1965 or 1966
Six poems from 1960
From Postcard from Eden
“Get into the motor car!” Have we come of age?
The wheels turn and mama leans back
Eating a banana, her fox
Frizzled about her ears. Ah, how elegant she is
In her limousine, a queen floating above the pavement.
And what’s to be said for me at seven, rolling above
The world with her? Shall I too
Eat a banana and share the commanding stare?
Each native grinned down at me, white teeth,
Black faces. “Come,” I said, “We can be friends.”
But they jabbed at me with pink fingers,
Played lovingly with my hair, caressed
My arms and my toes and stared
Excitedly at my eyes.
Later I thought
It was a kind of feast, a rather daring
Elegant party that I’d attended but somehow missed,
Being too careful of certain graces,
Fastidious to oblivion,
Unappreciative, stupid and unaware
Of the delicacies offered anyone there.
Enter the store like a millionaire, enter
The door like Adonis. Yes, that lady
Holding the fan means to demand
All she can get. Her husband met me
Behind the drapes where I sat
Drinking stolen cocktails. Yes, that man
Told me the secrets of many a household
With the opening and shutting
Of the fan. Snap, crack, heads tilt back
When I enter the door and the long eyes wait
To stroke me as if the beauty of me
From “The Little Ghosts I Played With”
At the theatre we sit down,
Watch a passion play or farce,
Expect the ghosts to act like us. They review
Things we forgot we knew.
This one is said to be the finest actress of them all. She shows how
Goodness might have discarded us.
Once the play is over, these ghost actors help to deflate
Our feelings, packing them back in the travelling trunk
Which accommodates dresses, crucifixes, junk like
False hair, overwear, a chair, a fur, fair but untrue
To reuse, sucking up air. I’m glad that’s over!
A ghost play that ghosts played about us. Come on, now!
They might be in love with us. It’s an awesome experience
I never get sick of. Sometimes on a good night I cry
Seeing them cry, like I believe in ghosts for awhile, like
What they said about us can be said
By the dead.
The perfect form of woman is a ghost,
A phantom cheap like pathos to dissolve us,
A style-shifting sweetness, a no-no choice
Of basically bad quotations.
She does, however, create a vast holiness,
A kitsch of culture that randomness sorts out,
An excitement like leaves falling to lighten the murk,
A forest forced open to a golden expanse —
And this, yes, I can give thanks for.
“My leaves have fallen from me!” That’s ghost
Talk, just the last of the ups and downs.
I don’t like people knowing what I’m thinking.
I want more fun years, one iconoclastic notion.
After all, ghosts have been with us forever.
Her love could appear rolled up in a coded raindrop,
Ghostwritten. Anything else is trickery, a goofball excitement.
Those no-strings-attached broken promises you cry so much about
Reading message boards? I told you once before
They were nothing more than a farewell appearance.
Now that Santa Claus has left me
What will I do for another?
All the toys lie broken where I threw them.
I play too rough. I don’t cherish what I’m given.
I remember his kisses that always forgave me,
Entering my heart like elegant reindeer.
He invented the spirits we always called Christmas, the ghosts
Of things pleasant, so I never felt fearful.
I should have. I made him too strong.
That’s why he has now gone. He used to
Let me wander his estate under
The black pines and over the silverdollar lakes.
If the blizzards should overtake me, as they sometimes did,
Coming across me lost and chattering, he hugged me and laughed
And showed me how to walk through snow. That was not
Long ago. Why did he desert me when I smashed
The little ghosts he gave me? They were merely
Toys only, really, they were not real like the reindeer.
These six poems are from two sequences which Landis Everson wrote while participating in a weekly poetry group with his friends Jack Spicer and Robin Blaser in San Francisco in 1960. A mimeograph booklet of Postcard from Eden was privately circulated by James Herndon in an edition of a handful of copies, issued simultaneously with the mimeograph booklet of Spicer’s Homage to Creeley around February of 1960. John Ashbery published selections from “The Little Ghosts I Played With” in Locus Solus III–IV (winter 1962). The selections excerpted here did not appear in Locus Solus. Both sequences are printed in their entirety in Fulcrum: an annual of poetry and aesthetics, Number Three (Cambridge, MA: 2004), ed. by Philip Nikolayev and Katia Kapovich, ISSN 1534-7877, 510 pp., $15. Orders: email@example.com
— Ben Mazer
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