[October – January 2005.]
Three from Respighi’s Rubáiyát
Your glance delivers a false dawn’s sadness.
Whither the sweets, the storied gladness?
Whither the fleshly pizzicati?
You wanted only to drive my Bugatti.
The tulips cajole the hyacinths.
The sun delivers the crême de menthe.
I arise and greet my dual feet.
L’addition! Pronto! Tout de suite!
Night. Silence. Or so they say.
A rose transcends its ephemeral shell,
delivers a smell. Coming my way?
Too dark to tell.
Urlicht by Twilight
We persist, bemused,
the marsupial view.
And the gods munch what gods munch.
A sunny spot, the entrance to a cloister. A fountain,
grassy banks, sassafras & legume trees.
The ladies sing of the garden’s pleasures, the sunshine,
the flowers. In creeps the King of the Moors,
whisp’ring Moresques. Elisabetta swoons.
The page announces, “Rodrigo!”
In error: Mercury ’tis, with a note from Don Dondo.
A monk murmurs, “Heavens!”
A sailor steps forward & sings about water.
The cloister at dusk, the darkling sea.
Bushmen, we learn, irradiate each other with didgeridoos.
Expostulations mark the hour, none louder than an angry thought.
It’s the thought that counts.
One’s lymph travels the long, lonely road.
A leak in the daylight is a simple, daylit fact.
And that’s how it is.
Fork in the Path
The fork in the path has two tines,
one of which points to Respighi.
The other features a liverish moundlet
evacuees prefer to ignore
at an otherwise gracious time of day.
Respighi Quits the Marching Band
Allow me to clarify my position.
I am exiting the marching band. I am wholly absorbed
with walking away from the marching band.
Boom tiddy boom.
A Tongue Like Respighi’s
Ahead, in the confusion, one’s Respighi-like tongue.
When one thinks, it pokes one in the eye.
When one ails, it flounders on the carpet, a tacky flap
drawing attention. One restrains it with one’s foot
at one’s comfort’s expense.
When I die set my features to benignity. Sit me on a horse
trained in the way to Respighi’s villa. Even corks can look good
with their little heads peeping at you over the tabletop.
Mishap en Route to Respighi’s Villa
I climbed over the wreckage to purchase men’s hose, size ninety-five.
“Size ninety-five, please.”
“Is ninety-five your size, sir?”
“No. I am planning to use the hosiery as overnight bags.
The mishap destroyed my luggage.”
“We haven’t any size ninety-five, sir. How about some nice anesthesia?”
“Thanks, no. I’ll take a rabbit’s foot.”
“What size, sir.”
“Small please. I am shy among animals.”
A glimmer espy I in a wood far off
But ill equipt I am to pursue, as I wear one shoe only.
This shoe, it exhausts me!
It is as big as Respighi’s refrigerator!
In the Lydian Mode
There once was a mezzo who couldn’t sing in the Lydian mode.
One day, as she was riding the crosstown bus,
she blurted out, “Hélas & alack! — I cannot sing in the Lydian mode!”
“So stick it out the window,”
the driver suggested.
Have you heard the one about Respighi
strolling along the boulevard with a piccolo in his ear?
Passersby attempt to tell Respighi he has a piccolo in his ear.
Respighi fails to acknowledge their words or indeed to notice their presence.
Someone taps Respighi on the shoulder.
Respighi turns to see a fashionably dressed matron standing before him.
“Do you realize, young man, that you have a piccolo in your ear?”
“I’m sorry, madam,” Respighi replies, “you’ll have to speak up.
I have a piccolo in my ear.”
X Gloats, Y Sulks, Z Feigns Indifference
What next, the extracted cork wonders, and so do we all.
For starters, there’s Excreta, the Big Dipper’s nihilist sister.
You could set your watch.
Ducking’s an option and so’s departure.
Vertiginous, trajectory’s stance, e.g., the Cracker dance,
“Tree Surgeon — Oops! — in Error Lynched.”
Lunatics only canoe through stone walls. While
this in no way embraces desire,
I nonetheless to bereavement aspire,
crafting an illusion of moist effusion
or whatever it is in the way of emotion
Expiring at the Bösendorfer
The love-starved submariners torpedo girls in bikinis with wursts,
& she, having expired at the Bösendorfer, pitches forward,
the appurtenances of her cherished physiognomy
striking a chord the significance of which alludes all analysis,
as do these madmen the Coast Guard’s best efforts.
I reach into the miasma and extract a fugue,
the kind that spits in the holes it chews in its performers.
I throw it back. The miasma lifts. The miasma returns.
I’m not getting any younger.
As if by design,
a sunbeam piercing the evening clouds,
alighting on our music-making,
now that’s what I’d call flattering.
You’re not Leda and I’m no swan,
yet nether are we the slithery ferret
shining an eye on its partner’s essentials,
the effect of which, however useful,
returns me to our barcarole.
I would, the tentative, kiss her so!
notwithstanding the large, hinged lid.
Of Medium Culture
A person, hospital birthed, of medium culture,
predictably invisible dropped in a well,
who saliva gulps in routine wise,
whose uppermost flaw:
As you and I, love, on borrowed time thrive,
abroad he goes in borrowed pants,
& the other, the lender, on Respighi subsisting,
& O, the years.…
One’s Lost Motif
One’s motif wanders off at six mph,
oneself next at four, shuffling ever, meeting never,
sobbing & combing the score.
A miracle! cries he,
pointing up at a leaf-laden tree
at a felon or raccoon, or
(please God!) one’s lost motif.
It begins behind the pony cart. Events lope along, a fogbank,
the Sadist. Wound-oozy saints sanc
tion nothing we’re about here. Think collapsed vault behind fleecy teeth.
Only the tongue, this reluctant delicatessen, this plump seductress,
this Lollapalooza Zarzuela, this difference abiding in a willingness to flap, where
phlegm begets seraphim, imperatives issued and hung out to dry:
Chew! Chew! C’mon, lads, chew!, exemptions arriving, dum-dums from
space. Beauty resides in mastication’s modality, vowels at the ready,
tip of tongue held in check, an act of pure while.
Palm fronds creak, zephyrs forage,
obsolete as farmhouse wallpaper. To glide away under a lid,
the heart with music parasitically cavorting,
the clap’s onset under a rock,
We understand, first, that certain attractions
are glandular. One thinks of the rutting Doppelgänger, blushes
and turns the page, a prudent gesture
Plenty of Feet: Ballroom Dancing
Plenty of feet, but whose? (Metaphysical chortle.)
Why, large ants in tatty costumes foxtrotting back from Provo
with Bonaparte’s bogus Armée.
Ev’rbody tah tah! —
splashing about in solidarity with plumbing’s captive fluids!
Never mind the leaks, the moment’s the thing!
A pleasure, Père Azure, to greet your return from a farflung somewhere
nobody wants to think about.
Travel has painted your features with crusts.
Welcome to your water spaniel, flash-frozen to capture
that prophetic look, to your topiary crops,
to clouds doing nothing much,
to uncritical friendliness.
Boarding their vehicular motley — brusque 4×4’s, sleek RV’s —
off they tool, fast as you please, Queen Anne’s lace* beclouded in grit.
Refinement à bas! all this byway etiquette shit! hast’ning t’the
lakeside fête where, once arrived, th’assemblage conjectures, mayhap to bet
on the speed at which, bombarde discharging, caution forsaking,
our trouvère a large liquid departs, sdrawkcab otni smra s’dèvoleB,**
occiput where eyes occur in pairing’s usual portraiture.
Belovèd a priceless bauble sports,
a medallion of burghers sooty pots thumping,***
willed by a nephew years removed
from Charles Martel, d. DCCXLI,
post-Christ, purportedly almighty,
whom Belovèd reveres, if you ask me,
inanely. The ominous bulge? Kapoc merely.**** Music, then,
on disinterested***** stuffing? Later, dear reader. My attention looks rather
t’Belovèd’s stagger as for th’horizon she strives to make
under adoration’s weight. A William-Jennings-Bryan fake
his finger thrusts (gestural spiral) into a cherub’s garden gate.******
Chimes ad libitum. Respighi.
*Any of several umbelliferous plants bearing lacy clusters of small white flowers.
**Belovèd’s arms into backwards backwards. The discharge of the bombarde, an ancient assault weapon, propels our trouvère back across the lake and beyond, the gesture’s purpose, a spectacular if unproductive entrance to an assignation.
***An ornament on which, in chased detail, we see the depiction of a charivari or, chiefly in the U.S., shivaree: a mock serenade, discordant medley, hubbub.
****The silky fiber surrounding the seeds of a large tropical tree used to stuff mattresses, cushions, etc., more lately succeeded by man-made fibers.
*****Impartial. The word is often confused with uninterested. An uninterested observer prefers to be elsewhere. A disinterested observer makes an ideal witness.
******A coy reference to the pudendum, first encountered in J.S. Le Fanu’s anonymously published erotic novella, Spanking Agnes, 1869. Having completed the work in 1868, the author is said to have delayed its publication one year in the interest of numerology. The cherub is to be understood as a rhetorical convenience, a bit of aerial naughtiness.
Vorspiel: Arcana Caelestia
How less than fulfilling to the heavens to aspire
imagined through the ceiling
that falls on one’s face.
Next down the chute, sunset, moon,
credulity, stars. Certain caroms
lead to success.
Getting Anywhere: Quickstep
To dream, to dream of the tabernacle pump
out there in the evangelical night,
chuf, chuf, chuf! It is as the game warden cautions:
Fishing twice as fast is still fishing.
Beneath the illusion of a patched-over evening,
there in the cloakroom, Respighi.
Something to fear.
A comet approaches bearing your name.
Something to fear.
If you and your glissandi float away like a violist’s dozen
early in the morning (another thirteen),
it’s no accident, especially here where Bounty looks,
whoops, like a hog in the lagoon,
spoiling it for everyone.
Triangulation’s the hot ticket here.
One projectile down the line,
Lute-picking trouvères drop into the hole de
spondency dug. Witty, agile, fetching, keen, none of this
counts at the bottom of a stack of aubades.
Remember the bee our breakfast bewitched
out on the terrace of l’Hôtel Voile d’Or,
St. Jean-Cap Ferrat (la Côte d’Azur),
shore birds cavorting? My ukulele shirt?
Remember nibbling candied figs
at our four-star hotel in a picturesque mote
in the grand scale of things,
where we’d no further need to stand phantoms on edge
in roadside kiosks? “Welcome, please,
park where you like, except perhaps on the Great Spirit’s foot.”
It heartened me, your breast’s veiled gong, closer perhaps
to an offstage trombone there on the terrace,
in answer to my alphorn’s blap.
One looked so small and tentative,
swimming home from France.
Who but a reductionist would think to call our folly
adventure by the bucketful…
We swam to a music a bit like La Mer,
where giant squid were loath to appear.
The sun was setting, we were likely to drown,
swimming home from France.
Had we been wanton, too over the top?
Should we have combed the Transbaykal steppe
for a music bluer-collar in tone?
One thinks of the score to deaf-mute voids,
of household hints,
of attractively priced yet ominous yams,
of nostril exams.
Stale Air in Bunches: Remembering Respighi
Stale air in bunches, musty cloakrooms,
Respighi fondling strangers’ fedoras (…sigh).
Had Mussolini a hand in this? Roehm’s Brown Shirts?
Music waters disquieting seedlings, their vessels bearing
troubling outcomes, cracks in Church Windows,
riffs in Ancient Airs and Dances,
Pines of Rome, shattered piñatas,
condoms draping lower limbs,
old, cold fountains, stone spittoons.
Remembering Respighi preparing for his mind’s-eye exam
perhaps not ever, remembering Respighi,
double-dolce, usually. One thinks of Respighi
when something seems amiss,
when something wears that gnocchi look.
Before My Lips Could, A Marxist-Leninist Hopak
Before my lips could, a commissar’s did. Lumpens dream of Leninist
females, naked and dialectically ripe. In the victory exercise,
Stakhanovites blossom, accompanied by running dogs
yapping at off-White Guards. And Trotsky steps out for cigars (he says).
It is clear that in art we must consider where to look for Trotsky
or perhaps at this table setting for a perfectly fine alternative.
Quite by definition, magic lanterns bathe a five-year feast
in a supernatural light, but have we the desire, the proletarian grit
to illumine a motherland’s wilderness longings?
A tongue out for viewing reminds one of the Red Planet’s super-
ficies. There is, always (here, not Mars), the matter of interpretation
(that protruding, nubby flesh). Like tongues,
monarchic throats are a matter of similar conjecture,
as are the iridescent snowflakes of a mild Orthodox winter.
A nose in the cloakroom discharges; on the phonograph,
Don Cossack lethargies, clicks, pops, surface noise.
Respighi, concussed, in bewilderment blinks.
I sense within my breast the black flag of flippancy
disconsolate amid a necessary order (organs, glands, etc.).
Breeze, Yes; Heavens, Blue
Breeze, blue. Capricious music!
Call it duplicity, something wrapped about a stick. With eyes. One thinks
of décor, beginning with the orphanage, it’s the way of the world,
even in what the senses report as delightful, entry-level evidence.
onslaughts befall. Your years differ from mine. Explanations cling. We
maneuver. I offer to hammer your head in order
to enrich our visit to the phrenologist.
Music: Heard the one about the two Senegalese merchants? Seems
their camels are no strangers to malaise.
Everything Else: And you, Music, are this vehicle’s under-inflated tires.
Music: They say I could have been a composer, yes, they do say it.
Everything Else (hands to breast): Mother of God!
Music: Think of me as I am, busy. The deed will remain in the family.
Everything Else: It is for this one nurtures one’s codas.
Confucius say, Man who shop for bagatelle in for big supplies.
One bagatelle, please.
Sorry, sir, we’re fresh out. How about some nullity?
We’d even gift wrap it for you. You might also want to consider a bulk purchase.
We’ve piffle by the cubic yard, delivered loose. No ceremony,
just dumped on the pavement,
O perfect stranger piffle-entombed, how easy to some perfection comes!
Confucius say, Even cork interesting when little head peeping
Coco Chanel’s Maginot Line: Bourrée
She thinks about bananas.
You giggle. She impugns your tact but lets it slide
with imperfection. Yours.
Her thoughts about bananas dwell in the abstract, neither of the miniature,
apple-flavored kind nor the kind one cooks with,
wonders why. Bananas in the elsewhere, invisible
as the Iron Chancellor’s silk
She thinks about bananas
nibbled at by bogus clairvoyants,
such is their peculiar lot.
Is It Music?
Is it music, these muttered disappointments in filling station washrooms
absent toilet tissue? In the crater next to mother’s, one ill ignores
how harmony these moments transforms:
ready, aim, fresh perspectives!
Who speaks so? ’Tis I,
Uncle Ottorino, scapula-deep in heresies,
which I wave like giant handkerchiefs
in a stunning leavetaking, including magnificats,