Across the Tower

The voyage starts from darkness:
     corpses piled high, bloody
     walls, silencer pistols, muddy
waters mixed with soot, ash, garbage-

I feel a queasy sense in
     my guts (& bowels, to be real)
     of degradation, forced to kneel
& kiss the grinding wheel's spin-

The Tower's very spirit
     is ancient as severed heads,
     abandoned marriage beds,
a flatted-fifth tune: hear it,

be reminded that music
     must continue even here,
     must leak out, tunes of fear
& loathing, sing the collapsed Muse's

hymn to the compelling lurid,
     & if it seems too desperate,
     lightning striking your wedlock'd
heart, limp falling bodies, torrid

fires going up your behind,
     never you mind, this voyage,
     no matter how rank, annoying,
can only give you back a strengthened mind.

More Formality Issues

The desire to lay down a gauntlet, in 2019, in English-language poetry, about formality and its importance, is a complex one. So much ground has been lost around formality in poetry over the last century that it is difficult even to know when, how, or why to start the process. If I deem it efficacious to be blunt, it is for the simple reason that millions of blunt weapons have been employed, in the United States, for the purpose of killing off the highest forms of artistic formality (in poetry and elsewhere), so that I am simply matching the energies and task-forces arrayed against me. So, to be blunt: poetry that does not employ heightened language, and which does not seek to incorporate musical effects, is worthless enough in the world to be considered both parasitic, and a form of anti-poetry. Furthermore, the ability to incorporate musical effects on a high level into poetry can only partially be learned: those who perform this task at the highest level are generally what could be called gifted, or talented, individuals. What this implies is, as is anathema to the parasitic forms and cabals who enforce them, which American and English-language poetry has accrued to itself in the past hundred years, and is also a mastering of the obvious: poetry requires talent, giftedness, something innately built into individuals. The idea that, in poetry, there is no talent, there are no individuals over anyone else, is a satanic denial of all that poetry can accomplish when it is handled by the right individuals; and the sense of formality in poetry, ability to artfully incorporate heightened language, is what distinguishes the men from the boys, the women from the girls, the gifted from the impostors (whose elision of poetic music can be construed as an attempt to sanitize poetry, for the greater good of entities, such as corporate ones, who are afraid of artistic formality at its apogee).

In an era less debauched, these things would not necessarily need to be said. But, as I have said before in other places, century XX was a radically inane time for serious art in general. Century XX poetry in the English language, even the corpus which is supposed to be of note, is mostly formless garbage. When poetry loses its connection to music, heightened language, and the sublime which inheres in musicality, it also loses its connection to individuality, and the giftedness of individuals. The anti-poets are there, with the ulterior motive of attempting to destroy poetry from the inside out; and, for many decades, there has been no one there to stop them. The formal tasks I have chosen to perform are arduous ones, including the odal task inherited from Keats; and the task of expressing how far English-language poetry has fallen over the last few centuries is arduous, too.


First Friday, Olde City, autumn: I watched Abby
seduce a curator in the Artists House Gallery, clawed
my way past buskers & vendors, up again to Logan
Square; up 21st Street, over to the Franklin Institute,
out onto the Parkway, where a slight tilt will show
you the Art Museum; back over & around, & wandered
into my flat. The soft October warmth told me what
I needed to hear, for a hot minute: eternity, ecstasy,
elevation, riding waves on an ocean of buildings.
A general recession of waves was latent, built into us,
destined to pinch some of us to death, but in the end,
it didn't matter- Abby's striped, clinging gown that
night, leaning towards maroon & plain red, marked my
brain as permanently made incarnadine, for her & us-

New Poem in Otoliths (53)

New, longish poem up in Otoliths 53. Many thanks to Mark Young.

Art Recess 6

The site Art Recess 6: Issues Around Formality is now up & running, and holds editions, discrete from Funtime Press editions, of A Dozen Leaking Buckets and A Dozen Loose Wires.

Trish: A Romance Part 7

All through the intervening years, Trish
never fully left my mind. Many
encounters I lived through were
pointless- one-night stands, flings,
some felt, some not felt at all.
When Trish reentered my life, she
did so directly. Simply, we wanted
each other again. Trish now lived in
an apartment building, with roommates,
on 49th off of Baltimore. The apartment
had a fire escape large enough on which
to sit, and smoke. I was in the process
of beginning to publish seriously, and would
often devise new strategies as I stared

off over the clotheslines and windows.
We were older, less demonstrative- but
we still made love almost every night.
The problem was, this was interspersed with
consumption of cannabis. I am soon to
learn (again) that mutual intoxication cuts off
intimacy. What used to be sparks between
us were now ashes. There were even times
when the "little death" was a bore. So that
for six months we're in a holding pattern.
This time, it's Trish's turn to do a sudden
break. Moreover, she has an older man
waiting in the background. I see them
together in Rittenhouse Square. I'm numb;

I believe (as is the case) that Trish
is mostly frigid. She uses her sex to
ensnare and bind. But making love to
a semi-frigid woman does eventually wear
thin. Still, my attitude is that Trish
and I could still work something out.
This time, Trish never gives me a reason.
The next summer there's a fresh confrontation-
Trish is very wary, and I'm more
perfunctory than I seem to be. We're
buried in each other as something to
express. This time, I eventually realize,
Trish is gone for good. But I make
a conscious decision to still love her.

When I look back on the time
I spent with Trish, it occurs to me
that we never knew each other that
well. We were "mad for it," the passion,
the romance, without being mad for
each other. What's worth exploring is
what I know about her now. Like
this- that her aims were more strategic,
less organic, than mine. She wanted
to take me and mold me, and I
wouldn't let her. But this was
buried beneath other imperatives. She
wasn't strong enough to enforce her
strategies and I was too wild to tame.

The pressing question that follows is-
was it worth it? I'd say it was,
though it could've ended in two
corpses. We participated in these scenes
at a time during which there was little
surface-level romance in America. Bohemian
America had never been a particularly
well-populated locale, but we set up
camp there and in the process confounded
structures that we could've let crush us.
Our dreams weren't especially original,
but our improvisations created a new
context for them. Neither of us came out
of Bohemia- it was a new realm for us.

Is it only because I can still sit
here, writing these lines, that our
escapades still seem like good ideas?
If we did end up corpses, who would
be the wiser? On this account, I
have no solid answers. I can only
say that for some reason, some humans
need the charm, the sparkle, the electricity
of romance, and will put their lives
on the line to attain it. So it was for
us. Those that are kith and kin to us
will understand. Those that aren't may
choose to laugh at our foolishness. But
it must be dry, accursed laughter to us.

Trish: A Romance Parts 5 & 6

Still: fertilized, loved, I began
to write songs again. Yet
I remembered what came
to seem like a curse: the
feeling that I would not be
heard. I was in the wrong
place at the wrong time.
So I spiraled into depression,
even as songs tumbled out.
"Midnight Blues," a dirge
in A minor, was the best,
written during witching
hour, snow coming down,
Trish dead asleep in bed.

At one point I even began
to consider suicide: I had
given so much time to my
art, why was I being
held back? How could I
live under a confining
curse? Trish is my lover
but not very good at
comforting me: she is too
lost in her own blues. Too
many colors swirl around
her head, she is lost to
images, tints, hues, shades.
Wood creaks beneath us.

By X-Mas our mood lifts.
My folks take us to dinner
at a Vietnamese restaurant,
and we order pad thai for
the first time. Trish for me
means new tastes and the
color of these noodles is
matched to her hair that is
grown out, no longer
bunned. We are near
home in West Philly
and West Philly does
begin to feel like home.
No sharp pangs linger.

New Years there's a party:
Tobi giggles over Indian
food that we have delivered,
everything is voluptuous
luxury. I jam with Matt from
Eris in the music room (Josh's
bedroom) on Velvets tunes,
play the new songs for Jackie
who says "groovy." Trish is a
bright fish swimming in a
school, green waters around
us. We are two fish together
and we are ripped to the gills
and the floor is soft coral.

Trish is unhappy: parties are
starting to wear on her. By
February she moves into a
new pad in a rugged old
brown brick building, also
in West Philly, with Tobi.
The doors to Trish's bed-
room are glass, not very
substantial, so Tobi has
to listen to us make love
all the time (a night with no
love would be unworthy of
us). I love the view from
Trish's windows: placid

looking 42nd Street, trees,
large houses, it could pass
for suburbia. It reminded
me, also, of the England I
have always imagined, the
ideal England which gave
rise to so many early heroes
of mine, and which once
produced giants of the written
word. I would look out the
window, pretend we were
in England after Trish had
gone to sleep, and if Tobi
were out or in her room.

Tobi begins to reveal her character. Her
painting style is not unlike Mary's- she's
a formalist. But Tobi has no taste for
mythology and loves quotidian objects,
dyke scenes. She paints with absolute
precision and commitment. Her personality
in life belies this- she has two frequent
faces, both of which are constantly bubbling
over onto the surface (Trish is reserved
in comparison, and a secret voluptuary).
Her moods dictate either kitchen-sink
humor or paranoid rage. Her tininess
often necessitates loudness. By this time
she has put on a good amount of

weight as well, so that her exquisite
cheekbones and startling eyes are offset
in a fulsome way. As is visible, Tobi
is jealous of Trish on a number of levels-
Trish has looks, academic distinction, and
me, while Tobi scurries among potential
lovers, never able to appease her conscience
and settle on anyone. Between that and
our amatory antics, Tobi becomes unsettled
with us. When Tobi throws little parties,
I act bullish- partly because I'm stoned,
partly because I feel a manly sense
of owning Trish and Tob. But when
I leave, Trish and Tob get in big fights.

Happier now are times when Trish
stays with me. Trish still enjoys
experimenting with chemicals, and when
she does, I oversee her. But our routines
are not that different than anyone else's.
We make plans to visit Montreal at the end
of the summer. By the time we get to
Montreal, I realize that letting Trish
plan the whole thing herself was a bad
idea. We're trapped in a closet on Saint
Catherine Street. It's hot. But I put on
a game face and we see the sights. Trish's
tremendous breakdown has been documented
elsewhere. Suffice it to say it was a tense

time. Something began to break between
us. Trish's freak-outs were spaced about
a week apart, and were regular. It became
more and more difficult to find energy with
which to cope. I was burned out on her
sexually as well. I dreaded having to
make love to her. I was repulsed. After a
certain point, I couldn't take the strain of
dealing with her any longer. In late
November, I broke off with her in such
a way as to suggest that I needed to
be harsh. I did. Her fits had taken
something from me that would take some
time to repair. They imposed soul damage.

I had learned that Tobi liked to
bounce around. About a year after I
split with Trish for the first time, I
had occasion (finally) to know Tob the
way I'd always wanted to. I was
upstairs at the Khyber, doing my rounds
(I was in charge of an arts collective, the
Philly Free School, at the time), and Tob
was there with her girl posse. Me and Tob
were dancing and we started grinding. It
was intense and pleasurable and it had
been building for a long time. I took
her home and knew a few things at once-
this wouldn't last, wouldn't be a

marriage, and it might not even
be pretty (Tobi's paranoia never being
far beneath the surface). We had traveled
the length of Center City and were cold, so
I drew a bath. What happened in the
bath and afterwards in bed was
half-terrible, half-great. It was done, for
both of us, just to have done it. I couldn't
say, then or now, that I regretted it.
But Trish was still around, had taken
up with a new guy, and though I wasn't
jealous (I had many lovers at the time)
I still loved her. I didn't know if the
story was over or not- turns out it wasn't.