1 O/bliterated singer, I obliterate y/ourself. But when I do it’s also me behind the paper-y wall, because I am as much a part of the original that was as you are an atom at the heart of a star, an old oak’s beard, or a ladybug. I wonder about it ... and I encourage my heads to wander about in it, to associate freely, adversarial with love. To aspire to wonder, and lay myself down on my face on the ground and watch the summer grass grow slow—which is fast (faster than in any other season, save spring)! My voice and every image of me on the Internet came from right here right now, from this transfusion of energy and from these familiar molecules. I was glitched by my parents who were glitched here, of people who were sweatered by other people glitched there, and of the children of this puzzle and a translator. I'm fifty years old. My heart is a jelly-filled ebelskiver. And with my incandescent theories I begin… to transform one day into another so that stopping isn’t an option, not until the end, which is something I don’t even want to think about. Not yet. Let the schools of correctness shut the fuck up! Hang around in the gloom of the known if you want. To your boredom. I know its mission is submission and I will not forget it; let no one forget it. I spill my guts in many fractions of a second, beyond the good and evil (mostly evil) of the always constant news/reports. Not just anyone is worth listening to, clearly. So, with me, you get to decide if you’re interested or not—recasting liberally the past in the present for a future possibility, increasingly supernatural with a hoarseness so it glows. 2 These forms and stanzas are loaded with ghosts, these lines and sentences are loaded with hooks. I open my mouth and feel pleased in the gluestick, and no apologies for the changes to the framework in the process, I’m a rebel ... I’m a rebel and I bunny-hop, Deathstar, the works. The perfumy air all around is not a dissonance. It does not taste like an elephant’s exhaust; it is murderless, a fountain of paint and I gulp it and adore it like a friend in a spasm. Willingly, I go to the window in the trees and undress crazily so you’ll touch me with your blueprints. I like to breathe the breath of the fog, the swimming pool skateboarders, the jellyfish kite as it soars above the spruce, and the forklift lifting a birdhouse off my chest. I like to hear the cars’ awful honks, the hornets, the ice cream truck drivers. I like to feel shoved fundamentally off-kilter bursting like a balloon animal, at the volume of many amps, and the blood of my blood in the fiber-optic cables, the innocent infractions of a cool breeze’s movement a wide receiver’s dance in the end zone’s deep end. I like to smell the arugula leaves and the dried oregano leaves the onyx strewn beaches and hay bales of paint. I like to hear the ragdoll of moss in my voice, kicking up dust on a polka dot horizon. I like to press my lips to yours, to feel your arms engulf my form, and live in the letters’ eternal correspondence. I like to play among the shadows of eagles’ wings, shaking the trees with their weird silent engines. I like to feel alone in the crowd at a punk show, kicked in the back of the head in the pit with a Schlitz or an Old Style spilled down my shirt. I like to be owlish beneath the full moon and get up singing “Summer” to greet the morning sun, “Crescendo-ing and decrescendo-ed/All is quiet/Sun is tell-all/ And bleeding from the nose/Neighborhood explodes…” What did you expect? That I would settle for a few unmuted meat scraps? Did you think the dark matter of the universe would be too much for me? Why are you even literate if you don't know how to undermine authority? Crane with me today, count with me the weeks in a year and I will show you how “Song of Myself” becomes “Canto a mi mismo” becomes “At Night I Sing My Heads to Sleep,” and so on. Then you will be able to make you own new song (there are billions of songs inside any/one you know), and you will recycle and appropriate, remix and collaborate, melt down and return. Your dead eyes won’t die anymore. The ghosts in your books will fuel your own. Neither will you see into the world using my lantern or wring the little pillows of bees from my hands. You will get to listen in every direction at once and your spirit thus inspirited will echo through the Universe, exactly like my spirit, yet totally different. 3 I heard some noise-makers go from BANG to Revelations. But I am not going from BANG to Revelations. Life is only present tense, the word is young the word is old; the white page is perfect but maybe more so when it’s blackened right now is paradise right now is hellacious. Writing and re-writing… righting and re-righting… wronging, too, unfortunately wronging… reading and typing, hammering and hammering. Walking the other day in the shadow of an eagle, I felt small and contradictory, but I wanted to be a complement, a substantial contributor that multiplies ... the pleasures always a mesh of identities and differences ... and blooming into blood, along the path of pain, rollercoaster pain, miracle pain. Perfectionism—the offspring of intention—is a trap. This is already known by the children, so they don’t intend it, they attend to a butterfly flagging a soldier. Steady, tender, connected, embracing every stick figure, resisting every fence, every coffin, every expectation—mule-lishly, and loving, too, impious, super-charged ... me and you and the mystical swarm! Translucent and restless my ghost goes on without me. Obviously, my body’s involuntary motions also go on without me (until they don’t): but everything that is not my ghost is in part ghostly, too. If any part is missing, everything is missing. There are more invisible things in the world than visible ones, but the invisible ones are what make us the most of who we are. Morality has been long discussed, annihilated sometimes, too. But the correspondence between good and not good (which is a co-respondence, don’t forget) is in the indifference of the meta and the physical worlds to human achievement and sinfulness both. I jump in a lake where my body just floats. I am a wreckage of failure and success, just as you are also. I am not better than anybody else, I am very probably worse than a lot of people; and yet all of my particles vibrate the same and the invisible me—the ghost—could care less. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try always, and ever, to be better: to really see people, to try and find our contiguous feet, to cook a weird meal, and then sing our heads to sleep… “Am I something?/Do you see me?/Does anybody living out there really need me?” That’s the band Cloud Nothings. My own band Nevernew has one that goes, “I don’t need a world that gets me/I just need a world that needs me.” Or, maybe not the world, just a sliver, a splinter. For example, When my wife Melanie, who has been with me for twenty-three years, gets up early and makes coffee, and feeds and waters the dog, then takes off to do cross-fit, leaving me with last night’s dishes, and a note by the sink that says, “Dude, Please dust and vacuum, too! Love ya,” it makes me buoyant— the flood of her energy and good humor. Right on right on! I do the dishes and dance in the clatter! I drink the last cup of coffee from the pot that she made I get on with my chores for both our sakes, the value is in knowing that she loves me. 5 To my delight, the invisible in each one of us resides in all of us, resides in our positive and negative charges. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and see it clear in the facts of our receptacles, the acrobatics of our hair. Let us for a second just forget re-creation, the electrons winking in and out of existence; let’s turn off our devices; let’s fortify our masses in the always lazy spikes of grasses. I will sing to you and you can sing to me but without any sound and without any words; we’ll merely suggest it, in the tangle of our wolves. Were there other times you can recall that we were ever so breathy in the making unmade? Maybe once we were talking animatedly, and laughing and drinking, but under our skin there was so much more to say so we looked for each other in eternity, which is poetry. Then one of us scrambled some eggs while the other kept company, and we ate them together in a flurry of moons, a flurry of headaches, and inconvenient bones, but all of it was us, all of it we loved. That really happened and will again soon. I know your hand is the promise of my own; that your ghost head is the program of my own; that the network of eternal correspondence spirals out of us connecting each and all of us to every other one of us ... annihilating, if only we’ll allow it, the divisions! Stand up and be counted uncountable fallen leaves, and you, too, red ants that harvest them home, mossy cons of chain link fences, life and death of salves and liniments; endless plains of honeysuckle, so much licorice root to boot, inkberry inkberry inkberry. 6 What are you working on? Asks my suddenly teenage daughter, Agnes, handling my copy of León Felipe’s Canto a mi mismo. What can I answer her? Obliteration’s mysterious even to me. Possibly my standard is unstandard, of black-and-white-rhinoceros-racing-green pink love, a hope that accumulates into what might be. Maybe it's the Vast’s demolition derby of sequins, the dishwasher performing its lemony work, performing attentively, preparing for blackout. Could it be drawing a name from a hat, or just some initials and going in search, and finding the person, so finding a shadow? My daughter is already both translation and spirit, someone recognizable—no entirely familiar—but who, nevertheless, I can’t place in the distance between years ago and now, between parents and children. When one is new to the world, circles can even be squares, another’s pain can be your pain, and no fang is malevolent—anything is possible, anyone is possible, a flashing new vision to remind us to see. Obliteration is also a method, one that I write to be written everywhere: in the infinitesimal smallness of the gluon, and the enormous appetite of a massive black hole, among all people everywhere every single one of you potentially my loves. Will you recreate me and teach me your lungs? O spirals of tongues I will attend you with kindness! You are important to me. Life and death are obliterations both, one state sprouting from another. Speaking of death, even all of you, who are already long gone, now dirt and grass and air and stars, teenagers, collection agents, Walt Whitman’s beard, beautifully and grotesquely and weirdly, I love; and the softness of moss on the babies’ green heads, those already taken and yet to be born… You feel to me like the paws of all the wolves in the world! But also like grandma’s wig-out, too—gray and untold, and silver-gold chintzy and priceless with an oncoming darkness, too much to have to focus on in any given minute. The spectacle is so much too much. Especially with so many tongues not articulated in a mouth yet, so many voices squashed at the lips. I want to hear those voices obliterate their oppressors, even if that means obliterating my own. But what is the method I spoke of above? I wish I could articulate more clearly the way it works for the young people who leave forever in the morning to arrive, for the old men and women who disturb the full moon, even little ones raptured in a blankness so mysterious, everyone burns to remake them in their images; I wish I could enumerate the steps I have taken, but they’re something in the end I have only to show. Let me know what you think in the comments below: What is your sense of the invisible, untranslatable parts of what make us, of those parts that will go, but somehow also hang around? Somewhere, I think, they are alive and waiting for us, maybe even right next to us, or inside us all along. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; what exists exists in changes forever, some incremental, some the yawning globe; who is waiting now, at the end of our road, to embrace us our swarm? The instant life ends is the instant it begins, and vice versa. Life and Death, Call and Response, Attention and Intention; all of us are more and less. Obliteration’s promise is continuance beyond; there is no such thing as death. There is no such thing as life either, only the living this minute! 15 A punk rock screamer, a hip-hop MC, a bluegrass tenor, and a free jazz vocalist walk into a bar—they make mystical racket together by the beer light; all of it’s fun, but none of it’s a punchline— the actual bar in the establishment was built by a carpenter who was dreaming an endless unrepeatable forest— wild with fangs of wolves (of course!) but also cartoon bluebirds, chocolate rabbits, and all my dearest enemies and friends—blood brothers, weird sisters— as you know, nowadays many of us choose our families, since the ones we were born to are conspiracy theorists, or absent, or pirates, or all consumed with substances… Everything’s a matter of distraction and disturbance, some of it’s deliberate, most of it’s of circumstance, e.g. now I watch as an airline pilot draws exhaustive circles against the blue with her stylus or now I listen as a warship’s captain walks into the ship’s kitchen, reads out loud the recipe taped to the wall for 10,000 chocolate chip peanut butter cookies; what could be more than? what could be less? a riot cop chooses not to even load his gun; an evangelist handwrites a hopeful letter to a stranger; a Wiccan practitioner recites a small poem, and the rye and the oats with their songs stun the farmer; all of this happens in a flash, simultaneously, pulling my body in its different directions, reminding me—how?—of another place and time: “veterinarians don’t know everything” says a child to her parents as her dog is put to sleep… (The dog, whose name is Daisy, has watched over the little girl, especially at night when things go dark, slept in her room on the floor by the door, “…Daisy will always be with us in spirit” say the little girl’s parents in a useless attempt to comfort her, in a useless attempt to comfort themselves); now the writer of this very poem, with grayer hair and thicker face, re-reads what he’s written with wild fluttering eyes, a flannel shirt of birds in his always racing mind, a little dust in his chest or a parking lot of sadness; nevertheless on some days, miracles also happen; did you hear the one about the heart transplant patient, who was dead for several minutes, then returned to the world with lanterns for eyes, her old heart’s ashes still beating out of time? and speaking of hearts, here’s another story, but this one’s not a miracle: a grandfather takes his four grandchildren fishing —the three boys—two of them twins, and their younger brother—get bored, wind up wading in the shallow water by the shore but the girl who is oldest—just turned 7—takes it all very seriously, even baits her own hook, feels the worm’s body tense as it’s pierced— and for her efforts, her very first catch, a tiny sunfish, with blue and green spots, translucent in the daylight, its small heart beating can be seen through its skin— the girl, who’s so proud, calls to her father—he’s reading “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman up at the house, about 25 yards away—she wants him to come and see the golden ticket she’s reeled in; so the father gets up and walks out to the end of the dock, jutting out into the lake— it’s a lovely little fish, but he can see immediately it’s swallowed the hook, “great job,” he says “what a beautiful fish,” “it fought really hard” the girl says. “I bet” her father says, and then he looks up at the vast of the sky, turns to walk back to the house, and starts to cry; What does that story illustrate, if not the pain and the joy of small things when they’re entangled? A reporter takes notes in an all-weather notebook, canary yellow cover with FIELD printed on it, the binding is spiral, No 353; The writer is the reporter, the reporter is me. A blackberry cobbler cools forever in the window—at least that’s the way it feels to the impatient children, but even more so to the adults who will eat what they leave; at Home Depot a woman is taking one of every paint swatch, later she’ll make poems with the names of all the colors; in one yard a sign reads Black Lives Matter, next door there’s a sign that reads Pray for America; Hell is real and Heaven is real, or only Hell is, and somehow that’s a question; belief isn’t necessarily supported by the facts (I’m not in the least, or in any way, criticizing it!) (or maybe just a little) (or maybe a lot) Do not say that everything is relative—everything is not relative, some things are in fact wrong—that is, they are not true, or they are devastating or irresponsible or absurd; I thought to provide you with an example right there, but the one’s that I thought of took me somewhere—somewhere in the crabgrass of sorrow, somewhere in the hatred people feel for each other; I apologize, I just don’t want to go there. Maybe I don’t want to go any further at all. And what exactly does “at all” mean right there—that I don’t want to go any further in this poem, my memory, philosophy? Here’s an image that just came to me: In Washington park, three young people with tattoos on their faces throw a green and pink frisbee light years into the future; Maiden Blush and White Transparent, Gravenstein and Northern Spy—those aren’t images, they are the names of four different types of heirloom apples, names I like for their sounds and associations. Meanwhile, in Whitman’s poem, as always, today is the fourth of July or it is not the fourth of July. For him it was, for me it’s not. I’m not sure what that has to do with anything, but fireworks are part of the original. The years go on and off and on. Some people work and play and love, but others, for various reasons, are suffering; it is not uncomplicated to be a leaf in winter, or a human being ever, or a particle accelerator searching for God— yea, even in the frozen faces of ice fishermen even in the physics of the long-distance runner; is someone in charge, or is it we who are in charge? And what needs to change? If you think you know, is it simple, or is it complicated? Is it various musicians walking into a bar and spontaneously erupting in song, or is it the old family dog’s heavy eyes, or is it a small girl with a small dying sun? This section of the poem goes on and on and on with chestnut trees and cotton shirts and rivers of blood and an uncivil war; obviously also lots of semi-colons; lots of disjunction; it’s a giant catalogue—a catalogue meant to unite us— so why am I always so utterly divided? you’ll sue me, if I don’t take liberties—trust me. The city’s asleep and the sheep meadow’s asleep; a dream flows between them both the living and their ghosts; and between the young married couple, between the children and their parents ... Also, it’s true, no one’s waiting to read anything by me, but my skeleton still feels like it’s something left to give… the ambiguity of “it’s” there… the ambiguity of “give”… And yet, since you are me, and I am you, more or less— both an “us” and a “them” an “each” and an “all” an “other” and a “self”… I guess this is our song… 16 Is the voice that you hear in your ear young or old, is it scattered or philosophical, disinterested or attentive… Is it kindly or angry or electrified skulls dreaming of burning the world down with awe? My warp, it seems, is weird today as thunder, but the voice I hear is only partially my own. It’s also everyone’s voices all flying at once, a massive conglomerate of big-headed eagles, each one of them made up of many smaller birds, all the rain in the rainbow, all the cut trees in the old-timey porch; north songs and south, easy and hospitable. Fact: The clouds we blast off through are all H2O, but somehow on average weigh 10,000 lbs; Fact: the traffic on the interstate is heavy with fossils—some of them are dinosaurs, but others are apostles. Fact: It’s nice to be here with you and to sing to you where I’m from—Ohio, Indiana, and a little Tennessee—the great Smokie Mountains—and way way back, a long time ago, Ireland and Hungary, and deep outer space with a BANG! Of course, I’m aware that your song’s similar to and different from my own—and I love to hear your impossible bones—impossible for me, but totally your own, and hearing it, I long to sing what you sing; I long to be an instrument in your orchestra’s house. If you are Lake Superior, then I am a mouse, or I am Mt. Everest and you are a phonebook. I skip along happy and alarmed when you call me, and the eagles of all of us soar and wing along, singing the nouns of the people we love. Wisconsin, California, and the snowshoes of Alaska, the redwood forests, the great beds of oysters, the punch bowls made of ice at a super cool party. And now the songs of all our smallest birds explode o’er Vermont then the Everglades of Florida, even unto the dirt of New Mexico and Texas. I am a friend to any one of you who’ll have me— to the swift as to the grizzly, even broken into pixels. I shake your human hand, or maybe we embrace, maybe animatedly so the next round’s on me. I am an apprentice of the past and the present most assuredly, but even more so of the future. I’ll stand down happily to give you your chance, even if doing so’s uncomfortable for me. You see I want us to sing for centuries—no, millenia—no, forever—and the world needs our help, our themes and variations, our melodies, harmonies, syncopated palpitations. Whoever you are, sing your peace and I will listen. Sing your “pieces” and I will work with you to put them all back together, if that’s what you want, or that’s what you need. I am greenest of the green, but I have time, and I know no god, but the individual human spirit… The one that grows soybeans, the one that fixes engines, the one so inventive that we’re not sure what they’ve made, the one who drives an ambulance, the one who studies rocks or snakes, the one who dives off the stage, the prisoner, the illusionist, the devil in a rage; Supreme Court Justice, epidemiologist, minister, physicist, engineer, and thief… I resist homogeny, authority, and death. Here is my oxygen, take what you need, and do what you must to make it your own (even if that means annihilating me). I am the living and the dead and who might be. I want to hear every/thing for real, from gargantuan calamity to the minutest particulars. From the movements inside an anchovy’s eggs to a trillion blurring rioting stars, and the shadow sounds, too—maybe shadows most of all—I can hear you, and I want to, just as I want to be heard by you; I want to be one half of one half of one note in your song—eagles stuffed with images of owls stuffed with moons, and I want you with me in the universal wound—the sound, the noise, the music, the flood. What’s audible is here for us to hear us and be heard by us, but also what’s inaudible, the hum between the notes, the symphonies of dust in our bones. 17 This melody’s the same as in every other song, it’s just that the notes are in an entirely different order; the notes are tones, the notes are words, and in that way the materials are never original, the materials don’t belong only to me—they don’t belong to anyone—or they belong precisely to everyone who uses them to sing; if they are not yours, too, then I don’t want them; if they are not at least possibly dreaming of Easter eggs, headphone tricks, and hidden allusions to the songs of the future, and, at the very same time wide awake to the practical necessary and urgent predicaments of what it means to be alive RIGHT NOW (in a never-ending process of calling and responding, sending and receiving, singing and silence in the shadows of giants), then they aren’t worth fucking around with; I am not fucking around, I’m trying (both senses). For the tools to work right they have to be completely impossible and available to everyone who wants them. Look, for example: grass-stained giant toddlers as far as the eye can see, their diapers that sag as they zag through the zinnias; and if you think that’s mysterious, the ordinary air that envelops our balloon is also the air that’s singing this to you.
About the Author:
Matt Hart is the author of nine books of poems, including most recently Everything Breaking/for Good and The Obliterations. Additionally, his poems, reviews, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous print and online journals, including Big Bell, Columbia Poetry Review, Harvard Review, jubilat, Kenyon Review, Lungfull!, Mississippi Review, POETRY, and Waxwing, among others. His awards include a Pushcart Prize, a grant from The Shifting Foundation, and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. He was a co-founder and the editor-in-chief of Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking & Light Industrial Safety from 1993-2019. Currently, he lives in Cincinnati where he teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and plays in the band NEVERNEW: www.nevernew.net.
Feature image by Jr Korpa/Unsplash