Somebody’s loved one playing Bruch in the cathedral. Movement one, the Vorspiel. Movement two, adagio, please. Two wounded kings bumbling around the same dark zone, the set of rooms, the wounded perimeter, the poorly maintained antechambers and mounds of dirty rushes. The two bodies tethered by a spatial relation. Somebody spread out on a couch in the lobby. An animal outside pinned to the past of all animals. An egg. A glossary of geometric lenses. The drummer doing leg kicks for Paganini and nobody’s watching. The sloppy sick exhalations of the king, the curling wheat. St. Nicholas stepping from the boat with dainty yellow slippers, silk slippers, embroidered. Somebody’s loved one stumbling to great applause. Someone’s broken bow. Someone’s time signature interrupted by pedestrians. Feet trampled over feet. I’m sorry, the doctor says from the mantelpiece, we’ve done all we could do. Reserve all ticket stubs to return to the box office. Please collect your program at either door.
The first time he saw the whole territory from the air he lost his grip on the levers and all but fell to the floor. Everyone helped him up, said soft things until he got his breath back. All that land, all that fresh water heaving itself around like a filly (that’s what he said at the time). (He said) bring the helicopter back around boys. We’re calling it a night. Well that’s the story of the invention of the map, of which we’re all these days familiar.
When he got back he washed his father’s feet with the same browned wash-cloth. They ate leftovers before the mantle. He ran over the formulas in his head, as usual. Thirty compressions and two deep breaths. One hand on top of the other, and the weight of the body on top.
An image of who I was in the 4th century CE, at the time of the miracle of the grain. Boats at heel at the port in Myra, the rocks big grey chalk miasmas, the waves the jumpy cartoon suggestion of waves. There’s me in the marketplace buying miracle knives. They cut through metal like metal. They’ll clean up new in any warm running water. The saint put his hand on the scale in the hold, to the astonishment of thousands. We didn’t go hungry that night, no sir, and all the next week bold new rumors of economics.
A boy who wrote poison on a rock held beneath his tongue, taken out and wiped and slipped into back pocket. When the weeds grew tall as deer that fall it was a sort of local sign and wonder, dogs on the back porch calling for water, fruit rotten with redacted figures and x-rated sous rature. Children hiked up stalks like mercantile little crows, farmers shouldering guns like eunuchs, men men men in the wilderness finding god god god in their charming complexes of caves and dainty pillars.
I labeled the figure ‘cultural marxism’ and they cut off my hands. They cut off my eye-lashes. Oh, no, the dust got in.
They cut off my teeth with an electric razor. I begin to gum at a piece of honeydew. Saint Hippolytus brushed to death with wire. Saint Hippolytus rubbed out, oh, no.
Saint Hippolytus gently pulled by horses. Suppressed in Rome in 1969. All that coast unraveling like a cloth reprieve, doesn’t it do us all some good? He licks a little honey off the bottom of his moustache. He licks a little of his very own honey. He stands a little honey. Oh, no.
Oh, no, all that breeze cupped and held in any specific cell? All that wax and comb, that queen and colony, pour moi?? St. Marx stepping off the boat tip-toe, making it grain. And everything solid mellifying into air, oh, no, and everything holy [refrain[
HEY! WHAT SCHOOL DID YOU TAKE POETRY AT? I'M LOOKING FOR A SCHOOL WHERE I CAN STUDY POETRY.
I got my bachelor’s at Ursinus College in stately Collegeville, PA. When I went there, it had three very good poetry professors, now it has two. Very small creative writing program, but (in my stint there at least) very passionate and very talented.
I skipped parts 2-5 because I’m not happy with them. The title of this is a really stupid John Adams pun. I’ll probably change it someday. Certain phrases of this derive from ‘The Golden Bough’ a long book with dumb parts. I found in Euripides’ treatment of Polyxema something of the modern concept of male gaze— the way this beautiful young virgin is suddenly trotted out, the weird lack of dramatic tension in her eventual sacrifice, the fraught erotic undertones of her death-scene. Polyxema is definitely sort of a neglected figure in poetry I think. In that sense the title is actually kind of a triple pun. Harmonieleerer as in ‘blank harmony’ as well as the idea of the reader as a leering sexual creep, the thematic unity of the play (and by ekphrastic osmosis, the poem) held together by a kind of voyeuristic frisson— ‘when are those Greeks gonna bring that Polyxema’s body out? When do we get to see the apparatus?’ (to borrow half an idea from Anne Carson’s commentary on the play). Please forgive me. Well ok.
Hecubah or Hekabe,
At rest on her island fortress,
Her death-beams cooling down for the night,
Her tropical breeze, her bellicose knees,
Her tax evasion, her sweet enemy heart, her box of bees—
The oracle says it takes a beast
To write like Homer.
Kassandra said it, I believe it.
She smiled through a window
And you melted. Wow, literally.
A lacuna of small sweetness, a little lapse amidst emergency.
Agamemnon cups her breast
In the washed-out summer Polaroid,
Ancient with their boat shoes and pale white shorts,
Oh brute, oh rude dude, oh bro among beatified bros!
Call to mind that phrase in George Oppen,
The alien small teeth, the image
Of Artemis hand-helmeted down low
In the wood brush. Embarrassed,
Oh, um, abashed by the palisade of pecs.
Kassandra, proto-haruspex, detailed
Spoilers ahead in the body’s tensile tines.
That’s politics, maybe, that’s the monad’s crude
Embargo, the line of ships in the bay.
The issue of organizing bodies en masse.
‘The Greek Question.’
And who to cast up for that kind
Of casual surrender, Priam’s coy
Vexatious kiddos, those lambs,
Those mammal-hearted spear-crept darlings
At war from degree zero on?
After all, it was Polyxema
Played blood-wise with the ghost
Of Achilles, who fell arrayed
In cautious garments. Well, wasn’t it?
That conjugal obsession, that string of innuendos
Whenever sons of Greece come around knives out?
An irritation buried under years of pine-fall and detritus.
Her compost heap. Her dream of virgin springs. The breast
Revealed in the sanctum sanctorum, the concentric circle
In the concentric circle in the concentric circle,
Oh Miss Teen Wild Hunt 2007, Miss Rex Nemorensis,
Miss Hippolytus of the Hills, Miss ‘Ghastly Priest’, Miss ‘Ritual Slaying’,
Miss Face on Milk Carton, Miss 5K Walk For All Missing Children,
Miss, Miss, Yes You In The Slayer T-Shirt, blood
On your shins, chipped lip, cool and tough
As you were thigh-high in Trojan waters
Bringing your brother in amid the breakers
And trawl-lines, the lobster traps and household gods,
Chin-up, chin-up and jean-shorts under khiton,
Coat of mail, cell membrane, packet of seeds, sex appeal, sea cradle
On the hip and dangerous clean teeth,
The write-in vote, the protest rally in Ate’s lobby, come
Hot from Hell, another spirit would go raging in slicker centuries,
Come hot from Hell—surrounded by a structure called—
You footnote to some line half-understood in Virgil,
You signal flare to all future murders, all watchers in the wood, all
Innocent victims on TV, ghost bikes chained to city stop-lights,
All hands held candidus burning
In the cinema as unjust justice comes rearing
From the lake black as black as black,no,
Ater, small pocket portrait of Artemis
In the back pocket, token of type,
Of all things paper removed from the frame,
All paper discarded
And come around again, you call this fair?
All frowning middle administration,
All feminine tilt, all sea cradle and shell,
All sisters in white robes chanting in city ribbon drift,
I’m back with another multipart beast that nobody should give a shit about. This time the focus is on Polydorus, a peripheral figure in the Trojan cycle who dies two wildly different but equally evocative deaths in Euripides and Virgil. Overall sequence featuring guest appearances by Cassandra, Hecubah, Agammemnon, Oedipus, etc. There’s even a Noel Coward pun for any sly cats out there who completely suck.
To walk over sharp grey gravel, rocks
Ridged like felled trees, the grey sand
And the bottle-glass, the torn up feet
Of hypothetical strangers, the thirsty sand,
The half-memory, wait,
Were there even sharp stones, was there
Grey sand? Snail shells on the dashboard?
Thinking of Polydorus:
Who died thrice (twice in Thrace),
Who washed ashore
On the coasts of Scamander, who watered
The flowers of Polymestor’s grove, who turned his spears
To rushes, cat’s-tails, shed gold as he fell, sea ghost,
Salt ghost, sea ghost, sea ghost, shell ghost, wave ghost,
To walk along the ridge at Land’s End,
By the family sedans enjambed
Upon one another, by the thick wreaths
Of post-cards, the t-shirts, you know,
You go up to the counter
And order a Coke—
Sure, it tastes fine, better than Moxie at least,
And the muck of the oceans and
The empty camps of mollusks
Accrue, and accrue. How wise, you’ll think,
To cling to the rocks wherever possible,
Gnaw out tidal pools and niches,
Warm and stale and attended by gnats,
The smell of salt and dull feet shambling to the coast,
What murk was this, what deliquescing species?
In Euripides, it’s a Greek, Talthybios who brings his
Rimed and kelp-showered body to the tents
Where the prisoner-women stay,
(Although his ghost is by then known to us,
The audience, tucked off-stage,
A helpful and lucid young man, expository,
What a waste to just throw a reliable narrator like that
Into, well, we’ll stick with “the wine-dark sea,” as if
That king in all fours didn’t know that agency
Is a narratological condition)
And when Talthybios exits left that’s it for him,
The Chorus closes ranks like a caul. Poor Polydorius,
Wrapped up in the canvas sack and heaved,
Poor Polydorius mauled for money and abandoned,
Poor Polydorius, swift runner, spear hustler,
Son of Priam, prince and surety,
110 pounds of lithe young malice and haunt,
blight spirit crouching at protological lip,
my pops was Katalyst, my mother Katharsis,
in the wings, nice abs, they’ll say, them birdy civilians,
Is it stupid to do not so much an imitation of a poet but an imitation of a translation of a poet? Well, here is an attempted imitation of the spare, gnomic quality Burton Raffell gives to the ‘Greek Anthology’ in 2004’s ‘Pure Pagan: Seven Centuries of Greek Fragments and Poems.’ I guess. Anyway this sucks but it was nice finger exercise.
There’s a rather nice bookstore in Brunswick, Maine that specializes in poetry. There’s a rather nice coffee-shop across the street too, and while reading there this afternoon I sort of half dozed off and conflated the two in my mind, coming to a few minutes later shaking off these weird splendid memories of reading chapbooks and eating sloppy drippy quiche at once in a paradaisical summer climate.
I also was curious to see how often I could use that awful adjective ‘beautiful’ before it dissolved into phonemic mush.
At beautiful bookstore the best part
Is when one thing runs over into the Other.
A little cube of tomato on the perimeter of
Your everything bagel sliced in half and stuffed
With provolone and avocado. The sudden taste
Of pesto on your teeth in the middle of nothing at all,
Walking past men filling in holes with concrete,
Walking around just to get some air.
At beautiful bookstore every slice of pizza arranged
Like a plinth to the Virgin Mary. A 1:1 correspondence
To itself. Stuffed crust. Thin crust. Sturdy and pristine.
At beautiful bookstore hanged men hanged
Over the section on Jung. Young men Yanged
In the aisles, hysterical. Free local newspapers
At beautiful bookstore, all yours for the taking.
A beautiful girl says “Do you know Victor Pelevin?”
The beautiful girl says “Do you know Michael Houellebecq?”
A beautiful girl says “What do you like about Mishima?”
The beautiful girl says “Have you read any Dmitru Tsepineg?”
A beautiful girl says “My iced coffee is melting.”
The beautiful girl says “I’ve just slopped a not insignificant
Amount of non-diary creamer on my navy-blue flats, oh! oh!”
When you walk out of the shower at beautiful bookstore
You didn’t expect your girlfriend to be right there in the kitchen
Slicing up thick pieces of anadama and smearing on
Soft rich butter and grilling grilled cheese and you,
Oh unlucky fool, all naked and absurd in the middle
Of the afternoon!
I love a book where a cat’s the detective.
I don’t know if that’s your kind of fantasy.
The back of the book says, “This author kills heroes.”
A beautiful girl killing heroes with two machetes,
Laughing it up on the down escalator, outside.
This author burning in the pan at the park,
Oh beautiful beautiful beautiful public fire-hazard.