Apparition Poem #1645

Le regard du père (selon quel regard
auquel vous vous référez) est panoptique.
Il rentre sans laisser de traces. Donc si vous
ont plusieurs pères qui ne laissent aucune trace, &
simplement des regards invisibles, il y a ou peut-être un
sens dans lequel vous n'avez pas de pères. J'ai vu
tout ce qui m'arrive, ainsi que tous
chose d'autre, il y a de nombreuses années, avant que je puisse
visualiser la cellule dans laquelle j'étais, avant que je sache
comment les murs puaient la peinture fraîche, ou la scie
que je devenais barbouillé à tout moment.
Mais, comme je l'ai vu, mon père qui était mon
père s'est retourné, m'a parlé d'une telle manière
une façon que j'ai écouté. J'ai pris ce qu'il a dit,
regarda ma cellule et regarda la peinture sécher
au plus profond de la nuit avant de sortir pour
regarder l'aube se lever sur le Delaware.

Elegy 702 and Form


Form, in the Cheltenham Elegies series, is meant to elongate an impression of plasticity. Form itself is, at its most congenial, a mode of implied Inter-Dialogism with an assumed audience. When the brain registers that a formal gambit has been made, the elegy (or any piece of writing which might be formal) at hand becomes something beyond a series of thematic gestures, meant to evoke sorrow, pity, and compassion; it becomes a way or manner of expressing that the elegy is being used as a mode of possible innovation, pushed into the front-lines or avant-garde, as the elegy has not very much been pushed before. In 702, an implied palimpsest over Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats puts the emphasis on a tone that mixes the normal elegiac imperative with archness. The apostate figure in the poem, who is obviously meant to be construed as a writer himself, casts a spell over the elegy, employing Keats’ formal parameters in a way that conflates Keats own melopoeiac imperative with a nod to both Modernist fracturing techniques and post-modern irony. The form becomes a tribute to the apostate’s vision, as channeled through a Keats lens, and also an implied jest at his youthfulness, and youthful sense of exultation in the Romantic. The form itself is fractured lens, because seeing through it as we do a succession of scenes which we are unlikely to find in Keats or Wordsworth, it manages to ironize itself:                                       


His heart ached within a drowsy, numbed trance.
     Cameras panned to him pacing the black-top, even
blacker at 3 am, which opens out on the expanse
      of Mill Road, down the hill, past the school. Night deepened,
he was lonely enough to cry, heartsick for being
      the only one of a scabrous tribe gutsy enough to say the name
           which even then had rent Cheltenham, riddled
with bullets like a dog’s corpse, assassins fleeing
     the site of the hit, where the one kid, bound for fame,
          did for himself the trick of ditching a tepid middle.

 He levitates past himself, flies with bugs into crevices,
       is the pilot of the few airplanes wafting by, Pegasus-like
for a mind intent on flight, meeting divinity, heaven’s bliss
       from a cockpit. Myers’ schoolyard glistens like spikes.
She knew him then, at her end— saw how the spine
    imposed truth on empty gesture, feeling on pretense,
       vital life on the living death of their shared enterprise.
This, he could never know; yet without knowing how, why,
    he strode past her emptied house that night, tense,
        sweating in summer’s stew, pallid in cold surprise.

 The apostate flies around a small room, piles of books,
    papers scattered, forests of drafts, faintly heard bird-song.
Verdurous plains suggest themselves; moss-softened nooks;
   just out of time, to a mind o’er spelled by word-song.
He can only fly as he reads, over & over, the lays
      already fastened to moss & flower, secured above
          shallow stream. His friend waits, in stealth. 
The early morning ride he caught then, from love
     given, wasn’t her— she had gone the way
         there is no coming back— yet he slept himself back to health.  

The topos which is mixed into the Cheltenham Elegies series— a community maintaining a shared fixation on ostracizing a threatening or menacing individual— takes flight here, into a sense that the characters most prized by the series are the ones who hold out against this impulse, towards a stance of entrenched rebellion and non-conformity. John Keats, as a poet, is not a Byronic outcast or a Shelleyan pariah— he tends to present himself as middle-grounder. Yet, the co-opting of his form to perform a literary task which raises this topos puts Nightingale in a new space, where Keats is emphasized as something with, potentially, an explosive sense of rebellion and non-conformity built into him, beginning with the odal form, invented by Keats himself. Keats is unwitting here, but everything about the poem leans on the odal form to make its own obstinate statement of the individual’s triumph over a community, and the sense of embracing a writerly identity built into the form itself, which Keats may or may not have intended (but one which one thinks Byron or Shelley would have smiled on, satanically). Co-opting the individuals who have supported him into the matrix of the poem, with form embraced as a mode of punkish rebellion, so destabilizes the Keatsian impulse, perhaps even deranges it, that the palimpsest over Nightingale makes an awkward fit with the original model, towards a recognition that the usage of Keats, or at least a portion of it, leans towards instrumentality. Yet, ultimately, and oddly, the poem is about love— individuals rising up with certain integrity to defend the innocent. Because this is the truth, the betrayal of John Keats is not a complete one. Even if love here is more beleaguered by worldly concern than is usually found in Keats.   



Elegy 567: The Primitive, the Civilized


What Inter-Dialogism presupposes— that the individuals involved in the interpenetration of brain matter are in adequate condition and in a state of responsiveness so that the interchange may occur— is derailed in Cheltenham Elegy 567. Here, the conditions of Inter-Dialogic exchange are met, but in a state of violent extremity— the protagonist of the first movement has a pistol being held to the head of his possible interlocutor. The question then arises— for Inter-Dialogic interpenetration of brain matter to occur, do extreme conditions expedite the process of brain interpenetration or do they thwart it? Elegy 567 does not attempt to answer this question directly. However, it is implicit in the poem, and in Danny bothering to sign the offered voucher without complaint or any response at all, that a congeries of elements— the protagonist’s tirade and the brandished weapon, not to mention the implied presence of others— coalesce to posit a brain altered by extreme circumstances to both accept what would otherwise be unacceptable and to alter generalized circumstances with a signature pulling back on assumed authority.


Always with the cheap shots, Danny. Always with the sense
that more than half of you and your bullshit judgments were
just arbitrary, just made up trash you used to push people
down because you knew you could. Now that I’ve got
the pistol to your head, I’m announcing that you will now
sign this voucher, OK? From this day forward, you can’t
rank us, configure us in any untoward way, shake up our
deals unless you can prove a reason for doing so, or put us
in the hapless position all over again of being vassals for
a bunch of lunatic brats. And before you leave, one more
thing— I’m handing you back the spreadsheets for the last
six months, because we both know they’re fictionalized nonsense,
& before I shoot your feet I’m willing to be circumspect—
Cheltenham: if you want to get out, you better have a gun.
The word on the street (and this just happened) is that Danny
had a piece pulled on him as he sat & listened. The leader
demanded leniency. He signed the voucher & left. Now, I’m
pulling back on my investments with his group, thanking
the Lord in heaven I didn’t grow up in the land of cheap-shots
& below-the-belts (or Hatfields & McCoys, what have you). The leader
I mentioned is leaving, anyway, to a place less mean-spirited against,
well, everybody. And he’s willing to vouch (I love this) for the fact
that he’s not really from around there anymore. Who is, these days?
The second movement offers a perspective shift, from in extremis asperity back into routinized normality. What the second movement seems to signify— that the implied community’s opinion of Danny and his antics was, or had turned, negative— adds weight to the idea that Danny, being Draconian in whatever position of authority he held, himself thwarted the delicacy of Inter-Dialogic brain interpenetration with raw violence. When Inter-Dialogic tensions are expressed, as they so often are in the world, with knives and guns, rather than language, the primitive achieves victory over the civilized— death wins over life. What the protagonist of the first movement achieves by employing both, language and weapons, is a reunification of circumstances with an awareness of intelligence, ability to reason, and willingness to employ rhetoric to achieve justification in the situation at hand— in other words, to take the possibility of Inter-Dialogism and its refinements, and place them back on the proverbial table. Because he does this bearing firearms, the shift back from raw violence and coercion back to reason and civilization is well rounded, etched in communication signals that no one in his milieu can miss. Thus, even if he has to work twice as hard, the result (as is professed in the second movement) is a bold triumph in the conflation of two Inter-Dialogic worlds, the primitive (messages expressed with weapons) and the sophisticated (messages expressed with language). His rhetorical fluidity is aware of this— his own triumph, and the release of long-suppressed animosity— and a path is cleared for the right, efficacious form of communication to occur, however explosive or hostile.


Elegy 427 & the Self-Posited


The tensions inherent in Meta-Dialogism— competing voices vying for a place in a single consciousness— are re-explored in Elegy 427. Here, self-consciousness fights back against its own power to discern, and the battle is seen to be a losing one. The drama which attends 427 as a construct is itself attendant on an edifice erected by an individual, for the edification of an individual— a self-posited, self-sustaining pact with a place (Glenside, a borough of Cheltenham Township, and the borough which has the most claim to reality as an autonomous locale in and of itself), which becomes a rampart employed by consciousness against a sense of uselessness in the world:

When she starts at Rizzo’s, winds her way around
to Easton Road on Saturday night, it's with full
control, absolute mastery— here’s where Glenside
stands, where it’s going, here’s why. The game
continues over to Limekiln Pike— Wawa, Tail
of the Whale. Not just the surface, but who’s
hiding where, with what, & again why. Yet deep
in her heart, the ultimate why, life or death in
a sense of purpose, remains barren. The spider
in the glass case, frozen in the Humphrey’s
Pest Control window, is to the point— Humphrey’s
never answers anyway— the spider tells her
where the real action is. Then the beauty of it—
her sacrifice to/for Glenside— becomes just another
heist in the world. Limekiln Pike is too steep to climb.

This individual desires that the voice of the self-sustained, self-posited pact should subsist as something dominant in her consciousness. The drama of fluctuations and oscillations, wherein the pact is either workable or nullified by both the corruptions inherent in Glenside and in the human race in general, enacts itself in Meta-Dialogic acknowledgements, an array of voices which command the narrative sense built into her brain. When what speaks most eloquently refutes the possibility of the pact (or, as in the poem, sacrifice), and affirms the reality (or spider) of an anti-idealistic world, predicated on the prevalence of killing, massacre, destruction, the interior voice which knocks the pact from its perch is about futility, and the impossibility of sustaining an ideal in the face of spider-webbed realities. The mimetic process, for the reader, involves itself building up a rampart, wherein this character (heroine) is someone we can believe in and take seriously, against the impinging sense of doubt and disbelief that she can be dismissed as impractical or romantic, or both.


Cheltenham Elegy #702 in Argotist Online Poetry


Argotist Online editor Jeffrey Side is up and running again with a poetry section for AO. Here, in the refurbished AO poetry site, is Cheltenham Elegy #702. Thanks again to Jeff. 

Readings from P.F.S. Post (EP)


Selections from P.F.S. Post, taken from its seventeen year life online, read by me. EP length (17 minutes).

Track Listing:

Vlad Pogorelov: No. 32

Christopher Goodrich: Upon Hearing that She and the Man with whom She Cheated are getting Married;

Drinking Together, Li Po and I admire Wang's Garden

Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum: dear gr

Steve Halle: supermarket tabloid tableau

Nick Moudry: High Noon

Chris McCabe: from The True History of the Working Class (March 26, 2008)


The Fall by Mary Evelyn Harju (post-Impressionized)