Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On The Tip Of My Tongue

I bit my tongue eating lasagna. I was talking about Reverdy. Trying to describe Reverdy’s Cubist lines. How, even though they’re disjunctive, the poem coheres. And is simple. And the waitress interrupted me. Burst in with a pitcher of water. And I bit my tongue. The very tip. Man it hurts.

The tongue is important. But who thinks about a tongue? It’s just there. It’s not like a penis. Not like an organ dangling around fleshy and self-important. It inhabits the mouth like a hermit. Someone who does your bidding humbly and without complaint. So that it seems automatic.

Like the smell of damp cotton when it rains in Mexico.

Or taking an elevator. The doors slide closed and you press a button and it goes up. Or down. It never goes sideways. Its doors never slide open on heaven. With the gaze of a surprised angel looking back at you.

I have an appetite for turmoil. Which is why I take to writing. It’s so easy to create turmoil on paper. The kind of turmoil that doesn’t hurt. It’s like taking refuge in a basement after someone breaks up with you and you don’t want to be a functioning member of society for a while. You just want to be a wounded animal watching TV. Eating potato chips.

Sometimes it helps to dress in denim and light a candle. Shake the rain until it gurgles. Imagine yourself on an airplane. When you are actually in an airplane.

Spaceship earth. If earth is a spaceship why doesn’t it have levers and buttons? Or a pilot? Are you one of those people who have anxiety about earth veering from its orbit and drifting off into space? You are, aren’t you? I knew it.

Well, here we are, you and I, drifting off into space. The space of the poem. Which has the heft of a Glock in the hand. Or a black English shoe. With a silver buckle and a long black tongue.

Words don’t hurt. They just splatter against the wall of the brain and turn umber like the thunder of Portugal. Or reek of ambiguity, a sour sweet smell that reminds me of the night markets in Hong Kong, the jabber of parrots and the fortune tellers of Temple Street.

Most of the time, I feel awkward and unemployed. Have you noticed?

Dishrags have faces. And two black holes for eyes.

I’m 64 years old. Rain zigzags down the windshield. I want a black hat like Michael McClure’s. I live in a garage. I play chess with a chimpanzee. And listen to the Velvet Underground. I like my coffee strong, and think of the human ear as a form of butter.

Hobbies include hallucination, spinning, and bank robbery.

The ocean spins on the tip of my finger.

Until somebody interrupts me. And it all comes crashing down. And I bite the tip of my tongue.

Say tongue: tongue, tongue, tongue, tongue.

Say operatic abstractions garnish a pretzel.

Say Seattle is a drop of rain on your wrist.

I have crags in my face. Like those cracks on the floor of Death Valley. It’s cool. It’s the kind of face you both want and respect when you get to be a certain age.

And then you start getting advertisements in the mail for cremation services, and getting old doesn’t feel quite so hot.

Yet the geography of desire continues to spout its geysers of sulfurous steam. And you realize that wheels are more than a symptom of horizontality but miracles of tread and rubber. Your fingers curl around the knob of the gearshift and as you shift into fourth on the freeway or shift down into first in the city when the light goes from yellow to red life becomes a meditation of gears and actions. It’s disquieting when an old friend doesn’t respond to your queries. You wonder what it is you did. Or didn’t do. And the light turns green. You let the clutch out and off you go. Old scenes from the past occupy your head while you look to the right and try to maneuver into the lane. And the tip of your tongue still hurts. And names bend into drops. Beautiful faces of a Saturday night in Seattle.


David Grove said...

I had fun reading this, John. I like this kind of self-generating writing.

Do you know that Lulu album, Lou Reed with Metallica? I've just checked it out of the library, but I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet.

John Olson said...

No, I haven't, but it sounds interesting. I've never, to my knowledge, listened to Metallica. Though I've had several vigorous conversations with Lars's father, Torben Ulrich. He is a super interesting man.

David Grove said...

Yeah, a tennis pro and an artist. I'll bet he has a lot of interesting things to say.