for Eliot Weinberger & his Karmic Traces

Clayton Eshleman

And where might I find, within
or without, that fount or
bloodmare, muzzle mutter or karmic
feedback, called the Muse?
Or is she around
to transcend the daily smallness of voice,
a way to know more than we actually know,
to clear the rubble packed between a two-chambered
consciousness, so that the corrosive
sublimate, the phrenia fermenting within phrases,
compost that connects us
directly with our dying, strikes through?
At once whirlpool and campanile,
her articulation is inflected by what it quakes.
The poet’s inner lining is of my passing,
be it radio static or sleigh bells.
Am I running interference for Her
or is She running interference for me?
Xipe Toltec is the captive’s skin,
the priest in "golden cape,"
and the captor in union with the god.
Is my driving demand also a former life cut off before fulfillment
now trying to sing?
As a ghost in Zeami
crosses the Noh bridge between two worlds,
is one of my former lives
seeking to reverse its fate
by realizing its experience here?
What has been driving me for 30 years?
Night after night I come to what can only be called a trench
yet as it is a keyboard it is a trench
yet it is a keyboard repetition of too many words
for too few goals, the haunt: that there is one,
or one missing story (and do I lay that too on the Muse?
Termite queen bulging with poet’s opaque queries--
we zap our questions in, we pawn our mantles,
they vanish, the loss is at first a regal salute,
over years, furious crotalum
at 60.
	Redbud pods in breeze minutely reposition a million times an hour.
Something in my brain is raving over being
unable to articulate each shift,
is in short-circuit to the shifting,
is letting something else through the outage,
a kind of splicing, a graft on
the friction, sparking something gnarly
not mine.
	An earlier version of myself?
There is the infant who does not know mother will die.
Is that child here now, by backyard fence
--something has to thrust him forward, or block him there, and let his sister-form proceed.
Is there always something left below,
so that it is thought from below which leads?

What is it that comes through a "missing child’s" face?
Often smiling, younger in the photo than when he disappeared.
Something smiles in the shadowed eyes,
I wonder if it is not a previous life that,
unlike us, knows what happened to this child.
Did I die, as child, in a former life?
For I was so reluctant to enter this one--
I waited for a decade before they coaxed me forth.
As an infant, I was totally adored
as if they were trying to pull me fully out of pre-
natal reluctance--
might this be true?
Can a foetus create a time warp?
Might another foetus enter that warp?
Might--as I hesitated in the womb--
another life ajoin itself to mine?
(When I finally consented to be here,
my father disappeared into a slaughterhouse,
busying himself with animal death.
My mother was less sure,
often looking at me as if I might replace myself
with an only daughter, or just take off,
via their awkward intercourse,
back into their desire to justify their lives
before God)

But of course I would not have gone back into them,
had I a choice,  I think I went, or
came, here, I think the probe of the poem
was a 20 talon gripping into a target of my own making--
grand resolution in theory,
daily wanting will never be explained.

Bloodmare,  yes,  archetypal
cougar chewing on my balls,
I’ve bitten into something that would destroy me
in the middle of a line,
and it is not a former life outside of Indiana,
let me go at it again:
what is the happening in the space of no writing?
The hours spent here by back-turned inspiration,
outer-turned hours, image-immigrants turned back,
were not these hours Bloodmare in mourning? Or possibly
Bloodmare out on her yacht?
			       The core is always near,
the specialist is always doubled over a cliché,
well, yes, I refused to write another’s work,
but the mare of the blood is present night and day,
Garcia Lorca may be right: flamenco ignition,
but the gamble of one’s life is to name one’ anti-love
by which one is pressed helter-skelter into forceps,
into Dada, into Poe, Literature screams:
  it’s warm here,
sometimes that is true--but Venus is warm too.
			   Where did
my childhood go? Are there now 60 of me,
one for each year, facing this typing?
bent over, side by side, hands touching the floor,
they make a kind of tunnel, tiny
and unable to stand at first, until at 18
the height of heir archings remains constant.
How I would like to run the gauntlet of this tunnel,
seeing my own face upside down 59 times,
mouth/eyes reversed. I would ask each year for a statement:
how was it to be 4? 15?
			But here the abyss again
punches in,  what these years might say
they will never say,  the source
is the woman down in the dunes who murders most,
and allows a few to escape,
or the man in the dunes,  the frog god under he floorboards,
our greed to make everything count,
my greed for a seamless jaggisity,

greed to make it all count,
the anti-greed to let the said-before
  undergo an acid bath.
Copyright © CrossConnect, Inc. 1996