Apparition Poems : The Darkest Hour

Much of the book Apparition Poems was written in the middle of the night, between November 2009 and February 2010. That winter wasn’t particularly an extreme one; and I established a regimen, in November, of going to bed early and waking up to write at around 3 am. I could do this because it was a Fellowship year for me at Temple, meaning I didn’t have to teach. I had already passed the dread comp exams and was working on the prospectus for my dissertation. I was only on the Temple campus once every few weeks. So much of Apparition Poems was formed from this congeries of circumstances— waking at 3am in the dead of winter in a studio apartment at 23rd and Arch Street in Center City Philadelphia— that it seems apropos that darkness, and the middle of the night itself, be motifs in the book. Center City Philly in the middle of the night is not a conventionally attractive locale; more like a menacing one. Yet, I found in the urban darkness the cognitive enchantment of a kind of inverse grace, a force that transmuted the brutish into the beautiful, and made (in phenomenological terms) the outside the mind realities which informed the book’s narrative-thematic levels compelling, magnetic to me. The darkness in Apparition Poems manifests both in the sex portrayed and in the meta-poems; it even engenders its own graceful strain in a poem like this, 1326:

Before the sun rises,
streets in Philly have
this sheen, different
than at midnight, as
the nascent day holds
back its presence, but
makes itself felt in air
like breathable crystal—
no one can tell me
I’m not living my
life to the full.

This was written in early December 2009, and soon published in The Argotist Online. It is also worth noting that this is not the kind of poem I could have written, even in recollection mode, about Cheltenham, or in the Cheltenham Elegies. There is a dynamism in the Philly streets, even for the duration of wolf hour, which, however menacing, is inverted by sleeping Cheltenham into absolute, moribund stasis. In fact, I use the urban in Apparition Poems, specifically Philadelphia, as a metaphor for different forms and manners of dynamism, and even if the dynamism has a hinge to confrontations with mortality and conflict in general, it still generates the kinds of sparks (sexualized or not) which make it more attractive and more graceful than the desolate banality of the suburbs. That Philadelphia is an exciting landscape for me, and for different Apparition Poems protagonists, also differentiates it from Baudelaire’s Paris, where damnation is the price to be paid for enjoyment, and the fact of the urban landscape as a “game” cannot diminish the ennui of human consciousness which has not made peace with individuality or processes of individuation.
The Apparition Poems protagonists in Philly are not, strictly speaking, flaneurs; they almost always have a definite objective in doing what they do, or looking at what they are looking at, and move through these texts with a sense of conviction. The Philadelphia game of interlocking circuits is being played in pursuit of victory, of triumph; and the prize for triumph is to reprise the dominant theme of the epic text— that behind every singular reality there are multiple meanings, and singularity must always dissipate into multiple channels, whether what is being dissevered is inside the mind realities from outside the mind realities, concupiscence from fertility, or a relationship with language from language subsisting as a reality in its own space. It just so happens that this dissevering process, both the phenomenological spark in my consciousness and its textual counterpart, was born into being with greater facility in totalized, 3 am darkness than in broad Philadelphia daylight, and from this singularity you may derive any multiple significations you wish; including how to interpret the suburban echoes which later issued from it.