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Jeffrey Pethybridge


Jeffrey Pethybridge
The Book of Lamps, being a psalm-book

Drug-tired, at a loss, above the lucid waves. Palms rested on the railing, palms against
the last, the chronic drag of days--the waves--the last solid limit, then the light-
ness in letting go: four seconds, irrevocable, the unsparing waves, then the facts disclosed
by the Angel of the Police Report. Palms pressed against the wailing wall in your gut,
ulcerous pocked by guilt, shame¬, secret pains in being. Palms open and upturned--
good little supplicants, what is their (secret) prayer, what is open to praise? candor?--the pure
fact of the four irrevocable seconds?--the right note to elicit briny air, or the thick beach
chill along the skin at dusk--palms pressed against the limit--the nouns to summon it:

(the truth is I know the truth is made through work: lucid and unsparing). Fat palms
pressed into your eye sockets, that dark, that pressure, the gates of inwardness,
posture of exhaustion, posture of resignation, as your palms wash your cheeks, fingers to lips--
breathing--eyes open to the clearing, the lucid waves, your unsparing inwardness,
irrevocable wilderness with no blaze marking the way back. Exhausted, at a loss
wandering the weird inwardness of chronic insomnia. O sad gargantuan, worn-out
from the unrelenting drag of days, encumbered by waves, a wailing wall, a wilderness--
all within--and hauled up to the gates: that dark, that pressure open them out--

Fat palms at your temples, holding your whole monstrous concentration, holding
the ulcerous exhaustion at bay, o sad gargantuan, out past the wilderness hangs
the clearing, out past the lucid and unsparing waves, out through the blank being
of chronic insomnia. Drug-tired, at a loss, and dragged under the pressure of blank days,
blanker nights and unsparing waves being inwardness, worn-out from the inertia
within depression. Palms pressed against the railing, pressed against the gate-work,
up against inwardness, up against the limit (its four seconds), it feels like that--monstrous, pocked,
ulcerous, irrevocable, lucid, wailing, unrelenting, unsparing, at a loss, exhausted.

Even at bay the weight is plummeting (monstrous lightness)--fat palms stroke fat thighs
then back to the railing, inwardness being both the case and its chronic cause--days being waves,
waves being being: chronic, dragged under inertia, dark with pressure, the case against inwardness
--you breathe into the half-mask your hands make--no one can hear as you stand (your whole
concentration) pressed between the blank day, the blanker night, like anyone
looking out for the clearing of the Pacific sky. Looking out, dusk-encumbered, even your eyes
exhausted, looking inward--for the clearing---through that dark, that pressure, through the gate-
work, o sad gargantuan, can you psalm the limit-work against the lightness that bars the clearing?


Alighieri's God Is Not Great

          To vindicate the desperate fury of rejection to
efface the double offence of one self to lay the ghost
          of what was left of inevitable calamity
is not a crime the wounds inflicted by a suicide
          upon himself a stake through the body to be void thus
invading the prerogative of the Almighty which
          may justly be called political suicide and ought
to be governed by the common rules of murder against
          the king of the lonely grave is guilty outcast of all
the world which is a species of murder declaring
          the policy of one self to be void subjected to
the desperate fury of all the world buried enfouis
          a Parisian call him Paul jumped in the Seine and vanished
November the suicide-season November orphaned
          by the common rules of inevitable calamity
thus to die a slum-dwelling wild child November
          affected with this form of melancholy left a note
to efface the wounds inflicted by the doctrine of self-
          slaughter may justly be called a vital component of
the Almighty the chronicle adds if fate owns himself
          unequal to the troubles of life governed by the ghost
of the desperate fury of rejection the volunteer
          suicidologist you on the phone you the friend you
the mercy-fuck collaborated to repress efface
          outcast this form of voluntary death of the lonely
days of illness days totally abandoned days given
          to drink to enliven his narrative Dante pictures
him in a new cell Pietro Della Vigna jurist
          and poet and minister to a prince of inevitable
fury and subjected to what was left of the desperate
          theory of rejection of all the world dragging the said
murderer through the streets of the Almighty invading
          the middle of the night two women committed suicide
to avoid confiscation of their own manuscripts days
          buried enfouis days of social demotion days subjected
to melancholy of the head the lonely grave of days
          outcast and destitute days subjected to civil war
of the head dragging the guilty theory through the streets
          affected with this form of Almighty void a man
drowned himself in the Severn a rite of double offence
          governed by the policy of spiritual demotion
and the common rules of trouble and interred with a stake
          declaring the ghost of one self void the chronicle adds
dragging the said political theory through the judges
          his heirs pleaded his insanity to avoid the wounds
inflicted by the doctrine of confiscation orphaned
          by the middle of the night orphaned of all the world
their bodies were buried without ceremony enfouis
          after the vital component of the prevention course
after the concept in a new cell after the suicide
          season April in temperate climes o resplendent spring
no interior weather can equal o revolution no
          self can equal seriously comrades there was nothing
else I could do against the November inside April
          against the prince of this desperate fury after dragging the said
self guilty of a double fate through streets of ought and if
          under suicide watch Dante pictures him orphaned by
his narrative Dante pictures him to efface him
          and civil justice collaborated entered into
a pact to repress him thus to die a slum-dwelling king
          against the concept of voluntary death invading
the prerogative of the body you on the phone you
          the fuck long since fallen you the friend you mercy dragging
the said king into a new cell is not a crime throwing
          the judges out the window of ought without ceremony
may justly be called what was left of justice long since
          unequal given to fury after rejecting desperate social
demotion a man drowned himself in the Seine his narrative
          vanished Isiah McNeal aged 60 suicided
at Conygham on Wednesday destitute the chronicle
          adds after the lonely and outcast and suicide woman
her narrative vanished when Romain a slave being sent
          South cut his throat in a Philadelphia street what was
left of justice suicided the chronicle vanished
          after the concept of narrative vanished widowed what
was left of the self the new cell of inevitable
          demotion and confiscation under Almighty watch
the king of the lonely grave outcast of all the world
          unequal to the fury inflicted by days of illness
dragging the letter which would exculpate him through the night
         dragging the letter that would efface him against the guilty
judges upon himself dragging calamity upon himself
         dragging rejection through all that was left upon against
himself thus to suicide
         Dante pictures him in hell


          In bocca al lupo--
          and laid out on the table: a laptop;
          a fountain pen; the shirt of beautiful
          noise; three small stones colored like bird
          eggs (one robin, one quail-mottled, one sharp-
          shinned hawk) that orbit the head. The robin
          stone emits the song a child in the dark
          gripped with fear sings to himself
          for comfort, for order. The child can
          walk to this song; he can skip; lost, he can
          shelter in it. The song is the rough-sketch
          of a calming; it jumps from chaos to
          the beginnings of order in chaos,
          and is in danger of breaking apart
          at any moment. The others permit
          congress with the dead and the self's
          own schismatic congregation,
          respectively. A tin of instant
          espresso; always the notebook; a disc
          to leave behind; a two-Euro coin
          with Dante's head on it. I recognize the nose
          from the mirror: crepi il lupo.

                                   -from Striven, The Bright Treatise


Poems - Bio - Review - Interview - Reading

Jeffrey Pethybridge is the author of Striven, The Bright Treatise (Noemi Press 2013).  His work appears widely in journals such as Chicago Review, Volt, Poor Claudia, The Iowa Review, LIT, New American Writing and others. He teaches  in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University where he is the Managing Director of the Summer Writing Program. He is also the North American Editor for Likestarlings, a web-archive of collaborative poetry and poetics.

He lives in Denver with the poet Carolina Ebeid and their son Patrick; together they curate and host the Lord Weary’s Reading Series, and edit Visible Binary. He's currently at work on a documentary project centered on the recently released torture memos entitled "Force Drift, an Essay in the Epic." He grew up in Virginia.


Poems - Bio - Review - Interview - Reading

A Review of Jeffrey Pethyvridge's Striven, The Bright Treatise by Dan Beachy-Quick, first published at West Branch

Suicide remains, from antiquity to now, from Ajax leaping on the blade of his own sand-buried sword to our soldiers fighting now in Afghanistan, an act unfathomable to those of us who survive in its wake. Jeffrey Pethybridge’s astonishing and powerful debut, Striven, The Bright Treatise (Noemi Press, 2013) is written against the suicide of his brother, Tad, who in 2007, jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge. “Against” here is a word of primary formal gesture—not a polemic, but a seeking of words that can place themselves tangent to their imponderable concern and so bring it to light. Death defies description. So every real elegist laments even as he writes his elegy, forced by reality into the impossible work. Such a poem becomes a “Fathom-Line,” taking measure of unknown depths, and placing within human arms an act that feels ungraspable. Pethybridge’s unerring instinct is to turn to poetry’s own prosody, those undergirding forms that make sense not merely available, but possible. Anagrammatic permutations of his brother’s name, as well as of antipsychotic drugs, demonstrate the book’s most strident ardor: an old, nigh magical belief, that in rearranging every letter into every possible position one might find within the word that unspoken thing (some call it soul and some mind), that silence that abides in the midst of all life and which, in some of us, so dislodges the frame that should hold it, that we propel ourselves into the larger blank that death seems to promise. Pethybridge’s intelligence is everywhere found, nowhere depended upon. His literary allusions move from Sophocles and Dante to Zukofsky and Stein, but he understands that knowledge offers no answer to those difficulties that in their ancient and ongoing resistance to human comprehension stultify the mind with its own devices. Instead, through translation and document, through psalm-making and repetition, through modernist play and metaphysical conceit, Pethybridge offers every method he can—not to answer and not to understand—to bring us close to the very limit, that line where word and song, body and soul, intent and act, have yet to differentiate one from the other, and we find ourselves there, at the railing of the bridge before the lights have turned on, brightly striving against the coming silence, offering—no meager gift—what company we can.

Poems - Bio - Review - Interview - Reading

Click here to read an interview with Pethybridge at Brooklyn Poets


Poems - Bio - Review - Interview - Reading

       Click here to view a reading by Jeffrey Pethybridge 

Click here to buy Pethybridge's book

Jeffrey Pethybridge

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