"You pushed me, Deb, you pushed me," I say,
to the red-headed corpse who begs an answer-
then banned in Cheltenham, banned from plays
whose runs made you twirl, torque like a dancer-
dead, dry bone, ribs cracked, earth smudges,
grease, soot caked onto the derelict frame,
once could blinker me like freckles & roses-
"let me correct, recompense all your grudges,
all you astounded by changing your name,
all you inverted by striking your poses-"
No, I tell the fearful mirror, myself skin
& bone, brain smudged by understanding
the past I could never live in, get in,
fly through the air w/ out crashing for landing-
"I won't be corrected, cadaver'd by your Highness,
(as though I'd accept such vulgar mandates,
rivers run dry into spiders & dust),
won't lower my voice, to mirror your dryness,
then or now, applying no band-aids,
letting myself come up roughly, brown crust-"
"Then why don't you shut the fuck up," I spat,
splitting the Elkins Park air like an atom,
hitting the fifth you'd been taught to flat,
from clowns who amused you, to nuns, to your Madams-
why don't you shut the fuck up, it was,
spit out in venom, from someone in pain,
who you had been taught to subject to starvation-
forgotten the Eros, forgotten the lust,
just a mad prostitute cunt & a brain,
both fugue-stated out in unnerved enervation-
I was raking leaves,
I found a volume of
Shakespeare, I raked
it, I found a volume
of Milton, ditto, &
just kept raking until
I hit Jonathan Swift,
who took my rake,
raked me over coals
too hot to be blackened,
told me to go back to
Chaucer, what a rake-
nothing was finished,
nothing was raked.
The story of Poetry Incarnation '05, the Philly Free School event held at the Khyber in Olde City Philadelphia on July 5, 2005, is a wry one. The primordial fact of the event was not evident to me and Mike Land until the event was underway: because the Khyber was on ground-level; anyone walking by on 2nd Street could look in and see what was going on; the chaotic, ecstatic frenzy of the Highwire P.F.S. shows couldn't happen. The labyrinth entrance to the Highwire, and its placement several floors up from street-level in the Gilbert Building, made it ideal for loosening up the inhibitions of a willing audience. So that, we got hype for Poetry Incarnation '05 (I had done an interview with Deesha Dyer of Philly City Paper from the Boston 'burbs about ten days before the event), lots of paying customers showed up, but beneath the surface, Mike and I knew that the basic premise of the Philly Free School (we offer you new kinds, forms, manners of freedom, so that you see what you can handle) was not able to be fulfilled. Mary & Abby couldn't make it; Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum was conspicuously absent, too. The most memorable performance, for me, was Hannah Miller's drunken screed about what Philadelphia meant to her. There was also some unpleasantness from the PhillySound poets; they expected to be a headlining act, and wound up reading without any particular fanfare, just like everyone else. They later claimed, falsely, that I "stole their money." All in all, Poetry Incarnation '05 was worth doing; it established us, P.F.S., as a public commodity in Philly; but was nonetheless not as much fun as the Highwire shows. Many years later, it is also noticeable that there was no one highlight to the entire Philly Free School experience of the mid-Aughts. The highlight was the sustained 2004/2005 peak of what the Highwire Gallery bothered to be in Center City Philadelphia; and how Mike and I managed to ride these waves towards a series of events that made the pursuit of real freedom the issue it should be among the human race.
I’ve never listened to the Devil… he’s whispering in my ear now, telling me about chance— play the cards, don’t pretend you can deal the hand… I never tried to deal the hand, I tell him, because the deck has no card with a poet’s face. The Devil laughs at me, dumps a load of press clippings in a bag I marked Don’t touch— …………………………………………. now, it’s so cloudy we can only perch on rigid, bare ruined branches. We cannot fathom what the surface should be, why the inelegant is preponderant. Red flags whip our livers. Red hot prods in crowded rings circle us. There can be no twittering hope without notions of liberty, as means of using flies, flying, flown over the protests on Market Street. ………………………………………………… When you lift a Coca-Cola, you are pulling a lever for entropy. The cloying tickle of high fructose corn syrup— all dreams dried into anodyne. Goods may be America’s heart, en masse; what in them beats? Sounds of horses hooves, trampling down corporate dirt, all in a bone-piled graveyard. Sounds of whinnies, conflagrations, blinker-viewed social situational Waterloos, & you don’t know (they won’t let you) who’s standing behind who, or you. ………………………………………….. An old, mad, blind, despised, dying king, says the country. We protect imagery, say others. Belief is testament to goodness, rigidity means faithfulness to a spiel we all know like simple algebra, and that can be equated to squares. We are bellwethers of chicken egg home fries, I am a clucking and a shucking and jiving, you’re alive to little red roosters too lazy to crow for day. No facile Geist for this Zeit. It’s a time for knickknacks picked up like cordite. Shoot. …………………………………………… No Blogosphere back-draft, only post ahead, into cacophony: wire, networks, new wild west; ropes, holsters. Age-old books; angst, anemic. It’s sexily red, moral/ethical oblivion, hemmed in, quick as spurt, across oceans: thermo-genic press coverage, safe, free; corpses, numbers, brain lotions. ………………………………………….. That notion, “that I’m suffering well,” must be in Plato somewhere, or Nietzsche— now, it’s in you too. You don’t succeed in laughing at the shard-sharp world; it’s jammed too deep in your throat, with suffocated senators, black-robed judges, tentative press secretaries. You only cough up butt-ends based on others’ words. Laughter is solely for surprise autopsies— of an atrophied surface, what’s under incomprehensible to most, who know, very precisely, just how most they are. …………………………………………. A gift everyone gets is a Pat Boon(e). Death & taxes are both Pat Boon(e)s. Truth, as always, is less pat. Truth has more to do with what I really glean from you, which is not a political (exactly), is (rakishly, richly) anti-politics, & is conveyed by swift skin-kicks. There is no place for this in the full frontal assault land we’ve been Shanghai’d into, & the dissemination of which is America’s ultimate Pat Boon(e). ……………………………………….. a soul's incision into your cerebellum which i can fill gingerly, not spill onto a nail-bed you carefully made to ensure maximum viscosity crank & creak the senator speaks …………………………………………….
For the duration of the mid-Aughts, Mike Land lived at the Adelphia House at 13th and Chestnut, here shown. The point of interest: what Mike was exposed to was a neighborhood which had no specific name; was, in fact, the absolute center of Center City Philadelphia. The center-of-the-center vibe was interesting: Mike's window looked down, from the seventh floor, at Chestnut Street; and what he would see, even at one, two, or three in the morning, was a constant fracas. Directly across the street was the liquor store from 1488; a few blocks away was Woody's, Philly's el primo gay bar, where the Free School pack would sometimes hang out. Yet Mike's window square was about a neighborhood and an intersection that never slept. Logan Square was relatively quiet at night, as was West Philadelphia. It is from the Adelphia House that we planned Free School moves like Poetry Incarnation '05, and the various shows we did at the Highwire Gallery. Incidentally, the Highwire Gallery, on Cherry Street between Broad and 13th Street, a few blocks from Mike (and in a neighborhood which, as of '19, has been partially re-zoned), was another center-of-the-center edifice, even as the vibe was slightly less of a fracas than the Adelphia House. By Cherry Street, Broad is turning into North Broad; yet from the Gilbert Building steps, the view of Philadelphia City Hall was stunning. From the Adelphia House windows, which faced south, no dice. What Mike had going, at the center-of-the-center, which Mary & I did not, is the sense of Philadelphia as a great raging beast, constantly churning, constantly in motion; and Mike's life at the time was a ricochet of the same energies.
The Four Quarters Magazine began in the early Teens and, as is intriguing, published out of India. I managed to place several Great Recession poems there in 2013. As of 2016, they were off the air, and a little later offline completely. A shame: I liked the template/formatting aspect of the site, and the idea that post-avant had expanded to a locale outside the usual loops.
The new Adam Fieled Argotist Online e-book is The Great Recession. Many thanks to Jeffrey Side.
"“The Great Recession” focuses on several specific issues in poetry: the first, and most salient, is an attempt to rid the text of first person singular influences, and deliver a series of vignettes or miniaturized dramatic monologues, narrated by characters attempting to cope with the harsh, desolate landscape, the abrasions and depreciations, of the last decade to pass in the United States. This era the U. S. press often calls The Great Recession. The text should thus demonstrate a kind of cleanliness, apart from the ego concerns and obsessions of the poet at hand. The second issue is ancillary to the first: once characters are established within poems, how to make them interesting, and how to make the incidents and situations they are forced to confront emotionally and intellectually resonant on a wide basis. The third is what kind of language specifically this textual ambition calls for."
Of the approximately eight months I spent in West Philly in the Aughts, approximately four of them were spent here, in a flat at 42nd and Baltimore which Mary and Abby moved into in January 2003. Which means, in the economy of things, that I did spend four months living with Abby in the Aughts. Chez Mary & Abs was not maintained chaotically; it was kept relatively tidy; but Abby liked to throw parties, and Mary & I would have to help her clean up. Mary's windows faced 42nd Street, and she would sketch in her room, but serious painting had to be done elsewhere. Abs more or less had the same situation. Mary's room was also the big hang-out space for the three of us in the flat, where we could lounge, get high, watch movies, or do other meanwhiles.
Over the course of the Aughts, especially in the concentrated periods of 2002-2003 and 2007, and through my relationship with Mary Harju, I probably spent about eight months living in West Philadelphia. Mary probably spent about a year living in Logan Square right back. I have a sense of pride about this now: more territory for both of us to take, and conquer. Logan Square and West Philly are also an interesting contrast: the rustic (West Philly) against the newfangled, ruggedness versus sleekness, weathered wood & green yards balanced by a perfect view of an exquisite skyline. Even as our dramas unfolded both within and between the two neighborhoods, too.
P.S. Also worth noting: I spent the fall 2012 semester teaching two sections of first-year writing at the University of the Sciences in West Philly. I made the Green Line Cafe at 43rd and Baltimore my office!
I sat in a Greyhound bus terminal in
Harrisburg, & Stephanie Holt stood
twenty paces to my left; had, suddenly,
materialized there; skin glazed, forehead
protruding, as though she had philosophical
issues with reality... that night back in
Cheltenham, I'd sat in a car outside her
mansion, waiting for the deal to happen
inside I barely knew was there- now,
the mansion reduced to this redneck terminal,
& rednecks too- "It's always the same in
the end, Stephanie; I give you & your friends
a chance, & you blow it." She needs a new host,
I thought, like I need some new luggage-
"as if, Adam; as if I had any idea how to handle you, or us, or what Cheltenham had turned into by then. You: always special, always different, always such a fierce disruption against our lives. Remember- I never liked you much anyway. There's no room for special people where I come from. What's special is the order of who gets placed where when, & why. So, as I followed you out that stupid door, it's with no special anything. Philosophy? Where I come from, its this: where you come from is who you are, whether you like it or not. You were lower than us, lower, & still are, you little shit- & that luggage you had was pretty cheap, wasn't it?"