My Stare is a Standing Prisoner*
for Robert Moor
I felt over-nicknamed and underfed
when my head came off
my self-image. Summer’s studded rickshaw
rolled by, flattening out, with great speed,
the sleep-deprived connotations
structurally altered by employee medication
and corporate regret.
Back home I released the words, as is,
from the obsolete douchebag
and, as it happens,
equipped the finished model inside out.
I said three times that dirt is a motor,
that just 22 out of the 42 leaves
were stable, that I was not so much
a three-legged soldier
reconfiguring this smoldering office of war.
Perhaps I was a head case wishing for malaria,
a former president plagued
with shoulder-length hair.
Registering a wasted life through a hose on the high road,
I said, “I must first become the blink
of a radically manifold transformation:
as a rubber hammer
sometimes gingerly presses the people with feeling,
as a breeze growing old in an Ovidian window
no longer finds itself attached
to all the feathered terrors of fashion.”
We recklessly tore through a corner of sense,
and when that bulb clicked with a wince,
I learned to index your high, whiplashy landscape —
like a skeletal eye spinning tenuously in the night.
*This text, including the title, draws on words only found on the first page of Robert Moor’s essay “On Douchebags,” which appeared in Issue 1 of Wag’s Revue (Spring 2009). Excluding the words of the epigraph I was able to use nearly 75% of the usable lexicon.
Politics and the English Language (George Orwell through the Looking Glass)
A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit
across a not ungreen field. Then the field folded and flowered;
then the field became, in fact, not green.
“No!” said the not unsmall rabbit to the not unblack dog
and the dog, now covered in forget-me-nots, went along
on his merry, forgetful way.
“No!” said the not unsmall rabbit to the not green field,
and a miniature not ungreen stage
miraculously sprang out of the Snapdragons.
Then the not unsmall rabbit hopped onto the tiny,
not ungreen proscenium, cleared his throat,
“I returned and saw under the sun,
these images clash, infused
by their own virtual reflection:
a white canker on a black stone,
an iron bugle thinking in numbers,
a plastic dove spurting out ink.
I do not want to exaggerate.
Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air.
I habitually see a huge, concrete swan
rising out of poisoned waters.
There is war between English ducks
and Russian cuttlefish, between Catholic cavalry horses
and Italian Operators masquerading
as the German petty-bourgeosie, between the alien voice
of Japan and the subaqueous Latin machine.
Meanwhile, the Saxon dog and its international sect
have disappeared underneath the white lion’s
In Arctic lumber camps,
Professor Hyena is defending millions of communist maidens
now with Shakespeare’s electric trident,
now with Mr. X’s Whitmanesque cudgel of nonsense, now with
Achilles’ transparent buckler and sword.
The struggle was like bombs of neurotic jargon
dropping on a prefabricated henhouse—
like a language in which ‘eyes’
means ‘bull’s-eyes,’ in which
frivolous bread is translated out of existence.
So much for atmospheric democracy at nine o’clock.
One cannot change all this schizophrenia in a moment,
just as one need not swallow
a seventeenth-century sphere full of mirrors and light.
For in real life it is always
the anvil that tricks the hammer by visualizing
unfashionable noises braying
against the bloodstained, incendiary air.
It is clear that few journalists explore the false limbs
of a midsummer cul-de-sac
or the historic discs that indefinitely
cut across the long passages of time,
but, at any rate, us undersecretaries should begin
the invasion of the dustbin
and mend our homemade banner tacked together
from living candles, random
tea leaves, medieval spectacles, twisted bullets
that can image the future, and silly
manifestoes found in a countryside dump.
If one fails amply enough, such variations
of bittersweet sound can change the atom
and its trembling desires, or at least
recognize the sadness of order in a packet of chaos.
The point is that the process is reversible.
Go test the Lancelot hypothesis.
Put your ears to the gap when the light catches your larynx.
Ask, if you must, the unconscious stenographer
gumming together long strips of words on the haunted
frontiers of consciousness.
We have to take hansom cabs along imaginary roads
to find, inadvertently, outcrops of the real:
an anticlimax to some, but to others,
a dialect on the other side of etc.
infinitely rushing through the tide of the present.
One’s brain is, therefore, like an octopus—
emotional, bashful, and sometimes clear.
So I end by dictating to you, the reader,
some irreducible if question-begging questions:
‘Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?
What words will express it
against the inexorable weltanschauung,
the thorny syntax of the wind?
Could I tabulate it in a foreign pamphlet,
in some melting,
In our time,
is the dictionary not a cannibal?”
[Michael Leong is the author of several books and chapbooks of poetry including e.s.p. (Silenced Press, 2009), Midnight’s Marsupium (The Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2010), and Cutting Time with a Knife (Black Square Editions / The Brooklyn Rail, forthcoming). He is currently a part-time lecturer in the English Department at Rutgers University and lives in New York City.]
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