Purple plaque plugs these rose drowsy lines
Cowled slugs slow tunes wet needed nibbling speech
Crawls to neck to nip & gnaw ear snack signs
Where moons have placed your pierced panache.
One day we’ll dance this sonnet for Monet
Gather green garden bonnet bright flowers
Moist morning your sweet toes curled sachet
& place feathers in quick fallen embrace.
Breathless word sighs don’t keep us paced spoil
Rhyme misalign pillows cockeyed up side
Down marigolds spill orange & yellow roil
Lemon grass whispers timed noir ride:
Crimson lisps smear across smoke screen gloss
While robed within plush toilet rinse & floss.
- Moon fresh ribbon
ball dust sea
- Fastened to fish
- Homespun shark
teeth reek bark
oil tea tree
- Screeched scrounge scrawn
ear reach thrills
- Stringing brew broils
catch read bin
- Critical swarm
- Smoked fuzz moss
- Feet faintly sweet
- Poised hipster red
shower cap &
- Now turns one last
- Ask brack weed meme
type taste twirl
- Spring Selene not
care fool horse
from dear morph
- Under deep stays
Not one but two needs relish sweet sorrow.
Wooden shoe wish new saga song bonnet?
Purple flower here now gone tomorrow.
One knows not lief, and if hair be sonnet,
Wold eat polka dotted cotton culotte.
Back seats escape too simple bounded rules,
Schemes where at smart turn deer quickly departs,
Shirking away from linked coupling rope pulls.
Gears thrown greased ball bearings plop soft thudded,
Rustling rough yon fat fig leaf yellowed grass
Into well palms of gleeful looped poet,
Frogs Voila! in deep wide throated bass:
Now twanged by gee sang plus web danced for thee,
Not two but three may now exclaim in glee.
what is this sound sprinkling glow
yellow doilies weaving thru blue
fescue glass chandelier worm atrium
air city surf gas soup & jazz salad
sitting under dwarf apple waiting,
waiting, wanting nothing save
green this wait as Thoreau’s
Wangle Dangle backyard rhetoric
drinking can of Okanagan
Spring: “natural, simple, & pure”
pale ale & all bronze
gone Henry’s lawn
this dog’s lair
cut once a year
then go to seed
rampant & wild
so much depends upon so little
take this green garden wagon
go on, take it, really take it
grab the handle and pull
you’ll see the wagon is full
of ripe red tomatoes
bucket of finished garlic
bowl of basil & cilantro
some zinnias to dry inside
there’s no one in that pink
ceramic bird house hanging
from the golden rain
tree imagine living
there your nest
waiting for your mate
come home yr turn
go to store & supper
you call the kids
& they call back
Not Yet! Not Yet!
a cloud like a clown down
pillow on clean blue sheet
perhaps it will drop a load
somewhere near soon &
sweep weep sleep deep
- Instead of page numbers, “The Crocodiles,” a novel by the Egyptian writer Youssef Rakha, is marked by 405 numbered, block paragraphs, the whole symmetrically framed by references to Allen Ginsberg, the US Beat poet, to his “The Lion for Real,” signed “Paris, March, 1958.”
- Opening Rakha’s book, one finds a hand drawn map labeled “The Crocodiles’ Cairo,” which includes a drawing of the head of a lion, which might somewhat resemble, in caricature, the photo portrait of Youssef Rakha that appears on the inside back cover of the book, at least the seemingly ironic smile of both suggests they know something one or the other or the reader may not.
- Napoleon’s March to Moscow, 1812: Description. Lineal novel. Variables. How to tell the story? What happened along the way, and back? They were marching through snow, in below freezing temperatures, and you want to know the exact temperature at daily geographical interval locations? Body counts alone won’t tell the story. How to present data and information? Multivariate analysis in a single photograph. How to revision history? On the way back, there were no ramparts, just fields of snow and a sea of time. Napoleon may well have dreamed of warmer days, when he lived in Egypt, of unlocking a language, and of a code that would provide protection for all against the cold. A wise leader rules with allowances, and instead of burning books, gets everyone reading.
- In Astra Taylor’s “Examined Life,” Michael Hardt sets out in a rowboat in a privileged pond to argue the meaning of revolution. What does it mean to make revolution? What is the relationship between freezing temperatures, direction, and a line of march that grows thinner with each step each man takes? “Carte Figurative.” Data flow, “one ruling elite replaced with another” (Hardt), credits and discredits following, merits and demerits, kudos and kicks upside the head. Note: Hardt rows backwards – he can’t see where he’s going – at one point “…running aground, shipwrecked.” Figurative language, the hyperbole of revolution.
- “Carte Figurative.” Figurative language. Not to be taken literally. And don’t confuse Minard the author (cartographer) with Napoleon the character. Regression analysis becomes necessary. What is the relationship between the author and the narrator? Perhaps none, except that one sees what the other does not. Irony. “The Crocodiles” is a figurative map of multiple variables that attempts a regression analysis to explain past events and predict future probabilities. Note that Rakha is also journalist and photographer; each paragraph of the novel may be taken as a still photograph, a variable, part of a portfolio.
- “On the Road” with Kerouac (para. 248) and Bonaparte. My kingdom for a 1949 Pontiac Chieftain. Interactive notes: what was the cost of a 1949 Hudson new using the value of today’s poem to that of a muscle car driven by a youthful single male in 1964? Sal knew to take a southern route on his winter trip: The novel as map of a trip.
- Custom as costume. Napoleon as grammarian, his Code a multivariate blending of revolution, revelation, and reform. The novel as procedure that everyone can follow, the interaction of nouns with verbs. Custom as vernacular, empire as formal attire. Due process as drug.
- The Beatnik as attitude, beatitude. Jazz as revolution, the novel of improvisation. Notes out of context. Bonaparte’s men dropping (like) seeds (para. 256). Napoleon as lion.
- At times, reading “The Crocodiles” is like watching a foreign film with subtitles, because while all the common characteristics of the novel are included (plot; narration; characters – major, minor, dynamic, static, protagonist, antagonist, foil; dialog – though sparse, and blended with the prose, the paragraphs all block formatted; setting – places, times, seasons, dwellings, streets; diction that creates style; irony, satire, and sarcasm), something strange appears, and that strangeness is what the Crocodiles’ group calls poetry: “self-sufficiency…desire…intention” (para. 316).
- Like Minard’s “Carte Figurative” of Napoleon’s march to and from Russia (1812-1813), Rakha’s “The Crocodiles” is a figurative coming of age graphic that plots multiple comings and ages (decades, variables) packed into a single view.
- The juxtapositions of disparate subjects and actions (of real Lions with Visions of Lions; of Beats with Crocodiles; of poetry with prose; of people with bridges – para. 80) connote something new, new views: the flower children having dropped their petals now sticks of thorns (“just ask the nearest hippie,” Scalia).
- Transparency does not necessarily lead to transcendence. Neither honor nor shame stand alone as values, but they are the crossroads at which people gossip, tell stories, barter and eat and drink.
- Affinities, themes, motifs: the Beats, poetry, revolution, change, maturation, growth, body, sex, predicament, society, margins (paragraphing, units of composition, sentences), ambiguity, protest, independence, exploitation, reflection, writing, file, premature, people, obstacles, brain, chemicals, women, work, matrix, publishing, poverty and ignorance, position in group, generations (lost, beat, hippie, next), translation, drugs (real and imagined), neighbors, values, wants, needs, humor, music, violence, aggression, excuses, decadence, pop culture, misinformation, criticism, destruction, suicide, sacrifice, counter-culture, lion (cat), crocodile, logic, argument, howl, pain, Ginsberg (Howl and Moloch), dissolution, analysis, invasiveness, love, ambition, relationships, disdain, synchronicity, human nature, signifiers.
- There is something too of the noir to “The Crocodiles,” a mystery, with the narrator, “Gear Knob,” whose nickname suggests some 1950’s hard-boiled detective story character, assuming the role of the detective as corrective if not moral force. But noir is cartoon. Or “The Crocodiles” might have been a graphic novel. Instead, it is a poetic novel that breaks with genre convention and creates formal purpose and revisions value, what people want.
“The Crocodiles,” by Youssef Rakha, 2013. English translation 2014 by Robin Moger, Seven Stories Press, New York, November 2014.