Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Paterson, Book II, Chapter I, p. 59

Desire and the Evangelist (from the ten minute imagist)

sweaty bodies stick skin to skin, roll over onto a remote
the channel changes

yelling forth from the screen goes unnoticed

Friday, April 19, 2013

Paterson: Book II, Chapter I, p. 61

To Be Good Dogs; or, the Need for Resistance of Memory

Listen: we see seconds of our futures.
It’s true: two Stanford doctors proved it.
Their experiment involved a woman
watching a computer screen as images
flickered past every two seconds or so.
Some were cheerful: puppies, rainbows, ice cream. 
Others were horrible: just death, death, death.
What happened next surprised everybody
except the two doctors: the woman’s brain,
monitored from another room, began
to flicker—once before the horrors, not
at all before the joys.  She had sensed them
more than two seconds before they were seen.

Conclusions, for the doctors, are easy,
but less so for us.  What does it mean, that
we can see two seconds of our futures? 
Not long enough to hit the brakes; not far
enough to stay away from the rotten
branch, the alley, the sophisticated
lover and his Gauloises.  Not fast
enough to keep us from wishing to go
backward, dreaming of different outcomes,
and the steps that would have arrived at them. 
These two seconds have never arrested
the accumulation of our singular
story, drop by drop, a cave formation
of ourselves, out of ourselves, from ourselves.

We are seeing in the wrong direction.
Let me know what has been, singularly.
Do not let us see ourselves as desired.
Arrest not time, but my thinking of it.
What, then, is the truth of those few seconds?
Time, as if it were a mother, places
its hands on our cheeks, turns our faces
away from our first and our truest love:
the want of keeping, want of memory.
We, like bad children, pull away, hide
our faces, avoid contact with her eyes,
and refuse to see; instead, only sense—
and those few seconds, in ones and twos, lose
out, and are delayed.  They are resisted.

KMC 4/19/13

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Paterson: Book II, Chapter 1, p. 45--(so close are we to ruin every day!)

(so close are we to ruin every day)

the waves begin so forcefully
and move so rapidly light flecks from them
in urgent bursts
of unbelievable whiteness.

Windows break, as bodies also break,
and thousands of eyes collect, signal, and transmit
a thing not yet filtered, understood, or seen.


Death pushes me from death.
The spectacle adds distance
in years, thoughts, and means:
I cannot die like this.

I know your secret, my betrothed:
you are not a ghost,
you are a lover.  Like a lover,
I know you less for your body,
and I make you exotic.  

I cannot die
Like this.
I will sleep in. 


8 minutes ago,
the sun erupted
 like a million
plasma flared
one hundred thousand miles
into empty space;
and light explodes
across the foot of my bed
like a bomb.

KMC 4/16/13

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Paterson: Book II, Chapter I, p. 45--"How Do I Love You? These!"/Preceding Whispered Voices (II)

A Note to Readers:

You should not listen to such notes.  Nevertheless, here: I read Graham's poem by this title not an hour ago, and it is both beautiful in its own right and profoundly convicting for me, and for how I feel about this project.  You see, I have always craved the detachment Paterson gave me.  It was a place full of interest, and emotion, and tragedy, and all the things that make art so fascinating to make.  But it was only obliquely "my" place.  This meant that my personal engagement with these poems has always been primarily intellectual: their content fascinates and engages me, but it has never worked in the other direction: I have not truly poured myself into anything I have done here.  But Graham just broke the fourth wall in this regard.  And I will reciprocate.  This poem is not carefully crafted.  I'm not sure if its metaphors hold, or if its structure is sound--I intuited those things as I wrote them, but this time--for the first time--I tried to capture myself, rather than a version of myself dressed up in period costumes.  It's not always pretty.  In fact, it's blatantly hypocritical.  But this project is more, now, than a wild shot at innovation and interest.  It's been seven years, and it's a part of who I am, and a part of who Graham is. And that Graham is also a part of who I am is absolutely true.  Thank you, Graham, for continuing to do this thing with me.  KMC

"How Do I Love You?  These!" / Preceding Whispered Voices (II)

Pillar of Salt!

I will not remember
you!  I know how
that little game goes!

Isn't that what this has all been about?
The falls aren't the river,
they're the past.  They're the
spectacle we make of the water
that's gone.
The falls are the memory we have
of a thing not there
at all.

There are no "falls."  There is
water, and rock, and the flowing
of one over the other.
"Paterson" will not be a name we give
to a thing we cannot hold,
a thing we cannot keep,
a thing we cannot know,

unless we are carried along within it.

(200 steps...)


The falls are a place on a map
picked up from a convenience store
somewhere up Haledon Avenue--
halfway to Franklin Lake.

The falls are a dot
you think you see
from the summit of Mt. Garrett--
that sleeping giant
of Williams's verses,
on its side
in the New Jersey flats--
snow crusted
around the bases
of trees.

(another 200 steps, and then...)

I will not play another game with you
old man!

I will not set down in a place
what is not in a place.
I will not surrender what breathes
to a memory.
It is not a memory.
I, like Lot's wife, know
how treacherously memory works.

There can be no reflection
without a pause to take it in.
There is no name
that does not undo what has been named.
There is water.
There is water.
There is water.
                                I will remember this!

I will remember this.

Help me.
No more poems.
No more metaphors.
I'm done with fish and their nets.
I'm done with Paterson and its ghosts.
I will not look back.

We know what happens to those who do.

I will flow over the rocks of the falls
and you will flow over them with me.
We will jump
as Sam Patch once jumped.
Let others tell the story
or take the picture
or write the poem.

I will not remember
you wrongly.

KMC 4/11/13

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Paterson: Book II, Chapter I, p. 45--"How Do I Love You? These!"/Preceding Whispered Voices

A Note to Readers:

You learn to ignore authorial intent when you become an English major. Most of us really grasp it with Emily Dickinson. As it turns out, it's not interesting for very long to read her poems through the "crazy-recluse-in-only-white-clothes" lens. I thought, however, that this deserved an explanation.

In this latest incarnation of the Paterson Project, Kenny and I have been doing very little revising and drafting. I did a little more on this one, but not a lot. One of my favorite things that happens when writing happened to me here: I learned what I really wanted to say while moving through the writing process. It started as a poem about about the love of a poem, but as you will see, it turns into a poem about friendship and the love of a friend. A different approach to this poem would have revised away the transition and the change from one to the other, but I decided to leave it since it shows the growth of the poem and, in a way, the growth of our friendship.

Far be it from me to tell someone how to read a poem, but that's what this one is about. Take it or leave it, I suppose. To paraphrase Eliot, these are private words addressed in public.

"How Do I Love You? These!"/Preceding Whispered Voices

The falls contain it: 
Heraclitean fire 
gone cold. 

Icy mists collect, sedimentarily.

Dirt and grime 
swallowed in the whiteness 
covered again
by dirt and grime.

Look east, to the rolling.

The sounds of the wind are not of the wind at all.
Standing in Paterson's ear the sound of the wind is 
the sound of a mouth blowing over a bottle, of lips 
over an embouchure hole, ear and skull as instrument, 
moving, swaying, fighting against the musician, 
shifting pitch with an internal manipulation.
The sound flows over the crevice of the riverbed, through the bridge 
and the swirls of water and eddying pools add to it.

Where the poem becomes the poem, where it always started.

Ah, love, let us be true. 

To lean over the steel of the bridge and peer into the heart
is to see into the beginning and the end and to begin again.

From beyond the edge
the sounds are those of a broken city
rent asunder
by time and misplaced hopes.

But here, here is where it all begins! Look here, Paterson! Look here, Angels!

The first time we stood here we were but boys, alive
with the expectation of the falls, with the turbulence of the Passaic.
We broke into Hinchcliffe, and later learned we had stood
on sacred ground: Gibson, Paige, Cool Papa
and more played there. Our memories, gleaming of half-extinguished
thought, change and begin again and we hear the sound of
Gibson's bat. We scuttled beneath rusty fences into ruins
of industries long dead and in them we found beauty, stole bricks, then home.

The world hangs over Paterson. The steel of its bridge, 
the brick of its power plant, the Passaic.

The second time we stood there we came in from East Rutherford,
Flossie and Bill's graves. 
The unremembered remained, the falls remain, a source
of what will be. But we also saw Paterson, and in short, we were afraid.
The city, ravaged and decaying, beauty in the grit but not in the suffering.
Our lives new again, he with a child now, our exploration this time, 
was different, sadder.

Paterson falls, the Great Falls, the fallen. 
To be reborn anew? 
For the falls, always. For Paterson, only hope remains.

A couple of months after my wife and I had placed 
my daughters' two little brass urns deep into the soil, 
into one grave (they had only ever known each other), it was
him I stood with to see the marker for the first time.
A brass name plate on cold marble, it is what I touch now
when I want to feel close to them. Then, I stood,
shaking, despairing, weeping, his heavy arm looped 
around my shoulder, his other hand grasped the bridge
of his nose, lifting his glasses away from the tears
as they streaked his pale skin. In that moment
he held me together, as only hope remained.
We had had Paterson, thankfully, because now
I needed more.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Paterson: Book II, Chapter 1, p. 45--Unrequited; or, Exiling One's Self from One's Self

Unrequited; or, Exiling One’s Self from One’s Self

This is based on a true story
(which it cannot be):

All of us—all human beings—
can see into the future.  There ain’t
no need for a palmist or sooth-
sayer or shit.  But there is not one of us—
not one!—who can see into the past, 
even though it just happened 
a fuckingnano-second ago, 
to us

Let me prove it to you: 
Sooner or later, the world ends
in fire, with burning seas and spew-
ing mountains all over the place. 
looooong before that, people—
all human beings--are going to 
fuck themselves to death 
with all sorts of machines, 
and sex robots, and business deals 
and pollution-laser shit. 
Meanwhile, in the forests,
plants will make seeds,
seeds will make more plants,
and the earth will rise straight up
out of the ocean, like a tumor,
or an earthworm in fresh soil. 
And all of this I know already.
And all of this I will take. 
But you hear me first,
before you leap into that future:
In the corner of this room—
This very room!—a television is telling me
America used to be famous
I say: My God, to who, goddammit?

KMC 4/9/13

Monday, April 08, 2013

Paterson: Book II, Chapter 1, p. 50

A New Mind, A New Measure

Awake again, I am remembering:
cold and threaded wires dragging the sand
of the Middlegrounds, knotted knuckles manned
one-thousand feet above by three swaying
bodies and six swaying hands.  Waves knocking
the paint-flecked bow as wheels spin, gears click,
then whoompf! as the hard hull presses down thick
into the up-pushing sea.  Aft, locking,
cables pull iron-taught and spindles groan
as sea separates from sea.  Knots hold,
then, rising, thousands of bodies slap, cold,
but warming, as other hands reach through foam.
You know already how this thought will end:
Six hands, three hooks, another drop--suspend.

KMC 4/8/13

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Paterson: Book II, Chapter 1, p. 55

Desire and the Evangelist

We all know the silver suits and sage-colored ties,
the cufflinks and coiffure
that make up the televangelist. 

If you, like me, don’t trust the
snake, you have heard his
whispers over the Fruit in the Garden:

God wants you
Jesus needs you
And you will not surely die—

watch him crumple to the floor
                                  And tithe.)

KMC 4/4/13