Friday, September 21, 2007

Paterson: Book Four, Chapter III, p. 202

**this poem is a collaborative effort between Conversely and T. Azimuth Schwitters. It also marks the end of the main poetry sequence of the Paterson Project. Both the music and song-writing portions of the project are still active (although mostly unrecorded!), as are our hopes for beginning another poetry project, which we will share with you shortly. Lastly, if you were to look at the "Listing" page, you might notice we never wrote a poem for "The Bitch and the Man from the Sea." We suggest you simply do not look at the "Listing" page. Signing off, T. Az.**

Ends (Oh, Passaic!)

These ends are always so redundant, what with their gymnastics and linguistic representations of pictorial representations of mathematic representations of an impossibly simple natural phenomenon.

Oh, Passaic, why do we bother? Your course—our chorus—is, of course, not quite the ends we’d like it to be.

Your path explodes, vomits, if we’re that kind of poet—which, truth be told, we are, because we all are; otherwise, we say again (though in a slightly different context), why bother?—out and away from silk and graffiti and awkward, painful teenage fucking in the ruins of the somewhat less than pure products of America but nonetheless products, and ones Hamilton would have swooned over at that.

We’d hoped, oh Passaic, that our ends would be in shoring, in snuggling among stones, these same stones and bricks, never to splinter, never to drift apart, never to rot. But for what life is there that which is still?

And for this reason we find ourselves thoroughly discouraged. Oh, Passaic—what is all this spreading out? Standing in the spray of your mouth, trudging through the sand and the slop of the city, wading into the whole and rippling present. The present! This is no gift! This is where we come to wear away and break and crumble for our own first time over and over again, dissolving into new stories for not only new and different verse, but, what’s worse, a whole new chorus.

And each time we hope for a monument, that for once what we seek will not be fixed in decay, and will not spread out into the brackish waters and rust away. It seemed so solid, once, this history.

We had carefully cut new pieces with a dull and rusty blade to fill in those missing from our jigsaw puzzle memories, a box mostly empty but from which we were compelled to use all that’s there. Oh, you God damned Passaic and I mean God damned Passaic we shuffled along your floor, scooping your muck and molding it and squeezing it flat, holding it out in our hands, cutting palms to shreds with these wretched old blades, and carefully—so carefully—carving new puzzle pieces from your bed that fit perfectly—so perfectly—with the old ones.

This thing, this thing, it is the only thing. We will not find, at the end of our days a monument or memory, but instead this thing, floating briefly, just visible in the current, one among so many, dissolving quickly in the sticky film at the ocean’s surface. What has moved? What has moved us, lost, but to the memory which too is lost.

Do not pull us apart, oh, Passaic! Let us fill! Stay the bursting! Together, we will find the others, we will borrow their pieces, the brackish waters can heal our hands and we will touch, we will lock our fingers together, Swedenborg’s angels will have nothing!—no nothing!—on us! Light will burst from our hands, a glowing ball of healing palms pressed together, blood will flow through the wounds and our hands, locked together as the young couple looking for a place with a little privacy lock theirs together, and our skin will heal, our skin will heal our skin will heal and our skin will lock our hands together and we will let our fingers free and twist them about but our palms—our palms—will remain fused and forever aglow.

But here, our present, we’re tossed out to sea and our work, our careful work, is destroyed, ripped apart in a spiral of Passaic and Atlantic, and we somersault out onto the shore, weeping anew our hands are healed but separated from the others and the sea is sleeping a tired mother and we are weeping and hungry and we drag ourselves away from it all only to find we are young and full of energy and so tired and our slates are wiped clean except for all these used puzzle pieces and we strive and strive for the more that we can have the more monuments we can make the rot that will not rot the drivel that will grow into the monument that we can flow through and in and live on and on without the pain of our own birth, shredded and squeezed from the ocean.

To be one—to simply, perfectly, be one, is all we’ve asked, oh Passaic. Our verse and song, let it be one, just one, our hands on fire.

A thousand choruses. Spreading out, a thousand verses. At once, a thousand voices, a thousand more.

An iron bridge stands over the Great Falls of the Passaic River in Paterson, New Jersey. From here we dive, gloriously, Olympian, into the muddy foam.

Paterson: Book Four, Chapter III, p. 199

*adult content disclaimer*

Seeds, or Ideas Spilled by the River Into the Sea

You want to talk about seeds? How’s this:

Two nights ago, rain fell in the middle of the Paterson, New Jersey night for just over an hour and a half. After it funneled down defunct gutters and cascaded over the twist-torn corners of tar-flat roofs, it splattered down on brown-grey piles of week-old frozen winter shit and knocked loose bled-grey newspapers, fast-food bags, crushed packs of cigarettes, and a used condom caked in the crease between sidewalk and storefront and carried them in a flash-flood stream to the park adjacent to the S.U.M. building. There, in the dying-dead carcass of Hamilton’s America, three dry-cold weeks of detritus slipped into the crawling current of the long-spoiled Passaic and made their way, soggy and broken, to an estuary on the Hudson and out to the Sea. If you want poetry, look at the condom: coagulated, left-over semen in a flimsy-yellow bit of latex sank in the current and rolled hesitantly across the riverbed, sending over the course of an hour its contents in sporadic pollen-bursts of wasted spunk into the filth of that long-named River in this yet-named night.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Paterson: Book Four, Chapter III, p. 193

The Memory of the River

Is it absurd to believe the bottom
is reachable to hands desperately
stretched and seeking it? To see in the strain
grains of soft sand wet and clinging downwardly
to current- and finger-traced lines of a body
unmoved (unmoving) in motions passing
on and through the stilled silence of its whole?
To reach for this ever, albeit now
more exhaustedly? To float still, silent,
inverted yet over the quiet floor,
holding against for a moment the flow
of all that is pressing, urgent, spoken ---
So much water passes, spreads out, in waves
while so little catches, in fingers, and stays.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Paterson Photos, Part II?

Forgive me for a moment, I must talk shop, and I'm leaning heavily on the first person here because Schwitters has not been consulted:

As we've said repeatedly, and as recently as the second to last post, this project started as a joke and turned into something that we actually care about. Because of this, I'm not going to post the pictures I took in Paterson here. Check out ulmlls for that. I can't reconcile it in my head because Paterson the city is not Paterson the poem. Nor should it be. The poem doesn't need the "real" city, mainly because the poem is real with or without it.

Nonetheless, I did take--and willingly and excitedly--a trip to Paterson as a kind of pilgrimage. I teared up a little the night we entered. I saw some really totally awesome stuff--an incredible waterfall, a wacky castle, a wackier watchtower, and some cool, crumbling factories (from which I stole a brick). It was an exciting and awesome trip. But I did not find Williams's Paterson; his was in my backpack the whole time, and at no point did I dig it out. There was no reason to--Paterson and Paterson are not the same. Art is not ever accurate mimetic representation, but it is art and that's why it's important.

I don't know what this has to do with our project, other than to say that the city itself, at least for the few poems I've written, isn't what what I'm writing about. I'm not sure it's the poem either, though. And I mostly don't care.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Photos from Paterson Trip

Follow the link above to view my album from the Paterson trip this past weekend. I'll post a full report on the goings-on in the next day or so, but for now, feast your voyeuristic eyes on all of the above. Briefly: Paterson is one awesome, inspirational, slummy town. Signing off, T. Az.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

On the Road

Conversely and I are leaving today for Baltimore, and by extension, Paterson, New Jersey. I know we're both excited about hitting the road, but I will say that, personally, this trip feels like a validation of this project for me. As we've said before, this whole thing came out of a joke after a class presentation - and now, looking back at what we've put out in the past four(?) months, I'm actually pretty proud. I think the Paterson Project is turning out to be pretty damn interesting, and I'm excited to see the town and the Passaic Falls and Garrett Mountain and all that, but I'm even more excited to see where this project takes us in the months to come (don't forget, we still have about twenty songs to write!). Anyway, if you're out there reading this, thanks for the interest so far, and we'll do our best not to disappoint in the future. Full report on Monday, I think.
Signing off, T. Az.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Paterson: Book Four, Chapter III, p. 194-95

**a note on the following: this poem is, frankly, too long. it has been stewing for some time, and after much consideration, i have decided to post it, in hopes of receiving much needed editorial and critical advice. to this extent, it is a work in progress. as someone who mostly hates apologetic prefaces, i'll shut up already. thanks, all.**

(2/24: added several sentences to V, in response to post 1; cut stanza 4 from III)

Fred Goodell Jr. and the Murder of His Daughter (Culminating in Her Burial on Garrett Mountain)


Paterson, N. J., Sept. 17 -- Fred Goodell Jr., twenty-two, was arrested early this morning and charged with the murder of his six-months-old daughter Nancy, for whom police were looking since Tuesday, when Goodell reported her missing.

Continued questioning from last night until 1 a.m. by police headed by Chief James Walker drew the story of the slaying, police said, from the $40-a-week factory worker a few hours after he refused to join his wife, Marie, eighteen, in taking a like detector test.

At 2 a.m. Goodell led police a few blocks from his house to a spot on Garrett Mountain and showed them a heavy rock under which he had buried Nancy, dressed only in a diaper and placed in a paper shopping bag.

Goodell told the police he had killed the child by twice snapping the wooden tray of a high chair into the baby's face Monday morning when her crying annoyed him as he was feeding her. Dr. George Surgent, the county physician, said she died of a fractured skull.


Fred Goodell Jr., a factory worker, killed his daughter, six-month-old Nancy, by twice snapping the wooden tray of the girl's high chair into her face after her crying annoyed him. He then placed her in a shopping bag and buried her under a rock a few blocks from his house on Garrett Mountain. After refusing to take a lie detector test with his eighteen-year-old wife Marie the next day, Goodell was questioned until 1 a.m. by Chief James Walker of the Paterson Police Department, after which he led Walker and other officers to the rock on Garrett Mountain where Nancy was buried. Goodell was arrested and charged with murder within the hour.


I got a home in that rock, well, don't you see?
Way between the earth and sky
I thought I heard my Savior cry

Well-a poor Lazarus poor as I
When he died he had a home on high
He had a home in that rock don't you see?

The rich man died and lived so well
When he died he had a home in Hell
He had no home in the rock, well, don't you see?

You better get a home in that rock, don't you see?


I did not kill my daughter.

I did not kill my daughter.

What happened was an accident.

It could have happened to anyone.


I closed the door, first thing - Marie had let it out for the evening breezes. I changed and she left for work, and I needed to wash the clothes, if there was time, and make sure I ate and fed the baby, all before the night shift started at two. There was food left out on the stove, and the baby had been sleeping most of the afternoon in her crib. Tired and clean, I woke her and lifted her into a high chair. She cried, loud and piercing, and then she bounced two tiny fists on the wood tray of the chair, the silver springs wobbling and ringing each time with the metal-on-metal crash. The metal and crash, the metal and crash, and the tray bouncing up with each hit and the tiny fork and spoon rattling with the vibrations. Her sound disappeared inside itself, the way a word disappears inside itself if you look at it too long, no longer making sense as a whole, but only as strange, separate parts: scream and moan, air in and then pushed, hard, out. A man couldn't stand it, with the factory in a few hours and dinner getting cold:
I pulled down the lever, and released.
I pulled down the lever, and released.


in two, it was done, and I expected
silence (I did); the ghastly kind, where I could hear
my heart beating in my chest or
a hum in my ears, rising up louder and
blocking all the other things out -

but what I got wasn't a humming, or my heart,
but a rushing sound of in-out waves, far off,
like a big broom sweeping over stones,
and then a dog barking a few blocks off, irregular,
with another sounding back -

I looked out the window for it (I did);
the glass caught my stare a bit, and I could see
the white frilly curtains blowing with the window open, too;
and the yellow light of the tall streetlamp sort of pooling
on the grass and the stones at the bottom of the hill.

And slow, very slow, I led my head down,
led my eyes from the window, to the floor, to the table,
and I looked at it, still sitting there, still,
and expected something awful -
but not in the way this was awful:


"We've got something over here, sir."
(lifting a rock)
"It's wrapped up, but it's been crushed pretty good."
(opening the bag)


there wasn't no blood, and that surprised me,
but instead its face mashed in the front,
scrunched up like it had tasted something sour,
and bruising fast as I watched it, that red-purple of a baby-face
darkening to black around the nose and around the squinted-up eyes;
the tongue was out, just a tiny grey sliver,
and all the while the shine of the skin was fading dull and flat,
like the skin of a peach.

there weren't no blood.
none at all, but that in the bruise.
it surprised me.
it was all so dry.


This world is a wilderness of woe
So let us to glory go

Dying is a blooming rose
And none but them who feel it know


pulling it up out of the seat, my belt caught the wood tray,
and it snapped it on the hinges, a loud pop and then
__________________________a loud pop and then
a rattle to settle it down.


holding it was quiet; quiet, light and warm; and I couldn't do nothing with it warm like that, so I set it on the table, on its back to wait until the warmth was less.
I thought about dinner, cooling,
and then: a bag, for groceries; thick.
and everything was as loud as you would think: popping air into the bag to open it up, opening up a place on the counter, picking up the weight and sinking it down in to the bottom. from the handle, everything was more right, and I stepped out to do it.

I knew the place without planning it, and I went the few hundred yards to the stone:
a larger rock on the slant-face of the mountain.
there had been snakes underneath it in the spring, but they had cleared with the frost
and room was there;

my thoughts spread loose:
a cold, huddled spot in the belly of the mountain --
I placed the shopping sack inside and thought if I needed
a rope to tie her in place with.
but I did not have one.

rolling the stone back:
but between us, only.
between us.


Oh, my father had the stone
That was hewn from the mountain,
Oh, my father had the stone
That went tearin' through the world.


there weren't nothing to it with Marie, just:
I don't know what happened, she was gone, and
I went to the back of the house with the front door unlatched...
But she put a hand to her stomach and knew,
and she cried for it, silent.

There was no noise from the police, either.
The lights were not on. Just dark car-shapes and wheels crunching up
from the bottom of the hill.
I sat waiting.
My shift was still a few more hours. I hadn't ate nothing.
I sat waiting.
The table seemed to glow a bit, with the kitchen light shining down on it
and with nothing placed on top, so the reflection just caught it all and held it in that way light can do,
with the dark outside.
When they came in, they sat, opposite,
and one put both his hands on the lip and then raised back up to stand.
I watched his fingers push down, white around the nail, and then slide off backward.
But nothing happened.
Nothing happened.


Where shall I go?
Where shall I go?
Where shall I go for to ease my troubled mind?

I went to the rock to hide my face
For to ease my troubled mind;
The rock cried out "no hiding place"
For to ease my troubled mind.

The man who loves to serve the Lord,
For to ease my troubled mind,
Will sure get his just reward,
For to ease my troubled mind.

1st dr.
KMC 02-21-07

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Brief, Paterson-related Announcement

For any of those who find these types of things interesting, Conversely and I will be visiting the town of Paterson, New Jersey, locus of Williams' epic poem and inspiration to this project, on March 3. Our hope is to have all the poems done by that time, with the exception of "The End (Oh, Passaic)," which we each hope to compose a draft of from the shores of Passaic Falls State Park. If we can stand the pressure. In any case, the trip feels like a validation, at least to me, of what we've been doing here, and I'm very excited to walk down the Bourse and River and Ison Streets for myself, looking for the haunts of Ginsberg and Williams before him, and maybe even having a drink from Godwin's Taproom, across from the old county courthouse. Rest assured, we will write up the story of our travels when the time comes, but until then, be thinking of your friends and faithful travelers...

Thanks, everyone.

T. Az.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Paterson: Book Four, Chapter III, p. 199

The Man Facing Death

River, why do I think of you?
What, in your long history, am I?
That that was loosed from the deep split of stone?
That that runs carelessly over pulp earth between ribs of high granite?
That that will give itself too quickly, in time, to the stream?
And where were you in those moments of gathering, of
Self pulled to Other, of
Broad to Collective, of
A Push in the Back at the Lip of the Falls?
Where was I?
When was I?

Why do I think of you?
Whose hope was this, that water move onward?
That it move downward, in weight, in gravity, from stone?
That it roll as one over miles of sand and sunken limbs
to break around the bone of an ankle dipped, giggling, in?
That it slow, slow, spread wide at its end,
reach thick over steady undertows and then lift,
as the sole of a foot in stride,
up from the opposed tides to meet breeze, gulls, cross-current air?
Why, if the sea is ever a bringing in?
I ask again: Why is the sea ever a bringing in?
I hear this rhythm endlessly.

And this, too, River:
At times, did you also feel it was the shore moving past us?
I remember dreaming once, of towns flowing endlessly through our vision,
the strange, solid-land feel of a surface sliding on, on, and out...

What, in your long history, am I?
This wave, or
the next?
This wave, or
the next?
This wave, or
the next?
Do you still know?
And will I yet be living?

KMC 02-08-07

Friday, February 02, 2007

Paterson: Book Four, Chapter III, p. 202

The Trial, Conviction, and Execution of the Murderer John Johnson

John Johnson, from Liverpool, England, was convicted after 20 minutes conference by the Jury. On April 30th, 1850, he was hung in full view of thousands who had gathered on Garrett Mountain and adjacent house tops to witness the spectacle.


John Johnson son of son of John hanged for his hatchet work.
Johnson, John, son of son of John hanged for his hatchet work.
John Johnson son of son of a grandfather hanged for his hatchet work.

His hatchet work was among the best in the business.
His best work was his hatchet business.


After twenty minutes it was his head for which they called.
The passive voice removes responsibility.

After twenty minutes they called for his head.
The jury has decided the active voice is best.


Some hinges are terrifying.
John Johnson's hatchet work was killer, but some hinges are truly terrifying.



They gathered (like they would some years later at Wrigley) to see just how terrifying two simple hinges can be.

And they all said, "Verily, verily. Terrifyingly true."


A wild chant rose up
while he rose up
the crowd rose up:

"Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country!"

And to its aid they came.

Spectacle of spectacles!
Look at how those hinges glint!


There comes a time in every executioner's career that he removes the hood or hopes he isn't shooting blanks.


"Any last words?"



But blanks will be shot.



I would like to think (I would like to
think to you I am thankful I think.

Such thoughts are fruitless; I really ought to forget
all this fruitless thinking.

But perhaps I should have said something. (I would like to think for just a little longer, though.)


Late that evening in Liverpool, England, John Johnson’s brother another John Johnson was seen entering his home. He was seen lurching at the sound of the hinges on his front door. And with a sickening snap and a gurgle he was seen felled at the feet of his two excited young daughters who had run to greet him when they heard the sound of the hinges. They looked at him—curiously—and asked in unison, “Any last words?” His snapped neck was seen lolling around in reply. The coroner listed his cause of death as a blank hanging. The first such case to be seen in Liverpool in many years.


John Johnson from Liverpool was convicted after 20 minutes conference by the Jury. He was hung on April 30th, 1850 in the Jail Yard in full view of thousands who gathered on Garrett Mountain and on the house tops to witness the spectacle.

gbs 1-31-07

Paterson: Book Four, Chapter III, p. 190

The Difficulties of Holding All Together in the Mind

fishing, late, the heavy wound weight of the net drops quickly down from the long, black boon and spreads, thickly, across a surface:

water, tensely held to itself, rolling eagerly in a way that is bound, binding; as ropes break it, are swallowed, darken beneath the surface; as a gear clacks loud, close, letting more loosed rope out and down.

jolting, the boat moves forward as a second rumble from aft stretches further backwards until taut and holds --- engines pull an equal weight behind us, unseen, soon in black-green water, ballooned in opposite motion.

motors stop in a suitable time, wenches tighten engage dredge pull on the draws of the purse-seine as it brings up the first flashing, clapping grays.

loads change in sudden fashion, the water-weight rushing in thick columns out, the stunned and gasping fish, a moment ago weightless, piling in thick mass as the net is lifted up from the ocean, long strands of kelp dangling limply as water channels their lengths and runs steadily down.

with a deep movement, the deck rocks backward in relief, the sea no longer its responsibility.

watching, with a gloved hand I pull hard against the cold, metal handle of the hold-latch and listen: to the echoing patter of water falling from cord, from knot, from crushed bodies, from open mouths and down to the grease-slick floor.

with another motion the net opens and there is a singular sound,
____________________before the lapping of waves resumes against the bow.