Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Draft 109: Wall Newspaper 
part one of a five part poem

I. Of the Dead

March was the month when fissures opened. 
It was a completely clean hallucination. It all made a kind of sense. 
Larger rifts were earth wide. Smaller were local hairline cracks. There were multiple scales of events, unsorted, uneven.
Who can evaluate the destabilizing, limp paralysis, the thin shim under the everyday, and then the worse normalization? 
She said “the canary in the mine field.” The phrase was totally logical. 
“Mann geboren frei ist” had been graffito’d on the train station. The “chains” clause was left uncited.  
Water poured into the streets, dragging everyone under. Drought became endemic desertification, humus to dust.
Poetic autonomy never existed. In a few weeks, a dead zone had to be declared. 
Any yeast that’s left will take decades to work. 
The instruments are ghosts of themselves. 

Here include the base and superstructure of me. But of course can’t draw a line, one on one side. 
What is being breathed, when breathing in this air? 
The interconnections among things remained unspoken, untraceable, inextinguishable, like the smell of mold.   
Chains are cumbersome, enslaving; links are necessary, and some are irrevocable.
When it gets revealed as jerry-built decisions, poor oversight, technological hubris, malfeasance and profiteering, then deflect attention. 
To what, depends on site-specific calibrations: to claims of your “excessive” anger, to formally choreographed “apologies,” to crimes of mimesis, to saleable scandals and titillations. Occasional scapegoating. Scatters of random amulets. Perhaps analysis. The odd exemplary sentence. Exchanges of experts. 

Slowly I leave a much-loved place I probably won’t return to. 
What is the target genre? “Stony rubbish”? This is a textbook case. Hold on tight. 
The question of bees. The question of bats.   
“Nature suddenly appeared like an emptied room.” Pencil marks up the wainscoting, some child’s sizes, dates. The room, however, was splintered, the child crushed. 
“Do you please remember me?” the long-ago asked from her shadow. 
This is a collective though partial account, after the detonation of frameworks.
So carefully biting around the meaty pericarp of Apple, she stood there.
That woman is called irksome.
It might even snow, end March, early April. 

When Three Mile Island went, everyone stood outside and became an instant expert on the prevailing winds. 
The surge in the discursive system was so enormous that one could not walk, drink, eat, even breathe without feeling endangered by its uncontrolled electricity. 
What’s in it? What’s in it for them?  But these questions eroded, frayed, abraded.
Then the actual system surfaced, with its un-degradable plastic, with “odds and ends in constant flux manipulated by desire and fear.” 
Some have deliberately made the seeds infertile. This is a consequence of profit taking.
The future will wonder “what the fuck were they thinking.” 

Three languages, but now she could not speak, a symptom of her dying. 
Olfactory hallucination as I wake: the smell of coffee brewing. 
Being “born,” as Olson said, “not of the buried but these unburied dead.” “You must change your life.” Me alone, or who?   
Poetry—something “replete with signifiers and gibberish.” Makes a kind of sense. 
They are predicting a lot of snow up the East Coast. 
But I don’t feel bad. Can’t apologize (too much) for this pock-marked landscape. Nevertheless, I feel terrible. “Why? April is the coolest month!” Can you say “parallel universe”?  
Occasional flowering is a normal characteristic. The poem’s not about the baby Christ child just because the word frankincense is in it.  
Severe choices of brilliant play. Temporality happens every day.
Let’s tie the hands of the assholes. 
Alternative life: orthopedic surgeon. Hobby: trekking.  
Keep your valuable properties with you at all times. 
The social world drained back into the work; the dam was over-passed. 
Chaos Became a Way of Life. 
Canvas bags with a special logo got distributed to the task force.   

Meantime, I have other plans. So to speak. 
Does anyone here really know why he saw poets as “horses”? 
Q. teased that he would write his memoirs and call it My Lie. 
The exhibit featured a colonial baroque silver teapot in the shape of a giant turkey. That level of extraction was almost startling. 
A “secular Jewish Pegasus” would be what? 
The sheer excess of the untransparent impossible has no verb right now. Sorry.  
A long time ago, when things got bad, they’d grind up the inner layer of tree bark—pine only, a soft wood--and bake it with rye flour. How long ago a time was that?
Here include the dominant, residual and emergent of me.
Here, rhizomic nekuia. 

“Let the dead bury their dead” being completely impossible—now what?   
Being half-dead—a strained, self-estranged under-acknowledged fear?  Particular “end of world” apocalyptic prophecies get media play. 
On the other hand, the radioactive waste and debris will arrive on these shores in about one year. With the bare hands—plus a few pair of latex gloves to go around. Sea to shining sea.
Our lives are privatized, all except our private lives. This has been reviewed and is legal. 
Are there real differences between here and there?
The sand was pocked and garbaged with tar clumps. Will we rupture and pull to shreds the ribbon of life simply by default? 
Even those one wished to idealize were full-scale despoilers.
It would starve you more slowly. 

We live here in this time, saturated with a few other times, and some few people. We’re friends or whatever. The between is where we are. 
This is a confused sadness, where you can’t even feel that sadness. 
The page, the door, the wall; whatever can be learned, it’s pinholes, although “the word,” she said, “leads inward into itself.” This is only half the story, although perhaps the more attractive half. 
We’re propelled into linked emergencies with unintended fallout. 

My skin imagines lines—
there’s me and him, and 
me and it, her, us, you, and the time
we have been together when we’ve
foraged in what is, and 
some things got smashed, and
some are rejoined, and
we quote from each other, 
sister and brother. 
Do not turn away. 

Reader, if any! We are a symptom.
We are mirrors of our own corpses.
This is closest to darkness. 
Surrender to it. 

Section I: Of the Dead. 
March 2011: Fukushima, Japan, 9.0 earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent meltdown and leakage from nuclear reactors run by TEPCO: Tokyo Electric Power Company. (In 2012, a report issued by the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission concluded that the disaster was preventable, “rooted in government-industry collusion and the worst conformist conventions of Japanese culture” [International Herald Tribune, July 6, 2012].) Other extreme weather events are present—like the several tornadoes in the United States during 2011 and the 2004 earthquake in Haiti. And other ecological disasters caused by malfeasance—such as the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. “Mann geboren frei ist,” a German translation of the first phrase of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract (1762).“Stony rubbish” along with a few unmarked phrases throughout: T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land.” “Nature suddenly appeared like an emptied room.” Wilfred Wiegand, June 19, 2001, now not sure of the source.

“Of odds and ends in constant flux manipulated by desire and fear,” T.S. Eliot, Nation and Athenaeum on Donne, 1923.”Being “born,” as Olson said, “not of the buried but these unburied dead,” Charles Olson, “La Préface.” R. M. Rilke: You must change your life: ”Du musst dein Leben ändern” (“Archaic Torso of Apollo”). “Replete with signifiers and gibberish”  (a former student). Chaos Becomes a Way of Life, NYTimes headline re. Haitian earthquake and its aftermath, Feb 16, 2004. by line Lydia Polgreen (front page). Eating wood—fact from Seurasaari Open-Air Museum outside of Helsinki, Finland. “Dominant, residual, and emergent” are terms from Raymond Williams, characterizing simultaneous and interactive social formations, in Marxism and Literature. “The word” she said “leads inward into itself,” Susan Handelman, The Slayers of Moses: The Emergence of Rabbinic Interpretation in Modern Literary Theory, 1982, 31.

(from Surge: Drafts 96-114. Norfolk: Salt Publishing, 2013.  <> All rights reserved to the author.)

Letter 19:

Dear C--

So far, are there fresh beginnings or is 
nothing happening? 
Some kind of bravery,
or just stolidity?
Say it straight, it’s
Big Clay needed now,
speaking as the Director of Ceramics.
A learning as if from the beginning,
a remaking and reinventing.

Stood, therefore,
where I could attempt
to see a little of now--

how, no matter how confused
how muddy and unpurged,
the clay will have to be remixed.

As for former imagery
forget it.
Now it's struggling with buckets

drenched in stormy thunder
collecting the good pockets of soft, intelligent clay
before they have gotten washed away.

“Memory” he said
“is returned to the people who come
looking for it.”  Maybe.          

It's true there are also
ways of collecting
the shattered vessels
which had burst apart 
with the explosive sparks
of event, event, event.
The broken wings.

But if the clay has been fired
it cannot ever be reused.
You cannot take it, wet it, and begin to mold again.
And thus the existence of Shards. 

(From Interstices. Cambridge: Mass: Subpress, 2013. All rights reserved to the author.)

Rachel Blau DuPlessis taught at Temple University for many years. She is fond of trying to do yoga, is fairly well traveled but not yet well enough, knows (besides English) two and a half languages badly, and lives in Philadelphia mainly and Umbria sometimes. 

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