I: Of Bondage
Bury this part of me in raw Kulusuk sands,
As untouched by Empire as Cold War airstrips
What is this part? A tension within, an
Entrenchment, the anxiety of action, the
Illusion of inability -- a blockage! -- static between axons
I’d like to go to the Greenland shore to see it off.
What is it? No muse speaks through me
The gods are lost in violent spheres that glow
Silent and dim from where we stand.
It’s just that
Sometimes, my eyes are diverted
From the mangled beauty of the world
Adjusted to a screen or just
The simple fear of death or irrelevance
-- whatever that looks like --
So when I’m here,
Stewing like this,
Taking a nod from old Kant,
I can’t walk to like Lief’s cold mischief, I know,
But I can get lost on my way there.
II: Of Departure
I have left, I have left the house.
And as I cross the great iron bridge it comes
The trashsyrup smell of low tide along the harbor
one of Poseidon’s hungover children
Has puked upon the shore.
Why does this feeling come when it does?
A sickness, a nausea of myself or the world,
as the stink of the demiurge hangs
Is it of me? if it's of me,
Is it a problem of chemistry or spirit?
The ganglia or the Geist?
These streets used to excite me
With pockets of mystery coded in every corner
But the cipher was a bore
And this city’s hidden messages
seem muted by,
As when packed with dirt-painted snow,
A blanket of banality.
Or maybe it's of these neighborhoods
I've spent too much time in already.
Debased of their enchantment,
Rotting with reality.
Is this feeling just a component
Of the false idolatry nostalgia brings?
Cities I've lived in before
Calling back from the crawlspace
Where memories are tucked
Glowing there like dust in a crack of light
For one perfect moment
Unmarred by the hideous Now
We must be careful of
These townships of times past
As they feign constituency
In Ezra Pound’s ideal
Metropolis of the Mind.
Yes, these are the apparitions
That haunted him
From city to city,
As he culled every corridor
For echoes and stains left by lost gods.
This struggle to render
From chaos, precision;
Stepping on the spread-wide, varied faces of the particular,
Higher and higher towards some marvelous castle in the abstract,
Mussolini’s bully-brought vision.
Tragic that the man who liberated
English verse from itself
Could not free his own spirit
In such bondage to the ideal.
Look there, his ideal is Beatrice beckoning
By the crown of the Leviathan,
The humped-back beast jealously guards its golden shores.
And it is Ezra ever-sailing for Byzantium,
Of winds blown by nervous Cantos.
A doldrum is the greatest Feare.
Joyce was obsessed with the minutiae
Of the deeply flawed Real City
And it guided him to the beautiful
Ruins of Windy Troy
Where he sipped cheap burgundy
In noisy bars,
But communed with the literature
Of the gods.
Both men, concerned at the end
With reconstituting the worldmyth for
A changing global consciousness,
To be the Logos for the new Geist.
Such wild ambition, such fabulous, formless failures
(success bores, flamboyant collapse is an ecstatic thrill)
Said Pound of Finnegans Wake: “nothing short of divine vision or a new cure for the clapp can
possibly be worth all the circumambient peripherization.”
Said Joyce of Pound: “He makes brilliant discoveries and howling blunders...
There can be no doubt
That Joyce here is supreme,
By recognizing the preposterous pretense,
The teetering height of Babylon from which
His project starts.
Joyce colors his gifts with humor,
Tempers the crushing gravity of its ambition
With ironic distance, the key figure,
A Falstaffic demiurge that sloppily recounts
The mythic history of civilization.
Pound, ever-serious, had none of this,
And wrote his own dissonance,
With presumption of being
His own both Virgil and Beatrice,
The Tripartite Poet he believed himself to be.
III: On Revere Beach
I try to write before
the time totally pours out like
ink from the bottle
and stains my fingers with
dripping from skin, candescent
with the fog of the day
the Atlantic Beast cradles your neglected dominion
the sky that airliners squeeze out of, they
materialize, suddenly, as if from nothing,
emergent and mysterious, like consciousness
thrust violently into being
JetBlue, United, American Airlines,
ferrying new souls from pure divinity
into this strange space
scraping the whitewashed surface of the Beast
as they descend into existence
when I stand nipple-deep in her
the Beast Mother,
I look up disturbed when they fall
so suddenly and so close
tearing through the worldskin in cacophony, immanence
This is the end of the train line, Wonderland Station
Paradise is at the apparent edge of the world
where sand cuts into the jetty-acned
back of the Beast
Up the beach is what we called Hotel Miami
because it looked so out of place here
with its candypink shell and
that make it look
like a playset
I came here to lick the salt
of the dead seagulls’ tears
that line the careless wounds of the Beast
And to eat the flash-fried parasites
pulled from its belly
And to watch new souls descend
from your pure light towards
our shadows on the wall.
The air cools, its fog tightens,
And the vapour twists into firm, discrete drops.
I slink my head down from the incoming rain
And wander back towards the station, the sleek, blue train.
IV: At The Tam
Poems are words culled from
The chaotic fugue of mystery,
The poet a poor, dirt-chested Achaen
Swallowed by Charybdis and spat
Back out into the world, perhaps,
Onto this very barstool.
I hope that doesn’t sound like
It’s supposed to be noble.
Because it’s not
It’s simply the case
-- “all that is the case” == “the totality of facts” --
The fact is
These are words culled from the shrill cacophony of the bar.
The fact is
I’ve written published poems from a stool or two here
But right now --
I’m writing because I’m waiting
Wet, rained-on and waiting
And the words just flow onto wet pages.
Most great poems are written,
At least conceived,
In dive bars.
A lot of dogshit poems are too,
Many that look for short trips to profundity
In the romanticism of despair.
There is a sublimity that sings
From the sweet stink of a sticky trough,
A soft song that falls in phrases,
As flakes of dandruff do,
Between the thistles of a graying beard.
The ones that,
Like dust in sunbeams or
Sweet snowfalls in streetlamps
Catch light for a moment
In the low neon bath before landing
Faceless on the floor.
We catch the moment
Hear the brief phrase, the fragment measure,
And it is the Great Hope, an indelible perception,
A flash, the reflection of you in the world,
Swaddled away in us all.
V: Of Arrival
the pink porno glow, the industrial sunset
cut by sharp clouds, its
imported shades of L.A. sleaze
painted over freight yards
and the coiled concrete arterial.
I have often thought
how this closing of the day that
smolders blue over colorless Sullivan Sq
reminds me of the moment when
in Paradise Lost,
Satan by Michäel’s sword bleeds for the first time.
the day seems somehow surprised to fall into night
surprised as that angel was by the possibility of wound.
Its radical vainglory, a melodramatic casting of light
is indeed a Nectarous Humour...such as Celestial Spirits may bleed
a last rebel yell before quieting into the cool blue that blankets rattling cars, cars carrying stiff
souls from the City’s workday back to suburban homes
On the Orange Line we were packed in tight
(as always around that time)
and at every stop--
too bored to be properly tired--
the distended conductor’s voice
rang trebly through every train car:
“IF YOU CAN’T FIT ON THE TRAIN, THERE’S A CONVOY OF TRAINS BEHIND US. IF
YOU’RE ON THE TRAIN, MAKE SURE YOU’RE ALL THE WAY IN. THERE’S A CONVOY OF
he kept repeating that, so evocative --
a CONVOY of trains --
a convoy, our accompaniment,
the vehicles of a struggling Empire
packing us in and ferrying us away..
Bio: Quentin Mahoney is a bartender, musician, and writer from Boston, Massachusetts. Previous poetry in Little Star Magazine.
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