For­got­ten Work

The Walrus - - CONTENTS - by Ja­son Guriel

“For­got­ten Work” is a book-length poem in heroic cou­plets. Parts of it take place in the year 2037. Tele­por­ta­tion is a thing. Smart­paint, too. (This won­der sub­stance works like reg­u­lar, la­tex-based paint, ex­cept it’s crawl­ing with nanobots and can con­vert your dry­wall into a tele­vi­sion.) By 2037, many writ­ers and in­tel­lec­tu­als have dis­ap­peared or been ex­e­cuted. Free­stand­ing holo­graphic Al Pa­ci­nos have re­placed the Scar­face posters in stu­dent dorms. As in our time, Tay­lor Swif­tian­ism is the dom­i­nant school of crit­i­cal thought. In the fol­low­ing ex­cerpt, our hero, Hu­bert, is watch­ing Fellini’s 8 1/2 on the scuffed wall of his apart­ment. (His land­lord never both­ered prim­ing the wall; the last ten­ant’s coat of smart­paint is still up.) Hu­bert is a frus­trated English stu­dent who nurses some ro­man­tic ideas about art. He’s also a con­nois­seur of old, ob­scure works, like Peter Van Toorn’s book of poetry Moun­tain Tea. He still sub­scribes to print pe­ri­od­i­cals. It’s night­time, which is when the mail ar­rives in 2037. — JG Hu­bert liked look­ing back. He’d waved off eye Re­place­ments; Hu­bert had a glasses guy Who sourced as­sorted old-school gear for old Souls and their skulls. Wear­ing frames was bold, As quaint as whale­bone corsets, hunt­ing foxes, iphones, and those prim­i­tive Xboxes That weren’t im­planted but, in­stead, sat on Your fur­ni­ture. He loved the off-brand dawn His win­dow ran, recorded when the sun Could still be seen. He loved such stuff as Fun House, Horses, As­tral Weeks, Fred Neil, Pet Sounds, Thomas M. Disch’s es­says, Ezra Pound’s Trans­la­tions, Or­son Welles as Harry Lime ( The Third Man), poetry that dares to rhyme, The books of Paula Fox, the bass of Carol Kaye, that mo­ment when the poet Daryl Hine com­pares some “love-dis­or­dered linen” To “brack­ish wa­ter.” Hu­bert longed for hymns in Churches, first edi­tions, ar­ti­sanal walks (He wouldn’t tele­port). He thought Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden mu­sic’s apex; Toto Its nadir. On the mail­pad, MOJO Ma­te­ri­al­ized. (The mail beamed in at night.) “Pause.” The wall be­came a black-and-white Still: Fellini’s hero’s face in doubt. (One eye, where paint had chipped, ap­peared burned out.) Hu­bert watched his mag, like Star Trek sand, Take shim­mer­ing shape, then touched it with a hand: Still warm. There was the stan­dard MOJO mix Of ar­ti­cles, re­views, and con­cert pics. There also was an obit for Oa­sis; The ag­ing rock­ers had fused and per­ished, faces Pi­cas­soed, mop tops mixed — a tele­porter Mishap while on tour. One re­porter, Who’d glimpsed the cu­bist mess, could not refrain From wit: the band’s two stars now shared one brain, Which was ironic; Liam and Noel, rock gods And war­ring brothers, spent their lives at odds. But now their hearts, once split in two, were one Big mash-up of a mus­cle in a ton Of flesh — the band’s last hud­dle. Noel’s song “Slide Away” be­gan to play; Hu­bert sub­scribed To Mo­joplus, the up­per price point MOJO On Pix­iepa­per. If you tapped a photo, It might un­freeze, be­come a talk­ing head Voice-over­ing some footage. If you read About a song, the page might start to play Its chords. (That said, the reader had no say In when an ar­ti­cle might start to rip­ple Into a pint of Stella, nor when stip­ples

That point out faces next to au­thor by­lines Might swarm like fil­ings into ads for air­lines. On Pix­iepa­per, type, no longer black And fixed, could stretch, di­vide, and re-form back Into what­ever; pics could pud­dle and blend Like Rorschach blots set loose.) To­wards the end Of ev­ery MOJO was the “Buried Trea­sure” Es­say. This one-page fea­ture took the mea­sure Of some ob­scure record­ing time for­got To, well, for­get, or scrub from hu­man thought: The sort of record that was out of print Or went for quite a lot when sold as “mint.” And it was this page, in the June edi­tion, That seemed, to Hu­bert, some­thing like a vi­sion. The sub­ject of the es­say was the one And only sin­gle by a band whose run Had not been long (it lasted, like, six years) But should’ve yielded more. What looked like tears Be­gan to streak the page; the beads that form On sweat­ing cans of Coke be­gan to storm The pa­per. Hu­bert shook the mag, which closed The ad (though some ads couldn’t be op­posed And ran full length). He turned back to the text And read some more — and found him­self per­plexed. The photo of the band, when Hu­bert tapped It, failed to move, as if the men were trapped In­side. Was there no video or sam­ple Track? He read on, lest some lion tram­ple The text into a logo for a zoo Or jun­gle travel pack­age — read on through In awe. The band had strug­gled with its name; Had gone by: Lout, Pale Lout, Pale Fire, Pale Flame, Then landed on the one: Moun­tain Tea, Hu­bert’s favourite work of poetry! (It seemed James Gor­don, MT’S founder, adored The book.) The band’s de­but, “The Dead,” floored Re­view­ers. Over dou­ble bass and strummed Gui­tar, as choral cow­boy voices hummed Spaghetti-west­ern style, the singer read A list of lost, ne­glected bands in dead­Pan: “Felt.” Pause. “Plush.” Pause — each pause punc­tu­ated By pi­ano chord. The choir abated, The singer, Dennis Byrne, now sing­ing — cry­ing — “Re­mem­ber,” backed by cel­los. (Hu­bert kept try­ing The photo. Noth­ing, not one note, would play.) The B-side to this sin­gle, “Yes­ter­day,” Wasn’t a cover of the Bea­tles hit, But dared to spirit off the name and spit On pro­pri­ety. It sounded like old field Record­ing gear — the tech a man might wield When min­gling with folk cul­tures — had got down On tape some far­away, primeval sound, Car­bon­ated with the hiss and pop That sig­ni­fies the past. A horse’s clop, Pro­duced with legs chopped off a thor­ough­bred — Or so the song’s per­cus­sion­ist had led The es­say to en­thuse — clip-clopped along, While Gor­don, sing­ing just on this one song, De­scribed his lost beloved. Louis Reid, Who played gui­tar, ar­ranged a cloud of feed­Back. H.U. Hawks played bass notes on a Moog To un­der­score the lost beloved’s fugue State. MOJO’S writer, awestruck, judged this start Not just a strong de­but; this work was art. But that was it. Moun­tain Tea put out No more — and van­ished. Only the de­vout, Who’d bought “The Dead” on vinyl years be­fore, Had heard it. Moun­tain Tea’s two songs were more Or less a myth tied up in le­gal woes. That’s why the es­say fea­tured only prose; The bots in­side the pa­per grain could link To noth­ing. So they stayed as still as ink.

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