Lonely Christopher reads from In a January Would


Right before the coronavirus drove us all indoors without jobs or places to attend poetry readings, Lonely Christopher had a launch for his new book, In a January Would, at Torn Page in Chelsea. None of us knew that this would be the last party for many of us for a long time; thankfully, it was one to remember. As a writer, Lonely Christopher is generous; he reads other writers and curates readings for them, and often writes about their work as well. But this wasn’t why on a cold night writers came out to hear him; it was not to return a favor, but from a deep appreciation of his work. Why, even Edmund White was there. Greetings grew into conversations; it was an affectionate evening, and the wine was good and didn’t run out; in fact, it flowed.

In the Vimeo below, Lonely reads six poems in the order they appear in the book that spans a year and reels from unrequited love. In the first poem, In a January Would, the same title as the book, we bike past the home of an ex-lover, our wheels spinning like obsession itself, circles of constant motion, and the language keeps coming too with surprises, words I am not expecting like felly, which is the inside rim of a wheel, a noun, where the spinning spokes attach—but felly is a modifier too that can mean cruel so in the line like a jawbone/ being pressed felly into slick mud, felly is not only the most apt word possible, it is the only word possible.

As I listened to Lonely read, I thought of my early twenties, a time I would never want to revisit, when I knew what I wanted to do, but didn’t know how to do it, like someone intelligent enough to know that he is stupid. On the way to becoming intelligent, this year that Lonely spans reminds me of my years of being penniless living off of popcorn popped, the generosity of friends and the kindness of strangers, forgoing food for beer, a drug, or cigarettes. But if we manage to live, uncertainty at the beginning becomes certainty at the end. When the poet writes It’s okay to like the dark, but don’t let it keep you, the words are triumphant. Listen.



In a January Would

I rode a bike past your house so many times I forgot who lived there
first through the rough tranche of midsummer
only later, less impervious
did my spokes trickle about an autumnal blast
obdurately garrisoning what was meant to be
an entirely different season.
The place seemed empty
as if Nobody lived there, ever.
This occasionally became the problem
that most obsessed me yet deterred not my sprees
for the purposes we choose
are constantly abandoned by flocculent mischance
as the weather—like a jawbone
being pressed felly into slick mud—compounds our sense of definition
that hums around unavailable parents.
The action continues bereft of cause; the face
of same hewers melt.
But if in a fairer spell reclaim you I could, then I
in a January would.


Power

Awake in your draped and sunless room. The rando
from last night tugs his boxers up his legs, pulls thinly
on a one-hitter, asks, “Why isn’t the electricity working?”
The difference between the glorious illumination past
midnight and the pathetic resignation of the stripped morn
is the number of miles between your neighborhood and
the Con Edison garage where they park their evil trucks.
Unable to keep the lights on, you joke, “I’m running out
of things to go wrong!” Then your gums start bleeding
then you get fired, rent bounces, you blackout again
and lose your phone. Then another friend dies, this
time in California: an excitable poet you ran into last
on Valencia, in the Mission; she threw her arms apart
and screamed, “You’re going to win the Pulitzer Prize!”
Her stomach so inhabited by tumors she looked pregnant.
Again, find yourself with nothing to show for it but
a series of stolen umbrellas from work (and a few
impending court dates). Man, this city hates poets!
Walking up to the bodega counter with a comically large
bottle of cheap beer, throw your last three bucks down
next to the gruff couple haggling over the price of a
single condom. Stalk back to your desperate garret
under the discretion of a cold February moon, obscene
and maximized, bullied on either side by slim parentheses
of cloud. It’s okay to like the dark, but don’t let it keep you.


Following Spring

après Rimbaud

After the idea of the flood got old
my hair paused in the saffron and rung bells
shifting, and said a prayer
to the rainbow’d sky
through the nest of spiders.
O! hilarious gems—
the weeds that already looked
dirty, main, stood up
that we pulled the boats out
as they had engraved us.
My fear
flowed through the slaughter
of circuses; god
paled windows; ichor
and milk ran
and beavers built.
We smoked outside bars
the big house dripped with children
mourning and looking at our pictures.
A door slammed shut
in Union Square; a baby turned his arms
to include weather and cocks
and everywhere, under the bright sleet.
A stranger became a piano in its help
a cathedral in which altered
mass communicated and celebrated
the million departing caravans
and splendid hotels we built
in night’s frozen chaos.
Evermore, the moon
heard the howling animals
through time’s desert
as my wooden shoes growled
in the orchard.
Then the violent forest
begrudgingly told me it was spring.
The deaf pond foams, rolls over
the bridge and into the woods
(black sheets and organs)
a storm rises and the sorrow
on the water climbs and meets
its flood.
Because we have disappeared
burying ourselves in precious stones
and under open flowers
it’s… boring
and the Wicked Witch of the West
who lights us up
won’t let us in on the secret
or tell us otherwise.


Mother’s Day

The treacherous sting of
the ungratified memory
purging humility from a breath
stops meaning
or at least fades it out
into the last bulwark of a song
we barely recognize
there was some instinctual function
an animality betrayed
in the complication of taction
and the way our orderless emotions
snarled wetly across the bow
of knowing each other.

I ignored you
forsook your love
and used you up
smiling.

Parents don’t have to kill
themselves to raise a child
children never learn
not to destroy
what came before
not in this country.

I had to build a wall
around the pain
but walls don’t work
the very concept of a wall
is insane.


Play Is Labor

Seeking damages
or an injunction
to cease and desist
this harassment
you think you’ll be
cured but you won’t
the meaning of wellness
will simply redefine
over time around you
many food service workers
in this city are homeless
most of the gays
at this club
are busted up
and half have daddy issues
unremarkable in their pleasure
and hardly remembered
it gets to the point
where the only way
to get anyone’s attention
is by hurting them
which does not
leave us well-served
the truth is that this is work
because play is labor
and labor is joy.


Songs About Men

You took me out to the field because you were a guy in a hat
played some straw round my coarsening opening hymns
me thought, Well how could I not fall for a hunk like that?
I loved the thought of you too much, thus spake my therapist
we both had pellucid minds and energetic souls, kissed in micro
broke as orange skies, we skateboarded trails of thick gloop
across the landscaped ornament of what we wanted to do
was it blood or was it what we tried to keep from our parents?
god was dad and we, jovial, drank dreams of Hollywood help
landing in dunked gutters glowing north of where the fun was
less than punk and covered in glass and piss, still kinda a minus
weren’t we about to get natural? ever tossing une gross video
into a chosen grave, which was only loaned, yet still all ours
twas a narrowing space, and reeked of chain smoke and cum
I asked for your confidence and you handed me a broken pipe
you planned to play my butt like a keyboard, get over yourself
the wind had other ideas, we just fell out of touch as we touched
some governmental bureau got involved, then it was dirty
nobody wants to be one of those little fish skeletons, donning
a party that’s far pearled out and you never loved me piggy
fingers ended up pointed, thoughts got wrecked in the sexy mud
we turned it into a play and strode the boards screaming
I used to be a person! I was a blameless infant dressed in pink!
landlord got suspicious because of the stink; we persevered
until the hot crack of night licked our radical orifices, not done
of bone, honey, and umbrage; we might as well have dodged
into another day where you, galoot, have eviscerated the stale
youth clean off of industrial good intentions (then we did heroin
and fell in love again) I strum the chest hairs, stood straight up
muy appreciation or hate scattered as glitter o’er the skull
it grew florets and spent the last of burgeoning succoring me
drafted into the early plastic of being secure, as I am today
a request for songs about men, wailing benignly into the soil
the effaced area, teeth reflected in miles of destroyed leather.
At last we turned into these weird kind of copper figurines
that mourned in the middle of the city when it snowed hardest.

Edmund White

In a January Would is published by Roof Books. You can check them out here:

http://roofbooks.com/


Here is a review of In a January Would by Richard Quinn in the LA Review of Books:

http://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/reviews/walls-dont-work-lonely-christophers-january/

Lonely Christopher


And if you would like to buy this book—which I highly recommend—here it is on SPD

https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781931824859/in-a-january-would.aspx

and Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/January-Would-Lonely-Christopher/dp/1931824851/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=in+a+january+would+lonely+christopher&qid=1584541188&sr=8-1&swrs=03822D88F3B855A78D1D276E87D38534

with Lee Ann Brown and Shelley Marlow at Torn Page.


The Vimeo that follows is the whole book party reading for In a January Would with guests, Ana Božičević and Paul Legault. They read from their own work and Paul Legault reads Lonely Christopher as well. I agree with Ana Božičević who says when reading In a January Would, she lost her place in time and felt that she was everywhere. It is the poet’s striving to use the best language, the unusual word sometimes in place of the usual, conjuring up for me anyway two of my favorite wordsmiths, Hart Crane and Arthur Rimbaud, contemporary and then not, as old, as good as new. Enjoy.



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