Yes to Everything

The current tenant is friends with several colleagues. “Might that I could meet her,” wonders the Traveler: “what would I say?”

“Care not in advance,” counsels the Narrator in reply. “Such things happen or they don’t. Let it be aleatory, these encounters with others. Polycules, co-ops, happenings, Be-ins. Meetings with fellow heads. The utopia is there in us being together, living in common with others, sharing bodies and balm of laughter, listening to music, dancing, getting stoned.”

Togetherness with others keeps life an adventure. This flesh is all we have to offer, writes poet Diane Di Prima in “Revolutionary Letter #1”:

“this immediate head, what it comes up with, my move

as we slither over this go board, stepping always

(we hope) between the lines.”

Does the world have it in for us? Or is the world giving? The answer to any either/or is always “yes!” Become a technician of the sacred, a master of ecstasy. Chefs feed us as we struggle with our ascent. Yet what tonight’s chef hands me comes bagged up: no diggity. Kendrick Lamar says I’ll be alright.

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.

Game Theory

The Time Traveler sits across from his copy of Game Theory’s Paisley Underground power pop classic, Real Nighttime.  The latter is one of several albums of note that arrived for the Traveler at Goodwill soon after his entry into the narrative. Music journalist Byron Coley called it “the actual godhead pop LP o’ the American Eighties. No shit. This is it.” Record producer Mitch Easter mixed the album at the Drive-In, two doors down from the House on Shady Blvd. “Was this record produced for me?” wonders the Traveler, eerie feeling running up and down his spine as he reads the text on the back of the LP: liner notes by band member Scott Miller. The Wikipedia entry for the album points the Traveler to a rather remarkable “annotated edition” produced by someone at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the 1990s. Modeled after the playfulness of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, Miller’s text feels dreamlike and oracular. Transpersonal energies stir as one reads.

Magic as Paralogical Retort

Early on in the semester ahead, we’ll need to discuss magic, positing the latter as a paralogical retort to the patriarchal Royal Society and its imperial science. Also a coping strategy, a response to lives disrupted by war, authors displaced and dispossessed, as in the case of Cavendish. Magic is a way of knowing and doing that persists and evolves alongside the New Science, refusing and contesting the latter’s bid for supremacy. Tolkien takes up much the same cause in his poem “Mythopoeia,” written following a discussion with C.S. Lewis and Hugo Dyson. In the course of this famed discussion, Lewis is said to have denounced myths, describing the latter as “lies breathed through silver.” Tolkien’s poem replies in character, its words spoken by “Philomythos” (or “myth-lover”) to Lewis’s “Misomythos” (or “myth-hater”). Tolkien composed the poem in heroic couplets, the preferred meter of British Enlightenment poets, so as to critique the latter on its own turf.

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.

Orpheus in Hades’ Lounge

There’s a parking, a journeying outward. Up and out we launch past West End Mill Works, off on tonight’s adventure, beginning with an evening stroll. Graffiti marks the spot. Stream to one side of us, water rushing over rocks. Spotify shifts from Steely Dan’s “King of the World” to Jan Hammer Group’s “Don’t You Know,” voices and cars in the distance. Looking both ways, we cross the street and rush down onto a shaded path through a nearby park, crickets singing in parallax with Neil Young’s “Computer Age.” We turn off the song and continue for a moment in silence. Upon arrival to a crossroads, we ask of each other (like Ginsberg to Whitman in Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California”), “Which way now?” Looking up, we rise and step proudly toward pink clouds. Conversation turns toward Old & Used Books as we pass a graffiti-clad muffler shop. Bulldog with paintbrush arrives as comic relief — reality for a moment a goofy animal fable whodunit. We grab beers as day turns to night. Ginsberg’s “lights out” reverberates, hangs in the air after us having heard earlier in the day Let’s Active’s “Orpheus in Hades’ Lounge,” featuring hometown hero Mitch Easter.

Can Orpheus be told anew? We recall to each other the character’s many forms. Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus (1950), Marcel Camus’s Black Orpheus (1959). Also Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay of that name. And let us not forget Samuel R. Delany’s Lo Lobey, the Orphic protagonist at the heart of Delany’s 1967 novel The Einstein Intersection. Hoots is a Hades’ Lounge, is it not, with its red light hanging above its corner booth? So we think as we drink, glorying finally in each other’s presence. “What would happen if our Time Traveler were to stage the scene again?” wonders the Narrator, listening alone now, seated at the same booth many months hence. With “King of the World” still fresh in our ears, members of Steely Dan singing, “No marigolds in the promised land; there’s a hole in the ground where they used to grow,” we restate the refrain of Jan Hammer Group’s “Don’t You Know.” Amid Orpheus wailing away on his flute come the words, “You’re to know that I love you. You’re to know that I care.”

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.”