Murat Nemet-Nejat: From 'Animals of Dawn,' with an essay on 'Hamlet & Its Hidden Texts: Poems As Commentary'
Bait & Switch
“Polonius: What do you read, my lord?”
of the night —
in the morning
words words words left
over the melting
dew (the pickpocket).
Ghost was the sculptor of the dream,
itself a sculpture.
absolute love may not exist but is everywhere
maybe not kind
maybe not nice
but is everywhere.
infinite love precedes its happening
Mom says she and I in hatred are each other’s its, objects that love melts into rain.
the stars were on the sidewalk
as if at the prophet’s coming
because it had drizzled the night before
dizzy like a cloud, i left the house
skipping, skipping on the stars
pleased as punch in the moonlight
as at the prophet’s coming
because it had drizzled the night before
through your transparent gown,
low light from a table lamp in the back room.
your long legs
were luminous in the door.
i moved fearlessly.
guilt hung back
on the acacia trees
in the rain.
the church bells were calling folks
we spread a picnic blanket
on the bed.
that’s how everything happened first.
“Not a mouse’s stirring”
the crumbs of the clock spilled from
curtains, as the night
ended, light in smithereens
slowly in the eyelashes of my cat dispersing
over the rug.
Who’ll pick them up
now, the leftovers
from the shuttle worriless humming on.
Morning streamed from the hair
of the widow,
sprinkles of the clock and light.
opened my hands, but as I opened them
they still kept streaming streaming streaming.
wall. ghost. mirror. bird. arras.
window. wind. widow. tree.
dew. water. tears. river.
“Horatio: The morn, in russet mantle clad, walks o’er the dew of yon high eastern hills.”
“So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.” Robert Frost
the corrupt weaponries of language.
To Be Too Much In the Son
“Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death
The memory be green, and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief
(and our whole kingdom
To be contracted in one brow of woe,
… yet … with wisest sorrow … together
with remembrance of ourselves …
yada yada yada!)
Have we —
(as ’twere with a defeated joy,
With an auspicious/dropping eye
Taken to wife”)
yada yada yada!
“nor have we herein barred
Your better wisdom, which have freely gone
yada yada yada!
An Image of Death
what we call the world is merely the illusion of the nearnes of things.
what we call the world is only the image of the nearnes of things.
The audience’s eyes: Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Laertes, Hamlet are on stage, simultaneously. They’ll all be dead in two hours.
Laertes asks the king leave to leave for France
Time is forgetfulness in Hamlet. Everyone forgets though protesting otherwise (including the ghost, “Remember! Remember!” he pleads from under the claptrap truepenny machinery of Elizabethan stage — representing the underworld — to a joking Hamlet), the most cutting of all Hamlet forgets Ophelia.
Return to France
Laertes: My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France
An unquenchable loss over something once possessed — not life, but something else, peace of silence, or love, or the night itself — which to recover one must cross a reverse threshold — warping into a parallel dimension — looms over the play.
Facts are jailed into themselves.
Death is jailed into itself.
“Hamlet: Seems, Madam, no is. I have that within me
That passeth show”
to be it, does it have to exist?
god is it, whose essence, is nonexisting.
sofas, beds, the hysterical archdukes of MY psyche.
what is man?
man is a what
a rose is a rose a
Infinite possibility doesn’t mean freedom, but that it may happen infinitely
but of maybes
Infinite possibility, within finality
that is the pharosrhythm perception of freedom
as gestures of maybes
object ivities in a mirror existing
Before we part did
A moment we share together
you having placed a small nutrient vial of translucent liquid on your porch
and I, watching birds dipping into them
in instantaneous darts.
Does THAT have to exist? I can’t remember. D I D.
An instant on the threshold of not remembering, the change of time zones — erasure of the table of memory — the humming bird approaches the moment of stasis — of jump.
Memory and Rhythm — a Rhythm of Forgetfulness — Insanity
Shakespeare seems to forget what happened from one scene to the next in Hamlet, seems to suffer a kind of dementia, giving the play its purposeless bursts of focus, meandering — a genius democratically and at random dispersed among the characters — giving it its seductive, ever alluring air of translucent insanity. Its irresistible entropy.
Polonius: Marry, sir, here’s my drift:
(And I believe it is a fetch of wit)
You, laying these slight sullies on my son
As ’twere a thing a little soiled i’ th’ working —
And then, sir, does he this, he does — What was I about to say? By the mass, I was about to say something. Where did I leave?
Videlicet a brothel, or so forth. See you now,
Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth … (Act 2, Scene 1)
Memory has a great difficulty crossing the threshold of dawn. A self-propelling time has to move forward, as if a completely forgotten dream is still brooding in the bones.
’s kissed by the morning
& turns into a frog
in the soul.
The sun has a different rhythm than stars, though in the frame of eternity the same. Time moves at different speeds in each. The walled-in ecstasy of Scene 1, “swift as the meditations of love,” is followed by the objective view of Hamlet as moody, irrational, or insane — his meandering, exploring metaphysics on suicide, instead of revenge, and his churlish obscenities.
Except while encountering the ghost, at night, Hamlet lives, his being is, in the wrong space.
The play Hamlet is out of control.
Scenes follow each other in obstructive rhythms, failing in, inhibiting the play’s linearity of purpose. The Macguffin of revenge. Two temporal cadences are superimposed.
trapped outside time, “[the] Messiah allows time to be continually deferred.” (The Burnt Book)
Delay is a ray
Hamlet and Its Hidden Texts: Poems as Commentary, Film Lumière
Hamlet is the holy text that is at the heart of a day book / things, real or unreal, objects, living or unliving. Almost every piece in the poem is a commentary — a riff of thought, a speculative argument, a parallel alternative text, a counter argument or counter fact — turning around a specific word or phrase, a disjointed twisting of fact or a suggestive, elusive echo that occurs in the peripheries of the reader’s/listener’s mind — out of the focus of the linearity of the main action, the revenge, in the play.
The paradigm of a text made completely of commentaries, like moths flying around a holy text with its own distinct linguistic identity, is The Talmud. Here is what I write about the nature of such a text in “Eleven Septembers Later: A Reading of Benjamin Hollander’s Vigilance”:
Precedents of Prophecy (Film Lumière)
The verbal precedent of a poem whose ideal condition is stasis is The Talmud. In it single words explode into commentaries. It can not be read but stopped at every word and riffed from; reread continuously, super-imposed, blurred commentaries creating the Jewish consciousness of responsibility and guilt. … The visual precedent of Vigilance is photography … The space created by photography/ film lumière has an unconscious, to its viewer reflecting, revealing the dreams, aspirations, fears of her teeming population. Superimpositions of different media — film, T.V., the web and words emanating from them — on photography, which film lumière is, creates a unified field/space which is prophetic.
The perennial question on Hamlet is why Hamlet does not go from A to B in a linear line, “swift as the meditations of love” or, as Laertes does, “defying hell”; but meanders, mostly travels in a world of ideas, and arrives at his purposed destination, seemingly by default, exhausted, feeding on the immediate carnage around him. He does so because he exists in stasis, in “a … field/space which is prophetic.” The sole action he can commit is death. It is the space where consciousness (the soul) is born. It has nothing to do with character or a character defect though Hamlet himself thinks so.
Hamlet’s is a language of the soul progressing towards dying.
Hamlet’s language is not of acting, of showing; but of an “isness” outside “living” speech: “Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not seems … nor all the suspirations of breath … can denote me truly.” His focus is on a dissolution of the body towards the un-human and un-living: in essence the dissolution of a Wittgensteinian language of exchange and observable, speakable f(acts) towards silence. This dichotomy in the play is distilled in its concept of time as speed and slowness, their duality. Hamlet is aware and fatally wounded by what Claudius defends: speed, the imploding speed between the vigil of death and the merriment of marriage, warping time. Hamlet “meanders” outside speed in a state of stasis, though he himself sees it as paralysis. The two are irreconcilable. Though they point to the same facts, like convex and concave mirrors reflecting each other, the wall in between is unbreachable. That unbreachableness (the way the consciousness of the living, the real, the rational can not breach into the consciousness of the un-living, unreal) is at the heart of Hamlet’s mysterious power, what makes it a holy text.
Ophelia occupies a space between the two. Her death, a union with water and plants, points to a moment when the focus of the conscious mind (consciousness itself) turns from life to another dimension (vigil) of lamentation and song: “Her clothes spread wide / And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up; / Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes, / As one incapable of her own distress [italics my own].”
Laertes’s and Polonius’s warnings to Ophelia about the unreliability and lastingness of Hamlet’s love for her turn out to be true. Hamlet’s love turns into abuse and mockery, interspersed only with an unpleasantly perfunctory profession of love at her death. But, though the predicted result occurs, it has little to do with Polonius’s cynical view of young passion or Laertes’s decorous argument relating to the real politic involved in the marriage of a prince. The cause lies in another dimension, the space of the ghost.
The a-causal, infinite space of Hamlet.
A Day Book is not a comparison, a metaphor; it is not like Hamlet. Rather, its Talmudic commentaries are against Hamlet, subverting and reconfirming its autonomic, ever elusive sanctity — its otherness. In a sense, in A Day Book I try to transform Hamlet, at least for a single moment, into a plant, an animal, a speck of dust, a dew.
Not a moment of understanding, but bee-ing.