Clayton Eshleman
Five Poems from PENETRALIA

alligatorzine | zine


Reface me.
Deliver me from this shot gun blast mess.

A hole where the middle of her face had been.

22 hours for new blood vessels, hollow
white arteries, hair dense stitches starting to pulse.

Donor face.   Anna Kasper mask.   Xipewear.
The eyes of the living seen through the face of one dead.

Will her soul reject her mask?

“You’ll leave like a breeze,” warned one tremble-anchored bush.

To smell,      and to live,      behind the entropy of the mask.
To appear Other.   Not to be Other but to radiate
Other as the death density of livingdying.
Face stadium in which Anna Kasper specters flit.

C.G. Jung: “Projections change the world into the replica of
one’s unknown face.”

Miracle of Connie Culp being able to walk down the street
without being taunted.

What was the first mask?
The eyes of one’s dead rival staring through a waterfall?

                                                        10 June 2009


Scrubbing out the grit in the spoon’s cracks.
Stirring just-starting-to-boil brown rice.

Old, fifteen years in spoon life, maybe a hundred in ours,
without paint, décor, or machine polish, sweetly rough to my hand.

Essence of that which enables.
Evocation of prehensile pride.

Dear sister particle:
to palm you as I would have mother’s breast 73 years ago.

Stirring as part of our cosmological rotation.
Shoulderless spoon: an extra-terrestrial on a stick.


Wind swept impermanence of this endless winch.

Myriad mouths of beings multiplied, dulcified, zithered through history.

Wingless butterflies less lost than I am
under the caterpillar treads redesigning my face pilgrimage.

                                                        Yet this autumn is beautiful,
and beautiful the loss underscored by sunlight and safe night sleep.

I have sealed my own destructiveness, cauterized its principle feelers.

Why can’t I accept that Hitler one way or another is stirring much of
the unseen porridge, not cunning Adoph
but the crocodile levity in men—
laugh-in howl-out against which I sniffle
fixed in my high chair
listening to grandpa read a letter from the ex-Russian renter
writing the Eshleman family about the horrors of the siege of Leningrad.

Everything is and has never been a milling, amorphous terribilita
searching for desire in which to curl.

I have learned to see
in the faces of the dead
a jug of rose-white chickadee explosion.


Rounding the gym track listening to WEMU.
Suddenly Sonny Stitt entangles “Koko” with my mental vines.

“Cherokee” lyrics, schlock “Indian romance,”
pulled inside out by “Koko,” “Cherokee’s” vital ghost.

Euphotic zone where there’s stride foam I can drink.
Is it mitotic? Is it mine?

To incurvate
our nature, animals volley through.
Megaceroses, aurochses, ripe as fountains.
From whence this meta-image-music?
Does psyche rise from the void?
Or is the unground inhabited by Pans, satyrs, dog-headed baboons?
Did not animal souls start to intermingle with nascent
human souls when Cro-Magnons projected/drew
animal/hybrid images?

In each animal the ark recapitulated!
Imago dei, the animal face of our finite nature.
A megaceros-mounted mother. Birth of the altar beast.
Aura in which my skeleton is dancing,
a Minotaur in a gaseous time fugue.
Palimpsestic pad of a polar bear’s paw.
Read it as the palm of a god. See through erasure.

James Hillman: “Each polar bear presents the eternal return of the polar bear spirit
as a guardian, a spiritus rector, from which, according to Ivar Paulson, speaking of
circumpolar arctic peoples, the very idea of God arises.”

Now Stitt pours on more “Koko” anti-freeze:
as if out of Goya a black sorcerer goat
stares at me
out of a white goat ocean.

Word spars churn a depth fantasia.
The pressure always: to penetrate my fate.

And what is fate? The maple breaking into a massacre of leaves?
A vulture alighting behind a bunched-up starvling?
Or is fate inside the line?

Am I resisting coming to terms with the strata of vitriol I’ve mined?

Am I to know the depth of my plumb line?

How open my fontanel was to the toxicities of my age?

I once passed through a smoking gate, turned back and glimpsed
(caught in a photo, 1969) Caryl, with my “Regeneration” in her arms.

All afterlife is right here, in the Orphic head
I’ve bowled into that juggernaut of critical pining.


Slootervaart      looter art
Slootervaart      park roamed by urchins and perverts
Slootervaart      odalisque of my eyes in yours
Slootervaart      sockets filled with the ochre of farraginous dreams
Slootervaart      fog veiling alders in goddess raiment
Slootervaart      overturned crucible in which serpents of the sun once basked
Slootervaart      elephant mouth issuing an arch of flame-like ferns
Slootervaart      the knob-faced sickle-shadows in reburgeoning oaks
Slootervaart      Pandora’s vexed hexagram rampant with mangers
Slootervaart      sin-trillion weight of gargoyles exhaling priest gas
Slootervaart      dumb, numb, uncaring death light skinning me alive with beauty

as if it were an inner lining, or a line
I can reach here, one I would drape around
and then throw off, a death line
twisting down into Cro-Magnon sensations, Neanderthal knots,
a cord by which a master spirit might climb, spinal,
electric with Tantrik lesion, out of that magic region between anus and sex
Artaud so feared, where Kundalini, the soul snake, sleeps.
Artaud feared the Muladhara Chakra because he believed God
would murder him there. Interesting. That God might be most active
on the balance pan between shit and sperm.
He kills at fulcrum anyone, especially one seeking to be fully born.
God certainly exists. He is what we have deposited of
fruitless immortality into flesh and the legacy of flesh.
God only exists as an escalator into nerve and musclework,
as a human death-hate aggrandized into a celestial volcano hovering

These poems are from a 56 poem collection, Penetralia, which will be published May 2014 by Black Widow Press (www.blackwidowpress.com).
This material is © Clayton Eshleman
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