For Stuart Kendall
Gotham Bar & Grill in Manhattan, dining with Caryl, Cecilia & Jim.
At a table near ours, alone, a woman in whose face I saw Death.
At one point she turned her head toward us:
I could only stay in her black ray lane a few seconds.
So, here we are. Sipping cheek timber, under the cistern eyes of earth’s
Cecilia Vicuña: the shadow
is from the animal
you used to be
is from the one
you will be
the shadow is not from you
from the one who passes
its not a shadow at all
it is the sound
of a shadow
it is the shadow
of the sound”
Freud: “There is a tangle of dream thoughts that cannot be unraveled.
This is the dream’s navel, the spot where it reaches down into the unknown.”
Or as rephrased by Freud: “There is at least one spot in every dream at which it is unplumbable—a navel as it were, that is its point of contact with the unknown.”
Freud also identifies the dream navel as a knot entangled with threads (evoking the Medusa’s head of serpent hair covering the mother’s “dangerous genitals”). He writes that some “dream thoughts are infinitely branching, rather than tangled…”
At one point he identifies the dream navel with the defile, or central neck, of a clepsydra, “where all forms resemble each other, where everything is possible.”
The spot where this navel “reaches down into the unknown,” can be envisioned as an Upper Paleolithic opening leading to a cave, the maternal interior being replaced by a limestone one; the “infinitely branching thoughts” becoming the engraved meanders on Rouffignac’s “Red Ceiling with Serpentines,” a surface covered with serpent-shaped signs.
Or as in Combarelle’s Inner Gallery, the engraved creatures that only vaguely resemble anything that lived: animal-snouted archaic on the leash of,
or the harness of, a proto-alchemical mush,
sled beasts bounding in slow motion,
grotesque heads dissolving in grotto drift…
Can these silex-cut wall meanders and lines or black manganese finger strokes, unreadable but engageable, indicate a possible response of Cro-Magnon people in cave darkness to a dream’s branchings & its grotesque inhabitants? Can we cut through time here and descend, without historical interference, through the palimpsestic layers of unconscious levels, to uncover the possible ignition of image making, in which non-human souls began to mingle with human souls?
“In fact,” Gaston Bachelard proposes, “a need to animalize is at the origins of the imagination… its first function is to create animal forms.”
Henri Michaux’s stroke chaos, in which creature forms are evoked by tangled and knotted lines reminds us of the Cro-Magnon “creatures” verging on resembling yet undefined… As if we are in the presence of nothing in the process of athing…
Vicuña again: “The void, the forgotten aspect of each sound that is propelling us as we search for memory and oblivion at once…”
One day I will be between here & there, in the nowhere that is part of every where that tonight seems substantial compared to its invisible absence…
My absence… as if absence were mine.
Old Whitman: “Have you learn’d lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learn’d great lessons from those who reject you, and brace themselves against you? Or who treat you with contempt, or dispute the passage with you?”
Willliam & Cid,
with you I’ve lived.
Corman said no
& Blake said yes.
We are free only to the degree that we are able to acknowledge the headless oarsmen rowing the heart skiff through the rainbow of a totality
ebbing & flowing over
the rocks of man’s now quite clearly unregenerate nature.
We have lost the temenos, the imaginative precinct
in which a van Eyck, say,
could orchestrate a specific world
Dearth of polar bears. Dearth of honeybees.
It is crying outside.
Image is the athanor in which I linguistize soul,
a dream umbilicus coiling down into the miracle of
Neanderthal tombstone cupules, Cro-Magnon engravings,
earliest shamanic hybrids,
through which a mistress spirit might rise,
electric with Tantrik lesions, from that serpent lounge
where the soul snake slumbers
until charmed up into a brain / body imaginarium.
My mind at base is a spermal animalcule
impregnated with female blood.
The Muladhara Chakra is not gendered.
Neither is my imagination.
I reject duality & propose an orgy of contesting mind.
The soul was in exile even at Chauvet.
Paradise is a form of polymorphous merger
charged by the bathysphere of the poem
rising from engrailings where even squirrels reflect,
& robins ruminate: the animal lager…
Bottom is crossed by
something alive, a crab or turtle brought up mud
regurgitated into a Cro-Magnon hand.
Ochre or manganese, discovered in descent
& mixed with cave water, palm pressed to stone
(a stone that in history becomes the omphalos, or om phallus),
released, leaving a “hand” without a hand,
negation’s—or was it absence’s?—first
The poem is from the beginning antiphonal
hybridizing ancestral fauna in language-twisted straits.
Oh the difficulty of the soul! “You could not find the ends of the soul
though you traveled every way, so deep is its logos.”
To Heraclitus, James Hillman responds: “the logos of the soul,
Psychology, implies the act of traveling the soul’s labyrinth
in which we can never go deep enough.”
William Blake, naked, reading Genesis to naked Catherine
in their London “Arbor of Eden.”
Jardin botanique, Bordeaux, 2008.
The bud & spoor density of a mauve Baudelairian incubation.
Tender vines erupting into fanged blooms…
Minute nomadic ants percolate the many-breasted
Venus of the Plants.
Centuries pass… And the ghost of Henri Rousseau
glides, a virgin on a lost ark,
in chime with cloned obsequies,
Fused to his centrovertic grappling,
into the aethercore the poet pours his siliceous soul.
CLAYTON ESHLEMAN is the author of numerous books of poetry, including, in 2008, The Grindstone of Rapport / A Clayton Eshleman Reader, Clayton Eshleman / The Essential Poetry 1960-2015 and most recently Penetralia (all from Black Widow). Eshleman has published sixteen collections of translations, including Watchfiends & Rack Screams by Antonin Artaud (Exact Change, 1995), The Complete Poetry of CÃÂ©sar Vallejo with a Foreword by Mario Vargas Llosa (University of California Press, 2007), and AimÃÂ© CÃÂ©saire: The Collected Poetry (co-translated with Annette Smith, University of California Press, 1983). Most recently, Wesleyan Press brought out a 900 page bilingual edition of The Complete Poetry of AimÃ© CÃ©saire, co-translated with A. James Arnold Eshleman also founded and edited two of the most innovative poetry journals of the later part of the 20th century: Caterpillar (20 issues, 1967-1973) and Sulfur (46 issues, 1981-2000). Doubleday-Anchor published A Caterpillar Anthology in 1971 and Wesleyan in November 2015 published a 700 page Sulfur Anthology. His website is www.claytoneshleman.com