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

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pierre Joris: from THE GULF (Between You & Me)

[note. These texts, originally published in Barzakh: Poems 2000-2012 (2014), were commissioned after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion & oil spill by Donald Nally & the Crossing Choir to be set to music by Gene Coleman, Chris Jonas & Gabriel Jackson.  The work premiered in Philadelphia in 2014, and had its first European staging in Luxembourg in October 2015.

— The first two sections of the work are partial writing-through’s of Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem A Throw of the Dice, using both Daisy Alden’s & my own translations. That poem, despite being usually called the first “abstract” poem of the modern avant-garde, does tell a story: that of a shipwreck & the drowning of its captain.

— A number of the spoken phrases in the second section are taken from interviews with Sheri Revette by Antonia Juhasz in the latter’s book Black Tide (Wiley, 2011), talking of her husband, Dewey Revette, a driller killed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster on April 20 2010.  Sheri tells the story of their love and life together and the moments after Sherri's discovery of her husband's death.]


               what do we know, what can we know?
                              OF THE DICE
               of science, of love?
                                             only the facts, that is to say
                                                            only effects
               can this happen
NEVER even if, can this happen
                              in science, in love
                                             EVEN WHEN CAST
               Indras net of love,       
                              moneys net of stone
what do we know, what can we know?
               What has caused this gulf
between water & oil, you & me
                                             IN ETERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES
               (no circumstances are eternal,
                              of this rigwreck
What will we know?
               We know only effects / have to choose
the causes
               A SHIPWRECK at the heart that the
gulf widens
               between water & oil, you & me
                              fish & water, me & you
                                             that the
               between water & water, you & you
                              me & me, oil & fish
widened then whitened
                                             there is slack growing
                              raging underwater in the heart
                                                            underheart in the water
               on the brain
what we know is oil & water dont mix
what we know is fish & oil dont mix

               what we know is you & I have to mix
               what we know is you & I have to live

                                             under an incline
                              clinamen of a warming clime
               an angle not an angel tells us
                                                            me & you want to live
                                             even if despair desperately soars
                              & gets an angry rise
form the phantom pain of its own planets sore
                                                                           broken wing
               a second-hand angel singing Ecce Homo,
                                             Ecce Homo, though not so Sapiens,
conscious liar,
   beforehand relapsed, liar, liar, not released from wrongly steering
                               the flight of this planetary love affair
                                           no use repressing the outbursts
                                                         of this lethal love affair
                                                                       cleaving the bounds
               of this oily love affair
                              at the root of greed
                                             set the rig afloat
                                                            a ship finally a ship
                                                                          the impossible change
     for deep inside weighs the admission of impending disaster
the shadow hidden in the depth
                           by this by this arrogance this arrogance
            at the root of greed this arrogance
                               at the root of arrogance
                                            this love this love for more
                                                   a more always spelled out in money
blows the rig up this morning
will blow the world up tomorrow
               there is no alternate sail
                              ship earth in space / space ship earth
                                             the only raft for dumb sapiens
who has to learn to love
this imperfect raft
there is no alternate sail

dumb sapiens has to learn love
               has to learn to adjust
                              has to learn to look       to the spread
the spreading of disaster
               has to learn to jump
                              its yawning depth
as great as any abyss
                                                            between you & me
               the hull of a rig
                              the hull of a ship
careening from side to side
               turns over & is for a moment cathedral
                              burning church of the worship of money
brightly floating death flaunting love
                                             rigwreck rigwreck
a catastrophe here now,
                              the circumstances local & global
               not eternal only this now
cannot grasp the hawser
                                             opens a gulf
                                                            between life & death
a millimeter uncrossable
               a BP centipede monster
at the heart of this rigwreck
                              abolish                abolish
abolished responsibility
                              Moloch, Moloch
                              rules, Moloch
all rules broken when Moloch rules.


                        THE MASTER is no master
               the master is a corp       a corpse a corporation
                              beyond outworn calculations
where Moloch where Moloch arisen
                                             is a manoeuvre with age-
less scorn for you & me
               scorn for love  /  love forgotten
                              the master is absent
now present here only Dewey
                                             could have gripped the helm once
upon a time & called his mates
               now locked into the assistant drillers shack’s C chair
 can his love hear him

SOLO  (Deweys voice):
               Thirty years offshore
                                             & I can smell a rat
               leaving a rig, I can, I do right now —
Im toolpusher, not master,
               should sleep but follow
                              inauspicious orders
tomorrows another day, nights growing darker
               somethings wrong here, somethings off
                              shouldnt follow inauspicious orders
               It is night / the only light
                              is tomorrow is Sheri
Sheri my love a gulf between us
               my message reaches across a gulf
                              awaits you listen listen
                                              left it this morning at first light
O why am I not ashore I knew
               the bosses would lie would cut
                                             corners until from this conflagration...

                              at his feet mud overflows the rig floor
                                             shoots through the derrick
               the blowout preventers does not act
the wells blown out
               Dewey dead now in this conflagration
on the no way unanimous horizon
                                             end of the horizon
                                                            of the deepwater horizon
a Gulf prepares itself
                              the fist would grip it
               will swallow the tossed & burning rig
as one threatens destiny and the winds, the elements all
                       eleven die
    the one Number which can be no other
                    eleven die
                             their Spirit hurled
                                   into tempestuous fire gas explosions
                 nothing can seal the gap nothing can go proudly
          eleven die
love left ashore a Gulf
                                        between their loves & their corpses
                        eleven die
                                   eleven die.

SOLO (Female Voice/ Sheri):
         Dewey got pretty hot
                       Dewey never—ever—ever
                                      loses his temper — never, ever, ever.
               If he really believed this could have happened,
                              hed never, never let them do it.
Calls at 9 a.m. each morning
               missed his call that morning,
                              phone didnt ring, he left
                                             a message I deleted as
               I knew he was coming home
                              knew he was coming home.

               Dont hesitate
                              cut off from the secret they withhold
                                             cadavers that will not wash ashore
caught rather than dressed
                              now in shrouds of lethal
               oil & dispersant pearls
old madmen play the game on behalf of the waves
                              one surges over the chief toolpusher
               a directly shipwrecked
all-American love story flows over:
                              of the man no submissive graybeard
                                              who just liked being home,
               ancestrally huntin, fishin, playinon his tractor
                              not to unclench his hand
Shewithout a ship
        a small place in Ohio, no matter where vainly there was:
                                      Kmart in walking distance,
                                                            mall twenty minutes by car.
They met when he drove up to the local Kerr
                                             gas station where Sheri worked.

SOLO (Female Voice /Sheri):
     It was love at first sight
              We had the old time Coca-Cola coolers.
                      He reached in for one he was sittinthere
                             we were talkinthat was it…
                                     He had this smile. It would make you melt.
                                                                         Love at first sight.

        Contracted before & above the worthless wellhead showed
She was 18 & he was 21 when they got married
                           an all-American love story
                                          the legacy of his disappearance
          yet back then no gulf between them
                      to some unknown the ulterior immemorial demon.

SOLO (Female Voice):
               It was love at first sight.
                              When we got married so young
                                             everyone was looking for a baby.
                                                            There wasnt one.
                                                                           We were just in love.

From dead & narrow lands
               induced / seduced
                              by an old man toward this supreme lethal
                                             conjunction with probability
this morning she expected him home
               sister called at 5 a.m. said turn on the t.v.
                              she knew right away that hed be dead.
                                             Even his boyish shadow
caressed & polished,  drained & washed
               not to return wave-softened
                              unyielding bones stripped off

                                             lost among the debris

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