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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Madman. Miles, Ronald William 1968

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M A D M A N by RONALD WILLIAM MILES B.A., The University of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1966 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FUIJIIJJYIENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS i n the Department of English We accept t h i s thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA May, 1968 In p r e s e n t i n g t h i s t h e s i s i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t o f the r e q u i r e m e n t s f o r an advanced degree at the U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree t h a t the L i b r a r y s h a l l make i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r r e f e r e n c e and s t u d y . I f u r t h e r agree t h a t p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e c o p y i n g o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y purposes may be g r a n t e d by the Head o f my Department o r by h i s r e p r e s e n -t a t i v e s . I t i s u n d e r s t o o d t h a t c o p y i n g o r p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l g a i n s h a l l not be a l l o w e d w i t h o u t my w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n . Depa rtment The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Columbia Vancouver 8, Canada Date A e ^ r c c g y i i ABSTRACT I presume to collect these poems and c a l l them a book because they a l l claim an attitude toward the "modern" situation that i s at once iro n i c a l l y detached and pathetically trapped. Through this attitude I give you desire, inhibition, tenderness, violence, naivety, sarcasm, hatred, tolerance, pride, consciousness, and as many other, as I can, of the colors of human determinism. The styles range as the voices and the lusts, and no one of them i s more mine than another. i i i ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ALEMBIC THE BELOIT POETRY JOURNAL CANADIAN FORUM EDGE POTLATCH TANGENT TRACE F i r s t IT Procrustes random notes on grandmother Delight Order HUMM: a wicked tune In the night i v CONTENTS Abstract i i Acknowledgments i i i commitment 2 OMENS Order 4 HUMM: a wicked tune 5 C y c l i c 6 BATTLES & BATTLEGROUNDS Union 8 S t a f f 9 Man-maid 11 Land of Plenty 12 IT 13 Son 15 random notes on grandmother 17 WARRIORS Diogenes 19 Ixion 20 Venus on Madison Avenue 21 Sinon 23 Pithecanthropus 24 Sisyphus 25 Charon 26 Joan 27 Tityus i n anecdotery 28 Tantalus a f t e r THE CURE 29 Tithonus 30 Biton 31 Cleobis 32 Procrustes 33 Philoctetes 34 Penelope 35 Pygmalion 36 Zeus 37 DEFEATS F i r s t Bulletholes i n the San . . . . Growths VICTORIES SPOILS In the night Ignorance, of oourse, i s b l i s s Delight Were Three a f t e r . . . . Fragments Poetry The poems in this book are arranged on the premise that to create l i f e i n a world obsessed with death i s a dangerous thing. 2 You accuse me of conventionality? I was born there, and my t r a v e l s , I admit, have been few and unpretentious. You confuse me of rhetoric? the problem of a r t . Of course I have some trouble eliminating mother, f i r s t love, wife. You seduce me of f e e l i n g , and I fear these tokens are not enough. 3 OMENS Having been t o l d what to fear, I can answer only that I f e e l . Order From here one drop of water i s mine. Many sparkle on branches (variations of echoes) but one i s constant, no star f o r wise men no s c i e n t i f i c complex of atoms symbol of grace or man tear from a weeping god, but water drop (poised before f a l l i n g from a dormant branch) that I have journeyed here to see. 5 HUMM: a wicked tune I could l i e i n meadows and make clouds dragons birches shining knights and you a princess. I could dance you to a rainbow castle present you winds f o r servants feathered entertainers and myself as king. I could walk on seas to please you, fashion loaves from crumbs of pleasure, make lame capacities swift as thoroughbreds, But I can hear the noise the earth makes, spinning, loud enough to drown out trumpets on a h i l l , long enough to be a c o f f i n or a cross. 6 Gyolie Oakleaves c r i s p , and the parish b e l l sounds sharp from f a r away. Ice i n breath. s t i l l the sun shines (at horizon crawls round structures to make shadows from dwellingplaces, mountains children giants and from a rottenleaning telephone pole (on which i s orow) a cross on which i s blob that turns, to become crow and re-turns to blob and talks the while to other shadows prophesying what? 7 BATTLES & BATTLEGROUNDS Have I HEARD of the bomb? 8 Union Most of you I ' l l f l u s h away but some, name my blood or withhold, when moonlight eludes my guards and return, when darkness hunches and howls f o r l i g h t n i n g . Most of you I ' l l waste. 9 S t a f f the hottest day of the year. An overcoated grandfather swings his ash cane I am f o r you s i r I Thrust, monsieur! at i n v i s i b l e enemies on the other side of the walk. The jeers of three children reach him and his wizard's wand waves a thousand e v i l s p e l l s onto elves and p i x i e s but considering t h e i r youth (and his) he blesses the f l e e i n g forms and with c r o s i e r l o o s e l y held archpriest-pilgrim returns to homeshrine. 10 Tonight three smooth bodies and one wrinkled w i l l l i e awake and wonder when the curse w i l l f a l l while i n v i s i b l e enemies enter and run round bedrooms and Thrust! Thrust monsieur! Man-maid Wiped dew from her l i p s combed grass from her earthen hair shielded her from the sun taught her to feed through his soul, and gratified severed the cord watched the parasite grasp gasp and die. 12 Land of Plenty Snowstrands f o l d around the pimples, seep into the pores of the earth's face. S t i l l f a l l i n g flakes mask the ice stubbled sidewalk bootscarred grass cream wrinkled shrubbery-f u r the bald Oak when s t a r l i n g descends to snowface (over what may be green pecks f o r eyes while white dust gathers around. IT I often wonder how i t would be back i n the days when men were, so to speak, eighteen-year-old v i r i l e BOYS before luxuries spoiled us f o r the f i n e r things before modern technology made us soft before there were so many spectaculars that a spectacular l o s t i t s v i r g i n i t y . I don't know about you but I l i v e on a routine: drinking bouts Mon Wed F r i 9:30 debaucheries Tues Thurs Sat with time o f f f o r behavior and commendation f o r keeping i t down or keeping i t up. I get fed 14 down with i t a l l , dream of meeting HER again f o r the f i r s t time/but t h i s time/bayeebee! i n f i v e feet of dewy grass under the hot sun, her head moving towards me, her neck and the pulse of grass below pulsing, below. Oh! the rapture of i t a l l day long without the wonders of modern science. I dream of meeting her again and again and of four brats r a i s i n g cain on our t h i r d anniversary, eight on our s i x t h and so on i n an arithmetical pro-gression I wonder what went wrong i t must have been those s c i e n t i f i c a l l y - r o a s t e d peanuts that r e t a i n t h e i r freshness a l l night long I had f o r a midnight snack. 15 Son the waiting, watching her mind grow large with i n s t i n c t and fear, savaging breasts' h i t t e r j u i c e , r e s t i n g an ear to translate her b e l l y ' s rapid message • FIERCE NOWS and holding her hand between, when i t lay dozing, unaware of company, and during, when veins screamed l i f e l i k e arched bodies naked from a bed of coals. And of course at the window among kinsmen I l i k e an i d i o t grinning from payday to payday, at her bedside with my eyes f u l l of expensive flowers and chocolates that she can't eat because t h e y ' l l give HIM diarrhea. Lonely, the empty house, the bed I shun, lonely waiting the return of my young wife, my Jocasta. 17 random notes on grandmother The foxhair i s ragged from b a t t l e . The l a s t teeth are black. I answer that I did not set the trap! Your moustache i s darker, against the p a l l o r . Do they never shave i t now? If you had howled louder I might have checked the traps l a s t spring. I am sorry your bones are broken. I do not think your chest has strength to drown i n d e f i n i t e l y . I f I had not been t o l d you were unconscious I would have feared your open eyes. WARRIORS I f there was only one question, only one answer: Diogenes Fo o l i s h of me to lose h i s name, companion of my youth. We shared contagions years ago fought the same enemies. I do remember her name and the day her long n a i l s combed hairs on the back of my hand. That night they burned together. I thanked him f o r t e l l i n g me. 20 I i i on Is no man strong enough to touch her they asked I HAVE The boast became a f a c t My daughter howled In darkness. another f a c t My daughters pleaded f o r attention. another Three daughters ran naked f o r clothes about my one-room legacy i n Torin. Another I wait f o r a son to carry my chains E l Venus on Madison Avenue I weave golden apples f o r gods. I r i v a l i c e , but womb the earth. I loom a goddess to the West. WE s t r i n g necklaces of seeds to drape around our buttocks go i d e n t i c a l l y to mid-day costume parties and r e l i g i o u s l y to aphrodisiacs at night. THEY make my mouth and n a i l s flourescent shave my calves and cup my breasts pad my eyes, wreathe my h a i r net my thighs and harness my l o i n s bottle my l u s t and drink my sweat i n the name of golden apples and I love i t . Press my navel and see me climax Sinon I was bound to open the mystery. One does s t a r t with small digressions, a blooded brother or a bloodied sweetheart. I say they are small, i n scope, I strung a reputation of them. One c a t a l y t i c motion dissolves the s t r i n g and scattered acts disrobe. I knew, but I was obliged by c r a f t , what remained f o r me to do. I t i s not what I intended. PIthe canthropus I lack words. Look behind my eyes. Playmates mocked my lacks. Elders marvelled found no answer to my r i d d l e clawed to death my dam. Her mate has never returned. Me, they feared to touch. I sought revenge but the means have remained mists, within my head. Now I have found a female strange as I. Do I dare love her? The beast within says yes. I fear the consequence. 25 Sisyphus I have buried four grandfathers and one grandmother (one s t i l l l i v e s ! ) , two mothers and seven fathers, f i v e children and ten wives (three I never married), fourteen s i s t e r s (I am without brother), nine cousins ( a l l unfortunately c h i l d l e s s ) and s i x sets of uncles and aunts. I t r i e d to k i l l them but f a i l e d . They died. This i s the way I make my waiting NOT WITHOUT HOPE One s t i l l l i v e s . 26 Charon Gentlemen, my fee, i f f you w i l l be so kind, and i f not, then, I am not, as indeed I desire to be, your servant. Speak not of what you have already paid, I'm sure i t has been much but, believe me, I've heard i t ALL before. And o f f e r no alternatives, no musical performances (music always nice indeed but t h i s neither the time nor the) no bribes (I am, of course, above) no threat of violence (you understand that I am under the protection of?) and so on. Doubtless you have heard of certainnn baok ways i n by which the fee can be avoided, but I assure you you can r e a d i l y discount these. The Ferry Authority has carried out at my re-quest a thorough inves t i g a t i o n and has now assured me that my monopoly i s , i n every sense of the word, just that. So cough i t up and we s h a l l be away (running a l i t t l e l a t e as i t i s ) thank you s i r and you s i r and you aaannd you? haven't? Always a piker i n the I'M AFRAID IGNORANCE OF THE REGULATION IS NO EXCUSE. Of course, I, personally, am sorry about a l l t h i s . But I don't make the rules so i f you'd just step aside and l e t these other gentlemen Come along now from time to time I ' l l be pointing out landmarks of in t e r e s t perhaps you notioed the sign on our gate as you oame i n b u i l t i n the year eleven thousand nine aught six by the then Minister of Public and Administrative Joan waiting f o r God to streak my womb with the s p i r i t of a savior, (I cannot f e e l rending f l e s h l i k e ice parts earth, (I cannot f e e l l i s t e n i n g f o r f i r e to pass my snow thighs, (I cannot f e e l These times, men of France I WANTED YOU 28 Tityus i n anecdotery. years a f t e r t o p - b i l l i  ng i n Operating Studio I I I at Saint Vincent  ' s Hospital f o r the P h y s i c a l l y I n c o r r i g i b l e Before night came I r e c a l l t e l l i n g those two white-coated basta rds: NOT MY LUNGS YOU ASSHOLES Tantalus a f t e r THE CURE never a more unfortunate man than me, up to my neck i n troubles, those sweatflanked supervirgins prance by three feet above my head l i k e myths upon the water, water, every, where they wear t h e i r s k i r t s an inch below t h e i r oats they're mounts fo r gods three feet above my head an glass, two inches of amber hair and not ONE drops to drink. 30 Tithonus I t i s again spring. A l i g h t breeze i s some r e l i e f (the winters are hard) but no release. W i l l you believe that, long ago, I was unequalled i n beauty, had f i b r e d , unhaired legs to support me, shoulders clean as dew, and ideas f o r the future. I would mate the dawn, mount and f e r t i l i z e the stars, reign forever. I have done a l l that. Now grass supports me, f o r my f l e s h i s wintered hard, and my ideas l i g h t as wind. B i t on Whatever else you toss from memory r e t a i n t h i s : I am the elder, the stronger, piston-sinewed. My part of power eclipsed my share of praise. Only her goodness halved rewards. My eyes are open. 32 Cleobis Whatever you preserve, forget that I exerted a l l . B a ffled tongues f e e l no l i e s . Therefore boast. I dream. 33 Procrustes My own growing, my own learning was Ion g and p a i n f u l enough to stretch my brea th u n t i l i t surrendered l i k e c r y s t a l at the high-pitched touch of humanity, i f y o u ' l l pardon the conceit, enough to cu t my heart away from the simple pleasur es l i k e l i f e and so, now that I'm i n th e not-entirely-enviable p o s i t i o n of bei ng the all-knowing judge (I can, you se e, laugh at my pomposity) who judges YO U I may, remembering—perhaps w i s t f u l l y —my younger days, o f f e r t h i s encourage ment: FIT DAMN YOU FIT DAMN YOU FIT DA 34 Philoctetes Because i t was a defect you rejected me Because i t was an asset (I laugh at your inadequacies) you returned, BEGGING. What you wanted, I had always. This I grasp. What plagues i s I surrendered. Abstracts haunt me conscience, obligation, fear of pain, unresolved, but I can expiate i n part. Do not expect me again. Penelope Without you, the r a i n beats seconds, the days are r i v e r s nights i c e . I (touching only the deadwooden f l o o r and naked s k e l e t a l chair compose t e n d r i l s to blossom at the spring of your return. Pygmalion What the land lacked, my mind needed, my hand provided, rather I saw echoes i n your name and prayed them perfect, remote. My mistake, began with touching, I entered the mirror to siege the blood and found veins of marble. My warning, then: Do not f l e s h wrong myth. or Do not presume miracle. Zeus What a family. 38 DEFEATS laugh. 39 F i r s t e a r l y spring we whispered through the trees brushing fresh l i p s against the morning and each other t i l l I drew from your well throat long l i q u i d pleasure and unnoticed by chirping birds you dropped unnature slowly to the ground became fl a s h i n g white i n v i r g i n sunlight i n the green grass growing around your t i c k l i n g your toes you were white snow melting into my cooling my wetting my t h i r s t y body But now, when cut grass rots rainpelted, you were robin's egg that I stole from the nest 40 Bulletholes i n the Sun two spots, tongues of gas, black, against the body-spurting f i r e . no border skirmish, but total destruction of hopes within the body and genesis of tiny planets with-out heat from the body of a star. nor are we eagles to look upon the sight (the body) and be refreshed. Growths There i s nothing to look at. but b a f f l e d rectacles of glass divide the black wall i n t o Outside the trees grow too slowly. I've seen them before. Humming l i g h t frames me i n the window I think The panes are green. One i s broken and looks l i k e t h i n ice that w i l l never be water. The naked trees are ugly people. Behind me you are dead. The roots from your eyes inhale almost a l l of the a i r now VICTORIES I have to write of these. SPOILS 43 Answers I give you i n words, yet words are not answers, but conductors. Energy i s a g i f t . In the night tastes of you on my f i n g e r t i p s l i k e those few dead leaves at the ends of the oak tree's body are a l l that save the skeleton from the sky 45 Ignorance, of oourse. i s b l i s s The l a s t few days, I should imagine, were not unlike Pompeii, l i f e as usual Gats pulled d i r t over t h e i r own My uncle sold short on 200 Telephone preferreds My k i d s i s t e r changed boyfriends Miss October wore big breasts and very sheer but not quite sheer enough panties. Then i t happened. I ran to warn the others The sky i s f a l l i n g The sky i s f a l l i n g but they wouldn't l i s t e n no one not even she. 46 For days they passed with lowered eyes. Huge pieces of sky f e l l about my ears. I n s t i t u t i o n s aspirations crumbled. When i t was over, l i f e as usual. I did the only decent thing sol d my house at a p r o f i t and bought a pulmanized automobile. To me what had happened was as cl e a r as a i r (a f a n t a s t i c number of p a r t i c l e s unseen by man) f o r I fortunately have perfect v i s i o n . with corrective lenses Delight Leaving your house we enter private night. My heels down f a m i l i a r s t a i r s l i k e gods playing with thunder i n a world of s t i l l cold a i r and only infrequent drops of r a i n . Tour night h a i r hangs long down your back and your black cotton hand gloves i t s e l f i n mine so n a t u r a l l y that my razor sharp cheeks g l i s t e n damp as desire. Were Three Looking back on i t I see the change, at when I stopped the lamp that burned beside, I sold my part of ta l k i n g , slowly as the dusklight slowly stopped, and watched the other two be darkness moving, not, as before they were sweat forehead cleaved nose and a l l the b r i l l i a n c e of exceeding energy, but as f u e l unraped, a lump of coal not burning but carried, the mannish woman softened, her sharp voice heavied with past, and the man's unreally s o f t , s o f t as his body. And looking back I see my own po s i t i o n as I f e l t i t then a lone observer not unlike the other two but neither l i k e them nor l i k e anyone. Nor they each other. a f t e r . when your sentences have yielded to the darkness. your body twitches as i t s mind un-ravels memories of mine. 50 Fragments and because the stars diffused themselves so f i n e l y , f a l l i n g washed the a i r so harshly that the flood applauded and mud ran thick through veins to burden the wells, breathing i s gay once more though common. And so we search the skies again. Poetry Lost i n your h a i r my fingers hunt the source of your r i v e r s . In the jungle h i l l s hunger s o f t l y f o r my w i l l i s a cage. Between your muscles I plant screams c u l t i v a t e whispers, when the f l e s h accepts, harvest winds, when the nerve weeps. ask, of your pores, no songs, of your skin, no s t o r i e s . 


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