Cantos IX-X by Teg George

Canto IX


            “I like the breathing spaces or rhythms that are kind of musical in the way that life is and not in the way that constructed narratives are—often condensed to just the dramatic moments.”—Jim Jarmusch


            “Brackets are exciting.”—Anne Carson


Non sequitur Commodus


            just when you think scholars will rate

along comes Commodus to suture our mouths shut

            and jam hot pepper[                              ]


            banner and sword shoved to the fore

while any love was subsumed in cruelty

            and shame with the noblest blood spilt







but only until the worst of his influences could vent

            then when all[






            “Peace of God,” shouted[

                                                ]some lingered for hours

            others expired within the lions’ jaws







                                                ]outside his palace

            and his concubines warned him of the uprising


                        ]only in this way[

                                                ]years of lust

            and license prolonged[


Non sequitur Neoptolemus


            whose son will pry the bow

from my fists                 not for nothing has Odysseus

            spent ten years worrying Trojan wives


            now his long years languishing away

from Penelope has driven him to foist

            Achilles’ son upon me


            Neoptolemus took no oath to follow

Menelaus to Troy     so he is mildly acceptable

            in my sight                 in my sights






            by the god                  there will be no Greek

left unhurried when I land on Trojan[

            whether I will hit their backs               Odysseus


            will indeed run fastest toward those walls

battle hardened by my shafts

            nor will those walls stand long






            all of these years wasted with fish

flayed for only one mouth                    olives

            for one hand to spread              to harvest






            for what other dishonors could sons stoop

than to memorize their father

            with lies and dissembling and false promises


Non sequitur Joyce


            he that ears hear            hath them

                        ]seeds won’t sow themselves[

            then be at rest or be prepared[






            Joyce was a player and toured England

in order to spite his father who wanted

            him to be a doctor not a chamber musician






            the Lord’s Prayer as ancestor worship

as work under the master for an apprentice

            as supernova                     as corona  as nebula






            sing in me muse the anger of James Joyce

who writes sentences into the next century

            and a half for women who cannot chance a ghost


            too            we would want to tribute

to the main chance              try to advance

            our quality of life past[


            what’s the verb            the action   the deal

or what’s the bank     who has it    the dough




            ]the sores on my hands go on and on[



            Yeats was always adorable with his penchant

for the occult and mythic transformations

            yet despicable for reiterating dynasties


Non sequitur C. Dundee


            first time I had Stone Wheat Thins

with ice cold crock and the troubles

            that came from that experience






            varnish goes a long way to make your new

portrait look a sight older            even ancient

                                    ]as your nose[



                        ]please hold the[



            now all of a sudden you’re going to eat

                        ]finish that screenplay

            after you cough that last bit of shag



this cashew tastes like Scarlett O’Hara

            this pinot noir tastes like Hobbit’s bottom


            who’s askin’ who’s prescribin’ whose poo

who’s got the who for whom

            whom hath whose whos on treed cooter


            cooter can’t be treed unless the shell

half has staying power[



            put on your pinks and call the dogs

saddle Old Hermione                     bring your tin whistle

            load your wheel gun             piss your pants


Non sequitur Odd Couple


            that weird note in the Ninth            what’s up

that falling sound in the Canon of Taco Bell

            that Old Anger sign swinging from the pub




            sad consultants in partnerships with sportswriters


            those holes that HM uses in his sculpture

are they for something like smart bullets

            where guns fire            what targets know


            critique of pure reason            poor reason




            even Leonardo places Gioconda among rocks

as though he foresees the drowned Phoenician

            Sailor               the Hanged Man            the Quilting Bee


            you must answer the sweet music

with music                    do not bring[

            or your minds will atrophy






            Jim sd/ the beauty of cinema is entering a world

that is unknown to you and will sweep you along



            poetry makes nothing happen

religion makes even less happen








Canto X



            when the morning sun rises

above the rooftops and mist burns

            away                only your lips gleam


            more brightly than the candle’s flame

as we search for another clove of anise

            in the pantry               each one smokier


            each one more piquant than the first

than the second            than the third flavoring

            our wine     our spirits so that love


            burns more brightly than cook fires

as we bake cornbread in our skillets

            as we boil water for coffee


            more purple than beets boiling over Scythian

fires                  flames made from red cane like rye

            dance               dance               your dress shaking


            your red curls burning over your shoulders

like coals bursting over your dress                    hair

            aglow as the pot bottom's iron


            all morning light hazes the hair on your arms

and glances off the down on your belly            so much

            has the morning mist glossed your face


            even rouge will not adhere because the god

has said your forehead is mine     if you lose

            even a hair of your head I have lost the god


            you remember the opposite of the Seven

Sleepers            King Antiochus kills these seven

            boys who refuse boars                boiled


            you remember this is how Odysseus’

nurse recognizes him              the scar on his thigh

            from the boar’s tusk              he almost chokes


            Euryclea to stop Penelope from seeing him

for what he really was                     what was his kingdom

            compared to her            Venice floats


            Ithaca               we all have Ithaca in our hearts

that place we yearn for            Arthur’s Avalon

            Achilles’ Elysian Fields            but Venice


            floats in our mind as some eternal and unreachable

cloud-city            always about to dissolve to sand

            hence the new dikes to protect her


            where in Venetia the boars roam and eat

acorns              their meat becomes so sweet

            even in Tuscany            the ones with white


            streaks are savored rightly as meat

for princesses               orange-winged starlings flit

            overhead            bobbing among olive branches


            while Marco lectures Dante through smoke

on the hill though he may not follow until he’s purged

            of wrath    prays Agnus Dei


            Pia asks Dante to remember her

though she may not follow                     ever climbing

            ever singing Miserere                       even Sordello


            limbo enraptures Thetis yet Manto lives

by mistake or invention both in limbo and hell

            so the sea of memory tricks us


            yet remember them through all and she

will rob us of our senses            defenseless

            before her palaces and squares


            pigeons and cameras clicking against the cobbles

boats poled beneath arches and bridges

            beside windows behind which lovers


            trade promises and families design fate

to fit their clan’s desires  yes            her kin pounce

            on joy               on love             on lucre


            her soul is created apt for love and she

moves toward beauty and pleasantries            away

            from destruction and ugliness             a remedy too


            this old pope will not bequeath his gold

his myrrh to us if your love marches into Rome   you

            forget Ravenna            forget Lombardy


            yet Venetia has lions in her hair and must restrict

herself to the isles                  to her Lagoon

            she must change herself  love abides


            what if the Hun cannot marry you

will your brothers and sisters roast you or will the Hun

            rescue you                   the waters run clear


            to nesting fowl                  so that the lions

will roar past and ignore your people distilled from fish

            into salt            your mother’s still has smoke rising


            and the salt drying in the sun              the pure water

she uses to dilute her corn liquor    runs clear over coals

            and runs sublime            mist above the fire where you


            dance crazily to show off that new cloth

we bought for you from the Alani    women who spent

            maybe fifteen or so days weaving it


            then sewing sequins and flames made from cane

into your wedding dress            then after a drunken interlude

            he falls drowning in his own blood                    burst


            weeping          you                   our man-stream quiets

the bubbling of your mother’s still and the Huns wait

            outside his tent  then outside our walls


            wait for your answer                  painting on canvas

you know            came to being here because the frescoes

            would not last through years                wet


            but even Hun or Goth could not find

us at this juncture            hidden with clams

            and dogfish and drowned ducks


            fruit will not fall  only marsh groves

of shell and shingle and sand that sinks

            and rises somnolently                  liquid love


            conned by moon            by snakes or calamari

or cozza or gamberi                        chalk into gesso priming

            life                    modeling colors in egg yolks


            hidden within handkerchiefs like Gustave’s

love      like Othello’s whose ship-born lore

            has crossed him even as it seduced a lover


            Venice always wins its lovers beneath sea

what it loses it finds and wins               endless

            beauty in ruin deadly                too much know


            ledge as Lombardo’s mermaids wedded

Venice wedded to the froth from which she bubbled

            robed in motley to hide her later grace


            scorn had saved her               water shielded her

now marble robes her till she melts to sea again

            as Ophelia or Iphigenia or Magda or Orleans


            then the Doge goes ashore with St. Mark

at his side to win back her fame from the East and erase

            no shame   e riposato de la lunga via


            all this               città giardino            unlike Rappacini

so like his daughter            ha un livido—sanguina

            C’è il dottore?”             yes            with blue artery


            he spreads his love and languor through our

veins until like Ralph Touchett we know we

            have seen the Holy Land and she floats



Cantos I