Editions MSS
Editions MSS
To Reek Evocatively Uncouth

Hills like a fall sky before evening

By setting myself the task of condensing Hemingway’s tawdry and verbose romp, “Hills Like White Elephants,” into a mere eight lines of terse, evocative verse, I endeavoured to prove myself a poetaster of rare facility. Did my annum laboriosum of diligent textwork amidst the alluvial glebe and caruncular pampa of Beulah clinch the lyrical compact to the scope of my zeal? I leave it to you, my edacious reader (ER), to decide.

as hunger reached you and

brought glimpses of caramelized


was there anything you so

desired? (at home by a sunlit

sea, an affinity for ocean

and the harsh autumn sky


Beulah, 1984

Sonnet n° 1

Paternal ire, filial impotence, a sulfurous chemise of Ityalian algodón, a pane of glass, a fist — these were the ingredients my year of diligent textwork assembled in the cocktail shaker of 90-proof lyric to yield this, my first mature attempt at a sonnet. Notice the translexical play on красный and красота that redistemperates the jaundiced verse’s quinary queue with a sublimely blushing bloom of heterolexical encarnado.

Exhibiting a dead sincerity of intention

and a rather violent will of its own,

my hand punched right through the window pane,

much to my embarrassment.

And much to my embarrassment the window punched

right back through me, piercing

the virgin underbelly of my forearm

racking my body with innumerable

thin shivers of light.

The yellow sleeve of my shirt

fills with blood.

Of such redness

such quick dripping beauty

am I capable.

Gertrude, 1985


Sometime in December, 1985, Sheriff R. Roussel of Gertrude en WY, had occasion to take indigent New Lexican native J. J. “La Cuna” Sagradu, late of Agua Prieta, into custody, resulting in the latter’s precipitant departure into the beyond. The translexical leap (saute) that took me right over the heterolexical mahāvedi and into a realm of allusion connecting the current to the ancient over the course of a year’s diligent textwork allowed me to wring ageless prosody from topical reportage, from what could have been merely the rever(s)ed descente de l’éternel en espèce échelée de l’éphémère not unlike the species of twirler moth, Temnopalis verru Strick., 1845 (the Venerable Rescorner), said to have fluttered from the cell where señor Sagradu ha exhalado his dernière bouffée d’aire.

I eat dinner with my cat then, off for the nightly

(Jésus hangs himself. They stand nervous, laughing

their boyish dream. I, outside the county jail, cry.

(What does one make of it? it

sings specifically, seems pacific but? how

does one come to understand. We

know it doesn’t seem real, doesn’t realize time

(Nights have descended slowly, calling

catlike for lovers — myself didn’t dance, only

a shadow, my voice companionless) but one alone

demands the courage not to

Gertrude, 1986

Dust angels

Waking from desnotic stupor one autumn afternoon on the overland route to Agua Prieta, I chanced to aspirate the visual grit of countless large, clumsy, mange- and hunger-addled loxodontic equiids loping down an arid slope of heterolexical consciousness. Only by prying the images out one by one from under my assiduous eyelids by means of a Pilot Razor Point (since discontinued) during the course of a pastoral eclogue was I able to lexorcise the frazzled beasts’ bristly wattles and fesses sèches that gimble more than gyre, schizomythologically transforming sere scurrility into a rarefied rollercoaster of arroyoan poésie so as to constitute itself as the outcome of this year’s diligent textwork.

They trot along gracelessly, their dusty

anuses polished by windborne sand.

They ease down the hills

with a soft swaybacked

walk that slips and struggles

to maintain balance but occasionally

one will fall, tumbling a short

distance, and the line is broken

the order changed but

that is not important.

They plod along over the sand

in no particular order, when one

wants to it breaks

into a gallop that kicks up

an irritating spray of dust

and pebbles and a few others

might follow, might not.

When one tires it slows

and gets back in line to follow

the one ahead and it’s not

important that the order has

changed, that their hot loose genitals

are wrinkled and dry, that

the desert doesn’t care.

Beulah, 1987

Ars poetica

Having been exposed in Beulah to the teratological brominations prismatically gelled into crimped conspicuity through the alchemical agencies of a dabbler in the Niépce method, thence unduly jilted by the insufficient shadow cast by the torch of an itinerant cockatrice of insolvent sophistry on the subject of said tintoned prises de vue, I yoked, upon my debarkation at Porto Vecho, AP (the Sodality of Reavers of the Estacado had expropriated the fer from the chemins of the Coastal Northwestern at Mahomet Station, forcing me to hail a yawl at Cañada Verde), I yoked my diligent tintmongrels to the task, during a span of yazdehan lunations, of soldering mis recuerdos entristextados into the springloaded proposal before you, viz., that the venery of verse must be neither rash nor spare, but as speculatively deliberate as trussing a tetra in a tun, as vulpinatiously vast as rifling a firkin of smelts.

A barrel sits alone

upon the yellow dust

of an empty plain.

It could be a wooden

barrel, or a metal

barrel, but whichever

the case, it is filled

with water. Swimming

deep inside the shadow

of the barrel is

a fish. Or so one

has been led to believe.

You sight the barrel

from a distance.

There are an infinite

number of ways

to approach it.

Agua Prieta, 1988

Sonnet n° 2

From out of the dregs of some prior debauch, I enjambed the deadlight of my basement room beneath the El-Achim Bridge, Owlstain, and spat out the rancid butt of this, my second sonnet. No, that can’t be right. I was living in Agua Prieta at the time. Nevertheless, diligent textwork eventually dispelled un año obsesivo stained dark and fulvous by dreams or sibyls of the distant D’Laumes. Ultimately, it was with the suture of cæsura that I deftly osculated the evident Tetrastic rift, such that a rare and feathery, though slightly scarred, trochaic biped shoulders in my soneto’s pentametric terminus, a sturdy tripod of liquid iambs.

Dawn’s drooling face smiles above the horizon;

through the trees, through the shattered cusps

and canines of buildings opens

its bleak window of departing darkness still

slick with the dust of pulverized light,

its dim window of in-creeping light still powdered

with the grit-slick shadows of the slow

departing clouds hung still above the blunt

rungs of the hung-over morning. I open

my own shutters to smile back at it, my cracked

mouth-window revealing the naked half-leer

of broken teeth, the shameless half-leer

of naked teeth. Naked, I ask you: All I need’s

one more quarter to get a quart of beer.

Agua Prieta, 1989

Olive oil

This plosive lyric’s echos — beery recalls my second sonnet; runnels evokes the barrel of my poetic manifesto; the conjunction of acrid and dirt relexitomizes the catoptrical grit of Beulah — bring back to me that cruise I took during my New Lexican diligence’s second year: a promiscuous jaunt to the Twin Isles; shore leave in Owlstain to ubriacar with textwork on the Flouzianian quais.

edge hisself into the corner & whip

the cock out his pants so desperately

there on east 12th between avenues A & B

lookin back over his shoulders eyes wide

& scared or in pain both hands fumblin

round tryin to fish it out barely able

to clear the zipper b’fore the hot urine

come pourin out into some dark recess

of a barred doorway & stream across

the sidewalk over his own dirt bare feet

in lush beery runnels acrid thick

& glistening in the sunlight like fresh

olive oil

Agua Prieta, 1990

The dance, to be perfect, must be flawed

Three years in Agua Prieta cannot but boast of its ineluctable sequelæ, as this tangentially projected commentary on Nietzsche’s Gay Science — which, by the way, should slake prying eyes of their loose ideas anent the original — demonstrates.

Of this rude art only am I able—

Grace to me is dross, wit a mere fable.

Unlearned in the ways of love’s subtle art,

Of flirtation’s ruddy ruses, I start

My dance not with a bow but a blunder.

Foot in mouth, I tuck my blubber under;

Thumb in nose, I hum my tarantella,

Beating time with ulna on patella.

Charm from shame I peel, couth from grief I strip;

With a few quick nimble stumbles I trip

Across the boards, giving air to my vile

Throat’s force, my coarse tongue’s sturdy stutter while

Refined adolescents trot their prim waltz

To the rhythm of a sugar-prig schmaltz.

They think that elegance is bliss, fashion

Cures warts. But this vulgar child’s crude passion

Can scare a style out of ignorance, a ghost

Of raw form from the most savage riposte.

And who needs a cure anyway? The sick

Are the healthy; the sober, lunatic.

What madness, you asks, lies in my droll play?

Not madness, but laugh-crazy life, I say.

Life spills forth from my callow contortions,

While ripe skill jails with death’s proportions.

Perfection, truly, is a mortal fraud,

For the dance, to be perfect, must be flawed.

Gertrude, 1991

Self-portrait beneath El-Achim bridge

Decalced before the decalqued mirror slackly slung abaft the threshold’s verge, framing a reflection of window frost, I constructed from the vanity of my or my minion’s fallen socks of rose, this ode to the sadness that is the soul’s pasty coils of itself, mum avant the spyglass (espejo) of numb translexification. I had taken up, you see, digs in that hutch au sous-sol in which from some debauch, some grande beuverie, I had come to near the old ironworks a few years before. I wrote this poem, half of it, at least, at château Methuen during the instauration of ISOCPHYS. Colleagues and strangers alike commented on how similar I looked to Johnson Willoughby M. Methuen, the scion of the family. Even a few peons who toiled beneath his command at Telosvision approached, spluttered their admiration for me (meaning him) and my work (ditto his), and proffered their timorous paws for my imbibulated embarras to grasp in its jocularly arrogant fist (I had seen him perform, you see), and, aping the motions of gallant noblesse oblige, to indulge them, as it were. So amused was Methuen by his mimic (me), that I was shown the network of tunnels anastomosing the entire domain’s bedrock, one of whose cloacas dendrified into the cul-de-sac of my lieu de diligent textwork for the year preceding mon premier séjour à Paris.

Trains moving

vibrate distant irrational

overtones a truck

may pass

squealing creaking children’s cries

afraid of dark naked

you may appear beautiful

as sky.

With every step

you embrace your own

mortality, seek resemblance

to coldness


and light, freezing mist.

Depression is something to be

indulged in

every now and then.

Owlstain, 1992

Tell me a rose

Hewing to the same old sore themes and mauve sacraments, I amassed in Lutèce what I would say is about a forearm’s length (in height) of fiches bristol bearing down à plat upon each other in such a way that the pinnacle of their tintone scrawl culminates in la ronce that is diligent textwork proper and the delicate liquor that is the sweet morat of its sudoriferous fruits.

Tell me a rose bloody thorns

why did you send me

stealing gold from light’s grave

I buried my ghosts there

Tell me bloody rose a grave

cannot keep me snoring

in my corpse splitting

wall from splintered rock

Tell me thorns corpse ghost

rock rose wall grave

light breaking earth

with bitter ash

Why my eyes bleed fear

my skin sweats guilt

my throat vomits shame

into my heart tell me

Paris, 1993

Successive statues of a young god running

And to conclude: Leaning against Glamporium’s limestone façade, pedipalps tightly folded beneath her ample acrostics, one of that establishment’s most exquisite creatures sneered at your author as I, lempira-less, returned to the ludict lucubrations demanded of all diligent textworkers, whether they be attached to ISOCPHYS or bound to IMSSOC, whether one year or eleven is sufficient to launch their lyrical récits and acrimonious mémoires and sordid recueils of the gray envenomed nights that characterize the promiscuous isolation of Paris and Agua Prieta, whether they be heterolexical recluses in Gertrude, intertextual pariahs in Beulah, or translexical exiles in Owlstain, let us all hoist high our graphomaniacal fists and make ardent promiscuous textwork as if we were blowing into our very last tarte aux abricots by skillfully putting theory to practice in such a way that the seams remain artfully concealed on the inside of the fabric and yet miraculously, it seems, chafe neither the inguinalii of ritual nor the axillæ of myth!

Slow cut stone into chiseled music running

atop such rare octaves: or the successive

raggy bass that only a jazz-fingered god —

agile as swallow’s dart and dive, or statue’s

heated shadow coning toward noon — could walk: young

swans fledging into sunlight’s curse the still young

turbulence of their wings’ flirtatious running

against rock, wave or prow: the bowsprit statues

mizzened into a slurried wind’s successive

meandrous tackings across the river god’s

spit-stayed yawl: or dancing to the eyeless god’s

abyssal rhythm that nightly steals a young

raven’s raucous adagio from successive

armies of bankrupt suitors who take off — running

home to pets or wives unkempt as a statue’s

shit-chipped flakings — at the first chirp of statues’

talk: — They talk like raptors, these sun-feathered gods;

as hawks, eagles, falcons, poised in the running

mouth of a cyclone: or like owls clutching young

mice in their claws, shitting out the successive

sculpted wads of bone and hair, the successive

angel pellets of bloody dust — smearing statues,

railings, windows and façades with their bleak, young,

aborted rantings. You call this sullen god

holy? I, joyous infidel, start running.

Owlstain, 1994

[ A not-for-profit instantiation of human imagination and human labor ]
Copyright © 1995 M. S. Strickland