from In Lieu of a Guidebook, by Macnamara Poston
[I will refer to myself in the third person from this point on in an effort to remain objective, naturally.]
MP fell asleep at 12:47 and had a dream that he was sitting on a bench with Spicer in San Francisco.
The bench, in front of a pond and they were breaking chunks of French bread loaves and tossing them to the birds—ducks, pigeons, geese, fish with wings, birds with gills, weeping crows, feathered trout.
The smell of the bread so strong, MP wakes up with a dry hungry mouth. He gets mixed up too easily—thinks smelling stale French bread is like smelling toast randomly—thinks he is having a stroke. He's not, of course.
Sits up, can't remember what kind of birds they were feeding, just shapes on the water. Maybe just the water.
Part One: Chasing Blank
MP spends all night working on an echo-series for the writer ______. Decides to call it "Chasing _______." Visualizes running (a hilarious thought after all this time) after ______.
Expands. Line becomes a circle and MP indulges in poetic ruminations along the lines of a line is not a line, but if you make a circle large enough, the runners cannot tell they're running in circles, which leads MP to believe that perhaps he may actually be the one being chased, if poetry is a circle—
so to prove the point, he rushes outside in his robe, takes a stick off the ground and digs a circle into the dirt. It is a good circle. A nice track. With a flashlight, he finds two confused ladybugs (wishing they'd just hidden in a bush for the night, to be sure). Sets them one on the track, the other a few inches ahead. MP expects them to move like mice in a maze, or—his stroke of inspiration—the writers, naturally.
He holds back the flashlight to provide as much illumination (just the word he was looking for, of course) as possible. The whole thing is shot to shit when: 1) The first one lifts its circle wings and hovers away, and 2) The other burrows into the dirt and disappears.
Part Three: Accidentally Inside/Outside
MP says to a student to end a piece in the physical body by going out of the physical body.
And it came out without a thought, and for a moment, MP is pretty pleased with himself and his wonderfully cryptic words until realizing that he's full of it and it's only a matter of time until the student realizes the same and he becomes just another mouth dropping lead with no beauty, just presumed weight.
Or, it starts as a load, and is until MP thinks this is all out of the physical body because there is no physical body so it's all an attempt to create the physical body.
And, go out to the objective for the subjective.
And, single banana tree.
Part Three and a Half: Tossing Stones at Root
MP finds himself outside again, middle of the night. Seated in the yard, Basho whispers in his ear. Toss this stone, and name it. Then another, and another.
Sad stone love stone death stone lonesome stone joy stone stone stone . . .
The cool lunar faces of pebbles settle on the half-exposed roots of the tree. Basho’s gone—not even the ghost warmth of his presence. MP missing, too—
Just the stones, just the single banana tree.
Part Four: Pollock
MP wonders, out loud again, about ends and means and means to the ends and inspiration and preparation.
If he says something out of love for his own voice, or accidentally, or worse, out of ignorance, does what he say lose value, or can it have value?
Jackson Pollock found the drip method by spilling a can. A seeker of noble truths, said O'Hara. True, true—but first, he tilted the can too much.
And, if the end is all that matters, then we only need critics, right?
And, can the means not be an end to anything at all, and it be enough?
Or, can nothing be just a means—and therefore, an end?
MP agrees with O’Hara. Whispers nothing nothing nothing.
Part Four and a Half: Addendum to Part Three (Outside/Inside)
Did MP just try to pass off some failed fortune cookie saying from class as the spark for something greater? And then try to sound self-aware of the irony? But, in the process, demolish any sense of ridiculousness?
Did MP mention the student who laughed and said, audibly "Oh no he didn't!"
So, did MP just (in essence) use his accidental quote/unquote wisdom to compare himself to Jackson Pollock? Does it matter whether or not is he meant to?
And, see, there's the problem—that's where we are—
Part Six: In Reference to Haiku
So, then, MP says out loud—if the immediate is the vertical step to the eternal, therefore the eternal is the end, and the immediate the means—
and MP stands up and says out loud Jesus Christ, cut to the chase, throws out all of his poems, writes on one page:
I am scared of death but preparing and on another I am scared of love but want it and is done with it—
and then feels inconsolably sad.
Single banana tree outside the window.
It wasn’t the thought of Spicer that got MP up in the middle of the night, and it wasn’t that he thought he was having a stroke, however brief. Those goddamn birds . . .
MP cannot make out what kind of birds they were feeding, while Spicer has already walked away—
Gone to the post office to mail Basho a package—
Small banana tree, the size of a hand.
Robert Krut's poetry has appeared in Barrow Street, Salt Hill, Hayden's Ferry Review, and others. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles and teaches at the University of California at Santa Barbara.