Not the Precursor

E.B. White "Here is New York"

The subtlest change in New York is something people don't speak much about but that is in everyone's mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.
All over the World Wide Web are comments on the prescience of this passage from a 1948 essay. These retrospective prophet seekers lack an historical imagination (and the willpower to do a simple search on planes, buildings and popular culture). For it is evident that the informing event is the crash of 1945 into the Empire State Building. And there's a 1977 book by Arthur Weingarten The Sky is Falling.

And so for day 1660

The Mechanism Called Teat

Often fascinating in sci-fi is the description of technology. In this case a nutrient dispenser:

Tears-crying was for face-liquid. It was useless, or rather useful only as emotional expression. It was a waste product ... (and she had been right in the first guess about twin eyes!) ... and then the further realization that the great size she had at first attributed to the bottle was relative only to the babe. The thing was a reasonably-sized, sensibly-shaped storage container for the nutrient fluid the babe and child called milk; and it was furthermore provided with a mechanism at one end designed to be sucked upon.
Judith Merril "Homecalling" in Daughters of Earth.

And so for day 1659

Slip Slippage

Harryette Mullen. Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge

At one point in Trimmings there is a set of pages with on the left a passage dealing with slips which culminates in Freudian ones and on the right is a passage that enacts slippage of a dreamwork if not Freudian sort.

[…] Without permission, slips out the door. a name adores a Freudian slip. Night moon star sun down gown. Night moan stir sin dawn gown.
Daybreak breaks the night via the slightest of vowel shifts.

And so for day 1658

Demonic Irony

Ironically demonic.

Of course that isn't the way I described his actions to myself at the time. Nobody uses phrases like "a man possessed" any more. "Possessed" by what? There are no demons in the Twentieth Century, we all realize that. There are no demons, no devils, no evil spirits. We live in an enlightened age, in a sane, matter-of-fact world of gas chambers, human incineration plants, wholesale massacres, scientific torture devices and hydrogen bombs. But everything has a perfectly logical explanation, and no man's cruelty or inhumanity to his fellows is based on demoniac possession.
Robert Bloch. "The Hungry Eye" (1959) reprinted in Time Untamed (1967).

And so for day 1657

Hairdresser and Mother

Robin Becker. "Salon". Domain of Perfect Affection.

These lines come at the end of a poem detailing the regular visits to the salon for manicure and shampoo and cut. The voice we are to take is that of the lesbian daughter.

Ennobled by his gaze, she accepts
her diminishment, she who knows herself
his favorite. In their cryptic language
they confide and converse, his hands busy
in her hair, her hands quiet in her lap.
Barrel-chested, Italian, a lover of opera,
he husbands his money and his lover, Ethan;
only with him may she discuss my lover and me,
and in this way intimacy takes the shape
of the afternoon she passes in the salon,
in the domain of perfect affection.
To husband: use resources economically; conserve.

Pomade: a scented ointment applied to the hair or scalp.

And so for day 1656

Both and a Choice of Three

Joanne Page. Watermarks. "Mark You" in the sequence "A Brief History of Snow".

to cold. Their language lives. Last year they made
two snow words into silajua pigalavja meaning
ozone layer. This year both are in grave danger.
Both? Words and ozone? Ozone and snow? Either way one of the three disappears. Alerting us to linked dangers environmental and linguistic.

And so for day 1655

Star Gazing Across Generations

You may never have slept in a tent. May never have looked up to the night sky. But you can enter into the imagination of poet who imagines a boy who does.

she laughs, her red hair
ripples as it did

when she was ten and wild as her eldest
awake in his sleeping bag

looking up at his grandmother's
sky, imagining the salamanders
he'll catch tomorrow.
These are the concluding lines from Robin Becker's "Our Best Selves" which is dedicated to the memory of Miriam Goodman and is collected in Tiger Heron and which calls to mind a line from Joanne Page in Persuasion for a Mathematician: the audible slow burn of stars left you rapt, you will say

And so for day 1654

What's it gonna take to feel proud?

Queer as Folk - season finale - beyond boy finds boy - it's about a man expressing his principles, almost losing his principles and being aided in finding integrity again.

What? It's not about marriage? "We don't need rings or vows to express our love."

Brian our stalwart protagonist is indeed dancing solo at the end but he is not alone. He is in a packed club. He remains unpaired but not unloved.

We are stepping out of the diegetic. The song carries us over into the credit sequence and beyond. [The song Proud will go on to serve others as an anthem for Olympic bids among others.] Heather Small (Peter Presta Final Mix) sends us off with resonant lyrics.

I look into the window of my mind
Reflections of the fears I know I've left behind
I step out of the ordinary
I can feel my soul ascending
I am on my way
Can't stop me now
And you can do the same

What have you done today to make you feel proud?
It's never too late to try
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
You could be so many people
If you make that break for freedom
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
The party isn't over. It's migrated.

It's an ending that reminds me of the commentary offered by the epistolary frame to Andrew Holleran's Dancer from the Dance.
We don't have to do anything with our lives. As long as you are alive, there's an end to it. I feel like a child who's been awakened from his sleep and taken downstairs in someone's arms to see the party and the guests. Who knows how long it will last, who knows when that considerate adult will send you back to bed and life will once more be that poignant band of light beneath the door, beyond which all the voices, laughter, and happiness lie? No, darling, mourn no longer for Malone. He knew very well how gorgeous life is—that was the light in him that you, and I, and all the queens fell in love with. Go out dancing tonight, my dear, and go home with someone, and if the love doesn't last beyond the morning, then know I love you.
And why make this an exclusively queer thing? After all, anyone can dance to Proud.

Here is Hemingway on Paris, a place of the mind as vital as the Babylon of Queer as Folk.
There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.
From A Moveable Feast.

And so Brian dancing becomes an icon of that place in the mind where we can go find the freedom to become and simply to be.

And so for day 1653


Sujata Bhatt. Brunizem. "The Women of Leh are such —"

The appearance of Stein in this poem seems mysterious until one discovers that the dedicatee was a translator of the correspondence between Sherwood Anderson and Gertrude Stein. The poem is dedicated to Jürgen Dierking. He would go on to translate Bhatt.

in that place I dreamt
and I saw Gertrude Stein selling
horseradishes and carrots. There was no mistaking
those shoulders — but she fit in so well
with her looking-straight-at-you eyes.
And by association we leap to Gertrude Stein's Idem the Same: A Valentine to Sherwood Anderson (for which the Poetry Foundation nicely supplies a recording of Stein reading). However it is to the textual history I draw your attention, to the notes provide by Ulla E. Dydo, long time scholar of Stein and the notebooks (see A Stein Reader) which on page 376 informs us
On the back of the notebook for this piece are tiny private love verses to Toklas. Some become sections of the text. In the notes, details of "A Very Valentine" appear in more personal form than in typescript and in print. The original line "Very Stein is my valentine very Stein and very fine" becomes in print "Very mine is my valentine very mine and very fine." Stein and Toklas are each other's valentines, two lovers who are one, idem the same.
Let us return to the figure of Stein in Bhatt's "The Women of Leh are such —". We find her at the end of the poem.
Then she turned aside to talk with the tomato seller,
still keeping an eye on the dzo — it was hard to believe
but there was no mistaking that poise.
Idem, the same.

And so for day 1652

Fire Breathing

Stupendous ending. "At the Official Function, Captain Green" in Mark Waldron The Brand New Dark.

my butter mouth that pushed them into the world.
What doesn't melt…

And so for day 1651

Objects in Motion Appear Closer

Mark Waldron. The Brand New Dark.

There are two poems that could be companion pieces because of their use of extended conceit. One animates sheets; the other, turns a bathtub into a sled.

The Sheets and Pillowcases

in this place, have a design printed on them
and he imagines the patterns might get up his nose while he sleeps

The oneiric qualities are also evident in "The Run".
They're in the bath together.
Like tobogganists heading down and down a hill,
snow covering the land like a sleep.

Of course the poem includes the waking up: "One day she may turn and find him gone. / Fallen off somewhere, / tumbling back towards the world." The fun trick is that the reader can get back on and ride the poem one more time.

And so for day 1650

The End in Beginnings

Mark Waldron. The Brand New Dark. "Yes, Everything You Need is Here"

There is a poem-within-a-poem here.

A tree. […]

Gravity. […]

Rope. […]
Each of these is the opening to a stanza. Even as you read on, they keep tugging the attention. And when read down acrostic-style they impart a story of a hanging, just hanging there.

And so for day 1649

Semi-colon Semi-quaver

Jan Zwicky.
Wittgenstein Elegies

This opens the section set in Rosro, County Galway.

Grooves in the rough-planed planks.
Trace the grain, back and forth, slow path,
back; and forth. Salt light from over
the dark chafed sea. So much is constant:
desk, cot, window. Wood, light, sea.
Trace, retrace, tide-worn wash of mind.
There is nothing left to strip away, grind
down, wear off: but still not pure enough, no
clarity. Words stumble, clutter, clog. I remain
a draughtsman; thought, dull pencil used
to trace the outlines that fragment and blur
at every stroke.
Note the odd punctuation: "back; and forth." A mark not unlike a pencil blur. Double croche.

And so for day 1648

On Giles Becoming Gwen

Each transition is unique and yet part of the human story of variations on a given theme. I am reminded of the words of John Koethe in the concluding poem to Sally's Hair, words about the performance of Richard Burton as Hamlet. Look for the reliance on seeing…

Whose whole reality is words? It's nice to speculate,
And yet it's just too facile, for the truth was much more
Gradual and difficult to see, if there to see at all.
We like to think they're up to us, our lives, but by the time we
Glimpse the possibility of changing it's already happened,
Governed by, in Larkin's phrase, what something hidden from us chose
And which, for all we know, might just as well have been the stars.
Koethe is meditating about the influences on his coming to a life of words and thought — how that Burton performance may have been a catalyst. He finds the most willed and contorted syntax to express that destiny is possible thereby reaffirming that destiny is not all, certainly not all in recollection. Close your eyes, you're in control.

And so for day 1647

Where did Alice go?

There is a magisterial poem in The Hayflick Limit where Matthew Tierney runs the gamut on the ages of man by following the metamorphoses of a character in body and attire. It is fittingly called "Age of Majority". I like to see such prowess as conditioned by some lines from one of the earlier phobia poems — "Aulophobia" — fear of flutes which cautions us on how we read.

We follow symbolism at our own risk
to the hippocampus,

down rabbit holes, unearthing
dark incidents.
See what the warning achieves in these concluding lines to the initial section to the story of Ray in "Age of Majority":
Life was loosening its middle; memories popped
into pneumatic tubes: TURNING POINTS, ANECDOTES,
REGRETS, etc., hither and thither before the shink
of keys to the convertible sent
a flush right to his prostate.
Hippocampus in overdrive? At what risk?

And so for day 1646

Tales of Tails

Sujata Bhatt Brunizem "The Peacock"

Could be a set piece in school. Calls for that examination of tenor and vehicle that is the hallmark of our tentative forays into interpreting metaphor.

It concludes:

The cat will awaken and stretch.
Something has broken your attention;
and if you look up in time
you might see the peacock
turning away as he gathers his tail
to shut those dark glowing eyes,
violet fringed with golden amber.
It is the tail that has to blink
for eyes that are always open.
The ending reminds me of Marianne Moore and the frozen stillness that still animates the mind. There is of course a peacock treated at one remove (for it appears in a poem about Molière) in the poems of Marianne Moore ("To the Peacock of France"). Note how it too plays with the peek-a-boo unfurling of the tail.
You hated sham; you ranted up
   And down through the conventions of excess;
   Nor did the King love you the less
     Nor did the world,
     In whose chief interest and for whose spontaneous
        delight, your broad tail was unfurled.
Notwithstanding the titular animal, the peacock of Bhatt reminds me more of Moore's meditation on the natural and the artificial found in the ending of "An Egyptian Pulled Glass Bottle in the Shape of a Fish".
Not brittle but
Intense—the spectrum, that
    Spectacular and nimble animal the fish,
    Whose scales turn aside the sun's sword with their polish.
Likewise, the glory of the peacock filtered by the poet's words.

And so for day 1645

Caesura Cuts

Minimal treat for maximal performance (without a title) from Mark Truscott Said Like Reeds or Things

leaves answer answer leaves
I have remembered this as "leaves answer answers leave" — just wanting that flutter of the "s" to be displaced in the breeze of breath. Regardless, I like how the first two words where the noun "leaves" provides a metonym for the image of a whole tree and somehow the leaf-full tree supplies an "answer" to some unknown yearning. The second half of the line emphasizes the fragility of any grasp of understanding that might be achieved by contemplation — the noun is converted to a verb and all leaves.

And so for day 1644

Riffing on Relevance

Like constructing a sundae

M. Thomas' book is as full of good things as a plum pudding, but in this particular case his observations are not arguments, they are impertinences. M. Thomas who, like nearly all Frenchmen, is an admirable writer, is here quite calmly telling two of the very greatest artists in prose, Tacitus and Petronius, how to write history, and how to write novels. He joins those critics, ancient and modern, who blame Jane Austen for not depicting English sentiment during the Napoleonic Wars, Charles Dickens for dealing with "low" life, and Rudyard Kipling for ignoring the struggles of Indian nationalism. A great artist has the right to make his own rules of relevance. It is obvious that all ancient historians, Polybius not excluded, had very different ideas from modern historians on what was relevant. No doubt a modern historian, with his academic career in mind, would, in the text and in the footnotes, have given us a complete biography of Petronius, the exact date of his birth, his full cursus honorum and list of works, with dates, places of publication, and variant editions. It would all be extremely useful and valuable; but how dull!
The M. Thomas in question is Émile Thomas and his book is Pétrone — l'envers de la société romaine. And the lovely passage above is by Gilbert Bagnani (Arbiter of Elegance: A Study of the Life & Works of C Petronius).

And so for day 1643

De Sade and "de gustibus non est disputandum"

Mark Crick's pastiches in Kafka's Soup are smart. I particularly like the beginning of the "Boned stuffed poussains à la Marquis de Sade"

Should not the supreme aim of gastronomy be to untangle the confusion of ideas that confront mankind, and to provide this unfortunate biped with some guidance on how he should conduct himself and his appetites?
The best illustration accompanies the recipe for "Mushroom Risotto à la John Steinbeck"

Porcini waiting to be rehydrated, lying like dry soil in open hands, an iconic image for the Dust Bowl and yet unmistakable shards of wondrous flavour.

And so for day 1642

The End is Nigh

Di Brandt does the apocalyptic tone so well and in such tiny space.

Diamond rivers, uranium valleys,
petroleum oceans.

         from Dog days in Maribor / Anti (electric) ghazals
Night and day, season after season, the predatory universe
exercises its tender heart: eating and being eaten, each with its
particular grace. The beaver becoming pond, the field mouse
becoming sky.

         from Horizon on fire
Both from Now You Care

And so for day 1641

Chronos & Domus

What we carry with us is what sees us through

It occurs to me only now that perhaps that curious business of our time-reckoning system, as well as many other apparently irrational things we did, were done in part to save our faculties of adaptation for necessities. I still don't know whether it was inherent weakness or instinctive wisdom. It doesn't matter, really, and I see I'm digressing again. I am getting older. But I can still remember being very scornful of the same sentimental clinging to a calendar, when I was a child on Pluto — and here they'd had more excuse. Pluto doesn't rotate at all; it has no natural day. And its year is hundreds of Earth-years long. So for a system of time-reckoning that applied to human values, the old one was as good as any other there, except in terms of arithmetical efficiency.

Here it was another matter altogether: we forced an old system to fit new circumstance; why? Because we were human, and each of us had grown up somewhere. Because we had been children back there, and some part of each of us was still a child there, and needed a safe familiar handle of some sort to cling to. In space, we were completely set apart from 'home'. Time was our handle.
Judith Merril
Daughters of Earth

And so for day 1640

Les Os Qui Dancent

"St. Norbert in July"
The poem is dedicated to Louise Halfe also know as Sky Dancer.

What is captivating is the litany of different dances all stepping to a final image

I Thirst Dance,
Ghost Dance,
I Give-Away Dance,
Beg Dance.
'Shot our children
as they gathered

Skull Dance
'A mountain of bones.'
Di Brandt Now You Care

And so for day 1639


She extols the basics under the rubric "Earthlings".

Basics are what gardening is all about, though there has been a dangerous tendency over the last couple of years for basics to be delicately, superciliously stifled by aesthetics. First you need to know what makes plants grow. After that you can enjoy the agony of deciding which plants they are to be be. If you do it the other way around, you find the garden littered with corpses. This is expensive for the gardener. Pretty sad for the plants too.
Anna Pavord. The Curious Gardener: A Year in the Garden.

And so for day 1638

Reparations, Reconstruction and Revitalization

The Survivors acted with courage and determination. We should do no less. It is time to commit to a process of reconciliation. By establishing a new and respectful relationship, we restore what must be restored, repair what must be repaired, and return what what must be returned.
Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

And so for day 1637

C-section Remedy

Judith Merril "Project Nursemaid"

The psychologist muses about the case before him.

But this girl with her tremulous smile and her frightened eyes and her unweathered skin — this girl had not yet realized even that it was a human life she carried inside herself; so far, she understood only that she had done something foolish, and that there was a slim chance she might be able to remedy the error without total disaster or too much dishonour.
This novella appears in a selection of three under the title Daughters of Earth

And so for day 1636


Rifting on

Phil Hall
The Little Seamstress

  Once ruptures
hoisting continents riddled with guilt

  but Upon recites at bedtime
a protection-song very fast like maresy doats

  weaving us into only sound vestments
To arrive at
Once Upon A Time = it's almost (with silent E) = "OUATE" - cotton balls stuffed in ears to hear better the beating of the heart

And so for day 1635

High Praise for Tulips

Anna Pavord.
The Curious Gardener: A Year in the Garden.

As far as I am concerned, these are the best, indeed the only flowers to send or receive on Valentine's Day. Wild, irrepressible, wayward, unpredictable, strange, subtle, generous, elegant, tulips are everything you would wish for in a lover. Best of all are the crazy parrot tulips such as 'Rococco' with red and pink petals feathered and flamed in crinkly lime-green. 'When a young man presents a tulip to his mistress,' wrote Sir John Chardin (Travels in Persia, 1686), 'he gives her to understand by the general red colour of the flower, that he is on fire with her beauty, and by the black base, that his heart is burned to coal.' That's the way to do it.
And so for day 1634


Planning a dinner party?

Oh, and by the way, don't let any of your guests help. They will ruin everything, then tell everyone they had to bail you out.
Nigel Slater Appetite

And so for day 1633

Room to Play

Lisa Pasold produced this chapbook with green cover with the stamp of spades in each corner (difficult to see - it's black on dark green). Its title appropriate to its cover is green as the three of diamonds which immediately sets up a delightful cognitive dissonance with the cover's illustration. I like the tale of the origins of this chap book. She won at roulette!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

so that's how i initially got involved in the small press...i took my $320 of roulette winnings and spent most of that money on paper & printing & staples, and then my long-suffering gambling partner and i spent several rather lovely hours folding and trimming and stapling chapbooks on the kitchen table. those 21 poems about blackjack, titled 'green as the three of diamonds', had found a way into the world.
Mine is number 25 of 200 with a three of clubs tucked into the front. And it's treasured not only for the gambling imagery but the luscious gardening metaphors in "the moon — life to you is a dashing bold adventure" which enticingly begins
knight of parrots, valet of roses, you leave
traces of pomegranate
on our lips, you read all our futures as trumps
(it doesn't matter what bets we lay down)
That's always read as parrot tulips by me.

And I must simply face the possible curse of copyright infringement and present in toto "card tricks (2)". It will resonate with anyone who has balanced cards to build tower or house.
your father built card houses

not a metaphor for anything

steady handed, he worked every night
through the suites, beginning always
with clubs

the uppermost storey alternated
diamonds and spades

the buried hearts in interior infrastructure

and at the hospital, you
watch his fingers

(motor control)

you had brought
twelve packs, those cards that are
disposed of after any given night
bullet hole punched through the pack
(nothing leaves a casino intact)

windows you had planned to tell him, imagine
they're windows
build me a house
As her father built houses, she builds castles.

And so for day 1632


In my reading of Fermat's Enigma by Simon Singh I was struck by the amount of space devoted to the demise of Alan Turing — his persecution & suicide — until later in the book I encountered a similar treatment of the life of Galois. These biographical glimpses serve as digressions and delays on the road to the story of the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. They also, in a different discourse, model the theme of incomprehensibility and the need for bridges both social and mathematical. Singh presents us with this picture.

The value of mathematical bridges is enormous. They enable communities of mathematicians who have been living on separate islands to exchange ideas and explore each other's creations. Mathematics consists of islands of knowledges in an sea of ignorance. For example, there is the island occupied by geometers who study shape and form, and then there is the island of probability where mathematicians discuss risk and chance. There are dozens of such islands, each one with its own unique language incomprehensible to the inhabitants of other islands. the language of geometry is quite different from the language of probability, and the slang of calculus is meaningless to those who speak only statistics.
What I of course in the domain of discursive analysis find interesting is the blowing up of bridges to find novel connections. Just a quirk of life history so different from Turing and Galois.

And so for day 1631