The Adventures of Franco Corelli
I Ask the Fortune Teller
Up on the roof
where the witnesses mingle
the spelling glass.
Banging the table
in odd dissonance
Another pot of cold mushrooms
between the narrow boards.
The glass fogs.
In my breast pocket
not a sign.
I Seek Lodgings in Gallatia
(A Letter from my Agent)
"Concerning the houses of this city:
I will build thee a house
That he may incline our hearts unto him
That he shall play with his hand
That your error is fallen upon us.
"(Then was our mouth filled with laughter
and the birds filled with singing
and our plates filled with pasta.)
"As a child that is weaned of his mother
We will worship at his footstool
Like olive plants around thy table
And ye shall be broken in pieces."
Among the Philistines
This was speech at depth,
upshot from the chapter
entitled "The Vision in the Dark" --
He jumped up and barked
at the locked window
above the blockaded door.
The fool on the hill
also arrived before noon
And spoke to the Philistines,
inanities spilling off his tongue.
"A day or two later,
I was suddenly recalled
To my office, situated in Rome.
My expense account was being revised:
Forensic escapades in Gallatia were out."
Encamped with the Turks
Naked I seek the camp of those who desire nothing.
When it thrills as it fills every animate part,
Where lurks it?
The corn that makes the holy bread
Shall die forgotten all:
And the memory of Earth's bitter leaven
Go then merrily to Heaven.
Let sage and cynic prattle as he will
Be merry if you are wise. . .
"An ounce of mirth is worth a pound of sorrow."
Go to -- I will not hear of it tomorrow!
Arise! for the day is passing:
Be off, and to Parnassus flee
Lest the Romans capture thee!
Oh, leave the gay and festive scenes
And join the Turk Home Guard to fight.
For speak thou not as old fig-peddlers spake?--:
"In the name of the Prophet, figs!"
Lines From Memory
Suddenly, just by my ear,
It was a lover and his lass;
Carrying between them an awesome load --
a collection of antique glass.
On arriving at the top of the hill,
There was no view beyond the woods
(It would have been but a glance):
I pressed on to the station
If the heart of a man is depress'd with cares,
Aspiring to have a mind,
Pray you now, forget and forgive
Rise in the heart, and gather in the eyes
Greet the unseen with cheer --
With a hip-hi-yeh! and a ho-hey-ho!
Most musical! Most melancholy!
On Sorting Through the Ancient Wisdom
Indians understood well enough
The most impressive accounts of our measures
When I had gone far enough across the island:
"What sort of fooling is this?"
Habit is the explanation;
Concerning our understanding,
it is the means by which we may amend
- our lives again.
Hearing the eternal complaint
Master was soon in our midst --
the only prayer they used
(Of course I quickly pointed out to them
that Roman law does not convict a man
before he has been tried.)
. . . I saw a woman clothed with the sun . . .
No man at all can be living forever
- and we must be satisfied.
"You don't want to die, do you?"
"I understand at last, sir!"
As a fatter of fact, Louis XIVth
was only five-foot-four
and cast a short shadow . . .
The Unnamed Poem
I was in a room without light:
The certitude of the reflective act
that shook all Christendom alive --
I Am That I Am That I Am --
will shake all Christendom awake . . .
And when they are all in full accord,
the moon is full, or close to full.
But I was in a room without light:
The trivialities of metres and measures
lights the real land of opportunity,
the lotus of this center:
"It is no longer there"
"The essence must exist"
is to cross such a boundary
repeated in another form.
The untended certitude of the act --
"I Am That that I AM" ("Thata boy!") --
Is to be no longer there,
and That's the problem
that we run into --
This is the problem, that is.
I Grow Pessimistic
(Dedicated to William Shakespeare and Alan Watts)
This uninspired text
Of saucy and audacious eloquence
Breath'd forth the sound that said, "I hate."
A very gale it was --
A storm of air.
How he outruns the wind
Teaching of decrepit age
Who live in little boxes
Imprison'd on the ground,
Of the need we have
(It is the first need of our nature)
To go before an altar
Where passion on passion deeply is redoubled
Making a fuss
With nothing to think on but ensuing death . . .
We would watch the stars --
Cast in a cold, mindless grin.
What could the belly answer,
Crammed with grain?
The whole affair was so sickening
That I finished with it and went to bed.
Suicide Note of Franco Corelli
To tell the whole truth
is not so foreign to my present purpose,
For any purpose of self-excuse
but bears a symbol of ancestral pride --
And the only thing they knew
was to work, and not to beg.
Why should I celebrate a flat tire?
The brutalities of ruffians? A soiled reputation?
I am not a single man:
I was reduced to short allowance,
A process of struggle --
No more to feed on cake.
For Enlightened beings
(which are wont to die)
Here and there does not matter,
Now and then does not matter,
And Life is but a season to discover and to know --
All before the echoes fade . . .
Wherefore should I shun the grave?
The mind is there set free!
I waited 'till the last dropped out of sight,
And without regard to delicacy,
I drew out my Chinese boiling pot
and suffocated on green tea.
"Wisdom is Folly"
This is a liberal age, and thought is free:
Give me a storm
forever rolling, with a dull thump
O whither, whither will its whim now draw me?
Fluttering far down the gulf
from prayer to shivering prayer
until wet with water and sparkling.
Phantoms, what have you left?
the grandiose gestures;
the greenness of night
that falleth on the grass:
amusement of life -- to a speculative mind --
And first they ate the white puddings.
She knew the blood royal
that moves about from place to place --
the stagnant waters:
altar, sword, and pen.
We two will seek the groves
of goodness in every barrel.
(What can I do? I cannot lay eggs!)
Give me a storm
of goodness in every barrel . . .
My Idea of a True Proposition
The lust for power never ends:
My idea of a true proposition.
Tears! that's dangerous.
I have spoken of the martyrs of the past --
Back to the cabaret!
In both cases the object is the same.
Concern with the last group of countries
Is not becoming a real problem:
The worst of tempers -- I am not like them;
Check a hasty reply, and do little kindnesses . . .
Hunger ill-befits the angry man
And words merely point to Heaven --
"Read the stars!"
I kiss you little face, Mademoiselle,
- White as the moon . . .
The Last Farewell
We shall not forget
That yesterday I felled the willow
At the heart of a distant forest.
There the most of life is burned --
Kindled to a flame of bliss,
Forever warm and still to be enjoyed.
As the ground beneath begins to shake,
Smile, live, and call life pleasure;
Look well at these mounds of rubble,
And drink of the elixir of life:
We shall not forget that yesterday,
Above our troubles,
Was a pious day.
First posted: August 3, 1996
© 1996, 2005 Alan Gullette
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