Back to Issue Thirty-Nine

Dziga in the Orange Trees

BY PETER SZILAGYI

 

for RM

Some happened as you said they did. The orange
trees, maybe, their leaves that know the lapidary sanding

belt and shine, so unlike our rough and temperate
hands, cracking again in each winter’s granite air.

We lay underneath three impossible oranges,
impossibly orange and large. They replaced

the sky. Picking the sky from its machined malachite
nest, you began to unpeel and unpeel

the malleable skin, its cloudy underside sticky with the tepid wish
of skin to cleave

to skin. When folded and pinched, a fine
spray of oils. And the leaves again, as if polished

with the oil of thousands of foldings and pinchings.
We gathered oranges, squeezed them nearly dry,

and drank enough that pulp would pack
our teeth all day, the tongue refinding fibrous

strands with tidal regularity. The tongue,
always returning, always restless, as when one

has slept too long alone and, tossing
in sleep, rolls without exception back to the groove

one body wrestles from the bed by wear.
It was Dziga Vertov’s tongue in interrupted sleep

that first whispered through the orange leaves:
This film, it has an end, the screen will be, again,

the screen. Fatted on orange juice, we had
strange dreams. In mine, Dziga, whom we called

by name, turned back to speak of verity. You asked
me later if I thought he ever saw it,

the end of the reel, no verity like it in cinema,
even so full of tick truths, fat with filmic blood.

In your dream, nothing happened
that I could recount; you never shared it.

Years later did or did not come. Venice
sank, but no matter, so did New York,

Kiev into Dziga’s crowds, Calvary into its plains, Mexico
City into Mexico City. If I could promise

to be there as you anchor tightrope to the roofs
of Manhattan’s ultimate pair of crumbling

apartments, I would. I would tell you
what we learned and forgot many times:

The peel is stippled; the fingers know it. Intimacy
is the stippled love with death in view, the memory that tastes

forgetting. One of us will bike across the tightrope,
juggling oranges. One falls, and the ocean swallows it.

From up here, the splash is like one, short scrape
of leg on leg, lifted from the crickets of summer,

all their bodies, all ours, singing,
that once could sing.

 

 

October Letter (Filmreel Poem, Darkroom Poem, Long Poem, Last Poem)

BY PETER SZILAGYI

 

for YC, 2019

We used to look up. We used to look up and watch. We used to look
at the poem for the point. We used to watch the poem for the point
it had to make. Like this: one year, thirteen samaras in three square inches. The next:
thirteen. The next: thirteen. The next. Is that a pattern? We thought
the poem would tell us. Do you understand? Or I
thought the poem would tell me, first, and then tell us,
tell me while I was writing it, and then us. We had
a lot to talk about, and maybe the words would talk about it all
for us, the words would do it so we didn’t have to, the words from our mouths,
lying on the ground, the words collecting like balloons on the ceiling,
talking for us. I wanted to talk long enough that at least
seventeen balloons could drink up all the water of language
and pour all the water of seventeen thoughts over all the thoughts
we hadn’t had yet. And that would be it. I wanted
the end before I even began. I thought beginning was about
the end of words. I wanted. I wanted. We wanted. I wanted. The self
and then desire. The self, desire, and the words in the world, rising
up, mylar balloons glinting in the night, glinting in the little light
from the house, from the apartment, from the room, from the building
that crumbled. I wanted buildings that crumbled. Without violence, just crumbled.
There weren’t any like that. There were buildings that crumbled, and lives
that hurt when they did, and balloons, mylar balloons, lots of them,
forgetting the ground. Forgetting, I said. You’ve said it before,
probably, to me, probably. Forgetting. I wanted
to write a long poem, a long poem short enough to forget
forgetting. I wanted that. So we could hold the beginning up to the end
and fill it with air and tie a string to it and hold on tight and forget
the ground. The ground, in October, so much like the ground
in June, frankly, or in May. But nothing coming from the ground the same:
the yellow light, the last yellow light, the last yellow light of the decade.
You said it was the last October of the decade. A decade of open Octobers,
open October ground, so broken, uneven, yellow light pouring out of it,
filling the sky so it can’t. So it can’t fill itself or forget the ground or warm
the balloons rising so quickly. And yellow light falling, remembering the ground,
samaras falling, numbering themselves in three square inches on the ground: one,
two, fourteen, a pattern. Let’s go underground, let’s
forget. Let’s slink and spin and fall and feel
out the situation of the ground, give it advice if it’s having
a hard week, find it the right psychiatrist. I want
to talk about the time you talked about Denis Lavant in Beau
Travail, about the ground, about explaining. About
explaining Denis Lavant and the ground. I want to talk about
Denis Lavant and the ground in Holy Motors, not-yet-digital
Denis Lavant and the ground, Denis Lavant preparing
to be digital. And the ground. It’s pretty easy to explain (it’s
not). Every time he hits the ground, the ground hits
him, reminds him. Denis. The ground. Good
to meet you (the ground says to Denis). It’s
a lie, or a half-lie, at least. I’m not even talking about it the way
I wanted to. The way I want to. Let’s lie on the ground.
Let’s face the ceiling. Let’s project an overlay of Denis Lavant’s
every interaction with the ground and watch it and question it
intently. Let’s project nothing. Let’s watch an empty ceiling and think
of all the cities we’ll never live in, of all the cities we’ll never even know of
to know that we aren’t living in them. Let’s project October on the ceiling,
one long rising, falling yellow light. This is the last October of the decade,
you’ll say. You’ve probably said it before. I’ll say
This is the last October of the decade. I’ll say This
could be the last October of any decade of our lives
and you’ll say Yes I’ll say Why not, how could we know
and you’ll say that you guess that’s true and I’ll say
something. I think I’ll say something. How could we know. How
could I know what you’ll say. In October. In the yellow light. On the ground.
Rising. Let’s rise. Let’s rise in the morning. Let’s push the ground back. Let’s push
the ground. Let’s shove it. Let’s bully the ground. Let’s beg forgiveness of the ground
for bullying it when we all were children because we were children after all
and when the ground says no says that’s
no excuse, it’s not forgotten, I haven’t forgotten, it’s a pattern, it’s
forgotten, let’s lie in the yellow light of October, the last October, and think,
both of us, in silence, about dancing, about meeting
the ground, about dancing, about yellow, about dancing

 

Peter Szilagyi is at kind of a crossroads in their life and doesn’t really know what to say about themselves. They’ve spent the last year(+) making wine and writing poetry the way your grandmother’s refrigerator from the 70’s breaks down — i.e. inevitably but really far more slowly than you’d guess possible. Their work can also be found in Doubly Mad, Eachother Journal, and Yes, Poetry. They’re currently based in Washington, D.C.

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