John Olson Five Prose Poems

alligatorzine | zine

The Far West Of The Mind

The soul’s profound duality, the Far West of the mind
              — Robin Blaser

The Far West of the mind begins with wild ocean darkness. Black water swept by wind.
Mountain flows into mountain. Ahab’s ivory leg thuds on a freshly scrubbed deck.
              Merely to go with the nose is to discover there is a wisdom that is woe.
              Rimbaud loading a camel’s back with a cargo of ivory and silk.
              Smoked salmon. Freshly spilled blood. Frantic berserker rage.
              Fury is an excoriation of extreme abstraction. And Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe.
              When I reach into space, I find Picasso staring at his fingers.
              Raptures unwrap our inner being. We stand naked and raw at the edge of the real. High Plains Drifter, string and guitar.
              The small life today has become parabolic. Roberta holds the umbrella while I squeeze quarters and dollars into the slit of the parking lot pay box. Odd to think of space as a commodity.
              Celine alone in his hotel room New York City, dialing room service.
              Burt Reynolds in the glow of an aquarium, sobbing, his face twisted in agony.
              Solitude is sweet, but the milk of isolation grows sour.
              I feel all blood and fire. I do handstands in the library. Summer lumber slumbers among the spines of old editions. The old stone gods mounted on antique paper.
              I have a tornado in my pocket. I will travel to Paradise on a Harley Davidson. Feel the heat and vibrations of the engine between my legs.
              Poetry is the engine of the divine.
              It is produced by air. Explosions of air. The upper part of the respiratory tract between the pharynx and the trachea explodes the ooze of correlation into active consideration. Dry stuff for the blood in a very sweet and liquid tongue.
              Throw a whole life into a frame of words and what you get is city antennas treading the light.
              A stocky Australian with a limp and thick sideburns waiting on a table at an Italian restaurant with eccentric décor, a bicycle upside down on the ceiling.
              Let’s go swimming. Swimming in real water in a real lake. The ribbed sand beneath our feet reflects a palate of current.
              A group of Ojibwe stand on the shore. The mountain slope indulges a stand of birch. Tiny fish brush our legs. One must learn to endure fleeting things.
              Universal mind Smokestack Lightning. Uncanny energies assume the shape of a horse.
              Fasten the tent stakes. We are at the frontier of consciousness.


On Friday, July 9th, 2009, I vacuumed the car. I threw myself into it with the rage of a hundred Vikings on the shore of the real.
              Rocks. Cliffs. Ice.
              A frost giant groaning in the bitter Arctic air.
              I never use the same hose twice.
              The vacuum operates for roughly five minutes.
              Or is it ten?
              I generally finish before it shuts off. It’s a small car. A Subaru.
              Did I mention that there are woods nearby? The woods abound with acorns.
              The age demanded an image and so I gave it acorns.
              That’s more than a single image. That’s a lot of images. The image of acorns.
              Raptures of universal mind in the shape and image of acorns.
              Daniel Craig as James Bond.
              No one has ever matched the fullness of Bond’s character except Sean Connery.
              When consciousness is cut into words, it becomes a poem. It fills with denim and struggle. Hummingbirds and wine. Oak.
              Oak is a beautiful wood, brilliant in its moral of endurance, and grain.
              The poem grows legs and crawls from the swamp that is consciousness. The legs are what is pushing the poem forward, causing it to advance, emerge from the dark, murky water, and observe its surroundings.
              If is full of a sweet breath that takes fire. A plume of flame brings down a castle of outrageous mercantilism. Brokers run into the streets of Manhattan full of terror.
              Because that’s what poetry does. It makes a mockery of commerce. It is the least commercial entity that ever existed.
              Think of it as a reckless infrared tennis shoe eating a morsel of space.
              Sunlight gleaming on a construction crane.
              A warm body of air.
              An archaic white on the skin of the sky.
              A voyage through a car wash. Tentacles of a giant octopus swishing back and forth over the windshield and hood.
              I never take the sun for granted. Never take anything for granted.
              I’m a real poet. I lapse into obscurity when I feel like it. I’m timid and awkward at parties. I despise anything that involves routine, or badges, or weird food at potlucks.
              It is useless to worry. But I do it anyway. Somebody has to do it.
              Meanings, like radar, determine distance and direction.
              But some things never show up on the radar screen.
              The contrivance of wires in a stairwell, sound of a shovel plunged into soft dark earth.

Press Basement

The elevator smells of popcorn. There is no one else, as yet, to share it with. I press the number four. The doors of the elevator close with a certain unmistakable solemnity. A surety. The elevator rises to the fourth floor. The doors open. I enter the glitter and wonder that is the fourth floor.
              The fourth floor offers housewares and kitchen gadgets.
              The future of our country depends on the affordability of kitchen gadgets.
              It is, I agree, a sad comment to discover that their affordability stems from being manufactured elsewhere in the world, where labor is cheaper.
              How might one bring other delicacies into this world, intangible creations, whose manufacture is the result of mild rebellions against time, and tyrannous efficiency.
              The sound of rain on a soggy map.
              The bubble in a spirit level racing back and forth as the carpenter presses the level against a wall. Adjusting it carefully, surely, toward the true.
              The man in the bakery shields his face from the heat of the oven.
              An upholsterer daubs a box joint with beads of glue.
              Life in the United States always tends naturally and inexorably toward the Whitmanesque. I do not know why. It must have something to do with space. Even now. When space is so heavily constricted by interstates and parking lots and enormous shopping malls. Walmart. Home Depot. Target.
              It cannot solve itself.
              It must lose its geography. Even rivers have personalities.
              The words burn, their bodies glowing, as a crowd of people protest Wall Street.
              The future of our country depends on the sweet acrid breath of gasoline.
              Emily Dickinson watching it get light over the trees.
              The dark imagined land.
              Press basement. See where it takes us.

What Matters Is Round

How do you do my name is Luigi and I am the Duke of Abruzzi. I love bubbles, strawberries, and sheets drying in the wind and sunlight. Hobbies include bank robbery, kidnapping, and extortion.
              As you can see, the streets are barricaded, and the police are confused.
              What can I say?
              I grew up in Minneapolis. I am a true poet. I grow obscure when I feel like it and ride the green dragons of Mandalay.
              I feel old. I have begun to see my life as a play in the shape of a boat propeller.
              In Act One, I bare my fangs, lightning illumines the library, and the sea crashes against the rocks. I wrap myself in a cape and glide from room to room howling plump and personal sentences.
              In Act Two, I saw an opulent emotion in half. This is how I discover the magic of bubbles.
              There is a blaze of art in the room. Do you see it? Even the map has a pulse. Figures move around on a screen and a mound of photogenic sugar acquits all adjectives of their burdensome role in the sentence.
              But what sentence? We are all serving a sentence. Even this sentence is serving a sentence. But what can be done?
              People die in the canyons all the time. We do what we can to warn them, but there are always those who go headlong into the wilderness with nothing but a song and a flashlight.
              Necessity makes a necessity of necessity.
              Hope is a curious medicine, healing and enfeebling simultaneously.
              Did I mention the Rolling Stones played at our wedding?
              Did I mention that I was married?
              I married a balloonist from Barcelona. We honeymooned in Honolulu.
              Where is she now? That’s my last Duchess on the wall, over there, by the begonias. She’s the one with the hairdo that looks like a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a Moab garage.
              I know all the sorrows of the jukebox. Sometimes I feel like I am walking on a highwire, and sometimes I drive to California in a silver Dodge sedan, only to discover that I have not left the couch, but am lost in a cloud of smoke, a bowl of opium at my side.
              Absence does not have a structure. If it did, it would not be absence, it would be a hat, or an elevator.
              Do you hear? There is a song in the ink. A pool of words bubbling in the center of the page. I saw this happen once on Ron Silliman’s blog. A pair of slugs mated, dangling from a branch on a strand of mucus, their genitals entwined.
              Life is an endless struggle and death is a long sweet rest. But let’s not fuss over little things. What matters is ultramarine. What matters are spoons and forks. Alphabets and clams.
              I wonder if the wash is done. You’ll have to excuse me. I see a revolving door and somebody has to push it. Round and round and round and round. Thank god for walls.
              Thank god for breasts and sentences and syllables and sound. And round and round and round and round.

Veins Of Crazy Water

People tell me my personality is a drug. Could be. My shadow is a spine. And I have the current density of copper. A welcoming face. Opium eyes opium thumbs.
              The piccolo is parenthetical.
              I’ve been behind bars ten times in my life. Once, for robbing a 7-11 with a squirt gun.
              Life is often difficult. I always feel like I’m falling into a hole. Others, like I’m dancing on a cloud.
              I remember seeing Sonny and Cher arrive at the Target Ballroom in Burien, Washington, in 1965. They glowed. They had at least two hit songs on the radio.
              I cried the first time I rode in an elevator. It was so beautiful. Not at all what I expected. The way the doors slid shut. The way people stood in inside. So solemn and quiet. As if they were at a funeral. And this was when the elevator was going up. People seemed more cheerful when the elevator was going down. And then I realized. This was because they were leaving their jobs and medical appointments and returning to the world. To their homes and friends. Or a drink at the local bar.
              I got married in 1970 and divorced in 1972. That was a ride. Let me tell you.
              My wallet is a museum of personal details. Driver’s license, library card, credit cards, angels, movie stubs, drugstore receipts, a prescription for codeine, I have roots in this sentence, that’s why it’s taking so long to complete it, because the roots are sinking into the dirt and the words are blossoming at the top.
              And so now you know a little about me.
              Yesterday, Adriana made scones for all the poets in town. I didn’t go. I had already eaten breakfast. This consisted of a slice of cherry pie with whipped cream on top, an orange, a cup of coffee, and a poem by Baudelaire in which a woman dances so beautifully he compares her undulatory movements to a snake.
              I dislike sticky fingers, don’t you?
              Especially blood.
              I like carnivals, friendly dogs, and cleavage.
              Silverware shining in sunlight.
              One must come to terms with pain. Because if you don’t, pain will engulf and drown you. The cloud assumes itself in accumulation. It is the same with pain. It will accumulate. Like a cloud. But remember. Remember what it is that clouds do.
              That’s right. Clouds rain.
              Sweet sweet rain.
              Veins of crazy water zigzagging to the sill.

This material is © John Olson
www.alligatorzine.be | © alligator 2011