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John Olson Two Prose Poems


Is there anything to say about art that hasn’t been said already? It’s possible that what needs to be said about art doesn’t need to be said at all. No two experiences are ever exactly the same, but are like the chords harmonizing in the vibrations of space and time, the differences in pitch and timbre creating overtones of bone and boomerang. This is why I’ve nailed my voice to the wall. Watch as it ruptures into shadows. The need to crowd sounds together so that they spit and crackle. This is a chain of garlic, and this is a zone of wild speculation. Shake this medication and we can flame into pain back-flipping like experts on a Persian carpet.
              The oysters have been stellar ever since gravity arrived and helped keep everything on my plate. What more can you ask for?
              I’ve been feeling more than a little ungovernable lately. We’re in crisis. You do know that, though, right? Of course you do.
              We’re all waiting for a wind to fill our sails and carry us somewhere distant, away from this mess.
              Completely normal, I say. Completely normal to shout that the world drags me down.
              I can resolve almost any issue with a little puberty and some tissue. A black wind intrinsic to impulse leans against Nevada pulling a spoon out of a bowl of adverbs. And none of us think this is strange. Because if you think about blood you don’t need to read this. It will happen naturally, like an embroidered belt purchased at a gas station. The magazines will catch the light, the deodorants will be in the aisle next to the snacks and antacids, the colors will glitter, the air will smell of coffee and Windex and hot dogs, the shelves will be loaded with talcum powder and souvenirs, the clerk will ask if you’ve found everything, and you will say yes or no according your needs and disposition, the conversation will expand according to the vagaries of the situation, a recent robbery, the uptick in military helicopters or the crazy weather, the tornado that just decimated the adjacent town, the earthquakes in Italy, the price of gas, the floods and mudslides, the whims of the universe, signs and wonders, the fall of foreign governments, the wild luxuries of the rich, people lost in the mountains, the storm brewing to the east.
              And that’s how language works.
              Iguanas push softly against our legs. The sky cracks open with thunder. The dust turns to mud. Mosquitoes. The stench of a tangible stupefaction.
              What happened, America? What happened to that big adventure of life on the Mississippi? Delta catgut on an old guitar led wildly and crazily to the sideburns of a rock star in Vegas. You can’t predict anything. Even death has gotten prodigal and sloppy.
              Outside the glow of substitution soothes us with rumor. Ghosts of the former republic call out for circuses and metal.
              You need to jump into these words, pump them into the light.
              Who am I talking to?
              I don’t even know anymore.

The Hand of William Blake

I’ve tethered a willow to a mood of creamy premonition. Why a willow? The branches sway. Light wind. Humidity at 52%. You can unfold this pyramid at an altitude of 30,000 ft. You may also seduce the logic of cause and effect by leaning a broom toward the rear of the airplane.
              I mourn the loss of my former feeling, which was convulsive with beauty and colorful as the Grand Canyon on a Wednesday morning. The new feeling is rhombohedral. Salty as a Martian’s ear, insoluble as Gabriel’s horn. Dark territory.
              Upon arriving in Minot, I disembarked and stretched my legs. It wasn’t my original destination, but I’m happy the library was open and I could find a copy of William Blake open on the table. “He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.” “No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.” “What is now proved was once, only imagin’d.”
              I began searching for a magician. Didn’t find one, no, but I can make a totem out of a conviction in wood and a little concentration.
              Pronouns furnish us with different ways of feeling the push of identity in this world. We’re united by feathers and fire. We shout at the artists to leap from their bones and bend the resignation of mourning into the glad rebellion of morning.
              For the shadows of night are dead. And the shrewd signal of a whirling expansion hurries away into the distance.
              The radio, meanwhile, shouts prophecy. The garden stumbles through itself creating raptures and odors. A crab moves laterally along a protuberance of words and mimicry. Some things cannot be imitated. You can’t mimic verticality without at least standing up. You’ve got to begin somewhere. Let’s say Toledo, Ohio. Population 287,208.
              Why Toledo? Ok, Big Sandy, Montana. Bears Paw Mountains. Doesn’t matter. Just begin. Resist what troubles you. Promote what gives you joy. Do what gives you release. Eject. Reject. Ejaculate. Be seminal. Be Seminole. Be incendiary. Sprinkle some words on a helmet.
              I whisper tales of the Norsemen to the phantoms of my as yet unwritten novel.
              The mountains confront us with the brutal serenity of granite. I have a primal need to accommodate my feelings as if they were actual wounds bleeding into the fabric of existence. The hives engorge with honey. The chemistry of love wanders through the blood eating coordinates.
              I’m lost.
              It’s good to be lost.
              Everyone knows you have to lose yourself to find yourself.
              I look for signs in the moss and animals grazing on the hill. The positions of the moon and stars. The various proposals of evergreen and hawk.
              If you need dispensation you have to assemble it with some mental arabesques and fancy patchwork. The palace is high and the gates are iron. The King sits down to a plate of lobster tart. The Queen is in her chamber tearing a letter apart. There’s no forgiveness in a mirror. Just glass, and the farce of reflection.
              But redemption?
              Redemption is easy: just open your heart.
              Nobody feels the world turn and yet it is filled with silly tyrannies and the stories of fools. You’d think by now the hallucinations would catch fire and burn into the oak cladding of reality. The gleaming chrome of its thorax.
              The elegance of refusal argues against the stucco of complacency.
              I crash through my walk rustling leaves. I’ve seen the ocean pinned to the moon. It surpassed anything masquerading as kakemono. It filled me with fire. It caused the cylinders of cognition to pump me into desire.
              What am I waiting for? What do I expect? What do you expect? Does real science still exist? What happened to the empirical inquiries of the Enlightenment? Has it been once again swallowed up in superstition? Religious dogma? Is it truly the Dark Ages again?
              We call our animals in and prepare for the winter.
              I sparkle among the lions of rage. My reticence was carried away in a flood of recognition. I can feel something pulling me to the frontier, something intuitive and hazy. It feels warm. It feels light and angelic. Is it the spirit of the lake? Is it the hand of William Blake?

John Olson is an American poet and novelist. He has published nine collections of poetry and three novels, including his recent novel: In Advance of the Broken Justy. Other works include Larynx Galaxy and Backscatter: New & Selected Poems. A third collection of prose poems, Dada Budapest, is forthcoming at Black Widow Press.
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