The Spectric School
Vol. 3, No. 5
Published by OTHERS
FRANK SHAY, Agent, 17 West 8th Street,
E. R. BROWN,
Price 15 Cents 12 Issues, $1.50
THE SPECTRIC INTENTION
... "The theme of a poem is a spectrum through which all the light there is separates into rays, then recombines or focuses into a certain concentrated point of something or other in the reader's brain ... The complementary vision in the eyelid, 'after the exposure of the eye to intense light,' is called spectric, 'the after‑colors of the poet's initial vision'; and still further use is made of the term in the sense of spectral, 'the spectres which for the poet haunt all objects.' In other words, the apparently unrelated impressions reflecting through a theme or idea may be artfully enough selected or directly enough recorded, without the conventional mental or verbal bridges, to reproduce, in the reader's mind, their effect in the mind of the poet." . . .
The New Republic
By Alfred Kreymborg
The rain‑patterns were weaving
When I awoke to the muffled shriek of dawn
Weaving in the grayness
Of a thunder‑smouldering
Under‑world that was more shadowy
Than the sibilant sleep‑world behind me.
The emergence of the spars and planks
Of a wrecked ship
From beneath the receding tide
Was a more heartening annunciation
Than this slow thrusting forth into being
Of the chairs and tables, books and pictures,
That last night sank into the deep dark.
Leaning my forehead against the cold and pungent pane,
I let my spirit life its coda,
Out from the wrecks and vestiges of yesterday's misfortune
To lose itself in the studied patterns,
Fathomless and untraceable,
I had the moon for a reason.
Was it not enough?
You were unreasonable
You wanted love.
But oh the moon was my reason!
Sigh like a dove
And you shall never do better.
I had the moon.
The tawny plexus, the animate focus, of infinite luminous rays,
Moving across the street
In the golden nimbus of light
Reffecting, refracting, identifying
The flooding waves of ether:
It is an irony of the curled smiling Gods
That light, leaving the sun,
Should travel a hundred million miles
In adventure of desolate space, lonely and perilous,
To splinter and disintegrate at last
Against a street‑cur.
The great lecturer,
(So described in his prospectuses,)
Paused over his tea, and then said to me
"I don't even remember her name;
But she was pretty.
There were four hundred, all girls,
And there stood I
Looking down at this soft sea.
Lapping waves, lapping waves!
But this particular girl
Lifted a splintered edge of basalt
Above the undulations.
I could feel her grate against my keel,
Quite as pointed as she was pretty.
And her sharp resistance
To my white‑sailed progress around the bay
Sticks in my mind like a scar streaking my copper hull.
I don't even remember her name;
But she was pointed, surely,
One by one the lights
Tinkle out along the crowd‑spattered street,
And with their sparks sting the night mad.
And I long for that elder night
Which once, lonely, dim, and secret,
Came towering to watchers on Assyrian hilltops.
Night that was darkness, night that held stars!
Night that was vastness and terrible song!
Now, like a desecration of paid dancers
Pirouetting in spangles through halls of the burial of kings,
The tinkle of lights hacks at the silence,
Clicking the key in the lock of the world.
My lust of roundness will betray me
To the arms of God, some day.
And I shall feel that I have cheated the Devil
If at the end of life
I have concealed from him how well I could be tempted
As for the rest, my whole life seems a long
Effort to circumvent and overleap
And crawl beneath all manner of polygons,
Squares, rhomboids, parallelograms.
At night I dream that cubes are crushing me;
And a free octagon, if I should meet it,
Would strike me dead.
Madam, you intrigue me!
I have come this far
Along the dusty high‑road of convention,
But now it leads no farther toward you.
Today I have reached the cross‑roads
A weather‑beaten sign‑board
Blazons indecipherable wisdom
Of which the arrow‑heads, even,
Have been effaced.
What is the farther way?
Eastward, it leads through cultivated fields
Of intellectual fodder,
Where well‑fed cattle, herding together,
Are you of these?
Westward is a lane, hedge‑bordered,
Shady, and of gentle indirection,
In May, a bower of sentimental bloom,
But this November weather
Betrays its destiny, the poultry‑yard
Where geese foregather.
And there ahead the ancient swampy way
Modernized by a feeble plank or two:
But the morass of passion lures me not!
I see a vision of two plunging feet,
Discreetly, shod, yet struggling in vain
Slime Creeps ankle‑high, knee‑high, thigh‑high,
Till all is swallowed save a brave silk hat
Floating alone, a symbol of the creed I perished shedding.
Yet somewhere you
Intelligent of my distress
I have no peddler's license to submit,
No wares to cry, nor any gift to bring
I do not know
In truth then, what have I to do with you?
Yet, madam, you intrigue me!
NIGHTMARE AFTER TALKING WITH WOMANLY WOMEN
On the four posts of my bed
At the foot and at the head,
Phantom birds, in silence deep,
Grimly watch my troubled sleep.
Parrot sits on one head post
Like a controversial ghost
Giving insult and offence
Challenging to eloquence.
Pigeon, on the other side,
Preens the coo she is denied,
Sticky coils of saccharine
Snare my rage that might have been.
Stork, the time‑worn humorist,
Threatens jokes that have not missed
Poignant antiseptic bite
Since Eve's first‑born saw the light.
Last, the Carrion Crow: she keeps
Patient watch while her meal sleeps,
Gloomy, hungry Carrion Crow!
Dawn appears at last ‑ they go
Flap, flap, flap, on heavy wing
Through the twilight vanishing.
I opened the door
And night stared at me like a fool,
Heavy dull night, clouded and safe
I turned again toward the uncertainties
Of life within doors.
Once night was a lion,
No, years ago night was a python
Weaving designs against space
With undulations of his being
Night was a siren once.
Oh sodden middle‑aged night,
I hate you!
SPECTRUM OF MRS. X.
Too well‑fed for rebellion,
Too lazy for self‑respect, too timid for murder,
Disgracefully stole the trade‑mark of the fairy‑tale
"And they lived together happily
OF MRS. Y.
Madam, you are ever retreating
But you are never
Someday I shall pursue you
Hoping to see you
OF MRS. Z.
I might have loved your black
Wings of hair,
Your peasant‑Madonna features,
Your twisted smile,
But having married a little brewer
OF MRS. & SO FORTH
Old ladies, bless their hearts,
Are contented as house‑flies
Dozing against the wall
Imprisoned in the forties,
Delirious, frenzied, helpless,
Are a fly drowning in a cocktail!
A Respectable Woman
How curious to find in you, Lolita,
Who sits and strums in the immortal
Attitude of submission.
There is a ledger in place of her soul!
Your shoulders sang for admiration;
Your hair wept for kisses;
Your voice curved softly, a caress
You came among us as a suppliant:
What had we you desired?
Bringing to market stolen goods,
Holding to view used charms,
Behold a hawker's spirit!
Eagles perch proudly in isolation,
They swoop to seize
A living prey
Crows hover to feed,
Waiting with patience till the soul
Leaving a helpless body carrion
(Vile thoughts obsess me!)
What did you want, Lolita?
The drunken heart
Weaves among glassfuls of yellow and sings as they empty,
Finding epics on the breast‑bone of a chicken
And lyrics under the lettuce.
It mounts a breaker of coffee, with the end of a cigarette shining.
And in the dance it runs along dexterously between your feet,
Like a French heel.
The drunken heart
Is a rear right tire for your run‑about.
It punctures to make you take notice, and then it curls up,
Flabbily indifferent in the darkness.
The drunken heart
Sings a song of sixpence.
You are the emptying bottle of rye, beloved,
You are also the next bottle.
The drunken heart
Rolls hoops with anybody;
It would like to roll hoops over judges and toward altars.
It rolls a hoop into your surf, beloved
But the hoop lies flat
And flaps about on your restless refusal.
The drunken heart
Plays with lilies at a funeral,
Like a grim photographer
Poses their syncopated heads.
It puts on black as mercilessly as the mourners,
And it acts motionless as cleverly as the corpse.
And then it slips out,
Just before the lid is closed.
The drunken heart
Is as full of hops as a green grass‑hopper . . .
There is a field of white clover leading to red clover,
And you, beloved,
Are a daisy.
The heart is as full of hops
As a red squirrel . . .
There is a stone‑wall, leading to a motherly tree
Which clicks with the flickering caress
And parts for the leap.
And you, beloved,
Are a nut.
I had drunk too much
And I heard music
My windows were all open
And the scent of June blew through.
Was your hand, leading me to green leaves.
This, in impatience,
Is a spectrum of Howard Fribley.
Have you ever seen a fly pounce like a lion?
And I have seen the little legs of Professor Fribley's mind
Slily approach what seemed an idea
And pounce on it through his spectacles.
And I have heard the cords in his neck
Lower him into the grave,
Lady, you sit and wonder why ‑ but I cannot help you.
Life poured its plenty into your lap:
There were cocoanuts and fine‑tooth combs
And strings of strange touch, faceted with fire.
And there were kittens of love and one jaguar.
But there is nothing now,
Not even your folded hands
For they are toward heaven.
Poor, poor lady,
With your satin lap!
Someone was there . . .
So I put out my hand in the dark
The long lean fingers
Of the wind.
1 am the soul, looking down.
Shod in little breezes,
My feet drift across the moonlight
Are they leaves or snow?
How plumed they were with direction
In those other days
And swift with mirth!
But now they drift
And are still.
I am the soul, looking down.
MORGAN, HAY, KNISH
PRISM ON THE
Though the ashes are gone and there is no bed left,
We birchen virgins
If we but touch each other and guard the draught
Become a deep‑bosomed fire.
The last log tossed here lightly
By an absent‑minded housemaid, or was it God?
Mournfully eager to burn, hisses joy.
Out of a cradling has there come a sunset?
Oh for the fellowship when
The world of learning burned!
Laughter, dear friends, will do for kindling;
And we shall wear ridiculous beads of flame
To tinkle toward the corners of the world,
Slapping with light the faces of old fools.
Practices arpeggios up my sides,
Bores persuasive fingers into my growling heart.
Get you to a nunnery!
The world of letters is too civilized for you.
There is no fig‑leaf for the mind,
Nothing to hide behind.
But facing its own nudity it laughs at shame.
Can we not do the same?
Enter, my beloveds!
All our emprises
Are toward a far
Through the round of the world,
Find in the heart and loins of ancient home
Without a pang
Art hangs beside us on this leaf,
An unrepentant thief.
And yonder, you fortunate andirons,
Heated by the consuming of another's being,
There shall be ashes.