Mark Dow | Recap and Other Poems
Mark Dow has been a finalist in the Yale Younger Poets and Colorado Prize competitions. His work has appeared in Threepenny Review, Chicago Review, Boston Review, Pequod, Salmagundi, Southern Review, Big City Lit, and poesia.com. His translations of Manno Charlemagnes songs from Haitian Creole are in Conjunctions, and his translations of Laura Wittners poems from Spanish are in Green Integer. He is the author of AMERICAN GULAG: INSIDE US IMMIGRATION PRISONS (California 2004) and co-editor of MACHINERY OF DEATH: THE REALITY OF AMERICAS DEATH PENALTY REGIME (Routledge 2002).
That tourists walking down the middle of the boulevards
That identity is a burden.
That worship ends and begins in idolatry.
That self-consciousness wasnt always like this.
That there is news about the Neanderthals.
That Oprah is fond of doing shows uniting actors who portray
That people may or may not know what they are missing.
That Parmenides was granted a vision by a goddess who took him for a ride
That the old carpet was removed, leaving a battered wooden stairway
That the line between inside and outside is everything.
The snow thats wets becoming rain.
Cans of Sterno, the Virgin,
A Frederick Wiseman Retrospective
One viewer wants to know what happens to the horse with the bum leg they operate on. At the cafeteria there are faces and faces and faces and faces, each one at a time. Handlers soap and rinse a stallions enormous hard cock before and after he mounts, and the woman announcing at the Racetrack practically sings out the name So Pleasantly.
The first words spoken in The Store are (This is) too orange. An executive tells the salesgirls, Style is the perfection of a point of view. Art Buchwald praises Stanley Marcus for putting integrity above profits during the McCarthy era. Wisemans reflection in a Mylar birthday balloon. Escalators rising.
In Belfast, Maine, a foxs pelt peels away from the flesh like a membrane glove; theres water. A delicate hand in the clunky machinery makes chocolate donuts with coconut; water. Shiny mackerel stream through shiny chutes, frantic fingers snip heads and tails before canning; more water. After his stroke, a man cut back from his 7-to-8 pack-a-day habit to 3-to-4. Graveyard. Ice cream truck.
The recovered addicts read Bob a verse from Revelations about opening a door. Tommy, who is accused in Juvenile Court of assaulting a girl with intent to fondle, tells the shrink his third wish is to have three more wishes. The allegedly assaulted girls brother wearing a Snoopy for President T-shirt twice momentarily blocks the cameras view. Lisa speaks of being alone sometimes, and Pam, who doesnt want to wear a bra to school, asks, How can the law be any good if it doesnt make sense?
The crew-cut man with the thick ring and thick fingers tells the young man in High School that his job is to respect those in seats of authority. The young man, who later gets punched in the mouth, says being a man means standing up for what he believes is right. A defiant young woman fingers her skirt hem, and a worried mother her pocketbook.
Someones filming a music video with dancers dressed like natives, someones shooting a commercial with models in furs, someone mentions a short film about Central Park, someones shooting an African dance piece, Francis Coppolas shooting in Central Park, and there are Mylar balloons, too fast to catch the mike or the cameraman.
A marching band member at the NASCAR race gently touches the parked school bus with his fingers, and fingers on piano keys, on books (the sign for were is 2-3-5-6), on walls with other fingers guiding them through the school for the Blind. A boy whose teacher tells the principal she prefers not to spank him will have to miss the trip to Showbiz Pizza. Trains whistle through the afternoon air and the dusk air of Talladega.
The soldiers in Basic Training look like somber drag queens in camouflage paint and tree limbs, though earlier they were marching and calling a ditty about Nixon dropping the bomb so they dont have to go to Nam. This is not my country. Lets be frank, says a black recruit to his white higher-up. The clay mine, a teacher explains, blasts ball bearings and metal fragments in a 60-degree fan and says Front Toward Enemy on it because the blast is unidirectional.
Weakness and equivocation is provocative, says a young Alexander Haig in Manoeuvre; equivalence and readiness is protective. A soldier tells how one side of a guys tank was covered with chewing tobacco stains. An old woman looks down from her window as the convoy passes through town, a young woman engages the soldiers in good English about the hunger there in Germany after the war. A cargo load slides from the plane toward the camera and stops, just filling the screen.
The public address system broadcasts paging messages into the desert compound. Willie Nelson sings from the pickups cab as men shovel sand into bags and tie them shut. Some people couldnt take the climate, some people couldnt take the isolation, some people couldnt take the repetitive nature of the duty at Sinai Field Mission, where a group of Finns violated commissary regulations by eating chili at midnight.
A general leads a discussion of the Nuremburg Laws, later reports a report that snacks, including a half-eaten Twinkie, have been left in the training cabs in which operators of Strategic Air Command learn to read clocks and turn their keys simultaneously to launch the Missile, while Muzak illuminates the fluorescently lighted hallways.
Through a fence a young man masturbates a chimp with a lubricated tube in one hand, feeding him Welchs grape juice with the other, a young woman making notes on copulation comments on a male who is a connoisseur of feces, a small orangutan skull makes the sound of a nutshell cracking when it is opened, and over the end-credits the sound of a plane in which the effects of gravity on another Primate are studied by floating scientists.
At the Bicentennial Memorial Day ceremony, the high-school valedictorian reads the Gettysburg Address with water and mountains behind him. Old Panamanians do not laugh while staring at a dubbed episode of Lou Costello. The lowest toll paid for passing through the Canal Zone was thirty-six cents, by a swimmer. A preacher explains Gods creation of Eve for Adam by saying that Adam put his arm around a cow but could only be satisfied by milking her.
In negotiations, a laborers fingers in a close-up gesture discreetly, while managements squeeze and crack themselves, and a supervisor in-between does not speak. On the floor, one of the workers cutting Meat wipes splatter from a small TV screen with a football game on it and turns back to the line. The line-work, the cutting, the white fat and white coats, the dust cattle kick up whitish like the forked breath of the horse helping to herd them. A worker in black-frame glasses and sideburns at lunch when the governors visiting opens his eyes from a nap to check his watch.
The teacher saying See you later, alligator, and the Deaf student, In a while, alligator. Mr. Tiffany telling Peter not to use the word hate. The counselor asking for help with the sign for adjustment. Another student smiling and practicing the unvocalized p-sound by puffing against a sheet of paper. Students signing to one another in a sunlit yard of brick and chain-link fences as the camera listens.
Style Is the Perfection of a Point of View has appeared in print (paper) in Downtown Brooklyn published by Long Island University.