Of Indigo and Saffron: New and Selected Poems

Of Indigo and Saffron: New and Selected Poems

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This essential collection of Michael McClure's poetry contains the most original, radical, and visionary work of a major poet who has been garnering acclaim and generating controversy for more than fifty years. Ranging from A Fist Full, published in 1957, through Swirls in Asphalt, a new poem sequence, Of Indigo and Saffron is both an excellent introduction to this unique American voice and an impressive selection from McClure's landmark volumes for those already familiar with his boldly inventive work. One of the five poets who heralded the Beat movement in the 1955 Six Gallery reading in San Francisco, McClure reveals in his poetry a close kinship to Romanticism, Modernism, Surrealism, and Japanese haiku. These poems—grounded in imagination and a profound regard for the natural world—chart a poetic landscape of utter originality.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520272736
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 01/26/2011
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 344
Sales rank: 294,332
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Michael McClure is an American poet, playwright, songwriter, and novelist. He has collaborated with prominent artists, poets, and musicians, including Allen Ginsberg, Jim Morrison, and Terry Riley. McClure's journalism has been featured in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, The Los Angeles Times, and The San Francisco Chronicle, and he has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Obie Award. His books of poetry include Mysteriosos and Other Poems, Huge Dreams, and Rain Mirror.

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.

Read an Excerpt

Of Indigo and Saffron

New and Selected Poems

By Michael McClure, Leslie Scalapino


Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-94733-7


The Breech

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
Like stars!

To be the chalice of the hunt,
To handspring
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
Gnawing slowly
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!

Of Animism:
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
Than death
And there was no noise in the ears
That mattered.
(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
Of maxims.
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
His name
Spelled by the mold on the stumps
When the forest moves about one.

Heel. Nostril.
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 ...


Hung midsea
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.
(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.

Goya! Goya!
Oh Lawrence
No angels dance those bridges.
There are no churches in the waves,
No holiness,
No passages or crossings
From the beasts' wet shore.


I wanted to turn to electricity — I needed
a catalyst to turn to pure fire.
We lied
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.

Peyote Poem

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.


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
a cloud
but flesh real as rock. Like Herakles
of primordial substance and vitality.
And not even afraid of the thing shorn of glamor

but accepting.
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
things melt
into each other. Flashes
of light
and meldings. I wait

seeing the physical thing pass.

I am on a mesa of time and space.


Writing the music of life
in words.
Hearing the round sounds of the guitar
as colors.
Feeling the touch of flesh.

Seeing the loose chaos of words
on the page.
(ultimate grace)
(Sweet Yeats and his ball of hashish.)

My belly and I are two individuals
joined together
in life.

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.


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 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

in myself.

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!

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.

without reason or time.
I am the warmth and it is within me.


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
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.


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 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.


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.


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.)


and joyful in lack of joy and sick
in sickness of joy. Oh dry
stomach! And not ecstatic in knowledge.


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.


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.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface xv

1 Introduction: The instant is the giant lamp we throw/our shadows Leslie Scakpino

From Hymns to St. Geryon, 1959

The Breech 27

Poem [Linked Part to Part] 28

Point Lobos: Animism 29

For the Death of 100 Whales 31

Poem [I Wanted To Turn To Electricity] 32

The Mystery of the Hunt 33

Peyote Poem 34

From A Fist Full, 1956-1957

The Air 47

Two Weeks Baby Sunbathing 48

For a Drawing by Jess 48

From Dark Brown, 1961

Oh Giddy Blank White Page 51

The Root the Ion the Pride to the Leaf 52

((Oh Bring Oh Blood Back the Courage 53

Oh Why Oh Why the Blasted Love 54

Oh Ease Oh Body-Strain Oh Love 55

Abaved Dearn A-Dearn Death-Fear 56

(((To your Huge Smooth Face and Hand 57

From the New Book/A Book Of Torture, 1961

Ode to Jackson Pollock 61

The Chamber 63

ode for Soft Voice 65

Yes Table 66

From for Artaud 66

La Plus Blanche 67

Rant Block 68

From Little Odes, 1961

Ode [The Love and Vision Of the Instant] 73

Ode [Oh Black and Cold I See In] 74

Hummingbird Ode 75

Ode [My Words are Plain] 76

Fantasy Ode 77

Ode [Wildnesses and High Act Lie in a Fabric] 78

From Ghost Tantras, 1964

1 Goooooor! 81

2 Pleasure Fears Me 81

13 ohlovelyline 82

39 Marilyn Monroe 82

49 Silence The Eyes! 83

51 I Love to Think 84

73 The Stars are a Shield 84

99 In Tranquility 85

From Star, 1970

Mad Sonnet 89

Love Lion 90

Cold Saturday Mad Sonnet 91

Mad Sonnet 2 92

Poisoned Wheat 93

From Hail Thee Who Play, 1974

Oh Muse 105

From September Blackberries, 1974

Written above the Sierras/in the Flyleaf of Regis Debray's/Revolution in the Revolution 109

Gray Fox at Solstice 110

Springs 111

From Jaguar Skies, 1975

Poetics 115

Stanzas From Rare Angel, 1975

Loveliness/Of Gold Flakes 119

So now It's Serious 120

Another Spot-Somewhere/Else 121

Love And Hunger Comprise Hatred 123

Durer, Raphael, And Shang Dynasty 124

from Fragments Of Perseus, 1983

Dream: The Night of December 23rd 129

Captives 132

From Rebel Lions, 1984

Dark Brown Eyes of Seals 135

Rose Rain 136

"To Glean the Livingness of Worlds" 137

Dark Contemplation 147

Freewheelin's Tattoo 148

From Simple Eyes & Other Poems, 1993

Spirit's Desperado 151

Mexico Seen from the Moving Car 152

The Butterfly 153

The Cheetah 154

Stanzas from Dolphin Skull, 1995

This Cloud is a Life 157

The Cloud that Raphael Found 158

Stickfigures Of Jack and Jill 159

I am a God With a Huge Face 160

Hold, Let this Moment 161

The Old Rabbit Begins to Wink 163

From Rain Mirror, 1999

From Haiku Edge

Oh Accident! 167

They, It's All Con/Sciousness 167

Pink Bandaid Stuck 168

Moldy/Board 168

Brass/And/Turquoise 169

oh//Hum/Ming/Bird 169

Hey/Driver 170

The Dry/Fir Needle 170

The Fox Turd/as a Cliff 171

The Heron 171

Orion 172

Before Dawn 172

Butterflies 172

From Crisis Blossom

Grafting one 173

Grafting two 174

Grafting five 175

Grafting nine 176

Grafting fourteen 177

Bud 178

Grafting eighteen 179

Grafting nineteen 180

Flower 181

From After the Solstice

"Give Way Or Be Smitten Into Nothingness" 182

From Plum Stones: Cartoons Of No Heaven, 2002

Plum Stone Two 187

Plum Stone Six 190

Plum Stone Fifteen 193

We Sit On Black Cushions 196

Plum 196

Unchanged 197

Swirls In Asphalt

1 A Forest Of Horses 201

2 No More Ferocity 202

3 I Polished The Stars 203

4 The Moment Is Our 204

5 How Badly 205

6 We Go Through This 206

7 The Moment Does Not 207

8 I Love Speaking 208

9 If We Go One Step 209

10 The Cat Lies Against 211

11 The "Contingent Flux" 213

12 "Blind Seeing" 214

13 In The Painted Chamber 215

14 Imagination Enables 216

15 Cascading Synapses 218

6 I Strike Outwards 219

17 Musk Crab Shell 221

18 O Lion Head, Uplift Me 223

19 From The Peak 225

20 The Forest Of Horses 227

21 Samhain 229

22 Swirl Of Asphalt 231

23 Right Here 232

24 Platforms Of Whiteness 234

25 Muscle Tissue Tendon 235

26 Zinging into Senses 236

27 I Save Myself 237

28 Lamb Salmon Prawn 238

29 Proud Of Testosterone 240

30 The Kernel Of Each 241

31 Breadth Of Being 243

32 The Sunset Moment 244

33 Children Are Casualties 245

34 We Swim in the Illumination 247

35 A Vulture Flies Over the Edge 249

36 Liquid Mercury in the Palm 251

37 A Birth Of A Photon 253

38 We Have Always Wanted to Do this 255

39 transiency Like the Shape Of Water 256

40 The Presence Of A Laugh 258

41 Freckles Of White Plum Blossoms 260

42 Let There Be Murders 262

43 The intention Of Creating 264

44 The Music is not so Bright 266

45 Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Meat 268

46 I Am the Full Grown Old Man Here 270

47 A Hunk Of Irrevocable Nothing 272

48 From the Non-Beginning Of the Wave 274

49 The Marching Band in the Forest 276

50 The Pursuit Of Consequence 278

51 Nothing Abolishes Chance 280

52 You Find the Unfinished 282

53 Sspontaneously Perfect Nothing 284

54 lives in the Morning Air 286

55 subtract Us From Ourselves 288

56 Dazed With the Fantasy 290

57 Black Souls are Cleared for Victory 292

58 Miracles Full Blown in Our Faces 294

59 What Good Money Owns Us? 296

60 Old Age in a Nazi Nation 298

61 I Report that 300

62 The Quest of Consciousness is Nada 302

63 No Reason to Hold Back the Party 304

64 Swiftly Moving Jagged Unrecognizable 306

65 No Thundering Footsteps Dissolve 308

Credits 311

Index of Titles and First Lines 313

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"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

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