In this ruthless zone of nervous brutality
all the pleasures
eating magical polyps in a Pompeiian mercury shop
finding myself green
an invisible proleptic enigma
seeking to make the dead take heed
to make the dead wake up & listen
as they suck through their nostrils
rich consumptions of chickpeas & vomit
the patricians boarding Soso’s* piscatorial motifs
” their genital hairs perfumed with lascivious saffron
with a clandestine cynical rot
it is the day before Vesuvius
& giant hogs are slaughtered for numerous triclinia
then magically slithering along the “Street of the Tombs”
to the rancid mirage of the feasts
where the women
with the sex of earthquake broaches
with a lust for suckling pigs & goblets of blood
their nipples arrayed
with wet pieces of silver
at the villa of the Tauris’
or the Porcius’
or the Aper’s “*
feasting on spicy moray & mullet
always spiny with anticipated carnage
discussing the exploits of Brebix & Nobilior *
reading a list from common murdering tablets
the instinctive labial twitchings
eyeing the buttered snails & the “beheaded birds”
while sipping on strong Falernian wines
my transparent ions burning with prolepsis
attempting to nudge their shoulders
with strangely mephitic gusts
yet nothing exists except indifference & bribery
the gambling schools
an ace of dice called “the throw of dogs”
wagered for sesterces & silver
& I flit along the “broad flags of travertine”
inside the Pompeiian Forum
its northern end propled with literal apparitions to Juno & Minerva
with my invisible citron optics
I see the spacious exchange of the “priestess
the butchered crows at the bloody macellum *
flitting down the Strada dell’ Abbondanza
to the Strada Stabiana south to the Caserma dei Gladiatori*
watching the killers practice blows to the urinary organs
the stench of the unruly gladiators’ barracks
all of them doomed
having no eyes to see me
then flitting to the baths
to the thermae
the prostitutes swarming the tepidarium
their bodies adorned with jewellery & crab
heated by Venusian oysters & tumult
always in their eye
the fact of capital gain & slaughter
an imposing whore belching an eel from her thorax
another spewing figs from the creams of her life organ
& the talk is of butchery & terror
of freshly spilled intestinal seas
& I ramble the diaspora of the mansions
screaming in terse intuitive Latin
the lodgings of Sallust *
of the “Golden Cupids”
of the “Silver Wedding”
full of psychic curiosity
watch the buildings of “Sarno limestone” weaken
in their final scintillation of opprobrium & malice
the day before Vesuvius a
crescendo of routine & blankness
of rude stomping in the arena
f crass imperial comfort like a disease of ironic ammonia
the final poltergeist of Pompeii screaming
at the last sun breaking up in the sea
at the last imported barbarity of tigers
at the last nepotistical confetti of political blackmail
now flitting through the Porto Ercolanese *
listening to the dead volcano groan
sprinkling acid on the revellers at Fannius Synistor’s *
waiting for the sun to blow open
for the lava to flow & turn the flesh into tufa
From Kaleidoscopic Omniscience, edited by Daniel Staniforth, Skylight Press, Great Britain, 2013: Impulse & Nothingness section pp. 214-7. Republished here courtesy of the author.
From the Glossary, pp. 271-2
*Soso: Creator of mosaics of fishing scenes, of doves drinking from a fountain. The latter painting now held by the Vatican. Originally hailed from Pergamon. His visual motifs scaled to the modern eye emit a literal non-kinetic, standardized imagery.
*Tauris, Porcius, Aper: Wealthy Pompeians.
*Brebix & Nobilior: prominent gladiators of that period.
*Macellum: Marketplace in Pompeii.
*Sallust/Golden Cupids/Silver Wedding: These were lodgings of the rich in Pompeii. Now escavated for general viewing. Homes were called Domus in Latin.
*Street of the Tombs, Strada dell’Abbondanza, Caserma dei Gladiatori, Strada Stabiana, Porto Ercolanese: All actual streets or locations in pre-eruption Pompeii.
Fannius Synistor: Well-to-do citizen of Pompeii.
Will Alexander (born 1948) is a poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, and visual artist. He was the recipient of a Whiting Fellowship for Poetry in 2001 and a California Arts Council Fellowship in 2002, in 2014 American Book Award for Singing In Magnetic Hoofbeat: Essays, Prose, Texts, Interviews, and a Lecture , and 2016 the Jackson Poetry Prize (awarded by Poets & Writers) .He earned a BA in English and creative writing from the University of California–Los Angeles in 1972. He has worked several jobs (including the LA Lakers box office), taught at various institutions, and has been associated with the nonprofit organization Theatre of Hearts/Youth First, working with underserved, at-risk youth. His work has appeared in BOMB, Boston Review, Entropy, Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, Fence, jubilat, and The Nation.
Alexander’s poetry and his visual art have been greatly influenced by his readings of Bob Kaufman, Octavio Paz, and Francophone Negritude writers such as Aimé Cesaire and Jean-Joseph Rabéarivelo. Alexander describes their themes of cosmic isolation from society and interior discovery as an “alchemical metamorphosis.” Much of Alexander’s work is characterized by this powerful mix of metaphor and sophisticated language.
His most recent work includes:
- Singing in Magnetic Hoofbeat: Essays, Prose Texts, Interviews and a Lecture 1991-2007.(prose anthology) Essay Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-9791189-7-5
- Kaleidoscopic Omniscience: Asia & Haiti/ The Stratospheric Canticles/ Impulse & Nothingness.(poetry anthology) Skylight Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-908011-49-7
- The Transparent as Witness.(collaborative prose) Will Alexander & Janice Lee. Solar Luxuriance, 2013.
- The Codex Mirror: 60 Drawings by Byron Baker & 60 Writings by Will Alexander.(aphorisms) Anon Edition, 2015. ISBN 978-1-312620-47-6
- Based on the Bush of Ghosts.(long poem, chapbook) Staging Ground, 2015.
- Spectral Hieroglyphics: A Poetic Troika.(three long poems) illustrated by Rik Lina. Rêve à Deux, 2016.
- Alien Weaving.(novella) Anonymous Energy, 2016.
- Secrets Prior to the Sun.(essay) White Print Inc, 2016.
- The Audiographic As Data.(collaborative automatic writing) Will Alexander & Carlos Lara. Oyster Moon Press, 2016.
- At Night on the Sun.(play) Chax Press, 2017.
- Colloquy at the Abyss.(conversation with Harold Abramowitz) Insert Blanc Press, 2017.
- Across the Vapour Gulf.(aphorisms) New Directions, 2017.
- Phosphenic Threadings.(two short prose pieces) Evidence Publications, 2018.
- A Cannibal Explains Himself To Himself.(essays) The Elephants, 2019.
- (conversation with Heller Levinson) Concrete Mist Press, 2020