Jim Leftwich

Floats . . . also: plate #1 from Cecelia Chapman's Floats No. 1

plate #1 from Cecelia Chapman's Floats No. 1

Floats number one also floats no one. We could call the airplane asemic if it didn't remind us of a cross. The cross flies over first base, but first base is a plastic gas can, abandoned on the beach between the lifeguard shack, the lifeguard podium, the lifeguard tower and the left edge of the faded photograph. Top left, perched like a seagull on the edge of the photo, a quasi-calligraphic drawing reminds us of the airplane (but only slightly). Are they juxtaposed because associated, or associated because juxtaposed? An exclamation point floats above the lasso that has captured the left wing of the airplane. A found strip of packaging or labeling has been used as a stamp, beginning in the upper right corner of the frame and stretching across the photograph to the left margin, just above the bottom left corner. It reads, backwards: SHUNYUAN [two oil derricks] FLOATONOI. Below that are perhaps some heavily distressed Chinese characters. Two or maybe three lines of squiggly scribbles begin at the end of FLOATONOI and extend to the middle of the page. My transliteration is as follows: Shoh E / ann X / uvon iir. Below these three lines are another two, separated by a space, thus giving the appearance of stanzas. First transliteration, best transliteration: murg / lemniscate street. The area beneath the photograph is divided into two sections, roughly two-thirds on the left and one-third on the right. In the right section is an image, vaguely hieroglyphic, of what appears to be, rather than a stick figure, a stone figure (a curved triangle for torso and legs, a blank space for a neck, an empty square for a head). In the photograph of the beach scene the sky is mostly a faded purplish blue, the lifeguard shack is a dingy blue-tinged white, the sand a grayish brown, and the airplane a sickly nightmarish green. The stamped stone figure is a similar green, severely distressed, pockmarked and splotched. The quasi-calligraphic drawing in the bottom left section is aquamarine, applied with a fine point sharpie. The same aquamarine fine point sharpie has been used for the non- or anti- writing above and to the right of the green stone glyph. Above the glyph I read the vocable or letterstring "julah" — possibly an oblique reference to the singing of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The aquamarine squiggle to the right is a sound poem I translate -- quickly, roughly, I admit, but nonetheless drawing on extensive experience in writing, reading, sounding and singing such glyphs — as: speeding eyeball while armor snakes, which when read aloud as a sound poem should remind us of the sound-effects for a car chase in a 1950s Japanese radiation/horror monster flick (or even of a Hanatarash performance for bulldozer, bass clarinet, and flash-bang grenade). Scribbled over the green glyph with a grey fine point sharpie are intimations of imaginary injunctions such as "don't agglutinate dr V" and "dark are the drinks of U". At the bottom of the frame are the title (Floats No. 1), the date (probably July 19 2016, but the year is cut off at the top, so it could be 2010 [unlikely] or 2018), and the author (Chapman). Having navigated the poem top to bottom I now return to the top and reconsider the title. That it floats no one is very much appreciated. All flights of fantastic or fanatic reading remain bound to the materiality of the text/image poem. Words lead to other words, where have we not learned that? All texts are made of or with and/or against other texts and/or even all other texts. One poem should lead immediately and directly to another poem, that was what I was thinking one afternoon so I wrote it down and you are reading it, thank you, don't thank me, thank you. Of course it goes back to Olson, projecting his versions from the barracks above the lake at Black Mountain, preaching from a step-ladder to Buddhist anarchists, sending his minions out in search of moticos and combines. Page as field, field as world, world as page, page as memory, world as memory, field as memory, as we forget our way through each day the poem calls us back to the things of its ideas, the things of our idea, that there is before us always an instance of the poem, awaiting our awakening, in it as an associational reading, improvised on the spot, exactly on the spot.


(Image courtesy of Cecelia Chapman. The complete series was published in Otoliths #43.)

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