Tuesday 9 January 2024

Five Poems by Mark Young

 



As simple as a page borrowed from a botanical manual

 

True politeness will be found, its

basis in the human heart. But this is

still only the least of the ambiguities.

Never by word or action notice the

defects of another — a space hence-

 

forth without reference point, ex-

panding to infinity, the polished sur-

face throwing back the arrow. The

large pipe also without reference

point or measure will linger above,

 

in its inaccessible, balloon-like immo-

bility. You must sympathize with the

"contradiction" between the image &

the text. It must originate with you. Con-

tradiction can exist only between two

 

statements, or within one & the same

statement. Never interrupt any one

who is speaking. It is quite apparent

that the drawing representing the pipe

is not the pipe itself. It is very ill-bred.

 

 

Sources:

This Is Not a Pipe, by Michel Foucault

The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette (1860), by Florence Hartley


 

A Dick is a Strange Compass

 

Unless you’re aiming for the

stars, using your dick as a com-

pass would not only be strange

but also an exercise in futility. &

even then, you’d need a — what

are they called? fluffer? — perched

on the prepuce to keep it — &

you — on the straight & narrow.

 

& what good would that be? Who

wants to be known for having a

narrow organ? & if it wasn’t nar-

row, it would probably have a

kink in it; & how would that help

you get to where you want to go?


 

The Caribou

 

I am unsure if the caribou

have any life lessons to

offer us, but they certainly

seem self-satisfied as they

sit in the Paradise Milkbar

eating burgers & sipping

shakes while the rest of us

make do with tofu & lactose-

free drinks. Maybe it’s be-

cause they’ve learnt how to

fit into a four-seater booth

without their horns becom-

ing intertwined. Or — or

maybe & — it’s because

they’re revelling in the frisson

of disapproval that is evident

in the passersby when they

sashay across the sidewalk on

their rear legs to reach their

shiny convertibles lined up

one behind the other. Out

on show in the present; but

they’re a blast from the past,

convinced that the bubble

they’re in will protect them

from the now of it, their own

golden cage in which to continue

living in, to them, a golden age.


 

porcupine gumbo

 

Even though he always brings

a salamander along with him, I

refuse to send him spam. Some-

 

times I substitute polecat for the

sausage. I think about putting a

question to him in the Cree langu-

 

age which he’s fluent in. There's

a tree growing in my room. I'm

still learning from my mother.

 


Things and How They Seem

 

"Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."

Wallace Stevens: The Man with the Blue Guitar


Reconciling poet & poems is sometimes a problem. Why should I admire the work of a man whose attitudes gave rise to his remark Who let the coon in? or Who’s the coon? depending on the report you read, when looking at a photograph of Gwendolyn Brooks – one of the judges for the 1951 National Book Awards, the year before Wallace Stevens filled a similar position. Do not think that Stevens ever thought he’d done wrong: in fact, noting the response of the other judges, he continued; I know you don’t like to hear people call a lady a coon, but who is it?

But who am I to talk? I once used the N-word as adjectival preface to “minstrel show” in a review of an exhibition about a decade & a half after Stevens’ utterance. Did not realize my misstep, my misspeak, until a number of years later.

I have not recovered from the discovery that I used that phrase. I do not think I'm at all racist, but it seems that, at one point in my life, I unwittingly put myself into that category. I would welcome a way to remove that review from the public domain. But would that change what I had done?

Things as they are are easily distorted by how they seem in restrospect, or from an outside perspective. The various words & poems I welcome of Wallace Stevens keep coming back to me. Peter Quince: Just as my fingers on these keys / Make music, so the selfsame sounds / On my spirit make a music, too. But inside the part of me that responds to those & other words, I cannot escape the fact that for me, & maybe also Picasso's man with his blue guitar, the sea is no longer green, that it will now never be.

 

 


 

Mark Young was born in Aotearoa / New Zealand but now lives in a small town in North Queensland in Australia. He has been publishing poetry for almost sixty-five years, & is the author of more than sixty books, primarily text poetry but also including speculative fiction, vispo, memoir, & art history. His most recent books are with the slow-paced turtle replaced by a fast fish, published by Sandy Press in May 2023, & a free downloadable chapbook of visuals & poems, Mercator Projected, published by Half Day Moon Press in August 2023. A new book, Ley Lines II, will be published by Sandy Press in late 2023.


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