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Archive for September, 2008

It is strange to think,
As I had not thought before,
About what I’ve sacrificed to be who I am

About how the program I signed up for
Or was signed up in me
In 1978
Maybe precluded romantic love
Or at least the lasting kind
Because it didn’t fit
With the self-centered mind, the oozing self-consciousness
The interior eye always blinking
That is my way into language.

I watch now, from a small window, the
One that still looks out this way
Some days when I get up from the desk,
I see there was never anyone who could have held me

But still, at 30, it is beginning to trill
That far off siren
That says the race is over
And all have gone home
Having won their partner

And yet, here I was, all the time, waiting
Wasn’t I?
Hadn’t I signed up, too? Done my hair, flattered myself in the mirror.
Hadn’t I pursed my lips and flicked the strands of blond hair
Against some illuminating day’s sun.

Or had it been a dream?

Because there is only me now.

In this one room, with a window that used to look out onto love
Now looking only onto wilderness
And not one single track in a ground
That is overgrown and muddy.

-Nina Alvarez

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California Plush

The only thing I miss about Los Angeles

is the Hollywood Freeway at midnight, windows down and
radio blaring
bearing right into the center of the city, the Capitol Tower
on the right, and beyond it, Hollywood Boulevard
blazing

–pimps, surplus stores, footprints of the stars

–descending through the city
fast as the law would allow

through the lights, then rising to the stack
out of the city
to the stack where lanes are stacked six deep

and you on top; the air
now clean, for a moment weightless

without memories, or
need for a past.

The need for the past

is so much at the center of my life
I write this poem to record my discovery of it,
my reconciliation.

It was in Bishop, the room was done
in California plush: we had gone into the coffee shop, were told
you could only get a steak in the bar:
I hesitated,
not wanting to be an occasion of temptation for my father

but he wanted to, so we entered

a dark room, with amber water glasses, walnut
tables, captain’s chairs,
plastic doilies, papier-mâché bas-relief wall ballerinas,
German memorial plates “bought on a trip to Europe,”
Puritan crosshatch green-yellow wallpaper,
frilly shades, cowhide
booths–

I thought of Cambridge:

the lovely congruent elegance
of Revolutionary architecture, even of

ersatz thirties Georgian

seemed alien, a threat, sign
of all I was not–

to bode order and lucidity

as an ideal, if not reality–

not this California plush, which

also

I was not.

And so I made myself an Easterner,
finding it, after all, more like me
than I had let myself hope.

And now, staring into the embittered face of
my father,

again, for two weeks, as twice a year,
I was back.

The waitress asked us if we wanted a drink.
Grimly, I waited until he said no…

Before the tribunal of the world I submit the following
document:

Nancy showed it to us,
in her apartment at the model,
as she waited month by month
for the property settlement, her children grown
and working for their father,
at fifty-three now alone,
a drink in her hand:

as my father said,
“They keep a drink in her hand”:

Name Wallace du Bois
Box No 128 Chino, Calif.
Date July 25 ,19 54

Mr Howard Arturian
I am writing a letter to you this afternoon while I’m in the
mood of writing. How is everything getting along with you these
fine days, as for me everything is just fine and I feel great except for
the heat I think its lot warmer then it is up there but I don’t mind
it so much. I work at the dairy half day and I go to trade school the
other half day Body & Fender, now I am learning how to spray
paint cars I’ve already painted one and now I got another car to
paint. So now I think I’ve learned all I want after I have learned all
this. I know how to straighten metals and all that. I forgot to say
“Hello” to you. The reason why I am writing to you is about a job,
my Parole Officer told me that he got letter from and that you want
me to go to work for you. So I wanted to know if its truth. When
I go to the Board in Feb. I’ll tell them what I want to do and where
I would like to go, so if you want me to work for you I’d rather have
you sent me to your brother John in Tonapah and place to stay for
my family. The Old Lady says the same thing in her last letter that
she would be some place else then in Bishop, thats the way I feel
too.and another thing is my drinking problem. I made up my mind
to quit my drinking, after all what it did to me and what happen.
This is one thing I’ll never forget as longs as I live I never want
to go through all this mess again. This sure did teach me lot of things
that I never knew before. So Howard you can let me know soon
as possible. I sure would appreciate it.

P.S From Your Friend
I hope you can read my Wally Du Bois
writing. I am a little nervous yet

–He and his wife had given a party, and
one of the guests was walking away
just as Wallace started backing up his car.
He hit him, so put the body in the back seat
and drove to a deserted road.
There he put it before the tires, and
ran back and forth over it several times.

When he got out of Chino, he did,
indeed, never do that again:
but one child was dead, his only son,
found with the rest of the family
immobile in their beds with typhoid,
next to the mother, the child having been
dead two days:

he continued to drink, and as if it were the Old West
shot up the town a couple of Saturday nights.

“So now I think I’ve learned all I want
after I have learned all this: this sure did teach me a lot of things
that I never knew before.
I am a little nervous yet.”

It seems to me
an emblem of Bishop–

For watching the room, as the waitresses in their
back-combed, Parisian, peroxided, bouffant hairdos,
and plastic belts,
moved back and forth

I thought of Wallace, and
the room suddenly seemed to me
not uninteresting at all:

they were the same. Every plate and chair

had its congruence with

all the choices creating

these people, created

by them–by me,

for this is my father’s chosen country, my origin.

Before, I had merely been anxious, bored; now,
I began to ask a thousand questions…

He was, of course, mistrustful, knowing I was bored,
knowing he had dragged me up here from Bakersfield

after five years

of almost managing to forget Bishop existed.

But he soon became loquacious, ordered a drink,
and settled down for
an afternoon of talk…

He liked Bishop: somehow, it was to his taste, this
hard-drinking, loud, visited-by-movie-stars town.
“Better to be a big fish in a little pond.”

And he was: when they came to shoot a film,
he entertained them; Miss A–, who wore
nothing at all under her mink coat; Mr. M–,
good horseman, good shot.

“But when your mother
let me down” (for alcoholism and
infidelity, she divorced him)
“and Los Angeles wouldn’t give us water any more,
I had to leave.

We were the first people to grow potatoes in this valley.”

When he began to tell me
that he lost control of the business
because of the settlement he gave my mother,

because I had heard it
many times,

in revenge, I asked why people up here drank so much.

He hesitated. “Bored, I guess.
–Not much to do.”

And why had Nancy’s husband left her?

In bitterness, all he said was:
“People up here drink too damn much.”

And that was how experience
had informed his life.

“So now I think I’ve learned all I want
after I have learned all this: this sure did teach me a lot of things
that I never knew before.
I am a little nervous yet.”

Yet, as my mother said,
returning, as always, to the past,

“I wouldn’t change any of it.
It taught me so much. Gladys
is such an innocent creature: you look into her face
and somehow it’s empty, all she worries about
are sales and the baby.
her husband’s too good!”

It’s quite pointless to call this rationalization:
my mother, for uncertain reasons, has had her
bout with insanity, but she’s right:

the past in maiming us,
makes us,
fruition
is also
destruction:

I think of Proust, dying
in a cork-linked room, because he refuses to eat
because he thinks that he cannot write if he eats
because he wills to write, to finish his novel

–his novel which recaptures the past, and
with a kind of joy, because
in the debris
of the past, he has found the sources of the necessities

which have led him to this room, writing

–in this strange harmony, does he will
for it to have been different?

And I can’t not think of the remorse of Oedipus,

who tries to escape, to expiate the past
by blinding himself, and
then, when he is dying, sees that he has become a Daimon

–does he, discovering, at last, this cruel
coherence created by
“the order of the universe”

–does he will
anything reversed?

I look at my father:
as he drinks his way into garrulous, shaky
defensiveness, the debris of the past
is just debris–; whatever I reason, it is a desolation
to watch…

must I watch?
He will not change; he does not want to change;

every defeated gesture implies
the past is useless, irretrievable…
–I want to change: I want to stop fear’s subtle

guidance of my life–; but, how can I do that
if I am still
afraid of its source?

-Frank Bidart

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Black Stone Lying On A White Stone

I will die in Paris, on a rainy day,
on some day I can already remember.
I will die in Paris–and I don’t step aside–
perhaps on a Thursday, as today is Thursday, in autumn.

It will be a Thursday, because today, Thursday, setting down
these lines, I have put my upper arm bones on
wrong, and never so much as today have I found myself
with all the road ahead of me, alone.

César Vallejo is dead. Everyone beat him
although he never does anything to them;
they beat him hard with a stick and hard also

with a rope. These are the witnesses:
the Thursdays, and the bones of my arms,
the solitude, and the rain, and the roads. . .

-by César Vallejo
Translated by Robert Bly

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Ceriserie

Music: Sexual misery is wearing you out.

Music: Known as the Philosopher’s Stair for the world-weariness which climbing it inspires. One gets nowhere with it.

Paris: St-Sulpice in shrouds.

Paris: You’re falling into disrepair, Eiffel Tower this means you! Swathed in gold paint, Enguerrand Quarton whispering come with me under the shadow of this gold leaf.

Music: The unless of a certain series.

Mathematics: Everyone rolling dice and flinging Fibonacci, going to the opera, counting everything.

Fire: The number between four and five.

Gold leaf: Wedding dress of the verb to have,it reminds you of of.

Music: As the sleep of the just. We pass into it and out again without seeming to move. The false motion of the wave, “frei aber einsam.”

Steve Evans: I saw your skull! It was between your thought and your face.

Melisse: How I saw her naked in Brooklyn but was not in Brooklyn at the time.

Art: That’s the problem with art.

Paris: I was in Paris at the time! St-Sulpice in shrouds “like Katharine Hepburn.”

Katharine Hepburn: Oh America! But then, writing from Paris in the thirties, it was to you Benjamin compared Adorno’s wife. Ghost citizens of the century, sexual misery is wearing you out.

Misreading: You are entering the City of Praise, population two million three hundred thousand . . .

Hausmann’s Paris: The daughter of Midas in the moment just after. The first silence of the century then the king weeping.

Music: As something to be inside of, as inside thinking one feels thought of, fly in the ointment of the mind!

Sign at Jardin des Plantes: games are forbidden in the labyrinth .

Paris: Museum city, gold lettering the windows of the wedding-dress shops in the Jewish Quarter. “Nothing has been changed,” sez Michael, “except for the removal of twenty-seven thousand Jews.”

Paris 1968: The antimuseum museum.

The Institute for Temporary Design: Scaffolding, traffic jam, barricade, police car on fire, flies in the ointment of the city.

Gilles Ivain: In your tiny room behind the clock, your bent sleep, your Mythomania.

Gilles Ivain: Our hero, our Anti-Hausmann.

To say about Flemish painting: “Money-colored light.”

Music: “Boys on the Radio.”

Boys of the Marais: In your leather pants and sexual pose, arcaded shadows of the Place des Vosges.

Mathematics: And all that motion you supposed was drift, courtyard with the grotesque head of Apollinaire, Norma on the bridge, proved nothing but a triangle fixed by the museum and the opera and St-Sulpice in shrouds.

The Louvre: A couple necking in an alcove, in their brief bodies entwined near the Super-Radiance Hall visible as speech.

Speech: The bird that bursts from the mouth shall not return.

Pop song: We got your pretty girls they’re talking on mobile phones la la la.

Enguerrand Quarton: In your dream gold leaf was the sun, salve on the kingdom of the visible.

Gold leaf: The mind makes itself a Midas, it cannot hold and not have.

Thus: I came to the city of possession.

Sleeping: Behind the clock, in the diagon, in your endless summer night, in the city remaking itself like a wave in which people live or are said to live, it comes down to the same thing, an exaggerated sense of things getting done.

Paris: The train station’s a museum, opera in the place of the prison.

Later: The music lacquered with listen.

-Joshua Clover

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Etre Avoir

To be so tired as to sleep on a pin
To be so tired that you can’t let it in.

To be lost in a gaffe from 1909
To be soif de le chaffe
To be quartered behind

To be honored by Balzac
or a similar name
To be close on the heels
Of the subtle of fame

To be hard on decisions
And soft on your feet
To bear yourself out of boredom
and the septically sweet

To be always in reunion
With all the world’s suns
A stared-down communion
with echoing rungs

And to be, today, asking,
the rungs to relax
To have health, to have help,
And simply, to have.

-Nina Alvarez

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