As Edward Said had it, the right hand bigger than the head—if by right hand one were to assume the ideological ramifications of imperialism as seen through its cultural, as in artistic, offspring. The differences between culture and imperialism, between colonialism and imperialism, are keen. So too, their sense inscribed within a totally foreign systematic logic, the process of the artwork, its making and maker, then even, further off to the periphery, the slightly odious bunks and house-squats referred to as biographical context, the interior life, the soil of which man is the intelligence, not just of what transacts and is experienced, discarded or immolated through imaginative expiation, but rather what in being transformed, remains still unapologetically there, lodged, not fully absorbed by the mental body. The human body but the idea of the mind, said Spinoza. Though one thinks of the lag between source material and product in tons of creative endeavors—the way ex nihilo is a spongy dream chockfull of coral reef-like structures, cavernous entry points, persistently personal preoccupations so that the reader might regard errant pungency buried in a turning phrase to reveal all sorts of prismatic, projected light. Shaded over by dingy lusts, mood lighting, lava lamps, ‘this business of dicks & cunts.’ Tabloids sour easily, fold their linings in the bowels of yesterday’s vast techno-capital expediency. News that stays forgotten, sufficient unto no tomorrow.
Sitting on the toilet, fingering some crisp Vintage paperback pages, the idea occurs to me quite naturally, moribund as it is. That the academic fashion that was postcolonial studies is like an allegory unwritten down of not just makers making—how quaint yet repellant— but of one body falling in love with another. The wrong one. The narrator at the end of Swann in Love: “I’m in love with a woman who doesn’t even appeal to me.” But the French, says S, says J, registers closer to the general vicinity of “who wasn’t even my type” and I hear the phrase pushing itself idiomatically further, perversely, to “not really my kind of thing.” There are centers and peripheries to desire. Material appropriated from one place, artistic or not, unconsciously smuggled in warehouse backdoors of exacting association. Our feeling-animal states find inside another, for the time being, a geographic site, enacted on the portholes of the senses, through couches and canals our raw experience, a tattooing needle transcribing at the spine.
I steal a line from radio static. Catch a face within the crowd. Paganini rebounds with dippy violins across thematic centuries. Hayden Christensen plays Darth Vader née Skywalker marching to cloying graphical blue-screen sound-tracked by John Williams who went to the same Los Angeles high school as Susan Sontag. Mahler: funeral marches; Williams: daffy trumpeting. Culture plays tug-of-war inside the best of Mahler’s symphonies: mazurkas, folk dances, kiddy choirs, polka ballyhoo. How do all these things gel in a canonical 20th century sense of things? I’m rushing into the arms of an inanimate lover. The way Emily Dickinson says she rushed into the arms of a cold; kisses and caresses about her nape. Pedantry, ideas, rhetoric, sophistry: mental junkspace that philosophy— “Philosophy don’t know”—turns from in our blogging conscience. In Glittering Images, Camille Paglia pronounces George Lucas the great artist of our age.
There are powers in a phrase of music—a musical phrase of poetry—that make me feel like Dak in the Empire Strikes Back, ready to take it all on by myself. The elation and elevation of certain sentence sounds, patterned vowels and consonants. Like it’s summer and I want to be wanted more than anything else in the world. I shall be king and you shall be Queen. In the imperial centers that concentrically make up self, there are instants when mercantilism and AP European History flash upon tensile pond scum the way Caesar had a hard-on for the Rhine. His Latinate instruction, proud, all that firm declension set to go off like a landmine inside the manic Lego blocks of the forests of the German language. Later, they’d recombine and England, now and forever, would lurch free.
If pedantry’s a defense mechanism in poetry, is desire something like that too, in terms of intimacy, of address, of bodies? “Gesture”: a very German-sounding word. Geist, ghost, gestalt. To the Roman Empire, German Idealism’s one answer. Pornography’s another. My fantasy life: lit-up with uncomfortable spiels, blocked romantic questers. Are you the type of person who sees sex as the means to transcendence or transcendence itself? V.S. Naipaul interviewed in the NYRB. Meanwhile Vader’s in love again. Queer figure. Broadway Wagner. The dark side as hysteria, narcissistic embrace, machismo’s paroxysm. Hiccups, rashes, boils, break outs, burnt splotches, dark patches, spots of time. Hollywood Manichaeism. Antony and Cleopatra: the same ancient hang up of public v. private selves alive in callow Aeneas, this dialogue courtesy of supposed ghost-writer Tom Stoppard.
Libidinal machinery when it comes to human facial tissue fascinates me. In the headless bureaucracy of empire a sprawling constellation of influences I will liken to it. Noun: Guatemala. The West Indies. Noun: 20th Century Fox Inc. Blockbuster Video. Conspicuous consumption. Cultural capital. Geo-monopoly. Illegal offshore accts. Myself: mad King George pursuing conclamant colonies. And yet I doubt a laureled viceroy sits above his map and plucks at toys willfully. World War II military history suggests differently. Mahler’s Tenth: incomplete, his last, posthumously played. One day recorded. Century later torrented. My silver sense: disked anonymous waves. Diaphanous fabric, freckled, dappled. Huge black velvet backdrops pinned up with sequins. What you call stars. Metaphor’s nature or the conquistador’s. It upends and suspends, appropriates and consumes, for desire’s a transference set to achieve but one thing so that the salient mind can confirm/conform whatever blooded eidolon it holds like a refuge moon above the woods of Endor. We shall be given the word for everything: industry, trade, law, journalism, art, politics, and religion—from Cape Horn clear to Surith’s Sound. Romantic Love but a 19th century holdover even as there seems to be a fair amount of rollover minutes on this plan’s calling card, so I call, I plan, message despair, answer texts with silence, swig violets, leave A Leave-Taking, disconnected cause & effect.
One day in history, I read the line “We were taken to the ice prison, a palace encrusted with hoarfrost, its dome lit from within...” But in my mind I remember only “ice palace.” Mansfield Park, Heart of Darkness, Aida. Stories of empire and tales of love, Said dared to say. So I write love’s privilege. Ruined marble feet flanking the Appian Way. The giant toe of night cosmetically closed off to tourists soon naked for their searching cameras come day. Kitten postcard in the crevice of a jagged statue ankle care of: “What at night had been perfect and ideal was by day the more or less defective real.”
O Night: desiring, imperious. “In the context of the interlocking processes pertaining to the orderly disposition of electrical energy, even the Rhine itself appears as something at our command. The hydroelectric plant is not built into the Rhine River as was the old wooden bridge that joined bank with bank for hundreds of years. Rather the river is dammed up into the power plant. What the river is now, namely, a water power supplier, derives from out of the essence of the power station.”
In love we all have ports of call, social ranks and trade channels, bondholders and promotions, governmental attitudes and isles for consensus, unconditional creativity. Indias, Bermudas, Dayton, Ohio Peace Summits. Departmental views to the contrary, a letter is sent at evening but the note never comes to the allegorical windowsill. Much like the way that landscape enjoins sky, language abuts the ash of unspoken others. There are images: fleece, fax, books on Braille at discount.
The “you” of the poem like night and day—all moony with special ambience, dispatched by busying banality. By early afternoon? Ambien. I trawl the Cloisters. Rush to the embroidered boudoir of your plated hair. Like Orlando, time matters not to me. Nor woman neither. The dumb roles don’t have to be scripted nor dubbed later because we have a garment of cauliflower to feel tender about adjacent to sensations of dandelions, bootlace and flax. The dream of all empires is the end of time. What is a poem? A crystal bay by which the lights of passing ships blink on and off. Innocuous cattails and fantails presented luxurious to touch. Oh, hello. My boy like lady waiting under lattice, Queen- Anne’s-something. O sad boy of lovely shadows.
The credit cards of figuration have been cut. Families waylaid on noiseless feet. What I feel for you is bound calfskin of antiquated knowledge. It evaporates, litigates, the spur and spar of unused simile. There are so many affectionate nuggets to seize: his metal cravat as impolished helmet cockscrews on with pressurized suck. His meticulous leather gloves gripping obviously human-actor hands. The love of father and son that is sometimes metaphorically the love of man for younger man, master for apprentice. Still, the shot that means the most to me happens in the elevated catwalk among darkened trees screened in by Seventies concrete décor. His back to the screen, on a railing he turns away—one patient scuba-diver’s audible bubble. “It is too late for me, my son.”
Revolutions begin at dinnertime. They are won and celebrated in evening. In the sober quietus of morning, lovers wake and put on consciousness of necessary impossible tasks and newly-granted menial chores. For lovers, I mean day laborers. I mean sandwich bar operators spritzing sneeze guards. A vintage action figure in some bargain-bin at garage sale. The flea markets of Englishtown. The day I invented you.