9 Types of Stupidity
One must be slightly stupid, she said
in the portentous tone of a guru
knowing perfectly well I mastered it when I was born
and mastered it again
twenty-odd years later, as I watched her eat an orange
at the sink with her sleeves rolled up.
Then again days later, dumbstruck by her nakedness.
An elemental stupidity sweeps through the garret
and the idiot inside of it, feeling tiny yet released
in his copy of Pythagoras
rot of Heraclitus, atoms of Democritus.
Science and poetry are the same thing, you see—
it exists outside the half-acre of the personality.
As soon as it exists it wants to exist of more.
How full are the deserts and forests anyway?
How much stupid would I need to respond
to even one family unit in transit, van
things spilled in aisles of a strip mall parking lot?
The world can hold that much.
Its children rampage naked, they assume their true forms.
Children wild and nameless, as if they belong to no one
everywhere occur bright orange.
I see them on a Sunday afternoon playing tag,
ratty scarves flying, there an excited holler if you hear
their relationship to our world of inward sensation
and impression, to the child of Wade and Amanda
spilling oranges from a bowl on the counter.
It felt cool as you lay your cheek there
beside a Solo cup of amber rage.
This was ages ago, in Seattle.
Outside it rained a fine yet steady mist
and I, apostle to the lower idiots, have relived it all
autumn long. By that time I had already written “The Orange”
on a fragment, shard of pot I found under our stoop
its relationship to meaning contingent at best. The poem
emerged, if at all, from a mulch
of words, music out of sound, as a painting out of paints
arrives by the kinetics of a live and stupid fire
and one discovers the subject at hand
is at the center of another, larger subject
and that pursuit of it leads god knows where.
By that time she is a person
with scars all over, her back especially
and even the TV pokes holes in our rational, gangster
thesis—either it has meaning, or no meaning.
The mind is luscious, in a jar
infected by knowledge it must consider or be obliged to
annihilate. It exists as a value in its own right
in its own small vat of movable light
or an ambulance I pitied on a gridlocked street
in Chinatown: the cooks over pots in kitchens
threw peels on the concrete floors
and swept them toward the doors
of a city with a past it rather wouldn't mention.
One maybe a little closer to the truth
if truth is wordless knowledge
if truth is that which I can say before you without shame
older, asleep during the day, head against my guitar's body
feeling very empty and specific.
The artist's space.
Murder Two, Winter 2015
About the poems:
This poem is a kind of inventory of the years I lived in Seattle, way back when. It's trying to reclaim my mid-twenties stupidity—to which I owed everything—in its full range of meaning and potential: stupidity in the presence of others, but also as an aesthetic against systematic thought, as process (the making of art from materials, the artist’s preoccupation with doing so), as a force for decreation, and so on. It’s all still there; I sent the poem back to unlock it. The title is a little joke on William Empson’s book.
Crow Hollow 19