Archive for February, 2011

You Can’t Interrupt, Ha-ha

February 28, 2011

My dear Ha-ha—my friend—please, come sit in
a booth. We can’t really talk at the bar
now, can we? Clamor may be glamour, but
the noise up front is the noise of the brain.
Hirsute, difficult legends are—how shall I say?—
a hairy-scary truth. When we start with
the morning star, the evening star elbows
its way past the blood-brain barrier, so
to speak. Collective mind given a head, eh, Ha-ha,
in the guise of—imagine—the identity problem!
All bachelors are unmarried men.
They are reading the
Popol Vul in translation.
Sure, you see the difference, Ha-ha,
—one is analytic,
the other synthetic—but the mind
does not. All it
can understand is what it knows in absentia.

Just listen for a moment. Old Molloy
is reading first tonight.
Listen to the cadence of the Popol Vul, shh—

The doll-people are made
with faces carved from wood.
But they have no blood, no sweat.
They have nothing in their minds.
They have no respect for Heart-of-Sky.
They are just walking about,
But they accomplish nothing.

We have description without a place, a name
without a face, an island without its land—
and it all starts…it all
starts considerably before the sun.
You see, Ha-ha,
we can’t possibly interrupt this…

(Popol Vul translation: Dennis Tedlock)

Ether Island: Michael Heidegger b 1947 –

February 26, 2011

Like the Proust clan, the Heidegger clan took
to walking the country roads. They had two
routes too: either the mountain ‘way’,
or down along the lake, over the ‘little’ bridge
(there was not a big bridge to contrast with),
and across Cemetery Island—
and if it was a nice night, all the way
to the ‘ether’ bridge (why or which ‘ether’?).
Between the Little Bridge and the Ether Bridge
there was only one house, a Mrs. Spooner’s.

Yet these were real bridges. You could not get
to either the Spooner’s farm or the Heidegger’s house
except by venturing across the narrow Ether Bridge.
It would creak and shift when
the unfamiliar would inch their cars out—
most got about five feet, and then backed up.
It was in their light
that Michael had first seen the dead:
The Unfamiliar that had drowned so often in the lake.

No one lived in the Spooner farm, no one
that occupied space in the physical world.
You can trust me on this one. The place was
a wreck. Old Doc Spooner had ‘drowned’ himself
by chopping through the ice.
Mrs. Spooner was just gone. Their only son
had died also in the lake. Michael would walk past
the ghostly house…so alone now…

Seurat would have us in all parasols,
is what he said.
That night, in that light—

Is what he meant.

Ether Island: What she Meant – d 1968

February 24, 2011

If Too old to count was like a mantra
to him alive, a joke to silence, then,
she guessed, silence joked in his death
epitaph too. Now, it said, it is
chipped into the stone…

No. What he had meant was ‘in to’ the stone.

The unfamiliar: it was in their light
that ashes fell. Some said old Doc Spooner
burned in hell, some said rocks don’t burn…
they melt. She did kneel at his grave.
She knew that he had first seen the dead,
and all the unfamiliar faces that had drowned
in his lake…and took away their burial ground.
How many had died holding on to his gloves?

Was this her epitaph? Smoke don’t burn either too.
They found it in her bed.
Pastor changed that ‘either too’ to just either.
He said that’s what she meant. Just add a ‘d’
like old Doctor Spooner had for ‘dead’.
And add her year: 1968.

No. What she meant was
Smoke doesn’t burn in ether either
for she had lived in his ether all her life.

Ether Island: its Youth 1943 – 1954

February 23, 2011

…and if the bridge still seems to float
this morning, in thy mist, Ether Island—
the boards still creak and groan and shift
like bones under your weight—
it didn’t seem to matter, for
the Lorelei had sung,
the corpse had bloated, had grown thick—
and like sailors, the dead float to the surface
in musical notes, amid the children’s laughter—
and when Mrs. Spooner would drive her truck
across the Ether Bridge each morning at sunrise—
and when in winter you could drive across the frozen lake—
and see the face, his stars in Ether Island…

Don’t look down through the ice,
Mrs. Spooner.

Dr. Spooner never did.

Wishing Well

February 18, 2011

We have a wishing well back behind our barn. Toss in a penny and you get to make a one sentence wish. For a dime you can talk as long as you like. You don’t actually get answers from the well, and it sure as hell doesn’t fulfill your requests, but it does listen well—ha-ha.  Listen well, get it? Truth is, it works better with abstract ideas than with gross material requests. You want a new bicycle, you’re better off with Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. Want to know why bad things happen to good people, and you might get your answer. We used to say, you can wish for anything you want, just so long as it’s a nice cool drink of water. There used to be a kid that lived next door named Donald McKenzie. One night he fell into the well and broke both his hands trying to stop his fall. Spent all night down there, freezing his butt in the well water. We think he was trying to drown our cat, also named McKenzie. Nasty little boy. ‘You see,’ the joke went. ‘It does answer your wishes.’ McKenzie, the cat, lived to be almost 20. The McKenzie family and their precious little Donald moved back to Wisconsin maybe a year later. Donald became a lawyer—which is why I had to disguise his name. It’s actually MacKenzie.

Tonight, I’m going to go for the full dime. You listen for it to hit the water, and then say, ‘Wish I may, wish I might, make this wish come true tonight.’ Then you lean over as far as you can into the well and make scary sounds. In the echoes you can to say what you want.

What I’m asking about tonight is this. Well, I’d like to know what a prose poem is.

The well is pretty prompt: Why do you care? It asks.

Then: There is an obvious answer.

Yeah, I know. It’s a prose that uses the techniques of poetry. It’s prose that has as its goal the same goal as a poem.

Well, says the Well, you’ve got an efficient cause and a final cause. What move can I do for you? It’s your dime.

Okay, I say. Here’s the thing. I get comfortable. It’s a nice night. This is why I love the well. Look up ‘prose’ and you’re apt to get this sort of definition: Ordinary speech or writing, without metrical structure. Look up ‘poetry’, wow: A piece of literature written in meter; verse. I guess we’d better look up meter too: The measured arrangement of words in poetry, as by accentual rhythm, syllabic quantity, or the number of syllables in a line…

Well: Well…

For one, they define themselves against each other. ‘I am what you’re not’ kind of thing…

Well: Let’s not get the Mackenzie thing going again.

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Crayon Lips

February 17, 2011

One morning as Michael Heidegger (not
that Heidegger, Michael) bent down
to study the bright crayon lips a child
had drawn, bright as red, on the concrete steps,
he noticed an envelope wedged tight against
the curb which was something he’d dreamt
about the night before. In the dream there
had been eleven hundred dollars in
the envelope. The street had been empty.
The money smelled of peppermint.
Michael remembered the deep joy
of virgin peppermint. He remembered
his grandfather’s peppermint garden and
the mint juleps and the old woman they
called Auntie Toffel, how she scolded them
and fussed when they wouldn’t come in
to eat her sauerbraten and kartoffel klosse.
Michael had been eleven then. The adults
had been outside getting gently potted.
A julep for your red, red lips, they’d said.
Auntie Toffel, come out and dance for us.
They loved her dearly. She had never danced
a step in all her life. Her lips had never tasted alcohol.
Michael sits on the steps outside his apartment.
One morning soon his lips will look like flowers too.

Zephyr, Passing

February 15, 2011

Sure, she might want carillons and calliopes,
and she will make up patronymic sobriquets
at the drop of a hat,
and dream of flugelhorns and clarinets—
for she is a wind instrument herself, you know, breeze
personified, the open sky, the air, immense.

She might want opera singers/ warriors
too, for all their songs are silent and intense,
and hard to master. I guess it’s either/ or—
but not quite a disaster.
It’s either a voice that must avoid the song
altogether—a voice too much the choice

of one that can’t be sung every day, a voice
in that icy cascade of miniature mirrors—or
a song of light so wide and white, it’s like
a fit of fugues, a fig of laughter, a kite.
It’s like a passing zephyr, blue
against the blue, transitory light.

Poetry on the bed between them—

February 10, 2011

A man, yet by these tears a boy again…
Walt Whitman

Play sighed, Ice-Boy, then endure, then, verdure
you see, it’s good. You have an o-u-s
but that e in verdure kills you. Murder
would bake the cake, simply be murderous.
Rats! They both know it should be murderess.
Poetry in a game of Scrabble—
perfidious, insidious babble.
She lets him win. For what words could address
a kidney’s death? It’s loss that lies between
them. Thought, not love, is grandma’s end. This poem
can’t be your Valentine, Ice-Boy, go home.
We’ll find a final word—for you, smokescreen,
a cloudy day, and double letter points;
for me, use the Holy Spirit… anoints.

Ice-Boy Got the Heebie Jeebies

February 4, 2011

Poor Ice-Boy! He’s melting! Icicles-Boy!
Beware synoptic voices, Ice, voices in
your head! Bees in winter! How they destroy
a winter’s eve come morning, a dripping sin,
that every sunrise makes so clear, must be
a warning that the hive is soon to wake.
Pretend to sleep all winter, sure, each bee
does so, but then surprise! They’re first awake!
You think that William James was joking when
he spoke of blooming, buzzing confusion?
—a harpy intellect, for sure, for then,
each bee, qua bee, would see the illusion
as it forms, see Icicles-Boy could freeze
and thaw. Again: Disease, the breeze, his knees.


The Further Adventures of the Ice-Boy

February 2, 2011

…since I am sure my love’s
more ponderous than my tongue.
Cordelia. King Lear.

Her muscles move. She sounds just like her breath—
like a machine can breathe the air. You kiss
the baby and you blow away its death,
eh, Ice-Boy?—like a distant bell—a hiss
alive in both their heads. Today we will
learn the difference between a mother’s mind
and a boy’s imagination: the shrill
refractory melody each makes, the kind
that makes him ponderous to love, or so
the Ice-Boy thinks. This is a howling stage
to lift his soil aloft. Their mom will go
and leave poor baby Chuckles in her cage,
while the Ice-Boy is putting on his cape,
while he learns how to lie…and then escape.