Chris Nealon

The Song Cave


“The small-talk had turned to surplus wealth …” .


was that so hard? In the general prologue In the rhythm of the saints “I’m only the narrator.The purpose of society is mutual aid There. I can’t be everywhere at once” The things you never say to your friends because we only speak through gesture – putty – but the glory motivating it to move – well – Never to forget your friends Yes and hunchbacked like a scholar on the train to Baltimore I find myself triumphantly scrawling VEBLEN! all in caps at the top of the page – wanting you to share it with Anne your poem about the restoration of the world – fluorescent yellow vests that crumple into hours of the day – And Joshua .

a world built out of echoes of itself that gradually assume substantiality – I tell you after a week in Italy you really really want to see a painting of the Buddha Oh and Juliana if you read this – I tried to be a peasant looking at a picture of an angel but I couldn’t believe in love until I got to the creation of the animals – how they launch into life from out of the void. Ever That’s the subject of this poem .somewhere off to my right the grave of Ezra Pound … Waves against the hull like knuckles on a door -. Nest. blind – all of history ahead of them – and that’s when I thought of you – like do those robins ever settle in at night and just think.choppy water bouncing me toward Marco Polo – How I think of you! Installed in the customs house and barring the way -. Best.

I wrote a little poem – Arizona – bright light – country I avoided. chain hotels & Concourse B – the furtive the religiously punished – male gazes disappointed anguished arrogant – the arrogance of men who’ve really only managed to be born into the hegemon – & the kind-hearted faces. megachurches. the ones that make you wonder what protects them – one of them is fifty feet away another one’s three miles from here another one is leaping free right now in fury with a spiral kick – somewhere outside America is a different poetry .I had a dream – it went like this – time was discovering itself my flight was delayed I urgently needed to join you but there was nothing to do but wait I fiddled with Grindr a bit -.

I’d been thinking about the charming pomposity of French Maoists so I called it P U R et D U R I’d been feeling bad about the way my fear of anger had so poorly equipped me for any kind of revolution -the way I always want to skip Joan Jett and get right to the Luther Vandross – I’d been thinking about how my anger was perpetual and how only my friends could help me find the context for it – And I saw that in another kind of poem. right now would be the moment for a turn to the objective – doves flushed out from under grasses – Instead I twisted the dial .lusher maybe or grounded in a velvet-fisted sense of words and bodies tugged at astrally but not for me I turned that software on in Phoenix I turned it off in Washington -.

-. You’ll never be ready – never be ready to join your friends – I understood that everyone around me was waiting for flights that never departed – that in fact the business travelers reading the paper and the families in Qdoba were the dead – like my father recently dead -- .trapped in another airport Along a winding concourse there was hideous public sculpture and an afterthought of seasonal prints depicting young boys holding gourds Overhead from several monitors at once I heard the echoing voice of a perky blond Cerberus advising us to barricade our rooms -A fighter jet was landing on a dollar bill Outside – clouds – serene – Qaddafi had just been killed The voice was taking credit My headphones couldn't drown it out – it was addressing me – and what it was saying was.

I couldn’t turn the dial – I reached for my notebook – I hunched over and wrote. In a complicated cross-breeze Kept from where the tides go Two times you appeared to me “Once as a woodcutter with an axe about his neck” Later unencumbered as a boy Marin in halogen A black security cloak around the graphics ranch And “in a passage commonly referred to as ‘the physical interlude’ ” I saw your body in Ireland I saw your body at the dawn of time – punished for picking that lemon Or in some other limbo Come to me! You’ve already come You with your tremors and your three-toed cane late America .

I read it softly out loud a few times to test the cadences I mixed them in with what was on my headphones – Trina was singing all my niggers jump around .B L A S T E D after – what did he say – “being blighted with a mysterious power of whose existence one is skeptical” -.power like sorrow But what a rake that Nashe was! The cops went after him in 1590 just for calling his girlfriend “Frankie” in a poem -.You with your unmerciful athletic beauty O in the peaks of the Trinity Alps O in the grave with thee happily to lie -.I put down my pen and I knew the title of the poem would have to be taken from Thomas Nashe – that I should call it S P A R RO W .

and the song was so good I ended up in that moment where I wonder if it’s ok for me to be a nigger. you know? – never whiter than at that moment – The way straight people in the 90s used to ask me if they could be “queer” – I just don’t know the answer to that question Gradually I realized the other travelers were staring at me – the dead who had been white and the dead who had been black – My blood ran cold The voice on the monitor had turned its gaze upon me too I laid my pen in the fold of my notebook – slowly I removed my headphones I’d never felt such shame The voice said. “You can go now” .

Before I tell you what I found – let me mention what my friends were up against First: other poets the ones who’ve always said it’s arrogant to have a politics the ones who worry that we’re going to spoil the last untainted thing Then: the police – bearing down on them on campus – later massed against them in the squares Finally capital – unconcerned with poetry – at least as long as poetry never became a metaphor for fighting back – For years this meant my poems would settle on a mixture of defiance and wistfulness Even on the plane or in the tunnel or however it was I finally got to the Plaza del Sol I could only write like this – I wrote. .

seasons – poetry doing its thing – . calling come to Bali – But you only get as far as the edge of the west Stockboys clearing out the inventory / marsh-weed swaying / the wires in your jacket starting to show Then you end up a minute or two ahead of the language I mean it took English like two hundred years to come up with “I know. right?” And how long will that last As long as the summer of Stieg Larsson – Hours.Alone behind a blind I watch the very rich emerge at night Left-wing homos! Trapped between the manifesto and the novel of manners There are like six of us “ … illusory power / of colored vapor / to dissolve the material world” Cheap-ass zooms and cross-fades – how they carol to you all adventure season.

* That one had no title -.later how we didn’t Or in cafés … you’d listen to the outlines of a conversation and think.what would you call it? “How we went down to defeat in our poems” -. he’s just a fiscal conservative How did I get to this place? Writing in my handbook while the kids are in the streets – There’s a dial I can twist in two directions labeled M O R E L I K E O V I D à ß M O R E L I K E B O E T H I U S . actually they’re working out a theory of value – a horrible one So this one guy says to his frat brother. he’s not so bad.then you’d realize. if this place goes to hell? I am outta here Meaning earth And I’m supposed to be like oh. first date? Job interview? -.

Philosophy! It’s funny weather Warm for Brumaire * -.I tried out “conceptual art” I tried a sorry bumbling metta for Glenn Beck But I kept going back to the troubadours Later in the same café this other guy was like dude I am so glad I’m not in Egypt right now Can that really be months ago? Turned into a serpent / reborn as a tree Speak to me.that one I called THE KIND|THE BLUE because only Couperin was enough to keep at bay that day the sense I was alone -But that was an eternity ago Let me tell you what I found .

A breeze – a cough – And I was in a landscape like a landscape painting – we all were – an extensive one – and we could move around -Someone turned the dial and time passed back and forth through seasons. “Don’t tase me bro!” And indeed police were circling the area But on every branch of every tree were candy wrappers – fortune cookies – . winter summer summer winter spring fall winter fall – it settled on fall -like little tercets everybody staggered into place there were groves – a forest – cities on a plain A corner of the plaza had been labeled THE YEAR IN IDEAS Lisa scrawled continuous language is the commons Someone else had left a note that said.

Collis’s read. “Vancouver’s got your back” – Nathan’s was a poem from Milan – Il giorni sono scuri ma noi abbiamo il fuoco And this is not to mention the passenger pigeons – But after the fashion of the courteous medieval poets I will spare you “Here I omit three thousand others who attended the bout” I’ll pass over Andrew Kenower saying raise yr hand if this is the most alive you’ve ever felt I’ll skip the part where little Sasha’s holding up a sign for plutocrats that reads YOU ARE MEAN “and I will have to cut you in half” And finally I’ll leave it to you to puzzle over the masked figures in the alleys leading to the plaza They’d been stenciling T H E D I A L E C T I C all in caps .

really? I still have to remind you not to grope me in the commune? You’ll have noticed that the names are generally the names of white people But none of this will make me wish I were with you any less – As I fade into time – as I enter my era -I’ve accepted that my mind works best when imitating vantages of paradise With you in the square that day I saw the thimble where the mind is Like the briefest waterfall behind my eyes I saw the ocean where the thimble was . since they haven’t happened yet You know the stories of internal struggle – botched analysis and tactical defeat – You’ll have seen the faces of the women thinking.but ran off halfway through the word * Reader you know the story of the bloody battles that unfolded after You know it better than I do.

“true freedom will always lie in the ability to make friends” * I felt the scratch of wool My dream was ending Lisa – Geoffrey – dialing time around an axis – Thank you – Names of months – the names of years – I felt the warmth of Rob beside me – And reaching down into the world as it took shape again I felt – what were they? Right. The dollars in my pocket.And on the final page of the bright red book that dropped into the plaza I read the words. .

The Dial is the twenty fourth book from The Song Cave. It is printed in an edition of 100 copies. This is number: . 2012 Christopher Nealon All rights reserved The Song Cave is edited by Ben Estes and Alan Felsenthal .Epigraph from Thomas Pynchon. Against The Day thesongcave@gmail.

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