Dana Ward Responds to Merry Fortune’s “Christening of Twins”

I started reading Merry Fortune’s book Ghosts of Albert Ayler, Ghosts of Albert Ayler during my last trip to New York. Checking the title page I discovered it came out in 2004! I’d fallen for it instantly & totally regretted not having spent any time with it before. How did I miss it? The book’s so good I was sort of ashamed. But, I was happy, & given its various music (the book has everything from short compacted lyrics to some of the most gloriously liquid prosody one could imagine), pre-occupied with it the rest of my trip, splitting time between that and Eileen Myles’ Inferno.

I tend to read books of poetry at random to start, so the first thing I flipped the book open to was a poem called “Christening of Twins”. I read it on the train, & the train was ideal as the poem is concerned with forward motion & switching, the switching or the moving of a consciousness between a number of brightly colored objects at a party, the christening of the title I guess. It starts off as an ode–

Oh blue and pink balloons so smart you are to rise above the party

To not compete in games to not know the names of products

And Disney productions to not want prizes compensation

Or candy to be only what you can and you are

And you are round and pink and blue balloons essential

Hearts as sovereign as low as the floor and high as the ceiling and…

and…well it’s hard to stop! The poem’s momentum is such that it carries on breathlessly like this for its entirety, locating stops not so much in caesuras but instead in the positions of its speaker(s), which slip around, & then away from, their location only to surface again as emanation from a streamer, a dress or balloon, & increasingly, all of them or more simultaneously. It’s like some kind of particle collider for trans-human subject positioning where all the particles feel like confetti–

And maybe you are a relative a cousin or wife to a dress or balloon

And appears other dresses uncles nieces nephews aunts and more

Uncles hidden behind glasses and red saucy food

Hidden by and given as presents to their secret children in secret progress

Of long secret nights and days

Going on clocks and poor bones of what once

And other cousins as dresses with stains on possessive dresses

Any boundary between person & thing has collapsed. The poem has a wild sort of feeling  for the market’s ideal of transactive relationships in which everyone AND everything are monetized objects operating inside its domain. It gets at something a bit like what one hears about ‘the sobject,’ but here the melancholia is replaced, indeed it’s resisted, & instead the tenor is informed by an awkward persistence of happiness.

The closing lines devastate, & it feels like the whole poem pivots on the second line below, with its knowledge of how positionality figures our relationship to power, to precarity, hell, to survial!

Party boys oblivious to the great ceiling or for the most part the floor

Except when I’m watching her depending on who I am and who she is

Except when falling down suddenly tangled in the silver streamers

Previously airborne

& I can’t help but read in that, now in 2010 as the market heaves & sputters, some thought of the ruin of excess & surplus, a collapse into shimmery surfaces previously soaring high & mighty. With that in mind here’s an earlier bit of the poem. . .

And maybe you are a capitalist an ode to capitalism

Now down to a half-asleep whisper a prayer made

Manifest in the stone of the spoken whisper in the dress on a couch beginnings

I am not a good capitalist I am not a good capitalist…

Now, back here in Cincinnati I’m going to baby showers nearly every weekend & I’ve been keeping this poem ‘turned on’ in my mind, rolling its lines around wading through parti-colored tissue strewn all over the floor. Of course the mute sentinel balloons so central to her poem are floating in these rooms as well, ‘bubble-headed judges’ as she has them, & really, thanks to Merry I now have an idea of what a balloon might say were it to speak. It turns out we would totally understand it—“I am not a good capitalist I am not a good capitalist”—it’s almost like “No place like home.”

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