An OrangePlaylist by Ted Dodson
“…Pertinent and mobile, [the poems of An Orange] speak to me right now, recording & rearranging ordinary impossibilities & anxieties, while operating at a speed beyond preservation (they said that). The works in An Orange tremble with the certainty trembling forces into view: ‘To speak gently with you / makes the whole world again / accessible for a moment.'”
It would be too easy to say love vanished from the earth, to say an emptied mountain struck its hollowest note and sounded unlike anything else. I text the same three people every day, sometimes four. How fast that dream left me when I woke out of it, snorted up into a catalog of faces fastened with long and draping hair. Unrecognizably, I am thinking of something else. Not a dream or a short transparent reality like the outer bend of my eyes or a limping memory poking around the calendar for an approximate location. Something else. And I really don't feel I know enough to say what it is. Shouldn't a work of sufficient emotion optimize any morning into a cascade of murmuring strings that appear to fix the ground to an object vast enough to be in the continual distance? I knocked on that door once, and I think behind it was all spaghetti. Life's things do pile up, though I'm daily assured I can be driven into a normative clarity, wiping away thoughts like they'd accumulated on a windshield.
Andrew sent me a new story of his yesterday about an empty-handed search for a fabled painting of Guibert, its sole evidence of existence was an appearance in L'Homme au chapeau rouge, which I have not read. He later emailed me to clarify the search was fictional and the narrative cribbed from L'Homme. The story is beautiful, one of my favorites of his now. The image of never having been though still having, distinct and existent as anything else, a life, hangs clear and unguarded and doubles as a volume of forgetting one pages through while sitting up from bed or even walking to the kitchen maybe for coffee if I remembered to buy a bag of beans at the store yesterday.
To have come this far
only to be reduced to dew
heroically is a fitting though limp
insurrection disguising what looked
to be a better plan. Once
I witnessed a clear vision
and was full envy. But who would feel
otherwise? The affect of lecture takes
art when no one is listening
and this is by necessity. Let's talk
materials. Being unrequired
to ratify decency as the central
non-combustible tenet of worldly affairs
courage filed alongside myth
and fiction. Within this index
some of us sit with
an invited guest who gifts
a parcel of land tattooed
in a far national
corner, a lip too remote
to ever reach, and this was by design.
I took off my clothes
so I could see my ass
see if the gym gave me any
classicism but without a mirror
I'm more or less intractable
in relation to my own body's
semiotics, trying to peer around
the corner of myself. I just hope
a man or a woman upon finding me
wiped naked across an unfamiliar
coast, having vanished
on an ill-fated vacation,
at least say what a waste
then repost and enshrine
my likeness as a minor
cultural reference point.
Could be too much
to ask. Instead, I interview
with the panopticon.
It sees me and all I see
is a generic avatar, a little ghost
or an octopus emoji. Do I
have any interest in wearing
a RompHim? The official future
outfit for stormtroopers, partying with
Corona Light and a sponsored
photoshoot? A bottle of rosé
floats in the pool, manufactured
for buoyancy. Solidarity is opted-in
or history and all I have to show for it
is this scam, me and everyone
I know. Do the drugs even work?
I'll say I've had enough of perspective,
but there are more empty rooms,
empty for the sake of their emptiness,
where I'd be content to wait around
for a phone to ding. I'll try that hat on
again under the protective guise
of a California saffron blaze,
safe from the rough quenching
of gathered foams and spume
lathered from chlorinated shores
appearing from the air as winsome
sapphire pits. I adjust my privacy settings
to include the walls of my apartment
with the curtains drawn, a gratifying effort
to collectivize as the eye
of Sauron whose power thirst
was a front for his voyeurism,
catching Frodo and Sam bareback
on the side of the Misty Mountains,
pretending he didn't see so he'd
never have to stop watching.
"Destroyed by my lust for hobbit ass"
would be a good title for Sauron's biopic
or maybe this poem, too. O'Hara wrote about
not having to leave the city to enjoy greenery,
also the pleasant cold of a hilltop
upstate and driving up the West Side Highway
presumably. I'm amazed how one's point of view translates
to desire depending on the direction of approach
or the speed of arrival or the voluntary retreat
of oneself to a solitary place even if it's just
the back seat of a sedan. Austerity measures
your propinquity to yourself, weighing
throwing us or ourselves over
the side of a bridge with a view
of the burning tide gratifying
our aerodynamic contours.
How heavenly we could be if only
we had a world where we were.
At the center of what lives and dreams, an unmistakable and debtless intelligence or a cataclysm of unmanaged resources that could buy time as if it were being sold, a PowerBar or blank note pad. An unfinished categorizing of OTC suggestions could work my heart blue then yellow sky over the long drool of attractions, their copious marginalia. Awareness swells under the surface like music fills a balloon.
There were two of us then there are several invented by way of an elementary connection spanning a room provided for too many to wait in. To get back to basics would mean valuing ourselves last or breaking a halo of reason. That much was ever certain but hardly assured.
[Washington, D.C., 10/3/18]
I hate a guy with a car and no sense of humor. —Halloween (Dir. John Carpenter, 1978)
Soph texts me a picture.
It's a parked car at the end
of her street. It's the exact
station wagon from Halloween
Michael Myers steals to escape
the asylum where he was
confined during the years after
he murdered his sister in a
psychosexual fit. My first car
was a 1993 Volkswagen. The
speedometer didn't work
which was funny as in
it made me nervous, induced
a fearfulness of the endless
or undetermined, probably a latent
cultural prerogative's structural
trigger. How fast am I going
and when will this be over?
It's easy to determine the horrific
motivations of monsters to violence.
They're often banal, clear
and resolved, a shape inexorably
approaching at a determined
velocity. A friend invited me
over to their place for a drink.
Though we've been friends for a while,
as in we've exchanged logins
to a couple streaming apps, I've
never seen the inside of their apartment,
but I know they live without roommates.
I imagined something reasonable: Ikea, maybe
a coffee table, a correlation with trends and
aesthetics compounded through
capital's stranglehold on our
pataphysical relation to what
we imagine as signifiers of ourselves.
It was exactly like that. We watched
an episode of Twin Peaks
(third season, which I'd already seen)
the one where the goblin in the box
shreds those two teenagers. I was
high and a little freaked out—less due
to Lynch than my own underlying
anticipation of a sporadic, structureless
panic—and walked home that evening,
nibbling my friend's water crackers.
I used to suffer terrible anxiety
attacks, existential terror
sirening through me and parking
in my collar, floodlights shining,
filling in the gaps between my bones.
I still have them, but they are less frequent,
their mitigation a remedy of CBT and
on-again, off-again analysis. I think
I need to relax. Should I relax?
Okay, I'm relaxing. I have my friend's
password to his Shudder account.
Zombi 2 (1979) and Tourist Trap (1979),
a camp classic double feature.
A shark attacking the living
dead and—up next—shambling
mannequins who telekinetically torment
stranded vacationers have a calming influence.
Their excesses, both gore and genre,
render its vehicle so replete each becomes
an antidote for any lesser dread.