She donned her clothes the way she would a parachute.
She'd place her weight first one foot, then the next. She wore
looks but now she saw through that. She was more
your tomboy type; your Huck Finn type.
Climbing trees was more her doing, a throwback just a kid
some Midwestern town whose long wide empty roads
Booth Tarkington described as languid . . . forever languid.
And time forgot. And she'd forgotten all of that.
Free from all that may have held her back,
as fate would have it. As fate would never have it.
What is it when you take a moment as in a state of reverie
looking out at a swaying tree, a great Sycamore,
refusing to bend while shedding one or two weighty branches
and embracing a dog day?
What is it to part slowly those tall terrace doors
so the whispering sunshine pours
in across clotheslines, across several backed-up decades
as names fading yellow with age,
all but forgotten, brought back to life in a pout or a glance?
Peter said to me over café ole on one of those perfectly cloudless mornings,
"Time erases memory" while playing it cool;
and was about to say more when he'd gotten distracted
or the thought wandered; or he segued into some darker deep thought.
Time also erases per chance what can't be remembered,
thus leaving a blank to be filled with whatever
drops in, whether someone's life, or a near-afterthought. Rambling, he called it.
Or simply some nook & cranny grown darker with time.
The graffiti washed clean by a horrendous downpour.
A canvas left blank on which to start over.
He had the sort of name you easily forget.
Why, I don't know. Every time I'd step out the door
to the bookstore
up the street, by the time I'd get there I'm thinking what's-his-name
Auden Spender C. Day Lewis to help me recall! No! No way!
He came a bit later, nearly a generation behind,
but you wouldn't notice. He just kinda
slips in. Rather he was on the verge of an eclipse
not his own/someone else's
where the sun passes in front of the moon. Hold it!
That's impossible! The sun never passes in front of the moon,
nor has the cow jumped over the moon
or anything else, for that matter!
It's all very short-term memory. And if you don't get it now,
you'll never get it; and who was it said:
History is the memory of time? or was it memory is the history
of time? Who said it? Not I, said the Man in the Moon.
It was I said I in a lapse of memory.
About Larkin, we are never wrong, skating on a pond
at the edge of the wood. How everyone turns away.
The words forsaken and scrambled. A shadow disappearing
into the green water, as a ship ploughed silently on.
He was a gadabout with a touch of whimsy and seemed
to be everywhere at once and in places
he'd never been with rumors flying;
the few friends the most privileged anyone could hope for.
He had a big heart and big ideas and lived quite simply
in a shoebox flat above Mortimer's
when not scooting off to his Fire Island shack
with Garbo or with Beaton.
He collected friends the way one collected portraits
with the changing times; the names
that drifted in and out. His name also slowly drifting.
She expired on the eve of Pop Art without knowing why.
She confused poetry with desire for exposure
and thus suffered so deeply how she longed for sleep.
She missed out on the glare of celebrity while Penn paid no heed.
Even McKenna had an off-day as did others.
It wasn't insomnia but amnesia she suffered in her Smith junior year.
She was her most happy in the Suddenly Last Summer repose for the camera
smiling wildly. The beach adrift. Her hair mussed in a gentler breeze.
She became the It Girl even when she never reached the closing
last lines of Joyce's Ulysses.
I was trying to catch up with it; its first lines and its last.
It was rushing through an unlit tunnel with a never-ending light ahead.
There was so much that needed to be said
if the track remained straight-on in summer's heat,
in winter's sleet. All those historic moments rushing past;
all those wind-blown trees,
those brambled paths for at least
a time while I remained asleep.
It was impossible to know all that had been seen
would struggle to remain adrift
before sinking back into the deep,
words and all and echoes, clear-cut images;
all those historic moments the measure of one's life.
A record of emptiness and nothing this poem is.
What do we got here? It seems a series of no-frills "charged with emotion,"
as Eliot famously quipped more than once.
And as he went on recording "the song of the bird,
the leap of one fish . . . the scent of one flower,
an old woman on a German path . . ."
and on and on—the line-breaks mine—
inasmuch as I've seen them, too.
And why an old woman?
What about a young girl for once in a Swiss country dress,
fully fragrant, the sky blue as her eyes
in Balthus's vast panorama, La montagne?
And the one bird was really a catbird mimicking all other songbirds
and the one leaping fish multiplied into myriads.
The one flower was mountain clover. See?
We're back on the mountain near the Niederhorn.
The young girl, I want to call her Michèle, has left for the day,
but only her scent lingers and the beckoning emptiness.
And so with the dream "charged with emotion,"
now fully restored. But we all
come back to that one instance where it's all true.
Memories now largely ignored. Voices once spoken softly.
There are those adorning mammal skins or like-minded, just the words.
In 1954, Edwin Way Teale, in his American Seasons, observed
how once "a dusky cottontail bolted from the shadowed roadside.
Even in the distance its actions appeared peculiar,"
remaining frozen in its tracks, then scampering, then froze again
in a kind of choreography with death. Nose twitching. Feet shuffling. Head alert.
And off nearby a weasel long-tailed quickly dancing round in corresponding steps.
A weasel by any other name is just a human
being weasel, proud and sneaky. Poised and unredeeming.
Feckless, bragging. Truth a celestrial irrelevance; its modus operandi.
Blinded by its pride. Its later years still await the darkness, still un-unique.
Professor Teale would thus reflect, "Many times I have remembered
that silent nightmare in the dusk . . . a terrible thing
to see a living creature with nerves unstrung and wits departed,
stupefied by terror." But not now. Not ever.
He never appeared slovenly, disheveled during those quiet lunches
he took at Lucien's,
leafing through some magazine or taking notes,
barely looking up into the misty light slinking in in bits
criss-crossing rooftops; or the crossword puzzles
he never dallied in. Or when some stranger glancing over
never knew; or the100 miles or so away in Hudson
when one Sunday 2 years back Father Bath segued a sermon
of forgiveness for his presumed denial of the afterlife
as his flock looked on betwixt who the Hell
Chris Hitchens was in life amassed around such arguments?
So on this so-called lazy afternoon
he never laughed aloud lit up or downed a pint or asked forgiveness
for those ills lurking in the darkened streets or to deny
death and dying as an afterthought. The very least
for all the hooey it contrived. Death would still catch up—
he knew it being here or anywhere for lunch
and glancing up and looking back, contented with himself.
It was one of those blank gray days with the cabs whizzing by
without nodding her presence—
Park and any old corner she'd happen to be
in that misty one-mile stretch of late morning with the limelight receding
where the pre-wars appeared always gloomy but posh nonetheless—
perfectly poised to step off the curb into space
in that perfectly yes perfectly sombre embrace.
And mimicked beyond belief by the fountain of youth she'd mentored in those
pages of Vogue, you'd notice just how close those poses
were poised, poised like a bird "off, off forth on swing…"
The heat unbearably oppressive summer '73 when I arrived
a long dreary week Chicago before heading east by Greyhound.
The lakeside lunch with Daryl when I snapped his face, his hidden grin,
his usual introverted tweedy self.
Swallows swarming round the brooding skies.
The rattling el nearby or at least the ghost of one.
He seemed well. His slick-back curls all grown out bushy-like,
as if letting it all hang out. 'bout time, I thought.
About time also, stepping off a curb in dwindled space,
pulled an ankle outta thwack.
Nary a word expressing what he felt,
so deeply buried in the muck and mulch.
Here you are hogging 4 columns opposite ads for Tiffany's
and the Ankle Lock Pump in Anaconda.
You know nothing of the Lock Pump Anaconda nor would you want to.
You are worlds away from all those la-de-das and make-believes.
Your worlds converging in an urban sprawl of rainy streets
and darkened dreams
until you found your niche in words.
Each one painful, inescapable.
The pains are epical.
The words are epical, towering in the mottled grass.
Everything you've seen and heard and loved
are now someone else's memories of you so passed.
A distant voice hidden in the words struggling to break out,
like swirling butterflies in the red and turning leaves,
white with snow, swirling in the silence.
Herbert Lom seemed to be always around us. It's a name
you don't easily forget. The look maybe, as so often
playing tricks on the memory, lurking in corners.
The wide-brimmed hat. The cigarette dangling.
A kind of wandering off,
the way he'd wander aimlessly in the Kensington Gardens
with the pigeons aplumed and the crumbs running out.
The few coins in his pocket and no one around taking notice.
The face easily passed over for some sullen lookalike,
unless you're Bill Brandt eyeing him
from afar in the late afternoon,
in the fog running off from the Thames, the gloom
running wild the way Lom might've felt
turning away all bundled up from the drought.
He must've been a beautiful baby going to college at such a young age.
Well, not so young. Just right, mind you.
And then suddenly the edge of the echoing woods grew dimmer:
He knew he must snap a picture of it when point-and-shoots were the fashion
and before the leaves turned.
The next line was altogether crossed out.
Erased, some would say.
Something to do with Ha-a-vard Square
where he'd be pacing into the wee hours for the morning edition
without begrudging the past. Was this some kinda joke or something?
If it is, the last laugh's still echoing down through the grate
where loose change is there for the taking.
Once it would not be so. Would not be another noon or night
without a morsel, without the warmth of human hands.
Nights without memories.
Nights without the indoor life.
Chilly nights beneath the darkness under cars.
I dare not name you.
I dare not feel attached
and yet you break my heart.
May your days be filled with sunlight,
less with rain. May your afternoons be filled with napping,
dreaming, timelessness and blessed.
May you feel the comfort of a kiss or stroking hand.
May you charm your way through life,
through someone's life. May you understand
the voice that speaks to you, if you're so lucky.
The voice that sings to you, writes poems to you, Little Lucky.
Little Lucky is the only name I know to give you.
He evolved into emeritus with the grace of an eagle.
He took long walks in those late afternoons with the skies misty
and glowing. He'd sit by the fireside with a book in his lap
and music filling his ears.
The tears of España were not far from his thoughts.
He completed all of Proust by the time he was 12.
He presaged semiotics by some 25 years.
He embodied, with his twinkle-eye charm,
the bygone eras and the eras to come.
It's been awhile and the eagle swoops through the sky
soaring gliding and diving.
GERARD MALANGA's recent publications include a biography by the Danish journalist and Beats scholar, Lars Movin, simply titled Gerard Malanga, published by Bebop in 2011; AM: ArchivesMalanga, a 4-volume set of fanzines brought out by Dagon James/Key Press, also in 2011; and Ghostly Berms, published by Inarco Books, Torino in 2012, to coincide with the exhibit of the same name curated for Galleria In Arco by Demetrio Paparoni. Gerard lives in upstate New York with his cats Sasha, Zazie, Xena and Mishkin. Additional information can be accessed through his Wikipedia page, recently launched.