"The Police" by Daniel Poppick
COMPANY EDITIONS is an independent publisher of poetry and visual art. The journal, Company, was founded in 2013 and is published three or four times per year. We will also be publishing chapbooks beginning in late 2016. Company Editions is based in Athens, GA, Iowa City, IA, and Cambridge, MA. You can contact the editors by emailing email@example.com.
Speech is the fourth wall made permanent & at its window
Prayer collects, modicum of hot noise
Insisting in a fog we find the breeze & greenery beyond the glass most critical.
Hours clench their fists & begin
Nursing candlelight modeled after the soliloquy of winces
Vincent Price delivers on horseback, lack of British accent brazenly flickering
Witchfinder General (1968), I cannot verify
The features of the sunset on the evening
I watched that movie projected
On an island in a Northern state, July (2011). In
A subsequent dream he & his horse upbraid me when I
Describe the electric
Current running through them to you, I say to Price (of the horse)
Let it eat a hot aglow
White magnesium blend of oats & apps
To animate some running
Not in its feet but spine, & they
(Price, the horse) snatch
Apples from my briefcase faster than anyone moves even in movies. Then I wake.
They were correct
To steal, I wasn’t even really speaking
To them so much as you in a fuzzed prototype of what turns out
To be this essay,
Presenting myself as a salesman of apples
Rather than a holy ghost
As other apple salesmen will.
Do you see how already in my account those unremembered features
(Of the movie, not dream) are flattening to a billboard
Magnetizing your gaze up from some interstate’s white lines
Toward a romping airbrushed puppy & beaming
Child, so that if you are to trust me to not bleed you of your brain’s money
Today I have to be equally against whatever I’m selling & the light it emits?
In the movie Price & the horse drone rough woe
Trotting o’er the land
In a series of sinister nasal eruptions concerning the whipping of witches
Between shots of various actresses’ wide eyes & buxom screaming.
Outside the ocean flicked
Light at the house, seals burped on their rock behind a fat wad of cedar & hanging
Moss. That the horror should be taken as comedy
Watching it transpire on a bedsheet screen
With a collection
Of stoned middle-aged men was reflected in their
Interrupting to briefly bear kitsch’s thick shit
For us with a dramatization
Of their own. Vexed, they said things like
It’s not the hottest hot
Chocolate I’ve had but it
Will do, &
What’s going on is he hitting
Her this is horrible, &
Rain makes a hooligan
Out of the soundtrack I can’t hear the actors
It is now impossible to remove these men from the movie,
It would be like editing out the horse, Price straddling thin air five feet off the ground.
They were too high to listen to anything, it was they who were masterpieces,
Price watched them from the screen
& dropped his weapons. It
Darkened & those I love slept to the west so I joined them believing
Art stalks us in broad daylight anyway, child with blade
Drawn to slit our throats as we cross through a country
She calls home & stays young in, always forgetting that our throats are billions
& our breath spills between.
But forgetting our power is requisite as deliberately confusing the sound
Of a fire truck over the hill
With a wolf’s cry. Art needs us no less than we
It. Otherwise the poor kid follows to our cities
To grow old long before spilling
A drop of our blood.
Behind her grown-up villains, born with beards,
Follow all & never die.
Before seeing it you & I walked
Over the Brooklyn Bridge in
Rain without speech, though
That conversation was of a glamour
I did not know I knew how to submerge my brain
In much less physical hands,
For we are only pronouns & as such suffer through deserts of dulled nerves.
We walked in a net
So large the district
Slipped through one of its holes, taxis’ dry
Groans like houses
Gathering the glow of an evening meal. If it means hosting nightmare like stiff wind
Sails I’m not
Sure one needs
To be so quiet, there are other modes of transportation. But
Need squeaks out from holes in demand & demands rust according to our speed.
I would be leaving for another hemisphere in the coming
Months & in the interim was taking a crack
At selling you on the benefits of keeping track of our faces &
Voices via Skype
Instead of languishing in their absence for that duration, hoping to allay
Your fears that this program was a load of shit & would garble
The both of us into delayed beeps & pixels, though I was also a bit of that mind.
Despite our advances we have not found a clear way to speak over oceans.
One morning in October you woke & told
Me you’d dreamed I’d been campaigning for it, I’d said
You won’t hear
My actual voice but a tone
Of it played on saxophone don’t
Worry they will still be my actual
Words only spoken
In actual saxophone, & proceeded
To show you a shot of what my face
Would look like on the screen, bone structure & features intact
But with alternate translations of flickering color.
You remained unconvinced but were
Coming around when you woke.
It is not impossible to fit & channel love
Through a glowing two-dimensional
Plastic screen but it sucks.
Something of the flesh thereby transmitted
Did not feel as regal as it should have to the eye alone,
Not for one’s features
But the spell they cast, like a metaphor about pheromones
In which literal smells enter the face, one
I am not capacious enough to invent at this juncture
Where I am trying to speak
In a grammar quick with weeping.
Given our circumstances together under this hot
Love requires better access to somatic swoon
Than this clusterfuck can bring to bear.
It must be repeated
Until the figure hardens into something liquid
As the human frame, not impossible
For if you are reading this transmission
Chances are our heartbreaks at this point in history
Are more alike than ever.
I have been better about being alone
In recent years but waking
Up next to you had come to feel like having lungs, adamantine &
Hilarious. Moving away in December
I did not want to be reminded silence is vestigial
Or for that matter ever leave you again
So I’ll swallow
Whole days shaved off a life in a country I might have known
But never did. I did not know how to tell you about air,
Even inside the parcel of this attempt.
When we did speak lo
& behold it was delayed in the wires. You hung
Up on me once in anger
& though I might have deserved & it’s unconscionably adolescent to do so I will admit
It, I wanted to die
As much for knowing
That so many others have felt crippled
Endlessly by something as fleeting
As fighting with a lover
As for the digital clang
The program’s receiver made when
You retreated from that window
& went back to the winterized rooms in the States I felt a cartoon version
Of myself was already living in
An even more inert Pinocchio,
Wan & drawn by Disney.
I took to the streets
Looking to foster attention constellations
That would protect us from all the ill we
Foist upon one another unwillingly
Without ever thinking that love, against
Our beliefs & wishes, seems
To require it
In hot multitudes of names & inflections beyond what an hour’s exchange can bear,
A shitload of invention required & in love invention
Is as difficult a gift to give another as ever,
Wanting neither fire nor water we do our people in police’s voices.
But when no one wanted to talk outside I went straight
Back to the screen. I’ve never seen so many movies.
In November on the way to hear poets read we were pulled over
& though I had only been speeding the young officer
Clad in sunglasses despite the clouds & bruised light
Asked me to step out of the car &
Accompany him in his cruiser
While he ran background checks. You shrugged & I,
Not because I had done wrong but in exposure to force
Coiled more tightly than my own
Comprehension or sway followed him & fixed
Myself in his front seat. He asked if this was the first time
I’d seen one of these from the inside
& I said it was.
Behind us, bottled in a clean & perforated plexiglass pane,
A German shepherd continued completely losing her shit.
The officer told her to shut up
& as he ran the program on our licenses he asked what I did.
I told him I was a teacher
Though the truth was I was unemployed.
Ashamed of the lie, I added
I was also a writer. At this he looked up.
He asked what kind of writing I did & I said poetry.
& I don’t think I’m lying to think I discerned a muted affection, but will never be certain
As sympathy & contempt often run the same drills
On the field of the face.
What kind of poetry.
I told him that was the hardest & worst
Question he could ask, & at that he laughed.
I told him most of it didn’t rhyme
& he repeated that out loud.
He asked if I knew any of my poems by heart
& at that I laughed,
Said I didn’t, but wanting to offer something for his seemingly earnest curiosity revealed
A key poem in the book I was writing was titled
“Appetite Technician.” He nodded & thought about that for a moment, asked
What’s the title of the book?
I never thought to ask his name.
Another dream. Six white horses write on a wall, their pencils repeatedly
Clattering to the floor. They coat their hooves with
Rubber cement & step on the pencils with superannuated care,
Continue. Piles of shavings litter the ground around them.
Online poker, but when the wind
Picks up the internet
Fails. The riders curse & mount the horses,
Ride to a meadow where the connection can be repaired. Given to fright when
The offending riders root for their whips,
The six horses run together
From wall to meadow, & when they arrive they pick a variety of pens from the
Grass with their teeth.
When the riders are finished gluing wires they remount.
Tired out, the horses trot
Back to the wall with the pens. But
Six more horses have arrived at the site,
Black as coal & without riders, painting
Over the pencil. They turn & stare at the first six with brushes
Hanging limply from their lips,
& the riders dismount to inspect the new designs.
This is one method by which horses have been trained to study the collapse of repetition.
A gesture runs deeper than the improbable
Stone, someday the sun will have swatted
friends underground where our childhood toys are buried & will
& speak with them about all we know who have continued
Against the promise of a grid
Diminishing even as its points sharpen into hyperbolic focus when evening settles down?
The reading lamp goes on,
It does a different chemical
Reaction than other light upon the skin
& at that I do not know.
A trust between all inert objects punctures night
Such that we are forced to admit that nouns are either alive or more
Active than we have imagined
& this is also involved
In our capacity to learn not only how to love correctly
But the survival of our species.
As for the former
It seems I can only write this when we are apart, so perhaps as strangers
We might learn to love to critical exhaustion
The versions of each other who remain but avatars
For functions impossible to be performed except in a state
Of radical & unknowing patience
Which works more brightly when subsumed into the muscle
Of our waking lives, so it’s no mistake we want to fuck
Now as we write this sentence in May, your breath the only grammar
I want to see in color before the night is over,
Your speech & glances made mythic by the fact that it is you who speaks.
But even myth refutes demands
Submitted in the story so far as it’s been told,
A wolf wails in the distance & on the mantle above the fireplace
A key spins in a little horse as she slows her hooves
& when she stops the room slips into a capable darkness.
May this invention issue a multitude of orders
& may you disobey them all
That shatter records will shore their action
Against our luminous attention to beam beyond a flat & white refrain.
Plucked from the ground
Like ribbons from a gift box packed with a doll,
Earth needs our bones gliding over it precisely less
Than we the song issuing five or six feet above the green.
The decorations who make the gift thoughtful
Should not be confused with the doll itself in all its mute & painted glamour,
As living matter, plastic cells
Lush with the spell
Of carnal affinity flinging through our veins, is not the same as life.
We love the world for what it reflects as much as for what it contains.
Now in July others I love sleep far from the coast &
I have trouble remembering my own dreams, rendering the one
About Price & the horse remarkable for its knife-edged amplitude, even
If you will never know whether or not my actual words were a lie
To move you into believing, as belief is the only house
We are told we are built to sleep inside.
The movie sleeps in the air itself, the men in its glowing reviews.
By the light of that candle it is Price & the horse
Who are a house,
You & I are not until cold wind & rain incorporates
Us into its virus of bedtimes, though on the bridge
We were soaking
Wet & the money-light
Was streaming & here I am again continuing to drag you under that roof.
All the sunset does in memory is bloom like a brand, gold pill dissolving
Into the body of water nearest our pillow.
I’m not against the sunset but its problems
In advertisements are myriad as sleep.
I recommend you go outside, see one with your own two eyes &
I’m not selling anything free. Here is another dream for no money.
The window weeps
A bag of light
Into the bedroom, white clatter
Chased by humming filaments
& you place your face still as flint by the light
& your face clicks
& fills with liquid. A holy ghost runs from your eyes
& nose, a holy ghost green on your sleeve
Winds its way down amalgams of streets with you while you speak to strangers
& at home even your ice cubes pray in the dark
& the dark weeps, sneezes
& as night drives in its wilted nails Price hacks the coffin an unscreened window
& the holy horse freezes.
(11 September 2011—4 July 2012)
Daniel Poppick’s first book of poetry, The Police, is forthcoming from Omnidawn. His poems appear in the New Republic, BOMB, Granta, Fence, The Volta, Prelude and elsewhere. A chapbook, Vox Squad, is out from Petri Press. He lives in Brooklyn, where he co-edits the Catenary Press with Rob Schlegel and Rawaan Alkhatib.