Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Worshipping God Apollo

—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
—Public Domain Photos of LED Butterfly Ballerinas



“I’ll trade all these conflict diamonds
for two rolls of your toilet paper.”
What a tango of crook talk! Soft-
or hard-worded, touch. Not vapor.
White rolled-up paper. Brand?
No bother. Don’t matter.
Black-market currency,
prized by the urgency.

(Thom Gunn phrase)

Compressed? In me, who thought
the Desert Island Collection
a lie-land desert?
That I’d stick to what I’d bought,
not chase an imperfection
for some supposed fresh potential?
Yes, time to sift, to cull. “Keep or toss,”
no days left now for “talk about.”
Compress to essentials:
Bird on a plastic alto sax,
of a famous five at Massey Hall,
rips through “Perdido.”
Fluent, not florid late-style red-sealed, compact;
terse, clipped, sour Miles Davis note-fall
not the least Birth of the Cool or Kind of Blue,
those grand but waystations
toward dances with Pharaoh.
Let Benny Maupin’s pine-resin-tipped-torch
light the pitch-black way,
Wayne Shorter select the prime instant to inveigh,
invest the soprano sax
with ellipses, tracers, robe the instrument metal
in whole-tone scales, enigmas.
All these iconic floating improv-notes
outstretched like saints’ hands
receiving the piercing, suffering
while Miles, a Vodun priest, hunts voodoos,
plays both Shaft-era hustler and neo-African messiah.
He is the boxer, jabbing and feinting,
the mouthpiece bang on the mouth punch,
He is the Abdul Mati Klarwein painting.
All rise, all feel the feel of the stigmata,
the nailed-hand stigma of vatic-visioned loners,
all hear the echo-tocsin, drink the Bitches Brew.


All hail the energy flow styled Dionysian,
recklessly cascading unalloyed,
unalloyed, overwhelming the arcade
we thought it confined to. Primal and artesian
geysering groundwater, sheer Artemisian,
from bent bow only as bends shoot arrowhead-
straight essence, concentrate, that on the sped
momentum builds momentum. Virgin, Elysian,
all flesh and blood the food of bassarids
who take the grape-wreathed, goatskin-clad god to follow;
but what of our parts responding less to kids
and wines than blanks like gusts through meadowed hollows,
Aeolian strings without lutes, eyes without lids?
Be sure if you purify to sun-scoured bones
with seashell tunes to whistle through or groans
at eye-holes in skulls, you worship god Apollo.
Mosaic, music, blade-clean Z-slash Zorro,
Dickinson’s marrowfinger touch of Zero,
simpler than opera-tunes of Giuseppe Verdi
though belike you’re dead as Hamlet to hear it, perdy.

(embouchure = the trumpet player’s set of the lips, teeth, and tongue)

Not-too-wide smile,
nor yet too much bunch,
rose cave of the mouth
high of arch,
yet paying out stream
slim and subtle
intake-outblow shuttle,
the skim-thin beam
focused, freeplay. Film-lucent
dragonfly wing?
So gauzed, yet arrowed,
strained through the lead-pipe.
Tend to the mouthpiece:
Two-thirds upper lip,
one-third lower.
Quiet, said my trumpet teacher:
mouse peeing on a blotter.
All the bodyworld’s an embouchure,
supports air column, constant push,
filling, not straining,
the gut’s sofa cushion.
Didn’t opera-great George London
commit self-harm
late straining hard at the diaphragm?
All sinews, lips, lung, stomach, allies
easing the throat’s arterial alleys.
Let it not be said
you fell and folded
on innards, parts the embouchure failed.
On notes brass-brawny, gold in their flow,
Heldentrompete Gottfried Reiche
died still trumpeting, old,
overblowing Sebastian Bach’s
Alpen-lord highs in torchlight smoke;
next day’s dawn saw him
fall down cold on his own doorstep,
collapsed on his own midriff,
not balancing wonted isometric
just-enoughness, lacking the letting-go
slight recompense, thus strained, he broke.  


We are also accustomed to clichés of time and space, often hearing, for example, that the springtime of life leads only to the narrow space of the grave.
          —Helen Vendler, in
Poems • Poets • Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology

The narrow space of the grave led to springtime.
You, long-gone Calvinist grandmother, Scotch grandfather,
you both had to drop off the tree for me to climb.
Death was your bright talent, your gift; what would you rather?
Bargain with Jesus to stay, while I, unborn,
would come out stillborn? Well, how premature,
your hopes; and premature me, plus Jim, womb-torn.
All your natal defects, saved up to ensure
weak limbs, short breath, depression, delusion for us,
you stitched and basted into our genomes.
You sewed in some brains, yes, but—so sly, without fuss—
laced our bloods with toxins. We stole your homes.
If you should come back some day rebirthed, beware,
I’ll run you both down with walker or wheelchair. 


Today’s LittleNip:
—Tom Goff

The stuff that
reams are made of.


Our thanks to Tom Goff for today’s fine poetry! An inspiration he is, so get out your keyboard/pen/pencil tonight at 6pm for Write Night, a Zoom meeting with prompts and sharing, hosted by 916 Ink at For more upcoming poetry readings and workshops available online while we stay at home, scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


Social Distancing in Canada 
—Public Domain Photo Courtesy of 
Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA


Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.