Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Sometimes it’s as if a little
of the universal chaos or chora,
force of making and unmaking, makes
itself felt locally: I’m talking
about the thunderstorm that ripped through
the area a couple of hours ago
while we were at Erica and Joey’s place
out in Newfield, splitting trees
and raining whole branches down on the roads
and lawns. And the mischief
goes further than that, reaching out
with malevolent hand
to touch a pair of icons: Farrah
Fawcett’s gone as of this morning
and I just looked on the Times website
and Michael Jackson, the so-called
King of Pop, has died in Los Angeles
at age 50 from unknown causes (read:
his whole sad twisted and talented
life did him in). Which is stranger:
I’m just a little too old to have imprinted sexually
on Farrah’s red swimsuit poster and missed
for the most part the original Charlie’s Angels
so all I know of her is an iconicity
that outlasted her career and will likely
outlast her. MJ on the other hand
has always been there, his big little voice
ringing out ABC 123 when I was a kid
(I remember the Jackson 5 cartoon)
never listened much to Off the Wall but
one of the first CDs my family owned
alongside a Men at Work and a Donald
Fagen was Thriller, which I listened to
over and over on the brink of puberty
till I became convinced for a while that
real musicians played guitars whereas Michael
only had his voice and whippet body
so I pushed away from that music and missed out
for too long on the greatness of Prince
taking him for MJ redux: all moot now,
like that face consumed by its white noselessness
a fate worse than Elvis
has cast a pall on the innocent day.
Not so innocent: the clerics in Iran
tighten their grip so that I remember
that Bulgarian girl from Casablanca
telling Rick “the devil has the people
by the throat.” My day’s only prosaic
down deep in Kroch Library with Ammons’
papers, reading letters people wrote
to him and looking at the typescript drafts
for The Snow Poems and Glare:
he did very little revision
on the tape poems, which have no margins at all
and sometimes lose parts of letters
to the black roll of the typewriter
whereas The Snow Poems are heavily inscribed
with handwritten marginalia some of which
made it into the final book. It
was poorly reviewed and represents
for Ammons perhaps a road not further taken
into linguistic experiment: what I take away
from it and from the drafts and some
of the other writings is a real sense
of his loneliness: it’s as if
he wagered all he had on poetry, like a
Rimbaud who never quit, and
the results, for his life at least, disappoint:
he lets a lot hang out in The
Snow Poems, obsessive chat
about cunnilingus and cornholing,
his lack of need for neighbors, most
of all his ability to stare at snow, a tolerance
for the void in which he felt certain
freedoms for which he willingly paid
everything. I seem to need something
to look at even if it’s just a few a trees
and bushes, the simple palette
of this window: green, reddish black, white
side of a house, sky mixing
blue and white as in a paintcan.
Sadie resplendent in two different dresses
one for the morning, one for the afternoon
but what illuminates my heart is her face
that seems to float and bobble on that
fast-growing body, all legs and little belly:
the eyes making a slow but permanent transition
from blue to hazel, eyes that seem to see more
for all her necessarily diminished understanding.
This poem most of all is for her,
that center that hurtles me away.

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