From the very beginning. c. 1994 Chad Kendall. Imaginary Painting

by Jeremy Valentine Freeman Ganem

Jeremy Valentine Freeman Ganem hails originally from Kansas and is presently completing his PhD in fin-de-siècle Literature at Concordia University in Montreal where he resides. He is assistant editor of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, his poetry has appeared in The Boston Review and Van Gogh’s Ear, and his critical work has appeared in a variety of academic journals. He devotes his days to reading ornate books, living in dead centuries, looking at obscure art and walking in Montreal while working on a poetic re/construction of the Orpheus myth and a novel provisionally titled “The Golden Apocalypse of Yves Antichrist.”

 

That you were committed to “saving the phenomena” by mathematical means,
By any means necessary, by anything, anything at all that you could say or do, that
We knew this was impossible, that “Topeka” could never be saved, not really,

Not even by the religious, the hand of “God” and all that. Not even those nights
Would work, it had been proven, besides, besides we were not even sure that Topeka had
Ever really existed, not really, even if our parents & grandparents had

Been born & lived & died here. Even if we wanted to go tomorrow, to go
Out, out to the cemetery in North Topeka & plant plastic flowers out there with all
The other beautiful plastic plants, in that lovely withering cemetery …

For we were not sure that we had ever really lived here, regardless
Of the beers drank, or the whiskey, or the drugs taken, or the beautiful
Terrible nights wandering through the grateful husk of the downtown …

For there was something true in it, something undeniable, something that didn’t give back,
Something elusive & wanton & desperate that could never cohere, that never insisted,
That could never cohere—sticky & wet phenomena pressed against the wet black

Painting, the series of paintings that you planned, that I planned,
That we would never execute.  Yes, yes this was Kansas, Kansas the beautiful
Series of paintings executed in a dull matte black, great ten-foot by ten-foot

Rectangles, one can see them, one can always see them, one can see them so perfectly
Silhouetted at the corners, the corners of the streets, on this night, on every night,
The nightlights of Topeka’s infernal nocturnal traffic tracing over them. Yes, yes there

They are being ravaged in the beams of light, the traceries, the patrol cars …
That is the way, the way of these things, the way the paintings, these paintings that
Have never existed & shall never exist are more real than

Topeka itself, than the hills, than the barbed wire fences that
Beautifully escort us into the boundaries of the non-existent,
The way another generation shall come & another after that

To do their drugs, to walk the night streets in the patrol car’s swirling demonic vortex,
Another generation shall come to punish themselves in the beautiful
Stark Midwestern nights of epiphany & nausea & its cruel, perpetual

Sliding dispersal—the shining maelstrom—the wet & sticky phenomena
Staying glued to us, to our apparitions, our shapes, our patterns of resemblance,
Always eliding into the wet black paint that haunts the feet of children

As they walk in sleep into the foothills, crossing the barbed wire, out into the no-wheres,
The wilds that surround the Kansas River, the evasive paintings everywhere,
That dictate, that murder & recreate, that align & feather & preserve us.

The way we are committed to it, to Kansas, to Topeka, to the flowering abundant night,
To the World that is blotted out so that this moment, this mutable evening may exist
For a brief time, for a brief time to exist & then to go away, so that those paintings may

Remain, sentinel & severe & intangible & laced with deadly purgatorial shining,
As we are, as we could never become, as all that is elusive & migratory is given back,
Back to what was impossible, to what we knew was impossible from the very beginning.

 


Jeremy Valentine Freeman Ganem hails originally from Kansas and is presently completing his PhD in fin-de-siècle Literature at Concordia University in Montreal where he resides. He is assistant editor of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net, his poetry has appeared in The Boston Review and Van Gogh’s Ear, and his critical work has appeared in a variety of academic journals. He devotes his days to reading ornate books, living in dead centuries, looking at obscure art and walking in Montreal while working on a poetic re/construction of the Orpheus myth and a novel provisionally titled “The Golden Apocalypse of Yves Antichrist.”

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