George Kalamaras

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Is the author of six books of poetry, four of which are full-length, Gold Carp Jack Fruit Mirrors (The Bitter Oleander Press, forthcoming), Even the Java Sparrows Call Your Hair (Quale Press, 2004), Borders My Bent Toward (Pavement Saw Press, 2003), and The Theory and Function of Mangoes (Four Way Books, 2000), which won the Four Way Books Intro Series, chosen by Michael Burkard.  His poems and prose poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 1997, American Letters & Commentary, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, New American Writing, New Letters, TriQuarterly, No Boundaries: 24 American Prose Poets, Sentence, Untitled, and many others. He is the recipient of Creative Writing Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1993) and the Indiana Arts Commission (2001). 


Vasko Popa and the Myth of the Deadpan Myth



Yes, he painted the blackbird, breathed the blackbird green.  He could read Euclid and the usual drama of the deadpan myth.


The act of family, he once said, is a critical fact.  The confining function of Andre Breton, my funny bone.  Here, tear off the Slavic Section from the library of your left big toe and fit it snugly into Cornell’s tiniest box.


It hurt to hear such words.  Made us squint from the saddle burr, the donkey bray, the kerosene bit.  Toe blister as it appeared on our frenum.  But here was Vasko Popa living among us in Belgrade again like water, making us all feel like stones.


Once when we met at the butcher’s many years before, he told me, The poem is an act of sleep apnea or acne.  Here, prop your head on this pillow; eat this spleen.


And when I refused, he hid my face from the world with a soft black cloth, asking me to translate the eye of the She-Wolf he’d recently carved with a spoon.


Into what? I’d wondered.  Why, wherefore, and for whom?  It sounded like the previous edition of his life—salt of the wounded wolf, blackbird green, St. Sava’s salve.  I was ready to rewrite all his good acts into bad, the bad ones into something even worse.


The details of his dream are the only ones I could possibly live with certainty.  Translation involves choice, selection, accessibility, cultural context, blood sacrifice, and the intestinal granting of a worm.  Yes, and the idea that someone knew him, knows him, could cut—even—a hole in the soft black cloth and pass chicken feet through it into a mouth open or clothed, chicken feet that once scratched some corner of screen door or other in his sleep with intelligent, albeit nervous, reprise.





A Barbarian from the Gobi: How Henri Michaux Kissed Us Awake



       Okay, so he resembled a rat from the Gobi.  A nomadic rat that refused to be photographed so as not to be easily recognized on the Metro.  His eyebrows arched as if his pocket hanky had permanently caught fleas.


Not fire in the groin, but missteps.  Hesitations.  Spelling’s punch-gut.  Burnt patches of verve.  This, and the anthologies of mescaline he scoured to reach the imitations of his brain.  Gains, he said, and loss.  He found himself in the Land of Magic, oddly diminished and increased.  He found himself in the cellulose rummaging through.


        Long stretchers of minutes passed as if from a field ambulance, as if from an ear.  As if by mistake.  The stutter-blood of doves vibrated an instant on the hummingbird ledge.  But Henri Michaux was no mistake.


Darkness moves, he had said slantwise through the throat of a mirror that looked into him while looking through a sudden storm.  Ecuador.  My beloved Gangotena, all of whose poems burned with him in the plane’s  crash.  These days I get very little rest.  Here, let me kiss you directly on the eyeball.


Sure, hearing such things upset us, at first, but what edge of counting does not internally bleed?


We weren’t washing any longer in soapy water, so after sex we separated politely, replaced our limbs with a strange knack of living.  We went about our cigarettes, our industry and reason, even an exertion of family.


And we exchanged kisses with strangers as we might duplicate a phone number in ink upon the wrist.


Again, the rat.  Again, its protracted scratch to release the sea that seemed, now, so far from his sand.  He stood on the bridge of this influence or other, over this dune ocean or that, munching scraps of an almost Infinite.


To “get it right” means the cuts on the body should heal?  To increase the satellites of cellulose in the brain might, understandably, bring pain yet appease release? 


And so, partly.  And so liminal space in the right ear, in the anthologies of eyes all looking back into him as if he himself.  And so a word fractured at a victorious rate of exchange—an exorbitant parade of grace-my-soul-with-this and violent-my-little-shiver-of-flesh-with-that—might not ever bleed clean the blowed and sandy flea.


Dear mangy dog, Henri had inscribed one night on the bottom of a house shoe, natural gas might sicken the plants, but remove the duct tape from the soul and what have we then?


Yes, we found this kind of talk upsetting.  We politely and refused.  We exchanged cigarettes as we might pineal glands.  And still, the shearing and the seam.


Please, if you find him two years in Garaband, locate his left hip in sleep sockets in the Land of Magic.  If you excuse yourself one supper before the table in Poddema, unable to express your stool or to tend the terrible border between poetry and prose, you will know (as do we all) that Michaux, beloved Henri, is still very much alive.  There, in the t-r-y of poetry, in the t-h-e of theory, just before, just behind, each verb, each noun, every article of tight-fitting clothes that might somehow scratch from our skin a word.  That, in kissing our eyeballs as he did, his words, even from afar, even from the lantern-grasp of twenty-years dead, might still make us blink.





Is Autoeroticism a Fierce Form of Incest?



It is written in the Kama Sutra to love but not to attach oneself to the loving.

It is written in The Bone Sutras that inscribed bone cannot be x rayed nor de-



You say your name is Jericho.

You say you are honest, that you have never once eaten black crusts of birds.


When a clay pot is formed between two hands, something spun has removed

parts of itself just in the turning.

I look north, then east, to disintegrate the partiality of my stare.


No, I would not keep the family history from being discussed tree to tree.

I value the opinions of oaks and would like to eavesdrop on what sycamore

wind they might interrogate.


If it came to teaching worms the ways of spiritual love-making, I would

suspect they might show us how to curl into our pleasure-seeking selves.

So much is lost on a January night as my right hand massages my cock and

balls and imagines you undressing my words with the tough—almost

sisterly—circumstance of our tongue.




What the Aghoris Taught



It’s hard to say directly, especially after fretful secretions.

I would never hurt a single living thing.


That’s one reason I cramp when I remember killing the ant when I was six.

Was it that I’d named it Georgie, or was it my own parakeet need?


Think of all the choices in a slight green rain.

Say you were what I saw when I could not say appanage.


Carrying a lost migration on our animal backs, we helped a bird give birth to a


The black seeds of sunflowers were equally expressive when it came to

profiling a weeping.


The sweetness of some sort of center demands a tremulous gratitude.

If I held a Vedic chant and meditated only in cremation grounds, would you

mark my forehead with ash?


Drink from a skull and taste bee entrail soot swallowed by a Shanghai duck.

Take my hand and imagine your fear.  I somehow didn’t get hurt.





The Practice of Austerities



As to the result of austerities, I can claim my likeness to the number three.

Attachment to sense pleasures yields many hopping seeds, sizable in their



In the sudden pineal medicines, we can examine a fascinating secretion in the

memory of her belly.

Even talk on the street lent my kept peacock magical prowess.


As to the paramecium cannibalizing my skin, I am indebted to it to learn this

new mortification.

Talk as you do, and I might invent your mouth.


I stood on one leg in Bengal for at least a decade.

I circumambulated your ears, speaking a noun dead name.


Honestly, I brought my trapped appeal to a sizeable demand of beauty.

I just was uncertain whether I could sell the catwalk on my complete



Who would watch me when I sleep, and what would they see?

I had cemented myself to my body for incarnations, believing its touch of