26 May 2009

Jeff Clark

[from Jeff Clark's A Little Door Slides Back, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1997]

        for Hoopy

There is about three minutes that I received from you this postal card of eleven lines -- but a silence of three years? I had fears to write you -- fears -- imagining your address to be empty, or your body.

Have you this month received a large cake with twenty-three candles, as your pen told me once it is custom there?

Yes, I see that you did get an auto. Pray, get now an airplane, that you may undertake a journey to me, to know my new person.

Have you found yet the picture of my city, of poor relief? And the plan of my country, is it clear where I am to be found? (I will go on waiting impatiently for the reliefs promised by your letter of three years past, so if you can speedily, I have desires to see your new face.)

Winter-days are gone. I go in the meadow now to no end, whereas I was passing all the days at my window, a blanket in my shoulder-tops, watching in the morning the boulevard events, at noontime the seamen row from the mud berth, in the evening the pimp on the walk, who casts and who reels back, it is typical, nothing. But the brougham of this man! Have you there a word for this auto, for its great length and luster? "Pimp-sedan"? Or simple "limousine"? Does it grow red as a noisette in your thinking, the wonderment at how such a one as a pimp -- a mack! -- should be permitted to stain my staring around, not to say my nights, my town . . . ah, but he is ever there. His name is Larousse.

Now the gibbering of his associates in the late night is such that I must close my window, and stifle.

Forgetfulness! Take up once more the envelope that bore this to you. It is so: half my name, known by you so many years, is gone from me. It was simple and the death of two birds: my head turns no more to the oft-called "Marie-Christine," and more, I delight my familiars with this fancy-exotic.

"Who, these familiars?"

-- the feathered, you remember them. (And my dictionary says that I am Mary-Pure for you now?)

Do you remember my bath songs, how they disturbed you? The hi-fi reminds me.

I have now an old stereoscope. Do you know the one? Also three stereotypes: the plaza of my city; a campanile, the bell of whom will make illusions of to and fro when the device is jostled; and the seacoast. Do you often see it? Or is this perchance no longer a predilection? I have reveries of it there, so dark and chill to the feet, the wood portions (the sea-sticks) across the sand, and the wind who pushed the cypress trees backward.

Your desire: without camera I can no more snare my image than send it to you. But if you must have me, I will tell you how to see: a gauze over the eyes, the vigor going from the hair, the breast unfirms, a tooth here and there is dark.

And! my fright when at first the telephone rings.

Also have me rushing down the stair for the mails that seldom arrive.

Will you believe that I now write, in this same hand, my more vital prayers? Especially this: "Take the Devil from my within." I place them on this table and sleep then, whereas all my life, you remember from your nights here, I was going to bed, putting out the lamp, and then making my prayers there. For me now, dialogue becomes a fright.

I am slapped, and downtrod, in so many moments by Him, and here has become another common prayer: "Let me be," or "Today I beg one furlough from your gall." Is it by bêtises and false airs I have deserved his slaps in the night? Or do you too get them? Am I an abecedarian in my suffering? Though: if you would accompany me once in my night, you would see my felonies, and would not blame Him his bruisings. But please, do not have me as a pity-wanting anchorite, knelt in the fogbow by his feet. Rather, have me in the human way: one part fear, one devotion.

(A terror to wonder: do the slaps come from the other way?)

Where does it go now, your life? Is it according to your desires, and content? When this arrives at your box, and after, into your hand, receive from me one embrace, and see me now as not so different from what memory you guard. And then, to be gracious, I will summon you to my beach, for a picnic, and then will see that the Ocean closes, for I will have waited all day!

Pray, more postal cards with lines of you. Even: navigate by wine this very night to your writing-desk. In this wish I kiss your cheek, and wave most tenderly.

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