If I wanted to open a door or look
out a window-no- if I wanted to
open a door and walk into a world I
would like to live in for awhile- it is
this feeling more than any other I have sought
out by reading and writing. Invariably, I
want to choose the first door at hand that
intrigues me because, now that I have
discovered the opportunity I am well aware that
there is no time to waste. As often, no, more
often, much more often than not there is
nothing behind the door, only once I have
tried to open it and see that the door
won't budge, very soon after I realize that
there wasn't any door there at all. But
sometimes- the best times- I can walk
right through, look around, even settle
in for awhile. And, despite any wishes to
the contrary, after awhile, the room,
the door, it all disappears. But then,
sometime, there will be another one, maybe
this time a window, a plane, a time
machine. Machines...I imagined a
language machine (not like Kafka's that
wrote horrible messages on his character's back),
a machine that would generate words from
each other. Often, in my very early experiments,
I would only associate to the last letter of a
word, then make that word my next word.
These strange poems were capable of reminding
me of the thoughts and feelings I was thinking
about when I was writing them, although
none of the words seemed at all connected
to these thoughts. The poems would be
built out of a strange conjunction of words
that spelled a rhythm but not a specific
experience. The experience of reading those
poems became more and more specific,
more palpable over time. Some had colors,
others drifted around in patterns of
light and dark or even castles in
mist or even lines like
"ideas so that the can will very"
which were probably borrowed in part
from early readings of ee cummings. What
I was looking for was a world to inhabit,
a world for the eye and the ear and for
thought and imagination. Most of all, this
world had to have sounds and sights
and what other appurtanances of reality
which I was attracted to for the purpose
of constucting my imaginary universe. The
problems only began when I wanted
others to view these adventures as something
called poetry. For a very long time- at least
with these types of experiments, nobody
would go that far.
"We're not complaining, Piombino," said
some strange voice, "You did the right thing."-
So, I went about my
business writing some poems that I felt
could directly demonstrate my competence in
some "traditional" form- or some recent
"What are you talking about," I want to
say to some imaginary figure "all you
think about is poetry."
Something recognizable- these were published-
a couple of them. Soon, however, my old wish
to open a magic door asserted itself and
I began my journey. What I've learned is
that time is a merry-go-round in which
you will always get another chance, to reach
for the ring and not fall off your horse- until
the end of the *whole ride*, not just a
few turns (called years). Just the
right combination of waiting and reaching. There
is more than one combination, but there are
right and wrong combinations.
Doors, merry-go-rounds, waiting, combinations,
here it is again as expected, trinkets to
play with in the gaze of some light, so
I can watch them sparkle. Memories...
prices to pay...compensations...there are
series of events, view them microscopically
or at a distance, but remember you can
change it...not a question of which one
is better, but the changes help understanding...
you can't just say anything... then
again you can...you can remember a
card game or one can come hazily into
view- you remember a time when you
would imagine needing thousands of details to
see this...actually, being there is more
like being aware of one or two details very
clearly or a few at a time in a sequence...
you can go in as deeply as you like
in zooming for the detail, even the red hearts
on the card...you can see the leg of
the table, feel the shoulder of the man
holding the cards...everything stops at once...
you are certainly in a western saloon here,
cowboy hats, gun racks, the whole thing...
hard to believe the gun racks because it
wouldn't be that way now...remember, before
they move, you only need a few details...
say, the reason for the card game and the
name of one of the players...you can smell
by the air where this is, I mean whether
its way out in the woods or someplace
drier than that...then again, stepping
outside, you can see this is the woods...l
you can feel the stakes are high, for these
people...you can already begin to guess
the tension in this for them...now,
how do you distinguish these details from
the results?..you can see something is
about to happen and you can feel it...
you've already had ample time to decide
what you think will be the outcome...this
stillness cannot be borne forever, though in
some sense these men were meant to sit there,
and the women in the other room, listening
but afraid to listen...you start to feel
someone in there wants to cry out...but still,
this is ony an investigation into a few
details...and to imagine it in the first
place something had to hold your attention...
And the the newspaper account of a man
who stuck his arm into a lion's cage to prove that
God does or does not exist...if God has
a power, he announced to his mother, he will
not let the lion hurt me- and then, he lost an
arm...to be transported to a mental hospital...
"You are going to let these thoughts
push you around like this?"
You were in a room and something was about to
happen...what does it have to do with a
lion? Does a lion burst into the room?
It feels like something is going to be mangled,
something is going to try to break out...but,
in this man's cage, his internal world demanded
absolute proof of God's *power* to believe in
him...possibly because his own powers apppeared to
be drastically failing him...and this mangling
leapt into the story of these men in a
room anyway, a natural overlap of a
day's experience...and the days keep
switching hands...no question that something
meant to jump out and it turned out to be a
lion's paw, not a card...still, one of these
men was about to say something...look,
he's knocking the table over with one hand whiloe
the other is springing back..there are screams and
a door bursts open... a gun explodes...
a man appears almost to be hurled into the
air and thrown back..the nose is deafening...
yet, this scream is really the same scream
as the man who was mauled by the lion...
Why must all this be centered around some
great pain? It all ends with an
explosion, a tearing...Nurnberg...
the walled city... the bombed out buildings...
memories real, exploded and reconstructed...
composition ends in decompostion...airy
"It's almost as if two people were writing it"
"It doesn't make sense, doesn't cohere,
doesn't go anywhere."
The very qualities we like may not be
acceptable to us. This is frightening and feels
like a diminution of power. Under these
conditions, power seems to reside in renouncing
temptation. This is not the first time (poetic
exagerration- in turn, this depends on
the purpose and possibilities of subtexts) we have
had to pause at the juncture when something
interesting was about to happen. We were
about to go on...in a camp where many
voices can be heard...this isn't Nurnberg,
Germany, this is the Presidio, San Francisco...
some of these people may actually remember
you from school..what about Skipper
Amory- does anybody remember him...
he was fun and then he was mean...after
he tripped me in the schoolyard and I didn't
want to be his friend after that...
but now you've gone adrift into the
details of your own life...they'll feel
that conflict anyway...it was in the
apprehension that filled that western room
and it was in that man's face before he put
his arm through the bars of the cage...
the details start to get fuzzy... it's
not the sleepiness, it's the smell of this
man's fear, it's in the smell of his room and
the eyes of his mother...in the fearsome
unlikelihood of the act... in its breaking of
the boundaries between the real and the unreal...
it all goes limp, particularly after the
man falls wounded and the act has been done and
the man is lying limp on the ground, or
maybe screaming, I can't completely see it
yet...this man was terrified and the pain
came crashing through on every level, his
strange wanting it somehow, the feel fo the power
the way the man shooting the gun must have
felt his power...all of this in the deepest
dark, it must be, a dim
day at the zoo, cloudy and a lantern held
above the table for llight...and, will these
shadows be all it takes to put meaning there...
The nameless horror