A HYBRID NOTEBOOK OF POETICS AND PORNOGRAPHIES

Pornography Disclaimer

This is a an imaginary diary of facts, confessions, or messages. This is a notebook of working but broken ideas, lines, images, notes on books I'm reading, writers I admire, and brief fantasies of language. Here unfiltered  all mannerings pseudo-private, publicized, ur-. Here I am art and unrevealed: poetic, political and pop. These are my moonlit rough beginnings and should not be taken literally, directly, truthfully, reliably, and none of it is legally binding. These lies are all choreographed, but only haphazardly. Beware.

21.1.07

ELYTIS THE FRAGMENTS BEFORE SPRING

. . . . .
. . . . .

I don't know am I in love with oranges or his lips or the fragments of ah

some hour too swift where the memory of the first sun is painted

by the fragments of another a color where the sea a little translucent darkens

the new depths and the luck of his eyes new from nowhere aquamarine

shot green with a blindness long longed for, a winter thinned by the difficult

spring of dreams its pure demands its fast jealousies its reckless hopes

across the waves all birds all lyres all beckonings

the bare trysts of light and want like flower and boat I don't know

. . . . .

THE WALL PAINTING

"Having fallen in love and resided centuries in the sea I learned writing and reading

So that now I am able . . . to see to a great depth behind me succeeding generations
the way a mountain begins before

The other ends . . . And in front again the same:

Young Armed Helen . . . with her side against the whitwash . . . fills with wine
of the Virgin

The deep dark bottle . . . half of her body already fled to Asia opposite

And her embroidery all . . . transposed into the sky . . . with the forked birds
the buttercups . . . and the suns."

. . . . .

17.1.07

CRUEL DIARY OF THE MANSUCRIPT

. . . . .












This is how I feel about Men and Manuscripts.

One and his fetish for 21yearolds.

One and his sun, his waves, his thieves. Poem after poem, pages and pages of IT--before the title, before the order, before I've been able to let the drowned ones go.

One and his mirror. One and his fear.

One and his fetish for bald beefy men, even though he lets me
put my hand in his pants in the bar. Even though I've known him for years.
And kiss his neck from behind.
Even though he says I love you.

One and his piano, fake rockstar.

My lips on his ear. His tease
like a hurtful confusion between bewilderment and dream.

One who is reading. One who is being read.

The flesh is singing out, and singing. It's answering the constellations of no eyes.

One lovely with his boardgames and his brains and his beautiful body.

One and his fetishes, trying to sound romantic, but the pages sometimes feel like they're stolen from his cruel diary.

. . . . .

Tonight I'm trying not to sound like an essay about grammar. Instead I'm pasting in a gold star for my solitude.

NOTES ON A SCANDAL. Lovely! But it would make a better play, I think. The theater is the actor's medium, not the eye's.
Imagine a box of gold stars flung across the stage.

Though the moment of a gold star on Cate Blanchett's heel has its glamour.

What is revenge? The way our words create us, lie to us, give us love. The way we use them to get what we desire. Imaginary but Masterful Manipulaters.

It's been a long time since I've felt myself in love and needed to destoy.
My lips on his neck from behind. My breath in his ear.
And Heat in his sleep. My sleep
in his nearness, inside the hot slumber of hours.

I wonder if love is just another deathwish. Or is celebration a protest?

Friends and Strangers, the spiritual quest is a question of morbidity.

. . . . .














. . . . .

Friends and Strangers, if your heart is not his clear gaze stopped by your disaster, how do you know it's not just emptiness coursing through?

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf? Big bad wolf.

So here we are to live and wound the Nothing. With orgasm and promises spoken in the dark.

So here we are in the embrace of the body's darkness. Who do you threaten, who do you accuse with the promises of your bare need?

. . . . .

From "Te Mueres de Casta Y de Sencilla" by Miguel Hernandez:

"El fantasma del beso delincuente
el pomulo te tiene perseguido,
cada vez mas patente, negro y grande.

Y sin dormir estas, celosamente,
vigilando mi boca !con que cuido!
para que no se vicie y se desmande."


An Obscene Liberal Translation by Miguel Murphy:

My kiss is a phantom. A specter
like a miscreant, delinquent on your body. My kiss
pursues and persecutes you. On your body
I leave my phantom. The ghost
of my kiss each time gets heavier,

darker, more immense. My kiss is the stain
of my jealous adoration--the heat
of its absence like a blossom to your sleep.
You'll have to stay awake. You'll have to.

Without sleep, and with jealousy
with intensity and care! In your insomnia
you'll guard the flower of my mouth
and keep your nightly vigils
for my lips to kiss you and to leave you!

. . . . .

Friends and Strangers, the threat of love is the thrill!

. . . . .

13.1.07

THE SPECTACLE OF A FANTASY

. . . . .

How about it, Frederick Seidel?



"Fog"

I spend most of my time not dying.
That's what living is for.
I climb on a motorcycle.
I climb on a cloud and rain.
I climb on a woman I love.
I repeat my themes.

. . . . .


Not the spectacle of intimacy. What else are we, if not the eye on our own personae dramatis?

The hidden theaters all portray devastations in plain sight. The mask of eros is blank.

The version of ourself that is reflected everywhere? Or the everywhere that is the version of ourself reflected?

. . . . .

O everywhere I spend my time
not dying.
The palm trees flickering in black and white at night.
And the Green is still reflected.
The sea out there is chanting like the shores
that line the heart with heat. I cannot go to sleep.

I cannot go to sleep;
I sing of darkness. Dogs. Men I love
who do not love me back, and winds
pouring themselves
fast as a drink on a Friday night. Like glances,
those softly lit hearses warm and wound us.

. . . . .

Friends and Strangers, the porn of me.

. . . . .

12.1.07

THE ANGELMONSTER OF SYNTAX AND SYNESTHESIA

. . . . .

Hello? Is anyone out there? This notebook is a strange place to be playing around. In case anyone has wondered about this whole hybridization of poetry and porn,

not that anyone reads this blog, but the idea that it's being sent out into an immediate, unseen, audience--that audience is itself a product of an echo in space--that somewhen, dear Friends and Strangers, you are, and you are reading this in your hyper-windowed version of now, synaptically

here I am, basically unedited, in my intellectual and emotional pornographies. If porn is the staging of intimacy, and if poetry is the effort to achieve pleasure by means of baring Self to Otherness through the serious difficulty of language,

then here are my bare attempts at speaking to you roughly, privately, and partially through the lie of personality, as I work through my loves, in lines broken or sentences wonderstricken, trying to enact how certain poetries leave me, as Willa Cather has written, "deliciously, yet delicately fired."

. . . . .

One of the most compelling aspects of Ralph Angel's work is his monstering of syntax. In my last post I considered the synesthesia at work in his consciousness, the crossing of sensory information as he intensely and actively attunes to multiple details at once. He senses, or divines, his own existence from the crossing of emotional moods with physical incident. We see this, for example, in the first poem of his new book, Exceptions and Melancholies:

"With Care"

Whoever has a quiet mind

up on the roof the season turned the bath towels purple.

Quiet is the demolition. The neighbors got to know eachother
someday soon.

Boys pull the apples to the ground. Clouds
keep the sky together. And the hardest-working part of it steps
. . . . .from the window scenes

into a pair of jeans, wouldn't you?

I said I found lakes there
and odd pieces of meaning that have nothing to do with you

and wink back.

. . . . .

I cite the first half of the poem, which is grammatically striking, in a way that other poems of his are. Is the first sentence an address, stating that "whoever has a quiet mind" will notice the effect of the season on the bath towels? Or is this person actually on the roof, where the bath towels are purple? There is a syntactical confusion here reminiscent of E.E. Cummings, both playful and compelling. Is a pronoun our subject? Is a prepositional phrase? Further down, our subject is just as ambiguous as "the hardest-working part of it" (if "it" refers to the sky) steps down out of the sky, from the windows "into a pair of jeans." Here is a figure, bodiless, undefined, without sex or identity, that still "steps" and climbs into a pair of pants. And if that displacement of being weren't too much to comprehend, suddenly we are forced to acknowledge our own "bodiness," as Angel asks, "wouldn't you?" There is an intense conciousness driving these poems, and the rigours of his syntax are themselves the anchoring of his voice.

In the third sentence, the tense itself is confused by "someday soon." Really, it's the word "soon" here that distracts us, forces us to question meaning itself. Time wormholes time. Without warning we're suddenly in the past, or the future. This gives us a portraiting effect, of a place, or an experience of knowing-a-place, which happens at all of our points of knowing it at once. His sentences are trains that fly past us, as we glimpse ourselves in their momentary windows: "I said I found lakes there / and odd pieces of meaning that have nothing to do with you // and wink back." Now the you is uncertain. Is this an address to you, Friends and Strangers, or to the figure in the "window-scenes", and is this to whom Angel will "wink back"? Again that confusion of tenses, the past and the present happening simultaneously. Angel demands of the sentence everything possible in his meaning. He confronts our linearity, challenges how we read consciousness.

Sometimes the distance between the subject and the verb in a sentence is overwhelmed by the image-laden phrases it contains. In the poem "Inside Out", for example, the first sentence separates the second subject from its final action:

Outside the summer heat was shimmering
and after resting on the beach
I walked until the bay
grew saucer-shaped again
and blue, and so the bowl of pears and even the binoculars
were painted there, and from every
room pushed the land
away.

The phrase that strikes the bell of the ear is the final one: "and from every / room pushed the land / away." "I walked" he writes, and "pushed the land / away." But this isn't the meaning we comprehend. Instead, we're overwhelmed by the world between. In fact, this is the effect of a syntax that distances the body from the sight. The visible world here fills the space between the "I" and its actions, the EYE overwhelms the consciousness with its gaze of "the bowl of pears and even the binoculars". The rest of this sentence, "were painted there", adds to the confusion between perpective and time. A poignant example of this kind of displacement is the poem "Soft and Pretty," an 18 line sentence in which both the speaker and the reader experience the distancing of experience from feeling, mind from incident, body as a relative consciousness. On the one hand, we're confused about what's happening to whom, and on the other, we realize that we are the whom and the what's happening too.

Notably, line breaks in Angel work to emphasize parts of speech, and in some cases, to personify them. In the last citation he writes, "room pushed the land", a phrase that displaces the meaning of the sentence, but adds to our poetic wonder. In his poem "The Coast", there are lines that recall William Carlos Williams' isolation of parts of speech:

. . . Alongside
a warehouse a palm tree
flares.

Another
hillside is about to open. At the edge
of death the earth
turns. A child
dances,

the wind
goes singing by.

These line breaks condense nouns, highlight prepositions, and by enjambment compliment subjects with multiple verbs. Notice lines like "a warehouse a palm tree" that help us to itemize objects, or "flares" and "dances" which pronounce action, and in turn recall "turns. A Child", a line that helps to center the playfulness of this poem, that exists "at the edge" where "the wind / goes singing by". Or consider the simple density of the line "of death the earth" in which the preposition evokes a double meaning in the relationship of these two nouns: "the earth of death", a phrase that implies an inherent nihilism--and "of death the earth", a phrase that implies resurrection, implies that about death we might reference the living planet.

I'd argue that this attention to syntax is a result of Angel's voice, as it listens inwardly, a netting of the sensory, as he minds the world and his relation to it. I don't think he strives to be complicated, but he's whispering to himself these prayers of attention. Like Williams, the cadence of his line is meant to clarify, to bless, and this blessing is an engagement of sorts, and this engagement is the remnant of his existence. His poem is his evidence of experiencing a complex and nuanced and delicate synesthesia of mood and moment. His poem paints his voice demolishing the distances of time and image, as they are rapt with perception and certain feeling.

"Playing Monster"

Of sprinklers
on the tilted lawns, a child,

the lions of repose smoothly sculpted
from the first steps
of a civilized but unrelenting
privacy,

the babble of the run-off.

When I'm in doubt
I am the sound that separates itself
from a leaf-blower
that comes inside with its flock
of parrots.

I think my body's breaking down

where a good friend isn't
actually.

. . . . .

Friends and Strangers, Angel's is a poetry that in its directness is almost easy to discount. His syntax forces us to slow down, forces us to read again, demands in fact that we learn how to read his sentence, reminding us that reading is an act of comprehension. Like poetry, it is an act of awareness. His poetry asks that we enter a consciousness not unlike our own, but one we've neglected to consider, one that must filter the storming variables of existence as our relation to them falters and feels.

. . . . .

11.1.07

A KIND OF LISTENING SEEMS TO BE ANSWERING HIS SIGHT

. . . . .

When I think of narrative poetry, I think of poets whose style is intimately bound to the manner in which the "I" of the poem is consciously directing our sight, thereby directing our insight. The action of the speaker, we trust, will direct us through a movement in language that at some point will become inward, orphic, will achieve that satisfying flight into pre-verbal irony--well, what Dickinson says about the pleasure that makes a "body so cold no fire can ever warm" it--and this environment of the poem is bound to the speaker's conscious choices. In other words: A movement of the eyes across the bare world translates into a movement of poetic insight.

Think Robert Frost's "Desert Places" where stanza by stanza we're looking with the speaker, outward at the "night falling fast, oh fast," downward at the blankness of "benighted snow," upward into "empty spaces / between stars--on stars where no human race is", blackward, and finally inward "so much nearer home." This is true in some of the poets I greatly adore, say Dobyns, Gluck, Stern, Ai, Clifton, Doty--in their work there is a voice driving the poem through the physical/historical world, which--by the end of the poem--results in a corresponding intuitive arc.

In Frost is a model that perhaps contemporary poetry hasn't forgotten:

"Desert Places"

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it--it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs,
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less--
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

. . . . .

I'm trying to articulate this because I want to make a distinction in the poetry of Ralph Angel, whose consciousness in a poem is not one of action at all. In the way that the sensual elements themselves seemed to call forth an imaginitive consciousness in Elizabeth Bishop's work (a poet very much of the Eye, and one whose poems very much direct us), Angel too is summoned by the synesthesia of a few human worlds at once. Consider just the first lines of his new collection:

Whoever has a quiet mind

up on the roof the season turned the bath towels purple.

Quiet is the demolition.

Mind is how we filter and understand the sensual details of being. Mind is what we make of all the sensory information radioed to us from the Quiet. Between Mind and Quiet--that's where we exist. In the noise of body, and commerce, and community, where Angel's work captures incident and emotion. Captures, reflects, antennaes, recieves. These verbs enact Angel. His poems are like filters of experience from the mindside, as it focuses, listens, waits for, messages, tunes in to the mystery of wonder. Think Whitman: "I loafe and invite my soul".

Friends and Strangers, Angel's consciousness is a kind of invitation in the poem, that in the end snags moods. The thing about this guy's work is his exploration of complicated emotions that at times cross themselves out, leaving us with an attention to the mystery of chance and combination: "That / that the future is ashes / and a kiss on the cheek. This cup /of coffee goes down like chocolate. A footbridge / the eye leaves among cliffsides / of steam. // There is no shame / in failure. No lost, / or blue unfurling courtyard." These are poems of things coming together, and failing to collapse into a single clean aphorism. Surprisingly, this makes for very rewarding poetry. A poetry both vulnerable and curious. A poetry of the air, if one is at prayer. Our wonder, answerless, is wonderful.

. . . . .

"Sampling"

I'm standing still on 10th Street. I'm not the only one.
. . . . .Buildings rise like foliage and human touch.

And so shall dig this cigarette as my last, and rattle trains, and
. . . . .rot the fences of the gardens of my body--

or without the harmony of speaking here the many sounds
. . . . .and rhythms that sound a lot like anger

when anger's silent, like a painting, though in the stillness of the
. . . . .paint itself the painter nods or waves or asks for help.

I'm not the only one. The pharmacy's untitled. The stars are
. . . . .there at night. In this humidity

the forlorn singing of the insects clings to anything nailed
. . . . .down. A whole bag of things I'm working

through, some set things that I know, like words I know that
. . . . .mean "from one place to another," the word that means

"to carry." I'm standing still on 10th street. I'm not the only
. . . . .one. The dark tastes of salt and oranges. Its eyes

wander round and round. I am its thousand windows. I think
. . . . .about the future and the sea. And stay.
.

9.1.07

A NOTE FOR THE BRIEF EXCEPTIONS

. . . . .

Friends and Strangers, Do you have Ralph Angel's
new New and Selected,

Exceptions and Melancholies? One of my most favorite poets gets better, sure-footed, invisible on the slopes of the visible.

Here are new notations in the life of difficult wonder.

Brief portraits given with fierce intelligence.

Here is a mind at wander, in emotional wonder.

Here a voice demolishing distances.

Angel's is a quiet envy of everything seen and felt.

A kind of listening that seems to be answering his sight.

Sentences sculpted with Rilkean care and colloquial whim.

Here a few photographs of a mystery, making it bearable.

A small attention to a few human things at once.
. . . . .

7.1.07

MY NIGHT JOURNAL AT THE RED GARTER

. . . . .

On the jukebox Johnny Cash casts his love sadness.
Night Rose in the window, the petals black and tender.

This evening In my lovelessness I search for a pair of green Meridian's. I buy a black rocker coat and a pair of purple corduroy's and a blackandpink Japanese surf shirt instead. Goddamn it nothing fits me but my fucking tightie whities, and it's all boutique and I didn't know it then, but NO EXCHANGE, NO REFUND, those fuckers at Wolf have all my money. It's the waste of it that hurts me, not buyer's remorse, but the self-destruction of commerce when I'd rather be getting naked to destroy myself like a fake rockstar. World of beautiful devastations, I distract myself with poverty and In the end I end up broke and here at the Red Garter alone.

Inside
The bartender takes off his shirt to show us some tattoo
and a canary pink nipple.
Oh Detroit, you sent us your man angel.

Paulina screams from the otherside --Mike, you're my Mangel!
Oh Paulina, do another bump.

Me with my coffee and a chocolate donut, texting Hugo.
FRIM looks through jpegs until he sees the the pic of my privates.

Night is the thorn attached to the rose.
I'm drinking from the dark window, where the print of the rose is


drinking from my absence.
The rose is Hekabe and the death of Polyxena:

"you will have to watch

her
fall forward
at the tomb
and spray red blood
from a blackbright hole

as it opens her throat wide."

Today I had a thirst that destroys. I will end myself and sleep.
"Down to the blacknesss below
where corpses lie--
I shall lie!
O!"

. . . . .

3.1.07

GREEN IS THE SWORD TO DRINK DEATH WITH















"The Secret Of the Ferns"

In the vault of swords the leaf-green heart of the shadows looks at itself.
The blades are bright: who would not linger in death before mirrors?
Also in jugs here a sadness that's living is drunk to:
flowery it darkens up, before they drink, as though it were not water,
as though here it were a daisy of which darker love is demanded,
a pillow more black for the couch, and heavier hair. . .

But here there is only dread for the shining of iron;
and if anything here still glints up, may it be a sword.
Were not mirrors our hosts, never we'd empty the jug from this table:
let one of them crack and split where we're green as the leaves.

. . . . .

Friends and Strangers, Paul Celan.

His is the voice of the lamp underground.

His thirst is his religion, the greendark starvation of the blind. No one yet
believes in the doors to

his sadness. The tendrils struggle sightless and white, white, white--
The witness
of the blue watering of a mirror
struggling to know itself
on the wall alone. Like eyes, Nightside. The tendrils are all white and terrible
and
romantic. They are

underneath
the struggle of living,
the stalk vomiting itself into little green windows.
I am listening

sometimes into the thumb-sized shields a trillion
small reflections in a goldmirror like a quiet happiness

turn to their thirst. Inside the blackness
is a sponge. Silence. I'll drink from your living, your noon
leaden shadow. Graveside. The blackness of not knowing where to go.
Integers

of the lampless
you are

Green. The blackness of the hour still is safe from banners and orgies.
Sometimes the cold knowing stabs itself from within.

Safe from their shape is a brightness for killers.
The fountains of silence

O fallen onto death's words war within.

1.1.07

PURE DAYLIGHT IS THE STONE

Except that Cavafy is always discussing sex,

only he never seems to be in the clutches, as I pointed out in my last entry, like Rigoberto Gonzalez, who's absolutely gripping, clawing, entering, being undone by, torqued, worn, re-bodied and re-boundaried by violent desires--where sex is his religion, the death of self and the resurrection. The body too is exchanged in this transformation of person, except in Cavafy there's no psycho-porn, there's only the momentary reminiscence of lips and face and hair.

It's this distance that demands oblique, antique phrases like "erotic pleasure" to Gonzalez' frank, "finger, foot, cock," that I'm referring to when I call Cavafy a Gay Republican. Tonight I'm haunted by the feeling that I was brazen and wrong, that I've hurt my feelings for Cavafy--

that I've wounded a secret love. Though I'm right to say he's a demon with a blue eye.

. . . . .

"Picture Of a 23 Year-Old Painted By His Friend Of the Same Age, An Amateur"

He finished the picture yesterday noon.
Now he looks at it detail by detail. He's painted him
wearing an unbuttoned gray jacket,
no vest, tieless, with a rose-colored
shirt, open, allowing a glimpse
of his beautiful chest and neck.
The right side of his forehead is almost covered
by his hair, his lovely hair
(done in the style he's recently adopted).
He's managed to capture perfectly the sensual note
he wanted when he did the eyes,
when he did the lips. . .
That mouth of his, those lips
so ready to satisfy a special kind of erotic pleasure.

. . . . .

Friends and Strangers, Gonzalez' achievement is that he risks the psychotherapeutic "I" to descend into sexuality, when most contemporary poets use it to romanticize a family drama (still clouded, unknowing Lowell-ists) or to document the daily mundane (as if pure journalism could serve us as poetry), poorly idolizing W.C. Williams. Sex is horror. The challenge for Gonzalez, Sexton, and anyone else who attempts sex as subject (say Bidart, or more recently Siken) is that to avoid being funny or caricaturist, the poem must be more than provocative. Its nature is to shock us. Poets of sexual descent, especially those of us affected by post-modernist sensibilities, have to worry whether this shock will be discredited as pornographic or simply poorly executed. This is not a concern for Cavafy, whose distance from sex itself is as great as the distance between the stone and the light, the living and the remembered.

. . . . .

How do we achieve, on the other hand, something contemplative, quiet, unless we write like Cavafy, apart, at a distance. Is it possible to disrobe in a poem? I mean to actually fuck in a poem? Can poetry succeed in the middle of a sexual display, can poetry really achieve its own Dyonisian impulse and not result in sounding disturbing?


Cavafy is forever considering loss, and not really sex. He's a sensualist, and in the end sensualism is always adorned by a death. His young dead lover is ever stoned by the light of his memory.

For me Henri Cole is more like Cavafy than Gonzalez. His approach is distanced by omniscience, the recounting of a memory. It's so internalized, quiet--and, like Cavafy, this is a mark of its beauty. But it's so much an inward movement that we end up in the air. It's as if he's reading an obituary. It's as if the experience belongs to any of us, and especially to someone else.


"Blur 2"


The strong sad ritual between us could not be broken:

the empathetic greeting; the apologies

and reproaches; the narrow bed of his flesh;

the fear of being shown whole in the mirror

of another's fragmentation; the climbing on;

the unambiguous freedom born of submission;

the head, like a rock, hefted on and off moist earth;

the rough language; the impermeable core

of one's being made permeable; the black hair

and shining eyes; and afterward, the marrowy

emissions, the gasping made liquid; the torso

like pale clay or a plank, being dropped;

the small confessional remarks that inscribe

the sole; the indolence; the being alone.


The power of a poem like this is that in the end we're greedy eavesdroppers--because this is someone else's life, we're reading his journal, he's talking to himself, offering his fallen confession, but we're listening too, secretly, and it sounds like our own experience in the embrace of a shadow: "the impermeable core / of one's being made permeable". Cole succeeds in a compelling exhibitionism without an ounce of vulgarity. I mean, "marrowy / emissions, the gasping made liquid"? You couldn't get any more exact and simultaneously non-descript.

. . . . .

The need for an illicit poetry that addresses taboo sensuality is not new, but it belongs to those tragic personages who risk their lives and public reputations to make of themselves an offering. Think de Sade or Georges Bataille. Think Verlaine and his disastrous affair with Rimbaud. Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Henry Miller, Collette (god the French!), Anaiis Nin, Sexton, Kathy Acker. . . To write explicity about sex means you have to offend, challenge, face the admonition of the religious fear-mongers. And yet,

I started writing this to address Cavafy, to apologize for calling him a Gay Republican. Was that unfair? It was to reference his honesty about sexual identity masked with the daylight frankness with which he absolutely avoids sexuality altogether. Of course, this is blameless. Sexuality wasn't his subject at all--it was longing, and how the body torments us because it sails.

I started writing this to address and to define the boundary of erotic poetics, and whether a style of confessional honesty can offer us beautiful poems, or merely disturbing ones. Is the horror of sexual encounter, the terror of losing self, body, boundary, identity, all to the administering of physical pain--the bite, the lash, the orgasm--a realm where poetry can love? We are writing somewhere between the erotic and the sexually vulgar. We are balancing death with love. Love sends us a message:--from the distant light of his eyes to the hot presence of this blood--Naughty is the new Nice.

. . . . .

I don't know whether there is a poetry that couples the vulgar and the romantic, one that balances memory with the intensity of the sexual act itself. If this kind of poem exists, is it a descendant of something cultured or something brutal? Cavafy or Lorca? Straightforward Imagery or Symbolic Metaphor? Nature or Nurture?

I'm thinking now of Carl Phillips, whose work at first, because of the pressure of its syntax, feels related to Cavafy in terms of its portrayal of men in relationships, its reference to classical texts and figures and history, and the clarity of its imagery. (Though, for me, his resemblance to Donne--in terms of the metaphysical intensity of his work--is even more striking). But reading any of his books, you realize he's fearlessly grazing on the vulgar. But like Lorca, he gives it to us like a burning romantic. Even though he's over us, our whole obsession with romantics, with desire. Still, he's faced with the reality of it. How dow we write about something so boring? When every other heart has a love song to cry over? So he's an intellectual, and he's filthy rich, and he's bored with the help--but he's in love, and god it's gross to have to write about it, but oh. His syntax is trying to mezmerize us, hypnotize us. He really has to work hard to cast a spell. Its the beauty of philosophy, that has something sure to say, crossed with the irony of one who's self conscious of his own reflection in the water. He yawns and rolls his eyes and waves down to himself, Cold Narcissus. Well, what's one more poem to you, Friend and Stranger?

(And then the breeze comes through like a secret violence--that like Bishop happens syntactically:

"I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident"

and the whisper of it's enough to reduce us to the lost petals of his looks. . .

. . . . .

"Quarter-View, From Nauset"


Love, etc. Have been remembering
the part in Sophocles
where a god advises the two heroes

they should be as
twin lions, feeding--how
even the flesh of late

slaughter does not
distract them from keeping
each over the other

a guarding eye.
What part of this is love, and
what survival

is never said,
though the difference it makes is
at least that between a lily and, say,

a shield. I think of you
often, especially here,
at the edge of the world or a

part of it, anyway,
by which I mean of course
more, you will have guessed, than

the coast, just now, I
stand on. Against it,
the water dashes with

the violence of two men who,
having stripped it, now take for their
own the body of

a third man on the bad
sofa of an even worse
motel room in what eventually

is movie--one
we've seen . . . The way
what looks like rape

might not be. You'd like
the light here. At
times, a color you'd call anything but blue.
My photo
I've got one foot in the grave and the other's in my mouth.

Poetry Disclaimer

My work has been awarded the Katherine C. Turner Prize from the Academy of American Poets, a Swarthout Award, and has twice been nominated and shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize. My first book, A Book Called Rats, was selected for the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry (Eastern Washington University Press 2007). I'm curating editor for the online journal of poetry: PISTOLA and my poems and reviews most recently appear in Massachusetts Review, Beloit, Ploughshares and RAIN TAXI. I currently teach writing and literature at Santa Monica College in southern California.