Inventing Father In Las Vegas

- 1949-
If I could see nothing but the smoke
From the tip of his cigar, I would know everything
About the years before the war.
If his face were halved by shadow I would know
This was a street where an EATS sign trembled
And a Greek served coffee black as a dog's eye.
If I could see nothing but his wrist I would know
About the slot machine and I could reconstruct
The weak chin and ruin of his youth, the summer
My father was a gypsy with oiled hair sleeping
In a Murphy bed and practicing clairvoyance.
I could fill his vast Packard with showgirls
And keep him forever among the difficult buttons
Of the bodice, among the rustling of their names,
Miss Christina, Miss Lorraine.
I could put his money in my pocket
and wearing memory's black fedora
With the condoms hidden in the hatband
The damp cigar between my teeth,
I could become the young man who always got sentimental
About London especially in Las Vegas with its single bridge­-
So ridiculously tender--leaning across the river
To watch the starlight's soft explosions.
If I could trace the two veins that crossed
His temple, I would know what drove him
To this godforsaken place, I would keep him forever
Remote from war--like the come-hither tip of his lit cigar
Or the harvest moon, that gold planet, remote and pure
  American.

More by Lynn Emanuel

The Burial

After I've goosed up the fire in the stove with Starter Logg 
so that it burns like fire on amphetamines; after it's imprisoned, 
screaming and thrashing, behind the stove door; after I've 
listened to the dead composers and watched the brown-plus-gray 
deer compose into Cubism the trees whose name I don't know 
(pine, I think); after I've holed up in my loneliness staring 
at the young buck whose two new antlers are like a snail's 
stalked eyes and I've let this conceit lead me to the eyes-on-stems 
of the faces of Picasso and from there to my dead father; after I've 
chased the deer away (they were boring, streamlined machines 
for tearing up green things, deer are the cows-of-the-forest); 
then I bend down over the sea of keys to write this poem 
about my father in his grave.

It isn't easy. It's dark in my room, the door is closed, 
all around is creaking and sighing, as though I were in the hold 
of a big ship, as though I were in the dark sleep
of a huge freighter toiling across the landscape of the waves 
taking me to my father with whom I have struggled 
like Jacob with the angel and who heaves off, one final time, 
the muddy counterpane of the earth and lies panting 
beside his grave like a large dog who has run a long way.

This is as far as he goes. I stand at the very end 
of myself holding a shovel. The blade is long and cool;
It is an instrument for organizing the world; the blade is 
drenched in shine, the air is alive along it, as air is alive 
on the windshield of a car. Beside me my father droops
as though he were under anesthesia. He is so thin, 
and he doesn't have a coat. My left hand grows 
cool and sedate under the influence of his flesh. 
It hesitates and then...

My father drops in like baggage into a hold. 
In his hands, written on my stationery, a note 
I thought of xeroxing: Dad, I will be with you, 
through the cold, dark, closed places you hated.
I close the hinged lid, and above him I heap a 
firmament of dirt. The body alone, in the dark, 
in the cold, without a coat. I would not wish that on my 
greatest enemy. Which, in a sense, my father was.

inside gertrude stein

Right now as I am talking to you and as you are being talked 
to, without letup, it is becoming clear that gertrude stein has 
hijacked me and that this feeling that you are having now as 
you read this, that this is what it feels like to be inside 
gertrude stein. This is what it feels like to be a huge type--
writer in a dress. Yes, I feel we have gotten inside gertrude 
stein, and of course it is dark inside the enormous gertrude, it 
is like being locked up in a refrigerator lit only by a smiling 
rind of cheese. Being inside gertrude is like being inside a 
monument made of a cloud which is always moving across 
the sky which is also always moving. Gertrude is a huge gal-
leon of cloud anchored to the ground by one small tether, yes, 
I see it down there, do you see that tiny snail glued to the 
tackboard of the landscape? That is alice. So, I am inside 
gertrude; we belong to each other, she and I, and it is so won-
derful because I have always been a thin woman inside of 
whom a big woman is screaming to get out, and she's out 
now and if a river could type this is how it would sound, pure 
and complicated and enormous. Now we are lilting across the 
countryside, and we are talking, and if the wind could type it 
would sound like this, ongoing and repetitious, abstracting 
and stylizing everything, like our famous haircut painted by 
Picasso. Because when you are inside our haircut you under-
stand that all the flotsam and jetsam of hairdo have been 
cleared away (like the forests from the New World) so that the 
skull can show through grinning and feasting on the alarm it
has created. I am now, alarmingly, inside gertrude's head and I
am thinking that I may only be a thought she has had when 
she imagined that she and alice were dead and gone and 
someone had to carry on the work of being gertrude stein, and 
so I am receiving, from beyond the grave, radioactive isotopes 
of her genius saying, take up my work, become gertrude stein.

Because someone must be gertrude stein, someone must save 
us from the literalists and realists, and narratives of the 
beginning and end, someone must be a river that can type. 
And why not I? Gertrude is insisting on the fact that while I 
am a subgenius, weighing one hundred five pounds, and living 
in a small town with an enormous furry male husband who is 
always in his Cadillac Eldorado driving off to sell something 
to people who do not deserve the bad luck of this mer-
chandise in their lives--that these facts would not be a prob-
lem for gertrude stein. Gertrude and I feel that, for instance, in 
Patriarchal Poetry when (like an avalanche that can type) she is 
burying the patriarchy, still there persists a sense of con-
descending affection. So, while I'm a thin, heterosexual sub-
genius, nevertheless gertrude has chosen me as her tool, just 
as she chose the patriarchy as a tool for ending the patriarchy. 
And because I have become her tool, now, in a sense, gertrude
is inside me. It's tough. Having gertrude inside me is like 
having swallowed an ocean liner that can type, and, while I 
feel like a very small coat closet with a bear in it, gertrude and 
I feel that I must tell you that gertrude does not care. She is 
using me to get her message across, to say, I am lost, I am
beset by literalists and narratives of the beginning and middle 
and end, help me. And so, yes, I say, yes, I am here, gertrude, 
because we feel, gertrude and I, that there is real urgency in 
our voice (like a sob that can type) and that things are very 
bad for her because she is lost, beset by the literalists and 
realists, her own enormousness crushing her and we must 
find her and take her into ourselves, even though I am the 
least likely of saviors and have been chosen perhaps as a last 
resort, yes, definitely, gertrude is saying to me, you are the 
least likely of saviors, you are my last choice and my last 
resort.

Homage to Sharon Stone

It's early morning. This is the "before,"
the world hanging around in its wrapper,
blowzy, frumpy, doing nothing: my 
neighbors, hitching themselves to the roles
of the unhappily married, trundle their three
mastiffs down the street. I am writing this
book of poems. My name is Lynn Emanuel.
I am wearing a bathrobe and curlers; from 
my lips, a Marlboro drips ash on the text.
It is the third of September nineteen**.
And as I am writing this in my trifocals
and slippers, across the street, Sharon Stone,
her head swollen with curlers, her mouth
red and narrow as a dancing slipper, 
is rushed into a black limo. And because
these limos snake up and down my street,
this book will be full of sleek cars nosing
through the shadowy ocean of these words.
Every morning, Sharon Stone, her head
in a helmet of hairdo, wearing a visor
of sunglasses, is engulfed by a limo
the size of a Pullman, and whole fleets
of these wind their way up and down
the street, day after day, giving to the street
(Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh, PA)
and the book I am writing, an aspect
that is both glamorous and funereal.
My name is Lynn Emanuel, and in this
book I play the part of someone writing 
a book, and I take the role seriously, 
just as Sharon Stone takes seriously 
the role of the diva. I watch the dark 
cars disappear her and in my poem 
another Pontiac erupts like a big animal 
at the cool trough of a shady curb. So, 
when you see this black car, do not think 
it is a Symbol For Something. It is just 
Sharon Stone driving past the house 
of Lynn Emanuel who is, at the time, 
trying to write a book of poems.

Or you could think of the black car as 
Lynn Emanuel, because, really, as an author,
I have always wanted to be a car, even 
though most of the time I have to be 
the "I," or the woman hanging wash; 
I am a woman, one minute, then I am a man, 
I am a carnival of Lynn Emanuels:
Lynn in the red dress; Lynn sulking 
behind the big nose of my erection; 
then I am the train pulling into the station 
when what I would really love to be is 
Gertrude Stein spying on Sharon Stone 
at six in the morning. But enough about 
that, back to the interior decorating:
On the page, the town looks bald
and dim so I turn up the amps on 
the radioactive glances of bad boys. 
In a kitchen, I stack pans sleek with 
grease, and on a counter there is a roast 
beef red as a face in a tantrum. Amid all 
this bland strangeness is Sharon Stone, 
who, like an engraved invitation, is asking 
me, Won't you, too, play a role? I do not 
choose the black limo rolling down the street 
with the golden stare of my limo headlights 
bringing with me the sun, the moon, and 
Sharon Stone. It is nearly dawn; the sun 
is a fox chewing her foot from the trap; 
every bite is a wound and every wound 
is a red window, a red door, a red road. 
My name is Lynn Emanuel. I am the writer 
trying to unwrite the world that is all around her.