Farid Matuk

Don’t Call it Reginald Denny

 

call it freedom or Sunday morning

the perfect day

 

at a click past art and thoughtlessness

 

enemigos, canayas recline into the public hillside ready whenever

I read the poem, pee opens up and out

one drop at a time to stay inside

 

the blind’s slat light touching paper, a bottle

the smell of the laid upon by foundations, the steady wide sunlight cut through

at the bottom with busy diesel routes and your thin, intimate skin

 

the beheading and its outrages – to make a story out of technology

a perfect day iteration of the sky if we’re going to talk about it

 

the white sheets turning dry

this small building, the acrid

citrus tree, a way for dust

 

and everything to know now

of our reliances, to settle beside

what the German says – history is life

 

even if dust describes the space it left

rising and shuffling down our good street

 

empty street

on a valley without layers

we snap pics, slide back the window

for the gray wind

but it all stays in place

 

not heavy but simple on the ground

like the allegories are about you

 

whose grown bed soar touched paper body

 

would you wrap in how many bodies and what husks

would they chant soft

 

da-da-da

da-da

da

 

like a team of Head Start workers was real

trying to put freedom fighters into little Mississippi kids

 

maybe this gaze is an iteration of whiteness guaranteed by saying

the sky is empty

 

but for a mother used as a vector for race

in a way that rounds space into a nest

 

wet paper

 

or bodies are soaking in feelings

 

we could make stuff up

or just keep talking

 

like a friend who stayed just enough away

I feel we’re getting there

 

our books orchestrate a day, this block

 

the polyrhythms in space unnoticed until the parts

take up a purpose displayed with the glow of just being there

 

that was exuberance even without the h

in exhuming the moon’s ashes or slight fronds

from this species of obsidian sap letting mesquite

 

one toe nail grown long enough

to catch at the callous under the other foot in a perfect balance

 

organize themselves in an array of types

they don’t want to leave

 

keep talking the German meant

the mistakes

 

like Place said to the Russians after her talk

 

“I did a reading once and some woman in the reading became hysterical because, again, it was one of these long rape piece, and started sobbing, and left the room, and had to be gotten out of the toilet like an hour later. And she came up to me later and asked, ‘How do you feel about doing that to me?’ And I said, ‘I didn’t do anything to you. You know, you had an experience with language and it was a very powerful experience. And one, when was the last time you had such an experience just out of language, and, two, what do you want?’”

 

One wants to spin   in the computer

Chair spun sick not   enough food thrill

Sick over sharks   in the water

One’s green nylon   flower hair tie

Centers their   circling in

 

The grey dusk here   about this room

One has made and   the dusk’s late arrival

 

In the seat   beside the ones

In the planes   overhead

Learning to   gesture tons

Of public   good along

Paths that are true   one’s specialized

 

Builders say of   something without

Flourish or   deviation

Fixed to one’s   honor one’s

Rumor   hearsay

And wishes to   the things one a

 

Weedy thing   says right at

Their edges   seventeen

 

Is a circle a   minute folds space and

 

Death work like that   by quantity

Or proximity   so that Kamau

Brathwaite may say   the unity

 

Is sub-marine   while the weather

 

The calendar   and the bamboo

Stand in a   desert spring

Grey and green and   turn in time and

The heat it brings a new or first

 

Welcomed fear this   is a difficult

 

Sentence to stay   inside but it

Makes a room and   puts one in it

 

Where one looks up   to address the

Space the   room is

 

A neutral kind   of shame in a

Scene and its   awareness lays

A gentle hand   on one’s sternum

 

Receives or takes?

 

It’s just a hand.

One guesses one is asking

about the hand’s verb.

 

One can’t know

what the other one

does under one’s hand.

 

Does one want to know?

A little simple   pornography calms

One down takes up   the space well enough

So the chanted   fucking is

Perfectly formal   transubstantiation

 

A chunky   piece of Latinate

And so is   emotion and

 

The verifiable   white princess who

Says into the   record she cut

 

Her thighs and arms   and from behind

Her bangs looks   up a perfect

 

Moment in which   her words make

A room where   the windows trill

 

A little with   the voices in

One’s voice saying   search out some

 

Sensational   spectacle in

Which your fine   figure and

Pretty face   will show will

 

Seduce a minding   distance whereas

 

Animals stay   after one dies

 

Marking one’s absence   by their committed

Routines the dog   at the Japanese

Train station the   bees who settled

 

Across the flowers   and tarps of their

Keeper’s wake one   had a princess

 

Who looked at one   looking on one’s

Way to belief   and on one’s way

Back something parts   from one an arm

 

(new stanza)

Grows toward the   office park

While one is walking   into the desert

Together in   a crisis of

 

Belief that starts   the hovering

Something to do   one’s big royal

Eyes open as   a laugh is the

 

New car’s gorgeous   turning speed

Rendered in sound   if the body

 

One is told is   a year in falling

Water one knows   that now or time

 

Knows it for one   lots of water

Turning all   around one

And the sun   insistent

 

Calling ones home   to the record

Almost all   of voices

Saying one was   assaulted

 

Or one did not   is available

Is placed as   poetry

 

The infra   thinnest so

 

One gets over   one’s feelings

Finally arrives   at the words one

 

Poses better   than one speaks

 

Making a room in   a very small room

One thinks of where   unweighted by

 

Flesh one may be   an ornament

To one’s sex   and after

 

The telling the   ears admit things

 

Again the   sounds of breath

 

With the ghost always   of the ghost body

From which they came   think of a place

 

Without reading   the words when at

Nine the sex was   coming out of

The body to   say that one was

 

Leaking some   release of

Responsibility   into the water

 

Falling down the   year who is talking

 

To whom in order   to talk in a room

It is very   small no feeling

 

Need be there   with one putting

The words in   someone to look

At as one   is looking

To be where one   makes the room

 

a few layers in from the street breaking

a code   simplifies the things used up   the stories

 

or the ghost a meter makes   its rolling hills and speedful spread

like our forces populating a management sketch

 

but maybe there’s a way to speak

into one so one has to speak into another

 

having been after them in this room we can pour what you said

 

what did you say

 

on TV after the riot?

ambitious, don’t worry

 

take no notice of the living we can walk ourselves

learning from the dead these are for those

 

partners ring the firmament bells

we’ll look there for a commonness

 

did they shoot your mother and feel these thoughts’

horizon turning in L.A.’s turning dress

 

or did they listen there for the grammar of your babble

making proximate

places to extend

 

what did you say   over this street

 

pile hunting vectors of long-nosed bats

and the evening on top

 

holding on is the most embarrassing thing

 

turn about your surface quick

as rain they’d say of the trend toward metal tables

a utility   a mortuary

 

smell one wants to have just left

 

and if the aloe full of water turns away

in the grammar if not the words of your turning

 

and the gullies run with metal dust scraped off our break pads

the tropic wind hustle hustles some weather over the dry mountains

 

don’t they look tired

improvising jumpy, complex revelations of rock faces

 

under all that sun caring after

faithful iterations, seamless folk

beheadings, retired lab apes, so long armed

 

sequestered on an island with our HIV turning inside them

a distance from the mainland shore not so great

 

healthful, at ease one guides a long canoe Tuesdays and Fridays

to their inscrutable style

 

what does one take

and where were you born before that?

 

beast cast past a likeness

something to move toward

 

“…a mode of intramural depressive positionality” Muñoz set as landmark, “that gives us the ability to know and experience the other who shares a particular affective or emotional valance with us”

 

move this hollowface rest

a last bearing under a vintage gorilla coat

distinguished leathern and long silver hairs at your wrist

 

turn away from the naked shoulder cast

golden in honey poured or coffee grounds wrung

gelatin in your eyes

brotherly network cast out

 

the white boy comes to me to be increased

and is feeling laying there an escape

 

look at us

 

presiding yet

birds take yards   call out a business

 

Inca doves in league

with the alley’s outside

trench and parcel mothers

I am lost the white boy

 

comes to be increased

and is feeling

laying there an escape

gelatin eye

 

and light’s hollows

impeded in

barred effusiveness

upon bar

mothering him

a pith inside

good identities to use

 

happy and comfortable, taken to with the balance point of intention

and reception lucid dreamers might have

 

the sun in the dream was setting as in Los Angeles

with a long, thin band of orange between purple plains

as if only a thought ago

we’d been carefree under the vastest of honesties

 

a mother, tall and full of nose, a handsome woman

cooks the white rice seething in herself the push

 

of being driven through her shift

along the bank of the lake

 

on a computer two white men

suck each other off for a camera

and another white man fishing

a ways off looks, edges closer

 

let’s not wallow in the particulars of their work

sad or happy and dignified for everyone

those aren’t

 

feelings but political categories

diffuse and determining

 

“… people who live in those circumstances,” Padgett said of Brainard, “do see the world
as somewhat of a threat because you’re on the edge of economic oblivion at all times
and so yeah, you create structures around you that make you feel happy and comfortable.
Joe was extraordinarily good at that.”

 

any child

be our flag

above boy and girl cadets

of Davis Monthan Air Force Base learn to fly

heaviest cargo planes, the slightest jets

 

things used

can quicken the heart

all those public gallons per second

a tip of the throttle

a heaven of steel pennants

 

above the released

 

whose accent flares the mouth saying

certain succulents are sculptural on a neo-liberal terrace

 

grow enough immigrants behind you and you don’t get too precious

 

things are very small really

they just turn over and get lost

 

across several versions of the portrait

ragged edged, the moth, the useful mercury

sonorous, almost a return

before first light assembles the blue

 

then what can we say? bred outside a radical tradition

having lost a dialect that ranged only as far as the mountains

 

we know how to get thin and turn with tact, saying

I’m not really interested in my affect

 

however mannered

uh-huh, the poem says back

 

into the sky behaving itself full

of paddle leaf flutter

thing flattering

light will come

unannounced trees

clean people

 

flattered at our fortitude

in art conveying us out ahead but

 

thrasher and goldfinch, the lesser   will pull their calls

out of the noon, leave it

 

wordhusk and deader   happy on the heels of its ensigns

 

 

NOTES

Da-da-da da-da da is chant and song performed by children and Head Start workers in the Child Development Group of Mississippi. A recording made of the song in 1967 is available through Smithsonian Folkways.

Vanessa Place gave the talk “Conceptualism is Feminism; Feminism is Conceptualism” at Smolny College in St. Petersburg, Russia. A video of the talk and the subsequent q&a was posted to YouTube on Jan. 15, 2013.

Édouard Glissant cites Kamau Brathwaite’s phrase “The unity is sub-marine” as an epigraph to Poetics of Relation. Trans. Betsy Wing (University of Michigan Press, 1997).

Shakespearean actor James Murdoch said, “Search out some sensational spectacle in which your fine figure and pretty face will show” to Adah Isaacs Menken, a stage actress and poet whose career spanned from roughly 1855 through her untimely death in 1868. She routinely told conflicting stories of her parentage and proclaimed inconsistent attitudes toward the issue of slavery. Most sources suggest she was born in Louisiana of mixed European and African ancestry. Of her acting, one English critic commented that she “poses better than she speaks.” Both of these quotations appear in Daphne A. Brook’s Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Duke, 2006).

On Nov. 20, 1995 Princess Diana gave an interview on the British television program Panorama in which she shared that she cut her body as a way to deal with the stress of living in Britain’s Royal Family.

The quotation from José Esteban Muñoz can be found in the essay, “Feeling Brown, Feeling Down: Latina Affect, the Performativity of Race, and the Depressive Position,” originally published in Signs, Vol. 31, No. 3, New Feminist Theories of Visual Culture (Spring 2006) but widely available on the internet.

Ron Padgett appeared on the podcast Bookworm to talk about his biography of Joe Brainard, Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard (Coffee House, 2007) on Nov. 22, 2007.

Editors’ Notes

Farid Matuk

Farid Matuk Farid Matuk is the author of This Isa Nice Neighborhood (Letter Machine, 2010), recipient of an honorable mention in the 2011 Arab American Book Award, finalist for the Norma Farber First Book Award, and chosen by Geoffrey G. O’Brien for recognition in the Poetry Society of America’s New American Poets series. New poems appear in Third Coast, Iowa Review, Poets.org,The Baffler, Denver Quarterly, and Critical Quarterly, among others. He is a contributor to Scubadivers and Chrysanthemums: Essays on the Poetry of Araki Yasusada (Shearsman, 2011), American Odysseys: Writings by New Americans (Dalkey Archive, 2013), and Beyond the Field: New Latino Poetries, forthcoming from Counterpath Press. Matuk serves as poetry editor for Fence and contributing editor for The Volta.