Saturday, September 29, 2018

What One Might Just as Well Call “Soul”

Depict it! Thunder with significance – you nervous
sparrow on a picket fence – you fifty-minute silence
in a glacial psychoanalytic session: justify that
facial tic – that tiny stutter of expression: what’s that
half-lit smile, that artificial glossy guile – part stiff,
part sad: you get that from your dad? Nail that
damning rhyme that plagues you all the time: kick it
in the assonance. Don't take any sass from your
first memory of crying, diapered, in the grass: pass
it on like Kleenex to that crazed black man who’s
cursing his synapses – spitting his Tourettes out in
the subway – leather cabbie cap on backwards:
looks good, doesn't he? Wasn't he the scary fucker
coming after you in last night’s dream – the one
at whom you tried to scream but couldn't? Wouldn't he
look fine reclining next to you in bed, about to nuzzle
sleepily into your armpit with his sweet warm head?
You'd watch him take a dip – lick your needless
nipple, feel the ripple through what one might just
as well call “soul.” You would give that to him whole.

What Does New York City Teach You (answer to a Quora question)

Guy Kettelhack, lives in New York City (1975-present)  (answer to a Quora question)

To me that’s like asking what, in all its dimensions, does your own mind teach you? Oddly, with its legendary bounty of distractions (though, pertinently, no more or less bountiful than the distractions in your own mind), New York can, for some people, become the occasion of discovering a greater sense of calm than they’ve known anywhere else.
Anyway it’s done that for me. And I think the reason it has is that it reflects every aspect of thought, feeling or fantasy in my own mind: nothing I’ve ever felt or wondered about hasn’t met with an answering response from some resource in New York (people, concerts, museums, chance absorption of an overheard voice or something scribbled on a wall) that precisely fits it.
The best examples of this may be too private to share. A sexual fantasy you grew up thinking sentenced you to complete aloneness turns out to be the basis of a number of thriving groups in New York. Your fascination with particular edible grasses or types of salami or translating Ancient Greek or barely known Indian sauces or arcane branches of folk music or cutting edge neurological research into schizophrenia will find itself passionately reflected in human company to be found here. New York is like your ‘id’ - Freud’s hypothetical unconscious furnace of drives which feeds everything you are. These drives seek release in whatever forms they are wittingly or unwittingly provided: they’ve no moral interest in the outcome, though the rest of the selective you may. But it is New York’s immoderate capacity to fund you with every imaginable response (often amounting to solution) to every imaginable desire or curiosity you bring to it that is its real glory.
New York has taught me how profoundly ‘place’ can merge with, and therefore suggest to me, ‘who I am.’ That the same can be said of Thoreau and his Walden doesn’t vitiate or erase the impact of this discovery, it enlarges our understanding that the ‘particulars’ of place potentially have meanings to anyone receptive to them. The universe (as infinite in rural New Hampshire as it is in Manhattan) reflects us; we reflect it - if we’re temperamentally aligned with the angles of its transmission. And New York’s got the angles for me.
In short, we’re never lost - or anyway perhaps never need be. The profound calm thismakes possible can be explained simply. You feel heard, corroborated, embraced by a ‘condition’ which tells you you’re where you belong. It’s my experience that this (arguably greatest) human anguish of feeling lost can, in and by New York, be answered and assuaged. Existentially, and with as much crème fraiche on top as you can handle.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Why I'm Writing This Letter

What had once been Fantasia afflicts me with dullish aphasia:
can’t speed through the hatch and be free anymore:
can’t locate the latch and the key anymore. The flow is shut off;
the show is cut off: I’ve rammed to the end of my cranial meat;
must defer to a sense beyond sense that entreats me to trust
the grand slam. As usual, no one's at bat. I'm tired of that.
Mammalian perceptions, revealed as a sham. (I am that I am.
So what.) So last night I stole into the Met where I met a small
Pharaoh whom I also stole to take home and to talk to. But I kept
saying things for which he didn't care, pompous ass with his nose
in the air. So I fashioned him into a chair. And everything's
suddenly better. That's why I'm writing this letter.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Little Secret Time for Happiness

For Kyree
Let’s take a little secret time
for happiness.
I’ve got abundantly more than
I’d need – Lord knows, not less –
to savor you, and you, well,
you don’t have to think about
a thing: just slide into each  
coiling ring of life’s meticulous
embrace: and close your eyes,
and let the sweet sopranos sing.
Permit the Entity that rests
within to oversee.
(That portion of it which you
may feel creamily attending
to each whirling inexplicability
of you is me.)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

How I’d Define the Thing

It doesn't have to entertain or sing,
although it mustn't bore. It mustn't
not suffice, and mustn't not deposit
you into a state of wanting more.
It mustn't not delight and mustn't not
unnerve, and if it serves up double-
negatives, it mustn't not confuse
a little. Mustn't not be visceral as
spittle; mustn't not be fully mouthed;
mustn't not allow the possibility
of getting lost and feeling found.
Mustn't not amend an error; mustn't
not be this: the only way, today, that
you can find to say what you imagine
isn’t not your terror and your bliss.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Word Made Text

Haphazard processes, creations idly stopped
just as they’d started forming, sometimes
saddled with accoutrements to whose
unfathomable use you can’t imagine
ever warming: this is the legacy you’re left.
This is what you have to think is you, bereft,
at first, of any notion of what could come next.
It strikes you that the obstacle, in fact, is “next” –
the word, the text, the problem is the word made
text which locks you into thinking anything you see
in it is true. No text knows you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Whispered to a Face on the Subway

But you do have comrades, whom
you notice on the subway perhaps,
who may even be "friends" in some way,

who know the toughness and the tragedy
and (to me above all) the sense of loneness
that New York does, I agree, insist

we deal with, and if there is a triumph
to be had, it’s that we’ve managed to stay
here – and consists mostly in what we have

done to be able to stay here and - this
struck me as something very true in you –
to know that were we to have to leave

we would miss it inconsolably: to know
that we would never have anything
elsewhere like the lives we have here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What Guy Turns Out to Be

Guy took the Orville Redenbacher guided
meditation first: consumed a whole
pack of the popcorn maven’s butter/salt
variety popped in the microwave –
whose sly subliminal suggestion,
(without question, Orville promised)
would transmute through his digestive
tract a vision of the thing Guy really was.
All Guy had to do was take a post-snack nap
while Orville did what Orville does.
Guy awoke to feel the crack and zap
of the recovery, in his imagination’s optic
depths, of the discovery – expressed
with an exquisite visual sonority:
as if delivered from the glory of an ancient
Greek Elysium – what Guy can now say
on the best authority he is: part tiny
jellyfish, part giant paramecium, part
jockstrap from a gym. That’s what Guy
turns out to be. Makes perfect sense to him.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Bifteck Saignant Avec Buerre Blanc

Today what you don’t know
Is what you didn’t know and wouldn’t
Know and may not know you hadn’t
Known when you had thought
You’d known enough, but hadn’t
Learned the first thing you would
Need to know to know what you could
Say you knew about where you are now.
Yo! (whew!) Où es tu maintenant?

Had you been under oath,
That is, if you had not been loath
To wed yourself by oath to vow
To tell the truth and nothing but the truth
Just now, you’d have to have resorted then
To vow in answer to the query ‘what words
Rhyme with now?’ (grâce à Dieu, pas
«maintenant») the only word that came
To you (came then to you, that is, not now)
Was how. Apart from vow. And, oh yes, cow.
They said, “oh no! Not cow. Don’t even think
About the cow.” Too late, you’d thought it.
“You ought,” they said, “more strictly to have
fought it.” Damned vow. If only you could
Now say you forsook to take the vow!
But wait! You never took it.
So go ahead, think Cow – Bifteck
Saignant Avec Buerre Blanc! – and cook it.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Song of Sight

Our expectation that how what we see
is a priori everybody’s optical reality
begs us, when we discover we are wrong,
to ask the gods who wrote this song
why what appears to someone’s vision bright
to someone else’s seems devoid of light –
why shapes which seem to me more vague
than fog will clog your vision in a plague
of edgy scraps in painfully exact detail.
Sigh? Meet wail. How does this avail?
“We don’t write the song of sight,” the gods reply.
“You write it every night. Inside your eye.”

Thursday, September 13, 2018


At first it seemed an awfully awkward sobriquet: his retinue
said he’d requested them to call him ‘Bringer.’ He specialized
in bringing you to brinks. He collected hangers-on – coaxing
in them the perspective that by hanging on and in they could
inspect whatever next and necessary dawn they’d need:
and they would always need another one of those. The brink
they brought me to was not a rift between the night and day,
or poetry and prose: the lift they taught was what it meant
to generate a breathing thought. Only then might proverbs once
again begin to reign, only then could Word approach the Flesh
to gird the cosmos with its latticed diction, syntax, joined ecstatic
differences: the gone, the here, the old, the new, now steamed
into a life-begetting stew, to swallow which would be what
a Communion symbolized, and was:  the sole soul food –
the stealth and wealth of soul, the art the heart imparted. I’ve
no idea, of course, if this is what they had intended to convey.
All I can say is by the time I put my pen away, they had departed.
I nearly said summarily. Assonant with verily. Capricious fizz,
this tic, this busy and delicious specious-seeming rhetoric.
Elegance is awkward. Is that what meaning is? An irrepressible
reflex, a spill of speech? Is that what they had come to teach?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Palace of Sleep

What do we learn in the palace of sleep?
What happened there, really, to Alice?
And Dorothy Gale in Kansas and Oz?
And Dante when he went to hell?
Is it all biological spell? Dizziness,
bizziness, nothing but synaptic tap dance?
Nothing but absence of malice? But, really,
what happened to Alice? Or us when we
sleep and we dream and conceive
and forget how we yearn to return to
the uterus – Is it all to remind us we know
where to go when at last we must leave?

Monday, September 10, 2018

With Smucker’s Sweet Strawberry Jam

Can we have a thought without seeing it?
Is it more like a wind in the mind?
Can you know anything without being it?
Is it only ourselves that we find
when we look at whatever we see?
Is every iota inimitable?
Or is All indistinguishably
just the same – illimitably indivisible:
an infantile game where whole equals part?
Are we irrefutable unity?
Is anything breeding a soul or a heart?
Can we look into this with impunity?
Or will some oligarch at the scent of dissent
march in with a threat to exterminate flies
it can swat and get rid of – more likely attempt
to relieve us of hope: believe in his probable lies?
Bad dream? So what? Spoon up some ice cream
with Smucker’s sweet strawberry jam,
and even if Real is revealed as Fake Scheme,
let’s bake, carve and eat it like Ham.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Wreakin’ Havoc in the Atelier

When the writer who reads is the reader who writes,
you can’t count the nights that they’ll huddle like thieves
who pretend that they’re heart-to-heart bro’s while pick-
pocketing tricks from each other’s tight mix of discoveries,
careful to choose what they set up as mildly “offkey” small
moments that maybe the other one hadn’t quite gotten quite
right; all the while planning – with spiteful delight – to slip in
the same ploy the plot of the book under scrutiny used
to hook boy up to boy up to horse up to lady of no small
renown in a town not unlike the one one of them just had
suggested was, not to put too fine a point on it, grievously
wrong. The lies were meticulous, and quite ridiculous:

after all, reader-who-wrote and writer-who-read shared
the same body and slept in one bed. But when writer-who-
reads is reader-who-writes is writer-and-reader-who-draws –
well, get ready to watch that wreak havoc with everyone’s laws.