May 5, 2019! Jordan Stempleman hosted this Sprung Formal Reading Release Party. Later, said he always thought Brian Compton, seen here behind the giant lens, was my dad!
My younger sister Mariah had driven me because I still wasn’t driving again since my seizure in July, 2014, and I was getting ready to celebrate my five-year cancerversary, as I mention in the video: long-term survivalhood! And still peddling books, my first two collections (This was after Father Me Again but before I released Terminal Destination and did my reading at Inklings’ Books and Coffee Shoppe, which is now closed, over the summer, about our trip to bury Lili’s dad in Guizhou in February-March of the same year).
After the reading we sifted through a truckload of untouched fruit, I remember a vegetable platter, etc., among the leavings. Among the 2019 readers, I remember Peter Mishler, Jermaine Thompson, Kara Lewis, and Ruth Williams. I also chatted with Marcus Myers, whom I’ve more recently enjoyed getting to know and finally contribute to his wonderful Bear Review:
Recently received my first copy of a collection by the illustrious Charles Simic whose poems have followed me everywhere since 2009: The World Doesn’t End. I devoured it in two sittings! May have done my library copy of Come Closer in one.
Here beside my newest book is one whose very presence on my shelf is a true pleasure: Oblivion Banjo by Charles Wright! Gorgeous in every way, the cover itself, its smoothness, delights me.
Placing these two poets side by side gave me an idea about myself. A kind of thesis resulted. As entertained as I obviously cannot help but be reading Simic, I feel the fable in his work as a step away from dailiness, that is, the day to day rhythms of writing in the midst of my children and the once natural world (my back yard is I-70, not the Blue Ridge Mountains, or whatever). Franz Wright, a student of Simic, whose work I have at times proclaimed to be by favorite, may have had a similar effect: Fun! I have to add James Tate to that darkly comedic bunch.
What Charles Wright has going on is different. His project is dailiness itself, glumness and mundanity, and mimetically cuts closer to the bone. I long for those depths but at the same time I am enchanted by the lights that glitter on the surface of the water.
Another lapse in treatment, that is, I haven’t been allowed to take the Temodar the past two nights because of an elevated blood count of the chemical waste product Creatinine. Nurse suggested drinking more water, so I straightened out my coffee to water ratio and now look to be in normal range, as of yesterday’s 11:15AM stick in the arm.
In other news, Dad wants to visit the horse supplies store for Ivermectin, promising if I “turn my back on the medical government establishment,” he’ll “help me find a way to cure my illness,” you remember, the glioblastoma with 14.6-month median life expectancy, my father the once upon a time lawyer, who taught English in China, is going to cure my cancer … with Ivermectin! Better get on the phone with my oncologist.
Having developed a deep, percussive, rattling cough, I had my bi-monthly with the Tuncer this morning and underwent a battery of tests, including X-ray of chest, parking lot nasal swab for COVID-19, and additional blood draw with bruise still visible from March 31. Lots of running around made the cough worse, I think. But tonight will be the first night in over six months I don’t take the chemo …. Strange.
There’s nothing quite like contributing work to a magazine that has ceased to exist. Where do they all go, these defunct webzines? As a teen, I exercised some of my first writing muscles composing blog entries on a platform called Xanga that went watership down in 2013, taking along with it the angst of millions of teens. Alas for the transience of all things online. Why do we expect to stay put the things we put online?
Because the Internet gives this false assurance of permanence. It archives. And many editors are able to leave up achieves permanently. Others, I assume, are not in a financial position to maintain their websites, and the hard work that went into them, both the editing of them, the curating and the contributing, the writing and submitting work, not to mention the joy that accompanies its acceptance, “finding a home,” as if a home were the end of a work, a sort of permanent residence, complete with mailing address, all seems to be undone. Void.
In light of this, I have recently begun to paste poems from my computer that appear on my list of online publications into my list of online publications where the link has been lost. For example:
Dec. 22, 2018: “Lacan at the SSA,” “Phaedo,” “The Pythagorean Theorem” in sum
Lacan at the SSA
Waiting to be seen, I cannot say I know my name: this, Lacan calls the mirror stage. Imaginary, I have not yet
entered through the door, not yet drawn a number from the machine. The security guard has not questioned me: What brings you in today?
What, indeed, has brought me here? I lie awake worrying about line breaks and workshops. At the plexiglass, I fumble bank statements, my spouse’s
paystubs, whisper under the sill, still no employment, no assets, no weapons of any kind. Unable to recall my Mother’s maiden name, I exit, disvalued,
undesired, driven by—my Mother, Anger—the binder bulging with uncalled-for documents, medical reports, poems.
My dog mouths the tennis ball like a syllable in black gums, the first syllable of a poem I am writing about playing catch with my dog, Phaedo.
Leaf mulch and hay catch in his winter coat. I snatch the ball out of his mouth and fling its smudged neon nap into the sunlight. Phaedo belongs to me
the way we belong to the gods, says Socrates. Men are possessions, our bodies a kind of prison, a chain-link fence, and the gods mind the gates. The gods mind me, my tennis ball
leaping in the faded grass. I know my life does not belong to me. I know I must chase down the days of my life and ever so reluctantly lay them at my master’s feet.
Light falls from square windows in the eastern door, emblazoning parallelograms on the carpet
in the study where I write. Late morning. It’s always an attempt to see myself in the form of another,
to see the vehicle in the tenor. Doing Algebra 1/2 with my little brother, I relearn Pythagoras:
To find the area of a parallelogram, slice it diagonally into two triangles. Picture a mountain
mirroring itself in the surface of an alpine lake: Bear Lake, Emerald or Nymph. To rehearse
for the transmigration of souls, release the lights from the frames that form them. Open the door to your study.
Of course, the fact that the first two of these belong to my first two collections of poetry, Fall Risk and Father Me Again, respectively, helps to offset the sadness I feel at the nonexistence of sum. Sometimes I wonder if Ingram Spark went down, or KDP, how much sadness would be felt. It seems to belong to the very nature of the project of composing a poem that it withstand the test of time, as if time were some kind of quizmaster. The language has to be machine-like, or diamond-like, as the poet John Hodgen wrote me in an act of kindness after I took his masterclass, so it can bear the weight of repeated readings, or even memorization.
I had a small repertoire of poems I was working on memorizing while working at Beijing New Talent Academy (2012-2014) before I had my first seizure toward the end of in July, 2014. I brought a couple back and recorded them recently for my YouTube channel. For example, “The Rain” by Robert Creeley:
Ultimately, of course, the poem is called back to memory, to the mind, where it was born, and outlasts us in our short lives only a few minutes. It lags behind, then follows. Even the canon.