Ric Gentry
Ric Gentry is a maximalist poet and a man of many talents. I believe this is one of the first featured readings he's done. I hope there will be many more. He has contributed to seven books and is a former correspondent of Newsweek.  His writing has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and American Cinematographer, among others.  Gentry is on the editorial board of Post Script: Essays on Film and the Humanities, published by the Department of Literature and Languages at Texas A & M University. His film China: Education for A New Society was featured on PBS.  He is also among the founding poet's of the annual Returning Soldiers Speak, initiated by his late dear friend Lee Minh Sloca.

Black Star

I can’t talk straight or I would.  On the job I’ve taken to singing my correspondence, if only to better orchestrate my woes.  Believe it or not I’ve been as giddy as an opiated Harpo there.  I love Harpo.  All the time, I feel like strapping a bicycle horn to my hip to better express myself.  Language is no good anymore anyway.

A fly buzz is best.  It unnerves everyone.  The fly is the perfect anarchist -- and, well, perfection is terrible.  Rilke, I believe, got that down.  He said something like: the beautiful is nothing but the terrible that we barely endure, and we want it because it serenely disdains to destroy us.

Anyway, the fly.  The fly hums a dissonant tone, of Om and contagion, assimilated as a kind of “white noise,” as music towered still higher passing between us.  Against such a powerful current no one advances, either.

And when the fly enters the room, everyone is upset because the fly, cloaked in black, moves in and interrupts the conversation, all the business, with something they refuse to consider.  The fly is the black star of morning unloosing the moons of common speech.

The fly’s eloquence, which seems to stem from a great verbal laziness, actually requires great vigilance, a very subtle sense of what isrequisite. And when it alights: whittling those nubs with such knavish solemnity, sizing up the moment with detached heed, dropping the drone as if accosted by a sudden portent…

Two men are at the table.  They don’t like windows, either of them.  They decide to ignore the one in the kitchen where they are talking.  Imagine their horror when a fly zooms through window that doesn’t exist.  This is like DesCartes getting whacked across the snout every time he begins postulating the world is delusion.  This is like Harpo putting his foot through your ear.

A fly causes such disasters.  People detest them because they can find no reason to consider them ridiculous.  And the buzz…an audible sapphire of ash, the gleaming irreducible.

What now?  There are no flies in this room to ratify my time.  If Gulliver had a fly’s voice to wear like an ear ring, perhaps the Lilliputians could ride it.  Well, shit.  Here they come through my closed window, a swarm of shadows.

I’m afraid to stop writing -- or“typing” as some dilettante once alleged of Kerouac.  This is a new development, as this machine allows me to transcribe my thoughts more instantaneously.  Though there is something intrinsic in the medium which alters my thought, keeps associations running like chief justices removing their robes.

By that I mean logic and linearity are abandoned for orbiting images which keep playing with the emotions as if they were criminal.  That is, the overzealous magistrate is dazed by the murder he reviews and shamelessly re-enacts by imparting sentence.

Alas, I am incapable of saying anything unambiguous.  The same with the dead judge.  How badly he photographs.  You should see his mug shot.  The flies found him out.  Now he looks like a fly: huge compound eyes and iridescent wings.  Beautiful-terrible: two venomous opposites producing the same effect.

Those eyes, how they are exactly what they see, splitting like quartz into a million bits, swarming like mirrory larvae decomposing his image.  You understand why he is the judge.  He is on the tongue of the fly.  He rides into the room as confident as god.

The fly: he is altogether convinced of his mission and decisive importance.  In this faith he is downright Christian.  He reminds me of the artist: strong and superior to all misfortune, physical suffering and poverty.  Such contempt for all external instruments of success, such freedom from all that smacks of cliques and advertising, is very impressive.  No false apocalypse for him.

He told me, without the least affectation or conceit, that he always felt himself to have a task, and now he wanted to get up out of himself and convey whatever might be in him.  What’s more, he told me that through his suffering he had overcome his pessimism -- from defiance, in order to not let himself be tyrannized by pain.  All in a buzz this was revealed to me.

The fly: he is the quintessence of song -- dirge and paean.  The oracle with the one word vocabulary.  He is news from the other side, abiding in the serene creation which often ceases to start and begins with the end.

The fly is a stoic.  He doesn’t love or hate anything.  Where would that get him?  His indiscrimination is ideal: shit and sirloin are equally appetizing.  After all, nothing is new to him: in madness there is beauty, in torment there is glory, in despair there is power, and vice-versa.  Reality is whatever can be sung to.  And this constitutes the fly’s nobility.  He is not an elitist like the artist, with his cult of crisis, with his flair for drama, with his bromide of magnificent terror.

What now?  Flies at my window.  I am mute at their arrival.  Why aren’t they home, back in the sphere of suffering sunsets, crooning?  I can’t believe this.  They look like a mass of bent print bulging before the scenery.  This cluster of black is perfect: it knows the secrecy of the most remote terror fused into deeply felt flight.

I feel like Daniel before the lions.


2011 Ric Gentry
Ric Gentry was a Featured Poet who read his poetry at the October 2011 Second Sunday Poetry Series