That's no great thing, not even fashionable. That time might face one is how to be engaged with it
or should I say wi't, excision like MacDiarmid, his consonants like garnets.
Not immersed, which simply makes time space, but facing as water's faced by Mastrantonio,
the teeth, even, separable crystal planes. It may be too late to think about boredom, how
effects enchant, in a poem which hasn't decided if it talks about what it "addresses,"
as if Dickens's carrier wave suddenly reveals a too intimate acquaintance with his characters.
There's a way in which words, scrambling around like mice not building a cathedral, are what this poem is.
A slide from Texas, Ana Jaquez's Ardiendo en Calentura, pedestaled dark-wood
plinth with a wee framed thing midway, like a window (backlit staircase?) too small to see
or know which way is up. Another, found in the street, rust-pink flaked wall (could be
adobe), chalked or painted hearts with initials, "TJ & Paul," what looks to be,
in the same paint or chalk, a small lizard, back defined by flake's meander. Or a cat.
Neither slide urges you to speculation, as a bad slide of Jesus on the Mount might be worth
augmenting. You take either as containing the limits of its provenance and clarity.
". . . yet hands betrayed By the old Judas of my will" says Leah Bodine Drake of Leonardo, her poem
of no importance except for pulp writers who in the thirties thought poems looked like that. Unearth
such treasures as Clark Ashton Smith poems, beautifully printed in California, stalwartly inept.
They thought that poetry was what other poems made you feel, harmonic essence, the
label on the liquid, poême, guaranteed by cut-glass stopper, John M. Bennett's head, in a drawing I did
with cursive phial's ficinic modulation into dram, on an envelope addressed to Al Ackerman
an artificial excellence walled in by pretense, and the refusal to study means.
They are alienated from poetry as Auden is (or pretends to be) from Pleasure, his
limestone pseudo-friendly Downs, thought they could ignore some gender-keyed frivolity
by giving in to it, biting the chocolate bullet, even the titles of their books poetical.
Moods, unfortunately, can be learned. A too accepted idiom made them spokesfolk,
verse somehow a treat, the valentine you don't really want conventional as postage --
I do not think that they'll be sent to me -- even that note of self-doubt, the not,
inadequate protection from Keats's worst excesses without what, said, can't even wilt.
Right now the fluctuations in what almost seems my character interest me, less "mood"
than clouds moving about, often in opposite directions, a pattern but not,
when I step outside to smoke. Minute finches, chickadee, nuthatch, or what I
take to be these, bob like bumblebees, sewing the air. Paul calls from Paris,
avoiding museums, I think the vivacity of the French good for him. He eats,
he says, the same as here, but the ingredients are better. The small white flowers,
six-petaled with a dark orange trumpet, bloom in my vase, simply bloom, and I'm
at risk again, a little. My bookmark, a cut-down picture of George Orwell,
thick shirt, ribbed sweater, thicker wide lapels -- you can't tell much from the face, pained
smile as if holding back a Punch whistle. As if a dedication to honesty produces
in the face a kind of guilt. Awkward man, perhaps too interested in his persona,
above his head just ELL in strongly serifed letters (if he looked up he'd not see it.)
A Line of Virgil's
Naked warriors with yellow wolves' heads attack us with slings (Mars ascendant).
Violence is a god, perhaps implicit in the concept "substance." Birds fly up from eaves,
that they are visible more touching than their cries in summer light, habitual patterns forgot.
One falls, cut apart by a lead ball. That you can describe from great stillness
acts of war suggests narrative is a goddess, long waving grass hers, birds, the bodies barely moving
left where they lie. Civilization depends on this not happening too often.
Macbeth, open on school desks, that a friend in New York insists on spelling MacBeth,
named makes bad things happen in theaters, so actors don't. The actors
are like soldiers, full of superstitions. Large men in kilts with blue faces,
shadows under cheekbones touched with purple, repel the wolfmen or not
Copyright Gerald Burns 1995-1997