Memory XV

Memory XV

floating his tired head on visions of the past
(airline food settling deeply into the stomachs)
dreaming of dirty bedsheets and laundry slippers
(a thousand miles to the south of his new home)
he says: “please go away. I’m minding my own business.
(she reads over his shoulder, tasting words)
“Now and you can please depart: but please
(her eyes are glistering in the pillowlight)
“to ignore the iguana or the rhino lying senseless
(the remote lies heavy in his hand, tv blaring)
lying turgid, collapsed upon the middle of the floor.”

***

XIV is missing too. I traveled a lot on business when I was younger.

Memory XIII

Memory XIII

(numbering the oceans of the sea)
left-handed shadows are so much more
comforting while circling with pain and darkness
those tiny puddles of the world
(lights out lights out)
pill-popping to nod myself
but even so the echoes of the clock
whir out through the crunching hours of the night
poor little sad little thing:
a broken duck, dragging its mangled wing, arrived too late
(tension hums along my spine)
all the bread was gone from heaven,
quacked away in a frenzy of feathers
“Old woman, bread woman:
“can’t you see! can’t you see the cross-eyed
“duckling dragging its slow way to you;
“hope dogging it’s all-gasping:
“but you are gone. you have no bread for crippled ducks.”
the flock departs, as the broken one arrives.
memories scare the dreams away:
did my eyes weep huge crocodile tears?
did I sniffle for a broken beast?

***

There was this one winter when I really started confronting my demons in a serious way. It involved some brain meds, which I felt super ambivalent about at the time, but, in retrospect, helped me a great deal. I worked for a little while in this office park that had a duck pond in the middle of it. One day, I watched this old woman feeding bread to some ducks. The ducks swarmed over, ate all the bread, and then this poor duck with a messed up wing finally got there only to find the bread all gone. I was sad about this for a while so I ended up writing this thing about it. I guess I’m still a little sad about it.

Memory XII

Memory XII
shouting bold words of arrogance
and there’s a ringing and a confusion
a great gust of terror
and there’s a huge and blackly glowing permanent marker
scrawling words of power upon the wall
he waits with bated breath, agonized
as the scribble begins:
“dalliances make the world go strangerandstrang”
breath sticks in his throat and he ravishes a saltine
but this message is wiped away with an unseen wave
“mr.snout’s gottn out his cage again: beware! beware”
wipey wipey and his nose is beginning to run as he blinks tears of fear
and curls his head to peek in the shadows
has an insatiable curiosity for cuds and green pastures
jagged wheels and step-ladders and stiff cardboard boxes
cherry lozenges and greatgrandmama’s apple sauce.
and so but the marker’s just hovering there right in the air,
poised to do some ineffable damage.
***
Inspired by Nebuchadnazzer, natch. (OK, I’m pretty impressed with myself that I actually remembered how to spell the dude’s name.) Still somewhat biblical-obsessed back then. It was a time when I yearned for some godlike message to come down, even a terrible one. I’m not looking for that kind of thing anymore, thanks.

Memory XI

Memory XI

so there he was
that dirty old bird, there he was
sitting on the head of that iron-works statue
that miserable metal secretion:
a tribute to the dead and uninspiring of long years past.
hopping and tripping and skipping along that iron hat-brim,
that iron corn-cob, that iron-works of a nose
and pecking ferociously at the bouquet of stale roses tucked between the statue’s arms akimbo—that behemoth contraption, still-works, iron-works of a man.

azure-breasted, gold-plated, -beaked and be-clawed
this soiled aurora borealis bird clucked and chuckled and squawked.
the sad and tired student of human nature, sitting on a bench,
taking a break from his studies
watched this quivering feathered fury fluttering and frying and coocooing itself.
“what an odd, toodly, grimacing bird of a bird,”
the student thought, or rather the thought came to him.
his half-moon-glasses slipped down his nose and he did nothing,
his upper vision smearing into a runny blurriness:
jogger, viking, thief…
soldier, doctor, priest…
It could be anyone walking by,
but that bird—those clacked and clenching claws—
and its feathers were soon parted and the colors bled and bled
spreading across the dripping iron,
feathers settling down about the feet and waist of the statue.
the student found himself knee-deep in blue and red and purple feathers:
those off-puttings of a depraved and balding hopping-mad bird of a feather.

now, those glasses, those crutchy protuberances,
slide fully off his nose, slip down his shirt-front and off his legs,
crinkling on the ground.
and now his lined and wrinkled world is smoothed over
hard and harsh details blearing into a distance
and this gives him comfort, comfort he thought he’d lost.
and the bird, sees him there, sees him blinking—
tears are running down his nose—
haply happily in the morning delight.
this bird flaps down in all its glory,
flaps down and pecks out this student’s eyes.
“oh how delightful,” the student sighs
and settles into the sleep of the dead.

***

I don’t remember anything about writing this one, but I’m fascinated by it.

Memory X

Memory X

so the thing’s all worn and wiggled and it’s saturnine
and rather sad and the dionysian thing
has worn itself out, worn its happy nose to a bare nubbin:
when you squeeze that red thing it won’t go honk,
how sad.
and the clown’s face is sad, beneath all that white paint,
that big white face, those big red lips, those big blue eyes
and those big red cheeks:
they’re all so fake and flimsy that a thousand carnival barkers
can’t keep it afloat.
sinky sinky, he’s morphine sinky and his eyes are all all a’brim,
all a’brim with sink tears and before he’s done,
he’s drowned.
a drowned clown. how sad.

how’d he get to this sorry state, this Ukrainian clown?
well, a voice spoke to him, calling:
huddle now, you yearning pumpkins, to be free
or something: and these words:
these happy, deceptive words, these utterly mercurial words
(disappearing quicksilver down the drain)
did fry and frizzle around the edges of his brain,
his hot griddle-pan head,
possessing him with dreams of the Western Lands,
those magical lands where the sun comes to rest.
words which burned acid holes in his brain,
leadpoisoning holes, that rotted his brain
with dreams of hope and glory and money.
and all his electrochemical wiggles danced in one direction then.
he was crazy as a cart-horse then, with his dreams of the West.

so as a cart-horse he came, and as a cart-horse he stayed,
and wicked wise old men came at him,
rode his back with carrots and sticks
and measuring tapes and forms filed in triplicate,
garbage heaps and dirty wonderful words, tv,
beautiful women he would never have, beautiful cars
he would never drive, beautiful houses he would never,
not ever, live within. beware them, cart-horse clown!
beware those secret ghosts who steal your soul,
your happiness and hope, your delirium and dream!
you’re smarter than that, you’re not that silly:
don’t let those olde money cats count you out:
jump in that heap of sorrow and they’ll be at you,
eating your weeping and your sorrow: jigging on your grave.

but he died inside when his dreams flew away and vultures
squatted around his bed, a cardboardbox with tv and glue.
but then cheap, sharp moments filled his head with damaged joy.
and that was that.

***

I guess I had a sense, even in my idealistic youth, that the US of A wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Why Ukrainian? I don’t know. I’d been reading a lot of Russian literature I think.

Memory IX

Memory IX

doubly worse, or even triply:
that’s what it’s like this time and the next and the next and forever.
it’s this drinking, this carousing, this wild night
that wriggles and churns like wormsin that old milky soul of his
(or hers, I forget)
and but this time it will be better,
they say.
they whisper in their hundreds of indistinct rather melancholy voices,
this time won’t be like last time.
but we would be a fool to believe her,
to trust him.
to have faith.
foolishness.

yes, but in spite of this shortcoming,
this unbridgeable gulf between—
in spite of those quivering nightmare tendricles,
those gleaming liquid poisons—
between us and them,
yes, even with and in and because of those,
there is a chance at some kind of an awakening,
a break from this dark dream world.

***

I don’t know what happened to VIII either. I think I drank too much one night. If this poem isn’t argument against drinking too much while being inclined toward melancholy, I don’t know what is. The state I like least when drinking: being drunk, but not wanting to be in that state any longer, waiting to sober. That’s incredibly tedious.

Memory VII

Memory VII

weak green eyes blink noncommittally down the stairs,
those old rastafarian stairs,
those winky and slinky downstairs.
and the ragged shoes go clatter-clatter down those stairs.

and at the bottom, for a flash of an ounce of a glimmer—
the time bomb stopped—
the wise and cranky gentleman twirled:
presented his velveteen rabbit to you
plus his hat and his coat and his trousers and socks
and then he cuddled up his nose to you
as he stood whiskery in short pants,
there.

yes, yes, and so he stood
pinching his mustachios, peering at you in the gloom
and stacks and stashes of hordes of books
loomed around and all about you
tilting and filling this old and revered hallway
this tired and happy bookstore
with its damp walls and its mildewed ceiling fans
and it’s be-spidered corners and creaking floors.
normally a happy time, but this night
(and I was there)
there appeared some writing on a wall
and the libros sweated a penchant sort of dread
and it was overwhelming (I could see it in your eyes),
far moreso than the leering gentleman in shorts…

but as you waited, waited for the other one to drop,
those book titles all lost their meanings,
their covers bled together until
all the words and pictures and letters and all
melted together and dripped to the floor.
they slipped through our skin:
we couldn’t speak them fast enough.
we nearly drowned in words that night.

***

I don’t know what happened to VI. Perhaps I skipped it, just to be whimsical. That seems like something I might have done. This was inspired by a very strange and vivid dream that I had. A dream about following an old man down some stairs. Then I added some other stuff. Sometimes in a dream you’re a you and an I. The books melting was the other part of the dream.

Memory V

Memory V

All she ever said, all he ever said, all they ever said together was “gorgonzola” and the rain came and blew all their leaves away. And with tears in her and pleading streaks of madness, she whispered, “gorgonzola” and with a tight-lipped sincerity and an utter devotion to “truth”, he spoke: “gorgonzola”. with her eyes bugging and her face flushed and a crazy tingling on the edges, she chortled, “gorgonzola”. this time his hands were clutching whitely the edge of his wooden chair and his face was growing warm and he felt his grip on things slipping as he stammered, “gorgonzola”. and she laughed and laughed and laughed and chuckled and giggled and with tears streaming just barely managed to get out, “gorgonzola”. and with a rictus grin he shouted and screamed and though mostly incoherent it was quite clear that it was “gorgonzola”. and so she left, without another “gorgonzola” between them.

***

I like cheese ok? Also the word “gorgonzola”. I guess what I was struggling (and possibly failing?) to get at here is how what words people say doesn’t matter so much as how they say them. I had this idea, when I was a kid, that if I could just find the right words to say, I mean, the exact right ones, then everything would be ok. I think I was probably struggling to find an exit to that concept (not a helpful one for the anxiety-prone!). 

If I were to do this over (and I won’t) I think I’d probably dial down the drama for something a little more subtle. I’d still keep the word “gorgonzola” though.

Memory IV(a)

Memory IV(a)

the whispy bread-caressing mastodons,
they’d like that now,
with their saucy little hats and withered hairy shanks.
their hair is gnarled and crispy with day-
old teriyaki—not to be imbibed, consumed or masticated.
and these fluffy behemoths,
with their so-too-curvy horns and their thick,
furry pancake feet,
well:
they just gallivant, you know,
poking and prodding and sifting through their
older, archaic folds of time.
pretty soon they’re dead.
and you know no one misses them much.

***

I have no memory (ha!) of why I called this one IV(a). It doesn’t really seem to have too much to do with IV. If I had to guess, I’d say that this one was a part of IV that I removed, but felt attached to it enough to keep it around. I’m still rather fond of “bread-caressing mastodons”. And elephants generally.

Memory IV

Memory IV

“Too true, too true,”
she whispers in her cold way,
her boiling old way, her true-blue and sold way.
“Too true…”

And I, I am like a quivering daisy chain,
full of green and yellow anticipation.
I strew, or no, link my self’s mind together;
Dixie Blues are clinking on an old player piano.
Seeing her slow eyes again, I rinse myself with spices—
for the blood-boil—
and put this old scrumptious dalliance on the slow burner,
thick potatoes and carrots swirling in the brew.
“But this between us will lead us only to more
and deeper dripping poison and despair.”

“Too true, too true,” she whispers.
I hold up my arms
and let myself be tied with snakes to the bedpost,
paid penance to the old gods.
As she holds the cup to keep and catch the poison from my head,
all that remains is my trickster’s voice,

“I would like you to listen:
“I would like you to hear,
“to understand these cold words of mine
“that will glitter and sparkle off the end of my tongue
“when my foes unchain the children of my soul:
“the wolf, the dragon, the hungry maid.
“But they haven’t yet—have patience!
“I keep waiting and sighing and spying and clicking and spinning and wilting and weeping:
“now there is nothing but my silence,
“my wicked silence that hurts you so…”

Too true, too true and her eyes are leaking tears,
but I feel pity only for myself.

“Wicked? No not wicked, that goes too far, too
“too far. Far beyond the reasonable, far beyond intuition and of grief.
“Far beyond the boiling hams and bouncing tree fairies.”

I wonder if I actually said that, for she hums in a pleasing way,
and places her tight lips upon my face. “Too true,
too true.”

“Replace wicked with frightened and old. Or tricky:
“that’s the silence you have.
“I have. Me. A frightened old silence.
“A tricky frightened silence.
“It’s time you listened and heard my silence truly.
“Truly, for what it is.”

She seems to be hearing me,
her tongue is dripping slow circles along my chest.
I can feel her cold fingers drag shivers down my side.
She stops. Looks long into my eyes:
“Too true, too true,”
and cuts my tongue between her teeth.

“Ahh. You’ve lived too long in a short space,
“I think your ends want to outgrow the short space of time,
“but they shrivel instead. It’s time you…
“it’s really time you…
“it’s got to be time you…
“thought it’s not too late you…
“Ahhh… it’s past time you danced your new self back into being
“so that those dear ones, those frizzled and delightful
“loves may hold you close once more
“spiral you around with glee, laughing in the sun.”

“Too true, too true.”
I feel this bodybody thrumming from head to foot
as her breath rushes slowly in my ear
and she finds the all-center of my desire.
Sharp pain lances through my wrist,
up my thin and withered arm
unto the throbbing hollow in my chest.

“Look… ahhh…
“You gaze too long into this tiring, soul-gutting
“mind-splintering gulf. Please.
“No. Please. Wait.”
This is too… I can’t… I didn’t think…
No…

<crack>

I am gone.
She is gone.
Silence.
Acid splashes on my face.
The snakes wrap tighter about my throbbing arms.

***

This poem was explicitly about Loki originally, who didn’t end up well in the old Norse mythology. Here’s a picture of the scene. Also, I guess, I was working through some thoughts and feelings about a bad, sudden but also lingering break-up. I think I was a little harsh. :) But hey, I’m gonna plead youth here. I was gonna write some more about this weird impulse of pastMe to map personal breakdowns onto mythic stuff, but I think I’ll just leave it at that.