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.

Memory III

Memory III

For all time,
as the cockatoos and walruses did wage eternal war each upon the other:
that bastard Ragnorak of pets and zoo animals,
my sleepmind vapored and rose above to gaze sadly down
(and yet happily)
upon my still and benodded bodybody:
the grim toes, those crooked lips, that hairy belly.
There was a screeching and a’gnawing upon the door,
and I watched my bodyself rise to open, sighing “no”:

hungry silence and salivated words upon my doorstep
toothy words at my door
oh, and darkness too:
dark which enveloped my head in a thousand blazing caricatures of itself.

“Why is this here?” I cried.

The quiet stretched on and on and always,
as I watched my small and fragile formbody standing at the edge,
sitting coldly down, gnawing carefully—oh, so carefully!—
chewing on my bodyhand’s empty ringfingerbone:
looking down, I felt the dim pull of pain:
a quick rushing, and I sat once more between my ears.

Yet, I did not waken:
I sat clutching soiled words and empty fingers
and toothy lightning bolts were hurled ‘cross the sky:
those eyes within my head were stunned,
broken with their thick lashing.

In silence,
for there was no one there,
I scratched my ears
in silence.

***

I’m noticing that certain things keep coming up again and again. OK, yes, I’m sort of self-conscious about my toes, which are kind of crooked, and I usually don’t wear sandals for that reason. Also, I was having some pretty weird dreams in my early 20s. I was also really interested in how daily life could be mapped onto mythical or mythological things. I read a couple books on Norse mythology at one point, which might have been an influence here.

A cockatoo lived in our house for a while when I was a kid. One time it bit my ear so hard that it bled. It also pooped on my head more than once. So, I think I’m gonna have to come down on the walruses side in this one.

Memory II

Memory II

Tortoise shells were raining from my forehead today.
I almost caught it: nose bleeding, head thrumming.
The bedclothes were all twisted up
my toes’ thick nails were pounding beneath the skin;
there was a mess of daisies and lilies and snapdragons.

“What?” I said to you. “What!”

but there was no reply:

Rising, deciding to dance:
placing those pink buffalo slippers upon my dainty feet.
It was there you made your mistake:
underestimating my resolve.

“This ring: take-it, take-it.
“I beg you: take it
“for I wish to blow away in the wind.
“My black umbrella catches
“and I float away from you forever
“among lands of spice and dreams-made-reel.”

***

I have a memory–I no longer know is true–of waking up from a dream with a nosebleed and   writing down something on a piece of paper that later became this poem. I think it was a pretty strange dream.

The original is long gone. I revised these poems so many times. I used to carry around this 3.5″ floppy disk with my writing on it. I’d load it up and tinker away at them, over and over and over again. It became a kind of comforting ritual, I suppose.

For me, the ending of this poem conjures up the movie Mary Poppins. The “dreams-made-reel”, I know, made it through every revision.

Perhaps the “you” in this poem was whoever sent me the dream and the nosebleed. These days, I have real people to greet me in the morning. Much improved.

Memory I

Memory I

the winter is glooming now
dripwater is sliding down the windowpanes
the frost on my mind is hoared with weather,
slicing clocks and stale breakfasts,
muddied plans and senseless perseverance

there was a time
when the rain would have driven me mad
pounding, pounding as it does, on the eaves
[like the old story by the old dead man where it rains and rains and rains
[and no one ever gets to see the sun
[and the rain always dripping, sliding slipping into face
[between eyebrows, down ears, past neck
[and trickling into partially opened mouth]
but not now: I’ve girded myself about with walls,
bitter fortifications and disembodied trenches.

it is raining

and when I open my eyes, in the dark,
to the sound of music or clamorings or rustlings in the night
I often think I am still asleep
that my nightbrain is conjuring dream-murmurs to strangle me
but then I feel the burning still in my eyes
and I know that I have never been asleep:
still waiting to ride that wyrdness into dream.

the darkness raining

a nightmare haunted my chair demurely
weeping softly in the night
and I was swarmed by a thousand
thousand hungry toothsome ducks, all wanting my bread
though I had none…

***

I’ve been looking over some old writing. Where else to put it, except this old weblog? In my early 20s, I wrote a series of poems called Memories. Simply, they were moments in time that stood out as almost mythical to me, so I scribbled down some poems–I probably have the notebooks and scraps of paper still packed away somewhere–and compiled them all together. It was the most serious, personal writing project I’d done up to that point. I even printed and bound about five copies of them. I gave them away as Christmas presents one year, when I was super broke. They may be floating around somewhere, still.

Older me looking back wants to rewrite these poems and “fix” them, but I’m gonna show some compassion to younger me, here, and leave them as is. Younger me did the best he could at the time and who am I to begrudge him his passion and emotional meanderings.

I do still quite like “slicing clocks and stale breakfasts”.