Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: an extract from Lee Posna

 

The problem, everybody’s problem, is myself. Which is neither mine, nor self, but what of that? (I have no self-control: there’s nothing to control.) The more I work at it, the deeper it gets. In this it’s like a hole or a painting. It being me. There’s no law that binds depth to beauty. Some bind it to horror, they shadow me like imperial clouds. Mom’s the concubine. The sky’s like a painting over a hole in which one finds an empty vault steelier than angels. ‘The sky is blue, no?’

The problem gets deeper. I stare at a bald patch of lawn where a black seething mass resists my visual cortex. I bend down toblindside emerge ants = fire. I put out the fire. Then everything’s made of fire (not the logic of a bad dream, but the truth of an ancient fancy). The garrigue burns, the house burns, the urethra burns, the universe pounds with voids so cold they burn like ice on flesh. The twitter of a chaffinch burns in the olive.

I’m calm now. I can reason. The scream barrelled like a train through a dead station. Another won’t be long. Its echo pulls my face a bit, I’m calm now. I can reason. I can reason a little way. I stack my reason upon its twin till it starts to gain some ground from the dust. I’m always screwing around in the dust. This is how all babels are made, one stone upon another. They stretch across the peneplains of hidden hominid. The sky has room enough for every end.

The problem is the solution (like divine speech): death. Not to take the shortest path to it, but rather to fight against traffic up the road leading from it. Just as the litter-bearers of a certain dying pope did summer of ‘64, working toward the holy land:

Pius II set out for Ancona to rouse a late crusade, 200 years after the age burnt out. Deserters filled the road overlapping like ghosts. His men drew the litter’s heavy damask curtains despite the violent heat to spare their swimming head the heartless tableau. He arrived in time to see the late Venetian fleet dock, and soon after died.

A good solution to a bad problem, which always already contained defeat. Defeat is part of the larger plan. What kind of plan is this? Not the right one. And worse, not the wrong.

See how this plays out for a planet, a people, a family, another? A little shoot squeezes through some barren peneplain; the shoot grows into a forest; the forest into a house; the house into fire; the fire into words; the words into swords; the sword like a clock’s hand never stops turning; the clock like a star’s engine–.

While I am my blind spot: for myself I can only infer its operation, as one infers the presence of dark matter. I believe in my defeat – I feel it happening, I see it in my beard, under my eyes, in my way, that is my pattern, in my work, which increases order, a kind of order, whose growth is outpaced by disorder – which makes my reality, giving ground for belief: an elegant feedback loop. What do I believe? What I’m forced to.

I see the end of my life many years from now, or else two, or it may be six weeks from Monday. In the manner of light, which illuminates, but hardly penetrates (at most it reaches a thousand metres into the sea), I see from one end of the universe to the other. I see and note the faces of all who have never lived, and will one day remain unborn, from Eve’s aborted sister until the end of time. I smell the rock, and paint the rock’s sex, and paint the nude’s sky, and render great walls of galaxies to hide your eyes. The matter is limited, and it contains defeat.

He’s not me. The Provencale painter, not me. What is true for you in your private heart is true for all men (thank you 19th century). I bow to the 19th century, I crawl into the 19th century as into my mother’s slack womb, as this fully unfurled genotype starting to decay. I burrow into pillows in the corner of this warm room. I squeeze them to force the door of innocence, to strangle Adam and ride him into the brane of myth. This is neither his voice nor mine, I like to think it’s both (though it’s neither). I make no space for his spicy fire, voice, temper – I’ll tell you about that soon, it’s part of this hateful experiment. I like to think I can undo a gross of years, expiate the omnipotent violence of ‘it was’ and animate Cezanne at thirty-something, year of the hanged man. There’s his corpse, thirty-something years before the decay begins in earnest. He’s sleeping, an empty bottle of Cairanne at the foot of his easel. I slither along the floorboards (we’re in his atelier), shoeless, shirtless, sweating in moonlight. My underwear stinks. The crickets swell the night thick with rosemary. Crouching next to his crumpled beard (where’s his pillow?), his face turned toward me, the miasma of wine, fougasse, tobacco clouds me in rank heat: corruption enters the saint. And so I solemnly open his mouth, which makes a sticky sound, allowing the corpse to speak. That is, my corpse.

 

©Lee Posna from ‘Completely Supportless Blue’

 

Lee Posna lives in Wellington and works at Pegasus Books. Books he’s recently enjoyed include Hill by Jean Giono and Difficult Loves by Italo Calvino.

 

 

 

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