Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Culling Losses

A Red Cap


That moon’s just a smudge-
Pot in its lower wane-
Regions, all porcine bloat unmarred
Up top. I think it
Looks like Truman Capote, just
To toss out a fat
Monicker, an irredeemable social utterance
That goes wholly against my
Begrudging solitary “nature.” A soupçon
Of yellow tints that moon,
A urine-stain pouring down
To wash the world, rinsing
The wild forsythia shoots, speckling
The helmet of the white-
Throat’d sparrow that is irritably
Ransacking the oak leaf litter
With both feet, looking for
Insects. Is my wont to
Swerve unendingly through the ruck
Of combustibles erring? That is,
To see a fiery crow
Turning to cinder sailing down
Out of the sky, flames
Skirling out behind it like
The flourish of a paraph
Append’d to a signature against
Its inevitable counterfeiting, or forgery?
To ache after the real
And ignore the feral contorts
Of the calling—that is
Discordancy of form, a hampering,
And a douse. That moon’s
Snout noses into the garbage
Of the horizon’s edge where
Houses and trees lack any
Backing of earth and its
Inebriates, a furlong away, a
Walk down a wobbly furrow
The length of the commons.

A doubtful thing. Is every poem “about” its own waywardness, its own caustic lye-in-the-face careening? Or is it a measure of the distractions withstood, the way it wobbles here and there, and not a “function” of its own “desire” at all? “I” “don’t” “really” “know.”

Dos Passos in the biographical sketch of John Reed (Ten Days That Shook the World) puts down a rhythm against which the “factoids” of Reed’s trajectory (made heroic-lyrical) get play’d: “Reed was a westerner and words meant what they said.” Calling up Ed Dorn, amongst others. The heroic-lyrical:
      The Metropolitan Magazine sent him to Mexico to write up Pancho Villa.
      Pancho Villa taught him to write and the skeleton mountains and the tall organ cactus and the armored trains and the bands playing in little plazas full of dark girls in blue scarfs
      and the bloody dust and the ping of rifleshots
      in the enormous night of the desert, and the brown quietvoiced peons dying starving killing for liberty
      for land for water for schools.
      Mexico taught him to write.
Against which, out of the recesses (call them “holes”) in my brainbox, I cull a remark report’d somewhere of Marjorie Perloff saying “I like to pick winners.” Which excresces an annoying amount of gall—at her own self-satisfy’d high self-regard as a canon-maker, among other things. Which seems wholly antithetical to a robust critical temper that aligns itself with the underdog, the outcast, the throwaway, positions “assumed” by the historical avant-garde. Sort of like saying “I am a Republican,” or “I root for the Yankees.” If the “new avant-garde” (or the post-perp, or howsoever one labels it) is busy preening itself amongst the “winners,” count me unabashedly out.

John Reed, 1887-1920