for Rae Armantrout
Denise Levertov is buried in Lake View Cemetery in Seattle, Washington. For this (Soma)tic poetry ritual I would first walk through Volunteer Park which is next to the cemetery, one of the most beautiful urban parks I have ever had the pleasure to visit. Crows are one of my favorite kinds of people on Earth and there are thousands of them in Seattle living like pigeons do in other cities and several in Volunteer Park knew I would feed them and would follow me from tree to tree until I sat in the grass. In animal spirit lore the crow represents finding our higher authority, choosing a more enlightened direction for our lives. After feeding the crows I would take notes for the poem, then close my eyes to listen to the world around me for a little while.
I would then walk into the cemetery, giving myself 27 minutes after passing through the gates to locate the poet Denise Levertov’s headstone. If I did not find it I would spend an hour in front of the grave where I stood. Bruce Lee is also buried at Lake View and his dedicated super fans would take the pilgrimage. Throughout the afternoon young men whipped off their shirts to do marital arts moves in front of the headstone while their girlfriends made videos with their phones, those distinct sounds Bruce Lee made with his voice being imitated, echoing throughout the cemetery. I am certain I am not the only one to read a Denise Levertov poem aloud with Bruce Lee sound effects as the backup vocals. I would read, “He himself must be / the key, now, to the next door, / the next terrors of freedom and joy.”
The best rituals are when the unexpected inserts itself. One day while looking quietly for Levertov there was a young man watching me. He was dressed in black with thick black eye liner and fingernail polish. He wanted to know what I was doing, said he had been watching me. I asked why he was there and he told me he liked to masturbate behind a shrub while watching the half naked young men do karate. What shrub, I didn’t see a shrub. He took me to the shrub that was no one where near Bruce Lee, but of course we could hear the super fans making their warrior cries. We had sex everyday from that point on, and it became part of my ritual and part of my notes for the poem. When I found Levertov he wanted us to ejaculate on her grave but I vehemently forbade it, stating that we should only consecrate a gravesite if the poet would appreciate a shower of our semen, like Jack Spicer, John Wieners, or some other faggot poet. I insisted that Levertov needed our tenderness and we kissed instead and held hands while I read the poem “The Broken Sandal” where she says, “Where was I going I can’t go to now, unless hurting? / Where am I standing, if I’m / to stand still now?” The notes became a poem titled POEM AS STORM NOT AS REFUGE.