Last night I dreamed I hurled a ball of gas down a lengthy funnel into the center of the earth where it exploded in flames.
The Ruined Millionaire
The ruined millionaire writes in gray ink
dried out by centuries. High hedges brink
the tangled overgrowth surrounding him
and his estate. He does things on a whim,
like take out childhood letters for an evening,
despite the fact his loneliness is grieving
for company that never comes. Who They?
No one gets inside. No one can say
what makes him tick. He lights a parlour trick
by rote, as if the moon were doing it,
but there is no audience, none can complain
he took a turn and willfully insane
made silent inventory of his pain,
his need for utterance still unfulfilled,
reminders of the time that he first killed.
Control is his. Considers History,
and sees that through a century or three
the ways of doing things have little changed.
In the new light he finds himself estranged,
and counts the hours, dead leaves till they’re distant,
awaiting his incapable assistant.
Across the town he knows worms also burn
to eat her up, he hasn’t seen in years.
The centuries dried out ink like his tears
for which he sometimes took a different turn.
She lives in mansion, with a hundred cats,
a hundred rooms, a hundred shoes and hats,
a hundred servants whom she never sees,
but one, admiring her Theocrites.
Dead to the world. Beyond this fortress hurled
his thoughts, his childhood’s movie theaters,
the life of everyman which it avers
to suncrawl time, duly a life of crime.
To do good is disaster
waiting to happen. Who likes Lady Astor?
In youth he stayed a while in Rockaway,
and often he remembers to this day
strange moments, instances of the specific
remaining solid, beautiful, beatific.
What was their form? He rightly cannot say.
Iron in the sun. They pass in rows this way,
while he will let the whole estate decay
forgotten, but time’s camera always pans
along the outskirts to the garbage cans,
and sees his window in his own reflection,
also a form of outer introspection.
The Snow Trucks Stop and Blow Their Low Alarms
The snow trucks stop and blow their low alarms,
It could be any city, but it’s not,
It’s midnight, darkness holds me in its arms,
Spine branch of tree distorted through the window,
Grey light, no lover moving in the shadow,
The Knick knacks on the sill dispense their charms
In silhouette, the air so still it’s sleeping,
But I am not, memory engages me,
The static past is full and would be weeping
If it could be described, but no it can’t,
Can only feel it passing cloudlike through me,
And I must be in love with what I see,
The snow trucks rumbling in the distance now,
Alone with twin salt shakers anyhow.
I am from Lexington, the birthplace of liberty.
Ill with leading a rich, full life,
acquainted with the European trances,
worried for the unseen newspaper
falling like a dead leaf in the stadium light
while in floral patterns we peruse
the movie section, falls in dead of night.
Copley and Sargent and Singer are abstruse,
and beauty often comes in for abuse,
smoked cigars and hired out a draper,
summered in the mountains, crossed a broken bridge
into the midst of celebrations, the old town
with every inhibition falling down
as if each citizen would take a wife,
you never saw such ordinary dances!
The universe was all that I could see.
A gargoyle seated on memorial throne
of stone and ivory, white and glossy grey,
charred lustre, cadmium streaks rub out in mist
of an evening quite beyond reproach.
Entrance and approach, twin salves of heaven,
crypto-mythic patterns of the roof,
a simple myrmiad, or bibliotheca which is strewn
with fool’s flowers drawn from love’s own lake
upon a singular fortune for your sake.
Amid this debris I was born,
as on a bier, across the tooth
of city skylines opening like a flower.
Here we walked and talked
and London Bridge was only a legend, a thing in books,
but to those books we had given many looks,
and though at five o’clock we find a booth,
life is not what matters, standards are,
values, instilled by God the Father,
life is the experience which is your knowledge,
it is getting late, and elephant and the pig wait on the shelf
for such and such and such a future date,
as midnight will corroborate
the visitors docked in their rooms, and trailing shawls,
a peacock spectrum of night’s gothic poison,
the speck of lint stuck to p. 49,
the stadium light falling after dark.
We sit and read our papers after dinner,
and on the eve of travels, when his aunts
remembered all, over their pinochle.
The morning came like a new minted coin,
ocean-side, a militant feminist
took aim and threw as hard as she could throw
an iron discus right into my dick.
It didn’t even hurt. That’s Harvard for you, these days.
In the park, the soapbox demonstrators —
the wind, it made their voices sound like cardboard.
These mountain mornings, industriously lazy,
and though I wrongfully say most are crazy,
make the right decision for the wrong reason,
we sit mid-mountain, pointillistic specks,
the abstract pie shop hangs over the valley
so far down below roofs could be tarps
layered with sunlight by the filtered angels,
and faded to white, next to green faded white,
the dirt of dry grass, childhood’s ant brigades.
Up on high stands the mountain, out of reach
impossible to see in the sun’s glare.
Icicles frozen in the sun’s gaze seize and breach
our apperception, and the brother bear
has fallen by the crest of detailed, intricate curves.
Like clock-work every five years headlights swerve
at the clown’s picture, local and memorial,
abandoned by the strength of reality,
near Enfield, long before Renfield
at the beginning on a bare landscape
or lady-scape (overhead) in white and grey
illustrated the evening, sat in the graveyard,
his eyes bleeding into autumnal symphony.
The radio blares about the doctor,
that life in space is certain, the chimpanzees
of school-clocks curb-side, let off the bus
in a strange town, quite unlike
any one you have seen before, not unlike
a fiction and you find you are the author.
Alfred, Ethel, Barbazon, and Arthur
attend the movies, charity to sculpture,
I was assaulted in the park.
It didn’t spoil my revery, but let me live a fuller life,
on the edge where the pennants
veer into a captured ocean, rife
with knowledged urgency, above the index
of the various brands of Windex. My true love
is handing cartons over a border fence
to me in dreams, and I will not wake
till classic history wakes in winter weather
and I am once again a woman
in the lineaments of wonder, and the table
spells sea arrival, mid the dystopian
lecture that you gave at the lyceum,
keen on your arrival to befit
you with the customs and a keener look,
then vacancy, the European mind —
nowhere to be found, a fairy-tale!
In the cellar theatrical properties
and paintings, trunks, of costume jewels,
pirate treasure, and men’s magazines.
Nothing endears the mind except the truth.
I am still amazed at all that passion
growing daily, planned like a tea party.
In youth I fell in love with the old movies
and disappeared like Ahab in the screen,
The Son of the Sheik with Rudolph Valentino
gave fevered distance to the afternoon,
its byways and coursings palpable only in the breach,
the stock market, the rare book store, out of reach,
I have mingled close to Clytemnestra,
and running out of paper say in despair,
‘There is a western arbitrary weather
‘that rarely gives up houses. Cockled trees
‘return upon occasion. House means pie
‘or cattle, news upon the shelf
‘sent over the mountains, from the Eastern life
‘that meant so much once. Decades in the attic
‘left marks of visitors. Recall their names
‘and faces, drinking beer with them.
‘We meet every night in the same place.
‘Our ongoing discussion gains in focus.
‘The telethon collects for rare diseases,
‘and here, in life, we go on,
‘motivated now by self-defense.
‘The pallbearer is winking in the aisle.’
BEN MAZER’s most recent collection of poems is The Hierarchy of the Pavilions (MadHat Press). This year will see the publication of Spuyten Duyvil’s Ben Mazer and the New Romanticism by Thomas Graves. Mazer is presently editing The Collected Poems of Delmore Schwartz for Farrar, Straus & Giroux. He lives in Cambridge, Mass.