Monday, July 28, 2008


Fire Escape


Corrupt be my opinions, like those broached by brain-
sick men, kept ‘away of the Light by a Dogge tyed to the Candlestick,’

discerning nothing beyond a cur’s circle of covetousness: that’s
one manner of seeing it. Another festoons my mess with the green

reek of jealousy, thinks I founder against the strong rocks of
actuality, unable to steer around a massy indifference without a cat-

call, a harpoon, something soil’d and predictable, as if meaning
were no more than a sapling one shimmies up and swings off of, bending

it by degrees so that one’s feet return to ground, its dirt. I’d rather fly up
in a fluster like a crow, or a dust-mop, indifferent and furious,

letting pieces of my toilsome getaway adhere to the chops of
the fox I just outwitted, with one single useable black primary

loft’d against the inimitable blue field of sky like a quill,
sleek pliable wildness domesticated by man, pinch’d between

two fingers and dip’d, scratching out against newsprint or foolscap
an impertinent inventory of fautes inadmissible, green-

horn strivings reach’d, tongue itself a chewable lump of muscle,
adherent of cheek. Why lose it to comparison, why not go full

throttle and if the jalopy rattle to pieces, if the high gilt caparison’d
horse slows—dignity the unintend’d upshot of ornament—rip it off,

make a gift of diatribe, a discursive seizure’s good for the hotness
it blows back down off the self-appoint’d mountains, that guild!

make it blow down here by the sea where meaty fruits lodge in
a tumult of rocks and begin a process of breakage, that animal rooting

into crevice, vegetal ruptures guided by water, by light! They, those
who stand solider than air, they are baffles and buffers, and mite-cover’d

like the sea-wall where the cormorant shits its combustible rancors,
seed to an apt pungent nay-saying out of which flowers grow, these flowers.

It’s a terrible thing to conduct a motorcar in a transverse (out and back) course of several hundred miles between lines of verse: one tends to find oneself re-invent’d in the interval. I hadn’t intend’d to mimic-suture my lines (again) to those of “Mr. O’Hara”—first name Frank I once heard. It did come appealingly down (lightning-boltishly) out of the sky though, in this, my second attempt at “using” the form: that poem (“Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets”) is, I find, a “big ass sonnet” (term for the handbooks: sonnet with fourteen monster-long—doubling over to examine they own selves—lines). Two tercets, volta—“blood, blood”—two tercets, couplet: more Italian than English, though not, of course, sticking to the hen-peck’d syllables of Petrarch. (I love to throw the lingo around. It’s why I “became” a poet. Even as a kid I could knock an anapest out of a tree at two hundred yards, and with a BB gun!)

I don’t know why I am so jizz’d. I fought that “Critical Chops” piece to a draw, and I rather doubt it “worth” my implacable final minutes of totally burst discursive machinery—I suffer’d some “losses” in the writing of that thing, “let” “me” “tell” “you.” I’m not certain it’ll ever be repair’d: that’s the danger in art. Brokedness everywhere. Men gone before they time. Women empty’d out of pungency, standing in bus terminals, constrain’d to spook-talking and jitters. I finish’d Jaimy Gordon’s excellent Bogeywoman. My sense is that if Gordon’s publishing history weren’t so “checker’d,”—Shamp a sort of “underground” hit; the Burning Deck novellas lost in an age that habitually loses miniatures; the 1990 She Drove Without Stopping (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) publish’d by a press mostly known for Faulkner spawn, and so, invisible to most “innovating” fictioneers; and 1999’s Bogeywoman itself caught in the Sun & Moon / Green Integer collapse and resusce, howsoever that story goes. There’s a satisfying (satisfying in the way the picaresque demands, toujours à la fin, bittersweet romantic disengagement in order to leave the protagonist ready for the next misadventure, seriality a mark of the genre) end to Gordon’s Ursula Koderer, her misadventures at Camp Chunkagunk, and in the Bug Motel where she’s sent for drawing maps (with a knife) on her arms:
My arms don’t resemble raw meatloaf nowadays. Instead they’re sorta like two slim, egg-dribbled, unbaked loaves of bread—two baguettes of thready, shiny white scar flesh from elbow to pinky. I have to admit they don’t look human. You’d be surprised how few people ask me what happened to them, and when strangers do, either I silently smirk them down, from the dignity of my new mysteriousness, or, practicing to be a dreambox mechanic, I ask them—affecting a vaguely trans-Ural accent—Why is this of interest to you? I think of my arms, in the privacy of my dreambox, as the last sweet vestige of my monsterhood—sorta like the Queen of Sheba’s goose feet, which Solomon glimpsed, to his fright, at the bottom of her gown as she daintily stepped across the floor of mirrors—or the swan-feathered forearm of the sixth brother in the fairy tale, whose left sleeve wasn’t ready when the liberation came. I think of my arms as my monster ticket, you might say, in case the whole world should go the monster way and monstrosity comes into its own. I’ll be there. I’ll be ready.
And launch’d myself into Richard Hughes’s A High Wind in Jamaica, who’d a thunk the life of the Bas-Thornton children in Jamaica—the “general round energeticalness” of it, to use a Hughes tag—’d enthrall so compleatly. Odd dub: the thirteen-year-old Martin Amis act’d in Alexander Mackendrick’s 1965 movie of the book, though with dubbing by an actress: Amis’s voice having changed during filming.

Martin Amis in A High Wind in Jamaica (1965)