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Excerpt #4

April 15, 2009

Phlegmatic is a compliment when it comes to the disclosure
of profit margins, when it’s aromatic as the perfect wallet
in fine Italian calfskin, supple and slim, with flip out
ID window and divided bill compartment, the perfect gift
for the discerning men on your list. Remember the sailor
and the jitney driver? The sea and the mirror?
The anvil and the hammer? How all binaries are either
true or not true? Quadratic vatic, irresponsible constable,
blurbs for an epic never to be written, My Lady of Sorrows
wet under her burqua, constellations adrift in the wide
sky without warning, narrowly approved amendments
banning amphora’s marriage to camphor ointments,
a horror to the secular bearing speculums
and their harrowing intentions from comatose frenzy
quotas. To lose one precious iota numbs the mix.
Those who reel at its stilted bearing, fix their antic
pantaloons in chimerical granaries, where discretion
feeds the hindmost who plot cold wars to replenish
the Gatorade decathlon, dashing garam masala
across the finish line. Anything to spice the mix
of jitney and sailor raging across the diamond needle’s
vinyl page! The mirrored sea reflects their tonal sequence,
an automatic enclosure deflecting the resulting clamor
and the burning cars, trees, bars and markets overrun
with looters. To implement a disaster requires
an exit plan: militia and other trained shooters
to deny the informal reparation process taking place.
Who meant what went where when the chain
of commandeering lost face. The last desperate grasp
escaped the urban fizzle of their watch. But
the corporation continued as normal, raking dividends
from fear and its deflection. The grifters parlayed
their egg nest where they sat, never lifting a butt
to let escape their fetal heat nor their fetid airs,
the only music diamonds scratched on glass replay,
misusing their numbing synesthesia. The plumbers
they hired bumbled though the crumbling infrastructure,
scattering wet melodies wherever their monkey wrenches
twitched like a dowsing rod, plop and fizz don’t begin
to tell the pinched symphony, each filched fissure
sounds impermanence but lovely ovals vouched for
a jumpsuit’s slimming features when under ran
the moist rat, the dark water not salted like sea
but infused with coppery flecks nonetheless, waste
not wanted, but toiled in by plum plumbers lumbering
plump and wet home to the very point stereotype
breaks down and stereophonic cow bells replace
the better half, however she might clamber or malinger
to welcome her rank tool-flanked man home.

by Ravi Shankar and Vernon Frazer

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Process notes

Vernon writes:
When Ravi and I agreed to collaborate on a poem, he sent me a list of about twenty possible opening lines to choose from. We had no discussions about our working method. As I recall, I responded with a one-line continuation and Ravi wrote about a half-dozen lines. Since he liked to dig in, so to speak, I did the same, writing six or eight lines that used the sound, rhythm and subject matter of the lines that preceded mine, but working within the context of my more language-centered style. Although we improvised our way through the work, we made use of recurring motifs to establish a sense of continuity. Once the poem was completed, Ravi and I agreed that the lines seemed a bit long and shortening them might improve the pace and pulse of the poem. I shortened the lines. With Ravi’s consent, I made an effort to apply projective techniques to the poem, but stopped when I realized the change would only produce superfluous visual effects, not substantive improvements to the work.

Ravi writes:
Vernon Frazer and I began our sonic wandering because of a New England rust-belt city, full of Poles and Puerto Ricans, New Britain, CT, home of the Central Connecticut Blue Devils and the Stanley Toolworks, which has laid off over half its workers since I’ve been here. Vernon had lived here and I taught here and fortuitously, we connected and spun a poem of proportion the way a scaffold worker might lay lanyard, else a jazz pianist respond to a trumpet solo. We challenged each other, always keeping sound foremost in our mind and the language accordingly deflected and transformed into its own analysand. Verb and reverb, buzz and hiss, the movement took on its momentum until the poem swelled, taking in the language we put into it, drumming it out with its own percussive logic, revealing revelations that could only arise between the two of us. Writing the piece was intense and encompassing, and we moved it further nearly daily for over a month. Then the wave crashed. But it left behind a spiracle of shell that when held to ear plumbs ocean. Resounds sound.