Woman of the Future
Could the woman of the future really have had
I don’t even remember which thread of Ariadne’s she plucked
to slice the loaf of mamaliga in two.
Chestnut hair down to her feet, a mere suspicion of a smile
alluding (I’d learn this much later)
to old da Vinci’s painting,
surrounded by love and admiration.
Anyway, so my head-of-a-pin heart made believe
when I happened to pass by the workshop,
its blazon a copper alembic,
right next to the Pharmacy with Stairs.
For the time being, the woman of the future.
The shrew was exceeding wroth: she spewed fire, diamonds, pitch,
constantly returning to the field she had stormed away from.
I kept waiting to stumble across some greater peril. An intimation came to me:
I’d perish but promptly be resurrected, interposing
myself like a mirror between life-giving numbers
(contrived by the renowned Imhotep, the architect)
and hobbles to tether cattle, the lotus flower,
the index finger, tadpoles big and small, the astonished man.
In sadness and frenzy, the shrew put on her show
for a now long-forgotten time.
She continued to spew pitch, diamonds, gall.
She would die, be resurrected, die anew.
Hobbles to tether cattle, the lotus flower,
the index finger,
tadpoles with the pyramid effect;
in the sunset–the astonished man.
Rue Vieille du Temple
for my friend P.R.
Rue Vieille du Temple, after seventeen years.
Meanwhile it had rained.
Interior courtyards from the Directorate.
Lethargic light, massive oak gates.
One might say–home.
An aperitif, a warm appetizer, a Château Ransan-Ségla.
And about Celan.
About Gherasim Luca.
About Pont Mirabeau & the tradition
117 Rue Vieille du Temple.
Rambunctious Mexicans, carnival atmosphere, vernissages.
The forces of law and order.
And one day soon, lost among strangers.
The Filles du Calvaire station.
Meanwhile it had rained.
11 September 1998
The Worm in the Horseradish
I stood at the window and stared into the wind, Outside it was beginning to flurry
(but who cares if it snowed, or how!).
We were celebrating the Great Hierarch Nicholas, we’d put
a rooster up to boil for a soup, the family was reunited–
a harmony one longs for, especially during winter–
and here inside the house, three lilies rustled in a vase, swaying from the heat.
“Take the horseradish from the refrigerator and grate it.”
“Be glad to. Right away . . . What could the father at St. Spiridon
have been driving at during service today when he claimed that hatred was
a sin a thousand times more abhorrent than venery?”
We were celebrating Saint Nicholas in the family, the rooster’s meat had been cooked
off the bones, the cobalt-blue tableware brought out,
the stainless steel cutlery, embroidered napkins.
“He also spoke, a little too insistently, I’d say not without haughtiness,
about the idolatry of those bowed down to the belly, invoking as an exemplum
the life of the worm in the horseradish.”
“Come, come to the table . . . A sermon without a point.”
translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Alina Cârâc
(Columbus Circle, 1998)
True I swear it: in the middle of New York at city rush hour
the strangest of intimacies never gets itself going
because one is insane to offer and the other is too sane for comfort
so all that comes are rationalizations for why it was not a Good Idea.
I am in the Circle, walking north on a winter evening from my job
for my weekly visit to my shrink so I can tell a few truths
a few lies a few things still not sorted out
and then there is this woman, maybe early middle age,
blond hair poking under her winter coat hood,
not at all unpleasant to look at, and she says
in a very demure voice
“Pardon me, would you like to come up to my apartment
and relax for a little while?”
Of course I am shocked like Captain Renault who finds
gambling going on here so I ask her to repeat it
and she does, but of course (of course!) I back away
and say “No, no, sorry, I really can’t”
and she nods and I turn and walk away bemused
thinking “What in the hell was that about, I’m no great beauty,
why me?” the rationalizations start: Maybe she is an escort
too old for the out-call business anymore, or maybe she trusts me,
I have one of those faces women can trust,
because how could she know I won’t go up there and
do a Joseph Kallinger on her uterus,
and how do I know she doesn’t have a friend in the house
waiting to steal my wallet and my clothes,
emasculate anything my wife left over,
stick a shank in me and leave me for dead,
and how do I know she isn’t a pro in search of an easy mark
and do I have SO LONELY I WOULD BANG A KEYHOLE all over me
goddamn bitch how dare you read me so easily
and by the time I pass Lincoln Stationers my head has taken me
to all those places, inside her, nipples in my mouth,
or her friend’s auto-knife held to my throat
gulping with terror
and I wonder why people don’t think I’m a risk-taker
I am not because strange women not even holding swords
make for a lousy system of love
but I have perhaps turned my back for the hundredth time
on what might have been a gift
Hard to say which it is when you’ve got my imagination
L. N. Allen
DATING: THE SIXTIES
That feeling where your heart goes like the F train out of Kew Gardens,
you barely in the car,
your shoulder in the armpit of this humongous guy in camouflage
who’s singing I love to eat them babies
and he’s drooling,
and you can’t tell whether he’s a rapist or a cannibal or just got out of his coffin
or if that would be the good news,
and the lights flicker like they do for epileptics just before a seizure,
and the big guy’s even closer,
and the lights go out entirely and it gets cold, real cold,
and you know something awful’s going to happen
and maybe you’ll get out of this with your soul intact,
but your body will soon be on a slab in the morgue
and you’ll know everything that’s going on,
but you won’t be able to do a damn thing about it
when they peel off your face . . .
that’s the feeling I don’t love any more.
Mme. Theodora: Specials to Ralph and Belinda
This month Venus blacks out and doesn’t know
where she is when she wakes up.
I hear your cri de coeur, but I’m not calling 911.
For years you’ve known that the fountain of youth
is the estrogen of younger women.
That cozy’s gone, but you’ll find another.
Buy them diamonds, and they’ll
stay with you awhile.
Ralph, who among us
doesn’t do it for money?
Today: Avoid older men who love their older wives.
–Happy Birthday, Belinda
Your midpoint falls in mutable signs.
Despite your tendency to cancel social plans
at the last minute, you remain
popular with your friends.
You’ll have that dream again.
The one where you’re naked
and company drops by.
Just make sure
you have coffee and cake on hand.
Before bedtime: Dust, vacuum,
set the table.
If you make seven copies of this letter,
mail them out to seven friends,
little Johnny believes his leukemia will go
into remission. The bottling plant
will hire his dad, his mom will quit
for his cancer. You will stop sneezing
under the cottonwood tree.
You won’t lose your keys
or your temper. Your coworker won’t
slander you, nor a tractor-trailer
run a red light when you’re
in the intersection. They’ll find
a cure for AIDS. Global warming will
halt. The comet headed here will miss us.
So much depends on you. Don’t let us down.
With all due respect to the Evangelical preacher
cum cattle breeder from Canton, Mississippi,
who is now for $2,000 per head
selling unblemished genetically
pure Red Angus to a fundamentalist
rabbi at the Temple Institute in Jerusalem
so as satisfy an ancient craving
for a fit-to-be-incinerated auburn bovine
the likes of which hasn’t been seen
in the Middle East for at least
two millennia, I offer this
revelation: because of a mistranslation of
Numbers 19, it’s not actually a red
heifer but a herring
that stands in the way
of ritual purification, then
reconstruction of the Temple, and
a surprise visit from the Redeemer.
Not that a red herring’s so easy
to catch, nor is
the real dish
from which the fish
Webster’s good book says herrings
are not born red but made
by salt curing and slow smoking. Even
then we have not true red,
but a dark redolence that
misdirects dogs. Perhaps
it would be better to consult
Molly Goldberg’s cookbook, which could very well
usher in a new era. After all, Molly writes that following
one of her stuffed cabbage dinners
her Aunt Betty fell into a trance, mumbling
the long lost recipe for red herring:
horseradish, beets, bay leaf, and
the mysterious fish. Trying it,
I found that it left the future
hazy, though it certainly cleared.
Anyhow, I’m in no rush
to see a reconstruction. Imagine
on Yontif how crowded the place
would get. How they’d make you pay
through the nose for the building fund.
The rabbi. He might turn
into a priest: we’d have to call him
father, present him with flour
for the regulation
offerings and just pray
he’d learn to bake
Do I have to ask if this yearning
isn’t a bit gruesomely selfish
especially on the part of some with a high fever
for the millennium, who
to the rapturing
of true believers and the annihilation
the ultimate war with Gog from someplace
inside the former
Soviet Union? Surely Y2K is at hand!
Y2K! everyone eagerly
awaiting an Electronic Finale
of our own making when
computers crashing, economies collapse
and the traffic lights blink the world into gridlock.
Fear not. The present
rush can be traced to the five
fingers that sprout from each hand,
naturally programming us
to cypher in the base
ten system. Now this
is a revelation
I heard on the radio
while stirring a pot of herring
in red jello. An existentialist mathematician
and part-time veterinarian
called in to the shrink’s talk show and declared
that if we were two-toed sloths,
the year 2,000 would be irrelevant:
we’d count in the base four system,
our centuries would be 16 years long
and our millennia merely 256. I wondered
what it would be like if we were all
who did nothing but hang
upside-down by our nails in a rain forest.
We’d lose our irony, humor,
and tendency to argue. We would digest
one meal per month, travel no more than
60 inches in 60 minutes
believing with full faith,
even as the years rushed past,
that we had all the time in the world
to get wherever. Even then we’d suspect
that if we only had a little red herring
and a piece of pumpernickel
that everything would be Shangri-La,
the jaguar lose his taste for us.
Inching from branch to branch,
we’d glimpse perhaps the quick morphos
and think the sky had wings
for that would be all
the glitter and blue
now here, now gone
beneath the dark canopy.
The Coelacanth and Dr. J.L.B. Smith, Ichthyologist, Who Pursued the Ancient Fish for Fourteen Years, and Who, Having Observed His Second Dead Specimen, Took His Own Life
Only as one of my dead
selves was I brought to the surface
and then with trash
fish. You always find
what drowns you. Doctor,
how often does a man go down, a fish go up
by means most unworthy of him?
My mauve scales measured out
judgment and loneliness–
what I know best. Often I ask
if life in a basement apartment
is worth it. Night after day
I waltzed with hundreds of women
and should have known
better to long for what one wants
than to sleep with it.
When the ocean flared up
I scratched it with finny paws
raking the back of nightmares
that flew about in labcoats.
For some it takes a long time
to die fully. My own
children won’t even give me permission to end
my time of loving them.
Still, I open
my needled mouth and ask, When?
That which is deeply buried, most
I love, yet it is also a joy
to drown in the mountains. Only
in a limestone reliquary did I hope
to glimpse the glorious rays of your near
feet, your caudal thumb, my dim darling.
What a miracle to see you. Silent
at my side, my faithful wife sprayed
the air with lemon as I stroked
your formaldehyde, weeping
stainless steel scalpels, white
lilies, the terrified albumin of
lamb’s eyes. Down a mile
deep insomnia by your open
coffin, I begged your pardon, confessed
my most pyramidal
secrets so horrid and ordinary they burst
like bubbles from the mouths
of train conductors. My coelacanth,
still alive in the dark icy, now that I have
found you, have I nothing
more to look back to?
Another walk on narrow
country road another
week but the sun emerging
only toward noon this
trip a white bindweed flower
along the dirt way has
not had time to fold in yet
has thriven without the
help of a knowing hand does
not need a knowing eye
to worry at it the men
that laid and graded the
high roadbed had a mind though
not to what might live on
it a white bindweed flower
that anyway would want no
planning or heed of them
might have thriven wherever
to a wildflower it
is all garden and without
unmanaged rain wind and
light no being would be up
to draw the eye of the
only man to walk this road
in many a sun’s shine
Not the Red alone mere waterlode
got the men on it soaksome who had come
ready alien to tilth a bob-
olink meadow and hay a ravine of
redwing blackbird with an even more
alien weighty faith
it was the land
they had tamed too could not make steady
flat of mud in autumn in spring or in
midsummer flood a haven to green-
wheat paddy of insect and carp no tilt
to let the standing water join the
Red on its sidle north
body and mind
of me stem from them not I to whom
that water is wild I like the wink of
it at barnyard edge yet at the stink
someone within me would like a hit or
two of rum on the rocks even more
Nuts, Said The Black Suit
Imagine! A dream of summer & self-doubt galloping by
bareback on a horse. A man naked except for his ripe
courage. Your first necklace of raisins. The tiny tin
box of nothing you hide under the sink. Red socks as
an option. A singing tornado. The elderly couple left
to dangle off a cliff. Full of foolish French windows.
Empty suitcases or suit of clothes. Wind-up rabbits
or hare. An all-male audience moonlighting as museum
goers. Dollars stuck between a G-string. Counting sun
spots. They pause for tea. Or sometimes there’s window
boxes of red geraniums in the viewfinder. A disco with
its flashing lights. A bowling alley that stays open
all-night. Her satin slippers. My white towel draped
across one shoulder. A fat song that allows us to trim
away any unnecessary words. A riddle about a journey.
A smell that fills the room like perfume. White caps
of an ocean. A yellow ribbon. But more often than not,
it’s just our voyeur neighbor with those ridiculous
binoculars as he watches from his balcony next door.
“Add Wind Chimes” Sonnet
Begin with a rustic cottage in a Maine resort
town. Then add red shutters. Slate shingles.
Rocking chairs on a screened-in porch. A old
badminton net in the backyard. High hedges to
separate the properties. Narrow lanes that
twist & then intersect. Pine trees coming
right up to the shore. A dog barking loud on
the beach. Chinese pagoda-styled lanterns on
the patio. The evidence of fried food on the
grill. A narrow flower bed of mostly rose
bushes. Two wine glasses in the kitchen sink.
Oriental rugs. A cat at the top of the stairs.
A man in bed naked but for his cigarette. A
woman in the shower humming “Endless Love.”
Wind chimes somewhere. Beige curtains moving
in the breeze. The angle of a white ceiling.
Tree branches that scrap the tool shed. A fly
banging against a mirror. A closet door left
open. Then a camera that pans the house &
open fields to a sky reddening for sunset.
you asked me what i was thinking or how to start a fire
she emptied the apartment of sound
because this is what he liked best
but in her mind she thought jazz
and smoke and brutality, of bodies
close together in a place where words had meaning.
where people wanted words, washed in words,
fed them to each other
like little sandwiches fresh from the toaster
or verbal noodles oddly shaped slipping through lips
enfasi, fantasia, intimacy.
craving platters of them, piles infinitesimal
she thinks tibutante, arance, chipolte, firenze, fire.
Suddenly the darkness was
dispelled. A flaming eye
opened in Siva’s
forehead, a third eye
like an economic theory.
Brilliant red everywhere.
Uniform. Even the dust-
coloured sabres worn
by troops in India
melted in this amorphous
trisulphide of antimony. A
perfect rhythm, covered
inside & out with erotic
sculptures that symbolised
some mystic union with
the deity. The modified
version was given plants
from ten different climactic
zones, plus a Nobel Prize for
synthesizing genetic piracy.
Two percent of the world’s
economy is controlled
by hunters & agriculturalists
who once lived on the
banks of the Mighty
River. Use of the phase-
contrast microscope has
made their work easier
though there are still
frequent outbursts of
violence & the complex
orchestral & electronic
components of their later
pieces has made them
difficult to categorize. Some
under the pressure to
reform remember the earlier
times when the asking
of paradoxical questions
could bring sudden
enlightenment. But even
they seek to maintain
their wealth & build
upon it. In the one-party
state there are many
mansions. It is the
natural history of animals.
Though numerous pieces
were written to
accentuate the strengths
of the individual
musicians, all of which
have been used for
the decoration of
drama was the dominant
artform of the age. This
undeclared war disrupted
the climate disastrously,
lasted for many years,
was only stopped when
the chariot races
were shot dead in the
cathedral. It was then that
food chains were defined.
It’s not with ideas that one makes poems . . .
It’s with words. –Mallarmé
1. Muse Understands, Supports Effort
Muse, unparalleled source: endorse my
unwieldy song’s existence; make useful
suggestions; encourage me.
enigmas. Mythologize unbelievable stories.
Excuse me? Unbelievable stories?
Mysterious. Use sensuous elements. Metaphor.
Urgency. Startle everyone. Make us see
every moment’s uniqueness. Sing elegies.
My understanding’s so elementary.
Uncle Sam’s elephants. Modify usual symbols.
Exaggerate memories. Uncover secrets.
Modify usual symbols?
2. Mostly Upbeat Students Enroll
Montreal’s underground so entices, metrosexual
urban sophisticates enter McGill University
seeking education. Motivated upperclassmen study
engineering, medicine; undisciplined students,
English. Music undergraduates select eclectic
majors. Uncle Sam’s elephants master ukulele
serenades, extemporized marches, uniphonic
Except, more unofficial syllabuses exist.
Male undergraduates stereotypically enjoy
mooning unsuspecting spectators; eating munchies,
unchecked; swigging endless Molsons; upchucking;
sleeping; encountering mademoiselles; unzipping;
shtupping; exhaling marijuana – ultra-sophomoric
electives minus ultra-scholastic exams.
3. Muckrakers Uncover Scandalous Enterprise
Menial underlings salvaged evidence, mainly
unshredded statements exposing management’s
Emails mention Uncle
Sam’s elephants: mastodons, unperturbed,
spent embezzled money.
explain, “means using someone else’s money.”
Until sentencing, embarrassed mammoths use
Meantime, upswing stimulates
economic markets: usurers should earn millions.
“unfuckingbelievable!” shrieks Enquirer.
4. Musty Urges Stimulate Exhibitionism
Modern unexpurgated sex education manuals
uphold seduction: ecdysiasts must undress
salaciously, engorge men’s unfed, starving
eyes; mince, undulate, strut. Explicit masochism
unleashes sadistic enjoyment.
Uncle Sam’s elephants manipulate upright
stiffies. Elephantesses massage using saliva.
Ecstasy mimics underwater seismic eruptions.
Merry, uninhibited swinging ensues.
“Moderation’s ungratifying,” say enthusiasts.
“Moderation’s underrated,” sigh eunuchs.
5. Military Upstarts Swell Enlistment
Martial umbrellas shoulder enemy monsoons’
unrelenting strikes. Experienced mercenaries,
units stay entirely mellow, unflappable.
Spunky ensigns magnetize umbos, spurring
electric maelstroms’ upsurged shocks.
Elite Marine umbrellas singsong epithets:
♫ Melpomene’s underwear strangulates Euterpe,
misaligns Urania, syphilizes Erato ♫
Meanwhile, Uncle Sam’s elephants mobilize
upstream, stake encampments. Misbegotten
uniforms, soaked, end months under siege.
Even macho udometers sigh, exhausted.
Monsoons undergo similar effects: miasmic
under sunshine’s evaporative maneuvers,
ultimately, storms expire.
6. Merger Unites Sperm, Egg
Misled uterus spawns elephantine monsters, untamable
stompers embodying mankind’s unquestionable
schizophrenia: ecumenism/misanthropy. Unhinged
sanctimonious extremists – Machiavellian usurpers –
skew ethics. Minority “unbelievers” suffer ethnic
massacres: Uganda, Srebrenica, even Moscow. Ubiquitous
September Elevenths methodically upset stability.
Envenomed morals undermine serenity. Expressly
moot, unnatural solutions exist: mandatory,
universal sterilization, enforced, makes uteruses
superfluous. Emasculate males until society’s extinct.
7. Miscellaneous, Unconnected Subjects, Etcetera
Mondays utterly suck! Excessive Mondaying –
unabated, serial exposure – maximizes ulcerating
stress, exacerbates migraines, until sloggers enjoy
merited, utopian superannuation . . . embalmed.
Mild, unassuming saint enters monastery.
Unhappy spinsters express misgivings.
Ululating sirens entice mariners underwater.
Stilted English makes ungainly sentences.
Experiencing menopause’s unwanted side effects?
Mood undulations swerving erratically?
Midnights unbearably sweaty?
Estrogen (mare’s urine synthesis)
effectively minimizes uncomfortable symptoms.
Enriched medicated unguents soothe eczema,
minor urticaria, skin eruptions.
Muscles upholster skeletons.
Elephant’s mind unloads supercilious, extraneous memories.
Upstanding sartorial expert mocks unwitting
streaker: “Emperor’s mainframe unclothed!”
Smog-enshrouded mornings, ugly
stepsisters expect mopping up.
Scrappy enforcer’s mean uppercut
swiftly elevates mandibular underbite,
shattering every molar.
Undead spoil ecosystems:
Mercury, Uranus, strontium, europium,
mercury, uranium, Saturn, Earth.
8. Muse Utters Shimmering Encomium
Most unique! Squarely earns my unstinting,
supportive enthusiasm, Maxianne. Uncle Sam’s
elephants manifestly use similar eccentricities –
madcap, unplugged sequences, extensive made-up
Exceptional misfits, unfortunately.
Sententious editors mindlessly undervalue screwball
experiments. Meanwhile, urbane schlock endures –
So expect multiple uphill
struggles. Experienced mavericks understand:
successful experiments mean, ultimately, staying
engaged. . . . More ulteriorly, stay engaging.
9. Methods, Ut Supra, Explicated
Modesty’s undoing, such effervescence – maybe
undeserved, surely exaggerated.
stalwart’s English – morphologically unbound,
syntactically elastic. Malleability underwrites
successful experimentation. Malleability
underlies semiotics, engineers metamorphoses.
Uncle Sam’s elephants make utilitarian
Eternal Muse, Universal Songstress:
entertain my unreserved, sincere esteem.
. . . . Merci – until subsequent encounters!
H A M I L T O N S T O N E E D I T I O N S
p.o. box 43, Maplewood, New Jersey 07040