Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Peter Riley’s Greek Passages

A Wall


Homely and local
is the belly-
aching of the
abject, the phony
dicta of its
thin self-adherence
grabs a man’s
hat and means
nothing by it.
A surfeit of
human sass, implicitly
French’d. So that:
the fragility of
self, its routine
machinations of identity-
upheaval get dump’d,
and a mean
perseverance of offal
and toxins is
hoist’d up bell-
wether style, and
a marvelous propinquity
of the helplessly
inane is summon’d.
Yowser. I am
a moron, m’lord.
Up against the
mortal pitch I
sing “with weight
and urgency / unheeded”
my rude and
klaxon-calamitous song,
pocky and oppugning
the inconsequential wrongs
of the maw’d
superfluous sawyers who
stump for the
limit’d wallop of
opportune carnage under
the sign of
the untorn self,
kidding like a
goat, a legend,
a faux-monnayeur.

“That’s either iris or maize said the urban poet to himself on the way to Chicago.” Zukofsky-script’d postcard to Williams, 1930. Retchy impasse of the morning, my dud-vibrancy lighting up. The hell with it. Reading Peter Riley, a swath out of Greek Passages (Shearsman, 2009):

Kefalari. The water bursts out at the foot of the hill / which shall wash away these stories / Churches, and a lollipop kiosk, claim the place. Coachloads arrive wanting to buy something / something redemptive, though it might not last. / / Up in the windy hills the rain / marginalizes us, serving / every cell of the landscape.

The King of Asine has gone / Seferis too has gone. / The citadel, a boss of rock above the sea, the caravan park, and the massed hotels along the coast. / King, poet, a vertical thrust through all that horizontal continuity and steady cash. A clearing, a void, a cry across commerce, remembering honour, a citadel / with about enough grass among its stones to graze a donkey for a week as the sea diamonds shoot overhead / / Come, little donkey, I’ll hire you, for a year and a day / and you shall bear patiently a collection of CDs of rembetiko, demotika and Byzantine chant / in two wooden boxes along the coast road and across the vegetable field 15km / to a semi-ruined stone house in from Iría which when we get there proves to have no electricity / But we know the tunes by heart, and sit in former time like little waves against cyclopean walls. Ten thousand years, drinking of the wine / Old poets, remembering the oceanic tones of a just peace.

Justice that survives in the tales while the actuality lies ten feet down a shaft grave. There was no justice. Tyrins, a fortress of privilege guarding the end of the bay and every advantage structure to be had. / Again the split brain advances, at someone’s cost / The King so frightened he leapt into a large storage jar / / Excavations under the summit palace, left partly open, reveal a Bronze Age circular structure divided into segments, the guide / was maybe drunk, didn’t have much English and kept saying, “It is the marigold, you know, that little flower, it is the marigold.”

Adamant the question (“millipedes curled up on the walls like question marks”): “Money, what have you done?” And: “It is not nature / that needs guarding / it is us.” Achingly humble, tender, honorable work. I’ll leave it at that for now. Off to recharge, finish up “A Year,” read without the glean-reaper’s countenance and bag, dally, walk, and scrimp. À la prochaine.

Peter Riley, c. 2005
(Photograph by Michael Hohensee)