Love with the Proper Structure

Zeroing in on the yawing wound of her loss, Minerva had said she had loved Hotel Julian. There are lots of other buildings in Los Angeles, I offered, to assuage her pain – penalty, I thought to myself, for not taking better care of what she claimed to love. But it wasn’t the building she loved, the structure, all those parts lovingly dismantled and carried out by the scroungers, scavengers, salvagers. To love a plate of hot salty fries cooled with catsup, the same love as for a Coney Island hot dog and a cold beer at the ballpark on a summer afternoon as the crowd settles in to a quiet fourth inning, is not the same love one might feel for a fearless fox terrier, or an alley cat rescued from a winter rain, or a baby of necessity given up by its teen mother, or the love for an abusive father or mother whose needs can never be satisfied by the child. Jesus said to love the Father with all your heart, soul, and mind; he didn’t say you had to be happy about it. Likewise, he said to love others as you love yourself; but he didn’t say what to do if you don’t love yourself, if you suffer from anhedonia, if your self esteem has been lowered to the level of a creeping worm. But a worm will turn, as the saying goes, and pressed to love, will. Love is desire that never dies. We often want something that may not be good for us, and the satisfactions those loves might provide quickly peter out, but true love (to coin a phrase) is a want for something that is always good for us, even if that good does not produce the same kinds of satisfactions or gratifications we’ve come to enjoy and want again and again, and which we eventually might come to realize are actually insatiable, and we can only want more. To love is to want less, not more, to be fulfilled, not emptied. To structure is to build, compose, make up.

“Love with the Proper Structure” is episode 43 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

In Another Clean, Well-Lighted Place

He turns to an empty
whiskey barrel,
wondering if there is life
on the red planet,
or under the Venus cloud cover,
or inside her
granny panties.

He reaches for his watering can,
always a few drops to go,
dribbles a few words
of too late love.

They sit across the bar
from one another,
smiling back and forth.

The water runs out his mouth,
over his lips,
and down his chin,
his clear-cut neck,
a waterfall of love’s
last cleaning.

If You’ll Be My Love

I’ll paddle out through sharks for you
live on Desolation Row with you
burn all my books for you
if you’ll be my love

I’ll walk the pirate’s plank for you
smoke a cigarette or two
join the National Guard for you
if you’ll be my love

I’ll sleep with deadly snakes for you
crawl through caves of spider nests
I’ll be a bee for your nectarine
but I won’t sting your sweet flower

I’ll barbecue my ribs for you
wash the dishes and take out the trash
change the cat litter and watch TV with you
if you’ll be my love

I’ve nowhere to go to take you to
no gold ring from Saks Fifth Avenue
I’ll write a letter of love to you
if you’ll be my love

Now these days I sing to you
memories of long-ago
don’t you think it’s time that you
let me be your love?

But you don’t want to live yesterday
and not necessarily for all time
and love seems so far away
in a song like some kind of oldie

The song “If You’ll Be My Love” performed Live at 5 (PST) from the Portland Joe Zone on June 20, 2020.

Note: the last two lines in the third stanza were substituted in the live version with these:

I’m a bee flying around your room
looking for the flower of your love



Words of Love

Honey,
I’ve looked everywhere
for the lost words
telling your love for me
in the kitchen compost bin
in the basement of my heart
in the attic of my ass (what
a Fantastic Voyage that was!)
through the crawl space
between my breasts
in the curls of my hair
in the fishnets between my legs
between my toes and under my nails
Alas! nowhere to be found,

she said, subtle armpits open
to the heat of the night

Baby, she went on,
I can’t love you if I can’t
find the right words of love
come back tomorrow or next week
I’ve got the College Dictionary
here and the Bible
and a stack of noir paperbacks
I’ll find your words of love
if it’s the last thing I do

Up my nose, under my eyelids
around and around my ears
maybe stuck in earwax I’m thinking
his words of love where could they be
could someone have stolen them
who would want them
someone else’s words
could they be buried
in the cushions of the couch
lost in the halo of my navel
tangled in the curlers tossed
across my dresser in the old
35 millimeter slide box
in the china cabinet in the corner
(which has not been opened
over a decade of Thanksgivings)
in the medicine chest upstairs
in the hall closet
in the glove box of the Buick
under the rug
in the dirty clothes hamper

Maybe, Sweetie, you told them
too slant, or to another
words of love must be true
if they are to come back to you.

20180705_185322

 

Two Open Places

I will write you a flower
every morning to read
with your coffee
a bright yellow squirt
the coffee oily blue
green bubbles on top
You sleep with a cat
whose soft purr
gives you pleasure
all the joy of color
impressions for the day
You are soft like warm
butter barely melting
down a scone topped
with a couple of firm
red raspberries
The butter surrounds
the berries a light
pigment an open
place to play with lips
and tongue – wait
you didn’t think this
was really a flower
did you? Here
are two flowers
the one calls a honey bee
the other falls asleep
petals lips open
blowing softly.
There is so much
silence hear
the rustle of ants
hustling across
the counter
for sugar and sweet
stuffs see the apple
blossoms opening feel
the bees approach
touch the molten
lava freeze it
you can
but no matter
Once we admired
use of one another
of the now tossed
the cast laugh
the tassels flipping
flopping bouncing
from rear view mirrors
Now we adhere
to a silence
that deafens touch
asks for oh
be
dunce
I’m sitting in the corner
face to the wall
wearing the cap.

Ruminations

RuminationsHamlet, talking to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: “I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams” (Act I, Scene II). Hamlet’s body does not seem to be the problem. Uploading Hamlet’s mind into a supercomputer and dispensing with his body would only make matters worse.

Raffi Khatchadourian, in “The Doomsday Invention,” mentions the scientist and sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov, “who envisioned advanced civilizations inhabited by intelligent robots (each encoded with simple, ethical Laws of Robotics, to prevent it from doing harm)” (New Yorker, 23 Nov 2015, 71). In other words, the robots would be eunuchs.

“Extropianism,” Raffi says, “is a libertarian strain of transhumanism that seeks ‘to direct human evolution,’ hoping to eliminate disease, suffering, even death; the means might be genetic modification, or as yet un­invented nanotechnology, or perhaps dispensing with the body entirely and uploading minds into supercomputers. (As one member noted, ‘Immortality is mathematical, not mystical.’)” (67). So much for immortality. But isn’t eternal youth the goal, a never ending Spring dawn, not to grow old indefinitely, like a wintry universe?

In the conclusion to his study “The Human Body” (1963), Asimov, trying to explain the primary difference and advantage of the human relative to other animals (and other life forms), focused on the number of cells in the human brain (a part of the body he devoted an entire other study to). “The human brain is nothing short of monstrous in size,” Asimov said (309). Monstrous in relative size to the human body, and the human body is no small thing, and, Asimov points out, “a large animal is less the sport of the universe, in many ways, than a small animal is” (308). These are interesting perspectives, to say the least. Will we be able to upload the brain but leave the “bad dreams” behind, in the vacated body? Is the body simply a room for the brain, a room the brain might move out of some day, for new digs? I don’t know if it was Asimov’s idea or his publishers, but the “The Human Body” was kept separate from “The Human Brain.”

Monstrous, too, the harm a brain might bring to its own body, in some attempt to escape, or bring to another, in some attempt to enter, particularly when disguised as a heart. To inhabit another’s brain for purposes of manipulating and exploiting its body, but only for a time, the body a motel room, a rental, a sentence fragment.

Orville Prescott’s January 21, 1948 review of Truman Capote’s first novel, “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” (New York Times) criticizes Capote’s writing for its lack of “narrative clarity”: “Reality for Mr. Capote is not material and specific; it is emotional, poetic, symbolical, filled with sibilant whispering and enigmatic verbal mysteries.” But how else was Capote to tell his story and get it published in the United States in 1948? Capote was not a beatnik.

“Should I get married? Should I be Good?” the Beat poet Gregory Corso ruminates in “Marriage,” his poem that ironically considers the choice between the mores of his time and the impossibility of pretending to be someone he is not. There is only one room he can live in, and it must have poetry written all over its walls.

Or, as Whitman put it in “Song of Myself”:

“Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes, I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it, The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it. The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odorless, It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it, I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked, I am mad for it to be in contact with me.”

Another room book is James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room” (1956). The first person narrative concerns David, an American in 1950’s Paris who tries to satisfy a growing disparity between what he thinks he might want and be reasonably satisfied with, unopposed to society’s equivocal mores and arguments, and what he increasingly, as he crosses the existential divide of honest self-knowledge and acceptance, knows he needs.

Where Capote might have deliberately disguised his themes, Baldwin’s style is clear and realistic. Neither the brain nor the body are shrouded in the mystical, but the action is full of compromise, deceit, and betrayal. “Giovanni’s Room” is a rumination on love and unrequited love. How hard is it to love another as yourself if you not only don’t love yourself but grow to abhor yourself? Many men and women have tried it, usually to great disappointment. Baldwin’s David is honest some might say to a fault. He looks for expiation in all the wrong places.

Some of the scenes with dialog in “Giovanni’s Room” emulate Hemingway’s style where what is said best is what is left unsaid, as indeed Baldwin’s characters move in and out of cafes and bars like Le Select, a Jake Barnes of “The Sun Also Rises” old haunt, where Jake might have met them with a smile, and Lady Brett Ashley might have danced with them, the various merry but unhappy groups drinking and carousing through the well-lit but ambiguous Parisian night. Baldwin’s style is generous, almost absurdly gentle in places, beautiful in the way that unabashed beauty might cause pain. Love involves sacrifice. The body is a lamb, the brain a beast. Will machines ever be capable of human love and sacrifice? Wouldn’t the human brain, uploaded into a machine, simply crave a body?

Dog eared persons, categorized and shelved, used books. Ruminations. Room and ate shuns.

Noir Street Choir

Purple plaque plugs these rose drowsy lines
Cowled slugs slow tunes wet needed nibbling speech
Crawls to neck to nip & gnaw ear snack signs
Where moons have placed your pierced panache.
One day we’ll dance this sonnet for Monet
Gather green garden bonnet bright flowers
Moist morning your sweet toes curled sachet
& place feathers in quick fallen embrace.
Breathless word sighs don’t keep us paced spoil
Rhyme misalign pillows cockeyed up side
Down marigolds spill orange & yellow roil
Lemon grass whispers timed noir ride:
Crimson lisps smear across smoke screen gloss
While robed within plush toilet rinse & floss.

Grapes

Oblique Obligato

  1. Moon fresh ribbon
    smooth platen
    ball dust sea
  2. Fastened to fish
    risk bamboo
    water chills
  3. Homespun shark
    teeth reek bark
    oil tea tree
  4. Screeched scrounge scrawn
    crested pinch
    ear reach thrills
  5. Stringing brew broils
    cooking pot
    catch read bin
  6. Critical swarm
    goat bearded
    bee attack
  7. Smoked fuzz moss
    yucky hot
    sunder skin
  8. Feet faintly sweet
    & ditties
    sour retract
  9. Poised hipster red
    shower cap &
    surf sandals
  10. Now turns one last
    again then
    salt pearls
  11. Ask brack weed meme
    vandal cleaned
    type taste twirl
  12. Spring Selene not
    bald booby
    care fool horse
  13. Trifurcation
    from dear morph
    solo bliss
  14. Under deep stays
    curling waves
    allusiveOblique Moon