looks And trace tracks of deer in these confused woods; There's one white hind whose heart leaps plain And in colonial marshes wears a crown. His wife, obeying some royal cue, tips Her antlered wine glass and prepares To hoof. But here walks a man among ranks Makes a solemn clowning of our license; Dignity in motion, with shoulders to bear his crown; Among the jumping minions of these woods He bears a royal poise. Who is this stag that makes such noble browse Among the rude reeds offered here? FATHER Arnold. Pothead, leave off that lady's slipper Unless you'd have a flower trod on you. POTHEAD Aye, sir. [Aside] Although it'd be a pretty bruise would bloom. MAJOR ANDRE Benedict Arnold? FATHER The same, He who bravely saved Saratoga from retribution's whip With limping victory. ---Cullion, Scissors, Fetch the rich broth and tar it on their hungers Need makes misbehave. Mr. Andre, I must knock skulls or find no brains; pardon. [Goes MAJOR ANDRE Perhaps my secret purpose, burning low, has here Found some powder for its hidden light. FATHER Peggy, lift a leg, and show these ladies How to reel that never hopped before. CULLION Are women frogs to hop like that? POTHEAD Hop-hop Is too lewd for frogs, but not too loose for maids. CULLION You stuff ears rudely, salad-maker. POTHEAD There's dancers behind the kitchen fires Stomping on a flat spot. Cullion? CULLION I'll dance you to shards. MAJOR ANDRE She dances with the tempered grace of one That never made immodest show before. FATHER You shall come to know my daughter hereafter. [Benedict and Peggy dancing BENEDICT Let these soulful travelers quit travail On your cold lips' firmament; restful earth, Let me stretch out my full measure on the ground As final mortal toil all lies down to do Even to this last particle of desire. Taking the measure of my life's content, Stir still contentment to disclose a love Close encamped in his stilted tent, Ready as a pilgrim in the wilderness To study out the flowers how they bloom Or how dull whippoorwills take punishment of rain, Or anything, or nothing, or any service give Beneath the starry barbs fixed in your glance. On this grass field that tombs up men And builds no further monument of dust But wild everlasting weeds I'll lie down And become myself some substance of the grass. FATHER Daughter, daughter! Stand on ceremony And sing the saddest song you know to out-weep These egregious wars. BENEDICT The willow song. MRS BENEDICT ARNOLD It goes against the gladness of the hour. BENEDICT Not while you have breath, or the song power To enchant sadness, opposites must turn As one divided face in a mirror meets Itself; antinomies, reconcile. [Peggy, soon to be Mrs. Benedict Arnold, sings the Willow Song MRS BENEDICT ARNOLD [Aside] This weighty general treads a heavy slope; Hard walks shorten the breath, yet invigorate The breather--- so he takes his duties with this death--- A heavy slope, but always tending upward To a rarer air his appointment will survey. If I tend him in this most grievous hour, My fortunes with his merits will incline. [News of Benedict's wife's death is given to Benedict MAJOR ANDRE Someone whispers her death to him. WOMAN How does The news adhere? MAJOR ANDRE Like some sad Pan of the woods Forcing spring sighs from melancholy pipes He makes some measure of polite delight Blow through the hollow of his sorrows And excuses himself from festive faces. WOMAN Wistful already on a new continent Greater than the ocean for men to make Discoveries on. MAJOR ANDRE These woods are already Old in blood, and familiar death will make The strangest places home. Let's call ourselves Poor Arabs under wandering stars and moor our sorrows To the nearest ditch. We've sunk a fen in heaven. [Exit Benedict FATHER All good things must have their ends Or else in surfeit cease to please. Goodnight, and God bless the king!

SCENE 3

LAFAYETTE This is a bad way to growl the hours off. HAMILTON It is unmannerly of me to drag Our nation's fatherhood into question. But had we all so many fathers Inheritance would grow old waiting For their departures. Death's bounty granted, Half a world would fall under coltish feet. LAFAYETTE What a mother to lie so foully seeded By so many men it must change her hue From virgin white to heavy ripeness green apples aging against the frost That splits the skin. HAMILTON We must modify this Tacky image that sticks unwanted In the guileless minds of the people. Pick another has not so many heads To breed confusion with; one sterling man To break this slavish earth from the tyrant's chains, Stamp freedom on her rejoicing heart, And tie themselves like lovers in Silken bonds of holy matrimony. ADAMS That would save us. LAFAYETTE And make the country's sons Jump to destroy their mother's naked foes Who, all unarmed against their laying on, The weak wailing enemy they'll tear apart As a bear a babe. HAMILTON George Washington Is a man who may stand the test of this. LAFAYETTE He has virile character enough. ADAMS He is Cato enough to make modest Any citizen. ____: And the people love him for his wisdom. HAMILTON Is everyone agreed then? LAFAYETTE Washington! ADAMS Washington. HAMILTON No one could elect a better father. ADAMS Washington it is. HAMILTON Thank you, gentlemen; We are all well bred in this.

SCENE 4

BENEDICT Will the state have me for a general? I have deserved it before this, but redcoats Like the march of blood to a loving heart Carry my cause forward, past timid debates, To a blushing estimation. You hold In a commanding purview all my cause And, as a coursing eagle, have reared up One equal in sinew to yourself Tipped with wings to caress new heavens with. discern and decide, sir; As a man, I will not buffet you from The nest of our mutual resolution But I may resign. WASHINGTON Seal up your thoughts. Tomorrow Flies at us out of a boundless night infinite in hopes, uncircumscribed By today's pace, universal In expectation, beyond scope in device, Past description, assignment or fixed state To which at dusk it narrowly returns. Threat nothing, and train shrieking councils silent Until this weaning cause bears some issue. BENEDICT Will the state have me for a general? I am not softly barbed to this extreme Like some tender babe crying at cold hands That tender only its own fostering But I must know. Will the state have me For a general? WASHINGTON I have no idea. I must shut myself up, priest-like, In meditation until some crowd of thoughts Clamorously emerge. From my chamber I'll then proceed with the curative For these uncertain ill expectations That have unhoused sleep from your breast And stalk night for comforts. Until then Go in the company of good thoughts And take what peace you can from this: my love Which, like a small warden following your thoughts, Walks with you in this indecisive hour. BENEDICT Do not let the public censure of my Private house weight anything in your Fraught deliberations, sir. WASHINGTON I shall not. Controversy could not so mar your wife That I would not recognize her merits. I may have wooden teeth but not even An oak leg could make me forget her dances. BENEDICT May the night give you happy dreams, sir. WASHINGTON Thanks. May my gracious wishes give you some cause To rest. Dismissed, and good night. BENEDICT Goodnight, sir.

SCENE 5

[Four skinners on the road]

FIRST SKINNER
Is this the way into the fort the lady said?

SECOND SKINNER
In the way or out of it, either way is a safer way for us.

FIRST SKINNER
How safer?

SECOND SKINNER
If in the way, we’re on our way, and we should discover the fort, and that’s a safe place; there beg food, and that’s a safe thought for our bellies.

THIRD SKINNER
If our bellies could think.

SECOND SKINNER
Why what’s man but a thinking belly?

FIRST SKINNER
And if out?

SECOND SKINNER
That’s safest. If out, we’re in ourselves, which is to say by ourselves, which is to count our four selves. And if for ourselves and by ourselves, then that’s a proof of choice, because of self-election. And its better to be choosers than to be beggars.

THIRD SKINNER

Ay, and out of harm’s way as well.

SECOND SKINNER

And, if in the harming mood, out of the way of catching ears.

FOURTH SKINNER
Wait. A horse. Hide yourselves, you bellies, if you need necks.

[Enter Major Andre


SCENE 6

[At Benedict's Wife's graveside] BENEDICT Quiet, heart. Here is one has stored Her mellow contents in the earth. Quiet earth, That such a mellowness would burst this confining dirt Fallen on it! And like the repeating sea Surge to cover me and with blessing waters Wash my guilts. All my dead grief lie Congealed in thee. Too-bruised a soul To bear out her mortal term one more day. When you took breath, you breathed me in And, feeding the brief sustenance on which you fed, Held me for a breathing moment consoled In every breath, and banished with the last. Expelled into a harming world, all wounds, And this the worst. What made these small ones, Inspired their dust or molded their forms From nothingness, what set the skipping creatures up to Kick, weep, damage, sing, race, trip And make all manner of motions on this Pocky flat of weeds and mud? What gods play With us so that our shadows throw a pattern That makes hearts break? O to wive the earth Is better than marrying shadows. So you this inanimate steadfastness wed And be content. There's material to shift Into a dying memorial for thee., There's ivy glosses the weak side of the hill, And a blood-touched cowslip advantages the root Under a guarding tree's solemn nod-- And here's a peck of bruised violets Nature's quiet weep may keep fresh. [Enter Andre BENEDICT Here comes one will give my ambitions Weight to lever the barricaded world with yet And pluck it from its setting. MAJOR ANDRE Mr. Arnold! I have had letters of you of late, sir. Shall we unfold their contents in this Windy place? The bed-moans of ghosts make me unquiet, And many shelved here have died of the pox. BENEDICT For the least sick inflicted me, I stand Ready to ill the world with maladies. These inmates of the earth will understand The business between us better than most That caper naughtily above. MAJOR ANDRE The price Last given in our correspondence suits His majesty, General Arnold. BENEDICT Thanks, sir. MAJOR ANDRE Do you accept these terms, sir? They are yours. The commission is affixed by lawful Signatures in every degree required. [Holding paper BENEDICT A bloody hand upholds it, and an impatient vengeance Urges me to it! The subtlest wrongs Have I undertaken to prosecute. Dead crimes Moldering forgetful ages in the crypt Demand witnessing airs; I'll unpack them And render the impaled, drained corpses up To the forgiveless justice these times impose. But I have more recent instances To prick me into action. Pale Washington, Whose stiff demeanor showed him a boy In his father's boots, prating in a voice More fit for Christmas caroling than these August hours, has refused my due promotion Among the motley rebels.

SCENE 7

BENEDICT Continent Liberty! Blasphemous child Whose maternal love curdles in your teeth As though the very hour of your conceit had soured, Die on this rock of tribulations with my curse To salt your sweet breath of youth. What chainless father, deep in thought upon this present brink and brood of time would shed one precious drop for pity's sake on this old infant famished winds have sucked empty of moist life? Its fist of face turns mummy-looks to the patient mother gasping down her tongue. What man would claim the irreconcilable absurdity of so puling and morose a babe That has not his presence in its features Anywhere, no habitual grimace Or thoughtful look, or any other sign Of the slightest lending of his blood? Stand that man before me, if he lives, Who can love such a one as this--- Sprawling, unconnected and like to die--- And I'll make such yeasty homage to his paternal gore As will feed a teeming wilderness of orphans Nurse the bitterest pebbles to airy peaks Play uncle to the wily crocodile Hold all-hated basilisks for sons Declare strange fish for grandsons, never eat Of anything possessed of eyes again And name a father for every drop of rain.

SCENE 8

WASHINGTON These slim letters give much base for great fear, As much, indeed, as if they stood rampart Against the unbearable ocean. My fear, God save us gentlemen, builds much on them And sees the whetted sword of treachery Rise from coils of fog too-late burnt away By this papery light. Over us treason's blade Hangs from a thread as slender as was Our hope to escape hanging, gagged and cauled. LAFAYETTE What is in paper to make us shake so? WASHINGTON The blackest ink that ever poured From a treacherous heart. LAFAYETTE Treason! HAMILTON Black words to a loyal ear. [Wash. reads aloud the price agreed to, when and where first treachery to take place, at west point] HAMILTON Blacker still. [aside] I fear this charge of thoughts May unseat his gallant reason Ridden so hard upon. To see this Safire of his eye that he prized so much Cast in the mud. Reason thus cast down What skeleton or scarecrow fear, tremor-stuffed, Will sit enthroned in his usurped crown? WASHINGTON Cold, my heart, now that all your blood has left you? The bleeding time's unstopped, and far must race The most precious element the cistern Of our state had cradled-- until the gripping ground Rip open and crush it darkly to its breast. What wrong word struck him from our chambers, Outpacing fear to fence a globed ambition In the circuit of a crown? Did we scourge Our hero of Saratoga from us? Have I mistaked myself? To hold a man Properly in discernment, to neither Increase his credits at too dear a cost To the creditor, nor to hold him a purse Prematurely empty, discarding what May pay a future debt, is wisdom's trick. It seems I have lost gold in this business, Fumble-fingered in early mock of my Witless age, still all unhatched before me. HAMILTON Who has hands enough to catch all the dropping Sorrows of our state? LAFAYETTE Still be still. He is Still in the rapture of his puzzlement. WASHINGTON It's lost; it's lost. Our cause Undoes itself. With this grave loss, all that's Bright becomes confused, and a smoky film Dulls all our polished reasons to one dim; And honor's high name is beaten down. The absolute model of fierce virtue Cracked from our estimation, falls splintering Manly sorrow and war's roaring griefs To flooded tears that overwhelm our breasts' basin Once so full of hopes to baptize ant with grief Whose tiny hearts great nature never taught To that sad purpose. HAMILTON This is not a grief Supports our purpose; justice leaves us If we infect the least. Therefore, proud men, Despise this traitor who abandons hope For the small prosperities of the minute. God floods the sickly flea with perpetual Renewal of its blood; so much more shall we Find medicine to prop our valors up In this bountiful land. Let's look to us To remedy these debilitating griefs Unwarranted disaster prompts into our eyes And dryly try some healing action That'll cut the killing cancer from us And toss it blackly in a surgeon's basin. Noosing thus foulness to it pit, this snip Yanks us, pulley-like, to blind justice's Equilibrium. ADAMS We stand at the point Of this deeply ravined matter which may fall out To either side. HAMILTON Slight starts have great effects. LAFAYETTE Then let us start. WASHINGTON He holds towards the fort. LAFAYETTE We follow first who shall lead him later. ADAMS It is a most unlikely daisy-chain Where causes fly barking after loosed effects. HAMILTON This dog has changed his master. LAFAYETTE Live, justice! ADAMS If Benedict die, it shall. LAFAYETTE Live, justice! HAMILTON The horses stand prepared, and wait by the post. WASHINGTON Now that the operation's upon us, Let us feel nothing, and act as men. [Exuent

SCENE 9

HAMILTON A dangerous silence infects his tongue Who should speak plain truth, carry victory On winged speeches, and subvert defeat With heavy damnations thundering down The most buoyant enemy. What canker Shifts his emphasis from plush can and must To lisping cautious coulds and sighing shoulds? What ocean of doubts in his mouth has drowned His fighting spirit? That such a bravery, Corroded to a speechless face of rust Puts tin ears on to frustrate [muffle] other's pleas That still richly ring his former note [out loud] Mocks love's gold syllable. [Enter Washington] Quiet! Dead steps Echo after us. WASHINGTON Mr. Hamilton, I shall not grant your wish this day. ... HAMILTON Are these alphabets worthless that you grant My letters nothing? WASHINGTON I have thought it out. I cannot sustain your current loss From this office. You knot the cords of revolt To this controlling post, and keep strict leash On blooded hounds which, following too close On boorish hooves in the heated chase, Would nose themselves to slaughterhouse hooks. That knot I dare not let slip to looser ends; But must keep my tight designs circumscribed Within the pre-dated orbit of success. HAMILTON Leadership reads men, not stars, sir. WASHINGTON Alex, Take this: my good will, from me, and be dismissed. I'll call upon you presently. HAMILTON Aye, sir. [Exit Washington

SCENE 10

BENEDICT Where did you spy out dead Andre's death To carry back this sad report to me To break my eyes with your tragic witness? MESSENGER From the crowd. It is a story shortly told. That taught one how to weep for nobleness [Andre in cell sentence here That never cried before. Hamilton's final plea, Stopped by great Washington unflinchingly, That the man be proudly shot to his face Instead of hung like a spying dog, Arrived at a late and useless hour; And Washington, praying for ignorance To support fortitude better than resolve, Let him languish in hope. The gentleman Ascending the scaffold at crooked dawn, Let nothing of fear touch his noble looks But bore all patiently, until the taunting crowd Taunted itself to silence, and then Forgave his murderer's hands before they struck. But when the pressing moment was upon him, Distasteful of the executioner's vile grease, Cried out: "Black hands, off!" And sweetened the thin rope around his neck To smooth his own way to death. Sorrow sweated From us below, that the baleful sun should glare On a sight so pitiless. He swung too long Kicking in the evil heaving air Till stranger hands helped press his case To a choked end. BENEDICT It's said death's a great corrupter of things, Robs men of their looks and makes all smiles hang From one jaw; the contrary sexes are mixed In death's crucible, and in hell all's stirred Indifferent alike. Death sweetens a little partridge That's left a-hanging, left too raw by life. Here's one dissolved to a simple skull Stares from its breaking handful of bones. A feather's stir Indicates the meter of life still ticks Its pulsed spur with indifferent vanity Towards an undiscovered conclusion. Some worm is in him that yet eats his breath. Evils do die when their prosecutors perish. Where the maps end, there ends England. Not before. With the royal fabric stretched out so, We'll snip the lists And trim ambition back from its massy sprawl. There is no martyrs in our woods, who for this Ghostly union still unprecipitate Will surrender up to heaven in a breath Their moist souls. Salve, salve! My conscience burns! Sweeten this wound a little With healing oils. It was left too much alone And began to rot.

SCENE 11

BENEDICT When I see my love Some acuity in my blood, unrepentant still, Shakes this house of bones almost to death; Flesh unclasps its shape, good meat from the sticking ribs Lightly falls-- and all that in some portion Added to this man to make his body up Retract their actions. Not one stands with him. No or conjured ghost Fostered by the blood within this quaking vessel Nor sempiternal spirit more real than brass Flashes forth on this moment's dark haunting. Probing lights through the dim forest come And the stately elm and oak, made ghastly Cast cold apparitions against our hearts. I ran, But the sudden presence of the light Cast after me its searching fingers in the dark Distorting what bright day made plain, so that Furled shadows opened and hung empty in the air.

SCENE 12

[On the Hudson River BENEDICT Men, that have rowed half over This watercourse, join with me and the king To teach this upstart nation to better learn Their duties to their betters and the state; They cry 'freed!' that were never bound, salute boys Who mock their royal parentage out of house, And declaim against a sinless king Its grammar and its graces. Speak, lads, Whose tongues were corked with enforced oaths. Will you come to me, England, and reward? FIRST SAILOR One coat serves my turn well enough. SECOND SAILOR Perhaps we'll have to let it at the neck. FIRST SAILOR So long as no foreign leash can make me speak Against myself, I am content. BENEDICT Not one of you for promotion, stern coin, And the king? Poor farmers may find some use For a headless body stuffed with paper To augur against crows, but men cannot. What is this feather to beat back British lead? Row on, lost sons, into the middle distance Of the lapping Hudson. BRITISH COMMANDER Hoist up; gaff them! BENEDICT Good, sir; these men are your prisoners That pulled me, like a drowning lark, From the snickering jaws of an American fox Rabid with its last victim. BRITISH COMMANDER Secure them In the pitchy hold. For your comfort, sir, We're straight for Hitchings in New York.

SCENE 13

[West Point FIRST SOLDIER It seems a lean defense. SECOND SOLDIER We cut it from a calf Staked to feed a royal appetite For weak veal. FIRST SOLDIER We are too ready to lose The teeth of our defense. A broken picket Smiles southward, and there by the molded canon And wet fuel, the captain's dog trots through it For his bacon at the fire. O it's An airy ward stops winded cherubim And no rat else. SECOND SOLDIER Silence, I see a man Festooned with generalship marching up Who's not our thin minister whipping hence Flailed by some impertinence in his blood To scourge us to our duty. FIRST SOLDIER [enter Washington] Sir! SECOND SOLDIER Sir!

SCENE 14

BENEDICT To come on an enemy in the wilderness Defines bewilderment. O excellent Andre, though you death's quietus keep Your boot speaks my death. What will next cry out For drenching revenge? Indifferent nature Puts on accusing looks, great trees scowl down And wronged rivers overwhelm their banks with blood Seeking to break me liquidly into The general woe. Stop your welling mouths Bloated arteries of the live world's heart, That foul blood may not stain your cheeks of innocence! Fouled with blood. Do not stain those green cheeks Of innocence! Matronly nature herself parted pursed Shouts for a traitor's blood with her wounds. And mothers instantly their infants disembowel If in their crying time, drop signifying dews From eyes that did their future life contain Encompassing guilty acts weeping manhood Grows to perform, dew-nourished at the root, Until a mighty traitor's bloody orchard Bears black fruit forth. What element Will not shout against it? Speak, stones! There's solid hatreds in you; And stern-faced hatred may be returned, like for like, Would you broach this raging flesh with timid gags? Sooner would the executed leaves Rush up to weight winter branches down, or false day Cast man's shadow backwards into the sun Than true hatred be separated from its object. Our animosities cleave to us like sons That grow to hate us for our past defaults. Nature opposing nature, we two Titans will grapple at the earth's stone root To provoke a universal chaos That makes mountains moan, and the pinched sky Descry against these red violence until, Rock-like, one lies down and dies. So will I Overturn this time's natural course ... Preternatural cold, this killing heat, All this inconstant, unnatural weather Has tolled men and flowers down in equal numbers; Dislodged the heads of innocents in a rain of blood ... These unnatural heats oppress a man Yearning to breathe free. Vegetation Bursts its flourishing colors like a drunk Fiery juices set roaring in the dark-- Battering daylight objects with as fierce A scorning spirit and ten mens' strength As blinded Cyclopes yeowling Ulysses to the sea. [to some group, Brit soldiers(?)] This elixir will uphold your doubtful bloods Against charms adverse and curses magical Bolt cannons in your glance, whose wounding loves Shatter my heart. Such fires stir there now That would topple Troy again with their lashing sparks And call from her harlot's lodgings out of bed Dark Helen to her reckoning before Kind Greece's mild forgiving princes Who would pay the devil's pension For his forty years of effort with a pitchfork.

SCENE 15

[The Mad scene, 4th act pathos MRS BENEDICT ARNOLD Martha, can you not take cold tongs and pluck This blazing iron from my head? Dear God Teach some one of your creatures to act pity: Even if it is only a docile doe, whose hoof Brains it from me damagingly, or a mouse Whose small eye, even though no more Than a moist berry in the corner But shows some drop of pity as I die, I'll die comforted. Ah, ah, the transparent pain Burns my wits away, and I am left Confronted with visions. Wild orisons Whose surmise uninjured wits may make out With lenses undimmed by smoke Foretell injuries with images That ghost truth forth. This man's come To steal the laughing goodness of my pure child To some killing block, whose flaws, Now all filled up with blood, Open thirsty wounds again that gasp For some oily balm to close them up again echoless as graves. For the sweet closed cordial Of my child's life, they gasp. Such essence, Indiscriminately poured, heals the world. Precious beyond belief, my rapt child Forgive your mother's lunacy; she bought truth With the furious coinage of her burning brain And thus dissolves to ruins. Smoke, smoke, Boil out your impure entrails, so I get some light To view my wretchedness; my impure self Is almost entirely gone. Your dear father, Universally reviled, will crawl the globe To inching death, and creep quiet down All unhallowed to a markless grave. HAMILTON She does deeply wrong herself. Some tempest Has spilled her sanity past its bounds, Overfull... WASHINGTON I take it ill; These corrupt imaginings smell of truer woe. HAMILTON O her forging brain casts mad shadows on us all. And madness has a power to pour out such images As will make a spider weep.

SCENE 16

BENEDICT If I could regain the native virtue Of my lineaments, add leg to leg again And rise to my accustomed height once more Then this limber body would be base enough To vault the starry gates of fame, writ large In the fiery pages of the sky No hurricanes of chaos could erase. The day spills out. I would dance the time away But am lamely played to play out other tricks. ... MAJOR ANDRE Do you join victory. BENEDICT I join a fault in nature these tinkerers Of belling liberty cannot mend. MAJOR ANDRE Let us commence an act that will take off The head of grief that cries these times awry. A grizzly mane stiff with blood looms above Sleepless rings under pale festering looks Nodding dark affirmations to vilest thoughts The skull of man ever clasped within. Worms Have eaten out the eye of judgment That rested there; discernment by these acid times Is all dissolved away. Strike the vitals Of this lizard death and, as with an angel's Ministering sword, burn the socket clean. Thus much of a doctor may a soldier be. BENEDICT Your words stir new bloods in me that disturb Settled causes and stony truths long-held Since the credulity of childhood Propped my eyes wide. And for my new child This world, fire-lit with war and stories Of war, must put off catastrophe's dead look And assume [resume] its former virtue, wood by wood. MAJOR ANDRE Wood by wood, we must pursue the fight. The lark's high spirit casts a contagious eye Over the sorriest mule that ever paced its slow way To unlikely death, to make it dance. When our resolution into dullards' ears Darts, then mules shall dance, and take head, and start And every croaking revolutionist Join a royal choir. BENEDICT You hit a rich note That makes my exalted spirit begin to chafe At rebel strictures, heavily laid on. Are they God's anointed to dispose Of my several talents with one roared No? The washing mob may break huge stones at my feet Until eternity dims, and their angry sighs Disappointed sighs at last fall down In cracked earth's foundations laid Like so many birds robbed of their song Before I'll dissolve into their Ocean of souls. Eliminating Death Could not nullify individual spirit More than that blank anonymity. [Could not with its sleeping scythe nullify Individual spirit more than that Blank anonymity.] BENEDICT Should this herd of tax-cheats, stampeding fate To magnify their base estates in this Grave matter, gain all the best and my child Nothing at all? MAJOR ANDRE Poor sensate thing, To take the breathing impulse from a father Deserving more in though and consequence Than this startled nation, all wobble-legged, Dropped bastardly from lowing Liberty. BENEDICT An infant hydra, milked on rebellion, To rise to hissing victory in mother's blood? Damned abortion, that lifts its unfinished shape To bawl the devil's accusations in Her face, return to the womb and sew up Your premature pangs with gentle growth So when next your tottering independence You declare, similar fond looks Will beam down on a mannered child to help Its infant steps' solitary tread. Cannot a man cup the sun in his eye And conquer it by blinking? High moments make men proud To build to those epiphanies out of stocks. These grievous injuries, connected With a base ambition to be great ...

SCENE 17

MRS BENEDICT ARNOLD Husband, though you prepare a plan of blood, Draw peaceful melting looks like modest cloths Softly round your warlike visage, more grim than Jove's contentious heats which rend heaven's peace And break rocks in simplest expression. as when unformed infants in surprise mouth "O!" You dismembering looks in rude appraisal Flat opposing mountains,___ Suck the nodding crests from ambitious waves, Cut the lusty growth of vile anxious weeds And stop up the natural flow of breath That emanates from man. Composite totem Of all fears, your living words draw graves and tears Unbidden from the peaceful earth. To preserve your countenance against this Pruning time, put on shielded bloods. Prepare Looks of adamant and a brow of stone, turn Such a paleness to the world as will turn shears. Pull over your spontaneous face, which shows The least effect of bloods with red alarm This mask of paleness and lack of heart So arctic deep that lively eyes, sheltered Under ice-pale cliffs, betray nothing of your sense And cast cold fire on the ambling nothing beneath. [on B's love for England] Dislikes are usually petty, loves profound. An angry man is all in the moment Concentrated, all his scattered fury Dwindled to a panting second's Yes or No. Do not dwindle to an instant's rash act. Let sedate pity quell your breast, Injecting action with some placid drop of care To instill silent thought in the loudest hour The roaring voice of fury can fill out. Take these soft words softly from me still. BENEDICT Love, MRS BENEDICT ARNOLD Being much in love, he is much dissuaded Of this war's virtue against its mother state. The rebellious child must bite the mother's Fountain pap and dry the succor that would soothe the woe Of outrageous actions born in a wrathful breast That, all out of color In its new-found foundling solitude Berates the stones for heartlessness And starts ungentle wars against the skies For proving dry of mercy and comfortless. But no chilling brand is he Whose flame extinguishes into slender smoke Removed from the warm burning of the hearth That tended his fearful spark to a declaiming fire That spoke well of the father embers of his origins And grew rosy as the healthful sun In the still rising jets of their old flames. [unceasing jets] Dutiful boy, he has brought his bouquet home To a mother's watering hands, a father's caress; Due reward for his glory in the field. That which nature holds in dreadful sequestration Unpalatable secrets, more somber than loved affairs Shut from bald reasons prying eye And with hoarded dread ceremony made great Beyond the open capacity of its locked strength As an untold nightmare will breed day-dragons Before many days after the mournful child First started from his bed, so too Is this trick of treason, which once made plain Is a loyal toy with which even dogs may play And not bark and back away with guilty looks. This trick treason is a most palatable device--- An ornament to my soul's wide estate Which in its offices is like a tree Whose tap root touches the foundation stone Of the deep weeping rivers of the earth And there sucks such dark nutrition up as will spur Sap into these branches, well arrayed, And enlarged by careful thought as to their duties That sit kingly in the sun. This ornament, Sharp to its purpose, and placed to its perfection On the swaying top of the Christmas tree! So do these branchy arms of my intents Spread withering shade above my enemies And gather up my loves and those principle To my ambitious thought's success and true affections In one sweep casting both comfort and distress. That tree is England's empire, not some Upstart stock that tenderly clings To the merest rock, but a mighty, tall, And all-compelling oak that surmounts The hill o the world. And I, in my white treachery, Am cut from this new, unnursed, tender slug, This milkless bud that tears from the gangling rock ---O weaker than a babe emptied of its blood!--- And am grafted to that root.

SCENE 18

BENEDICT [of Mrs. B?] How can you, o cruel gods, This incorporeal spirit take and bind it Thus damagingly in the body's glass house? What whisper of reason upholds your airy whims? The body in its bottle may drop with age And end itself shatteringly, or let The slow work of beetles strip it piecemeal To naked death.

SCENE 19

MRS BENEDICT ARNOLD Constance, go and gather up Your master's traveling necessities And assemble all here. [exit Constance The hope of life Rides upon these measures. Other action Or tension's inactivity might tighten him Past his valor's breaking. A ban's as good as his bones, But bones do break. Silence must attend this crying hour Or else all will lay revealed, and the sky Wail for its bloody cup of justice--- For every creeping creature in nature knows Treason's an abhorred thing. [Enter Constance, with provisions Thank you, Constance. You do better duty to man. who's one illness Death is, than you can know. CONSTANCE Grace take you, ma'am. [Knock at the door WASHINGTON Where's your lady, ma'am? CONSTANCE Laid sick in bed, sir, And will not stir. WASHINGTON Steal into her presence quietly And give her our healthful wishes. CONSTANCE Yes, sir. WASHINGTON Is there any breakfast for these cold patriots Tired with long riding? CONSTANCE Warming in the kitchen [short list of breakfast items]

SCENE 20

[Benedict on Battlefield as British General] BENEDICT Drag the abject prisoner forward, sir, To let his fates engulf him. [Enter prisoner, with flag American, You are bound to the hour of your death Beyond the alteration of pleading mouths So speak the truth. How am I perceived By my former countrymen? AMERICAN I see the rope Being readied against the jaced spruce And shall speak my mind before it departs My trunk. BENEDICT Say on, say on. AMERICAN General Opinion Has you a monster, a pale worm Of your mother's and her brother's bed. And when she was too much charged with the Resentful pus of your sullen babydom With wicked cabal knives she tricked you out. Whereon, you stood, a babe still regal In his own mother's blood, who new-lunged shouts "I am Judas Iscariot, come back To damn an innocent nation, if I can." So much is said, and worse believed. With this as index, the charade of honor You have these past two-score years perpetrated Is laid as open as a raw skinned hare. So much is said. And it's promised that your leg, Shattered at Saratoga, we'll bury And hang the rebel (filthy) rest. [Throws flag in Benedict's face BENEDICT Bury the leg, bury the leg And hang the engine that drove it? Corporals, Drag the dead here. [Exit prisoner &Co. Face the judgment of the dead, damned Washington, As I these living lashes must forbear That more than cut my more than sinning flesh To harrow out of hiding this howling soul That afflicts me. I'll arrange these slain ones All arraigned in gory robes of blood And set their cadaverous wisdoms over him To condemn his sutured testimony Sewn from old rags of homey truth Into this motley American.

EPILOGUE

MAJOR ANDRE In the torn house of contemporanity Dull, fitful plays drag and start across the stage As like a play as is a surgeon's map to man: Packed with dry, expository words That bleed nothing, nor rend themselves, nor laugh, At the rich mystery of a discovered action Or apt comparison appareled in a rhyme. And so, to patch our playing with the critic's Attentive needle, we must first amend The base material with which we may begin. Silks, then, for sails to take us high and far, And leave the burlap for the butchers of good words, Glum comedians of a farce other wits began. Having studied my false part With diligence fit for an infant art That rages a mere moment and is gone I ask you, elders, to learn your bit And entertain yourselves as befits your years--- For, as the magic dark of love allows, Which, in this spotted theatre we may half sustain, To erase our faults and increase your youthful powers Each clap will grow you backwards by an hour. So strain, and clap, until you reach The lying cradle of some honest sleep.
Jul 082020
 
Televangelists square off against Satanist Anton LeVey
in a rollicking whacked-out play.
 
 If any God can survive the crucible of my will, then I'll bless him.

in.seang.un yu.han.han.dae
si.ram.do ku.ji.op.ta

Life has an end,
Sorrow is endless.

"Listen to this. 'Life has meaning but no theme. There is no truth
we can assign to it that does not in some way lessen the bright flash
of being that is its essential matter. There is no lesson learned that
does not signal a misapprehension of our stars. There is no moral
to this darkness.' That's some nice shit. Extremely profound.
But the man who wrote that, he's not watching the water for sharks."
                --- Lucius Shepard

"You're drunk on God, Sandoz."
               ---The Sparrow, Maria Doria Russell


 DEMON-WALKER
 The Story of Walker Railey, 
 First Baptist, Dallas, Texas 
 
 SWAGGER
 The Porno-Panegyric of Jimmy Swaggert 
 
 ATHIEST PRIEST
 A Morning in the Life
 of Madelaine Murray O'Hare 
 
 JOB'S JOB
 A Modern RENDering 
 
This pleasing insurrection erected by
GREGG GLORY

ROGUE PROTEAN PROLOGUE


[The scene. Procenium should be made up like a giant TV screen.
ANTON LE VEY is kicking the edge of the TV screen as the curtain rises.]

ANTON LE VEY, SATAN'S MINISTER

ANTON LE VEY
I am that anti-holy bastard Anton Le Vey,
Satan's minister, and revel revealingly within
my Mephisto-philosophizing and turmoiling role.
Oil me, adore me! But whatever you do, don't ignore me!
Hollywood's first, and most restless, rule-- the fools!
I'm a proto-atypical American success story
prostletyzing Faust for cash. I'm tired of TV's "seems"
and ache for the intermittent hurt of reality.
Technology draws our attention nearer, tweaks our brains
to the frame its making, and not to the God-analog
of the wistful fistful of substance glow-glowering within;
after all, this is simply air dosed with ions,
a gamma ray whisper the same as a chunk of God's snot,
a radio-detected and iron-cored meteor, senior.
Another rum Sunday's come on, another day to delay praying in,
sick with my universal wish to WANT to pray.
Ah Hell; Hell's the nearer circuit to salvation.
I wrote my ruminative book about it
writhing in a pentacostal pentagram of flame,
a cheap, thumbed paperback beneath the weary mattress
of every teenage metalhead in my America.
My plangeant, Satanic Bible, a gun of wrong
(perhaps!) to knock the righteous fuckers on their ass!
Sin is kindness in my thin grin
and under my black, rancid Elvis hair,
every evil takes on a certain sainthood in my eyes.
Let's see what choir-hummers will come upon
the electric scene-scenario my wattage has conjured here.
Click! Rearrange, my derranged mirror-ministers,
this hissing cathode ray to your boring dream;
I sense they sense a certain something in the Cosmos
they can't shut up about. Five televangelists are scheduled
to prate their aching minute beneath my wary stare--
the competition! Against 'em I'll win
or burn my own bible on the waxed hoods
of their long Lincoln Towncar Continentals.
.... Ah, my soul's all of charcol and chafes to dust
with my wiry able body's little wreck.
Antony Levy or Anton Le Vey, hey heh heh hey,
I am whichever face my tongue has the strength to say.
So saint or sinner be, but be be be! Whichever's wiser.
But half of both is none of neither.





-

DEMON-WALKER


WALKER
Blind on my righteous high, and erectly ecstatic after the miraculous,
I am Pharaoh here in Dallas, commanding the irreligious
from my grainy height of pyramid, the sandy pulpit
splashed by your unretractable prayers and spittle-bits,
my breath a Lazarus of chile peppers this sunny Sunday morn.
My divine invective flies out to scrutinize and research
the wicked hearts slumping in my pews, you, you, and you,
flogging the bishop, and grinding your lecherous sins
into your bad rear molars, sin-silvered, as if
the Judgement Day weren't razoring in on us all,
God's stukka narrowing on your brown-nosed nose.
And mine, no less targeted, but perhaps a touch divine.
Happy Easter, greetings, fleshing blessings from God,
the incarnate mystery rolling back the stone of Death.
Once again we're gathered in His absence, post-Ressurrection
apostles and wayward acolytes each and every one, flung
to our Dallas cathedral here, the seven, stiffened
concrete arches marching backward larger and larger
to the dwindled pulpit; says something about the human scale
of all our small things and doings before the huge,
ubermensching sanctity of God, don't you think?
But where would God be, in His gigantic, out-of-scale heaven,
if we myopic mortals hadn't the vision to see Him?
Think, think, think, continually on your knees
while you pray at the dais, my humble, cowboy tribe.
Now I know that the circumstances of this sermon are far, far
from the very best, but we Methodists are used
to setbacks; we deal with what we get, and put
God's hard-won trope of hope in our hearts,
our faces staying as masked with rapture as any
kid giving his Satan-grin on All Hallow's Eve,
thus proving His saving success. Puts me to mind
of that squib about God the Potter, all thumbs
thrust down and in to hollow out a soul, the golden goal.
But what blind foot spins the wheel? I'll confess
my account of hope's been bled low as trench water,
but seeing you, this spate of loved and loving faces,
my endless sea of congregation gathered to my rock shore
as if your righteous waters clashed eager
in timeless lines of divine and crinkled light
to subsume and crest my dry and alien land.... Well, folks,
lumps my thick throat with gratitude; my tears begin to wear.
A touching stone stands loaded on my chest, a milemarker
staking my heart.... Was it after midnight's witching minute
that I collapsed with my gasping Mustang at the house,
edging into the blacked-out garage, a sinister raider
of my own home, the nesting place; two eggs had hatched
and blossomed at our backs, my wife and mine's,
we hardly knew that they had come, and there they were,
alert, alive, not us, changing our lives forever,
stays against the hideousness even now. Did you ever see
us three at Galilee, my two daughters, those robbers,
and me? I felt like a rinky King Lear
lost in the sandlot of God. There was a presence,
almost, I'd swear, extraterrestrial, an angel in the desert
beating my timerous existence towards the Lord.
I was caught in the backwash of whatever
those extending wings were heading toward
and blinked against the light, a more morose, dour,
plunging and self-unloving Eugene O'Neill type guy
than I had ever planned or prayed on becoming.
Still I felt and followed where the wind twisted,
my own tornado of demons beginning their whirligig
within me. Yes, demons. I am not unannointed by the vile,
I only live towards the light, a humble heliotrope
barely better than a weepless cactus; I do not stand revealed
among the high mercuric scrolls of God's good clouds.
I am lost. I am dark. I am in the dark.
Rapidly praying here in Poe's peachy pit, tick,
tick, tick, as our waiting clicks towards the Lord's arrival,
pawing in nerveless, yuppied and active ladies' hands
an abacus of rosy Methodist rosary-bead Hail Mary's,
forgiving ourselves the sins we witch-hunt the neighbors for,
the one calculus of forgiveness I still can't get straight.
If they're guilty, why not witch-hunt them to Kingdom Come?
A guilty gilt of sweat slides off the bulbous forehead
I use to think at God. Oh how morosely now
do I retchingly recall how I drove over
my knocked-out spouse's blue, endearing, enduring, blue,
splotched face and quivering sexless body.
Paramedics told me it was the usual dum-dum response
of a body in rictus after a near strangulation event.
I swear I arrowed straight from the seminary library,
I told the officer, "go ahead, write it down, I ain't scared;
done nothing wrong myself I wouldn't tell you and Jesus both,"
snaking down the out-back highway lit-up as Lucifer
extending to innocent Evie his evil fist of peach,
my dank crankshaft grinding at the amoral fog
into which I like a Nazi paratrooper had so slyly descended,
my rubber wheels steel-belted and invisibly bouyant,
carrying me undiscovered through it all.
Not the best circumstances, all that just three days ago,
the fairy tale of Good Friday still pasty on my drying tongue.
Prescient as my years of hard-won prayers had made me,
even I couldn't see all the mistakes I was about to make.
Oh Lord, o lousey Lord, and my simpering parishoners,
forgive me.... spiralling my children to strangers,
our dear friends who looked at me and never guessed;
I taught them to worship me after God's goitered image,
and then, all at odds and ends, drifting at speed,
bouncing barbituates down with a stray beer, one handful
too many, until, like Lazarus gone sour, I turned
comatose on the ashen carpeting, a dumped urn of wormy regrets;
just one more stain in the two-star hotel room's history
of blobby emissions. Today, well, I guess I'm better.
Now pinned to the pulpit in a Bulletproof vest,
(did I tell you I recieved a death threat typed at this office,
right here where I slap my mincing madates
on the cherubic cheeks of my lazy cleric clerks? Well, I did.
And still my heart's not right with it, I can't forgive
those who haven't properly executed their sins as of yet,
now can I? Could you? Don't answer. Silence is golden---
I heard that passed between the spatting officers
in the squad car as they pulled me up to Booking.)
I ask you to reconsider the Ressurrection correctly
like I learned to do, straight from God's leaning lip
to my wimpling ear, He told me Jesus was evil,
knew the awful trickster to his snaky core;
His aquaintance with the abyss was everlasting,
his gospel a spastic chant to save his own erring soul,
trying to congeal in peace the ten thousand faces
he himself had drawn and erased between his birth and death.
Maybe those Romans had done our doelike soldier of faith
a favor, nailing him to his final expression,
and not the million guesses at finality his parables assumed.
Our Lord God incarnate plays solitaire with the whole universe, y'know.
Ten thousand faces had our hero the Lord, like you,
the ten thousand faces not unlike your blinking faces
staring there into the abstraction of the nave above,
that kleenex-gleaming, glass-vaulted, sanctuary air
of Heaven sparked with flecks of tinsel, marking stars
that arrow-out the Bethlehem in our Dallas, Texas hearts,
our toasted community of the wounded, gasping here,
burn-victim parishoners to mercy, every one,
as indeed we need to be on this one-hundred degree
Easter sunday. Check your faces, ladies, there's the Lord.
Unpack your compact vanity mirrors, and let your lounging husband
see his own careening demon there, yes, a demon
in each and every one of us, Jesus knows;
see the alarm-red horns peeking past your ears?
See them, see them? They won't melt back to skin or nothing
like the candy eggs you fob off your lambing innocents with,
melting uneaten in your Armani suits and snapped-shut
Betsy Johnson pocketbooks before they're even littered
to the kiddies after church, all your holy goal of extra-credit
generosity reduced to a choclately smear where our worn
hands end, and not much else. Now what kind of blessing
to hand up to Our Lord is that? Manicured, uncuring
fingers knitted in abject prayer again today,
Dear Co-Pilot, we ask you, please, whatever you may
make of us dullard mortals, squirming to sin
on the infinite blue of your homey globe, please don't
crush us too hastily to your downy breast. I'd die
if I had to die , Dear Lord, before I'd gotten just
one more score on my horney, dear Lucy Papillon,
the faded butterfly, my mistusted mistress, delicate,
irridescent, dying in her over-hasty haywire
of father-hatred and off-angles adoration, turning
and turning in her flittering yearn
to please the world and be left alone.
When I saw my honey twitching back of the Chevy....
skipping home from the SMU library, making choice this sermon
for ressurected Easter Sunday, after nipping in nappies
into my mistress' house for a quickie, three days ago,
Good Friday.... I turned into her driveway, following my car,
its hiss of whispering gasses, suggestions
I was too inertly normal to resist. Spectral trees
loomed like shades in the unappercieving headlights
luminescing past the gritty grille, my prison grate
holding back a two-hundred horsepower, fuel-injected lust.
I was Lucy's father-figure who told her what underwear to buy,
and checked the ribald purchase with small, inistant fingers
assiduous as the fabled Haynes Inspector number 17.
My lovely lady Lucy Papillon, the flustered butterfly,
how many hours had we downed, skimmed from conniving Fate,
to worm around and warm our skin-close, closed coccoon
in spendthrift, near-ecstatic flight!
However bumbling our new-wet wings-- they worked!
Remember consummating our tremble-tumbled liason?
Your palpitating lap dance, The Ressurrection!
The Ressurection! a tap dance for the gospel-praters,
breaking the bread and bone at Emmanuel's,
flesh and blood divided like a TV dinner on a tray.
Now I look up and recognize my savior too;
my mortal sin winks at me, wearing its Jesus-beard.
If I were given just one more chance....
Reporter came to see me yesterday, timid, tricksy,
asked me where I got off, polluting the plummeting union
of God and man; let me know, I said, the last time Jesus
gave you a blow job, and I'll holler all my God-spelled gospels
at your ratty, tattered alter, you ass-licking Jimmie Olsen.
Now get the piss out of here, and take your trash with you,
and, no, I don't care how high-profile, either to save or damn me
in the bought and sold wink of the national media,
you think you are, just get. Get! Christ,
an inveterate smoker, had a nervous capacity to unify
the most disparate instances of things, and all the cold
non-things of God, too. Do my parables break into a patter?
Well, consider that the one, final stroke of luck.
If I can sell enough people on the idea I'm Christ,
well, maybe I could step into the stuttering floodlight
Jesus Risen keeps X-Raying on my brain, my hidden conscience.
My conscience, an obscurity even I'd forgot.
Maybe then I could arise at dawn and memorize myself,
a maze of christnesses obsessively traced
into the answer of myself. You know, I feel schitzophrenic
whenever I'm forced to not be the Living God.
My mind like a white lightning Molotov fries itself alive,
each brimstone whiff a sweltered reminiscence
of the God I lied aloud and still couldn't deny,
a broken image of my own internal withering brought to light.
Now I am rising, like Jesus on a white pillar
of Yosemite steam; I rise, I rise....
My darkness spatters backwards at its cracks,
and I rise, rise in lightness among bright lights,
rise, rise, until I am in the light, am the light, all light,
nothing but that out-of-reach simpleness, that absolute blank.
I am made blind in the glare of sin I initiate.
No god wrapped my hand around my young Ryanna's turtle-neck,
I did it! Not God pondering from his inert sphere,
not you, alone and well-fed in your cloned homes,
not the six-pack of alieviating demons who'd howled
my soul though as if it were cheesecloth, or tornadoed up
my riveting memories like hurricaning hosts of ghosts
to churn my attacked senses into a tragic hash.
I know I am not God, or His Jesus next-of-kin;
I know, I know, and will give you the same revelation:
Look on my despoiled loins, my habit for disaster,
sinners, look, peer where a heart inches toward oblivion,
stare these essences to their ashes, and be appalled!
I whipped close to my zeroed black hole, and loved it
with all the loving lashes a bullwhip might make
against the uninhibited darkness of that obsidian,
my own stung, stone heart the universal center.
Like a drunken Hopi, hoping, I lay the tracks in black,
lash myself relentlessly with unforgiving cordage,
cut to stunned emptiness, and in that absence find,
discover once again, afresh, like a confused child,
the horrifying losses I had made mine.
My father never touched my crew-cut head approvingly;
other parts, otherwise. Perhaps that's true;
a shread of verity gives the worst lie some hue of truth.
If I can make-believe I'm innocent, so can you!
The mind is what we make of it, my fellow-man,
my homilies come blustering like Custer, custard-covered
only to be soul-edible to only sweet-tooth you!
Don't you believe me when I swear I am the raving Truth?
I am the Way, the Light, and the Glory. I am the tenth story,
from which, once jumping, treads Down into our only
imperative narrative Road. Ha, ha. Walk with me!
I am the Walker who makes mere gravity my whore,
I have such sure-lightness in my shilling touch.
Oh my paratrooping minions, dive-gliding at my heels
through the taxing Texas heat after my own, my true
paraphrasing parables, look, look into my mirror
and see yourself squinting for the afterlife in my rainbow-light.
Come, come. Oh, Lucy, swished on those sinning satins,
you're divine, your legs conceal the Book of Revelations,
arising and dividing like Satan's wild horns, faster, faster,
I swear you crooning sighs will be my epitaph;
the sheeny aftertaste of my own sweat makes me mild.
Is something wrong? You orgasm at my groin.
There, you're settled now, wing-weary, my monarch-mistress,
and status-satisfied. Yes, yes, I'll marry you after....
No, no, don't cry, don't cry. All better, my divinity?
I've wiped your distorting tears back to flesh.
"Walker, dear," she said, pupating on the pillowy
divan her rotoring thighs subsumed in frightless whiteness,
a white of sinew and renewal. Oh my Whiteness! When I touched
and stroked her emergent from the tomb, my monarch-angel
flying from her cracked chrysalis to the cathedral bell
we'd sighed aloud to pull. "Walker, dear,"
she said, pupating Papillion. "Again."
"Your flushed face is puffed, you know how that disgusts me;
I'm going to trundle to my loving home now, Lucy.
Lucy, next time, make it better." The sporting door
shuts hollow at my retreating back, my cross pin
glinting as I unstick it from my hanging tie,
given me by Lucy with a note: For the bishop.
How many times have I told you now of my arrival?
In my mind I keep coming to where she wallowed
on the gas stain, each asphasic, contorted
fish-mouthing of her drowning mouth an accusation:
"Walker Reily! From this damning shame, no running!
No speed or rearing chase of dream-desire can take you
away. Here's your destiny, the one, the fate
you handstitched against my neck and failing brain."
Wife! Wife! Every time I think about it
the flowing car seems softer, more cloudlike,
my gleaming feet floating through the door
to tap-land on the concrete apron where a chalked,
white, hop-scotch was scrawled by our dawdling daughter.
Oh god, god.....
I know you never abandoned me. I still feel adored.
Now, ah, where was I? This heat is enervating!
I stand accused, and still you come! I arc up
recovered from a suicidal coma, and still you come!
It seems my unending tribulations have laved me,
in name, at least, as the most popular preacher boy
in society's old, corroded high-school heirarchy.
You know, the dilettanting prosecutor, at ease
before his easel of low crimes and high misdemeanors,
would paint my paling contenance with a harsher brush.
Oh God, he might say, how I gloried in the blue, blurred
cord my righteous Ryanna remembers. She got strangle-altered
in the struggle to love unabatingly too, you'll recall.
I'm sure you've read all the papers, and will buy up
my three books, to be put out by Random House this fall,
my season for winnings and windfalls, a choice time
to tackle the passions that nearly strangle one!
How blind to the divine we are, your sinners, oh Lord,
crafted in thy crafty image, we regret
our inability to step back from the plaster finish
and crash the masterpiece to splinters! I, I regret
that my aiming hand was unsteady in the pinch.
Neither my gum-tongued wife nor I knew how
to consummate our finishing. How by the divine
we are squeezed until we are forgiven! Or forget,
our brain-mass a lump of dumped cells, like Ariana's,
my putatative, however unloving, tournequet-necked, wife.
My charming potato sack, my dropping star, my life!
Let's sing, choirmaster, after this fashion,
dink the triangle in rebelling praise, sing high:
"Mine eyes have seen the blackness of Satanic habitats...!"
Oh, when you're down, my listeners,--- on my coat-tails,
child and mother, and wastrel husband, come, come!
I am the Spirit of Christ-Mass present,
an imprecise arbiter of what's nice and not-so-nice;
when you're at the black bottom, come, descend,
follow your plunging heart in my eviscerating wake,
come, come, plunge to its thrubbed nub of nastiness.
Revile thyself! and expel the strength of Spirit;
are you here with me now? It is dark. In the dark,
your nose itched in filth and the fat lack-of-faith
I've described: no savior, no heaven up above,
like in that looney John Lennon song, then you know,
athiest on a tightrope paralleling no earth in darkness,
the death of Life, the death of Hope;
but the death of Death, no, that does not come.
In the trough of the abyss I've lain three bleak days,
the sun or God an unanswering dialtone in my ravaged ear;
an accordian of demonic voices demanded their ribbed hearing,
expanding and contracting throughout the vile Escapade,
and I gave them my whole soul in that blistered,
listening liason with the very Devil. I know, bone-hard,
I know my fractured pact was blissfully consummated
from my gibbon-narrow skull to my cracked nuts, not a jot
of whatever insists on being me omitted, not a jot.
Each assuaging, persuading, suede or harrassing voice
came tri-toned and insinuating: "Why not?", "Go ahead...."
I tried in my trial to deny that denial, but could not.
God wot! I was in a sulpher-crimson brimming stew,
my dick the stirring widget, as with so many of you, too.
When I had her corded against the kitchen sink,
my enormous erection at the small hollow of her heaving back,
vomiting a vile black blood bile, until her tongue
nearly came undone enough to follow her slipping supper
like a starving snake between her bruised, contorting lips,
each syllable of vatic ache she spewed sounded
like my own christian name. But it wasn't,
I was not present, I swear. Who is it who really dies
strapped between uprights in the electric chair?
The guilty man? Or guilt itself? Or is it our own fears
we charbroil into non-existence? I was not afraid.
Shadow of a cat, shadow of a cat, black black black
as the shadow of a cat, I came behind her without a whisper,
simmering in my new wardrobe of sin-wishes....
Slipping in the overspill of my jimmied Ariana's spit-up,
I nearly lost my grip and let her breathe. Easy
to make a mistake like that, I guess, I'm only
a part-time psychopath, not an Old Testament pro
like that yattering Yahweh. And, anyhow, my state of mind
is still no good excuse, I think all that Fruedian crap's
just a sloppy cop-out; even when the demons were in me, I knew
it was my triggering fingers on the jerking wire
I had harnessed at her limp, uninjured neck.
My trying eye does not understand the I of sin.
Doubting Thomas with the halo knocked off,
I speared a tear with my little finger's little fingernail,
from her bulging, suffocated, near sightless left eye,
drank deep its shallow Red Sea salt, and felt myself divided.
I stand birth-wet in the unbearable glare
of my own blistering sinning like the sun.







SWAGGER


JIMMY "JAMES THE SHAMELESS" SWAGGERT

SWAGGERT
I'm ripping this twenty dollar bill in half: take it.
I'll fork over its disfigured sister half when we're
all done here. Ooo Honey, Honey, shaking on the cheap springs
all Primavera against that cheesy flowered print, knees aghast
atop the dimpled bluebells and spattered Jack-
in-the-Pulpits squealing wildfire to your ham-handed,
rotoring and rugged, dry sweat masturbation!
Flail your sweet innards pink alive like St. Bartholomew
for masturbating me; my spanking Jack, a flogged man,
creamed against my satiny, jerking jogging shorts
when I first spotted your sultry ass hitched against
your Airline Highway and rust-sagging whore door Sunday
after the big preachment when I took that sinner Jimmie Bakker
down as fast as he'd had that plastic Jessica Hahn
on the oinking office chair. Hell, his ass was mine.
God had mentioned in my red ear he had a guilty dick,
so I circumcised it, cut his tongue off at the bled bud.
No one like that should be broadcasting to the people about my Lord;