Jeremy Freedman

The Reading

I read about Vicodin and Fentanyl. I read
about the shrapnel embedded in the vein
of America's class system. I read about the fall
of Rome, in upstate New York, about how, in dawn’s
vague light, the waking lions roar in hunger.
I read about the irony of a poet’s early death.
About the parade of knowledge in the poems
of Veronica Forrest-Thomson, from mind to body
and back again, and how, like a Cantabrigian
Janis Joplin, her demise in an alcohol/drugs-related
incident dispelled the promise of eternal artifice
premised by her youthful masquerade. Or maybe
you heard how she was crushed by a cart of heath.

It goes on for months or years, the reading.
Long enough to crack the rib of reality.
I read about the cost of a castle in heteronymic
Portugal, which is said to be low,
and for that reason all of Europe, even
the nethermost part, is in its thrall. Sleeping
Lusitania is always on the verge of waking,
says Pessoa, but if it wakes it will learn how
its dream was always incantatory fancy.

I read about how leaching and cupping
and spells and elixers have pilgrimaged
back into medical fashion, like archaic fanatics.
How widespread these acts of malpractice
have become. I read about how the torch-bearing
homeopaths compressed Mothra and Godzilla
to the size of nanobots and injected them
into the overheated heart of our late-medieval
body politic in an attempt to cure distemper.

I read about how to live on the unleavened
wonder bread of affliction, about how better
bodies become pillars of salt distilled from tears.
I read about how the common idea of fault persists,
for instance the idea that I am reading to you this poem
that is not a poem, but only a statement
of what I am reading and I am reading it to you.


Unstable smoke is gigging up the chimney as an umbilicus wagering it will continue to gain in importance; like a laurel-wearing five year old acting the king, incense caping a cathedral at his coronation, it couldn't be more solemn. But things won't ever again be as perfect as that. We got fired up and turned into smoke. Smoke gets up my nose and in my eyes. Then dragon-tail upward in a dream of agitation, it says. Disordered death's ceremony is in the sooty rising but also the choking beauty of a psalm. As if the flue took a shot at transcending logic. What if Christ was right? Back and forth the tickling smoke wanders seeking gentle escape, unoriginal in spite of its iniquity. Upward noiselessly, downside forgotten. Enfolding in the blind alley everything you have seen and heard of complexity in the unsighted rooms below. By the time it reaches its exit later this night, it hopes that life will have acknowledged its purpose and launched a new meaning, a new song of silence under the banner of heaven. As itinerant possibility rises blind up the vein of the chimney disguised like a gateway drug. Foolish to read this behavior as evidence. Or the end of something. It's only deprivation. Security is occluded and any assertions drifting past are performances of chaos. The fidgety smoke can no longer keep a secret. It meets the tired night's sky, lazily streaming the illusory weather from New Amsterdam to Antwerp, and renews itself by disappearing congruent into the bad old news. What if Christ, crazy as he was, was wrong? The illusion of peace, tired by time, is all but over, over for all, overall over.

Jeremy Freedman is a writer and artist living in New York City. His poems have been published in 2 Bridges Review, Pioneertown, Queen Mob’s, Cleaver, Otoliths, and elsewhere. His chapbook “Apophenia” (2017) is available from Finishing Line Press. His photographs have been exhibited in Europe and the United States and have been featured in numerous journals. More work can be seen at jfreenyc.com and on Instagram @jfreenyc.
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