Sunday, June 13, 2010

old friend, new friend

Occasionally, I scour the contents of my poetry catalog hunting down old ones like lichen-matted tombstones, seeing what dead thoughts warrant brief resurrection. These are interesting excursions, typically. Like looking at photographs and coming to terms with distance--pyscho and physio--from then to now. Sometimes I can hardly recognize the me I find; other times I laugh at how little I've changed.

Unfortunately, I never dated any of my poems. Which is not to say I never thought about it just that, at the end of the day, out of laziness or a romantic sense of timelessness, I have hundreds of poems divvied alphabetically with no real time stamp. So, the trick is to remember the circumstances surrounding a given poem and try to conjure a memory, howsoever whispery, and breathe it in, try to sniff out its vintage. It can be fun. It can be frustrating. But it's always enlightening. Sometimes to read old stuff is to cringe at what used to pass for good poetry. On the other hand, sometimes it is to wince at what now passes for creativity. So it can be lose/ lose, but most times I find something worth the resurrection. Maybe in the idea, maybe in the language, maybe in the very act of exhumation.

I brushed the dust of this one a little while ago. It's a little bulkier than I presently prefer and easily too talkative; but I found myself thinking specifically of you, Ether. You and the Nothingworld and your cousin Amorphilacious-Antaginons. This particular poem was written when you were just a baby and that ubiquitous cousin of yours wasn't even a sparkle in the Philosterous-Nonesucherol's eye. And I, prophet and erstwhile grillcook, descried your coming and decried its value.

We are friends now, I know. Cautious friends. But I have been keeping other friends a secret. Friends you may know and may dislike. I hope we can all get along. Meet this old friend, new friend. He could really use your help.

Interview with a Speechless Library

How, in modern clangor of cells, synthetic bells,

Furor of digitalization, electronic condensation

Of words not written with aching wrists but pounded

On keyboards ergonomic and software intuitive,

Are you still here, relic, museum of dead trees, yellowing

Testament of the gospel according to effort?

When layer by layer the odorous flavor of pages

Stained by coffee mishaps and evidence of trespass,

Whorls of Cheetos fingertips, after years of fallowing

Finally disappears with pandas and seals and Kantian

Ideals, what fashionable meteor, what Wellesian wrecking

Ball will make a dinosaur or a remnant rubble of your halls?

Where, in the surfeit of halogen and neon, will I go

To watch the stuttering flicker of dying fluorescents

Like candles fighting wind and wax, sputtering on fumes,

Or to run a finger along the spines, full spectrum of faded

Color, and hear the putter as I lose count of title and volume,

Lost in the hearkening of my child-self hiding in other aisles?

Who, amid backtracking primates relearning the robotic

Forces of primal nature disguised as a furtherance of man

In his ascendancy to the barcalounger throne, dark scepter

Keeping satellite channels enthralled while myriad dragons belch

Microwaves across his kingdom of Hollywood philosophers

And movie-going serfs, will stand and fight for your silence?

What, of all the words enseamed in your hoary, creaking tomes,

Or the pictures valued at a thousand more, in the oceanic store

Of knowledge and poetry, every alphabet that ever withstood

The tinkering hands of imagination or the meddlesome erasers

Of censorial clergy in loose robes hiding their private arousal,

Say, what, from all this, should we chisel as permanent epitaph?

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