Begin by banishing the cymbal of a dream
locked in the retention of a nutrition label, go
to the echelon of what’s remotely possible;
wear an escutcheon with meticulous scene
emblazoned in polymers that grant significance
to the microphones singers used in the forties
and the first daguerreotype of a Native American
to sit on a beveled Fifth Avenue mantelpiece.
Become more American. Study toll lanes
and how they open and close ponderously
in snowdrifts of upstate New York or appear
vertiginously on blue lumbering hills
along the Kentucky River – there’s so much
baseball and white people rapping online
to distract from the beauty of a boarded window
that sits opposing you from lower vantage.
Finish the pixelated drawing you always
meant to conceive of in the back seat of a station
wagon as your ten-gallon hat collects dust
though there’s a delicate frigate to draw upon
for inspiration as you urgently become lost
in a museum containing the last generation
of the LC2 computer – and didn’t he make
an elegant bassist though the orchestra itself
was his principle instrument? The bathing
garments of childhood recover themselves
inside a second utopian community, eradicated
associationism compels skilled workers to
settle their differences with amoral stigma
linked to the constraints of ursine modes.
Just as in third grade I was half in and half out
of a tub while Little Women was read to me.
Disown yourself of the slightest faith you
once held in crepuscular claims of hoaxes
and fabulist intricacies too bitter for tales
hyper-rationalist in nature such as banal
medical testing performed on chimps and
baboons and shimmering artful reports
for trickster cosmetics older than columns
afforded to the wronged in the New York Sun.
Perhaps reconsider the shoulder bones of
buffalo or frank autobiographies indigenous
to brethren raised among petitions, tribal
disputes, public speeches, journey journals.
The Lord’s Prayer might constitute similar
independence, the great noise of winterish
systems, even interior graphics spanning
revolts between Dakota territory and Spain.
Close to the surface in most cases the prop
would bring you discovery doctrine, a court
for treatises and land purchase advocates,
the narratives rushed on horseback though
only a civilization like ours would doubt
the sadly applicable insight: we grow empty,
so the history of the disposed and irrelevant
consolidates into the solace of a second wife.
Militiamen are hunting down Black Hawk
in 1832 engaged in exactly this process
of entertainment, the process of shaping
circumscriptible offenses, the chill sunset
speaking for itself one single night over
the Pacific while a roofer whistles home
and the noble guests leave a room where
Metamora and The Last of the Race lie closed.
‘That Thing Called Love’ and ‘You
Can’t Keep a Good Man Down’ are only
two of my favorite Sophie Tucker records.
Thank you, February 14, 1920. A white
studio band was believed to be involved.
A big black tent and gowned wooden stage
are two of the most exemplary expedients
to demonstrate where people get their kicks
recoiling into a wilderness of feature and
gesture. And sharing with others through
the cork make-up and wigs of assertive
female singers, we can recompose two
things namely: 1/ that the wilderness of
daily experience is a dish best not served
outside parameters of fictionalization;
2/ the pleasure in error is something I
swear by, being itinerant, loving errancy
that way some boob straddles himself
in a crowded lift only to exit the first
floor that avails of cushy private space.
When you are well: complain, shrug.
When you feel death perfecting itself:
dance, compose, sing, play instruments.
The goal is to vilify consciousness as
overrated while by the same rebuking
movement to shuttle tenderly back its
reprieves, to notice the black liquor
bag not meant for casual consumption.
Rage has to enter the picture, preferably
from the foreground because it’s already
present in ubiquitous facets of daily etc.
You don’t want to guilelessly look up one
day and find yourself having completed
a Festschrift for a senior colleague without
having noticed the pattern in your research
as the Productivity Station background
flashes interminably. ‘Border Work, Border
Trouble’; ‘Divided Homes Not Homelands’;
‘Disenfranchised or Suburban Perversions?’
Welcome to the crucible of hours of envy
while you browse the Cleveland Gazette
and try to forget if Bert Williams or George
Walker are the determining foci of your life.
I’m sure I could tell you that hopeful degrees
and huge nostalgic faith will assuage that old
thing: the battering ram, some chain of mail,
the tacit view of power in classical sexuality.
I used to find the word recovery deliciously
loaded: its polite insistency that there was
a timeline of action, that raw sensation too
could be subjugated by sublime figuration.
The most common defects for high yielding
success in the American vein is to displace
a social rise onto the repetitive and plain.
To pitch ordinariness back to wild wilds.
Would you like to come with me for some
old-fashioned inconclusive combat? Garble
a great deal of knowledge with Listerine.
But best to set out and disrupt the coding.
To grasp what Dewey means, think of some
of the ways in which we commonly seek
out significant experiences compensatorily.
The most profound internal mental stimulus
packages characterize our debate, divergent
funds and reckless humane proverbs of
questionable aesthetic integration – anything
not exactly the type of retribution today
that we should inquire of and dichotomize.
Yes, I know, it’s lovely to live on a raft
and gaze speckled stars from broken backs
and have that quintessential homosocial
bonding experience in which we argue
whether they were all just made or rather
just happened as they’re just too many.
Sometimes the river has allegorical contour.
Sometimes it’s just a river in Westchester
you will happily never bother to discuss
again or for the first time if you’re lucky.
The mystery, I suppose, is nature’s accident.
Here’s my accident: many of the ordered
properties that retain value to sense perception
after the memory has been enriched by
careful avoidance swing back ugly, unbidden.
And we might welcome them as openly
as we welcome the dissolution that wafts
from its suspended thurible so wantonly.
Thus, there is a sacrifice. But it’s unknown.
And when the chosen organ of your will
is fondly amputated by a tenure committee,
to the motley substance of a stamp collection
you can withhold judgment and rush to join
water-control efforts in your local community.
A mariachi band isn’t always corny delusion.
Some parish in New Orleans isn’t pet project.
Drained and rebuilt, progress is a black-lace
shawl on which certain of us depend –
trappers, smugglers, Canadian voyageurs
plying with bottles of voluptuous interest.
The language of the future well may be
a pullulating glory of modern shipping trends.
My take-away is to be stationed at the fringe
of a great emotional storm, to live it out,
but not forget along the way to live it out.
Photograph courtesy of James Morley