3 Poems
by James Pate

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Half-Lives of the Flaming Creatures
after Jack Smith

In the garden we saw fat grow
into pockets of light and jiggle.
Black moons over tongues
losing, a night sky like a window
staring into a scene that never takes
place. This in the film. In the film light.
There were trees where bones
made X's and the noise of X's.
Black moons and their clockwise eclipse.
Her shoulder, a book of statues melting,
a tempo past every root flailing. Her
shadow in black-and white, whispering.
She prepared herself and then she was
and would be. In the film light
between her and us, in another country.
The nostalgia hair has for the scalp,
the skull, the wild nostalgia of yet
again and never. An hour of sand
turns its tongues loose over
their bodies. The lovers
exiled from the assembly of lungs.
They grew shadows out from
the nest of feral scar tissue.

Another desire
is already Plato in his cave, Plato
shaving his hair in the cave.

In the film. The prologue.
I heard target practice
in the paradise of lungs.
In the epilogue the noise
of worms drawing near.
In the epilogue a war that never
stands or crouches or breathes.

The sleepers with their hushed ankles,
their tango of comatose sunlight.
And the day will be divided in two
with our fingers between,
in the plazas, on the beaches,
among pockets of fat blinking in the light.

Plato slept. Christ slept.
Plato ate quiet meat and Christ
ate murmuring meat.
In the aftermath flakes
of warm shit fell from the sky
toward the flakes of fat
with mouths broken loose.
Flakes of salt burning through
slices of nothing and more nothing.
Flakes of night in their emergency
gowns. The lovers sleep
with their thighs. The poets eat
sleep like mud. Worms eat flesh and earth
and grow like war.

Your desires shifted
in their vestibules surrounded
by frantic wings. You found
a trembling cock. You found
a trembling cunt. An end and a beginning
somewhere in between, mouths
painted with mud.

The lovers in their series of colors.
Their desires pacing, frowning,
spitting, in gray arson, in
its liquid suckle, beating
themselves in the shit haze, gnashing,
blistering, their speeches in the sky
and in small rooms.

Their cold feet in the naked closet.
Their roads in the storm closet.
Their tongues in the salt closet.
Their ribs in the fur closet.
Their shit poems in the shit closet.
When they piece together their cocks.
When they lose their cunts and find
them again, in the film light.
All in the first translation, waiting:
their tongues in our mouths burning salt.

In the movie
among the blue vegetative mouths
poets waited for their hunger
to return
among the flesh pads in the garden.

In the film light
wasps in the softer pores of hell.
The small meat translations
followed by an hour of salt.

In another country
it's always four o'clock or a little bit after.
The war that was and would be
and the worms near and growing nearer
and the lovers crooked
in the weather.

I played you in the film light
as the blue light and white light played
others. Gnashing, spitting, spewing.

The lovers played Plato
masturbating in the fur zone.
Plato played Christ.
The skull shrunk to the size of salt
burning through.

In the film the grained faces,
the war distance in cold closets,
the fur asleep in other closets,
the edges of the night breaking apart
in doubles and triples of glitter.

Mesmerized branches in the pink
April drizzle. A language with dilated
eyes to watch, the weekend roads
with their blank pages
churning. Their beaches hidden
from the music of delicate thoughts
like nouns in an otherwise estranged
paragraph. Each hinge locking.

In the film. The film light glittering apart.
The grammar of film repeating the worm.
Nearer and nearer.
As if the worm had a plural, or
a rip of color in a deaf room, a piece
of drying snow in a dead ear,
an hour and then otherwise, a spot
of misery in the garden so bright
it bleeds.

The poets played
with warm fat in the garden,
their faces like statues with muscle
bleeding through. Their shoulders
in fevers of bright ice.
I wasn't using my arm because you
were using my arm
and she came up and plucked.

No one used the leg.
No one brought the mouth.
A shaking quaking behind the door.

Where they talk with sudden pairs
of hands. Where their eyes meet along
the vanishing point. Where fat licks its own lip.
The salt of nations burning black.

Spring with its mauves emptied.
You turned the car away, the road
of plastic raincoats ahead. Rain
from the corners, rain from our mouth.
Desire like hammers. Like swigs
of rust. Desire in ashen film light.
The surrounding ashes growing nearer.
The worms in their salt voices.
Grained faces in the film, their nude bark
already in the fur.

Then shaking, beyond the door.
Our language could have been,
and should have, but wasn't,
at least not tomorrow, and already
too soon. The salt in our skulls loose.

The lovers snow in the pork closet.
The lovers crooked in formaldehyde.
They altered the garden shred by shred.
They slept from their skin down.
They smelled between their legs.
They smelled between repercussions.
They smelled light in the grass.
They smelled hair in distant places.
They smelled mud in the war zone.
They smelled worms among the whispers.
They had bewildered holidays.
They were tremors in the listening gowns.
They held their wolves open.
They slept like mud in the night.
They fastened.
They fucked, having been already fucked.
They maintained an Egyptian doubt.
They licked cock.
They licked cunt.
They thought about dark messages.
They thought about light messages.
They were double to the first fat.
Hair fainted along their arms
as seen in the most renowned
hysteria. Moments fainted
from their jiggling thighs. Rain fell
at a slant and then as a rake.
Fat tissue exposed to the variety
of sound games. In the garden
with the poets exposed
to an ultimate gray. He wanted
to eat rain from her face.
She wanted to eat tunnels from his face.

Notes on the Death of Pasolini

There are two windows in the wall
and one of them is dead.
A voyage is launched from the misspoken
children's book.
Sparrows curl from the sky like black lilies.
One way to sleep is volcanic, a web
of treason, and another is to curl into a shell
and wait for the tide.
Which never spoke to death or around
it. Sparrows in poems
regarding the nature of the death lyric,
twin to the death grip,
and the death blossom of sound.
Another sleep is a postcard
that never existed, the faintest trace
of a city on fire on one side
and the drawing of a child's
shard garden on the other. Plato
in his nocturnal route grew wild.
His skull grew a long beard
and he would cut it off
and burn it
to prove he never existed.
The nightly examination
runs up against
God like walls with other words
to learn. It is part
of the red itch to relieve things.
My red itch has a simple
hunger for being nowhere else.
So many arms alone in the air.
So many thighs blinking in the air.
The nightly executions
could have been televised, and might
will be, in the future or just after.
Plato wrote a book called Extinction
leaves blowing in the space
where trees had stood.

(There are rooms by the station
where the old
turn from grass into kinetic moths;
in the square the bride
heard the newspaper drawn forward
by the wind;
in the photograph
the conditional tense walked through
its own shadow into an elsewhere
of hot rain.)

I tried to sleep in Rome. I stared
at the wet wall past my window,
and heard doll limbs licked by cats,
and drank bad coffee in a room.
Mondays were not creative.
Another sentence rose from the act
though the act itself could only
be partially observed. Roman
dark, Roman realism
with the corners burnt. Roman shit
among Roman surges. The Roman
limerick entry and the Roman
term for "seepage." The Dream Garden
with its notion of trespass. The craniums
with gray light in the Roman light.
Satans made from parallel streets
and pigeons and cramps.
We had too many nipples in the sugar.
The devil dress Maria Callas floats in.
How much meat is this crusade.
The vertigo she sleeps in.

I'm on the train, under the city.
I'm on the speckled train.
Strangers look unasked
in the cars. They look like graffiti
from a fading silent film.
This in a dream minus one.
Cadaverous lights in the tunnels
and noise shuttling through
our heads. The strangers calculate
one ride for every cloud
in purgatory, one feather
from every rubble, one sea
for every beach. The strangers
examine their cunts and then they
examine their cocks.

I had married myself to myself,
stuffing my shadow
into its cold shell, moonlight
in the vacant hotel corridors
dragging its silvery hedges, my arms
jutting beyond, dripping with rain.

Visibility in the Catatonic Room.

We watched others play ourselves
on the television.
They were zombies with glue for faces
or figures of glue with flat eyes.

They waited for a cloud
to trust. In the blue light. The TV noise.
They disrobed except for their watches.
When they were done
with each other
they drank wine and devoured cold chicken
legs. They were glue,
their eyes like faces of crushed wax,
or maybe rooms in a dripping hotel already
jutting past the next day. The blue
noise. The blue light.

I hear, among other things, your fingers
with their crowns of blood. Among other things,
a crown of dried air. I hear
another slim impulse
toward frescos of shit.
We have left clothes, twigs, a red
and pointless geometry, a savage root
and a sudden root
to the inquiry of rooms.

A rose in a cloud of pork, as pork itself
leans in, its meat like numbers
without addition. Pink vowels of glass.
The meat dreamt of a missing grave.

The death of Pasolini, his killers,
the various things I might think
or have thought, or will think,
or could not have possibly thought,
the shadows in a row,
the rows with their speeches of dust,
the beach with its noise,
the beach with its colorless hum,
the rumor he did it himself believing
in death, or the arrangements of death,
his killers, near Rome, the car,
the tires in the heat, the feral
cat and the feral mice,
walls in one row after another,
the dust in the dark, the night
in the heat,
the silk
feeling, the sinking
feeling, the tires, speed in another language,
death in another language, did Maria Callas,
with her profile, her forehead meaning death
and her mouth
meaning death, the nightly
arrangement of butchered beaches,
a language with the hours missing, verbs
in the dredged aesthetic, did the cats,
how long
is your dog echo, the death
of a row of thoughts, their dust,
the rumor of death in books and poems,
the hour
of excrement in the trees,
the iron language minus all soft
language, did the tires, near Rome.

In this song her voice forms a pair of lips
as a sensible rendering is noticed
from the shore and placed upright
in its chair. Like a noir film
where the train never moves toward
you, or even to various cities.

In the script the quiet faces
held anxious conversations
about colors that had stayed beyond
their use, or sounds with no recoil
between. Then the televised blue sound.

Maria Callas plays Medea.
Maria Callas with her choir of razors.
Snow and its circles and its afterbirths.
Across the beach noise and bone noise.

The Book of Lindens
after Vallejo

Hairs of glass you placed my bowl
forever. Your nightmare left
its seizures to the moon.
From my north and your south
a dog to bark in, a panther
to compare with, a rodent with silken lives.
Flickering the word "regardless"
in the sex lives of others
as one chronicle after another blurs.

The logic of my first political breath
is largely fucked beef. Outside
the skulls already beginning in their end,
the muscles already twitching at their root,
the minds duplicates of a visible wind.
The corpses refrained from newsworthy stories.

Moonlight prompts its epidemic, wandering gray.
At night your lungs want to scream you are so lucid.
So empty. So selected. So subtracted.

The hands inside your prom gown
refrained from the quieter shadows.

Pigeons called me their home. They left their filth inside.
The film started a religion driven hysterical by rain.

Men without bones
in the first reel, black acid hair, black acid snow.
All the windows speak French.
All the fountains contract herpes.
All the mouths speak Wild Tom.
Streets walking at too blunt a trot.

There are oaks and their surface of flame.
There are red facts to articulate.
You went Maoist in my chest.
The voices you heard sizzled eggs.
The movie you criticized stopped sobbing.

If your hunger should be political. If your hair
would be political.
And all the quieter hells included.

I could come right out and hate,
and hate, and turn, and sleep
in the cold and then cool air,
then the night, then the next chapter,
the language of nature twitching its root.
The itchy thoughts and the ugly thoughts
and the thoughts with pierced
and blank faces in between.

The shrub had a green one and a red one.
You wrote novels with skeletons in the air.
This is a poem with one situation.
A poem in one room.
A poem with a political necklace.
They will make love on a bed
reflected in a mirror, the postcard
of a flamenco dancer taped
to its glass. This is a political act.
Or it could have been a political act.
Or it had been a political act.
Or an act in a scribbled
language swallowed by white sand.
Or an ugly mouth swallowed
by pierced thoughts.

The Book of Lindens hidden in useless coinage,
in flexes of a recognizable flame,
its pages describing another extinct wall.

You said he came on your sister as you
took pictures, in another life or just after.

Women with bones drink whiskey
in rooms where their plays are enacted.
They burn photos of themselves as children.
The bones dream of Cannibal Island.

She painted
her nipples like Tarzan.
Lifted thighs in their stream of orange leaf.
A cry lifts by definition.

Banality in an attic of fingers and furs.
One flesh but many teeth equals flesh equals teeth.
There were extractions to fabricate and love.
The moon drunk as shit. As red as drunk.

Mauve dresses on the desk writing wiggling writing.
The political flight from a negative to a broken to a hand to a bone.
Egyptian pronouns: where the "I" sends its jaw.
I fuck like a noun he said in the lit room.
She told her: "Your face looks like Mick Jagger's cunt."

Spiders between the figment and the participle.
Drunk lovers in drunk clothes in an unlit grammar.
Everything, each hinge fucked.

The menial, the hours on a bus, washing dishes,
setting tables, the ugly and beautiful rich,
dead eyes, dead eyes. You lift. Up. Up. Up.

read "Clayton Eshleman and the Spirits of the Head"