FORGET THE FUTURE
a novel or something for James Thomson BV
ACTIONS LEAVE SHALLOWER TRACES THAN DREAMS. ONCE THE DAY HAS ENDED THE LIFE THAT TOOK PLACE IS OF NO INTEREST TO ANYONE.
this apology of decay
complications don’t sell, you can be complicated when you’re dead.
THOMSON AGAIN AND AGAIN
Only memory really exists and of course dies with us unless we find some way to preserve it… every day when we wake we re-arrange the past and move through it as we move through what is becoming part of the past.
-Again, I do go to James Thomson, yes, James Thomson BV
-Charlie Conklin was sitting on a bloody towel on a wooden chair in front of Jerry Foley’s Village Paddock on the corner of Jane Street and 8th Avenue that morning. I’m bleeding from down there, he said. Jerry---that cheap bastard--- wouldn’t let me sit in his bar. He called an ambulance. He was afraid I’d die in there and the city would close him down for a few weeks…
- I took a drive at 6:30 PM on a December night out from the house where I live three nights of the week and had to drive a few miles away.
-There are only a four streetlights on the long road into which I turned and there are few cars on this Sunday road. I am listening to a CD on the car player as the wipers took the light rain off the windshield but the glistening glass harshly reflected the headlights of the on-coming cars. I thought of the neighbor who had swerved into an incoming car with her car and walked away from the accident on this road.
-It was not a long drive and I had looked in the garage for a tourist brochure I had picked up long ago when I went to Illiers-Combray to see the house Proust described in Remembrance of Things Past.
-The house was not as I imagined it to be, though at this moment, I am thinking, was not the book by Proust a novel and why would I think the house I was to walk through was actually the “real” house, that is the setting for a never forgotten scene in a novel… except of course I had been told that it was, as I knew when I went to the Martello Tower in Dublin and to walk up to the gun rest… as stately plump…
-Should I write about him and be done with it for the moment and he will exist in the moment of the first person who reads these words.
-It cannot be said that when leaving Apache one can see the sign.
GOING TO APACHE
has to end at the moment
while what alone remains from the many times of the going to Apache… one building by the side of the highway.
There you have it--- this you, remembered or invented in the moment, without a name: a destination, a depository if you can… for these words, these pages, at the moment.
He rejected my advice, saying that travels like the humanities, should serve only to enliven one’s style, “ and the incidents gleaned abroad might be used in a novel, but not in a straight account. Travel writings were to him the same as news items, a low form of literature, and he had higher aspirations.” Maxim du Camp on Flaubert in FLAUBERT IN EGYPT by Frances Steegmuller
“HER CUNT FELT LIKE ROLLS OF VELVET AS SHE MADE ME COME. “
-I shouldn’t write about him because of the difficulties of the places he inhabited: Patchogue, Dublin, Sofia and sometimes London.
IN THE LONG RUN, THE PAST AND THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE ARE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME KIND OF FURNITURE,
--- JACK SPICER. VANCOUVER LECTURE
-I can write about him if he can be said to live on the page by way of the words on the page but this is not for me to decide as while I am able to read these words I also am responsible for these words being on the page and that is where the problems come into being with the simple impossibility of something another might call objectivity…
BOREDOM IS THERE, IS SOMETHING SPECIFIC, AND YET IT NEVERTHELESS ALWAYS SURROUNDED BY THESE EXTRANEOUS CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH WE BECOME SIDETRACKED TIME AND AGAIN IN OUR ONGOING INVESTIGATIONS
-To write from the personal point of view is to be constantly aware of the brevity of a life given to an individual--- yet unable or unwilling to rise or fall to that strange… thing: creation, to use words to create a person, a place, things, feelings and then to add adjectives: comic, tragic, friendly, nice, lovable, endearing, inspiring--- or not adding an adjective and choosing to describe action and creations participating in actions, inter-actions all as memorable as the person said to be standing at
in Patchogue and being asked what he was doing replied, I am waiting for it to change.
-Once upon a time a man asked Thomson for a likeness of himself and Thomson replied that he would send a sheet of paper with his name block lettered across the bottom of the page and above there would be an inked square of blank space: all you should require when you want to call me to mind.
---That’s’ the trouble with you, Thomson is saying, the trouble with all of you, being born in that place---- America, infected with such a dreary portion of optimism. Cannot help but think no matter what your sense, your memory telling you: things are bound to change and on you go in spite of your going out to Highgate Cemetery and seeing I did not even get a grave of my own.
-Eventually, the poor me will arrive and I will then ramble down the lane, push aside the dead dog, the cat, pass the rutting lovers and find myself exactly where Thomson wanted me.
---Done with it and I have been done by it.
-Nothing to be extracted from a locket of hair. The undertaker snipped a lock of my mother’s hair and gave it to me in a plain envelope.
-You’ve been kept busy with that hair! Thomson’s voice appears
-The question of the locket sewn into your own…
-What do you know?
-The familiar misery, the comfortable misery.
-It gotta go on.
-Has the life gotten better for you?
-Are you going to quote Pascal to me: I believe only the histories, whose witnesses got themselves killed. (#593)
-How to keep track of this going on?
-Why don’t you just give us a birth-to-death story so we can make sense of it for ourselves or a death to birth…
- The ambulance came and took Charlie away. Jerry took his chair and the bloody towel back into the bar. I called St Vincent’s that night to ask after him. I was told to hold the line and---cut it the end: Mr. Conklin died.
-Because he was not unidentified the city buried C. Conklin in a cardboard box someplace in New Jersey.
-As I was writing the previous two pages my eyes glanced to my right and I saw a card from QUEEN’S HOTEL in Lerwick, The Shetlands where I had stayed in November
after I had left the death of my father back in Saugerties in New York State during August of that year.
-The picture even shows the room I stayed in which was in a part of the hotel built into the harbor though quite high up above the sea. I do not remember the sound of moving water but I also do not remember opening the windows as it was cold and damp… a few weeks or so before I had come over to England from New York City on the QE2.
-During the voyage I was torn--- or some other word might be better for what had happened--- between two women: one an unattractive girl but obviously I thought available who had just graduated from Smith College and was going to visit her Rothschild relatives in Germany and an older woman who had come over from Montreal to meet her husband in London, though she had not really wanted to be seeing him but it was expected of her, she had said…
-Rachel Fraser came to my cabin and we intercoursed each other on two of the nights of the voyage. We did not talk to each other when we saw each other in the dining room or walking about on the decks.
-I discovered a few things in the dining room at the formal dinners: a passenger in First Class did not have to order what was suggested on the menu and as I was told one night, in the days of the real ocean liners, people like you would not have been allowed to travel First Class.
-At Southampton I was directed to take the First Class train to London and I noticed that, not waving, not even a turn of the head when Rachel saw me, I watched her get into a Rolls Royce that had been waiting for her.
-On the last night of the voyage, Rachel said she had things to attend to in London, events to go to, appointments to be kept to, but she gave me a card for where she would be staying, the Landsdown Club. She said it was a comfortable place her husband liked but which she tolerated, as she had nowhere else to go and she was expected to be there when he called, but it might be possible for us to see each other, she had said--- possibly--- before her husband came over to London from Germany where had business to attend to though she was not sure of the timing as they were meant to go to Scotland to look at land… as if, she added, she had not spent too much of her life in Canada looking at land that was to produce their futures.
-Of course in the recounting, now, many years later, I become aware Rachel Fraser was saying this to me as she was tentatively exploring the thought of continuing in some way what had happened on the ship… but only mentally since she knew, I am sure now, that to repeat such—and it seems likely that this had happened before, as everything on that ship journey had repeatedly happened to the majority in whose class I traveled but of course I had been part of that class because I could buy that one time a ticket with my father’s death money.
-To make a novena of those people or should be better to offer one for the…
-Charles Conklin, who everyone called Charlie but who for some or no reason both Lilia and I always called Charles, told me that over there at Donovan & O’Leary Funerals they had the contract for taking care of the corpses, remains if you please, of those who died with identification on them and no one claimed them.
-Had to make a delivery to them of cardboard boxes and asked the man what for?
-Stick the stiffs in them.. And they truck ‘em over to ‘Jersey to get burnt.
-Never keep an ID on you. Then you leave at least a bunch of pictures behind and get a bit of a hole in Potter’s Field.
-A survival tip. When you sell your blood, Charles said, be sure to take along a brown ink pen. I grew an army of those brown spots. They need the blood so bad they’d take it out of your balls. Get that pen. It gives you a little extra cash.
Never trade near a blood snake, you get a lousy price. Move down a couple of streets. Keep yourself clean. Remember your mother saying no one is too poor they couldn’t buy a bar of soap.
-IN 1872 Thomson is writing: the isolation of thought is sometimes almost appalling. Walking in the streets at night and sunk in musing, I came up to the surface and regard the moving people; and they seem to me distant and apparently unrelated as ships on the horizon traversing the ocean between unknown foreign ports; and there are moments when they seem incalculably and inconceivably remote, as stars and systems in infinite space.
-Charles and I were walking along 14th Street. I had met him after work at The Eagle at 9th and 14th. They didn’t know him there but it was a good bar he said, bought you back after 3 drinks.
-He was tired. It’s been a ball busting day. The trucking company’s going broke. I tried to tell Manny put us on short weeks. Spread the work around. At least we’d all be working. Nah, we’ll see, Manny says, we’ll see what happens. Nothing’s gonna happen. It’s closing down. They say it’s cheaper to work out of Jersey. I can’t go back to that place. Ten years of my life stuck there with my third wife. She worked me over. I was a cook, a damn good cook mind you and you do like my veal stew. So does Lilia, doesn’t she? I’d sing her any song she wanted. Lilia I mean. Not my third wife. There’s something about her that makes you want to sing something to her. She’s always so sad. Just if I could take her eyeballs in my hands and just throw into the world. LOOK AT IT. YOU GOT TWO GOOD EYES. SEE THE BEAUTY. DAMN IT. SEE THE BEAUTY. I’ve seen my whole world go rotten. Who do I got? There’s the dame over in Staten Island. I see her once in a while. But her hands are so rough and she makes me bring a dildo along. That’s all I got. What can I expect?
-Thomson is writing in the British Museum: Suicide would be much more common, were it not that by the time one has learnt the vanity of life he has acquired the bad habit of living. So by the time one has learnt the vanity, and worse than vanity, of authorship, he has fallen into the bad habit of writing … a clueless victim of the plague…
-Sure, Thomson would have been able to puke on the sound of these words. It would have been the week he was in the country and had not been near the thought of a drink. To puke at the idea of happiness that gets tossed about in the newspapers.
What is happiness?
You go to be kidding? Do I get paid for my answer? Will I be on television? What are you to be asking such a question?
Well, you got to start somewhere, as they are always saying.
Thomson would be down in the country. He would make up games for the children. He would tell them of the time the man in the moon came down on a long ladder from the moon and arrived in this little girl’s deserted back garden while everyone was taking a nap after Christmas dinner. At first the child was afraid but quickly she figured out what would be in for the man in the moon to harm a little girl standing in the back garden of her home in London. She was worried her parents might be angry with her for standing in the back garden talking to a stranger. However, can anyone really claim the man in the moon is a stranger? It is true they had not been introduced. She told the man in the moon this reservation on her part and he replied he well understood her fear and had arranged for the sun to come along wiping away all traces he had been there. If anyone asked, she was only to say, I was talking to a neighbor’s cat and no, it did not get close enough to scratch.
-Thomson would allow the story to be continued until tomorrow at the same time if the iceberg from the North doesn’t show up and squat in the front parlor. The children all laughed and said he was having a fun at them.
-He did not know where they got this expression: having a fun at them.
-The golden ages of childhood, but now it is said there were no golden ages in history, no way to leap into belief in a golden age outside the life being lived right now and Thank God for weak memories.
-Stopped looking in the mirror in the morning preparing for the day and no longer seeking myself in the distorting brass edged shop fronts. Is this so, he asks and forgets to answer his own question because he is thirsty.
The moment came when I no longer recognized myself in the mirror.
On certain days I fall into happiness and am left with myself and familiar memories never failing to rewind me back to, once upon a time, when there was a chance and I was still in the running, running after something, even when I was sitting on the porch listening to my father going on about the doctor next door and how the noise from the pool on Maiden Lane was draining him minute by minute and why didn’t they do something about it…
-Was there a time when I was happy?
This was in Patchogue and her name was Melinda.
Thomson did not have the long pause between when he first saw Mathilda and when…
Though for sure… she was dead and gone and in my case Melinda lives on and on.
That came later. He was lucky in his fashion.
How can I say that! Comparing your high school love with the love of a poet who died young.
That poet is from the anthologies, even though he has been declared to be minor.
He is a certified part of THE History of English Literature. His listing in the British Museum catalogue:
THOMSON (James) the Poet.
THOMSON (James) Author of The City of Dreadful Night”.
But I am not even a resident of the Incorporated Village of Patchogue. I am a city person for whom they are preparing a rubber sack for my remains.
Lines originally typed in the night as Thomson would have been doing though he does not have money for his lamp after the sun went down. The life was being bound to the relentless rhythm of the sun: the day would grind on and he would be ground into the earth overlooking the error of astronomy.
It was beyond any sentiment he might entertain. He isn’t shouldering himself against the sky.
The pity of it...
He would say and give us a drink, the pity of it under the dome of moon.
A pain sits in my stomach. The earth filling her mouth.
I wrote: a grain of soils shall fill the vein. This was in Dublin where every word becomes naked to be jumped upon by a likely lad and ridden into the ground.
And my parents in their boxes.
I lay upon Melinda and felt the earth ooze up behind her lips and when her tongue twisted about his all he could feel was the slick slime of a worm, while how sad it all was, now, after all these years… the ordinary desire to freeze though of course time would carve them apart… that knowing nod of the head: you were not meant to be together.
Thomson was said to have never spoken of Mathilda. She existed but was also invented to explain the life of Thomson: unrequited love instead of the cold gaze on our individual fate… while Melinda is just a name repeated and the color of the eyes would have to be invented, the shade of blonde hair, the tone of her voice…
We were all so happy. Don’t forget that. We were all so happy, once upon a time.
Her flesh dusts his beard.
Thomson has lost--- is it now--- three handkerchiefs in the laundry and his budget is thrown out of whack.
If only the dimness would consume his memory of Mathilda.
If only had lost the lock of hair that is pinned to the inside of his vest pocket.
They all think it is the lock of hair of my truelove… the true love who Thomson never speaks of, but who is spoken of, conveniently after he died, and gone away, unable to fill in a rebuke to such an easy explanation for the problems when they try to come to grip, as is said, with the life led, the life that ground him up and sent him out there and back here.
It was all so much fun. If he was honest and who else was there at that moment in the history who could be honest with a pen.
Trying to shoehorn himself up the ladder… that ladder and not able to purchase the first rung.
Get the foot on the first step.
All the heaven of the page to open for him but he would be warmed by the fire consuming that page.
Could he have made the effort to have his words seen by the passing eye on the High Street?
Even if he knew how this happened they would still cover his words with brown spit.
Even as he was writing he was not supposed to be writing. Haven’t they discouraged you enough? What is the matter with you?
The ladder up is the ladder going down.
The locket could well have come from the woman or boy who was met in the dark and who took away some of the hours.
I have lost the locket of my mother’s white hair. The undertaker had clipped a lock of the hair from the corpse head of my mother. He gave it to me in a plain white envelope.
These dust bound corpses roll upon each other and while there is an ocean between… held in my mind: the earth is squeezed up from under her breasts that sag over the sides of of her rib cage and rise up and draw me down to kiss her lips. The eyelids are smooth, not yet wrinkled by too my fingers. The tip of my tongue did not etch the corners of her eyes: the orbicularis oculi.
The sun illuminated her pale white flesh and this is going on in my boy room, the room where I sat for days, for hours on end and wishing for this to happen and now what is happening it will end.
I could not imagine the next day and In that…
Give us all a break
As you still think in this day Melinda disappeared and my hands are covered with the earth: my mouth tastes of the ages of books which will be read looking for this moment.
It was never there in the first place.
Just vague mush, as Thomson might say if pressed and my life long love affair with myself
Once upon a time
I knew in Patchogue and Thomson knew on Ireland…
O, I was happy
In love with idea of love, came to both of them, to Thomson and myself. That bag of worms. Both of us rummaging through the bookstalls and the British Library.
Grubbing midst the records for something along with Dr. Karl Marx and he was so kind to be appreciative of the translations from the divine Heine, the stupid torment of the flesh but no God to believe in so how to call up the divine, as Dr. Marx wrote in his note.
And the blank face turns to me again, as it must, because it thinks I’m loaded with money though that money is in the form of poor me, poor me, poor me and hope that the old guy would give me a push into the hole waiting for me, but again no such luck.
ATTENTION is always focused by the possibility of a free drink.
I rattle the coppers in my pocket, the tongue is nearly out like my own and I wish how do I wish long for and hope for and curse against my fate of being with men who do not have a copper to rub against another and only what to feel their gross bodies pushing against mine in the hope some of my meager warmth will rub off and into…
My hand out to his and his around mine and repeating to ourselves, if only… and both of us knowing we’re just having ourselves upon for a bit of a lark… and if it we were truly grown up we would have long ago out aside these things, this thing of childhood and gotten on with the day-to-day without carrying a sack of ash for our meal, dropping on the stoop we are… and the man looks at us: you don’t expect to be coming in here tracking yourself upon the carpet, now do you?
Before Thomson can twist the words around his tongue and not say what is on his mind, I’ve grabbed him by the arm and moved passed the gentleman
---We’ve been invited and now please, announce us as we not to be kept waiting.
Thomson is pointing to the burst sack of ash. I do not see it because what good does it do for either of us to see what we have left behind?
---That’s’ the trouble with you, Thomson is saying, the trouble with you, being born in that place---- America, infected with such a dreary portion of optimism. Cannot help but think no matter what your sense your memory telling you: things are bound to change and on you go in spite of your going out to Highgate Cemetery and seeing I did not even get a grave of my own.
Eventually, the poor me will arrive and I will then ramble down the lane, push aside the dead dog, the cat, by the rutting lovers and find myself exactly where Thomson wanted me.
---Done with it and I have been done by it.
Nothing to be extracted from a locket of hair. The undertaker snipped a lock of my mother’s hair and gave it to me in a plain envelope.
You’ve been kept busy with that hair!
The question of the locket sewn into your…
What do you know?
The familiar misery, the comfortable misery.
It gotta go on. Has the life gotten better for you?
Are you going to quote Pascal to me: I believe only the histories, whose witnesses got themselves killed. #593
How to keep track of this going on? Why don’t you just give us a birth-to-death story and we can make sense of it for ourselves.
But you already have that. There are plenty of them. Even for a guy like Thomson… the books are there on the shelf or in the electronic lists.
MEETING WITH THE BLIND POET
Give me another whiskey, I am tired of the wine drinkers and their bars where they linger of the glass, an insult to the wrist and central nervous system: the wine drinker
They must expect to live forever, never asking why they would want to do such an awful thing?
Since 1963 he has known of Thomson. The title of the John Rechy novel CITY OF NIGHT… the search through the works of the man of the The Seasons and then discovering the other one or the one.
This novel would surely not have been published as little as five years ago. Its issue by a reputable house marks how far the black hand of censorship and threat of censorship has been lifted.
Openly published “City of Night” can be evaluated on its merits. It is about the half-submerged world of homosexuality the community of hustlers, lesbians, queens and other deviates that live on the fringes and in the center of the urban societies of America.
-And was stuck with books and written words. Whole buckets of them and the containers begin to spring leaks and strange substances spread across the floor eating into the carpet.
-The suitcase is unpacked, at least that is known as a fact.
-Deliberation is the boot into which the foot has been fitted.
-Nothing so vulgar as the life of a poet or the reader’s report on the life of the poet.
=At one time.
-Surely, at one time, just as if it was yesterday. One day. And then there were other days. A Sunday in April and deciding after the French that your intestines are too long or too short and that has been your problem all along.
-And there is translating for a reason we will come to after a time. It’s a question of work, of application for months perhaps for years nothing impossible as the Spanish proverb has it Plenty of Vaseline, even more patience and the elephant buggers the ant.
-The sun shining outside. Should be shining inside. Anything to overcome the sudden snow storm out of season or maybe not. Weather hesitates us all…
-From the moment Thomson saw Matilda Weller in Ireland, did he know she would be part of his, for lack of a better word, life? -When I saw Melinda she would consume my memory.
Thomson has been walking. Give him that. It's obvious many things will come between him and me and him and you and this could all be dragged beyond anyone's capacity to find enjoyment. He hasn’t come from a sitting room, so that casts out some potential readers. He has been out and doesn’t remember where he has been.
The year is 1882.
Thomson will be deadly presently.
My grandfather is being born in Donegal.
-Failure of imagination. No bodices to be ripped. No dusty costumes to be raged from the closet and words to be insinuated into their mouths.
-Plod on in some fashion. I will be with you within the minute. In one minute. Believe me.
Just one of the guys on the road: Tom, Dick, Harry Wilson, Harry. A pose to be sure because as I am not like these geezers, the guys down the avenue.
S O S
WINO IN DISTRESS
-The task is the translation of Destouches’ Bagatelles pour un Massacre. Of course I know no French. Whoever needed a language to translate from that language into one’s native language? Just begin where I can. Dictionaries at the ready. I know the reputation of the book. It might never exist in English. A scheme of madness, the workings as a mind crazed by being locked in a novel or someplace like that. The book fell into my hands.
-Thomson knew what I was getting at. He needed to have Leopardi into English. He had his dictionaries. A lot of time on hand. I don’t have the time. The clock is hurrying me along. I don’t own the walls that enclose me. A stranger owns the walls and comes for the money once a month: in cash please.
My eyes blink and a world is created. The eyes close and the world is obliterated or am I obliterated if I practice this in the middle of the road?
I should be going up to the Sunrise Highway. On one side, the Sunset Funeral Home and on the other, the Break of Dawn Birthing Center: I kid you not.
You had to be there. Reality has gotten the march on Fiction these days. The poets are running in place.
A creature of books, papers, the library and any fleshy substance to be distilled out of my longing to be back on Patchogue during the summer months of 1965.
Who wouldn’t? Given the day: dogs and derelicts chew bark from the trees in the park.
As did Thomson long for the Ireland of 1853 (Melinda is still alive; Matilda was dead) while I have become used to the longing. It is a faithful shadow, as if a shadow has free will! Or, who is to know, on some days I am quite happy being right here, at your service, at your service…as in the week of his death--- of course he did not know this then---Thomson went to visit the poet, Philip Burke Marston; his poetry would make me throw up: once leaped my heart then dumb, stood still again---this is the room to which she came that day--- then I knelt down, and dared to touch her hand--- those slender fingers--- her radiant beauty made my heart rejoice--- and the sight of him… stuffing his fingers down his throat to get clear of the evening and her hand wrapped ‘round his part…
Marston, you fucker, the Scot’s nerve of you to claim you can’t see because you are blind, dead in the eyes, you say, blind as you say, you are---I’ll carve the eyes out of that skull of yours and then you’ll be able to see, see that I am not lying when I shout into your own good ear, I’m a tiger, not a leopard burning bright into the morning, but tiger burning, burning down this house and the one in which I’ve always lived, the one in which I’ll die, the one to which you think you’ve been able to send me like they’ve always tried to do: send me away for what is perennially said to be my own good: teeth sinking into your arm and I know it is an arm. I am not stupid and blind like you--- because my eyes are open to the walls and I have my teeth into your arm and the blood runs warm, not as in the stories beloved by them sitting by the fire, waiting for Melmoth to come calling from his Irish bog… waiting, that’s all they are good for and all I am good for, though that is all done with: this waiting because I shall gnaw on those full, female described, pleasure loving lips and I shall not dumbly suggest the cruel limitation of your suppose blindness, that darkness, turning the colours on and off in her cheeks, like some wretched sailor’s navigational guide.
My legs give flight and I have my arms outreaching, slung out for the touch, turning my mouth into a portico to the mouth of the heaven or hell that does not exist but was said to open for my mother when she went to chapel and they are all singing every moment of the service, singing and hoping: this is the time of the year when the heavens open an take them by chariot back to where they belonged and they do think this and I have you by the scruff of the neck and will take you back to the jungle and devour you at my leisure… all against the possibility, she felt, of the hell about to open at every step on the way to chapel.
Alas, poor Marston says he cannot see and probably says he can taste the fear gripping him in the small pouch swinging between his legs… grabbing him for all he is not worth. I have him and he is a tasty meal, is not my precious Englishman, a tasty meal is he not… for one and all and when the cannon opens fire I watch them fall over like so many nine pins before the gates of Madrid, was it or was it in Constantinople that I heard Januarius talk of the Bulgarian faces peeled from their skulls and how the Turks used the faces as so many rags to wipe the snout of their hunting dogs to give the dogs the courage when they went forth to eat at the corpses of the dead Geeks which carpeted the floor of the Valley of Roses.
Marston, I shall turn you over because you are done on this side and the fire has not burned bright into the night and filled this room with enough smoke out which I shall carve my escape and back to Ireland and ease her from the earth and pluck her from the sea and lift her from the mountainside and lay ourselves down against all that is good in the supposed heaven of your Christian god who allows the young to drop into the earth with not a shudder and allows the young to be born with one leg or five hearts or three heads or joined to another and the two of them hobble along the street, a slithering creature too disgusting to exhibit and turn a pretty penny… how are they to fit a crust of bread into their mouth to nourish themselves against the cold always with us and always to be with us: we, this accident upon the face of ice and now allowed to rise up and smote the cheek of the creature and there is no such spirit if you think you have me caught out… you have another thing coming to you and my fist willw sink into your stomach and I will take up residence and away the morning light, bright morning light when all our dreams are seen as something more than that… morning light framing what is not let to us anymore. Show me what is left of your sister broken in foudroyant apoplexy.
Marston, scream for all you are worth because you are going to be carried into the place you have cried to be taken out of and again I am the tiger sent from the shores of the Ganges to carry you there and I will send you out to be eaten by the river… how will you like that… to be eaten by the river and to come back in the next life as a rock on the road that will trip a king as he makes his way. Can we not both hear the laughter rise up from the rock and the next time around I will be a cloud and I will cover the earth when alas, my poor girl, goes again into the heartland I will not rent some temple rag but I will cleave the very earth upon which they will walk back from the orifice which has received her body and which will be my destination as it will be yours and as it will be for all those who come after me… can you not hear them speaking with those funny American accents we hear more and more of each year: I will just get out of my coffin and walk across the lane and visit with Henny or he will get out of his box and pay a visit to me and Marion will probably count the silver as she is wont to do, as she will say after they leave… never does anyone any harm to count the silver after relatives like them leave the house…
To climb out of the box after they have screwed down the lid and stomped down the earth and grown the trees and the shrubs and the bushes which will obscure the stone from the visiting eyes.
You fucker, I know you are looking at me and those eyes are telling you that you have but moments to live and then you will be launched forth upon the poetic seas of your words and finally the words will give shape to the death you have longed for and which I have longed for knowing nothing will come after and the horror waits with me knowing it will all just start again and to have to go through all of this, again, and again, over and over again, that is the horror of the East, that is the lesson they have brought back from The East with the tiger, tiger: to be repeated endlessly and each time the mind knows it is being reproduced and each step has been taken and each fall has been raised up only to fall, just like the last time.
And Marston whimpers, is that any way for a poet to behave… to snivel when he is being kissed by another who has come all this way to give back the blindness you have long said you are possessed by and I would be possessed by it too, but I know that even to carve these eyes from my own head I would still be left with the stuff, what a pathetic word, with the stuff which has already been accumulated by the eyes in their previous journey through these streets.
And I know they will come and pry me from your neck and they will be shocked but they are innocent of the ways of the world, not knowing it in the way that I know the world. They will be shocked and think they have seen the end of a man’s life and the beginning of a story.
Notice the teeth broken off in his arm. How shocking!
That’s what really happened: they have been in on the making of a story and each will deny to the other the truth of what each has seen but I have been the one who has seen: the fur fell over my blotched skull and I feel the fur when I raise my hand to my face and I have to close my eyes because I wouldn’t want to tear my own eyes out. I would not be able to make my way through this earth to find you, Marston, there, as you are always to be at the end. Having missed the story when it began, you have once again been brought here…
Dead fuck that you are: who comes to call at your house, you who, think yourself so lucky that you do have a house and I who have the street am luckier than most because at least I know: no room can contain me any more unless it is a casket and I long for the wooden garb and the sure destination.
How I wish to be consumed by flame and for no reason. If I knew they will no allow me to be consumed as flesh. You are no pagan baby being sent to voyage on the river. You are born in these islands, you will be set free from these islands only to rot in the earth of this place.
And do not slobber out how you are just an innocent lamb who has been lost to the world and now you are found by him who is prepared to send you to a world I no longer believe in but which I am sure you too do believe in. So where is the smile on your face as the angels begin to run against each other and send down their tentacles like some sea creature to take you back to your own true home, there midst the clouds and the constant motion of chicken feather and lurking fox coming in from the back of the shed to send these chickens to a further heaven where they wait to be sent further along the rail line to end up right where you are at the moment, about to be sent into the history of my life.
Give me another drink.
You say, you dare to say, there is no drink in the house and I ask where is this house you speak of: I see only two rooms and one of those rooms is blocked up with the life you are claiming to lead but which is about to take you over hedge and there you will find me waiting with my mouth opened. Hungry I will have been all day, having been send into the world without a decent cup of tea.
I wanted to be done with you, Marston, in the light and speed of the first sentence, Marston, you fucker, I will carve out those eyes of yours and truly you will be blind and seeing all which id denied to us who have been looking for more years than we want to lay claim to but which twists us at the corners of our eyes and at the flesh which swims across our stomachs and consumes the knife.
No, I will not send you to your Maker because your mother and father are dead and ooze into the earth, lying upon the same bed in death that they lay upon when they squeezed one from the other the melting which became you and which became me and which became those who will live on after I am done into the ground.
I am downed with it all. And have been done in by it all for all these years no matter what I tried to do ain’t it a grand story, as the Americans said in Colorado when I told them of coming over from England. Ain’t it a wonderful story: him come all this way to entertain us with these stories about wanting to go back to streets so narrow two men cannot pass without nudging one or the other into the shit that fills up the gutter and in which the little children dig and fish for the truth of their lives and are they looking for a song; that is not for me to say. There are far better people able to distill from the rubbish of the days the meaning of it all and out of which I am about to launch us so that we no longer have to ask ourselves these dreary questions which come to complete with more answers than any sane person could ever want. An answer is created every moment for the sort like us: give us a moment and we will harden the answer up into a dogma and you will have another dogma to overthrow when the moment comes.
And Marston rises up and feels his hands pushing at Thomson’s shoulder which shakes into a rage that drives Thomson back down upon Marston, and yet again Marston pushes back t and the face of Thomson slides as if it were attached with some sort of rubber to the skull and Marston can see the face sliding off the bone of skull and Thomson’s teeth are mostly still there… that was what surprised Marston: Thomson has a full head of teeth.
Now by all that is fair in the world, how did Thomson keep all his teeth? But now the mouth opens and the smell is as if the river rose up and dropped down in one small bucket right next to the bed with a deep sigh and the wives of a tiger being lead into the field by the little indian boy and they prance and show their little stuff.
Of course Marston does not see. He has never seen anything and no one will see him in a couple of years when he goes to join the others in the card catalogue of the museum, just another card and will the cards get up and cross the aisle and have a friendly chat like the corpses do in the cemetery… picture postcard cute.
The room will be stripped bare because he will not be able to go back to it because he knows Thomson will always be lurking in the corner ready to pounce and claim those eyes for his own. There is no reason for how to understand Thomson wanting the eyes of a dead person,,, no, wanting the dead eyes of a person who has always been the symbol of friendly concern and Thomson is always heard saying: if he was the saint you are talking about why didn’t the angels come down and replace the eyes in his head?
I will tell you: there was no need to replace those eyes because there was nothing wrong with them. He could see better than most men who are born and walk along the avenues with an eye peeled for a loose coin. Marston saw everything and nothing was lost on him which is the way Thomson would like to be. He would like to store up this sort of treasure so in old age he would have something to do.
And if you believe this you are prepared to accept the earth being flat and we area all falling off the side of the place being held up to the cannibal emperor in the sky who lunches on the flesh of innocent children, only.
I believe none of this and Thomson believes none of this and Marston believes none of this and we are all in this room which is the shape of the box to be shoved into the earth in Highgate to be swamped by the vines and the beautiful trees (say the words beautiful trees as if your tongue was covered with all the sugar of India).
The front teeth have finally broken off and pieces will remain in Marston’s arm. Blood is mingled. Thomson is saying, now we are Red Indian blood brothers and which way is the war path and which way do we go to capture the spirits that are our due because we have not a snowball’s chance in the proverbial hell of the Christians of gaining entrance into a public house.
Thomson will live on. And not just in the scholar’s phrase repeated by the newspaper reviewer on a provincial paper.
His flesh has been folded into her flesh as a joke by that scoundrel and now he would live on in flesh and not just in the yellowing pages lodged in the library,
Flesh and not a moment even remembered when this event happened. Frank Harris knew all about it. He often knew all about it and knew about in more ways than many a man was capable of imagining it. The final joke of year: the poet of pessimism in a moment of drunken forgetfulness has his part folded into the receiving part of the girl and while it is not known if she knew what was happening… it was sure that the poet did not know what was happening.
Or, so the story goes.
Another drunken evening in the lives of the poets.
And that will be enough for the night and for the day which is about to dawn, once again.
The poet is speaking of pus and semen.
And there are the complications of the drink and opium.
But I would assert Thomson turned to the drink, turned to the pipe because what else was he to do… he didn’t turn… it matters not at all if he did or did not turn to either of these solutions.
Nothing matters except this near revelation, on the road to a new world Damascus.
All of us enjoy being mis-understood in a gross and easy way: the death of Thomson’s child love who was merely a young girl: the failure of two young people, so easy, myself, so easy, my fantasy picture and when confronted by a change: how dare people change, and nature so unkind and echoing the true heartlessness of myself for expecting something different and the long inevitable regret and the self-satisfaction when all the events roll out as described --- of being alone to indulge in these feelings with no retribution, yet.
Come when it may: the life will not change and there is no going back. He, I, you are stuck with what has happened and as we grow older--- just settlement of the various organs as is said to occur at death--- a long sigh prefigured in the steps we take each day our walking with our knowledge: this is the life and we are stuck with it for good or bad…
It is not that bad, of course, and that is part of the situation (how lucky you are when compared to…) and people close to us think it is something they have done, when In fact they are only the current scenery for our little drama which exists both before and after.
All here waiting.
As we shall.
As we must.
A cold, nasty January in New York City, 1873 but it is any year. Weather does not change. Nostril hairs freeze, the mouth corners of beard are chewed icy threads.
Fuck you and the horse you rode in on, even if do look like you are chewing canary
So, you say, you’ve been out there in the west and are going back over there as soon as you can locate a berth.
Another place, you say, that can hit a man over the head and leave him with the thought: ain’t seen nothing yet.
Did what I could as such circumstances allowed for but there came a moment when how could I squeeze what I needed with only pen and paper while trusting the post to bring the necessary reply.
If I had been younger and had a spark in the pocket or wherever that flames to reside which is said to send men grubbing wealth from the soil or trying to yank it out of the earth: the consuming flame for hard manual labour, I was denied, in spite of my pre-disposition to such work as opposed to the drudging futility of carving a living through sifting the ashes in The Library that became my lot through chance: my pen no longer a lance but instead a funeral rake.
To be one of the fortunate ones who knew and still knows what he wants to do. Having known with microscopic precision what is allowed and what is forever beyond any room I will be allowed to inhabit.
For the most part free of that ache which rides a man’s back when he looks upon the favoured and those burdened with worldly success.
The Merchants Hotel. Manhattan.
-The walls will not leak. There is nothing hidden under the floorboards or lurking under the bed. He does not hear voices and he will not see a face in the window glass even though it is smeared with grey winter grime. He is waiting. His mind is no longer in the city and certainly it is not in this room though he can vision the man’s arm as it raises the knife up and up to gain momentum so when, as it plunges down, the blade will be sure to strike home and end the torment of the life that insinuated itself, without invitation, into his biography.
Of course it can be said, the newspaper has done a better job of inching itself into his mind and he will not argue with those words since they are carefully stated and show no expectation of a reply.
He is also uninterested in these men who rub up against him in public expecting some sort of reply to their vivid fevered observations. What is it that he is expected to know. He has accomplished nothing. His hands do not drip with idleness or blood. He has not allowed his ship to sail anywhere near the predictable shores of either success or flamboyant failure.
He has tried to get on as best he could. He had allowed himself to be seized with the proper degrees of enthusiasm: carefully calibrated so as to not frighten off his future employer and was sent out, in due course, to The West and it will happen again, he is sure of that: he can distill the necessary words.
After all is said and done to death: he is a man of words at the beck and call of the masters with large sheets of paper needing to be full up every week, every day, every month.
At their command, he is by the pence, for the inches that sluggishly spread up and down the columns. But has not the knack for the saleable anecdote. He can get cloud, the trees, the stone down on to the paper.
Human beings!!!: that’s another bag of muck he can’t bring himself to turn inside out,
Yet, people want it and he is unable to supply. No good calling round next year, things will not have changed. He has his plate in front of him and there are just some who…
A sort of sun in the sky. He should get a move on and see some more of this place. He will be asked and he will have to fill up the hours with his impressions. And as long as they don’t expect words to be knitted into columns he can lie with the best of them or with shrug of shoulder: why must he get things right? The stories will come out and as long as the cup is refilled: the evening will not stare him down into silence. He knows what he has to do. He is not that cut off from the companions who stand about the room, not having gone forth.
However, he has to decide whether to talk of his reading or just allow that he saw some interesting sites and was seen by exotic eyes. People are interested in turns of phrase that are not too far removed from the effusions gracing greeting cards called up by the passing holidays. Though, actually, who will be interested in his reading or the names of streets he has walked in.
Well, pass the bottle and make sure the glasses are full and the interest will be as intense as any man can bear.
But he is not held by this consideration. He has been listing the years of his life. He is making sure he has been alive and it is no mistake his now being in New York City. He has walked up a staircase, depending on his mood, or he has walked down a staircase or as is more the case he is walking along a long corridor which might also serve to frame his thought or the only truth: one year followed another and he places certain events after four numbers:
1834 born in Port Glasgow
1840 Da stricken
1842 London Mama dies
1853 Da dies
1856 Ireland again
1862 London and my true friend Bradlaugh
The vanity, the futility of doing up such a listing falls as an arm upon his shoulders, as if anyone will or could care.
No, cancel the word futility.
But do I care? His ear can almost create these words being spoken by his mouth, though no sound actually tampers with the silence in the room,
Just almost, he can believe someone is in the room with him.
Approximation is an interesting concept in mathematic--- up on the podium as the lecture was moving into the fourth paragraph… while in the room he is aware only that the room is just a meeting room in the hotel in New York City and he is only here waiting to go back, more definite than he would like
Already back in London, to be sure. Now waiting for the body to be back, to get, as they say, the lead out…
He has been reading in Whitman and Swinburne. He is convinced by Whitman, convicted for his going back to London where the narrow streets hammer words into chains.
How to escape while knowing there is no escape? The tedious spinning of the mind. As sure as a night’s drinking and being clobbered in the morning by the grave cloth of what might have been, if only.
There comes a moment, I suddenly thought, as I was walking along on the west side of Cooper Square in Manhattan and that moment is only known after it has come to pass… and I try to write down words about that moment and what it was composed of.
I knew the feeling provoked the moment before I could find any of the words to articulate what the feeling was about. The moment was about the feeling within which I existed and was an attempt to explain why most mornings and increasingly during the course of the day I felt a great sadness had fallen upon me.
Literarily, I could explain it as a sort of waking up or swimming into a lifelong sentence of enveloping greyness.
In the morning: again the day and the same old feeling: there, with the same reliability of… name any thing, you want.
It is realized: things will not change. There is nothing in the world that will truly give me happiness. (where ever did the idea come from, ”your poor mother and I only want you to be happy, you were meant to be happy.”
It happened and I am stuck with the life I have at the moment. I try to tell myself I am being too much of an absolutist, but even I know this is a sort of playing with fate, a reluctance to accept, as true, the fate dished out to me.
Could I, should I invoke the name of M….. and all which the name of the first love entails without having my life reduced to a long reaction to the failure of that first love, now more than half a century ago.
The same thing happened to James Thomson.
I am sure of it. I have no proof. Only the power in the assertion.
Sometime before Thomson left for America in 1872, he realized nothing would come of this journey. It would not be the fault of America and it is not to be blamed on his longing to get back to England while he is in America and it is not to be blamed on a lack of courage---as I exhibited when I did not go to the south of France in June in that long ago year, and it is not to be blamed on the death of the girl in Ireland, though he is well aware the sentimentalists down through the years will hark to the figure of the girl and try to explain everything though the figure of her death and Thomson’s long grief.
And there are the complications of the drink and opium. The children love your stories, your laughter
My ten ugly friends sitting at the ends of my feet. To invent a gang of desperados for the children, ten toes as loyal to the foot as any man can expect another--- all living in tunnels. The smell. Hold the nose! Into the tunnel we go---- dark, sticking together: one for all and all for one, bound through life, good chums who will never pass beyond.
And the children love it because he is able to empty his mind of adult years. Nothing holding him firm to acting his age.
The children love your stories, your laughter. An enticement in her words to return, to come back and he was eager to comply with their youthful commands having no allegiance to the things he was supposed to be interested in.
How he longed and looked forward to being free of the sound of stones grinding stones down into sand or at least his awareness of it.
The eyes of the young people were not filled up, stuffed with the too many passages upon this earth that would eventually, he well knew, acid lines into their young faces.
He could skip a stone across the pond saying the moon had gone for a fling and was out capering since it did not want to be tied to the usual and sudden disappearance every evening. The sad sun could not dance as it wanted. It was frozen in place even when it did shine. The sun was a creature of responsibility.
But the moon does not appear suddenly, Linda objected, and he stands at attention corrected.
You are right, Madam, it is I who have been found guilty of being an old grouch.
The children laugh and dance about him as they imagine the moon to be dancing about the earth: he will not allow himself to think more on these scientific matters.
I throw out and up my fingers so that there in the middle of each palm an Oriental face, with slanty eyes and slanty nose and slanty mouth come to weave a spell.
Ten fingers as if each head had five ears. He wiggles his fingers.
With so much to hear is it not a wonder no one has thought to improve the lot of the poor man who only has two ears.
Alas, the man with only two ears cannot hear the seas as they roll up on the sands of India.
Did I tell you of the time that Good William was lost for many days and did not know which way the sky was pointing?
* * *
Coming from the West the train passes through a long tunnel and dumps you on the shore of the river. Across there is the city of New York and just to wait and he would be home and…
Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, did you find out which way the sky was pointing?
That is another story.
Of course it was another story, with the sun suddenly bright for this time of year; all the creases upon his face are visible to the eye but he grateful for their inability to see these sketches of his future countenance.
Aware of his duties.
He tries to think what story he should dangle in front of the children: they will have gotten so much grown up In the less than a year he has been away. He will tell them about the Rocky Mountains: the spine of the earth, cast up to the sky and how he was reminded each day every day looking these jagged edges of shattered stone: how fragile the human world is.
Paradoxically, he will say, in the sight of the very grandeur of these mountains in those United States…
However, interrupting you, Linda will say in her sudden adult voice, if he saw any scalped men because she had been reading about such adventures in her wild west book.
I did, paradoxically, in that you should expect after such an ordeal a man would be dead. The top of the head had been lifted clean away and you should look into the brain cavity and surprise of surprises---pause--- it was empty, though there is a smile on the man’s face. I can tell you. A smile as broad as the ocean and with an Irish accent, cradling the words this man spoke, if I might with your permission, ice the tea cake….
The child’s voice scratches the inside of my ear. It is not painful. I am not mad. How bold is my assertion. On the other day I’d have never dared say or write this but today for the proverbial, some reason, when I hear in the ear, Jimmy I want to yank off my ears or only the right ear because that is the one into which the word was poured.
No, it is as plain as the nose in the center of the face: the delight that is his in the obvious liberation contained within the initials BV, for the by-line allows me to be free of who I am in the world.
To have created for a little while a new person and shoulder into extinction this Jimmy, that James or Jim and the expectations within these names. There is the careless intimacy of Jimmy, the constant adolescence of Jim even when stuffed into a chair in the gin mill or James on his mother’s lips, calling him from the game being played with the feel of grass to the child cheek and remembering the eyes of those children glazed with happiness as are these children before him as he is telling them again of the moon that was captured under a fingernail.
And were there men and women on the moon or is that a fable for another day?
Today is another day, Linda says.
To have finally gotten myself free from the name, James Thomson, only to be called to account because of my contributions to literature with BV attached to what I was aching to be free of.
Struggle to free ourselves is to compound the problem.
The chains grow warm in anticipation of our surrender to their embrace.
How’s that for poetry. Off the cuff and yet the white shirt is still clean enough--- should be getting ready to venture out into the slushy streets: places to go, people not to see or be seen by and what a blessing--- only the faces of strangers for the eyes to graze upon.
Obvious voices can be heard within his and my own anxiety at getting the show to some final resting spot.
Just like your Uncle Jimmy.
You’re going to be just like your Uncle Jimmy.
You take after your uncle Jimmy.
Your uncle Jimmy could never admit he had done anything wrong.
Something happened in that war, I later thought, but back then I didn’t think this. He came back, from Korea, from the Crimea, from the Sudan and we never saw him. Something must have happened.
No one could tell your Uncle Jimmy anything.
Some people like your Uncle Jimmy have to learn everything the hard way.
You’ll grow up to be as tall as your Uncle Jimmy.
AND FOR THE TIME of his being in the city Thomson keeps taking notes. He has been reading Tyndall’s Lectures on Light. Understood most. Must read them carefully again. Bodies seen within the eye. Persistence of impressions. An Impression of light once made upon the retina does not subside instantaneously. An electric spark is sensibly instantaneous. But the impression it makes upon the eye remains for some time after the spark has passed away. This interval of persistence varies with different persons and amounts to a sensible fraction of a second.
However, like any sensible soul, without ascribing any religious meaning to that word, soul, he admits to an inability to reconcile who this person is with who is taking down his words--- his pictures in head--- who is writing them up over a hundred years later who feels himself into the moment of Thomson putting the book aside and realizing it is now too dark to read what he had just read and Thomson will not venture out into the street. He has nowhere to go.
He is a stranger in the city. Though he takes some comfort in thinking: Whitman is nearby… not within the city but his Leaves of Grass is also by the chair. He has already read through it once and is waiting for the right moment to begin, again, to read.
Thoughts created in idleness. If only he could create a companion instead of relying upon the accidents of the drink shop or the road. How he envies the child’s quick ability to invent any number of companions to listen to the various moods that capture him in the course of the day. But his admiration ceases at this point. When he looks with chilled eye and without hesitation all he sees: mistakes and how lucky he is to have done with all the years each of these children still has to march through like an army traveling with little in its stomach and the land burnt over by an ever-retreating army.
He is tired of having to fancy up stories for the children. How to even begin to edge into a paragraph of true complaint, with them as audience? They would look at him as if he was speaking in a foreign language And of course he would not do so. They deserve to live--- for a little while--- within the ignorance nature has allowed some of them to have as a comforter. Some have the luck to never learn and others: look to the shoulders, to the cast of the eye, to the way the fingers spread over the knees when palm of hands comes to rest after the day’s walk about.
He works his words into small pocket diaries. Notes to himself and to this person who will come after. He has misplaced these books on occasion and the horror that grips him until he has recovered them, reclaimed his life from this sudden catastrophe.
There is not the slightest chance to be rational about this business of who is coming after.
Finally, he knows: into the hole with this flesh which is doing and had done the writing and yet these little books will be kept and will somehow endure. He has tried to get near to understanding with words this feeling that drives the words into these little books. He could settle for a shrug of the shoulder and just say it is what he is doing right now, that he is keeping track of his life; that he will at least know what he did on such and such a day and if someone suddenly needs to know an address he will not have go back to his room: he carries all the current names and addresses of those people who he is seeing at this moment: did not Dr. Karl Marx value my Heine, and I corrected him by saying it is a only a version of Heine who you have in a more intimate form given to you by your mother German tongue and ear.
Or, to convince himself he is putting away items of research for poems or an article, not enough time to sit around and wait for inspiration when the editor is calling for inches upon inches and there is not a penny in his pocket. There is always a need for some local colour. However he doesn’t believe this shrug and has only: if I knew.., or could know and it is always possible he will come to some understanding along with an ability to translate…
FROM THE WEST. Owen’s good story about the tobacconist’s well-known woman who happened to be delivered of a still born child. The doctor wrapped it in newspaper and took it home for preservation in alcohol. He forgot it for two days and then unfolding the parcel found the body marked across the stomach with something he couldn’t rub off. Covering all the marks he called in some of the fellows and showed them the creatureling. They asked whose it was. Oh, he said. There can be no doubt about that, for it bears their brands and uncovering the stomach revealed in plain characters impressions taken by the moist body from their advertisements in the paper.
Each of these fellows used to visit the woman, enough said.