6.3.07

Poem: "Oranges in my mailbox"

I am not a man of pleasure
— it has been denied me —
(save for an orange in my mailbox
and a shave of savon in my bath)
For when I go to touch pleasure I only find
a vaporous warmth, a verdant void,
thinned out ecstasy, lightly veined
things,


for those things, those real things
are forbidden to me —
for with a hair shirt for a mind
and a brazen wooden lenten bowl for desire,
I shall not have pleasure,
even with
an elevator to take me several floors,
air conditioning massaging my cell,
and an orange in my mailbox
Greig Roselli © 2007 PDF Copy for Printing

24.2.07

Poem: "Portraits"


Click here for a printable copy of "Portraits" © 2007 Greig Roselli 

5.1.07

Poem: "brother & sister"

    she’s a waif about to vomit her bread,
    to get ready for the Banana Republic shoot,
    the “I love it when you look at me” pose.

    she’s singularly angular, positioned on a bar,
    her brother at her side,
    singing glad hallelujahs to the boys passing by.

    Everyone loves a stare, a glance, une regarde,
    but this gal wallows in it,
    lapping up the paparazzi shots, the mental
    undressing behind the pews.

    She loves it;
    she’s sick,
    or possibly stuck in a Truffaut film.
   
    he loves it,
    complete.

    And we are so sick that we stare anyway,
    because we know he, she, they love it.

5.12.06

Book Review: Warmish-Cool Pleasure in As I Lay Dying


Image result for as i lay dying faulknerWilliam Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying, is the archetypical quest story, one of the most satisfying and basic plots in the literary canon.
The Journey Story
William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying, is the archetypical quest story, one of the most satisfying and basic plots in the literary canon. Like Homer’s The Odyssey, the pleasure of the quest narrative is in the process of the journey, not necessarily in the final outcome. We read a narrative like As I Lay Dying or The Odyssey to discover pleasure in the journey itself. It's this desire for the journey that makes a story about wandering heroes so appealing. For example, it is not a plot spoiler to find out prematurely that Odysseus slays the suitors and saves his wife and son. In fact, that's not the most exciting part of The Odyssey. It is about the becoming of the hero that is so enthralling. The pleasure of the journey quest is in the process of becoming. As Heraclitus, the Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher wrote, “One cannot step in the same river twice,” so also is As I Lay Dying a journey-process of becoming, albeit a macabre journey of a poor white family in Mississippi to bury their dead mother’s corpse.
The River as Metaphor for Story 
   In this post, I will explore how the madcap journey the Bundren family undertakes becomes, like an ever-changing river, a locus of pleasure in the narrative itself. I will show this using the tableau image of Darl drinking the water-filled gourd because the language and tone of this scene is inebriated with warmish cool water riddled with stars, as Darl describes it himself (8). I will then show how the narrative of the water-filled gourd is depicted as sensuous pleasure, the pleasure of the body and the readerly satisfaction of a wavelike release - in the story's end.
The Bundren Family and Their Motives
   Oddly enough, the disturbing nature of the story is what makes the novel pleasurable. The motives of every Bundren family member cannot be said to be of the highest moral value. Each and every one of the clan has their own motive: Anse, the father, Cash, the eldest, Jewel, Darl, Vardaman, the youngest, and even Addie, the dead mother, all have strange desires and motives. The fact that Cash, in the novel’s opening scene constructs his mother’s coffin, as she lays dying, in a place where she can obviously see and hear him, is sadistic and disturbing. Who would do this to their own mother? After her husband has gone to work and the last “dirty snuffling nose” had gone to school, what kind of mother would go to a quiet place so she “could be quiet and hate them?” (114). But this is the kind of pleasure that Faulkner is gesturing at in this novel. Cash derives pleasure from constructing the coffin, as is shown in a chapter that lists deliciously how he made the coffin on the bevel (53).  His reason?  “The animal magnetism of a dead body makes the stress come slanting, so the seams and joints of a coffin are made on a bevel” (53).
    This pleasure is what makes one reader say, “this book is so funny” and another reader to say, “this book is so sick!”   There is a voyeurism ingrained in the reader to want to find out more about this strange, poor family and what compels them to undertake their journey no matter how much you feel or think their journey is depraved.  The reader is interested in as many details as can be garnered that can aid in putting the narrative pieces together to understand the journey arc of the novel.  This is highly pleasurable.  Added to this is the structure of the novel itself.  It is told by a series of monologues written in a stream of consciousness style.  The reader puts together the pieces of the Bundren’s journey through the varied and limited mental states of the characters.  Being inside of the mind of a character provides pleasure, for it is a romp within the mental imagery of another “person”.    
Darl as the Central Character
    The character of Darl comprises many of the scenes in the book.  We are inside Darl’s mind, it seems, more than any other character.  Darl seems to be a logical character, but one notices that he takes too many “soft right angles.” There is something sinister in his immediacy with the world around him. Darl emphasizes an unmediated relationship to the world.  His conception of the world is dictated solely by sensuosity.  Although this will prove to be his demise into insanity, he finds pleasure in what he apprehends to be intuitively sensuous and tangible.  He is not interested as much in the concern and care for other human beings as long as they fit into his own sensuous relationship to reality.  For example, the scene with the water-filled gourd warrants how Darl’s sensuous response to things around him becomes a fixated locus of pleasure in the narrative arc of the story’s journey.
The Water-Filled Gourd
    Around the side of the house, the Bundrens have set a cedar bucket to allow water to sit.  It gives the water a sweet taste.  As the father Anse points out, water tastes sweetest when it has sat in a cedar bucket for at least six hours, not in metal.  It’s “warmish-cool, with a faint taste like the hot July wind in cedar trees smells" (8).  Once the water has sat for a time, it is poured into a gourd.   
    What enhances the pleasure for the reader in this scene is how Faulkner situates the text within the narrative structure of the chapter.  We are inside Darl’s troubled head here. But we hear his father ask him, “Where’s Jewel?” (8). It is in the interstices of this question that Darl fantasizes about going to the water-filled gourd at night, stirred awake, to see the stars in the water inside the gourd, to be intoxicated into an erotic reverie.  But the text reverts back to reality.  Back to the scene where his father had asked him about Jewel’s whereabouts. The text brings us in and out of internal journeys into external journeys and out again and back again. This is what gives the novel a heightened sense of journey for the reader.  The pleasure of the text is not only Darl’s own bodily pleasure, but the text itself becomes an erogenous zone. The text is a sensuous locus of pleasure as well as the pleasure of the character Darl himself, despite Darl’s own descent into madness.

21.9.06

Jean Mohr's Photographs of Boys in After the Last Sky (with Edward W. Said)


in After the Last Sky:

The Palestinian boy in Jean Mohr’s photograph elicits sadness just by looking into his eyes (WOR 623). He is of unknown age, so the caption says, because we are not sure if he is even a child although he is small enough to be a child.  His child-sized tummy, poking out from beneath his tight Grease t-shirt is tiny like a child’s. He doesn’t have a man’s beard.  Nor is he a toddler.  He has a playful half-akimbo pose with his left arm perched on his hip, a boy’s shaved head like a London chimney sweep and his body semi-contrapposto – but his face is veritably adult looking with those sad sad eyes.
  “You see it in our children who seem to have skipped a phase of growth or, more alarming, achieved an out-of-season maturity in one part of their body or mind while the rest remains childlike” (623).  Said has similar impressions to my own.  Except Said is writing in the first person plural “we.” “Our children,” he says.  A Palestinian himself, Said is not only looking at a boy marked by deportation, war, and strife but looking at one of his own exiled children, a child who has grown up too fast, as the clichéd expression goes.  This assertion of “we” makes his already poignant comments – and the photograph itself – an intimate expression of the pain and loss of the Palestinian exile.  This is the portrait of a child whom the Palestine’s enemies say,  “Kill them before they kill you” (623).  This is a child that the enemy says could be a potential terrorist; they say in Lebanon you should kill the children because they’re the ones who’ll kill (623).  The child in the picture is lost.  The real child who suffers is lost in a bungled list of population reports and military strategy.
But how can you justify that kind of statement when you look at this photograph – or any of the photographs in the After the Last Sky?  What kind of sloughing off of humanity do you have to do until you reach the point of disregard for human life?  Is the point of no return when you can believe that “there are no Palestinians” (623)?  Insert any group here for “Palestinian”.  When you can strip the Palestinians of identity like, “Non-Jews. Terrorists. Troublemakers. DPs. Refugees.  Names on a card.  Numbers on a list” (624)?  It seems to me, once you strip a people of their sense of place and identity you can then place upon them labels sufficient to your own cause.  The Palestinians have nowhere to call Palestine, no stable place to call home (although there has been an attempt by Palestinians like Said to refer to this disposed land as Israel/Palestine).  The boy in Mohr’s photograph, ill-fitted in his American style t-shirt – what is he thinking?  What is he trying to tell the observer?  What can be read in his face?  If anything?
Jean Mohr, photographer
He is similar to another boy who appears later on in the book.  This time a young villager is peering into the window of an Israeli officer in Kalandia, near Ramallah in 1967 (640).  In a series of photographs by Mohr that illustrate the juxtaposition of two worlds: one Israeli and the other Palestinian, in this one he captures another Palestinian boy caught by the photographer peeking into the quotidian life of the conqueror’s den.  The photographer is taking the photograph from the inside capturing the child looking inside.  The soldier is oblivious to the child and lost in thought (640). The Israeli officer has one hand on his chin and the villager has one hand on the windowpane, a look of shy curiosity imbued in his eyes. He has been caught by the gaze of the camera and looks downward just enough to give himself away as the forgotten one. 

14.8.06

Poem: "St. Roch"

St. Roch

Your ancestors are buried here,
she said,
pointing to the fuzzy monitor;
my roots displayed
as if someone had known all along
that francis killman is my Great Grandfather,
a tattoo of a woman sewn on his thigh
that I have never seen before,
never knew him before,
gets kinda excited
decomposed into a puddle
at St. Roch
his ashes are —
I presume, , ,
but I can never find him,
passing the chapel,
Cubicle “A-2-Z” is absent,
a square window penciled in on the side,
and peering in like Scrooge on Christmas day —
I see there are crutches, braces, wooden canes,
old socks
s t r e w n
on rocks carved, “Thank you to a saint”
LEFT BY KIERKEGAARD’S FAITHFUL
and we are changed
the peeled off pavement
of Holy Trinity walk
and Saint Irenaeus lane
suffer … drop a penny, sink a ship, sailor blue leaning against the wall, washed out from the lake pontchartrain after the storm
Three Boys at the Pantheon

1.8.06

Eulogy for My Dog Maggie: 1990-2006

Dog walks on a gravel road
Maggie on a walk
When my dog Maggie died, I wrote her eulogy.
     When a girl reaches that age of sweet sixteen uncertainty, my girl has reached the age of mortal certainty, her skeleton worn out from a teenaged span of use, her gauzy eyes barely seeing, her ears clotted with wind, her matted hair uncombable  she sits in the living room panting, refusing water, wagging her tail nevertheless.
     She was a Humane Society special. $50. That’s what she cost. Including her shots. Nick was 9. I was 11. Brad was like 16. Brad, Nick and I picked her from a mixed bitch’s litter, the babies all scrunched up beneath her teets, we picked the one  eyes still kinda closed  who had the personality we were looking for, independent but lovable.  Mom was concerned, “How big is she going to get?”  The vet assured us this dog could be a house dog (She ended up being an outside/inside dog).  She was a Springer Spaniel mix; we didn’t meet the father. And the mother is a strange memory -- because why would I remember her, the dog who bore my baby when I myself and my family would become a mother to this mutt? Maggie is the name we gave her after severe brainstorm in the living room.  We called her many titles over the years.  Fat girl, we called her. Pretty girl. Morga. Maggie. Morgus. Thing. Baby. Hey, baby. Mooga. Maggie Roselli. Maggie the Magnificent.
     Her first night we were afraid she would shit all over the house, so we put her in the bathroom and shut the door. She cried all night. I slept in the top bunk, being older  and Nick slept on the bottom. Both of us heard Maggie’s cries. She hated being by herself. Even till the end. She hated it. She would prove to be a dog who followed you wherever you went. Just to be with you. So she wouldn’t be alone.
     She would get on a kneeboard in the Tchefuncte river just so she would not have to wait alone in the boat. She followed Nick and I to the bus stop  and sometimes attempted to get on the bus!  She went with me into the woods and we got lost a few times.  We were off the beaten path; we had gone into the woods to eat blackberries; I turned to her  as lost as she was  “Maggie, where are we?” She just looked at me, crushed chlorophyll frescoed into her face.
     We finally got out of the woods, onto a country road a few miles from the house.  She didn’t complain.  And just a few years ago  in her later years  she followed Zack and I to town.  It’s a long walk to town but Maggie insisted she come along.  When we got to the river she walked down the algae-covered concrete steps and got soaked; she loved it.  But when we got to the hamburger shop near the main drag and I tried to get Maggie some water from the clerk, Maggie wanted to get inside into the Air Conditioning.  Her tongue was panting so painfully, that it almost reached the ground.  But I wouldn’t let her.  She looked like a sea hag come from her morning bath.   She waited behind the paned glass door and at the first moment she got she squeezed past a customer and showed up by my side.  She scared a lady exiting the restaurant. “Get that thing away from me!”  I have to admit, inadvertently, Maggie looked menacing.  I pretended she wasn’t my dog, but when the owner asked whose dog it was, Zach turned me in, “It’s his dog,” pointing directly at me.  I picked up Maggie and cradled her sloppy wetness to my dry shirt and walked out.  We called a cab; they charged a canine tax.  Bastards.  Zach loved it.  So did Maggie.  I don’t think I let Maggie follow me on my walks ever again.