DOPPE LGÄN G E D FRITZ WARD BLUE HOUR PRESS • 2011
B L U E H O U R PR E S S • 152 6 K E N T U C K Y S T. • L AW R E N C E , K S 6 6 0 4 4 W W W. B LU E H O U RPR E S S .C OM • E D I TO R@ B LU E H O U RPR E S S .C OM © 2011 Fritz Ward. All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-257-92755-5
AC K N OW LE D G E M E N T S
The following poems (or earlier versions of them) first appeared in various publications, and are reprinted here with thanks: American Letters and Commentary: “The Doppelgänger Decants” Another Chicago Magazine: “Love Letter Rattling the Bell Jar” Anti-: “Self-Portrait in Conway, Arkansas” Coconut: “The Doppelgänger’s John Wayne” Columbia: “Doppelgänger, Half-Dressed” Lo-Ball: “The Doppelgänger at the Drive-In” and “Love Letter Where I Am Someone Else” Lumberyard: “The Doppelgänger as Buddhist Trucker” Memorious: “Grief is Simple Interference: Endings Overlapping” No Tell Motel: “The Doppelganger’s Reenactment as Character Assassin,” “A _________ is a World, a Windstorm, a Love Letter Lost in the Breeze,” “White Fingers Scissoring a Love Poem into Snow,” “Love Letter with Small Town Convulsions,” “Electrokinetic Mass Disguised as a Love Letter” and “Love Letter Relinquishing the Articulate Veneer” Pool: “The Doppelgänger’s Descant” Scythe: “Parenthetical Match” and “The Doppelgänger’s Necropolis” Salt Hill: “Dear Cannibal Quivering with Lipstick and Moonlight” Tuesday; An Art Project: “The Doppelgänger’s Requiem without Credits” Quarterly West: “The Doppelgänger’s Multiple Exposure”
T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R ’ S M U LT I PL E E XPOS U R E T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R AS B U D D H I S T TR U C K E R G R I E F I S S I M PL E I N T E R F E R E N C E : E N D I N GS OV E R L A PPI N G D O PPE LGÄ N G E R , H A L F - D R E S S E D PA R E N T H E T I C A L M ATC H W H I T E F I N G E RS S C I S S O R I N G A LOV E PO E M I N TO S N OW T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R ’ S D E S C A N T T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R D E C A N TS A _________ I S A WO R L D, A W I N DS TO R M , A LOV E L E T T E R LOS T I N T H E B R E E Z E LOV E L E T T E R W H E R E I A M S OM E O N E E L S E T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R ’ S N E C RO PO L I S T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R AT T H E D R I V E - I N T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R ’ S J O H N WAY N E T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R ’ S R E E N AC TM E N T AS C H A R AC T E R AS S AS S I N T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R ’ S H E RO T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R ’ S R E Q U I E M W I T H O U T C R E D I TS LOV E L E T T E R W I T H S M A L L TOW N C O N V U L S I O N S D E A R C A N N I BA L Q U I V E R I N G W I T H L I PS T I C K A N D MO O N L I G H T E L E C TRO K I N E T I C M AS S D I S G U I S E D AS A LOV E L E T T E R LOV E L E T T E R R AT TL I N G T H E B E L L JA R LOV E L E T T E R R E L I N Q U I S H I N G T H E A RT I C U L AT E V E N E E R S E L F - PO RTR A I T I N C O N WAY, A R K A N S AS
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T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R’ S M U LT I PLE E X POS U RE
The Doppelgänger dipped his moist hands into the once-washed poems. Then, faithfully, he unwashed, unclasped, and unthought the following: Jesus is no Pittsburgh. The swink of it made him queasy and unable to enunciate. He tried standing monolithically still like a slurry-gray steel mill abandoned along the shores of the Monongahela. He failed. Whatever minor understandings he smuggled into his twenties became pesos to place over the eyes of road kill. His heart idled at the drive-through. He ordered less than he desired. Even the words mattered less to him now than the vibrations he teased from his lover’s throat. Once upon at time, it was all terminal: the marshgrass and the yarnbirds and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. He stood there, shirtless—a camera at arm’s length, snapping himself in half.
T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R A S B U D D H I S T T RU C KE R
Between here and the Mississippi, the road is strung together with hyphenated endings, with frogs flattened by orange pick-up trucks. What’s important right now is being exported for the decimal. What’s imported tomorrow is exportant, like a satchel of fool’s gold hidden between green bananas and tulips in bondage. It is pure inevitability, like the insects turning inside out against the windshield or like the pigeon swooping low between the guardrails, discovering the truck’s quarter panel is completely unforgiving.
When the feathers separate from the body, he remembers how important his arm seemed when he couldnâ€™t move it, and how, slowly, the trailer tipped its glow of Florida oranges onto the searing asphaltâ€” the interstate suddenly ripe with bruised citrus, accidental zest, pulp and shattered glass. Each shard sticky and nutritious. It took a long time for the medics to arrive. In the meantime, he named the tree line Lhasa and the price of oranges rose half a cent.
G RI E F I S S I M PLE I N T E RF E RE N C E : E N D I N G S OV E RL APPI N G
I feed the ants before I poison them. I wrap my grief in tinsel and call the funeral director Sugarbeets. I want to spoon her in two. One for now, one for never. Does it matter who D-I-E-D? After the service, there’s sex and crackers and crushed fruit. Her father snapped black and whites of all the lilies in the room. Graveside, we shoe-gazed and eavesdropped—Palm-sized birds and the threat of afternoon rain. Touch me now, she said, I’ ll freckle and tear.
D O PPE LGÄ N G E R , HALF - D RE S S E D
Here’s the first person, no strings attached. Here’s the I in a jar of formaldehyde above an unmade bed and a narrator dressed in ellipses. I’m here to say it’s too late, I’m tangled in this story’s leather fringe. Peach moonshine and a ghostly toast compose the present tense. A storm idles overhead like a stretch limousine outside the only nightclub in Warsaw, Indiana—A way of saying, lights out, no promises. I need you to explain the blond bruise in the white tank top before she straightens her bra strap and starts singing the refrain
to the beta bluegrass release of Precipitous Woman. Tell me again about the trees bent with my longing. The lampâ€™s shawl of yellow light pressed to the window. This time, Iâ€™m letting you stand for all of it. The choke cherries and the mosques. The pine needles and the bandages. The made. The tindersweet. Tell me again how you stand for everything I want to love.
PARE N T H E T I C AL M ATC H
O my praisling of pink, let us meet in secret beneath the lime tree on the roof garden. Again and again, I’ll pull your ponytail till one of us whinnies and whines and surrenders. Come hell and hither. Come hatching and clutching. Come fawn and muzzle. Come thrash and plunder. Let’s untuck the sheets of our salvage bed. It’s all thresh and no hold. Come, let’s bind ourselves together—like a book our parents dream of burning.
W H I T E F I N G E RS S C I S S O RI N G A LOV E PO E M I N TO S N OW
Dear Doppelgänger, I refuse to write another poem where the moon glints like a hubcap lost in a retention pond. My morning glass of milk casts a spell that keeps it perpetually upright. It’s dazzling and empty. When I put my head down, the pines make a muffled song of the wind. I substitute because syntax once mattered. Example A: The doors of perception vs. the perception of doors. Example B: I haven’t forgotten your mouth—no ordinary winter—your mouth, which gives fruit a gender. And your teeth, how they collapse the skin of your daily apple—never green, never yellow—only the red an other could love. And yet—yet I hesitate a taste. I am so very uninsured. The scaffolding of your arms appears entirely accidental.
T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R’ S D E S C A N T
Februarian gray and brandied, the cloud cover unmistakably depressing. I wander half a block from your open window, half wondering if my psychiatrist’s id will forgive me. Finally, closer than the closest cross street, I stop to let my ache salivate. If I see your sweet and slow-waltzing face high on the shingles, I promise, I’ll play coy— Not like the fish, but like the French films with their black scarves and split-ends. •• Okay, okay. ~ ~ Oh K: let’s say you were ten years older. Good— Now teach me how to undress in a poem. When I’m nude, I’m new, I’m un-
slipped and lipped. You should stare and I should star. Yes, stare close enough and I’m a lily that lends to unending bending. I’ve never been won, but one that is too. Too swivelhipped. Two divided lips. Too little chapstick to make the wind really wonder what would happen. •• Much, much later: a brunch, a bunch of crumbs on the tongue. After toast, the old one-two strophe. O we tarry and we t(h)rust. We tinker with the tips of barely known things. You want to say love already, don’t you? Go ahead, say it with one lump, then two. A hump is sugar cubed.
I liked the dead ants on your windowsill bestâ€”how they curled into small black commas, delicate as our punctuation could get.
T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R D E C A N T S
Beneath the cloud-loud sky, lackbirds filled the gaps on the telephone wire and you knocked the pathos plant off the porch. You tap-tap-tapped on my whitewashed door. I simply unlocked— dropped the romance novel I was reading—floored the bodice and the throb. No more paper cuts for my pulp heart— for my (gulp!) art. Was I the ark you were praying for? playing for? paying for? Wait—Let me X and let me plain: I’m a hangnail on a forged suicide note. I’m years older than the artifice, a shade tree younger than the recanting. I mean,
don’t you want to decant too? With the moon at half-mast already half-past our half-lives, can you really say no to me? We’ll light some sparklers along the way, we’ll burnish our skin with one tri-colored bruise after another, revelry ad nauseam. If you stare close enough, my face is a thousand black holes, an abandoned planetarium, a hum and a hush and a binge. Quick! Quick! You be the lush, I’ll be the hinge. Now, thrush! thrush! O clamor and button, I’m coming, I’m coming. I come with wet hands and no final answers. If you ask twice, I’ll raise my bare arms in surrender, like an orchard emptied of its apples.
A ______________ I S A WO RLD, A W I N DS TO R M , A LOV E LE T T E R LOS T I N T H E B RE E Z E
Dear Seizure of Church Bells, there were eleven hours left till the end of Memorialist Day. I was kneeling again, ambushed by my own ardor. I was asking this She to be my garden of grief. And She said, Guess! Guess! Oh God, Guess! But the Marginalia was already drawing near, their pre-colonial boots shining funeral-black in the May-ish sun. We hurried down presidential streets, past soothsayers and witnesses, to the courthouse steps. We donned our simple smiles even as the echo of boots erupted around us. Only the crossing guard could stop them now, her one palm held high. As quick-quick as he could, the priest-like astronomer knocked on the door of his heaven. And with time for only one question, one answer, one rapture, we surrendered our Yes.
LOV E LE T T E R W H E RE I A M S O M E O N E E L S E
Dear Exterior, when I stumbled through your corn husks and hay bars and the whine of your caesarean guitars, I rendered the past a senseless tense. Even the border guards blinked as sparse parts for the incinerator rumbled past. Fall arrived and arrived and departed. The leaves shadowed and scratched. I listened. To the guardâ€™s thin whistle as he snapped the heads of sweet alyssum for his sleeping wife. She lived. A quiet life. Outside, everyone was. Smoking. Three inches taller. The religious significance almost laryngitic. When I arrived, almost undressed was still best. Thank you, substance. Thank you, tinder. I spent a long time. Forgetting. Today, I refuse to speak of her beauty, her bread. The children were never immortal, only less sad. A napkin marked with dried blood was an angel. Still, my Dresden is nothing like her Dresden.
T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R’ S N E C RO PO L I S
This is no Halloween. There are twenty-three headstones and twenty-two welcome mats. The idiomap’s triangle declares, You are here! But the acute angles are deceptive, and the half-moon has a way of bending the whole truth. At the tree-lined fringe, Kris Werd loiters in a shadowy tux. He hangs quietly from a mulberry tree, the Spanish moss knotted tight around the smoking hole in his throat. Beneath his polished wingtips, C. Egg finds herself lowered into a hole of freshly pressed flowers, each one plastic and meaningful,
an exaggeration of yellows. Mister Very— who even the ghosts agree can be oh-soscary—presides over this ceremony of frail logicians. He projects his grief onto under-aged trees and fingers the most obscure Greek couplet in the tri-county area. Standing this close to the ossuary, we are supposed to make more sense of living. See the black kittens playing fetch with the white mice? Another predictable dusk. We spend the nights making paper carnations from our crumbled receipts, inventing novel ways to explain how we’ve paid for all this, in the hope that we do not have to come back.
T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R AT T H E D RI V E - I N
The double feature is never as startling as the double penetration, regardless of plot: There’s black. There’s white. There’s the universal concession stand with a sign conceding: A fisting is the opposite of fasting. The screen is silver and immeasurable. Our bulb ambitions are barely adolescent. And like us, the villains are poorly lit. But we nibble, we gnaw, we lick what we like. Our static is the supplicant’s song. Did we come here to kiss or kiss here to come? Are we too dimensional to believe in the Technicolor? O just up and fuck me, I’ll mime the rest of my lines.
T H E D O PPE LGĂ„ N G E Râ€™ S J O H N WAY N E
In his one yellow dress, John Wayne approximates the Mojave. Swift to sear, but slow to blow the candles out, his grit scours the tongue in the sweat lodge of my mouth. Like a cactus, he pricks to protect the water inside. He squints and testifies. He leans against the unblinking sun for support. I stare and go, go, go blind as the Joshua tree. One deep breath from his solar plexus is the nexus of excess. His Western-wear and diamond-backed fingers rattle through my Palm Springs. After all, poison is as poison does.
Between sunsets, he medicates and breeds. Like the good and the ugly, I pray to my predators. I start the pilgrimage by rolling up the cuffs on my khakis. Bare-ankled through the Eden of sagebrush, Iâ€™m bitten by the mirage of this marriage. At high noon, I lie down with his body and make an angel in the sand of our death valley.
T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R’ S RE E NAC TM E N T A S C HAR AC T E R A S SA S S I N “In the morning, the doves cooed their fuck-yous.” ~Jenny Boully I’m just his stand-in. I simulate a bare yellow bulb and strategic cobwebs, cinder blocks and composite crooks, genuine poverty. I stand just so. I’m here to make the ficus by the bay window look less loved. If I stare at a wallet-size reproduction of his face, I can make my eyes like ice over an orange grove. If the director desires my nose closer to my lips, I imply. I perspire. There’s no feeling to mimic it. When I achieve him, I go tectonic. The left side of my brain falls fast asleep. When they call action on the stabbing, I bring my silver fist down swiftly
and try to invent a fast food menu in Greek with Latin condiments, bloody and slightly appetizing. Take one. Take two. The result: Little Miss Victimhood plays dead for a higher tax bracket. Afterwards, in my trailer, I remove his face with a straight razor. In the mirror, I sing goodbye gorilla, goodbye girl, hello unsolved misery.
T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R’ S H E RO
Two women kiss their daughter’s forehead in the morgue. The organ scale gleams like salvage. In the translation of the coroner’s dream, the girl is cloaked and hooded in a yellow anorak. Go ahead, embrace the frostbitten lips, the snowsoftened hands. His heart and its hoofbeats steaming in the frozen field. The women hear it too—a broken gallop through the afterpastures. One of us must undress her—if only to see the fruit
beneath the amniotic snow, to see what lies beneath us and to offer it our most truthful names: driftbone, bloodseed, gut thistle. Lean in now, beneath the amputated lightâ€” breathe shallowâ€” each breath a trapdoor to our faith.
T H E D O PPE LGÄ N G E R’ S RE Q U I E M W I T H O U T C RE D I T S
In the middle, an All-American assassination goes unfilmed. It doesn’t matter how the bullet got from Smith to Wesson to Werd, how he moved from Disneyland to The Mattress Factory. It was all one funeral viewed from the fire ant’s perspective: dark shoes, loose earth. This is how it works: We break the body before the dirt.
LOV E LE T T E R W I T H S M ALL TOW N C O N V U L S I O N S
Dear Lurid Gospel, while the park/drive-in/motor lodge/bait shop/church/post office/ slaughterhouse/airport/museum/diner/warehouse/hospital/crematorium/classroom/ confessional became quieter and haunted, my sister sat on the porch swing smoking something white and marvelously addictive. Every pain has its Rothko, she declared. I nodded. The creek babbled obscurities back to us. The faint stars were charged with more impossibility than I cared to count. Together we watched the leaves shake free from the diseased trees.
D E AR C A N N I BAL Q U I V E RI N G W I T H L I P S T I C K A N D M OO N L I G H T
I was nominally yours. You were abnormally mine. We loved with our fangs out, our truths in. I licked fifty-six square inches of your lavendered skin. I begged for the first two psalms and received your twenty-four-hour flood. You hand-washed six figs, fed me one per night. I listened for your three deepest breaths, but your mouth was a drain painted Harlot. Spring delivered the first four steps of happiness and I tangoed in the mineshafts of your moonlight, unsutured. Summer sent us your slow-clotting cuts, your sugar ants, your human dark with honey. It was all a little too sweet to believe in. The truth is just another way of saying I always hoped youâ€™d stop loving me the next day. And that you never would. And each of those meals in between, I longed for your ingredients: your sweet cream and your curry and your over-ripe bed. I stayed. Not for the cancer or for your skin beneath me, but to watch your soft hands flutter and flay the green skin of the mango, its glistening flesh exposed, alone on the white cutting board.
E LE C T RO KI N E T I C M A S S D I S G U I S E D A S A LOV E LE T T E R
Dear Metaorta Beating I-Am-I-Am-I-Am, so much depends upon the heart dazed with white blood cells. Like Times Square, my Christina begins a countdown to eliminate the plural. Charged with immunity, I gorge on the minutiae of our own passion play. She whispers Jesus for that bit of bleeding I lack. All the slow, pitched kisses devour the vows lodged in my throat. I watch her EKG register depth charges only in retrospect. The after- shock of loss remains, largesse: backlit, breathless, liturgically svelte. Christina, forgive me my slurs, absence is only a word away.
LOV E LE T T E R R AT T L I N G T H E B E LL JAR
Dear Less Than Judy Garland, love is merely a suggestion: an Oz-factory of rube-red sequins manufactured from parts of the witchâ€™s heart. Let me propose an alternative plot: a nightedged merlot, a riding crop with a clause, a mildly historical curse. Better yet, you arsoned your way across the room, past the pine needles and the holly. I widened my loneliness to include you. So very so. We gooseberried, then married. All afternoon, we lay in bed listening to the early recordings of rain. We floated, but still found ourselves submerged. When the listening ceased, you made a bridge of my fingers. I tore your name in half and let the river decide which vowels to drown. Oh fuck the why, the what and the howâ€”Darling, this year I choose your meatloaf all over again. I choose your naked feet upon my bare chest.
LOV E LE T T E R RE L I N Q U I S H I N G T H E ART I C U L AT E V E N E E R
Dear Fill In My Blanks, my heart is a hotel room overlooking an alley bright with rain: a metal pull-chain, an empty socket, light blue curtains singed with the approximation of a human soul. The truth is this is not the truth I counted on. These fingers were not the fingers I counted on. The mattress in the corner is spare and empty. Underneath, Iâ€™ve hidden a book of matches and two flammable confessions. One where the grim silk grows red into the merchandise of love. One where everything I say smolders.
S E LF - PO RT R A I T I N C O N WAY, ARK A N SA S
A cloud drags its clubfoot over the bare sky. The damp grass imparts subtle, changing secrets. The cows amble black and white. This need to see and not be seen through. Beneath the barbed wire’s string of thin infinities, a fist of daisies wilts beneath a jaundiced ribbon. I’ve come without a god or a tow truck. The gravel so loose and plural, I fill my pockets with its burden and, complicit, press my hands to dirt. There’s no comfort in the flowering of weeds. A feeling now: wet wool and rotting honeysuckle, a linen handkerchief turning red in the mason’s shaking hand.
So much moonlight in the flattened cornfield we couldn’t possibly go blind. I’ll say it once, and never again—
B I O G R APH I C AL N OT E Fritz Wardâ€™s work as has appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Another Chicago Magazine, Blackbird, Salt Hill, DIAGRAM, Hotel Amerika, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of the Cecil Hemley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America, and was included in Best New Poets 2007 (University of Virginia Press). His manuscript, Letters from the Handmade Dark, was recently a semi-finalist for the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Prize. He lives just outside of Philadelphia and works at Swarthmore College. wwww.fritzward.com C RE D I T S For their invaluable support, I owe a deep gratitude to Simeon Berry, Cecily Iddings, Adam Day, Jill Alexander Essbaum, Christina Stoddard, Emily Symonds, Jennifer Chapis, Stuart Dischell, Christine Garren, Fred Chappell, Jim Clark, Terry Kennedy, Todd McKinney, Stacy Clovis, Jay Baron Nicorvo, Scott Ward, and Sterling Watson. To Mom, Dad, and Megan: thank you. To Roxanne Halpine Ward: you have my love and my immense thanks.
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A chapbook by Fritz Ward.