Saturday, April 18, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 25 (Joshua Clover)

Clover, Joshua
Madonna anno domini


My memory regarding the acquisition of this book has a big hole in it. I got it when I lived in New York, of that much I am almost sure. It was published in 1997, so it must have been during my last year in the city. I feel pretty certain I did not pay for it, but I can't be sure. I have a strong feeling that it was a gift, but I can't remember who gave it to me. I want to say it was my friend D., about whom I wrote previously as having a nice little side business plucking books from the editors' shelves at the publishing house where he worked and selling them at the Strand. But he did not work for Louisiana State University Press, so there goes that theory. The dust jacket still marks the page where I must have stopped reading (29), but I have no memory of having read it. I have a vague memory of conversing with some friend or some group of poets about it's having been chosen for the Walt Whitman Award by Jorie Graham. I have no idea who I was speaking with.

To sum up: I may or may not have been given the book as a gift, it may or may not have been given to me by D., I may or may not have read up to page 29, I probably had a conversation about an award it received and I almost certainly possibly maybe acquired it in 1997, when I still lived in New York.

I know, who cares? I do, dammit. I do.

Here's the first poem from the book:

The Nevada Glassworks

Ka-Boom! They're making glass in Nevada!
Figure August, 1953,
mom's 13, it's hot as a simile
Ker-Pow! Transmutation in Nevada!
Imagine mom:pre-postModern new teen,
innocent for Elvis, ditto "Korean
conflict," John Paul George Ringo Viet Nam.
Mom's one state west of the glassworks, she's
in a tree K*I*S*S*I*N*G,
lurid cartoon-colored kisses. Ka-Blam!
They're blowing peacock-tinted New World glass
in southern Nevada, the alchemists
& architects of mom's duck-&-cover
adolescence, they're making Las Vegas
turn to gold - real neon gold - in the blast
furnace heat that reaches clear to Clover
Ranch in dry Central Valley: O the dust -
It is the Golden State! O the landscape -
dreaming of James Dean! O mom in a tree
close-range kissing as in Nevada just
now they're making crazy ground-zero shapes
of radiant see-through geography.
What timing! What kisses! What a fever
this day's become, humming hundred-degree
California afternoon that she's
sure she could never duplicate, never,
she feels transparent, gone - isn't the heat
suffocating - no, she forgot to breathe
for a flash while in the Nevada flats
factory glassblowers exhale...exhale...
a philosopher's stone, a crystal ball,
a spectacular machine. Hooray! Hats
off - they're making a window in the sand!
Mom's in the tree - picture this - all alone!
Unforgettable kisses, comic-book
mnemonic kisses. O something's coming
out of the ranch road heat mirage, that drone -
an engine? Mom quits practice & looks
east, cups an ear to the beloved humming,
the hazy gold dust kicked wildly west
ahead of something almost...in...sight, Vroom!
It's the Future, hot like nothing else, dressed
as sonic-boom Cadillac. O mom!
This land your land This land Amnesia -
they're dropping some new science out here,
a picture-perfect hole blown clear to Asia:
everything in the desert - Shazam! - turns
to glass, gold glass, a picture window where
the bomb-dead kids are burned & burn & burn

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