[A small selection of prose poems, most of which were written in the eighties. All are unpublished.]
I am training
I am training doves to kill. Next I will turn my attention to worms. I will teach them anger and synchronized swimming. Fishes will be mesmerized, trout will leap to pan and sizzle to crispy deliciousness. I am a king who has never been a prince, a young skeleton in a country of perpetual annoying sunlight. As the complaints of the peasants become meaningless I pass out loaves of bread with vouchers for milk or juice.
I envy the custodial officer who has the duty of polishing all this marble statuary. I have a vague memory of that time — I prize it though it merely collective — when innocent flesh slew itself across agile bones to create some sublime machine. But this is not to say I disapprove of the modern listless physique. We possess a form of beauty unknown in ancient times: pale and subtle, charming with a resilient puffiness smelling of nothing but a slightly alkaline soap.
I was falling
I was falling in love with you until I began paying attention. I had to concentrate to increase the depth of field but soon enough your blurry extremities snapped into focus and my interest fell away, a useless peeling which saved me from further indiscretions.
I regret my limited omnipotence.
Increase the altitude till all horizons fall away.
It is easier
It is easier to sleep with running water nearby. The sound of a waterfall, a fountain, someone pissing in the bushes. Light wind in low branches. A thousand white trilliums. Moon sounding water. Lunar harmonies: a fountain of overtones rise and break and fall to earth as crystal petals, as tears, landing in dark stone basins. Perfect, stark, granite, lipless.
Let the violins
Let the violins scrape away in hell, its only fiddles for our unpretentious heaven.
It is useless to travel. My heart lies wedged in an improbable position.
Even total innocence carries with it a few small furtive joys. Candies with soft filling, grains of sand in the bottom of a shoe.
Dreamless hibernation, our shallow breathing condenses to a slight layer of moisture on the ceiling. Scramble of parts to disintegrate in this enormous, shadowless night which marked the first chaos of all things.
Under the strength
Under the strength of this perfume all matter becomes porous, even glass.
Lazarus rose, charming and somewhat angelic, and stunk, his grave-clothes half rotted.
We will not rise but remain stacked in some bright and stainless corner, sinister cupboard where the living pile the dead. Scrubbed scentless and embalmed before being alphabetically slotted into our drawer.
More and more we have reason to stop up our nostrils. Wax and little wads of cotton.
Mend the net
Mend the net by moonlight.
Eyes must close and swivel in.
Coins rain down on the bones of the dead.
Warm handfuls thrown from the edge of the pit.
Silence, the radio batteries run down to nothing.
Sound of far-off water, dew rising.
Catch a bird with bird song, close nets.
The moon is a pale disc, a memory-obsessed wafer of metal, brittle and flat. Inferior alloy. Someday it will fall to earth, crumbling among foothills. We will place little chunks in each other's mouths and they will melt. Crumbs, bitter morsels.
For three years
For three years it has been raining, a steady drizzle and every plank in this maritime rooming house is swollen, bloated. We watch as the windows curve under the pressure, hoping they explode outward, a pleasant sprinkle of shards across the lawn. The firewood is soggy, it smokes and hisses and we suffer headaches, sore eyes. We play cards, making up the rules as they become necessary. The pack is old and soiled, smudged with dirt and oils. I often win because I have memorized which are smudged where. Others have created elaborate and pornographic dramas involving the face cards and suffer hair-trigger orgasms, providing each card is played in the required narrative sequence. I have glued a little flag to the end of my cat's tail. She waves it around with a desperate patriotism, but it will not be removed. Maple leaf forever.
Four Pale Women
(Berenice) Chamber of dissipation. Desire slipping from the physical to the ephemeral. Mouthful of ideas, kept in a box. Whiteness and rattling. Thirty-two mistakes.
(Eleonora) A shadow crosses my brain and I find myself in another city.
(Ligeia) Dust of sorrow. Trace home. Situate this room. Held against the flame the hand goes transparent, all bones. Now remove the candle. Expect death.
(Morella) Let the hideous return beautiful. The ashes of a dead philosophy are single words of obscure origin. Rigorous seclusion. The thing names itself.
The time for writing
The time for writing is ripe. The field has not yet been plowed. The time of geometry is ended. The time of artistry is ended. The time of philosophy never began and now there is no hope of it beginning. The snow of misery is gone, melted into deep mountain lakes. Go for a swim, dislodge the winter's dirt and let it settle into the silt from which hibernating amphibians have just emerged. The time of summer is here. The blessed life and the eternal.
Instructions for Recapturing Forgotten Memories of Childhood
I am blind because I want to be blind. I will stop up my nose and ears with moistened kleenex. I will not eat, already I have forgotten hunger. Look how red my blood is, it is almost black. Rub my shoulder and a tiny chair is squeezed through the skin. A year ago I pressed it into my leg before the nurse stitched me up. I fell and nothing has yet broken my fall; I am still falling. I pass everything once; all things meet my gaze a single time, then they're gone.
Turn your eyelids inside out. Puncture your skin with a needle. Try to breathe underwater. Expose the red beneath the scab. Eat dirt. Burrow into the earth.
I wonder what will break my fall. I hope for the boughs of a dozen undecorated Christmas trees clustered close together. Then I will stand up and brush myself off. I will walk instead of fall. I will find a swampy place to live. I will never lose my footing again.
Game for Children
We may choose to remember but forgetting is automatic. The reduction of childhood to a series of list, tentative chronologies of scraped knees.
Cattails manifest the will of the river.
Only water below the ground is free. It rises, seeping or bubbling to the surface and is caught between sun and stone. A river charts the will of the land, rock against rock, patched with soil. This can be seen from planes. Within the granite and limestone intrusions of six ages. Nothing is mined here, the richness is in curiosities. Horneblende, titanite, rose quartz, a green variety of feldspar called amazonite. Large rocks that broken or pried apart yield small rocks. Mica in brittle layers. Peeled from the earth and held against the eye one can view an eclipse without going blind.
At this hour of the morning leafless shrubbery affords us no possibility of going for a stroll. But I don't like to walk — I wrap myself in scarlet drapery and roll around the house. My childish brain is not yet grey but death-white. Vertigo and a light coating of sweat, but no fever. A butler and three maids, silent on thick carpets, remove all obstacles from my path.
No muslin frocks for me! I am the toad whose horny hide is its dress and skin. I am the little monkey raised in a cage with a hunk of fur. I am much better off than those unfortunate laboratory beasts who had but cold metal — for me life had its gleams of sunshine. Congealed relics of autumn, drippy spring and the absent beaches of summer.