Week of July 27, 1998 -
August 3, 1998
C.C. Russell and Denis Mair
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C.C. Russell was born in Ohio, but has lived out most of his life in Wheatland, Wyoming where there is not a single bookstore and there has probably never been a poetry reading. Why force himself to this cultural wasteland? He cannot answer that. C.C.'s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, Curio Magazine, The Web, CrossConnect, and Driver's Side Airbag. His fiction has appeared in Unwound and Oyster Boy Review and he has also written reviews for Oyster Boy. He spends entirely too much time in front of a computer screen.
The following work is Copyright © 1998, and owned by C.C. Russel and may not be distributed or reprinted in any formwhatsover without written permission from the author.
A Fairy Tale
The wolf in the story
eats the grandmother,
flashes the teeth,
scares the red girl.
This is you.
Predictable as myth
that has grown slightly
over the years
somewhere in the back
of its head
it has been evil
and it has won.
In One Eye, Out The Other
we have forgotten
our initial moments
Georgette will write to us
of the spinning head
and we will hide our jealousy
as we have learned
Tonight I am just content
watching our ghosts
their translucent shapes
as moments rising
to overtake time.
I do a little bit of work as a translator for a Taiwan religious group called Tienti Chiao, which grew out of Taoism. I spent 8 years in China and Taiwan. I saw some people get shot near Tiananmen Square in 1989. But I didn't think that was very surprising. I had been feeling pain in the air for months before it broke. I wonder why people get so surprised at things--things that were right there all the time. They fly off the handle. I figure my nerves, besides all their throbbing, could maybe be an antenna for something. I had always enjoyed conjuring the world through words, but I always thought that belonged in conversation. Later I learned conversation has pitfalls. I found that with some people, talk is nothing but pitfalls. Better simply to let go, than to bleed with sincere pleading. Poetry perhaps could make something of things that were blowing away in the wind. I had a lot of reveries in my background: could they be mined, or put to use? Continuing them could give me distance. I had enough of feelings being wielded like blunt wedges; I could use some distance. I figured a poet is someone who can weave the threads of feelings into an aesthetic object. I also thought this object could maybe be used to adorn someone's thought. Yeah, something to be given between distant people, a delicate model of how feelings can balance. Certain misfortunes kept me from finishing grad school, which was a lucky thing too. If I had not become a human particle outside of the academy, I would not have met poets. Translating their work, and writing letters to them, made me realize I could do it too, as a hobby. It's been pretty rewarding. It's a favorite fantasy of mine that it's a civilizing vehicle. But just as with other arts people practice, a large part of it is resignation, and dignity of keeping at it. All one needs is to be interested.
Dennis is co-editor of The Temple.
The following work is Copyright © 1998, and owned by Dennis Mair and may not be distributed or reprinted in any formwhatsover without written permission from the author.
The daughter getting farther away in the Greyhound
Is beyond where I can imagine.
Interior running lights of phosphor-green
Show a faint shape of her head, against the Dakota night
On the other side of the glass.
I try to resolve the picture, but the Badland darkness
Empties her silhouette.
If she had to leave, it should have been in a perfect vehicle,
But she rides that dirigible of the road,
Dispatched by a breakdown scab corporation
Into a triangle my wavelength will not reach.
The sealed-off revolutions of engines
Are faster propelling souls at night-time
Than my sorting of memories
Can fix a negative under ruby light.
Yet right here I have a template that strained for her form
Among a crowd of children at the schoolyard gate.
How can I not want to sift through the aureole
Of blips and squeaks surrounding Radio City?
On the fifth day I pick up her laughter
Along a row of shops where music spills onto the street.
The bruised fruit of the air
Breathes to her heart a secret quivering.
I lose her at the doorway of a juice bar
Not being alive enough to the music.
One week later I place her again,
She is in a series of cubicles;
She can send only a position locator,
She is exposed to the weather, where others have dug in.
I consign her to the distance, but my comfort-seeking heart
Still looks to her hard work in the past.
Surely, that has prepared her to take hold
While I go off and try to take hold myself.
I know---a rootless rage is afoot,
And many cannot point to it
For it hounds them like dogs of Bardo.
She takes it in herself,
..in heart and hands
..her long crossing has begun,
Her initiation in which I hope to follow her
If only I do my part to lead her along.
Man Cut In Wood
Gentle grain of wood is in the sun,
Close-packed secret life, wrapped in bark
Holds aloft ten-thousand leaves to tremble in the breeze.
The roots make sweetness to feed the bark
To grow a thicker column of the gentle blond grain.
Standing over a clear streak of water in the breeze;
Only to grow in that place, never out of harm's way;
Suddenly sawed down and split, exposed but blind to the sun.
Await the woodworker who can rub in sun with linseed oil,
Cut a contour to lead the line of sight,
Sandpaper to catch a gleam from slanting rays,
Grain of woodworker's muscles also flexing in the sun.
But not everyone can work in such a charmed circle.
Blundering forces-divided and lost from each other
Stumble into each other and throw up edges,
Invasive purposes sharpened to sawteeth,
Screech and whine, silent scream like mandrake pulled up at midnight.
Workpiece not held steady, bucking up from the saw,
Blocky shape hacked out by repetition.
Man cut in wood, laid open and blind to the sun,
Flung out arms akimbo, exposed
Without finish in merciless weather.
Man standing like post takes stock of himself,
Rigid shape of body, poor arms that must stretch out,
Hands flopping like lost crows,
Stretched in blind sun, heat-stroke of clouds and lightning,
Tongues of lightning snake up the man's trunk.
Fissures opened by dryness, inroads of borers;
In drizzling season, wetness stays and grows fungus
Water beads gather with pureness of tears,
Fine grain sweeter than walnut meat goes down to decay.
Man cut in wood, this is a slow emergency!
The passing crowd laments in thousand-toned sighs.
Red light, urgency, warning signal flash,
Send for a carpenter in an ambulance.
Man cut, won't somebody help?
Somebody help the poor soul that wants to help another,
Imagine life in another's planar section
Always longitudinal to this grain,
Tubules always conducting the juice of spring somewhere else.
Craft and shape the grain that was gnashed by other teeth.
Feel sorry for the flopping crows, give them work to complete,
Transform their dire arc to the ballet of swallows.
There is more than wood to this wood:
The tender curve of line, the shape traced out,
The man is right there with the wood, where else?
Were he to drift away, who then would make shapes
To teach the eye how wood may remain in the sun?
At every point it is love that nails him to the crosstree of decay.
Cut in wood: a-man-cuts-himself-a woodcut.
Be glad for pinpoints of light in the darkness of wood's grain!
Be glad that he hangs back from conflagration!
Be glad for shapes that declare all phases of sunlight!
The crosstree stands in the weather,
Words drift by like clouds,
This praise will continue, if only the thread can be found!
Thought-farmer keeps many aqua-culture tanks
Draws water from his own well to fill them.
He pours in his tinctures and starters,
Ladles liquids to keep the level constant.
In one tank grows a patient corner-piece,
In another, a window frame opens its eye,
One has shingles, willing to overlap against weather,
In one are hinges that only love to swing.
Rows of tanks hold pieces he will fit together,
To build a house just as alive as he is.
The final tank stirs with salamander hiss;
He nourishes it with the rarest essences
Hoping it transform to be an image cut in wood
Forever changing shape above the fireplace.
Thought-farmer barters his riches for a special seed.
Preparing a garden plot consumes him for a season.
He lays himself bare, stripped of all wishes,
Except to call forth that powerful sprout.
From green ferment and kisses of sunlight,
Fibers twist together and grow to one purpose,
The purpose grows out of the work,
The knotted vine grows from the ground with one force.
It climbs up poles that spare it a struggle with gravity,
It branches out and pours sap into a hundred fruits,
Which are directly offered up to the sky.
Thought-farmer has a head bushy with growing tips.
He sends runners radiating in all directions.
Thought-farmer disappears into the landscape,
Don't look for him except in his projects.
His mind is servant to the edifice,
But this edifice is temple to the mind,
Everywhere is filled with fragrance of offering.
He digs in the landscape alive with his life
Shot through with ferns that carry news.
In layered growth of forest he gathers a special fern
That crystallizes stories of fallen kingdoms,
And the lingering cries of children.
He flocks with winged carriers to trade his gleanings
And with them enters into a twirling dance.
Silence solemnizes the twitterings of his days.
He frames words with silence, coaxing new kinds of ferns to grow,
But people cannot crop the growths right from his head,
So he goes to a magic pond and kneels down by the water
He trails his branches there, knowing it opens out onto
A new landscape, where other beings can read them.
A Dog Poem for Tomorrow
.............by Yan Li
.............translated by Denis Mair
A dog that only goes wild after death
Clamps the world in its jaws and won't let go
Poems of tomorrow have no answer either
Clamping their own crimes in their jaws
Those dogs who lived long enough in the city
Taking along apartment buildings softened by furniture
Will charge into the pregnancy of an orchard
And clamp jaws on an unborn infant's original form
Dog teeth will have become piano keys
Only bone-crunching music will rate popularity in this world
Suffering will still be re-published sheet music
So machines in printing plants will still be best at singing
The home-guarding talents of tomorrow's dogs will be snipped out at the
A homeless world with dogs vacationing everywhere
Puffs of clouds like dogs will often float by in the sky
Some airplane-flying artists
Will paint young women clouds in the sky
Tomorrow's dogs tracking June mornings and December afternoons
Will still expose their bored tongues
But swallow even dirtier things to cut down reproduction
Tomorrow's dogs make a science of freakishly prolonged life
Tomorrow's doghouses can be hung any old place like a shirt
But tomorrow's dogskins will be shed by dogs
Tomorrow a dog of an orbital satelite
Having shaken off its tail wagged to cinders
Will go off into space to be human
I too will have such a tomorrow
So take advantage of today
Before the sky, as wide as the solar system, is chained like a dog
Holding my shadow in my mouth
From where sunlight is
From out of lamplight
And even from enchanting moonlight
I have come out
I have come out forever.