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island poet Feb 23
The Thew Of Phantasmagoria



<for Sanders Maurice Foulke III>

The Thew Of Phantasmagoria

the muscles of the brain, design bridges, author poems, obviously
the strongest force upon the Earth, whence & where the powerful
coiling of our mortal coexistence energies be stored & unleashed

muscles summon previous unknowns, establishing neural connectivity
between colliding galaxies, undiscovered planetary rings, using kinetics
to create a vocabulary for the express purpose of astounding creation

the modest only dare inquire of themselves in wondrous silence
how came this thematic landscape, new language, to escape my
optics, my ken, my viewfinder, purview,  essential essence sensories?

the deniers claim magic lanterns, optical illusions, love, par example,
they ascertain, a chemical imbalance stimulates the sensorineural,
mocking those who believe the comet’s tail visible wags its orbital path

this poem abstruse, yet full of truths, a working man’s lunch pail
full of fine china chicanery, fooling those who observe only exteriors,
but we who live on bounded islands recognize safe passages available

when the thew of the phantasmagorical is debunked, acknowledging
that for something to be truly true, it must be agreed upon by two,
thus creating a language clarifying even if it’s punctuated by shadows



621pm 23-2-2020
IP lmn
Gregory K Nelson Mar 2015
"There are monsters on the building," she said in the sad song of a West Texas drawl.  She sounded like she did when she talked in her sleep.  We had paused there to examine the doorway the way people do when they know something frightening and important will happen to them on the other side.  

Somehow the banality of the details seemed at odds with the profundity of the situation:  A hot breeze taunted us with the smell of garbage.  Pigeons did their stupid strut and pecked and **** on the sidewalk.  Manhattan pedestrians slogged past through the May heat wave in a sweaty river of hurried lives, each stranger a subtle hint that perhaps our pain wasn't so profound after all.  My own rivers of perspiration seemed to drive the point home.

Molly had more than once accused me of being attracted to the dramatic, and she was right.  In response to this weakness, this juvenile habit of seeing myself as a hero in the story of my life rather than just another person in the world, the God I still half believed in seemed to be punishing me with mundane aggravation as we prepared to defy him:  crowded subways, humidity that pressed in from all sides, growing stains in my armpits.  Now that we had reached the building the half-believed God added a master stroke of lewdness.  Squatting on the threshold of our destination were a pair of gargoyles [cement artistic tradition combined with superstition] that peered down at us with obscene toothy grins.  

Molly tugged on my damp fingers, and asked again,  "Greg, why are there monster's on the building?" Her eyes seemed both accusatory and desperate for affection, but her voice was sleepy, like she was trying to pretend it was all just a dream.

"I don't know," I said.  "It doesn't matter."

It was true.  It didn't matter accept as a symbol in a story that somewhere deep in my mind I was shamefully conscious I would someday write.  Disgusting but unavoidable for the boy I was at 19, a boy who wanted to be important someday, wanted to be important by being "a writer," and didn't see how he could ever be anything else.  

"Write what you know" they say, but I was just an upper middle class white kid, nothing important had ever happened to me.  This was important.  This was life and death.  Most of me lived it but part of me watched from outside.

We went inside and found the elevator, then the waiting room.  I held her left hand while she filled out the forms with her right.  I told her I loved her, trying to say it like a transcendent spiritual truth that could make all the facts of our situation irrelevant and sweep them off somewhere they didn't matter.  

Then a nurse came and took her away.  

It offended me that despite the life and death business conducted behind the wall, the waiting room looked just like any other.  Maybe worse.  Worn out office furniture in generic shades of brown.  Stacks of magazines that looked like they had been procured second hand from some cleaner pricier office where happier people sit and smile about life while they fill out forms and wait.

I glanced around the room, careful to avoid eye contact.  There were two other men, one white one black, both looking sad and dejected, staring into space, thinking of the women in that other room I just like me I figured, wishing there was something they could do.  

I selected a magazine with half its cover missing.  Celebrities at a party.  Celebrities at the beach.  I put the magazine down.

I should be feeling more than this, I thought, and that thought seemed shameful too.

It was still a question about me.  The pathetic existential question that has always gnawed my television generation:  Why can't I just be real?  The question brought more shame.  Why are you asking these questions?  This inner monologue  ...  they are killing your son in there!  They are ripping him out of the girl you love.  Shut up and just feel!  Or don't feel, and just shut up.  

Searching myself for sadness I found again a numb disgust for being outside myself and looking in.  

I thought of praying but an image came to me of Jesus struggling to carry his cross up a hill.  He was being chased by His Father who took the form of the God of old paintings, a long white beard, muscled body, the eyes of a tyrant. God was leading an angry mob, scaring Jesus up the hill to his death, screaming at Him:  "This is what my son was meant for!  You don't have any other choice!"  It was not the sort of image I hoped prayer would inspire.

Finally I arrived at the thought I was avoiding:  Molly crying on a cold table, machines inside her, everything happening too fast.  I had asked if I could go with her and hold her hand.

"No," the nurse had said with a touch of scorn, like the question was not just dumb, but an insult to women everywhere.  Why would she let the guilty party make things worse?

A few yards away there were doctors working machines inside the womb of the only girl I had ever loved, taking the life of a child I would never know.  But even if I had wanted to stop them, which I didn't, it was too late now.  

It was the first life and death decision either of us would make, and even though I would try to console her with the idea that we had chosen life, our own lives, our own futures, right or wrong, I knew we had also chosen death for our first child. Death always brings sadness, and despite whatever happiness we might still enjoy in the years to come, this sadness would would linger with us, in some form, forever, unless we came together to conceive another child and raise it.  This is not what Jesus told me.  This is what I told him.  He listened but he didn't seem to care.  He had no time for *******.

Molly appeared in the doorway to the back rooms where I had not been allowed to go with her.  I would have liked to go with her back there.  I would have held her hand, made her know that we were doing it together, that I was equally if not more culpable in this death than her, and if that were not possible, and it probably was not, at least I could have held her hand.            

But I was not allowed back there.  She went through it alone with strangers all around her speaking in professionally sensitive tones.
      
I put down the magazine and went to her.  Her face was blotchy, and there was still dampness in her eyes.  She had been crying for awhile and she was crying still.  A nurse's hand was on her shoulder.
      
"She was very brave,"  the nurse said, like Molly was a four year old who had just made it through her first hair cut without squirming.
      
"Will she be okay?"
      
"Yes, but now you need to take her home so she can rest."
      
The nurse disappeared.  I held Molly, and kissed her forehead, and told her how much I loved her and always would.  She did not speak and her body felt lifeless in my arms.  I led her back to the elevator and then out into the Manhattan bustle.  The humid heat had reached its most brutal hour, and I began to sweat immediately as we walked towards the subway.
      
We passed a deli.  I asked if she was hungry and she nodded.  I went inside and used the little money I had to buy a sandwich and two bottles of juice and we found a bench in the shade and sat there to eat.  She ate a little and drank some of her juice and then finally
spoke.
      
"It was a spot."
      
"What?"
      
"It was a spot.  They showed me.  It was a little black spot on a screen."
      
"It's okay, Molly  It's going to be okay," I lied.
      
"It was my little girl, but she was just a spot.  They showed me and then they took her away forever."
      
"I love you.  I love you so much."  It was true and all I could think to say and it didn't help much.
      
I brought her downtown to the financial district where I was staying that Summer in an NYU dorm with a friend from High School.  We were there to take film classes together.  Our parent's had allowed us to spend extra on the best housing, and the dorm we stayed in was actually an apartment on the 14th floor of a building with a doorman across from South Street Seaport.  It had a kitchen, high ceilings, and huge windows with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, and even a
separate bedroom.  Fortunately Rick had allowed me the private room so he could have the larger one with the view and the television, so there was a place for Molly and I to go behind a locked door and lay down.

We got in the little bed together and curled into a combined fetal position.  I kissed the back of her neck and she took my hand and placed it on her pelvis where I could feel the bandage rustling under her sweatpants.
      
"Can you feel it?"
      
"Everything will be all right," I almost said, but it felt like garbage on the tip of my tongue and I had not yet grown used to lying except to myself.

I hadn't known there would be a bandage.

"Yes.  I can feel it,"  I said.  This, at least, I knew was true.

I lay there with her like that with my hand where our child had
grown for a few weeks and we fell asleep.

When I awoke, the room was gray with dusk, and Molly was snoring peacefully.  I got out of the bed carefully without disturbing her, sat at my desk, and opened my favorite drawer.  There was my small purple glass pipe, and a little baggy stuffed with the high quality marijuana that in my experience, you can only find in New York City, the Pacific Northwest and American Colleges.  I filled the pipe, lit it, and pulled hard, holding it in as long as I could and then coughing intentionally on the exhale for the fullest effect.  I repeated the process until the bag was nearly empty, lit a cigarette, and sat at the desk with my feet up, looking back and forth from the
high rise across the street to the young woman in my bed, contemplating life and love and God and the future.  

In that moment, high as I was on the drug and the city and the relief of having made it through the day, it truly did seem that everything would be all right.

I had taken to writing poetry a few months before, and I found a
piece of paper and began to write another:

God sat in the abortion clinic waiting room
while they killed his only son.
"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
"I don't know.  It seemed like the right thing to do."
      
I thought I had the beginnings of a very good poem.  I hoped maybe, someday, somehow my poetry might change the way people thought about things.  I was young and stupid and ****** and my mind was about to crack open completely and let forth a torrent of strangeness.

I was very sad.

-2001

fightingcopsnaked.blogspot.com
brickdumbsublime.blog­spot.com
Alex Jimenez Feb 2015
You are young when you realize that you know far more
than the wrinkles on their faces and the creases in their eyes
You are young when you realize that you will brave a winter stampede
with the stagnancy of a rock, with the precision of a hunter
Your heart will never falter
You are in control.

A time comes when the world is drenched
and dripping in blues and yellows—
Warmth beckons, your cheeks are turning flushed
from the bouts of heat and—an Apollo has
entered your realm:
he touches your hand with the loud but brief kiss of youth
(—a moon shatters in your line of sight, the shards spread
across the universe and he removes his hold and
the lunar sphere takes its spot back,
and then—)
You feel yourself again, although a moment ago you were made of porcelain fractions cracked with the force
that your eyes emitted when they widened;
Your heart asks to falter
You refuse its desire.

Lucifer has ravaged you:
Your revelation occurs when you are coated
in sheen sweat on a summer night’s wanton rendezvous
He, the renegade angel, has touched you: God’s Child
And you are condemned to dream of Utopia
(—Utopia, for you, is a neat arrangement of two bodies of flesh
poised together in a study against a window;
hair cut before it hits a chin, never below,
and the ambrosia musk of a—)
A cry builds in your throat, you swallow it down;
it is steaming soup taken too eagerly for the hunger building
in an empty stomach and then found very scathing;
Your heart whispers, “I will falter.”
You hush it.

Mother says something about your future
It is a comment regarding romance,
and settling,
uttered with a shrill giggle and batting eyelashes—
Anger swells in your chest, mimicking a hurricane on the seaside
and you declare, loud and clear, that you will never marry
She laughs again and ignores you, a familiar gesture on her part
but she turns ashen when you pitch the white teacup
to the ground and it breaks like your heart did a month ago
(—the Apollo looked away from you with a downward curl
of his chiseled pink lips and you realized that you
were never going to be the One for
any of your abundant Ones and—)
There is a lifetime to utter and no chance that she will listen;
Your heart does not falter
You are not in control.

Another deity arrives, albeit a minor one
He is made of rosy cheeks and a young boy’s sheepish grin
Nothing special, you decide—He is beautiful, cut from marble
but not gold; a sight to admire and not a mind to caress
You think little for a long time
until suddenly you think a lot
(—the inward curve of His back when He stands outside
in a white shirt, the leap that your innards do when
He stands with you,
the crater dimple when His mouth turns up,
the cadence of His lyrical voice
and—)
—and you’re in Love
Just like always,
except this time there is a chance and no Faith to rein you in;
Your heart finally falters
You do not take note.

The Greats tell the epitome of fairy tales in wisps of words,
adventure stories, love stories,
spinning and weaving the best of humanity
And all that hear are inclined to believe in their words
You shudder when He brushes your arm
and you shiver when He speaks
when He says something of importance
your soul inflates
so that you, yourself, are inclined to believe
the golden threads of your favorite novels:
Is love not the universal blessing? It is this! It is this!
This is the apogee of Being Alive,
this is the peak of Existence,
the ****** of your Entire Life
The culmination of a Heaven
you are suddenly willing to almost believe in
(—Hall, Hall, Hall, Hall, Hall, Hall—)
He kisses you and it is settled;
Your heart does is faltering every day
You welcome it.

And then you no longer sing about life and love
from the depths of your soul,
you no longer coax phrases of adoration
and admiration
from the back of your mouth,
where they used to sometimes dance
across your tongue

And then you can no longer reach a hand out
to touch a red cheek—red from desire,
red from anger, red from obsession—
and let it run across the holy surface,
a worshiper on a Sunday visit
bending down with a prayer

And then you no longer remember
the plague of your adolescence,
the monster underneath your bed
that you could never evict,
you cannot think about it for the life of you
and suddenly—
Queen Anne’s Lace looks adequate

(—you feel like your mother
with your falsities and manipulation of yourself;
you feel like your father
with the spontaneous death of your emotions;
you did, in the end, learn love for the first time
only because of Him
the sun that woke you up
and has now set;
Godforsaken! Eternal night—)

He is present on the day you commit to your passing,
placed somewhere nice but hardly special—
you cannot risk having Him believe
He still matters
All the same you think it would be very useful
if you were to articulate the ****** slop of pain
and guilt occupying your brain
You know you cannot, you know you do not know how,
you simply cannot fathom such a concept, and still—
(—sometimes you still dream of Utopia
and it has taken on a different form
and in this renewed variation of your Utopia,
the world is drenched and dripping in blues and yellows
and he, your former deity, is Yours again,
and you are able to say what is breaking your heart
because you cannot say it in actuality,
and He understands
and He forgives and—)
“I do," she says
Your heart does not falter
You no longer have one.
a. luceli

— The End —