Friday, June 25, 2010

Bon the Beautiful

bon the beautiful

“…the existence of the
unconscious means we
will never be masters
in our own house.”
—catherine gunther kodat,
“unhistoricizing faulkner,”
faulkner’s sexualities:
university of mississippi
faulkner & yoknapatawpha
conference 2007

my ramshackle past—
yoknapatawpha love life
deep south déjà vu.

it’s pretty simple—
i knew i was in love then:
bon the beautiful.

i’m henry sutpen—
colonel sutpen’s young gay son
sutpen’s hundred heir.

i went to old miss—
i met my half brother there
bon the beautiful.

i couldn’t help it—
bon was such a bon vivant
so tres debonair.

unhistoricizing faulkner

“the boy-symbol at the door”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

perhaps others will—
unhistoricize faulkner
i’m no jameson.

all i can do is—
link these haiku together
and tell my story.

my dinge-love romance—
the negritude of desire:
how much i loved bon.

colonel sutpen raged—
the day bon the beautiful
was plantation born.

his young carib wife—
unknown to him was mixed-blood
young bon the result.

he had such great plans—
mississippi dynasties
deep south plantations.

delta dynasty—
carved out of the wilderness
by all his black slaves.

absalom, absalom

late night in the dorm—
going over the ledgers
go down, moses time.

quentin compson reads—
burning harvard midnight oil
the deep south haunts him.

with handsome young shreve—
his canadian roommate
revisiting bon.

reenacting the—
henry sutpen tragedy
his love for young bon.

sutpen dynasty—
how it pivoted around
the long civil war.

tragic denouement—
death by the plantation gates
ramshackling demise.

how faulkner caught it—
tres decadently.

mississippi planter

“…the unconscious is the place
where biology and rhetoric—
universalism and historicism,
essentialism and constructionism
—touch.”—catherine gunther kodat

colonel sutpen was—
shocked beyond his worst nightmare
by his first-born son.

the boy mulatto—
a throwback to the island
haiti land of death.

the revolt put-down—
the grateful planter frenchman
giving his daughter.

to colonel sutpen—
along with all those black slaves
new orleans bound.

to realize his dream—
a mississippi planter
a deep south ruler.

how could he prevail—
his successor’s tainted blood
dynasty of shame?

henry sutpen

that’s how i was born—
my mother sutpen’s new wife
quentin knew it all.

sutpen’s tragedy—
next befell on me his son
i was so nelly.

hardly the master—
of a lordly plantation
he just shook his head.

sent me on horseback—
to ole miss to be a man
instead i found one.

the old vieux carré—
has many secrets such as
bon’s mother lives there.

backtracking his way—
sutpen learned all about bon
warning me away.

how could it be true—
falling in love with my own
negro half-brother?

louisiana purchase

“how a certain rigidly historicist
contextualism, can limit literature’s
purchase on the world.”
—catherine gunther kodat

i couldn’t help it—
my poor soul was bought & sold
right on the slave block.

standing there bare-assed—
and naked to the whole world
done in by the id.

monsters of the id—
were my dungeon masters then
i was a mere pawn.

caught between sutpen—
and my love for charles bon
i loved him too much.

the civil war came—
in the nick of time sweeping
me away up north.

bon saved my life there—

at the battle of shiloh
at pittsburg landing

ole miss

“and now,” shreve
said, “we’re going
to talk about love.”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

bon was like a cat—
cosmopolitan & chic
lithe & indolent.

lounging octoroon—
in one of those silk robes
only women wore.

a male femme fatale—
rare florentine lamps &
gilded toilet seats.

my ole miss roommate—
what was a new orleans fop
like bon doing here?

at oxford, ole miss—
little jerkwater college
not yet ten years old?


“all right,” shreve said.
“he chose. he chose
lechery. so do i.”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

quentin & young shreve—
both of them letting the voice
come into the room.

channeling me thru—
the quad’s midnight chimes
back to ole miss then.

distant viewing bon—
and henry sutpen esquire
half-brothers in love.

walking the gangplank—
why these 2 college roommates
octoroon’s boudoir?

infernal marriage—
speaking & hearing the past
come to life again?


“youth’s immemorial
obsession with time’s
fluidity: the bright
heels of all the lost
moments of 15 & 16”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

bon perverted me—
but i’d always wanted it:
an older brother.

teaching me how to—
lounge languorously lazy
in silk gowns, slippers.

whiskey, cigarettes—
decadent world-weariness
fatal solitudes.

faint effeminate—
unmistakably purplish
gay effluvium.

turning me away—
from provincial nerdhood
uncouth clodhopper.

possessing me and—
seducing me flesh & bones
surrendering pride.

go down, moses

“they cannot marry
because he is your
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

i went down on him—
the lethal look on bon’s face
did he know the truth?

that we were brothers—
and judith his half-sister
who he’d marry soon?

was this the revenge—
dreamed up in the vieux carré
by his peeved mother?

florentine mirrors—
paris drapes, tufted camisoles
clutching bon’s tight hips?

incestuous lips—
modest miscegenation
sucking off moses?

his naked revenge—
for sutpen’s foul rejection
bon’s sullen birthright?

dynastic shame

“all boy flesh that
walked and breathed
stemming from that
one ambiguous eluded
dark fatherhood”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

it wasn’t just bon—
a drop of some negro blood
tainting dynasty.

the outrage & shame—
the desperate urgency
incestuous love.

neither octoroon—
nor brotherly dinge romance
made me blush with shame.

all young men do it—
betraying themselves for
money or power.

colonel sutpen’s flesh—
flowed deep thru both our bodies
one squirt at a time.

sybarite steel blade—
silken tessellated sheath
immaculate incest.

delta disenchantment

“then just two—
charles-shreve and
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

christmas eve & the—
hard frozen december ruts
least expected happens.

found out the secret—
taking it in stride because
i didn’t believe.

the secret behind—
that first instinctive moment
when i fell for bon.

a year & a half—
back there in oxford ole miss
pariah-blood now.

bon & i looking—
straight at each other & then
getting on horses.

not saying a thing—
i knew but still didn’t want
to know the truth.

new orleans

“four of them there,
in that room in new
orleans in 1860, four
of them here in this
tomblike room in
massachusetts in 1910”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

shreve invents it—
the dark baroque drawing room
down in new orleans.

haiti-born mother—
french sugar planter’s daughter
old sutpen’s first wife.

dowdy, untidy—
gray-streaked ratty raven hair
coarse as horse’s tail.

pale parchment-colored—
skin & baggy black-ringed eyes
implacably dead.

“so your sister has—
fallen in love with my son?”
she says laughingly.

view carré

“ain’t that enough
for you?” bon said.
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

jesus, they all knew—
think of bon who didn’t know
nor henry either.

bon’s wicked mother—
the conniving attorney
“a nice piece,” he said.

colonel sutpen knew—
even went down to n. o.
to find out the truth.

henry denying—
faced with incest of all things:
bon, him & judith.

henry tries getting—
used to it, ignoring it.
“gimme some time, bon.”

bon takes henry to—
meet his octoroon mistress
and the son they have.

the civil war

“but kings have
done it. even dukes!”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

jesus, what a load—
no wonder both boyz depart
for the civil war.

“maybe the war will—
settle it, we won’t have to
worry about it.”

bon looks at henry—
henry smiles & looks at bon.
off to war they go.

quentin looks at shreve—
shreve looks back at young quentin.
fifty years later.

shells rushing, rumbling—
high overhead & bursting.
both under fire now.

henry crying out—
“but that lorraine duke did it!”
bon just shakes his head.


“glaring at quentin,
panting himself, as
he had had to supply
his shade not only
with a cue but with
breath to obey it in”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

henry was the one—
wounded at pittsburg landing
“let me die,” he said.

“i won’t have to know!—
i won’t have to know it then!”
his bloody chewed lip.

bon held henry tight—
lifting him onto his back
first two, four, then two.

the room was tomblike—
quentin lay on the cold floor
shreve had put him there.

all four young men cold—
deliberate flagellant:
telepathic death.

retreat to richmond

“chickamauga and
franklin, vicksburg,
corinth and atlanta”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

canadian shreve—
child of northern cold blizzards
bathrobe, overcoat.

southerner quentin—
morose, delicate offspring
mississippi fey.

young quentin & shreve—
two, four, now two once again
channeling in time.

starved, ragged armies—
lost battles on either side
outmoded warfare.

the old grooved habit—
to endure, mindless dreamless
sentient dead meat.


“they were both
in carolina”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

suddenly quentin—
no longer speaker to speak
no talker to talk.

both of them are there—
quentin & henry sutpen
compounded as one.

forty-six years back—
henry & colonel sutpen
in the bivouac tent.

it’s been four years now—
sutpen talks only to him
and ignores son bon.

sutpen tells henry—
he must not marry judith.
and you must stop him.

tells henry the truth—
about his haitian wife
she was part negro.

as if it were news—
as if henry didn’t know
he could have cared less.

at dawn

“then it was dawn,
or almost, and it
was cold.”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

henry wakes up bon—
bon is an officer then
they sit & they talk.

bon had decided—
nor to marry judith then
and henry felt calm.

but after henry—
meets with his father at dawn
things change back again.

snubbed by his father—
ignored after these 4 years
charles bon rebels.

“i’m not your brother—
i’m the negro who’s going to
sleep with your sister.”

then bon hands henry—
his pistol’s handle & says
“now, stop me, henry.”

the gate

“you will have to
stop me, henry.”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

and so they both leave—
that very day on horseback
to mississippi.

“it isn’t incest—
it’s the miscegenation
isn’t it, henry?”

“no it ain’t,” he said—
“you & i, we’ve got it on.
brotherly love, right?”

bon the beautiful—
smiles like he did at ole miss
back when they were young.

but that was then and—
this is now & in-between
something has happened.

shreve picks up quentin—
takes him to bed & wraps his
arms around the kid.

cain & able

“the metal case she
had given him with
her picture in it”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

clytie & judith—
along with wash jones
they all hear the shot.

they carry bon back—
to the sutpen old mansion
put him on a bed.

inviolate tomb—
rotten old mausoleum
dynastic ruins.

judith opens it—
the metal case bon carried
with her pic inside.

but there inside it—
an old daguerreotype
a fading picture.

both bon & henry—
standing there smiling away
both boys arm-in-arm.


“now he began to jerk
all over, violently and
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

shreve & quentin sleep—
blankets & bed-clothing piled
high on top of them.

quentin feels the warmth—
shreve’s huge muscular physique
sleeping next to him.

he feels his blood surge—
thru him violently and

it happens again—
he’s having another fit
he goes spaz again.

it’s normal for boyz—
eighteen-year-olds still get them
seminal wetdreams.

he can’t help himself—
lying there perfectly still
shreve is still sleeping.

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