Upon a Queer Imbolc Night

My therapist wants me to have fun. Astrologers and tarot readers suggest “big-big-love” once Mercury stations direct — as in that Pixies song, “Gigantic.” All I know is, I am ready for my body to be used in new ways in pursuit of joy. Pleasure, art, ecstasy. Dance, delicious meals, Dionysian revelry: all of these await. Meanwhile a fire rages at a fertilizer plant, disrupting campus affairs, forcing evacuations and cancellations of classes. Calendars will need adjustment in wake of this wild Imbolc. Neuroplastic rewirings and rewildings. I cook up a pot of soup: cauliflower & turmeric, finished with sprinklings of bacon. I’ve felt like Cabiria from Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria (1957) of late, walking teary-eyed amid a partying mass of singers and dancers, mascara running down her cheek. A friend wraps legs around me and lifts me up, heals me of my sorrow. Hugs me, says c’mere, cuddles me as we watch Carla Del Poggio, star of another of Fellini’s films, Variety Lights (1950). Rubs my neck. Feeds me cherries. Treats me right. Here on this queer Imbolc night, let us read Joy Harjo’s “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings” and go for walks. Hard not to hear in the Harjo poem a reply to Margaret Cavendish. From this day hence, let us forgive each other. Let us love each other. Let us wake at dawn and want more.

Nights and Days

I am uncomfortable. Not yet fully moved, suspended in the liminal state of a pre-furnished dwelling, like flats I’ve rented over spans of weeks in London.

To compensate, I attend to small, daily acts of being. This is my new adventure.

Items to grab: rice-cooker, ladle, plants ASAP.

Sound system assembled, I make it work: I dwell by night.

Sitting cross-legged in the center of a room, I listen to Träd Gräs Och Stenar’s “Sanningens Silverflod—Djungelns Lag Version.” Outside, the sky darkens, day hastening toward night. Kool Keith and Ultramagnetic MCs give chase with “Ego Trippin’” as come evening I prepare my stew. Kate NV brightens the mood with “Kata,” and there we have it: the pride of another home-cooked meal. I plot others while listening to Kikagaku Moyo’s “Green Sugar.” Bakery and fish market each within walking distance. Do as Flo & Eddie sing: “Keep It Warm.”

“We’re all mad here,” says Cat to Alice. “I’m mad, you’re mad.” Otherwise we wouldn’t be here, under house arrest by karma police. “For a minute there, I lost myself,” sings the love-mad subject, swooning tear-stricken. And for that, we are punished. For each of us is that subject. Each of us punished, our demands unmet.

I stage an event of attention by watching How to Draw a Bunny, a documentary about artist Ray Johnson, featuring narration by Living Theater co-founder Judith Malina. Johnson arrived to Black Mountain for the college’s Summer Institute of 1945, and remained until autumn of 1948. After moving to New York, he began to produce mail art. Paper glued to cardboard. By these means, he accrued his fame.

I feel heartened by a recently arrived fortune of the fortune cookie sort: “You are imbued with extraordinary vitality.” And so I am, walking easy, energized like a bunny. Being out is such a relief. Time to dance, sharing air, getting close. It needn’t all be heartache and not-knowing.

West End’s rad: cool houses, some of them crunchy, many lit for the holidays. All things considered, I’m pleased with where I landed. The apartment rests along a hilltop, Hades and downtown short walks away. When I sample a bit of each, however, hoping by these acts to make the night generative, I want none of it.

I could replace curtains in this place, I could hang plants. I could attend to these and other tasks in the days ahead. Tonight I walk the streets of downtown. Tomorrow I paddleboard. Final papers arrive early next week.

Morning mist meets me, air lit by morning sun. Steam billows from a horse’s nostrils as I listen to Eddie Harris’s “Listen Here.” The moment passes, and then I’m there: a friend and I, out on a waterway in a nature-space of great beauty, maintained by a hydroelectric company downstream from a dam. We paddle around, water’s surface gleaming with wind-patterned lines of light. Baptized by the spray of a small waterfall, we ground our boards and hop among rocks.

Chopping carrots and green onions afterwards, I prepare a dinner.

***

Out on the street I marvel

gaze at houses lit

festive porches

flowers reaching over fences and walls in greeting

amid the stonework of a neighbor’s garden.

***

I store my memory palace in a place in the sky.

The Language of Favors is Yours, Not Mine

I okay “Thanks,”

but is okaying it now

enough?

Should I regret not

saying thanks

when, upon your mistreatment of me,

I took leave of you,

As one might regret not

upgrading oneself 

to a seat in Economy Plus?

Or does regret

just breed regret?

Upon my asking this

of my remorse

I release it,

with intent to do better next time.

“The basic law of magic,”

says The Illuminatus Trilogy,

is “As ye give, so shall ye get.”

You didn’t give,

I thought,

So why should I?

Instead you told others

my addressing myself 

to another you

disgusts you

and others like you.

To get off that wheel

And make thanks okay

one would have to

give as one would

an offering of peace.

After Todd Haynes’s The Velvet Underground

Yea, and I rise—

no grapes,

no gripes—

each breath an act of love.

Blacula (1972). Rocky Horror (1975). El Planeta (2021).

To our list, add Lou, too — his story eerily lesson-like, and relates —

though different, certainly, in its affect.

Gay nightclub noise bands formed

to silence Lou’s committee in head.

Enter John Cale, ex-Welshman

Radio tuned to foreign broadcast.

Out pops

“European Son.”

Artists escape to

New York at midcentury’s end.

42nd Street

Andy’s Film School

60s culture.

15-20 movie houses:

Here comes

new channels.

Here comes

LaMonte Young.

Very high spiritual states.

Long sustained tones.

Study of drone.

And along comes

Lou’s Syracuse buddy

Delmore Schwartz.

Add, too,

Jack Smith, Tony Conrad.

The drone of Western capitalism:

By Dream Syndicate Dazzled

By Dream We Dream

PS I LOVE YOU

To catch an evening screening of you, I hike downtown.

Seeming Lovers

ahead of me.

The Lovers

sit side by side

whispering in the dark.

“‘Tis my new favorite movie!” I tell myself:

made with masks all the more thrilling.

Plants kick in and

I relax,

Chasing happiness by my side.

The Labyrinth of Stuck Desire

Where something taken to be history takes the form of a world on fire, catalog of events adding up in tedious barrage, as in Billy Joel’s grim 1989 song “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Joel grew up on Long Island, along the beaches, as did I. Beaches were closed the summer prior to the song’s release due to “Syringe Tides.” Hypodermics from Fresh Kills Landfill in New Jersey washed up along the shore — an event Joel cites in his litany. The fears stirred by the event were compounded by the era’s Reagan-administration-escalated AIDS crisis. The event filled me with concern — motivated the pen of my middle-school self to draw a political cartoon: a small surfer dwarfed by a wave of waste. Surfer stares glumly out the picture toward the viewer. And here I am now, most of my day spent grading student responses, thinking about it again, not just because of the Joel song, which appeared as the subject of a student’s response, but also because a colleague submitted for approval a course examining literary imaginings of the end of the world. The Jewish festival of Sukkot minds me to be grateful for my home, and all who help me to maintain it.

Upon a whim, I pick up and read from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson a poem selected at random, as in wherever my thumb happens to land, containing the lines:

Prayer is the little implement

Through which Men reach

Where Presence — is denied them.

They fling their Speech

By means of it — in God’s ear—

If then He hear

This sums the Apparatus

Comprised in Prayer—

“Why must longings be irreconcilable — why ‘Presence denied’?” I wonder afterwards.

“Why ask why? ‘Tis so,” sayeth the Fates in reply. Yet one can make of Fate a place one avoids, a spatiotemporal coordinate that one eludes like a fugitive. With Fred Moten, for instance, we can “consent not to be a single being.”

“Do Things” (For Tess)

Frankie gravitates toward particular books of poetry, pulling from among a bookcase of several hundred the same ones these last few days: Joan Retallack’s How to Do Things With Words and a Penguin Classics reprint of the first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. What can I say — the kid’s got great taste. She hands them to me, and the look in her eyes suggests I should read them, so I do. When I’ve taught Whitman in the past, I’ve used a different edition. Perhaps I should change it up. Celebrate that opening stanza of “Song of Myself” — but question its atomic physics. Though it’s as if Whitman knows of what becomes of and follows from his Manhattan and its projection in the next century. Yet he rejects it as mere talk:

“I have heard what the talkers were talking…the talk of the beginning and the end,

But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

There was never any more inception than there is now,

Nor any more youth or age than there is now;

And will never be any more perfection than there is now,

Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.”

My imprisoned cousin and I have begun an email correspondence. It is to him that I write the following:

Does write make right?

“Damned sure it does! / so one hopes”

seems inappropriate as a response.

So what is?

Interrupted Forms

Devin’s essay “The Needs of Ghosts” turns upon “Interrupted Forms,” a poem by Robert Duncan, included at the start of the latter’s Poems from the Margins of Thom Gunn’s “Moly.”

Given its dedication to one who is both there and not there, ‘tis a poem that is both desirous and recollective simultaneously.

Into the situation of Duncan’s poem, I project this character of mine, the Gay Wizard — the ghost who haunts “The House on Shady Blvd.”

Of him, or of a ghost of similar make, Duncan writes as follows:

Long slumbering, often coming forward,

haunting the house I am the house I live in

resembles so, does he recall me or I

recall him?

Wanting today to alter the condition set upon me by the ghosting of me by others, I sing the poem to those I love. I sing it to you, dear reader, “as if telling could reach you,” hoping against hope you have ears to hear.