weather division (or, Towards the Condition of Muzak)
"let me live here ever, sweet now, silence foison to on top of the weather" -- Louis Zukofsky, "A"-22 "Devant le papier, l'artiste se fait." -- Stéphane Mallarmé green rounded grille five-leafed dogwood budded left, and before lavender rose chrysanthemum evergreen, and box crucified espaliated apple and the whirr of traffic beyond the fence static of a deep-voiced dog, barking an obligatto to chattering crows, barking squirrels I took this upon myself, accepted it all perhaps too freely certainly, for resentment morning a time for reconcilement another man's detritus unread books, marshalled according to alien intuitions -- the voice finds itself sticking or sinking here, striking arms out to nothing but words, water deep-voiced box, wings clipped and growing bitten nails a sorry manicure who would be like Cotton Mather, owning the largest library in colonial America -- who himself wrote "444 bound volumes" motives, celebrations writing as outgrowth of need, Benjamin's anecdote of the schoolmaster, himself writing the books when titles in the catalogues intrigued him -- and Mather wrote for the same reason he writes, the same reason you write; one posits poles, alternations pitched over against each other: passion, duty; fine frenzy, obligation; a crazy little thing called "love," tepidness; Mutt, Jeff; Van Doren, Stempel -- (footnote to the above: a confrontation which replays, with all the vulgarity capitalist America in the Fifties could muster -- and in its film recreation, hypercapitalist America in one's own Nineties -- the confrontation, forty years earlier, at Columbia University, of Van Doren's father's colleague Professor John Erskine and Louis Zukofsky, yet another bespectacled, nervous, know-it-all Jew -- an indubitably false parallel, but one that one cannot forebear bringing to attention) he was rabbiting on about why Cotton Mather wrote all those books when she came in the room, dropped her jacket, threw her arms around him, pressed him to the bed -- came in the room, dropped her arms, threw her jacket to the bed, pressed -- came in the jacket, dropped the keys, pressed his forehead to his hands -- threw -- some sort of leprous orange without a name, I guessthey re-established them- selves on some former footing, some friend- ship he hoped -- division, stormy weather, tempest that bids fair eventually to scuttle the ship days pass princess proved fraud and legless, pruned of his extremities like some power-line-tangled tree, the 'Bama dies -- his speakered voice another country, rhythm blues and funky beat notes and what could I have done or said? division his theme, and mine -- at odds with pain and anger
.cool day, cool tide unwind the mass of committings, entanglements domestic and foreign, appointments forethought or thoughtless -- to write, not paradise, but a bare minimum a Memorable Fancy, perhaps of Blake & his wife, naked in their garden, rejoicing, down among the primroses, day-lilies, crocuses, nasturtiums hydrangeas & tulips, in the day the lord has made weather division, how is that? to weather, to bear through the weather, to show clemency in inclement moods of sea & sky -- whether, born, poise shot letter version national small romanticism high fable one awarded swallow hard count to ten, over and over again starting in the light, watching the words walk forward tapped out moving with deliberation when division itself becomes the weather tempest without respite, wholly natural, without magic or sleight of hand -- I gather these leaves for a centerpiece -- of pumpkins and squash -- only the nicest, brightest, red and not too dry dryness the absence of powerful lust, dryness the weather of static and brittle mind clouds you can be lord you can be like Jesus
.starting over, purging the "lyric," how to de- racinate the self in favor of some utopic social -- excuse me, sir, but one self in the hand is doubtless worth a dozen social nexuses in the bush -- numbering ahead, as if that would encourage the painful, hobbled stammering voice that bears no trace of the interpretive gods -- his gods by rights are Jesus and Jehovah, soft- voiced son and Kafka's father, and even the shiny genitalled marble of Apollo, pink breasts of Aphrodite, are beyond his ken -- to shout out "Heathens!" (or as one's mother would have it, "Heatherns!") only reduplicates a Puritan past, a lifetime of staring down the New Covenant, furnished with the Old as children's scene-setting. My friend the older poet came to the Church of Jazz just as he was, but true religion lies in those broken Ozark voices, autoharping "Bright Morning Stars" or trembling at the face of an angel band the weather refuses to turn, others' letters and no savor to a broken dish
.chop the nuts finely, mashing them beneath the flat of the blade, then turn and pound them into the cheese, the basil, the stinking garlic -- pesto, a paste, not a sauce -- in despair at the body politic, leviathan's choice of heroes, and aware only too well of one's own insulation, that rage and cynicism are somehow by proxy, removed from the "true" sites of "pain" and "loss" -- that is, one's own chair, however strait, is not endangered by this latest stopping of the music, scrambling to sit down lowering weather, clouded brow
.cramped seat, straitened chair, the unavowable discomforts of having made one's own bed, and now facing the lying therein -- I chose I said, would choose again? To knock down and drag out, dig one's heels and fingernails in, to pull up by the roots what one can neither part from nor abide
.personalities seem small on the bus, on the subway, in the social or political where identity is not discarded but simply drawn back, like a snail's horns into its shell -- trading freedom & movement for an enforced (uncomfortable) society
.should one, as Creeley does, play upon one's own marginality? does the name "poet" confer on one some metaphysical blackness, some enabling minority can't talk for more than five minutes without blundering into a fight, racked nerves, mis- understandings and missed cues -- and what about dreaming of another, to dream making love with some one else, a forbidden or shameful conjunction, not to be admitted, but leaving him with an inner warmth, a (for no reason) satisfaction
.Mediterranean weather -- the first day warm and sunny, the second cool, with frosting of clouds, slight sprinklings of rain -- indeed, the best possible city is the city apart from screaming from anger, resentment, distrust does the laughing man, addicted to buffoonery, the shaggy dog, preclude the poker-faced critic? Does one's face outweight one's words? movements behind the shades in the windows opposite -- the curve of flesh, buttocks beneath blue underpants
.So much seemed to be looking out of windows, wondering what lay behind other windows, whether actual contact were possible in a day when the sky seemed always about to rain, when rain spoiled everything that lay about half-done or undone and even the sun could not cut thru palpable chill, a column that penetrated leather and wool, slowed down atrophied all signs of passion, spontaneous affection or thoughtless affirmation -- and what the hell does a "mamboid eschatology" mean, the forcing of cheek-by-jowl James Brown and Jacques Lacan into Alexander Pope's measured numbers? I want to return, again and again, into remembered or perceived moments, dissolving or eroding traces of some copulation, witness to something deeper or more immediate than language itself, "jeep calling unto jeep"
.decades pass as swiftly as nights, sons & daughters of man wither as grass before the sun is high how to chart the weather of eleven years, trace a gradual slide into nothing more than a forced complacency, bonding or bondage where promise -- once so green -- now bodes little more than continuance?
.deracinate the lyrical, screw up the onward motion of the music, as if one could somehow bend the voice away from singing, from the oratorical function that obscures pain and bone-breaking chill -- as if one could sing about what freezes, say, the writing shoulder, bends the back into shapes the "heart" cannot countenance defrayed, fraying, texture weaving and unwoven Penelope's poetry or a sonnet torn to pieces As if a Ouija board would somehow pull us back together, James and David chatting their gay chatter into a sounding void where deep calls unto jeep, the cruelty of kenning more than one knows, of hoping that laudanum and poteen will somehow call back that fair thin boy, black- eyed diamond, my own aisling -- see how it happens? how the song, resisted by the singer and the singing hand, returns to spite the poem?
.Froissard Philippa of Heneault Albina Wales Brand Bruce Graves Land of Women Imayne Gynocentric Garden Paradise Goddess Muse Pilgrim Poet Marvel Midst World of Women Mount Snowden Mists Sublime Guillotine Corinthian Columns Resting Place of Merlin Drawn In Again Celts Gardens Maps of Essex English Gardens Wall Behind The Flowers Grey Lavender Hazy Pox Sprung from Bark Step Outside Step Beyond Muse Transformation Water Bearer Lake of Star Burn Vision [that figure later seen as the muse] [wrong terms] [a well under the lake] Parable Pilgrimage At Some Length Seventeen Years Typography Roman Road Great Cedar One Thousand Years Oberon and Titania Illustration Theme Synthetic Moment Glide Manifestation of Truth Equated Well Moan White Graves [riding] Residence Western Country Stanford Rivers Provident Long Ago Abbots Dark Evensong American Field Walls of the Garden Rights of Way Splendours Traced Voyed over the Atlas Light Poem Land of West Western Edge Warm Stone Griffins Centuries Nettle-Grown Edge Salmon Deeper Waters
.he carries a wailing wall within himself, a whining wall of love and heady anticipation -- rapture of love and new-found love, a breaking of long- cherished vessels & discovery of new -- a new version, somehow international, that would replace or dis- place the old version, trans- lation from a tongue the translator barely follows to read and question words, to tear translations apart from originals, enter into a zone of surfaces and reflective free-play mirrorings, asking whether one's self has only a too too unsolid, all-too- sullied, flashing ground as if to add to a growing stack of phosphorescent leaves would somehow add up to more than just a stack, summit graver than its diasporic partitas, centrifugal fugues -- he asks for shape, a tangible thigh or haunch he might grip, leaving red finger-marks, white pressure- texts, an object, however strung-out or hung- over, something more than the inevitable series, one mis- shapen camel following an other young ass stolid blanks of academic buildings, black, faceless windows, humanized by stacks of papers, leaning books or great almost-toppling towers of manuscript beside desks familiar grounds, stumbling over familiar flaws in the pavements, familiar winds that cut and buffet in all too-known ways an exile's return, not with the cries of homecoming, but to an excess of breakage, splinters of memory and nostalgic reckoning a struggle between wills, or between one will and the lack of wills -- some basic, bedrock inability to do what must be done, to take upon oneself responsibility, to follow thru on duties taken on -- the door shines with an uneven finish in the morning sun, the downstairs toilet is mounted on cardboard -- and neither do the words come tumbling as they ought to, as they used -- the stacks of books, reams of printed paper, movements of discarded words & sentences
.the trees are almost frosted by a pale green crust of leaves, wan in the convictionless morning light -- glints on the magnolia leaves, but even thru the window, seems not to warm the air -- combed concrete, worn leather, acute syntactic inertia -- or was it semantic inertia? word has it that many things are possible, but that few of them are truly "expedient" -- that a long poem necessarily included much that is strictly speaking not poetic, that the singer finds himself descending from the aria to deliver the recitative more often than he would like (tho some of us, it's true, can't abide arias) meaning, the lines fallen short of song qualify only as filler? particle board behind the mahogany panelling? Prometheus's bones beneath the coating of tasty suet? -- what's needed is a good joke, something to break the insufferable leaden gravity here -- two old guys passing a storefront church... "is that all you people think about?" -- "number 42!" -- leaden silence -- "some people just know how to tell 'em, that's all" -- puttering at this, and at that, accomplishing one thing to delay another, the poet accused turns his collar up at the winds of the world, tempests of lovers' division, and decides that, after all, there may be more to do than he had essayed. But when isn't that the case? When don't things, with their mute reproaches, silent scorn, convict him of his thoughtlessness, laziness, his nonexistent moral spine? Things certainly speak, if not in the sense Rilke imagined -- the archaic torso spelled a life- changing imperative to him, but nothing will change this one's life, nothing will deflect him from this numb, aching, down- ward spiral, this frost- bitten frozen gale, so stiff it brings tears to the eyes over and over again how do you tell a story, when the story refuses to end, compells you into unco- fortable, agonized repetition, the foot asleep as the banquet, the neck cramped, pinched at the driver's head restraint? income and outflow, statements of credit and cashdown abruptness, "rising tide of red ink," the deficit without attention, disorderly but conducted with exquisite training -- entering data, entering a lover, love itself perhaps as a particular configuration of data, of one's memory files and folders, as if filing papers wear a simulacrum of the activities that establish intimacy, as if love were somehow more than a case of first in, first outed -- they file through the rank, they draw bonds and filiations, in some brown hope of establishing the kinship relationship that separates out the kith from the kine, the carbuncle from the em- erald, the hunchback from the gypsy. Monk from lecher, Trane from automobile, Tex Ritter from Duke "John Wayne" Ellington, Cole Porter from Macbeth's porter Washington Irving Irving Berlin Booker T. Washington Booker T. and the MGs Krazy Kat Krazy Glue the Great Pyramid of Memphis, TN for that moment -- when the King be witnessed -- in the room
.blood, blood, too much blood -- how could he ever wash his hands of those stains? & the skies darken & the head slumps as if against a cross or shoulder -- the condition of muzak time changed into extension, motion thru time really not motion at all
.It's as it were some astonishing dance, where the partners come together as in a tango, pressing cheeks, thighs, closer parts, then spin apart in angry rejection -- dancing on egg shells, Chaplin on roller blades coming nearer & nearer the sheer drop of the department store's second floor -- he was that girl, watching the little tramp, and at the same time he was a figure in a second- or third- rate APR poem, the semi- digested image of an over- educated reading public's middle-class (but cinematically sophisticated) fantasies :we read what we write, we are what eats us, Auden: "I'm afraid there's many a spectacled sod Prefers the British Museum to God" post-Auden: "I fear there's many a preposterous smart-alec Prefers Donald Justice to Joan Retallack" or: "I'm afraid the American mind's gone rotten When chaps prefer Vikram Seth to Barry Watten" or even: "And most I fear, with barely-repressed anguish, Maya Angelou's probably more popular than L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E" and so he drifted, precipitate, by scattered islands in the blood, a lance lukewarm from a tepid tap, scratching out mediocre comic verses meant to prick the sides of the great slumbering leviathan (or to substitute for crosswords (Auden's other passion
.is the mockingbird mocking me? the rain falls for me, modulates the rhythms of my sympathies -- if it falls over Virginia generally, if it is snow on Michael Furey's grave in the County Clare, sees the ships come in at Galway Bay, blurs the outline of the Cliffs of Dooneen, fills the San Fernando Valley with mud deeper than the sludge through which one picks the kernels of truth out of The Washington Post's seven-section, interlinked horse-turds, is that only mindless Walter Patter, approaching the condition of muzak -- hey, bub, I remember when that shapely tune, modulated now on Gerard de Nervals's lute or Kenny G's spermicidally lubricated soprano sax, was spat out by a 19-year-old Briton with spiked hair, a safety pin thru his cheek, & deplorable halitosis -- and did MTV commission Hier- onymous Bosch (& Lomb) to paint that logo with its bat's-wings and dangling severed veins? Some poor schmuck cut off his putz trimming a guitar's neck -- put it in a Tupper- ware, mailed it to Kate Moss with a love note Van Gogh would have envied, perhaps, if he weren't so busy decorating dormitory walls for undergraduates with rings thru their navels and heads full of 3rd-generation Kerouac
.the only thing that stays the same about the weather is its changing -- from wet & chill to bone- clenching cold sun to an everyday warm that must somehow be deceptive