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     |    C O N T E N T S    |    H O M E P A G E    |    J A C K E T   #   N I N E    |    O C T O B E R   1 9 9 9


Carl Thayler : five poems


Recalling the Number 4 was the Favorite Number of a Prominent Apache
Why The Cod Is On The State Seal Of Massachuetts
The Chet Baker Ode
Self-Portrait (after Rilke's Selbsbildnis aus dem Jahre)


These poems are from the collection Poems from Naltsus Bichidin, Carl Thayler's first book of poems since The Providings (Sumac Press, 1971). You can read Mark Wallace's review of the book in this issue of Jacket.


He hadn't accompanied Crook
to Arizona to renew
Apache confidence but to

pursue the Incorrigibles as a
course of study for the
imposition of Whiggery and

widening bluecoat ventures against
a quarry fled
to Mexican sanctuaries.

When out of the saddle he added
to his esteemed fieldwork
a dictionary of Apacheria

in which the civic tongue
surveyed there
was debased by magic. The sunne

of the fraught world hailed
by the raiders with a pinch of
sacrificial meal, and other

methodologies the retailers discounted
for advancing the economic fitness
of the dormant Savage

beyond the Ishmaelites.
Apache fieldworkers dubbed John Bourke
naltsus bichidin, the Paper Ghost.


      Recalling the Number 4 was the Favorite Number
          of a Prominent Apache

Gen. Howard believed the Apache
could be cowed
into amicable submission and
set about to assure them
of god's love,

the divinity he promoted
failed to rally the predators,
their keen sense of proportion

previously whetted by
the balance between birds and beasts,
among whom, in wily
disorder, they regrouped

in the Dragoon Mountains,
unencumbered by the implausible
generosity of the
one-armed general's god;

the peace reverted to Geo Crook,
for whom allegory
was abandonment to
the land, its fastnesses, into which one receded
as any plant-sucking bug;
he understood the
advantage of Apache heads devolved
into portable ministries

of information, and
declared the peace
to hang by the sleek
carriage of Apache

the four heads prominent
in the breakout.
Crook's Apache scouts
brought back four
centers of cultural resolution and
handed them over,
the solace pledged to Geo Crook
in four sacks.

      Why The Cod Is On The State Seal Of Massachuetts

Duncan in an elegiac mood
recited the names of presidents
and asked who among them

'moved the heart
and dismissed them all
but Lincoln

the long pale man whose
          murky ghost I'd catalog
with Dante's destroyers

of the public good
'amid lanes and through old woods
in Dixie  where the peace

imposed by Washington
left the dead soddened
in their fields in Sherman's wake

old Whitman and Duncan impervious
to Liberty
among the states that today haunt

'the naked string
Hank, Jr strums
an echo of Coolidge's rude silence

How those who'd fleece
the nation despaired
when Coolidge was in office

that old cod's eye
cold on boosters and
their black bags

He paid his Party's debt
for his campaign by winnings
the odds laid down by Democrats

against him. His last $50
          to the janitor who'd poured
the booze and handed out the smokes

When he proposed to Grace Goodhue
he praised her that having taught the deaf
to hear she might cause

the mute to speak
Grace and her Silent Cal
'The less he spoke, the more he heard.'

      The Chet Baker Ode

Selvage, my dead friend's
word for the material
that holds at the edges, the boundaries
that endure
no longer than the heart

your stiff spine and
set jaw, Chet,
I'd wanted to say an insomniac's --
but habits of sleep back then
were grace notes, slender

abused and terribly stylish
between Ft. Ord and LA those
waxy faces, the idylls
along California Hwy 1,
the ragged junkies in the ragged sea --

and the venerable gardenias
Billie wore
before the Lady became
her own wreath washed ashore

-- selvage, Chet,
is also a layer of clay
surrounding a vein,
the earth metallic

and under a sleeve
of your GI overcoat
you held a coronet
in a brown paper bag, and
were my Pentecostal white coachman

in the plazas, the alleys, the old neighborhood
peering from behind the African palms,
the fauns, their pipes and
Spanish ladies, a frieze
painted for a small town
California post office,
alabaster cheeks
behind mantillas, the well-grieved eyes
leading back to the sea

and the sea's gathering
the eyes in one brightness or
darkness sharp as turpentine, and
the songs arising there likewise, altho
the hip carriage trade
need go only to the Pacific

o those miasmic waters
isolate any man
& pour
down your collar
& epaulets.

                    after Rilke's Selbsbildnis aus dem Jahre

Across the tribal brow, the ridge
arches watchfully, hewed
to a tenuous civility -- while intractable
the bone augurs a faint softening

around the edges, as if drawn there
by hunger or thirst a cloistered child
peers from out the acolytes'
blue rapt bewildered gaze
that for all the weakness it discloses
I refuse to relinquish --

a shy look, far from direct,
unreachably dark and unfathomable, yet
for all its secrets is known
when one approaches who likewise needs.

The mouth, still gracelessly clamped
upon groans withheld, would ripen
to shout jubilation or to roar
tight-throated unintelligible anger.

The forehead, nodding drowsily, is mottled
by disordered sleep and shadows
that illuminate the still-life's unfinished contours,
or imbue the oval of a face with life --
whose bruises were accepted lovingly, on faith.

Even now, something distant gathers
in the unwavering addled stare
to shake itself loose from the half-sleep
upon which it's thrived.



Poems from Naltsus Bichidin is Carl Thayler's first book of poems since The Providings (Sumac Press, 1971). He was born in 1933 and grew up in Southern California. During the 1950s, Carl acted in B movies and on stage in New York city. He studied philosophy at the University of Wisconsin and received a Ph.D. from Bowling Green State. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin.


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