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tearing the rag off the bush again
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Not the language of flurry and ease.  Not the song
of the defrocked vigilante.  Not the hemmed and attenuated.



An Introduction to Tonight’s Performance

A chattering in the eaves.  A forceful muttering.
Words carefully chosen, then smeared with beargrease.
Not the language of flurry and ease.  Not the song
of the defrocked vigilante.  Not the hemmed and attenuated.
The truculent minnesinger.  But the harried flight
of the marauding crow.  Missile sprung from the desert.
Catapulted vixen.  Acrid linguist.  Cartwheeling Taoist.
It’s rumored they could fly, watch you eating your rice—
your ineffectual chopsticking and long-grained beard—
hover above you, disembodied, then return before dawn.
That they were not given to gossip was a godsend.  
But what about this sputtering saxophone?  How to explain that
to the moderate drinkers gathered seatward this evening?
Ladies and gentlemen, the modern attention requires
disjunctiveness, ballistics, contortions.  Requires
that we drive this tractor-trailer filled with tortured geese
through the Holland Tunnels of your ears.  Forgive us,
we can neither fly nor cartwheel effectively.  Therefore
we have chosen the screams of wounded animals as our theme.
That there will be more wounded requiring more such
compositions is a given.  That ticket prices will reflect this trend.
That you should use the exits positioned at the foot of the stage
and not burst unannounced through the corrugated steel.
The management would like to remind you that one hails
a taxi, one does not ambush, derail, or otherwise interfere with
or impede such commuter-oriented vehicles.  They are a
privilege and not a right.  If the perpetrator does not
come forward, we will remain in our seats until we have
exhausted the abuses we have planned for the various instruments.
That you might wish to avoid this.  That if the severed hand
on the apron is any indication.  That announcements from the stage
shall be random and without merit.  That our purchase on reality
seems tenuous.  Please welcome if you will.  You may choose
not to welcome, of course, but the performance will occur regardless.

Festival


Wank.  Wank.  Testing one two.  The night, the organism.  The rented trucks, the wired-up and jump-started, the microbuses.  The highway clogged with what’s happenings, with bongs and where the hormones tick tick tick.  So we drove the vee dub into the ditch, leaped the fence, and hit drives with putters from the miniature golf course.  He’s house artist now at a local rock ‘n’ roll club.  She had some skills, but the technology changes so fast.  For a while, when the guitars filled the air with messages, when the giggling Viet Nam vet forgot he was driving and crunched Juicy Plantman’s U-Haul, a voice told a dark story.  He was backing up.  Someone rolled off the roof, landed on his feet.  Everyone cheered.  America, freedom.  A war somewhere.  When he came home from Nam he tried to kill his brother who turned him on to acid and now he was driving into trees and trucks.   Happy, he said, happy happy in this unexpected America.


Moving Freely About the Cabin


Unbuckled now.  Seatback and tray table
in a less-than-upright position.  Who will say
I am not the happy genius etc., riding
thermals between Des Moines and Dubuque
like an afternoon vulture.  The woman
with the infant at her breast, the man
with his Wall Street Journal—I contain
multitudes, my breasts enormous
and swollen with milk, my bank accounts
unaccountably huge.  I have kicked
my habits.  I have vetted my long-term
investments.  Look at me, moving
freely about the cabin.  Look at me,
athwart the gunnels, my massive
missive tucked beneath my arm.  My flight
attendant proffers a beverage; my captain,
O captain, hopes I am enjoying my flight.  
While the miserable shudder at bus stops
or risk gangland executions, while
the complacent wade into honest back-
wrenching jobs or cross out bank,
movie store, grocery, I am engaged to recite
to the assembled hobbyists and hopefuls,
to the tenured and tracked, to the wan coeds
matriculating by the fire exit.  Then I’m
island-bound to a conference on
The Caribbean Sea as Metaphor
during which I will declaim
my fatuous “St. Kitts Ode,” committed
to secure the invitation, but which also
demonstrates my unequalled grasp
of the semi colon—“not since Wordsworth”
the critics intone—and my keen eye
for particulars:  cabanas blooming pale
in paler light, bikinis like hammocks
for the sleepy breasts.  Six miles up,
I perambulate among the REM-sleepers
and cellophane-crinklers, among the lap-topped
and newly-pensioned.  Tomorrow, I shall be
their spokesman, their voice, celebrating
myself, assuming what they assume,
barbarically yawping in this language
that mostly makes them nod and drowse.


Dead Squirrel


        after Fred Frith

Possibly amidst the smashing glass.  
There amongst the tambourine marchers.
Possibly before the door slams.  
Before the drummer stumbles.  Before
the scatteration of cymbal and tom,
the crash and rattle of toppling snare.  
Possibly before the pharmacist staples
the bag to the bag to the label
to the receipt.  Possibly there, among
the ordinary gleamings in the silverware
drawer, the wine glass coaxed into song.  
Possibly before the ambulances arrive, before
the lumberyard truck starts backing
and the geese lay their necks along the grass
and emit the hissing blat we learned
to call honking.  Possibly before someone
climbs tableside and attempts a ragged
Mr. Bojangles imitation.  Possibly
before the dinner music.  Before
epistemology.  Before the arrival of the latest
tropical depression.  Before Romanticism.  
Primitivism.  Possibly before
the fight song, the drinking song,
the mystical ravings.  Back there,
in the dawn of time immemorial
or something rather like it.  Before
the baying hounds.  Before the cartographers
mapped even the darkest caverns
of our collective psyche.
Before blenders.  Crock pots.  
Before the lap dancer tossed
the man’s drink in his face.  Before
lap dancers.  Before drinks.  Even before faces.
Somewhere during the cacophonous
ceremony we were beginning to commence
to initiate, quite possibly the hysterical
combatants were shouting
over and over for no reason:  Dead squirrel!
Whether celebration or lament
we cannot know, but the chant was,
reports indicate, accompanied by much
high-stepping and forceful vomiting,  
by smashing glass, door slams,
and stumbling drummers:  Dead Squirrel!


Letter to M.

Those troglodytes you ravished in the Tuillerie were never
among my favorites.  I had hoped you would avenge yourself
with the pallid stockbroker who crimped my Pinto.  Such
callousness notwithstanding, I long still
for the incandescence of your linguistic events.  
As for my nights, I spend them tooling along the plangent
Avenida de Shitkickers here in El Paso, where the jackrabbits’
incessant leaping and twitching reminds me of the
by-now-famous “interpretive dance”
you performed at Tommy’s Show Club.  Though what
you were interpreting and for whom remains obscure,
I don’t begrudge you the peso-filled waistband or
the festival of macho posturing that ensued.  I do, however,
wish that you’d assigned me a more suitable role.
While appearing as a Minister of God satisfied some
deep craving for a more virtuous existence, it placed me
in a somewhat compromised position vis a vis those cretins
who pursued you to the jukebox and then alternately
cackled and swooned outside your dressing room door.
You will recall you thought they were “sweet”
until they hurled a dwarf over the partition.  Might
I suggest that you also misjudged me?  You questioned
my intentions.  Fair enough.  By now, it should be clear
that your breasts were part of the attraction, as were
your characteristic, if somewhat obtuse, syntactical procedures.
Frankly, I never minded being called “Ralphie,” and your
refusal to recognize me on the street caused only a tremor
of chagrin.  If you will meet me outside the Three Star
Desert Motel, I will return your pet nematodes, and perhaps
we can share a Coruscating Camisole in the lobby bar.
Remember how we used to set them aflame
with your “Bugling Elk” lighter?  I shall never forget
the first time you raised your face from the fuming chalice—
your singed eyebrows, your necklace of fire.  If you will wear
your velvet jodhpurs, I will wear my loin cloth
and fashion my hair into the Evil Knievel upsweep,
whose meaning remains obscure, rooted as you always said,
in our age’s “profound cultural myopia.”  


 
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