this, that, and the Other

identity, alterity, and everything in between

Category: California

draft for a longer poem

it’s funny, last year I fell asleep at eleven

while everyone else welcomed the new year,

and—I thought to myself—that this must mean

something I said and you said you thought

this was funny and even though you didn’t

really mean it was funny I agreed; I told you about

my uncle then and how I like David Lynch and how

scared I am of open windows and you brought up

The Female Eunuch and I said something about

transphobia and we agreed but that was earlier

in the sun when we changed our shirts to sit in the

shade and things were so peaceful then in tank-

tops underneath the Californian sun which is

really the same sun everywhere for everyone

on this planet—god, I said, this planet, like that

really means anything anymore after everything

 

*                             *                             *

 

later,fog along the mirror ( and you whispered

something of a new year, twin peak dreamfuck

of him: you must take this he said, and maybe he

too will pass into night—forgotten all implication

and finally be free) but you know you can never

ever everever ever  forgive him no matter who

or what or how the pain, be it like stricture,like

painting by numbers of him on each and every

limb,like his love in spite of his love,like eyes

in the windows of your room,like father’s fist full

of him breathless to your chest,like yourself

remembering and forgetting and remembering

and so on and on until some touch or heat-of-breath

when you wake to see in so many ways unalike her

sadness deep inside this wakeless shithole of a night

 

*                             *                             *

 

“night emissions” are what they called it in the glory days

of 1970s Freudian mumbo jumbo America, this unconscious

selffucking was stranded somewhere on the wire tight

between shitting and pissing oneself, not quite as juvenile as

(or so they would say) female clitoral stimulation, but not quite

the anti-social pathology of full conscious solo male fucking

either—but that’s what I want to do with this night, in the heat

of it, just fuck it right out and fuck you right out and for once

and finally be fucked in two; of course, we could take this to mean

that semen is like nighttime, emitted from deep down inside

from some primordial sleeping granddaddy erection, and

every time dusk rolls around it’s cause some boy had a big

wet one, bringing down both the stars and moon on us all

 

*                             *                             *

 

of course the planet’s going to die someday you said

and of course type-1 diabetics will still have diabetes in

heaven and you said martyrs always wear their scars

like trophies in icons at the Getty so you didn’t see

why diabetics shouldn’t proudly display insertion site

scars and pumps alongside St. Bartholomew and his

heap of flayed flesh and we thought this was beautiful

and that maybe somewhere the world’s flesh might be

hung up to dry on some temple wall someday and the

people genuflect and wonder what a world we must’ve

been and what a death we suffered and what a beauty

it all was before heaven so wonderfully dispersed its grace

like so many tiny bombs and the world fell asleep in

angelic wonder and never woke up until the following

year sometime past midnight clear eyed and fresh and

ready to begin again as if for the first time in forever

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a Fragment

Sick of waking

to find the normal people

gathering bits of it

along the sea—

diving here and there

headlong through salt of

foam and sea-foam

only to know what

of themselves they could

find. As if every

crate were lidless and

every bed unmade by

some sleeping. But all our

shells washed up last night—whited

with the glaze of seaweed and saltpeter.

They promised late week

showers—and later, this afternoon,

calmness, a swell of tide.

And yet, among these stones,

there is not room for us

to break shell, and what

outlet for this heat—

caught on dry wind hurrying

downhill, quietly, toward the basins.

“RJ in California” and a bit of a poetry lesson to boot

I think all poetry should speak for itself; however, sometimes we find uncanny poems or poems that take up a foreign world with them, whether that be historical (classic or epic poetry), pseudo-mythic (Blake), literally foreign (haiku, Baudelaire, etc), or simply embedded in a poetic tradition we are unfamiliar with. So, in the hopes that people we use this poem as a starting point to learn more (and in the process learn more about the poem) I thought I’d share a little of its historical roots and what I was thinking.

Famed Beat poet Allen Ginsberg wrote a fabulous little pseudo-ode to Walt Whitman entitled A Supermarket in California (read here or listen to him read it here). This poem is one of my favorites, contrasting Whitman’s pseudo-prophetic conceptions of America in Leaves of Grass with the America of the late 50s. Following this poem as a sort of poetic guideline, I decided to wright a similar ode to another one of my favorite poets (another Californian nonetheless) Robinson Jeffers, contrasting his depressing and isolationist depiction of 50s and 60s America with recent times. The poem, hopefully, takes an ironic (in the classical sense) approach to America, as did Jeffers–portraying ways in which the America of today is exactly what Jeffers predicted and yet not at all what he predicted. I suppose that’s the irony of prophecy, you first have to believe it prophecy before you can see it fulfilled. Anyhow, I was thinking of Jeffers’ later poems like The Continent’s End, the conclusion of my poem referring directly to his. Enough dilly-dally–hope you enjoy!

 

RJ in California

 

poor Jeffers, grown old and

dying in Carmel, late 1950’s,

a wife and daughter buried

among the first Tor stones,

 

a clean shaven, sharp jaw,

pale eyes that never say anything

nice about anyone, brow wrinkled

by the America of post-WWII

 

apocalyptic decadence:

John, if I could play the part

of Ginsberg and go with

you now down half dim

 

lit streets, past the bright

and silver hybrids and side-

walked sycamores to the corner

supermarket, walk with you

 

down aisles of produce,

vegan mayonnaise and

tofurky corn dogs, chatting

of Parmenides and avocado

 

and the oh so many undone

by death since your simpler

days of political genocide, villains

in black boots and mustaches;

 

would we waltz down aisles

of vine-ripened just-in-season

heirloom tomatoes, hand in

hand on such a late and lonely

 

night? would we drink from

recycled bottles of a worker

run factory past the scores of

clustered yellow cyclists and

 

middle-aged joggers toward

the tides at Carmel Bay? would

we look back on the bay as we

scale the steps at Hawk Tower,

 

seeing Charon polling no ferry

along Carmel State Beach, but

casually ticketing the parked cars

and putting out beach fires?

 

Being &c.

Nothingness is very different than non-being
as Sartre some years ago said
he was talking about Pierre
who he had been waiting for for hours
he never came and Sartre called this Nothingness which
I suppose means we make an entity of our expectation
a sort of space where no space is
waiting for this or that Pierre to appear and
sure enough this morning Pierre did appear
but a different Pierre than the one
I had been waiting for
so there I was with Pierre whose name was Josh
which I remember only because it’s my name as well
who happens to work at the coffee shop
where we both were waiting
for our respective Pierres when rain
sudden rain spilled over
the coffee-house awning
onto empty plastic
chairs stacked out front
California weather Josh said
I agreed and lit his cigarette as
the rain subsided and I said
it never rains here does it
the clouds always heading out to
some other state
just beyond our one-night-stand California
yeah its like California is busy making breakfast
he said when suddenly the rain
just slips out the back door

sometimes leaving a wad of cash
I thought and sometimes not