Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson
Denis Johnson 1949-2017

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

To remove from the frame of
reference the referent.  To erase
singular. (and plural.)  and yet.
The verb never agrees
with its heresy.  Disbelieving.
In absentia.  We dress.


The story of cleavage unwritten.
Erased.  (perhaps.)  but still missed.







And yet.  We are a bedrock of antecedents. 



                               





                                                                             (& sing.  & sing. 
                                                                 & sing.)





TC Tolbert
From territories of folding

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Philip Schultz x 2

Pumpernickel

Monday mornings Grandma rose an hour early to make rye,
onion & challah, but it was pumpernickel she broke her hands for,
pumpernickel that demanded cornmeal, ripe caraway, mashed potatoes
& several Old Testament stories about patience & fortitude & for
which she cursed in five languages if it didn’t pop out fat
as an apple-cheeked peasant bride. But bread, after all,
is only bread & who has time to fuss all day & end up
with a dead heart if it flops? Why bother? I’ll tell you why.
For the moment when the steam curls off the black crust like a strip
of pure sunlight & the hard oily flesh breaks open like a poem
pulling out of its own stubborn complexity a single glistening truth
& who can help but wonder at the mystery of the human heart when you
hold a slice up to the light in all its absurd splendor & I tell you
we must risk everything for the raw recipe of our passion.


*********************************************

Failure

To pay for my father's funeral I borrowed money from people he already owed money to. One called him a nobody. No, I said, he was a failure. You can't remember a nobody's name, that's why they're called nobodies. Failures are unforgettable. The rabbi who read a stock eulogy about a man who didn't belong to or believe in anything was both a failure and a nobody. He failed to imagine the son and wife of the dead man being shamed by each word. To understand that not believing in or belonging to anything demanded a kind of faith and buoyancy. An uncle, counting on his fingers my father's business failures— a parking lot that raised geese, a motel that raffled honeymoons, a bowling alley with roving mariachis— failed to love and honor his brother, who showed him how to whistle under covers, steal apples with his right or left hand. Indeed, my father was comical. His watches pinched, he tripped on his pant cuffs and snored loudly in movies, where his weariness overcame him finally. He didn't believe in: savings insurance newspapers vegetables good or evil human frailty history or God. Our family avoided us, fearing boils. I left town but failed to get away.

Philip Schultz

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Contrariness Of The Mad Farmer

    I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my
    inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission
    to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it.
    I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,
    and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,
    and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven’s favor,
    in spite of the best advice. If I have been caught
    so often laughing at funerals, that was because
    I knew the dead were already slipping away,
    preparing a comeback, and can I help it?
    And if at weddings I have gritted and gnashed
    my teeth, it was because I knew where the bridegroom
    had sunk his manhood, and knew it would not
    be resurrected by a piece of cake. “Dance” they told me,
    and I stood still, and while they stood
    quiet in line at the gate of the Kingdom, I danced.
    “Pray” they said, and I laughed, covering myself
    in the earth’s brightnesses, and then stole off gray
    into the midst of a revel, and prayed like an orphan.
    When they said “I know that my Redeemer liveth,”
    I told them “He’s dead.” And when they told me
    “God is dead,” I answered “He goes fishing every day
    in the Kentucky River. I see Him often.”
    When they asked me would I like to contribute
    I said no, and when they had collected
    more than they needed, I gave them as much as I had.
    When they asked me to join them I wouldn’t,
    and then went off by myself and did more
    than they would have asked. “Well, then” they said
    “go and organize the International Brotherhood
    of Contraries,” and I said “Did you finish killing
    everybody who was against peace?” So be it.
    Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony
    thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what
    I say I don’t know. It is not the only or the easiest
    way to come to the truth. It is one way.

Wendell Berry

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient tongue
has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not a language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses and birds.

Jack Gilbert


*************************

Z is for Zed at the End

After the 0 but before the over,
There’s hope. And then there is none.
There are simply the sheets
Which cover the waiting world. There are the seats
From which we watch. And hover.

At the wedding of now and be ever, someone makes note
That the Mickey Mouse clock on the mantel is stuck
And still. Someone else adds, “May there never be a snake.”
And another says, “And never a poison apple.”
Once we gave the apple and tree a story.

Once we let the snake speak. In a whisper, it said,
“Let no one fall.” And then laughed
Into its tail. And wasn’t it Eve who is said to have said, “Hello”?
And, “You’re right, this is quite tasty.”
All the while, on the opposite page, Ophelia

In her small lake. Ophelia, the water—
Edging her blue-tinged lips and bloated face—
The color of tin. The evening’s hair all laced with lily.
A hint of Madonna.
A face. A bed ready. A bed made.

Mary Jo Bang