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Tag: John Beer

No One Here Gets Out Alive:
The Life of Lee Harvey Eliot

 

Something happens. The idea is

to keep people from catching on fire.

“It smells so nice in here, like it’s

some kind of castle.” Why else would I

have scattered my favorite propositions

in the path of some angry loser,

destined for at least a couple of minutes

to fill the day with mist, turn trumpets

into a series of abstract paintings

called “Abstract Series”? The part

about mythology is finally over.

What replaced it nobody could say,

but giggled shyly, like a young

farmgirl, and proclaimed to his class,

“Flee to the mountains, for the end

of all things is at hand!” He was acting

as a safety valve, keeping the two young lovers

from becoming overheated. Good luck!

Eliot had a secretary named Pound,

Pound a secretary named Mussolini.

(Capsule history of the twentieth

century.) Well, come on, I mean

some of my best friends are modernists,

or were, before their education fell upon them,

devouring hearts and livers, leaving

bare ruined backpacks behind. The more

there is to see, the less there is to say

about it, except for maybe, “Look at the view,”

NO ONE HERE GETS OUT ALIVE:

THE LIFE OF LEE HARVEY ELIOT

“I fell on account of the pretzel,” or

“The wine I wanted to buy

wasn’t there any more.” Meanwhile

an interminable series of internal conflicts

play themselves out, like single trumpeters

along a winding Spanish alley. It

promises to be an arduous night,

and then it finds its promise

impossible to keep, but at the last

it finds its promise, writes it in flashes

across the pale pink sky:

Flee to the mountains!

The end of all things is at hand!

from The Waste Land and Other PoemsFind more by John Beer at the library

Copyright © 2010 John Beer
Used with the permission of Canarium Books.

The Paste Man

 

You’d better have an adhesive kind of mind

if you want to keep up with global fluctuations

in the quality of sound: a sudden irruption

of rain sound, say, from a dull red canopy

across the street from Frank’s place, one single

shot in the night, foot pulled from muck,

tape hiss. The slippery dusk conspires

to keep you one step behind yourself.

Delivery trucks disguise themselves as chandeliers,

recede into the ceiling with a barely audible

click!, sealing you off from their treats,

radical news or fruit juice combinations.

At the Commercial Museum a man’s super-glued

to the sky. He can see you right now.

You look like a speck of confetti

careless sweepers left behind in the convention aftermath.

from The Waste Land and Other PoemsFind more by John Beer at the library

Copyright © 2010 John Beer
Used with the permission of Canarium Books.

“Last night I dreamed of Manderly again”

 

Last night I dreamed of Manderley again.

A passage marked by a flower, a hidden screen

That neither player managed to navigate.

I sat next to you for a minute. Then you went

On to another stage. I’m not about

To embrace an ancient faith or serve

My emperor. I don’t even have an emperor.

Sweet kisses of distraction, sweet release

Of sleep. My notes assembled in the corner.

The things I thought I heard you say might not

Match up with your reality. Can I blame you?

For a second or two, the armor melted

Into a psychic rose. I called out in the stillness,

And I was still, unknowing, the thing you made.

from LucindaFind more by John Beer at the library

Copyright © 2016 John Beer
Used with the permission of Canarium Books.

“My notes assembled in the crevice of sleep”

 

My notes assembled in the crevice of sleep.

Love melted armor for a second or two:

On to another stage. I’m not about to repeat

The things I thought I heard you say.

“O psychic rose,” I called out in the stillness,

A passage marked by a spear, a jet of steam:

Last night I dreamed of Vandelay again.

I sat beside you for a minute.Then you left

And still I kept the thing you might have made.

Yes, I embraced that ancient faith, a swerve

That no other reader managed to navigate.

Sweet distended kisses, words to appease

My emperor. My final emperor,

Who set the game to match. How may I blank you?

from LucindaFind more by John Beer at the library

Copyright © 2016 John Beer
Used with the permission of Canarium Books.

Summer of Love

 

I bought a new red sweatsuit

to keep myself in the game.

It worked like the worst kind of music.

Birds kept flying past my head.

I skipped my dentist appointment.

 

Eventually

I thought I’d meet up

with the visions all those poets

promised. You know who I’m

talking about: William Carlos Williams,

 

Edgar Cayce, Mr. C.W. Post.

Broken rhymes for a broke-down time.

At night we’d roll the ice cream man

down his wooden slide

 

and lock him up inside

his broke-down ice cream house.

We didn’t try to pry out all his secrets,

but drove away, hardly noticing the snow.

from The Waste Land and Other PoemsFind more by John Beer at the library

Copyright © 2010 John Beer
Used with the permission of Canarium Books.

J. Beer 1969-1969

 

It was when they determined that I had been born dead

That my life became easier to understand. For a long time,

I wondered why rooms felt colder when I entered them,

Why nothing I said seemed to stick in anyone’s ear,

Frankly, why I never had any money. I wondered

Why the cities I walked through drifted into cloud

Even as I admired their architecture, as I pointed out

The cornerstones marked “1820,” “1950.” The only songs

I ever loved were filled with scratch, dispatches from

A time when dead ones like me were a dime a dozen.

I spent my life in hotels: some looked like mansions,

Some more like trailer parks, or pathways toward

A future I tried to point to, but how could I point,

With nothing but a hand no hand ever matched,

With fingers that melted into words that no one read.

I rehearsed names that others taught me:Caravaggio,

Robert Brandom, Judith, Amber, Emmanuelle Cat.

I got hungry the way only the dead get hungry,

The hunger that launches a thousand dirty wars,

But I never took part in the wars, because no one lets

A dead man into their covert discussions.

So I drifted from loft to cellar, ageless like a ghost,

And America became my compass, and Europe became

The way that dead folks talk, in short, who cares,

There’s nothing to say because nobody listens,

There’s no radio for the dead and the pillows seem

Like sand. Let me explain:when you’re alive,

As I understand it, pillows cushion the head, the way

A lover might soothe the heart. The way it works for me,

In contrast, is everything is sand. Beds are sand,

The women I profess to love are sand, the sound of music

In the darkest night is sand, and whatever I have to say

Is sand. This is not, for example, a political poem,

Because the dead have no politics. They might have

A hunger, but nothing you’ve ever known

Could begin to assuage it.

from The Waste Land and Other PoemsFind more by John Beer at the library

Copyright © 2010 John Beer
Used with the permission of Canarium Books.

“Thank you. The poem creates its own identity”

 

Thank you. The poem creates its own identity.

It stood beside you for two hundred years.

It never left the imperial fringes,

Except in passages stained by a single tear.

The other night, I dreamed an architect

Recited lively words, punctuated by kisses,

While I repaired the thing you might have saved.

Yes, I embraced that obscure faith. I swerved

And you, my lonely reader, followed me.

Dualities of love as cold as armor.

“I see a street, and over it the rose”:

I can’t believe the things I’ve heard you say,

Or wouldn’t, but for the notes I stashed away.

On to the next stage. I swear I won’t repeat—

from LucindaFind more by John Beer at the library

Copyright © 2016 John Beer
Used with the permission of Canarium Books.

Flowers

 

We got to the pier just as the boat was pulling away.

In the distance, a single cloud glowered. The air

Felt like sand, although it remained

Breathable. We walked

 

Back through town, where the parade

Was still beginning. Five high school bands

Marched by, each playing “Tangerine”

In microtonal variations. I wanted

 

A pretzel. While my back was turned,

The unicorns passed, silent, side

By side, just like they do in ancient drawings.

I didn’t see a single one.

 

Afterwards, Amber reminded me

To tell her all the poems she figured in.

I made an Excel chart, including “Lucinda,”

“The Waste Land,” “Globe,” and some others

 

She’d never heard of. “I hate all those poems,”

She said. “You promised you’d write a poem

About the time we got to the pier

Just as the boat was pulling away. You promised,

But you never did.”

from The Waste Land and Other PoemsFind more by John Beer at the library

Copyright © 2010 John Beer
Used with the permission of Canarium Books.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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