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Canto Epistolary (belated)

for Stuart Greenhouse

It might be true that cannibalism makes
the greatest affront to verisimilitude.
The made thing cowers before the consumer.
Michael Rockefeller likely imagined
his long houses as part of natural history,
as conquered as the informative always is,
emblematic of the heaven that is praised
and reserving the heaven that is made;
not confounding Vasari with a raison d’etre
obscured by practicality as opposed to
where to be is not to be meaning
but to have it imposed upon
‘during certain coming-of-age rites.’
How Green Was My Valley
the natives might rise in song
after all is leveled and raised
to the level of the contemplated.
And the taste of flesh is as sad as sad is.
True in New Guinea , true in New York
in the imagination of someone removed,
hungering for the distance of any heaven.
But before being removed from New York City ,
I hovered above Fifty-Eighth Street
and Eleventh Ave, looking down
on a constellation of manhole covers;
seven stars locked in the concrete heaven,
charm bracelet tossed across the asphalt.
I seemed as far away from the street
as from whatever heaven one might want,
one that is distant and ever moving
one that watches us one that sits in silent awe
as we struggle to create the
durable shiny verisimilitudes that seem
stitched into us, beneath or beyond ourselves,
neatly ambiguous, obscurities time cannot raise.
But in my dream, you won the argument
if there ever really was one and I was finally impressed
as we walked through the city that is all cities
and I helped you pour some liquid meat
through a funnel slot in the shuttered door
of a closed groceria. You told me that you
had been where I was going many times
and that we had been there together,
and that my lover and your lover had been there,
but now finally you would not have to go back.
You brought me down the Calle de Fe
and up Calle Caravaca to where sits
a bombed out church without a name,
the vomit of a war still remembered
when I arrived,
something destroyed but remaining,
whittled by fire like a sandcastle by seawater.
When you asked the ministers its name
they kept the secret from you,
sent you to other places, other words.
You were obviously among the uninitiated.
And so it is with me. I ask and it has several names
Or none and is too dangerous to raise
Or was left standing as revenge,
charred shell coat of arms of a secret society,
It stands waiting for a password.
It is a password in a forgotten tongue
that we all have to repeat to get it right.
You sat before it in my dream and I sit before it
where I thought I saw you just now
in there among the ruins until
I think I see myself, one of the ones with you
or where I think I see you
in the shit covered ruins
the shit that repeats returning
to the ground through us
published on these burned pages
eaten by flies one more time on the cycle
of birth and life and death by which we need
to truly change or not truly, but to change
our faces and to change our faces again
and again until we know that it was
always ourselves
we saw in the shattered church
the Asmat mask feast a mirror
to the flesh that chewed the divine
the medicine man’s calloused hands
clasped the feathers
and that we do not change
through any of them, all of the faces
and masks all that you have been shall be
the songs your fathers sang in distant lands
their breath as they made it are the same
these burned buildings and dug holes
they cradle us we cradle them back
we beg them to stay and I go dizzy before this
burned place with all its dead who know my name
What secrets of its sect were destroyed by fire?
But fire is its sect you said and you told me
that poets are the true mathematicians
because they know that the equal sign
is all the signs, the equals sign
is what is on both sides of it
and in our perfect state
we will have the equals sign
and no need for numbers.



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