a pretend genius broadsuction
Otherguess: An English Picaresque / three Pieces From THE SOMNAMBULE'S CRIME
dale houstman

Otherguess: An English Picaresque

1.  the sub-atomics of paddington station (scene-setting)

The InfoDex Valhalla stands where diners sip the foam
of that neuropathic wash glossing their meager alliance brunch,

while – in the forest of calcified tuna veins (Sussex, Essex, further on) –
three well-tuned businessmen cauterize roses in murky tills. Wives

pre-colonized by immigrant butchers, seduced by rubies and rockets
through the cane break to the lumbering luxury liner, or a tramcar,

or an omnibus, a pram, a pair of roller skates, a pair of socks?
A port wine wind catches up the security department documents

detailing a coup or two in the jungle's brightest gears, the hour's bruised dress decorating the daughter who is always drowning herself

in the gold excretion of that lascivious station, the Iron Orchid
where the diatoms and dynamos nibble on the stairsteps rolling

through customs like a small woolen elephant, knitted exultation
on blue ceramic wheels whittling ebony gutters? Parliament speaks:

"Dearest Calcutta, we are presently passing shadows of stones
through cyanotic flues which have borrowed a collectivist shimmer

from the klieg lights hidden behind the asters, cantilevered eastward
to reveal the very tiny parachutists there. Or does the sloth crawl

through a new and palpitant union of shoes trees, their elegance forged
in the labour sheds and tented wharves of a drag Lord

whose peculiar girlhood was drugged in a Datsun, tinted scarlet,
covered in newspapers, and taken back to the ocean, to intermingle?"

2. the peculiar girlhood leaves through the book: adoration of girlhood

The peculiar girlhood leaves through the book, ribald sketches:
aquamarine ospreys on a white fence post, the drunkard’s Shaker chair, 
and that meetingtime porch curving to the subject matter, warming to

dubious struggles for the title of maven, the one who softens
complicated mechanics of Darby daughters speeding
past the robot-boy’s post-war horseplay, the passion stitches

on any of a thousand paper skirts, the cool breakfast gods, a lion’s syrup—
while the elder fraud’s fedoras are spotted with complaint slips
which rain upon the Midlands Zephyr brushing the looming plots,

rattling the shut-in’s Beano tea set, 1952. She writes, (disarmingly)
“There is an hard-boiled egg posed on a grand piano.” A poem.
A romance novel: “Someone is tricking us with kisses.”

Someone else is tricking us, she means, randily practicing
her Royal Teen gestures, preparing to annotate, always pruning
the sweaty roses which pant at the room’s leafy fringes.  “Mater,

the kitchen smut has obscured the Salisbury Salary Saver’s essay on death.
Our house has divorced its background, and signals for recompense
from that family-sized box, lettuce and lamb in the water closet,

washing the music hall costumes by the South American tidal pool.”
“title” she corrects herself, and drapes the peony sheets over an iron rod,
thus padding the fretful cranes in Accounting, amen. Still, there are Anglicans

trapped in yellow snaps of the enormous, isolated way station.
She smiles in her tamed Stetson, posturing “Chinese antelope”
in a cherry orchard theorized to exist im perpetuum

for her anarchist farmland parents. She notes them shepherding
her forceful yet grace-heavy media breakthroughs, bemused
by her unfinished manuscripts which harbor in the basement,

directing the national health ghost trains to the attic
where a letter from an undressed Brazilian – the ambassador’s “friend” -
compliments her Marginalia on Economic Artlessness,

adding randy descriptions of white pebbles weighting white dresses.
All this wasted upon the small library caryatids, and then Alex
finds a rocking horse in the quarry, and decamps to Persia to die trying.

But those events draw up a rag box of depressions,
and we needn’t dwell: memory is unrepeatable
in the best of circles. She finds the 2 o’clock rolling

through the War for Independence Room (closed for repairs)
as its little rice pudding passengers render full lip service
to the oral tradition. Literary agents clog the aisles,

nightgowns cloud their plans for the New Victoria,
their arms erect to bear the ceiling, dampened gray with “stars,”
and that impossible boy – Steerforth – heads for the dining car.

3. a sincere beauty (a philosophic excerpt)

Does a sincere beauty warn the beggar birds away
from the seminary students? Future heathens in cricket amazement,
upon a mound of lead-grey and bloated high sex, like socks

which cover a rose’s welts, and the black pudding of realism,
and children like passersby, and barristers and bobbies
jigging on a window ledge, reeling with their fortitude

as the flag (hideous lily bandage on a broken footstool)
is encrusted with mock turtle tears, the target turns,
and there’s a raven seated upon a conning for kicks.

Alexander is now our local brewer, disturbingly bright
with his bayonet and blue index cards, exuding
the residential aroma of debt, perhaps it’s patchouli,

or blue windflowers set against a thirst for ale,
the burning copse and the rainmaker finally rolling into Bartholomew Fair 
as Frau Elizabeth nods, rummaging through her hair for herring coupons.

And the rust stalks lean against a lemon plaster wall,
and the uniforms are mothballed in underpaid rotation, ornamented
with the dust given off so generously by a lion’s-mane toilet seat.

4. restoration abandoned

The dreariest lark has been interred in steel terminals,
so bring acetylene orchids, and – as you dance – be careful
of those transparent veins secreted in the floor stones.

Remember the seizure of the farmers’ stars,
the night’s birch architecture, the cotton navy trapping
the granite birds in granite trees, this grant of middling Summer

ascendent in sheets of whale hearts with clove pins 
to freshen pine stairs with a milky song, her stringent breast
breathing out locust like convalescents rocking

upon a barbarous surface, sunglasses and fish, the sea,
a second-hand vanity, a frieze of Babylonian rosettes
to render tea from the pulp of tyrants.



1. Vermeer Highway

At the Smithsonian a small model of the Reversible Potomac is added to a discreet display cage. Yesterday Vermeer and I watched six blonde handbills being blown across a plaza by huge oscillating fans. A movie no doubt. Over in a corner we eventually discover those infamous “flashlights of early July” which look like small decaying storm clouds. What is their purpose. To distinguish undistinguished butter-knives from exemplary teaspoons. Vermeer is too busy to enjoy a cigarette while observing a crustacean whose hydraulic gestures remind us of that invertebrate Cortez. Hey. There’s a diorama of a green and red hummingbird drowning in a child’s tea cup. Many of the local ruins are passing out green party hats. Toward all this this we maintain our primitive editorial distance. We often attend performaces of “Aida” and eventually we believe sleepwalkers listen to pirate country stations. Sound men possess a non-academic whimsy yet also become elegiac over this or that porcelain-veined peasant gal. Across some of the smaller streets it has begun to rain lending a dangerous patina to immigrant vendors. When they’re arrested a party is thrown.

2. Waterfall

The guillotine in the desert is hilarious. Among the many horizons like a rosewood guitar. There is money in it. A little bit it happens. The blade like a blue oar. And the female rower and the stars are mirrored in the polished base. A train passing between the many horizons rattles the surface. Art-nouveau trout flurry up the rosewood tears into the rosewood rocking chair. A faint click the fishermen recognizes. Welcome home soldier. Polished rosewood soldier.

3. Insurgents Demanded Thursday

Wednesday on that bridge with which the city council have replaced January’s balcony I play a sort of casual distance in the center of which I am writing “February Reveals Her Tiny Feet” but no one in the convenience store considers it a convenience. Even if it was wearing shoes. “A Train Abandons Its Smoke In A Verona Snowfall” is wearing its shoes so I compose “A Horse Invented Ballet” for March to ride into the distance and across the bridge to the poem “Insurgents Demanded Thursday” Wednesday.  Tuesday. Monday. Monday is having sex with an old Wednesday. To the right side of April’s bed there is a poppy floating in a warm glass of champagne and—just  a little further to the left in a dark niche— a lectern is caught in a hat-tree. Three weeks pass like a blonde piano and then today is not Monday or Wednesday. So there. Sunday. Saturday. Friday. May.

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vol. ii, issue ix
may 4, 2005