Sunday, June 05, 2005

Jenni: An Assay


Stage Names

There are no seasons here.
But there is Winter, Summer, Spring and Autumn.
There is Snowflake, Rose, Breeze and Peaches.

There is no sunlight, no windows to let it in.
But there is Sunshine, Horizon, and Blue—
sometimes there’s even a Storm.

You’ll find no current here
but there is Rain, Ocean, and River
and those who are testing the waters.

Passion won’t linger or mingle for long,
but Love is known for her patience
and Ecstasy is a bare nerve.

If it’s the antidote to loneliness you’re after,
see Karma, Serenity, Faith, or Hope.
Need someone to blame? Try Pandora or Eve.

A stage is temporary. Scuffed by heels
that danced upon the lacquered black.
It's a frozen pond gliding you along.

-- Jenni


I see its face again --
Curious, distorted, mythic.

Now she appears as a huge scaled dragon,
Dragging its golden chain behind remorsefully,
Full of leaping, and scratching, and clawing,

And getting free of the stupid cliché
Tacky drawing against the face
Of the cheap Chinese place take-out menu,

You know, the place that went out of business
Downstairs with a mall sort of tucked-in behind it,
Where the one tall Frankenstein-Buddha-looking waiter

With the green scuffed teeth
Greeted us with scarce remark,
Barely a whispered “good evening there,”

And suddenly we were seated.

And this myth of your faces went on.


In the greek myth
In order to become a demigod, a hero,
It is necessary to conquer the
Mountain of the Sign.
The Mountain, Parnassus.

Thus, for example, Perseus was asked
A riddle by demon-stricken Andromeda,
Forced to visit her ruined paramour
Each evening in his crimson dome.

Andromeda’s mother, Cassiopeia,
Brought her daughter before the audience
In the temple. She asked her subjects,
“Is there any man brave enough to ask my daughter
The riddle?”

Perseus strides in. He looks like Jim Morrison
And his elderly mentor walking beside him
Looks like the poet, Jack Gilbert.

Harry Hamlin, playing Perseus, drapes one tan
Hairy leg across the busted column. Gilbert
Leans in, gray & grizzled, and sez,
“We must ask the Stygian Witches,

Those ancient fractal guardians of Fate, of the turnings,
The mist, the Wyrd.”

They go to visit the blind witches. . .
None ever return . . .

Thus whisper the villagers.
But Perseus is brave.
He will conquer the Kraken.
“It is my destiny,” he thinks,
Watching his costar napping on the couch.
She has a fine butt. Unfortunately she’s taken.

He gets back on Pegasus
And flies across the wine-dark sea.


In times of need, they are given gifts of the gods,
Such as Bubo, the clockwork owl.
Bubo is a finely crafted mechanical specimen.
Inside his tiny gilted chest, his “heart”
Spins, unspins, its little chambers
Of interlaced spirals and intricate gears,

“It is all-seeing and all-knowing,” says the goddess,
Amazed by the craftsman, Hephaestus’, cunning and skill.


So Perseus climbs the rugged
Side of the mountain atop of which

The stygian sisters sit
In their stinking cottage, half-condo, half-cave,
Full of bubbling vats of human blood
And stirred with wands made out of
Fossilized cats’-paws.

They smell the young man
At the entrance. The breezes
Which tickle and blow
Through his sweating hanging
Leather jodhpurs.

“Give me the eye!” the first
Wyrd Sister says, as she swings
Her face into view --we see that she
Is a very old woman, with bad teeth,
And a wrinkled black patch of skin
Drawn across
From under where her eyebrows would have been
And down to her nose
(Which is still there, thankfully) --

The “eye,” a glistering ball of quartz,
A giant polished spherical see-thru geode,
Like an expensive crystal wishing ball in a Buddha store

In downtown San Francisco, in Berkeley
Next to that organic ice cream store

That sells chai tea with yogurt globules in it
That clog up the straw

Where the flowering mimosa
Climbs the hillock . . .

In the greek heavens
The gods and goddesses
Are organized
In proportion to beauty i.e. power.
Zeus is the most powerful
Therefore he doesn’t even have
To be beautiful. The rest of them have to be
Hot. Even Hephaestus has a certain
Rugged, redheaded appeal, like Harvey Keitel
Playing Judas, in “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

So Hephaestus crafts the little mechanical owl, “Bubo,”
Hammering it out of finest gold leaf and platinum wire springs,
The greek equivalent of printed circuit boards.
The simulacrum-owl is just like the real Bubo --
All-seeing, all-knowing. Yet at the same time,
Physically small and harmless, like a sidekick in
A standard american action-adventure movie, like
Scrappy Doo, or Tintin’s small white dog Snowy.

The small mechanical owl sits on a clean rock table
In the workshop. The fire god winds it up
With a tiny key, and it chirps into simulation.
It whirs its shiny head 360 degrees, hangs
Upside-down from a pipe on the ceiling.

He tries asking it a question:
“What color underwear is it rumored that Zeus wears?”

The little simulacrum-being, this virtual owl,
Chirps its coded response, which the god understands:

fig. 2 -- ‘great Zeus, it is now the eve of the longest day, on earth’

o great god zeus,
For us mere mortals here no time is enough.
We lack your celestial sufficiency.
As pleasure beckons, we each
Lapse out of time. Like receding wavelets,
We each see each other’s visages dissolving,
As if we were the blurs in the rippled current
Which now, silenced and windless, calms.

Zeus and the other gods,
Oh where have you gone.
Once your penultimate theater of pain
Was closer to earth, more proximate.
Now it seems we earthlings do not believe
In anything except the code of the owl,
Our computer and science simulacra, searching earth.

For too long we waited for the gods over us to return.

The greeks had to find a way to speak about it.
So they used homely and fantastical images
From nearby.

The trail to the land of death is a cross-river ferry;
You must put a drachma in the skeleton's hand.

The glory of children is the love of the gods.
Zeus, old lecher, showers down upon women

Unwilling. The Man still runs the show,
Even in old Greece. Bubo the owl
Is physically helpless.

How soon we disappear from this black earth.
How soon the joy of the gods becomes artificial.

In the end must heaven become imageless. Is there
A way, such as Pegasus, to tie flying up to sky.

The stage metaphor makes all of life an illusion.
The stage has a fierce nostalgia for reality.
The polished mirror-sheen of the black ice
Of the stage floor, in which occasionally
The tired dancer glances at her face, checking
Her make-up. The hot lights make it run,
Like artificially heightened tears.

The harshness of greek myth is that only the
Beautiful may be loved. We see this in Sappho also.
For her, the simplicity of beauty is a logic too complete
To be meanspirited. Her lovers are always beautiful,
The earth is always black, the sea always wine-dark,
The sky always glittering cerulean blue, the horse
Always white as snow, its eyes always
Black as kohl almonds, her lovers
Always are bisexual, her heart
Always broken. Harnessed,
It never repairs, this
Progress, this

Whereas in America 2005 a word
like “progress” has such a
Different tune to it. All we
believe in are the greek ruins,
The historical aspect, what can
be documented, what is acceptable
Even absent belief in heaven.
Before language became this sophisticated,
It was impossible to love without
loving god -- there were no two words
For one thing. There was not this
waste, inefficiency in these words
We spray across ourselves, words
of our marketplaces, business,
Words which for Rilke punctuated
the vulgar state fairgrounds
Of what most people think of as
sanity. Behind the carnival awnings
Wander the newly dead . . . .
Rilke imagines a newly dead women walking up,

Her mouth flows with rivers,
Her shoulder blades indent terse triangles upon her gown;

There is a twinge of vanilla in her cheeks;

The sun makes the tips of her fingernails translucent.

A delicate pink mist hovers above each thin glass cup
Of rosebud tea.

She returns from the restroom,
Sits across from him.

Behind her, the air swirls with seagulls.

Thud of a rasta drum from further down the promenade.

She smiles: beachglass colors glint in her eyes,
Ice mist crystals

Against the blonde down of her cheeks
Like lamb’s-ear leaf.

You ask for the moment to be infinitely prolonged.
You ask.


Our new gods have names like Ecstasy, Trouble,
Love, Desire, Fulfillment.


didi said...

Jack - graphics are too big. They take up too much space and the right column then is left out.


anders said...

How about now? Just let me know --

didi said...

Okay that is better.


anders said...

Thanks. If you don't want me to use graphics, or if you have any suggestions, requests or changes in any aspect of what I am doing, just let me know. As you can tell I am experimenting with different approaches, some will work, some will not.

OK I got some chores to do. Will check in later.