Toby Altman

ENVOY (about the author)

scene: live, from the bowels of Arcadia...

• the poet, in his absence, sends an augury of his booty:

Toby: I sing my self for sale: blank, butter-light,
and highly militarized. Once I drank
my song and ate it too, but Rumsfeld was right:
you go to war with the army you have.
Now, fragrant in not-things and fluent too,
pale Achilles walks his mother's roses.
Brittle as a grammar, man and his wound
sing together and pick each other's noses:
"Whoso sinks his sex in funeral meat,
some baked, some sweet, I know where is an hind, 
left by holy buddies to stain the beach.
Do not touch him. He is Caesar's in mind,
    Circe's in body: go to him and write,
    'My love,'" (he coughs a rope of snot) "'is like:'"






about the author:

Toby: ok, excuse me while I ode myself—or what's left of me: lilac and fog, the founding act of bliss. Once I merged my delicate fingers with the internet—but its engine erupts aromatic paste, worn as prophylactic against the plague. Very soon I will be the silence of vespers. When the time comes, I'll draw my credit card like a flaccid sword and advance against the air. Hello, I am awed by all that is known: pale Iphigenia as she walks among her mothers roses. "Break forth unscented flesh in chives and bullion," (she sez, thru me), "Seedbed of the thing—sweetheart of the thing—break forth in salt and wisteria: the spring is here and dappled with its speculum."

He thinks he has an inalienable right to soda and sandwich—that this is what it means to be a man. Yet, under current political conditions such a desire is unspeakable as such. Therefore the skies blanche when he walks beneath them. The resources of his being are exhausted. There is no special augury in the fall of a sparrow. There follows three minutes of mortuary heat

[exit Toby, permanently]


SHUDDER (and lament)

scene: foreman in his death agony.


Helpless now, I was covered with slime
moving softly / glitter / The Hill / leaning
its back. Memory of our long talks:
agree on wetlands and / creeps bliss when sinking.
Flu-dust kinetic / lightwave / leach / protect
our non-physical kind / and all throughout
water nursing a helpless now / private
the cross / beatitude / agree about.

I was the most loved. I was the most loved.
I love the most hopelessly, sink this one. 
The flowers, things / on circumstance / above:
last season, several horse / a drowning sum:
    it means / of persistence: it is a help
    lessness, we know / we know / it is / a help.





Chorus: The space where you were / persists: / rock / spindle / shear, / engaged in the sod. / Each alike in this: / unfolded, they bear / a living mind.

Chorus: Happily, language is a thing. Happily, language is made of uneasiness. A pulse beneath the ribs that radiates melancholy. And your voice, when you let it, is the plow that broke you: to spindle and shape. Proserpina with her snakes.

Chorus: You could not remain / here, darling. / You were translated / to another air, / and cried, 'to Heaven, / my love, to heaven, / and leave / you in the storm.'

Chorus: The dog has left his shrine. In pious silence he trots the fields, nose down, hunting for a trace of urine. But the secret roads of the earth, which the gods traveled without motion or heat, have closed. And the body aches inconsolably.







These poems are from a verse play called Arcadia, Indiana. I began with a fantasy of reconciling the resources of traditional and avant-garde poetics. For instance, I wrote the sonnet in "Shudder (and lament)" by repeatedly translating Bertolt Brecht's "The Swamp" into Japanese using google translate, and then collating the fragments.