Let’s start with 1978 –

“Whenever I Call You Friend,” maybe -

 
                   truly lovely –

     though hollowed out by 1995 – that skin-crawling scene in
Safe where Julianne
Moore is trying to convince herself she’s having a good time at the toxicity-reduction
                                              campground’s Wednesday dance – 

                  can any art come out the other side of that?

- maybe as form,


                  the duet empty, overblown, its profitability in question,

then re-emerging changed on a beautiful spring day in the early teens


                        *

             It’s a beautiful spring day
             A beautiful day for variety


             But formal variety bores me

             sestina / haibun / villanelle
             Who am I kidding


             The name attached to me is just a sticker                          fluorescent sticker on a
                     page you’ve read beyond and may or may not return to depending on

                           what’s next 

             I can’t see the future but it delights me to be living in the era when tendril by
                       tendril hip-hop made up with disco


             This was definitely not the worst thing that ever happened

             Though the songs are so crowded!
             vocal / guest vocal / rmx / feat.
             Like are they in solidarity, or are they refugees?
 
                            Rob: “who’s F Nicki Minaj”
                            Me: “ ‘F’ means ‘Featuring’ ”


             Could I just insert here that the question concerning technology doesn’t seem
                       to me to be the question?


             Not now                not as we crowd together in variety
             Braced against violence losing our curiosity


             Imagine just sauntering up and being like, Hey Pitbull!
             Thoreau would have wondered, why is that water black



                                          *

Two great things about Erica –


  First, her turning to me after class and saying “I really don’t have a lot of experience
        with Grail myths and Sanskrit”


              and second, well,

the day the campus cop came up to us and said “I’m only a messenger,”


                               she said, “so are we”

What I mean is, recent events have expanded my sense of what poetry might be, and I’m
         not the only one


“I’d already met people with a variety of skill sets, strange and magical abilities”

I’ve been wanting to cross an airport with a party – a confrontation and a reading group –

I’ve been orbiting across the surface of everybody’s hopelessness, but then I hit an
         updraft and suddenly I’m like AH /

                              Leah

        Try again - 


I’d been testing out another prosody for kicks but then it got serious

          The hardness in a face – the steel rod in the middle of society –- a poem that
          winds and circles until it finds sufficiency –
 
 
And yes I know this is too expository but can you imagine if I put it in a novel? “God, I
         hated the professor character”


                                            *

         Someone somewhere once dismissed the tenured radicals for reading Dialectic of
                  Enlightenment by the pool
         Like I was going to read it while I was swimming 

         I think of California sunsets viewed from exile, high above Los Angeles
         I think of California


         When I first moved here I thought the dialectic meant natural beauty versus real
                    estate

         Now I think it’s real estate against the dialectic 

         But how long can you keep people down, really? Another century?
         Rise up California! I’m tenured, I’m useless, I’m ready –


                                             *

That was 2009 – I can’t remember what the hits were – now all my poems are written on
         the train to Baltimore


               Music and video and books on my lap –

And somewhere outside Odenton
my secondarity achieves a sheen


          copping your moves Darren
          trying to match your accent Robyn
          mouthing your every word René Char


“Single Ladies,” duh!
But that’s not the problem


The problem is, the two presiding spirits of this poem are not at peace with one another

                                            *


The first spirit is hostile to rhetoric
He’s a bit of a bully about it


But he’s very helpful on the elasticity of time and space

He can make me think of Paris just by saying “pale” and “furious”
He burns both hemispheres in me


Halfway to Baltimore in the strobing sun – you lean into the center of the car and you
         see both sides at once –


              the narrow aisle and the wide outside

That’s what he taught me – still centrality – a lyric undisturbed by thought and thinking
         unintimidated by the power of the lyric –


               whatever that is –

At the end of his Selected he hails the first spring sun

And in the final section of the poem in which he finds his greatest amplitude he turns
         his thoughts to war – it’s 1942 –


Here I lose the trail

The argument seems to be, every battle has two sides, and so does poetry –


        The real and the ideal –

And the two kinds of opposition bleed into one another, pun intended, through the
        medium of cadences, pulsing through the soldier and the poet both ...


But is that the real problem, soldiers vs poets? 

You can find inauguration at the end – discover fullness in contraction –
But there is no poetry of the police


                              *

This is why I need the second spirit –
She understands police in every sense –


“and these are the forces they had ranged against us / and these are the forces we had
          ranged within us”


I saw a tiny flower unmake granite in the paneled room where I first read her

          And I learned from her what no other poet could teach me - what a relief it is
                 to blame people for their suffering – that exhilarating sense of freedom
                             from responsibility – how it bonds so quickly to the wish
 
 
                                                 to justify the world as it is –

In vigilance against this cheapening relief she remains my guide though it’s proven
         impossible to follow her

I try to track the damage in my poems and they succumb to bitterness – to fury -

But literature needs no record of my irascibility, which is bountiful 

I wanted to show you what I thought was possible

So even when I tack in the direction of the anti-aesthetic I can’t help it, I’m looking over

         my shoulder – 

And I cheat a little – use that beatific solar poetry to assist what I’m afraid political
        poetry can’t support – the defense of love


        “two women outside the law” – maybe in 1970 –

Some days I’m determined I can make it so –


         Momentarily aloft in the Patuxent gloaming
         Soaring through autumn as though I were high


But you can’t do that shit alone

                             *


It’s hard to finish “The Phenomenology of Anger” while they’re playing “Boogie Oogie
         Oogie”


It’s just about impossible to read “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven” when the guy in
         the next seat is watching


But this is where I live the zone just shy of super-saturation

Melancholy modernists! All is not lost –

Even standing on the P Street Bridge at rush hour with the Rock Creek Parkway traffic
         coursing by below you can pick out the sound that’s the water


         The cicadas lead you there

Wallace Stevens, 1879-1955 Adrienne Rich, 1929-2012

Even though I doubt they’d have liked each other I hope they won’t mind my patching

          them together

It pleases me to think of them in different aspects of the ether, debating the merits of the
          songs that pass through –


Not that it would make them friends

                             *

In Stevens universities are home to rhetoric – enemy of actuality
For Rich the question was, shouldn’t the janitors go to class for free?


No alchemy can make these two positions speak

But in the ether you can fudge the contradiction –


                Solid gold!

Hedged bets – awkward compromises – kidding yourself –


        Poetry, in other words

                           *


Sometime in the middle 1940s a youthful Pasolini writes a few brief stanzas in Friulian
         about the day of his death


He imagines schoolboys trotting down the sidewalk, curls in their blond hair

And much in the way he couldn’t have been more wrong I have to admit the sunlit
        fullness of the music of the 1970s was bought on borrowed time –


I’m not sure where that leaves me

         The university so clearly not the glade I thought–
         The songs that taught me beauty built on false assumptions –


But I hope they’re playing something sweet the day I die – “Tiny Dancer,” maybe –

I’m sure they will be, somewhere – 




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