Dear Oblivion

Jersey Avenue, Jersey City, N.J., June 2020

So much light, dear oblivion, night after night; I offered up my body. You refused. I drank. Begged, really. Said my dreams, you don’t belong here. Some countable mornings ahead, crouched in the internet’s dark corners, hands reaching into prosaic brightness, not to gather, but offer: News spreads of a virgin conception. And so much light.

Dear Oblivion

Main Street, Hackensack, June 2020

Prayer peels soul from body. Robin-eyed memory of never known. The scent of winter jasmine, he writes. I ascent, with neither knowledge nor trace experience. Mouth crawls with the acid taste of spider webs. Begging, really. Dear Oblivion, I continue asking the drain — conduit from, passive voice, channel away — to do the hard work. Three-fourteen a.m., a mournful eight-legged poet struggles to drag a stone amphora the size of a casket across the backyard — no vacancies.

Dear Oblivion


dear oblivion
i hear you
shredding bone
in the golden
place
salivating
somewhere
unknowable
a man
grills
meat
a child
screams

what i mean to say
is this, dear oblivion:
i remember
the littoral darkness
of the rising afternoon
the light
never
having
been
enough

dear oblivion
i hear you
crawling away

Jersey Pine

i've lived long enough to see phaeolus schweinitzii
 chewing the lap of this jersey pine on a walk 
 with my family during our first pandemic

i’ve lived long enough to see phaeolus schweinitzii
chewing the lap of this jersey pine on a walk
with my family during our first pandemic

to call us moist and poorly protected
would be rude but true nevermind
what i haven’t got is dirty hands and god

damnit if i know how to be selfless
among all these bottle caps and tarot cards
the bravado emptiness embitters inflames thickens

the grey launch of memory plunges seven
thousand feet into the lap of an idol
hard at work in the dry grass

the irony of course remains
we are alone leaning back in chinese
textiled seats without understanding

without compassion without hideous
perspective until we are alone photograph
-ing ourselves some distance from another drink.

‘Dream Song 238’ by John Berryman

Henry’s Programme for God

“It was not gay, that life.” You can’t “make me small,”
you “can’t put me down” or take away my job
I am immune,
although it is not gay. Why did we come at all,
consonant to whose bidding? Perhaps God is a slob,
playful, vast, rough-hewn.

Perhaps God resembles one of the last etchings of Goya
& not Valesquez, never Rembrandt no.
Something disturbed,
ill-pleased, & with a touch of paranoia
who calls for this thud of love from his creatures-O.
Perhaps God ought to be curbed.

Not only on this planet, I admit; somewhere.
Our only resource is bleak denial or
anti-potent rage, both have been tried by our wisest. Who was it back there
who died unshriven, daring to see what more
could happen to a painter with such courage.


Source: Berryman, John, and Michael Hofmann. The Dream Songs , 2014, p. 257.

uh oh (kaboom)

Wikipedia Poem, No. 975

Hackensack, 2019
the gunpowder if it ever exists dries ready full-mouthed  and mush   his
mission soon ends with no criteria    sì, quella spiga—    what athletic  
power passed the hum of squirrely / selfish putsch  down—    if darkly uplift  
the self gets righteous    right to the bottom—    quick, much is transparent 
and not raised against  the real polemic fear yr  inbox   as good as yr last   
intesa inteso—    i feel hiss intestines / push out against—    the night 
sufficient    still    bent between hiss pinching stamen & inject the sniff pop of 
style kaboom

The Ruins

Wikipedia Poem, No. 921

the ruins third way scan and destroy poetry image 2019 c wikipoem.org and joseph m. gerace

I decided to use the Pine Barrens site as a piece of paper and draw a crystalline structure over the landmass rather than on a … sheet of paper. In this way I was applying my conceptual thinking directly to the disruption of the site over an area of several miles. So you might say that my non-site was a three dimensional map of the site.

Robert Smithson

Buca il geranio la maceria, rissa

Maria Luisa Spaziani

but only you
love sheds on you love
sheds on you love
shed on you

abuse
faith
this dog you love
sheds on you
love shed on you

hearth nebulous
parallax hearth

&yet
diagnostic dark
drinking dark
drinking
dranking
drunnc

always night
always night
always night &yet

death queer hearth
nebulous health
nebulous hearth &yet

again
night of the long commercial
night always drinking night & shhh upon
rigid compass shhh abstract shhh

Dear Poets—

Wikipedia Poem, No. 870

saskatchewan, i have—by a mile—the heat of whirlwind
this whirlwind of what i know… after-time

gotta study and get on with all the whirlwind heat
this whirlwind of preparing for the heat of the best poems

published in saskatchewan o well and study video games
i have—by a meteor mile—the heat of this to do list: quit my hand

i briefly felt like a wonderful person
i really should be studying and felt wonderful

now that will hold my hand and
live in reputable american journals

i really fucked my to-do: quit my poet
i am a very secretly a fearful person

i am very more tame
when i stopped drinking i published

you know… no time gotta study it
i really should study for the heavy escape

no time gotta study for the best poet
i am very secretly fucked

my illusion felt wonderful
i really fucked me: quit my poet

i really should study for law school
i’m so scared — salty poet

i don’t want to step out of this
whirlwind of preparing and feel wonderful

now that i know i need to escape myself —
this radical being — in smoke

‘The geezer alcoholics in the corner?’

Wikipedia Poem, No. 867

safe.jpg

     break into 
air 
       leather man
break into air 
     
breathe 
      into  
   leather man
          breathe into air 
   leather jacket
   licked back 
      hair
and 
steal 
another 
      man
        break 
into 
leather 
     man
don't break
don't break man
     don't break   
       
look leather 
man
       break it or lose it 
     leather 
man
break the air 
man
      pomegranate flower
hoplite bannister  

leather man
      slip into 
        the air 
like a man
          breaks in his  
      leather 
man
breaks into 
          the hairy air 
       leather rip
    jacket rip
licked backseat 
          nothing
man sniffling 
a diagram
then sentenceless i don't exist rip
        lick leather men sniffing 
about arson
one might hang 
  about 
arson around
  one night about 
     like smoke
one might 
   break the air 
          smoke around
       one just might smoke leather man

“Ballad of the Savage Tiger” by Li He

grown.jpeg

No one attacks it with a long lance,
No one plies a strong cross-bow.
Suckling its grandsons, rearing its cubs,
It trains them into savagery.
Its reared head becomes a wall
Its waving tail becomes a banner.
Even Huang from the Eastern Sea,¹
Dreaded to see it after dark,
A righteous tiger, met on the road,²
Was quite enough to upset Niu Ai.
What good is it for that short sword
To hang on the wall, growling like thunder?
When from the foot of Tai mountain
Comes the sound of a woman weeping,
Government regulations forbid
Any official to dare to listen.³

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Notes from The Collected Poems of Li He:

A satire on oppressive government, of which the tiger was the symbol. Caught between the Central Government and the warlords, the people are harassed as though by tigers.

  1. Huang, of Dong-hai, had magical powers which enabled him to control snakes and tigers. Unfortunately for him, he lost these powers through drinking to excess and was eventually killed by a tiger.
  2. The zhou-yu was a white tiger with black markings which appeared only when a state was perfectly governed. It would not tread on grain nor eat living things. Niu Ai was a duke turned were-tiger, who ate his own elder brother. He is pointing out that some tigers are worse than others.
  3. Confucius found a woman weeping at the foot of Mount Tai. Though her whole family had been killed by tigers she refused to leave the district, because there was no oppressive government there. This caused Confucius to remark that an oppressive government was more savage than any tiger.

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More about Li He from The New York Review of Books:

Li He is the bad-boy poet of the late Tang dynasty. He began writing at the age of seven and died at twenty-six from alcoholism or, according to a later commentator, “sexual dissipation,” or both. An obscure and unsuccessful relative of the imperial family, he would set out at dawn on horseback, pause, write a poem, and toss the paper away. A servant boy followed him to collect these scraps in a tapestry bag.

Long considered far too extravagant and weird for Chinese taste, Li He was virtually excluded from the poetic canon until the mid-twentieth century. Today, as the translator and scholar Anne M. Birrell, writes, “Of all the Tang poets, even of all Chinese poets, he best speaks for our disconcerting times.” Modern critics have compared him to Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Keats, and Trakl.

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Source: Li He, Ballad of the Savage Tiger. “The Collected Poems of Li He.” Translated by J.D. Frodsham, New York Review Books, 2016.