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John Olson Prose Poems

A Crooked Mosquito In A Jar Of Abstraction

                            Growing roses in cold climates requires a lot of grit and fanaticism and shows a larger component of specular behavior than even a propulsive boogie piano or the swirl of coffee in the kitchen sink with all of its cold wet noises and almonds and fish what more do you want
                            Light propagates in space as a wave front of electromagnetic fields creamy white diaphanous fishing nets rising out of the Arabian sea in principio erat verbum the rock crystal iris and pupil of The Crouching Scribe of Saqqara which creates the illusion of his eyes following your every movement but who was this guy he looks so happy so anxious so wonderfully enthralled with the task at hand he can’t wait to get started on dictation writing being a form of magic a well of evocation creating worlds heretofore unanticipated
                            These words have been steeped in supposition it’s time to invoke the spirits the long distance ahead is eternally alluring and at the end of the road the city of Cochin a man hauling up big sacks of chili onto the back of a lorry a woman washing her garments amid a shower of soap suds a pair of arms demonstrating the expandability of meaning
                            Our upstairs neighbor is busy being noisy elsewhere I left the hammer under the tarp boiling with oceanic melodies I feel the chains lifting the U.S. a democracy are you kidding me
                            If you look closely you’ll see there’s no punctuation here and everything is shaking and full of excitement like Jerry Lee Lewis on a piano bench
                            Tug at the frog kite to make it go higher hope is a small organ at the front of the vulva the paint in our bathroom is aging differently and the bureau drawer talks in parables of socks and underwear it’s obvious that life is colinear with the wave vector of a cloud of ukuleles
                            Tis the season for gerunds and big emotions gold drooling out of a mountain renaissance jelly a rodeo at the speed of light but who am I to say such things everything is expanding into paradise realms of teak and opal in a forgotten warehouse book
                            I’ve acquired a certain talent for laziness I have ignition for shade a benign mood in a yellow capsule golden letters on book spines
                            I remember walking through the fog in Humboldt County consumed with the iron perfume of a conflagration of words such caresses of the air will sell a whale to a lonely lung chair
                            The cat’s little agitations while sleeping what does she dream I wonder I see cowboys on Mars an antenna humming with background radiation the importance of being a filmstrip is best illustrated by the tenuity of film itself all the sequences are fluid all the patches are carefully edited to condense the progress of time one must draw lessons from the realm of pain the incalculable impact of an ungovernable juice the moral of any tomato
                            When light encounters the boundary of a material the store is dressed in crickets you must walk away from the carpenter or the wood will catch fire I’ve got a sunray in my pocket and lightning on my tongue
                            Life is essentially an algebra casserole with a hint of whale testicle I like putting on hand lotion before I fold the laundry this is what the voice inside a rock sounds like the emergence of green leaves bursting awake with a sparkle art never dies it feeds on chaos the real and the imaginary a crooked mosquito in a jar of abstraction the ecstasy of collision

My Eyebrows Are Selfish

                            My eyebrows are selfish I know this but what can I do they’re eyebrows they have complete autonomy and I have to learn to face it it’s a weird crazy mixed up feeling but someone’s got to feel it there’s nothing sadder than a wasted feeling except those who suffer under the tyranny of eyebrows
                            This must be happening in waves due to the electronic structure of the material the slight warm pressure of earphones on my head confirms the simultaneity of empowerment and alienation in a world this big there must be room for contradictions the paths along which light propagates under certain circumstances produces tender strips of protein which may be consumed as a meal the way angiosperms & euphorbia chew the sunlight
                            That feeling that comes over you after a disillusioning insight that first destroys then recreates you this may be replicated in a music studio with copper serpents snare drums Romanian bassoons and a Stratocaster Eric Clapton is particularly useful in this context
                            I remember having drinks with my dad in the Hotel Ephrata and him bending a swizzle stick and laying it on the table where it slowly straightened into its original shape the point being that plastic has a memory I was rather enthralled with this and after a few more of the temporal variations we caused by bending time the waitress asked us to stop the bartender gets upset when customers bend the spacetime continuum he forgets everything & buys drinks on the house he can’t take it anymore he must return to his home planet
                            Last night I wore my kangaroo pajamas and I must say my sleep has improved significantly I awoke feeling immoderate and absurdly hypnopompic and began my day with an e minor pentatonic which ended with an orgasmic crescendo on marsupial boulevard
                            This gave me little mutters to salt wed words and I did and they came out wonderful icosahedral virus structures wild and yet somehow purposeful
                            I feel tender around these words a woman with the tattoo of a flaming black sun splashing wax on her chin prepares to saw a man in half she rubs her arms and pounds a rhythm out on the dresser which is said to invoke the spirts of the dead and this is what I mean by art its illusions are voracious for mirrors but that isn’t art that’s showbusiness art is more brutal
                            Things were always fabulously weird and colorful in California when I first got there everyone asked how did you get here where did you come from who are you have we ever met before and no I said that is to say I don’t know what I mean or why I’m here but the companionship it arouses is to be endorsed and treasured and women with black wings and black feathers reflect these drifts of thought as they pile up in a text where spice is a theater and space is a holy volume surrounded by starlight and stone a veritable Eden of surf and redwood and Kim Novak in a big floppy hat riding a chestnut mare
                            It's been a nice rainy day for the gleaning the fields and now it’s time for rest and recreation Emily Dickinson is sitting in the parlor awaiting our attention she’s staring at a TV in which two men in Kansas repairing fences get into an argument one of them pulls a gun and shoots and Emily gets up to write a poem so I must be quiet now and lead a donkey subjunctive to a wishful condition this is known as The Law of Reflection and reflects everything idle in August a long desert highway and neon signs under a setting sun

Unraveling Some Traveling

Fascinating the way Neal Cassady compares the interrelations of life and human consciousness to an internal combustion engine. Car engines and cars in general play such a central role in that guy’s life. He, like Rimbaud, experienced an insatiable craving called Dromomania. The irrepressible need to travel. Always restless. Always dissatisfied. Always on the road. Always on the hunt. Looking for thrills. Unpredictable moments. Passionate romances. That last a week. Then hit the road. Vrroom! Vroom! And off you go, heading into the morning sun. The dilemma of living shattered on the nerves. A little tightness in the neck. And words words words in the head. Plans. As the spark in an internal combustion engine. With death following fast behind.

Funny that Kansas City is in Missouri. I’ve never been there. Just wondered about it. Why does it come up in so many songs? What’s up with that city? They got some crazy little women there, & soybeans & sunflowers. Cattle & hogs. Stockyards. Wonder if PETA has an office there. Wonder if I’ll ever be a vegetarian. This is a world where your inner self meets your outer self and they get in a big fight & leave you wondering if you might be better served by a good obstinate bit of orneriness, and a .38 special. Nightclubs & bars where the music is sharp & elegant & you’ve got to keep an eye on the back of your head wide open. I can see myself engrossed in the landscape and taking note of people as I drive through towns like Colby and Hays and Salina. A little garden in Topeka, an old woman on a porch swing, cursing at the neighbors & smoking a cigar.

If I ever make it to Boston the first thing I will do is hire a polemicist to guide me around all the arguments. I’m into the implications people make when they’re talking about things that they didn’t mean to talk about, and at parties, in Boston, where the Bostoners live. And if we have time to enjoy some espousal show me any herbalists clamoring for orpiment. I do not intend to be exempt from flapping. I want to pump myself into a tie and attend a mastoid. Of course, none of this needs to happen in Boston, it can happen at home, in my attic, with the door closed so as not to disturb the neighbors. I’m comfortable combining my pessimism with that of a vagabond. And if I may confide in your equivalent, I just want to say thank you, & take you to Boston.

I remember quite fondly all those dirt roads in North Dakota and the hugeness of the sky over the prairie and the endlessness of the horizon, no matter which direction you took, and the smells in summer, sometimes minty, sometimes suede, if a smell can be suede, and not blatant like burlap, like a sack hanging on the wall of a barn, where the odors are unmistakably straw and manure, though not always in combination. Sometimes the straw stood out, sometimes the manure. Things commingle in barns but they don’t go crazy. Not always. Sometimes they do, but that’s a different discussion, from a different era, like an antimacassar on a burgundy couch. Victorian, agrarian, and uncomplaining. Quiet, like the ticking of a cuckoo clock next to the photograph of a deer leaping over a log in a glade, lit from behind, & hung by the gun rack on a wall of pine.

It’s impossible to describe Paris. This statement is so obvious it should be wrapped in a newspaper and tossed into a landfill. Paris can’t be described by its bridges, museums, restaurants, bistros, bars, and brasseries, the curve of its streets or the splash and glitter of lights on the Seine, Notre Dame de Paris illumined at night or the smell of food everywhere, pervasive, husky and warm. This is just frippery. Paris has a soul, and that’s what’s so obvious about it, and elusive. No net of words cast however far into the stratosphere can bring back anything as luxurious and frightening as a description of Paris, still flopping and alive. Paris is more of a feeling than a metropolis. If Paris were destroyed there’d still be a Paris. A Paris of the soul, alluring, perverse, immune to the law, because it has its own law, which is not of this earth.

The Law Of Emily

Let’s sit and talk of stars and ethics and steel girders. I found a nickel in the middle of an almanac and need a way to talk about it that doesn’t bring tears and groans. I’ll let you in on a little secret: there’s honey in my padlock. This is how I achieved some reconciliation with the real world, though it’s never been entirely clear to me just how real real is. Real as in real estate. The jiggle of water in a water bottle on the bed. The sound of knives and forks on china plates. William Burroughs kissing the trunk of an elephant. Emily Dickinson dressed in a costume of black wings and black feathers. These are a few of my favorite things, fulfilling their roles as cogitatum. Here I stand clenching an idle day in August. There’s no hope in heaven. Why would there be? It's heaven. And that’s about all I can say. Everything just flew by like Lake Union hair. Then rose, like a soul in the mist, to say hi to Emily. We all need a place where candles burn at every grave and the priest pours everyone a glass of strawberry wine. I always thought life was a funny thing and boy was I right. Way weirder than anyone expected. Though I don’t think anyone expected to be born. It just happened. Like the universe happened. Does the universe know it happened? I know the universe happened and I’m part of the universe. Therefore, I had another stupid orgasm on the streetcar named desire. Here’s what I want I want this to end with a wildly purposeless glint of light on the doorknob of the laundry room. And that universe that sprang unbidden from a vacuum billions of years ago is still here I can see it it’s everywhere the quantum vacuum is a seething orifice showered with golf balls and broken glass. I have my reasons for wanting raisins. Rainy day reflections are always so wonderfully ovarian. Think of a reconciliation with anything and I’ll give you a squirrely universe in a ballpoint pen. A tall yellow orchid in the window. Green moss on the library wall. And two men in Kansas repairing a barn. And if that isn’t enough I’ll throw in a scene of Frankenstein’s monster reading a poem at Bukowski’s Bar in Prague. One should remain calm in the presence of gross distortion. Imperfections offer us the grace of dispensation, and truths asleep in the unevenness of life. I feel tender around these words. The garden piano has the sound of old iron. The viola cries for Mahler. And so we do what we can to accommodate the random and pedal a nice wet word into the parlor. This is known as The Law of Emily. It neither decides nor rules. It tingles in the mind.

At The School Of Perfumery

At the school of perfumery, all words are permitted. You may call the smell of bacon colloquial, ómótstæ?ilegt, or morning coffee the smell of thought. Honeysuckle smells of honeysuckle, but combined with a dash of wisteria, angelic veils lift the soul into a bed of ceremonial linen. Jasmine smells of passion, Tristan and Iseult in a greenhouse tryst. The hyacinth, in full bloom, smacks of wide-eyed zirconium, a Victorian ceiling affirming the shoulder of a giant nostalgia. A flood of odor awakens the nose to numinous wisdoms, particularly the ones that shelter the sensuality of old oak drawers and cinnamon buns. Coastal sea towns smell of barnacled old docks and creosote, the exhumation of books and clothes from attic steamer trunks, dreams of linseed varnish. Democracy smells of lavender when it’s functioning smoothly, dogshit when it’s not. Confinement smells of broken dawns and scrappy manifestos. Coats smell of experience and hair. Warehouses smell of negotiation. Mushrooms imply the gentle satiation of pain by pleasure, which is a powdery transformation adrift in rainforests, the phalanges of old monastery bones. Hope is the smell of sawdust amid the din of understanding, the progression of speech in a chaos of opinion, with a faint suggestion of sweat, and the strength of a single hour of empowerment, dancing with the women on an English stage. Since the music of the local park varies from season to season, scents are variously mingled into the music of the local songbirds, the trill of the spotted towhee, the melodies of the song sparrow and Carolina wren, forming mosaics of new intelligence, new perspectives, new feelings and the subsequent blast of abstraction. Such synergies can be as vivid as the glitter of windshields on doomed tornado roads and the general atmosphere surrounding the shore of a river where people stumble among the rocks talking of shadows, milkweed and art. Something dead rocks the air, and is gone by the next breath, the one carrying descriptions of whales in the south pacific, where the breezes are laden with the savor of frangipani, and tigers prowling in solitary stealth through jungles of commingled palm.

John Olson’s work in prose, poetry, and prose poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including Echo Regime, Dada Budapest, Larynx Galaxy, Backscatter: New and Selected Poems and Weave of the Dream King. He has also authored four novels, including Souls of Wind (shortlisted for a Believer Magazine Book Award in 2008), The Seeing Machine, The Nothing That Is, and In Advance of the Broken Justy.
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