4 Poems
by Clayton Eshleman

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Of Nantucket in a Gravid Light

A silence older than being.
A sound that has nothing to do with noise.

Anaximander’s “apeiron” 

Indeterminate potentiality.
Orison pulsing in all beings and events.

I am the lavender word, son of the arsinother,
daughter of the basilosaur.
I teach that each word is shredded with carnifex,
spongy, a capstone capping sunyata.

To play, as cello, the Grunewald Altarpiece.
To draw out its mole tones, its Sadean larvae.

Resurrection as fiber, not chain.
To master the mist machine, the belt of weightlessness,
the energy mace, to rattle my death scepter
as causeway, as call step.

Mind is a spectrum of dead reckonings.
What to apprehend in this fog?
Blake in his wave nest.
Dovetailing maelstrom accord.
Whale road become oil drum.
Blubber cut crucifix.

I still hear the terrible spermaceti thirst as
the Essex’s black mate’s chest is stove.

Poetry to admit in fugal trot:
the leakage into the past,
the leakage into the future, and
the whole range present as daily being non being.

The uprush of contradiction in my every veer.

Branchwork directionals. In relentless detour.


                          [for André Spears]

Off Shore

Lunch on deck with Marilyn Monroe. “Martinis for two” I called out, my voice light-headed with her Doctrine.
The horizon, now darkened by world-end fires, refused our advances. We were stuck, as if in two, in a century of black goals.

Mossadegh, Lumumba, Allende, Fadlallah, all “involuntarily administered suicides.” “Four of over thirty,” Marilyn quipped, “my Doctrine has become Atlas Paint covering the globe with Burger Kings & dipsomaniacal Queens. Have Americans no shame? When I bedded JFK I was embedded with our troops on Guam. Whose arm is this? I often asked the penis to the left. The Evangelical answer cartwheeled down.”

Armageddon has become a kind of chess sparking dreams & fantasies in duel. Explosions & the deaths of millions torch this horizon, jamming all the signals from the 30 breasted Whore riding her Seahorse Hippo Wolverine. She’s a lighthouse of sorts, raying out self- effulgence.

“And just what is the self?” Marilyn inquired, draining her vulva beaker once iced with gin.

Ah, the self, the engine of telluric clockwork & angelic overload which commands: return to your infantile all-is-God, secure in its pubic aviary. Shame is topless, or the Americans would have dropped to their knees after Hiroshima babes melted into shadow.
The self is Hydra-potent, what one head learns, another climbs on. Such Siamese weddings produce rockets to the moon.

The astral earth buckles & breaks into a playing board rectored with disease crossbred with wealth. Gospel is everywhere ladled down into the seams of aboriginal integrity. “A third now always walks with us,” Marilyn cooed, “one day it is Eliot with his lime rouge complexion dragging Tiresias by his dreadlocks. They’re off, I’m told, for a tryst at the Ritz or by a campfire in Northern Arnhem Land. And if not TSE, well, a soul in a burnoose of fire whose skull has been riveted with pearls and iron.”

Self-adhesion as being bound to one’s fate, steeped in the fate of all each moment, is dangerously passé.

Fallujah under the blood map of a USA-shaped “thing.” DU bombed city, hospital cots filled with stomach-exploded women, headless children, arms burned to black crust, fetuses like the contents of cracked eggs. The soaked rancid mattress, the doctor in despair, then shot by a marine sniper as he drives home to rest. Or the 15 year old scrounging the smoke-filled alley for something to eat, shot too. Iraqis soaking rice in dirty water, no fire at all or fire everywhere. Hospitals that look like Inquisitional vomitoriums.

The Beast free of its Whore rider, free to pillage, spread HIV, or to be blown apart by American 2000 pound bombs. Families boiled in their basements. Young women picked out by Hussein’s terrible sons, raped, & when one complained, she was picked up again, stripped & covered with honey, then eaten by dogs.

Apocalypse of the male penetration, the archetype now so lethal it ramifies fucker faster to bunker-buster. What sounds like a cliché is the self infected with a replicating destruction genome, a phyloxera of the spirit, root louse boring into the foundations of all that is form. People sit stoned on violence giggling at joke-triggered applause. But the Joker, all smirk, is sprinting between the jokes, sewing, with his mayhem thread, mouth to mouth.


Matterhorn, Western Face

Out of a small doorless plane, half hanging, Bradford Washburn, 1958,
in a cloud storm photographing the Matterhorn’s southwest
–can we call it a “face”? Of a snowy owl,
beak in petrified drain down between the torn-out eyes,
wearing a cloud storm peruke! “I am
           the unfathomable
                breaking off
midstride of heaven,
      ice harpsichord,
             primordial mound”

Voice of the self lodged in an eruption remainder?
Or the sound of anticlines, surge of imaginative
cresting as, at 73, on all sides
                   entropy pulls down?

Apparition of this “meadow peak” as Kali
wearing a necklace with the skulls of Hadow, Croz, Hudson & Douglas,
voracious pyramid! Temple of duality!
Lingam gneiss upfolding out of oceanic crust
in which I open a yoni hole
                to the mountain’s uterine altar:

flat, tall blade incised with runes resting on
two stubby appendages (like lopped off thighs)—
in the center a woman’s groin,
the thigh stubs are also testicles,
yet this altar is fundamentally a female
whose torso and head have become ithyphallic,
as if the vulva self-erected,
                                          a hole
that grew into a pole,
                                          the hidden
as the realm of emptiness that radiates All–

guarded by a cross-eyed faun, whose round dance weaves
a labyrinth of confusion for the Pale Man,
eyeless, mouthless, arms flailing, staggering toward
but never reaching this tzimzum simu-
                             lacrum of the soul.


A large portion of the photograph addressed in this poem may be found on the cover of Bradford Washburn / Mountain Photography, ed. Anthony Decaneas, The Mountaineers, Seattle, 1999.

The first ascent of the mountain took place in 1865. A party made up of Edward Whymper, Charles Hudson, Lord Francis Douglas, Douglas Robert Hadow, and Michel Croz reached the summit via the Homli ridge in Switzerland. While descending, Hadow, Croz, Hudson and Douglas fell to their deaths on the Matterhorn Glacier and all but Douglas (whose body was never found) are buried in the Zermatt churchyard.

For commentary on "the hole that became a pole" see pp. 232-236 of Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination & the Construction of the Underworld.

Museums                                                                                              *

To no longer be a man but a calendar of sieved destinies.

Acknowledge that your known is unknown to yourself.

If your ears could perform, they’d peak into scimitar moons.

When self became solely human, the rotundity of rapport
between nature and animal realms was lost.

Is the human a Fallen monkey?

Bicephalous nkonde, back embedded with world rule bile.

A five-armed Rumsfeld Vishnu:
one arm pounding an Iraqi
one arm salivating
one arm a slot machine lever
one arm holding up a smashed Mesopotamian vase
one arm in buddhistic mudra.

Lion bearing a golden mummy. This loot!
    (Am I an image-looter?)

Treasures from the nocturnal morgue of the mind.

What are my roots? In what Mass, what cantata, is my calabash?

What chrysalis is layered through my diadem?

      the abyss—
   ants bearing a locust palanquin,
they are accompanied by Artaud’s screams
issuing from a clear incandescent lamp,
   the filaments of which are worms
      emitting light.
                      Birth gong,
                         sound child.

                                   Harp of
                                a gorilla

Blind Hiroshima girl, eyes opaque liquid.

So much silence
       composed of Euro-noise.
dead masks
   their spirits trapped in glass
glass as the soul of the museum
the opacity of glass

Prometheus embroiled in a cinder.

At the top of a funerary post an Oceanic guy buggering a god.


                                The insides of a saw
    where a one-legged complete man is dancing.

Maenad gloves stuffed with paralyzed gophers.

In the labyrinth of the mushroom:
    brain decussations,  angel insect irises of our creator’s
                  balloon eye staring at
                       the infinite.

What have we taken from the animal?

Atavistic wrath—how to gut it?
Was Hitler packed with crushed Neanderthal gonads?

      Perpetual decentering.
          At the jetty’s end:
              dazzling blood-colored

Bruce Connor has built a screen so the zombies
undressing cannot be stared at. They split into
     red shades, vermicular tunneling ants.
Screen covered with torn hose, dusty fake roses
—so beauty is not lost,    it is just
        enclosed in a subterranean

                                            [Paris, June, 2008]