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The first poem is about the Boris Spassky/ Bobby Fischer chess tournament in Iceland in 1972 when Spassky was defending a title that the Russians had won 41 times out of 45. He was clearly paranoid in his suspicions regarding Fischer's team's efforts to sabotage him, but it takes little effort to understand why: it turned out that around that time the Russians were in fact using microwave energy to bombard the American Embassy in Moscow and were probably using other methods to try to undermine Americans in Russia, hence Spassky's projected paranoia. Knowing what his country was doing to us, no wonder he worried what we might be doing to him!
The second poem is trying to express what happens to language in the midst of psychosis; it refers to actual "poems" and diagrams that I have written and drawn at such times.
SPASSKY IN REYKJAVIK, 1972
“Paranoia runs in [chess players] blood.” from WHISPERS by Ronald K Siegel
There were signs, of course.
The weather was perfect each day
until you left the hotel,
when storm clouds homed in,
thunder Satan’s jackhammer
on the pavement of hell. You suffered
a mild but persistent headache,
known side effect of microwave
irradiation (as every Russian knew
and the American Embassy did not)
and chemically-induced – but which
substance did the Americans use? –
free-floating anxiety. It was necessary
naturally, to take scrapings, sample
air and water, X-ray
your chair, looking for possible
devices and poisons. Nothing found,
the contest was declared
fair and honest, aboveboard,
though you had doubts, didn’t you?
Ever since you found 2 dead flies
in the lighting above your head
you knew your title was lost.
(re-edited from SCATTERED)
Unpinned, words scatter, moths in the night.
The sense of things loses hold, demurs.
with colors and directions, four by four
in a pinwheel: this is the secret wisdom.
I inscribe it on sacred sheets of paper.
The Oxford Dictionary holds not a candle.
The self reduced to a cipher, a scribble,
the Eye is all, with a Freemason’s lash,
and 26 runic statuaries to share
how a stitch in time saved the cat
and if a mossy rock gathers no stones,
mollusks must surely be lifted higher
by the same rising boats. Why, why not throw
glass stones at grass huts? It is a question
of propriety: grass is too dignified to lie down
before glass. Whirligig!
How to pull the center
back into the world? Would it take all
the OED to recapture the moths? All Harcourt’s
English Grammar to pin them again?
(Note: I have separated the lines with a space where in fact there is supposed to be a different kind of division that this software won't let me make...)