Monday, December 21, 2009



Super 8 by Richard Lopez and Jonathan Hayes
(Superblast!, 2006)


Hallucinating California by Richard Lopez and Jonathan Hayes
(Windowpane Press, 2008)

I remember, je me souviens, it must have been 8th grade, James Jump passing around a grainy b/w photobooth shot of an unidentified female friend, pants down, showing off her newly fringed pubes. The shot was so out of focus. Or something. Maybe I was out of focus. There was mystery there, or something, and I couldn’t see it.

I remember, je me souviens, about 5 years later, a guy named Nelson inviting us over to watch a grainy hardcore short, the whir of the projector … and me thinking afterwards, as my girlfriend and I were fucking, whether he and his were, too, … it wasn’t exactly an erotic thought, it wasn’t exactly not one …

Which brings me, by a commodius vicus of poetry thru a recirculation of memory, to Richard Lopez’s Super 8, the memory/invention of a history? an eBay purchase? the phenomenology of the gaze? The uncanny identification associated with Lacan’s imaginary? hell, let’s just say Super 8’s a collection of poems relating one way or another to experiencing some movies formerly referred to as porn.

Even where the poems appear purely descriptive, e.g.,
a tube of Vaseline

2 men rut it out

weighted by the
splay of light

the tattooed forearms


they’re not, since some degree of interpretation/fantasy is implicit in the very act of describing: “desiring”, “weighted” … Lopez knows this.

Sometimes the identification is “complete”. Take “babybaby’s quarry ride”:
baby yr lips to my lips she sd
ride my motorcycle in the empty quarry
and then was gone

she kissed my hair my eyes
touched skin with skin
kiss me she asked and she did

No way to tell whether this actually happened, so to speak. I think that’s one of the points of focusing on the involved observer: how easy it is to morph from involvement to identification. I can’t help but thinking of Lacan’s mirror stage here … the mirror … the screen …

But. Or in any case. Compassion. Compassion for one’s self vis-à-vis one’s desire, compassion for that desire/those desires, compassion for others’ and theirs, compassion … It’s most explicit, perhaps in the last words of the last poem, “bettie page’s klaw”, which invokes among other things La Bettie’s famous knowing gaze:
… we are all full of shit

go on so
hold tightly our body we can never own

Hallucinating California is a collection of urban vignettes by two psychodelibilly flaneurs Wharf-Ratting around the 415 and the 916. I’m not sure whether it’s a twofer (Hayes/San Francisco; Lopez/Sacramento) or whether the poems are collaborations. I’m guessing the former but either way … one could argue that on the one hand nothing earthshaking happens in these poems, while on the other each represents what philosophers call an Event; and after an Event, well, nothing’s as it was, is it? These are quiet poems, yet …
good afternoon

he placed a deaf card
on the tacqueria table
it said, “will you buy me? any price accepted”

as he retrieved his cards from the other tables
and made his way back to me
i lifted a plastic basket that held tortilla chips
and offered them to him

he opened his mouth wide
and pointed that he had no teeth

According to Badiou’s schema in Being & Event, subjectivation only occurs via fidelity to an Event. In this case, the toothlessness suggests there’s no easy way out of this encounter, and that “any price” isn’t really “any” price; fidelity means reaching into one’s pocket and exchanging money for the card, real money, money that one may not have … and can’t, because how much would be enough, really, to make a difference?

That’s from the 415. Here’s one from the 916:
sun burnt like a blowtorch

greenish blue streets can’t drive w/o
the a/co on
in july hot summer
tho if one asks no it never gets
hotter than the surface of the sun
check that shit
i’m here to say otherwise
the sacrament can’t do no sacrifice
it ain’t blazing
i’ve seen street bums broiling
in their clothes
deep in shade
and the sky stretched out
tanning hides
freeways opened like veins
people burst spontaneously in flame

"Yes they do.” “Don’t they, though.” So do poets. This is what happens or can happen when your eyes and heartmind are open, when you take a Lew Welch-like poet-walk down the street.


John Bloomberg-Rissman is the author of a number of chapbooks, most recently World Zero and A Spectrum of Other Instances. He is also the author of the full-length No Sounds of My Own Making, and the editor of 1000 Views of ‘Girl Singing’. His work has appeared in numerous journals and in several anthologies. His current project is Flux, Clot & Froth, which will probably top out at 700+ pages, and for which he hopes to find one reader, please. He is part of the team (title: editor or something) at Leafe Press. His ongoing efforts can be seen at Zeitgeist Spam.

1 comment:

  1. Another view on HALLUCINATING CALIFORNIA is offered by Eileen Tabios in GR #11 at