Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Transgressive Acts of Men

My Most Reliable Reader called me the other day. She was enjoying my poem, The Transgressive Acts of Men, but she wanted a little more perspective on how to understand the poem.

I had actually already taken a stab previously at creating context for the poem. That bit went something like this, "...the poem has little to do with multiple transgressions and wrongdoing by men of any description. This may be disappointing to some readers, but then Norman Mailer's 1967 novel, Why Are We in Vietnam?, only mentioned that country once and provoked numerous discussions about whether the book had actually answered the question it raised. So it might be with The Transgressions of Men.

"The transgression in question here is in reality singular and limited to me imagining myself to be an art mother of sorts. Hubris and delusion, yes?"

But the truth is that notwithstanding the absence of a list of transgressive acts by men, the subject is raised, yes? So, there you are, Most Reliable Reader. What you make of this poem might be different than what I make of it, and I think I'm pretty happy about that fact.

But there is more. There's always more.

I do think we should dwell on the fact that in a sexist culture men have all sorts of advantages. We should not gloss over the fact that on the average men die younger than women and often die more violently. But when they do die violently. most men and women die because other men kill them. And after the dead are counted, most men continue to benefit from privileges that accrue to them because they are men.

But there is more. There's always more.

Having done little other than raise a few questions, the poem continues:

"all who we were,
all who we are gone nova.

The end
when it comes,
almost more than we can bear,
more for certain than we can know,

memories on the way,
partners on the road,
dreams on the wing,
exploding outward."

That's because that's who we are in the bosom of our sisterhood, or brotherhood, or whatever. We are partners on the road, dreams on the wing, and, going nova, we will explode outward. And it will be a fine and fitting next step, or last step, or whatever.

The Transgressive Acts of Men

Excluded from the matrilineal ascent,
I intrude.
I am before and beyond
all my mothers,

all my daughters,
mothering the clan;
in my DNA,
the Amazonian last daughter

staring in wonder
at the brink,
holding the hand
of all my sisters,

mindful of our brothers,
among whom I once was counted;
all who we were,
all who we are gone nova.

The end
when it comes,
almost more than we can bear,
more for certain than we can know,

memories on the way,
partners on the road,
dreams on the wing,
exploding outward.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

the way it works

by Charles Bukowski
(who must be, in some important way,
Denny Zappin’s spiritual doppelgänger)

she came out at 9:30 a.m. in the morning
and knocked on the manager’s door:
“my husband is dead!”
they went to the back of the building together
and the process began:
first the fire dept. sent two men
in dark shirts and pants
in vehicle #27
and the manager and the lady and the
two men went inside as she

he had knifed her last April and
had done 6 months for that.

the two men in dark shirts came out
got in their vehicle
and drove away.

then two policeman came.
then a doctor (he probably was there to
sign the death certificate).

I became tired of looking out the
window and began to
read the latest issue of
The New Yorker.

when I looked again there was a nice
sensitive-looking gray-haired gentleman
walking slowly up and down the
sidewalk in a dark suit.
then he waved in a black
hearse which
drove right up on the lawn and stopped
next to my porch.

two men got out of the hearse
opened up the back
and pulled a gurney with 4
wheels. they rolled it to the back of the
building, when they came out again he was in a
black zipper bag and she was in
obvious distress.
they put him in the
hearse and walked back to
her apartment and went inside

I had to take out my laundry and
run some other errands.
Linda was coming to visit and
I was worried about her seeing that
hearse parked next to my porch.
so I left a note pinned to my door
that said: Linda. Don’t worry.
I’m ok. and
then I took my dirty laundry to my car and
drove away.

when I got back the hearse was gone and
Linda hadn’t arrived yet.
I took the note from the door and
went inside.

well, I thought, that old guy in back
he was my age and
we saw each other every day but
we never spoke to one another.

now we wouldn’t have to.

Charles Bukowski died in 1994. If he were alive, and I had an opportunity to speak with him, I would point out an error (perhaps Bukowski’s, perhaps his editor) in the third stanza, which goes like this:

“the two men in dark shirts came out
got in their vehicle
and drove away.”

I think it’s clear from reading the rest of the poem is that most of the time, when Bukowski can put his articles (a, an, some, the) and conjunctions (and, but, etc.) at the end of a line, rather than at the beginning of the next one, he does so.

If one recites this poem out loud and deemphsizes the “thes,” “ands,” and “buts” at the end of each line, the poem tends to tumble forward conversationally, the importance of and separate impact of each action is diminished, and one gets that the speaker observes events around him through a haze that reflects his idiosyncratic understanding of his own mortality.

I’m betting that Bukowski meant to write the stanza this way:

“the two men in dark shirts came out
got in their vehicle and
drove away.”

Of course, the reader who is not prepared to accept my analysis might respond that in three instances in the very first paragraph Bukowski begins three lines with “ands” rather than putting them at the tail end of the line before. What, the skeptical reader might ask, do you make of that?

Nothing, nothing, I’d mutter and
stare off into the
middle distance until
I could see a
distraction of some sort rising up.