Alienation and Apparition Poems

The progression of Apparition Poems, as a literary text, into Cheltenham, I have noticed, also constitutes a small cycle or mini-cycle. If one perspective which dominates Apparition Poems is the relationship between a poetic “I,” a first-person singular perspective, and a third person Other (“she” or “they”), and if what this expresses is a certain amount of alienation (the more intimate perspective being the second person, “you” or “thou”), then we may perceive how this alienation, tied in by temporal constraints to the Great Recession, leads from Apparition Poems to Elegy 261 and the other Cheltenham Elegies. One prominent cumulative effect of the mini-cycle, is the impression of a protagonist trying to understand how Center City Philadelphia has lost its Aughts luster, its potentiality for I-thou intimacy, and became a kind of dead zone, not much elevated over Old York Road at midnight. Old York Road at midnight is, indeed, hidden in the textual peaks and troughs of Apparition Poems, with its motif of “wolf’s hour” dimensionality. Why the Cheltenham Elegies, with their backwards glance, must reclaim the intimate territory of “I-thou” for this protagonist, is to surmount the vast entropy/decimation effect of the Recession, and to (by accomplishing this) restore a vested sense both of humanity and of human dignity. Elegy 261 thus constitutes a textual sea-change, wedged between Apparition Poems and the remainder of the Elegiac Cycle; and a re-colonization of lost narrative-thematic ground:

Never one to cut corners about cutting
corners, you spun the Subaru into a rough
U-turn right in the middle of Old York Road
at midnight, scaring the shit out of this self-
declared “artist.” The issue, as ever, was
nothing particular to celebrate. We could
only connect nothing with nothing in our
private suburban waste land. Here’s where
the fun starts— I got out, motherfucker.
I made it. I say “I,” and it works. But Old
York Road at midnight is still what it is.
I still have to live there the same way you do.

Perspectives established in 261 create a bridge into established dialogues and meta-dialogues which move past the generalized alienation of Apparition Poems, into a realm of physical/metaphysical specificity, which can create alternate impressions, either colder and harder, or warmer and softer, than the bulk of Apparition Poems. This sense— the Elegiac Cycle both ascending above and descending below Apparition Poems— makes Apparition Poems, as a text, appear to establish and maintain a sort of stasis, even as the alienation effect oscillates, sometimes drastically, from poem to poem.

It is also worth noting that when the earmarks of intimacy do manifest in Apparition Poems, as in 1550:

I’m in your house:
your husband, kids
not home. A voice
(yours) follows me
around, playing on
my body, until I’m
in your bathroom,
smoking butts on

a sunny spring day.
Your body doesn’t
appear. It seems to
me you’re suspect,
Steph, it seems to
me you want too
much. Then, you
always said I was

a dreamer. What
do we have past
dreams anyway?
What else is love?

there is the sense of a lived past impinging on a lived present, and only the poetic elegiac or backwards glance allows the comfort and security of profound intimacy or humanity, in  decimated/entropic moments. When a poetic perspective is created from what is perceived as a decimated present, what textual options arise must have to do with searching for other temporal currents which might lead to richness meriting representation. A decimated landscape, meriting a decimated perspective (the subject or protagonist decimated psychically and/or affectively), takes consciousness (potentially, and sometimes) to a place where truth-consonance leads securely to I-It (or, as in Apparition Poems, I-she). Elegy 261 is set in place as a kind of door, from a decimated present into a different kind of stasis-space, both tactile and evanescent, that is Cheltenham’s physical/metaphysical, life/psyche-consuming presence in the world. If Cheltenham takes the artist out of the frying pan and into the proverbial fire, he at least gets to create and manifest cohesion and cohesiveness in his consciousness as regards the totality of his life and experiences. After Apparition Poems, the quest for cohesion and coherence is on, and all roads lead back to the subject’s first experience, both of real darkness and of real intimacy. Alienation in Apparition Poems becomes resignation in Cheltenham; and both become the skeleton key to a level of consciousness which can assimilate alienation and resignation, and can transmute them into suitably dark, suitably complex texts: dialogic, meta-dialogic.