Parable of the Parabola
I held the steam and scrubbed it. How do you do that? asked Willy. How do you scrub steam? It is so, you know, diaphanous. I said to Willy, because Willy was a good man and listened with both ears, we adapt to the heart’s convulsions. I send my grammar to a public decipherment. It comes back as a dream. I am hirsute, Willy, and there are parts of my gut that have been forged in goldfish. What do you mean by that? asked Willy. It means that change is a tough and ornery lobster and once it gets you in its claws Maine will never be the same. I bowed my head and pulled a flood of words out of my arm. Afterwards, Will stood naked in a paragraph looking clean as a sunrise on stilts. I can hear the dead, Willy, the dead straining to get back into this life. If I write a few words down it seems to help them. They boil and box according to their destiny and inclination and the music of the spheres. You want a good parable in life, Willy, a guideline by which to measure your conduct. What’s a parable? asked Willy. A parable is a large dish to catch the hollering and caterwaul of the stars. I think that’s a parabolic dish, said Willy. Ok, Willy, let’s call it a parabolic dish. A dish of splendor hoisted into the sky of our discontent. I want to hear the birth of the universe. I want to see its legs spread and the large head of being to emerge into the nothingness of space. Can you do that? asked Willy. Why sure you can. All you need is a little patience, a good shiny belt buckle, some sparks and spars and wrinkles and doors and you’ve got yourself a human diesel in dominatrix boots. You’ve got the equivalent of a fugue clanking around in the metals of love. You’ve got something tender and pliant and potentially pink. All it really is, all any of it is at any given time, is consciousness, that flywheel of the head creating sequence and existentialism. I don’t think I want any of that, said Willy. Who does? The whole idea is to get rid of it. Or concentrate real hard on not noticing it. That I can do, said Willy. Ah but it’s tricky, Willy, trickier than you think. Because as soon as you begin to concentrate on not noticing it, the whole shebang gets bigger, magnifies, and before you know it there you are, dripping with moonbeams. The stars come and throw their light over the world and the dead finally do, do get back in. –John Olson
Things To Do Under The Influence Of Poetry
Find something pertinent to say about membranes. You can’t fully know a membrane until you’ve hooked a steelhead, or studied the vibrations in an idealized circular drum. Here you will find solutions for wave equations and phantom paragraphs disguised as fungus.
Do laundry. Contrary to a few eccentric opinions, clean clothes are an asset to the maintenance of ampersands and thought.
Sit at a desk and stare at the wall. Lift your arms. Roar upward in spreading clouds of gas and smoke.
Experiment with facial expressions. Consider a taxi when you are stuck in the sand. Go on a hair-raising adventure. Read, read, read.
Create a bleak atmosphere. Stand alone on a gravel bar. Brush your hair. Make a fist. Generate crackling tangles of lightning. Let it loose. Smile. You have just created an apparent feeling.
Applaud the next washcloth. Hang it on the refrigerator handle. Let it stay there until it has grown too wet and soiled for further use. Retire it. Put it in the laundry.
Introduce yourself to the bed each night so that it may come to understand the needs of your body. Be impertinent if you must.
Inhabit a book as you would a dream, or library, or epidermis.
Wear black leather gloves. Look for elk antlers in the meadow. Invent a paradigm. Start each day with a lunatic hooting.
Inch closer to the tendrils of ramification. Wear a brightly colored shirt. Ask yourself “what is tangible, and what is not? What is the true goal of the pharmacy? What does it mean to float?”
Carry a perpetual handshake wherever you go, but use it sparingly.
Fall in love with electricity. Check the oven before returning to spawn. Wear epaulets and a sword. Adopt a look of perpetual irritation.
Imitate your favorite animal, be it a steelhead trout in the Hoh River, or a homo sapiens on the fringe of a homonym.
Keep an eye out for comets and other aberrations.
Move about on loud whooshing wings. Respect the chin, it is an engine of presence. Put your hand on the boiler and feel its heat. Start a garden of beans, violets, and zinnias. Honor the ability of birds to fly. Jettison everything in your life that is a burden. Break the sunlight into colors like Newton. Get unclogged.
Drink lots of water. Think of yourself as a ventriloquist for all things in the universe. Go for a long walk in the snow.
Sew a manuscript together using a combination of multicolored threads. Notice how the avocado is incidental to itself. Assimilate all three laws of thermodynamics. Make friends with gravity. Appear to be descended from kings. Pedal a bicycle around the room. Moisten your lips then say something dry.
Wear a cape of velour and growl. Be gallant and dashing. Create a fuel for the laughter of thermometers. Navigate a zeppelin through the eye of a needle.
Never waver except when to do so makes waves. There is always a little rhapsody in calculus. Incite a riot. Project confidence. Date an oboe. Bivouac in a blackberry.
Daub when it is good to daub, flick when it is indispensable to flick.
Consider the coins in your pocket. How many are there? How big are they? What nations do they represent? What did you do to earn them? How useful will the pennies be when it comes time to make change? Do you have enough quarters for the parking meter?
Incubate a felony. There is a felon in all of us. Revel in overalls and hemoglobin. It will come to you eventually.
Distill your thoughts until they look like vegetables. Get wet doing something that makes you happy. Do not lack vigor in your takeoff. Praise the opacity of onions.
Picture life in the ocean. House a benign neglect. Do backflips and handsprings. Teeter on misanthropy.
Use your fingers for fried chicken, a fork for chicken in aspic. Each tense is a gear. Believe in pectin. Miniaturize the apocalypse of syntax. Think of yesterday as a firearm. Invoke spoons and nails. Think of the brain as an emulsion of images. Check your cheek for chickadees.
Experience the weirdness of milkweed. Learn to speak foreign languages like saltwater and mud. Declare yourself free of declamation. Jangle a jingle. Scold a scrotum. Lactate large objects. Apply balm to your nipples. Paint lilies on your cane.
Find an ulterior motive for the enjoyment of heavy metal.
Know your boundaries. Avail yourself of binoculars and telescopes. Be a harbinger of elfish disposition. An appeasement with reality should never be a feature of your research.
Endeavor to understand whiskers. Weird activity in the darkness. The churning of hormones.
Be iron. Be lipstick. Be a tailor to your obscurity. Become a backcountry skiing connoisseur. Slalom in trees. Vault an apricot. Parachute through an enigma. Construct an image of heaven, then burn it down. Learn to play the xylophone with your feet. Triumph in the angora of circumstance. Reticence is not a virtue. Model your comportment on the dragonfly. Each yearning is an engine. Imagine a feather falling through oblivion. Note the splendor of rafters in sunlight. Twist a language into eagles and drugs.
Treat vowels like a blacksmith, consonants like a planetarium.
Spin your propellers. The night will give you stars. The morning will give you copper. Learn to sift consciousness for nuggets of Saturday.
Inscription on a grave
By Tristan Tzara
This translation is dedicated to Gisele Semilian (1907-2000)
And I felt your sad and immaculate soul
Like you feel the moon floating quietly
Behind the drawn curtains.
An I felt your poor and timid soul
Like a beggar, with his hand out before the gate,
Fearful to knock or to walk in,
And I felt your humble and frail soul
Like a tear unwilling to step over the eyelid’s doorstep
And I felt your clenched and moistened by distress soul
Like a handkerchief in your hand that tears will
And today, when my soul would get lost in the night,
Only the memory of you clutches it
With unforeseen fingers of phantasm.
Translated from the Romanian by Julian Semilian
The House Where No One Died (revision)
In the house where no one died
There were thumbprints on mirrors
Left like DNA threads
from a scarf foreign to time and space
The air of toys never used
The ring of bells never moved
One day out of the week
we burned to the ground
In this Psalm Never Written
I scream for you
and jiggle the knobs
in mute silver flame.
All this aside
I still ring and knock for you
where no one died
(John Thomas Allen)
PROPHESY AND PROSTHESIS
WRITTEN JUST NOW
“She asked me if I wrote it, and I nearly said yes. Strange, Imogen
pondered, how poetry suddenly surprises you like that.
And then later, in the mirror, I tried leaning, first as rapture, then as
And now, away from the mirror, as kowtow.”
I wind the deaths of birds in paper cones
I catch the sombre airs of winter in my mouth
I come up to the belly of the whale from inside him
and look out on blue terror
I come up to the naked chest of the gallowglass
(the man of copper)
and look out through the hole of his navel
for I also am inside him
I look out into a wrecked world
see barbed wire and a swallowtail turning
and a round idea and a little clock
and a quince fruit split by sympathy and feathers
I listen and I hear
the moan of stones waking and cracking skulls
I see the ripple in the crowd of the defeated
and taste tears of repentance orbiting that giant spasm
I see doors opening like broken spines of books
I see heat boiling off the bones of temples
I a twisted mouth speaking nothings
and the image of a sword quenched in coma
O I have lived in the the house of immortality
and I have slashed its portraits of lovers
whose footfalls in their day
would break the pavement
I have seen demons of impedimented speech and semen
their wide brocades of improvised pneumonia
and a dining chair that lifts its leg and pisses
and sonorous blue carriages taking the dead to market
I have felt fire that burnt the flesh in my nostrils
I have known bells twisted in a towel like paper
I have slept sleepless nights waiting to explode
and I have worn a coat of magma
I watched a dance of tree trunks in the sky
over the balkans
I saw them fall to the ground
and impale the latin names of flowers
fall and impale the open mouths of lovers
fall and become pyramids and monsters
fall down at the feet of divinities
fall down into the arms of strangers
and I have known all grown silent
and I have known all to groan
as silent as thrills and crashes
as silent as condemnations
of winter gone
and the sorrowful, lapsed network
of winter gone
and round, pluperfect summer
“and he perfected their diplomacy/to fine velvet/smooth as cubed safety glass/cascading after the crash…”