“‘The Additional Thing’ (below) was the final poem written by American poet John Turner Wiley before his death at age 66 in a 2007 car crash in the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Pencil sketch.
The Additional Thing
It takes 14 seconds for the soul to burn.
The process begins with a synaptic firing,
igniting a network of celestial complexity,
meshing, near instantaneously, with hormonal flows
and multiple streams of sensory data
from the interface of the nervous system
with the world beyond.
The world within, comprised of these operations,
and the additional thing that creates
continuity of self, resonance of memory,
and the conscious and unconscious weaving of context
from which meaning and reality are composed,
is in 14 seconds overcome by the fire
and dissolves in a heap of unconsecrated ash.
Art & text ©2019 by Chris Floyd
“Anthony Alexander, American poet and essayist (1925-1987). Like his friend and contemporary James Baldwin, Alexander spent many years in Paris, where his work was published in influential literary and political journals. His books include Not This One, Ricorso, and Homage to Juliette Greco, which included the poem below.” Pencil sketch.
It’s not divination
It’s not a weary traveller
opening up the Gideon
and finding magic salve
where the eyes first fall.
(Last time I tried this,
the universe answered with
the slaughter of the Amalekites,
man, woman, child and kine.)
No; it’s the vision of the lion
It’s the shadow waving goodbye.
It’s the fusion of many suns.
It’s the damage of imprecise images,
and what could be made of them.
It’s the chanteuse deplaning in the night,
to the leers of the malcontented.
It’s the burning ships under
centuries of stars,
breathing the air of reprise.
It’s the abatement of laws,
the nocturnal tirades,
like Petrograd in fevered flow.
It’s dancing on the water,
borne up by the reflections.
“‘Ain’t you cops got nothin’ better to do? Haulin’ us in for what? Smoochin’ under a streetlight?’ The arrest of ex-working girl Wanda and her n’er-do-well boyfriend Clovis sets the pair hurtling down a dark spiral that leads to robbery, violence, a confrontation with the mob — and a million-to-one shot at redemption. From the 1956 B-movie thriller, ‘Backstreet Frenzy.'” Pencil sketch.
When she was younger, she loved him for his body, and for her body. In a cloud of hormones lit by bolts of giddy neurons, in the freshness and chaos and newness of everything, everywhere, inside and out, she saw him glowing, gilded, in gauzed light. She saw depths of soul and boundless strengths, in him and in herself. When she took him inside herself, she knew a kind of melting and merging with the universe; in this most earthy act, she felt otherworldly. And if he made some unworthy remark afterward – something crass, prosaic, juvenile – she would hear but not register it, letting her comprehension glance away, to keep the myth intact. He didn’t always do this, of course; sometimes as she lay with her head on his chest, he’d struggle to find words to express the higher feelings coursing through him, something far beyond his eloquence, perhaps beyond the reach of any language. That these too were banalities, stitched together from threadbare clichés, didn’t matter to her. She translated his words into the unutterable flow of feeling around them in the moment, their spent bodies pressed together, his hand brushing back her hair.
“I don’t get the shiver as often as I used to. The semi, quasi (pseudo?) epileptic spasm that re-sets my psyche, restores it to its more natural state, after a particularly acute attack of the strange mental ailment that has accompanied me for many decades, for the whole of my adult life. The shiver comes so rarely now that when it happens, I’m startled by the sudden memory of how often it used to serve me, help me, restore me for a time. And even further, by the memory of how it used to come even before the onset of my mental ailment, how it was once an integral, secret, precious aspect of my essential, healthful nature. In those days, it came not as a solace or restorative, but as a piercing, heightened sense of being, as a … I honestly can’t describe it. But I do think those early instances were similar to accounts I’ve read of the intense feelings of well-being, connection and transcendence that some people with epilepsy experience just before a fit. It was never so cosmic as, say, Dostoevsky describes, and it was never followed by the pain and anguish of an actual epileptic fit. But this is the closest I can come to describing what I experienced – and, in the rarest moments, still experience. Nowadays, given the high and persistent level of mental anguish caused by the affliction, the energy of the shiver, when it comes, is taken up almost entirely with simply getting me back to something resembling an even keel in the most ordinary way; there’s not enough energy left in it to elevate me to a higher plane, as in my younger days. Still, I’m grateful that it has not entirely abandoned me.” Pencil sketch.
art and text ©2019 by Chris Floyd
Pencil sketch, digital paint.
“Louise Goulding. Parisian TV presenter and celebrity whose career took a strange turn after what she called ‘a vastation’ that overwhelmed her one night as she was hosting a panel show on travel. In the middle of a sentence, she stopped, got up and walked off the set. Eschewing public life, she devoted herself to poetry, and to various forms of meditation, hoping to discover ‘the meaning of this dislodgement that came upon me.’ Derided at first by the French intelligentsia, she eventually came to be regarded as a serious thinker and writer. She died of bone cancer in 2003, at the age of 54. The poem below was found among her papers after her death.
‘Don’t say soul:
You lack the long breath
deep-running vigorous line
Say only: ghost