28 May 2010

Featured Poet: James Pate

[I’m on the train under the city…]

I'm on the train under the city. I'm on the speckled train. The strangers look like gardens full of glass shards. They look like graffiti from a fading silent film. I’d had this dream before. The first part was a wall. The second involved a door that stared out into a cluster of blood clots.

I was on the train, waiting. There were other parts of the dream waiting too. The strangers calculated one ride for every cloud in purgatory, one feather from every rubble, one sea for every beach. The strangers examined their cunts and then they examine their cocks. Under the lights they were naked the way rust is naked. They made sounds like cities passing over into sleep. Like subways with the brakes missing. They’d dreamt about their mouths for centuries. They swallowed over and over, to prove they had tongues. They blinked to prove they had skulls. They bit one hand among the many.

Visibility in the Catatonic Room.

We watched others play ourselves on the television. They were zombies with glue for faces or figures of glue with flat eyes. They waited for a cloud to trust in the vast blue noise. They disrobed except for their watches. When they were done with each other they drank wine and devoured cold chicken legs in the tangled and ghostly and champagne-colored sheets. I hear, among other things, your fingers with their crowns of blood. Among other things, a crown of dried air, another impulse toward frescos of shit.

[The dancing couples shifted their leaden weight…]

The dancing couples shifted their leaden figures to the leaden orchestration. Their notion of dancing remained vacant and largely universal. The purpose had been to dance until someone not themselves was either born or laid to rest. The ballroom itself contained a stupid light. An almond light. So said the blasted man with the steep angle to his voice.

Thinking in the ballroom tending toward certain aching sockets of beef. Other extractions becoming contaminated, largely due to graffiti. Still others standing near the edge of the beach waiting for the light to flicker out. One dancer who had once been laid to rest or possibly born writing in the hotel bed this ugly ugly, this steep unlit angle. Her dress wilting in the hot uneven room. Her idea starting to ache.

My favorite Thai place is bankrupt as fuck said one couple, their heads hollowed out by extractions. America played on the soundtrack. An American dance led the way. The couples waiting to be born or laid to rest reading about themselves in books with little orchestration. A ballroom with nowhere to sleep. Colors pouring from the faces. Endless boulevards extending among endless extractions.

[The dance based on the novel…]

The dance based on the novel that had long been laid to rest, its head stuffed with roses. A pink hotel by the cellophane lake, thimbles of swan. Dances from the knee joints down. Televisions filling with steeper angles of light.

One of the ballroom dancers read while his lover fucked someone in the elevator. A pair of hips in the elevator almost but not quite born. Who this someone was or is or might have been became lost in the later chapters as if the face had poured forth its pure almond light.

The Thai restaurant filled with traditional graffiti. In the night the hotel appeared to be another angular extraction filled with airy shafts. A film could have taken place in it but didn't. The hips could have thrown themselves from its windows but only a few sockets of air bothered.

One dancer realized she could only have been born. Her idea making the dance ugly ugly. The blasted man vomiting almond light. This television incomprehensibly fucked.

In later chapters two pairs of hips wandering down the boulevard under the cellophane rain. The extractions turning into nouns as the light removed them from the other lights surrounding them.

The couple writing in bed thinking about the American past and the airy beef sockets of the American present. An almond light washing away the endless boulevards as one noise after the next expires.

Those waiting to be born carrying one image and those hoping to be laid to rest possessing the other. The dancing itself partially asleep as if the orchestration surrounding it had forgotten to misplace its ugly ugly.

The elevator in which fucking had occurred thrown off the beach. A face to pour light into. Televisions flickering. The ballroom empty except for the last extraction.

[The man without air…]

The man without air used his stomach muscles to center himself in the middle of the field. He used his jaw muscles to extinguish certain ideas he had only come to understand recently. He used his skull muscles to watch films involving parades of pork moving through cities of delicate snow. He used his spine muscle to extract newer and drier shadows from a previously dribbling haze. Behind the purple curtains the 19th century withdrew. Behind the scarlet curtain Marilyn Monroe prepared frantically for the Day of the Dead Mass. Behind the coarse curtain the sea tossed about like houses falling from the sky.

On the radio voices dropped their feathers. They talked about the flakes of rust in their mouths. They discussed the rust that had gathered at the edges of the assassination. The night consisted of several sounds, many of them muffled, or banned.

Outside, the birds were shiny pulses of light. The wolves were a droning sound filled with partial meat. It was an old house with wood rotting from its extremities. Inside, an old man drank soup renowned for its many worthwhile feathers.

The meat of the room was unanswerable to anything but its own kind. The bookcase consisted of dried haunches. The droplets of mute belly were waiting to be exposed. We had gathered into the part of the dream where words melt into their original cheekbones. Part of the room overgrown.

[The film critic passed by in the back seat of…]

The film critic passed by in the back seat of a blue Pontiac at the age of six, the radio playing, with the desert all around her. She counted cacti shadows until she fell asleep. Her forehead was warm, the window cold. The film critic drank Jim Beam as he rode quickly around on his bike, searching for the right address, or a part of the town that looked familiar. A bird chirp sounding like a noise from a film set centuries ago, along the leafy outer boroughs of an empire. In the film critic’s most recent dream she made love to a high school boyfriend on a bed that was really the desert, a pink desert consisting of salt instead of sand. It burned their eyes and mouths and scraped away at their bare skin. Under their skin was a landscape of irregular beauty, like layers of stained marble. The film critic bought another postcard from the only café that remained opened in the town. A faded postcard and an empty café. In the backseat of a blue Pontiac, the radio going, on top of a hill, in Wisconsin, shadows to the left and wind coming from the right. The angular paintings by Edward G. Robinson in Scarlet Street, the naked girl forced to eat shit with a fancy spoon in Salo. The first scenes in the film unfolding during a never changing dusk. The film critic talked to her mirror, the film critic spoke with his cat.

[The film critic tosses a chunk of tuna...]

The film critic tosses a chunk of tuna to his orange and slender and expectant cat. The film critic argues with her mother while watching Klaus Kinski stride about in the rain, violet flashes of lightning in the mountains behind him. The film critic walks through one hallway after another, hearing a cellphone ring behind a distant door. The film critic dresses up as a dead Marilyn Monroe for Halloween. The film critic pours a bottle of wine over her bed while arguing with her husband over the phone, it saturates the sheets, it dribbles on the wood floor. The film critic plays a Johnny Cash CD during intercourse with the woman he met at a midnight showing of Salo. Behind them is a table with four empty cans of beer and a deck of pornographic playing cards. The film critic cuts her hair in the mirror. She cuts it short. Then shorter. From an apartment across the alley comes the sound of salsa music playing. It is 3:12 in the morning.

These selections are from a recently finished a manuscript of prose poetry called Scarlet Street that deals with film imagery (The Shinning, David Lynch, film noir, Kenneth Anger and Jack Smith). There are also two film critics, one male and one female, or one film critic who is either a man or a woman, Orlando-like, in various scenes.

Copyright © 2010 James Pate