p o e m s k e v i n m c f a d d e n
The cream always floats to the top.
So does the scum. So does comparison, up
from what’s mere muck, mire metaphor
would flower out of, and so on with
the similes, and so on with the show . . .
and so on. I’m ever looking down on you
and you are ever lying. My love is proof
of truth’s angle of refraction: you are lost in
slant-ration and I am fond of posing
postulations. A mendacity needn’t be truthless,
for example. You there, in the pond appearing
peered-at, come up and see me sometime.
Let’s delve for the above. When will we
(will we ever) get over ourselves?
A mendacity needn’t be truthless,
you said. I hung on your words
in those days . . . oh, the wounds
I heard inside your swoons, the lays
I laid around your blaze . . . I admit
your intentions were more than half
my inventions. Not love, some other empire:
the early attentions and the late attenuations.
But I wanted a lover, not—my abettor—
a better. The awfully big hows of your little
light whys, I think of you now and then:
A mendacity needn’t be truthless . . .
if you ever lost me at ruthless,
you had me at amen.
Where I first learned to say things, Ohio, my accent
was the local legal tender: good in Edinburg
as Dublin or London. Then came Glasgow (proper).
One year abroad in broad Glaswegian, the notes
brought from home bouncing everywhere, overdrawn.
Want a wild time? In Glasgow time was tame.
See the town? You had to hear the tune. New loans,
including my name; I began saying Cave-in
if I wanted the right introduction in a pub. The road
was rude, the power sometimes poor. My voice
skim milk in that butterchurn of gutturals, Scots vowels
clotted and spread like cream, I learned to hear
everything twice and nothing the same. Glasgow
still hasn’t left me alone: it’s left me a lane.
Track team’s door-to-door hawking Redenbacher’s.
The neighbor’s new Olds, your old news
on the stoop, the Joneses who need keeping up with,
the Nielsons who watch for us, watching.
These families we speak of, today we all know
who means what. But tell those Kaufmann kids
“we gave at the office”—who’ll know what we meant
in a thousand years, our spell to fend off vendors?
Why leave posterity anything? It’s holding back from us.
I mean to take some flavors out of this world.
It’ll give the translators something to suck on
[1McDonald’s . . . a carnivorous clan-name,
renowned for building arches.] [2Smuckers . . .
a brand if lost to history, known to rhyme].
Royal families, oil families, that Rockefeller
fella, names generations lived with, or up to.
Let COMING SOON read the labels, maybe
window-shop at Macy’s, or the esoteric Peterson’s
[3Auto Oasis]. The future’s discerning. Afford it a Ford
or two for every what’s an Edsel? That’ll learn it.
Go, my interrections, with enough muck about,
seek new illigation, another rake and lake:
the light has not lain,
the rain’s not right.
Fresh of my flesh, flock of my frock,
we (fade to wet)
ask (fade to bask)
to be set on fire not on file. Arrayed not allayed.
Flee this rand. Go revel and lever in the one-off world…
what lows they may take
from these rows.
(Fade to stake.)
(Fade to crows.)
Cannot tell my else from my arse
and the fishpond is correcting nothing.
(Cloud fade to clod.
Dry fade to day.)
Crown of my clown, crutch of my clutch, may they lead you;
glow, grow; be kindled, be kindred.
O (fade to go)
go (fade to god)
offer a player a prayer:
see that I’m not collected ahead of my time.
Minute-maids and second-fiddles, our hour has arrived: and the clock-hands are pointing upward toward Anticism!
Anticism is eight-elevenths Romanticism. Blake had he read the stalls of a public-school restroom. Wordsworth had he wandered lonely as a could and danced with folded faiths. The sly echo of the Byronic hero. Anticism arrives—like funk to a summer potato—when there’s something perverbial in the church and rotten in the state. It is shape-changing, change-shaping, a border-crosser, a gut-checker. It values listening before enlisting, twisted noting before setting it down.
Cleanse the doors of perception all you want, take the doors off the jambs: one is always hung by some frame. The way things are put is at least as important as the puttering of the putter. If the choices are self-consciousness or self-deception, Anticism considers the or.
What goes on origins in the morning, aporia in the afternoon, stupor in the evening?—The Riddle of Anticism!
One can sing even in the downtime and be up to something. Anticism plays on playfulness (full synapse), the stuff on which dreams are smear’d, on which puns are spun. Its hand is heavy, its soul is light: the specific gravity of a graffito. It is the disposition of the dispossessed; its saint is Hamlet, its church the Congregation of Vapors.
Quit calling it “elliptical.” It is comma-cal. It is high-colonic; often semi-colonic. More can be done with one well-telegraphed dash than is dreamed of in all your soft filigree (stop).
Anticism is the answer to the age of columny. We must bring to account the blunters and blatherers. It is a call to music—see sharp or be flat. It is a call, to wit, to wit. The newsprint of ten-thousand non-events is thick on our hands and ten-thousand more sound-bites wax in our ears. We must kick poetry’s headline habit (the dope of the op-ed, the trope-gear of reportage) and stop writing copy. We must break the column. Ergo, Anticism is
Ingenious without Regurgitation
Sublime without Opium
Mysterious without Mysteriousness
Eight-elevenths is the sacred proportion of the aesthetic. Eight-elevenths of any work should be unwritten “immaterial” that is loaded and latent in the text…the ether there in the three. Anticism is also eight-elevenths Giganticism (a branch focused on larger quarrels) and eight-elevenths Pedanticism (a branch devoted to littler quibbles). But this is mere semanticism; Anticism prefers to do the piddle math.
Know the true by its ism and the false by its hood. Realism=A smiler. Sincerity=Sir Nicety. You won’t catch a conscience by bowing deep; mind country matters, mind the pall of grin-bearers, mind the courtesy begetting villainy. Forget the money, follow the etymology. Play’s the thing.
Poets not yet poetic will find the path not yet pathetic. Beware the false ocean of emotion, the false floor of the florid. Love not excess: be not a howl, be a wandering bark. To the roofs when the deluge comes, and be ready, they don’t call them rafters for nothing! Flood the streets with Anticism, the way not waded, the road not rowed—or what? or else—if the ands won’t serve, then take to the ors.
Kevin McFadden’s Eight
Poems In The Manner of OuLiPo appeared in Archipelago 6.1
A podcast of Kevin McFadden reading poems is here URL.
Thanks to Charlottesville Podcasting Network, as always.