Tag Archives: Lolita

Tuesday Poem: The Final Episode of Kamal, Book One! “A Haunting, Sad Lacuna”

The Burning of the Library of Alexandria, by Hermann Goll (1876)

The Burning of the Library of Alexandria, by Hermann Goll (1876): ‘No doubt, in some unearthly realm, a vast / librarium of titles have amassed, / an anti-Alexandria to match / the one which Caesar had his men dispatch.’

Our hero is astonished to discover that the old, bedraggled stranger he met in the previous episode is none other than Ramana Narayanamurthy (a.k.a. Rick), Kamal’s old philosopher and friend (who always advised Kamal to “pursue the greater pleasure”).

But Rick still doesn’t recognize Kamal, who is badly burnt and disfigured. Rather, Rick thinks this horrific figure must have heard the story of Kamal and Imogene, a story which Rick has often told, and which he proceeds to summarize now — to our hero’s overwhelming grief.

We learn that Kamal’s mother found photographs of her son on a pornographic website (the photos, you’ll recall, taken while Kamal was drugged, without his knowledge); and that she shared this website with Imogene, who, as we know, was pregnant with Kamal’s baby; and that, as a result, Imogene has committed suicide. Unable to bear this news, Kamal passes out, and Book One comes to a close.

‘Kamal? Good try, my friend. You think I’d fall
for that? So you, it seems, have heard before
my story of Kamal and Imogene!
How he was banished, and she, the poor
naïve young girl – just turned sixteen –
heart-broken, wild, and furthermore,
now pregnant with his child, was by
her mom (my mistress) made to lie
with twenty men in just a single night
so she might temper sadness with delight.

The story always breaks my heart. Like you,
my friend, the men I tell the story to
feel most compassion for Kamal, who never
discovers how his Imogene, forever
in love with him, is ravaged by the pills
her mother makes her take in hopes
an overdose of drugs will kill
the unborn child; or how she copes
with so much self-disgust, until
one day, of her freewill, she takes
a razor (once Kamal’s) and makes
a slit along her forearm, this way-wise,
and on her favorite pink divan . . . she dies.

That’s right, she dies. “But poor Kamal!” I hear
them say. “They’ve both lost what they held most dear
– but he knows not her miseries! Imagine,”
they say, “when he discovers how his passion
was mistreated, crushed, defiled!” To which I say,
“Dear men, it’s she who suffers most!
Kamal, it’s true, was cast away,
and surely must have felt morose
for days – but hey, didn’t he obey
my firm philosophy? For sure
enough, did he not take my cure
for melancholy? Choose a greater pleasure.
To find our worth, it’s happiness we measure.

Queen of Sheba

The welcoming of the Queen of Sheba: “…of oceans crossed and golden fleeces found; / I write of Sheba bedded, children crowned…’

Not misery! Move on with life! Move on!
If one joy ends, then let another spawn!
And judging by the path Kamal selected
his heart’s already disconnected
from his first lost love. Two weeks
before my body turned to this
monstrosity – when I had cheeks
the ladies still adored to kiss,
when pills I took still worked! – a shriek
resounded through our mansion’s halls.
And then I heard my Lady call:
‘Come quickly, Rick!’ So to her room I sped.
‘You won’t believe it! Becky phoned and said

Kamal is now a worldwide celeb!
And look at this! I’ve found him on the web!’
Together, she and I – transfixed, amused,
astonished – every single page perused
of that amazing site. My friend, I can
attest, without a doubt, Kamal is not
a destitute or even mournful man.
O no! Of all the graphic, candid shots
we saw, of all the images we scanned
– Kamal engaged in carnal trysts;
Kamal the proud polygamist –
not one perspective of his face did show
the slightest trace of misery or of woe.

“Come quickly, Genie dear!” – my Lady wanted
her daughter to see, and so the site was flaunted
to the girl. Kamal the Libertine.
Kamal the Sultan in his nest of Queens.
Contrast his star with Imogene’s – who, quite
the opposite to him (I know
because I saw the painful sight),
refused to let her sadness go.
And so she suffered most despite
her final choice: That is, to die.
And die she did. And much as I
believe that such a choice confirms one’s strength,
the second measure of one’s life is length.

O yes, our lives are scored in years. In fact,
if I was frank, and asked to be exact
who suffered most, then, well, I might just say,
it was their baby…my friend? Are you okay?’

Kamal, as you have guessed, has quietly swooned
(for he already was recumbent)
and from the truth is now marooned
in cool oblivion’s abundance.
For when we cannot bear a wound,
a hurricane of numbness sweeps
us to that land where no one weeps
from either pain or pleasure. ‘The Land of Nod’,
as Stevenson once called that place abroad.*

Hylas and the Nymphs, John William Waterhouse

Hylas and the Nymphs, by John William Waterhouse (1896): Hylas was one of the Argonauts, sailing with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece. He encounters a bevy of naiads, who invite him into a pool. He is never heard from again.

Poor Imogene! I mourn her loss – or more, lament
the loss of anything adored.
Of anything on which we’ve spent
more thought than thinking can afford.
To find, at last, your lover gives consent
– I’m yours! I’m yours! – a gift it seems
that grants the kingdom of our dreams.
I do not write of love that’s unrequited.
No! I write of love attained then blighted.

Of beauty gained then lost; of pleasure’s throne
ascended, a million paradises owned;
of oceans crossed and golden fleeces found;
I write of Sheba bedded, children crowned;
of iridescent flashes chased and netted
and twitching with survival’s lust;
of sea-nymphs caught and dragons petted
– and all of it, alas, to dust!
The rose de-petalled, the muse beheaded.
Be clear! Be clear unthrottled throat!
Was it Stendhal or Proust who wrote
that love is sweeter in the past? But what
of love unfairly severed, cruelly cut?

With tragedy the future is devoured.
And reminiscence, too, is overpowered
by thoughts of present pleasures now aborted.
Each hope, however gently coaxed or courted,
refuses from our hand to feed – and runs!
(Yet lingers, still, beyond our touch).
Can characters a poet has spun
their maker ever know? So much
I feel for you, Kamal – a son,
as I have said – and yet for me
I don’t expect your sympathy….

Let shame say what it will! Like Laertes,
I let emotion douse indignities.
I promised you, Kamal, that I would give
you all I had – and loved – so you may live.
And this I’ve done. But O, how frail you are!
And how protective I’ve become.
For darkness threatens every star.
Who knows which rival will succumb
when fame and obfuscation spar?
For every book that’s published, one
exists – at least as good – which none
have heard of, books which editors have spurned.
A Xanadu porlocked! Lolita burned!

In every shelf of classics, there exists
a haunting, sad lacuna – lost, dismissed,
abandoned, silenced works of greatness. Works
blacked-out by popes and peons, kings and clerks;
or accidents, a freakish fire, or duels
of honor, libraries bombarded
by civilized, invading fools;
a drawer unopened, box discarded,
or all those ‘literary schools’
which poison future Socrates
with drafts of mediocrity.
Unwarranted, political hysteria!
Abhorrent camps, the gulags of Siberia!

No doubt, in some unearthly realm, a vast
librarium of titles have amassed,
an anti-Alexandria to match
the one which Caesar had his men dispatch.
For every book we read, a phantom one
is shelved within that catacomb.

My hope, Kamal, is that won’t you won’t inherit
that fate; for that is not the fate you merit.

– End of Book the First –

*A reference to the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894), which goes:

From breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.

—–
Published as part of the dVerse poetry group and the Tuesday Poets, a blog founded by New Zealand poets, but which includes poets from around the world.

See the complete index of episodes from Kamal, Book One

Listen to Kamal read live!

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Tuesday Poem: “Great Books We’ll Never Read” by Zireaux

Alexandria Library Reconstruction

An artist's impression of the ancient library of Alexandria: 'No doubt, in some unearthly realm, a vast / librarium of titles have amassed, / an anti-Alexandria to match / the one which Caesar had his men dispatch.'

Great Books We’ll Never Read
by
Zireaux

(From Kamal, Book One)

I’d rather strut in Byron’s pants*
than leave my poem’s fate to chance.

In every shelf of classics there exists
a haunting, sad lacuna – lost, dismissed,
abandoned, silenced works of greatness! Works
blacked-out by popes and peons, kings and clerks;
or accidents, a freakish fire, or duels
of honor, libraries bombarded
by civilized, invading fools;
a drawer unopened, box discarded,
or all those ‘literary schools’
which poison future Socrates
with drafts of mediocrity.
Unwarranted, political hysteria!
Abhorrent camps, the gulags of Siberia!

Kamal! My child, how frail you are!
And how protective I’ve become!
For darkness threatens every star.
Who knows which rival will succumb
when fame and obfuscation spar?
For every book that’s published, one
exists – at least as good – which none
have heard of. Books which editors have spurned.
A Xanadu porlocked! Lolita burned!

*Reference to the transparent pants famously worn to a dinner party by Lord Byron.
_____
Published as part of the Tuesday Poem group.

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“Dippity Bix” and “Chimpanzee,” by Kath and Kim (Gina Riley and Jane Turner)

Selected for Immortal Muse by Zireaux (read Zireaux’s comments on these works)

Kath (Jane Turner) and Kim (Gina Riley) at the Fountain Gate Mall.

“Dippity Bix

Kim: You know what, mum. I’ve stopped my all-cabbage diet. I don’t think it’s healthy to eat just one thing.

Kath: Well Gwen Paltrow just had an Apple.

Kim: Huh?

Kath: Well that’s what she’s called her new baby. Apple. I think that must be all she’s eaten since she had her by the luhks. You’d be wise to take a leave-out of Gwen’s book, Kim.

Kim: So what are you saying? I should rename Epponnee-Rae [her baby daughter], Dippity Bix?

Kath: Yeah! Dippity Bix Cocoa Bomb Footy Frank.

Kim: Actually, Footy Frank is quite pretty.

Kath: Yeah, Footy Frank, it is, isn’t it?

“Chimpanzee”

Kim: Oh look mum. Another present I got for Epponnee: The Bath Book version of The Da Vinci Code. Look, It squeaks when you press the albino.

Kath: Who do I still need to buy for, Kim? I’ve got my health professionals: My Physio, my Ostio, my Chiro and my Gyno. They’re all getting bottles of Cock Fighter, so that’s done. Now my service providers: I’ve got my Posti, my Garbo, my Recycle’s Man, my Coles Online Guy — still need to get something for them.

Kim: I still gotta get something good for Bret. You know he’s really into labels now.

Kath: Oh really, what, stick-on or iron-on, cause we go down to Office Works for that.

Kim: No, mum. Clothes. Designer labels. You know, Dolci and Kabanna, Tony Hellfinger, Louise Futon.

Kath: Oh, gee. Who’s he dressing to impress? Actually, I got Bret’s present. It’s great. It’s the John Grisham newy, The Firm Client. Actually, that sounds a bit more like Kel [her husband], doesn’t it?

Kim: But Bret doesn’t read at the moment. Now he’s a workaholic.

Kath: Yeah, I’ve noticed, he’s very driven at the moment, isn’t he, Kim? I have to say, I think it suits him. He did look very spunky going off in his Yugo Boss this morning.

Kim: Yeah, he’s got his sites set on the top. You know, eventually, he wants to be owner-manager.

Kath: Oh, that’s really kudosses, Kim. Being a franchisee. Gee, one day I’d like to be a franchisee, Kim.

Kim: Well you look more like a Chimpanzee today.


The American version of Kath and Kim -- fascinating in its failure.

Zireaux’s comments on these works:
If Kath and Kim were ever told they spoke the language of poetry, they’d be the first to give earnest, impassioned readings at the Fountain Gate bookstore and pawn their own chapbooks at the gym. Playing fools in the name of beauty is what they do best.

Their Australian creators, meanwhile — Gina Riley and Jane Turner — are poets to the core.

They understand that when it comes to language — in this case, the vernacular of the suburban Melbourne shopping mall — sound and sense are the poetic equivalent of costume and character. “Kel says my hair is my clowning glory,” boasts Kath about her frizzy white poodle-fro. And there you have it, all four elements of the comedic art form expressed in a single line.

In so much of Riley/Turner’s work, their ear is near perfect. Metrically, for example, “Epponnee-Rae” and “Dippity Bix” would be called choriambs (stresses on the first and last sounds of a tetrasyllable), and their identical scansion is no accident. But the two baby names are also excellent examples of why common scansion alone — the dissection of feet into stressed/unstressed patterns, as scholars have been doing for centuries — is really a cheating of sound. Because sound itself divides into tones (or notes) and cadence (or rhythm), as I touched upon briefly in my post on Notorious B.I.G..

So although the scansion is the same, Swinburne’s “…senseless of passion,” or Coleridge’s “Down to the sunless…,” sound nothing at all like Shakespeare’s “flibbertigibbit” (which, in fact, more closely resembles the short rapid-fire air-bursts of “Dippity Bix”). After the swooping landing of Coleridge’s, “Down,” the mouth must stand up again and brush itself off before delivering, “to the sunless.” “Flibbertigibbet,” on the other hand, is a happy triple-flip of the tongue. “I should rename Epponnee-Rae, Raspberry Cream,” would have produced exactly the same scansion, but with a very different rhythm, a very different effect.

American TV attempted its own version of Kath and Kim, which was fascinating in its failure. Sense and sound (and rhythm), character and costume — the harmony of these elements were sacrificed in favor of the premise, or the idea: A grown-up married daughter coming home to live with her mother.

But I’ll say it again: Ideas are not what poetry is about. Poetry is spoken music (some might say written music, but I’m less convinced of this, unless we equate reading with hearing, which seems a stretch). The Australian Kath has no qualms showing off her fanny-fissure, or trying on — and spilling out of — a Burberry bikini, or putting on that perpetual vulgar teenage girl expression, the rolling eyes and exasperated flip of the hair, which looks even funnier on the grown-up Riley. Excessiveness, outrageousness — a realm that’s ripe for poetry.

The American version of “Kath and Kim,” however, was too concerned with meaning, too afraid to let sound and costume speak for themselves, too poetically restrained. It has, in fact, a very strong odor of the Lolita-Charlotte relationship — think Sue Lyon and Shelly Winters in the film, Lolita — a particularly American flavor of mother-daughter relationship which Nabokov netted in his novel; and from which Americans may never be able to escape.

“It squeaks when you press the albino” is a poetic phrase, in the manner of the anapestic limerick. And note the perfect rhyme with gyno in Kath’s subsequent line (with both characters stretching out the “aiye-no” sound). Poetic, too, is “kudosses, Kim.” But perhaps most lovely, and rich with poetic depth, is the coupling of the words “franchisee” with “chimpanzee.” They have an aural relationship; yet no common rhyme form. They’re not that rarest species of rhyme — the gimmal (see my definition and discussion of the gimmal); and yet the simian-coated Kath saying, “gee, one day I’d like to be a franchisee,” still takes us on a pleasure-journey across the broadest spectrum of metaphor, from vulgar job title to Christmas shopping ape-woman; a trip, or trope, which Nabokov himself would surely have admired.

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