Peter O'Leary - Part 2

Uploaded by englishEIU on 23.05.2011


This is a poem called "The Revival of the
Religious Sciences."
The title comes from one of the great Muslim scientists,
theologians, and thinkers, Al-Ghazzali, who wrote this big
tract called "The Revival of the Religious Sciences."
So I was interested that in Islam, religion has this,
is understood as a science.
You know, the thing that intrigued me is especially in
terms of the way religion is typically, the discourse of
religion, particularly in kind of popular or more sort of
widely circulated channels, tends to be very antagonistic
towards science or presents itself that way
or we're led to believe that there's this
dialectical opposition between the two.
It seemed really insightful that here's this, here's this, this
medieval Muslim thinker who, yeah, we're going to revive the
religious sciences.
Because that's the, the book is in four sections,
and that's the title of this particular section.
There are a couple of things in poetry that I really love,
you know, the way that a child loves sugary cereals.
I love lists, I love when lists come into poems, I love poets
who love to list, and I think it's one of the most
interesting, strangely simple things you can do in poetry.
Generate a lot of power that way.
I also love to make up words, and in the case of this poem,
I ended up making up a bunch of religious sciences,
and I gave them all Latin titles, so they would all
sound, there's no way you could dispute the authority
of these religious sciences I intend to revive in this poem.
So what I'm going to do is read my translations of my Latin.
And the Latin is, I mean, it's a total joke, so, if any of you
has Latin, please forgive me, or mea culpa, I'll say it that way.
The new sciences, because I'm going to get to them,
you'll find them in the poem here.
They are Roman Tumbling, Secrecy of Counting,
Breathing Techniques for Mass, Anxiety of Calligraphy,
Passional Etherdiving, Physics as Awe,
and The Reticent Knowledge.
The Revival of the Religious Sciences has an epigraph,
balsam of souls, the body is bliss.
That's Henry Vaughan, no palm branch, no citron, Inobis sin
anobis, the outer, the lower, the dark, extend unevenly
beneath the bubble of air, the universe.
Boundaries demarcated in light where the empire curls up
like a leaf, going only so far, even rapidly expanding space
goes only so far.
A disturbing shock percusses softly on the cymbal of atoms,
this sad science poetry.
Einstein guessed it, a ruse of depth.
New speeches, discontinuous light,
a mirror's broken surface.
Blood of two mourning doves glazes the cut plane.
A history of breakage is the history of the unconscious,
or its genesis, spoken into concentric flux,
moments of burial and resurgence spell the texture,
abrupt ligatures we dream there.
Before too long I want to revive the religious sciences
for the measurement of space for the demonstration of
physical uncertainty,
Dionysian icons lurid with heat, vivid terraces of saints
seething with entic entomoan knowledges.
Lunar moths, earwigs, queen bees, near translucent ants.
A restoration of the prairie grasses is a kind of cosmology.
I will call these new sciences
[unclear dialogue].
We spent millennia chasing the outward world,
hapless experts at exploring it.
We need now to look inside, in exchange for any lost progress,
I will give you 100 years of inwardness, a century of the
soul's spiral movement, labor, prayer, reading, inner energies
coalescing from lower domains, a private flaming ministry,
the most Miltonic knowledge."
"Indigo Cardinal."
It refers to two of my favorite birds.
The Cardinal--you gotta love the Cardinal in winter.
Thank goodness for that little splash of red.
And the Indigo Bunting.
"Indigo Cardinal."
"Wires tight across the carapace hum, from catgut strokes at the
bridge that shapes the ancient psalterium.
Force that twitches invisible in the instrumental ganglion
beneath the seed crusher's hollow bill.
This strange and uncanny process of crystallization.
Then it is nighttime again, and I go down a staircase,
carpentered with enclosure, I have this one steel-fired
sensation, holding the nerves of my neck like antlers.
Evil's abiding presence.
It's polar molecules whining in alignment,
it's microscopic flora and fauna."
This poem is called "Steering Goes Watery."
When I initially put this, when I initially put the poems in
this book together, I like another thing I really like are
notes, so there's a lot of notes in the book, there's like six
pages of notes, and they're ridiculous, but I had included
as a note for this particular poem, there's some data in
there that's one of the things is there's this church in
Gloucester, Massachusetts called Our Lady of Good Voyage.
And if you've ever been to Gloucester, the front of the
church faces the harbor, and at the apex of the facade,
there's Mary, mother of God and she's cradling this
object in her arm and it's not Jesus, it's a ship.
And I first learned about this in the poems of Charles Olson.
Charles Olson, as you're going to hear, shows up in the poem,
but when I put the notes together for this book,
I included a note saying, something like,
this really happened.
And a friend of mine who looked it over, he said,
yeah you should probably get rid of that, because I mean,
that should be the case for all of them.
You don't necessarilyy want to make people think,
well this didn't happen, this other poem, what's going on?
"Steering Goes Watery."
Beyond that barrier, a sucking motion keeps collapsing.
Speed falters, the water jacket, iron-hot, grills the cylinder
until the coolant vaporizes, or plumes into the gas tank,
reeking of cooked metal.
I don't understand it.
Drive belts shred like string cheese.
All of a sudden, the chassis starts floating,
There is a liquidy trickiness to life, an entropy of spillage.
I had a breakdown, a breakdown, one of many so far this year.
I-90 hummed there for five hours, warts of refineries,
bleak, jammed, motorway.
A killdeer claimed a greasy puddle under the armature,
its namesake call an alarm repeated.
By midnight, each minute was an egg deposited from the anus of
the queen bee into a waxy hexagon, sealed and remote.
Later Charles Olson stood in a street in Gloucester.
A smallish man, neat, trim.
He wore a kempt beard, a clean overcoat.
I knew him as death and called him father.
This made Olson laugh, because he knew the poet I thought of as
a father was already dead.
Soon, we are embracing.
I am so moved with affection for him, which he returns to me.
Above us our lady of good voyages is drooping light,
a weird anxiety and certainty.
I want to mention his glutenous pace, but there was none,
he could not walk.
What strange error of pride in the world made Olson?
For all the wreckage out there, a tow truck hopefully comes."
That's kind of, that's the motto of the book.
Hopefully it's coming, okay, seriously.
When the, so that did really happen.
And when it did, it was the engine block in my car cracked,
and when that happens, from your exhaust pipe
this unbelievably thick pluming smoke starts emitting
and it's got this incredibly pungent smell.
And we're driving along, my wife and I were leaving this unholy
wake that nobody could actually get through, so we pulled over
to the side, and I thought maybe if I let it cool down
and start it up again, and we were on the skyway
right by Gary, we were stuck near Gary, Indiana.
And I can see this guy's face to this day taunting me at my
weakest moment, sitting there, I just want to get home,
and I turn the car back on, and this smoke starts roaring
out of the tailpipe again, and this guy is driving by
and he rolls his window down and he goes,
It's yo' head gasket, it's yo' head gasket!
And he just drives on, that was it.
Isn't that great?
Because that guy had experienced it before
and he wanted me to know, like you're totally going nowhere.