On My Dark Hobby and Blackest Art
A preposterous poet, a no-goodnik, imbecilic?
Me, the harlequin Oreo?
Well, the factoid’s made resolute
by my dissolute doggerel—
wholly a goulash, a callaloo, a stew, a broth,
une macédoine, a mishmash of barbarisms,
so that the uncouth froth they give off
is the bubbly, noxious juice
their wretched ink just stinking and stinking.
The cloaca bursts of ink, the profuse blackness of my pages,
showcase the dilapidation of vocabulary—
scatological, of course, because I scat-sing
catatonic, atavistic, primitive, retarded
the googoo babble of a four-eyed Golliwog,
the demented, elementary scrawl,
spilling from stanza to stanza,
that stock, unsellable bilge.
Marble stand the canonical bards!
Marble stand the canonical bards!
But I’s the most ironical poetaster—
sheer plaster mixed with tar!
Nope, I’s just a papier-mâché Milton
(Acorn), iconic only
for the crummiest manuscripts!
How can bavardage ever become marivaudage, eh?
And, what good’s a poet if only a poet,
and not a hard-ass, hard-cover poet?
Y’all best slap a fatwa on my patois crap!
I’m of that ink-black and dirty congress.
My Heresy? To like sherry; hate the hearse.
Open-mouthed at fucking and at cursing:
My ink hollers—stark, shrill; a dark, killing venom.
My Plath is Dickinson, barbed-wire-caged at Gitmo:
Stainless, steely, our nibs stab out your eyes!
(Dead poets? Innocents all—slaughtered, felled;
All overtly backward and overly loud—
As pious as whining, tubercular Keats.
All their music’s spat-out, Ebola blood.
O! Stuff up the coughing sarcophagus
That’s each Caucasian esophagus!)
Infants go into ovens; manna flurries as ash.
Xmas carols get croaked out as sobs.
Thus, my talk surges, crisp as adrenaline.
I’m ferocious fangs, tarted up as a grin.
Each poem’s a “nigger rig,” a medley
Of insolent snarls, squalid as a crap.
Even blank verse ends in a loud void—
An echoing abyss, bottomless as Cunnilingus—
My molten tongue, moaning out my lungs,
All the orgasmic ooze that’s print to fit.
16 / 61
“It is beautiful?”
—Helen MacInnes, Double Image
My tint—which doesn’t count—was ochre—
hint of pulped sunflowers, or gold—dusted
by coke-oven char, garish, coal-lustrous;
and my sub-par timbre—a Pushkin-echoing joker—
wasn’t worth critical dismembering:
An earthy compound of Victoria—far too Victorian—
And Yeats—not sounding Yeatsian—but Victorian.
My crotch was a black-snake-trembled nest (all ochre),
that Klansmen schemed at scotching, dismembering,
just as crotchety critics dreamed to see me dusted;
while I craved an attemptable hussy, no joker—
but slave to a contemptible man; her pussy, lustrous,
caving wetly pon my thrusting, as her lustrous
teeth scratch, fussy nails bite, voice caterwauls (anti-Victorian),
netting orgasm, and each spasms—natch—like a joker—
mewling mid the must. Wasn’t that me, at 16, ochre—
and eager to plough furrows in paper, see whiteness dusted,
my black-inked nib digging and dismembering?
At 61, am I any different? Now, I burrow—dismembering
blank pages, sinking banked ink, thankless and lustrous,
to scent and scribe an unkempt woman, dusted
off in an unkept bed. (Never have we slept—Victorian,
virginal, exempt from Passion!) My inept tribe—ochre—
fashion souvenirs of Miscegenation—breed jill and joker—
a nation of ill troubadours—each a joker—
our typewriter ribbons remembering our dismembering
of grammar (via typos)—as if we were gibbons—ochre—
hammering at keys, the ink once lustrous,
sinking lighter and lighter, fading like hypocrite, Victorian
poets, degraded by critics, then finally dusted.
Is my finale also to be dusted?
No longer 16, but 61, am I just a joker?
Modernists sabotaged and sacked the Victorian:
Must now postcolonial postmoderns face due dismembering?
Pound’s “River-Merchant’s Wife” struck me as lustrous,
sweeping away foundered butterflies, gilded and ochre.
“Her” Tang Dynasty weeping, those apt tears ochre-dusted,
at 16, I tapped; and I was suddenly no more a joker, but lustrous….
Now, at 61, rapt dismembering begun, my croaks echo each choked-off Victorian!
George Elliott Clarke, OC ONS is a Canadian poet, playwright and literary critic who served as the Poet Laureate of Toronto from 2012 to 2015 and as the 2016–2017 Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate. His work is known largely for its use of a vast range of literary and artistic traditions (both "high" and "low"), its lush physicality and its bold political substance. One of Canada's most illustrious poets, Clarke is also known for chronicling the experience and history of the Black Canadian communities of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, creating a cultural geography that he has coined "Africadia".