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POEM: Hot City Part 5.0 (The Island of Proteus)


In a bar, a rabid, dark, rural bar,
standing next to Proteus, is the most hideous
looking human I’ve ever seen.

Her eyes bulge, her hair is ratty, her clothes are dirty,
her skin, her body – pachydermous, she speaks with a
bizarre, unsettling slur, and her face abounds
with large and grotesque hairy growths
which completely distort the hair around her head.
Next to her, a short, fat guy who
wobbles, but doesn’t fall down, with a horny mustache
adorning a hole that parades it’s vocalisms
in blaring machine gun bursts. Flanking him,
two women, active ghosts of Proteus. One looks like a
dove, with Odo face, and pale o pale
skin. The other ghost bears big horn glasses
and tremendulous breasts. I understand she is from the
bus stop where Proteus stood as a boy. Other ghosts are present but
only in photographs. In the middle of the
gang, surrounded by ectoplasm, Proteus laughs.  He strides the nexus
of present future past. You can go ahead now
and ask him some questions.

 There was things he stretched but mainly he told the truth.
He wants to glorify the living.
That is nothing.

Proteus, time god, lives on this island,
in an elegant pile of black kelp and sun-dried seaweed,
edging the shore, in an angular cabin, in the shadow of an
18th century mansion. The morning
after the wedding, Proteus waited for me on the toilet,
burying his head in his hands. Proteus,
time god, captures death with a camera, and he knows the
future, standing somewhere outside of all clocks.
God of this silver nitrate nexus flux, he wants to guide me cross
all the ports on the island, he wants
me to witness the ghost women.

He hasn’t captured any pictures in quite some time.

 Now the way the book winds up is this:
Because I don’t take no stock in dead people
she said it was wicked to say what I said

What’s the difference between the living and the dead?
This afternoon, while Proteus was revolutionary war style
fucking the dove faced ghost girl
on a truncated 250 year old bed, I found my way across
the kelp strand to an old graveyard. Tablets so old,
I could hardly read the inscriptions, stones
closed in by a crusty barred iron fence, padlocked.

Not worth the trouble anyway. Sighing, I meandered down the
path towards Proteus’s cabin. The stars shining,
the leaves rustling in the woods ever so mournful; and
I heard an owl, away off, who-whooing about somebody that was dead,
and a whippoorwill and a dog crying about somebody that was going to die;
and the wind trying to whisper something to me,
and I couldn’t make out what it was.

Away in the wood I heard that kind of sound
that a ghost makes when it wants to tell about something
that’s on it’s mind and can’t make itself understood.

Excuse me.

I know beauty is a cultural construct, but
this human is so hideous, I am afraid to look at her.
I don’t want to be within 500 feet of this creature. I am
afraid even to get caught trying NOT to look at her.
The pox on her face, the misshapen warts, are overcoming my
complacency. This is unbearable! I am embarrassed that I
am afraid of her hideousness. She says something about glasses,
but I can’t make out the slur. And back of
her, the two women that I can’t see real well.

And the two young women

The two women had quilts around them
and hair down their backs,

on the back of the tape cover, Proteus took that picture.
The two of them together, ghost lovers, slightly altered,
I am meeting evaporated girls.

A frustrated guest at Proteus Mansion. I see some nude photos
of one of them. An developing concept, the ability, the
privilege, to see someone nude before you meet them.

But I ask him, I asked – what is the context of
this photo, why this particular woman of all women, why nude,
at this particular moment?

Proteus details that they slept together once, naked,
I think, but they didn’t touch each other. That
explains movements at night, and images that represent
unfulfilled tangibles.
 Which one of the daughters/ which/ was dead
made her own self/ when/ she was only 15 years old

They were different than any pictures I’d ever seen before,
blacker, mostly than is common…

the curves of her back and the texture of her nipple,
one a woman in a slim black dress, belted under

 the armpits, with bulges like a cabbage in the middle of the

sleeves; Proteus obsessed with image, he always will be,
and white slim ankles crossed about with black tape, and
very  wee black slippers. She drove us past the washout, where
the sea washed away forty feet of beach, ripping the foundations from houses, leaving
rooms hanging in air.  We cannot enter high houses on stilts,
I cannot get home, the ocean rages, Proteus takes a light reading of
ghost flesh, these houses are higher than ladders, and further on are buried,
and she was leaning passive on a tombstone
under a weeping willow.
Several professional looking photos of her in black and white,
another one as a young lady with her hair all combed up
straight to the top of her head, knotted,
and I’m standing where Proteus would have stood
across from her naked ghost body,
and she was crying, there goes her boyfriend out the door,
and I have to go to the bathroom so bad, and here is a photo
by the window, where a young lady was at a cliff
looking up at the moon, and tears running down her theoretical cheeks
for she was an incorporeal headless body, with dead skin as smooth as a porcelain doll.

These was all nice pictures I reckon

because if I ever was down
a little they always gave me the fan-tods

She is playing with the f-stop on the camera.
Grainy  woman in a long white gown,
she says she doesn’t know anything about cameras,
well I don’t know anything about ghosts. Her hair
all running down her back, and looking up to the moon.
With tears running down her face.
They won’t give you insurance for the houses by the sea,
they are all abandoned now, total losses. My beer by
the ashtray that she is using. Damn, that headless flesh,
made poetry about all the dead people
hanging by the side as I take a piss in the toilet
I tried to sweat out a verse of two myself
but I couldn’t seem to make it go somehow.

And this one inspires obsessions.

She is so thin, she scares me, she is not like
the photo at all, waitressing today, her black black
hair clumped in strips around her head. She turns to me
dressed in black, saying while blowing smoke out her nose
and while collapsing into her own skeleton,
yes, please get Proteus to take pictures again.

And suddenly she’s naked, just like before.

Proteus puts the camera away; I hope he finds the film.

Proteus, driving me in his truck.
There! The woman from the bus stop! He explains, I
used to ride the bus so I could see her in the morning. She
was twenty five and tall and proud and grand,
as good as she could be and she had a look
that could make you wilt in your tracks.

But before that I’m leaving him in Proteus Mansion. Well,
he says, whey don’t you take this camera equipment back to the cabin
and I will be there in a little while. Click Click. Because I want to spend some
time with the dove ghost alone.

She was gentle and sweet like a dove, and she was only twenty. In a way, she is
non descript, a smooth featureless ghost, and I don’t even remember her name. With
a pale lifeless quality like having a dove’s face/but a human with a dove’s face. I don’t

know, but she did travel the mansion with me, finding
an ancient dandy umbrella from at least 70 years old, holding
the tattered moldy thing in the air, yes
there in the 18th century I stand, Stetson Hat, patriot
jacket, dress shoes, black and shiny, and there!
is dove-face. But Proteus. They were shivering on the short beds.

Gods, she’s big. So we all go to this dive, the Checkmate, and someone,
probably Proteus, buys us beer, (he
has been buying me food all week) and on the way,
I am fooling the Dove Ghost. Before she
was trailing and now again.

I pity her. And I pity this guy with the mustache yelling next to me. And
this inarticulate woman who is hideously ugly. I pity her too. And I even pity Proteus.

But they don’t want my pity, after all,
my speech and motion  is as inadequate as anyone here, as any of these ghosts,
and just as intangible.

This bar is getting to me. All I can do is sit and watch.
This is going to sound stupid, but I can’t move. I’m becoming
two dimensional. It’s with extreme difficulty that I can retain any color at all.
My flesh is covered with flattening grains of silver nitrate. The
picture plane is reducing.

It made me so sick I most fell out of the tree…

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