At sixteen, I worked after high school hours at a printing plant that manufactured legal pads: Yellow paper stacked seven feet high and leaning as I slipped cardboard between the pages, then brushed red glue up and down the stack. No gloves: fingertips required for the perfection of paper, smoothing the exact rectangle. Sluggish by 9 PM, the hands would slide along suddenly sharp paper, and gather slits thinner than the crevices of the skin, hidden. Then the glue would sting, hands oozing till both palms burned at the punchclock.
Ten years later, in law school, I knew that every legal pad was glued with the sting of hidden cuts, that every open lawbook was a pair of hands upturned and burning.
1. Ye shall be free to write a poem on any subject, as long as it’s the White Whale. 2. A gold doubloon shall be granted to the first among ye who in a poem sights the White Whale. 3. The Call Me Ishmael Award shall be given to the best poem about the White Whale, with publication in The White Whale Review. 4. The Herman Melville Memorial Picnic and Softball Game shall be open to whosoever of ye writes a poem about following thy Captain into the maw of hell to kill the White Whale. 5. There shall be a free floating coffin for any workshop participant who falls overboard whilst writing a poem about the White Whale. 6. There shall be a free leg, carved from the jawbone of a whale, for any workshop participant who is dismasted whilst writing a poem about the White Whale. 7. There shall be a free funeral at sea, complete with a chorus of stout hearties singing sea chanteys about the White Whale, for any workshop participant who is decapitated whilst writing a poem about the White Whale. 8. Ye who seek not the White Whale in thy poems shall be harpooned.
Right off I hear him singing, the strings of his old guitar hemming the darkness as before—late nights on the front porch— the mountains across the valley blurred to outline. We are at it again, father and daughter, deep in our cups, rehearsing the long years between us. In the distance I hear the foghorn call of bullfrogs, envoys from the river of lamentation my father is determined to cross. Already I know where this is headed: how many times has the night turned toward regret? My father saying, If only I’d been a better husband she’d be alive today, saying, Gwen and I would get back together if she were alive. It’s the same old song. He is Orpheus trying to bring her back with the music of his words, lines of a poem drifting now into my dream. Picking the first chords, my father leans into the neck of the guitar, rolls his shoulders until he’s lost in it— the song carrying him across the porch and down into the damp grass. Even asleep, I know where he is going. I cannot call him back. Through the valley the blacktop winds like a river, and he is stepping into it, walking now toward the other side where she waits, my mother, just out of reach.
I am the last Napoleonic soldier. It’s almost two hundred years later and I am still retreating from Moscow. The road is lined with white birch trees and the mud comes up to my knees. The one-eyed woman wants to sell me a chicken, and I don’t even have any clothes on. The Germans are going one way; I am going the other. The Russians are going still another way and waving good-by. I have a ceremonial saber. I use it to cut my hair, which is four feet long.
Directed by David Huzieran Director Of Photography: Jake Zalutsky Produced by Luca Valente Executive Producers: Nick Santore & David Huzieran Production Company: Strange Loop Studios (http://www.StrangeLoop.tv)
B Cam Operator: Christian Mejia 1st AC : Matt Miele, Eugene Hahm, & David Thomas Gaffer: Danny Valdez Movi & Jib Operator: Tom Szklarski Location Sound Mixers: Jon Farley & Scott Palmer
Your friend has died, with whom You roamed the streets, At all hours, talking philosophy. So, today you went alone, Stopping often to change places With your imaginary companion, And argue back against yourself On the subject of appearances: The world we see in our heads And the world we see daily, So difficult to tell apart When grief and sorrow bow us over.
You two often got so carried away You found yourselves in strange neighborhoods Lost among unfriendly folk, Having to ask for directions While on the verge of a supreme insight, Repeating your question To an old woman or a child Both of whom may have been deaf and dumb.
What was that fragment of Heraclitus You were trying to remember As you stepped on the butcher’s cat? Meantime, you yourself were lost Between someone’s new black shoe Left on the sidewalk And the sudden terror and exhilaration At the sight of a girl Dressed up for a night of dancing Speeding by on roller skates.
Entre nós e as palavras há metal fundente entre nós e as palavras há hélices que andam e podem dar-nos morte violar-nos tirar do mais fundo de nós o mais útil segredo entre nós e as palavras há perfis ardentes espaços cheios de gente de costas altas flores venenosas portas por abrir e escadas e ponteiros e crianças sentadas à espera do seu tempo e do seu precipício
Ao longo da muralha que habitamos há palavras de vida há palavras de morte há palavras imensas, que esperam por nós e outras, frágeis, que deixaram de esperar há palavras acesas como barcos e há palavras homens, palavras que guardam o seu segredo e a sua posição
Entre nós e as palavras, surdamente, as mãos e as paredes de Elsinore
E há palavras nocturnas palavras gemidos palavras que nos sobem ilegíveis à boca palavras diamantes palavras nunca escritas palavras impossíveis de escrever por não termos connosco cordas de violinos nem todo o sangue do mundo nem todo o amplexo do ar e os braços dos amantes escrevem muito alto muito além do azul onde oxidados morrem palavras maternais só sombra só soluço só espasmos só amor só solidão desfeita
Entre nós e as palavras, os emparedados e entre nós e as palavras, o nosso dever falar