Helen: A Revision

By Jack Spicer 1925–1965 Jack Spicer
zeus: It is to be assumed that I do not exist while most people in the vision assume that I do exist. This is to be one of the extents of meaning between the players and the audience. I have to talk like this because I am the lord of both kinds of sky—and I don't mean your sky and their sky because they are signs, I mean the bright sky and the burning sky. I have no intention of showing you my limits. The players in this poem are players. They have taken their parts not to deceive you [or me for that matter] but because they have been paid in love or coin to be players. I have known for a long time that there is not a fourth wall in a play. I am called Zeus and I know this.

thersites: [Running out on the construction of the stage.] The fourth wall is not as important as you think it is.

zeus: [Disturbed but carrying it off like a good Master of Ceremonial.] Thersites is involuntary. [He puts his arm around him.] I could not play a part if I were not a player.
thersites: Reveal yourself to me and don't pretend that there are people watching you. I am alone on the stage with you. Tell me the plot of the play.

zeus: [Standing away.] Don't try to talk if you don't have to. You must admit there is no audience. Everything is done for you.

thersites: Stop repeating yourself. You old motherfucker. Your skies are bad enough. [He looks to the ground.] A parody is better than a pun.

zeus: I do not understand your language.

[They are silent together for a moment and then the curtain drops.]


*       *       *

And if he dies on this road throw wild blackberries at his ghost
And if he doesn't, and he won't, hope the cost
Hope the cost.

And the tenor of the what meets the why at the edge
Like a backwards image of each terror's lodge
Each terror's lodge.

And if he cries put his heart out with a lantern's goat
Where they say all passages to pay the debt
The lighted yet.


*       *       *

The focus sing
Is not their business. Their backs lay
By not altogether being there.
Here and there in swamps and villages.
How doth the silly crocodile
Amuse the Muse

*       *       *

And in the skyey march of flesh
That boundary line where no body is
Preserve us, lord, from aches and harms
And bring my death.

Both air and water rattle there
And mud and fire
Preserve us, lord, from what would share a shroud
and bring my death.

A vagrant bird flies to the glossy limbs
The battlefield has harms. The trees have half
Their branches shot away. Preserve us, lord
From hair and mud and flesh.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2008).

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2008
 Jack  Spicer

Biography

Although known primarily among a coterie of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time of his death in 1965, Jack Spicer has slowly become a towering figure in American poetry. He was born in Los Angeles in 1925 to midwestern parents and raised in a Calvinist home. While attending college at the University of California-Berkeley, Spicer met fellow poets Robin Blaser and Robert Duncan. The friendship among these three poets . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Death, Mythology & Folklore, Heroes & Patriotism, Greek & Roman Mythology

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

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