I confess, I’ve embezzled sleep,
moving from job to job so my peccadilloes
were rarely detected. Once I was a teller
in a sleep bank, siphoning rest
from its silver vaults. Then I was attendant
to the depressed, watching over them
as they fell into their comatose days.
They never missed what I pilfered
as I brushed their gray hands and their heavy
eyelids lifted momentarily out of the blankets
of their lashes. Later I was a technician
in a sleep lab, tapping into the snoring
of those in nocturnal studies.
I fastened electrodes to their temples
with cold glue, trading my wakefulness
for their somnolence. From all these
occupations I drew a cache
of splintered dreams: veldts, jungles,
orange-carpeted conference rooms;
I burst out of mazes into Mediterranean skies.
There was a shallow pool on a slate terrace
where I swam among dolphins, on an isle
from which I dove straight into the bull’s-eye
of an inexplicable emerald sea.
But that final dawn I slogged once more
out of a dirt-floored warren to find sun
blazing on a portico of black and white tile
and Samurai lined up with their double-edged
hatchets arrayed to assassinate,
having uncovered my crimes at last.
(A version of this poem originally appeared in ¡ZamBomBa! )
Thanks, Jane Blue—it's been awhile—and thanks to today's other contributors, Pat Pashby and D.R. Wagner.
Here's the deal with WTF:
As you may recall, Editor frank andrick is having problems with his computer, so WTF#7 has been delayed. Well, now it's going to be delayed another month and will be released at Luna's Cafe on Thursday, Oct. 21. But we don't want to get too far off schedule, so we're sticking to the Oct. 15 deadline for WTF#8, which will be released Nov. 18. It's odd: everything ophidian is currently in suspension—including The Ophidian, with Richard Hansen in Scotland—except the intrepid Medusa, who keeps clanking away in the Kitchen. Like Sleeping Beauty's castle... without the Sleeping Beauty!
—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento
decades have blurred the memories
of petitioner and respondent,
papers curled at the edges,
the sprawling ranch beside the creek,
badminton court, tree house, Great Dane,
five victims plus two
dissected in the fallout,
the undoing of I do.
SOMETHING MORE PROBABLE
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
This poem is broken. I found
It that way, beyond words to fix it.
It was too complex to keep in the mind
Without something untold happening
Just as the words were to reveal
Atmospheres or a startling journey
From which no one could return without
Their entire meaning excluded or compromised.
Passages, contradictions, abnormalities
That were once thought to make it
Possible, now all exceptions to whatever
Reality and deep feeling the poem had.
Now it does not matter what direction
We choose to follow. The poem will
Have already been there before us
Using meaning as some kind of trick
That actually steals imagination away
From us, giving it to something more probable.
‘THERE IS NO LANGUAGE WITHOUT DECEIT’
The thing seen
And the seer are the
Same thing, yet neither
Knows it. The seer suspects
That this is so but the world
Denies the knowledge until
A particular time.
In the latter part of the day
Three men will appear with a bag
That seems too heavy for any
One man to carry. They will offer
It for sale and will produce
Lovely tales of the contents
Of this bag.
There is a holy light that descends
Near here just before the sun
Forgets itself and slips below
The horizon as if it were about
To hide something from us.
Here we will gather. Many will
Make fires and begin to speak
Tales that at first seem ordinary
But eventually become punctuated
With giraffes and birds of strange
Plumage, alleys where the eyes
Of great cats glow and one can
Hear dice clatter to the cobble
Stones or see doorways open for
A second and a beautiful woman may
Be seen laughing invitingly, then
Disappearing behind the door bringing
A pointed kind of darkness that
Stills the voices of the story tellers
For a moment.
Tea is made and occasionally a harp
Or flute can be heard nearby making
A melody that we feel we have always
Known and wish to tell others about.
The clicking of shoes against the stones,
Small sounds that might be language
Engage us and we begin to feel
That this is truly correct.
THE INTERIOR BORDER
G. took me down to the L.A. River to see the art
her friends had made: wooden totems, plexiglassed
words about rivers, fens, lakes, jungles.
A troupe of actors daubed with mud moved
in silent protest down in the tules of the riverbottom.
Turbines reclaimed water as art.
It reminded me of going to the border with V.
in El Paso, on the Rio Grande. But an interior border,
wild fringes of the city where the gangs congregate.
When I got back, I learned that Patrick Nolan
had died in prison, and I wanted to write a poem
titled “Patrick Nolan and the L.A. River.”
2. Patrick Nolan and the L.A. River
I don’t know if they ever had a chance to meet
but Patrick Nolan and the L.A. River had much in common:
imprisonment in concrete and steel.
He was a large man, as the L.A. River is large
though confined; both were capable of killing,
cut off from the community, the power
of their poetry underestimated, both lived
among unlikely wildlife:
non-native crayfish proliferating in the L.A. River,
wild black turkeys that in silhouette
resemble people strutting on the road
down into Folsom Prison, gobble-talking
We’re free and you’re not. Patrick Nolan
spent half his life—18 years—inside
making him 36 when he died. At 31 he began
to speak of himself as an old man. I don’t know
what half the life of the L.A. River would be, when
the mountains thrust up, streams trickled,
merged, the Arroyo Seco
and the Calabasas. Its course changed
more than once due to circumstance and nature,
like Patrick Nolan’s, who left behind
over 200 poems when he died. The Army Corps
of Engineers channeled the water of the river,
but this only eventually increased its fury.
It gathers now from paved suburban watershed
to flow with great strength when it floods,
unable to seep into the soil;
nothing can escape the river in flood. No one
can climb out of its smooth manmade walls.
Wind, a spatter of rain. Still thinking
about Patrick Nolan. I didn’t really know him.
I know a murder at 18 sealed his identity: lifer.
That he forged a new identity in prison: poet.
Poets came to see him, published his poems,
brought him paper, pencils.
He made a sort of family for himself. We all do.
We feel our toes from outside and from inside. We hear our heartbeats at night. We smell our sweat, we taste our blood. We are not all physicists or economists or mathematicians, but we are all biologists.
—Michael J. Katz