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We were poets once and young…

…or younger, anyway.

Desktop5So JOB was visiting the Dappled Things website, as one does, and he stumbled across this in the “featured poem of the day” department: a little ditty he composed a while back for some M.L. character…

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 11.18.37 AMI do so love “ogling theologians.”

[Image: Gargoyles at Notre Dame, and the Café Grotesque mascots they inspired.]

Adult Strength (A Psychological Gallery)

adult strength

          I
Neuroses are not popular these days
Although my married friends all have them.
So they take meds and play
With possibilities. Otherwise, they don’t survive long
In the darkness. The vended pills, precise dosages at proper times,
The white scalloped paper cups half-filled
With tepid, highly chlorinated water.

My friends all pray their hearts out that their treasures
            Are not to be found in the dispensaries of this world

For the orderlies in the vineyard are few
            But the orderlies in the vineyard are strong.

          II
A woman I knew, not a friend, had married young
And spent her tenderness like a season’s first crop of honey
Unaware that a late-July blight is eating away at the honeycomb,
Aborting the queen. She always carries
The odor of late August hayfields, the tanned and broken stalks
Mown down and laid out beneath the sun in dusty rows.
She spreads her hands over my coverlet like a nurse in the war.

Her mind a cold bunker of last resort, she grew into her adult strength
With the soft shape of a slender teardrop hanging forever
In open space. I could not see her beyond that space and now
She carries on as if the world behind her eyes
Is counting down in dust motes to an explosion of lint beneath her bed.
I once watched her fall asleep in a sunny parlor chair,
The barbiturates pouted her lips to the edge of endurance.

As she slept, she spread her hands over the coverlet like a lover in the war.

          III
This poem is not a chair; it is a table of contents.
This poem is not a pen; it is ink spilled in a cold war with death.
This poem seeks to spread its hands out like wind that dents a clover field.
This poem is not words; it is the mind that sees,
Not a terminal palm tree (with apologies to Hartford Indemnity)
But a fist clenching at a handful of pills spilling out in all shapes and sizes.
It’s what’s seizing us:

We, out of our minds at the end of all possible poems.

          IV
Exempla abound: Take my friend the thinker. He once was
A political philosopher but now
He lives in the mountains, his back against the sea, reliving lore
From a long-dead civil war, his narrator’s voice grown silent as a gulag.
He teaches catechism to those who don’t care,
And even though it doesn’t pay well,
He believes the job is worth more than the money.

Or at least the money and maybe more.
But he was younger back when I knew him first; we both were.
He had a million wisdoms locked behind his eyes.
They were eyes, I recall, as blue as Kentucky clover.
His wife keeps the bottles hidden from visiting parishioners.
He keeps his wife hidden from
The blue shadow of winter, and even today

He will not come out from under that mountain’s blue shadow.

          V
Another case is another philosopher friend;
He had vowed himself for a while to a more pure kind of wisdom.
But relenting, he bound himself like Prometheus
To a lot of “ologies.” He’d drive himself crazy
When I wasn’t driving him to his head doctor. I forget
What happened to him the first time; but before long
He was concrete as an angel’s name again—

Yet still inconsolably abstracted
To the point of distraction all the same.
Now he does his own taxes, pays his bills on time
And keeps a sad eye on his wife—and she lives by the skin of his teeth,
That wife of his. Meanwhile, his life is a series
Of manila folders staggered neatly
On his desk between the blotter

And a pair of tapered brass pens
Set in their holders, sprouting from his desktop
Like a cuckold’s ears.
He could not know how his wife needed to open a vein.
She merely looked on in a mirror
At seven times seven years of some kind of luck
And discovered

Seven times seven years of beautiful loss staring back.

          VI
As for my own tendencies, they live on like business cards
Set on the careless edge of a bookcase.
Or, to my mind, I drift toward the ragged transient heaps camped out
Above heating grates near a subway station.
Could be trash. Could be human.
Either way, they continue on, unedited, in northern cities,
And either don’t know or don’t care.

Perhaps they are waiting for warmer weather that never comes.

          VII
Let us pray:

Dear Great Silences: —Miserere.

Dear Infinite Spaces: —Miserere.

Dear Orderly Universe: —Miserere.

Dear Successive Darknesses: —Miserere.

Pray for us, that ours may be the treasures of the dispensary.
Pray for us, that, unseen by the orderlies,
            We may stroll the vineyards in peace.

          VIII
Dressed in white trousers and jackets again tonight,
The needles are out like chromium fangs:
They glisten beneath the skittish glow of mercury vapor—
Lights Out.—Lights Out.—Lights Out.—now swallowed in darkness
Down this long gallery of tempered glass,
Through these long corridors of scuffed floors.
Then a fugitive sound.

Then a silence captured in the utopia of opposing mirrors.
Experience has taught that
Such a battle line never budges. Fixed as a star.
Lights out, but the lungs fill with insomnia like mustard gas.
And now I watch the imperious moon that hangs outside my window,
Its hooded eye appearing, peering
Into the long torpid hours that follow….

Like armies in the night, we all live in pillboxes these days.
We don’t pray for orderliness in the dispensary.
But we do pray that reinforcements come soon. Tonight. Now.
Lights out. Lights out.
Lights out.
We all live here as if our lives depended on it.
Tonight.

Now.

The Pump on the Rock

pump-rock-1_edited-1
For Barney

Since you built it, you know that there is more rock there
Than water and more air than
Rock—there where fire has no place. The familiar

Old thing, its audacity is mere and thin
As its shaft, stabbing into this Pliocene crop
Of driftless children. Dear nearly dead dynamic thing,

It hardly begins to know itself before it spits and slops
And vomits air. Then, with a cough
And a rush of sucking sounds, it slips up the crude iron pipe

That responds with shivering thunder down between the elven earth
And cousin rock, always
To engender water forth — forth — and forth.

But also, like ghosts behind a clock, crusted gray as
A vole’s pelt and crimson-jawed, the years of rust creep
Upward in more silent ease

Along its sloughing shaft, and fold
Their slender gelid claws around the man-squared handle,
Worn to a green shine with use. Its rucked crank grows grumpy and old

With weather—the same by which the gaskets, cracked as candle
Wax, have lost their Vulcan grip.
So within the icy tangle

Of four winds, a million suns pique, hone and strop
This Sisyphean siphon
Into a steady ceaseless drip,

A metronome of drops to set its count of winters in Wisconsin
As it slides and plunges air
Through its piston

For a deep transmission of elements, where ages of rock are
Greater than time. And more timeless
Than rock¬, there is water here, more — more — and more —

All of it thirsty as
Fire’s industry to slake
The spongy spring-formed surface

Of the cold-cased earth. The pump takes
A breath, drawn from subterranean catastrophes,
And exhales. Submerge your hands within its stream of cold—they will ache

Like the grief of memories —
Baptize your tongue in its running column of blue, it will be struck
Dumb as tomorrow’s yesterdays.

Jerusalem

slaughter-of-the-innocence

Happy they who…having rested in peace, stretch out their hands to Him, who must lift them up, and make them stand upright and firm in the porches of the holy Jerusalem! There pride can no longer assail them nor cast them down; and yet they weep, not to see all those perishable things swept away by the torrents, but at the remembrance of their loved country, the heavenly Jerusalem, which they remember without ceasing during their prolonged exile. – Pascal, Pensees 458

We too were Jews, we here in Bethlehem
When Herod’s men with steel and daggered eyes
Believed in everything they saw. Each hem

And tunic sleeve, red as winter sunrise,
Repeated endlessly upon the flat
And edge of sword’s empirical emprise—

Potential trickles like driblets of fat
And greasy flame reshapes dispatching arms
That thread entwined through meat and sticky guts,

And turn the muscle’s issue into worms.
We too, subjects of a place-keeping pawn,
Were chosen for this cradled land. No storms

Could lull our cries, no Babylon could croon
Our lullabies so well…. Oh, Jerusalem,
Why could no angel stop your hand again?

Not living, you survived our Bethlehem—
Our braziers warmed your hypotheticals:
We come as one and yet alone, Shalom!

We come, shalom! assuming you—who else?—
Would tell us why the star that’s out of place
Now leads us to this place where power dwells….

Our mothers—bleeding milk and motherless—
Behold the shattered flesh. These bodies, curled
As severed tongues upon the ground, confess

Such tiny holocausts, such piercing cold.

Instability

               It is a horrible thing to feel all we possess slipping away – Pascal, Pensees, 212

The winter churns away above the stars
And thunderstorms divide the falling snow
Like pulverized domains of Venus, Mars….

The only difference between what they know
(By which I mean the gods above and worse
Below) is wind and snow, how both renew

The chilling grudges either side of time—
And time is all we’ve got to make the few
Mistakes that take us out beyond the game.

Detested earth beneath my feet and breath
Within my chest indict these bones I claim
The same as draughts on squares that jump for death

Or life. The Herod name, so old, so full of gold
And rusting all the same…. I wish the earth
Would swallow whole the price that fame foretold

In blood. Intestinal politicos
Like Caesar can negotiate the cold
And haunt Jerusalem’s dunned porticos

But kings affixed with templed crowns insist
When thunder whispers names in swirling snow
It means that children die with all the rest

That vanity deletes. In general,
When word goes out, the world will not resist.
They say I am unstable, illiberal—

I say a word that’s canceled can’t exist.

A Spring Fall, or A Meandering Free-Verse Philippic on Political Victory

dsc_0633

[Editor’s Note: Because IC asked for something, anything related to yesterday’s news (1:40 a.m. CST!) JOB posts the following]

UPON THE OCCASION OF BRIAN LOGUE’S ELECTION TO THE LA CROSSE COUNTY BOARD

Poets, priest and politicians
Have words to thank for their positions.
-Gordon Sumner

I too hate it, politics. And yet,
there it is. The right and left
the up and down
the over and under
the profit and loss, the heads and tails,
it doesn’t matter.

Winning doesn’t matter.

Losing doesn‘t matter.

Nothing matters except
everything.

So, as you stroll the Lyceum of your mind
with Cicero’s headless ghost, Demonsthenes’ humble pebbles
in your mouth,
watch as polity and equity embrace and kiss,
and remember
what the people ask you to keep in mind,
that the terms and limits of empire
begin with the three primary colors of reality:
first principles,
last things
and
final ends.

II
Incumbents last as long as the next emotion cycle….
So one by two by three
they fell – and the laurels
that looked so stylish
with broad gestures and
togas gilded with purple piping
(so say the Roman hacks
who lost their bets to Caesar
and hide their heads beneath
the epitaph of obscurity)
went to the next generation.

But what do you expect?
Anyone the age of Christ ought to know
as much about the world,
its modus operandi:

1. Nail down your agenda and crucify the data.

2. Throw your own gods of liberty into the marketplace.

3. Let other gods bleed for their liberty.

III
Usura slayeth the child in the womb.
Thus, Mr. Pound remarked in that way how summer falls
and makes a winter spring

from its sleepy lair, ravenous.
And thus, too, the fool will have had his day
(and so a king too…).

In chasing the specter of usura, though,
and denying error the privilege of rights,
I promise you will find the Son of Mammon’s address.

But if you see the birds of paradise, the sparrow’s nest
and the Son of Man who has no home,
you will know peace as sound as stone among the lilies.

IV
Where yesterday was politics today is policy.
And always April fools day
with sunlight, and the day
is left to shrink and think that spring
promises warmth, acceptance, growth, new creation.

And always the annual portfolio promises
dividends, interest, diversified stock options,
no substantial penalty
for early withdrawal…
Yes, that sense of play lasts all of one day.

Then comes the real work.

The Wisconsin farmer climbs upon his tractor,
ready to spread
the true springtime message
acre by acre, row by row
in a steady stream, like oratory
shoveled out, and like public trust discharged
behind him –
“It’s time for a change.”

And now a new team of factional rivals
grab the rostrum of La Crosse
(by hook or by crook),
spinning at poles like a captain’s wheel
and as the bilge water flows
in their wake each member would augur
as much:
“It’s time for a change.”

V
First, for tactics, we countered the numbers –
then, for strategy, we counted the numbers
and last night, for victory,
we considered with nervous fingers on the tickertape
a mere 18 reasons
for overcoming the numbers.

But such integers of population pale
at least compared to what
the world has managed to put up:

And, lo, the City of Man
is like unto a boondoggle
which may make money for a few
but renders many with neither shirt nor honor,
nor bread to rise nor stone upon stone,
nor art its measure, nor craft its purpose,
nor love its gift to man.

And, lo, the City of Man
is like unto a boondoggle
which may spring a virtual Hippocrene of eternal hope
and speciously declare everyone a winner
but puts cliché upon a plinth
and truth in its place,
beneath a white stain beneath pigeon toes.

VI
So don’t fear to scratch the marble
because dirty hands can also mean
honest men earning an honest day’s wages.

Meanwhile, the City of God awaits –
so like unto a certain county district
of unasked and unanswered questions.

So may it be in virtue of a truth
no speech can divide nor words divine
that you help the people find the courage

To ask the questions and find the answer.

Corporation Sole

fisher_king

The river that’s flowing before me now
Pretends to understand its lonely brother Styx.
It is October time, a time of myths
And stranger maths
Than summers know
Or passing springs can bring to sum.
The leaves surrender to a gathered text of sticks
Retailed for fuel and some

Forgotten task that lazes on the banks,
Awaiting frost’s soliloquy of spears and blades.
My whining spill of spooling line
Upsets a loon —
It glides and banks
A wake upon the distant shore.
Old grandsire Proteus appears at last, a blaze
Who builds his kindle, sure

Enough, from limb and branch of weeping pines.
The shivering fish that shake away my hook reform
Beneath the surface. Scaled with dusk,
They catch the disc
Of moon that spins and pines
For autumn’s tomb. A china plate
That shatters trees and stars, this lunar form
Resolves to hold the plait

Of Pitys’ hair the way that Pan had sighed
To grasp her battered body Boreas had thrown
In lust. So raw, his breath
Now fits its breadth
Along the side
Of evening’s flesh. Its chill now combs
My fire. I edge myself against this flaming throne
As ancient winter comes

To claim my blood as corporation sole.
The world’s collateral is not enough and preys
Upon my wasted groin.
(What god will groan
To claim my soul?)
With empty cup in hand, I wait
Between the river’s deep and castle keep. Each prays
To lift this golden weight.

Seahorse

seahorse

                                                               I think you can do a thing like that best
                                                                              from a detached position. – Nelson Algren

I catch a glimpse of you: your nightshades are galaxies that burn
The core brown light of an urban dawn. Receding with the sea,

The city streets replay their chord progressions with tenacity:
The story of a sea, of a city by the sea. Within my skin, beneath

My flesh, a hundred horses gallop fast as steam trains out of breath,
A thousand offspring drifting around in me. The darkest enemy

Of light, the city traffic moving past with gentle tendrils — anemone
With venom blue as the bluest sea, and flowing all over me. The sky

Has veins of marbled blue. My veins do too. I am a seahorse and I try
To cling to coral, caught in tiny monster currents. The fathoms bloom

With pain and flower nightmare petals. The breaching symbols loom
And yet the waves outlaw the moon reflected in a spoon, and you

Were there too, upside down as the moon was and needle-blue,
A marlin hooked and running deep. I lost my view of you, your little blacks

And blues absorbed by a hundred suns, the manic bloody tracks
My eyeballs knew. I was ready for a drink and ready to drink

The sea, the moon, the glimpse I caught of you. I could not think.
And you slip away but first you cast a glance my way, a mermaid

Parade of glances, virulent with smiles, and your smallest smile said
I was there and you were there for me but time was there to drink

The blood away. The Milky Way rides it out on the back of a skunk;
A violet in the alleyway is singing poison, opening its petals to burn

The scaly mane of a sea that washes over me like we were never born.

Remember This Guy?

heydrich

He made his Korrektiv debut here.

And now Hollywood – or at least Czechslovkiawood – found him. 

So now we await the word of a famous film kritik, whom we all know and admire, on whether Korrektiv gets to kollekt any royalties from the movie…

 

 

What came in the mail

Scan 1

Another cold spring again this year…