Enter Morris Imposternak, Pursued by Ironies
1. What are we to do with our banality Our banality, our banality What are we to do with it Early in the morning; at noon; in the evening; ever Perhaps we shall convert it to poetry Have beauty absolve us Or let us perhaps flag the coordinates Of our neurotic and calculated motions How difficult these decisions How difficult our banality What are we to do with it Do do do
2. When Morris Imposternak throws his round shield Down during, say, the battle of Philippi or something Who knows what poems, what true propositions Will rise out of the sticky, fragrant loam? If he were a monist philosopher, His principle would be monism, But it’s hard to believe your own thoughts And phenomena can be so distracting... And books can be so disheartening... And anything can be just so anything: Thus Russell developed his theory of types to get rid of the Village Barber Paradox, But who cares about the theory of types? What’s really interesting is the Village Barber Paradox! Or take the phenomenon of love: He felt such tenderness towards you, That writing “tenderness” I sigh “Alas, poor Morris!” Yet, since no one from the scientific community has ever explained love to everyone’s satisfaction, Scientists fall in love or do not fall in love
Without any of them really knowing when they are in love or not, Whether they are in love or not. This is true. It is also true That where there’s tenderness, there’s suffering: Hence when we say that an elbow is tender, It means we have a booboo, And money, announcing itself as “legal tender,” Causes suffering, but in such a way as to absolve the beneficiary thereof from responsibility therefor. Look at the sea! Don’t you think that the sea too suffers When it pulls up its skirt at low tide And shows the varicose veins, the ingrown hairs, the splotches Along its cold, pale, swollen, hypertensive leg? It is possible that ideas don’t suffer— Such as the idea of suffering, for instance,— But we are not ideas, are we? Morris Imposternak, at least, is not an idea.
3. When Morris Imposternak fell in love The woman he loved didnâ€™t love him in return And so he picked up a violin and said: You, violin, respond to my implorations Because as an inanimate object you have no choice Play to me, violin, of the amaritude we both know You, because you are not alive I, because I am not loved We are alike, you and I We canâ€™t change the world we can only make noise The violin played That is, its strings pushed the air to and fro As Morris Imposternak remembered how he made love To the woman who did not love him Even as matters stood, the look of her eyes had made him forget himself That is, forget he was Morris Imposternak The violin played Outside, buildings crowded together And passersby passed whose figures resembled figures such as the Russian Î› All life is real life, the violin played
And the amaritude of Morris Imposternak Became set to music Blessed are those who love There are so few of them, almost everybody Blessed are those who are loved There are so few of them, almost everybody How sad there is no one-to-one correspondence Between these two sets
4. Paysage en hiver
Trees exist To remind us that we too are nature, We think. We are wrong: Trees exist In themselves And she exists Thus: separate, Autonomous. The sound Of her breathing Is not a bridge. The landscape Of her sleeping Is not a bridge. She is A world but not Your world. Your world Is not your world.
I knew love Which when I knew I did not know It was love I thought I had ulterior motives It came and went, love Without my knowing It was love When it was
5. Morris Imposternak will not write his love Because doing so would plunge him into the epistemological quandary Whether his really is a love Or self-deception seeking to reproduce by deceiving another Even if it is love For the machine Of the body so graceful in its awkwardness, For the shock of black curl over the shame, for its drunken smell, For the long-fingeredness of gestures, for the nervousness, the impatience with which is said, “Nu, Yallah!” and yet how the eyes eradicate loneliness, Make him an integer, the beneficiary of a non-aggression pact with himself, Make him seen— What of it that those eyes now integrate somebody else Won’t it be cruel to try to saddle them with yourself Don’t they deserve a more realistic stab at happiness Morris Imposternak will not write his love Because she said, “You treat me as a blank slate For you to hang your imagination over”
And had there been any music there, it would have climaxed right then But there was no music anywhere, anywhere in the world, no music Since music also is conscious Of the face it makes in the mirror Caught as it is between exploitation and triviality Write not wrong not, Morris
5A. How seriously can one take oneâ€™s spectacles We have neither joy nor suffering But only imitations of both Children are slicing off lips in Africa Suicide-bombers are suicide-bombing the suicide-bombable A pilot washes his hands with anti-bacterial soap Refugees discuss the nutritional advantages of maggots The recently enfranchised exploited gleefully elect themselves an exploiter And the difference between liars and fools is discernable only to fools Thatâ€™s real life for you!
6. Do not love It is possible that nothing is true anyway That we live in a forest of begriffons And that even we ourselves are begriffons, it is possible That I am not saying what you think I am saying And that you are not hearing what you think you are hearing, But that we are scratching and howling on a branch in the dark To signify our loneliness and desire for mice and other delicious vermin.
Do not love For when you pop open a human being All you find is forty feet of intestine And how lovable is that? Being a body is an indemnity and an indignity It sags over time like a deflating balloon If it toots your horn to embrace something that eats at one end and excretes at the other, Why stop at people, why not direct your emotions at cows?
Do not love For love will come to grief And if it doesn’t come to grief, it will come to grief anyway Since one of you must die first What is the point of anything when everything has an end? The world is like The fiddling of a deaf musician in an empty room He finishes, bows—to whom?—and modestly leaves And then there’s silence. How is the silence afterwards different from the silence during?
7. The Knight of the Swan Fought against the Knight of Mirrors Morris Imposternak flew over them like a demon And blew, and blew There was the sun and also the moon And also the stars Live oaks fastidiously betokened the concept of tree And aardvarks running among their dark roots represented wildlife What did the knights say I donâ€™t know if they said anything Itâ€™s so hard to say anything Because one would like it to be true but what is true nowadays The Knight of the Swan had one hundred teeth Most of them canine Or maybe he had seven hundred teeth Some of them feline The Knight of Mirrors was full of reflections It was the aardvarks that spoke:
“How abysmal it is to be an aardvark We’re shoved to the forefront of every list Although we suffer from fear of open spaces Everybody makes fun of our noses Were you born that way or did you have a close encounter with a sausage machine? Had we rooms, we would lock ourselves up in them And put on pink music and cry Why are animals so cruel to each other Only animals are so cruel to each other The philosophers are right we have no souls” The sun shone, the moon shone The stars shone The knights fought, Incoherent and sweaty in their armor Live oaks became invisible behind the concept of tree And aardvarks running among their dark roots converted to mere wildlife Morris Imposternak did not become enlightened
8. Let us ask a question: Where have you been, Morris Imposternak? Whom have you lied to Again, and when? Among what arms, what legs Have you remembered What arms, what legs? If there was a paradox In some proposition, then does it matter: What’s a proposition without a paradox? If there was a love that is no longer Then does it matter: There are so many things that are no longer. How many philosophers does it take To prove anything no matter how small? We do not know the answer to this question Or any question at all. It may be that we’re alive, it may be that we’re happy, That our sense of our unhappiness is objectively mistaken, Or it may be that our affects are doors To doors to doors to doors and so ad infinitum. How can we say anything To anyone anywhere?
Morris Imposternak tries to speak, gets choked up And runs to the bathroom. Goodbye poetry, goodbye visual art, goodbye music, Goodbye Same and Other, Real and Ideal. If this were a question, we wouldnâ€™t know the answer to it, Though it would be very small.
9. Morris Imposternak hears the sounds of music. What does it say, music, This most abstract and emotional of all arts? It is strange that the arts still exist, isnâ€™t it? It is strange that we have volume and depth, That we cannot turn ourselves inside out, Arrange all of ours on the surface, That weâ€™re not entirely decorative? Run your hand over your hand, What do you make of that thereness? You hear music, But where is it? What shall we do with these questions, questions? The questions are there but not the answers. Sometimes it seems as if there are some answers, But you come up closer and they turn out to be, after all, questions: Music where are you and what is your question? Table what is your question? Cup What is your question? Hand what is Your question? Combination of words what is your
Question? Question What is your question? Maybe there aren’t even questions, Maybe there are just positions. You sleep in an excessively large room, My soul—odoriferous flowers swell Outside your windows—and here passes Morris Imposternak Listening to music with his broken heart.
10. A company of philosophers descended the high place with a fife and a drum and a lyre and a Jewâ€™s harp I said to them, Philosophers What good are your words, what good is anything? Grimacing and distorted was my interface With a lip and an eye and a chin and a nostril Every act of mine Was an act of cowardice And the birds on the surrounding bushes Deafeningly sang
Thereâ€™s no more poetry no more poey-tree
11. After poetry ended And the world stripped down to inanimate structures A building unfinished because unpaid-for Among garbage and voices Of fools and murderers hawking God (Does knowing how to love Include knowing when to stop?) Morris Imposternak decided Since language Expressing as it does struggles for domination, the civil Cannibalism of the social Has lost all meaning but that To discontinue His labors upon this poem also What a shame! It might have turned out an okay poem... But what could it have possibly said? It takes a specialist to issue a true statement. Ah, and to write a poem without true statement is like having your arms go through the gestures of swimming when you still have your feet planted on the poolâ€™s tiled floor!
12. In a universe renowned for its simplicity Composed, as it was, of P and ÂŹP There lived a philosopher who became a painter He painted portraits of philosophers Each of them was caught in the act of thought Like a victim of eating disorder in front of the refrigerator A river flowed past the painterâ€™s house with words in it That connected and disconnected very poetically And sometimes you thought you understood what it said, Even though it was all random, and sometimes you didnâ€™t The sun rose and the sun set And sometimes the other way around And the seasons progressed from winter to spring to summer to fall And sometimes the other way around Every Saturday a philosopher who became a violinist Came by to play always the same sonata, composed of three movements First movement: love Second movement: love and loss Third movement: just loss
This book was originally printed and bound in a limited edition of 350 copies in January, 2008, at the Ugly Duckling Presse workshop in Brooklyn, NY. The text is set in Adobe Garamond Pro. The cover image came from a Roman sarcophagus illustrating Euripidesâ€™ Iphigenia in Tauris at the Glyptotek, Munich. The poems were composed between the summer of 2005 and the fall of 2006. Some of them have since appeared in American Poetry Review and A Public Space. Electronic edition produced in July 2010 and made possible in part by a grant from the New York State Literary Presenters Technical Assistance Program. A German translation of this book by Uljana Wolf was published as Auf tritt Morris Imposternak, verfolgt von Ironien by SuKuLTuR in Berlin in 2010 (http://www.satt.org/sukultur/index.html).
UGLY DUCKLING PRESSE ÂŠ Eugene Ostashevsky 2008, 2010
Chapbook of poetry