23 October 2014

The Shelmstress Poems

From Wikipedia:

Named after his maternal grandfather, Belgian-American poet, Calvé Shelmstress, moved to the United States, as a young child, with his parents in the late 1940s, after the end of World War II.

Although immigration was still constricted immediately following VJ Day, the fact that Shelmstress' paternal grandmother was an American citizen helped to grease the immigration wheels, somewhat. The ironic fact that his American grandmother's Jewish ancestry had prevented an earlier move to the United States, which forced the family to live by its wits and survive through the dangerous generosity of Christian family friends in Belgium, was never lost on the writer. Although a naturalized American citizen, Shelmstress, frequently expressed a discomfort with America and the idea of a homeland--which he felt inextricably tied to German and Nazi notions of der Vaterland--or even the idea of a home, as such.

Fluently tri-lingual, Shelmstress' poetry and criticism only survives through the efforts of his much younger brother, Coolidge, executor of his estate.

He Sits and Waits at Home
by Calvé Shelmstress

He sits at home alone,
In a home not his; he
Has never had a home
That's his, he thinks, yet feels

And is, at home, he hopes;
He sits and waits at home;
Sees the news and sings the
Blues and the loneliness

Is excavating. We
Must wait for things that Must
Never come, for Other-
Wise, they never could, could

Never, be real. Using
Change, harvested from time,
And pockets of time, and
Pockets and streets, he rides,

Derides public transit,
Wand-erring idly, Who,
If I cried out, would hear
Me, someone suggests, with-

In the Engel Ordnungen.
He has no other choice.
Still. It's real enough, is
It not? It's real to feel,

To read and write and know,
And be right, but only
From time to time, because
What is right can change for

You, on a dime, as they
Say, or when banks are used,
Then even a nickel's
Turn is for the worst. He

Sits and he waits, he'll have
Manhattan, Brooklyn, and
Staten Island, too; he'll
Have hell, as well, and wait-

ing, too, perhaps, for God--
Oh, wait. Except that, he
Supposes, someone must
Have said, God waits for you,

I expect. He sits and
Waits as Time flicks the day
Away Across the screen,
Surviving On M and

Ms and seeds And stems,
Friends, family friends, love,
Passing stranger love, and
Family, too. It's love-

ly walking through the zoo.
Pretend you saw this in
The New Yorker or in
Chalk on the sidewalk. He.

He sits and waits at home.

Calvé Shelmstress, He Sits and Waits at Home, composition date uncertain: late 20th Century

Cry, Cry, Cry, 1944, 1954, 1964, 1974, 1984, 1994-2014
by Calve Shelmstress

I walk
I walk the
Streets of the
Great city and
I see
I see people
Crying. I see people
Crying. They
Cry on their
Cell phones; they
Cry to their
Colleagues; they
Cry to friends; they
Cry by themselves.

Cry, cry, cry.

I repeat this word:
Cry: to turn it inside-
Out. To denature it and
Make it strange. I
Do it
Here. In
This poem.

Cry, cry, cry.

I am beginning
To accept.
I am
Beginning to
Accept that
I am one
Of those
People no one
Will matter to.
No one will
Matter to. No
One will matter
To, till he
Is dead. Not
As good as Kafka
Or Benjamin, but
Forgotten until
All the same.

Cry, cry, cry.

People are crying!
Crying in the
Streets of New
York! They
Cry for themselves!
They cry for
Their friends! They
Cry for their
Jobs! Their families!
Their government!
They cry!

Cry, cry, cry.

I walk to the
Corner store.
Crying. I buy
Crackers, ice
Cream, and the
Counter guy
Calls my name. Take
Care he says.

Cry, cry, cry.

Calvé Shelmstress, Cry, Cry, Cry, 1944, 1954, 1964, 1974, 1984, 1994-2014, 2014

21 September 2014

It's the End of the World as We Know It: I Think I Thought You Were Someone Else

Should we talk about the weather?
Should we talk about the government?
-- R.E.M., "Pop Song 89," GREEN

I am a child of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. It sounds like the call sign for junk, pop radio, doesn't it? In truth, I am, as is everyone of my generation, and the generation before us, and that generation before them, a child--a "product"--of the 19th century. We are all Victorians. We are the new Victorians--"the 'other' Victorians"--as Foucault so memorably described himself, us, and you. 

If you are younger than I am, you, too, perhaps feel unmoored from the 19th century, perhaps do not even know what it is, what that means. I assure you, the only thing that divides me from you is this understanding: We are still living in the 19th century. And we live very much in the 19th century A.D.--"of our Lord," Jesus Christ, though not in any sense he--or even He--would recognize as living during such a time. "We" are "living" it "up"; but we are not living. Friends, we are at the end of days. And it isn't the one indicated to us in Scripture, in the inscription, of The Word--an "in scripture," an inscription, a script, which, as its name clearly indicates, is a writing, a quotation, because all writing is a quotation of something and thus a something subject to misquotation, mistranslation, emendation, animus, amendment, redaction, addition, subtraction. 

No, in fact, the coming apocalypse arrives, at what may be the actual end of the industrial, 19th century, by way of "Science," which is--the public discourse of which is--only another indispensable invention of the 19th century. We are living at the End of Times, during which the agricultural year of dependable, repeating cycles is overtaken by and dissolved into high-speed and the overproduced, entertainment version of high-speed called instant gratification. As the early, seasonal manifestation we are coming to know so well, perhaps even, perversely, getting used to, illustrates; yes, the awkward disturbance in, and disruption of, the seasons, which used to number four, makes so clear--the times of Autumn and Spring are subsumed by Winter and Summer, which then start turning into each other in alternation. Your latest evidence is the Winter of 2014, with snow and freezing temperatures interspersed with 50 degree days, and a Summer in Ohio, traditionally a time of luxuriant, overwhelming humidity and heat, reduced to a bizarre string of 50 degree days and nights during the high summer of July and August, followed by a September heat wave in New York coinciding, exactly, with snow in the Midwest.

Seasonal time is out-of-joint; time is out of joint. And this is just one of the many gifts of the 19th century and its passion for unregulated industry, which has returned to us in the 21st century, a time we live in in name only.


#peoplesclimate, #peoplesclimatemarch, #climatechange, #globalwarming