Showing posts with label Adam Zagajewski. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adam Zagajewski. Show all posts

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The rocket's red glare

 This is one of the many crank rant poems I used to enjoy writing when the combination of coffee and cigarettes had sufficiently charged me and reinforced what my ego demanded a clean and sober artist must be in order to be interesting, expressive, a hat full  of cornball gestures: the personality I'm trying to project here is, please note, fictional and the intimations of wild things having happened with serio-comic consequences are created from whole cloth as well. This might blow my reputation as a poet who recounts hard living in funny and bittersweet couplets and rhythmically charged lines that simulate the rapid eddies of a Freddie Hubbard solo. Well, it might threaten what street cred if I had a reputation more expansive than friends, estranged drinking buddies, a few associate professors and members of my family who like what I do no matter what it is I put on the dinner table. I make stuff  up in half the stuff you'll find in my various chap books, anthologies I've been included in, the various blogs I fill with words that yammer and shriek a loud, if vaguely articulated discontent. 

Discontent with the skin I'm wearing, more than likely, as this current sheath is wrinkled, getting flabby and the joints ache worse than the linger effect of losing whatever person, place or thing that truly mattered to your existence. But don't think this a dishonest poem; I disagree with the notion that poetry in this age requires the poet to expose their darkest don't-tells. Poetry will not change behavior and will not make you feel better about being a shit heel; that is what therapists are for. 

This , I think, is worth reading for the same reason some recent science fiction movies are worth seeing because the computer generated animation sequences are  as spectacular as the stories that justify their use are insipid. This is honest poem because the attitude, the language, the tone that waivers between confirmed don't-give-a-goddamn and the  congealed frustration that threatens to become something louder ,  vulgar and violent. They ring true for me and reflect those days a time ago where going insane seemed a viable an option as any young alcoholic artist and poet could choose. Thankfully, I have survived the logic of the heated impulse and stayed around long enough to enjoy a more modest means of getting to the point. --tb


 The rocket's red glare

how drunk could be get
before we began to
look attractive to the
flies that buzz around
our heads ,

the broad strokes
of red
and henna coded clouds
that set the horizon on fire
as the sun sinks
just a tip under the
blurred line of the planet
where earth and sky
are a duo
that play one masterful rondo
after another
one of us stands up
to God and his
whispering minions
that he is tired of
suffering the results
of a good idea
gone to bullet bursts
and fist fights over the change left
on cafe tables.

i raise my head from my palms,
stop studying the way
my shoe laces are
coming untied,
i gather a sense that
there is more to life
than gas , food and lodging
but would settle
for any thing
because i had
none of the above
and no love for curbs
and the drainage dreams
they inspire,
i ask

the other one of us
was still
drinking as he careened up the street,
one side to the other,
all the billboards
should read "tilt",

he yells at a passing bus,
i laugh, Jesus what a jerk,
i will take the bus
and play music in my skull
until it comes,
i will be serene and lean
on the vernacular
that's so spectacular
when I'm in the bag
and full of mean remarks,

i will behave,
i will be silent,
nothing will upset me,
i am invisible on the bus line,

but even as my mantra
is uttered and folded
into a vest pocket of the soul
over where the heart still beats
with what remains of
my sense of my self and
virtues beyond the
bulge of my wallet,
a car approaches
through the intersection,
it veers closer,

i sing to the streetlights,
the fixtures on the power lines,

the car slows down,

i'm on the twelfth chorus of "Cherokee",

something breaks in my lap
and then I am wet
with water
neither painful nor holy,

the car speeds away
into the slim v perspective
that runs right to the water's edge,

i am wet
yet am i blessed
in such a state,
i hum another chorus,
my lap drenched
with tap water and
bits of burst balloon,

and now it's dark
after eight pm in July
when the fireworks go off
from the end of the pier,

where i wanted to be
to make a phone call
under the rocket's red glare.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Last stop for a used hankie

At face value, the poem "About My Mother" By Adam Zagajewski appealed to me; I like the idea of the rushing stream of words, breathless and minimally punctuated in their rush to the last crystallizing image; when it's done well, when the subject catches a little considered incident of experience and riffs on it briskly, quickly, ending, finally, on a surprising note in the run, that nuance you didn't know existed between the words you'd use to objectively outline your emotion, the effect is exhilarating. 

When it works, that is. The secret is creating the feeling that the writer, were just as surprised by the ending as you hope the reader will be. When it doesn't work, the effect is a desperate assembling of random clauses, unconsidered, a piling on of things that happen to be in the room of memory one is rummaging through for something to write about. "About My Mother" reads as just that sort of poem, something composed to have written something, a short form limning of a problematic relationship with one's mother. The narrator recalls things said, meals made, silent gestures in response to his presence in the same room, presented in a tone that does not mean quite mute an otherwise undercurrent of anger and regret; you know where this is going, you know the destination this poem has in mind for you-- 

when she
compared herself to Beethoven going deaf,
and I said, cruelly, but you know he
had talent, and how she forgave everything
and how I remember that, and how I flew from Houston
to her funeral and couldn't say anything
and still can't. 

This is meant to take our breath away, to elicit a surprised gasp, to make us feel someone had just walked over the spot we will eventually be buried, but it comes as no surprise. It's unreasonable to think of this poem as calculated; the last image was conceived first, and everything else was composed afterward, the delivery system for the punch line. The details that come before are a conspicuous set up for this melodramatic ending; the reader who has done the due diligence and read and studied the confessional tendencies of Robert Lowell or Sylvia Plath might find this template familiar, like a route to work they take five days a week on public transportation. The poet's mute regret at the funeral is merely the last stop through a scenario that scarcely deserves remarking upon.