Monday, March 31, 2014

Taking A Walk With Edgar Allen Poe


Poe walked with me along the Hudson,
the sullen edge of the river now braced with concrete, 
losing the battle between land and sea.

“We had no cars,” Poe muttered. “We did have horse shit, however. Me, I’ll sustain the exhaust fumes. You run no risk of falling into them.”

Poe looked exactly as expected.

Poe looked well. Poe seemed crabby, chronically disgruntled.

He wore a dark suit and a tie. His hat tilted, wavy hair flowing under it. His mustache was perfect, reminding me of Warren Zevon.

My Ride’s Here...

“I don’t get that at all,” Poe complained. “We never had anything loud as that. I avoid it.”

This was a fair, cool spring day, the trees just beginning to produce buds, buds to turn to leaves to turn red, then brown, then fall...

“You know,” he argued, “I never wrote that dream within a dream verse. As God is my witness, I didn’t even understand it until I died. Even then, not right away.”

I read that. Somewhere.

“Hmm. It is, you know,” he reflected.

What?

“A dream within a dream, all that, many dreams balled up within many more dreams. You’ll understand...”

I think I already do.

“Well, I’d have too, if I lived long as long as you,” Poe huffed. “I never grew old enough to get bald or wise.” 

After a while, we climbed the steep bank and crossed Spitting Devil into the Bronx.

“This is where Ginny died,” he recalled, removing his hat. “Truth be told, her death is scattered all the way from here to Baltimore. She was a long time going. I believe she had mixed feelings about it.”

Chilling and killing my beautiful Annabel Lee...

“I know. I know. Too sentimental, but the line just came to me and people seemed to like it. A man has to earn a living,” Poe sniffed.

We walked east into the valley of the Bronx, and he kept remarking on the smells and not in a favorable way. I wanted to ask him about Reynolds and the mystery over what killed him. Was it alcohol or rabies or something else..?

“I died from life, just like everybody else,” he remarked, as if it should be obvious. “I was full of life and, so, grew equally full of death. Let’s leave the details a mystery. I rather enjoy they’re still talking about me. Everybody forgot the sober poets.” He turned to me. “Are you writing about his, about our little hike?”

Yes. I write about everything. I’m glad to have the opportunity and wish to share it.

“Poem or prose?”

Both.

“Poem and prose? Your invention?”

Probably not, but like you, in my own way, in my style...

“No rhymes, okay?”

“What?”

“No rhymes,” Poe insisted. “I grew sick of them. It drove me to prose.”

Before I digested that, he resumed, editing:

“It might as well have been booze that killed me. It might’ve been something else, but if so, it was something we didn’t know at the time. It’s unfair to go backward with knowledge. It steals from the present, in its way. It’s a violation.”

And while I tried absorbing that–

“Yes, I drank and drank and drank. I drank even more after Virginia died. I tried so hard to keep her with me. Eventually, she wanted to go, and I had to let her. It was so painful. Painful for both of us.”
Poe winked.

“She’s here,” he said, smiling for the first time.

Here?

“Here. Don’t you know, that’s why I drank? I spent a lifetime trying to erode the barrier. It took a lot of effort, and nothing really worked. I had to die to get through. One more thing...”

What?  I asked, expecting something deeper, another perplexing wisdom from the ages.

“Don’t believe anything that bastard Griswald said. We were not friends. He did not know me.”

Griswald didn’t know you?

“Griswald, that son of a bitch, and nobody else either. Never forget it. I won’t.”

Poe tucked his chin firmly into his neck. He looked across the Bronx.

“I need to go now,” he offered. “The time comes...”

I enjoyed the walk a little longer, watching Poe slowly dissolve into some other dimension, knowing he’d never return.

Finally, with only the slightest presence remaining, he looked at me and nodded. We were at a subway station.


“Goodbye,” he said and doffed his cap. “I enjoyed your conversation. I appreciate your bringing me back... one last walk with Ginny along the river... Alas, everything ends.”

Everything ends.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Collage


Set it up here
Include all audio

Yellow light streams over the brown-green rim of the hill, 
edges roughened with forest.
I stand at the sink, storm windows swung open
Over the ribbed, white edge of frost
light coming down over the hilltop, skidding across frozen air
Morning, 1962

Hang it, dimmer and more suggested than sure

Dust explodes in every direction,
the descending, geometric corners
consumed as walls disintegrate 

How to portray walking in a darkness so complete
my feet touching earth must be taken for granted?

Fear, my only lasting fear, of things in the night,
lurking
And how did fear become my first option 
in the magic of invisible darkness?
Magic that you could walk the world unseen
and imagine without interference
other things we never see
and, in doing, see them

So, how do we get this in our collage?

Look at Rauschenberg. He got in everything.
Lay this bike against that lawn chair
Make marks of love on anonymous platforms
Throw it all together. What you get 

must be whole. Life offers no partials

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I Will See You Later


What will it really be like on the day when
the paint peels off and only strangeness remains?
Will the walls crumble or melt or something else?
The edifice that comes down is hauled away
like a child’s outgrown toys.
Travelers say there’s a brightness, a signaling.

But not really turned on by the light,
I’ve always known the Big Deal was there.
Nobody has to die for that.
But what I want to know -
if I was Leonard Cohen, I’d claim
it’s the only thing I want to know -
what I want to know is where I can find you,
among the uncountable unknowns.
Is the entourage larger for a loner committed
to serial friendships? Depends, I bet,
on how many left the party early.

How adaptable are our minds
when not as crowded with stuff? The stuff, really,
made up and defined a universe. That gone,
how does anyone, their edifice in ruins,
figure out what’s what? Who’s who?

Oh, yeah, I forgot. We get guides.
Projections of some kind, holographic maybe,
emerge from an intermediate background,
acting as ushers, easing our passage.
Now, there is just no way I see you as an usher.
More likely, my brother will embrace whatever I am
in a hug like he eschewed at the party.
Smart, generous, funny, a great guide.
If there’s a choice, he’s it.

It seems to me we get a crash course
in language, geography and mathematics
fit to the spanking new universe. Just thinking
about it makes me sad for the one abandoned.
“Not ready yet,” I assume you’ll tell me, or
I wouldn’t feel such a tug. Work to be done,
chip, chip, back in the shop, contributions
still to be made. Wait your turn. Etc.

But how many must I watch depart
before I take off my own jacket and go? The whole miserable thing,
the losses, the extractions, the whole fucking awareness
that each departure is an opportunity lost.
You can’t take a tactical position anymore. You’re style
is rendered useless in the loss of each succeeding
partner. Which frankly brings us to you.

All I really know is that the walls will come down,
the paint will peel off, the roof collapse. All toys and
cherished possessions will be like landfill.
What remains is what always was and will be.
Then, if there’s any justice in any heaven,
I will see you, I will see all of you.
I can’t imagine what we’ll do, absent the party.
I have no insight into what we will do,
the party over, the wheels off, the paint melted,
the roof collapsed, every toy banished.
Maybe we were closer than we thought
with all that talking, heaven being
a vast communication center, us the most practiced.

But I don’t know. Sometimes, of course,
I have that clearly confusing awareness
of connections buzzing and bopping
in a language I don’t understand. Excuse me, Gertrude,
but there is certainly a there there.
Buzzing, humming, bubbling in Swahili
or it might as well be for all I understand, or
is just knowing it’s there enough?

Is that all you get? Is that the news of the hour?
You get to know the whole coruscating edifice
is there, but not shit from Shinola what it’s about?
Sorry I asked. I won’t settle for that. I want
to see you now, not later, to appreciate my brother’s
humor, my mother’s gypsy spirit, my dad’s penetrating
stare into something frightfully like a void.
I will see you later, but you can never stop me
from seeing you now, as the party empties before me,
the wheels come off, the paint melts, the walls erode,
the sky falls. It would offend the legacy
to let it go too easy.