A Selection
by Armand Schwerner

Curated by Adam Schwerner and Michael Heller


. .


                                                       after Henri Michaux, "l'Avenir"


when the mar
                        when the mar
                                               the marshymorasswamps
the maledictions
when the mahahahahas
the mahahatorrors
the mahagonorrhyphilohahas
the matratrimatratrihahas
the rancywitherwatcheries
the bungholecockroachogrebuggers
the carbofecalfungorators of pus-y pissy pus-y
the voyeurisibled putrocephalics
the fat the plagues the maggofactions
the neuroses the carnages the engulpings
the viscid the snuffed-out the foul
when the honey become stony
the icebergs leaking blood
the maddened Jews precipitously ransoming Christ
the Acropolis
the barracks turned into cabbages
the glances into bats or mailboxes
fresh hands into tidal bores
other vertebrae made of windmills
joyjuice shifting to burns
caresses into twining ravages
the best articulated organs into saberduels
the sand with its russet caress into lead to crush sunbathers
the tepid tongues, passionate promenaders, changing
                                         themselves into knives or rocks            piledrivers
the exquisite sound of coursing rivers into forests of parrots or this
when the Implacable-Indescribable will sit his 1000 foetid buttocks                 on
turning, turning in
    upon himself without hope of escape
when anguish, last
    twig of Being, atrocious point,
    will alone survive, growing in fragility
    sharper and increasingly intolerable
                                                                  and the
obdurate Nothing all around
drawing back like panic
final memory
                        minute life of each man
                                    tiny life of every animal
never again
                           O               emptiness






the courthouse

he lets the boat drift
I've longed to imitate a rower who has shipped
his oars totally inhabit my spinal process, me so devoted so soft-
voiced yes
                   -his small-keeled boat; lake-bounds
eating the shoreline -
When the Watcher disappears, he answered
earth eats blackened deer-
                                              must it be
again always hemorrhage
into revision I'm worn by this red greed
for release, did he was it matter was he said death
is a medical root
and had he seized upon the pierced deer
as teacher? disappearance,
the monastery
violence of what overrides sensation, no one knows
what makes a good school, picture of a boat, picture
a green boat, word Boat, predicate class Boat, imitate a rower? a rower
who lies on his back, stretched, head down in his green boat he sees
                                                                                             nothing but sky
the penguin-dance of the grebes out of peripheral
apprehension, monastery Regent, and who could bear that?


where the boat passes, improvise

                                                                                   for my son Adam

he sits with Stone the Death
and munches by the door

will he eat papyrus
in the drummer's hallway?

he leaves me I'm sad he climbs
the needle to see;

what an eye! careful
now rope-dancer

how the desert holds
Adam the Egypt, dancing

flyboy in a groove, light
pyramid rock oh

cries in the corridor
once more

Stone the Death
plays an old song-

he'll jump through he'll turn rings
he sits among the many
figurines, he leaves me.

They bow they count;
how long it takes;

they sail quietly they
sail quietly


the work
                                                                                   for Phil Niblock

I. the work

it is not that there is beginning is there
    no beginning
                                             the fluid text becomes its very river, rapids, it is not
that the text is not or that beginninglessness itself be in the heart
                                                  of the text,
                                                                          that the search there is the beginning
of the mistake    of
     considering     of
           lust for a beginning hold me lover but no it is not possible
to contract for a stay
          it is not possible not to voice, to voice
                    poem must be possible there is no walking
                        in this room no sitting no one listens no prone alert
there is only this endless speaking to voice; the head the thighs the red work only
   this endless speaking overheard semiheard it is impossible
     to not overhear the endless speaking in all the bodies
sending sending themselves to themselves there is no
   rolling no eating there is no
     roiling in the fucking-room for no one is it possible not to overhear
the beginningless speaking lizard movement in the mind-body
   gnawing     and a great coil endless there is only the goddess
    of the endless speaking upsurging
       through the asphalt why
is there this no-beginning
   says the weary attention to rest to rest after the capture one
    moment capture of silence the unconscious gossip damped once there
can be no beginning the cut sharp
   cry of the crowbar need to connect but the endless speaking
upsurging there is no
walking no one ever eats there is no running only this speaking no one
is drawing circles or the circle is being drawn
  into the mind loop upon bright loop of the speaking
    forming endless menorah branches of the speaking guttering candles
                                         of the mind's speaking   random is it
random random animalcules of the wax of the
  wax of the mind's speaking the
       clambering lizard of the mind playing as it's the moaning
                                   of the endless speaking of
                                           bright gutterings
giving the dark an Egyptian relief what's going on under or
  undercutting beyond or transshaping through the speaking
master, there is no walking no master no one is sitting here no one is squeezing
  her thighs together for the lips' pleasure there is no
             listening no listening! only
the endless speaking the vast cabin of branches
  forking out in constantly unexpected emptinesses
    the raw cabin woodworld the sap of such
                                    joyousness! no
rest, is it awakening? could it be the attentiveness
  implicit in the red work the stems intent like old Leaky
    inside their patience their unstopping patience the watchfulness
of the stems
  branches observing branches, is this
    an awakening or a dying?
                                                                green-ochre lizzard-color stems
          uranium stillness
                                       is the action a phenomenal
                                            joke not patience but slavery attentive it is not possible
                                                  to contract for a stay

2. the chair

it's no good it's closed the door is closed the energy
wave's short-circuited impossible not to sing
in the song-body? not possible? no worst there is none
than the fat thighs of a past poem's body
insisting that venereal nostalgia-chant the desiccated labia
suck me up into despair-canal, talk talk against that suction
chair chair I want you remind me I don't want
to invent you be this chair-wood I want to invent
nothing, grain, clear grain, rough-cut steadiness I would travel
your interstices, siena-flesh colonies of atoms, be my own guest
and deal hospitably in the ignorance of who's host
I remember my blind hands on her back, eating, finding
their spots of rest never
ask permission let me embrace the mystery
and despair of my thinning hair That
which is One is One That which is not One
is also One. if I'm strange to myself who
will let me in? where? who guest who host?
can you speak to the chair you can't speak from the outside of your red
organ-colonies, uncarved block original simplicity I want to invent
nothing how does the block flow
to the light? I say 'interfuse' I'm always falling into despair of words
I water I fluo fluere, try
not-I, die, when my father Elie was dying
in the hospital near Columbus Circle I was traveled
by contempt that he fought his ending that he had no teaching for graceful readiness 'you have
the car? we must leave' he said to Willy, his hands
crafted hairpieces in his strong days, great craft
he said to Jeanine, 'we scientists must get all the scientists,
atomic scientists, together, we must meet and do it, work' who
spoke? voice beneath voice, and now I read in Kalu Rinpoche
"there is no yearning for or joy
at the coming of death. It is loathed. Any man at all

        who has a sound body, good complexion, and feels happy and
        comfortable has no thought for death. When the sickness of
        death strikes, his body's strength ebbs and he cannot even sit
        in a crouch; the glow of health wanes, and he looks like a corpse;
        he suffers with no means to prevent the thorns of pain; medi-
        cine, rituals or ceremonies, none of these is of any benefit, and
        he knows he is to die; his suffering and fear increase and he
        despairs of leaving everything and having to go alone. As the
        last meal is taken and the last words are uttered, think 'I also
        do not pass beyond this nature.'

I see Elie now I am calm is grief a calm or
am I so happy to move and lose my knowing that I move, the first
daffodils yellowly spear into Spring's direction they say
Move, the sperm is traveling ground, I am sick
from their energy they say Move I follow
my sucking past like a tail am I following my poem, dis-
covering, disclosing, can be here? a clear chair
wants me? talks to me? holds out a grounding
lesson the chair nerves my tendrils into spruce floor, lowering
hysteria into earthly sperm into worm tracing mineral
slow castings the fire center am I crazy will I cohere
I ask almost every day now, that I experience all the red pain
and keep dancing doing my life the pain constant
ground-bass? is this poetry or, or
language? this is poetry without wheels, shape
in its motion it is not possible to contract for a stay

3. Fugue: the weaving

this precious human birth the beginning of that poem-body is the clear grain
of these organ-colonies I talk to my blind hands
startling their way on the fleshy back of the world no
other song beyond this tactile sailing no other recourse not
recourse but metabolic groundwater my blood, no
other moment of this by Meister Eckhart 'the fleetest
beast to bear you to perfection is your pain' not
your suffering about your pain, embrace
of its minutest quaverings I am the guest
of the mystery of my father never ask
permission the great coil endless is traveling ground
the raw sludge the sap of such joyousness!
the action a phenomenal earthly sperm dis-
covering this poetry my life doing my life
constantly unexpected spear of original simplicity
chair chair are you an awakening? the vast branches this
attentiveness of daffodils having need of me, pottery
of near-stillness loam of the happiness upsurging
drawn down into the mineral tendrils of the fire center to be alone
in my body is a calm through the grounding planet turn
within attentiveness of the dance one moment capture
endless gutterings moment after moment of my mining
mineral hands yellow-ochre movements of my wife the earth
breathing vulva of such sonic amplitudes
'we were sailing along on moonlight bay,
la la la la la la la la la la la la' Joe Chaikin's open dancers
sang in The Serpent and drew my tears
such years ago never ask permission there is no speaking
master arrogating to himself the cause of the crouch
and the waning glow or the clear daffodil spear-fisherman
of roundtripping energy what I find I find
this wheelless pottery loop upon bright loop what's
going on or in that I can sing this that I call
now The Blundering Song of No Invention it is not possible
to contract for a stay


the will

'the force that destroyed almost all the Indians,'
Don Juan says, 'was bliss
for the sorcerer.' the pressure. the pressure pushed him
to find his will. he's so joyous, so
lucky to bear the visits to impeccably become the sun.
o the endless habit of moon's reflectings.
so I want this man's breadth
and that man's scope, I
reach out, my hands smelling
from my own pancreas. so it's not
out there and in this mastery
I remember I'm, this grain of sand
the conscious grain taking on its pride.
at the end of the apartment conversation of 56th Street
Miriam said 'my whole life yes is an as if.
tears in my eyes, of terror. I'd known her, badly, for years,
but this was beyond not knowing.
choked by the dizziness in my own body as she said it, 'That
is the most terrible thing I've ever heard,' I said
'that is the most terrifying thing...' the clamp
tightening around my balls
turn turn turn in the turning
for the time is short, no leisure left
for further mechanical wandering.
I'm writing in my record book dating from 1956
on Feb. 14, 1957 I copied in it, from René Crevel,
'no daring is fatal.' I tell Phill Niblock in his Datsun
by the Staten Island Ferry, 'I know I'm terribly serious
it's not time yet for me to laugh
inside my learnings. I've laughed too long
bopping off the walls outside them. the world I feared
will have to bear the birth of this will.'
how wonderful
to become this young man
who's losing everything, the bones showing
and the old man's no time left, no time at all
each second a buzz of power
neither merely in the heart nor in the object.
oscillating energy bridge of emptiness. drive
into the fearful sense of offending. too abstract
says my technical master-poet's voice.
if the poem earns by it energy
let that be its smell and corrosive grain, may that
drench the incus and stapes, stammer the tongue's buds
into sour and sweetness. o masters
of my teachings how sweet you are.
right now on the ferry at 2 AM crossing the bay
I visualize the alien Christian Gurdjieff's face
and kiss it on the mouth hold his body
till it cleaves to mine and is. how unbearable
to read Don Juan saying 'the warrior is patient
and waits for his will' or 'you know when you do your best
Carlitos; not when you're immortal
but when the time is gone and each second
and each act is the last on your earth.'
o masters of my teachings I love you
as I caress the goddess of my body.
how beautiful is the will, how wonderful the pirate.
is it true the desert-blight explodes its being
into this brightness of second after second?
is it true here by this brown plastic veneer kitchen table
my body, like Yeats' once, is blazing. he wrote
'of a sudden my body blazed.'how like a god of luck
I should sit here next to the 8 celery stalks on the green plate
alive! alive for this burning! and my arrogant sorcerer friend George
telling everybody what to read, what
mushrooms to make it with, how to live, what
to do, striding with his shoulder-bag of books and offerings
here in my heart now! so many teachers! imagine
the ultimate wealth, like my goddess Tara
visualizing herself totally in incandescence
in my blue lotus heart, riches of wandering in our places this world
where none is not your teacher, none
unavailable to the teaching that you are
in your outreachings. everyone a teacher!
whoever's tired will rest but in himself
which proceeds by proceeding in the space of his procession
through himself the crisp figure and empty connecter.
if I could sink my hand in and touch my live heart
the sound would shatter boiler-plate
I rise against the image but it won't down
'no daring is fatal' says the upwelling daimon. it's right
but it is this red bull of energy, god transforming appetite, or
the terrible piper I fear more than my death
it's my life that's to pay him back
for the power breath of his uprising
for the gonad breath of his arrival
for my gravity-centered demolished through the coming-on. how
do I play what gives me will
through the terror of its coming-on,
abstract as blood? my peace with it my peace
with it. light eludes the hands, the moment is the light
around the hands, of the hands themselves, moving
mudra of connections of light, the maggots
of privateness dissolving. now the lava
of the need for the power direction storms
my body from bed. the body remember the poem-lines
it was told to remember at its dying into sleep.
in this deadly morning unmooring I travel
the terror-goddess' dry cunt and flaky loins, burden
of the thick dream-mass tangling the space
clots me in the bedroom to the bathroom
the regular shower-droplets ting-tings of pain
I want to kill and dismember and eat everyone I know
to be the sorrow-king to come to the sorrow-king's
judgment places and dance in the unmooring shapelessness.
all speech is song and arrow in the unrivaled moment, star-
pulse in the morning bedroom. impossible
to not sing in the song-body. sing in the
in the sing in the sing in the song
sing body sing speech sing arrow-star body
sing in the arrow-star song in the
dream-body member dismember song in the sing
in the sorrow-king's body song sing ting-ting
sing clot tiny star-sorrow thick dream-mass
in dance ting pain shower star song-morning
sun-singing pulse of it pulse of it pulse of it path
of pulse in lava-song force of it crystal-sing shatter-song.
death at my left, death-song, if I forget
death at my left how to survive
that forgetting? how many times I have said
to remember and so many times forgot said Diane
remember me
remember me
and we will die into light-song. remember me.
remember me.
no no this is only halfway, less than half of halfway
Naomi says 'I see so much of you now, so much
old self but I have no need to tell you.
you are at this pinnacle no not pinnacle.'
I am her student twice her age how she burnishes
herself in the profound
of her aloneness, abstract as blood. body-song.
remember me
o yes my sweet teacher Death you are my woman
and will hold me to song you are my woman
beyond any woman I can love you my sperm
like billions of tiny dorjes filling the space then returning the void
o my sweet woman Death it is you that inspirits
and confirms the path and lead to joy my dance
is rich with you sweet teacher I remember you


sounds of the river Naranjana
                                   for Chuck Stein and to the memory of John Lennon

the holiness of the heart's puzzling affectations
the mountain flows the river sits
the obstruction that is knowingness the obstruction that is passion
ah the universe one bright pearl
suddenly a fire starts, no fear
                                                   the fear
of death is the fear
of the loss of the present
like being afraid of slipping
down the sides of the globe not knowing
the top's wherever you are

don't move; sit still; lie there; no grasp

of my intellect on the moments that keep dying, il-
lumination, every moment stinks of the corruption
of its constituents; what I hear keeps changing, the flute
becomes a garbage truck, the velvet grasp
of your hand on my balls becomes winter, the materiality
of my knee and my ass dissolves into a joke, what I know
forgets me again and again. how I love loss. I want
my absence to fill me. what falls away from me then? I'm left
with my song of experience. no disclaimer possible.
everything elicits the ravenous hordes in me. I'm 53 and the fire
of the beginner again burns me into waiting. what time is it? the engines
of pleasure the business of engines, the subconscious gossip
in the dry white American desert

'I feel really lifted up, ecstatic, and then immediately
I'm way down. I mean in seconds.'
'Well - it's not different from how you've always been. just faster. does the
speed mean you're finding the middle way? I hope so.'

the bark of the young balsam fir is smooth red-orange
sometimes grey overtones, marked at regular intervals
by round leaf scars. just look, the older tree, thin

flakes of rusty-tan and grey, lumpy horizontal seams
and blisters. for balanced walking imagine yourself
sitting on a third leg dropped from the end of the spine
and conceive that your real legs are trying to run away from you.

for a week watch the river Naranjana flowing
for a week walk, and for a week watch
the bark of the balsam fir. now
the red-wing lights on it. now
the river eddies, now when you walk, you walk.

'all the subconscious gossip from childhood on
becomes inhuman and beyond evaluation.'

'Well, o.k. but often in wonderful stories of Joyce, even the little diamonds
of Katherine Mansfield, even Checkov that I love - they work toward an
illumination, an epiphany which mostly seems a heavy push by the writer
to make me experience an iron symbol of the whole future life of a being.
something like baby tragedy. in the tragic sense of life you don't remember
that the clear empty sky is always the sky; even when lightning strikes, it's
always sky; anyway it's an order I can't understand. and it's so clear.

w ll k b t ft n n w nd rf l st r s f j c v n th l ttl d m nds f k th r n m nsfld v
n ch ckh v th t l v th w rk t w rd n ll m n ti n n p ph wh ch m stl s ms h v
p sh b th wr t r t m k m xp r nc n r n s mb l f th wh l ft r l f f b ng s m th
ng l k b b tr g d n th tr g c s ns fl fd nt r m mb r th t th cl r mpt sk s lw s
th sk v n wh n l ghtn ng str k s ts lw s sk n w ts n rd r c nt nd rst nd nd ts
s cl n

(solo: bass clarinet)

    He closed his eyes. Why, with his eyes shut, could he see his school-
room more clearly than when he sat at his desk there? He felt an edge of
sadness; then anger showed up on the screen of his mind, a bunch of blue
and green dots at war; then a waterfall with the voice of his father pressed
a tan canoe deep into the river below, the boy and girl in it undone after
rising to the surface twice; then, most frightening of all, no more pictures
but only a black light vibrating like - 'like my breathing,' he thought, as if
the intake and letting go of the breath were the same as the sea-like shifts
of the black mass in back of his eyes. The place from which the pictures
usually came had disappeared and he felt helpless and fluttering in the zoo-
cage whose dark door he couldn't pierce with a single image. That was the
worst of it, the sense of having lost the source, and he was frightened.
    So, confusion - the schoolroom clear behind his closed eyes, but also
fearful darkness. A photograph of the great vacant American desert, all
dry sand and whited skulls, from last term's social studies textbook, en-
tered him. He got up from his chair immediately but felt oddly dizzy and
sat right down again. Why was he upset? He still kept his eyes closed and
against the draining magnet of his anxiety strove to be clear. From his
closed right hand the large transparent green marble dropped onto the
wooden floor; he hardly heard it bounce; 'let it all fall away,' he thought.
That was it. The comfortable source of his mind-pictures slid away like a
boxed space ending in an emptiness; the black screen resisted a little, as if
slowed by some friction, but it also fell away and what was left, the new
place where the desert shimmered, seemed to live throughout his body
not his mind - he wandered around, surprised again and again at the
amount of movement, the presence of so many prairie dogs pulsing in and
out of their holes, the warmth of his meetings with giant cacti full of water-
tubes. His heart beat with unaccustomed force against his chest as he
focused on this lonely home's new sound, one almost like his own voice.

the children
hug each other, mutts, rarely saplings
awkward they
can't open to the maple.

May 1927 the great floods of the Mississippi-Missouri
18,000 square miles inundated
700,000 people driven from home.
arrange yourself dear child of the universe
will you experience the extraordinary
co-incident of flood conditions
in all the chief tributaries of your mind

he tries not to try to find form, no
dominant axes, no panoramas
a garden of accident is what he longs for, he falls
into a snare of tiny symmetries
he's happy for ten minutes the night of the 12th
his phalenopsis had come into flower
he inspires a fine fume like the song of his name
the lyric rises in a bed of infested loam

play           evergreen leaves              yesterday
your breathing divides the time in the bedroom
you're responsible for the Christmas in the nearly blank desert
the almost unheard chittering sound of your name
which is not the name of the matted universe, and is.
the absence of matter that fills the void
is like the memory of your never-born child
how far can you go how far can you go through this weariness
suddenly a fire starts
the wind rises you must try to live
everything changes your world, you change
as you stare at the river Naranjana changing,
as you walk wandering, when the red-orange balsam, its slow
power, invites you and remains itself

    She was going to leave. She was his best friend. Some people you like
visit during Christmas vacation, bring a wooden ornament for the balsam
fir; others you like might come to see you on weekends or play with you in
their house from time to time; but a special friend shares ordinary days
with you, food, and music, and you realize, when she has to go, that the
ordinary's special and you want to say Don't go Don't ever leave me. He
looked from his bridge out over the water and refused to cry but his right
hand hurt. When he looked at it he saw that the palm had marks in it
from where his fingernails had pressed. In the water, traveling beyond,
almost out of sight, a three-masted sailboat was slowly becoming invisible.
'Don't go. Don't ever leave me,' he cried out to the boat, straining his eyes
to follow it as it got smaller and smaller. The bridge suddenly creaked; it
was old and sometimes did that; he felt the death in the wood of the
bridge planks; a chill fluttered in his shoulders; his stomach felt like a cave.
    This had happened before: not a cave but a container of flints pricking
the inside of his stomach, really hurting him: the terrible blap of a seabird
striking one of the windows of the bridge house. A gull? A tern? A king-
fisher? The last time, five months before, death had taken that ugly
albatross - not suddenly but after several hours during which he had failed to
keep the crushed body's breath ongoing. He still woke up sometimes at
around three in the morning. Always the same dream:

          A beautiful golden band shimmered in the center of an enormous
          glass cage which rested on the back of a dinosaur carcass. In its
          lolling mouth it had four small metal cars, each stuffed with a
          little-boy figure in military costume. All of a sudden no sound,
          not a single sound, no breaking of glass, the albatross held tight
          at the midsection by the golden band growing ever smaller.

'O God like the boat,' he thought as he ran back to the bridge house. It
was a tern dead on the pansies in the rectangular planter set below the
window. Where would he burry the bird? Cast it into the water? No. He
carefully removed a one-foot row of pansies along with enough soil to
plant the bird well below the roots and replaced the flowers and apprecia-
tive of the diffuse sunshine softly mantling the water, the bridge and the
bridge house, he went out to walk and look at the flowing current. He
thought he saw a fish open its mouth as it leaped once, and he wasn't sure
whether it had called his name or whether somebody had just said 'you' in
his mind.

simplify the hungry grasping for being into sweetness
loss is the mother of the beautiful, whatever's
given is taken away and that force, ecstasy
is pitched in the sounds that you hear
in the austere, the ascetic. you remember
how your quiet afternoon with your lover
circulates in a desert of frightened misdirections, flints
in the heart center. your will is no glue.
you tear the tissues of the bedroom calm,
avoiding her acceptance like a draft dodger.
it is enacted here, the huge impersonal history
of the world as she retreats in turn to take your role,
the judgment bench of the mind born
in the blue disquiet bodies, the seeking
disarrangement of love, the wild hair among the birthpains
of compassion, the radiant flicker of the candles
like the intermittent light in your delusions, you wander
in the alien sounds of your names, listening
for the river Naranjana, the release
a slow green walk through your bodies
after the effort fails. you have gone that far in your surpriseable readiness
in the mystery that requires you watch and listen incessantly,
the truth in the particular elements of the shifting leaves
temporary among the temporary names in the moist rise of the wind,
the diving kingfisher earning the catch.


the way up is the way down
                       with some material from Robert Kelly and Ted Enslin

so often
as if earth had a trachea
full of dust
I envision my sons Adam and Ari falling through the street

'as if earth had a trachea'
that was your phrase but
I envision my sons Adam and Ari falling through the street
that wasn't what you had in mind?

that was your phrase but
I was drawn to an image of falling;
that wasn't what you had in mind

I was drawn to an image of falling -
the way up is the way down -
did you used to have such pictures?

the way up is the way down
so often
did you used to have such pictures
full of dust


Copyright © 2004 by Adam Schwerner and Michael Heller

Sources and Credits:

Selected Shorter Poems by Armand Schwerner
Junction Press
P.O. Box 40537 / San Diego, CA 92164
Copyright © 1999 by Armand Schwerner

Michael Heller, Conservator of the Literary Estate of Armand Schwerner;
and Mark Weiss, Publisher, Junction Press.