YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

August 2005

VOL XIII Issue 8, Number 148 special - updated 22 Apr 06

Editor: Klaus J. Gerken

Production Editor: Heather Ferguson;

European Editor: Moshe Benarroch;

Contributing Editors: Pedro Sena; Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald LeWinter

ISSN 1480-6401



   John Olson

      Review of My Devotion, poems by Clayton Eshleman. 
      2004, Black Sparrow Books, Boston. 123 pages. $16.95. 


   Clayton Eshleman
      MICHAUX, 1956



   A Note by the Editor


John Olson

Review of My Devotion, poems by Clayton Eshleman. 
2004, Black Sparrow Books, Boston. 123 pages. $16.95. 

The word 'devotion' is an exponent of the deeply personal. It is more than 
love or affection--it is a purchase on the sublime. It is transcendent. It 
is the keystone in an arch of exaltation. It sounds silly in the mouth of a 
teenager. But in the mouth of someone over 60 it embarrasses us a little 
with its lambent sincerity. It acquires the weight of reality. It shakes 
with the light of veneration. It is wound with the fiber of experience so 
that it cannot be mere giddy emotion. It is the real deal. Eshleman`s work 
in this new collection is, indeed, the real deal. It is also highly unique, 
a species of work outside Eshleman's usual concerns with the underworld, 
the Ice Age caverns of southern France and northern Spain, the "dark embryo" 
of the unconscious aroused by the pulse of primal energies, ancient rites 
and powerful desires, ghosts, spirits, ancestors, souls, daimones. These 
concerns have not, by any means, been abandoned, but inform the work as 
chemosynthesis, an imbuing or residue  -  "the stain of the real"  -  not 
as a primary thrust. The poems comprising the bulk of this work (a few 
continue to be addressed to Ice Age topics) are frank disclosures of 
reverence and feeling for his wife Caryl and friends who have been lost to 
cancer or imperiled by mental disorder. They exist in the glaring light of 
the twentieth and twenty-first century. "Shopping," for instance, takes us 
on a trip through a department store during Christmas, the "crematorial 
sensation in a department store, thousands of suits and dresses without 
bodies, as if it is always Book 11 of The Odyssey. "Inside Caryl's Left 
Shoulder" is an astonishingly good poem. It chronicles, in remarkably vivid 
detail, a process of arthroscopic surgery preserved on video. The poem is 
structured in sentences and small paragraphs separated by blank space. This 
discreteness enhances a concentrated focus on each image, or episode, of the 
surgical process. "The debrider now a kind of monster in a feeding frenzy." 
"Blobs of bloody tissue stream the video screen." "Feathery tissue flurries." 
"The mowing of Caryl's ocean floor." Eshleman has long had a fine knack for 
relating details of the everyday to more cosmic or mythical actualities of 
our deep ancestral past. This enables him to create a deeply personal work 
that in no way becomes smarmy or confessional. It is always linked to 
universals. Our "Uroboric carousel."        

Eight Poems 




Clayton Eshleman


Listening to Caryl sleep,
thinking of the cross-hatching in the 7 mile verticality of her living,
the Challenger Deep
as her mind makes its way across the 40,000 mile mid-ocean ridge,
across abyssal plains and canyons in tree-shaped networks,
across the hadal trench off Peru containing the oldest water in the world,
her young life, which she remembers so keenly,
like a die tumbling among arabesques of leafy sea dragons with seaweed wings
trailing kelp blends, green clouds pouring
from the sides of wounded fish, millions of image trains,
I am on one, looking down at the stratified trains below,
one called Venus's-flower-basket, the passengers:
shrimp, crabs, worms, and clams. Multiple water spindles containing
water fairy proms, high school friends being reborn,
I am following the course of her sleep
through sea pastures of whirring diamond saws,
under a cowl of pelican eels,
in full flight, astride the thorax of a four-winged flyer
she carries away with her, in her trailing skirts,
a web filled with tiny men, drowned islands, radiolarian ooze,
at 800 feet, only the deepest, blackest blue,
the ocean of her sleep breaks over me, like light gravel,
sensation of being in a horse's mouth, a deeper breathing is forming-
the infinite, far from being a suburb of the gods,
is an eternal surpassing, removed from any essential halt.
I see her standing before a glass stairway, a Jacob's ladder
with more steps than she could ever climb in three lifetimes,
they disappear like bubbles in champagne,
now she is struggling against
suctions and pulls, against stretched webs, against curving spidery legs,
she breaks free-what nightmare did she just slip?-
she becomes navigation itself, shining with a pure white flame,
passing over foaming ditches, wheeling ravines,
I imagine her retinue: dwarf plankton, flamingo tongues,
coccoliths giving the water a milk glow, bristlefooted worms
patterned with colored rosettes, arrow worms like fine threads of glass,
pteropods with winged feet, salmon-pink winged slugs,
salps like little barrels, pulsating, a mouth at each end-
out of the warm, dimly lit, dilute broth of a shallow Silurian sea
a jointed-legged proto-scorpion, ancestor of all on land.
How do without a head? How present all edges of the body
equally to the outside world? A poem without subject,
all parts of which surprise and interlock, a poem with twenty centers,
all muscular and avid, each word dense, full in itself, a nest,
a sound of wood crackling in the fireplace, a shiver without skin,
each word an outpost, a courier, monkey words
feeling the earthquake coming before I do.
Going through myself, is it her heart that I am hearing?
-she gasps-silence-rebreathes ka ka ka ka
suddenly, she is other than herself,
rake tines rise from her brow projecting brain energy into the atmosphere,
impaling celestial hexes, they glow pale blue in the dark
like thin upraised arms; I pass slowly through them,
standing in my Protestant canoe, alone, stiff, an erection curving
from a golden pubic beard-behind my back,
the Absolute, straight as a wall.
I am possessed by a sole idea: that snow is ceaselessly falling
obliquely through all of us, on each flake
the population of the Beyond cluster
like minute beardless seals, or albino cougars,
spherical, knots of unearthly calm
sailing on an invisible current. As my monoxylon
sinks slowly into dead space, the dark is flecked with one-winged birds,
with barkless trees, and I also see the full squalor of the sea,
the rubbish of a thousand boats daily fished up, winnowed,
and thrown straight back-crushed into the netted haul
the new mermaid, limbs twisted among dogfish, whiting, and plaice,
a deflated life-sized sex doll, hermit-crabs inside
her red-rimmed mouth. O sea layered into my dreams,
the daily rewound trash, visitations of the dead, Tenochtitlan
thoroughfares, extra-terrestrial spider queens,
cork-screwing flights through kaleidoscopic barriers
to land by a nightstand and be watched by
two swans, who are being watched by
two ocelots, who are being watched by two snakes, watched by
sixteen triangles, watched by countless staring eyes.
Cessation of the mirage of the finite,
illusory conviction that anything concluded exists-
call it reembarkation, call it a multiple leaving.
I have for shade a whole spread of hyena shadow.
I am my own ground, slashed, a wild sea of ground.
There is a silent breaking of waves, spots of light, sensation of fissure,
a flowing furrow, I see Caryl gliding through
the infinite little curlicues in its flanks,
when I graze her I graze a deep pit of joy.

AN ARSENAL IN SEATTLE ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ In the Seattle Art Museum, I stood before "Good Morning, Mrs. Lincoln," Gorky testicles wiggling out of crab traps, octopus pods dissolving into albino eels, a vulva grail held forth by fingerless hands to whom a penis-headed man, palm on hip, displays his giant gully-raker (shades of "The Artist and His Mother," of an emptied out Japanese Eros, all is to be emptied out, all is Easter razor, abstract libretto-- let the viewer restore the muscle tile, "what am I doing in this menstrual hut in the savannahs of Ivory Coast!" he must cry out, "let me meet the holy fire at the far edge of its scythe!"). Standing before Gorky that Lincoln afternoon, I began to feel that wigwams lacked anaconda tiaras, that in fetal gears there was no birch sugar, that I was being served Aphrodite's pudenda on an orchid by a blind man on a lightless moor. I felt inspected by pot-headed and deathless hybrids or was it the four faces of Eve making up the control panel of Cro-Magnon alarm? Just then I felt the spider queen's beacon sweep across man's gravid disasters of war! Farewell, Mrs. Lincoln!--dear Gorky just handed me a ticket for the Ivory Coast, only a floor away, where the mask is the supreme court and god festers forth from a swollen red humanoid core. Standing before this We mask, I revisited Leon Golub's 1948 dilemma: how grind Auschwitz simulacra into a statement about power? Golub transferred to the primitive, urging what man had become to surface as the horror blender of the extent to which the irrational dresses mercs as presidents which too many accept as the singing masters of their souls. This nameless mask from We milked and repumped my Orestial maidens, I found in one long feeler a Bashô straw, and, sucking in a compote of cicada-absorbed rock re-entered the earth of the Shah-nameh where all is alive, pink ground quilted with tufts of violet grass, clouds like entangled cork-screwing silver snakes, miniver rose formations alive as coral reefs. The horrendous is just one polecat in the anagrams of the molework we attempt to unscramble in dreams. Yet the force in the face of god as a beltway of circulating thrashers in the bandsaw of a shark's eye stayed with me. It said: imaginal density is greater than you have conceived. What most take poetry to be is at best an ortolan hors-d'oeuvre. On the far side of the muse there are cometary knots in which a Tarantula Nebula is volatilizing with all its tarentella power spit like fire through facial groin-horned snake-pouched feelers. Then Caryl and I left, drank a Washington State Chinook Cabernet and thanked Dionysus for a glacial day. [for John and Roberta Olson]
CHAUVET, LEFT WALL OF END CHAMBER ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The contours of certain cave walls invite engagement. Hosts in the wall, bald, convex, hold vigil over mental drift. To populate the moonscape of a wall. To draw in lit craters the squirm and reel of incarnate trial. Their bellies hang low, their shoulders rise and sink like pistons, each step is placed soundlessly.Panthera spelea. Larger than the African lion. Larger even than the Amur tiger. Maneless. Craning forward. Cheeks bulging. Heads telescoping out of heads. Eyes dilated. Knowingly, lovingly rendered. Deftly shaded. Bone structure and depth. Some are sheer outline, limestone showing through. 73 in all. One with blubber lips evokes a hominid cartoon. The monster of God sensed as manivore. Deity as predator. Jehovah's foreskins. Zeus Lykaios. Behind sacralized violence, the trauma of being hunted, and eaten. Check this: animal holocaust of the late Ice Age corresponds with the rise of war. Cowl of the master dark, its red breath heading west toward a tilting vertical "totem" of bison heads, spitted like big furry bugs. Baby mammoth with wheel feet. Hoofs seen from below? Full moons? Body shaded smoky tan. Over it a massive bison emerging from a fissure. Two turned-toward-us bison heads, one on lion haunch, one on lion shoulder. Carnivore tattoos. Targets. Earliest body decor. Drink to me only with thine fangs. Energy I would induct. In dank scrape light, as if Arshile Gorky traced his life dark as lion space, or Hans Bellmer, his erotic unending line alive with orgasm's blocked flue. Enkidu. Humbaba. Teelget. Hercules at Nemea. Grendel "bit into his bone-lappings, bolted down his blood and gorged on him in lumps, leaving his body utterly lifeless, eaten up hand and foot." Astarte on lion back. Artemis with a bull scrotum necklace. Rhino with 8 oversized curving parallel horns, as if drawn by Marcel Duchamp. Rhino Descending a Lion Stare. Stuttering horns. River pour of meated miles, horns trestling dawn as red deer foam through. See-saw of rhino bodies. "Central stripes" make them look like "armored" Indian rhinos. Sketchbook of this wall. Started, thwarted. Body parts in fugal maze. Sacrificial diagram. Palimpsest of beasts and humans. No finish. But finish is near. As I stand on this aluminum ramp, a CEO is stretching his eyeball around the planet like an interstellar Santa, bag full and off to Saturn.
LIFE IN THE FOLDS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Imagination has never met a non-love it did not love, or a wall with which it did not become engaged. I am a convict of light in the suction panic of the sun. The range is eternity, the focus? The halter of time-- a babe in halter we spring up and down, restrained, eternity invades our dreams, spreads across the stone, form trancing form. What is is inherent in what is not. Only in the abyss do time and eternity dissolve into a sinless source of origin. The first image was a prompter box, gesturing to an us spread out like bat wings on a stone relief. Each second is vertical with middened hives, I fish for bait trapped in my own line. Across the stone, the actor hordes are streaming ochre, enmassed manganese penetrates their menstrual pour. The tunnel is enlightenment if death's lager can be drunk there. Silo hide, imprisoned sand course my throat, an appled road rent with all who have responded to daybreak's roll call of bones. In the suction panic of the sun, we are entwisted spectres, our veins streaming with verdure, octopodal bursts of infant flowers, tender calcium--in your outstretched hand you hold our wheat, in your torso interior a banquet hall collapses, a Lethe seeping into mist-dead-dusk. In comparison, all retwists--I watch a watch-headed serpent enter your red breast-hung hall-- on the same mobius strip we act, via awareness of death, as if we are alone. Your head disappeared eons ago, my tombal shoulders, armless, and dimming with sallow orchards, writhe stilly as your charge bolts and makes beaver shapes in Matta's mind. I spot him at the horizon's vortex where the panic hits and the sun takes on stick insect latitude, filmy cosmic trestle before which we bend and whisper, green fuses trapped in a summons that runs through the known, now picking up some shred turds of uncharted waste. I participate, in advance, in future time. My point of reference is spherical, amoebic, a chorus of strings. I take my leads from tunnel intestinal macaroni, ancestor lines wandering having left their rear-ending hole --no one has touched bottom, bottom is a hole at the speed of engendering poles. The jungle holds up a mirror, we see we are chalk traceries in outer space grasped briefly as elves under amanitas in the garden of steel-infested self. Traceries where armored gnomes slash at menstrual slits. Right now this raspberry is flooding my mind, a head of yellow breasts is wearing a Pieta wig. I set it aside to make way for an automobile sprouting towers of enraged Iraqis, like derricks of vegetal steam they wave in and out of view. I press no button but I'm American through and not through, mind is a jet engine suctioning imperial drift, attempting to register an allegiance to dehumanized Palestinians as well as to the Daughters of Energy still viable at Le Combel. Matta now reveals himself: red disk painted limestone with a vulvar fold perpendicular through his being. A shift, and he is a flayed dog head studying a vagina on fire as its soot surges through an amber emporium of astral scree. It is the profound and beautiful femininity of the earth that is always under man attack. I crawl toward the mirage of an Aurignacian candelabra still glistening with cosmic dive. I eat a leech and watch its Whitmanian suckers unfold, this is wholeness, or, as close as I'll ever get to a closure packed with the rubble of rhinocerotic metonomy. [Paris, June, 2004]
MICHAUX, 1956 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There is in Michaux an emergent face/non-face always in formation. Call it "face before birth." Call it our thingness making faces. Call it tree bole or toadstool spirits,anima mundi snout, awash in ephemerality, anti-anatomical, the mask of absence, watercolor by a blind child, half-disintegrated faces of souls in Hades pressing about the painter Ulysses-Michaux as, over his blood trench of ink, he converses with his hermaphroditic muse... Ink beings spear themselves into rupturing elfin thumbs. The doubles enrubble, cobble ruins, gobble gobble, aerial brains. Zigzagging corpuscles surprised by a bacterial whinny. Reintegration at the cost of re-entry. Black sand dense on white ground. Mites. Mites in mitosis. Mitochondria. Miscible mites. Mitomitosalchondrialmaze. A gangrenous, thousand-windowed penile haze. Backed by scarlet maggots, by teeny-weenies, by fetal corn flakes. A glacial stadium enraged by a torii invagination. Clothespins cutting up with squidy lattices, no, phosphenic lesions, yes, cruciliquinixies. Once razed, the mind's hive releases mastodontal honey. Mescalinian nets through which infant marmalade englobes. I am free in Michaux, free to be coccolithic, a gas candy bar, whatever.. Better: everwhat. What forever what. Being unbound. Unbound being bonded. Ever in the state ofwhat! Everwhat sun. Everwhat dust. A powder of points. Veil pulled back, the revelation is lithic velum. A line encounters a line, evades a line. A line waits, hopes, a line rethinks a face. Ant-high lines. Ant-visibles streaming through lines. A melodic line crosses twenty stratigraphic fractures. A line germinates. Martyr-laughable lines. Lines gaslighting lines. Lines budding on a dune. A dream of paradise: lines in conversation with their liminal selves. The linen of lines, worn, lineage of proliferating life lanes. The Minotaur as a horned line. Bitter combat at the center of a line. What is the center of a line? Where the whatever folds, becomes everwhat. Ramose, lachrymose hollow of lines, sisters of stain. Stains immaculate in their sordid, humid bellies. Jonah-Michaux in the moray mescaline belly. Aimé Césaire's "stiff wine of moray eels," overboard cast slaves harvested by morays. Dry furnace of a landscape. Stampeding tacks, lassoed by Jesus, lassoed by Sartre. The scolopendra line. The cockchafer line. Lives milling insectile to their rodent spoils. The Last Judgment performed by worms. The tick faces in gorilla traces. Lines in reason's glare seething with kettle life. Nematodes in round dance on a hyena vagina.
MONUMENTAL ~~~~~~~~~~ "A bootful of brain set out in the rain" --that is Paul Celan, Paris, 1969. Could have been a GI snapshot, Vietnam. Leon Golub rounded up four boots, grew military torturer legs in them, shiny brown pedestals on which outside my bedroom door a naked man hanging upside down is being whacked. The avant-garde: the first upon the scene, while the crime is still blazing, in Laverdant's 1848 definition: "those who lay bare, with a brutal brush, all the brutalities, all the filth, which are at the base of society." The core of Golub's career is in its complex response to annihilation. His comrades-in-arm are Goya at the Judas peephole refusing to avert his gaze; Callot with his lynch tree, become Billie Holiday's "strange fruit;" Dix's Trench; Picasso's Guernica; Heartfield's angels in gas masks intoning: "O du fröhliche, o du selige, gnadenbringende Zeit!" 1946: to transform the water-filled, wreckage-laden basement of Western culture into a primordial bath, a deep rolling masked blackness in milling assembly, fangs studding the abstract with wilderness eyes. Burnt, bird-legged Hamlet paws the air. Golub sphinxes: half-swallowed, half-born, from sphincter, orifice of the contracting angel, the nightmare choker. How much degradation can an image take and still, scraped into and from the canvas itself, manifest this world's lethal embrace? The age demanded an image, right? ok? here it is: man as ruined monumentality. Reclining Youth: his surface spatter mimicked by wound-trailed ground, the limb-ghosted ground mimicked by white bone-like finality. Gigantomachies: gods fighting in accelerated grimace, syncopation of drunken, flayed cargo sloshing in an undestructable hold. The Golub archetypal question: if abstract color fields are peeled away, what terrors will show through? Golub's torturers know we accept their actions as they accept our passive regard. For most of us watch them from behind the great religious systems of compensatory evasion. Golub asks: "Is it possible to export destruction, to burn and drive peasants from their homes, and maintain the dream of the perfectibility of art? Well, it is possible if art concerns itself with itself and does not dare to presume political meaning." (1969) This is mental war, intellectual, determined that art be somehow commensurate with international event. Golub's South African blacks, the chorus of a lifework, watch him and occasionally break into threnody. They watch you, viewer, as do the Salvadoran white squads stuffing car trunks with the corpse you will never escape. The power principle behind evil, so deeply a matter of the unconscious now as to not know its own name, "down there," in close combat blood galaxies, where one plus one is always one, a zero rack encrusted with victimized rage. A Golubian vision of the American flag: napalm-blistered stripes so star-mangled they resonate burnt blue. Oh fatality of expectation and freedom! (Where other Americans saw angels beaming at Reagan, Golub saw Contras destroying Nicaraguan grain silos, health centers, cutting off women's breasts) In old age, touched by death, the hand of the master sets free the fractured landscape, the goal dims, a shredder abyss moves in, dissociation tears apart time. Skeletons wear the pants in the house of being. Night street nodes of slicks, glare and wash out mesh in crystalline smear. Has any other artist ever depicted the zone of closure more trenchantly? Golub in the underworld at 80, still facing America's will to administer absolutely, but now the prey of dogs, eagles, and lions, as if man the predator had once again become prey. Slogans honk, lit tableaux in a tunnel of horror. "Another joker out of business" "Raptor sanction" Foresight become gore right. A sparagmos of the torn and the tearer. Pink dog tongue fused dick diddling a female spectre. In the new armpit showcase, skeletons toast hounds. "Transmission garbled." Leon Golub exits. Now in my mind indelible, the corrosive flicker from his unstanchable wound. [March-April, 2005]
NOCTURNAL VEILS ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ In bed, looking up at the light-peppered dark, as if the ceiling were not there, as if I were staring into my own staring, tinctured absence, a grassy sweet aroma lifting off Caryl. In the zone between here and not here, the lunar curtain parts, as in a Matta painting, there are tilting astro-planes, each a kind of ark, or flight deck, one covered with snow has standing mammoths--it tilts, slides through a plane crawling with reptiles. I think of my brain with its reptile stem, its mammal hood, I see a bear humping a crocodile, try to get between them, to push them apart and open a space for a nascent self. In the zone between bear and crocodile, what will I be? A bear-headed croco-boy? A croc-headed baby bear? I screw off my head, toss it into the dark --will it become a raven? A large bee? Headless, I watch through my chest the air swarming with spirits, Nora! How is it where you are? "Busy. Bodies rushing in and out, did you know Cheney is full of reptile blood, and driven by the mind of an Incan child abandoned on a mountain 300 years ago? A child spitting up lizard blood, freezing to death in a stone shrine, now can you grasp Cheney's infantile wrath? Bush's secret is his tiny tail, leathery, about 3 inches, like the tip of a Komodo Dragon's tail-- note how he is always heavily guarded from behind, for if some joker pulls his tail, a long yellow forked tongue will spurt from his face-- very few humans are pure human, most are occupied by bizarre creature combines, the dead and the extinct pack the air unseen from a senses-five perspective. I have a horse's cock now, and I'm planning on using it soon, I'm going to fuck one of those dead art dealers who "fucked" me, then help her open a gate to your plane, watch the fun as she gives birth in a few brains to some mustang raillery!" She screamed with laughter--then I heard a strong, central suck, something in the dark had gulped her back. The dot-peppered room began to undulate. I thought of the veils within "No one has lifted her veil," revelation, to draw back the velum, to hear dead Nora through a spiritual gate, to see the Dogon earth naked and speechless, without language, a fiber skirt the first word, speech as plaited fiber, "speech lattice," or Christ nailed on the cross as the arrested word, vulva as lower mouth issuing red fiber, a many-colored Isis rainbow, net within which my fate is entangled, where the Nora spirits can be heard. Then I saw a black capped facial netted "full body veil" sitting as if on the Kabul bridge, begging. "No one has lifted her veil" became "At no time have women not been oppressed." My heart tore left and right, I tried to peel the true from the truthful, the rainbow flashed a central scarlet band--I knew it was the Wawilak Sisters' menstrual blood circulating within rock python venom. I saw ripples of albino babies, each with a red or silver balloon, setting off across the rainbow bridge for the argentine body of the moon-- the Kabul bridge beggar roared back, burkha, menstrual never shed, chrysalis of a monstrous anti-metamorphosis "sewed up in a hammock, with a small opening so she can breathe" --are all of us, enclosed in the world of five senses, mummified pupas? The beggar hissed: "Your bars, spaced and wall-papered, allow some movement and comfort. Mine, wrapped around me, nearly cover my eyes..." I turned and sought sleep's stagnation, respite from the sear of intersecting planes.
THE MAGICAL SADNESS OF OMAR CACERES ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A white road crosses its motionless storm, vernal pool where frogs live trapped in archaic hail. I've wasted too much time with moonlight and now sit gazing through the small hole in my dress at Monday's naked nail. Manchuria, I feel your invasion! Suddenly we are ourselves, without brushes, lawn-mowers, or saloons. I confess the crimes against my monsoon self-- these chess words, slippery with blood, they are my pistons, my petrol, the fits of memory scrawled in a prison hulk log. Cockroaches cross the deck moving from Picasso to snowman. The thought lost to the eyes of a unicorn reappears in a dog's bark. Dressed in resistance, I laud the most important leader in the United States: Mickey Mouse, legislator of urban alcohol adieu. My courtesan instructs me in the wrecked balcony of her arms. The idol? A chessboard of truffles and snow. Unlike comrade Huidobro, I'm a whittled id, a city hall boss standing on prison steps, thriving like a burnt out sun, a sun which never imagined a lamp. O summation of Chile! A man loves only his obscure wife. To run with the nectar, to bypass alarm. Is not joy somehow canopic? What moves in the air: ways that are not the way, the whey of snow, way of the flayed flake. My slash is yours, riptides amassing. O Chilean summation! I poke into the moon's watery lace. Between sequitur and non sequitur falls the imagination. "There is grandeur in this life, with its several powers." Spare the gestures. Nothing for show. I am neither aft nor fore, nor foreafter, nor ever to be afterforementioned again. I hear Neruda--he's a langoustine of a man, a violet maiden in multicolored fleece, both hands paralyzed from swatting political lice. Neruda! A swiller of a gale, a snood disguised as a church, rutabaga in cleats, something found on the beach which, as you fondle it, urinates in your heart. Neruda, what is truly to be found under his tray of forceps and sledges? Passing mons Veneris clouds. The translucence of human flesh. Ceremonial lenses made of ice, brought down from Andean peaks. A rainbow defective in a single hue. The spider Dolomedes urinator which runs simultaneously in two worlds. The sound of air in a cave. Sensation of longing for an eclipse powerful enough to darken death. Changes in the light initiated by a stranger's arrival --Chilean marvels, equal to the Surreal. I prepared. Waited to be called. Cut logs. Laid a hearth. Burned my valentines. Visited the Incan adoritories on Mount Llullaillaco. Examined the grave goods of The Prince of Mount Plomo. Which is to say: I prepared. Set the caldron boiling, spliced postcards from Isla Negra with photos of infants left out in the snow. Mastered myself. Arrived in Harar with only 10 camels. Sketched each waterfall. Took out no personal ads. I faced fear, then clarity, then power. Tonight I have a meeting with the last enemy of the man of knowledge. In his uncorked left testicle, it has been raining for years.
Notes by Clayton Eshleman: "Michaux, 1956": Giorgio Agamben focused my attention on the word "whatever" in the opening essay in The Coming Comunity (University of Minnesota Press, 2000). In the poem "Q," in The Promises of Glass (New Directions, 2000), Michael Palmer, possibly inspired by Agamben's fascination with the word, plays off the Latin quodlibet ("whatever"), and creates a character named "Quod." "Chauvet: Left Wall of End Chamber": With James O'Hern, I visited the Chauvet Cave with Jean-Marie Chauvet (one of the three 1994 discoverers) on January 8, 2004. My gratitude to Dominique Baffier for arranging our visit. Excellent color photographs of the wall with the paintings addressed in my poem may be found in Chauvet Cave / The Art of Earliest Times, directed by Jean Clottes (The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 2003). "The Magical Sadness of Omar Cáceres": See Eliot Weinberger's essay, "Omar Cáceres," in Karmic Traces (New Directions, 2000). According to Weinberger, Cáceres is one of the many significant and forgotten 20th century Latin American poets, and one who is known only by a collection of fifteen poems published by his brother in Chile in 1934. Weinberger translates, in his essay, one of these poems, and this translation, along with the bits of information on the poet, moved me to write my own poem in the voice of Omar Cáceres. All Poems and notes copyright (c) 2005 Clayton Eshleman


For 40 Years Clayton Eshleman has been American Poetry. His Caterpillar
(1967-1973) magazine was seminal in showcasing the works of post modern 
Amercan poets in the 60's and early 70's.  In the 80's and 90's 
Sulfur (1981 - 2000) extended that reach and became a true rival to the 
Paris Review as the literary journal of the late 20th century.

Clayton has also been one of the most studious and assiduous translators
of modern poetry: especially the works of César Vallejo, Antonin Artaud and
Aimé Césaire. And through these translations has immesurably influenced the 
scope of American poetry.

Clayton's latest publication is a revision of his 1988 volume of translations
entitled "Conductors of the Pit" (Soft Skull Press $15.95 www.softskull.com), 
that includes translations of such luminaries as Antonin Artaud, Vladimir 
Holan, César Vallejo, Pablo Neruda and Arthur Rimbaud, among others.

It is a volume of rich treasures that illuminates with every reading and will 
enrich and influence many future generations.

Other publications by Clayton Eshleman include:

Mexico & North (1962)
Indiana (1969)
Altars (1971)
Coils (1973)
The Great Wall (1975)
What She Means (1978)
Hades In Manganese (1981)
Fructure (1983)
The Name Encanyoned River (1986)
Hotel Cro-Magnon (1989)
Under World Arrest (1994)
From Scratch (1998)
Everwhat (2003)
My Devotion (2004)

Antiphonal Swing (1989)
Companion Spider (202)
Juniper Fuse, Upper Paleolithic Imagination &
   the Construction of the Underworld (2003)

Pablo Neruda, Residence on Earth (1962)
César Vallejo, The Complete Postumous Poetry (with José Rubia Barcia, 1978)
Aimé Césaire, The Collected Poetry (with Annette Smith, 1990)
Michel Deguy, Given Giving (1984)
Bernard Bador, Sea Urchin Harakiri (1986)
Aimé Césaire, Lyric & Narrative Poetry 1946-1982 (with Annette Smith, 1990)
Antonin Artaud, Watchfriends & Rack Screams (with Bernard Bador, 1995)
César Vallejo, Trilce (1992, 2000)
Aimé Césaire, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (with Annette Smith, 2001)

Folio (Bloomington, Indiana, 3 issues, 1959-1960)
Quena (Lima, Peru, 1 issue edited, suppressed by the Noth American
  Peruvian Institute, 1966)
Caterpillar (NYC-Los Angeles, 20 issues, 1967-1973)
A Caterpillar Anthology (Issues #1-12, 1971)
Sulfur (Pasadina-Los Angeles-Ypsilanti, 46 issues, 1981-2000)

Clayton Eshleman's Official Website may be found at:


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