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About the Author
Leslie Scalapino (1944–2010) taught at Mills College in Oakland and at Bard College in New York State. Among her many books are It's go in horizontal: Selected Poems, 1974–2006 (UC Press); Day Ocean State of Star's Night: Poems and Writings, 1989 and 1999–2006, and Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows.
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Of Indigo and Saffron
New and Selected Poems
By Michael McClure, Leslie Scalapino
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESSCopyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
A barricade — a wall — a stronghold,
Sinister and joyous, of indigo and saffron —
To hurl myself against!
To crush or
To be a part of the wall ...
Spattered brains or the imprint
of a violent foot —
To crumble loose some brilliant masonry
Or knock it down —
To send pieces flying
To be the chalice of the hunt,
Through a barrier of white trees!
At work — 3:00 in the morning — In the produce market
Moving crates of lettuce and cauliflower — Predawn
A vision — the rats become chinchillas — I stand
At the base of cliff — sweating — flaming — in terror and joy
Surrounded in the mist — by whirling circles of dark
Chattering animals — a black lynx stares from the hole
In the cliff.
Rotten lettuce — perfume — The damp carroty street.
It is my head — These are my hands.
I don't will it.
Out in the light — Noon — the City.
A Wall — a stronghold.
Linked part to part, toe to knee, eye to thumb
Motile, feral, a blockhouse of sweat
The smell of the hunt's
A stench, ... my foetor.
The eye a bridegroom of torture
Colors are linked by spirit
Euglena, giraffe, frog
Creatures of grace — Rishi
Of their own right.
As I walk my legs say to me 'Run
There is joy in swiftness'
As I speak my tongue says to me 'Sing
There is joy in thought,
The size of the word
Is its own flight from crabbedness.'
And the leaf is an ache
And love an ache in the back.
The stone a creature.
The inside whitewashed.
. . . . . . .
. . . . . . .
. . . . . . .
. . . . . . !
A pale tuft of grass.
Point Lobos: Animism
It is possible my friend,
If I have a fat belly
That the wolf lives on fat
Through a visceral night of rancor.
It is possible that the absence of pain
May be so great
That the possibility of care
May be impossible.
Perhaps to know pain.
Anxiety, rather than the fear
Of the fear of anxiety.
This talk of miracles!
I have been in a spot so full of spirits
That even the most joyful animist
When all in sight was less to be cared about
And there was no noise in the ears
(I knelt in the shade
By a cold salt pool
And felt the entrance of hate
On many legs,
The soul like a clambering
Water vascular system.
No scuttling could matter
Yet I formed in my mind
The most beautiful
How could I care
For your illness or mine?)
This talk of bodies!
It is impossible to speak
Of lupine or tulips
When one may read
Spelled by the mold on the stumps
When the forest moves about one.
Light. Light! Light!
This is the bird's song
You may tell it
To your children.
For the Death of 100 Whales
... Killer whales ... Savage sea cannibals up to 30 feet long with teeth like bayonets ... one was caught with 14 seals and 13 porpoises in its belly ... often tear at boats and nets ... destroyed thousands of dollars worth of fishing tackle ... Icelandic government appealed to the U.S., which has thousands of men stationed at a lonely NATO airbase on the subarctic island. Seventy-nine bored G.I.'s responded with enthusiasm. Armed with rifles and machine guns one posse of Americans climbed into four small boats and in one morning wiped out a pack of 100 killers ...
... First the killers were rounded up into a tight formation with concentrated machine gun fire, then moved out again one by one, for the final blast which would kill them ... as one was wounded, the others would set upon it and tear it to pieces with their jagged teeth ...
TIME, APRIL 1954
Like a boat mid-air
The Liners boiled their pastures:
The Liners of flesh,
The Arctic steamers.
Brains the size of a football
Mouths the size of a door.
The sleek wolves
Mowers and reapers of sea kine.
THE GIANT TADPOLES
(Meat their algae)
Like sheep or children.
Shot from the sea's bore.
Turned and twisted
Flung blood and sperm.
Gnashed at their tails and brothers,
Cursed Christ of mammals,
Snapped at the sun,
Ran for the sea's floor.
No angels dance those bridges.
OH GUN! OH BOW!
There are no churches in the waves,
No passages or crossings
From the beasts' wet shore.
I wanted to turn to electricity — I needed
a catalyst to turn to pure fire.
to each other. Promises
are lies. Work is death. Contracts are
filth — the act of keeping them
destroys the desire to hold them.
I forgive you. Free me!
The Mystery of the Hunt
It's the mystery of the hunt that intrigues me,
That drives us like lemmings, but cautiously —
The search for a bright square cloud — the scent of lemon verbena —
Or to learn rules for the game the sea otters
Play in the surf.
It is these small things — and the secret behind them
That fill the heart.
The pattern, the spirit, the fiery demon
That link them together
And pull their freedom into our senses,
The smell of a shrub, a cloud, the action of animals
— The rising, the exuberance, when the mystery is unveiled.
It is these small things
That when brought into vision become an inferno.
Clear — the senses bright — sitting in the black chair — Rocker —
the white walls reflecting the color of clouds
moving over the sun. Intimacies! The rooms
not important — but like divisions of all space
of all hideousness and beauty. I hear
the music of myself and write it down
for no one to read. I pass fantasies as they
sing to me with Circe-Voices. I visit
among the peoples of myself and know all
I need to know.
I KNOW EVERYTHING! I PASS INTO THE ROOM
there is a golden bed radiating all light
the air is full of silver hangings and sheathes
I smile to myself. I know
all that there is to know. I see all there
is to feel. I am friendly with the ache
in my belly. The answer
to love is my voice. There is no Time!
No answers. The answer to feeling is my feeling.
The answer to joy is joy without feeling.
The room is a multicolored cherub
of air and bright colors. The pain in my stomach
is warm and tender. I am smiling. The pain
is many pointed, without anguish.
Light changes the room from yellows to violet!
The dark brown space behind the door is precious
intimate, silent and still. The birthplace
of Brahms. I know
all that I need to know. There is no hurry.
I read the meanings of scratched walls and cracked ceilings.
I am separate. I close my eyes in divinity and pain.
I blink in solemnity and unsolemn joy.
I smile at myself in my movements. Walking
I step higher in carefulness. I fill
space with myself. I see the secret and distinct
patterns of smoke from my mouth
I am without care part of all. Distinct.
I am separate from gloom and beauty. I see all.
And grim intensity — close within myself. No longer
but flesh real as rock. Like Herakles
of primordial substance and vitality.
And not even afraid of the thing shorn of glamor
The beautiful things are not of ourselves
but I watch them. Among them.
And the Indian thing. It is true!
Here in my Apartment I think tribal thoughts.)
There is no time. I am visited by a man
who is the god of foxes
there is dirt under the nails of his paw
fresh from his den.
We smile at one another in recognition.
I am free from Time. I accept it without triumph
— a fact.
Closing my eyes there are flashes of light.
My eyes won't focus but leap. I see that I have three feet.
I see seven places at once!
The floor slants — the room slopes
into each other. Flashes
and meldings. I wait
seeing the physical thing pass.
I am on a mesa of time and space.
Writing the music of life
Hearing the round sounds of the guitar
Feeling the touch of flesh.
Seeing the loose chaos of words
on the page.
(Sweet Yeats and his ball of hashish.)
My belly and I are two individuals
THIS IS THE POWERFUL KNOWLEDGE
we smile with it.
At the window I look into the blue-gray
gloom of dreariness.
I am warm. Into the dragon of space.
I stare into clouds seeing
their misty convolutions.
The whirls of vapor
I will small clouds out of existence.
They become fish devouring each other.
And change like Dante's holy spirits
becoming an osprey frozen skyhigh
to challenge me.
The huge bird with bug eyes. Caught in dynamic profile.
Feet stretched out forward
glaring at me.
Feathery cloudtips of feathers
dark gray on gray against blue.
From the cliff of the park — the city — a twilight
foggy vista. Green grass over the stone,
pink auras of neon. The spires lean
into the clouds. I remember the window, wonder.
Out over the rooftops from the window.
I am at the top of the park. I look
for the clouds in the calm sky.
Tendrils and wisps. I see 180 degrees.
MY STOMACH IS SWOLLEN AND NUMB!
I have entered the essential-barrenness
there is no beauty the exotic has come to an end I face the facts
of emptiness, I recognize that time is a measurement is arbitrary,
I look for the glamor of metamorphosis, for the color of transmutation,
I wait to become the flask of a wonder to see diamonds, there is no
purpose. Pain without anguish space without loveliness. The pure
facts of vision are here there is the City! There is the wonder
as far as the eye can see the close buildings I see them so close.
Oh and I am so glad to see them. This is the change
that I do not care but know.
THE GIANT, COMIC, FIERCE, BIRD FROM MY WINDOW!
The spirits, souls rising to form it need no explanation
in the world.
Vast expanse without interest — undrab.
Here is the light full of grains and color
the pink auras and flesh orange. The rasping sounds,
hideous buildings leaning into emptiness.
The fact of my division is simple I am a spirit
of flesh in the cold air. I need no answer
I do not lean on others. I am separate, distinct.
There is nothing to drag me down.
Back at the window again I look for the Osprey
I remember the flow of blood, the heat
and the cold almost-fear beneath it. There is nothing
in the night but fast clouds. No stars. Smokey gray
and black the rooms are the color of blue Mexican glass
and white. I see to the undercoats of paint
to the green and brown. I am caught in reveries of love.
The tassles of the shag rug are lace.
I am in the Park above all and cold.
I am in the room in light Hell and warm Heaven.
I am lost in memories. I move feeling the pleasant bulk
of my body. I am pleased with my warm pain
I think of its cessation with pleasure.
I know it will not change. I know I am here, beyond all
The passage — my eyes ache with joy in the warmth.
The edge of the cloth like tassles — a shag rug
white — the loops lace over your shoulder —
the white wall behind — green showing through
lace again a sweet memory in the gloom.
The smells clear in my head over your shoulder.
Your brown arm on the tick cloth. Blue stripes
on white the smell of smoke and the smell of bodies.
Oh and the void again with space and no Time.
Our breath moving in the corners of the room!
I AM MOVING IN THE YELLOW KITCHEN
high never to come down — the ceiling brown.
I am looking at the face of the red clock —
I know of the sky from my window and I do not turn
to look, I am
motionless forever standing unmoving —
a body of flesh in the empty air.
I am in the barren warm universe of no Time.
The ache in my belly is a solid thing.
There is no joy or tremor, I smoke a cigarette in the small
room elbow to the stove seeing what is new —
barren as my cigarette and hand in the air hearing the whir of unheard
sounds, seeing the place of new things to the air. In
no relation, feeling the solid blankness of all things having
my stomach solid and aching, I am aloof
and we are one,
in the bare room my stomach and I held together by dry
warmth in space.
There is no reason for this! There is nothing but forms
in emptiness — unugly
and without beauty. It is that.
I AM STANDING HERE MYSELF BY THE STOVE
without reason or time.
I am the warmth and it is within me.
BELLY BELLY BELLY! UNENDING AND BLANK.
I am in the instant of space, I see all I am aware of all
I am curious but knowing that there is no more than this — the happenings
of the world continue about me there are whorls and wisps of smoke
there are the sounds of late afternoon and early evening
with forever between them I see it passing between them
I cannot be surprised — there is no news to me it has always been
this way — going into a memory would be to go into a long
black tunnel. The room is huge and spacious without
PATTERN OR REASON. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY.
THERE ARE THE COLORS
of early evening as they have always been. I am as I shall
always be. Standing feeling myself in the inert.
I raise my head with the beauty of final knowledge
I step high in pride benevolence and awareness. The pain
is part of me. The pain in my belly. The clouds
are passing and I will not stop them.
COLOR IS REALITY! THE EYE IS A MATCHFLAME!
The pain is a solid lump — all of the anguish
I am freed from.
The answer to joy is joy without feeling. The answer to love
is my voice.
The room is a solid of objects and air.
I KNOW EVERYTHING, I AM FILLED WITH WEARINESS
I close my eyes in divinity and pain.
I blink in solemnity and unsolemn joy.
I am free of the instant there is no Time!
I have lived out the phases of life from patterned opulence
to stark and unheeding.
My stomach is gentle love, gentle love.
I AM AT THE POINT OF ALL HUGENESS AND MEANING
The pain of my stomach has entered my chest
throat and head.
The enormous leap! I look from the precipice
of my window.
I watch from my warmth, feeling.
THERE ARE NO CATEGORIES!!!
(OH WONDER, WONDER, IN DREARINESS AND BEAUTY
aloof in perpetual unamazed astonishment warm
as stone in the emptiness of vast space
seeing the small and limitless scale
of vastness. My hand before me. Seeing
all reachable and real. The answer to love
is my voice.
I am sure. This is the ultimate
about me. My feelings real to me. Solid
as walls. — I see the meaning
of walls — divisions of space,
backgrounds of color.)
HEAVEN AND HELL THIS IS REACHABLE I AM SICK IN LACK
and joyful in lack of joy and sick
in sickness of joy. Oh dry
stomach! And not ecstatic in knowledge.
I KNOW ALL THAT THERE IS TO KNOW,
feel all that there is to feel.
Piteously clear air. Radiance without glow.
I hear all that there is to hear.
There is no noise but a lack of sound.
I am on the plain of Space.
There are no spirits but spirits.
The room is empty of all but visible things.
THERE ARE NO CATEGORIES! OR JUSTIFICATIONS!
I am sure of my movements I am a bulk
in the air.
Excerpted from Of Indigo and Saffron by Michael McClure, Leslie Scalapino. Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: The instant is the giant lamp we throw/our shadows by Leslie Scalapino, 1,
FROM HYMNS TO ST. GERYON, 1959,
FROM A FIST FULL, 1956–1957,
FROM DARK BROWN, 1961,
FROM THE NEW BOOK/A BOOK OF TORTURE, 1961,
FROM LITTLE ODES, 1961,
FROM GHOST TANTRAS, 1964,
FROM STAR, 1970,
FROM HAIL THEE WHO PLAY, 1974,
FROM SEPTEMBER BLACKBERRIES, 1974,
FROM JAGUAR SKIES, 1975,
STANZAS FROM RARE ANGEL, 1975,
FROM FRAGMENTS OF PERSEUS, 1983,
FROM REBEL LIONS, 1984,
FROM SIMPLE EYES & OTHER POEMS, 1993,
STANZAS FROM DOLPHIN SKULL, 1995,
FROM RAIN MIRROR, 1999,
FROM PLUM STONES: CARTOONS OF NO HEAVEN, 2002,
SWIRLS IN ASPHALT,
Index of Titles and First Lines, 313,
What People are Saying About This
"Like Philip Whalen, Charles Bukowski, and Jim Morrison (to whom one section is dedicated), McClure infuses ecstatic direct address and colloquial diction with an exquisite sensibility."Publishers Weekly
"McClure's poetry seems as vital to the 21st century as it was to the 20th."Library Journal
"A young reader can be inspired by McClure's radical questioning of the established social order at every turn. . . . McClure, among all the Beat poets, is perhaps the softest, most tender, most yielding."San Francisco Chronicle