Monday, March 26, 2012

Songs Scared from the Conch // As Voices Carry - Poems by Carolyn Srygley-Moore

The review below is for the online book at Keith Alan Hamilton's gallery:

One kind of simple ecstatic revelation takes place as a dedicated reader tries to keep up with Carolyn Srygley-Moore’s prodigious daily output of poems online. Anyone can be prolific, but only a few can be continuously transcendent. Revelation of another sort takes place when one sees Srygley-Moore’s work over a period of time collated by mood and subject matter. It then becomes clear that she bears but a passing resemblance to mortals.

Previous collections of Srygley-Moore’s work, in particular Memory Rituals: An Army of Suns (Tjgrszmk Publishing, 2011), allow us to assemble jigsaw pieces of discrete brilliance into larger landscapes. Her online archives occasionally are grouped in different diary or miracle categories which give intentional or accidental glimpses into the mindset behind the puzzle box.

The new online work explicitly sets out a cladistics for ordering her work, which may or may not correspond to how the poems resonate to real-world imaginings (though that damned guitar does keep showing up in the phylum order known as ‘Bargaining with my broken guitar,’ giving us confidence that she knows what she is doing). Publisher Keith Alan Hamilton and Foreword Author Aad de Gids provide a framework for deciphering Srygley-Moore, all aided by artwork from Wm. Andrew Turman (as well as the author herself), providing a dime map of the reef.

If we judged familiarity by its closeness to the earth, the second section of the online book, ‘a dog in the snow’, might be the most comfortable territory, due to the abundance of things we can see, grasp, or at least glimpse through a microscope – the dog, the breasts, the orange, the amoeba. At the same time, we catch hints of the difficult events that have shaped her, from the distant and violent father to the dalliances with a profound hopelessness. It’s OK, focus on the dog for now – or that silly red guitar, if you wish.

Some might find the most direct references to transcendence (or its absence) in the third part of the book, which shares its title with the book itself (‘Songs Scared from the Conch’). Between dead deer, marches against Three Mile Island meltdowns, and terror of uncertain origin, we find ourselves in the fuzzy purgatory zone that exists just past the collapsed wave-front of the world that apparently exists. I found the most direct personal references in the poem ‘Between deaths,’ with its brave declaration, “I leave in order to come back again.” Since I’ve felt myself caught in a bardo between two or more distinct physical lives in the last few months, Carolyn provided me with a personal anthem. But the most universal cri de couer in the third section might be the italicized second segment of ‘Clocks of Seawater’:


the same snowman, molten with spit-fire,

or kerosene, is it // the unlit lamp, the lamp

that cannot be lit, O clock of water,

I beseech you, ruin my wristwatch again, usurp the hour

with the secrets of the oceanic

fish in flight, secrets of going fishing

on new years day, pissing the stars away … all runs into each other,

doesn’t it, ink blots, “what do you see here

a mother, a daughter // if you enjoy this, you are compulsive.”

hear lions in the forest, you are more than paranoid,

even if there are weeping lions in the forest…

i see you, old lover, with another girl,

tell myself you are old playmates, kissing each other without tongue

down in the dry creek bed, & then

soldiers appear, are they sailors, scrubbing

decks of fire, nailing the planks together,

into a Prometheus boat of iron such as man has never seen.”

The final three sections of the book are all surge experiments (more successful than the Iraqi variety), where ‘Drunk on the Other’ might claim to be the most obvious in declarations of victory, though ‘Gathered In’ and ‘Write Something Happy, he says’ are victorious enough in their own right. CSM proves she’s not trying to be obscure, or dependent on oblique strategies, in a poem such as ‘On Transcendence,’ where the opening line declares ‘You’re open to the other dimension.’ Every poem in the second half of the book refuses to dwell in any specific sort of sadness, but moves beyond.

In fact, this collection is so good it makes me uncomfortable in a strange way. The scientific method has given us such a good way of describing the surface of things, it would be nice to let the wave-front stand for the whole, to pretend the Michelson-Morley experiments worked and we didn’t have to deal with any of that Einstein and Bohr shit. It would be nice to gloat in a Richard Dawkins style of militant atheism, but Carolyn has taught me to plumb the ley lines, admit to angels, dive under the light sheet to swim in all 11 dimensions. Owning up to the other realities she forces us to face is unnerving and glorious at the same time.

Rationalists tend to get fidgety when confronted with the language of ascended masters. This applies not only to scientists and fact-checkers, but even to the erstwhile surrealists who like to keep at least one foot grounded to avoid high-voltage shocks. Carolyn Srygley-Moore presents with exquisitely-described worlds that clearly reveal the presence of angels. Her words must be swallowed in gulps, adsorbed through the skin without benefit of an anti-static grounding strap. Ecstatic revelation is guaranteed, almost becomes commonplace when reading her work, but beware the dosage. The St. Vitus' Dance could muss up your hair.

Loring Wirbel
March 26, 2012
Copyright Loring Wirbel 2012

Ten Recent Works - First Quarter 2012

Let's finish off the quarter before National Poetry Month with ten recent poems!

Other Types of Taliban

Word of her death arrives
wrapped in the MISSING flyer
Young Black Female Cat.
No mew from an outcrop den.
No gentle moan from Portland
as the meaning of the phrase
‘portions for foxes’
snaps into sharp resolution.

Hashashins some six years’ gone
made thunderous declarations,
a bike bomb in Kandahar,
the transient running with scissors
yanking back her wheelchair handles,
double-barrel Remington
forced under whiskered chin,
the bottled djinn that pops a cork
of demon demon rum
the morning after three wishes are granted.

Thus do I claim for the hidden imam
voices yet echoing from six years past,
the scimitared Saracens haunt the dawn hours still.

Today, though, is significant only for its silence.
Declarations of a new sharia in sign language alone
insure that this beheading
takes place without a sound.
Another Playmobil tipped over
in the dollhouse upper story.
The foxes grow fat.

Loring Wirbel
March24, 2012
Copyright 2012 Loring Wirbel

Harsh Exceptions to Happier Rules

I. The Messianic Trotskyist

He’s been purged from the recipient list of several memos from central office:
* Fourth International reliance is only allowed with bundles of The Militant under one arm.
* Vanguardism dwindles in effectiveness when one is about to lose teeth in the process.
* I hate pacifists fails as a slogan for expanding the number of cohorts who swoon at your mere presence.
* Hostile takeovers rarely worked in the capitalist business world, either.
* Zero de conduite under the column labeled “plays well with others” should never be mistaken for a badge of honor.

The apostolic dinner for 12 dwindles under klieg lights to the predictable army of one,
a hoarse and bitter croak accompanied by viscous spittle laminated to lip’s edge.
We shall overcome.
Well I should hope so.

II. Fly’s Eye Ghost

When using the mobile version of Google image search for Safari, Chrome, Skyfire, Opera Mini, call up the name of the violently deceased, let colors pixellate into a tragic waffle iron grid, and wait until the pattern of beautiful faces forms a moiré of the type experienced by houseflies in the nanosecond before the swat. Arrange the images in chronological timeline or Poisson pattern. Cross your eyes while staring at the central photograph of the beautiful face that might have been. Blur all discrete images at first teardrops, it is the Tucson of forgotten terror under the big black sun. Continue watching the grid unify as you weep uncontrollably.

III. The View from the Cockpit

The decision to wear pumps apparently saved the flight crew from significant leg scrapes or puncture wounds. The narrative of Windows on the World breathlessness at 9:14 a.m., the initial bankruptcy hearings of AMR, made a modicum of sense for the first 30 seconds, until her tone of voice betrayed an otherworldly panic that could not be blamed on solar storms.

Captain I am not responsible for crashing this plane.

The act of physical restraint, of course, generating an epileptic’s superpowers, her limbs assuming angles unimaginable on this tarmac or any other. Screams, sobs, speaking in tongues, brought to zero by six brawny male passengers and a nine-inch strip of green duct tape. The copilot snaps head to right to watch the green DFW inter-terminal ambulance take a hard right at B31, then glances back up to see the atmosphere invert itself as it turns to purple and eventually to an impenetrable black.

Loring Wirbel
March 10, 2012
Copyright Loring Wirbel 2012

Almost Laingsburg

The Tennessee gentleman reimagining sadness
sets up shop along Creyts Road
as if to demonstrate
a hometown uncertainty principle
defying the purposeful meridian
defining the purposeful meridian
as we pick through his pockets
of sparkly resonance, coincidence.

My only possible response
is to program the GPS
for ideal Murfreesboro coordinates,
latest in a long line of sister cities
where cars drive themselves
where lives switch to permanent autopilot
where ley lines deemed impossible
by every sacred text in the temple of reason
erase all surface features
of the underlying planet.

Loring Wirbel
Feb. 16, 2012
Copyright 2012 Loring Wirbel

Absentee Matrimony

What an underappreciated longing
for the subspecies of shadow children –
not merely surrender-monkeys of custody guerilla war,
but the might-have-been doppelganger kids,
ones disrupting thousands of warmed-over
platters of insolence,
if only she was mom
if only he was dad.
The ghost-parent hears Corning shatter
from a continent away,
sends regret and comfort back
through the vapor trails
of a court-ordered Michelson-Morley
that of course fails through lack of ether.

She was 14 at first moonlight at University Hill,
19 in the record-store filing system,
carrying on a parental tradition,
22 when bells rang in corridors past
a perfectly sealed anechoic chamber,
a white veil for undaughter,
a handful of rice, tossed in a style and tradition
meant to split the half-silvered mirror,
but left hanging in a local manifestation,
jasmine and texmati for a half-dozen mule deer.

Longing breeds the fallacy of shadows from which no light escapes,
but certain ghosts fluoresce,
certain shadows glow as the most perfect dark star.
These are the doppelgangers that
metamorphose into angels of light,
and Michelson and Morley at least might agree
that nothing travels faster than light,
does it?

Loring Wirbel
Feb. 20, 2012
Copyright 2012 Loring Wirbel

watchful waiting and the bucket sex list

“What used to be called watchful waiting is now more sophisticated,
and known as ‘active surveillance with delayed intention to treat’.”
– Marc B. Garnick

so what you’re saying is the rapidly booming population
of prostate-specific antigens
are speaking in tongues?
the translation is no longer
‘we’re gonna whack your ejaculatory tract,’
but more that elongated Texas drawl,
pregnant with pause, that says
‘I’ll be growing a mite, pee comes with push,
but really you’ll learn to like me in time’?
are you comfortably Hippocratic without blade
or nuclear burn?
take your shoes off, set a spell?

because the little walnuts between ureter and rectum
really do stand in for apoptosis, don’t they?
too many wordy folk in my line of work already
call the orgasm the little death,
so maybe the light sheet from every organ, each mitochondria,
is its own little cell-death-while-coming.
this starts the stopwatch at a pace worse than slow.
no deadline fragility of four months and out,
but the water balloon, tangled at garage-door spout,
swelling in stretched latex,
and was that a Trojan?
what difference would it make?

every six months a scalpel choice presents itself
and the intimate list expands.
the rake’s progress considers only likelihood of fluids
and nearness of charm,
but the ethical connoisseur weighs the nuclear option
in forms both intimate and rad-therapy derived.
the lips the small of back the tangled hair the penetration
i saw her again last night
apoptosis may be swollen with pride
programmed cell death may be bursting with joy
how many necessary souls left on the list
get crossed out, surrounded by hearts,
drowned in faint goodbyes,
until the cocked pistol at each lipid membrane
each synapse
explodes as we cry out together
we are all joe’s prostate.

Loring Wirbel
Feb. 9, 2012
Copyright 2012 Loring Wirbel

Safety Dance - Superbowl Symbiosis Poem with Carolyn Srygley-Moore

Trading texts with Carolyn on jerks, delinquents, ignoramuses,
camera pans Gisele mid-cringe
for the husband leaving moronic end-zone wake.
No supermodel quim for beautiful Brady boy,
and Madonna still a Chevy apocalypse away.

Loring Wirbel
Superbowl XLVI
Feb. 5, 2012
Copyright 2012 Loring Wirbel

Pallbearers Eight

Steve Appleton. Stacy Doris.
Ben Gazzara. Zalman King.
Wislawa Szyborska. Mike Kelley.
Dorothea Tanning. Don Cornelius.

Collateral damage displayed in octet.
Boise Icarus discovers every Lancair
on a Sol Invictus arc
is subject to midair stall.
Willing male bitch of Niagara Detroit,
deliriously starving on Eight Mile
finds profitable screen printing way out west
and un arte para la vida worth ending in Topanga.

Two for the head, the church’s one foundation,
Foundations rebar-reinforced by Don to sing a
Build Me Up Buttercup
as eulogy and funerary hustle.
The eight pseudorandom victims chosen
to levitate a coffin with brass nameplate
seduced or mesmerized to assume a special mantle,
spittle dripping from wads of Red Man tobacco,
kick or curse ready for any homeless brat at cemetery gates,
the triangle star-spangled fold and triple report of seven rifles,
21 honor valor and age of consent
as goodwill, of course, served the nation well.

I hang at the periphery of ceremony,
recognizing pallbearers among the recently deceased.
Eight boutonnieres that cannot hide the stench,
not that of recent zombie,
but that of coffin bearing remains long since putrefied.
Where are camellias, zinnias, daffodils?
There ought to be larks.
Instead, a Bukowski in clerical collar
kicking at stone, snarling,
“Stupid shit. We warned him.
Anyone who might have mourned for the dead
drives home alone, exhausted.”

I could have cleared my throat,
a mighty fortress is our
but for spitball hurled by Gazzara
sending me ducking into thorns
of a rosebush laid fallow by malignant bile.
The parameters of barb-wire enclosure fold inward
until ranch resembles prison yard -
and there is Valerie June, her cantata wail,
her dreadlocks become barb-wire become sailor’s half-hitch
for pallbearers in drydock.

“I can’t feel at home in this world any more.”

Loring Wirbel
February 5, 2012
Copyright Loring Wirbel 2012

Busby Berkeley's Darker Reel

Clint Eastwood picked the wrong moment to ask for help spiffing up red shoes. For one thing, even on a Technicolor planet, The Film Foundation was not on my short list of friends this month, no matter how many Korean tacos Scorcese offered to buy me from the extras truck. The more immediate dilemma, however, was not fade but monochrome.

In a dazzle of ultraviolet and infrared edges, even Gold Diggers of 1933 displays too many peacock feathers for this fade-to-black intermission. Pick the fifth reel down, the one that pushes Joan Blondell’s peroxide wash to obscurity. This is the reel where dust accumulates slowly on the lens. This is the plow that broke the plains.

Peter Gleick shushes the crowd, asking for a show of hands as to whether today’s Havasupai will resemble last year’s Murray-Darling. He conveniently overlooks the Sedona reds becoming charcoal in last light. He neglects to mention that the house lights are dimming, or is this hysterical blindness? No matter, in low light the outline of Ruby Keeler’s breast can captivate just enough to still parched throat and hunger pangs.

What if I grind Roman Scandals through a hyperspectral imager, what if I layer the sausage casing by rainbow hue? The result is gray bratwurst. Even My Little Pony’s sparkly vapor trails are flattened to beige in Dark Days.

Jim’s choral poem describing five acceptable hues goes dark for want of a hex code. I fumble for Atomic Parsley instructions in a projection booth with no light switch. Your two fingers in the small of my back remind me of interruptions where no color is required. We choose the toned-down reels for Mason-Dixon and blue-law states, but the moist labia that lubricate my index finger hardly seem toned down. We’re in the money.

Gleick clears his throat in the near-darkness below, trying to preserve some semblance of control over a tough audience. He shouts to the booth that he never understood what the hell a silver certificate or a gold standard had to do with the Darling River. You echo his darling twice, thrice, until my head swells and stiffens in gray and black and gray again. Another fellatiated crucifixion William Jennings Bryan might appreciate.

Only the alternate ending survives in darker imprint, the one where Walter William proposes to Joan after her Forgotten Man lament. Bam White forgotten on the broken plain, Walter Waters forgotten on the Bonus March, 3 million Guy Fawkes squatters forgotten in the Occupy monochrome retake, Gold Diggers of 2012. At least the darkness will prevent any Douglas MacArthur from spoiling the fun. There’s time for a round of blind man’s buff before the credits roll.

Loring Wirbel
Jan. 21, 2012
Copyright Loring Wirbel 2012

Even Lithium

The tenebrae of Tebow denouement
reminded me that every pink rabbit meets its immovable object.
This King Day will be spent sitting in a circle,
tossing the hot potatoes of clocks running down,
Safe in the knowledge that each LED of a strange red moment,
not our own,
is right at least twice in a given event horizon.
We’ll send out each elongated tick and tock
for its Hail Mary moment,
observing as the Baby Einsteins we all pretend to be.
King in Memphis.
Dusty in Memphis.

By the time the low indicators begin to flash,
devices are already misbehaving
like spoiled little James Earl Rays.
Phones send text messages from long-dead angry birds.
Cameras display forgotten hallucinogenic spectra,
living proof of the 1880s.
People cower on the floor behind exercise cycles,
claiming they are being held prisoner
in a Bagram no one else sees.
“He’s dying,” I tell her in what should be a forceful voice,
running out of time, patience, insistence.
“Then I shall have to hit him,” she says.
“Bunnies mustn’t stop.”

Too many already have.

Loring Wirbel
Jan. 15, 2012
Copyright Loring Wirbel 2012

Three Gorges on the Plains

“On those days when the wind stops blowing across the face of the southern plains, the land falls into a silence that scares people in the way that a big house can haunt after the lights go out and no one else is there.”
-- Timothy Egan, The Worst Hard Time

What once was beeline south of Lawrence
hemming the poodle skirt of Topeka
has been mangled in four decades of flood control
into the Balinesian dancer silhouette
of Lone Star Lake.
Pete’s house stumbles to the center
of the nameless peninsula between the dancer’s legs.
“We didn’t pay special fealty to any municipal gods,” he insists.
“We were just too high to drown.”

The reverse process is common as well,
in the Ogallala pocket of Nebraska,
at a no-lake McConaughy
where a leap from dozens of boating docks
will plunge you into rip tide of prairie grass,
an undertow of threshers more effective than any piranha.

Is it a strict mirroring function across the plains?
One drought demanding one symmetric damming flood
across Sand Hills awaiting a Keystone pipe dream deliverance?
Or does the condemnation operate in decades of Dust Bowl
and inundation in an endless Balinesian dance?

The ley lines are writ larger east of Mississippi River
where a flood control project lasts millennia,
a mitten peninsula is hemmed in by
Beaver Island,
Thunder Bay,
and the bustling hometown bar
is Pete’s house writ large.
On the banks of the Grand in the center of Michigan,
we were too high to drown,
but I relocated to Colorado just to be sure.

In a symmetric Three Gorges hemisphere far far away
a million and a quarter Yangtze residents sought higher ground.
Chongqing asks more to leave.
Will they follow the Dalai Lama to Lop Nur?
Will they seek a Colorado visa, just to be sure?

A peninsula exit is a method of flood control,
one-way dikes whisper higher, higher,
don’t slam the door on your way out.
“I am nothing without pretend,”
Jen sings almost imperceptibly,
as ABS brakes fail to lock on invisible ice,
“I stand in awe of superficial things.”
The car executes a half spin,
a Balinesian twirl,
as I marvel at the acreage flooded
in such a dry dry winter.

Loring Wirbel
Jan. 3, 2012
Copyright Loring Wirbel 2012

Friday, March 16, 2012

Juzza Fax, Ma'am

My disappointment with Mike Daisey goes far beyond his betrayal of Ira Glass personally and the listeners of This American Life in general. In his traditional Tesla-loving fashion, Daisey has become the lightning rod for everything about post-modernism and fabrication-as-performance-art that I've despised in recent months. But to explain that aspect, I'll have to go back a few weeks to a cover review in New York Times Book Review.

On Feb. 26, the front cover of the review featured the book The Lifespan of a Fact, co-authored by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal. Reviewer Jennifer McDonald did a decent job explaining why an essayist and his fact-checker would want to write such a book (and why Fingal may have lowered himself by even collaborating with D'Agata in any way), but what really shone through is what an utter asshole D'Agata was. He was an asshole because he took the post-modernist position that, since all narratives are equal, striving to discern what really happened in the physical world was not important. All was subject to interpretation.

Call me Old School, but if I stub my toe hard enough on a table, it's gonna hurt and I might break something. While I inhabit a body on this particular physical plane, I must render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and that means facts matter. Yeah, yeah, you subjectivist fools, you can tell me that all information processing in a discrete human brain is subjective, that we re-invent a series of events every time we attempt to remember, but that is what the scientific method is for. We develop hypotheses, test them in the physical world in ways that can be replicated by others, and develop a narrative that corresponds to events that have been validated to have taken place in the physical world. And such a description of the world is stronger than Revolutionary Truth as imagined by Stalin and Lenin, is stronger than any faith-based truth as imagined by any of the modern or ancient religions, and stronger than any silly-ass narrative that Derrida or Foucault may pull out of some magical realm.

Obviously, I think post-modernism is important to the extent it brings to light the stories of women, gays, subjugated peoples, etc., but often the narratives of dead white guys have withstood the test of time because they were based on empirical studies. Not always, to be sure. The so-called objective history of the post-Civil War Reconstruction, as taught by white social scientists in the 1920s and 1930s, was an elaborate suite of consensual fabrications that was not fully exposed until the 21st century. That kind of thing will always happen. But it doesn't mean that when someone decides to tell a lie, that this is the moral equivalent of telling what one believes to be an accurate description of the physical world.

Mike Daisey started out being a story-teller of the Spaulding Gray or Laurie Anderson variety. As such, he could take liberties. But once he decided to contract with This American Life to tell the story of workers slaving over iPhones and iPads in the Shenzhen region of China, he had a responsibility to tell that story as accurately as possible. Let's face it, conditions in Foxconn and other companies have been bad enough to spark mass suicides. Workers have been contaminated with benzene and hexaphene derivatives. But if Daisey overstates the case, he ruins the argument.

Plenty of working journalists have been caught in this kind of thing. Some just have corrections published, some have been fired from jobs, some have been shamed from the profession. But the difference between sloppy or plagiarizing journalists on the one hand, and fraudulent story-tellers like D'Agata, Daisey, and such fake-memoir-writers as Anthony Godby Johnson and Herman Rosenblat, is that everyone in the latter group says, "I am a performance artist. I am a teller of tall tales. I have the right to lie."

From a legal standpoint, they are right. In fact, I hope the Stolen Valor Act is overturned, because the mere act of lying should never be criminal in its own right. But when you make an implied contract with your audience to represent facts on the ground as honestly as possible, and then go ahead and make shit up, and laugh it off as irrelevant, you have lost any claim to ethical behavior. You are no longer righteous. You are a lying charlatan. And far too many "artists" in the 21st century think this is OK. They are wrong.