27 October 2014

The Shelmstress Poems II

From Wikipedia:

"'Coolidge Shelmstress writes in his introduction to Great Book of Bad Poems, the definitive collection of Calvé Shelmstress's poetry (with the title Calvé requested as well as requesting that all his work be burned after his death--he seemed to know his brother all too well): "I grew up in a household filled with books, music, language, and languages. My parents spoke to my elder brother in three languages, but to me they spoke only in English. This killed me. But my brother aced every German and French class he ever took and any class in English Literature. He hated America for being both too easy and so hard.

"'He was an early adopter of scientific, psychologic, and--not quite-so-early--psychoanalytic frames of knowledge and languages, which he followed assiduously. In some of his best poems, he uses terms like 'Dark Matter,' 'Event-Horizon,' and 'Anti-Matter' to, to my mind, spectacular effect. He is the poet of Happy-Unhappy Happiness. I have reproduced his poem on learning, with all its line-spacing intact, the way my brother insisted it must be (an insistence lost on the editors of most anthologies in which it appears). It is as though this poem were falling apart, even as it expresses itself. I think I may weep every time I read it.'"

I have learned, I
by Calvé Shelmstress

I have learned, I

Have found, that I

Live in a world

Of Negative,


Love; a World of


Thought, in with whose

Contact which, my

Thought should Explode.

Yet. I live in

That World of Thought,

Which, if I should

Lose it, I should

Lose My Self; a

Self unmeasured

By Puritan

Accountants, and

Profit Margin.

In their world, I

Would live in a

World, where My Life's

Work, My Life's worth,

My Life's words and

World would account

For Nothing; no,

How should I live

There? I could not.

Calvé Shelmstress, I have learned, I, 1974.

Beware, O Human
by Calvé Shelmstress

Beware, O Human of
Of Sleep, Time Machine of
American Depression;
With you falling asleep
Tuesday yet waking on
Thursday. This is a verse

Written in Sixes. That
Sick sixth sense of health and
Hell, this machine will take
You backwards only but
Never forward; Inward,
Never outward; then but

Never now nor yet. La
Grande jamais la petite
Mort. Ersatz Liebe; Nichts.
This is a verse written
In Sixes. Sleep, sleep, sleep
The Day away. Who cares?

Six deadly sins, virtues
Too, are quite enough, who
Needs the seventh? I my
Self do not even need
Six. This verse is written
In Sixths. The Beatles said

We should want to live in
A week of eight days. I
Could never. How should I
Ever live in an eight
Day week, when six is too
Much for me. This verse is

Written in Sixes. O
Beware, Human, of this
Machine, it will take you
To Peace and Nowhere fast.
Schade. Tristesse. This verse
Is written in Sixes.

Calvé Shelmstress, Beware, O Human, 1984.

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