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The L.D. poems


Can't decide where to post this. Since it comes with a story I'll call it a field note and leave it at that.

I was up late last night bringing together a packet of ten poems to put on a friend's blog. I finally sent it off sometime between three and four in the morning. Some know the story, so please indulge me.

I can't remember if it was in '08 or '09. But I played the poem a day game during Na Po month, April. Not something I often do. I was seriously on fire. Temperature at white heat. Over the course of the month I made thirty plus poems, sometimes 2 poems a day. An old packet of memories, going back to the seventies, was forced on me. I became possessed by them and everything they evoked. I think of them as the L.D. poems. But how to explain?

The month prior, May, I was reconnected with an old friend from the seventies. This, thanks to a friend who got nosey in a delightful sort of way, googled my real name, and found me mentioned on a person's blog she didn't, couldn't know. I had lost contact with C. no later than '79. So my friend forwarded me a link to the blog. Sure enough there I was, mentioned in connection with L.D. I contacted C. We've been in touch ever since. C. was L.D.'s first wife. I was his best man in the wedding. Wedding took place in a posh church in a Houston suburb for the wealthy. I called it the First Baptist Country Club of Houston. When they divorced I lost contact with her. Then L.D. died of a particularly virulent, fast progressing form of skin cancer. This was in '91. It needed two years before I could accept he was dead, which is not unusual.

You see? L.D. and I had started out together. We met in a college bookstore in Charlottesville, VA in August of '74. Simpatico was immediate. So much so people who knew us assumed we were lovers, which we weren't. At least, not in a homosexual fashion, both being maybe too devoted to the feminine. But we were artists and young, just starting out on the journey. I thought of myself as the better poet, which estimate I've since revised. L.D. was a poet, dancer, artist, musician and composer, and, I'm convinced, a mystic. 'My dance is my body, my God is my own,' is a line I wrote about him once. Maybe he was a Sufi kind of mystic, something Kat understands better than I do. We kept in collaboration for all of 4 years I think. At the time I never thought we would loose each other. We worked together, thought through things together, sometimes worked jobs together, we even followed each other from town to town. C'ville, New Orleans, Providence. Oh. When my daughter was born, 2 months premature, I was terrified. Petrified really. Both for her and by her. In order to assuage my fears L.D. went out, bought a Tarot pack and taught me to read the cards. What finally separated us, I think, was that thing we were so good at in those years. He let my then wife seduce him. Did no good trying to tell him she was only trying to hurt me. L.D.'s conscience got the better of him and he left town, took up residence in NYC. A burg I've never set foot in since his death.

I don't know how it is for other people, but I don't make friends easily. Social skills are exquisite, thanks in part to my restaurant years spent as a front man. Women confide in me, sometimes too much maybe. Men find me easy to talk to. Except for some few enemies in the poetry world. But friends like brothers for whom I would die in the way I would have gladly died in L.D.'s place? L.D. is the only man I've ever let that close. I've since learned through trial and error never to let another woman that close either. Facts I am okay with.

April, Na Po month. Almost 20 years after L.D. died and it all comes back. The walks. We had a penchant for graveyards. The discoveries. The poems of mine he put to music. The first collection of mine he illustrated. Jackson Square in N.O. Working off shore on oil rigs. Our shared passion for books. And for dead poets. The one time he came at me and I punched him so hard I almost broke his nose. He was right to be pissed off that night. Back then I thought that getting "it" right meant I had to be right. L.D. had had enough and let me know. In brief, L.D. is the best man I've ever known. The best, purest lover of poetry I've ever known. Sometimes, I think, the loneliest man I've ever known.

Before continuing I must tell a story on his last year alive. He had remarried and, I think, for the first time in his life he was content with himself. They made a baby. Then came the diagnosis. His last fight was to keep alive long enough to see his son born. He did everything the doctors said he should. The chemo wrenched his body and torqued his brain. But he didn't make it. C. has told me his son is much like him. An artist and a musician. I suppose it possible that my memories of L.D. amount to me missing my youth and, as such, selfish. I've thought on it. Thought on it hard. There are only two things I miss from those years. L.D.'s friendship and my daughter's childhood before she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and I lost her too.

"You got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues and you know it don't come easy." Saint Ringo said that.

The whole of the L.D. series can be found in Ateliers. They are included in the "Bottom City" poems. All 25 remaining poems, so far. My friend C., L.D.'s first wife, has a section on her blog devoted to him. Theirs was a rocky marriage. But she too is an artist and she has the presence of mind to recognize L.D.'s genius, even if I think she is still a little bitter about her years with him, what always speaks to passionate love. She included a bunch of my L.D. poems on her blog, 10 I think. I haven't liked what she chose. If the story needs to be told more essentially, selectively, I wanted it to be told essentially. Last night I finally got around to making my own selection. I got a note from her today thanking me, agreeing that mine was a better way to go. More meaningful, she said.

Quite a story, n'est pas? In all the poetry I know about I only know of one poet who wrote poems to a friend he lost. Ausonius, a late Roman poet who lived in Bourdeaux who lost his closest friend, Paulinus, and whom he lost to a then subversive religious belief. Christianity. Devout pagan that he was, Ausonius could not follow. Here is what I sent C. last night.


“My Dance Is My Body, My God Is My Own”
(to L.D. 1954 – 1990)


*
I drink too much these days, L.D.
You were long since gone when
self-medication became a good idea.

And I got a regular job too, L.D.
You would be disappointed by the news
while my family is finally relieved.

I sometimes see you, morning or night,
in your rooms smelling the smell of man loneliness.
Or we walking the dark streets talking the talk.

You are the only man I've ever kept after, L.D.
The only man I've thought worth
the time it takes to chase a man down.

This was all years ago and you checked out.
Tonight I got here shifts in green breeze.
What do you mean by coming back this way?


What do you want here, dead friend.


 
*
Maybe inside our one mother's womb, and she
the layer out who takes all men up at death,
maybe there you've heard the report too.

So many towns we had entered by then.
So many roads we had travelled
just to realize all roads bring a man
back around to the beginning again.
And there we were at the crossroad where
criminals and poets sport in crucifixion.

Word is we gave each other a beating that night.

The night was moonless and so were we, right?
Maybe all men are moonless in nature.
But I don't think so. I think the moon has sons
like loons on a lake, like you in your body’s beauty.

The way you pushed against me in your salmon leap
I knew you had gone berserker. I knew I had one chance.
Your body built to dance the weight of the world.
My body built to dance the weight of nothings.
One chance. One chance. One chance.

I want to take back my fist slam in your face.
I want to take back that moonless night.

You melted in my arms like a lover does.
I hugged you in your body like a mother does.



*
Chartres Street was different in our day
as was Jackson Square and the Cafe du Monde.
Bourbon Street keeps the same, but then
a town’s sex machine tends to keep the same.

Charlottesville has prettified herself, man.
Jefferson's bookstore, where we met, is gone.
The graveyards we tripped through late at night
no longer allow a poet the easy access.

Providence's Thayer Street would not allow
the likes of you or me on the hill anymore.

Philadelphia was hard on you, with every letter
the message of outcast hardness came through.

You are the best poet I've ever known. What I mean
is that you are the most lover of poetry I've ever known.

So why the final destination?
Why NYC, the town that did you in.




*
The Ozark cluster of crystal quartz
is still on my altar. Scraping your knuckles
you chiseled it out of the cave’s floor.

Memory is sometimes a death wish.

The music you put to
my songs made you into
a song singing down the hall.

I think you romanced the death wish.

Your guitar was overwhelming
in close space and intimate room.
Medial women answered to you.

Young men too, too much sometimes
seduce the death wish.
As do some medial women.



*
L.D., I got to tell a story on you.
Sunday afternoon here and I am late
for a most important date
with the queen of the Laundromat.

I've never known a man as much in love
with books the way you were. No joke.
Back then, of course, books were not so expensive.
This was before the Reagan years, before he
started the tax on publishers on their back list inventories.
Maybe you've had reason where you are now
to reflect upon what enemies to civ. Republicans can be.

I damn near coveted the books you bought.
In your rooms, on your tables, there were your books.
And they were essential, sexy, your books.
You were into the great souls and thinkers and into
artists only who turn a moment's vector.

We met in a bookstore and god damn you loved to hold a book.
I would see you down in the basement and you
taking in the book smell as if it was your oxygen.
Someday I need to tell you about the fire
an embarrassed accountant started, down in your basement.
She was !@#$ the manager. The ledgers were kept in the basement too.
Her embarrassment was due to her bad math.

Then up in Providence what do you find but a bookstore job.
A mail order outfit and there you are boxing up books
like some kind of Hermes boxing up communiqués.
And I bet the delivery was tender.

Your last job I know about was in NYC. NYC. NYC.
A burg I've not put foot into since you died.
And your job was with another book dealer.
And why did you love books the way some men love their titles?

L.D., I am to the punch line.
It involves a question I never asked you,
not wanting to embarrass you.
You never read the books you bought or mailed out tenderly.
You never read more than a few pages or a chapter.
And this has always puzzled me!
And I am still trying to figure out the message.

I don't know, man. Maybe Hermes
sees his job differently.
Maybe the delivery is what matters to him most.



*

These things you said and still
in stillness of how dead poets speak
you said in stillnesses of every lover's night
and we walked in the moist winters
and we talked through the strong springs
and we worked through every summer, only
to lose again in autumn what we knew.

This is the truth. Every time
we lost what we knew in dryness leaves.

We never bettered ourselves or our lovers.
Our scansions always lacked a little.
You couldn't figure through your loneliness.
I couldn't figure through my false steps.
And always the year came back, back
around to where you were wanting a girl
in dead leaves and autumn breeze.

This is the truth, L.D. I envy you
every time autumn comes on.



*

Perspective shows nothing of what we see.
Perspective tells only how we see things.

I've got the pen and ink drawings you made thirty years ago.
It was commissioned, work for which you never got paid.
Just now I see how the set contains a portrait.

A portrait of you.

In the back-distance there is a cathedral whose spire
is as stylized as a fairy tale church or as falsely heightened
as a wealthy, Texan, Baptist sanctuary.
Coming forward to the drawing's surface it must be noticed
there is no mid-distance, nothing to accommodate
the vanishing perspective where distance and closeness meet.

Just at drawing's surface there is the dancer.
He is muscular. He is stripped down to his ecstatic soul.
He is poised and balanced on one foot, his other leg bent
in the certain leap whose high step extends his reach.
And his arms, strong, arc above him to make a nimbus over him.
He is taller and nearer than church spire.

I never made the connection before. I never got
this self-portrait of yours in pen and ink.

They say King David shamed a wife when he danced to the Lord.
I say you danced to your body’s holiness as shamelessly.



*

L.D., I get it and finally why
these poems address you and you damn near
two decades dead. Your mother
wrote a letter that said you tried to keep alive
long enough to see your one son born.
I think of this and I think of your one child's mother.
It is the double pain some women must bear in birth.

We both know how memory is mostly a liar.
We filtered through the range of lies when you were alive.
We both know experience does not tell on a man.
And we both know that behind it all, the
women, the children, the workplace, the title,
when a man comes back to his space, room or wilderness range,
he must measure where he stands in the range of things.

Sometimes I envy you that you got to die young.
Other times I figure you should have lived longer.
Then you would have taken in what it means to
love and die, love again and die again
in the way all sutured lovers must.

The rain beats down
on my window tonight
like the rain
beating down on my door.

It is the poetry in you I miss the most.
The way you had for going after things.
There was no censor in your proceedings.
There was only the discovery that counted.

You are the only man I've known to speak to me this way.



*
 
I want to see you, L.D. I want to tape back
together your bones and your flesh and your soul.
I want to see you seeing things again.

Down in C'ville I could find you in that
Greek restaurant. Gus and Sophie owned and
ran the place where we would meet up and
maybe we would talk too much.

But place never defines a man, unless, of course,
he is not his own man. You were your own man.

Your eyes looked through lies while forgiving the liar.
Your body spent itself on truths you had no name for.
You heard rhythms no one else could hear.
Your needs only once or twice betrayed you.

You were always quick to recover.

Maybe you remember the last time we sat across
from each other. It was an all night diner up in Providence.
Dirty street, late night blues runners, you and me.

That was the only time you ever lied to me, man.
The lie so deep in your eyes is what broke my heart.



*

The red hour glass and the upturned spider belly,
black and gravid girl
poised in the palm of my hand.

Brother, I miss you in this bayou light.
You were always better than me.
I look for you now like a child
looking for stillness in your soul.

Roads to nowhere I keep to.
And to perfect love turning stone to water.
The gold shaft in you, in your bones,
clears the fields, stabs the levee,
sets you standing out heroic.

You never once questioned your passion.

It is the light that beguiles me,
tosses me down just when I think I see.
Shadows in summer’s afternoon
I figure have meaning too, have the close story.
And they do, my brother, only
your purity of vision saved you.
Impurity in nuance damns me.

It is the heat of the hour
and the uncalled for sighting of your face
that sucks the air out of my lungs.
This was not the plan we made
when we walked Chartres street and you said,
“My dance is my body, my God is my own.”

I swore by the beauty you saw that day!

It is this hour glass spider in my palm.
She rests deliberately, she is warm.
And you the casualty of too much Christ.


Last edited by Terreson, Jul/30/2011, 5:00 pm
Jul/30/2011, 4:47 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
libramoon Profile
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Re: The L.D. poems


I think the moon has sons
Jul/30/2011, 5:14 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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Re: The L.D. poems


Me too, Libra. Merlin was certainly one of hers. So am I.

Tere
Jul/30/2011, 5:30 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: The L.D. poems


I tracked down the information on Google from my memory of Hecate's history -- the Goddess of the dark moon -- that she is said to have had a son with Hermes called Museo:

"The son of Hecate, Museos, influenced the mind by magic and inspiration and was one source of inspiration to the poets."

http://kingston.rasc.ca/Regulus/1990s/1992-03p.pdf



Jul/31/2011, 2:24 am Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
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There are times, none too infrequent, when the ancient tales make more sense to me than modern explanations.

Tere
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There is a piece, not actually a poem but a vignette, in the L.D. poems I did not select for C.s blog. It is the story both about L.D. performing in a play and about the play's storyline. Play is by the crazy Frenchman, Antonin Artaud. A poet, matinee idol in the movies, playright, painter, dramatic theorist, opium eater, and certifiably crazy. In fact, it might have been his insanity that saved him from the gas chambers during WW2. During the war he was institutionalized in the Vichy held part of France. (Not only Jews were sent to the gas chambers. Gypsies, polios, and the mentally ill too were gassed.) As I recollect I was the one who introduced L.D. to Artaud. Were he alive I bet he would remember it differently. As the L.D. poems point out a couple of times, memories can be such liars. It just so happened that some U VA drama students decided to produce a performance of Artaud's one play Les Cenci. L.D. auditioned and got a part as a dancer. Artaud hated so-called psychological drama as epitomized by Ibsen. He wanted to introduce into the West dramatic action more symbolic than dramatic. His influence was the Bali theater of the East. So L.D.'s dance part, while not as emphasized as that of the speaking actors, was actually pivitol to Artaud's notions and ideas about the theater. Almost forgot. The play's performance amounted to its first North American production, or so I was told.

Where am I going with this? When I wrote the vignette I thought, what the hell are you doing, man? How in the world are you going to pull this off? I pulled it off by staying completely out of my way and letting the story tell itself. Well, that is not entirely true. The vignette is layered, operates on three distinct levels: L.D.'s performance, Artaud's notions, and the historical facts the play symbolically represents. That was intentional. The last line is especially layered in nuance. Here it is.


*

The case is famous. But here again I never knew what you knew about what you could get yourself involved in.

Fransesco Cenci (1549 - 1589) was soaked too thoroughly in his patrician power. Do you remember the Polanski movie, "Chinatown", in which John Houston plays the character of an urban developer so powerful he irrigates a desert, murders a civil servant wise to his development take over, and so makes modern day Los Angeles just by channeling water resources? Do you remember how his character says he is powerful enough he can do anything with no consequence to himself? And then his daughter, played by Faye Dunnoway, who he !@#$ and gets pregnant, and watches her killed in a cop chase scene down in Chinatown while he drives away with her child by him unconsequenced.

Cenci outstripped Houston's character in lack of proportion. In this sense he might have been the first modern man. He wasn't just an opportunist. He was a man for whom will itself was reason enough to make material his will. I submit that modern man takes after Cenci. He being just a prototype, a first trial model for mass production.

The legal case was circumstantial and unclear. It is likely Cenci murdered one of his sons who stood up to him. It is more likely he raped his beautiful daughter, Beatrice, time and time and time again. It is fact that Beatrice and her other brothers conspired to kill their father. I am guessing their mother knew about the conspiracy, but would plead innocent to the facts at trial, just as she had pled ignorant of her daughter’s rape.

There was a Pope involved. It seems like there is always a Pope involved in poor decisions and judgment calls. Pope Clement VIII refused a pardon of Beatrice. And so she got executed in the fashion of the day for having seen to her father's death who likely killed a son of his and who likely raped her again and again and again.

I am getting to you, L.D. Hang with me please.

Shelley might have been the first to take up the story. He made a tragedy of it all. And tragedy it was in his eyes. And tragedy is always the final scene in the contest between prerogative and liberty. Then Artaud who took up the story. The story fitted perfectly his notions about a Theater of Cruelty. And how thin is the gossamer shield between order and disorder. And how through dance and body language the theater must again get symbolic again in action.

Now you up on the stage that night. You the dancer, one of the bravos Beatrice and her brothers hire to commit parricide. You in your body speech playing out the stylized body speak of father-murder. I see you this night the way I saw you then, back in the fall of '75, when you were a dancer and you were a murderer, when you were on the stage stylized. You dressed in black and dancing, appearing once, then twice in the back space like a slowly building suggestion, then a third time, only now, leaning your body into the act of parricide, no longer just a suggestion. You, my sweet friend. You the father killer. And the acts of murder before you and after you that you stylized. In black. In dance movement. In act.

Seriously, man. Did you ever reckon, even once in your sweet life, with all you could get yourself involved in?
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