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[Foto Friday 40] Effigy Aflame

"Men cluster to me like moths around a flame
And if their wings burn I know I'm not to blame"
- Frederick Hollander & Sammy Lerner
i. Milankovitch Cycles
the sky was cyan
above the sabkha;
the alkali flat,
the remnant of
an endorheic lake.
the small round depression
was devoid of vegetation.
the waterfowl had gone
and the sandhill cranes
and shorebirds
had lifted up their great
brown and white wings
and flown away
to wade elsewhere.
as the pleistocene epoch
drew to a close
the waters of lake lahontan
dried out
left only desiccated remains.
in its wake
it remembers the first men,
naked animals
scavenging and making their way
carving pictograms in caves
with ochre, hematite
manganese oxide and charcoal.
black rock desert
glimmers in the blaring sunlight
as if the star above
knows and wishes to partake
in the destruction.
that solar gaze
joining the radicalism
ii-a. A Man and His Dog Running into the Sun
we gathered round
the paintings,
staring contemplatively
at them one at a time.
the splashes on canvas
emotive and fragrant
like polka-dotted flowers.
an overweight, naked man
trundled by,
his sagging flesh
creasing across his stomach
and buttocks.
we lit the wooden man
and wooden dog
aflame, and watched
them burn
along with the sun
down to the horizon.
as i saw two tiny figures
engulfed in flames
sizzling out at last,
from the corner of my eye
for a fleeting moment
i caught a white fin
on the waters;
the froth of splashing waves,
no doubt.
perhaps, though
it was the spirit
of the great white
that devoured
albert kogler junior,
the swift hand of death
keeping a watchful eye
upon our weary souls.
on the beach men came to tan
talking of the burning man.
ii-b. Beyond the Ruins of the Sutro Bath
flames licked
the seven swimming pools
black smoke rising
from the destruction.
the remains are a labyrinth
of cement skeletal blocks
blocked off
by stairs and passageways
leading to a dark tunnel
with a deep crevice
in the middle.
we approach the ruins
running furiously,
our legs pumping
as we pant,
ignoring the warning sign
advising strict caution.
our forefather's advice
is in the wind now
and we are for the sea,
uncaring, unknowing,
seeing with our hands
and our pulsing blood
and youth.
we creep along
the dark passageways,
flitting like nymphs
whooping like birds
or stale stereotypes
of ingenious injuns.
in the day,
large waves sweep up
washing away visitors,
sending them to
its depths,
drowning them
like starving sailors.
inside one of the cement pits
a paragraph describes
the age old glory:
the small beach inlet
had glowed with the smiles
of children who played
within its walls,
lineups to leap
into the water.
a concert hall,
an ice skating rink,
and a museum of varied
personal artefacts.
a child runs by the abandoned pool
the ruins eclipse the sun
the shoreline is pink
and varying tinctures of orange.
iii. Put On Your Most Fabulous Outfit and Turn Your Fans On FULL Blast
in preparation
we got piss-drunk
on booze
and smashed things:
a desk lamp, a clock radio
a chandelier, and a mug.
we tore the pillows to pieces
and put on our best outfits
stacking fans in the corner
and turning them on
creating a gust of feathers
like a thousand pigeons
taking flight.
we took turns in the ovens
and the freezers
melting the icicles
from our hair
and cooling our scorching burns.
we cut ourselves
and bruised ourselves
and burnt ourselves
in the sun
we licked electrical sockets
to be conducive.
we spent hundreds of dollars
on grass skirts
strings of pearls
platform shoes
we danced in red clown noses
and lime green stockings
with silver and gold batwings
we did our hair up
in mohawks
and fauxhawks
and tethered it together
with dirty pairs of socks,
but forgot it all behind.
iv. Leaving San Francisco
bringing luggage
camping gear
duffel bags
clothes bags,
they gathered round
generating electricity
in the air,
filling vehicles
to the brim.
we inhaled
preparing our minds
for the journey
to a stark and desolate
prehistoric expanse.
the sun-baked lake bed
for hundreds and hundreds of miles.
we ran
from babel
evacuating before the flood,
shedding off our comfortable attire
of habits and routine.
and we pledged our allegiance
only to the man
who burns
like a crucifix,
worshipping this strange idol,
at the apogee of our commitment.
when wood
was to become ash
and smoke.
v. Rite of Passage
a long line
ran across the desert floor.
each person
filing over the border
to unknown territory,
a gigantic conga line
in limbo between
two worlds;
as we crossed
we danced to the carribean rhythm
in our heads,
together, leaning backwards
to do the limbo.
vi. Lesson of the Watchtower
as we assembled
the massive
a splinter
stuck into my finger.
vii. Wind's Challenge
desolate flatness
arid and empty,
on the dark line
in the distance
arises the sky's light
first turning pink
a brilliant spark
hovering behind
the silhouetted mountains,
growing into an orb
as it clutches the rock
and climbs overtop
the sky glowing golden.
circular columns of dust-
devils, dance across the floor,
in those last moments
at fifty miles per hour came
and b l e
                e  v
                       r     y
                                 t   h
                                                   w  a
the intense wind storm
knocked down the tents
like bowling pins.
crash crash crash crash
echoes in my mind,
and wind looked down on us
we looked right back
and spat into the direction
the wind was travelling.
viii-a. Gypsy City
the city is not a city
but a salt bed,
the buildings accost travelers
with sharp colours
and edges.
the dissassemblable city
of black rock
full of memories
of summer solstice parties,
of art and brandy
intertwining like our
double-helix strands.
and we
desert walkers
align ourselves
with the great man,
setting out to complete
the journey.
viii-b. The Pilgrimage
i felt my feet begin to sweat
in my dusky sandals
which were tearing
and expanding
from the heat,
bursting all around me.
as we walked
the great idol
grew nearer,
it had been watching us
all this time.
we were the petty men
who lived petty lives
with our comings and goings
to the giant
whose shadow
yawned across our site
where we constructed
with our hands and minds
where we built
our new homes
and wooden roofs,
where we sat
and ate and shit
and pissed and cried,
together and alone.
in our hearts
we all knew
this small walk
was only a tiny part
of the long journey
we were taking,
sometimes together
sometimes apart.
we came down the path
in the tens
and then the twenties
and then the hundreds
and then the thousands
and the millions
and soon
we were pouring in
from all corners of the earth,
the numerous dreadlocked
and footloose creatures
wild face paint
some on bikes
and some by foot
with black top hats
umbrellas suspended in mid-air
jutting out
like lotus leaves
from their wriggling
                 wiggling arms
and amongst them
came the clown
it's leering laughing
plastic face
and parted mouth
revealing a pink tongue.
the paintings
on baker beach
transmuted into
its polka-dotted green
yellow and blue uniform
a gaudy yellow ruffled collar
the outlandish eyes
puffed up by its impressive cheeks
and all around
giant cupcake men
with basketball sized blueberries,
a man in a white fur coat,
all blowing, blowing, blowing
having conquered the wind
blowing toward
toward what?
ix. Sunday Evening
they say God rested
on the seventh day.
the man is looking at me
watching over me again
and i know
beyond that neon glow
of wood and wire
his hollow face
is asking me a question.
when the hourglass
of temporality
has run its course
and when the noise
of secular life
brings only remorse,
growing immobile
as ineffectual activism
has come to an end,
when everything around
is still,
as still as in eternity
time may suspend,
and now we gather round
the man
who holds court
and our tidings and tribute
we pay
in the form of terrible memories
away, away.
a new tide begins
washing through our hearts
as open flames ignite
from men's tongues
igniting the legs
of the wooden effigy;
soon a river of flames
runs freely over the land
and fireworks shoot high
into the air
freeing us
engulfing the entire statue
lighting the night
a silvery halo
of starbursts
the dying king.
x. Charcoal Man
his ashes
left the vague impression
as he lay on the ground
like the chalk outlines
of bodies
that children draw
like the chalk outlines
of bodies
that police draw
those few
dark marks
reminding us
of its sacrifice.

Foto: http://tinyurl.com/38ns9z

21 Nov 07

Rated 10 (6.9) by 1 users.
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Wow   Truly epic.   Is this all original?
 — poetbill


smaller servings necessary.

you are what you bleat.

 — unknown

All of it is originl poetbill, but l75-76 borrow the form of another poem
and 372-378 are modified from another writer.
 — unknown

Thanks for noting that.  I asked because I sensed some inconsistency in the quality of the stanzas.
 — poetbill

fantastic ^_^
 — Virgil

i doubt this was inspired by or written for the foto.

you probably had this written, saw the foto and perhaps saw a connection.

or you perhaps just tagged the foto friday to this, in order to have more people read this.

a lot of your stuff, inuki, is long and circular. it drags to corners where it need not visit.

and your line breaks are predictable.

but the story is fun.
 — unknown

The poem was in fact inspired by, and written for the poem- I sat down yesterday, saw the photo, and wrote the piece.

If you do some research and/or read carefully, you'll see how it all connects- though I think I've made it painfully clear. The photo is of the burning man festival (it comes from an album of pictures of the event), other images such as the blueberry man also featured in the poem in lines 355-357 and the man in the white fur coat are in the exact same album.

I take elements of the clown, bikers, etc. from the photo and intentionall dispersed them throughout various parts of the poem to show the history of the festival coming together into the "decisive moment"- and they make their respective appearances.

I don't believe my work is circular, and I break where it is natural (or unnatural where appropriate).

I've done my research, do yours before assuming things about others.
 — Inuki

Be that all as it may,

I've had the opportunity to read much of your work, but if I could be your editor half of it would be gone. It's like you have the affinity to make poems long when they really don't need to be. In writing, you have talent. In editing, well...

Whether natural or unnatural, you breaks hardly ever surprise me anymore. All your poems feel, read, and look the same. Stylistic? Perhaps. Innovative? Unlikely.
 — unknown

 — jittery

Inuki, I can understand your defense here, but...

1. Is it worth engaging in a debate to defend your work over a poetrycritical.net space?

2. I feel like some of what "unknown" is saying is touching on an important truth, as some trimming might help your overrall works impact. I can also understand the circular argument. Do you understand specifically what he means here? Perhaps some specific references might help him validate his point and allow you to meditate on those points if you feel they are valid enought to engage. But, like anyone that reads the majority garbage on this site, I suppose I owe you thanks for presenting us with something fresh to "pick apart." Also, I like reading raw poetry these days, mainly as a healthy change from this summer where I studied Yeats - who is at times unbearably "polished," with Helen Vendler (the foremost poetry critic in the country) in Sligo, Ireland. Thank you on thanksgiving.  
 — uncjaf

Unknown) My poems are long for necessary reasons. If you think they are "circular" or repetitive then you are missing the details/depth/layers to the poem. Every word is there for a reason.

I was not aware that the primary function of line breaks were to "make a poem interesting or surprising". Line breaks carry the flow of the poem- and I therefore only make them unnatural for effect when necessary. Inserting random linebreaks which serve no purpose other than to make things more "shocking" to the reader sounds like a gimmick, one that would annoy me as a reader.

Uncjaf) While I know the "OMG Internet is SERUS BUZNESS" argument, this is a poetry workshop site. People ask me why I do certain things or make particular suggestions/criticisms, and I respond to them as appropriate. I am not arguing or "debating" per se- I am doing exactly what this site is supposed to consist of- working toward writing better pieces.

I have no clue what the unknown commenter means with respect to "circularity"- the poem follows a clear journey from beginning to end- each canto/section tells a piece of the larger story while making their own individual points. Each line and canto adds more depth to the poem or continues to build on the various preexisting layers.

My only understanding is that the unknown commenter has not read my work closely enough- which I believe he or she has not, since this poem was accused by this same commenter of not even relating to the photograph for which it was written. Their utter lack of investigation and thought leads me to believe that they failed to notice the various layers developing in this piece or to really give it the time that it deserves. But, ah, such are people on PC much of the time.
 — Inuki

Your linebreaks are pretty predictable.

Magnificent poem though.
 — eyesaque

"the waters ... dried out"
ive heard of dry ice but not dry water
 — unknown

Water may refer to H20 or it may refer to a body of water, such as a lake or ocean. Go look up the definition of "water", you'll see it is not limited to a single one.

According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, water may be defined as

6. waters,
a. flowing water, or water moving in waves: The river's mighty waters.
b. the sea or seas bordering a particular country or continent or located in a particular part of the world: We left San Diego and sailed south for Mexican waters.

When a lake or other body of water dries out, the fluid evaporates.
I'm not sure how much more obvious I need to make this. I am surprised you did not already understand, or perhaps you are being facetious.
 — Inuki

this is fun, and laid down by someone who's got extra words and needs a place to write them. some of the rhythm gets fucked of course -- as it must hear in "CNN Critical" in order to "tell this in english". this is just tremendous fun to read though. it's kind of an ars poetica, but of a poetry out of Nabokov by Trakl and George. a lot of fun to read. nice to be reminded of this kind of writing. i think i maybe burnt all mine like this long ago, out of a sense that i'd not been in control of the wording -- that i'd just tried to sound "clever". "clever" is ok, now, and maybe i shouldn't have... maybe it would have made me feel more like... well, "normal".

probably not.

good read.
 — joey

I LOVE this!  I love the connectedness of it, how you wrote one entire suite under the roof of one poem.  Just beautiful!  Having read some of the other reader's critiques, I can see how you could write this in 11 separate pieces, but if you did that, it would be disjointed and random.  This is just right in my opinion.  A couple of minor spelling issues though, if you will:  L128 artifacts has no "e" and L309 I believe the plural of roof is "rooves."  I could be wrong and mine could be regional (New England.)  Otherwise, magnificent work of art to have read today from work.  Thank you and keep up the awesome writing.  My favorite part is Part III:  Put on Your Favorite Outfit and Turn Your Fans on Full Blast."  Peace!  :-)
 — starr

Oops.  Sorry...I mean L307, not L309.  :-)
 — starr

p.s.  Congratulations on your #1 Top Rated poem.  :-)
 — starr

bombastic & verbose for such a dull point.
 — unknown

Love it. I loved especially your references to nature and the way you have made the letters on lines 246-254 look windswept. 10/10, definitely!
 — Linnac

effigy aflame.....
indeed- this is a banquet of words beautifully arranged and orchestrated
as a flowing work of art.
 — Liliana

say what you mean...mean what you say......
if such were the case- am afraid even shakespeare should be bitch slapped.
very rich work!
 — unknown

Thanks to those above who enjoyed this thus far.

As for Mor, you should know I don't treat anything you say with the tiniest speck of worth. If I did you'd probably have me writing bagpipe medleys or some similar drivel. Speaking of which, I'm surprised you rose from your grave to try to make an ass of yourself yet again. Pity I could care less. Go back to haunting the moors.
 — Inuki

Aye! Inuki man, an explanation for giraffe soup would be great. Thanks!
 — unknown

Thanks for taking us" there." Through almost every poem (segment) I'd read most of the way, wondering where it's going to the point of becoming very dull, when you'd redeem yourself with a fantastic line or phrase. Good work.
 — Seditswing

This is amazing..a really good read..
 — brother_sun

happy valintines day inku.....
 — brother_sun