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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.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
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
From Jaguar Skies, 1975
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
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
The Dry/Fir Needle 170
The Fox Turd/as a Cliff 171
The Heron 171
Before Dawn 172
From Crisis Blossom
Grafting one 173
Grafting two 174
Grafting five 175
Grafting nine 176
Grafting fourteen 177
Grafting eighteen 179
Grafting nineteen 180
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
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
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