R. Virgil Ellis

CANTO 1 Hung-up and dried

Hung-up and dried in the tent, on a misty glum morning,
full in retreat from academia and domesticia,
this lonely quest I ply, two-ply, four-ply polyester tread,
to follow Buddha, see through illusion my brittle self.

Slowly then and with plodding keys, the gas lantern
frothing off its hiss of light, typing hard lines
down the halls of my soft thoughts. Not looking back,
keeping always the thought forward
and learning to breathe the long meaty breath
taught by Walt and Charles and Jack,
and yea Ezra and Allen too. Not that such breathing comes easy,
it's just my stumbling song.

Plump raindrops pat now and then rolling off the drizzle-spangled
box-elder that crowded out the nettles and the zany ragweed,
squatters taking over when the great elms died.
Sing woodpecker holes in the elm-stub, then,
and pay attention to the inside ticking words blabbing on
if you can find them as some jet plane hogs breathless the sky.

Cross-legged then and half-assed up to hips
in paraphernalia not of the smoking kind God forbid
but of the clatter kind, L. C. Smith dank old hoss,
and the creaking saddle of the senses,
hanged-up pauses between clogged-up phrases!

This much gangly language spun off a grungy Smith
makes a spongy dungeon of a poem prosy, but let it
hang where it may, dangle in the crux-fire
where the words come bubbly-troubley and the instant
censor says No, you fool, it won't do!
But it's on, it's begun, it's got to clear the censors
in long leaps of limby language.

They were never wrong, the old masters,
if they could see me now, plump with a great tomato
down the gullet, rich in juicy smear
and with a hot cup of herb tea, snug
in the drippy tent, listening to the clunky things
rattling in the bulgy word-cupboard, setting the table
here in pell-mell what-the-hell ring-the-bell fashion
clattering out tomato-y succulent poems!
So the ironic dovetails and nosedives
incestuous spirals and brittle struts of wit
nosetails and dovedives
until the bi-plane crashes duality.
Oh yeah I want to singah—
now comes a little songah:

Long ago in the Sangha
Divas danced in the Dhamma.
They could do such wicked mambas,
in the hills or on the pampas.
They danced for all your papas,
they danced inside your mamas.

The end of the first canto
is the end of Canto the First, number one.
Nothing much has been done.

Hear "Canto 1" performed by The Chamber Rock Ensemble


The 2River View, 4.2 (Winter 2000)