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 don’t want to understand what that (was, is) for me – emotionally – what it was, love, what it is – retour?

I couldn’t love anyone then… couldn’t 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 O’s copy – illusion… 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, I suppose… she is calmer now… composed, collected.

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, she’s 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 it’s 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, she’s a woman, she can still show up… Begin again…

Walking in the gloaming to buy peanuts (the old Soviet kind, raw, ill-kept) … the big split between pedestrians and drivers (the old Soviet dream, a car – when money wouldn’t 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… against the Russians… in Daugavpils.

Craig would often speak of making up one’s past. The little girl in Robbe-Grillet’s 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, false branches… forms of address.

I still obey RK’s 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… 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… was… drawn… out. I am a different – creature – when I am so drawn. What I say is different when I – it is not aim… … … Give… When 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… seduce her?

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 don’t 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 o’erspreads her queendom.

You emotional slut, L wrote. Where did you want to take me… alcoholic coma?

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 an iceberg.

The old life, davai. I do not lack fidelity. He is drowning in his nightmares.

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 couldn’t 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” celebrates it… 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 Germany, Gastarbeiter?

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 Beneix’s 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 Kafka’s door. Again again quest’ansia di amare, yes, the anxious desire for love. Certain illusions are an amber compote. Don’t 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… A drove 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 you’re at. All around you things swirl and howl, do they not, you know what the fuck you’re about, there are no loose ends, it is your heart we are talking about. The heart of love is certainty. Limbo dissolves like Klingsor’s 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 clitoris, enveloping...

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 daughter’s 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. I’s 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 touch… that the soul, as in S’s 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, Lattelekom’s employees came to install a rosette. “I don’t 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, I’ll come back and we’ll 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 disappeared, however… 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 I’s 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 I’s). 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: “You’re not a pure Latvian, are you,” fondling the bone. “You’re 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 can’t.” (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 can’t 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… irregular… way, and how this culture… … … but it immediately sinks into fallacy then, mentality mentality mentality it is the object of obsession here, “folk mentality,” “Latvian 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, Dostoevsky’s 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… still the imprint of various Kulturphilosophen from Abendland?

So the day, uncertainly. I haven’t RK’s 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 biology.

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 Irby)

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.

+ + +

“You’re 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. I’m frightened by the devil, and I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t 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.

“What’s new?” “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 don’t turn into other things. Not only was the geometry wrong, bus seats sprouted fools’ gold.

+ + +

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 don’t 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 I’s mother’s 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. L’Autodidacte, 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. Lovecraft’s 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. L’Autodidacte and poète maudit, self-declared, clinging to the red cliffs of life, hands smeared with birdshit.

Edward Germain on Harry Crosby’s 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… I 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, I’m 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 (“he’d never seen pubic hair trimmed like mine, he’s 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 I’m 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 doesn’t 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 aren’t true.

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 don’t 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 others.

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 couldn’t – 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 siren’s 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 sender’s death, wave of the dear departed, like a dog without a master (God’s dogs, the song called wolves), like like like. Don Juan in Hell.

Once, I trusted the master’s 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 specificity.

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 writer’s 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.

+ + +

In Terrorem

“Manchild, she said, come back to the shores of what you are / come back to the crumbling shores.” – RD

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 I’ve 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 Pod’s 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 M’s 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 consul’s 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 foreigner’s 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.” Rumi

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 Rumi’s –the reality that in my chaos I still... control…

The kid called me daddy yesterday. At first I thought I’d 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 rein.

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 make?

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 doesn’t. Or she does. And what is it, then, is it that this totality I imagine includes possession? Must?

Again again quest’ansia di amare – does that mean that I really cannot love unless it is impossible?

& for her? & when I am with her I love her (I’m 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 name’s-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 don’t write anymore.


+ + +

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.:

“The Sadhaka… 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.”

P.H. Pott
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 H’s 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 that’s 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 darkness? Light?

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 can’t tell you (that I want to touch you) – it would be a tale, a retelling, she said.

What becomes central is commitment, then? Can ambiguities be central?

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 doesn’t confuse you, my little beast, it doesn’t 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 Alfred’s 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.” – RK

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 child’s fever, passed in a kiss.

What we see. Blake’s 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…”), the sump of cogitation, the garbage sweeping in with the newspapers, the secret government. There is a government yet more secret. Some terrible brotherhood.

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 different.” “You 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… love…

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… flight… 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 wasn’t 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.

Can’t this be a truth, if half of it is, she wrote.

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 tense.

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 don’t want to possess you, I said. You cannot, she answered.

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 ourselves.

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 doesn’t 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 (“responsibility… 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. A’s 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.” (Michael Palmer)


The Histories
(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 cherries… 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… error is 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 RK’s 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 Dom’s crypt. B was in one of his laments, the uselessness of his work, etc., when H suddenly burst into a recital of B’s 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 Rattray’s 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 Rattray’s “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 nigh.

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 stork’s 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
        nothing –

I mean it is dark in the shew-stone, or the lump of blue glass we found on the road’s 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 / opaque’d 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 Archimboldo’s 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 R’s, 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 of Fortune.

I touched H’s 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 entered.

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. K’s wife, J, with whom I had early on had a brief, abortive affair, leapt into my lap. For God’s sake, she said, don’t get involved with that woman.

S said that she wanted to kill her, why doesn’t 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 made.

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 this Latvia?”

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 factory’s 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… I… was… 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 hadn’t 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 my life.

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 yesterday’s 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, I’s mother, myself.

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 year.

From S: I couldn’t 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 don’t 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 I’m 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 doesn’t come off as indulgence, I think, because it’s wide open, because it’s part of the difficulty in distinguishing one thing from another (i.e. inside/outside). And I think it’s necessary, for that reason. Every so often, when you’re talking about another person, a relationship, I feel shut out, like I’m 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. It’s worth publishing, of course - at least from my perspective. And I don’t 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)...I’m sure you’ve considered all this. I think most people expect poets to tidy the world, to create (or uncover, if you’d 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 isn’t 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 men’s 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 boy’s 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, U’s wife, the Venus of Willendorf, came from the seta down the road from H’s, and recognized in her the family’s appearance. U’s wife also told me that they meant for me to inherit U’s library.

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 hotel’s 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 Lord’s 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 my hand.

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 snake’s 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.

Can’t 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. “That’s it! That’s it! Tomorrow I will wake as an ordinary woman! You’ve 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.”


 Part II 



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