Saturday, May 28, 2005

Lon Silliman Posted by Hello

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Little Shop

I found the little shop just off 52nd street. One always does, of course and I was pleased that everything was in order when I entered.

Dim, the little old man behind the counter with the sly smile, the great shadows in back of him and there in the display case just what I was looking for.

"I have to say," I told the fellow "An egg .. a crystal egg? This has been done."

He smiled back without saying a word. "But I'll take it, of course. "The usual price?"

He nodded and reached into the case and placed the egg for me to examine."

I believe that there is an instruction manual with it. A moment please." He disappeared into the shadows. Footsteps and then nothing for a bit. By the time he returned I had it working."Quite lovely isn't it?" He handed the manual to me. "This is in Latin!"

He sighed. "It's what they expect. Of course you must never under any circumstances open the egg. Is that understood?" He seemed bored. "Or I lose my soul."

"Of course."

I hurried out into the street the egg in my pocket.

Streetlamps, a women walking her dog, a taxi, a light May rain.I was up all night, of course.


Such songs I heard.

It was all there, of course.

All of the past and the future.

The latest flakes of Eternity.

And I kept my soul. I never opened it. Why should I? I knew what was inside. Nothing.

Great Writer Fantasy Baseball

I started my great writer fantasy baseball league back in 57 when the poet X was living with my mother in our place in Cape May, N.J. He was just one of my mother's poetic lovers. In fact, you can pick up an old Oscar William's anthology and see most of these guys. The ones that were my mother's lovers all died fairly young, but more about that later. Anyway, the poet X and I started playing "Authors" during my mother's more than occasional absences (with, as it turned out, Poet Y). I can still see the poor guy in a ratty old sweater of my father's sipping Scotch and holding the cards in his shaky hands: "Do you have any Louisa May Alcott?" Poor jerk.

After about the third day of a drizzly November (he wrote a little verse about that waiting beginning "In the Impossible November," so you can find out who he was if you want) he came downstairs early before I could escape with little pictures of all these authors pasted on index cards. He cut them out from my mother's books. He had about 100 cards. All the big guys were there complete with their stats. The poet X was big on the 18th century so he had Jane Austen leading the league in R.B.I.s. Alexander Pope (whom I eventually acquired in a trade and called "Sparky") was a great little shortstop, and so on. I can still remember my team and how the poet X cheated me. He talked me into picking Johnnie Keats for right field. "Look at this guy, Joe. He's young -- just 24 -- and has more promise than anybody in the league." He said almost the same thing about Chekhov ("Has a lot of heart.") so I had him at third base. We'd go through a season in about a week. One season, one year in fantasy time. I was really pissed when both Keats and Chekhov died in the middle of next season. "Tuberculosis, Joe. You can look it up." It was a lot of fun anyway. Poet X had Old Possum Eliot on the mound and every time he would strike someone out the poet X would cackle: "I do not think that they will sing to thee." My mother would call in the middle of one of these games and the poet X would take the call in the library. Muffled cries, whispers. My mother would ask to talk to me: "The poet X isn't doing too well, dear. Perhaps you two should go looking for Cape May diamonds." I didn't ask how the poet Y (who later threw himself off a bridge) was doing. I could hear the Vibra-Bed humming. My mother was quite fond of them.

All of this comes back to me because my mother recently died and I am sorting through her effects. I came across book after book by young poet after young poet with inscriptions to my mother: "Snowflakes on stained glass." Peter "To the latest flake of Eternity" Trevor Not their real names, of course. God, how this boy's life comes back to me. I remember hating the poet Z. I was only about seven when he "boarded" with us. He's the guy who wrote the poem about the starfishes copulating. I remember that he read it to us and then went walking with mother on the beach. I followed with a sharpened stick and impaled every starfish I saw. (I know. "Who knows but that every starfish who mucks the moisty way is not an immense world of delight closed by your senses five?") But those starfish had to pay the price and I liked to imagine that they "screamed" "Haie, it is a good day to die!" as I pinned them wriggling each to each all on that misty moisty morning.

One after another they ended up falling in love with my mother and I ended up with them as my mother went "To Rienzi's to meet a friend." The poets -- not the starfish. Poet Z had a face like a thermometer. I remember sitting across from him at dinner, lamb dripping from his chin (these guys loved lamb) as he called my mother "the pure product of America I am crazy about." All these guys would have to tell me why everything meant something when it happened to them when I would rather have been resting by some tidal pool reading _Bomba the Jungle Boy_. Is still liked the poet X though. He kept coming around every few years and mostly started hanging around with me. The scotch got to him and he would make up stories about the wonderful time he and my mother hadd in the "Pension Beaurepas," and greet my mother with "Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluptas" on the mornings when she would come down to breakfast. (Though the power is lacking, the lust is nevertheless praiseworthy). He also gave me a snowglobe (those little worlds so popular in Nabokov stories) inscribed with "All nature is a Heraclitean fire. Pray you, avoid it."

He was a funny guy. My mother came back from the hairdresser with her hair a fiery red. The poet X: "See, see how Christ's blood streams in the permanent!" Ah, hell. She was quite fond of Marlowe. His happiest times were years ago in my mother's bedroom, the "Damnation of Faust" playing on her old hi-fi. I think she tied him up. It all comes back in nightly visions unimplored. "Bases loaded. Bottom of the ninth. And here comes Leo Tolstoy from the batter's box." My mother read all their long and marvelous letters and kept them all. I'm told that the Poet X's graffito can still be found next to a urinal in the City Lights bookstore.

But, this is strange. A few nights ago I was going through my mother's books and found her old Oscar William's anthology with pictures of poets X and Y and Z (and Q and W and R). There is a big black X across each of their faces and, at the bottom of the page, in my mother's neatest Palmer penmanship: EXTERMINATE THEM ALL!

Friday, May 20, 2005

My Cat Died on the Titanic

Yes -- my cat also died on the Titanic. I became suspicious when I noticed that she would wake me at midnight meowing "Nearer MyGod to Thee." My wife scoffed, of course, and insisted that the tune was, in fact, "Paddlin Madeline Home" but I knew better. She (my cat) was regressed by the same fellow in Milwaukee who has regressed the better class of Dolphin. It was expensive but worth it. It turns out that Chloe had been Jack Johnson's cat -- the black fighter who was refused passage because of... oh, you all know the song: "Jack Johnson want to get on board. The Captain said: "We don't haul no coal. Fare thee Titanic. Fare thee well."Chloe (whose name was Lighting then) had already boarded the ship and was nibbling caviar in the Greater Stateroom and waiting for Jack whenthe doomed vessel left port and confesses that she was rather pleased when she discovered that Jack wouldn't be coming. She could meet him inNew York and she had quite a nice cabin all to herself and there were masked balls to attend and no-one to stop her from renting the Pierrot costume that she knew would devastate the rather snooty millionaire cats who promenaded in First Class. Jack had always made her dress as one of the chorus of dancing girls in Aida and she felt that costume much too revealing. She was, in fact, dressed as Pierrot when the unsinkable ship went down. Of course, I didn't believe any of this. I t seemed too fantastic.I had never seen a cat dressed as a Pierrot. As Rhett Butler... Sinbad the Sailor... certainly... so you can imagine my amazement when I saw the film...there it was: a pitiful little cat skeleton and on the skull a Pierrot hat with a lavender pom pom and the oozy weeds twisting about -- as Lightning in the collied night/ So quick bright things come to confusion.