EAST ROUND ONE: BEN MAZER’S “DIVINE RIGHTS” V. JOHN ASHBERY’S “SELF-PORTRAIT IN A CONVEX MIRROR”

SELF-PORTRAIT IN A CONVEX MIRROR —John Ashbery (Penguin 20th Poetry Anthology, Dove 2011)

DIVINE RIGHTS —Ben Mazer (Fulcrum 2006)

The marriage of druids and Romans
write it
I don’t know how to spell it
It is my real birth today Cadwaladr

Why would they marry?
Where is everything
I am the descendent
      of the king
They were protecting
       the son of
                the king

not father
mother

Landis
Mary
The Poet King
I knew all this
I know all this
We must have been
at alliance with the Scottish.
We must have
been at war
with the Irish
              king.
I know these things.
Freud got it right.
But it is a
throwing off
of kings.
The English King.
The English Queen.
And what am I to think of the English queen,
Elizabeth?

Or the Russian? Familiar as the lion.
Landis, descended from Charlemagne
and twin Dutch admirals?
Or the Scottish princess in the west?

The prophecy told
   me too
   it is true
after I was thirty-five
   I would be king
would regain my
   forgotten kingdom
what this means
   would be revealed
   would be recovered
every time I had my
     hand read
   or my cards told
Now it has come
   on my real day
           of birth

Florence
after Troy
in the confining hour of our winter
How would you be able to know
you were able to be the mother
of the father
of the king?

often assisted by the Scottish

Herb Hillman
Karen Penn
The Holy Experiment
The Sword in the Stone.
Arthur.
Murphy the Irish King?

This is the subject of my poetry.
The Prodigal
The Return
Eliot is sympathetic
What is he to me?
An English prince
and friend to the Welsh king?
Prince Charles
is not the true prince
Was there a son?
Was he the son of Baumgarten?
So then who is Sylvia?
Get out of my castle.
I must go to Wales.
The Faerie Queene is probably
a political commentary on
the lineage of the kings.

When I was five years old
my father
the ward of the king
took me to see
the sword of the lake
splitting the mountain
in an old storm.
la la

They told me
   when I was a child
but I didn’t listen
   That’s what my
poetry is about
   warmest verse

Musing upon the king my brother’s wreck
All I want to know about are kings

These source materials which have lasted longest,
elements of narrative which have stayed the same
longest.  Those which have proved most popular.

The Beginning
The Return
The Kitchen
Winter

The insult given Branwen by the Irish
At Guinnion Fort
Arthur bore the image of Mary as his sign
Arcturus or the keeper of the Pole
and thus it was I watched the turn of winter

‘I have made a heap of all that i could find’ Nennius (Historia Brittonum).
an ‘inward wound’
caused by the fear that certain things dear to him should be like smoke
dissipated’ (Jones/Nennius, 1951)
i’m guessing in the old cosmology it wd be the first 24 hrs of your actual
presence
and i’ll attribute that to bertrand russell. these are just notes. —don marquis
(1922)

romeo & juliet in berkeley
i was surprised he looked so much like me
disguise him not to look like myself
i remember
he the leviathan in all ages
my father one eyed introduced me to him

(the currence of the past holds own
our against the recogsentiment
or winds like the runner on the shore
away from the sun in a steady
exhalation, at a vast limit of the net
where one exists in a continuum
spreading in a few words
a striding reach up morning—

he’s there in all his incarnations)

a date engraved in bronze swings in its chains
under moon under midnight in its bondless bonds
citizenless entropy of stars, what is heard
never viewed as it is, which is as it is not.
Is never as it can be understood,
must by definition answer nothing.
There is no fixing of these loci.

Iwerddon
And they began the banquet and caroused and discoursed.
And when it was more pleasing to them to sleep than to carouse,
they went to rest, and that night Branwen came
Matholwch’s bride.
101 Dalmatians

Look in the mirror and you will recall
the white snow of an earlier snow-fall,
how dragon behind rock had threatened rook,
and rains had formed the letters of a book
in which our love is written. Dragon, look.
How queer. The snows of yesteryear are here.

His mother was the daughter of the king
his son her brother and his uncle
who from earliest winter in the kitchen
stood stirring, sifting, towering
in the first curl of the bird’s branch
close to him then she made his song
too-wit too-wit tu-lily hi-li-ly tu-wit tu-lo
and interbranched and interladen among the
hyacinth, jack o’whirl o’ shadow—
cleaving densities of variant dispersals,
gravities which undercut propensity:
proofs of an undisclosed philately.
Mad’s progress relays Delft into land smile
under the textile’s firm approval—
Barkowitz’, Horovitz’ room. Seal approval.

A real anger at dates. Back in dense sandal word
I see trees, people dancing in the trees,
a formal approval of glass on paper.
Mixing spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.
Looking up the stovepipe for listening last years.
Another one, only as she could have been.

All around us, the snow in the forest.
Snow walking up hill in the forest,
through snow walking up hill.
I was born in the forest.
I was born under the snow.
I would rather be snowed under
than to have to go in to dinner.
I would rather be lost, out of all ear.
Where the ice thunder with its own snow choir.
Where repetitive naming is lost on hard vortex.
Edge

Their darkness is the sleep in her eyes,
before parting.

Tu-wit. And cherry.
Twice cherry. Cherry street, and cheery
cheery cherry in the song, all along.
A name for marble torsos and a night port,
everything you wrote in the guest book.
A quick way to do the invitations in summer.
The inn I am staying in, and what a bother.
Why you never answered embroidered on the hem of your sweater.
We were in the mountains. This genius
was in trust to the genius of the forest.
She didn’t nothing that she didn’t do.
The forest was a game, where I was first
the others were blind, even she my mother
which meant that I was king.
I have seen these things before they happen.
I have seen her bake day into evening,
have seen her bake the forest into evening,
have seen her bake the hour of homecoming.

The birds are details in her narrative,
ingredients recipes get around to having.
Talk is sure word made out of it,
I wouldn’t in wind or rain doubt it,
to gather or collect to retell or rerecollect
every word which the father
brought home for him to inspect.

Why then a king
through kinship of a lady?
A virgin birth. Her mother was a king,
I do not doubt it,
upon the plains that have no need of naming.
Why then a king took consecrated ground
which was to plainer eye unconsecrated.
Poetry appears to be living.
I heard it strike the sky like keel and thunder
worn into evening like a headline’s banter.
I saw it grab my hand like dad in winter.
I walked it home, the sky ripped at the center,
dark merchant hulk. Perpetual, aimless
Leviathan which strikes the heart of time.
My first knowledge of a light in winter.

And when I first returned to town,
nothing shook my memory,
I never saw
the fiery medal
in my own hand,
dull like my days.
Often quoted
early in spring.

Or noticed how my aunt cast
familiar stories against a local past.

The mystery of the virgin mother
it self would appear to have to reappear.
No wonder I didn’t get any idea
nor wonder if you too don’t get an idea
why none of this was going to simply appear.

I saw this in the absolute symmetry of the outlines
of the bathtub in the apartment in the city in the world
in our time and in all time

The still being there of the resurrection

Time which comes
only to those it visits.

Why then a birth of kings among the females?

And wasn’t a female the king of the king?

    *      *       *

I’ve reached territory.

And so I have been protected from marriage.
So too the quelling of the Jewish King.
For Christ must be his Jew
and virgin birth.

I scarcely thought I could return to her.
But remember how I saw myself
under her influence, her double image
binding the speech of then
with speech to come.

The gods are merchants at these dinners.
Maecenas never dilutes his pleasure.

I didn’t think they were
serious. But the king was her
and industry among the settlers
lingers without artifact.

You could say she was worth waiting for.
To have seen her
with nothing to spoil the mood
properly in winter.

What made her special
was what she would become.
This was the meaning of the pristine forest
in which you could see the verb repeating,
always showing in numeric mimicry
the voice in the breath
the eye in the imagery

a deep syntax
of auditory visuality:
for that heard of voices
implies the wind had been
where you yourself have.

The newness of those days,
when these were first.

Mixing the silk and sand of salt and sugar
into the flour. Vanilla in the spoon
darkly reflecting her double down the hallway
and upside down up under her apron.
The fortress of butter malleable to time,
beating the retreating oil slick
in the flood of mud.
A sea of milk.

They brought me many designs of Venice silk.
I paid them to stand around, because I was cold.
I wanted to know what they aspired to.
I am his wreck, and him his father’s before me.
I like the charge of shadow without name.

And as we watched enacted in the play
he say to her what I to you would say
and she to he what you would say to me,
so we both watch to see how things will end.
You but remember to be a friend.
You greet me unannounced. I come in rain.

And only this remains to be said,
I have come to rid the land of Saxons.
  

  *      *      *

Rehearsals of the shadows where you stood
before you have returned into the halls.

And why no mother of a Jewish King
if not a Jewish King within the line?

One Bad King

Then in my grief
I ran into the wood
along the lake’s edge,
out of ear shot.
And as I sped
into a gallop
covering much ground,
passing many trees,
not many thoughts
separated from my friends,
who found the tree
of inner light
in which the Welsh King
put his head
before he knew
he was the King,
I saw I was transformed
into a flying horse
and coiled myself
within the forest’s nest
to dully sleep
to hear the distant
fall of words
turn into footsteps
of my friends,
covering the woods.
So I would have the apples speak to me.
So I would have this orchard speak to me.

If my blood
could get back in touch with you.
Shannon
Welsh girl with an Irish name.
I am missing from these documents.

Fifty years
after the war
I saw the dead
returning home
on ____ Way.

Then
I was at his house
which was the house
I came from
when I was his
father who I greet.
Under
a rain
the blue city
has the same look
that her eyes had
in her round head
the Scottish Queen.

In that hour
when memory settles
on the evening
darkness its liquid
history of masks,
I quote you
and see the world
as written on the dark sky.
They rearrange
as flame
and fly to conspire
with my father
who is leading us
under the mountain
to the sea beast.
Always outside the room
                                 in which we walk

above us
                where what must be the roof
is how I see it
if we don’t lie and confer,
a mixing of night and day
in which the heart’s first urge
speaks, but in words of fire.
They know the night
who came here first
and them I see
in my words’ end.

Even then
I knew these things could be without me.
But that I was the King
I saw unknowing.
The first song of spring
in my upbringing.
A curator of lies.
A curator of sleep.
Shut up with your eyes.
I am the King
and I have broken darkness.

Look in the storm.
Look in the barrel.
Look under the mountain.
I am the dragon.

Look where her room
retains the look
of the room of a stranger,
now in the east. Where we began.
I named you then
the Hyacinth girl.
Words that were meant for no other,
as has long been known in the land.

Separating at night.
Ten years in arms.
Talked of as if it happened yesterday.
Cried the ladies,
the vegetables that name themselves.

Mother then
I am your son
the King.

13 Comments

  1. Mallie Urn said,

    March 13, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Wow, this is the kind of ambition I like to see in poetry. Stunning. Just did a first read-through…

  2. Mallie Urn said,

    March 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    How does this game work? We’re supposed to choose between Mazer and Ashbery?

    • thomasbrady said,

      March 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm

      Feed-back is welcome, and can affect the outcome.

      The Scarriet editors simulate ‘play’ between the two poems via commentary and ultimately deterimine the ‘winner.’

      In other words, it’s all about jump shots, rebounds, steals and DEFENSE.

  3. Mallie Urn said,

    March 14, 2012 at 12:56 am

    I think you mean ‘effect’.

    Also, ‘deterimine’.

    • Mallie Urn said,

      March 14, 2012 at 1:00 am

      Or is it ‘affect’? Also, your spelling of ‘‘deterimine’ leads me to believe you’re Desmond. Might just be an affect though.

      • thomasbrady said,

        March 14, 2012 at 2:02 am

        “affect” is correct.

        Sorry about the spelling of “determine.”

        I could not be des if I tried.

        • Mallie Urn said,

          March 14, 2012 at 2:54 am

          Oh, sure you could…

          • Mallie Urn said,

            March 14, 2012 at 3:00 am

            Thanks so much for reproducing this poem, BTW.

            I think I’m going to hit the sidelines.

  4. Mallie Urn said,

    March 14, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Also…’druids’. Well, I am just going to sit back and read the poems.

    Games have rules. There are reasons for that.

    • Mallie Urn said,

      March 14, 2012 at 3:56 am

      Re rules, I just read about Jonathan Franzen calling constraint-based writing “the ultimate irresponsible medium.”

      http://mhpbooks.com/52011/jfranz-lays-into-perec/

      Odd. Anyone have thoughts on that?

      I do think he’s on the money about Wharton in some ways, even though it comes off sounding mean and slightly ‘irrelevant’. As if Wharton herself weren’t ‘mean’ and slightly irrelevant.

      Okay. Off to those sidelines now…

  5. Mallie Urn said,

    March 14, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Some people play chess. Others are Foxgoebbels.

  6. Mallie Urn said,

    March 14, 2012 at 2:22 am

    Well, well, well – spelling aside, I have it on good faith (at least on this count) that it’s not a dummy poem. I became skittish there…I will continue to play, despite my suspicion of the word “affect,” its correct usage, or purposeful misusage, and my misgiving about the spelling of ‘determines’.

    And I will continue to assume that at the very least (oh dear god!) that “Thomas” is “Tomas,” who is as we all know, Monsieur You-know-who, and not my enemy’s puppet.

    So. Yes, the blue-eyed beaky brummel Ashbery is ‘classic’, but I say give a ‘young upstart’ a shot.

    As a mere layperson who had (another!) hard day fighting the patriarchy, the poet is addressing my needs and concerns in superimaginative ways….I’m sort of joking, and sort of NOT.

    Also, I can see why monsieur you-know-who would love this poem.

    “All I want to know about are kings

    These source materials which have lasted longest,
    elements of narrative which have stayed the same
    longest. Those which have proved most popular.”

    all hail the druids :)

  7. October 1, 2012 at 5:52 am

    [...]   Poem in Eyewear Poem in Jacket Poem in Scarriet [...]


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