Issue 6: Michael Leong

My Stare is a Standing Prisoner*

for Robert Moor

I felt over-nicknamed and underfed  

when my head came off

my self-image.  Summer’s studded rickshaw

rolled by, flattening out, with great speed,

the sleep-deprived connotations

structurally altered by employee medication

and corporate regret.

Back home I released the words, as is,

from the obsolete douchebag

and, as it happens,

equipped the finished model inside out.

I said three times that dirt is a motor,

that just 22 out of the 42 leaves

were stable, that I was not so much

a three-legged soldier

reconfiguring this smoldering office of war.

Perhaps I was a head case wishing for malaria,

a former president plagued

with shoulder-length hair.

Registering a wasted life through a hose on the high road,

I said, “I must first become the blink  

of a radically manifold transformation:

as a rubber hammer

sometimes gingerly presses the people with feeling,

as a breeze growing old in an Ovidian window

no longer finds itself attached

to all the feathered terrors of fashion.”

We recklessly tore through a corner of sense,

and when that bulb clicked with a wince,  

I learned to index your high, whiplashy landscape —

like a skeletal eye spinning tenuously in the night.

*This text, including the title, draws on words only found on the first page of Robert Moor’s essay “On Douchebags,” which appeared in Issue 1 of Wag’s Revue (Spring 2009). Excluding the words of the epigraph I was able to use nearly 75% of the usable lexicon.


Politics and the English Language (George Orwell through the Looking Glass)

A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit

across a not ungreen field. Then the field folded and flowered;

then the field became, in fact, not green.

“No!” said the not unsmall rabbit to the not unblack dog

and the dog, now covered in forget-me-nots, went along

on his merry, forgetful way.

“No!” said the not unsmall rabbit to the not green field,

and a miniature not ungreen stage

miraculously sprang out of the Snapdragons.

Then the not unsmall rabbit hopped onto the tiny,

not ungreen proscenium, cleared his throat,

and said,

                  “I returned and saw under the sun,    

these images clash, infused

by their own virtual reflection:

                 a white canker on a black stone,

                 an iron bugle thinking in numbers,

                 a plastic dove spurting out ink.

I do not want to exaggerate.

Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air.

I habitually see a huge, concrete swan

rising out of poisoned waters.

There is war between English ducks

and Russian cuttlefish, between Catholic cavalry horses

and Italian Operators masquerading

as the German petty-bourgeosie, between the alien voice

of Japan and the subaqueous Latin machine.

Meanwhile, the Saxon dog and its international sect

have disappeared underneath the white lion’s

nationalist chariot.

                                      In Arctic lumber camps,

Professor Hyena is defending millions of communist maidens

now with Shakespeare’s electric trident,

now with Mr. X’s Whitmanesque cudgel of nonsense, now with

Achilles’ transparent buckler and sword.

The struggle was like bombs of neurotic jargon

dropping on a prefabricated henhouse—

like a language in which ‘eyes’

means ‘bull’s-eyes,’ in which

frivolous bread is translated out of existence.

So much for atmospheric democracy at nine o’clock.

One cannot change all this schizophrenia in a moment,

just as one need not swallow

a seventeenth-century sphere full of mirrors and light.

For in real life it is always

the anvil that tricks the hammer by visualizing

unfashionable noises braying

against the bloodstained, incendiary air.

It is clear that few journalists explore the false limbs

of a midsummer cul-de-sac

or the historic discs that indefinitely

cut across the long passages of time,

but, at any rate, us undersecretaries should begin

the invasion of the dustbin

and mend our homemade banner tacked together

from living candles, random

tea leaves, medieval spectacles, twisted bullets

that can image the future, and silly

manifestoes found in a countryside dump.

If one fails amply enough, such variations

of bittersweet sound can change the atom

and its trembling desires, or at least

recognize the sadness of order in a packet of chaos.

The point is that the process is reversible.

Go test the Lancelot hypothesis.

Put your ears to the gap when the light catches your larynx.

Ask, if you must, the unconscious stenographer

gumming together long strips of words on the haunted

frontiers of consciousness.

We have to take hansom cabs along imaginary roads

to find, inadvertently, outcrops of the real:  

an anticlimax to some, but to others,

a dialect on the other side of etc.

infinitely rushing through the tide of the present.

One’s brain is, therefore, like an octopus—

emotional, bashful, and sometimes clear.

So I end by dictating to you, the reader,

some irreducible if question-begging questions:

‘Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

What words will express it

against the inexorable weltanschauung,

the thorny syntax of the wind?

Could I tabulate it in a foreign pamphlet,

in some melting,

                                 non-fragmentary dream?’

In our time,

                       is the dictionary not a cannibal?”

Michael Leong is the author of several books and chapbooks of poetry including e.s.p. (Silenced Press, 2009), Midnight’s Marsupium (The Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2010), and Cutting Time with a Knife (Black Square Editions / The Brooklyn Rail, forthcoming).  He is currently a part-time lecturer in the English Department at Rutgers University and lives in New York City.