Sunday, September 27, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 33.2 (Edward Dorn)


Gunslinger
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Dorn, Edward
Gunslinger


Another title from the Just Buffalo library.

I remember watching Bruce Jackson's film about Creeley a few years ago at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. There's a kind of amazing scene featuring Creeley, Dorn and Dorn's wife Jenny. The three are sitting at a kitchen table. My recollection is that it is morning, but I also recall beer bottles and whiskey bottles and lots of full ashtrays, so it's possible it could be a different time of day, or that the three have been up all night drinking. At one point Creeley starts talking a blue streak, as he was wont to do. Almost on cue, Ed Dorn starts talking another blue streak, about something completely different. For the next several minutes, the two of them pursue simultaneous, uninterrupted discourses. They seem able to be talk to to one another and past one another at the same time. It's almost like trying to watch a three dimensional chess match, in which the players can pay attention to all of the chess boards at once, while the spectators can only see the one upon which their eyes happen to rest.

from Gunslinger

I met in Mesilla
The Cautious Gunslinger
of impeccable personal smoothness
and slender leather encased hands
folded casually
to make his knock.
He would show you his map.

There is your domain.
is it the domicile it looks to be
or simply a_retinal block
of seats in,
he will flip the phrase
the theater of impatience.

If if is where you are,
the footstep in the flat above
in a foreign land
or any shimmer the city
sends you
the prompt sounds
of a metropolitan nearness
he will unroll the map of locations.

His knock resounds
inside its own smile, where?
I ask him is my heart.
Not this pump he answers
artificial already and bound
touching me
with his leathern finger
as the Queen of Hearts burns
from his gauntlet into my eyes.

    Flageolets of fire
he says there will be.
This is for your sadly missing heart
the girl you left
in Juarez, the blank
political days press her now
in the narrow adobe
confines of the river town
her dress is torn
by the, misadventure of
         her gothic search

The mission bells are ringing
in Kansas
Have you left something out:
Negative, says my Gunslinger,
no thing is omitted.

Time is more fundamental than space.
It is, indeed, the most pervasive
of all the categories
in other words
theres plenty of it
And it stretches things themselves
until they blend into one,
so if youve seen one thing
youve seen them all.

I held the reins of his horse
while he went off into the desert
to pee. Yes, he reflected
when he returned, that's better.

How long, he asked
have you been in this territory.

Years I said. Years.
Then you will know where we can have
a cold drink before sunset and then a bed
will be my desire if you can find one
for me, I have no wish to continue
my debate with men,
my mare lathers with tedium
her hooves are dry
Look they are covered with the alkali
of the enormous space
between here and formerly.
Need I repeat, we have come
without sleep from Nuevo Laredo.
And why do you have a female horse
Gunslinger? I asked. Don't move
he replied
the sun rests deliberately
on the rim of the sierra.

1 comment:

RD Pohl said...

Dorn was an important, albeit highly idiosyncratic talent. Gunslinger is certainly the book he will be remembered for, and ranks as one of the major achievements of those associated with Black Mountain College. It's hard to describe what Gunslinger is all about, but it reads like a mythic would-be epic of the late 20th century American west. Dorn read here in Buffalo at least twice in my memory, but almost certainly more often than that. I saw him here in '78 or '79, somewhere off campus--probably the old Allentown Community Center--around the time he was still readng from Gunslinger, and then again at the UB Poetry Collection in Capen Hall sometime in the mid 1980's, when he also did a Gray Chair lecture. It was likely during that visit that the film footage you describe was shot. Your posting raises an interesting question, though, Mike, and that is whether Dorn, who read with Creeley at BMC, ever felt somewhat competitive with him. For a while, Dorn was nearly as central to the scene in Boulder as Creeley was to Buffalo, but that time was brief. Over all, a combination of factors, including poor health in his later years, prevented him from all he might have achieved, both in his work, and in winning the recognition it deserved.