Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bob Holman / Three Poems

Bob Holman


Constant eating Constant motion
We watched videos but only his videos
He gave a running commentary, a sort of gag-by-gag
Play-by-play: analytic and complete—imagine
“Animal House” with gesticular footnotes. He dubbed it
“Ye Olde Eternal Classic,” although I couldn’t quite make
That out just then, seeing as how I was totally preoccupied
With rolling on the floor at the time. I was not alone
In laughing, however; indeed, it was John’s laugh itself
That transmitted to me, immediately and wholly, his entire
Comic Cosmic Theory, as if, looking directly down and through
The clear Caprian Mediterranean blue one were suddenly
Face-to-face with the face behind the mask of Comedy.
His laugh functioned like a strange chemical, causing all substance
To diffuse at once into its parts, while simultaneously taking on
A physical appearance of nothing less than a sheet of gold,
Which again, as it slowly lifted, revealed, as if directly implanted,
The True and Complete Nature of Humor According to Belushi.
At this precise moment of revelling revelation, I was able to gasp
Just enough air between laughter-rapture convulsions to blurt out
“All comedy is a yearning!” a statement which stopped time dead.
It happened like this: a quick hitch in John’s eyebrows,
As if Confucius’s pivot were on the wobble, and then an odd wind
Rustled a few hairs on my arm: the congruent pause
Stretched Infinity. Whew. Like a balloon,
John ultimately burst into gales of hilarity, veils of relief,
As if I’d just delivered the punchline to end
All punchlines, the Ultimate Topper, and his antics
Certainly proved contagious, so much so that we were now
Both rolling, Pigs in Heat, yet another movie,
We were sweating Giant Turtles. Unfortunately, our cavorting
Couldn’t help but eventually awaken my family—the four of us,
Five counting John, were staying in a small room
In a small hotel, the Belsito. Capri itself is quite
Dear, quite touristy, and yet somehow quite charming and,
Indeed, quite beautiful: we were fond of saying that somehow
They had not been able to mess it up yet, all of which
Made Belushi think of the bella isola as “somehow appropriate
For an appearance of this kind,” the complete
Absurdity of which sent us guffawing straight
Into the bathroom, prodded as we were by the sleepy regalings
Of my poor family, who, thank God, must have been dreaming
That they themselves were the ones having the darn strangest
Dreams! as we shut the door and shushed each other, trying to hold
Our laughs in, listening at the door as best we could
To the deep breaths of my loved ones as they assumed
The absolute rhythms of sleep, a song which in turn
Signalled sighs and exhalations between the two of us.

And so we were hanging in the bathroom—here,
Things became a bit more somber. Indeed, we cried.
Light began filtering in, that peculiar light red
Gold light of Capri that they say “touches the skin.”
“My folks were from Napoli,” John was saying, and in the light
I saw him smiling far away as he remembered, “They always
Thought Capri a real hoot.” As far as youth goes, and college-
Type humor, John had a heart attack right then and there, like
“Time for work,” gagged with a spoon, way dead.
In the bathroom we discuss philosophy was another
Belushi-ism clincher. By this time John was doing heart attack
After heart attack, blue and brilliant, fibrillating all over
The swirling yellow and white tiles. The bidet kept
Getting in the way, but then I saw, he was using
The bidet! Twas an all-new Belushi, attuned
To women in a model modern male way . . . But no politics, puleeze.
Back to the puerile! To-Ga! he’d shriek—that classic refrain,
Rendered all the more poignant from atop the toilet can cover.
Suddenly he stopped, laurels sliding down over his brow,
And said he’d seen my daughters earlier that night
At the piazzetta, running through the legs of the macho rigazzi,
Busting their cool. That was fantastic, he whispered, looking off.
It’s a lot of tough yuks, really, he continued musing, serious
Giggles under the toga. And as for you, and your job, which
Was the next topic he veered into, his gaze blazing at me,
You’re a poet, what a riot! And just Righteous enough! he allowed,
Like a priest at a well. At this point he drew himself up
And started in poeticizing, a la Kovacs’s Dovetonsils, brilliantly
Satirical improvisations, accompanied by a little dancing.
“What a rapper!” I was about to remark, when again he abruptly
Stopped and, freezing like a statue, appealed, “But hush,”
And I saw that the room was filled to bursting by the light,
Dusty apples of April dawn, the girls laughing in their sleep,
My wife’s beauty peeping out from beneath the sheets—
“It’s time! Time to get out of the bathroom!”

These words had great meaning, and thus we did, we did
Get out of the bathroom, rest easy. But before we did,
John did an extraordinary thing, or rather, his head did.
I remember this moment as if crystal-etched: John’s looking at me
So beautifully, with such an all-embracing, all-loving look,
And his voice simply continuing on about this and that. And the reason
Why, Dear Reader, I happen to remember all this so very clearly
Is simply because what happened next was the most astonishing
Image of my life, succeeding in giving purpose not only to this visitation,
But also to my entire life from that moment on. For it was then,
Accompanied by a peculiar whirring hum, that the top
Of John’s head, from right above his ears and thence straight across
His forehead, began to revolve. His hair line became a blur
As it began spinning round, picking up speed, the low hum,
A drone behind his words, and the sounds of the words themselves
Began to abstract and fly around, not unlike his hair,
Although the meanings of the words remained clear,
Meanings that were now alternating between deep tones of tragedy
And high peals of comedy, meanings that picked up resonance
As the twirling head picked up speed, meanings that became
A language so direct as to not require the act of comprehension,
Instead becoming a simple link, a connecting sine wave of emotion
That was at once totally strange and totally comforting
And for which words can only desperately attempt to describe.
The drone began a slow crescendo, my eyes remaining glued
To John’s spinning dome which seemed now the pure Motion of Revolution.
And it was at this epiphanous moment that a sudden burst of light
Quite literally blinded me, causing the surrounding whirling noise,
With cascading fury, to become all, all, and all,
A frenzied cyclone of noise, a noise which, as my sight slowly
Returned, and focus turned to Sense, I could actually see:
Silver and liquid and pouring down a slender funnel
Directly into John’s skull, for as I watched, mesmerized,
The whirling third portion of his head began to lift off and reveal,
But No-o-o,
It was not a spinning ball of gold,
Instead it was blue and and green and sweet,
As the world itself grew out of John’s skull
And I followed it outside the bathroom and so back to sleep.


Oh Lordy, I’m so full of stories, you
Just try and shut me up in this tent.
Why, when I first climbed up these Rocky
peaks, some eight years or so ago, & set
My beer bottle down & let the wind blow
Across, resonating a lullabye, we had a
Smallish tent, barely room for my wife-
To-be, & me, & our chaperone. Now I sit
Alone, keeping an eye on el tento grande,
Big enough for her & me & the two who’ve
come along & matured so delicately in
The interim, little wildflowers, sown here
On the scorched ground looking for life,
& I, as the ancient farmer driving the pick-
Up replied to his wife’s query concerning
The growing distance between them (“We used
to sit so close together”), “I ain’t moved.”

These mountains still stun, mocking the poem.
In USA Today, weather passes for news, but I
Still can’t keep up with it.

The clouds progress
Over the Tetons, elders at their grandchildren’s
Graduation. I read with fascination about Detroit
City’s new poetry. Is there anything else? It’s
Windy, I’m concerned that the tent stay put or blow
Off with me in it. Tomorrow it’s Montana. Whoopi-ti.
A morsel for some grizzly. A landing base for a fly.


Or it just comes out in the mix
All over the Midwest, they got
One good idea, but it’s everybody

It’s all in the mix in the Midwest,
And it’s just one good idea,
But it deserves all the attention

Because I know who the enemy is
Being as I work in the advertising
And like it tight and weird

So let’s get shipwrecked on a fuckin poem
Where poem fodder sustains
A party, us and all the dead writers

Just the ones we like: Dorothy Parker,
James Baldwin and Jane Bowles.
That’s all literature, and I’ll pull

The wool over the Midwest with the new
Monster mix ad campaign if you hitch on
Another planet and swirl me right and

Call me everything, it’s the sound
That drives me bonkos. I’m standing
Around sincerely off to the side as

Stop! The moon’s a thief! you cry
Never stop telling me to stop
Swirling tight and weird and light

—Bob Holman, a poet living in New York, recently produced “Words in Your Face” for PBS’sAlive From Off-Center.

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