Thursday, November 18, 2010

178. Animated by a Constant

He gets it.
He gets the way the children hear
the words through their noses.
He gets the American language like
braised beef tongue with ketchup.
He gets the need for a word to taste
better on the tongue than stuck in an ear.
He gets it that the poem is both
dissonant and congruent.
He gets in trouble with the purveyors
of filth and of decency.
He gets a bottle of tequila and
a slightly desiccated lime.
He gets it and brings it back to us.

Grey-haired, he rises, ashen because old enough to be colorless, the hidden berry of his tongue behind his lips, somewhat stooped, limping forward he puts the book down on the table, and shuffles around the podium to the other side, where he sits down, twists off a cap, takes a swig of water from his bottle, and then says he has to take a swig of water just after I have written down those words.

Cara wraps a scarf
around her head and
neck, blocking the cold
from her skin. I explain
I lived my childhood in
the tropics: Barbados,
Ghana, Somalia, even
Bolivia ,though just
below the altiplano,
at almost 10,000 feet,
so not tropical, but
near the Yungas, where
the tropics were almost
a form of servitude. I
do not know why. No,
I do not know how I
survived. The world is
always too hot for me.

A mind is porous like dreams.
The pressure of light gently
against the eyelids produces
an explosion, bits of steel
flying at him, his only chance
is to jump, to fall, to fly.

His nose sloping downward and into a soft rounded hook, head bowed just enough to see the pages, and his glasses resting on that nose allow him the words from it, which he reads out to us, they come out of his body like new-found thoughts.

They wonder why I
had moved so much,
what the reason might
be. Thoughts enter
their heads like a family
in the military. I explain
I was a child murderer.
Not, I am quick to add,
a murder of children,
but one who took up
the art of killing early
in life. They believe a
second story that my
father was a diplomat.
I am a miscast miscreant.

Appears a story of St Peter’s Bird
and the aural riches of its birdsong.
The song of birds comforts us back
into a porous sleep that we might
remember as a poem we’d imagined
we’d written, but long before we
had ever remembered writing
anything. It is possible that we were
remembering the same thing twice.

Flips through the book looking for a poem, flips past three yellow sticky notes marking possible poems to read, suggesting he knows which are the good poems, then he flips back in the other direction, retreating into the past, he doesn’t read every poem he’s written, the laws of physics would not allow it.

The auditorium is full
to capacity. I walk to
the front, close enough
to see the poets in
their own flesh, the
youthful Berrigan
(premier fils ou autre)
and the white-skinned
Ashbery, the human
reliquary of our words.

Splurge against the machine
of language by using its riches
against itself. Do not hold
inside a single word you think
you might need sometime.
Spend them all. Spend yourself
into penury so you have something
to write with. It is a singular
experience and expression
of our work.

Ann Lauterbach drops her head, closes her two eyes to concentrate, crosses her arms and legs. Joan Retallack smiles wanly looks right at Ashbery, her head straight, arms crossed under the arms of her jacket, one leg cocked, the left one stuck out and balancing gracefully on its heel, toes pointing at Ashbery.

Audience, I see you,
bored and half-asleep,
not inside the words
but with words falling
against you. Even the
sound of their hitting
you does not wake you.
Your eyes are not closed
for thinking. I think to
you, as loudly as I can,
Poetry isn’t good for you.
Never suffer through it.
A poem suffered is lost.

Then long applause.

I’m listening
to my headache,
and it is loud.
I am
listening to
my headache and it
is loud. I am listening
to my headache

and it is loud.

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