Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dispatch From The Front: Day 9

Above: Phil Spector. Centre and Below: Basil Bunting and W.B. Yeats

Richard Tipping was beside himself with excitement. He grabbed his sign-writing gear, ripped a few planks from the wharf, and jumped into a tinny. “I’m going to make a sign and put it out on the Pacific Highway,” he shouted. “I want the Saint’s visit to The Island to be a memorial.” He pulled on the outboard rope and roared away up river.

Billy Gibbons looked out through the zinc hexagons that made up the walls of his new home and placed another little square of castle-printed blotting paper onto his tongue. He flicked one over to Wilding, who had made a suspension bridge out of his thoughts and was now trying to jump off them. He sent a couple through a hexagon window into the waiting mouths of Rimbaud and Baudelaire, whose empty absinthe bottles had been lovingly arranged into a portrait of K.D. Lang. Plumping his embroidered, emerald cushions, Billy then took of his ZZ Top-embossed leather boots and stretched out on the king-size bed. Gazing up at the sky, he watched a blue crane sail over, trailing a banner with semi-quavers printed on it. “Oh, Lord,” he sighed, and closed his eyes. “Yes? What is it?” asked Wallace Crabbe, who then dived fully-clothed into the deep end of a sonnet.

As Wallace Stevens walked past the prostrate figure of Blodgett, his leg was pulled away from under him. He went down heavily, the scattergun flying. Blodgett leapt to his feet and was about to retrieve the gun when a Waggaist reached out from under the net, took the gun into his hands and pointed it at Blodgett’s head. “This ends now. Remove the net.”

Blodgett and Stevens walked around the net, lifting and pulling it over the heads of the Waggaists. Most had woken from their zest-induced comas. Others were shifting around and waking slowly. The Waggaist followed them with the scattergun. He’d reloaded with cartridges of Doom: essential, pure black Thai chili oil. One drop in the eye would inflict hours of agony. A full blast would be fatal.

When the net had been removed, the Waggaists got to their feet, helping each other and assessing the scene before them. The rope Bukowski and Dorn had used to abseil into the Main Hall was still hanging down from the tower ledge. “Someone cut a length from that rope and tie these two clowns together. Make it tight and make it last.” He walked over to Stevens and Blodgett. “Gentleman, it’s been a complete fucking nightmare,” he said. A Waggaist got some rope, and the two poets were hog-tied, gagged, blindfolded with red cloth and turned onto their sides.  Then the huge crowd of Waggaists walked, crawled and stumbled from the Main Hall and out into the night.

When Bukowski and Dorn entered the Red Cell, the air had a faint metallic edge to it. They saw the poets and musicians lying back on the cold cement. Bukowski pulled a pair of pliers from his belt and was about to go in and cut them free, when Dorn pulled him back. “Mines,” he said. He recognised them as the same Jumping-Jack antipersonnel mines he’d encountered while fighting with the Nicaraguan Poets Army - he’d been a mercenary in a short-lived but successful war against the Language Poetry Police in the capital. “Jumping-Jacks spring up behind you once you’ve walked over them. They discharge at waist or head-level. I’d say these little fuckers would contain enough wheatgrass juice and black chili oil to burn a hole right through your aura.”

Billy Gibbons had been composing a song in his head when Bukowski and Dorn walked into the room. He looked up from his armchair and waved. “Almost ready, darlings. You look gorgeous.” Rimbaud was sketching diagrams for a new model of the Drunken Boat. Baudelaire was off snorkeling with Lou Reed in the Bahamas. Wallace-Crabbe was being given mouth-to-mouth by a naked pool inspector after swallowing too much internal rhyme.

Seidel and Shelby were sitting forward on the edges of their seats. They’d cheered with delight as the Waggaists had gained their freedom but now, as they watched things unfold in the Red Bunker and Cell, their mood had changed. “This is bullshit,” Seidel said. “Dorothy Hewett will pay for this outrage, and that Dorn is a thorn in the palm of our plan.” Shelby looked at Seidel. “In future, keep your poetry out of it. That was rubbish.”

Rodney Hall and Dorothy Hewett had led the poets, along with their Waggaist converts, out of the Red Bunker and down onto the wharf. They’d had to step over the limbs and shredded clothing of those who’d been monstered by the Waggas. On the wharf, Michael Dransfield was drying himself with pages torn from the Immigrant Chronicles. He smiled as the poets reached him. “At first, I thought being eaten alive by a giant Waggafish was like an amusement park ride gone terribly wrong. Next thing I knew, I’d surfaced in a red glow - I assumed I was bleeding out until I saw the red pulse of a channel marker.”

That afternoon, just before dark, everyone on the beach and wharf heard a strange sound, a high whirring jet-stream noise. A huge vessel came into view. It was an amphibious craft powered by great twin fans on the stern. As it swept in over the ocean and down into the river, it scattered oystermen’s racks and punts and washed houseboats onto the rocks with its turbulent wake lines. It was called the Red Shana-Na and it belonged to Phil Spector.

On deck was a Shelby Mustang, gleaming in the late sun, it’s well-tuned V8 already burbling. Phil was behind the wheel. He rolled down onto the wharf and opened the door. Jumping out he opened the boot, revealing the million dollar B&W stereo system he’d had installed by experts at Abbey Road studios. Phil looked around and then cranked up the volume. The first sonic wave of Be My Baby blew a few performance poets off the wharf and into the river. Phil had simply stood his ground as the aural blast left the Mustang. He was used to violence. He looked up at the citadel. The poets had been shouting at him to get in his car and chase down the escaping Waggaists. “Tonight we drink and smoke,” he said, his mirror shades filled with smoky light. “Tomorrow we go hunting.”

Spector had brought Frank Webb, who was in the front seat. In the back was a splendidly red-robed figure. At first, the Imagists who were grouped around Robert Gray thought it was Dransfield in yet another costume, but Gray’s sharp imagist eye identified the figure in the robe. It was Saint Augustine. He was going along for the ride. Richard Tipping was beside himself with excitement. He grabbed his sign-writing gear, ripped a few planks from the wharf, and jumped into a tinny. “I’m going to make a sign and put it out on the Pacific Highway,” he shouted. “I want the Saint’s visit to The Island to be a memorial.” He pulled on the outboard rope and roared away up river.

Later that night, Devin Johnston had a chance to question The Saint about his mission. Augustine told Devin he wanted to be there if Phil ever felt like confessing. He also told him that Spector had a studio somewhere in the underground complex of the Red Bunker, and his plan was to make a Wall of Sound recording of Basil Bunting and Francis Webb simultaneously reading their greatest hits, Briggflats and Ward Five.

Devin Johnston had been with W. B. Yeats on Silliman’s Boston Whaler. Ron had been looking all around the Island, and he wanted his boat back. His face was red, and he was speaking in Language into the small end of a petrol funnel. Of course, no-one could understand a word of it, except Tom Raworth, and Tom told Devin that what was being uttered was not worth the translation into projective verse.

The night before, Bob Creeley had turned up with Jim Harnwell on the Fishing World Bar-Crusher. Jim had to go out to Brown’s Mountain, where he’d been listening on the short-wave to reports of Waggas feeding on a school of rat-kingfish. Creeley had been dropped off on the wharf, where he’d teamed up with the brilliant fisherman Terry Hack. Together they’d decided to ‘confiscate’ the Boston Whaler. So now Bob Creeley was the captain of the soul of language poetry, and immediately recruited a team of wise heads to have a brain-storming session under the canopy of the Boston Whaler Outrage. Devin emailed Silliman and told him to forget the boat and to just keep blogging.

Hack was ready for business, and told Creeley and Yeats of the days when the kingfish traps were legal; when he’d set the traps at dawn and pick them up at dusk, chock-full of fish. Though one day the kingies went off in the sun. They were floating traps, and the fish had feasted on the chicken gut bait, then drowned in their sun-weakened condition. The chicken gut in their bellies had sent them off. Terry Hack told of how he devised a way to trap them without bait. He strung a red KonaHead lure at the centre of the trap, and when it was lowered down the tide made the lure vibrate so well the kingies would just climb into the traps. “So, we’ll make platinum KonaHeads so the Waggas can’t tear them apart. We’ll catch tons of the red bastards each day,” said Hack. “In a year or so they’ll be wiped out.”

Creeley smiled and looked towards Yeats. “The worst are filled with passionate intensity” said Willy. “And I love it.” He bowed and took off his Panama hat in a tribute to Terry Hack. “And the fishermen hold flowers,” said Devin, quoting Dylan.

Bob Creeley got behind the wheel of the Whaler and gunned the twin motors. “We’re going for a run up the river to collect Bill Wisely. He’ll know who can hand-craft the titanium KonaHeads.” The Whaler sat low a minute, then shuddered like a huge tuna hovering above a yakka. Then it stood up on the plane and shot off towards Brooklyn. Passing Jim Harnwell’s Bar-Crusher on the way in, they almost swamped it with their wake.

K. Slessor, at the Front.

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