This poem was written by Brendan Constantine using words generated by Terry Wolverton through fevered writing. Comments by Brendan on the process of writing the poem appear below.
If you grow scornful of the world, find
that you sneer at each passing unicorn,
let me tell you what peace there is
in failure, in long rejection letters and
run-on disapproval. There’s real quiet
to be had, potato quiet, the quiet
of cancer cells and uncles. At night,
the heart opens like a child’s museum;
inside are cars, wax dinosaurs, an entire
wall devoted to sleepy parents. The last
exhibit is a giant crib with room
for everyone. But there’s no sound
of beating, no tick of sand. Take a breath,
take a sigh, take my cell phone, throw it
at my car. Now take that noise and
take it personally. Is this really better?
Have you heard even a whisper
from the oak, the stone, from the still
and dishpan stars, failures all of them?
No, you haven’t. They’re not so clamorous.
Statement about the Process
Terry Wolverton’s Dis-articulations project was truly stimulating, a complete exercise. The different stages of her process promote a creative flexibility, very much like an athletic regimen. The experience of Fevered Writing was akin to jumping jacks or taking a few laps around a track. I was free to ‘shake out,’ untrammeled by expectation. Having thus established a space, an area of play, the next stage demands a more refined, controlled exertion within it: to compose a new poem using words drawn only from the previous warm-ups. This offered the same sense of challenge (tension, torsion?) one may encounter when writing in classic forms, but without any limits on arrangement or length. Because I can’t seem to do anything without making it ten times harder than it needs to be, and despite very clear instructions, I still managed to misunderstand the project and kept imposing my own obstacles. The result was not one poem, but nine. Terry was wonderfully patient and encouraging. It was all fair game. Glad I got to play. [Wolverton note: The other eight poems Brendan generated appear following my poem in this post.]
This poem was written by Terry Wolverton using words generated by Brendan Constantine through fevered writing
Keep a bullet in your pocket for times like these
I didn’t ask for any lip. Just wanted a sip
of twilight before taking the train to the Death Park.
It’s like a carnival, attendants dressed in paper
hats, mouthing pretty words in lost languages.
Irresistible summer night; no camera can
forget its red horizon, invitation of clouds.
In a corner of the parking lot, the fire eater
speaks his intentions. He needs a lighter for his songs.
A child psychic paints potential, talks of things to come.
It’s his habit to live forward, never to look back.
No apologies. I was a baby once. In an
instant it’s time to go, leave behind no witnesses.
As we dance in the cafeteria of young trees,
the urge to sing comes from a need to cup our silence.
In this museum of roses we’re disposable.
I want to drink from your red lips before I drop off.
Bonus poems by Brendan Constantine
The sound of my parents reading,
a wax sound, dishwater. Maybe
I’m sad, maybe I take my failures
too personally. I shine in my bed-
room, my museum, and throw
the exhibits of a childhood
Wax women, taking an entire
museum — the walls, the exhibits
— into pans and baking it
Baked women, potato women,
sad women, reading letters
from past women, dedicated
to women, to women, to women
fighting against failure, rejection,
disapproval, against hurling women
thrown women, just women
The sound of women speaking
from childhood, from bedrooms,
from Sweden, lighting the tracks
for not too many women, open
women, devoted women, shine
I sleep in hours of sand,
sift myself cell from cell,
my heart so quiet, so even,
I grow crepey and damp
with night. Time was, I
knew a different world,
more clamorous, alarming,
a world of little breath,
even thought had a noise
when it passed. Now in
the middle, cool middle
of a stone, I may outlast
I’m no artist but I know
when I’m beaten. I thought
the heart was a car alarm
going off in the night,
but it’s more of a French
Crepe, a damp something
growing cool with the tick
of time. A little skin. A little
stone. What now?
He irritates a coin
into my childhood,
doors, through oak,
Run. . .
In this way,
he works a star
under my feet.
No crib of sighs
stands in my way
Only a routine
shuffling of stars
Luck is a long
customer, a man
What else is there but to die
like a dinosaur, to work and
sweat and drink and drive
and wonder who still knows
you. Never tell an expert
what you think, never play
to company. The cutthroats
say there’s no cancer and no
better cards than cancer. But
what about martinis and golf?
What about a Buick? Everyone
gets the life they honk for?
There’s still a lot of wonder,
a lot of dinosaurs still going.
Everyone is an expert in life.
All athletes die like rummies.
You know what the Poindexters
know, what cancer thinks of you.
To work is to sweat. To play is
to get drunk. What you know
is never better than a glass
and some company.