Poem


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[Here’s another translation I did a long time ago of a poem by Italian “crepuscular” poet Guido Gozzano (1883-1916). I discovered it in a volume called The Poem Itself edited by Stanley Burnshaw that contained several non-English poems along with detailed glosses and some words translated. Another little homage to the decadence of the fin-de-siècle European male.]

220px-Guido-Gozzano

Toto Merumeni

from Guido Gozzano

I.

With its rambling gardens, vast rooms, and its
seventeenth century balconies overrun with verdure,
this villa seems like something from my verses,
yes, the typical villa from a Book of Letters.

The villa thinks, sadly, of better times. It thinks
of gay parties beneath century old trees, of
illustrious banquets in immense dining rooms,
the festive salons raped for their antiques.

But where, in olden times, came the House of Onsaldo,
House of Ratazzi, House of Azeglio, House of Odone, now stops
a sputtering automobile, trembling, twitching,
and some hairy stranger walks to knock the Gorgon.

A barking is heard, a passing… cautiously the door
opens… in this cloistral and barrackish silence
Toto Merumeni lives with his “convalescent” mother,
his schizophrenic uncle, his gray-haired great aunt.

II.

Toto is twenty-five years old, melancholic,
quite cultured, with a taste in the inkwell works;
slight in brains, slight in morals, and scary
in his hunches… he is a true child of our times.

Not rich, one day he decided to “peddle my wordlings”
(there’s his Petrarch!), an embezzler, a gazetteer…
He chose exile. Liberated, he reflects presently
on his follies. We’re safer not to print them here.

Oh, he’s not bad. To the poor, he sends money
to keep them going… to his friends, a basket of fruit.
He’s not bad. Students come to him for a topic;
for connections… he’s a service to most emigrants.

Cold, conscious of his self, his faults,
oh, he’s not bad. He’s the Good Man sketched by Nietzsche:
“…in truth, I must the deride that fawning creature
called good… simply because he lacks claws…”

After draining studies, he runs to his garden, plays
with his sweet friends, the earth inviting…
His sweet friends are: a caterwauling blue jay,
a pussy cat… and Makakita his little monkey.

III.

Life had taken from him all his early promise.
For years he dreamed of loves that would not call.
Despairing, he conjured a princess, an actress;
today he loves the cook… she is eighteen years old.

When the house sleeps, this girl, barefoot,
a fresh chill plum in the day’s first light,
comes to his room, with lips to his bounces
onto him… he possesses her blesséd and supine.

IV.

Toto cannot feel. Some latent, untamed illness
dried up the prime founts of his sentiments;
analysis and sophistry have made of this man
what flames make of a house in healthy winds.

As that ruin, however, that has seen fire
produces gladiolas with colorform flowers,
his parched soul loosens, oh little by little,
a scattered efflorescence of consolatory verses.

V.

So Toto Merumeni, after sad events,
is near grace. He alternates research and rhyme.
He is locked in, meditates, expands, explores, understands
the Life of the Spirit which he never understood.

For the voice is small, and his treasured art
immense… and because Time (even as I write!) flies…
Toto writes apart, he smiles, sees a future.
He lives. One day he was born. One day he dies.

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[Here’s a very old translation, now heavily revised, I first did when I was 21 at Bard that I’m posting just because David Lehman just published a new translation of this very amazing poem. I took a dig at Lehman’s translation on FB for which I must apologize, but I think mine’s fun, flows pretty well, preserves some of the rhyme scheme and gets at some of the wavering between ecstasy and abjection that is in the original. Basically, the more translations of this poem, the better.]

apollinaire

Zone

after Apollinaire

You tire in the end of this ancient world

Shepherdess O Eiffel Tower your flocks your bridges bleat on this morning

You have had it with the antique living of the Greek and Roman

Even the cars here have an air of the ancient
Religion alone has remained new religion
Has remained simple like the hangers at Port Aviation

You alone Christianity in Europe have avoided becoming ancient
Most modern European it is you Pope Pius the Tenth
And you whom the windows watch whom shame makes reticent
You do not enter the church this morning you will not be confessing
You read the posters the catalogues and the pamphlets that loudly sing
                Here there is poetry this morning
For prose the journals and magazines
You read the nickel installments of the Adventures of the Crime Police
The portraits of famous men in a thousand diverse titles

This morning I see a pretty street whose name I forget
Fresh and proper the sun is its dawn trumpet
The workers the directors the beautiful stenographers
From Monday morning to Friday four times a day they must pass here
In morning the sirens cry three times
A raging clock barks around noontime
The murals the lettering of the signs
The plaques the notices like a parrot squawking
This industrial street how I love its returns
Situated as it is in Paris between the Rue Thieville and the Avenue des Ternes

There is the young street you are nothing but a child
Your mother dresses you in her blue and white style
You are very pious and with your best friend René Dalize
You love nothing more than the ecclesiastic pomposities
It is nine o’clock the gas burns low
And blue you leave the dormitory by a way that you only know
You pray all night in the chapel of the school
For there lies the amethyst adorable and eternal
Turning forever the flaming glory of Jesus Christ         It is
The lily we all cultivate
It is the torch of light red hair that is never laid out by a wind
It is the son pale and flush of the sad mother
It is the tree always blooming in all your prayers
It is the twin dooms of integrity and eternity
It is the star of six branchings
It is the God who dies on Friday God resuscitated on Saturday
It is Christ who climbs the sky higher than all the aviators
He holds the world altitude record

Pupil Christ of the eye
Twentieth pupil of the centuries it knows why
Becoming a bird this century like Jesus climbing the air
The devils down in the pit are raising their heads to see what is there
They say he imitates Simon Magus of Judea
They say that he is a flier but he is hardly a frequent flier
The angels hover around this pretty hoverer
Icarus Enoch Elie Appolonius of Tyana
Float around this primitive plane
They swerve to let pass sometimes the transports of the Eucharist of Saints
The priests who climb eternally are raising the host
Without even folding its wings the plane comes down
The atmosphere is buzzing with the flight of a million swallows
Streaming in from the side are the falcons ravens owls
From Africa the flaming marabous and flamingos
The Roc bird celebrated by storyteller and poet
Soars by and holding in its talons the skull of Adam le premiere tête
The eagle sinks with a shriek from the horizon
The small hummingbird from America is sent
From China come the pihis long and supple
Who have but one wing each who fly in couples
Then there comes the dove immaculate soul
They escort the bird-lyre they lead the ocellate peacock
The phoenix the funeral pyre which it bore from a self-same wedlock
In an instant spreads its burning ash
The sirens leave behind their infamous canals
All three arrive and all three singing beautifully
And all the eagles phoenixes and the pihis of the Chinese
Convene around the flying machine

Now you are in Paris in the crowds all alone
The herd of buses low at you around they roll
Anguish and love press at your throat
As though never again could you be loved
Were you to be living in ancient times you would probably enter a cloister
You frighten yourself quickly you find you’re whispering a pater noster
You scold yourself your laughter rings like a fire from hell
The flickers of your laugh illume the base of your life’s well
It is a painting hung in a somber museum
Sometimes you look at it closely that you may see clearer

Today you walk in Paris the women have all been bloodied
It was and could I forget I would it was the decline of beauty

Surrounded by high flames Our Lady ogled me at Chartre
The blood of your Sacred Heart devoured me at Montmartre
I am sick of having to hear the blessed words
The malady I suffer is a syphilis of flayed nerves
The image that possesses you that you survive insomnia and anguish
It is always near you that imagery that passes

You are on board ship now on the Mediterranean Sea
There are flowers the entire year in every lemon tree
With your friends you make a journey in a barque
One is from Nice one from Menton and two are Turbiasque
You examine with fear the octopi in deep waters
Through the algae swim the fish the emblems of our Savior

You’re in the garden of an inn on the outskirts of Prague
You sense a great happiness a rose is on the table
So you observe instead of writing your prosy fables
The rose chafer asleep in the heart of that rose

Horrified you see yourself depicted in the Saint Vitus agates
You were sad enough the day you saw them to maybe take your own life
You resembled Lazarus maddened by the light of day
The hands of the clocks in the Jewish Quarter are going the other way
Slowly you retreat back into your life
To climb up the steps of the Hradcany to hear the night
In the taverns they sing Czech songs

You are now in Marseilles amongst a milieu of melons

You are now in Coblence at the Hotel du Geant

You are now in Rome in a medlar tree from Japan

You are in Amsterdam with a young girl you find pretty she is ugly
She wants to marry her lover now a student in Leyden
One can rent rooms in Latin cubicula locanda I remember
I was there for three days already and spent just as many in Gouda

You are in Paris with the examining judge
Like a criminal he hands you an arresting sentence

You have made the sad and joyous voyages
Before you were familiar with falsehood and the age
You suffered love in your twentieth and thirtieth years
I have lived like a fool and squandered my days
You dare not look at your hands and I always feel like crying
For you for her that I love for all you find terrifying

You look your eyes full of tears at the poor emigrants
They believe in a God they pray the women nurse their infants
They fill the halls of the Gare Saint-Lazare with a horrible stench
They have faith in their star the Sage Kings
They hope to earn argent in Argentina
To return to their home country to live there like kings
A family drags a red eiderdown quilt like you carry your heart
The eiderdown and our dreams seem like irreal arts
Some of these immigrants remain here and abide
In the Rue de Rosiers or the Rue des Ecouffe in a pig sty
I often see them stealing night air from the streets
They move themselves but only rarely like chess pieces
Most of all there are the Jews their women wigged
They rest in chairs deep in the bowels of their boutiques

You are standing at the counter in a skeevy bar
Drinking cheap coffee surrounded by the down-and-out

The night you spend in a spacious restaurant

These women are not wretched they have their cares
Even and the ugliest one makes her lover suffer

That one is the daughter of a constable from the town of Jersey

Her hands which I don’t see are chapped and gritty

I cannot evade the sadness of her scarred womb

I humble my mouth at the laughter of another girl entombed

You are alone the morning has come
Milkmen clink their bottles on the road

Night departs like a beautiful Métive
It is Ferdine the false or Lea “the attentive”

And you drink the alcohol boiling like a life
You drink the eau-de-vie that is your life

You are walking to Auteuil you want to go on foot
To sleep among your fetishes from Guinea and the Ocean
Another form of Christ they are an entire other credence
It is the Christ inferior Christ of obscure expectations

Bye Goodbye

Sun neck sliced

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I found these poems (or lines of poems) in my papers, typed on index cards. I don’t know what I was planning to do with them or when I wrote them. Probably at least ten years ago. I recycled a few lines for “Provincial Hack” which appeared in What is Said to the Poet Concerning Flowers (2006). So it has to be earlier than that, Sherlock.

One set has something to do with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The others are little Raworth-style Language -centered ditties. None of this is genius but kind of fun to look at these years later. Surprisingly, no typos!

 

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I made this over the summer at a sign making event at LACE. Note the creepy background hands in both, but particularly the second, photo.

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Hey Bickerstaff,

                                   My friend, it’s sad to see
You set your leaky pen to poetry,
Or tax WordPerfect (stet), or noble daughter
In vain to fix to sheet what you shouldn’t oughter
With each spent punkt – indeed, to read
That vision, melody, verse – outfoxed the deed.
If poems came to all who blindly trust,
Your cleric’s job, my poet’s, would be dust.

Of course, some old books are still worth a shelf,
A 3-foot one, a 7.5, or even twelf,
To keep the “canon” steady (thereon the brood
Of English profs can safely screw the bulb).
The war of mods and ancients is not old,
It’s ancient – spawns dark rings each time retold,
Thereby assuring children grab their mittens
Or iPhones, iHats, whatev – when its tale threatens.

For the past’s a playground, we are merely players;
The past collides with us like blind surveyors
(Lacking the requisite marks), overruns our glens
As Hurricane Katrina New Orleans,
Re-zoning lands, ignoring a feeble FEMA
And makes of the present past, and the past prima.
Words once rich, like “hella,” “refudiate”, and “lol”
Soon rust, unpractised, in that cave where Grendel fell.

The past becomes opaque when fixed like stone,
The “great names” weigh like Rushmore’s pantheon;
A leper colony’s walls conceal their riches,
The names themselves the uprights, beams and ditches.
Release the past to play! of the present, cease
To demand, as sign of health, enforced disease
Of chaining flux to stone, or of voyants ranging –
The present knows no truth but that it’s changing.

And why should students look to us to tell
Them what to read, when each home library’s full
Of Butler, Roth, Ellison, Stoppard, Barth-
Elme, Hurston, Parks, Delillo, Siebald, and Barthes?
Berryman, Ashbery, Ash, Doonsebury and Muldoon?
Doesn’t every home stack these besides New Moon?
A bookstore is a daunting place to be,
And sans a dot com’s recs, one opts for coffee.

Despite the many pasts the present rends,
As many rise to amplify its sense.
No need to mourn the L.F.M.’s long demise,
Already, a B.F.F. opens its eyes,
A major that can house the Major, but sings
In poly-tones, like the ‘pillar’s rainbow wings.
In hipper slang, we’d call this Major virtual,
(He already is, some say – in league with Grendel).

So, this is not some tale from Swift, no clique on clique,
The past is still in English, or “Englishes,” but not Greek.
Perhaps it is a war of ying and yang,
That swirls like mocha java to sate our pangs.
To Jameson, the present’s pastless, so we look back
At nichts – the past should aim to soothe the lack.
Thus, against the glitz, we’ll embrace, “forever” friends
– No candle burns as bright from half its ends.

Love,
Th3 4ng3l 0f H1st0ry

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This is the “naked” version of the poem, which I’m posting because Facebook usually picks up posts from my blog and yet this time didn’t, mostly likely because of the many links–probably thought it was spam. This poem was meant for Facebook, so it would be a shame it never got there. The multimedia, Wall of Text version, which is the post before this one on the blog, has videos, images and links to my friends’ pages.

By the way, my poem is a very late response to this poem by a certain very famous Beat writer, hence the dedication. I should have dedicated it to Sianne Ngai as she’s all about the “like” as an affect.

One thing I learned making this — it took about ten hours at a single insomniac stretch this morning, though as you can see I’m still playing with it — is that longer status updates, the ones you have to click through to get the complete text for, start to disintegrate after some time. As you can see later in this poem, […] marks have been inserted to show where the status update just suddenly stops. Which is very sad, in this case, as it happens during one of my most popular ones.

This poem is merely an ode to the many forms that narcissism takes in the world of BKS (and you, too!).

Like

for Carl Solomon

Brian Stefans What’s the name of the Ashbery essay in Reported Sightings in which he talks about the artist who left an art opening in tears, muttering the words “He stole my burnt dolls”? Could you type out the passage for me?
          Willa Carroll and Sarah Sarai like this.
Brian Stefans is still recovering from the annihilating genius of Andrew Maxwell’s coinage: “Twitter cruft.”
Brian Stefans is doing it* so it feels like hell. *a) writing grant proposals b) writing paper proposals c) writing session proposals for MLA 2011 d) writing student/friend recommendations for graduate school e) writing Maureen Dowd-like editorials about the LA poetry scene for Lungfull f) writing a status update (duh), his fourth of the day. (Extra credit: name that allusion!)
Brian Stefans is 196 lbs. young.
Brian Stefans is living in an enlightened muscle beach.
          Evan Kindley and Scott Oliver like this.
Brian Stefans I’m with ya: most digital art blows.
          Brooke Bocast and Lysette Elizabeth Simmons like this.
Brian Stefans , Andrew Maxwell and Maggie Nelson are making Barbara Guest an official member of the Los Angeles School of Poetry. Jack Spicer has an open invitation, should he decide to move back to L.A. after giving those lectures in Vancouver.
          Scott Oliver and Sam Solomon like this.
Brian Stefans made a mistake (in 1999 or so) in one of my widely reproduced essays — “allusive truths of colonialism” — meaning “elusive,” duh, and now see that Google (and now Facebook, because I’m masochistic) is rendering this mistake semi-permanent on the world stage. I mean, the entire phrase is stupid (I would never write it now), and I’m so embarrassed (embraced) about/by it that I decided to post it here. I miss the 90s.
          Joseph Mosconi, Ben Friedlander, Zachary Laymon Scott-Sedlaçko and 2 others like this.
Brian Stefans Haha, I still have three hours of this shit (i.e. 2009).
Brian Stefans We call this Just In Time Cooking (JITC). Happy New Year.
Brian Stefans Survey question: Free Blackberry Curve 8310, $200 iPhone or wait a few weeks for the gazillion dollar Google uber-phone? (Keeping in mind that I’m on the broke side, but feel a terrible obligation to keep up with the gadgets.)
Brian Stefans I can’t remember if I posted this one before. It’s almost as good as the new Bob Dylan Christmas Song.
          Fiona Templeton likes this.
Brian Stefans Will change your life:
          Carolina Beltrán and reece pacheco like this.
Brian Stefans thoughts they was singing “shingles bells.”
          Jeanie Roy Collins Manson and Lysette Elizabeth Simmons like this.
Brian Stefans Morrissey concert: kind of great, kind of sucked. Did send me back to Youtube tonight to revel in the glory. You should try it.
Brian Stefans is seeing Morrissey tonight at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City. Last time I saw this man on stage was in Jones Beach, New York, in 1986. Think he’ll remember me?
          Willa Carroll, Arthur Rodriguez, Scott Oliver and 4 others like this.
Brian Stefans Reading about Sister Mary Corita (and ordering my copy of Damn Everything But the Circus), came upon this Youtube video speculating what the Star Wars credits would have looked like had they been created by Saul Bass:
          Lysette Elizabeth Simmons likes this.
Brian Stefans A poem by George Carlin, not to mention singing and swallowing:
          Joseph Mosconi and C.E. Putnam like this.
Brian Stefans is emigrating to Minneapolis solely on the basis of the food.
          Julia Bloch and Roxanne Carter like this.
Brian Stefans is driving to San Francisco tomorrow for the Area Sneaks launch. Anyone need a ride? Also, I need a place to stay…
Brian Stefans had lunch with Kim Rosenfield’s mother today in Long Beach and got the scoop on how awesomely precocious she (Kim) was back in her Beyond Baroque days hanging with Dennis Cooper and Bob Flanagan… thanks to Les Figues for the great auction item… and am about to settle down to watching the Klaus Nomi documentary.
Brian Stefans asks: I leant someone my copy of “The Dream of the Audience,” a catalogue of a Theresa Cha exhibition from some years back… do you have it?
Brian Stefans …spent the afternoon rummaging around a used bookstore in North Hollywood… bought a copy of Charles Bukowski’s first book of poems published in the year of my birth when he was a wee lad of 49… spent the evening in Hermosa Beach watching “the ultimate Smiths tribute band,” the Sweet and Tender Hooligans, with a bunch of drunk Latinos… echt Los Angeles! (“Echt,” btw, means “real” in German — I’m not gagging.)
          Allyssa Wolf, Willa Carroll and Ben Friedlander like this.
Brian Stefans notes: there are a number of “Theresa Cha”s on Facebook. We have no mutual friends.
Brian Stefans is: NOBEL ELBOW ALBUM BLOOM OBAMA
          Heidi Ruffler, Nada Gordon and K. Lorraine Graham like this.
Brian Stefans Allen Ginsberg with The Clash in Times Square…
Brian Stefans is pulling for Ashbery to win the Nobel this year.
          Román Luján and Lysette Elizabeth Simmons like this.
Brian Stefans : One year in Los Angeles… Still breathing… Gongula…
          Heather LaGarde, Timothy Yu and Scott Oliver like this.
Brian Stefans knows a poet is writing their own Wikipedia page when there is a block quote in the sidebar with an endorsement of the poet’s work from Robert Creeley.
          Spuyten Duyvil Press likes this.
Brian Stefans 3 out of 5 patrons at Psychobabble (Los Feliz) writing screenplays… the other 2 (incl. myself) on Facebook… more reports soon as I make the rounds. “This place is on a mission.”
Brian Stefans strange, visceral, butterflies-in-the-chest, downright loony pleasure in hearing Blue Oyster Cult’s “I’m Burning for You” in LA coffee shop as I procrastinate, wondering whether Maggie is right about the healthcare bill, whether I really was checked out by this model-looking woman just a half-second ago (she’s not so into the BOC, I think), whether my hands are shaking because I’m still detoxing from Mexico City…
          Allyssa Wolf likes this.
Brian Stefans Recorded on September 9, 2009. Con Luis Alberto Arellano, Karen Plata, Roman Lujan y Gabriela Jauregui.
Brian Stefans just heard another tour bus driving by his window, with the guide pointing out his apartment and saying with a megaphone that un muy famoso Coreano-Mexicano poet — “more Mexican than D.H. Lawrence” — lived there, and that groupy autograph seekers should simply not think about it, he’s taken, but look hard (holding binoculars with two hands) and you might catch him updating his Facebook status. Fame is wearying.
          Brooke Bocast likes this.
Brian Stefans is back in Los Angeles feeling more Mexican than Antonin Artaud and Eliot Weinberger combined, after a radio interview, poetry reading, digital presentation en La Casa del Poeta, swallowing the worm in Garibaldi with genuine car thieves, plenty of rain, pyramids y tortas, nuevos amigos y amigas, and playing conga drums… with the napkin holder. Luckily, there are a few Mexicans living in LA so I won’t feel homesick.
          Román Luján, Lynn Xu, La Doncella Dilatada and 2 others like this.
Brian Stefans is sitting in a hotel restaurant in Mexico City waiting for Slovenian amiga and Roman to return while hurricane what’s-iz-name roars overhead, wondering how to accurately respond to Emily Critchley’s hilarious wall post without sounding like I’m making fun of Koreans; and, observing the only other Asian guy I’ve seen in Mexico smoking a cigarette in the other room and wondering if, indeed, I should bum one.
          Anna Guercio, Roxanne Carter and Sianne Ngai like this.
Brian Stefans is in Queretaro at a cafe internet with Roman and two Slovenian amigas who are giggling over a suggestive email they are writing to a Mexican boy in I don’t know where because I don’t speak Slovenian or Spanish. But I can say: Que me ves?
          Karen Randall likes this.
Brian Stefans is going to Mexico City tomorrow…
          Joseph Mosconi, Sianne Ngai, K. Lorraine Graham and 4 others like this.
Brian Stefans has been reading Facebook status updates for a half hour and is only up to “10 hours ago.” What this means for the future of memory…?
          Nodd Ingdonkey likes this.
Brian Stefans Repeat after me: Ryan Trecartin: http://www.ubu.com/film/trecartin.html. Sorry I missed meeting this strange, talented man when I lived in Philadelphia.
          Joseph Mosconi and Lisa Sanditz like this.
Brian Stefans “What’s the matter, don’t you think I can?”
Brian Stefans In Grandma’s Mercedes.
          Lysette Elizabeth Simmons likes this.
Brian Stefans Kim Eno
Brian Stefans experienced his first earthquake today… and wasn’t impressed. Bring it on, he says.
Brian Stefans is chopped pork shoulder meat with ham meat added; salt (for binding, flavor, and firmness); water (to help in mixing); sugar (for flavor); sodium Nitrite (for color and as a preservative); back page interview of TimeOut NY (for personality); cotton und […]
          Brooke Bocast likes this.
Brian Stefans is still getting over the phenomenal success of his last status update.
          Teresa Carmody, Jessica Fields Dunlap and 2 others like this.
Brian Stefans met a nice guy on the bus who told me his life story: that he was singer for 80s hair band Hurricane, retired in 1984 at 26, got his start in music at 15 because great-aunt was dating Elvis Presley, that he wrote the song Whitney Houston sang at the ‘84 O […]
          Lysette Elizabeth Simmons, Jeanie Roy Collins Manson and 2 others like this.
Brian Stefans met a nice guy on the bus who told me his life story: that he was singer for 80s hair band Hurricane, retired in 1984 at 26, got his start in music because great-aunt was dating Elvis Presley, that he wrote the song Whitney Houston sang at the ‘84 Olympic […]
          Karen Randall, Scott Oliver and Lee Montgomery like this.
Brian Stefans I’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea. I’m going in to be fitted with a CPAP machine today. Maybe, then, I can sleep.
Brian Stefans Brian Brian, why don’t you ever write me back?
Brian Stefans and Natalia are playing with her John McCain pop-up book.
Brian Stefans is sitting in Pete’s Bar and Cafe in downtown Los Angeles listening to art jabber from the table next to him.

Coda

Brian Stefans is all packed up for the move to Los Angeles. Is in boxes on the floor.

10 seconds ago
Saturday, January 9, 2010

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for Carl Solomon

Brian Stefans What’s the name of the Ashbery essay in Reported Sightings in which he talks about the artist who left an art opening in tears, muttering the words “He stole my burnt dolls”? Could you type out the passage for me?
          Willa Carroll and Sarah Sarai like this.
Brian Stefans is still recovering from the annihilating genius of Andrew Maxwell’s coinage: “Twitter cruft.”
Brian Stefans is doing it* so it feels like hell. *a) writing grant proposals b) writing paper proposals c) writing session proposals for MLA 2011 d) writing student/friend recommendations for graduate school e) writing Maureen Dowd-like editorials about the LA poetry scene for Lungfull f) writing a status update (duh), his fourth of the day. (Extra credit: name that allusion!)
Brian Stefans is 196 lbs. young.
Brian Stefans is living in an enlightened muscle beach.
               Evan Kindley and Scott Oliver like this.
Brian Stefans I’m with ya: most digital art blows.
               Brooke Bocast and Lysette Elizabeth Simmons like this.
Brian Stefans , Andrew Maxwell and Maggie Nelson are making Barbara Guest and official member of the Los Angeles School of Poetry. Jack Spicer has an open invitation, should he decide to move back to L.A. after giving those lectures in Vancouver.
               Scott Oliver and Sam Solomon like this.
Brian Stefans made a mistake (in 1999 or so) in one of my widely reproduced essays — “allusive truths of colonialism” — meaning “elusive,” duh, and now see that Google (and now Facebook, because I’m masochistic) is rendering this mistake semi-permanent on the world stage. I mean, the entire phrase is stupid (I would never write it now), and I’m so embarrassed (embraced) about/by it that I decided to post it here. I miss the 90s.
               Joseph Mosconi, Ben Friedlander, Zachary Laymon Scott-Sedlaçko, Scott Oliver and Alli Warren like this.
Brian Stefans Haha, I still have three hours of this shit (i.e. 2009).
Brian Stefans We call this Just In Time Cooking (JITC). Happy New Year.

Brian Stefans Survey question: Free Blackberry Curve 8310, $200 iPhone or wait a few weeks for the gazillion dollar Google uber-phone? (Keeping in mind that I’m on the broke side, but feel a terrible obligation to keep up with the gadgets.)
Brian Stefans I can’t remember if I posted this one before. It’s almost as good as the new Bob Dylan Christmas Song.

               Fiona Templeton likes this.
Brian Stefans Will change your life:

               Carolina Beltrán and reece pacheco like this.
Brian Stefans thoughts they was singing “shingles bells.”
               Jeanie Roy Collins Manson and Lysette Elizabeth Simmons like this.
Brian Stefans Morrissey concert: kind of great, kind of sucked. Did send me back to Youtube tonight to revel in the glory. You should try it.
Brian Stefans is seeing Morrissey tonight at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City. Last time I saw this man on stage was in Jones Beach, New York, in 1986. Think he’ll remember me?
               Willa Carroll, Arthur Rodriguez, Scott Oliver, Allyssa Wolf, Jessica Díaz, Timothy Yu and Blue Montakhab like this.
Brian Stefans Reading about Sister Mary Corita (and ordering my copy of Damn Everything But the Circus), came upon this Youtube video speculating what the Star Wars credits would have looked like had they been created by Saul Bass:

               Lysette Elizabeth Simmons likes this.
Brian Stefans A poem by George Carlin, not to mention singing and swallowing:

               Joseph Mosconi and C.E. Putnam like this.
Brian Stefans is emigrating to Minneapolis solely on the basis of the food.
               Julia Bloch and Roxanne Carter like this.
Brian Stefans is driving to San Francisco tomorrow for the Area Sneaks launch. Anyone need a ride? Also, I need a place to stay…
Brian Stefans had lunch with Kim Rosenfield’s mother today in Long Beach and got the scoop on how awesomely precocious she (Kim) was back in her Beyond Baroque days hanging with Dennis Cooper and Bob Flanagan… thanks to Les Figues for the great auction item… and am about to settle down to watching the Klaus Nomi documentary.
Brian Stefans asks: I leant someone my copy of “The Dream of the Audience,” a catalogue of a Theresa Cha exhibition from some years back… do you have it?
Brian Stefans …spent the afternoon rummaging around a used bookstore in North Hollywood… bought a copy of Charles Bukowski’s first book of poems published in the year of my birth when he was a wee lad of 49… spent the evening in Hermosa Beach watching “the ultimate Smiths tribute band,” the Sweet and Tender Hooligans, with a bunch of drunk Latinos… echt Los Angeles! (“Echt,” btw, means “real” in German — I’m not gagging.)
               Allyssa Wolf, Willa Carroll and Ben Friedlander like this.
Brian Stefans notes: there are a number of “Theresa Cha”s on Facebook. We have no mutual friends.
Brian Stefans is: NOBEL ELBOW ALBUM BLOOM OBAMA
               Heidi Ruffler, Nada Gordon and K. Lorraine Graham like this.
Brian Stefans Allen Ginsberg with The Clash in Times Square…

Brian Stefans is pulling for Ashbery to win the Nobel this year.
               Román Luján and Lysette Elizabeth Simmons like this.
Brian Stefans is Nelson Ned.

               Román Luján, Drew Kunz and Joseph Massey like this.
Brian Stefans : One year in Los Angeles… Still breathing… Gongula…
               Heather LaGarde, Timothy Yu and Scott Oliver like this.
Brian Stefans knows a poet is writing their own Wikipedia page when there is a block quote in the sidebar with an endorsement of the poet’s work from Robert Creeley.
               Spuyten Duyvil Press likes this.
Brian Stefans 3 out of 5 patrons at Psychobabble (Los Feliz) writing screenplays… the other 2 (incl. myself) on Facebook… more reports soon as I make the rounds. “This place is on a mission.”
Brian Stefans strange, visceral, butterflies-in-the-chest, downright loony pleasure in hearing Blue Oyster Cult’s “I’m Burning for You” in LA coffee shop as I procrastinate, wondering whether Maggie is right about the healthcare bill, whether I really was checked out by this model-looking woman just a half-second ago (she’s not so into the BOC, I think), whether my hands are shaking because I’m still detoxing from Mexico City…
               Allyssa Wolf likes this.
Brian Stefans Recorded on September 9, 2009. Con Luis Alberto Arellano, Karen Plata, Roman Lujan y Gabriela Jauregui.

Brian Stefans just heard another tour bus driving by his window, with the guide pointing out his apartment and saying with a megaphone that un muy famoso Coreano-Mexicano poet — “more Mexican than D.H. Lawrence” — lived there, and that groupy autograph seekers should simply not think about it, he’s taken, but look hard (holding binoculars with two hands) and you might catch him updating his Facebook status. Fame is wearying.
               Brooke Bocast likes this.
Brian Stefans is back in Los Angeles feeling more Mexican than Antonin Artaud and Eliot Weinberger combined, after a radio interview, poetry reading, digital presentation en La Casa del Poeta, swallowing the worm in Garibaldi with genuine car thieves, plenty of rain, pyramids y tortas, nuevos amigos y amigas, and playing conga drums… with the napkin holder. Luckily, there are a few Mexicans living in LA so I won’t feel homesick.
               Román Luján, Lynn Xu, La Doncella Dilatada, Augus Ta and Ben Friedlander like this.
Brian Stefans is sitting in a hotel restaurant in Mexico City waiting for Slovenian amiga and Roman to return while hurricane what’s-iz-name roars overhead, wondering how to accurately respond to Emily Critchley’s hilarious wall post without sounding like I’m making fun of Koreans; and, observing the only other Asian guy I’ve seen in Mexico smoking a cigarette in the other room and wondering if, indeed, I should bum one.
               Anna Guercio, Roxanne Carter and Sianne Ngai like this.
Brian Stefans is in Queretaro at a cafe internet with Roman and two Slovenian amigas who are giggling over a suggestive email they are writing to a Mexican boy in I don’t know where because I don’t speak Slovenian or Spanish. But I can say: Que me ves?
               Karen Randall likes this.
Brian Stefans is going to Mexico City tomorrow…
               Joseph Mosconi, Sianne Ngai, K. Lorraine Graham, Luis Alberto Arellano, Matthew Faccenda, Heriberto Yepez and Román Luján like this.
Brian Stefans has been reading Facebook status updates for a half hour and is only up to “10 hours ago.” What this means for the future of memory…?
               Nodd Ingdonkey likes this.
Brian Stefans Repeat after me: Ryan Trecartin: http://www.ubu.com/film/trecartin.html. Sorry I missed meeting this strange, talented man when I lived in Philadelphia.
                Joseph Mosconi and Lisa Sanditz like this.
Brian Stefans “What’s the matter, don’t you think I can?”
Brian Stefans In Grandma’s Mercedes.
               Lysette Elizabeth Simmons likes this.
Brian Stefans Kim Eno
Brian Stefans experienced his first earthquake today… and wasn’t impressed. Bring it on, he says.
Brian Stefans is chopped pork shoulder meat with ham meat added; salt (for binding, flavor, and firmness); water (to help in mixing); sugar (for flavor); sodium Nitrite (for color and as a preservative); back page interview of TimeOut NY (for personality); cotton und [… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …].
               Brooke Bocast likes this.
Brian Stefans is still getting over the phenomenal success of his last status update.
               Teresa Carmody, Jessica Fields Dunlap, Brandon Brown and Lysette Elizabeth Simmons like this.
Brian Stefans met a nice guy on the bus who told me his life story: that he was singer for 80s hair band Hurricane, retired in 1984 at 26, got his start in music at 15 because great-aunt was dating Elvis Presley, that he wrote the song Whitney Houston sang at the ’84 O [… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …].
               Lysette Elizabeth Simmons, Jeanie Roy Collins Manson, Tara Brochon and Scott Oliver like this.
Brian Stefans [… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … ].
               Karen Randall, Scott Oliver and Lee Montgomery like this.
Brian Stefans I’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea. I’m going in to be fitted with a CPAP machine today. Maybe, then, I can sleep.
Brian Stefans Brian Brian, why don’t you ever write me back?
Brian Stefans and Natalia are playing with her John McCain pop-up book.

Brian Stefans is sitting in Pete’s Bar and Cafe in downtown Los Angeles listening to art jabber from the table next to him.

Coda

Brian Stefans is all packed up for the move to Los Angeles. Is in boxes on the floor.

10 seconds ago
Saturday, January 9, 2010

Note: […] symbolizes characters not able to be retrieved from the site. One ellipsis equals a character up to the 420 maximum text length for a Status Update.

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I wrote this in Philadelphia when I was in a heavy Morrissey phase. I never got around to recording it, but if you’d like to, please do! Send me the royalties.

Notice the way “grease cannoli” echoes the “grease tea” in “Everyday is Like Sunday”? Ok, I’m a nerd. Actually, I just couldn’t think of anything better, and didn’t want the extra syllable–“greasy”–in there. Sister, I’m a poet.

Here’s the original video for the song for those of you not lucky enough to have heard and been obsessed by it. Morrissey, unlike the artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, understands the importance of Youtube to maintaining a career.

“You Have Killed Me”

The panini is green
The gnocchi obscene
I entered this place
And something entered me
That I claim is diseased
And you did your best but

As I try to breathe
You have killed me, you have killed me
Though I’m off the ground somehow
You have killed me, you have killed me

That pasta I bore
I taste it once more

The cappucino was cheap
But my Euros you’ll never see
I entered healthy
But now I’ve number three
When you came with a tray
Of your grease cannoli

Though I try to leave
You will bill me, you will bill me
With my credit card somehow
You have killed me, you have killed me

Where am I to find
Something to eat

As I try to breathe
You have killed me, you have killed me
And I didn’t see a skull
Or Surgeon General on the menu

There is no point saying this again
Because you’re not American
But I will sue you, I will sue you
Oh, I will pursue you

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Las ideas verdes descoloridas duermen furiosamente.
Las memorias pegajosas oleaginosas asesinan afablamente.
Los salmos obsoletos futuristas discuten curiosamente.
Los platanos cuadriculados amorfos eructan lateralmente.

Los ateos imbeciles virtuosos excomulgan carismáticamente.
Las sandalias huesudas regordetas analizan frontalmente.
Los susurros manipuladores impotentes ensordecen preferentemente.
Los iglúes chinos teutónicos incuban sabiamente.

Los arbustos inefables irritantes escrutinan discretamente.
Los esclavos contratados autocráticos sindican individualmente.
Los logaritmos ágiles artríticos amplifican silenciosamente.
Las ideas verdes descoloridas duermen furiosamente.

(This is a translation into Spanish of my poem “The Slush of Meaning,” a poem premised on the idea of naturalizing the famous sentence of Noam Chomsky’s that he wrote as an example of a sentence syntactically correct but semantically meaningless. I did the initial translation using Babelfish, but it was refined by Román Luján prior to my reading in Mexico City. You can see Román and I read it at Youtube, about two minutes into this clip.)

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Quebec has a rather strange history when it comes to poets who are more or less linked with Modernism, at least among the menfolk.

Claude Gauvreau, for instance, associated with the group of Automatiste artists such as Paul-Emile Borduas and Jean-Paul Riopelle, wrote several theatrical works usually considered as extreme as Artaud’s, and yet he jumped (or fell) off a building in 1971, and had been hospitalized ten times for psychological disorders prior to that. Two books of his have been translated by Ray Ellenwood — Entrails and The Charge of the Expormidable Moose — and Steve McCaffery has a nice essay on his poetry in North of Intention. Wikipedia has an English-language biography.

Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau is usually considered the first truly modern Quebec poet, and despite being rather good-looking, he died of a heart attack while canoeing in 1943 at the age of 31. He also has a Wikipedia biography. I’ve enjoyed reading his poems in translation, and he seems to be popular enough with the young Quebec crowd to have inspired a short video based on one of his poems which appears on YouTube. Most videos based on poems seem to be pretty bad, but this one fares reasonably well despite some hammy acting.

Next to lastly is Sylvain Garneau, no relation to the above poet, who wrote mostly rhyming verse in quatrains and other forms. His work comes across remarkably well in translation, sounding a bit like a cross between Brecht of Die Dreigroschenopfer and Jacques Brel. There’s no complete English-language edition of his work, which inspires me to give it a shot myself, since I love Brecht and Brel. Also apparently a dashing fellow (I’ll let you be the judge — at least he dressed well), he committed suicide at the age of 23 in 1953. The Canadian Encyclopedia has a good biography of him, as they do of the other poets mentioned here.

Before all of these blokes, however, was the poet Emile Nelligan, who lived to the ripe age of 62 but was hospitalized at 19 for what appears to be schizophrenia and wrote nearly nothing afterwards, living out his days in the asylum in near total indifference to the world. Born in 1879, he read widely in French Symbolist literature, especially Baudelaire and Verlaine and two poets I know nothing about, Rodenbach and Rollinat. He might have read Rimbaud, but it’s not clear given the availability of the literature in Quebec and Rimbaud’s unusual publishing history.

Anyway, I sort of “discovered” Nelligan during my last year at college while on a trip to Quebec City with my family. I walked into a bookstore looking for the “Canadian Rimbaud” — since I have a pet theory that every country has their Rimbaud, troubled adolescent genius who wrote their entire works before the age of 20 or so, and I was obsessed with Rimbaud at the time — and saw Nelligan’s photograph and bust (the bookstore was selling small plaster statues of him) and knew instantly, without looking at the books or reading a bio, that this was him. I think it’s because his photograph reminded me of the famous photographs of Rimbaud during his “seer” phase in Paris which you’ve all seen.

claire01.jpg

Turned out to be sort of true — Nelligan wasn’t nearly as original as Rimbaud, but he was a “visionary,” and he still seems to be the central point of inspiration for many Quebec poets wanting to push the boundaries. I ended up translating four of Nelligan’s poems for my senior project at Bard, two of which appear below (I got the other two very wrong in places, I don’t know French all that well). They may seem a little olde fashioned but I think they still hold up. There’s a really nice selection of translations available by P.F. Widdows, and a more awkward but readable complete edition by Fred Cogswell.

(Nelligan has a huge hotel in Montreal named after him; Sylvain Garneau has a library. Walt Whitman has a rest stop — just like Joyce Kilmer!)

You’ll notice — those of you who read or speak French — that I use some rather literal word choices, for example “massive” for “massif,” which would not really be accurate translations. I did this on purpose since I like to use the original language in a translation to “deterritorialize” or render strange the English of the new poem. Also, Nelligan fans, you’ll notice that the “ideal ocean” in the original is where hurricanes don’t swirl, but having that Rimbaud itch, I made the waters rather torrential.

Petition

from Emile Nelligan

Queen, will you assent to unfurl just one curl,
One billow of your hair for the blades of scissors?
I want to inhale just one note of the birdsong
Of this night of love, born from your eyes of pearl.

My heart’s bouquet, trills of its thicket,
In there your spirit plays its roseate flute.
Queen, will you assent to unfurl just one curl,
One billow of your hair for the blades of scissors?

Silken flowers, perfumes of roses, lilies,
I want to return them with a secret envelope.
They were in Eden. One day we’ll take ship
On the ideal ocean, where the hurricane swirls!

Queen, will you assent to unfurl just one curl?

The Ship of Gold

from Emile Nelligan

There was a mighty ship carved of massive gold:
Its masts touched the azure, on the unknown seas;
The Cyprus of love, hair loose, with nude torso
Stretched herself on its prows, in excessive suns.

One night, however, there came the great danger
In those clever oceans where the Sirens sing;
This horrible shipwreck inclined the ship’s bottom
Toward the depths of the abyss, unchanging grave.

There was a ship of gold, and its diaphanous flanks
Displayed its rich hold to those profane sailors,
Disgust, Hate, and Nerves… they split it between them.

What is left of the ship from that so brief Tempest?
What has my heart become, but a deserted ship?
Alas! it has foundered on the vacuum of the dream.

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Here are some very old phonetic (after the first poem) translations of Rilke that have a sort of flarf-y feel to them. I found them in my papers recently — I had hoped to do the whole set but got bored, I guess.

Mutter Tongue (To Hearing)

after Rilke

I. 1.

A tree climbed there. O pure transcendence! 
Oh Orpheus sings! Oh high tree in ear!
And all went silent. Yet in that silence
came  forth new Beginning, Sign and dizzy Change.

Animals from stillness appeared within the clear,
disrupted forest—outside lairs and nests!
So, I discovered: that it was not out of cunning
nor from fear that they had become so lithe—but, rather,

from Hearing. Bellowing, shrieking, and roaring
seemed tiny in their hearts! Where
there was barely a hut for this to retire in,

some hideaway for the darkest needs
with an entrance whose posts were trembling—
you made a temple for them in Hearing.

I. 2

Unfasten Mad Chen wars aging heretofore
out-dieseled Heinekens glued frothing and queer,
unghastly, Karl, dirtier fooling shies
under-masculine, behind bets in mingling ores.

Anti-leaf emir, anti-all warrior Stuff.
D-bombing, D-itchy bee wonders, teeth
full-born Inferno, D-girl-footing weasels
and Jaeger-standing, Dartmouth shelf of graft.

Scene-shift the belt. Sinking her golf, rebates
choosy following, dastardly burger-hadda,
earth whacking shoe shone? Si, si Hermann, and deep.

Vote is Herzog? O, fearest you Demoting
elf-fingered wok, hay-sick, dyingly fair-haired?
Voting she in, house mare?… Unfasten Mad Chen…

I. 6

Ether in heat-seeker? Nine! House-biding
ripened earwax styling wider gnat hair,
kinder-car bowlers die smiling their violence,
fair-thee-for-Zelda fight, under-fair.

Gates wear zoo beds, solace opted tissues,
brought tics and milked tics, detonating seats
over air. Dervish worrying missions
enter dermatological decision meets,

eerily shining. Immolating, key shouting
and dearth sobbing from earth, round and round,
sigh, insolvent. Weed the chorus of Zoot Suits,

nifty can-dancing. Ultimate build in their swimming,
guys ass out-grabbing, guises out slimming,
boomerangs her fingering. Spanish, aunt prudes.

I. 9

Noon. Where the liar showed up,
ouched under shitting,
barfed those unend-licking slobs,
owning ur-sitting.

Noon. Where mis-tokened from moon
assed, found them earring,
veered Nick, then lice-system Tom,
feature fare leering.

Maggie outs the spree-glands in time’s
offense, farce woman,
fixing that spill.

Earnest item tripled by rhymes
fears, then, cyclamen,
ear-wig, animal.

I. 13

Fuller dabbles: burning un-bananas
stipple-bearing… all is decent pricks,
total libbing, intense bunsen hounds
(lest its idle kiss form an igloo’s licks)…

vent its sea/earth check. The commies won fight.
Veered, ach, long same, numbing loss in moon?
Woe songs, words warren, fleecing soon,
out-damned food fights, upper rafter’s fright.

Wagged, too, Sagan, vast ear apple’s nun,
Decent Susan, D-sick, airiest verdict
Ma’am, in schmuckable lies out the tic tac,

car too burdened. Fog in trans-parent,
double-dutied, sonny, urging. He sings:
“O earth-farting, fool’s lung, Freud and… Rather!”

I. 18

Horace! do Dad’s lawyer, hear!
draw him, or babe him.
(“Come in, fair kin, there,
thee is third heaven!”)

Spar his kind Boring, while
idiot Dirk’s opted. Buy
docks’ thermal “in style”
Will Self’s gallon eye.

“Si, demon sheener.”
(We thee sick waltz, rashed,
attendants salt, and smashed.)

Hot, thee (outs Answer Craft)
sea-owner lied and staffed
tribes and diners.

I. 22

Weird stint, the bribing men
(over, then, shitter sites)
named in as Kindly Guy
“him, him… er… imbibing them.”

Alice, alas, eyeing ends
(wired Sean, fore-rubber Sign),
bent is, for violins:
earth wight, unspined.

Can Obie, over tense smut,
in it, on dismal kite,
(mixed, indent “Fool for Sue”)

alias Easter House-guest Dude,
dangle and “I” Iggy’s height?
Blooming, and Boo!

II. 1

Ad-men, do umpteenth, boorishly shtick!
Inner fort, strum dice Eisner,
sine Rhine, eyeing a Tao-ter felt rum. Go gainst wish,
in time it’s mixed roomlier shrine to ya.

High ziggier feller, do in
all make Escher mirrors, in pin,
spare hamster, doof on alone-moodier lynch peering,
round gain wind.

Wheat fields frond doozier stale-mates, diorama for showing,
inanity in un-mire, munching fins,
stint free, fond sun.

Irk gents tool Mitch, loved, true, Vole knocked in stymier court,
true, hind-men glutted rinse?
Run, dung, and splat Midas’s works.

II. 2

Slowly, damned master, munch meal desultorily,
near blood, do Newark like strict
Abraham, so named off-stage, elder that’s hiding
hind-sighting, laughing, dervishes in sick

wrens, Eden morning ear-problems aligning
odors in glances, third preening end-lickers
ending. Dance ad-men directing the kickers
patter, faulted, moored in shining.

Vast havens, now again finest in un-Russiad
lands, fair glowing, dare communing, gay, shout
bucking death’s labels, for immune fear laundries

ach, dare-haired—working the four ushers?
Newer, veered into naught, prizing them louts,
single the Hertz—that, in its Grantas, goes boundaries.

II. 9

Rude oaf, hair-shifting man, Nick, their end-bearing, folders
unfast-fast fasten neat longer and hold. Speed!
Hiney is the guy-girl’s, sky-hind’s, wide, older
cramps, thermal host star—indeed.

Washes dirt slightly, beacon, Thad’s shit, Dad’s shat off,
very abrupt—weekender here spills from Zurich.
All them gabber’s stop, enshrined, unshouldered—through it.
Offends the heart? Err enters—“parr” (golf).

Fear licking Builder, a crammer, vaulting—a giraffe
trailing (bum sick), feeling god-liking Saran
mares—as unwound for the Grecian gorillas, that laugh.

Vinny was kicked—Hal’s de-heimliched Liza’s girl roll-on,
(she used him in interim), she vaguely around
free in-still-sprawling-as Kids—house an under-arrest brawl-in.

II. 16

Inner ear there from yous Alf girl dissing!
Is there God, dear, Stella’s fella highed?
Fearing sharpers den fear vote lent, advising!
Haver her ear pissed hotter and espied?

Sulks the rhino. The goo-widened spender.
Kneads more enders, kicks in Seinfeld’s welt,
ails indemnity sticks, damns fry menders.
Under Bs vaguely, en-Gorgon stealthed.

Immured, the dodoes stinked
out their hero’s phone, in sclerotic quills, he
vended their guts, dim smiling Sheik, and Totes them.

Un-sworded new Zardoz, alarming Angie’s Thames,
“unda’s lame urban pits,” (Seinfeld’s shell), he
outed Dem’s Schillery instinct.

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Last semester I took a playwriting class with Paula Vogel, for which I wrote a few short pieces that utilized a sort of “verse” form based on character count. Each line had to have the same number of characters, including spaces, and no enjambment was allowed, which is to say, no line could carry over to the next. This second rule was not always faithfully observed, which is to say, though each line ended with a period, in one or two cases it could just as well ended with a comma. 

Below is a “song” from a play based on The Medea which I called “The Media.”  It starred Jack Nicholson as a sleazy fashion photographer and Kate Valk as his model, a woman in love with him but just as passionately resentful of his sleeping around.  In this bit, she contemplates cutting his johnson off to get back at him. 

If, for whatever reason, you are interested in reading this play, send me an email, I’ll send it on to you. 

Kate: Often I’m the last to know when it’s time to work or time to relax.
   I usually only act those things, it’s not something I ever control.
   Jack, he’s done so much for me, and made me more than I ever thought.
   He’s made of this homely trailer park girl a woman the press adore.
   Even fear, sometimes, I’m afraid, yes, when they think I’m in a mood.

   But, but this can’t go on, I know that this can’t, this can’t go on.
   I know what Jack is hiding – not hiding, for in fact he tells me all.
   That is his motive for honesty – to remind me that he’s free, I not.
   But this can’t, this just can’t go on, it’s not in my deepest core.
   I cannot play the other woman, I cannot be the star orbiting alone.

   When I am the face in one his photographs, I am white as an albino.
   I am delicate as a porcelain china doll, or languorous as an anaconda.
   But inside I am black, black, and hard as granite, and tightly wound.
   I can see the things that are happening to me, but I make no sound.
   Like him, in service to art, I retreat – inside – stare blindly out.

   But, but this can’t go on, I know that this can’t, this can’t go on.
   I know that he has a soul, but it is divided between – oh, is it two?
   There’s so much humiliating doubt not knowing where his passions lie.
   If his words to me are eruptions of love, or rehearsals to televise.
   Do I only live in his photographs – can I choose when to live or die?

Suddenly, her wistful mood disappears.

   That’s why I’ve devised this cutting tool, easy to conceal in my palm.
   One little slip of this wire saw, and his little pecker will be mine!
   I’m going to get that lively Johnson, boy-o, and feed it to the dogs!
   Jack won’t be able to jack any more – he’ll be talking like a dwarf!
   Next he comes to venerate me, I’ll reply with caresses – and cut it off!

   Oops!

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