blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


NORMAN DUBIE | The Book of the Crying Kanglings


                                             — in open lading.

1ylptio:      the petroglyph's golden dagger
is both the maitreya
crayon of nova and a comet's tail.

four corners there —    smythe here, children.

the four tiny brass bells
make the center of the calendar,
rabbit genitals just touching the snow. then,

in our night sky, the humpbacked
white mantis followed to the south
by a rag and bone procession of elk
to the blue wheat field taken away,

the crossed sticks,
a clearing poll and its red rock abyss.

yes, the golden dagger is
not the broken
winter solstice
& poe dead in the gutter, election day.
ratio 2,3 2289 november . . .

opalescent dew
reflecting the great mound
with four buttresses. azurite in the east.

an adi buddha blowing on his stick fire,
his name is Judah —

stay out of your boats on all saints' day.

the rose dagger
makes a miracle of the snow,
the dogwood marching past it . . .

first, a plague of locusts, and then
a plague of plagues,
and then a clitoris like a sun-kissed raisin.

the hullabaloo of my moon calendar, uncle.

and the boogie boogie shoe of rock art
will save us from the desert 's varnish
of that leaf prophecy
which is not 'the cross of antioch'

to the four corners, the rosewater icicle
stabbing the tropic of capricorn, meridians

laughing! dzikr, messenger,

if you hold the postcard upside down
it's a ufo, the rose-laser cannon:        shit, it's even

yes, daddy, the dish
for fat lips
that the revered mr. roethke contemplated . . .

contemplation's moon,

lha-khang gi kyi, zahm-bu-ling gi kyi ray.

of course, we are past due
and must read the poems of the enemy.
you don't have to say FRAGILE for me,
at this point. it's about colors

once you've moved past them.

and an occasional shooting in the post office.

but the Ffee
is the fie is the foe.

is the poem, yes, miss, to be fed?

the mosquito-netting
in shreds.

                                          it's the snowball's
                                          chance in hell, isn't it.

if there is no fog,
miss dickinson is our pulpit,
alarms . . .    'the smythe' out.

                                             — one hundred syllable lading.







                                             phaxx and lading.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From whence does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved.
He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps you
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper. The Lord
is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not smite you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil.
He will keep your life.

The Lord will keep your going out
and your coming in.

From this time forth and forever more.


Dear L'urze Ekajati:       I am called Osel Trodgen, and I am
one of many attendants
to His Holiness, the 21st Karmapa,
and it is my sad duty to tell you that Tulku Arak
passed last Wednesday night.
With his death

there were rainbow perpendiculars everywhere
in the charnel ground,
and thigh bone trumpets
bringing leaves out of the trees.

By his instruction,
the cremation took place yesterday. His voice came
from a golden field.
There were elaborate ringsels left in the ashes
and the ashes themselves
have already been used in a healing
by His Holiness.

When the fires were started
by a young
white-haired nun from Kham, a large
green land turtle walked out of the perkon,
and everyone heard clearly
Tulku Arak's voice singing, first
the hundred syllable mantra, and then
a Christian psalm of roughly the same duration.

The Karmapa cried, even though
it is proscribed.

His Holiness sends you his blessings
and reports that you and he
once had a chance encounter
when he was detained at the Swedish border?

There were little emerald ringsels in the ashes
of both turtles and elephants.
I've enclosed in twine
the great remover of obstacles, Gampati.

Karmapa has instructed me to carry
to you in Delhi
the living turtle also! So,
there is one crate for the turtle and one
for the heads of lettuce
with which I will buoy the spirits
of this sad but adept prisoner. Karmapa

has named him mysteriously, Georg X.
He giggled for nearly an hour afterward.

The American boy who was with the tulku when he passed
said that a cable
was being 'scrabbled' for you; that it seemed as if
the Arak was struck at the base of his skull;
that then he seemed to recover,
he went to a mattress on the floor, assuming
the full glories of the posture . . .

The scrabbled message he prepared for you
will follow in empty lading.

I am your servant.

                                             — in empty lading.

Dear L'urze:            I, too, received the communication
from 'the Smythe.' She is
a clever rascal, but I'm afraid,
bored out there traveling on her snowball.

She has new powers.

Just as the Ekajati and Septaguant
had the same mother, the Smythe
and the Septaguant had the same father.
His name was Thubten Bol, a West African man
steeped in the practice of a Shaolin ritual
that is mostly lost.
He was also a painter without talent.

Ekajati's mother told him about all this
with little consideration
immediately following the brim-light disaster
to which he was Monitor.

But, perhaps, Paul needed then
to crack up all together.

She may have saved him with this strategy.
The father simply restored
his sanity by shooting him in the foot.
There was a lot of blood and laughter,
more alcohol and mescaline. By the morning,
everyone had recovered.

I have something to say
about the Champagne Fires, and the gown
Mallus will loan you. Only accept the dress
if it is an amethyst body net.
You could walk through a wall of fire in it.

But first, you must . . .


Dear L'urze Ekajati:        I am your faithful monk,
in transit with the turtle.
I have been diagnosed somehow
with an occult dysentery.

My old schoolboy friend from the low Oxford campus,
Nagarjuna Watts, is going to finish
this journey for me. He has bright red hair
and a black mole at the third eye.
He stutters somewhat
and has the strength of six men. He is also,
fortunately, a comedian.

My best wishes.    Osel Trodgen.


Dear L'urze Ekajati:         I have long been an admirer
of your uncle
Paul Ekajati's long poem cycle, & Katydids.
Like your uncle, I too won the Yale Younger Poets' Series
prize for my first book, Stelos. My new book, Low Windows,

is to be published this late November
by W.W. Norton, and has already won
the Carl P. Thrush award for poetry. From this volume

a small poem series
dedicated to your uncle
will appear in the next number of the National Review.

I'm sure I have tested your buddhist grace by detailing
my recent good fortune in publishing, but
I wanted you to understand
that I am a serious poet
with a serious focus on the works of Paul Ekajati.

This coming November
at the Algonquin,
I will read for my publisher and a very select audience,
my poem written in homage to your uncle.

My father, Carol Talbout II, was, I believe,
an acquaintance of your aunt Laura
when she was doing volunteer literacy work
in Alaska. It would be delightful,
for my father will be in attendance, if your aunt
could accompany you to supper at the Algonquin.

I would be thrilled
to hear from you in the next week or two.

I am yours, sincerely.     B.C. Talbout.


Dear Aunt Laura:    I am still enjoying
the second postcard from Vancouver
which announces
that you will be a mother. It seems
this is an ideal place for you to be stationed.
And, no, I don't think you should regret
losing the assignment on the moon.

The last colonists to return from there
all had a cough
accompanied by brain fevers. But, yes,
of course, they were miners.
Still, the rumor is

that one of the virus-toxins from Mars
has now made its passage to Earth.
It would seem
whoever was exposed to it on our moon
sickened the quickest. But everyone
was affected.

Before Lama Arak went to Bhutan,
he reported to me
stories of more than a thousand deaths there.

It's better that you folks reach an early pension. Then
you could come here to the farm
and we'll divide the property
exactly by half. I'm serious about this.
I've begun the paperwork!

While I'm working here in Virginia, Kirsna
has remained behind in Delhi
with our new friend, Nagarjuna Watts. He brought

the boxed turtle to us.
I only hope in my absence
that Watts hasn't cooked it.
He once reached me
with a stockgramme slurrie
from the future.
I've told no one except Arak-la!
It was all a little frightening . . .

He's a giant red-haired man
with a blemish on his forehead
like some thousand-armed female avenger.
I know this will seem silly —   but,

I'm not certain he's human.
He's only the fourth individual
I've met on Earth
who I've almost certainly known
to be shintling. The first

was the Ekajati himself. When I slept
the first night after meeting Nagarjuna
I had this vision of a great black khandro
rising above a marble floor,

her silver and amethyst gown struck everywhere
in its hundred sleeves
with the thickest of gold threads.
It was a vision of swords. It was the same
with her teeth!

There was a reddish champagne light
off her shoulders
and the sound of wings. She frowned
at me, but seemed pleased
that I hadn't taken sanctuary
under the bed. By the time I was awake
I was standing in the middle of the room
with one fist raised.

I have ten men working on the farm now
and the repairs will be done by Thanksgiving.

We will see you then, my love.          L'urze.


Dear Kirsna:          this is just a brief note to send my love.
I've just come in from watching my Portuguese workmen,
who were attempting to boil lobsters in relatively small pots.
They were like girls about it. It was both grotesque

and very funny. The elder Sam and his boy
have, of course, been here for sometime with the horses.

Last week there was a grand Indian Summer,
and, using honey, they roasted field corn and fish.
It was delicious.

There are a lot of fish in the ponds now.
It would seem that old Sam
killed off the snapping turtles with dynamite
and then stocked everything fresh with trout.

Yes, I am in New York City tomorrow night,
but I will cable you by Monday. Love.          Mother.

P.S.: For the second time in a month
I've received with a torn stamp, an argonne
gramme slurrie. It's addressed to you
from Nagarjuna Watts.

Here is its phaxx in simple lading:

                                      — in spledum.               — Argon Erratum 2 —

Kirsna:                   she disliked your dead red tigers even more than I
your working for the salvation of his High Lord Septaguant. Of
course he'd make you a Messenger to the black valleys of Bani Zarwal.

What did you think of their three-eyed mules? I'm now posted,
at my own request, in the solitary Cube
in that darkest space of the Fez Polarity.
I answered the Septaguant by saying,
"Beget the man you need!" Or,

The dhaikr's God even visits me here in forgetfulness. I elected
not to judge him, but to realize him first — I told him
it was my abiding suspicion
that he paints by numbers. then
suddenly a whole basket of fresh oranges appeared
on the walnut dais.

With the total weight of my resentment for this assignment,
I ate nearly all of them in a sitting. I've been
shitting ever since. Reading the ancient Barthes'
THE PLEASURE OF THE TEXT, his one happy quotation,

The very utterance
of drifting today in France is described best
as suicide with a handkerchief . . .
Euphoria, fulfillment, friends.

The old French intellect, the torn corsages
of orange blossom and unending excrement. It
makes Proust the text of texts. These stupid atopical sensualists
ruled my countrymen for a whole century, Kirsna.
It cannot be helped. Boredom is worse. It baffles
like a fetish —     deus ex machina, etcetera etcetera.

One of these great storms of iron dust is approaching.
Salutations, if I forgot them.


What a storm. The cube's magnetism righted itself
in an anomalous pancake, so now
I've been puking for hours.

Kirsna, we had to be voyagers? I dreamt
of those wild horses bathing
in white water again.

I sent an Argon telespleda to your mother's wilderness in Alaska.
It misdirected.
She's living, I believe, with Mark Jadhb
selling birch syrup and mastiffs. He was
very kind to me during the postage riots in Calcutta.
It's disagreeable to think, but
he is the most wonderful of the Shö masters I've met.

When you first moved past the moons at Gibraltar,
what did you think of those naked longshorewomen
with their colored nafs, all those white bulls
pulling the great bell across the sandy plain?

The Khandro Mother would have 'snakedeathed'
that whole sisterhood and our lost
darling Septaguant
if it hadn't been for the Buddha's second turning of the wheel,

When I was last there, the deer park was yellowing . . .   Japanese
fast food, giant buddhas everywhere.

Charcoal-ballasting this Cube, I've regained
my equilibrium.
My sweet, Kirsna,
I've written a great bottom ode for you. Here it is, with blessings: your

Nagarjuna: this can not be sung to THE YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS
like Miss Dickinson's masterpieces: sorry,

Ode to the Spectral Thief, Alpha

                     The stream silent as if empty. Dusk in the mirrors. Doors shutting.
                     Only one woman without a pitcher remains in the garden —
                     Made of water, transparent in moonlight, a flower in her hair!

                                                          — Yannis Ritsos, trans. Paul Ekajati

The way the grapes will cast a green rail,
With tendrils and flowers, out along
A broken fence, down the edge of a field;
Then, climbing over hawthorn and up
Into the low branches of an elm. The moon

Is also up in the branches of the elm along
With a raccoon who sits and fills himself
On the dark, dusty fruit —        under the branch,
On which the raccoon is situated
His deep brown feces splatter over
Queen Anne's Lace and the waving sedge
Of the pond . . .

An owl lifts out of the tufted, solitary orchard
And there are hot-silver zig-zags, lightning
Up in the fat black clouds; this quiet
Before an August storm is nothing at all
Compared to the calm after a snowfall . . .
But the long boxes of hay in the field
Will stand, they are dense coffins
In which small living things
Are caught, broken: mouse, grasshopper,
And the lame sparrow. The field looks down
To an old quarry and road, and across
To a dark beach on the Atlantic.

Stone from the quarry built a small
Custom's house out on the Point.
It's old form is in ruin, now! But bells are
Still heard out there just before dawn:
Their purpose must fade over the water . . .

The water knows the three formal elements
that should compose an ode: say it, élan!
There's turn and counter-turn . . .
And turn, again; not stand!
The epode has a talent for rattling a tambourine
Like pie-tins strung across a garden
To frighten, at night, the subtle, foraging deer.

The epode knows about fear; but, shaking
In its bones, I've said it has a talent for
Playing the tambourine by ear.
The raccoon struggling out of his tree
Doesn't care about
The eye, bait and teeth of a Windsor trap;
The pie-tins, touched by a wind moving
Over the spears of corn, do not

Confuse him.
He wanders off into the orchard and down
Into a fast stream where suddenly
A grinning hound stops him —
The coon rears up on his haunches like a bear,
Spits and screams: his claws
At the weeping eyes of the big dog: turned twice,

The hound bites into his fur, meat and then
Deep into the spilled milk of the spine. This is
when the stream seems empty, silent!
This is also where the story divides in my mind.
What can I tell you?
Only that in past centuries
There were fewer
Dimensions to any concept of time,
And there was a greater acceptance of mirrors, and rhyme.


Laura:           I know we haven't discussed . . .     but I
went to the paraclete's
literary supper at the Algonquin.

Mallus had shipped me, in full lading,
a pearl and amethyst vestment
and to please, I think, Lama Arak,
I boiled it first
then allowing cold spring water
to run across it in sunlight for most of the afternoon . . .

I wore it over this white gown
that I had bought in Delhi
because it made me homesick for my mother's
Yes, very irrational.

I was prepared to give your greeting
to Talbout' s father, but no one in his family attended,
as they were suffering the influenza.

It is here, now, in Alaska
and thousand of children have been
moved to the south. It's the work
of the Ffee, or his company . . .

Laura, theirs is the strangest community.

Standing near the cloak room, in front of me,
there was an ancient woman and her son.
 At times,
her jaw belonged to a grotesque bone shop
such as they have in Turkey or China. Well,

these two spoke to one another
in a kind of whispering and clicking
that is alternately swallowed
and then projected over some distance.
Everyone ignored them.
They were pawing at one another, and I think
they seemed exhausted in their blood.

But then her ghost jaw would glow and become
pronounced again. It was very menacing?

The Ffee was seated at the first table
with young Avery Miller and two women
from the Academy. When Talbout had completed
his reading of the poem cycle for 'uncle,'
he then came to the table. By now
we were all eating carrots with a white sauce.

You know, he didn't have an extra presence
like the two
who were before me at the cloak room?
But I could have sworn
that there was a small ball of mercury
being balanced the whole time
on the back of his tongue.

There was something facile about the
poem he had written for the Ekajati.
He had thick hair at the base
of the little finger on his left hand
and he was braiding it
all while he was speaking to me. You can assume
I was not forthcoming. Anyway,

he wasn't loathsome. It was just all
very boring.
There was a smell on the refrigerated air
like sour wine. A doctor and his wife
seated at my table were suddenly taken away
for some emergency. A priest
had come to the door for them. They were both Greek.

I was just beginning to realize that
they were obviously quarreling. I would imagine
that at the moment they were being helped
onto the street, the Avery Miller stood,
tapping away at his water glass, looking
like someone who is becoming improvisational.

I heard a thousand happy years
opening above me like rain
to tin in some feckless production
of The Tempest . . .

Exactly then I saw
the Ekajati's mother entering the room
with those wasted circles around the eyes
that come with the brillo.

She was snapping her fingers
as if to smother the clicking sound
that was rising from the old woman
with the great jawbone. But this snapping of the fingers
was liturgical —   it seemed
each time she did it, one of our waiters
burst into flame. Now, here's the rub, children —

no one seemed to witness the mother-in-law
or her exit from the blue room of divans.
Instead, it would seem they were watching me,
and further, I believe

I was standing in the middle of my table.
I saw Prof. Miller and the Ffee
gesturing casually to one another
while extinguishing a waiter
with two magnums of champagne. The air

went washboard with the laughter of horses
and I felt
possessed suddenly of a thousand hands,
each gone musical, each
with a firebrand . . .     a weak passage from Tchaikovsky
was repeated . . .

The Ffee just smiled.
Out of the corner of my eye
I saw foxes copulating. There was a great banister
with cherubs smoking cigars,
and the more they postured, the angrier I became.
I understood that this fire was their element
and they were being purified by it.

They all looked at me
as if I had done something awkward
that interrupted them, and I saw the Ekajati,
long white hair down his back,
take the Ffee by the throat
and break his neck. Now

they all became frightened.

I began to vibrate in my jeweled bodice. And then,
holding my breath —      no, sucking in the wind of the room —
I made them all vanish.

It was not
like the destruction of tapestries, rather
all the dementia of human history was
passing by me in this astonishing vacuum.

I breathed out while retreating to the kitchens,
and I saw them all again, briefly,
turning to flame.

I thought how innocent time was . . .

Then there was an explosion
that made snow of a dozen or so skyscrapers,
and everything was cold.

I held onto Kirsna, and we sang.
There were other children around us with no names.
There was a black rain. The wind

made a coarse sound,
and then it too sang

om mani padme hung om mani padme hung om mani padme hung

there was more rain  

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The Book of Crying Kanglings | Epilogue

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