Thursday, May 19, 2016

An Abecedarius, and Other Feats of Form By J.T. Whitehead

J.T. Whitehead lives with his wife Julia – the founder and Executive Director of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis – and their two sons, Daniel and Joseph. Whitehead is a Pushcart Prize-nominated short story author, a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet, and the winner of the 2015 Margaret Randall Poetry Prize. He also is the Editor in Chief of So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. His first full length collection of poetry,The Table of the Elements, published by The Broadkill River Press, was nominated for the National Book Award. Whitehead's travels have taken him to Vancouver, Hong Kong, Oxford, Munich, Paris, Beijing, and Amsterdam. He has worked as a pub cook, delivery man, liquor store clerk, and grounds crew member. He practices law by day, and writes poetry by night.


Armageddon almost always amiss,
blowing, bombing belligerents bit by bit,cities, capitals,
countries, Cambodia . . . coups, Chile . . . ceasing
damned democracies.
Every ease, every exceptional era, ends.
Foreigners’ freedom? Fronts for falling, forgotten.
Good God?
Hallowed, horrific history . . .
I instead intend isolation, incognito,
jesting, jaded,
killing knowledge,
losing loose laughter, leering, lost.  
Mar me, maim me, mark me
neither Nero nor Narcissus
openly owing others.  Ovens officially off?
Peace. Propaganda?
Remembering race?
Strife. Sky-sent strafings . . .
These, their, tautologies, tell tall tales:
Ubermensch und Uncle, unequally undermined.

See Tomcats, U-Boats, V-2s, Warplanes,
X-out YAKS, Zeros . . .

See Targets underneath vectors written:
Virtue violated, verboten victory . . .
You? You’re
zapped . . . zilch . . . zero . . .


Alias Daniel, age 5
after reading Fielding Dawson

I was able to bring the Justice League team to the outskirts of the lair of The Legion of Doom. My detective work made it possible. I’m Batman. Lex Luthor’s surveillance botched our plans, and I took a hit from one of Joker’s gas bombs, a hand grenade. It had my Joker’s face on it, because I have that weird kind of sense of humor. I threw the gas bomb as soon as I saw the screen recording of the Justice League moving in to our secret lair. Batman took the hit from my grenade. When I took the hit, I shouted out to the nearest member of the League, which was Hawkman, and he assured me, Batman, I have you covered, just get your gas mask on, we’ll take care of it. I was flying into the action with my hawk-wings, about to strike the gas bomb out of the air with my mace, but Green Lantern intercepted the bomb with a ray from his ring, which captured it in a small green sphere. I have it, I said to Hawkman, I’ve intercepted it with my power ring, now take Luthor out, he’s coming in behind you. But I blasted Hawkman before he could heed the Green Lantern, and I took him down to the ground with a new device, an atomic blaster I had been developing in my new Luthor laboratories. Luthor does good said Solomon Grundy, Luthor take out Hawkman. I turned on the Green Arrow. I crush you Green Arrow, Solomon Grundy not like when you aim at Solomon Grundy’s friends. The Green Arrow was aiming at the Mirror Master with a special arrow. But before I could confuse the Green Arrow with my mirrors, Superman blasted me with his heat vision. After I blasted the Mirror Master with my heat vision, I told the Green Arrow, forget about Grundy, I’ve got him, now take out Lex Luthor. But it didn’t matter. Batman had recovered from the first blow from the gas bomb. I knocked out Lex Luthor with my Batterang. I’m never down for the count, I told Superman. I’m Batman.

Sestina: William Burroughs
for what
it kills
to grow in.
To grow in,
it kills
For what
to grow in,
for what 
it kills.
It kills – 
time – 
to grow in
for what?
For what
it kills,
to grow in,
for what 
to grow in,
it kills 
For what it kills,
death needs time

to grow in.

Nature or Nurture

It’s one big question mark.

A snake crawls from its egg,

learns quickly, then curls,

& turns back on its origin:




the electronic in the inn is mere detail . . .
the fabric in the inn is mere detail . . .
one must be reminded
the moon is a pearl
& the mist in the sky is a blue
silky ghosts veil
that seems to be breathed
in order
to put my nervous self at ease . . .
gasses must be in the air . . .
naturally . . .


there is this way that thought has been affected.
many are the other ways.
these then are other ways.


there is a guarded magic in every sort of attraction.


& I am attracted to my affected thoughts.


shadows . . . only sometimes . . .  seem to melt . . .

I am in the mirror now, pupils wider . . . 
black holes in a space that I am . . .
eating air 
they are . . .
containing faces & images & colors
& walls & shadows & light
the way graphs contain co-ordinates, lines, shapes, points.
A co-ordination allowing us movement.
Like canals.


my own eyes frighten me if I stare long enough into them,
otherwise inviting visuals.
the World is a canvass
my eye-lashes brush.


immediately --
experience is always under-rated.


i feel as if I am having sex without touching anything
that is
i feel many of the sensations about my self that i have having sex
but without many sensations that occur . . .
so that sex, in comparison, seems insignificant,
or it seems as if there is more to sex than itself . . .




there must be a portal to the guts
that is more than matter.


outside now.
& when the hungry cat outside is silent
there is a kind of peace
& guilt is absent
but is not my absence
relating to guilt’s presence.
the cat is silent.
i have abandoned it in some way.
it is gone.


& when the evening is a blanket 
on my body
wanting to cough up that spirit
inside of it
like an ill & bundled bedded boy
i am evasive & turn away feverish
when others walk past . . .
i walk past.


& when there is a calm
which even the massive church,
behemoth that it is across my way
opposite my visions
cannot intrude upon
then shadows are cast alongside us all
like our cares . . .

then it is not
that nothing matters
& it is not that everything matters . . .
but those two are clearly in balance
is a possibility . . .


when two people are shared mutually in one experience
then every word spoken is a puzzle solving itself.


old friends are a reward.
that ought to be enough for us.


we all of us beg with old mean boss Reality:
please, don’t shatter my faith against your dividers.


there is no excuse for correction.


. . . law of fear . . . fear of law . . . law of fear . . . fear of law . . .


paranoia is a state of mind that occurs
when fear & intelligence
meet & mate without any love involved,
& they go at it all night long on the first night they meet
without knowing one another really & a baby is born
& paranoia is that --


technology is ambivalent.
we should be so about it.
or if not, then with it.


blues bar . . . yellow cab . . . red light . . .
an un-original life . . .


better to watch as the woman dances
than to dance as the woman dances
in order to see how much or how little 
she is beauty . . .


no philosopher could make any sense
or logical sense of any of this.
that makes me want to laugh out loud or dance & drink
& smile & throw a party of one . . . or two . . .


light is feeding itself.
darkness is swallowing itself.
shadows are their own & only children.

  -- Amsterdam.  Oxford.  -- Summer, 1986

Dried Corks
– after reading Ted Berrigan

She said, How about Indian? & named the place.
& he said, Didn’t that place get shut down by the Board of Health?
& she said, Yeah, but they’re clean now.
& he said, Okay, let’s get the Rat Vindaloo.
& she said, You’re such an Un-touchable.

I know what you believe but what do you think?

When my mother was pregnant with me she went door to door
in our neighborhood, campaigning for Barry Goldwater.

Baby Joseph cranes his neck to view the digital cable television screen
playing classical music in slow motion time like a flower
in an eighth grade eight millimeter film in science class answering some Sun.

My six-year old son learned to tell time today.

There is nothing in the World so protean
as the space between connection & division.
By comparison Life’s tragedy is static.
The comedy’s a trick. Get it?

First, they gave the child crutches.

The doctor informs the widower
that a construct exists for his condition,
artistically named, alternatively,
Ceres’ Revenge
Henry the Eighth’s Omission.

My cat stalks the moon through the sliding glass door.

Before tonight’s sign-off please note no extra charges
as you have restricted your evolution to less than three hours.
Your monthly bill will include the base fee.
Please enjoy two horses butting heads.

Cherry blossoms fall everywhere in this city.
I’m not sight-seeing.

The remaining dreams of remains remain faint.
The wind is thinning your scent.

The mechanical hare malfunctions.
The dogs stop, circle & sniff,
suddenly aware.

The exterminator killed the ants that only amused the child.

Your wrinkles are reflected in a sheet of ice
on the windshield that melts un-noticed.
Trust in us.
It pays.

They say cats are electric.
Mine cleans herself.
Suddenly – thunder!

The teenagers parked the car.
She climbed on top of him, accidentally putting it in Neutral.

“You swallow me like a mirror.”

1 comment:

  1. I was excited you chose to publish a new work by J.T. Whitehead. I revisit his collection of poetry "Table of Elements" often and continue to be amazed how in one concert of thoughts and words he was able to demonstrate that there is relativity between the greatest of wars, microscopic building blocks, and dominant or submissive touches between loved ones. In "Tables", he spins us in a swivel chair, and every tangent we cross leads to library of history, science, anthropology, metaphysics, or dusty family photo albums; each library possesses its own horror or reason for celebration. An exciting the ride, yet I fear for Whitehead. He has chosen a dangerous study. Rustling humanity and inhumanity into the same field of vision can torment a deep thinker. But if "Table of Elements" is any indication, J.T. has the moxie to hold these two spirits (and himself) together long enough for readers to jury and for Whitehead to get both sides talking. - Steve Shamo