para mi hermana I fell asleep in my father’s arms though dead he’s been more than 20 years I nestled in his reek of disguised alcohol shaving lotion old spice tropic fantasy it’s easy to forget just how hard it was to earn his love and companionship exile that he was with Guadalajara hair a faint curse was ever on his lips for the routines of Lutheran synecdoche and sarcasm dripped constantly in the twinkle of his cinematic eyes still I burrowed in his post meridian clasp a whole afternoon with his lemon drops and Mexican newspaper headlines in and out of oils and acrylics on canvas street names for unknown saints and incense burning dense as beeswax in the air distance was his propriety and music with Saint John of the Cross at 3 AM blear-eyed from bar-hopping bouts and mornings wrapped in tortilla dough he hustled remote as a pyramid of oil through days of anathema and dialect how could I in his embrace ever fall curtail my living self in his promised death full hours of plight and anguish smoking decks of pall mall cigarettes his hand unwavering holding the subtle brush to splash color over an unwrapped thought a cathedral a half-dead donkey colonial houses muffled in Aztec silver-work filigree of bluish haze his archaic skies riddled with recollections of a mountain and the immense purple mysteries of a Tenochtitlan buried in Toltec grief winding sheets and Amarillo sweat dying the ruffled edges of his floating bed his caravanserai of forbidden paramours a theater of nickel soaps and pulque the brash despair of his uprooted life going in circles long Sunday afternoons when ennui put on a German mask deriding the colloquy of his solitude but to nuzzle up to his bristling breath and die a hundred times just for once before his own soul took to flight five thousand miles from his birth that crazy Mexican of elegance and ire how far however far from the painted rocks and shifting gravel of his planned walk-away only the broken vowels of his idiom the consonants of cactus and parakeet cajole my drowsing ear this ancient day when the whole world tilts drowning in a gold-fish bowl and darkness overtakes drowns in a gold-fish bowl and darkness overtakes 03-19-20
Ivan Argüelles is an American innovative poet whose work moves from early Beat and surrealist-influenced forms to later epic-length poems. He received the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award in 1989 as well as the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award in 2010. In 2013, Argüelles received the Before Columbus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. For Argüelles the turning point came with his discovery of the poetry of Philip Lamantia. Argüelles writes, “Lamantia’s mad, Beat-tinged American idiom surrealism had a very strong impact on me. Both intellectual and uninhibited, this was the dose for me.” While Argüelles’s early writings were rooted in neo-Beat bohemianism, surrealism, and Chicano culture, in the nineties he developed longer, epic-length forms rooted in Pound’s Cantos and Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. He eventually returned, after the first decade of the new millennium, to shorter, often elegiac works exemplary of Romantic Modernism. Ars Poetica is a sequence of exquisitely-honed short poems that range widely, though many mourn the death of the poet’s celebrated brother, José.