Sevenlings to Incendiary Devices
-With Favorite First Lines
Walt Whitman- From “Leaves of Grass”
I sing the body electric!
Raze me to an open mouth’s worth of white-hot sky.
I found tongues of flame dancing between your lips.
The live wire bakes the flesh alive.
I can’t seem to find my bones anywhere.
I never cease being awed by the amazing power of your fingertips.
My lost breath wrote the gospel on your upturned lips.
Sleep, those little slices of death; Oh how I loathe them.
Sleep, thirsty bits of oblivion; how they bake my bones.
Sleep, staring black from between the stars.
After that I took up recreational drinking.
After that I sweet-sang the blues between swallows.
After that I serenaded sol boiling thru my breath.
Sleep my open wounds & steam straight sunlight. No chaser.
Ed Pavlic- From “Labors Lost, Left Unfinished” & Poem “On the Day of the New Pope…”
& fell coal-blind in hopeless love with the unbelievable music.
& fell from heaven like a talc flame for the undeniable lust.
& fell thru her flesh like a brick of shade thru the cloud-blue ocean.
& found his lungs spread like wings & lifting her scent.
& found the backdoor in his spine where sunsets burn straight thru synapses.
& found his long-lost love threaded in a hopeless embrace with the sky.
& undisturbed as a missing limb, he found the dark taste of bone bleached open in wide-eyed daylight.
Tzara –From “Approximate Man”
-First and Last line
Heart like a suitcase and a waltz for a head.
Chest zipped shut and ready for winter.
Arms pumping furiously with the leftover flames of your flesh.
Slowly, pedals pull from my heart.
Slowly, snow begins to fall between my ribs.
Slowly, a wire brush cleans away the nerves and you too.
The bell rings for no reason and we too.
Adrienne Rich- From “Fox” & Poem “Victory”
Not all life-forms want dialogue with the machine-gods.
Not all cells spin with code, contain entireties of the mind.
The electric fire branches thru us, we cannot breathe the details.
An aged moon fills us, flexes.
The pale burn probes the edges of underskin, seeking conduit, breathing apparatus.
So this is the way they find us: ancient adhesive shredding from vertebrae.
So this is the way they find us: photo-electric god,communing, etc./alive, etc.
Review by Pam O’Shaughnessy
“Incendiary Devices” is the primary theme of this subtly-but-tightly structured poem. It first presents as a series of famous poetic first lines, with J.R.’s contributing lines underneath. We start with Whitman singing of the body electric, an introduction to meditations on flames, live wires, “baking my bones” boiling, burning sunsets, culminating in the “photo-electric” god. The question is, how does this theme of heat and flame operate? It seems to be more than a repetitive series of images meant to unify the various segments. It seems that there is a hidden narrative here connected with burning. By the end, I think what this poem is about is the rise and fall of energy in the form of heat, in a love story.
As I read the poem, it yields at first only its dazzle of images and music: “Sleep my open wounds and stream straight sunlight”. I get a Beat impression and a percussion in the repetitions. This is a poet whose style demands appreciation first, with meaning to come later. As I re-read, though, I think, yes, I am in a story.
The first stanza, Whitman’s, has an I and a You engaged in burning relationship: “I found tongues of flame dancing between your lips.” By the second stanza, though, with a first line from Poe, the “You” has disappeared as an addressee. The lover is telling a story about a love affair that has just passed. Death has come closer; alcohol brings nepenthe: “Sleep my open wounds…”
In the third stanza, the first line is from the poet Ed Pavlic and sets the substructure of the poem with its initial ampersands. This section is even further from the brilliant heat of the first section. The long-lost love is now “threaded in a hopeless embrace with the sky”. I get a feeling of beginning acceptance of loss mixed with sadness. In the fourth, Tzara stanza, I marvel at one of the poem’s finest lines, “Chest zipped shut and ready for winter.” A coldness is beginning to fall. “Slowly, a wire brush cleans away the nerves and you too.”
And in the Adrienne Rich stanza, there is one more address to the lost love: “So this is the way they find us: ancient adhesive shredding from vertebrae.” It is over, ancient now.
Then comes the final line, and I’m, not sure who “us” is here, but the poet is bringing the reader out of the poem with prose and a casual etcetera followed by an announcement of the return to life: “alive”. It seems that it is we, the readers, who are now addressed. This is how it is, the poet seems to tell us, energy, change, life.
I may be trying too hard here to find the story. The poem can be read other ways. There are other subthemes of singing, bones, life more than love. Doesn’t matter. I take what I’m capable of and need, and others will do the same, from this complex work.
Review by William Fairbrother
Of the two paths leading to the Spiritual, J.R. eschews the slow certain path of evolution, yet abandons also meditation, etc. Now there are three.