Dropout Poem

 

            I

This is a poem about Lee Lozano
(1930-1999),
      her art-
life life art, at once swan song and
owl's perspicacious eye, ruler
      wisely cold
concerning you (false troubadour),
raucous yet discrete in turn, who
      without prose

nor rhyme sound, was foundational,
how nothing else can now be done.
      Despotically read,
the mystery of what Lozano might
have declared her self, her art, towards
      her death,
speaking under shade of a lime tree
somewhere in Dallas, Texas, to a
      close friend,

will never be known. Just like her
hours of conversation, what she called
      Dialogue Piece
(1969), when artists came to her SoHo loft,
all things available, instantaneous, yet
      of talk
no record can be found beyond someone
else's art action, someone's memory
      of her,

            or like a medieval panegyric
on the Spanish queen's favorite bookkeeper
      (the numbers
—account of acres, gold, slippers and sovereign,
            with the poet, are all today
      one piece—
gone to most          (elegant superlative
painted bodies purchased for what had been
      wisdom, future

lessons that should have been remembered,
            lip glossing over details that once
      enriched poetry
while they ravaged ramparts and cities…),
whereas in this instance the numbers leap,
      dance —thrash,
grand jeté; clinamen of cause/effect—
brush back and forth and wander a
      New York

no longer imagined merely as decline),
this too concurrent with a definition
      of tragedy,
what philosophers tell in stories about their friends:
            perfunctory, equivocal praise,
      conditional, hidden
            by the bidding of a
brutal era more the subject than any
      one person.

That is, as Lozano would have her milkshake
dissipate in flavor of the way presence
      expressed blenders,
her presence on the scene so integral to
her absence from official twisty-straws
      of dissemination,
ostensibly writing about one subject
while keeping tabs (whole windows) open
      on another

the way someone once taught you
to savor a near distance when
      walking through
Manhattan, never making eye contact
with strangers (one questions whether this is
      really necessary,
            or if it wasn't brought
from another metropolis),
      so too

it might have been better not to speak
            sincerely of passion
      when leaving
Neukölln, queasy with a terminal kiss,
queasy on the train to the airport,
      queasy with
your first and only Europe, all your savings
sucked up in a poorly programmed trip,
      average milkshake.

Sure, it was magical, though inevitably
you rule yourself out, believe the
      Best Western
so wholeheartedly there's no room left;
heartbroken cities medieval take a nap,
      sleepwalk through
mocking castles down to war upon the
salable fantasy, sleep cessation concrete map,
      cultish Bermuda

shorts dreamboating in shoes matched
to this tourism racket, old world singers with
      new media
performing culture for a bot on three weeks vacation,
            shibboleth spills wine on itself
      as ignorance
            of what is understood to be culture
frustratedly puked into anxious wake of
      two years

gone by, always larger in thought than what was there;
thus it would have been you could free yourself had you
      seen yourself
            reunited with a ghost,
remembered laughing,       had known Lozano's
      “MAGIC WORD
TO CANCEL SPELLS […] OR, TO COUNTERACT A
WITCH'S POWER;          YELL: ORTHOGRAPHY!”
      Two people

are just a couple red lights atop each tower
in polyrhythm who agree to alert
      planes flying
low, a favorite bridge (Verrazano,
Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg,
      Queensboro, etc.)
doesn't really matter, remembering
many years ago your walk to it,
      determined jumper

barely derailed by the detour, cold beer
            (if to die it might be better
      drunk); decide
to find a Spätkauf, buy a liter of sameness,
            this one memory even
      fuzz uncapped
            over the Spree       another glass
little more than stopped here because
      because freewheel

separated from the cassette on this
            borrowed bike,      rubber jam
      against frame,
staring into river's lap, feeling that you
            failed to fix your heart;
      attempted repair
of one bike, then another, vacation
            occupied, tinkering, pull
      the chain

pretending it is the cord for some steam engine's
            horn to disperse cattle who wandered
      —calm, sate—
            onto the tracks, to fill an open
seemingly fertile midwestern pasture with
      antique whistle,
            flute of cyclopean        idiot
passion misplaced in cycles of work and
      temporary liberation,

            sounding less and less like
announcement, just the mere shriek that follows
      failed endeavors,
            background noise brought
            forward by turning up the
      squelch circuit,
art of sampling reduced to minimal
            beats that back
      talksong complaints

of exploited subjects: you tried to be present.
Taking pictures all day long, for the first time
      you note
suspension cables, lights evenly spaced
along mainstays     —the deck's yellow
      streetlamps plucked
as periodically obscured by cables
from this angle walking toward the
      slurred mass

they are points that define the arc—
parabola cutaway from a cone,
      the cone
emerging from the river's chop and foam
—invisible, tilted, vertex upheld in the sky, pointing
      beyond bridge
            to an unscalable focus,
inhuman aperture         traced in human feats,
      in parabolas

            across the suspension of puns
that stretch and pierce and haunt every
      form imagined
until the roving, perforated geometries
            become so unbearably diaphanous
      to possess
and dispel the line        you pinch yourself,
construct a cone of skin,          architectural feat
      centered in

Grunewald, where today the two of you walk,
            long ago the site of a battle,
      smoke weed,
stand on the cliffside overlooking Havel,
sloops in the sunset, jibs described as vermillion
      you feel
confused about because they were previously red,
            and whenever you read it aloud
      the sound

of this word (vermillion) reminds you of verde,
so you think of a pine green, forest green,
      undeniably green,
            though the word means red-orange;
thus departing from a plainer sense
      (red), you're
            overcome by its opposite (green),
flash of words a hole in the fabric of their
      canvas sails

fluttering through the mind as potential
paintings never completed, as Lozano's
      Wave Paintings'
(1969) undulant lines a mimicry
of what was to come         (wave wave wave goodbye)
      —rhythmic knowing
herself, hours carefully haptic— were a straight
            shot through    vibration, stoned
      for days,

sped-up on bennies to finish in one sitting
magnified nanometers of color —one red,
      two green,
            next one gone, stoned again—
stoned every day in protest of mastery,
      abstraction rejected,
            her own work suddenly gauche,
ruled herself out, cut holes in the canvas
      lost now,

            thrown on the streets of SoHo,
draped sprawl of history, like swimming
       upside down,
quicksilver surface to look through
to better understand the purpose of
      this visit,
like looking through the infinite yet
countable latticework of a medieval
      garden wall

where you can see yourself, or someone else
            who thinks he is in love,
      sees people
fuck in the shapes and shadows,
            limbs and torsos reorganize,
      hair flows,
unsure what is or where because he never
watched other people fuck in
      real life

(only on digital screens), adjusting
his position to better view them
      through this
perforated canvas,       poke a finger
to clear a leaf and realize, due to your
      shifting line
of sight, that there is a second screen
beyond the first, their vectors producing
      a third

screen of shapes in magnifying proportions,
inflating volume, a million samples of
      skin, synced
moaning and movement, or then steadying
yourself on the wall with both hands, face
      flat against
and eye to oculus, out of a single view
so many moonbeams pour into cold flesh,
      quicksilver surface

the mirror Lozano held between her legs
to observe an art without supports, what she called
      Masturbation Investigation
(1969), wherein she records “TUMESCENCE, TURGIDITY,
COLOR CHANGE FROM LIGHT RED TO BRIGHT RED,
      VIOLENT EJACULATION
OF LUBRICATION FROM DUCT NEAR CLITORIS,
& VIBRATION DURING ORGASM,” becoming
      borderless person

salty origin of all things made public,
worlding waterfall, fountain of thought that
      never ends
but is held apart open vulva of all
material phenomena squirting forth,
      song in
            climax  a cosmos
alluded to throughout the whole tradition of
      human joy

never caught in a snapshot. Landscape rebuilt
with bricks and remnants of what stood before
      the bombing,
what is there to find here? What is it
you think is worth talking about now?
      To seek
a herculean empathy, patience and
forgiveness for all beings— can it be built,
      this world,

this infinite utopian moment, with anyone?
            Is that love? Or is it
      always impossible
            because you believe things,
do not recognize fathomless possibility
      within you,
experience personal history as actions
you yearn to know yet cannot share,
      cannot recall,

because of those selfsame experiences— no.
To wit: you demand to be understood, and in
      that effort
to understand, admit that you do not,
do not understand, and lose her
      in laurels.
She always mixes up the Spanish word for bear,
(oso) with the word for eye (ojo). How lovely:
      the eye

as bear endeared to the thought of pulling
gestures from a stream, arc of bridge
      cast like
fishing line to pull back from extinction
brown bears in Grunewald, evoked with a crack
      —short whip
back to the bridge over the Spree, their absence
            the invisibility of an eye to itself,
      ocio cultural,

arbitrarily consumed, because you don't know
the difference between Austrian and German
      culture anyway,
            so it doesn't matter
where the two of you go for dinner
      when Berlin
is under construction; every museum
            you want to see
      under construction.


 

Contributor

Camilo Roldán

Camilo Roldán is a poet and translator living in Brooklyn. He is the translator of the chapbook Amilkar U., Nadaista in Translation (These Signals Press, 2011), co-author of the chapbook Δ [delta] with Douglas Piccinnini and Cynthia Gray (TPR Press, 2013), and author of the chapbook La Torre (Well Greased Press, 2015). His translation of Amilcar Osorio's Vana Stanza is forthcoming from Elis Press. 

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