Edward Taylor |
I take the long walk up the staircase to my secret room.
Today's big news: they found Amelia Earhart's shoe, size 9.
1992: Charlie Christian is bebopping at Minton's in 1941.
Today, the Presidential primaries have failed us once again.
We'll look for our excitement elsewhere, in the last snow
that is falling, in tomorrow's Gospel Concert in Springfield.
It's a good day to be a cat and just sleep.
Or to read the Confessions of Saint Augustine.
Jesus called the sons of Zebedee the Sons of Thunder.
In my secret room, plans are hatched: we'll explore the Smoky Mountains.
Then we'll walk along a beach: Hallelujah!
(A letter was just delivered by Overnight Express--
it contained nothing of importance, I slept through it.)
(I guess I'm trying to be "above the fray.")
The Russians, I know, have developed a language called "Lincos"
designed for communicating with the inhabitants of other worlds.
That's been a waste of time, not even a postcard.
But then again, there are tree-climbing fish, called anabases.
They climb the trees out of stupidity, or so it is said.
Who am I to judge? I want to break out of here.
A bee is not strong in geometry: it cannot tell
a square from a triangle or a circle.
The locker room of my skull is full of panting egrets.
I'm saying that strictly for effect.
In time I will heal, I know this, or I believe this.
The contents and furnishings of my secret room will be labeled
and organized so thoroughly it will be a little frightening.
What I thought was infinite will turn out to be just a couple
of odds and ends, a tiny miscellany, miniature stuff, fragments
of novelties, of no great moment. But it will also be enough,
maybe even more than enough, to suggest an immense ritual and tradition.
And this makes me very happy.
Edward Taylor |
for my father, 1922-1944
Your face did not rot
like the others--the co-pilot,
for example, I saw him
yesterday. His face is corn-
mush: his wife and daughter,
the poor ignorant people, stare
as if he will compose soon.
He was more wronged than Job.
But your face did not rot
like the others--it grew dark,
and hard like ebony;
the features progressed in their
distinction. If I could cajole
you to come back for an evening,
down from your compulsive
orbiting, I would touch you,
read your face as Dallas,
your hoodlum gunner, now,
with the blistered eyes, reads
his braille editions. I would
touch your face as a disinterested
scholar touches an original page.
However frightening, I would
discover you, and I would not
turn you in; I would not make
you face your wife, or Dallas,
or the co-pilot, Jim. You
could return to your crazy
orbiting, and I would not try
to fully understand what
it means to you. All I know
is this: when I see you,
as I have seen you at least
once every year of my life,
spin across the wilds of the sky
like a tiny, African god,
I feel dead. I feel as if I were
the residue of a stranger's life,
that I should pursue you.
My head cocked toward the sky,
I cannot get off the ground,
and, you, passing over again,
fast, perfect, and unwilling
to tell me that you are doing
well, or that it was mistake
that placed you in that world,
and me in this; or that misfortune
placed these worlds in us.
Edward Taylor |
Speaking of sunsets,
last night's was shocking.
I mean, sunsets aren't supposed to frighten you, are they?
Well, this one was terrifying.
Sure, it was beautiful, but far too beautiful.
It wasn't natural.
One climax followed another and then another
until your knees went weak
and you couldn't breathe.
The colors were definitely not of this world,
peaches dripping opium,
pandemonium of tangerines,
inferno of irises,
all swirling and churning, swabbing,
like it was playing with us,
like we were nothing,
as if our whole lives were a preparation for this,
this for which nothing could have prepared us
and for which we could not have been less prepared.
The mockery of it all stung us bitterly.
And when it was finally over
we whimpered and cried and howled.
And then the streetlights came on as always
and we looked into one another's eyes--
ancient caves with still pools
and those little transparent fish
who have never seen even one ray of light.
And the calm that returned to us
was not even our own.
Edward Taylor |
The disorganization to which I currently belong
has skipped several meetings in a row
which is a pattern I find almost fatally attractive.
Down at headquarters there's a secretary
and a janitor who I shall call Suzie
and boy can she ever shoot straight.
She'll shoot you straight in the eye if you ask her to.
I mow the grass every other Saturday
and that's the day she polishes the trivets
whether they need it or not, I don't know
if there is a name for this kind of behavior,
hers or mine, but somebody once said something or another.
That's why I joined up in the first place,
so somebody could teach me a few useful phrases,
such as, "Good afternoon, my dear anal-retentive Doctor,"
and "My, that is a lovely dictionary you have on, Mrs. Smith."
Still, I hardly feel like functioning even on a brute
or loutish level. My plants think I'm one of them,
and they don't look so good themselves, or so
I tell them. I like to give them at least several
reasons to be annoyed with me, it's how they exercise
their skinny spectrum of emotions. Because.
That and cribbage. Often when I return from the club
late at night, weary-laden, weary-winged, washed out,
I can actually hear the nematodes working, sucking
the juices from the living cells of my narcissus.
I have mentioned this to Suzie on several occasions.
Each time she has backed away from me, panic-stricken
when really I was just making a stab at conversation.
It is not my intention to alarm anyone, but dear Lord
if I find a dead man in the road and his eyes
are crawling with maggots, I refuse to say
have a nice day Suzie just because she's desperate
and her life is a runaway carriage rushing toward a cliff
now can I? Would you let her get away with that kind of crap?
Who are you anyway? And what kind of disorganization is this?
Baron of the Holy Grail? Well it's about time you got here.
I was worried, I was starting to fret.
Edward Taylor |
Napoleon's hat is an obvious choice I guess to list as a famous
hat, but that's not the hat I have in mind. That was his hat for
show. I am thinking of his private bathing cap, which in all hon-
esty wasn't much different than the one any jerk might buy at a
corner drugstore now, except for two minor eccentricities. The
first one isn't even funny: Simply it was a white rubber bathing
cap, but too small. Napoleon led such a hectic life ever since his
childhood, even farther back than that, that he never had a
chance to buy a new bathing cap and still as a grown-up--well,
he didn't really grow that much, but his head did: He was a pin-
head at birth, and he used, until his death really, the same little
tiny bathing cap that he was born in, and this meant that later it
was very painful to him and gave him many headaches, as if he
needed more. So, he had to vaseline his skull like crazy to even
get the thing on. The second eccentricity was that it was a tricorn
bathing cap. Scholars like to make a lot out of this, and it would
be easy to do. My theory is simple-minded to be sure: that be-
neath his public head there was another head and it was a pyra-
mid or something.
Edward Taylor |
A motorist once said to me,
and this was in the country,
on a county lane, a motorist
slowed his vehicle as I was
walking my dear old collie,
Sithney, by the side of the road,
and the motorist came to a halt
mildly alarming both Sithney and myself,
not yet accustomed to automobiles,
and this particular motorist
sent a little spasm of fright up our spines,
which in turn panicked the driver a bit
and it seemed as if we were off to a bad start,
and that's when Sithney began to bark
and the man could not be heard, that is,
if he was speaking or trying to speak
because I was commanding Sithnewy to be silent,
though, indeed I was sympathetic
to his emotional excitement.
It was, as I recall, a day of prodigious beauty.
April 21, 1932--clouds
like the inside of your head explained.
Bluebirds, too numerous to mention.
The clover calling you by name.
And fields oozing green.
And this motorist from nowhere
moving his lips
like the wings of a butterfly
and nothing coming out,
and Sithney silent now.
He was no longer looking at us,
but straight ahead
where his election was in doubt.
"That's a fine dog," he said.
"Collies are made in heaven."
Well, if I were a voting man I'd vote for you, I said.
"A bedoozling day to be lost in the country, I say.
Leastways, I am a misplaced individual."
We introduced ourselves
and swapped a few stories.
He was a veteran and a salesmen
who didn't believe in his product--
I've forgotten what it was--hair restorer,
parrot feed--and he enjoyed nothing more
then a a day spent meandering the back roads
in his jalopy. I gave him directions
to the Denton farm, but I doubt
that he followed them, he didn't
seem to be listening, and it was getting late
and Sithney had an idea of his own
and I don't know why I am remembering this now,
just that he summed himself up by saying
"I've missed too many boats"
and all these years later
I keep thinking that was a man
who loved to miss boats,
but he didn't miss them that much.
Edward Taylor |
Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dream-
ing so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it?
A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled
back, skin falling off. But he wasn't afraid of that. It was a beau-
tiful day. How 'bout some coffee? Don't mind if I do. Take a little
ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody.
Edward Taylor |
This is the hardest part:
When I came back to life
I was a good family dog
and not too friendly to strangers.
I got a thirty-five dollar raise
in salary, and through the pea-soup fogs
I drove the General, and introduced him
at rallies. I had a totalitarian approach
and was a massive boost to his popularity.
I did my best to reduce the number of people.
The local bourgeoisie did not exist.
One of them was a mystic
and walked right over me
as if I were a bed of hot coals.
This is par for the course-
I will be employing sundry golf metaphors
henceforth, because a dog, best friend
and chief advisor to the General, should.
While dining with the General I said,
"Let's play the back nine in a sacred rage.
Let's tee-off over the foredoomed community
and putt ourselves thunderously, touching bottom."
He drank it all in, rugged and dusky.
I think I know what he was thinking.
He held his automatic to my little head
and recited a poem about my many weaknesses,
for which I loved him so.
Edward Taylor |
My felisberto is handsomer than your mergotroid,
although, admittedly, your mergotroid may be the wiser of the two.
Whereas your mergotroid never winces or quails,
my felisberto is a titan of inconsistencies.
For a night of wit and danger and temptation
my felisberto would be the obvious choice.
However, at dawn or dusk when serenity is desired
your mergotroid cannot be ignored.
Merely to sit near it in the garden
and watch the fabrications of the world swirl by,
the deep-sea's bathymetry wash your eyes,
not to mention the little fawns of the forest
and their flip-floppy gymnastics, ah, for this
and so much more your mergotroid is infinitely preferable.
But there is a place for darkness and obscurity
without which life can sometimes seem too much,
too frivolous and too profound simultaneously,
and that is when my felisberto is needed,
is longed for and loved, and then the sun can rise again.
The bee and the hummingbird drink of the world,
and your mergotroid elaborates the silent concert
that is always and always about to begin.
Edward Taylor |
The common is unusually calm--they captured the storm
last night, it's sleeping in the stockade, relieved
of its duty, pacified, tamed, a pussycat.
But not before it tied the flagpole in knots,
and not before it alarmed the firemen out of their pants.
Now it's really calm, almost too calm, as though
anything could happen, and it would be a first.
It could be the worst thing that ever happened.
All the little rodents are sitting up and counting
their nuts. What if nothing ever happened again?
Would there be enough to "eke out an existence,"
as they say? I wish "they" were here now, kicking
up a little dust, mussing my hair, taunting me
with weird syllogisms. Instead, these are the windless,
halcyon days. The lull dispassion is upon us.
Serenity has triumphed in its mindless, atrophied way.
A school of Stoics walks by, eager, in its phlegmatic way,
to observe human degradation, lust and debauchery
at close quarters. They are disappointed,
but it barely shows on their faces. They are late Stoa,
very late. They missed the bus. They should have
been here last night. The joint was jumping.
But people change, they grow up, they fly around.
It's the same old story, but I don't remember it.
It's a tale of gore and glory, but we had to leave.
It could have turned out differently, and it did.
I feel much the same way about the city of Pompeii.
A police officer with a poodle cut squirts his gun
at me for saying that, and it's still just barely
possible that I didn't, and the clock is running
out on his sort of behavior. I'm napping in a wigwam
as I write this, near Amity Street, which is buried
under fifteen feet of ashes and cinders and rocks.
Moss and a certain herblike creature are beginning to
whisper nearby. I am beside myself, peering down,
senselessly, since, for us, in space, there is
neither above nor below; and thus the expression
"He is being nibbled to death by ducks" shines
with such style, such poise, and reserve,
a beautiful, puissant form and a lucid thought.
To which I reply "It is time we had our teeth examined
by a dentist." So said James the Lesser to James the More.