blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


NORMAN DUBIE | Book of the Jewel Worm



I dreamt of wild horses bathing in white water again.
One stood and ate the salmon like a bear.
                        What of the Wishbone Pulsar, those cooling wicks
of the dark mother, lodged
deep in the throat of Cygnus; the merchants' charcoal-
ballasted ships crossing the dead cluster district

where two of the lost tablets

are miming the iron lamps of a black dwarf.


                        (.1/.9 jibes.)

Help us, Paul, to understand. The photon stockgrams
found us in New Philadelphia—
your drawing of the yarrow sticks
has been copied by your sister
who, with her usual seriousness
about your poems, insists these new hexagrams
are just simply more of them.
Your poems, that is. They are insane

but lovely
in their ratios of fear to arrogance. You will never change. By example,
'Martha Smythe, naked, weeding out in your garden'
is long dead, but you say
'her breasts like faux plaster waves
mechanically lift before the lilac hedges.' Or, of course,
in the opera pit
tigers are eating the three cellists?
Listen to me, son:

I am not the black Khandro wiring
a voice back
along some faded logarithmic bubble . . .
this is just your mother, saying
those false plaster waves are
some dead schoolgirl's breasts,

your poor memory
of a watercolorist's horizon and its sea. This is
the seminary's first production
of your father's version
of Shakespeare's most excellent last play.
Your chewing gum on my yellow gloves and hair.
Our young cadets studying

religion and then war, war
and then religion, while wondering why
that old magician
didn't want his dukedom back
now that he could have it.

Eight years later and they are all shipwrecked
on a strange moon; well,
I can't imagine what you've witnessed:
their cruiser entering, with two hundred sleepers
in suspension, that crushing
brim light of a data-clear nova. Yet,
distanced from it, so that their many dreams
became the one dream
they wake to screaming—     first blood

at their nostrils and then machines
everywhere reading the flat line.

'weeding the garden indeed.' How
you lived through these things? Your father
always wondered what you did for a living?
I didn't. I'm sorry but if I'm speaking
of him, I should make this quick addendum:

Samuel died this new year eating mescaline
in that burnt-out Mercedes
and his two German Shepherds were with him.

I spoke to his corpse with no kindness.

It's all a joke, of course.
Like your cadets in their basaltic wilderness
with goats standing
to their bellies in a white mud
and in the high loft of the chapel
the rose light focused
on Martha Smythe's dress
just where her breasts
separate beneath it
featuring that pitted copper crucifix.

Those violet ash-paper hives in winter,
she said,
had been opened for the sugar
by two large-boned naked men,
hair cropped by the mayor. Their love
was a cannibalism of branches to the sky,
the horror occurring not in the burning barns
of their village
but in the songs of a chloraplastik
spring offensive.

They are trying to forget the hill fires,
bloated animals flying into the night, birds crying:

                        né-too vic, né-too vic,

the six syllables like a butcher's knives.

The cousin saw the naked men and their young sister.
The men with a fur wrapped around them,
joined at the hip. Their black high heels
with a small jewel in the eyebrow or lip.

They were walking out among the land mines
in hill fog.

I had you there, old mole! For a moment?
Asparagus slips in the vinegar jar. And rowing, rowing.

Paul, you make me sick . . .   Khandro.


                                              —the Port of Gommed-Kyi-Pnalbyorh (.7/.4 ibis.)

Mother:             so, still the stockgram about our two dogs.
You forgot that they ate the potted African violets.
But not him.
Father, that is. A burnt-out pink Mercedes?

Mind slippings and a quick wiring-tack, more
telegrams from your great black sock.
It's true I was the monitor
for that data-clear event on old Phoebus IV. More horror:

scripts flying like invisible fish-hooks:  lost
memory, sinus rhythm
and then that heart beat. Large rocks
in the solar plexus. The hemorrhaging, of course.

Those old emotions and a small boy's spruce gum
in your hair. Yes, mother,
mousetraps, hundreds of them, snapping
at once in that big clean house by the marsh. Birds rising.

Thank you for taking the risk
of scripting your old son from that vast electrical storm
that is Philadelphia . . .  with yoga

and the packing salts
I'm certain it went smoothly.
There never was a sister. Remember? It was
our brother who studied my poems. He's dead also.

His history of the ampersand
as clear Sanskrit drool. His idea of the dead
borrowed from calculus and polkas.

I'm miles from the lake today. The full moon is a sick lavender.
The warrants of childhood
are visited upon us here. I know
it's quieter where you are. But
all that brillo in your bones, nails,
and hair. A literal ocean
of electrical storms, insomnia . . .

But no memories of attracting scripts.
It was on those docks
that the Senator Galbraith had his throat cut?

Vacationing in that god realm. How sinister
of you, my dear.

(She laughs at the edges of the old brilliant mums:
mistress, we are on each other's bones
while rowing out there in our long coats.)

Oslo actually
ate the potted violets. It made him ill.

Khandro, I know the difference between you and my mother.
And I know her mantra:
Oh, Ben Ezra, crows to die
calling the alms across burial urns and sawgrass.
That's it, isn't it. We are

all innocent. I'm tacked
into an old prophet's filthy skirts, the gourds of water,
ah-ting ah-ting . . .
The wind in golden wheels moves along the palm lined river
of that sandy crescent

where a whole cranberry bog is filling with beer,
branch water of cocaine and cinnabar; you sopped
it up for blood, Mum. That clever pharaoh
tamed you for a thousand years.

Here's sincere signatures of possession, inks & all. Your boy, again.       Paul.


Marie:             I miss my brother. I thought you might
forgive me if I wrote. You had
divorced him just months before I found
the magnetic aqueduct of the Keet Sleet,
every laborer left on its wide runnel
his or her inscription, elaborate to the vanishing point. It was
a great algebraic mural of melons, flayed deer
and the one stylized moon of a very blue planet.

I know you love the Keets. Their verses
written for the backs of mirrors,
the bath-houses and reflecting copper lakes.

Khandro once let slip that there was
a bismuth rail in the aqueduct
before the whole population went telepathic.

Their föhn-storms must have been a terror:

spikes to the extremities,
smoke & snowflake, then the bulging eyes, brain vise
and finally an ecstasy. Their dream practice
came last.

Their rainbow bodies across the chalk cliffs.

Poor Oslo's body was in the North Platte: the Ouija board
said, wrongly:

Stateline, cropside; volcanic ash in the trees
and no apricots that year,
not anywhere. Oslo
had disappeared. The stars over the river grew beards.

I'll never forget that picnic at Hoover Dam.
Just lamb wrapped in leaves.
Jam on the biscuits. The tea was black.

The bears were the saddest. And my wife was laughing,
stripping for your neighbor in the middle
of the dirt road. Ants had invaded her purse
and then her shirt.

It was the hard candy she'd brought the sick uncle . . .

That night, revolving snake eyes in the mountain sky.

Your daughter Urze writes poems, has advanced
in the ati-yoga? She has studied the Keets, I know.

Tell her to write me. I'll give her
my artifacts from the Plain of Jars.
If she feels ready for it. My sincerest etceteras . . .    Ekajati.


Urze:    your father, Oslo, was my brother
and for that reason alone
I will send you that last white mala
from the Plain of Jars. Don't be silly about its
importance. Throw it in some pond.

Seriously, you won't tame it soon. Wearing it
in your sleep, you'll wake with your bones
spinning to the left, your flesh to the right. It will
feel strange like a last guiltless bed-wetting. Or, then, again
your illusory body might wake on the coast of France
while reversing the charges for a stockgram
to new Asia. Ha!          Khandro?

You don't want to ask about her, but yes
the wiring-back involves
the no-self vows that came with the southern Nalanda:
an umbrella and then the conscious tiger track:

has your mother
explained any of this? She lived in that village, in Laos!
Once she put a yellow rag in her mouth
and by the end of the sitting
it had become somehow the surprising birth
of her skirts. Your father's 'view' was impeccable.

If you ask permission of your mother,
then I may tell you something of what I know. But it must all
be voiced back on the probability
that you are not my niece
but rather the Khandro.

It's always like that, though I know the difference
on the new moon. Oh yes I do love Miss Dickinson's work.

Imagine her rolling bandages on winter nights in Amherst
and Whitman unrolling them in the spring
while a sparrow tracks blood out of the canvas surgery
there in the suburbs of Washington. No. I don't think
that war was the invention of their genius. Ignore theorists!
You are either a poet and take language
by the throat, or you quote, and quote and quote. Well,

looking at the violence in my words
makes me think now
that I should read your young theorist from Cornell. With affection.           Your uncle.

Post Script:
Damn, it's confounding—        Whitman and Dickinson,
the two of them alive, at once,
like that . . .

Him with an absolute manifest detailing a torn sail,
silverfish and sweat on the caterpillar,
or her,

the terror of a reddish sack, a lady's-slipper
blossoming in snow—their spawn
and those poems
as fascinating as yurts:       Wally, Willy & Gurt.

Then, just whole generations of neurotic scholar-
bureaucrats. So it was a dampened combustion of first flowers
and, yes, a virtuous bloody
war that made them

virtuosos of a murder, like crows. The absinthe
is going back into the high blue cupboard. I promise.

Salutes and sweet dreams.     Paul.


Dear Urze:      yes I lost my wife in a scripting storm like no other.
A whole star cluster gone.
She was on an aerobus when it struck;
a prosperous Indonesian farmer
sat across from her and within five minutes
they were man and wife, all memories
of things past were canceled.
When they do remember in their dreams,
they become violently ill and there's only a few weeks left of that
until it's quite over.

All the people of seven planets
were scrambled and lost in a script
that passed through in one hour. They are all officially dead

and the quarantine will extend to three generations of their children.
It's like the black birdcloth
unfolded for the cage.
On the actual day of their death, they do remember everything
with seizures and a little blood at the mouth.

Your father was in the 'goldfish bowl' when it happened,
and was untouched. Two hours later
walking onto the street he realized everything.

The same day, at sunset, he leapt into the sea
that was literally boiling
with an amorous confusion of species.
The cannibalism follows, of course, and he knew
there were no choices for him.

In the last letter to your mother he said they should
call this event, Weekend in Nevada. I loved him so.

He refused to describe, even for your mother, the pathology
of attractions that formed there in a wink—
he joked about the midsummer night's dream; about rowing,
not with men.
He said the Khandro doesn't consciously do this—     insisting
it's more like her idea of snoring.

My yoga is defense, yes,

against a whole other experience of scripts, one that
is discriminating and apoplectic.
If it comes outside the barriers of the Dzogchen
then it is like a fatal stroke
but with rather pleasant sensations. If I can focus
then on images of water, I will recover.

It seems though,
after breathing all that blistering crystal of bismuth
off the aqueduct rail
all these years on Mars,
that I should be impervious to her. The Khandro, that is . . .

I'll write tomorrow . . .   Ekajati.


'Marie:              don't thank me for the artifact
I gave your daughter. I never fully made
my recompense to you
for that splendid gift of your painting called "Crypts":

first sun on the bathing brahmins rising from their copper tanks,
not naked says the Ganga, its broken crayons,
and the mist is on the roof where two women
are burning last year's printed cotton amulets. The smoke
and mist together making a miniature of the Skull Nebula
but only if their dark heads, knees and breasts
are visible through it . . .

did you like this? My brother actually stole
that painting from his own house
and made me take it. I dreamt about it just last month,
Very sloppy work, old girl. You've done some

real harm in this moon. And now you must convalesce.
Yes, I'm forming a theory about the energy
and your use of time-slaves. And, oh, if you ever
so much as attempt to wire-back
on Urze, I'll kill myself
and you'll be left in your preserve, to brood and pout . . .

My love to you, Mum.           Paul.

Post Script:
Yes I did ride that probe that passed like sin itself
through the Egg Nebula in '44.
It was
a wax-cylinder recording, replete Kodira
with solar storms,
my father and I shared this experience: his new flicker-fusion
goggles and horn:
we chewed peyote with a pineapple float,
buttons and bottoms up, he later wrote—

And what a ride it was:               a rose bank

of Telle Säide hydrogen plasma
drifts into a raked zen-like field
of frozen pond-green asteroidal chits, igniting them
while I'm remembering a complex birthmark
on the inside thigh of the beautiful Smythe.

Then I watched an autopsy
with the dead innocent, Göttfried Benn,
opening the chest of a young child:
winter mice having nested
in her lungs, there in the dark river. So

I went mad and father just
shot me in the foot. And by the time the bleeding stopped,
I was cured, sane again!

What if you had said
that in this whole pitiful universe
only a few more than a hundred
souls survived your Snakedeath Wreath
there writhing the circumference of a snowy jar? Paperweight,

What if
it's just us two clams

talking, Mum; again my love . . .

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