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John Taylor v.o., poèmes

26 septembre 2010

par John Taylor

Tapisserie d'Angers.

From

The Apocalypse Tapestries

I. Chosen

Chosen,
yet abject.

Chosen
because abject ?

Self-chosen ?

*

II. Digging for Martyrs

The burning blisters on the palms of your hands.
The sweat on your face.
The ever-blunter
blade of your shovel.
Your ever-wearier
thrust
into the rock-studded
clay.

Now and then, bones.
A broken skull.
A trinket.
A talisman.

But none of these relics
is of yourself.

*

III. Immobile Escapes

Immobile escapes
freeing you
to linger.

(Yet when at last you escaped gravity and were aloft, you still beckoned trees to stretch their limbs upwards, ever upwards, even to uproot themselves, to tower above you once more, giving you shade, shelter, solace.

Nothing less than that, and in mid-air !)

As a boy, though,
when you could have taken refuge
you did not. You remained just beyond the eaves.

You wanted to feel the hailstones striking

hard.

. . . or remember the yellowish tornado sky above and beyond

the garage roof.
Not a chirp in the privet.
Grass blades, stirred by no wind.
Mugginess. Heat.
Your toys already picked up, stored inside the screened-in back porch.

You went back outside.

Standing in the yard,
alone,
you waited. A little longer.

“A little longer, please.”

Later, you wandered through the darkest quarters—of Berlin, Nuremberg, Athens. You sought a proximity to danger.
Foolhardy strolls ?
More than once you escaped traps, fled from dead ends.

The machine-gun trained on you when you crossed the line.
The prostitute’s kick as you strolled down the alleyway.
Offerings of drugs, easy lays. Relief. Release.
A succession of cheap rooms in seedy hotels.
(And so on.)

<You managed to refuse, turn away, turn back.
It should be clear to you that your life was charmed !

So why now do you stand in the harsh sunlight,

the biting north wind,
the rain-drenched west wind,


discouraged ?

*

IV. Matter

Matter, however beautiful—the geometric perfection of crystals—offered no hope. You persisted.

You contemplated red giants, ring nebulae, the remote
galactic disks swirling through eons.

M57, M1, M3, M31 . . .

You purchased guides, charts, read treatises.

Still,
no transcendence blossomed from the photons, however ancient. There was no blood in the sky—only lightning. What seemed
an Origin
was ever a result.

You took a deep breath. You were alive.

C’est tout.

*

V. Measuring the Temple

You would conjecture, pursue implications, take delight in reductiones ad absurdam.
The inebriation of obtaining a solution.
The strange itineraries that thinking sometimes took. A suggestion as if whispered by someone else, from inside your mind, when you were dozing off. A leap of thought while you were contemplating green beans in a grocery store.

You would envision the world as formulae. Mathematical symbols and Greek letters bore forward, or at least adorned, truths . . .
Truths ?
When peering into the night sky, you would assign dimensions—three for space, one for time. Then you would add more dimensions, imagining mysterious topological structures.

Yet in your student’s room with its textbooks and small blackboard, you eventually despaired. You had long carried out the labors of mathematical deduction ; now you withdrew from them completely. Instead of plunging into each new day, you gazed out a single window, over a tarred parking lot. The distant stand of oak was dark and alluring.

In a dark forest, long ago, when John came across entangled branches resembling digits—

9, 9, 9,

7, 7, 7,
6, 6, 6

— he imagined gallows and hangman’s nooses. And he realized that he had been lying to himself.

In Ann Arbor you,

too,

were hanging

by a thread.

*

VI. Secretum

Francesco Petrarca,

I could not escape into the past without hearkening to the present, the future ;

not muse about what might come without the thought of what is, what was ;

not live the present moment fully, in its fleeting splendor,

a splendor nonetheless.

*

XVIII. Notes on Composition

Awakening at five without an alarm, tiptoeing out of the bedroom, preparing a cup of strong coffee, writing in the cold kitchen, occasionally rising from the wooden chair to look outside. Almost the only person up at such an hour.
A light or two in the distant apartment buildings. Past them, fog hovers thickly over the chilly confluence. To the right, above and beyond the Conservatory, the sky is taking on rosy tinges.

He knows that all he needs can be found in this setting. Or in any other.

“Here or there, everything is the same.”

At such a moment, he believes.
Little matter that he hesitates, blue pen in hand, over the next word.
Scratches it out.

Later, he doubts.
Doubts for the rest of the morning. All afternoon.
In the middle of the night, when he awakes fitfully from a nightmare.

But the next day, once again at dawn, he accepts the embrace of the ordinary kitchen—the steaming coffee, the chilling floor-tiles, the calming hum of the refrigerator, the view from the eighth floor, looking out towards the haze-veiled meeting of two rivers.
And for a while, he believes again.

When I bend over my work, two hands write.
Why two hands, two pens, when they form the same letters ?

For a while.

Here a comma, there a semi-colon.
Here an adjective, there two. Or a deletion.
A slight digression. A paring back . . .

Until, once again, two distinct paths are traced, the distance between them widening,

and I must choose one path, the just and genuine one,
which means heading back to the last fork,
which sometimes means starting all over again.

One must be alone to write—
on Samos, Patmos,
or in a cold empty kitchen.

But then you say :
“I need hands on my shoulders.”

Or “I understand nothing.”
Or “I am failing.”

Yet the initial sweetness of style engages you. You forget your qualms, your doubts.

You progress.

Progress ?

The bitterness in your stomach when you reread, when you watch words

following words—a parade !

“Eat the book !” commanded the angel when John set down his pen. “Begin writing it all over again !”


XXII. Accept This

. . . ever gathering, unifying ; ever dispersing.

(Accept this.)

*

XXXVIII. Come and See

Every inside, every outside, beckons :

“Come and see.”

Yet no approach, no vision, brings serenity.

— John Taylor, The Apocalypse Tapestries, Xenos Books, 2004.


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