For Giles who loves soap
Reading After Jack by Garry Thomas Morse, I am struck by his genius for translation and invention offering us a complex chain of chemical traces to reread Jack Spicer and beyond his “After Lorca” to reread Lorca and beyond his “Ode to Whitman”, Whitman.
It is in the minimalist moment that these voices and layers (song from Lorca, catalogue from Whitman and wit from Spicer) slide into Morse’s own gift for control and compression. Take “Hybridity”
Red tits of the sun
Blue tits of the moon
There is delicious ambiguity at work here. Is shadow to be separate from the fabrics? Each fabric to be separated from the others? Both of these alternatives combined? Why care so much about washing?
Turn the page and you encounter one of the letters to the predeceased poet (Spicer) in which you read that language is “naturally dirty.” In one of Spicer’s own letters to the predeceased poet (Lorca) you can read
Words are what sticks to the real. We use them to push the real, to drag the real into the poem. They are what we hold on with, nothing else. They are as valuable in themselves as rope with nothing to be tied to.
I repeat — the perfect poem has an infinitely small vocabulary.
Spicer’s “real” puts added pressure on Morse’s “naturally dirty”. And Morse’s response is set in the context of a dialectic between speech and silence. Here is the paragraph from that letter in which the dirtiness of language comes to the fore (mind the gaps; the periods have been washed out):
Even if we can’t get together, the poem & language go on talking Things are disclosed & revealed in places where nobody is Language outgrows any mens rea, any evidence of intent I didn’t mean it really That was language talking We were both a kind of misleading question mark Even those polite requests for reassurance do you love me don’t you want to go to bed with me do you love me sound abhorrent beside the altercosm of language which is naturally dirty The very real pause or clause is a threat to shatter that beautiful loneliness so necessary to poetry So we go to bed together without a word while language whispers from dusty aisles & pissy alleyways & sore asses
In the poetics proposed in After Jack one move in dealing with the dirt of language (or rather the dirty altercosm of language) is not segregation but the more nuanced notion of separation. For as the voice in “Sonata for a Chair and a Table” says “Words arrange things. Make” and in the temporality of the poem the pile of laundry remains both a pile and through its closing injunction, sorted — the poem itself and its dominant image inhabit a type of hybridity. Words keep getting stuck by their sticky nature. And Morse helps us come to terms with the dirt by subtle spacing in which a deter agent can cleanse even the most minimal of vocabularies. And make magic from more than a laundry list.
And so for day 1004