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poetics.ca issue #1
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Ulterior Thule: Compulsion

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I dream of quietly passing under a fat black cross that has too long blocked me from seeing the sun.

But each time I step through the shadows of its arms—a shrouded body on it falls upon me—is me—this body—these my heavy curtains.

Whose folds have been traced down to beaten paths nowhere in centuries of paint autopsy pituitary-phosphorous.

I dream the I has a bag of stories over its head & is screaming!

The smallest sounds have the biggest centres.

One little god grill-cores old 45s.

A cheap but crucial devicea trinket-maze bestirred—it makes the big centres of the smallest sounds smaller—the whirling around them hearably still.

Even Pytheas of Massalia (325 BC) presents us with a foggy half-aquatic burning muddy edgeinterpretation of one element as another.

The British Isles vanish or come again under application of magic.

There is no longer any distinctionno actual mists over peat-bogno land or sea or airbut a mixture of tarn traeth lungs eyes stumps tussocks.

Where was the ilys of Thoule or Thyle now becomes a glassy expanse traversed neither wholly on foot nor by just boat.

The details won't matterthem turncoats.

The secrets won't matterstolen purses gagging on branches.

What might matter is the errorsThat goof-ball!  Can you believe they study the nervy quirks of his handwriting!

If error is character then she was a real cracked platesomehow crawled up a stick & spun itself absurdly!

As record of error the notebooks sprawlbut what if the hand–poised between a fist & a shadow turkeygets gussied as an icon to point to details & secrets?

We chart our course by such aromatic flawed victuals: Down The Dark Streets Alone by Lilian Victoria Norden.

A memoir of girlhood in the 1920sher affair with Frederick Horsman Varley (self publisheduneditedVancouver 1982).

The grease of the creature becomes graph-pikes & replicas—design.

The cut-out tongues of these Cretan boots make good pot-holders.

Or perhaps it helps to remember Rimbaud's comment about Lamartine: still there are too many seers strangling in old forms.

Or get all mushy over Schubert's lieder without understanding a word.

It was later than metaphor when the arts jury finally finished.
Our brains smudged thumb-prints on windows in barns at dusk.

They gathered into loops the press release they had written together.
Failed lariat thrownonocartoon speech-bubble lassoing grass.

They wished words well everywhereeffusivelybecause of the hour.
Goodnight conjunctions
you cute little buggers.

They were laughing but they were sick of each other.
Night like velvet
bolts of it in binsnight a tsunami of pepper.

To brier the pulse thena shared asunderwaking—each line a quill stitched below the skin between the words.

An ardent appeal to the hearth-god Compulsion: Snap-snap us in Your unpredictable buck-&-wing.

How far out of themselves our vibrant partial truths have been lured.

Yet the ensemble swears its intent never prose.

The midwife's broken the waterdoctor's on her way.

Rest your headlittle fatheron your arms on the table& dream about a small boy whose soft-spot won't harden.

In a doll hobby store the dad buys little skylightshalf-bubbles of hard plasticto tape over the boy's soft-spot under his ball caps.

One night the dad peeks in at the son asleep & there's this blue film projecting from the boy's soft spot onto the wall . . . quick vanilla monstrositiesfathom goopjuggled panicfriesVikings bartering trolls for quahogsa hoola-dancer in a jar with a few marbles . . .                          

Wake upbearded!  Where are your glasses?

A toddler is untying your laces.

There's a note.

Where they used to keep the lions or monkeys—they now keep gardening equipment. 

This park & petting-farm is as far from their birth townships as some folks ever got or get.

We are still only two hours from where nothing ever changes.

(The old boy’s network is just one normal sentence after another.)

Gawk in through the bars at the tools—their still blades jammed with almost-edible encyclopaedic dirt.

The blizzard-bird-of-cultivation—in captivity.

From the clutter and confusion of shared daysall the usual doubt worry disappointment hope—somehow it gets written.

Old before dryother wiselong-stewedungenerous to memorizersa grope crevassing rhymesflirting with its own inattention.

It goeswell no one quite knows where it goes when it’s read.

It is a useless but needed invention. 

It makes our dead less dead.

Oh sure some still hope to have less to do with memory & sentiment the further our expedition paddles into the element-confusion of the Ulteriorbut lookalong the far horizon-edgenew sentences rear up as grated feudalisms.

What topsoil tells the hand—the hand tells a pencil—a pencil tells type—type tells a program—a program tells brains—brains tell the gods—& the gods tell topsoil:

Feed the pinch or the swell.

I can't flail my way through these sinuous tatterplush vaudeville burgundies.

So half-awake I pound my arms to try to part my fizzing muscles & slip through into the blinding welcome cells reserve.

Not for the pincushion gods—but for the Fool.


Phil Hall's An Oak Hunch (Brick Books) was nominated for the Griffin Poetry prize in 2006. A new long poem, White Porcupine, is forthcoming from Book Thug, fall 2007.


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