A lamppost named Mark

by Paul-Newell Reaves

When people find it necessary or beneficial
to perceive their fundamental similarities they share
with stigmatized people, rather than the differences,
we will see the beginnings of a real elimination of stigma.

— Loretta Coleman Brown

dedicated: David Hankla—
may ambition not destroy us


I.
“How much time passes 
in a blinking of an eye?”
asked the half-blind,
one-eyed lamppost.

“How much time passes 
in a blinking of an eye,”
said the half-blind,
one-eyed lamppost.

You know by Earth and you know by the Sun,
by nights ten, by the odd then even,
by the steel factories in the heart of the city,
where— thirteen years ago, today—
I recall the beginning.
How much time passes,
from then till now,
in a blinking of an eye.
Yes, I’ll get a day older 
till the day I die;
scribble, scribble, 
then kick-fade to black.

Serial numbers cursed to my hero’s skin,
that’s how our stories begin.

II.
“You’ll never catch me now, coppers.”
A composite ill-suited to serial towns,
the Lamppost hobbled to the intersection
and held up his thumb to flag the hovering train.

On that darkest of nights as the moon first waxed,
the Lamppost couldn’t see the man wearing all black.
With a rose et al. law-stick,
the Lamppost’s arms froze
to the crosswalk—
that poor, poor lamppost.
You know he was born with only 
how much time.

And that was the end
— unless I’ve misremembered,
which happens now and then.

III.
You know, perhaps—
perhaps you know—
there are so many lampposts…
One hero must have caught that hovering train,
escaped his fate, so late, so late,
at night, night-night, at night.

On dark, speeding train, our hero, waiting,
watching lights casting shadows.

“Where to, Mr.?”
“The only place I ever go
no matter where I am,
elsewhere.

“Like beauty making beautiful old rhyme,
or consciousness evoking its brief lie,”
the Lamppost, half-blind, asked the starry sky,
“the blinking of my eye passes the time?”
Now on that train I cautiously awake.
Don’t give the dream time to evaporate.
Pick up my pen, scribble Defenestrate.
I smile, then laugh, and wakefulness forsake.

My lamppost hero journeyed ‘cross the sands—
deserted desert cut by canyon ridge— 
he dangerously danced along the edge.
This precipice cannot be crossed by man.
“Unless the time that travels makes me man, 
enough to make the cliffs become the sand.”

O.
Sideways eights and
upside-down sevens,
sine-curving arrows,
evolutionary rocks:
perhaps this Lamppost’s name 
was Mark.
But many that are first shall be last;
and the last first.

(Not long ago, on the Isle of Mann—
rising above the Irish Sea—
refusing the yellow rose, my hand,
Anna turned her shoulder on me.
Now as I swim, I dream of land,
sifting from darkest depths of memory.
Read one more chapter, if you can—
you’ll get to hear more of the Lamppost’s story:)

I.
Lamppost lost in vast, shadowy elsewhere,
turns down a shallow, unknowable street,
where names cost a smile, a drink buys a kiss,
and that great light turns on only in 
darkness.
How many eyes pass, from then until now,
in a blinking of a time.

“Hello, pretty Signpost.
Why, you must have a name as warm as your face.
Say again, Signpost?
You haven’t a voice?
Then lovely Signpost, Signpost love,
let me communicate love with a kiss.
But what do I see?  No lips for a kiss?
Then Signpost of beauty,
Signpost of grace,
let us gaze through failing vision,
for in eyes we have infinite space.
You haven’t even a single eye?”
Serial composition cursed whom?

Born half-blind, with one long leg, illuminating 
darkness wherever he wanders.
One shadow of light against the dark, casting
shadows of dark against the light.

So every moon rise recalls orchid eyes
of the beautiful Anna Signpost;
and each midnight hour, soaked in star showers,
deeper wades the luminous Lamppost;
till deep in his dreams, where seas of sand gleam,
she speaks to him, speaks to him, volumes and reams,
in his dreams by the sandy sea—in
his solitude down by the sea.

II.
Anna Signpost, famous clairvoyant— an Isle of Mann, none the less—
knew just the right place to wait for the right time.
When finally she spoke— with two tall hands and a wicked pack of smokes,
and no regard for rhythm, reason or rhyme—

“We Post-post-modern Gods redeem
our holy sky, bigoted sheen, 
with poems and narrative dreams.

“Eleven, thirty-two, both minus one;
Jai-alai bottle of visible ink.
I’ve heard that old song, how Finnegan wakes—
rose et al. stone throw through.

“See how they fall?
See how they rise and fall?
Opposing end to opposing end— endlessly sine curving:
Lamppost and window; populist, poet;
the odd then even; the sledgehammer and the swan.”

“But cannot I form?  Cannot I create?
Another world, another verse,
to overbear and crumble this to naught?”

“Have you forgot?—
the riddle, riddle, kick-fade to black?”

“But where do we stand?
On what mountain plant our feet,
so to yell at the skies?”

“Socratic Mark, don’t dim, don’t dim,
emphatic barks of lyrical sin— 
revel, revolve, revolution.
Berlin Walls, Jerusalem Gates,
depleted Plutonium concentrate—
revel, dissolve, revolution.
Window open to elsewheres unknown,
meditate on a balcony prayer throne—
revel, revolve, evolution.

“That mountain
is named Populism.”

III.
“If time-space’s the window, is death last pain?
Or will our bright lights shine on Earth again?
Just bid me leap from off the battlements of any tower.”  The
Lamppost, still dreaming,
jumps out the window,
experiencing weightlessness for the very first time:
L-7 L-7
        L-7
            L-7
              L-7
                L-7
                  L-7.
Placebo of poison, distilling liquor vile;
only a gun that fires a flag;
a tessellating frown;
no serial number; no code of bars.
How much time,
how much one-eyed time.
Into the unknown
he swan dove.

00.
The Beginning:                                             [2004-2012]




NOTES to the Lamppost Poem:
Muhammad the Prophet, Sura 87;
Shakespeare, William, Sonnet 106;
The King James Bible, Gospel of Mark, 10:31;
Poe, Edger Allen, Annabelle Lee;
Eliot, T.S. the Wasteland;
Keats, John, Hyperion a fragment;
Shakespeare, William, Romeo and Juliet;
Bugs Bunny, Tex Avery, creator.

A Defense of the Lamppost Poem:

Meaning is no Modern or Post-modern sentiment.  

That everything will make sense once thought about did not feature in these eras of literature.  In one reading of the Wasteland and the Cantos of Ezra Pound, they give promises of overarching, underlying meanings, that ultimately dissolve.  Since Derrida, even language itself, all built with language, is explicitly meaningless.

If, however, believing such theorists as Lennard Davis, or Jeffery Nealon, then we have moved past Post-modernism.  I have argued the name for this new artistic zeitgeist needs keep the Post and ditch the Modern: Post-humanism?— not actually as depressing as first glance at the theory may suggest.  Then, this new age needs develop new artistic values: brand new, not reactionary; not the flip side of Post-modern absurdism; not a reversion to pre-Enlightenment moralities.

Since the mid-1990s, applied mathematics suggests there is some degree of knowability in the universe.  I happen to believe we will grow asymptotically closer to a Unified Theory of Everything— hey, I’m an optimist.  But whether or not we ever grow nearer an understanding of the workings, or meanings of the universe, at this moment in history, we believe it may be possible.  What a break with the traditions of Modernism and Post-modernism!— meanings.  Hence, the Lamppost Poem.

I view A lamppost named Mark as a sine curve.  I filled the second part II. with as many meanings as possible, from numbers that reference to Disability Studies, to importance in who speaks what, to escaping death.  Both part III.s ask questions I consider elemental to existence.  

And what of Populism?  What will happen when poems go pop?





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