29 May 2010

Charles Bernstein

[from Charles Bernstein's All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010]


Listen. I can feel it. Specifically and intentionally. It does hurt. Gravity weighing it down. It's not too soft. I like it. Ringing like this. The hum. Words peeling. The one thing. Not so much limited as conditioned. Here. In this. Spurting. It tastes good. Clogs. Thick with shape. I carry it with me wherever I go. I like it like this. Smears. You can touch it. I know how to get there. Hold it. Tickles. I'm the one beside you. Needs no other. Textures of the signs of life. There is a way in. Only insofar as you let it divert you. "Short cuts, the means before the ends, the 'special ways'," all manners of veering we are schooled in. The straightest path. I don't mind waiting. In the way the world is true. I'm ready to come. Taking away what we've got doesn't compensate for what we've lost. Then, spit it out. It is heavy. Because love of language — the hum — the huhuman — excludes its reduction to a scientifically managed system of reference in which all is expediency and truth is nowhere. Schooled and reschooled. The core is neither soft nor hard. It's not the supposed referent that has that truth. Words themselves. The particulars of the language and not, note, the "depth structures" that "underlie" "all languages" require the attention of that which is neither incidentally nor accidentally related to the world. It's sweet enough. Not mere grids of possible worlds, as if truth were some kind of kicking boy, a form of rhetoric. Truthfulness, love of language: attending its telling. It's not unfair to read intentionality into other people's actions. The mocking of language (making as if it were a mock-up) evades rather than liberates. The world is in them. I can feel the weight of the fog. Hung. The hum is it. Touch it as it hangs on you. It feels good. I say so. I am not embarrassed to be embarrassed. My elementary school teachers thought I was vague, unsocial, & lacked the ability to coordinate the small muscles in my hands. The way it feels. The mistake is to think you can put on the mask at work and then take it off when you get home. I enjoy it. If I acted like a manager to please my managers it would be irrelevant what I thought "privately." The one-two punch: behaviorism and meritocracy. I couldn't spell at school and still can't. "Legibility," "diction," "orthography," "expository clarity." We have all been emptied of emotion. Shells, i.e., going through the motions of touching, holding, coming without care, love, etc. I'm trapped by the job only insofar as I transpose my language to fit it. An erotic pleasure pressing against the pen with my thumb, sore under the nail from a splinter. Then, come closer. Class struggle is certainly not furthered by poetry itself. Shards. Not how we're special that's important but how we're not. I would rather explore the quarry that is my life. Punched out of us. What I didn't learn in school was how to gaze on the mistakes I made out of sheer mediocrity. Intently. They are necessary. I don't mind feeling cramped. It is necessary constantly to remind ourselves of our weaknesses, deficiencies, and failings. Comes back. Not meet you or make you — certainly not figure you out — but to stand next to, be there with. Peaches and apples and pears; biscuits and French sauces. Acknowledgement. We can get up. A blur is no reason for distress. Already made it. The mists before each of us at any time can put to rest any lingering fantasies of clear view. I can still hear it. I'm sure. My present happiness is not what's important. My body. Well, I'm no different. The mistake is to look for the hidden. All here. A world of answers, sentence by sentence. By an act of will. I am as responsible for that "mask" as anything. If I look hard I can see it. The fact of an affluent white man seeking power is enough to make me distrust him. Give it up. It does matter. It is important. You refused because you realized order without justice is tyranny. There are alternatives. We live here. It's time. This is my secret. I knew from the first school wasn't for me. I would accept it if you said it. I no longer need to worry about sincerity. I am the masked man. Its purple. Orange. Queen Victoria Vermilion. A world of uncertainty and wonder. Sky grey. Of satisfaction. Let me stay in. This clearing. Security one more unnecessary underlining. I may stumble but I won't collapse. It's a nice day, the sun shines, the air has cleared. It's so blue. I like the fog. My reasons satisfy me. I have a place to sit. I've located it. It's enough. Worth. Holds. I want particulars. I have put out confusion. Tell me and I can tell you. I woke up. I met this girl. The morning came. I got it. It makes the tune my ear fashions. Slowly. Let me pronounce it for you.

Listen to Charles Bernstein read this.

26 May 2010

Maurice Manning

[from Maurice Manning's The Common Man, Houghton Mifflin, 2010]

That Durned Ole Via Negativa

You ever say a word like naw,
that n, a, double-u instead

of no? Let's try it, naw. You feel
your jaw drop farther down and hang;

you say it slower, don't you, as if
a naw weighs twice as much as no.

It's also sadder sounding than
a no. Yore Daddy still alive?

a friend you haven't seen might ask.
If you say naw, it means you still

cannot get over him. But would
you want to? Naw. Did you hear it then,

that affirmation? You can't say naw
without the trickle of a smile.

The eggheads call that wistful, now --
O sad desire, O boiling pot

of melancholy pitch! Down in
that gloomy sadness always is

a hope. You gettin' any strange?
That always gets a naw, and a laugh.

I've had that asked of me. It's sad
to contemplate sometimes, but kind

of funny, too. It makes me think
of git and who came up with that,

and the last burdened letter hitched
to naw, that team of yous and yoked

together -- the you you are for now
and the you you might become if you

said yeah, to feel the sag of doubt
when only one of you is left

to pull the load of living. My,
but we're in lonesome country now.

I wonder if we ever leave it?
We could say yeah, but wouldn't we

be wiser if we stuck it out
with naw, and know the weight of what

we know is dragging right behind us,
the squeak and buck of gear along

with us, O mournful plea, O song
we know, by heart, by God, by heart.

14 May 2010

Joshua Clover

[from Joshua Clover's The Totality for Kids, University of California, 2006]

In Jaufré Rudel's Song

The sun is abandoned into the thoughts one had about it.

The flowers lie fat on the field under the gong-filled air.

The field ends at the angry factor which keeps the numbers of the
    clock from flying off in twelve directions, beyond which his

She sends her voice into the pines, it returns at evening alone.

The crows hate her for her beauty, she is ugly as a poet.

There is a limited number of nights, though no particular night can
    prove this.

This is the greeting that the lovers exchange when they meet.

08 May 2010

Worthy Evans

[from Worthy Evans's Green Revolver, University of South Carolina, 2010]


The man and his wife walked up to the
canyon lip and he said It's good,
not great. But the book said to do it
so here we are. The man said he and
the wife got married and later looked
to the west as it stood before Lake
Pontchartrain. That was better,
and so was this place in Australia.

The wife until this point had been silent.
She was always the framer and picture
hanger for the husband, she told me as
we were walking back to the gift shop
to look at posters, postcards and
screen savers of what we had just seen.
I believe I'll take this one, she said.

Baked into the Cake

The bride was kissed. The cake
was eaten. Lula had completed
her customary belly dance and
there arose such an emotional
reception that tears came to my
eyes in delight. As these things do,
the good feeling died down and I
caught on to the one-way conversation
about doorknobs. Phillip the
bartender, he listened in too, after
serving me up a gin and tonic.
Marshall Weinstein, of the Kensington
Weinsteins, had clinked a glass and
begun the downhill slide into doorknobs.
Sometimes we encounter crystal
doorknobs that you need only push
to open the door, which had long since
swelled beyond the jamb. I began
to feel ill. Brass ones gleam brightly,
but oh, the polishing that we must
do. Marshall was up front, beside
Regina Whittingham, nee Winkleman,
and I was near the door at this
reception in the basement of a redone
barn. There were no doorknobs here.
The iron doorknobs with patterns
stamped upon them turn black over
time, get lost in sock drawers, where
little children mistake them for turtles.
He laughed at this, maybe remembering
some unprompted discovery after his dad
had gone to work. I remember missing
Lula's belly dancing, so in a twist in my chair,
I looked out the unlatched door at a mother
hen waddling around with her chicks.
My son isn't going to like her.