w o r k i n p r o g r e s s
Waking with a vague horror of selfhood as my brain kicks in, I see
the various gates and plumes and pissy turnstiles of others,
as if the self were over there
slowly, inexorably entering it
Seeing H and O yesterday in the White Horse
is it that I
dont want to understand what that (was, is) for
me emotionally what it was, love, what it is retour?
I couldnt love anyone then
understand what you were to me
all I was capable of was exploiting
love, she said.
My pockets are full of one-way tickets.
O was drunk, talking about illusion. H gave us each a copy of her
recent book of verse. Oh, yes, illusion, she inscribed Os
and then. O said: see, she still has
problems, she still adds an and then that is her
illusion. (O remains a dogmatic Buddhist.)
The White Horse is a café at the edge of the market. The door says we
await you. White Bulgarian wine, white chocolate, coffee and cognac
after, O drinking mug after mug of cheap local beer.
We got there through the crowded market
I was searching for a
converter for a Russian telephone plug, H for tomatoes and potatoes for
her son. At first she avoided my eyes
while she was buying blue-eyed
potatoes I remarked on this to O in the café, he pointed this out
to her and she looked into my eyes. She has not changed much, the same
red hair and huge green irises and skin the hue of unpasteurised milk
So we sat and talked
she gave me a little kiss, even. I felt
what? Nothing nothing in the present? Oh, her beauty and brilliance,
she is calmer now
A student of psychology at the University here, living in a small
room in the dormitory set aside for students with families.
I can still see the hormonal storms raging underneath, O said. Be
careful, shes a woman, she can still show up at
your house and it will all begin again
We talked about poetry and erotica (writing smut she said its
sad, unhappy people reading the sexual texts of unhappy people) (and
that she is happy now is that true?) (alone?)
(My Heart Laid Bare) That use of woman. Be careful, shes
a woman, she can still show up
Walking in the gloaming to buy peanuts (the old Soviet kind, raw,
the big split between pedestrians and drivers (the old
Soviet dream, a car when money wouldnt get
you an apartment, the car was a desperately developed little world, the
ultimate status symbol, the sole private place, like for high school
drivers back [the word home crossed out])
Craig, who made the averse pentagram of blood silver I wear as
amulet, with his expensively tattooed back (the witches
sabbath), was flying to Seattle when an ex-military type sat next to him
and asked him have you ever been in the military. Craig said
nothing, then remembered my story about the barricades in Riga in 1991. No,
Craig answered the man, no, but I was on the wall
Craig would often speak of making up ones
past. The little girl in Robbe-Grillets Project
for a Revolution in New York: why should
I tell the truth, when for every little truth there are millions and
millions of lies?
A week or so ago
in the Quashas kitchen
we were talking about my old lover (an old lover
Oh, tree. (There are still some ancient poplars along the levee, but
Allée Street is no longer an allée
) Oh, tree. Truths, branches,
forms of address.
I still obey RKs dictum write everything.
Everything as opposed to anything.
The Latvian word spilgts. Brilliance, glare. Spilgts piemers, striking example, striking instance. A striking instance.
I lay abed softly speaking to my phallus, not two hours ago, not
touching myself wherever lust is and memory mixed with vision to
form (entrances, pissy turnstiles, gates) the
old life, images and sometimes even visions that had a demonic
function, arabesques and fatal nativity scenes
your eyes. What
does yours mean, in this sense?
Address. That I (used to) believe that
I am a different creature when I am so drawn. What I say is
different when I it is not aim
I give of myself.
I am afraid of your history, A said. That was long ago, about two
weeks ago, in Cambridgeport. A drove me from Harvard Square to
Springfield, I was trying to
Fidelity I lack? The heart has a
chastity the mind might envy. RK. I do not
lack fidelity but then, what is it? Hi old lover. Where
are you. Distances, absences. And then there is this home I
think of the Georgian saying: you cannot call yourself a man until you
plant a tree, kill a snake, raise a son. Home is planted trees, the
sand-thorn next to the fence I built, the apple trees, the cherries. Is
watering the garden, guarding the marriage-bed
did I fail, there?
O said: why dont you look into his eyes? H
answered: never look a snake in the eyes.
A swimmer, a man treading water. A man lying in the water. Sinks,
bobs, is lapped at, drowned, flies. Oh touch me in a certain way.
Certainty, then, perhaps, more than honesty. A man is lying in the
water. For every one truth. Narrative, straitening, Engführung. The
narrative of the man who is drawn out, a picture book, clouds swollen
like the hands of addicts, eyes out of focus. A dissolute kindliness oerspreads
You emotional slut, L wrote. Where did you want to take me
The old life the history of the birch trees (Wehrmacht, 1941),
unseasonably warm temperatures immediately before my arrival now it
is ievu laiks, the time of the bird-cherry trees, the temperature
drops. This is rationally explained in the newspaper. Meteorologists
deny that the bird-cherry trees are to blame for the cold weather.
He sits and suffers nightmares. There is a man in the water. How
deeply he breathes and the weight of his bones. His skin is the color of
The old life, davai. I do not lack fidelity. He is drowning in
I am afraid of your history. It is a simple matter. A woman with
beautiful hands touches your tailbone or penis, stares into your heart
six years later, she says I couldnt love
anyone, all I could do was use men. And I came from here. A glaring
instance of love.
Very tired, herring marinated, in the gloaming the proliferation of
stores, the neighbours hung the flag today 8 May, that is still a
difference like Easter, grand political debate as to whether we
celebrate the defeat of Fascism on 8 May or 9 May, 9 May when the
Germans surrendered to the Soviets, 8 May when the
rest of the world
and there was nothing to celebrate here. Old Peteris
Eermanis poem, how the bells are ringing in Paris and Prague, in London
and the Hague, and here no bells rang, here the war ended forty-six
years later, if then. If then. My mother is afraid there will be
another war. Pepper on your tongue!
The official unemployment rate in Daugavpils is only slightly above
that of the rest of Latvia, yet among those
in the know
it is more
like a third of the population. (Disraeli: There
are lies, damned lies, and statistics.) The
numbers are manipulated who is unemployed? Workers who go to
The old meat processor the big ugly building across from the
closest tram stop has been turned into a little
market, confusing hallways lead to tubs full
of live carp, dairy counters, here and there an abacus, coffee from
Scandinavia, mineral water, necessities, French perfume. The only
payphone I have been able to discover anywhere near here.
Oh again again: TRY ANOTHER WORLD quoth the billboard in
Beneixs film La Lune dans le Caniveau
when I came here, I wandered around with my mouth open for at least a
month. I was in awe.
A long time ago, A drove me to Springfield on a delightfully vernal
day two weeks ago and wrestled with her mind, to come or not to
come (our bodies remember what our minds do
not even perceive)
The throat as a nativity scene, Styrofoam and frescoes, darling
what is want?
The throat as a nativity scene, I stare into your eyes and see. Once
there was a woman everything she said was a lie. And her lies were so
lovely that her suitors rapped at sodden doors in every corner of her
queendom, she could turn anyone into a suitor with a bare bout of
fixation, yes, and all of it was meant for me like Kafkas
door. Again again questansia di amare, yes,
the anxious desire for love. Certain illusions are an amber
compote. Dont be so hard on yourself.
A long time ago, A drove me to Springfield. Ah Springfield, how I
will remember you, a slice of shitty pizza and a beer, Icehouse, and all
alone again a bus into the Lake of Albany, headed for Quashastan
fate means that at every significant point in my life of late I head for
the same little room above the Tibetan altar in Barrytown and
me, her body wracked by fleshly memory. I desired. Many years later
it is like hearing Orson Welles in a Paul Masson commercial: we will
sell no wine before its time.
Tu esi zirga. You are on horseback. You are on time, you are on
top of things, you know where youre at. All
around you things swirl and howl, do they not, you know what the fuck
youre about, there are no loose ends, it is
your heart we are talking about. The heart of love is certainty.
Limbo dissolves like Klingsors garden, hide not
the wand, your testicles are like a cleft core, touch me, there is no
sickness in your eyes.
A fog spreads from her lovely middle finger to her meaningful
Some time ago, A drove me to Springfield. We had spent a pleasant
morning in bed, or it was pleasant for me what else can I know.
Staring at her stunningly beautiful body. What would it be like to stare
at such beauty permanently.
A sacrament is something that seizes you. To be spread like this.
Outstretched, widespread. Upon arrival, for a month I wandered
open-mouthed, in awe. The carp do fishy things in vats, the austere
cashier calculates their value on an abacus, the sour cream is very
good, the thing sizzles, the gloaming is long, longer, longing.
She was hung over, she had even vomited upon the doorstep the night
before, red vomit, burgundy. A pride of lions. A single metallic hair
among the keys, in the keyboard
What right now I most remember of H is an autumnal walk in the park
when she took me to see a steel sculpture of a horse (you are on
horseback). Her hair mixed its hue with the fall of the
trees, and her eyes went well with it, and she said imagine being a
little girl and coming upon this, this is a place for a child to wander
is it not, a child like me.
See I could go, on and on, and never know myself, a shooting star
from the throat deep green, fluorescent, irides, why I came here
+ + +
For years we lived in these two rooms, the west side of the house.
The tall birches, planted by German troops during the war (that they did
such things, planted trees), catch the light in their new leaves.
Love was a transaction, H also said.
On the other side of the room were the Belarussians brought here as
forced labour by the Germans. The old woman, in her nineties, known as
the old witch. Her daughter and her daughters
children and grandchildren. Their nasty little dog. After much effort of
a magical nature, they left we tore open the wall that concealed the
door and broke down the door. Is mother lives
on the other side. A maple shades her western rooms. Here, where I am,
writing away, the light. Cockcrow. After two years of subtropical
swampland, the time of the bird-cherry trees seems bitterly cold, and
the sky it is so different here, pregnant with spirits that are
sometimes like the jellyfish I and I handled in the Black Sea, sometimes
a mere momentary shift of the attention to something outside time
like looking into the eyes of a little girl who is uncannily ancient,
obviously not of this world oh, it was a cloud, or a blackbird,
or a blade of grass bending into the wind
And the sky, and what is
written there. The man, the swimmer, lifts himself from the pool and
sits naked at a round stone table, gazing at a clay plate piled high
with grey peas, the local dish, the entire sky his cloak, and the light
caresses the crowns of the great lilacs that will soon bloom white, and
summer approaches, and summer will be swift, we will build a woodpile,
neat and round, the light will grow for several weeks until twilight
stretches all the way into the night then darkness will come again,
insufferable, indelible darkness and a winter rife with desperate eyes,
other spirits (the call at the market: spirtyik nye nado, the
gloomy purveyors of corn liquor, samoganka, moonshine) find us.
It is the main thing here, the light.
+ + +
Severe frost morning one of the coldest springs in memory
(local memory, not my memory) staring into my steaming breath on the
way to the outhouse the vapors of dung from the dry hole a
sliver of light used to enter there at a certain hour, but the pit is
now covered with shingles the Temple of Cloacina faek, faek
I dreamt a country where the extremes of love were invisible to the
that the soul, as in Ss letter,
arrives more slowly, the way a disease is transmitted during the
incubation period the man (the swimmer) dreams monstrous homunculi,
mixtures of lovers and cold.
Hands bloodied by shoving split logs into the decrepit furnaces,
unwashed because the bathhouse is only open once a week (tis
worse in Krustpils, where the cunning owners of the banya have
determined that women take a lot longer to bathe and allow them to do so
only once a fortnight).
Today, through bribery and des affaires sovietiques, Lattelekoms
employees came to install a rosette. I
dont want a Russian plug
I need this kind of
plug, I said, showing the little modular
thingie to the man. We now do everything
according to European standards, he
answered, giving me a sidelong glance. You
are not a pure Latvian, he finally said. Stay
here, Ill come back and well
talk, he said. I felt that I had to explain
that I have lived here for some time prices skyrocket as soon as
anyone gets an illusion of foreign money (my accent has very nearly
the more so since my absence, according to some)
So why are you here, when everyone is
trying to escape? The Russian rosette is
backwards, so that even the cheap little converters sold at the market
do not work with the extension to my modem. The man they arrived in
a trio, a coarse Russian with vodka on his breath, a mousy man with
wire-rimmed glasses who drove away (are they
to walk, the subhumans?) and this rather
affable and simultaneously introspective dude from Liksna. But I did
not have to answer him; he lifted one of Is
bones (the house is full of bones, gypsy skulls with jackdaw skulls
balanced in the upturned cranium, a young German soldier, elk, rat, cat,
etc., all Is). I went away for a Black Russian,
Sobranie, found in Riga at the quarter of what they cost in America, and
when I returned he repeated: Youre
not a pure Latvian, are you, fondling the
bone. Youre an
artist, I know. The word artist is
here still applied to anyone in any of the arts. Artists
live par hasard. You can take this bone and turn it into
something, I cant.
(The Russian meanwhile was disgusted by everything he saw here, as the
neighbours once asked what religion we professed, wailing and eating on
the floor. Lutheran,
my mother-in-law answered.) I have no hobby,
you know. My wife, she weaves. She makes these things, and I cant
see it. But I know how you are. And the man
was joyful, and I thought about all of the times artists
and I have acted in an
way, and how this culture
but it immediately sinks into fallacy then, mentality mentality
mentality it is the object of obsession here, folk
mentality, etc. One of the actors from the
theatre here (the fine one, since replaced by an ensemble more
appropriate to whatever constitutes the decimated Latvian
community the old theatre performed
truly kick-ass stuff, Dostoevskys The
Possessed, King Lear, Faulkner, to an empty and unheated house),
throwing up in the bathroom, emerged savagely, crying we
came here to bring you culture!
Did he say that in self-mockery? Tinged with nihilism? Passing the
students to get to the computer room, I play pick
the Latvians the Russians have a
tendency to dress
brazenly, sexily, often in what is to Latvians
extremely poor taste. Latvians have a tendency to dress modestly, act
demurely, be stand-offish or simply earthy, oddly earthy
the imprint of various Kulturphilosophen from Abendland?
So the day, uncertainly. I havent RKs
facility for certainty.
Long ago a dear friend and teacher: Impregnate
or be impregnated. My cousin writes of how
irksome it is to be constantly confronted by so-called magic(k)al
ideas that have their origin only in bad
Uncertain, befogged, beset by doubts. And then I have ideas (airs)
about basic decency, as most do, here. Less from strains of moralities
than from fundamental Nietzschean thought, eh? The millennia required
for a man to say I will. Men loveable
men / inviolable in their promises. (Ken
I used to think
that I lay with my subconscious self open, head
down in the ink-bottle, sobbing. Now and again I have seen myself in
flight. Pour an in-flight magazine, turn on the pipe.
+ + +
Youre not a pure Latvian, are
you? Your parents were taken away.
A hovel, of rusted metal, tar paper, and boards salvaged from the
wreck of the Sympathy, lay halfway between a freakishly shaped
knoll and the sea. Its insides were lit with ice. In it, my ideal reader
sat. Her long-lost lover, the saboteur, had been dropped behind enemy
lines with nothing but slender bars of bitter chocolate and a map,
printed on silk, bearing a simulacrum of this brutal country. My reader
wore this map around her breasts, and her skin, the colour of curdled
milk, was covered with goose pimples. Her eyes were rock crystal and
doom, and uncertainly wrinkled mountains on the threadbare map were
tinged with blood. She sat by the black stone, weeping. In one corner of
the room, an old gramophone skipped gaily, the disk the colour of split
peas. Suddenly the whirling disk flew up and turned a somersault, its
underside like smoked salmon, the needle catching a few phrases even as
the record flew.
Your parents were taken away.
The court of the cloister in Riga (the
fetal gesture in the monastery Chuck Stein)
was the embodiment of an architecture in which it is not permissible
(possible) to speak in doorways. The silence is gone now, replaced by a
beer garden that blasts crappy music revenue for the nuns?
Really, my ideal reader wrote more than she read, and spoke what she
wrote. Making love to her was like diving into a pool of words. They
were different things to her. Language is speed, she would say,
not referring to methedrine but to the peculiar asthmatic swiftness of
thought and hormonal chaos that plagued her. The hovel, containing the
lost Amber Room (Yeltsin keeps insisting that he knows where it is, the Bernsteinzimmer,
of which only photographs remain) and the History of the World,
stood on a freakishly shaped knoll, very far from the sea. My reader
wore olive drab over her mapped breasts, staring incessantly at an
extinct insect trapped in an egg-shaped red stone. If asked, she removed
her drab garb and pulled her shoulders back, exposing a distorted
country ruled by fishmongers while the men were at sea.
I am a lonely painter, I live in a box of paints. Im
frightened by the devil, and Im drawn to those
ones that aint afraid.
Joni Mitchell, millions of years ago. The high school bus ten minutes
away, I drew deeply on a Camel straight and imagined how much better it
would be to live in a box of paints and not in a sinister arabesque or
drawer full of sharp pen nibs, ball points, broken leads, unfathomable
arguments that end with inscapes. I Dream of djinn, the narrow
neck of an exotic bottle, within are soft sofa pits in Brueghel orange,
all the appurtenances of suburban life, Nemesis. A
man needs the moon in the sky of night,
quoth Duncan McNaughton. Lived oh so many years technically starving.
And yet, and so.
New? A vodka made with fresh cranberries. It
tastes just like fresh cranberries, try it.
The man the salesgirl was answering immediately forked over a couple of lati
for the cranberry vodka, candy-apple red, and I told her that I
needed one, too. It does not taste like fresh cranberries. The high
school bus is ten minutes away.
The geometry was somehow all wrong.
S asks what are metaphors to me, and I was immediately in mind of things
dont turn into other things. Not only was
the geometry wrong, bus seats sprouted fools
+ + +
Today the lilacs blossomed. The sun is sinking behind the Germans
birch trees, cut tulips on the table, a veritable field of tulips beyond
the window, dandelions also blooming (odd how they are so despised in
America; besides being pretty, the leaves make an excellent salad).
Other flowers I dont know the English names
for. The apple trees I planted already give apples, and are in bloom
now, too (it is warmer in the city, and the blossoms appear to have
survived). The neighbors tulips (their house
built on Is mothers
land). Goats next door. A pastorale.
Border guards strut towards the station, firemen in an ancient fire
engine drive slowly out towards Viduspogulyanka, where things are yet
more pastoral than here. There are not too many ways out; I suspect this
was Soviet intent.
This was my window. I was so often fixed here, even pissing into a
jar rather than tear myself away from the work at hand. It was
different then. LAutodidacte, among heaps
of mouldering books, suffering the luxury of voluntary exile, condensing
his self, that so often ran amok, into tiny, almost illegible letters in
soft graphite on spanking white paper in leather-bound books.
It stank of destiny, really. Lovecrafts
witch character, Keziah, scrawling some strange geometries on the wall
of her cell and vanishing.
Whence the terrible mistrust of destiny, how theatrical she is, her
talents, kriyashakti, a crooked finger touched mine, lighting her
cigarette, and the world blew up. LAutodidacte
and poète maudit, self-declared, clinging to the red cliffs of life,
hands smeared with birdshit.
Edward Germain on Harry Crosbys diaries: They
show deep traumas, unresolved Oedipal patterns, great inner violence,
and a surprising lack of true self-understanding.
This was my window then. After some years, I rarely ventured out.
+ + +
I was sitting on the windowsill in the dormitory for students with
children, weeping. That morning
I did not make love to you
woke at dawn
and the hand of God put me inside you. We had just
made love again or, I had made love to her, tongued her shivering
body, its beauty. CUNNI CULTRIX, VENTER VENUSTUS.
And the art of love ends, I live in you again, perhaps even
unwelcome, perhaps that is why my body hurts, but hurts differently,
aches. An inevitability almost eerie. We made love on the floor, her
child in the bed above us. Five years old, he has laughter like mine,
hysterical, verging on satanic. Trust me, she said. And right
away, asks commitment, only little commitments, accompany me on the
ferry, Im afraid and translate me and
teach me how to use a computer. We sat by a filthy pond and
smoked the clove cigarettes I gave her, drank wine all night at the Klondike,
and walked through the early dawn (the light sweats in Latvian),
hand in hand, and I was again in the presence of such unearthly beauty, happy
to feel pain, to feel again, because it was feeling I
lost in betraying her, in needing to betray her because she could not be
mine. I woke at dawn and entered you, and the world opened up to me.
Once there was a woman and everything she said was true, but none of
her truths were real. I remember settling the bill at the Little Sun
she had taunted me, saying she had paid for the room for several days in
advance and would whore herself (hed
never seen pubic hair trimmed like mine, hes
going to sell me) I went downstairs and
the clerk said no, no, the room has not been paid for. Faced with
the deception. But there was very little between her our
imagination and what was real,
then. I woke at dawn and entered you. And I ran, then, from dream
and vision into myth.
L writes: I miss your depth of feeling about the world and your
precision of expression, but that is also what drives me nuts about you.
How much am I really to blame for your plunging into despair, and how
much of that is your tendency (dare I say, even, your desire?) to do so?
Harsh words, maybe, but Im just talking out the
side of my head, as the Brazilians say. I described you to someone
recently as being perilously romantic; even if it doesnt
fit you, I am proud of it as a little linguistic unit.
I cannot say what it is that makes me love H so. That she awakens me
to the marrow, that I trust her in a way that I trust no one else I
trust her ability to fly with me to that place of bliss (lemon land,
love) that I secretly envision, that is central to my vision. That I
have disappeared before her (Du Tristan! Ich Isolde!)
Sink hernieder Nacht der Liebe usw. I can see that she knows that
place. I have glimpsed it with her. And the only bitterness I
bear toward her is that I have felt her refuse to go there with
me is it that she cannot?
H: Am I to be a person you love only so that you can write about
them later? Later, when I am finished translating the ingredients of
an Estonian ice cream, I will let myself proceed to see myself as such,
to apply those harsh words? And they arent
Lemon land, love. Name or describe that place. Name or describe
that place I yearn for, beyond a doubt.
On the one hand, she demands to be loved and nurtured, even.
And I admit it is odd to see that she, too, is even capable of an almost
selfless, healthy love. For I do not see her as that, as a mother.
I am beginning to. She said she saw her errors reflected in her
child, and corrected them. H has found earth, something I have
not done, and I told her that I admired it, her newfound inner peace,
earth. Please dont forget how to fly. She
said that she was learning to walk.
And yet. And yet she is more self-absorbed than anyone I have ever
known. There are moments, listening to her and looking at her (it is
impossible for me to look at her without desire, mostly), when I receive
the impression that she is utterly alone in her world love, for her,
is only a form of self-love. At other times, this somehow horrible
impression is different as if this self-love extends to
But maybe what makes this love so tragic for me (our
sense of the tragic waxes and wanes with sensuality)
is that touching her, touching her even with my mind when I
can, and for years I couldnt destroys
me. I feel a fantastic light sometimes, articulating relations,
seeing what appear to be names and natures, understanding others.
With her, never. I can say nothing about her. The preceding paragraphs
make no sense, only obscure ( ). The sirens
secret is that she is silent. (Harvey Bialy)
Cut lemons on the table, drinking steaming water tinged with lemon
juice, lindenflower honey and the brandy Saturns, all morning
editing translations from Estonian, ignorant of the original, inventing
the meaning. I am ill, having apparently contracted an uncommon cold. A
bad cold. It threw cold upon the heart.
Waking shivering with cold and.
Lemon land, love. The analysand there. The alienist stooped over the
various narratives that lay upon the operating table like the bow of a
gift that arrives after its senders death, wave
of the dear departed, like a dog without a master (Gods
dogs, the song called wolves), like like like. Don Juan in Hell.
Once, I trusted the masters clarity, but the
light in there is a disturbing observer, a luxurious metaphor ruining
the twilight of the place, the obscurity of what we shared in the dark
of the moon. And the moon, she wrote, the moon is precisely
the colour of a crow.
Purchasing power that a prostitute in Tallinn is $40, but runs as
high as $200 in Finland. Is that woman whore or
hiatus, a hideous mask worth more behind the starry bastions and
converted specificities that guard Helsinki Harbour.
An afternoon plopping chopped potatoes into tiny holes, dropping a
dollop of diluted cow dung in beside them, and in late summer there is
food for an entire winter, enlivened by mushrooms preserved in salt, a
couple of bags of squash seeds from Ontario, surds, gourds, obscure
definitions, gone. But every time I come to this country, the first
thing that happens is I get sick. The aubergine roots of that are hidden
in the sky. Wake among the veins of it, sky beets gutted capillaries
guts, inverted turnips afloat in the White Sea. Go west, young man, and
grow up with the wordless. There I met the mystical couple, saw how they
had changed, closed now to the intrepid fool, close now. Occult
Desperately cultivating solitude, they deal with things by running
away from things, their voices, grandfather clocks, telegrams from lost
lovers in dead languages, Morse code
the regions where my brain does
not go but swells like an enormous radish, fucked kidneys, cooked
shadows in Calvados, viddy the end of my
life, the secret goddess under tented sheets. Pay no attention, it is
only a man looking for himself.
The sickness of the insides being turned inside out, hemorrhoidal
rumba, hummingbirds, rhum au babaganoush, Leberkäse (neither liver nor
cheese) slur, slobber & I am in the East
again, prickly with private culture. Doors fall open, virgins take it up
the ass, dawn comes at half past four &
students ready themselves for Walpurgisnacht
a single loveless girl crawling towards love or holding to a loveless
lover by the skin of her teeth.
That I am back in Babel, a girl is singing Ipanema, a mural offers Lower
Body Massage the East. What do you know about the inside of this
potato? Is this an accessible potato? It tastes gross raw, deadly
nightshade, blue-eyed or masked. Fine pureed. But do that before cooking
and you get glue.
The World Book Encyclopedia informed me at an early age that a
writers first novel is autobiographical, no
matter how it is disguised under moss and vermicelli.
+ + +
It is lovely to use the heart again so, even in a hopeless way. It
lived in such obscurity.
Reading an old National Geographic about this place
wilderness is not wanted here, nature at the hand of man, landscape
reflected back, is. Another yellowed clipping, about how everyone
interviewed, the ones taken away, the deportees, spoke of liktenis.
The woman conducting the interviews claimed that fate is an
inadequate translation. That what these people all have in common is narrative.
+ + +
Manchild, she said, come back to the shores of what you
are / come back to the crumbling shores.
From Adrian Leverkuhn, Friday, 4 a.m.:
As I was thinking of you today while I was out climbing I looked down
and found a little effigy of a man from a dried little tree trunk.
Strange sigil-like patterns adorn it from the worms having eaten designs
into him. I picked him up and brought him home to keep you safe.
From Adrian Leverkuhn, Friday, 8 p.m.:
Put the wooden effigy next to me to dream with last night. Had a
dream where I was with B and some others and some invisible being
started chasing us.
Woke up screaming. Took the little wooden man out of the room. First
nightmare Ive had in ages. Hope it is nothing
too prescient of your present situation or situation to come.
+ + +
A man who has no investments is invested in nothing.
O called. H telephoned him last night, in
heavy hysteria, her child ill, +40C. There
was something about a kiss and she said to tell you no, that
she needed me to tell you, that she could not tell you herself. No to
your request. No.
+ + +
L forwarded these remarks from her friend M:
lately i believe that the concept of
romantic love that we are indoctrinated to in our culture inspires a
kind of addiction to sex and overwhelming emotionality that allows
people to ignore their own pain (this is why it is on the level of
addiction) and focus on a different construct of their mind, their
love. because people misunderstand the power of
their own mind, and fail to take responsibility for their own feelings,
they believe that the other person is responsible for making them feel
better. often this is such a strong feeling, that the feelee starts to
resent the object of their love
which has by then become a childish kind of attachment wrapped up in
fear that this life support system will dissolve. however, the fact that
people are able to get themselves into a situation like this is
testimony to the supreme power of people to create their own mental
reality, one which may have little or nothing to do with any of the
original phenomenon they are responding to. why we create the same kind
of crap for ourselves over and over again is difficult to unravel, and
perhaps not essential... there seems to be a fine line between not
avoiding a problem, and actually creating the problem through an
inability to let go of it for one reason or another. knowing that you
are attached to your habitual mood, is knowledge that can help you,
whereas believing that this pain is you, or that you must want
to be in pain is damaging and a hindrance to
elevating your mood and consciousness. these are my thoughts
From a letter to L:
and I have three reasons to wake shivering. Today I am trying to
put your kind gift of melatonin to use, trying to sleep, but at the same
time writing and receiving a spate of e-mails, translating the usual
garbage (great to have work to take my mind off my carefully constructed
tragedies), finally writing a review of Pods
work and digging little holes of self-analysis and wonderment. A blue
fly is buzzing about and many things are in full bloom, from the ancient
lilacs to the black tulips. A wasp.
Rereading Ms thoughts... I am fairly in
agreement, except that there is so much else in romantic love in those
rare instances where it functions the strident, even childish desire
becomes a duet, you know.
Yes I adore the blues, do I not. Painfully feeling the two most
repeated primal lines of UNDER THE VOLCANO today:
the consuls mistranslation, DO YOU LIKE THIS
GARDEN? WHY IS IT YOURS? TAKE CARE THAT YOUR CHILDREN DO NOT DESTROY IT!
and the terrible mantra: NO SE PUEDE VIVIR SIN AMAR.
I am poised to destroy this garden, why, and drift into places I do
not know, and I must like knowing things, things about places, the surge
of an almost sickly pride when I can deal with something like my arrival
in hell at 4 a.m., shlepping my foreigners bags
through the vicious shadows.
I must like not knowing things.
That spirit which wears not true love as a garment is
better not to have been; its being is nothing but a disgrace. Be drunk
in love, for love is all that exists; without the commerce of love there
is no admittance to the Beloved. They say, What
is love? Say, The
abandonment of free will. He who has not
escaped out of free will, no free will has he.
It is strange to see H be seeing H partly because the earth
aspect, her newfound sanity, is from what I resist the child. I am
such a malcontent. I am afraid of her precisely because of that last
line of Rumis the reality that in my chaos I still... control
The kid called me daddy yesterday. At first I thought Id
misheard, then again.
Somehow from out those words all of my childhood comes rushing up
even in a simple thing like going out to dinner. (It was until very
recently forbidden to take children to restaurants after six, pretty
much like to the movies in the US). My father, what is a father,
what is it that makes me hate it is it really fear? Because a part of me
does want that, you know. What exactly. Some unattainable ideal, some
beauty I can stare at and write and garden, Haus und Grund und Garten
I woke shivering, doubt the cumulo-nimbus floating over the again
alive, why was I not alive with you, what is it we suffer from, and
wondered can you finger exactly what you would not give, that so
distressed me? To be mine, is that it? Possession? What sense does it
Because you know I love H differently from anyone i.e., sexually
differently why? Perhaps it is a similar illness again what A
has been calling her need for cinematic distance, it pains her
and she needs it.
This is where I am because of the old terror, I saw it in her eyes
yesterday, that she does not love me, H doesnt.
Or she does. And what is it, then, is it that this totality I imagine
includes possession? Must?
Again again questansia di amare
does that mean that I really cannot love unless it is impossible?
& for her? & when I am with her
I love her (Im a good lover in some way,
remember, until the sadness smothers me) she has made so much out of
hell, as in can you make this out that her son (a Scorpio, of
course, not quite five) has to go to spend time among how did she say it
people who are so afraid of sentiment that they avoid greeting each
other on their names-days...) (which reminded
me of your god-forsaken family) ... to hear eternal curses, hatred, and
such watching her with the child is interesting she lets it do
what it wants to the horror of others I was watching yesterday
and realized how much of what we learn is transaction i.e.,
do this and you will get this, this is how you learn about consequence,
causality and? Love, then? Is the fact that your mother will
never abandon you?
Ah, yes, I am in a pickle. When I was little did I tell you this I
thought that one got married by entering a huge square where the women
walked in one direction, the men in another. I cannot recall who went
deosil and who widdershins. I am sorry to discover that these processes
are not only not so simple but downright diabolical.
Response from L:
You disgust me. Please dont write
+ + +
That it comes flooding back, knowing her, then, before I spent three
years as if entombed. I was not drinking then, and after the surge and
exaltation later poisoned with possession, passed through me I
clung desperately to truth, as if the articulation of my feelings
would save me from what? Perdition?
That love lifts one also from analysis. Analysis is loss.
From the Pod, 97. 17. VII.:
loosens himself from the bonds of family,
caste, and society. Finally he becomes a denizen of smasana, cemetery.
He is now fully initiated into the secrets of Mahayoga. When he receives
the mahapurnadiksabhiseka he carries out his own mortuary rites and is
then dead to society. Seated in one spot, he exists in perpetual
samadhi. The Mahasakti, Devi, or Kali has taken possession of his heart,
which has become a cemetery in which all passions and inclinations have
been burned. He becomes a Paramahamsa, one who is freed from life.
Yoga and Yantra
As I read this passage recently I thought of you, yr dreams of living
in a tomb, No LA, and other such drives toward death. I know this stuff
is probably old shoe but read it, and think it over a bit. It is
relatively clear to me what you are aiming for.
Recall the Rumi:
That spirit which wears not true love as a garment is
better not to have been; its being is nothing but a disgrace. Be drunk
in love, for love is all that exists; without the commerce of love there
is no admittance to the Beloved. They say, What
is love? Say, The
abandonment of free will. He who has not
escaped out of free will, no free will has he.
Read this, forget about it. Come back to it. In time it
will make sense.
+ + +
I did forget about it, did go back to it, and it does make sense
the quotation from Rumi has become my credo.
No, she said, no. Then: I will be waiting for him to call,
downstairs, 9 p.m. her volatility, my fixation.
Your blue attachment, Gerrit writes.
I did not become Paramahamsa, one who is freed from life, was
not capable of burning my passions and inclinations. To die that way
requires exaltation after all, a Night of Fire.
Again Daedalus figure of the last
unenlightened man, struggling to convert the enlightened multitudes.
The dogmatic Buddhist, O, lying in Hs bed,
waking without clarity. I took him to the Oak Tree for a Pepsi.
Once there was a man who reduced life to this simplicity: Pepsi-Cola
hits the spot, sixteen ounces thats a lot. Repeat
it endlessly, Renfield. He was ashamed of his lack of clarity.
+ + +
Back then, a climacteric. The infinity of things in evidence.
I sat on the sill and sang to the moon. Disturbingly indescribable. Skin
by skin I have known you alone. RK
What do you want from me, she asked, last I saw her, the kiss. My
Love poetry became comprehensible again.
But that I can lift myself from this. When she wanted to touch me she
neither said so nor touched me. Then it was too late. I cant
tell you (that I want to touch you) it would be a tale, a retelling,
What becomes central is commitment, then? Can ambiguities be
The wasp beating against the window again. Why is her beauty not
merely aesthetic? What is it that makes a body belong I spoke
to her beast (what she calls her cunnus) this is yours,
this is for you, meaning my arousal, an exalted arousal, a strange a
windblown thing that transmutes me to the marrow, yours. It
doesnt confuse you, my little beast, it doesnt
confuse you? Her face, her open mouth, my
finger snaking inside her, her open eyes, now slate now verdigris,
smaragdine, aureate, vair.
+ + +
What becomes central is falsity, deception. Decipere
to take by causing game to fall.
Out for Vechernyy Zvon, the Evening
Bell, Bulgarian red. One of the old
waterless wooden houses is gone, a heap of rubble. Kaunas Street wide
and dusty, the wind brings dust devils. From Ventspils Street one can
see the newly restored Lutheran steeple, though there are only thirty
Lutherans, some of them Volga Germans, even. Beside it is the dome of
the Old Believers church, and near that the
towers of the Cathedral of Boris and Glyeb, painted in purples and blues
that are by turns fantastic and gaudy. Beyond that, the tall white
towers of the Catholics. The buildings behind the gastronomiya will
never be finished, they have put bars in the windowless holes now. The
brick wall still says SEKTOR GAZA in Cyrillic,
whether an adolescent musical preference or obscure political comment I
cannot tell. Through all of this the dust turns to mud in rain
carless people trudge with big bags of potatoes, headscarves, blue
buckets to fill with mushrooms or to take the garbage to the Orange
Dream, the garbage truck, orange, that is called a dream because it
rarely arrives on time. The truck is also sometimes called a Norba
Alfredovna, Norba the make of the vehicle, Alfredovna Alfreds
daughter, Alfred, who grew up down this very street before he rose to
power and supported the coup against Gorbachev and sat in jail while Red
scum brought him dirt from Dvinsk, who effected this system, this
ritual, of having to go out to meet the garbage truck, with the blue
pail, in pajamas, dobra utra, what did you do last night in a
country where everything is the same, ciao, the system against
the attraction of rats.
the king found his rarest emerald, the Stone of
Doubt, for whose sake death sent its children into the world. Why
emerald? Because in the enigmatic glance of Venus as she is fucking, all
loss and all undoing can be read. As well as all love and prospering.
Ambiguous. The star chart goes up in flames.
Last night, the evening star. She was brighter than I had ever seen
her, dangerous, hard. When O told me that H had called, in heavy
hysteria, it clarified what I felt
reading, weeping. I only weep at poetry when in love, yes. What I
could not place yesterday a nameless terror becomes her childs
fever, passed in a kiss.
What we see. Blakes Doors of
Perception cleansed. And the stuff, then, the dross, the caput
mortuum, goes away, the war is far. The drekh. The residue the
transactions (tis not a game that plays
at mates and mating, Provence knew
sump of cogitation, the garbage sweeping in with the newspapers, the
secret government. There is a government yet more secret. Some terrible
The war spreads to Montenegro, the Russian Duma passes a law banning
all trade with Latvia (because we are russophobes),
Yeltsin will veto it. Again and again people lecture me on how they are
incomprehensible. We. We Latvians.
We Russians believe
Was it Pushkin who wrote that Russia is a country not to be
understood with the mind. We are
have no culture in America. The burden of
soul, an indescribable thing, unclear as love.
A saw love everywhere here, under impossible conditions, families
forced to live in tiny rooms, forced to love one another through
alcoholism and various personal hells while birch trees grew from the
roofs, forced to marry and divorce and give birth in various Byzantine
combinations in order to get an extra few square meters of space, which
quickly filled with those rare children above the horizon of a declining
birth rate. I saw the sickness here as spiritual, and yet there is
spirit everywhere, and an astonishing capacity for forgiveness I
have met many who passed part of their lives in some concentration camp,
yet bear no hate. A personal forgiveness also a man who sees white
mice (the classic delirium tremens here, white mice, recently the mafiya
has become a more popular sight
) can return, there is no onus of
shame, we fail, we betray our lovers, he has a bad character, and
yet davai, we stare beyond his character at whatever beauty this
man has, abhor his sins, yet
I told H things should I have held my tongue? that I used to
go, at dawn, and stand under her window in the Coopers
Street, in the Old City. That during our
I would be walking
in the boulevards and slowly, suddenly, would be inside her, physically,
my phallos buried in her kteis, alive.
In doubt, the sorriest realization would be that she indeed does not
love me, does not love even where I allow her to take herself, that
I am not even sure I do, take her, transport her
To take by causing game to fall. My own hardness with myself
is it really only a lack of faith, a yearning for ( )
and as I write this I am letting go. Is it that I write
this? We are different,
irreducible, unknown, spectral quantities. Is that not what every
adolescent lover needs? We shall slit our
wrists with X-Acto knives. I am letting go
He also thought of me as a goddess, as a creature of
rare purity, and became obsessed with the idea that the child wasnt
his, and refused to have its paternity tested, even though he could not
know by its pigmentation, you both having red hair
And the bruise on her arm gives the lie to her chastity, which I am
not interested in at all, as if that is what I want of
her, property, chattel.
It believed it could free itself through language because it did not
try. Did not want to, preferred not to, having as much of an
allergy to whatever would come if it its motherfather backwards as if as
it had an allergy against its own immune system. Love, and waste.
Carrots with cardamom seeds and piquancy, the ubiquitous red beet, a
slab of calf or pig, grilled and given, child. Will you be good? The
leftovers lie on the table.
Cant this be a truth, if half of it is, she
That there was something between us, between us. Everything
became possible, in a way that struck terror into whatever is left of my
heart, that one, not the ordinary heart. Already in the past
I used to know of her approach because the dogs would howl, I could
hear her coming nearer, the poor animals frightened by this unnatural
woman, the sway of her pale hips, her height, her eyes if she ever used
them could disembowel a poor poet, did. And seize her, make me a
strong see-thing, a sea thing. In her presence, I can touch what I have
dimly intuited et cetera. And I will repeat this until there is nothing
left of it?
I dont want to possess you, I said. You cannot,
So it is a trick of time. The priests had very low voices and saffron
robes, they taught their subjects with strangely shaped little mirrors.
I came back, and she refused to look into my eyes, more in love with her
misery than anything, perhaps.
I also told her that she taught me the moment, momentous as it
is. Truly come in the nick of time, Gerrit. Clutching the star
map. I would have been better off, away. Looking in on her, the
single mother, student, those things we supposedly are
The world an
impertinent blue, the spiritual color, Mary Mary quite contrary.
She is walking on her own skin.
Marik, eating oysters, said that we understood one another because we
could cast off our identities, were not attached to any version of
Deep question, your dark or your light. By some analysis I am here in
hell only because I want to be, hope that you appear on the garden path.
Yet if you did, you would look at Venus, there, not into my eyes. That
this is myself, after all. As the Pod receives his essence, under
his annoying private life, after. It doesnt
confuse you, my little beast? No, no, it does not, I have wanted
such a beast, wanted someone whose dreams had such potency, but also to
be wanted, to wake with your form before my eyes whence the despair?
An array of things (will you be good?) (as the five senses are, in
Latvian, the five minds,)
there is an other place, a place made of refusal, lips
that would kiss form prayers to broken stone
I am perhaps old at last, also, the love you offer I look at
quizzically, (the pronouns shift)
that the person who most lied to me
is she who draws the truth from me, that is hell.
Once, in this despair, I took the train to Riga (take
the plague and go to Riga) and a child
beat my shadow and I stepped from the train and saw a lost one, a
woman so gone from herself self cursing, falling, trying to
walk, those eyes, those eyes here, as if the clouds had infected
them and I got a hard-on that there is something in me that responds
is to keep the
ability to respond RD) to what is about to vanish
(if you love them that dissolve
wrote Gerrit, long ago) is it, is it what I love? I have a fine
mind, even after, and yet my soul
That I need to make sense of things. As
puke, even. Everything a manifestation of the discourse between
Augoeides and I, yes, eye? I have taught myself to cease to feel, down
there. (Does it confuse you, my little beast?) Vampirical.
If you look inside sometime, when you know yourself. This is how you
get there. To touch you makes me clear, a sick clarity.
And when you listen hearing, and when you listen touch.
(from The Penetralium)
the retrieval of love / your hide
After love, madness. I had not slept for a week, and returning (from
the moon even O saw that I had been somewhere else) to
this city thronged with jackdaws, tiny white flowers had spread beneath
the writing-window like a spray of semen. There were moments when I
could feel her, as if she gripped me, as if her long, slender
fingers clutched the back of my head. There were other tones in my
voice, sonorous, strange melodies, and my touch, too, had changed,
become acutely sensitive. Even the growth of my nails was different from
that moment, from coitus with her.
Mirklis, the Latvian word for moment, derives from blinking, but
relates to the word morning. In a
flash. I felt that I had wandered into a
particular place in time, one half beyond it, and strove desperately not
to fall from it, be driven from it I became a bundle of nerves,
obsessed with number and the meaning of everything, writing
insane letters to my friends and former lovers, counting the cherries I
(thought of as my wife) brought to me the impression was
strong enough to infect I became my assistant, even, as I
devised strange rites, lighting and extinguishing fires on different
sides of the house, asking I to draw maps of the objects haphazardly
scattered through the room, noting the time, drawing lines on the walls
where the shadows of leaves fell at a particular hour. Twelve
I ate three
that leaves nine cherries! I had a
vivid hallucination of Baphomet living in the chimney, and lay on my
back trying to hold the bricks together, convinced that if I relaxed my
attention the chimney would fly apart. The Belarussian crone (staraya
vedzma, the old witch) had hung herbs to dry in the attic; I knelt
between them at the southern window at noon, counting white beans that
had spilled onto the dirt floor there, writing in spirals, writing
backwards, insane. Sleeping beside I, I dreamt that she was a sea
serpent and woke with my hands around her throat, trying to strangle
her. O took me to some Buddhist friends of his, whose big Irish setter
whimpered and whined, staring at me. There, I finally collapsed, my
glasses bent outward and twisted, as if something had passed from
me, and the moment ended.
Gerrit wrote back: leave meanings behind
or rather the insatiable [hydroptic?] craving for monomyth
not the stake here, whether the [schrelos?] are mired or not
It ended, and I was left with the ash. What had been wetness was
now a heap of shriveled words and broken impressions. Tantric fiasco,
the Pod called it. I fell ill. Blood would sometimes drip from my
ears as I stooped to the dreary task of cobbling my mind back together.
What Gerrit wrote of Nerval: He did not give
himself to live in curious and divided worlds.
I had. I thought of RKs line: Love
found a soft long thigh and followed it home. I had not only broken
the vow I had made (on the moon, on the sill of Room 42 in the Little
Sun, her white body in the bed, holding a knife to my breast
swearing never to forget that this is love), I had destroyed my
own philosophy, which was to follow Love no matter where.
I did not follow it home.
And her curse: you will go back inside yourself now. She
looked at my writings, the tiny soft pencil écriture des mouches:
What if I tell you that your book is chaos?
She wandered around the city, and things broke everywhere she went,
water gushed from the toilets, people fell ill. When she neared this
house, dogs howled. I made little crosses out of the twigs of mountain
ash and copper wire and placed them in the windows to protect our
dwelling. Dwelling. She returned to Riga (take
the plague and go to Riga). I felt her
leave, that night, my chest filled with chalybs, the air in the empty
room livid, her astral fingers releasing me.
The Moon. I had met her long before, briefly, when she was only
eighteen, consort to a young, alcoholic poet. I was walking with the
poets B and R down Freedom Boulevard (what has been Alexanderstrasse,
Hitlerstrasse, ulyitse Lenina) in Riga. She stood at a distance, smoking
her cheap, foul Primas (she has trouble getting them now) in a
long holder made of lilac wood and said, what
a lovely ruddy beard you have. We went to
the old Caucasus and drank champagne, the five of us, her staring
at me and writing in a little notebook, refusing to show me what she
wrote, and then to the entrance of the Doms
crypt. B was in one of his laments, the uselessness of his work, etc.,
when H suddenly burst into a recital of Bs
translations of Pessoa, from memory, the timbre of her voice angelic,
otherworldly. A couple of militiamen headed towards us from across the
square, and H warded off what could have been serious trouble by calling
out to them, boys!
They told us that we should read the Bible and drink less wine while B
kept repeating who he was, the great B, leading intellectual. We piled
into a taxi and headed for where I was living, drank and grilled
sausage, H inventing rhymes about each of us, folk songs, impromptu
ditties, infuriating R with her sexual perception? We kissed,
Bohemians, and I fingered the top of her silk stocking, her soft long
thigh, and heard her moan. We all slept on the floor, and in the morning
I accompanied her to the tram stop she was still in high school. I
kissed her forehead.
The Moon. Time passed. I dreamt of her, and thought it odd, since
I had not seen her. I imagined her as cold somehow,
distant and superficial as a lover. I did not need a lover. This was a
time of prosperity and wandering, Hiiumaa, Paernu, Liepaaja, the
flourishing of my love with I, the origins of this household. How did it
sour? Drunken nights, Greeks from Odessa lying in the bathtub singing,
mornings pursuing what in my notebooks (&
what if I tell you your book is chaos),
friends, garden. I taught, fervently, meeting a few of my students after
classes to continue the lectures, befriending a few. I began to get
letters from America telling of David Rattrays
illness, did I know him? Barely we had lunch once, in the Oyster Bar
under Grand Central Station. One night, during a huge party, the house
illuminated by a hundred candles, Mozart blaring from the radiotehnika,
champagne flowing, I received a copy of Rattrays
Mr. Peacock, and
simultaneously a letter informing me that Rattray had died. I declared
an evacuation ordered everyone from the house, gave I some
water (she was puking), and stayed up all night translating the poem.
In the morning I read it to my class, my friend the philosophy
teacher, X, accompanying me with his guitar. The poem moved me as I had
not been moved for a very long time. I quit drinking and felt a spirit
I and I rode our bicycles deep into Lettigallia for solstice. It is a
night when the gates between the worlds fly open and souls pass between
them. There was a hideous, alien violence between us.
From my notebook: The Day of Grasses riding our bikes home
through the freezing fog everywhere the Liguo fires smoldering, dawn
it was beautiful it was Hell
goats led through the night, boats tied to trees A plot of
rye cornflowers there a dray horse a pair of hives an
old barn built of logs a storks nest a
potato field an ancient well an aging house
..an austerity, &
their daughters wayward rarely
The city on returning even here the smoldering fires, the windows
of the drowsy houses were eyes the dirt yards the windows were
the eyes not looked at, out, out at Not looked into but the
fertile dirt between us in affliction what we share is
I mean it is dark in the shew-stone, or the lump of blue glass
we found on the roads shoulder in the sun
So this is what the other side is like o it felt so, &
no poem for it your hurt and my darkest self
You were asking the woman who had made the beer (Rauchbier, smoky)
there what her parents taught her What
parents, I live here, no parents, come stay with me
Thus, for those about to die, the North Wind breathes
upon them and then revives them, though at the point of death
while the South Wind destroys them. The one is colder and tends to
freeze them and hold them in the rigid grip of generis while the
other is warmer and so melts them and sends them back up to the warmth
of the divine. (Porphyry)
Boreas, the erotic wind, rapes shaking
the solid doorflaps Milk to draw them
in from dreams / opaqued muladhara
and there, away there, far away sweet seed
Fog iced to trees like milk, demons we were the mouths of, for, or
licked, licking is Day Eos, is
What the Ximiya looked like as we rode through that district at dawn,
the rot burn crematorium stench goats tied to trees, boats swamp
water reflecting the tall smokestack belching fire in the dirt yards
& men began to light fires upon the earth
+ + +
The lump of blue glass is on the windowsill, as it happens, with some
other little objects I & I collected, a dark
blue bottle from an ancient pharmacy holds a dried rose, a grotesque
chunk of molten green glass, a trilobite, a conch. The house has such
objects scattered throughout sacred vessels from Old Believers
churches, lanterns found in the basements of houses being torn down,
boxes of amber, weird rocks, skeletons, skulls, coins found while
planting trees. Our house. Home. What do you remember? Pain.
I cried on the very night I returned, Walpurgisnacht, as it happens. I
have not cried for years, not since you were last here.
That year, my most immemorial year,
we spent Walpurgisnacht on Blue Hill in Livonia, site of the witches
sabbaths of old.
I dreamt Archimboldos Emperor Rudolph, a
face formed of fruit.
+ + +
The Moon. Not long after crossing into the other world on the Day
of Grasses I fell from her bicycle, the temperature plunging, frost
seeing a porcupine in the forest not long after, I went to Riga
and read that translation of Mr. Peacock
at a gathering of Latvian writers from all over the world, before
television cameras. It was the most intense reading I have ever given.
Suddenly I had emerged from a sort of internal exile Daugavpils
is a city people avoid, and while living here I had almost no contact
with anyone other than the local underground. In Riga, the salient
beings of my life had gathered, an accident S, whose love when it
happened had also transformed me, was there we spoke for the first
time since I had left her my mother, whom I was able to forgive, though
she would call me at the hotel The Little Sun, unable to sleep,
seeing the length of my hair and beard (my
son, insane!) the writer U, my
mentor briefly, the only Latvian in the West with similar interests, his
library what mine would be were I not an indigent wanderer
The writer U was incensed that I was not drinking, kept trying to
slip vodka into my orange juice. I allowed myself small quantities of
red wine on occasion. One night, my old lover S, U and I went to visit
the poet R, who lived near the Central Station, in the shabby street
across from my hotel, The Little Sun.
U has some deep-seated pain some have even suspected that he did
things in the war. When he is here, he
drinks, to the point that he has collapsed in the airport before
returning. He brought Buddhism to this country, and his philosophical
interests Corbin, Heidegger, Jung, Swedenborg combined with his
poetic desires? have drawn me toward him
he is married to the
Venus of Willendorf, a woman of peasant extraction who keeps him in line
keeps him alive, takes him away, confiscates the bottle. Once, he
had me go to her on my knees, begging forgiveness for getting him drunk.
Since she only allowed this when he had visitors, he would for a while
call me whenever he needed to get smashed.
At Rs, I sipped some Georgian wine and
watched the poet P begin to get cross-eyed, while S and U and everyone
drank in the kind of Bohemian conviviality that still exists here.
And then H appeared. I had not seen her since that first meeting, the
crypt, B, touching her. She showed up in a dress that left her
half-naked it was one of those warm nights that are so rare here.
U introduced me to some prominent literati: Do
you know what he has in his head? Chaos. And chaos is fecund.
The poet P is a very charming man who becomes violent when drunk. His
eyes cross and he beats up men to take their women. He has been thrown
off trains for this. In addition to writing fine poetry and producing
sublime translations from Turkish, P edits the local variation on Soldier
I touched Hs foot. What have you been doing
with yourself? Drinking. A bottle of vodka a day. And suddenly
she was in my arms, moaning, her hips moving as though she was being
Without warning, the assembled company darkened into violent hatred,
a knife was pulled, P went after S, the poet K pointed at H and stuck
his finger into his mouth, as if inducing vomiting. Ks
wife, J, with whom I had early on had a brief, abortive affair, leapt
into my lap. For Gods sake, she said, dont
get involved with that woman.
S said that she wanted to kill her, why doesnt
someone just kill her. It came out of nowhere, some realm H
moves in, the darkness of her sensuality, its lovelessness, what?
H withdrew into herself after J occupied my lap (J later said that
she did so only to keep her away from me). H made an unclear
offer to go off with me while I had already promised that U and
S could stay in my hotel. For once, I kept a promise, or was it fear
that loyalty I felt to I, to us, to what we had
And here was the ambiguity of loyalty. Even as the darkness
spread, as S rose and lectured everyone (think
of your mothers, of Latvia, how can you behave like this!),
I was elsewhere, in the moans of H, in the congealed feelings of
these people I felt close to, in the solstitial opening
We departed, U and S and I, P making vague threats about S leaving
with me, U barely able to walk. The Little Sun admitted us
because they recognized him he is famous. Where
are we, he groaned. Is
And so it came to pass that S and I were again in bed together after
years of resentment. In the middle of the night, she departed.
+ + +
The old man is still alive. It takes him half a day to round the
corner. If you greet him, he turns, and is still turning when you return
from the store. It pleases him, a greeting, and he turns. Later, he
turns back and continues to round the corner. He does not know what
country he is living in. He blabbers of the birds he kept as a child.
Once he has rounded the corner, he turns back, and slowly, slowly
returns to the mean hovel whence he came.
+ + +
The next day I spent in the palace that was then the Writers
Union. I most remember my conversation with D, who has since died of
cancer. I asked her why she did not come to this country to live, and
she burst into tears. I could not take the psychological climate, she
said. The venom, the back-stabbing.
It was almost as an afterthought that I called H. An afterthought.
I assumed that whatever we had felt for one another was purely the
product of the drunken atmosphere. We agreed to meet at six at what is
known as the little clock, hard by the Freedom Monument, the
chocolate factorys clock which has been a
favoured meeting-place since the twenties.
At six I stood and waited, but H did not appear. I wrestled with
whether to call her or not as if I still had a chance to return, to
regain this house
in a strange state of exaltation. And
I could feel her, sleeping, not far away.
Someone took a piece of chalk and wrote PETERIS
YOU ARE PETERIS on the sidewalk next to the clock. I
remember realising that this was a message to some other Peteris,
someone who hadnt shown at the same
appointed time, and simultaneously taking it as a message to me, that I
was, for once, myself, that I was on horseback, in the saddle, present.
I called H and she hurried over.
I had told her that I would look at her poems. Is that really what
you want? No. I want you because you are beautiful.
We drank champagne I had a little at a sidewalk café, and
ended up in my room at The Little Sun.
I still resisted making love to her. She said, we are adults, we have
lovely bodies, we will sleep beside one another.
The rest is a blur. I took few notes. What was there to take
notes of? We slept, as friends, naked.
I entered her at dawn. (Beauty will be convulsive or will not be.)
Her lashes grew at orgasm, her mouth open, her hands drawing me inside
her, it was metaphysical, it was like entering a dream. Like,
like, like. I paused when she came, my whole being rushing into her, ending
Reified dream. I quaked. I could feel the history of my
body, its distortions wrought by false desire, as if before this I
had not known purity of touch, as if my body was something subject to this,
as if this was what I had always sought
So she answered him, bending down, a lambent flame of
blue, all-touching all penetrant, her lovely hands upon the black earth &
her lithe body arched for love and her soft feet not hurting the little
flowers. Thou knowest! And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the
consciousness of the continuity of existence, the omnipresence of my
body. (Liber AL)
+ + +
Cold rain all night, yet even ill I have acclimatized myself, to the
cool, already seemingly fleeting period of great light, pavasaris, spring,
vasara, from *ues, to shine. In less than a month the
northern darkness will begin its return, but this brief period is
bathing in a dream. The smell of the lilacs released by rain, so strong
that I can smell it even sick, when yesterdays
Sunday dinner left me insensate, cottage cheese in cream with dill,
boiled potatoes, cucumbers I did not even notice the black pepper.
We dine together on Sundays, I, Is mother,
E-mail from RK, responding to my usual desperation of communication,
that he will be reading these pages tomorrow. I then read them, going
back to the beginning of this endeavor for the first time in almost a
From S: I couldnt trace what struck me
within the work to specific fragments.....it is, more so than in the
works of other authors, the shape, the movement, that evokes.......I dont
know what it evokes, something mental that is palpable, emotionally
neutral, and every word I give it disgusts me.) But I do want to give
some reaction to your writing, and everything I articulate seems
unrelated to what Im trying to express.
Returning your lines gives me something to say. I avoided your last
question what should be done with it?
intentionally. Your second question How does
the personal strike you?....The personalness
doesnt come off as indulgence, I think, because
its wide open, because its
part of the difficulty in distinguishing one thing from another (i.e.
inside/outside). And I think its necessary,
for that reason. Every so often, when youre
talking about another person, a relationship, I feel shut out, like Im
overhearing a conversation. Is this desirable?......the rest of the
time, I seem, as I said, absorbed in something, part of the bloodstream.
The first question: What should be done with
it? is harder for me to answer, since I know
nothing about publishing. Its worth publishing,
of course - at least from my perspective. And I dont
think the personalness will be much of a barrier....but I wonder if the
lack of closure that you talked about, will (I am NOT
suggesting that you give it closure...that would be terrible, probably
hilarious)...Im sure youve
considered all this. I think most people expect poets to tidy the world,
to create (or uncover, if youd rather)
connections that give them a sense of order. But if you can publish it,
publish it. There are, I assume, still readers who want to expend an
effort, and who will find this work familiar.
+ + +
An earlier note from S: That sense of space (almost like the words
are incidental, sporadic condensations of sound inside textured air -
emptiness/not exactly empty - only sporadic isnt
quite the word), of unraveling, is something I really admire, and want
in my own poetry...room for what it is impossible to say (what I am
struggling to say and is indifferent to being said). At times it is
impossible to distinguish what you have written from my own dreams. Your
talking about the Doppelgänger...my multiplications
is something that obsesses me as well (the sense that I am reincarnated
in every person I see, or that I have divided to create them?)....my
skin dissolves like an egg sac and hundreds of bodies spill out.
+ + +
In that time, crouched in the attic above with the spilled white
beans, my handwriting spinning in loops, words going backwards, gematria
(and she was doing this also when I saw her again, much
later, after the period of light, in the bleak November schwarze
Novemberzerstörung she asked me, are you trying to write
everything? That is what I am doing. The moon it has no air. She
would squat in her room in the coopers street,
her drunken landlady harassing her as whore, scrawling everything
that passed through her head into a spiral notebook, scribbled drawings
of space in blue ball-point. Hysteria.
+ + +
From the day I entered her, my diary entries are no longer dated. The
moon was full in Capricorn. I went out to look for U H and I had
decided to interview him and found myself watching the procession of
the great Song Festival, hundreds of thousands of people pouring down
Freedom Boulevard, the choirs in folk costume, the mens
heads decorated with oak leaves, the maidens
with flowers, singing solstice songs, liguo, liguo (the etymology
is lingam), and stood at the Hotel de Rome where a group of very short
Africans in gray business suits, with amber eyes, stood on granite
pedestals watching the festivities, gravely. It felt like something from
a boys book about Priapus.
We found U. He asked me whether I was in love with her. The chant of
Mandharava burst from my throat. He smiled.
As it turned out, Us wife, the Venus of
Willendorf, came from the seta down the road from Hs,
and recognized in her the familys appearance. Us
wife also told me that they meant for me to inherit Us
H kept asking him about the ewig-Weibliche. Sieviete
ir dieviete, he said, woman is goddess.
She drank, constantly.
Back in The Little Sun, she drew from me my history, or parts
of it, parts that suddenly flowed together in a vivid narrative. We
squatted on the floor, and her eyes enveloped me, the color of
the Universe in Lady Frieda Harris tarot, and I
could feel the snow blowing through my tale, what I said was palpable
I could see my story, and see that she saw it.
It was so uncanny that I grew afraid.
I proposed to her. She had a vision of a pair of twins, ours, and we
drank wine with the hotels staff (I allowed
myself a sip only, going downstairs to buy her vodka. I will go
insane, she said when I asked for her hand. I sat surrounded by her
eyes and suddenly felt myself transmuted into a long black oblong, then
rectangle, without depth. It was not nothing, it was something
worse than nothing.
When I came to, she was crouched in the window, saying the Lords
Prayer in Lettigallian.
Another time (within that time), I felt a worm come out of the sky
and enter my hand. When I recovered from the vision, there was blood on
She had a strange silver ring inscribed with a C and a Greek theta.
I still remember the taste of it. She spoke of her grandmother, but
would tell nothing that she had learned from her, the witchcraft.
She referred to her cunnus as the black moon.
I sent I a telegram: the snakes tail is
in its mouth.
And then above this, outside this, the shell of this? She said
she prostituted herself. She asked for money, and I refused to give it
to her. Hysteria. Her arms were severely bruised, by one of the
poets at the party, after I had left or so she said, I quickly lost
trust in her as the lies she told multiplied. It was the last scene from
The Lady from Shanghai, the House of Mirrors.
Once, she went to sleep with someone. I stayed in the room, writing
in my notebook (the sense in which it is
not possible for any of us to part), and
at the moment whoever he was entered her I knew this
I was thrown about the room, my head banging against the wall. When
she returned, she asked me if I had survived the experience. I
do love you a little, she said, leaping into
my lap, I really do.
Did she? She half-accepted my proposal. (It makes me think of the
confusion surrounding Mina in Dracula, somehow invisible
suitors, even. Highborn kinsmen.) She asked me to go to the
Writers Union and arrange a loan for her. I
went and spoke with V, there. He sneered at me, as if he knew I had been
bewitched. He called her behaviour disgusting.
She told me that she had cancer, that she would die. I told V that I
did not want to see what happened to Z happen to her Z was a
suicide, a young poet whose cries for help everyone had ignored.
Cant it be true, if half of it is? She
half-accepted my proposal. As I was leaving the building with the poet
R, she appeared and said to him: Now I will be a tied-up mare, venom
dripping from her lips.
One night she returned late to The Little Sun and lay in bed, I
am waiting for you, stroking her opening. I climbed into bed she
reeked of vodka. I told her that I wanted her sober. Thats
it! Thats it! Tomorrow I will wake as an ordinary
woman! Youve killed me
She wanted to go to Burtnieku Lake, where I even now have not yet
been, where my ancestral home is (though replaced by the cafeteria of
the kolkhoz Friendship). It is reputed to be a magical lake with
a sunken castle that can sometimes be glimpsed. (Burtnieks is a
sorcerer, bee-keeper a maker of marks in trees.) I
want to show you one more thing, she said. One
more little thing.
I would not ejaculate inside her. Later I saw this as my instinct for
self-preservation; that, had I come in her, I would be lost. Wandering
the narrow streets of the old city, I discovered a strange building in
the Blacksmiths Street at Number 49
with little devils carved above the windows, triangles in circles,
grapes, grape leaves, Bacchus. One stone face became my friend a man
restraining his seed, just above the Number 49.
She later claimed that I had seeded her in that first,
ecstatic coupling. She was mistaken.
+ + +
Writing this, remembering that narrative told on the floor of the
seedy hotel room, the sense it suddenly made of my life (insatiable
hydroptic longing for monomyth) writing
this, the sun veiled in thin clouds, waiting for O to arrive, waiting
for noon to come, when she will be waiting for me to call in the dim
lobby of the dormitory, writing this in senselessness, surrounded
not by dewy eyes but dumb analyses.
I wanted to touch you, but to tell you that now would be
a tale, a retelling.