The following is the first section of an extensive poem-making that I’ve been working at for some time now.  I will release some of its sections over the following weeks.  I would love commentary, critique, this pseudo-confessional area is not one that I feel confident in, and is difficult work for me.  An attempt to be open to tunneled and tunneling desires and dreams, presuppositions and perspectives that I’ve formed and have been formed in me…in shaping this particular way of being in/toward/with the world.  Thank you for caring enough to read, and in advance to the generosity that would involve your commenting/responses.

The Engineer of Himself: A Poem

“Thinking is willing you are wild

to the weave not to material itself”

Susan Howe

“a new music of verse stretching out into the future…”

William Carlos Williams on Louis Zukofsky



I have tried to tell this story time…

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Friday Fictioneers – July 6, 2012


I labor steady, slowly, surely.  Block after block, hewn from my ruin.  This hapless task at hand.  Construct a habitation of words.  I use whatever I come by, wherever I happen to be.  With an eye for the concrete and a feeling for sky.  I’m a weedy terrain, dried up from AA and a searing of spurn.  No smoke, no rain.  I’ve been looking for signs or instructions:  there are none.  Or far too many.  So I set out simply to make.  A noun, a verb, an adjective; pasting with participles and pronouns.  Tedious, thankless, alone.  I build, it crumbles.  It cracks, I evolve.  Not much of a shelter, but it holds.  And remains, opening up to the night.

Thanks for Madison Woods et.al. and the continuous production of prompts for this weekly challenge and exercise: Friday Fictioneers

The Underlying Theory

The Underlying Theory

What we found on his desk was a drawing.  A very lightly penciled sketch of a woman from stomach to throat, as if seen from above to the side, one arm flung out in the viewer’s direction and her breasts provocatively displayed.  Underneath were the words “underlying theory.”

Our work was to plunder his study.  An author, famed for fiction and poems and writings on art, had died suddenly, and his wife had contacted us to go through his things, evaluate its worth and preserve for posterity.  There were boxes of manuscript pages, notebooks and loose-leaf, letters and typescripts, recipe cards full of quotations.  The library was extensive, each book filled with scribbles and markings, a signifying system of importance and reference for use in his various projects.  His mind was displayed like a trail left in woods.  Here the path to food, here the one to water, here the building nest, here the safety hideout.  It overwhelmed us.

I had written numerous critical studies on this man and reviewed professionally most of his books.  He’d written extensively in philosophy and aesthetics, with compendiums of writings on particular artists and particular works.  He’d produced over a dozen literary novels and twenty or more books of poetry.  He was prolific and known for the depth and acumen of his thought, the cavalier ways he used language, and the breadth of his interests and knowledge.  No one knew he made visual art.  None would have tagged him “erotic.”

I wondered what this drawing might “mean.”  What did it refer to?  Was it drawn from a picture?  An image from memory?  Was the subject herself the underlying theory, or was it something about representation?  Desire?  And what theories did this mean to evoke or give rise to?  His wife did not recognize the sketch – not the body, nor an artist her husband might have copied – and it was interestingly tucked beneath blank open sheets, at the middle of the desk – the ones always ready when he came to compose.  It was worn, wrinkled, as if indeed, it underlay everything inscribed above it and served as inspiration or focus, an impetus to his work.

I’ll note that the form seems composed, not a doodle.  It appears to be representative.  No one knows of him having a model or lover, in fact no other drawings exist from his hand.  Perhaps he had need of a form to describe, an image to imagine, some desire to propel.  The figure is finely proportioned, both busty and lithe, fleshy yet thin and shaped like the currents of rivers.

I’m not certain what draws me to this.  In an office literally stuffed with fine books and odd trinkets, paraphernalia of printing, and stacks of diaries and drafts.  Among paintings and stones and figurines of the Buddha, historical writing utensils, family photos and legal documents dating throughout his life.  There is so much to uncover and know.  But “underlying theory”?  That grabs me.

As I’ve mentioned before, this author was a reader of depth.  Fiction, philosophy, poetry, science; criticism, essays and cultural studies.  There are tall shelves of monographs of particular artists, but nothing gives hint to this sketch.  I am struck by this rendering – baffled by image and text.  An erotic drawing is always of interest, all other concerns of this man are abstract.  It beggars the biographers “who/what/when/where” yet the text writ along the arch of her back stirs me in a different direction.  “Underlying theory.”  What the hell?  What’s it for?

A theory is made for a function, something “underlying” proposes a cause.  This drawing, these words must explain something, but what?

Is it cosmic?  Like what drives human vocation is desire?  Or epistemological?  Ethical?  Aesthetical?  Metaphorical for apprehension of form?  I can only guess at this point but am open to ideas – I’d love to find some consensus for the book I’m contracted to write.

I ask you – how would you piece this together?  I’ll share a scan of the drawing and request that you submit your hypotheses below as comments.  I thank you so much for your thoughts.

Sincerely –