Aug 022011


The DOW is down 266 points today; America waits for the consumer to spend money so we can get out of the current crisis; the consumer won’t spend money because the debt ceiling deal promises more uncertainty about pensions, medical insurance, and jobs; it’s a merry-go-round spiraling down; and the ancient gods appear as cartoon musclemen in 3D instead of guardians and saviours. In these David Helwig poems, Lady Godiva has joined the Tea Party to protest paying taxes and money distracts us from infinities. There is, perhaps, nothing to do but write comic poems about the current situation, Post-Empire poems, in the current NC jargon of the day. These poems are taken from a 47-page long poem or group of poems called “Seawrack.” David Helwig, as most of you know, is an old friend; he looks like an amiable Old Testament prophet in his author photo. He is an amazingly prolific author of poems, stories, novels and memoir. His book of mystery stories called, appropriately, Mystery Stories, came out last fall. Oberon Press is publishing a novella called Killing McGee this fall (the main character is obsessed with—among many things—the 1868 assassination of  Darcy McGee). And Biblioasis will publish in 2012 a collection of David’s translations of Chekhov stories, one of which appeared on Numéro Cinq last year.



From “Seawrack”

Poems by David Helwig


All men are mortal: this
the philosopher’s first premise.

And second, Socrates is a man.

Outside our bedroom, night rain
comes down, chill, polyrhythmic.


In each ear tickety percussion distracts
us from infinities. Once discovered
a pretty frisson bedecks the edge of use. The muse
tickles herself with feather dusters, lust
whiffling its stroke to court her smallnesses.
Catch trifles sidewise to consequence;
a premise means only its brisk shape.

Is it bearable to the hurt ones,
our sheen of sensation? A blue garden
tinctures the periphery. Skywise
space hollows itself for events. Old pal,
you looked so very brisk that night
when sweet baby came home with a dog
trained to sniff out the truth of flowers.

Seven is chosen the absolute number
for measuring beauty. Listen closely, my clever ones,
your by-names will not be forgotten. Though taste
of cake grow bitter as myrrh and musk,
your sandals shine  deliberate and gold.
And nothing is forsworn, beauty
becomes itself by being nothing else.



The slap of a screen door closing
in nineteen forty-something,

hot August, flies in their hundreds.

Drifts of goldenrod, seasonal, prophetic,
grow tall here in the changing light.


Who was a child
in time’s elisions,
summer, the prime
element sand.

That was. That.
Doorslap. Voices
from unceilinged bed-
room to bedroom.

The thrill, to hook
a cold bright living fish.
Always the secrets.
That. Flies beyond count.

Time’s elisions:
unseen, unheard
some great wheel
turns the sky.



Scrubbing garlic at sunset,
in a bucket of mud-red water,

fat bulbs shedding earth.

Take to the road, night traveller,
maybe never to come back.


Once we knew a song, and how it told the story,
Little Mouse and Felicity setting out
all barefoot through the mud-mush,

around them holy universe a-twirling,
buddy on the old railroad beating time;
they dandled Eve’s sweet apples,

mud-red to the knee as they sang hymns
about the attainable tough-ass farms
with mortgage documents long as bibles.

I’ll feed you spicy buds with sticky fingers
the Little Mouse lined it out
that fox-tailed whistle tune in quavers.

Felicity stood waving on the tracks,
baked seven moon-pies for buddy on the railroad,
and mud was ever with them.

Once we knew a song, and how it told the story,
Little Mouse and Felicity setting out
and coming home with their new hymns

that run downhill like water.



That season here again,
bees scour late-flowering thyme,

sun in retreat, still hot, still bright.

On the porch an open book
exposits biological enigmas


Ha. Ha. Ha. Sudden glory,
writes the son of the angry vicar;
a salutary warning against democracy.
Nota bene: the pope farts like all men,
matter in motion. The king instructed
in mathematics can measure
his royal enormity. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Ha. Ha. Ha. The clown howls
for his dildo-diddle-darling,
waves a mute stuffed penis
at the delighted crowd.
The honeybee queen mates
with her drone at the top of the sky,
rips off his parts. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Ha. Ha. Ha. Long-leggedy
dancers fall to the ground,
subjected. Fat boys in drag
achieve transfiguration,
matter in motion. King Flea
sucks blood in the bush
of the loveliest. Ha. Ha. Ha.



Shorebirds unmoving
like rock, sand, shell; invisible
here now or long gone.



In accord with one accurate word,
or a permission from the high mind
that watches intently the idea
of ourselves joining it here

in proportion, in right proportion
recorded in books bound in calf
shelved in dark lengths
of present time; clock clicks onward.

Beyond the window, the pale daffodil
sky darkens to green, violet, and offers
its blackness for stars as it must
at such a becoming moment.

Within, what has achieved persistence
the abiding-with, what was, is,
what will be the event of quiet mind
in accordance, in order, in this room.



The crickets silent,
frozen to death or hidden
in somewhere somehow.


The cold mood, canine:
a punctuated screech
from monkey mind
distracts it; meanwhile

the flirt and wimble
of the so fleshly
Miss Concinnity dis-
roots all deepness.

Hocus-pocus, the dog-
latin creed broods
over the winsome drumming
of the theologian’s heels.

Bob the urgent surgeon
redesigns the ductwork.
The joker, brindled,
pink, lies standing up.



Wet snow, a north wind,
the poet’s occupation—
reading all weathers.


Lady Godiva, doubly bareback blonde
waves her scrawled sign,
and the citizens keep house

bar Tom the poet, who word-
struck, avid for inklings,
peeps her from toe to temple, bush
silvery, crinkled, lichenous.

Asked for opera, give them the works,
everyness of tricks and trades,
of which, of whom on all the notes,
dancing dogs and the climactic squillo.

A  sad tale’s best for winter.
Lock the doors with the universal key.
NO ADMITTANCE. The forbidden
matches the perfectly desired.

Lay out the tale of Hansel and G.
or Caesar mounting the throne of Egypt
as Jack the neighbour spills the beans
on a mutant township of titans.

Hopping on one foot, gump, gump, gump,
prevents an easy slenderness, while grace
goes toothless and badly bald. Sharp,
the surgeon’s foresight tunes the interlock.



Recall that bedroom,
the stove pipes from the kitchen
cold in the mornings.


The cuckoo-clocks hoot all night
in that tallest of landscapes.
The accidental virgin carries
a clutch of red morning flowers
out of the Schwarzwald.

Beyond the far-sighted, mountains
where birds and animals master
six available languages;
those who arrive achieve
the unlikeliest of wisdoms.

Wotan and the Seven Dwarfs
audition for Hollywood
up on the crags as Windy and Sol
run bounding arpeggios
on lengths of natural horn.

Those who can, do; those
who can’t, sing opera—
the second law of the brothers Grimm.
Each goddess must proclaim herself
free to die of her own disease.

Beyond the white mountains
the cuckoo-clocks gossip hourly
about the private life of demons,
and a translated avian soprano
hangs caged in each hot kitchen.



Socrates is mortal: QED.
The concepts dance like numbers.

Philosophers tell lies about desire

and the wisdom of hairless boys:
to prove the obvious.


In each eye the texture of pelt distracts
us from infinities. The spooks gabble
their old malarkey, wholesaling thrills. The muse
pleases herself with foxtails, fingertips; a humming
electrifies the dapper suit of epidermis.
Exit: he goes out. Wash dark things white.
A conclusion reveals only its own perfection.

Is it still bearable to the lost ones,
our aching gladness? A blue garden
awaits us, spans our path, felicities
of petal, air, twilight. Old dog,
you chewed the bones of so many good things,
after sweet baby showed us her tattooing
all in the language of spice and ecstasis.

Seven is the absolute number
for measuring it all. Listen, my pretty ones,
while I recite the four lovely imperfections. Though truth
grow bitter as the crimsoned and demented,
your toenails will preserve the gloss of silver.
Whatever is forsworn, foregone, beauty
becomes itself still, clamant, ubiquitous.

—David Helwig

  No Responses to “Seawrack: Poems — David Helwig”

  1. Reading these poems (or this poem) on a rainy night in Massachusetts, “Outside our bedroom, night rain
    comes down, chill, polyrhythmic,” makes me to curl up with whole 47 pages and let the pope fart, let the king measure his royal enormity and let the seawrack overtake me. Lovely words, powerful, visceral, like a punch in the stomach yet, somehow, welcome.

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