Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (identification)

identification / identification

I think I will identify myself as a guest.
An alien is so outlandish. I am your guest.

In the house you describe as a beautiful book
about damn ugly people, I live as Nick Guest.

I ache for class and mourn for Robbie in Atonement.
To Howard’s End I come as Leonard, pity’s guest.

There are house rules for a vacation orgasm.
The mind closes the doors softly like a good guest.

My friend is buying his first house in New Hope.
He has invited me to be his weekend guest.

The good hosts in The Odyssey throw a great feast
while stories are a grateful answer from the guest.

Sometimes Jee is Odysseus, sometimes Penelope.
Homer, if not a home, makes me a host and guest.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (habiliment)

habit / habiliment

A string of pearls? More like a ring of wooden beads.
These verses, smoothed by fingers, are rosary beads.

How many kisses have I threaded with his name!
I wear to bed my suitors pockets full of beads.

The costume green was awful. Obscene was the heat
till it broke like a string, and the rain fell like beads.

The tightest cell is loosened by the smallest entrance.
The boy brushes past the curtain of colored beads.

You have been asked to guess the weight of the pig.
The answer can be found in mummy’s jar of beads.

The beads are pearls in this one sense: they irritate
the flesh to cream with meaning all over the beads.

Love, what would you give Jee for all his ancestors?
A mirror? A religion? Give him seven beads.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (fault)

fautes / fault

You smell your fault as readily as you hear a bell.
Ignorance rings a school bell, ego a church bell.

The loop of wire moves along the twist of wire.
Steady your hand or desire will sound the bell.

I ache for the beautiful young men I pass on streets.
They do not know they are beautiful bronze bells.

Out of the party chatter rises a cathedral.
My tongue keeps ringing my head that is the bell.

Jee has heard of, but has not heard, the one-hand clap.
He has tapped many bodies but has not heard the bell.

I hope perfection does not lie in quietness.
A poet builds his house in the fading of a bell.

The fading is a fault but silence is an itch.
More unendurable is the unrelenting bell.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (fade-out)

fading / fade-out

This house has no landline. It has three mobile phones.
Face touching face, we speak as though we’re on our phones.

My ears are losing your dear voice. You have not called.
You left text, but not voice, messages on the phone.

Last year I fell in love with an email, undressed
and stoked his body, while he stoked mine, on the phone.

Last March mum called to say dad has a lung disease.
Freud likes to listen but he does not like the phone.

What tragic heights can be averted, and what depths,
if Romeo could get Juliet on the phone.

We now suffer a vague continuous anxiety.
We do not lose but are always losing the phone.

You know the question when midnight abruptly rings.
Pick it up. Don’t worry. It’s Jee on the phone.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (exile)

exil / exile

Even the siren, pushing routine off the road,
must travel by a highway code to gain its road.

The east may ride the prospector into the west,
but night exchanges with the day a ring of road.

The campfire dimmed the school buildings round it.
The stack of wood, kerosene-soaked, smelled of the road.

Just as the arrow flies in exile from the bow,
you promise not to think of him along the road.

He has become the small country you imagine
leaving behind. He is the country and the road.

Sea-salt tastes your blood but your nose lives on land.
That’s why Jee drinks and drives on this sign-posted road.

The road that underwrites a way out of repeat,
when you look for it, looks like any other road.

Book Partying in Woodside

VM and JF hosted a book party for me at their lovely apartment in Woodside last night. It was a spendidly casual and friendly affair, with plenty to eat and drink, and good talk to be had. Friends from my school mingled with friends from my other life, and the two worlds did not collide, but met on the common ground of a warm spring evening. Windows were thrown open. A police siren blared its passage through my reading at one point, but it was received like a needle by the fabric of the evening. Someone has just returned from Paris. Someone else returned from Japan with viral pnuemonia. And yet another person cycled to MoMA that afternoon and back, for it was the kind of day when one would cycle across the bridge into Manhattan.

Someone was there who represented a past love. Others came as husbands, and then became their own persons. Someone gave out flyers to his coming solo art exhibition. Someone else gave out namecards for the journal he edits. Someone brought a delicious pumpkin cake, and now I remember pumpkin cake as well as a dead daughter when I think of her. Someone loved the Thai desserts I brought from Sripraphai. Someone just came from a music rehearsal and is looking for a new neighborhood, Brooklyn or Queens, to retire to. Someone used to be a literary agent in Paris, and then a banker in New York, and now works for herself as a financial consultant. Someone who sculpts married the man who showed her work in his gallery.

Someone took advance orders for my book, since it is still with the printers and is now expected to be out only in mid-May. Somone who plays cover for a band whose name I cannot remember helped someone else to bring food in from the kitchen. Someone is always so chic, and I wonder if she is lesbian. Someone else is always so self-assured, and I wonder if he is gay. Two someones are graphic designers, one working, one not. Someone, who is lesbian, had a child with a gay man. Someone is waiting for the Boston Review to publish her review of Marie Howe. Someone loved the chocolate fudge. Someone else congratulated me on hitting the right note in my reading.

After I left the party, and fretted about not helping VM and JF with the cleaning up, someone said they would probably just go to bed, and leave everything to tomorrow, and how European that was, and how wonderful that was. That somone said he could never do that. Someone else said good-bye, and left us for the train. He had missed another party to attend this one.

Back in my apartment, someone said how wonderful a party it was. Someone repeated again the evening felt European in its civility. Somone else said that only in New York could you get such a diverse group of people together. I agreed, and someone else said that is why he loves New York.

"Mosqueteros": Picasso's late works

The human figure, his own and others', preoccupied Picasso to the end of his life. "Mosqueteros," an exhibition at Gagosian of his late paintings, curated by his biographer John Richardson, is violent and heroic. The painter, here in various guises, is a musketeer, a matador, and a clown. The women are giantesses. One of my favorites in this exhibition is "Femme" 1972, a mountain of a woman who dominates what looks like a park.

The sex in many paintings are explicit, the figures not so much coupling (with the connotation of freight cars) as grappling, the cubist angles further contorting bodies and movements. Often, the man in these scenes pushes his face into the woman's face, as if to seize her by his eyes alone. In "Etreinte" 1972, the penis may look unimpressive, but not the huge straining arms and legs, against a backdrop of cheerful blue waves.

He grapples not only with humans, but also with superhumans. The self-portraits strive to outdo masters of the genre, such as Rembrandt, by a process of radical simplification, energetic brushstrokes, and, most surprising to me, brilliant coloring. These late paintings are a riot of colors. In one painting, blocks of colors stabilize the composition of the work. In many others, the colors challenge the eye to absorb them all.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (embrace)

étreinte / embrace

The big-armed angel left and leaves behind a wound
that sounds the heart but looks nothing like a wound.

To close the wound the lovers clasp the other tight.
They know that letting go will open up the wound.

Mother would daub a cut with yellow medicine
and mint a gold coin of the skin. I hoard these wounds.

The world, holding so many things, so many nothings,
is best represented by the body and its wounds.

When I think I can live with being queer all my life,
a morning happens, and the scar unlocks the wound.

A subtler metaphor marries a man to a man.
Comely gods and goddesses leap out from that wound.

My tongue flickering his ass, Hermes asked for more.
A cock was all Jee had on him to cure his wound.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (errantry)

errance / errantry

My horse is massive white. My flag is also white.
The scarf I wear around my heart is bleached to white.

My first love, the physicist, went by the name of Strange.
He has become a stranger the way hair turns white.

The point at which a lover changes to a friend
is not a point. Not pink. It is a shade of white.

Allergic to flowers, he hangs photographs of lilies.
His rooms are painted green. I remember them as white.

You know the magazine by its bright yellow frame.
You know the men you love to read have skin called white.

Although all flesh is heading for the earth, my love,
why do you hurry it by tanning what is white?

To apprehend every multicolored flickering thing,
refract, Jee, in two densities the passing white.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (to write)

écrire / to write

Deep in your words, you realize you are your own father,
and son, beloved, lover, but most of all, a father.

The man, a big Broadway producer, spreads my ass.
I wonder—write—how good a lover was my father.

About this man whose kisses are fading from my mouth
I write, and make him up as if I were his father.

That these poems will not resuscitate the past
does not stop me from writing once upon a father.

The bitter truth is this: I write alone at home.
Here are no lover or beloved or son or father.

When she conceived of God, Mary warbled a hymn.
Mary let out an O, when fucked by James’s father.

Jee can write O, O, O, O, O, but they are zeros.
Realizing this, he can again begin, Our Father . . .

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (drama)

drame / drama

No tropical undergrowth has stepped into a grove
but I think our second date is a kind of grove.

After the hours made love, they put on their shoes.
They are forbidden from re-entering the grove.

The animals of thought are sacrificed to it.
My hands empty bowls of semen round the grove.

Repeat a word of power, like a ritual bird,
until the non-repeatable comes from the grove.

When my body forces in between the trees,
it finds another place—a beach—and not the grove.

Before they piss, they ask forgiveness of the trees.
The soldiers know the nameless thing done in the grove.

Love is the name we give to what cannot be named,
past is the time, and where we worship springs a grove.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (disreality)

déréalité / disreality

The square root of minus money is a film.
Applying for an orange card is not a film.

Marriage is, says Miss USA California,
between a woman and a man. This is a film.

Seven green bottles march the hammers up the hill
and march them down again. This is not a film.

The Terminator says, I’ll be back, and back
he comes and shoots the vampires. This is a film.

To liberalize politics, the tiny country bans
citizen Youtube videos. This is not a film.

A man walks in a deli for a tuna wrap.
He gets his wrap and pays for it. This is a film.

Can’t stay but I’ll call you, he promises, this week.
Jee has been waiting since. This is not a film.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (expenditure)

dépense / expenditure

In the courtyard, in the Temple of the Sacred Fountain,
a monk is scooping up dead pigeons from the fountain.

Sick of the void, they grew a body round the heart
after they had devised a garden round the fountain.

Mad to waste an hour in the mud of Florida
but suppose, just suppose, the old man finds the fountain?

Quiet evenings change the body to an aqueduct,
the phallus celebrating the stonework a fountain.

The reason a woman brings her buckets to a well
is the same reason lovers embrace by a fountain.

The sound of my poems may be compared to a well’s,
but I would like to think they glisten like a fountain.

The better-looking fountains are for playing in.
What are they called again, Jee? Oh yes, splash fountains.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (dependency)

dépendance / dependency

It is not true that what ascends a flight of stairs
must reach a branch of stars. We too descend by stairs.

I was so wrong to think that lovers will make equals.
A step is higher—or else, lower—on the stairs.

Eager to bring you home, I thought only of bed.
When you left me unsatisfied, I thought of stairs.

You leave me in a dark hallway smelling of shoes.
Does a kiss make a step? Two kisses make a stairs?

Last night I had sex with a white man and a black.
We kept switching places and rolled down the stairs.

I’d rather walk a length of town than take a bus.
Do you prefer the elevator to the stairs?

Your voice answers from up there, faint and powerful:
Don’t be scared, Jee, my runaway. Come up the stairs.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

O'Neill's "Desire Under the Elms"

Robert Falls directs this early Eugene O'Neill's play (1924, whereas The Iceman Cometh was written in 1939 and Long Day's Journey into Night in 1941). A huge space, St. James Theatre is more usually used for musicals than for plays, but it is the right setting for an epic set. The fire curtain rises to reveal a stage dominated by rocks on rocks, and rocks are suspended mid-air too, by ropes. Also suspended in mid-air is the house over which the characters fight to own, and so hangs accordingly over their heads like a monstrous sword. 

The patriarch of the family Ephraim Cabot (played massively by Brian Dennehy) is a hard man who compels his three sons to work for him in the hope of inheriting the farm he raised from the rocks. Brutal in appearance and action, but too soft to stand against their father, the two oldest flee early in the play for California, hoping to strike easy gold. The third son Eben (Pablo Schreiber), of a different mother, remains behind, only to fall in love with his father's new wife. A tough young woman, Abbie Putnam (the stunning Carla Gugino) also gives in to her feelings for her stepson. The lovers thus prove their "softness" by risking their hopes of hard material gain for the sake of desire. 

Completely memorable is the monologue spoken by Ephraim as he recounts to his wife the hardship he underwent to build up the farm. Unseen by him, the lovers mime their desire for each other. This scene, as well as the rest of the play, works so well because all three actors are equally-matched in their passionate intensity. Some scene transitions show the relative inexperience of the playwright, I thought, and the speeches towards the end feel a little thin, in particular those revolving round the killing of the baby. Perhaps that thinness was meant to be filled with pregnant pauses, but words (and music) are more powerful than silence in this production. 

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (demons)

démons / demons

I am not surprised the demon’s name is Knife.
I am surprised he takes the form of a paperknife.

Some mornings liquefy into mud upon the touch.
The sun on other days stages a thousand knives.

Maddened with grief, a man applies a stick of butter
to the dry place in which he will slide down his knife.

Another man, soft son to a hard father, jams
his daddy’s wife—his daddy’s cunt—with his meat knife.

The black ram will never wash white, no matter how
many hours the silk handkerchief rubs the knife.

Demons are so theatrical and so is love.
We overhear our whispering when we hold a knife.

Wonderful prop! To separate lovers, it joins hand
to handle, blade to body. Jee gives you, the knife!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (Dedication)

dédicace / dedication

To the new temple built with stones the hue of pigeons,
I dedicate these seven pairs of feral rock pigeons.

Three roads crisscross to form a triangular park.
Scatter sunflower seeds and they will bring the pigeons.

To celebrate a son a village roasts a pig
but lovers feast on twisted skewers of wood pigeons.

Not only to the Japanese is a gift a claim.
You know I want too much in exchange for these pigeons.

Choose perfection of the life or of the work,
cries the large angel with a voice damn like a pigeon’s.

I stand on a small stage before a blank audience,
and pull from a white glove a fluttering grey pigeon.

He does not wish to choose between a dove and dove.
In Jee’s ribcage contracts the muscle of a pigeon.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (declaration)

déclaration / declaration

Enclosed in the unstamped envelope of my skin
a seven-page essay typed last night on your skin.

My hands cannot surprise and so tickle my soles.
Miracles have to come from outside of my skin.

If one spear misses, number two will find its mark.
The scalp is but another name for human skin.

You have heard the unceasing roar of waterfalls.
You have not heard the volume of my lover’s skin.

The state of Earth is not more softly draped with air
than my love’s testicles are swaddled with his skin.

And where his skin is whirled and sucked into his ass,
dive in, and soft skin will caress softer skin.

As for your cock, Jee won’t address its voiceless suit
until he has declared himself on all your skin.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (contacts)

contacts / contacts

God introduced himself to Adam with a finger.
All of Adam stumbled forward and met in his finger.

My eyes are hooks but cannot hold the chicken wing.
The meal put down the fork and took up the fingers.

What word can bottle the sweet crush of his mouth
when grapefruit spills down the bevel of my fingers.

If the animals are to be saved in seven pairs,
the ark will learn to count on human limbs and fingers.

Watch me, Dad, I can hold my breath under water,
my mouth plugged by a cock, my nose and ass by fingers.

Two civilizations finally get in touch.
I wear to honor that event a necklace of fingers.

He held Jee’s body with a fitting urgency.
The body fastens tight, and then relaxes the fingers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (connivance)

connivence / connivance

There is something double in me that loves a mirror.
I can tell its age only by looking in the mirror.

If you do not exist, I would have to invent you,
my rival, my accomplice, my envy, my mirror.

Not that the fire engine is anything like the fire,
but as the day is to the night, to me the mirror.

Sure you can handle me sleeping in your place again?
I hear him in your words. I see him in your mirror.

You look Chinese, black hair, dark eyes, smooth chin, and slim.
Right cannot be told from left—or wrong—in this mirror.

His first love was a Filipino priest in church,
Mine a white physicist. Our past is smoke and mirrors.

You speak so freely of a past I do not share.
Know you are in Jee’s looks, his eyes, his sights, his mirror.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (behavior)

conduite / behavior

Are the two men fighting or fucking on the bed?
Are they two men or one? Is that a bruise or bed?

After eating, he walked with me back to my room.
He flipped through my art books while sitting on my bed.

He eyed the twisting figures as I spoke of Bacon,
the carcass on the cross, the violent mass in bed.

We drained the bottle of Bordeaux between us.
Our shoes removed, we remained fully clothed in bed.

He stood up to go. He had to work tomorrow.
He said he does not sleep well in a stranger’s bed.

My hands have painted this night scene from many angles
but have not grasped the lovely figure in the bed.

In this manner he has taught Jee more about Bacon
than any body who had fucked him in his bed.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (fulfillment and to understand)

comblement / fulfillment

I read fulfillment, and my mouth is filled with honey.
His cock spooned down my throat enormous gulps of honey.

Many nights wolfed down cattle, gunpowder, and earth.
Two days sipped the light deepening from milk to honey.

The man I lived with for a year laughs after coming.
He finds it so funny to paw the ass for honey.

Redemption solicits the shitty work of sin.
Rebirth takes corpses in its tea, instead of honey.

My soul will study hard the satisfaction scriptures.
The beaver will build dams. The bee will make honey.

Give Jee excess, for nothing quite succeeds like it.
Push past the point of honey, there pours still more honey.

Push past the point of honey, come upon the hive,
the humming of the work, the stings, the hunk of honey.


*

comprendre / to understand

Pull the drawstring to close the sea into a lake.
The sea is wild but one can walk around the lake.

This small country is famous for its new bird park.
Wings clipped, the pink flamingoes flower on the lake.

These birds-of-paradise are trimmed to map the walks
so that their orange flames direct one to the lake.

A naked flame is dangerous. Replace the candle
with a lightbulb and hang the lantern over the lake.

The eye sees everything else at a proper distance.
The weathered sign says twenty miles more for the lake.

The lover stands in no location but his feet.
He is close to the lake. The lover is the lake.

To see flamingoes, flowers, flames as forms of sea,
you must strip to the skin and enter, Jee, the lake.

Bertolucci's "Last Tango in Paris" (1972)

I watched the movie for Marlon Brando, and he did not disappoint. His character Paul is a study of inarticulate grief. His wife dead from suicide, he takes up with a young engaged woman (Jeanne played by Maria Schneider) on the condition that both remain anonymous to each other: personal knowledge is too painful. 

So sex, sex and more sex in an unfurnished apartment that stands for a relationship stripped bare of context, for an unrenovated present. The tragedy comes when Paul changes, when he wants more, only to find Jeanne wanting less. Without diluting the specificity of the widower's grief, one can still say that the same tragedy applies to all relationships of unequal passion. 

Of the infamous anal sex scene, Maria Schneider, at 55, was reported in New York Post as saying, "I never use butter to cook anymore--only olive oil." Tragedy turned bathos. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (catastrophe and to circumscribe)

catastrophe / catastrophe

I see I am the last man drinking in the bar.
I vowed I’d never be the last man in a bar.

The lovers, the pick-ups, the panic-stricken couples
heard the night calling, It’s time!, and left the bar.

The ugly go-go dancer with the monstrous schlong
has vanished with his wad of dollars from the bar.

Even David is not coming back from his break
to mix his feeble drinks and talk trash at the bar.

You’re lost. You’re lost to me. Happy or sad somewhere.
You do not think to think I’m waiting in a bar.

This music stabs and stops the heart. The line is flat
although the rhythm is still six beats to the bar.

I would kiss myself if I could. (Stop crying, Jee.)
If I know how, I would by myself close the bar.


*


circonscrire / to circumscribe

I close the door but the day climbs in through a window.
Other days long thought dead follow it through the window.

Mad with us—or with dad—you turned us out. We walked
and turned but could not see your face at the small window.

You wheeled your bike past the window, and Dad was home.
Love circles, with metallic clicks, the five o’clock window.

The windows, grilled to baffle the body, locked us out,
but a wire hook opened the door through a window.

To cut my losses I chalk round me an endless circle.
To stop the train from crashing in I close the window.

Inside the restaurant, I watched you hurry in,
watched you, first, through the window, then, without the window.

Jee gives his dad the name of Love, his mum, of Loss.
She closed the door on us but, Paul, he cleaned the windows.

1000th Performance of "Mary Poppins"

My brother-in-law, four-year-old niece and I watched this musical on Thursday, while my sister and mum stayed with the baby. New Amsterdam, on 42th Street, is a beautiful old theater, built in a grand style, embellished in an ornate manner. This "new" musical, presented by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, is based on the stories of P. L. Travers and the Walt Disney Film. Original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, with new songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The book is by Julian Fellowes. The producer is Thomas Schumacher who announced at the beginning of our show that it was the 1000th performance. 

Scarlett Strallen played Mary Poppins. Though Mary Poppins is supposed to resemble her author's childhood Dutch doll, Stallen came off as robotic at times, a fatal problem since Poppins is the complex heart of the story. The boyish Australian Adam Fiorentino, who was making his Broadway debut, played Bert, the chimney sweep and artist, with great verve and warmth. Rebecca Luker was an immensely likable Mrs. Banks, and revealed her vulnerability nicely. Gorge Banks was played by Daniel Jenkins whose singing constituted the most boring moments of the show. The two child-actors who played Jane and Michael Banks were polished and forgettable. 

The star of the show was the sets. The house on Cherry Tree Lane was open in front, showing hallway, staircase, living room and study. It moved back to give way to the children's attic bedroom lowered from the top, and to the kitchen raised from below the stage. The rooftop, where Mary Poppins met Bert to gaze at stars, was also lowered from the top. All these sets were cleared for the engaging full-company song-and-dance numbers, like"Jolly Holiday," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "Temper, Temper," "Let's go fly a Kite." The dancing in "Step in Time" was particularly exciting and inventive. 

Michael Lassell wrote a fascinating piece on P. L. Travers in the playbill. Extracts:

Pamela Lyndon Travers, as she was fully known in her adult life, was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia, in 1899 . . . . She took her professional name--Travers was her father's first name--during a brief stint as a dancer and actor. She left Australia permanently in 1924, after which she lived principally in England, but with periods in Ireland and the U. S. (for a time with the Navajo).

. . . The child fantasist grew up to become quite self-sufficient, very much an "independent woman," and years ahead of her time. To quote from Caitlin Flanagan's 2005 New Yorker piece, "Travers was a woman who never married, wore trousers when she felt like it . . . [and as] she approached forty, she decided that she wanted a child . . . . [So she adopted] an infant, one of a pair of twins, and raised him as a single mother."

[Jee: My lesbian alarm went off, and a little googling turned up a Sunday Times review of Valerie Lawson's biography. The review says that her relations with men were apparently platonic, but she shared a cottage in Sussex with two friends in what may or may not be a lesbian relationship.]

After leaving Australia, where she supported herself as journalist, Travers matured into a poet, critic, and essayist, and "a serious writer" of fiction and non-fiction books. Her circle of acquaintances included William Butler Yeats and T. S. Eliot, and her personal interests ran to mythology and mysticism (she was a longtime disciple of guru G. I. Gurdjieff). PLT reduced her alias to its initials to disguise her gender, hoping to escape the dismissive stereotype of the lightweight authoress.

. . . That Mary Poppins is so widely considered a loving caregiver is one of the central mysteries of the book. Jane and Michael Banks are simultaneously devoted to her and terrified of displeasing her. Far from rosy-cheeked and flirtatious, as she seems from the film, the literary Poppins is described as strict, stern, remote, and rigid--and she can stop a child in its muddy tracks with her blue-eyed glare.

And that is the Mary Poppins I remember from the books which I found in public libraries and loved as a child. She appeals to my need to be disciplined, my need for Someone to Tell Me What To Do.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (pigeonholed)

casés / pigeonholed

The body is rather small but it is all the house
I have, and so I walk around nude in my house.

First man I fell in love with lived in Ignorance.
We walked his dog when visiting his parents’ house.

I have dreamed all my life of living by the sea,
listening to the waves dissolving the salt house.

You said of your first love, we brought each other up.
I ached with homesickness because I heard the house.

I have objections to the institution of marriage.
I suspect efforts to turn love into a house.

Love is not a house. It is always on the move.
What do cowboys have in common with a house?

A long day runs its dog into the horizon.
Jee does not think a line can rise to be a house.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (waiting and to hide)

attente / waiting

He thought, the sides are never constant in a door.
The side you cannot see is the back of the door.

Someone can get easily lost in this old house.
Take note: the full-length mirror hides a secret door.

The apple wears its skin so well—I mean, so tight—
I cannot find the catch to open up the door.

In this great city where you can go every night
with a different stranger, every bedroom has a door.

The curtain goes up. An old man hunts for the scissors.
This time the silk will not walk in through the door.

All God’s saints know that waiting is an activity.
Nothing stays motionless and certainly not the door.

So he kissed you again at the bottom of the stairs,
how does a kiss nail a man, Jee, to the door?


*

cacher / to hide

Morning I sat in bed and opened up a book,
put it down, picked another, put down a fourth book.

Iowa has decided for gay marriage.
So proud of his home state, he wrote on Facebook.

The sun is shining but I am in shadow here.
The story is happening now outside a book.

What can I say to you? How will you take my words?
The real question: how does Alone advance our book?

There was too little to begin with. (Or too much.)
Two dates are not enough for writing a real book.

That is the lesson of the sun. Except the nights
instruct me how to press the sun into my book.

Because I cannot tell you what possesses Jee,
my hands have written up my suffering in a book.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I am officially an Art Collector

Just came home with a painting I bought at the art fair at the LGBT Center last Sunday. The painting is of the head and shoulders of a young Greek man who, according to the artist, is a bartender at Elmo, a restaurant at 7th Avenue and 19th Street. 

The man looks out of the painting, his head tilted slightly backwards and right, as if to present his full lips for a kiss. Five o'clock shadow that brushes a strong jaw-line plunges dramatically to the base of the throat, ending in a bruise-like patch, black and red. Very dark eyes, the right a black oval lightened only with a single stroke of white. Thick black hair reaches down to the back of his neck. 

It is the skin--painted mainly in white and pink, with uneven strokes to suggest light and shadow, as well as the natural roughness of skin--that convinces me that a painting is superior to a sculpture. I know that this is a silly thing to say, in a way. But this painting gives what no sculpture could give: a living, breathing kouros, who has just, only just, left his youth behind. 

The painter is Michail Tsakountakis. He said he grew up in Greece, trained in London, and now works in New York City. When I met him this evening, he had another beautiful young man with him, a Latino, who will be modeling for him. 

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (atopos)

atopos / atopos

She says there are more than two ends to every stick.
I think there are exactly seven to my stick.

Red altars hung on the outside and kitchen walls.
Every round bracket insisted on an incense stick.

The carolers sang by a streetlamp in my cross-stitch.
White and pink ribbons spiraled round the candy stick.

Modest by European standards the concert hall
transported to the “New World” on a waving stick.

At two and ten o’clock of the field helmets waited.
You can’t distinguish me from others in our stick.

Trampling up and down the Lakes District, Anna,
we cut from the green wind a stout walking stick.

The sixth was artistic. The seventh was obscene.
Let Paul not be an end. Let him be Jee’s stick.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (askesis)

askesis

Digging in a bed of guilt, I grow marvelous flowers.
The trowel studies hard the language of the flowers.

The man, a teacher, had not been touched for a month.
I finger-fucked his ass while looking at the flowers.

A braided rope and spiky chain and leather whip
don’t hurt—or pleasure—the flesh more than flowers.

It is a luxurious hurt. It is a kind of blackmail.
I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Here, take these flowers.

This month I labor to transform ghazals to gazelles,
to flaunt this handicap: forty-nine names of flowers.

At four, the window black, I labor to sit still
and listen to the sap rising, and then the flowers.

Look at him, read his blog, or Jee will disappear.
God looked hard and where his looks fell, there were flowers.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (annulment)

annulation / annulment

The body writhes so deeply in desire’s cave
I revel in abrading skin against the cave.

I see the image of my pain in glittering things,
carry the treasures off and hide them in the cave.

On equatorial beaches that were once a home
I did not build a castle but I dug a cave.

My hands reach out and see nothing in the dark.
I console my heart there is an end to cave.

A valley drops away. A plain levels us all.
I love the echo of my voice in a tall cave.

Then I remember you, your generous mouth, bald head,
and I suffer again the suffering of the cave.

Why does this lover’s song always end with my name?
Why does this man Jee live out his days in a cave?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

"The Third Mind" at the Guggenheim

JMS and I went to see "The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989" last Friday at 6 PM, when admission was free. According to the exhibition notes, The Third Mind refers to a "cut-ups" work by Beat writers William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, whose cult of spontaneity in art and life drew inspiration from Asian attitudes. As even this note illustrates, there was far too much generalizing about "Asian attitudes" in the exhibition than I could stand. "Asia" in the exhibition was predominantly--and predictably --Japanese, and within Japanese culture, Zen. "Asia" was presented as an ahistorical and undifferentiated Other. 

Yes, the artists saw Asia that way, but I would have liked the exhibition to give more context to that way of seeing. I did not care for the post-War World II stuff (mainly installations, performance art, videos), though Ernest Fenollosa's book "The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry," edited and published by Pound, was interesting to see, as was Pound's typescript of Eliot's "What the Thunder Said," opened to the page of the Thunder's Sanskrit.

For the good stuff, we had to leave the rotunda to enter the easily missed side rooms, where late nineteenth century artists like Whistler, and early twentieth like Arthur Dove confronted and absorbed Asian art, especially Japanese prints and Chinese landscapes. I really like the drypoint works by Mary Cassatt. Encouraged by a Japanese original, she painted a series of pictures of a mother and her baby in a domestic, non-Madonna-ish, way. They were delicate responses to Japanese composition, and pictorial vocabulary. 

The side exhibition "Kandinsky and Expressionist Painting before World War I" was of definite interest. There Franz Marc's two big paintings--one of a  boldly colored bull, and the other of a forbidding town with two goats in the foreground--were stand-outs. In the Thannhauser permanent collection, I was very taken by Manet's "Before the Mirror." JMS said aptly that Manet adopted Impressionist techniques but not the Impressionist agenda. Looking into the mirror, the woman stands with her back to the viewer, who comes upon her, unsure if she has seen him in the mirror. The mirror suggests a powder room but the flowers and background brushstrokes speak of the outdoors. 

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (anxiety)

angoisse / anxiety

He has not called or written for more than a week.
Henry James died, Master and Virgin, this week.

How does this book, a biography, persist in being
when the biographer gives up his ghost some week?

Why did you hide your profile on—at—Match.com?
I text you only once, to ask, how was your week?

I should have written, stupid fuck, how was your day?
and now it is far too late to revise that week.

Henry James wrote Hendrik Andersen many letters,
his hands all over the young sculptor week after week.

I masturbated every night before I slept.
Meaning: I have been a virgin this whole week.

Last time he wrote on Facebook, Happy Birthday, Jee,
I could give up poetry. If he writes this week . . .

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Keep-Dry Porticoes

TNY March 30, 2009

from Paul Goldberger's article on Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) "All He Surveyed":

Palladio was born in Padua and grew up in Vicenza. He was trained as a stonemason, but his potential must have been clear, because he had a knack for finding mentors.

*

. . . he essentially invented the modern architectural career. The "Four Books [of Architecture]," which Palladio published in 1570, when he was in his sixties, is not just a book of rules and standards but also the first architectural monograph. Palladio included a portfolio of his own work, which disseminated his ideas and made his buildings more famous than anyone else's. 

*

Yet the tradition of reverence that has sprung up around Palladio's work is in danger of obscuring its humbler but more interesting features. Since many villas were not only aristocratic retreats but also working farms, he made specific recommendations about where to place granaries, haylofts, quarters for animals, and wine cellars, prescribing that they be connected to the villa by covered arcades so that the owner could keep the agricultural functions at a distance but still inspect them without going outdoors. Palladio wrote that his porticoes were there at least as much to keep the owner dry as he went in and out as they were to add majesty to the facade. In the "Four Books" he tries to distill prescriptions from a lifetime's accumulation of know-how. . . . 

. . . But not being afraid of the ordinary side of his job was a key component of Palladio's genius. To him, architecture existed to solve problems, and he seems to have given equal weight to elevating the image of his clients, making their lives function more smoothly, and creating beautiful objects for the world. Figuring out where to put the farm animals and shaping designs of transcendent beauty were all in a day's work.


Poem: A Lover's Recourse (alteration)

altération / alteration

So soft his neck, so distant from the thought of stone,
I am appalled to see it pass into a stone.

That night swam for so long and slipped out of my hands.
Tonight it is as clear as fossil in the stone.

I come from a small country of large alterations,
where stone erects no memory for passing stone.

Somebody is fucking somebody in a corner.
Every body juts as if released from stone.

Why have you come to kill this mutant, strong young man?
Hack off my head, and I will still turn flesh to stone.

There is a slippery slope in things that lie down flat.
In all coming and going speeds there is a stone.

He is not dead, I tell you, he is merely sleeping.
The rest of you move back. Jee, roll away the stone.

"Poems of Romance"

My poem "You Know, Don't You" has just been published in this anthology edited by William Roetzheim, a poet I know from Poetry-Free-For-All. The anthology is divided into sections: one, Courting, Beauty and Unrequited Love; two, Lust; three, Love; four, Commitment; five, Separation; six, Philandering and Temptation; and seven, Redemption. I am in Lust. No love or redemption there. But no Separation, either. 

William includes with new poems by living writers old poems by dead ones. Elizabeth Barrett Browning is here, with four "Sonnets from the Portuguese." Shakespeare is the guest of honor, represented by six poems, the most number in the book. Petronius Arbiter, Amy Lowell, Robert Herrick, William Blake, Emily Dickinson and Omar Khayam also drop in. I sit at the table between John Keats ("O Blush Not So") and Ezra Pound ("Tame Cat"). I remind you we are sitting at the table of lust. 

The book comes with a spoken word poetry audio CD containing selected poems. 

Friday, April 03, 2009

Diary: Medea and the Russians

March 27, Friday: I watched the Columbia-Barnard Classical Drama Group's performance of Euripides' Medea in the Minor Latham Playhouse, at Barnard. The actors spoke in Ancient Greek, which was glossed with English super-titles. Medea was played by two women roped to each other, in order to reflect her dual nature and internal conflict. My friend, who played the Nurse, spoke of her mistress' grief with genuine pathos. The other actors seemed too young to feel their parts.

April 2, Thursday: Heard the NY Phil with TCH last night. Stravinsky's Concerto in E-flat for Chamber Orchestra, Dumbarton Oaks (1937-38) opened the concert. Lisa Batiashvili was the soloist in Prokofiev's modernist Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op, 63 (1935), a work he wrote before repatriating to the Soviet Union. Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 (1888), after the intermission, was not subtle but rousing nevertheless. The horn in the second movement was lovely. The "fate" motif was thumpingly popular.

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (affirmation)

affirmation / affirmation

My bedroom turned into a mouth with our first kiss.
Then at the door, before you left, we kissed our kiss.

The fridge is empty but for coffee and lo-fat yogurt.
The fishes and the loaves collect after our kiss.

What follows after the beginning of a theme,
if not the complication—silence—to our kiss.

Of the three light bulbs in the ceiling, one has blown.
My eyes call for help the memory of our kiss.

I’m cynical about love, you said, and those words
embellish in my elephant ears our kiss.

My brain expostulates, you met him only twice.
But see the symmetry: the two dates kiss our kiss.

There is no reasoning with a madman. Leave Jee.
Come back to the intoxication of our kiss.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (adorable)

adorable / adorable

Long ago I gave up working for lord gold.
Creeping age returns a mean regard for gold.

This distribution of the sun to those in want
I will compare to semen sooner than to gold.

Monet colors the path near the end of his garden
with yellows, browns, reds, indigos, but not with gold.

Bury me in a twist of cloth or wooden box.
Don’t burn my body for the fire will burn like gold.

Imagine my dismay, whenever I dream of you,
your image, to my shame, tempts with the call of gold.

My hands have learned to work in light and life and death.
Adorable, teach me to work also in gold.

The painting, finished, signed in the right corner, Jee,
gathers into the radiant godhead all the gold.

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (absence)

absence / absence

Mouth, what happened to the Riesling in the glass?
He kissed me twice. My tongue will not let go the glass.

To what catastrophe do you, Hand, raise a glass?
The wanting hard, the losing, or the death of want?

My hours are filled to the brim with his absence.
There is no room for you, Elbow, in the glass.

Stop thinking, Brain, of him, get out and do something!
I got it out and fucked with men who were his glass.

The left side of his neck was white and soft and strong,
head tilted, so as not to spill, towards his glass.

The heart is finally a form of repetition
in this container body, in this empty glass.

Jee shuts his mouth and buries his nose in the wine
to learn to want the air wanted by the glass.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (to be engulfed)

A Lover’s Recourse
“. . . the body’s gesture caught in action, and not contemplated in repose: the body of athletes, orators, statues: what in the straining body can be immobilized.” –Roland Barthes


s’abîmer / to be engulfed

Take heart and sing of love's recourse, the river
running from the river and still is the river.

A kiss in my bedroom and a kiss at the door.
The only French I speak: be swallowed by the river.

The cloudy pigeon, mutant dove, aches through the air,
nowhere safe to land, save the branches of the river.

You could not touch the other bank and so you thought,
a lake! It was never a lake. It was a river.

In the dark, flesh locates flesh with unerring instinct,
and fills in what it traced, the breathing map, the river.

Dragging for months his body for more than a body,
I hauled up a word—need, or was it, feet—from the river.

Someone advised Jee once to write what makes him sad.
She saw all his life standing waist-deep in the river.