The Test of Fantasy

By Joanne Kyger b. 1934 Joanne Kyger
1.

It unfolds and ripples like a banner, downward.  All the stories
come folding out.  The smells and flowers begin to come back, as
the tapestry is brightly colored and brocaded.  Rabbits and violets.

Who asked you to come over?  She got her foot in the door and
would not remove it, elbowing and talking swiftly.  Gas leak?
that sounds like a very existential position; perhaps you had
better check with the landlord.

                                                            This was no better than the
predicament I had just read about.  Now it was actually changing
before my eyes.  Sometimes it will come to a standstill though,
and finally the reflection can begin.

Selfless—that was the proposition.  Smiling and moving instantly
there was no other purpose than that which brought them there,
to be in a particular place.


2.

This time the mule gave its face away.  Take your cadillac
where you want to go in the morning, convertible as it might be,
and enjoy a good bottle of rum.

Running on this way she used various modes of expression that
were current.  Nothing seemed to bring the woods any closer.
What Woods, she was questioned, realizing that as far as the
woods went, they were largely inhabitable through the facility
of her mind.  At the Philadelphia Flower Show, an ideal situation
was built up.  Here through various regulated artificial conditions,
spring grass, waterfalls, the newly-sprouted bulbs completed
her ideal concept of nature.  The smell was overpowering.

All right then.  She had a thing about nature, from flower
show glamor and enormous greenhouses the rich cultivated.

A beauty of cultivation—in living?  Hastiness did not prevent
her from rising quick and ready to misnomers and other odd
conclusions, throwing the telephone book to the floor, “OH OH
the life I am entangled in.”  Four sides of it.

                                                                                        Above was a paradisical
level, incompleted.  With working possibilities.

Below, endless preoccupations and variations were possible.
Currently in vogue were shelves, the vacuum cleaner, a new
bedspread and color scheme for pillows.

                                                                               Taste treats were
unresponsive.  Glamor do’s were out.  Conversation was nil.
Languid

she could not even find a place to languish upon that was
fulfilling in its own way.

                            So out of the lifelessness that was around her,
the grape leaves drying out, and even though the avocado was
sprouting,

she thought, Why not fantasy?  Tugging at this character and
that, trying to push a little life in a prince or a charmer, a half-
blind bat, dryad, the works of the story teller.  Here the four
walls of the room and ceiling became apparent again.  “I ought
to tighten down and make sure I say exactly what I mean.”

And her face took on a tight pinched expression, and thrifty scotch
economy gave her shrewd eyes in the prescribed way.  Use every
tidbit, usefully.  Once upon a time there was a princess who
had a long white fur coat with a high fluffy collar, and inside the
coat were stitched beautiful butterflies in many bright colors.
The princess languished.  She was not sure where to sit to her best
advantage to enjoy herself the most.  She could not go in her mind
or out.  She looked at her long white hand, I am the Queen of the
High Mountain Hag, she murmured to herself, still knowing she was
a princess.  She lay down upon the floor as if it were the garden of
eden, the coat spread around her.

                                                                No, that poor little house she
had built was a bore.  It’s better that it go up in flames, as it did.

She went down to Grand Central Station and gave away flowers.
Some people took them and some people didn’t.


3.

I’m glad to get back.  I had to repeat a rough discontinuous journey.
Questioning myself all along the way.  Was I jumping on her because
her time had come to an end.  Indeed I pounded on his arm all night,
over his concern for this soft-spoken individual, I can see nothing
but their softness.  Me ME, and the time we might spend together,
reading and talking, to tear away that putrid husk.

My flippancy is gone.  Now I have started my secret life again,
in transition, reminding.  As the moth reminds, its feeble antenna
groping, taken like a stalk of fern, coins of money.

All over I was shaking as the fear and tension made itself apparent.
It was a cold night out.  It was colder still between the airy gaps,
between blankets.

                                     You can see she is thoughtful
as she draws the string to the bow.  Where to go indeed.  The
point is brought forward and discussed very cleverly.

A sleeping angel or a sleeping troll?  I was rather proud of being
used, pushing the clothing hampers up and down the downtown
street.  Here, pleasant mentors conveyed their anxious solicitations,
drawing from their bags, long lists of memorandum due, what I owed.
It was a lot, if I hesitated.  I choose to go on, saying this is the
way I go, owing nothing, being that kind of person.  Hung up?

That thought intrudes as the clearly marked vista is not so clearly
marked.  Certainly one supposes in all honesty, that an essential
core of feeling blooms in each encounter.  Lost under the weight
of the garbage of who are you that you are not making apparent.
Thus unhappy, I don’t want it to be this way, and so forth.
Not costumes, or paraphernalia, the immediate reactions.


4.

We of course are in a family situation.  Anything I wish might
happen, but the larger situations are not real, not to be
considered possible, discussable as to what sense of reality
they possessed.

In the snow, the wood piled up underneath.  Oh those drifting
sensibilities.  At this point it is scarcely believable that people
gather and like each other.  Eating chocolate pudding, getting
in touch with some other sense of alikeness.  The form is no
longer obvious to me.  Whether they meander or are joined together
in their senses in the mechanics or regular grooves they run along.

                                                     I suspect that in this house, this
place that is musty and left as it was some years ago, there is
no real fear; the objects are old and I am not familiar with them,
only the sense that the Ghost or spirit world strikes you with
its familiarity, pleasurable fear.

                                                           Here the familiar
is apt to make its presence known, at any moment the unexpected
lurk in the hall, into the room.  Pieces of leather, old silken fans
laid upon the table top, rooms filled with something left unexpectedly
terror is the wrong combination of ignorance.  It contains its own
self with dusty fragments of velvet and fringe.  100 pieces of voice
with no name, called it myself, as they spoke all day, sucking the
soft slush, admitting their real deficiencies as—
I am never sure; Oh it’s that power

and disease of believing in the stale that doesn’t demand a real
climate, takes its capacity when the demons come down.


5.

The night passes in night time.  The head moving to the shoulder,
the head rising with a frown.

In a firm voice, it doesn’t matter if the hair is flying from undue
spring breezes, the self has been raptured on the wine that produces
appropriate madness, and sad she says, my dear the bacchanal is a
lovely way to be rid of waste.

However, in seeing the house more manageable, one cannot even have
fear larger than the unknown portions of the continent which
refuses to sink.

                                                                                  There once was a woman
who grew older, not that she minded, but the passage of time was
always constant.  Why does one have to contend with that she said,
puzzled, as she got carried along, and constantly had to think up
new coping modes of behavior.  If he behaved to me thus when he was
40, now that I am 30, I can hardly behave like that to those that are
20, and so forth.  There wasn’t any model except the one she built,
and one could scarcely believe there was no established pattern.  This
offered wonderful possibilities, but also indecision and gutlessness.


6.

You can’t see them, all bundled up, all those that choose
to move other than where the distance seems appealing.  Knowledge
has no depth.  There isn’t any message to be spoken.

Wrangling, she speaks ill-advised my dear, as the cat has no
point in laying its head down.  She ought to watch carefully.

                                                                             The claws.  It could be
the bent hands, as they grow, that as the fur impeaches the
rose, doesn’t make the thing she hangs her body on any realer.
What could it be all about?  The necessity to follow, balancing,
contemplating words, as the basis of why we move at all.

Just a little touch.  The leader cautioned further progression.
I could hardly listen to the music for long.  Now there
seemed to be interruptions, pleasurable interludes, nothing
definite, of a fragmented nature.

                                                               Certainly I wished the best
for all.  The sadder soldiers stumbled idly, as I also in the
profound reaches of my slumber noted the elegant turns, the
twisting statements grooving into the language building something
to listen to.  The dress made from silk.  Trusting was awkward
and not of a nature to ease any further building.  Whosoever
you revere will come back tenfold upon you and lighten the
burden carried as those who desire the warmth and necessity of
communication.


7.

I am sure my dreams must have been of the wrong sort.  However, as
dreams are reflections of inner dilemmas, how did those arise, from
a day of relaxation and summer enjoyment of the fund.

Knowledge comes from what purported strike?  From that which cleanses,
and let us knot say “heart” but tissue.  Hopefully and helpfully I have
built up a language in which to talk myself to sleep.  Not for purposes
of letting in the cold.

                                         However, I have found that not all blockaded
against is the cold, the dreary reign of the dead, etc., and tasteless
realm of the mushroom.  As much can be denied as the bilious sun
strives to cause an enlargement of singing in the back of the neck and
the head.  That is uncorraled ecstasy.  I call it enthusiasm, free energy.
But it has no place to land, it is bursting and unfocused; it is a real force
and the counterpart of the gloomy depths.

                                                                              As the pieces of the house
ooze sap, blossoms and green twigs burst from the cracks.  Whether or
not to join in what I was half committed to see and do.


8.

At this point, when Jack picked up the pussy willow branches, I said
they can’t possibly be ours for the taking, and smiled with dedication
to an older Con Edison man.  The buildings were like the unexplored
garbage in my mind, fascinating and dirty, pulling pieces of cloth
from boxes left overnight.  Energy as limitless possibility, in
the attempt to transmit non-energy situations.

For example, if once I stop to realize what little gets through, I am
much more interested in the cover than the contents; it is difficult
to find any interest in anything.  Good energy displaces bad karma.
And other non entities like that sort, producing flow that in its own
place has a good bed, stocked well with what can be called fleet-footed
fishes, and approaching places of investigation, such as relations
between.

                    As I saw the blood flow to the surface of his skin, I
forgot to watch for the telltale visions that again might come from
something I have never seen; more possibly the components of what
every man views.  If this was a possibility, the rays from every person
converging pass through the state of shock to numbness to unity without
any mind at all, for this horror fits the cat on the stairs, between
the fifth and sixth rung.  This is the way people glow and pulse similar
to an inlet of jellyfish blocking the way, full of human life; until
I who will name myself a swimmer come along and refuse to be
blocked on the way, although I turn back gladly, and will again swim
through for it is possible they do not kill, the sting’s compounded measure
is fear, and thus one not need join the broad expanse of human mouths
calling people to join their ranks to comfort their newfound recognition
or orifices, stomachs and legs.

I reminded myself twice there were several stories that kept continuing
themselves.  She ignored her face, blotched and red upon times, but
fuller.  Did you forget to wax and wane?  Her head was full of energy
brought forward and positively that what was said would turn the obvious
into color, but no sense.  Sense was for the thinkers.  Here the thinkers
forgot their word orders or sense; it was better to give them coffee,
and those off worse could smoke.

                                                                                          I had felt very
foolish when I leaned forward and grasped his hand, with effort, and
his cloak slipped down over one shoulder as he shouted, which is the
way.  And I followed for certainly no one would follow me.  As the day
is cold and colder, and what comes out of the head is of its own sort and
nature.  These words, like Nature, and Head, Thinking and Words,
repeat themselves, as the lines of landscape, attics and other closed-off
sections have reprimanded themselves by repetition.  Light

was such an enormous possibility.  Taking sight into a frenzy, it was
possible that just to look was full of excitement and wonder, for
ages at a time, things appeared as beautiful, the sky, the street
where cars had gone by.

                                                  I worried about certain characters: ones
that never seemed to be other than puzzles to me but I was drawn to
them with certainty only because there seemed to be no understanding?
As when the mysteries were performed, the house then itself became
distilled with reason as the pots and pans were used apparently filled
with the stuff of continuity.  The sorrow that each day sinks into the
infertile other side of day, where voice comes out of the dark, and
does its rituals.  Memory has its own screen across the room to view
itself, and the continuous dwelling of conjecture takes permanent form
in stiff-legged walks to remind, thus on and on the breathing goes.



                                                                  New York. January – March, 1967

Joanne Kyger, “The Test of Fantasy” from Places to Go. Copyright © 1970 by Joanne Kyger, published by Black Sparrow Press.  Reprinted by permission of Joanne Kyger.

Source: About Now: Collected Poems (National Poetry Foundation, 2007)

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Poet Joanne Kyger b. 1934

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Living, Life Choices, The Body, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Relationships, Nature, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Joanne  Kyger

Biography

Associated with the poets of the San Francisco Renaissance, poet Joanne Kyger studied philosophy and literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara, moving to San Francisco in 1957 just before she finished her degree. In San Francisco she attended the Sunday meetings of poets Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan, and moved into the East West House, a communal house for students of Zen Buddhism and Asian studies. She lived in . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, The Body, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Relationships, Nature, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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