Search View Archive



For Don Mee Choi


You belong to none except the gong.
On to on its copper undulations translate into meat—
the cheek of liberty, Ensoresque crowds.
Yourself behind yourself concealed,
what Hadic invisibility is being revealed? 
Is your forehead apotropaic from wandering in your face?
Or did you drop the felted soul hammer seconds before
   the bong?

Cambodia with four million of our land mines.
Bankers glinting crystal angles.
You’re in Seattle. I’m outside Detroit.
We’re both facing the light show in Club Rapture
as if the planet is an ongoing Rave. Afghan bands on LSD
while American drones chowder their family bunks

1962: I am bargaining with a Korean whore in discarded
GI fatigues by
the Seoul SAC Compound Gate.
The dispossessed and the poet
before the closed Western Gate:
we lack the power to realize what we see to be real.

Its all absurd and
eerily mantic: the shadow of our uterine
scaffolding keeps shadowing our present shade.

You belong to a longing to birth rapids and mares,
to a rampart on which a hagazussa is oiling her broom.
You look down a cerebral tunnel rotating with escapes:
                                              all harrowing enough
to keep you focused on a phantomatic art.

Were you to insert a serpent, might “the lambent
homage of his arrowy tongue”  turn you into a pythoness
capable of resetting a cosmogonic dial?

Ransacked by our finite infinity,
we hover the anima gore stored in testicular vats.

January 18-March 17, 2012





A Half Hour With Basquiat


Skull trash staring through wall splash.
Face skillet with sunny-side-up red eyeballs.
Robot goon’s black heel sprouting 5 white splayed fingers.
We have no Hades,    only fetus graffiti,
                  the natal mouth hooked on the hallucination of
        a lynch ejaculation.

Halo in a state of barbed-wire garble.
Words as a pickup sticks melee,   a pickup Styx of pawned
   Charon heads,   out of “syncopation” staggers
     sin  cop  nation,   the hero din of heroin wind.
“O war within my members!”
Pit bull in a wedding dress trailing bloodied brail.

Is his angel aware of its rubbish curfew?
Its word-antlered
        ant hives of
     mutant lewd

Ours, the Aeon of the Child, “Crowned & Conquering.”

The only sin?  Self-restriction. Vito Acconci in spats.

The skull as a dream meal, including knives, forks & bone cake chewings.


[Gagosian Gallery, NYC, 3 April 2013]





Wound Interrogation


In Matta’s “Wound Interrogation,” a Malangganesque robot
thrusts its flattened palm against a pulpy large rectangular wound
hung before it. Matta comments:
“The wound is separated from the human being & subjected to the torture of intense examination by heinous machines. The bloody red insides of the wound convey a life striving to exist, while the grays & blacks of the demon robots remind one of an industrial plant.”

Is Matta’s wound one of ”The Great Transparents,”
the twisting force of the transforming world?

Wound changing shape to mimic my psychological fears?

At the end of first light this morning
The sky was drinking a sap so old I could hear the ayahuasca
cloud pythons gargling menstrual-seminal elixir.
I dropped a monkey into a bowl & it sizzled
brain stem brain stem. I saw nothing because the monkey is of my mind,
the oracle gas between my otherness & Matta’s mechanical elves
as they reposition the panels of what we call “reality.”

Who exactly inhabits Hades’ kingdom?


But is there a viewpoint in such wisdom?
Can I stick a pin into this “mind?”

“You can, but my ice lace is blinding
& my feeble knuckles are, from your Herculean viewpoint,
hurricane poundings, tidal flare.
I am the dream jaguar which you create
so as to, while escaping, lurch out of bed and crash onto the floor.
I am the cave outlet which as you depart
bites your ankle so that once in your car
it will suddenly cramp and you will smash into a ditch.
I am the untapped center of the earth, always shifting.
My fusings are blind radiance: troll suns, ouphe suns,
split gourds of brain jam simmering in a gold sweat known to the living
as world wars. You, Eshleman, have tapped on my knuckle door,
at Lascaux, I recognized you & spit into your fire.
How do we crackle? What do you think of this fate scape
underwritten by life?”

Back to you in a week, I stammered.


I truly cannot complain. All three of my feet are intact & insane.
Is this the meaning of wholeness?  Holed being rampant with closure?
This is sanity. Blake’s angels feasting on one’s neck
as one attempts to burrow below what Hades might deliver!

For that matter, what is deliverance?
Is it post-mortem served with ghost? Or is it eternal present,
art in intercourse with the Cro-Magnon conversion of animal into anima?
Laussel again, squeezing time out of a torn off bison horn
(upward displacement: horn as phallus with which she has impregnated herself).

By the way: What upsets you the most about America today?

One: The suppression of the horrifying truth of the 9/11 assault  (more appropriately referred to as “The Pentagon Three Towers Bombing”) infests the American soul with a stifling sense of unreality charged by the rivers of blood flowing alongside the Euphrates and Tigris through a destroyed and failed state that may never again be reconstructed. I note that otherwise responsible political thinkers like Oliver Stone and Bill Maher will not even engage this ongoing nightmare.
   I believe that the truth of The Pentagon Three Towers Bombing is, like an undiagnosed plague, lodged in the American subconscious, and that this truth is now the lie veneer of our dailiness so that there is  a knotted veil in our eyes building rancor where there could be revelation.

Two: Since I have been writing, translating, and editing for over 50 years, I have to deplore the degree writing programs that are in the process of turning the art of poetry into creative writing. In 1994 I wrote: “Quotational Reality is the new Purgatory making each desire artificial.” My comment seems to anticipate Kenneth Goldsmith’s aestheticized plagiarism.
   The first poets, facing the incomprehensible division between what would become culture and wilderness, taught themselves how to span it and thus in such caves as Chauvet and Lascaux momentarily be whole. Our key distinction may become that of being the first generation to have written at a time in which the origins and the end of poetry became discernable.


The poem is a fire burning alone out of contact with
the brushwood of my body.
I study it as Heraclitus studied gods endlessly changing soul scapes, 
fat raccoon clouds instantly weeping Hathors.
Sky stigmata. Loam of the brave.

An image is fire
around which language appears to be
tightly-packed ash.

Soul is the liquid metal extracted from creative alchemy.
Soul is molten protocol.

Life is the blessing. Death the “less” in blessing:
Baron Gaga, spread-eagled & gagged, in everyone’s smoking gate.
Humankind is timed, as if with a timer, by & for
the apocalypse of immortality.

Know thyself = know thyself to be mortal.

To think of the tethered mandala of the hand,
the radial glory of the fist unhooked from its fury.
Vallejo: “Our brave little finger will be big, worthy,
an infinite finger among the fingers.”
Vodun thumb-post attended by 4 hexed dwarves.
Palm pressed to the Matta wound, to the Gargas wall:
new human negative: the I am not    that is.

I dream because I first had hands.
And in dream tonight I held my fire in my hands,
my fire with Caryl’s eyes!
Her dearest eyes peering out of my burning!


Clayton Eshleman

CLAYTON ESHLEMAN's recent publications include a translation of José Antonio Mazzotti’s Sakra Boccata with a Foreword by Raúl Zurita (Ugly Duckling, 2013). In the spring of 2014, Black Widow will bring out Penetralia, a new collection of poems, along with Clayton Eshleman / The Whole Art, a collection of essays, notes and articles on the author’s work over the decades, edited by Stuart Kendall. In 2015, Black Widow will publish Clayton Eshleman / The Essential Poetry 1960-2015 and Wesleyan will bring out a bilingual edition of The Complete Poetry of Aimé Césaire, co-translated with A. James Arnold.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2014

All Issues