To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Michael Davidson: Four Poems from Bleed Through, plus one other


            Suddenly all is / loathing (John Ashbery) 

and there’s plenty to be unhappy about
if I can just get the reception area festooned
in time for their arrival, paper cups
and those little plastic whatsits so that,
gorged on meaning,
they troop through the glass doors
seeking interpretation, first floor
mildly historical, second floor
desire matrix, parents accompany
their indiscretions straight
to the penthouse, and someone
hands them a phone, “turtles”
they’re called, heads bobbing
as though they had a choice
to be party favors, deep structure
on your left, follow the clicking
to a white cube, we only work
part time, the other part
we illustrate profound malaise,
I like these cream filled versions
so unlike what we get at home,
having said which
we re-wind the tape,
slip it through a slot marked “aha”
and take the El home,
the smell you smell afar
is something boiling over. 


When the rotor hums for a long time
among the gawkers
I fall into a ghost trance
and become a white man again,
nothing must penetrate this history
because nothing can be distinguished
from itself, down
on Midway Plaisance, amidst the lights,
the dark beauties offer darkness, the eyes
go there while the will stands still,
in the Hall of Dynamos
the dead warriors will return
in a language no one remembers,
they have a stall in the Pavilion of Silence,
the ears go there
searching for treaties, tales of the elders,
from up here
the land is all parcels
like one of the new paintings,
nothing penetrates this illusion, prose
covers the brown earth
and in the hum of its scroll
can be heard a crowd of the visitors
clamoring at the entrance
with their tickets
to the white city.



            the Garden of Allah is unknown to the senses 

Douglas Fairbanks Sr.
flies over minarets
you can almost see the wire, 

he smiles while looking down,
she’s having the ride of her life,
later, as Susannah

at the Well
her alabaster will startle
cigar smoke in Secaucus 

produce a sense of height
the sense of money and the other
brocades that assist intimacy, 

an artist on Hudson
paints the Holy Land
as it stretches to Poughkeepsie 

sun gilding the Berkshires
like light on an odalisque,
these arabesques make one almost 

intimate, as the night comes down
drawn by camels,
the explosion could be heard 

as the absent one
raised his glass
and the building fell on children 

and the dust blew across the street,
by these slaves naked in the bazaar
we have entered the modern 

the capitol dome
sports a fez
the Shriners wave from a float. 



We’re between rationalism and whatever is left out,
stuff caught in the drain, sex in the park
where it threatens to rain, the war
drains the state of excess
and leaves a hard residue of cash on the sill,
we spend it in spectacular restaurants
with nothing not green, nothing but grass,
the new owner greets us with something amber
and amuses on a plate, there’s Kant
in the corner, wave to him honey,
it makes the trip from the Valley
seem a minute in a mall; 

there was the Dual Monarchy
but that didn’t last, then came the partition
and the annexations, new colonies
that became the old estates
and they brought out new epaulettes
and paraded them in the renamed square,
it’s hard to catch up once you’ve begun
the long division, I remember now
we’re between civilization and discontent
there’s one of them now, turning his fork
through a reasonable salad; 

if it weren’t for the password
no one would enter paradise, there are so many
passwords I forget how to bludgeon myself
into a primitive hut in the name of something
once flame-like, insistent, piercing
the heart, passing a window in a moving train
we see ourselves as our fathers
no wonder we reach for the red handle
and send cars screeching into the ravine,
anything to avoid this inexorable motion
and the docent who appears
to explain it. 



I look in the box marked “save”
and find the file “inutile”
for which I appear to have been searching
since the last dream of leaving, 

I am perpetually late
and write my address
on an envelope to be enclosed
in a second envelope, there are no stamps 

no pen, we are celibate
in a world at war, intimacy
has been ruled ineffective
or perhaps “inoffensive,” the Court 

has a ruling somewhere
in a language no one is allowed
to learn, I hate to be obtuse
but what is a flagellant 

for? I saved the receipts
for our trip to the desert,
you set up the tent in the wind
while I boiled water, 

we shared a language, read Stendhal
in the rain, now
I tie my shoes, wincing
over a body that has learned to live 

without time, the mirror
time proffers and a little dog
trotting along at my heels,
it must be 

time to roll up the sky
and alphabetize the Gods
according to their ability to sanction grace,
we who were once chosen 

must file a request
to speak with the concierge,
there are no more rooms
and the passage is vacant 

at the Hotel Chopin,
but the city is based on a map
and each night we enter the labyrinth
untutored in acronyms 

that may refer to us,
in the park
portals of memory can be seen
through the mist, 

on the opposite side of the lake,
a small boat with a red sail
is on its way
into the present.

[note.  Bleed Through, now published by Coffee House Press, is a long awaited “new & selected poems” by a poet who has influenced & interacted with many & has slowly come to a visibility of his own among the most lucid & critical/poetic voices of our time.   The testament of Ron Silliman, for one: “Michael Davidson’s poetry has always been a push-pull experience between total courage and exacting care, as if a fine Swiss watchmaker had suddenly taken up skydiving.  It’s a heady ride, dedicated at once to both risk and precision, and the pleasures of vertigo, thrill, speed, and terror are never very far.  At the end of it, you find yourself surprised at how quiet it all was, up there in the clouds, or just how solid the ground now feels.”  Or Michael Palmer for another: “Across a lifetime in poetry, Michael Davidson has plumbed the relationship between the ordinary and the uncanny, and the timeless and the timelessly amusing, within this all-too-mortal coil.  His welcome ‘new and selected’ is rich with those swift turns and exploratory revelations poetry, at its most dynamic, is singularly designed to offer.  It is a pleasure indeed to hail his accomplishment.”]

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