Talking about weather they say meat substitutes are spies like prose poems or undercover agents who can’t keep their mouths shut, who keep talking about the weather meanwhile my grandpa died the way he lived— talking about the weather, flirting with nurses, dead-set on never letting tofu pass his lips when you live in a farming town long enough you learn that weather is rarely smalltalk— farmers and ranchers take cloud formations very seriously, more seriously than buttes, canyons, yucca plants, and marriages the next time I’m stranded in Olathe I’ll pull an atlas from my phone, study the land, feel the weight of my skull against my topmost vertebra (it’s called our atlas) and complain about weather and topography like the farmers drinking their weak coffee, chewing the remains of yesterday’s biscuits and cold sausage, convinced the post office is brimming with government agents, spies bent on the destruction of the American way of life it’s not weather, really, I’m worried about— the hurricanes in Miami are indecisive this year and we’ve never once seen a hurricane in all of Kansas’s history— and my aunt is sending me pictures of the lizards she believes are forming families in her palm trees, so the world isn’t (entirely) going to hell I don’t have the heart to tell her that lizards aren’t the kinds of creatures to form familial bonds, but they’ll enjoy a leaf of lettuce, ten hours of sunlight and perfect stillness, like their skies will never change In response to learning that David Foster Wallace died a year before John Updike I could have sworn Updike died first— but DFW hanged himself a year earlier, like the reflection breaking before the mirror— I’d always pictured Updike dying peacefully before the turn of the millennium, some unfinished novels resting on his nightstand, and he’d snagged enough Pulitzers to die with a legacy, even if his centaurs and rabbits would never resolve themselves, no matter how many novels they found themselves snared in—but no, he died in 2009, lung cancer, which sounds worse, somehow, than DFW hanging himself, leaving his manuscript for The Pale King to be discovered near his body hanging on a rafter— DFW and his obsessions with single mothers and lady poets, bandanas and tossing coffee tables— and here I was thinking I’d had my timeline straight— nothing doing except writers and the bodies of work they leave us To my friends who didn’t grow up listening to Kanye West did you hear the latest on Kanye? turns out he ended the 2010s early—sometimes decades end like that— I never realized our era had already turned— one more revolution of the wheel but I hadn’t stopped to notice * all my friends have professors for parents— they all had childhoods so free from the pollutants of popular culture, so free from Kardashians and Kanye that, once they hit adulthood, they drank the same bourbons and red wines their parents drank, quoted Latin sarcastically like their parents, and preferred MF DOOM and A Tribe Called Quest to Kanye West * meanwhile I, with my corn-fed construction-company family, witnessed Kanye rhapsodize on Power and Pablo Picasso, watched the Kardashians through each power struggle and scandal until rappers became poets and gossip became royalty— those same friends with their professor parents, starched shirts, and French vacations only cared about Kanye when he donned the red cap, abandoned his meds and catapulted himself into a new mythology— and they asked me, since I’d followed Kanye for so long, if I thought his religion and politics made him more like our century’s T.S. Eliot or our century’s Ezra Pound— and I said, Neither, he’s Gertrude Stein. * we quote Kanye and Stein in the same sentences sometimes—did you hear the one where Kanye became his own Picasso? he doesn’t need much company these days—and Stein, I hear, didn’t need Toklas as a muse, or any muse for that matter— she just needed words on a page and a black umbrella, blackshirts and brownshirts, her love of Vichy France * did you hear the latest on Gertrude Stein?— she told some reporter that a rose is a rose is a rose and that Kanye’s wearing red wherever he goes Some people talk in flowers a bouquet has its own language—you can convey any love letter or declaration of divorce with the proper arrangement of petals and bracts arrangement and syntax are fast becoming lost arts among floral fanatics, while just decades ago, any amateur florist could convey a simple story through a vase of daisies * chameleons were once thought to subsist on air and New Orleans was once thought to exist above sea level but we know better now we know so much better now, but tell me, when was the last time you found a star or flower and knew its name? * when I’m in Kansas or Louisiana, I picture Truman Capote at his typewriter, surrounded by vases and bouquets and porcelain cats, imagining his marigolds coming alive and devouring the world in a single bite— the man had a love for vicious flowers and vicious cities 10 pictures of Caligula 1 I once witnessed a young Caligula dancing with maids in a hotel lobby and admiring the mass-produced landscapes hanging in the hallways 2 Caligula, when his face still beamed from the front of the $1 bill, found time to shake hands with the pyramid and eagle on the back 3 you can’t mention Caligula without mentioning his horde of wild horses 4 Caligula in the mafia, the stock market, the senate, his yellow fingernails breaking the surface of every stew in the world 5 Caligula in childhood— the terror of his neighborhood, Tom Sawyer with porno mags, switchblades, too much pomade and lead-sweetened wine 6 Caligula with his ermine handtowels, his bathtub and sink bearing his name in gold lettering 7 each night, before bed, he meditates on the weight of empire—his empire, he hopes 8 Caligula eating his breakfast off a sentry’s shield while the lesser sentries, no bigger than garden gnomes, stand guard before the emperor’s wine cellar 9 Caligula stroking the hide of his beloved white horse, twirling the crown he once shared with his sister 10 Caligula drinks like a bear sleeps, breaks knees like the world turns, knows love and history when he sees them
Find Chasek’s book on HUGO BALL & Sound Poetry here.
Read the CACTI FUR review of Chasek’s book here.
Find Lane Chasek on Twitter: @LChasek