David Bromige and Rychard Denner
The Petrarch Project: Cantos 34-37
I dip my bread in blood,
persist into obscurity
as any voyager
upon the path of liberty
moon or tropic Venus
lays upon the seas.
the restless seas.
Worship this woman
flesh & spirit
(the easiest portion unless one is
ungifted, then impossible)
prepared to suffer each surprise
she finds herself
called to inflict.
One loves limits
& adores by rules. The body
imposes of those a whole handful.
Di quanto per amor giamai soffersi
Di mi quando tu verrai
et aggio a foffrir anco
for pride & anger must surrender
while one remains a man.
But the ear that I sketched a black & white endeavor of a day,
that day my being first drew
in her aura.
I would bend
me-wards speaking as a male
upon whom Love walked,
that are never our affair
for she in whom our age delights
to marvel at itself or ought
as a plant, its root & flower
'til she descends to the caress
arena for the path to spirit
requires a nervous system
held in meat.
Any who looks on her w/o awe
dips his slice of Dante's wood
into a lake of lukewarm lead.
Pink cotton candy in the pine trees
my assemblage looking fine
hanging on my wall.
Dried grass embedded in paper
& dried grass laid on photograph
of dried grass under my sketch
on a transparency and tinted
engraving of dried grass titled
Even this alchemy converting
each moment into the next
forges locks on your heart
had seemed trite & a trifle
in the gloom last night.
Green, crimson, black, or purple
The garment that displays her
Hair twisted in blonde braids
Or tumbled, loose, or drawn
Back from its widow's peak
Light as morning's wing.
Sometimes her hair is braided
And I am upbraided
calling my assemblage
Woman. Not so,
I see specifics. But alike
In that her chest is unlike mine
While between the legs, the way
Leads in, while mine juts out.
The gender differences multiply
So that woman
is an honorable name
& to address one
& just this one
Cecelia, and for him, Laura
speaks to more. When, we
Poor mutts, hear her breathe.
As one more day goes by
Headed for the hoarded years
he keeps apart,
as Vesuvius, I hear,
believing, never does.
Drawing w/my finger in the air,
does any of this exist?
There's a lot going on, sitting in a chair in the sun
and the volcano, risky, a steep drive,
manageable, but it's hard to walk
just on the toes of this foot
w/o making it bleed.
Oh, boy who knows,
it may be good for it to bleed,
though not if you're shot in the heart
Or in the gut
and you're lying there
for five days.
This is the Petrarch Project,
and no one is lying around or lying about their sexuality.
What started this?
"It was fall, and the thing was I was getting sicker, my heart
was failing, getting clogged up, and I couldn't walk up an incline,
short of breath just too much for me."
You who scuttle into sound sparse verse suspire
ill of your nude heart
juvenile error altr'uom attend
Various styles raging on this piano
vain hopes, vain sparrows
To prove her ovaries the prime intent of Love pardons us, amigo
perdono mio perdu."
Mother Universe in yabyum
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As one who is awake in mutual marvel, Love and I confess,
an ancient tale,
A river that fell in love w/ a maiden he stretches as a river her face
When his thought is lost,
his soul floods in despair.
Enough for now to consider
grief in this scale
arises only from wasted life
the life one hasn't lived
in the shadow of death
that fills each life.
A cruel magic trick
brought down the house
& the curtain
would be sleep
So we can wake at noon
w/ dream of transposed genitalia.
By 3:30 the transposed genitalia
just another dream being
counted by ants by the minute.
To decline to climb
But falling ill
there appeared the staircase down
to the snug.
What a place to put in 40 years!
In short, there was a shadow,
considerable. It parted
& my love stepped out, so her gait
arrived with her smile, her smile
with her voice. Which sd
everything that there had been
a shadow. To begin with.
She respected herself.
She would be courteous
Unless provoked. She adored
Despite a lifetime w/ the evidence.
'Ol Dog stood before her quaking.
That she didn't destroy him.
That she would. Coldness
Had within her condiment of feeling.
She stoned him. They
Blent. She showed him
Herself, the scars.
He sat, she spun.
They talked for hours.
Love weft through love.
Easy to be turned to stone,
Thinking there's something he could do.
Laura in white shorts
Sitting in her white Pinto
On red upholstery, him wanting
To kiss her but standing back
He sees her hand outstretched
Returning some money,
Wind blowing through
As he bends to take what she owes.
He doesn't know who is served
By his going broke in devotion,
Yet it's a wonder she hasn't
Told him to shove off.
Hard to have it like you like it
When nothing's real until it's real
And then it's real forever."
Goes through Northumberland
What's an umber?
maybe dark red
f/hydrated oxide of iron
umbrian earth, umbra, shade
where the direct light from the source of illumination is wholly cut off,
and then, Cumberland
Land of Cumbers
of redheaded hamstringers
maybe mountains, the Cumberland
Gap, different f/ the GAP
and then, "Englangd"
w/ the sound of language in it
bodily nature, corporeal
I think it's in the phrase
"Fuck," sd the corporal,
not for the first time.
"How I feel when Venus is in Scorpio,
& are beauty instantly all nature dowers."
Steep descent. Vesuvian,
she cranks up the temp.
Even this alchemy, converting
each instant into the next,
fashions locks on my heart.
Everything now happens very fast.
Laura speaks: "My first choice is to move to Ellensburg and go to
grad school at Central and work w/ Fouts in the new chimp facility.
Stay with Francesco, fuck him in his bookstore, my own room
w/ Gustav Klimt prints, plant trees in the spring, but I'm not sure.
He's older and wise,
has penetrating blue eyes.
I'm young & expectant,
and I feel I'm on the brink
of a precipice
at the top of the world.
Now, I'm in Tempe, near Phoenix,
afraid of stagnation,
my own ashes.
Francesco says, this is what it is
to experience The World, inward turning
to dig that vibe.
There's something breathing,
a breathing which wants
Waters of Life freely and Gifts of the Spirit.
I must walk on the basilisk
and wrestle the dragon,
go where I want
do what I want
and send this sprig of pungent artemesia to him.
I would also give a sun dog and the moon, low & round,
the green shade of these cliffs
w/ the almost voice of this creek,
I send sage from my desert to his."
I thus endure a cast She only can
Bless cursor Time from hour to hour
love ticked away.
She stepped toward me
from the shadows to change
my life irreparably
for I fail her
who is so far above
yet that I, made recipient of such amity,
am led to the highest good!
And his death, quaint.
"I like quaint. I like to cultivate quaint, to have quaint hanging round my ardent gate, there is nothing like quaint. I look at her, and I think "quaint," and when this happens, I am attracted. Metaphorically speaking. Eating quaint for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Intellectually, penetrating quaint.
I want to know quaint back to front and upside down and inside out, and I have the equipment for the task, I'm told.
Quaint is a spring day in the rain
in England's Cotswold Hills,
by the bait-house, beside the marsh, at eleven standing beside
her sister who is sixteen
inches taller, and thinking you'd better not go to bed with her.
Quaint is not merely decorative it fills with meaning & some of it sticks. If I get up in the morning, it's thanks to quaint. I can't recommend quaint highly enough.
I stay up late for quaint.
I keep solemn watch for quaint
I abide its coming,
as things do to me.
When people tell me, 'Quaint is catching on too fast
& becoming common,'
I always agree.
Because I think it's a quaint idea.
I'm glad there's quaint enough to go around.
Speaking, as I am, of quaint,
I double over, as though in pain.
I look through my legs and have a great view of quaint.
One never gets over it entirely.
My very existence is riddled w/ quaint."
Talking about how she deprives him
of choice, and if at times he arms himself w/ complaint,
subsides at his first
sight of her.
For all that he has ever suffered
rumpled & bruised
how his presence took. For by his portrait
all may judge his deficiencies,
the too-soft face, mouth
a twist of doubt
the laurel crown
ridiculous as any reputation
acquaintance. The eyes
yes, soft as a woman's, can be
handsome, but a darkness, doubting,
also mars them, dark breeze ruffling
calm lake, ruining reflection.
less said the better.
can work for him.
The voice trusting what karma prompts
& memory devises.
Then time stops
to remark his body, long since
registered: not proportionate, but virile.
unseen by the naked eye
together w/ their perfume,
say what's left
praise begins with the first syllable
of your name.
Two things I want to say:
I dreamed of kissing you,
and my heart opened to you
the first day we met.
Interview with David Bromige & Rychard Denner
by Bouvard Pécuchet 9/13/04
David Bromige and Rychard Denner have completed an epic poem of 100 cantos, a trilogy, Spade, The Petrarch Project, and Garden Plots, published this year by dPress. I became interested in this momentous work after reading Kathryn Christman's review at Poetic Inhalation She writes:Spade manages to be witty, insightful, silly, cantankerous, profound, hilarious, and thought provoking all at once. In a narrative resembling several phone conversations cutting in and out, the threads of story woven through these cantos combine pearls of real-life whack and wisdom with lively voices and uncanny juxtapositions of reference and imagery to create a vivid, unexpected ensemble. You must read it for yourself, and laugh out loud, to understand its glorious, goofy power.
I caught up with David and Rychard at Coffee Catz in Sebastopol, California, about an hour's drive north from San Francisco.
Bouvard: What will your poem do for the world, at present?
David: People will be amused by the writing, so they will be drawn to it, and they then will be unconsciously imbued with its virtues and learn to control their tempers and be nice to strangers.
Bouvard: Some feel the poem is difficult.
David: Yes, it's willfully difficult, difficult because there are two sets of ideas at play, but it is readable, and it is riddleable.
David: A made-up word. It's like a riddle. When something doesn't make sense, you just have to sleep on it, and all will be clear in the morning.
Bouvard: What brought about this collaboration, Rychard?
Rychard: One afternoon, David and I were sitting in his garden, and David said, "Why don't we write a poem?" And I couldn't think of an answer, so I said, "Yes." Then, David said he thought the first word should be spade.
Bouvard: Do you remember why you thought the first word had to be spade, David?
David: Yes, I do. There were many reasons for spade. One was I had mildly hallucinated a spade around this time in my sleep. And another was that I knew a spade was something that's used to make a piece of land ready for planting, and that was what we were trying to do with poetry. So we began with a definition of what would enable us to do that. Spade.
Rychard: It is also a racial term, a suit of playing cards, a play on the word spayed, meaning to remove ovaries, and a symbol of the soul's immortality in Masonic iconography.
Bouvard: Why is the poem divided into pieces called "cantos?"
David: That's the Italian word for "I sing," and that's what we did. We sang. We haven't sung much in public, but we might sing in a bar, somewhere.
Bouvard: What are the precedents?
David: Well, Ezra Pound. He, too, had trouble with his readers finding his poem difficult.
Rychard: And Dante. His poems were highly organized.
David: Yes, his poems are much too organized for modern readers. We certainly had no intention writing in rhymed triplets.
Bouvard: There are a lot of characters in Spade.
David: Well, we put our friends in there. Changed their names. Changed the names of our enemies, as well. We called everybody "Bob." We just emphasized behaviors that, on the one hand, are constant and that, on the other hand, change dramatically. There is one guy who remains in constant torment, a Nazi.
Bouvard: Yes, there seems to be a level of hell in this first book, as well as a level of heaven. I noted a reference to a Sufi heaven.
David: Yes, some of this is our misunderstanding of Sufism.
Rychard: My idea was that the book should be a Socratic argument between a Buddhist monk and a terminal atheist, taking place in the Sufi heaven of the innermost heart, with reconciliation at the end.
David: The problem is that neither Rychard or I have been to heaven, and all we had to go on is hearsay, and I've had so much hearsay in my lifetime, you know, that I'll just have to wait and see.
Bouvard: Why did you choose Petrarch for the second book, The Petrarch Project?
David: Petrarch is a huge figure of influence on late medieval poetry, and he is somewhat under attended to these days.
Rychard: There are reasons for this. He was over done in the nineteenth century, but the themes and sentiments of almost all love poetry can be found in Petrarch's sonnets.
David: Yes, there is a lot to learn from him, that is, as long as you imitate him with exactitude or rewrite him quite variously.
Bouvard: What about the feeling of unrequited love that dominates the second set of cantos?
Rychard: Right, he just can't quite get what he wants. I've felt this myself in the many times I've been in love.
Bouvard: What about the different females in the book? There are different Lauras that appear over some 600 years?
Rychard: Well, in a sense, all time is one. You think about it, and you can remember being a year and a half old, crying for what you want and not getting it, and this extends to lovers in other ages.
Bouvard: If you compare Petrarch's Laura to a contemporary woman, what about her character?
David: Well, the impression that I have (and I'm no expert) is that she wanted to do what was best for him, as she judged it, although it wasn't what he thought was the best for him.
Rychard: She was married, and she kept him at a distance, as was proper. Now, Dante, who was an older contemporary of Petrarch, didn't even get to talk to Beatrice before she died, so she remained an unobtainable ideal for Dante, whereas Petrarch just wanted to fuck Laura. She was human, and he wanted to know her carnally. To Petrarch, Laura was an earthly ideal.
Bouvard: Who is the Hung Chow character in the third series of cantos you call Garden Plots?
David: Hung Chow is a Chinese sage, except that he is actually a Cockney, a man named Norman McGordon, who went to the East, a man of very quick study of character, who at some point put on the airs of a Chinese sage. One thing led to another, and he found that he could be a teacher of Chinese wisdom. He collected millions of dollars from gullible Americans. And he did very well for awhile, but in time he spent his fortune on women and antique cars.
Bouvard: It seems that he became embittered. In one story, he wants to blow up Parliament.
David: That's based very loosely on fact. He never threatened to blow up Parliament. It's just something I made up to develop the dark side of his character.
Rychard: We were writing a literary adventure.
David: Yes, he might at times be careless about the law, but he would never, in real life, propose reducing the whole island to ashes as being the right thing to do.
Bouvard: But this is a far cry from the heaven where you began. Let's go back. Where did the idea for this poem come from?
Rychard: It was a pleasant day in the front yard at David's house. Sitting there, it seemed like heaven. The temperature was nice. I didn't have any aches or pains. No worries. There were no appointments on my calendar except to sit and talk about poetry, which is my pleasure, and I found somebody to do it with who understands most of what I say, and it seemed to me that is about as close as you can come to being in heaven. And David's neighbor, Robert, Bob, walked by and said it looked like we were having a love feast. He said he saw us rapturously talking in poetic language and that we seemed like two immortals. The initial idea was that we would come up with some lines, meaning that in our conversation, there would occasionally be a few words that would be a line, and we could call that a measure, and the more lines we had, the more poem there would be. I thought of myself somewhat like Ezra Pound being the secretary to William Butler Yeats. There are two angels, one of them records, and the other dictates, and David talked, and I wrote down things in my notebook. Then, when I got home I copied what I had written into the templates I've created in my computer, which means that I write directly into a book. So, I had my book started, and I just put our conversations together, as though it were one person speaking, and then I printed that up as a chapbook and took it to David. We made corrections in this book, and then we added some new cantos, and I printed them, and the book grew. The original ground rules included the idea that the poem should not be a narrative poem, but that the continuity might be more like in a language poem, where the lines come randomly.
David: Or be derived from what was already on the page, from the sounds of the letters, for example.
Rychard: We each had different takes on the poem. Once I began to tape record our conversations, I realized that the order of events taking place was not so much forming a narrative, as it was a collage of themes, and that the poem had become a tapestry, although it may seem one is looking at the flip side.
David: One of the themes came from a TV program we had both seen on the history channel about an Nazi SS officer named Heydrich, who was shot in a clumsy assassination attempt. He was shot in the stomach and bled to death over several days, so we felt he could be one of the characters, and we would leave him to his eternal agony, writhing in pain, much as Dante would have done.
Rychard: Meanwhile, we stayed in our garden and conversed with Lao Tzu, DeQuincy and George Bernard Shaw, until finally, David showed mercy and let Heydrich off the hook, which proves that in our heaven, all mother sentient beings are liberated.