Berkeley Talks transcript: Poet Shane McCrae reads 'The Mind of Hell,' other new works

Listen to Berkeley Talks episode #119: “Poet Shane McCrae reads ‘The Mind of Hell,’ other new works.”

Noah Warren: Hi, my name is Noah Warren and I coordinate Lunch Poems with Geoffrey G. O’Brien. It’s my distinct pleasure to introduce Shane McCrae this afternoon. Shane has published seven books of poetry in the past 10 years. I’m going to let that sink in. It’s a prodigious output and a testament both to the power of his vision and this country’s appetite for it. His inventive, penned and masterful books are line-by-line the record of an ongoing search for a usable past, for present aware to but not paralyzed by its burdens for a habitable future. Even as each book strikes us with novelties, a theme, a form and character, we recognize their continuities of sound and style. And perhaps the most characteristic feature of McCrae’s verse is the effect he’s perfected of imperfection. By which I mean both that flow in the human condition and in the grammatical sense of an action whose end is unclear and maybe ongoing.

In his first book, 2011’s Mule , he writes in lines remarkable for their motion and their curious spaces: “We married in an open field, a wide and open field, a field of wild and running horses, a field of horses running through. We married in an open wide.”

His lines feel if they’ve just been written down, which is to say their allegiance is already split, torn between an effort to capture instant-by-instant change and the instinct for control that print indicts. You might’ve heard the tightly wound dynamic rhythms when I quoted. What’s hard to capture in speech are the various ways he’s developed to interrupt a standard pentameter line with spaces and slashes. Or to overcharge it so that the ear is always intentioned with, and often out running, the eye. McCrae’s poems often feel so addictingly propulsive that we barely notice the ways they rephrase themselves as they develop. His characteristic needle skips stage the simultaneity of forward motion and its revision as it passes into history.

In those lines from Mule , McCrae marries in an open wide, a space of possibility foreclosed by its absolute passiveness. His most recent book, Sometimes I Never Suffered , flags in its title a paradoxical time only imaginable through the condensation of McCrae’s language. A Corner of Heaven where recurring speaker Jim Limber, Jefferson Davis’s adopted mulatto son, is sometimes able to forget his suffering.

As such, the book is frequently concerned with gaps and rifts in memory where the particulars of terror have been scrubbed to brightness. These emerge as the books’ various violent or lobotomized heavens and represent on a larger scale, McCrae’s forceful imagination and defense of a space just a little outside history, a haunted fiefdom of the imagination. It’s a space and a time that much poetry often has in mind. But one thing I find so remarkable about Shane’s verse is how gaps in pauses open at the smallest level, at the line, at meter. Flower into the American cosmogony he has now built across these past three books.

Like Dante and Milton, Duncan and Mackie, he’s married a structural firmness of vision and conscience with the freedom of imagination and the fluency of alert language. It’s a mode with risks most vividly, the disconnection from the actual should untether poetry from the earth and allow the reader to ask why? But this is one of McCrae’s deep themes, an exploration of how our embodied experience controls what we can imagine even as the cordon of imagination allows us a space to repair, however tentatively, our experience.

His purgatory, his hell and his heaven, a ribbon along the same lines as this nation is — they challenge us to see how both whiteness and Blackness feed on and generate on equal mythologies. McCrae, with his divine theater, creates an arena where these mythologies can be crumpled together. And at the sight of that crumble, that nexus, we find, inevitably, a mind waiting for us, a perspective and an experience waiting to speak itself into being. Jim Limber or a hastily assembled angel. This is intersectionality as a cosmic principle. Shane is the recipient of too many awards to list here and an assistant professor at Columbia. Please join me in welcoming a powerful poet of the human and the divine.

Shane McCrae: Thank you, Noah, for that introduction. And thank you again and thank you, Geoffrey, for putting this together and thank everyone involved for making this happen. And also, all of you for coming. So, I’m going to read for about 30 minutes or so. One always feels one must apologize if they’re going to read that long, but I’m going to try to not apologize, but just know it’s in my head. I will apologize for how bright I am. I’m using my phone Zoom because I’ve never had my phone freeze whereas it happens to my laptop all the time.

So anyway, everything going to read is in some sense, new. I’m going to read from groups of poems that I’m in the midst of working on right now and also from recent poems from my next book. But I’m going to start with a group of poems that is, I guess, I’d like to think I’m in the middle of working on.

And this first poem is called “In the Ditch Where the Camera Finds My Body.”

I’m splashing in the driveway in a ditch in which a corpse of rain has gathered, here a corpse corpses gathered. Wearing nothing, a full diaper, I’m 3. A clear sky leans as if upon a bar upon the house. And everyone in the picture, my grandmother, me, I am the rain come down. My mother’s parents have just kidnapped me. I am the corpse in which I play. I’m dancing in the court. The clear sky sickens watching but with no clouds in the sky, the sky can’t move away. Behind me picking flowers, my mother’s mother sees the green has fled the leaf. Oh, reader listener stay. You are now evidence.

And this is called “Something Grand I Was.”

We must’ve flown, I don’t remember flying. My mother’s parents, me a 3-year old, we must have flown, we couldn’t have, who was going to drive the car from Oregon to Texas Salem. That means Steve, the Austin. I think he was a soldier, Steve F. Austin. I see us sometimes in a C-130, a military plane, but big enough for us, our car and things from Oregon to Texas Salem that needs be too big for us, our car and things, but shouldn’t it have been too big, enormous, something grand. I was being kidnapped, shouldn’t it have been impossible, 100,000 pounds of steel, aluminum and blood in the sky. Itself, incredulous and mocking. Shouldn’t a flock of birds have struck the problem like laughter. The sky have shamed us then from its birth part.

This is, I always feel like I should be introducing things but I also don’t feel like, what I would say about them. This is “After my Grandparents Kidnapped Me, They Moved to a New Development.”

The only scenes I know are scenes my mother’s parents thought to take pictures of me in the ditch. My mother’s father in the yard before the fence was built, before the lawn was fitted to the earth. Face like a face after a mauling. He is posing like a hunter in the dirt. He grips a hoe and kneels in the court called everywhere. A neighborhood is coming. Where an armed man kneels and grin, that man will build a house.

This is, I mean this is introductory information I suppose. This is a sonnet, but most of the ones I’ve been reading as well were sonnets. This is “Explaining My Appearance in Certain Pictures.”

In pictures now I do not smile and didn’t, then I would laugh if I was being tickled. And sometimes one, my mother’s mother would tickle me and the other would take the picture, my mother’s father. And so sometimes I’m not smiling but I’m laughing. My eyes closed and my mouth open almost like I’m screaming, but I’m laughing. When I was a child in pictures with my kidnapper, with one, my mother’s mother always, I am sitting most often in her lap, her arms around my blurred waist. She has me on Ritalin and the trick is wait until the laughing stops, as the mouth closes, you can take the smile.

Okay, two more of these. They are both sonnets. Before I say the title, I’m going to say the word GIF, not JIF, but G-I-F. Although maybe JIF, I don’t know but I’m going to say GIF. I always feel like I’ve read this poem once before. I feel like if I’m going to read it, I should say that because I also feel like people are going to hear gift, so GIF. This is called “A Window in the House From Which I Was Kidnapped.”

The pale blinds rise and fall like GIF forever. The blinds move on their own. At first, my father stands with the string between his fingers first, and the metal pulling even after it tears into his fingers, tears the first and middle skin. Him pulling, letting go, his blood staining the length of the loop string nearest to him. At first he pulls the string for years, eventually he steps back from the window into the room. He steps back, doesn’t turn. Now he watches from a shadow in the room, for me his child to be returned to him. I see him watching from a farther shadow. Whenever I look into his eyes, the room is ember.

This is “Having Been Raised By My Kidnapper I Consider It A Gift of Life or A Gift From A Feat.”

A gift that disappears as it as given. A gift from whom whenever they give you anything, you have to ask them where they got it from. A gift that disappears and takes you with it. A gift for which you will not be forgiven, whether you give it or receive it. When my mother’s parents kidnapped me, my grandmother, that I would see my father again in a few days and the big wheel he had given me. The gift, she gave me that. And then for 13 years, I didn’t. You must close your eyes for the gift. After you open it it’s stolen, but it wasn’t stolen for you. No one will give you who you are.

So, two books ago, oh wait. That’s not right is it? Yeah, it is. This book called The Gilded Auction Block , I guess it’s two books ago because I have a book coming out. But I published a book called The Gilded Auction Block . And it has a long four-minute called “The Hell Poem,” which is part of a larger project that constituted of poems from In the Language of My Captor three books back, we got The Gilded Auction Block , two books back and the entirety of Sometimes I Never Suffered . And, in a sense, that project is done, but I thought it would be neat and fun and also because I couldn’t choose to do anything else apparently, to continue writing sections of The Hell Poem . And these are in some alternate continuations thereof because in in a canonical sense, not that I have a canon, I don’t know what that would be but considering whatever that poem is, The Hell Poem , it’s finished and it’s all there.

But these are all imagined continuations or the alternate versions of them. So, they both are and are not. And I’m going to read three of them. And I should also add it’s the hell promise of a journey through hell, or a journey deeper into hell, actually. And the guide to the journey is this robot bird who is a servant of sort of, it’s complicated.

Anyway, this is “The Robot Bird Tells Me How It Is I Am In Hell.”

My name is Law, I do the work. The boss says he created me in the however long it was between when Cain crushed Abel’s forehead with a rock and the first drop of blood hit the ground. I was the voice of the blood crying out to God. You know, the thing in the Bible, God says the voice of thy brother’s blood cry unto me from the ground.

That shit happened. I was a baby off balling and shit. Yeah, anyway, I say that makes Cain killing Abel. I say that makes Abel, poor dickless Abel, the first human and the father of all humankind. But the boss, he says different. He says it’s him, the boss, for making the murder possible and he is not philosophical like me. He doesn’t have to be, but he is sure as shit he’s fucking, he’s smarter than me, smarter than you anyways. So listen, a couple of weeks ago we got a fax. You think there’d be a phone in hell? Fuck no, we fax. So anyway, we got a fax about you shit for brains. It said you would be coming down and the boss wanted you to get a tour. At first I thought it meant the boss down here because you know, he’s the boss I think think me.

But then I heard him shouting and breaking shit in the throne room and I realized it meant the boss boss. And as this dawns on me, he stomps out of the throne room, sees the I don’t know the joy of knowing what’s going on for once flashed in my eye or some shit but he’s fucking pissed. Next thing I know, I’m guiding your slow ass through hell. But the boss doesn’t want you to know you’re getting special treatment. So if you see him, keep your mouth shut. Oh shit. Now will you agree? Don’t look at me like that. I know you’re not breathing. It’s still work. So anyway, back to Abel.

What I think is if Abel’s not your father, Cain is. After all he had the big rock. And how many times you think he saw his dad kill anything by crushing its head? Not many, right? No man, an arrow in the heart. And by the way, that’s what God gave you by telling Adam he could name the animal. God told you where their hearts were. Adam never missed a shot. You might think this sounds like bullshit, but he was using a gift God had given him. So, killing was like prayer for him. But Cain, he looked Abel in the eye and saw himself, not in his brother’s heart, but in his head and crushed his head. And yeah, where else do the human start? Cain named the animal in Abel’s head.

I maybe should have introduced that in some other way by adding the next book that I’m going to publish is called Cain Named the Animal . And lately I’ve also been filled with, oh I’m always filled with anxious energy. I’ve lately wanted to point out the forms the poems are in. And so that was in quatrains. They’re unrhymed quatrains. And I don’t know if there’s any reason to care about that, but that’s what it is. Blank iambic tetrameter.

This is blank iambic pentameter triplets. Are they triplets because they don’t rhyme, not really, but that’s what it is. And it’s called “The Finger In The Ditch.” It uses the same characters but they’ve moved on. I mean that last one was just sort of the bird telling the unnamed journeyer through hell who the bird is. This one, what happened immediately before this is the bird and the unnamed journeyer dove into the center of a mountain from the top of the mountain, the bird had transformed into a large robot by this point.

And the bird of course survived the jump fine but the person on the way down, because they’re invisibly tethered to the bird, they’re cut in half by… the tether is attached to a belt that slices them in half, but it doesn’t kill them because they’re already dead. So they grab their legs as they’re falling into the mountain and they pull their legs back up to their body. When they actually finally land, they’re completely liquified. All their bones, their tibia shoot out of their shoulders. It’s a thing. But then after they’re liquified, because they’re in hell, all their parts return and they are reconstituted and it is the terribly painful thing. So, this poem starts right after that. It’s called “The Finger and The Ditch.”

After my body splattered back together, or it was splattered back together by a hand or force I couldn’t see, a love I couldn’t see. A cruelty renerving my body for more suffering, the robot bird rolling its clattering shoulders back. If you’ve got bones and nerves and blood in you, why aren’t you moving? And again, I felt the cord I couldn’t see, the cord that bound me to the bird, the cord that only minutes before had severed where it tugged me now. My upper body from my lower body hugging me forward. So, the bird stood still, tugging me forward like the mechanism in a tape measure that erases as it winds the tape back in the thing, the tape had been unwound to show. The cord had ripped me apart to show me no escaping hell. A love of the suffering of others put me back together. Love stitched me together with a steel needle like a bowling pin, invisible disliked the cool, disliked the love. And the cord dragged me to the bird.

I fell in the dirt at the first tug and the cord dragged me to the bird bouncing a stone skipped on a lake. The puffs of dust, the puff of mist my body would make if it were skipped across smooth water. I stopped at the bird’s feet, the robot’s feet and coughing raised myself. My palms on the dirt first to one knee then to my feet you sure you still got human lungs? You fucking sound like a coffee grinder, grinding sand one hard jerk at a time. The robot barked, the bird barked, its beak opening and closing like a plastic head, tyrannosaurus head on a plastic stick operated by a child who uses it to grab small objects, objects a foot and a half farther from him than without the head its sharp tooth, small tooth jaws he could reach. The robot bark then squinted bark, fuck you, then turned around.

But just before it turned, it looked as it had looked the morning we met. On the blue calm suddenly it was the gate through which I dropped to hell, the robot of gold at first got tumbled from the sky as if it had been thrown into my robot from heaven are so hard from hell. It seemed to fly before it fell. It staggered as it stood, then squinted first at the lake than me. Coughed fuck you, follow me and flew off promptly. Couldn’t try to [inaudible] and followed it to hell. Now the bird walked, I didn’t try to [inaudible]. I followed it to the verge of the boiling mountain that boiled as if it were a lake on fire. The surface of the mountain, the fir trees that leaped and sank like drunks on headless bull. The bodies only also leaping, thinking spirits that can’t see hell is riding them and leap to bucket. Thinking hell is men and sink beneath its weight and leap again. The bowls beneath the fur and rocks like boots and snow in the dirt and in the dirty snow maintained at the summit by enormous loud machines.

So hot they melted almost as soon as they made it. Flesh colored snow. So they made of infinite flesh tone. No snowflake was the same color as any other. So, they all melted and flowed down the mountain together. And collected in a ditch at the bird, which rolled plants that looked like tumbleweed and bread and made of bang. The water shivered as the mountain boiled. The ditch was narrow. I stepped back a few steps then I ran a few steps forward and I leaped across it. And the mountain boiled more furiously and the stream of flesh toned water flowing from the peak at once flooded its banks and all the mountain side at once was covered in the mountain side at once, became a face, but featureless and sweating off its skin. And I stood ankle deep in the skin and turned to the robot bird who hadn’t leaped, barked before I spoke.

What did you think would happen asshole? Who told you to jump? Who told you to jump the ditch? The bird had been tugging the middle finger on his left hand as it barked and now it bit the finger off, frowned and spat the finger in the ditch. And the red rolling plants in the ditch turned blue and seemed to die. Stopped rolling, just drifted in the shallowing tan water as the water retreated from the face of the mountain and became again a stream of melted skin trickling down the mountain. And the bird then stepped across the ditch. You got to pay fucker or somebody is going to have to pay for you. You’re lucky that finger was worth NFU. The water where the finger had entered chased the finger as is sank. Making a whirlpool where the finger sank that slowly widened it looked like a hole and skin. Bloodless, but opening forever, that would, if it kept growing would in time and seeing the ditch, the mountain and all hell. The bird stepped forward and began to climb.

So, I have one more. It’s shorter of those poems about health. For some reason I just decided it would be cool to scroll like way past it. This is called “The Mind Of Hell” and it comes right after the one I just read.

My ankles turned the mountains sweat back. Rippling one and two with each step I take weighting up the mountain. The brown sweat blowing up. Color of every skin tone merge, eddies as if it were a mind of flesh deciding. Not a mind of water on a mountain whether deciding at my ankles whether to turn, return to the sky beach light at the summit of the boiling mountain upon which no shade balls are gathered. The climb against the effortless falls to the summit from which life is wrench like water stone by heat that vaporizes rock. Conflicting with the mind of hell that holds the rock together. Where the vapor and the will rock meet the light emerges.

By which hell is lit that is not everywhere lit. Or to flow around my ankles down to the ditch at the base of the mountain in which the new sweat would not raise the level of the sweat already flowing. But only thinking for a moment only slow the sweat consumed by unconfessed [inaudible] constantly in a constant circuit. A mind of water seeming almost the turn from being water, not to slow down, but climb. To change its being as with each step I take, I tear it. But I have lived a life on earth and step and step and watch the water for the shimmer I make carrying.

Well, I’ve read these poems and now I wish I hadn’t, but that’s okay. Let me read another poem or maybe the grammar will be compounded by me reading another poem. So, a couple of months ago I wrote this poem called “Hex” and it’s going to be the last poem I read. And was really happy when I wrote it. I mean, writing generally really make me happy but a particular kind of happiness.

And I wondered… Well, I first wished I could continue the poem but it got to its end and it ended. And then I thought it would be neat if I could do it again, but it didn’t seem like it was possible. But then a few days ago, a variation on the first line of “Hex” occurred to me. And I just started writing another poem. “Hex” is called “Hex” because it’s in blank iambic hexameter. But also the first one was, I mean, it was actually named after the Bark Psychosis album Hex but it’s now also called “Hex” because it’s in hexameter. So, I’m going to read, I’ve written three more poems that are after “Hex” and I’m going to read those and then I’m going to read “Hex.” So this is the newest one, which I just finished today I guess, and it’s called “After Hex Three.”

One’s opportunities to be unhappy are one’s single most inheritance, all other unities requiring acknowledgement of pendant interests. It’s a miracle to whom what person you’re still alive. The city is an alphabet of numbers. Those past 26, a sudden, never ending in boundlessness but once so short and narrow, you sang it as you smashed fully trains together. That sneering green engine smashing and the blue engine that really smile. How youth, but how really youthful.

Reverse nostalgia of the unfamiliar grid becoming home. All comfort is decay. The city you’re sure is not a living thing because it gets harder as it decays, more fatal where there’s less of it until it’s gone and all at once, not fatal. In hills, you want to imagine green hills cushion saw upon which you imagined you would lay a gingham blanket, a wicker basket. Then from the latter pool of cartoon sandwich and a cartoon slice of pie on a white plate. Life apart from the world, except the slice itself as a dog’s chew toy, your dog’s.

It matches neither world exactly, not the cartoon world you when you were a child imagined and not the world. The wrong colors in the cartoon, the texture of the color is wrong. No life in the world, no life at all. But in the cartoon, it’s too much of the world and all the lights of the world, the plastic. All comfort is decay. And you have spent your middle life searching for the turkey leg the greedy wolf pulled last from the basket and the cartoon. After watching, what your imagination then developed almost without your input. You’ve searched passively it’s true. You’ve sat at the dining table in the afternoon and who are they this family? You want to say arisen, but you want to say they manifested like moaning spirits in a bog.

Uncertain where you’ve got the image from, every Thanksgiving you have sat at the festooned table in the afternoon, a bib from the Red Lobster in the heart of the next town, over around your neck, knife in one hand, fork in the other and licked your maw exactly like the greedy wolf. As if your hunger were a spell, you pass them food. But never has the cartoon turkey leg appeared, the perfect golden turkey leg you hunger for, since you were small, when you first saw the golden light drawn steaming in the picnic basket like a sword drawn steaming from the entrails of your enemy.

This is “After Hex Two.”

One’s opportunities to be unhappy are both indiscernible and too big, like the gray wall of a Gropius in fog. And as you rise, the wilderness from the campus lawn, as you were held up from the campus lawn, although immediately you kneel and broke for the shoe, the building, not from your now wet, right foot. But first as you ride, then as you grow. First you are asked, but then required to state your name and name the place. You think you will be able to distinguish your warm blood from the cold accumulation of the fog, but when you touch the grass, it’s all cool.

And this is second to last poem that I’m going to read today. And this is “After Hex One.”

One’s opportunities to be unhappier, dynamic, ever expanding. The Ford Mustang chasing the sun as it sprints panic to the Western limit, which was the morning you first didn’t think of the riot. And the weeks afterwards and following what once had seemed and anybody would have said stuff seemed to have been a sequence of events in time and only to the intelligentsia, then hidden. Now they scurry from one nimbus to another down the block until they disappear in dark. Then they reappear in light, then disappear again in darkness. And then, finally beneath the next streetlight they’re gone. They disappear in life. To whom what seemed to you a sequence was a sphere of time expanding in a space with limit and with walls and it’s one in which objects are attacked. The space pays to what authority. The sphere of the riot for what seem likely, but it was only minutes.

The sphere was conveyed the polished gem from hand to hand, one representative to the next, one party to the other. And the weeks of their competitive expressions of concern. In the minutes of those weeks, rolling a golden coin across scarred knuckles, a magician or a criminal, but both the coin of sphere in the space between two hands, a coin in the hand, eventually like bullets in America, the riot passes through our heads and we forget the riot, everything. But what once seemed strange to you becomes your heart American, your heart’s blood strange to you, hidden in you. The truest part of you unknowable, a minotaur of the hidden god who is not you, the god not even of your own heart.

This is my last poem. Thank you all again for coming. Thank you, Noah and Geoffrey for making it happen. And this poem is about six pages long so I’m letting you know ahead of time. And it’s called “Hex.”

One’s opportunities to be unhappy are unlimited. Or limited, but only by one’s own imagination. Which is powerful, but fragile, is defenseless. But as limited only by thinking as Bark Psychosis did it in music, at the start of the new music picks itself the start of the new music. After Talk Talk started it. Who after [inaudible] started it. Well after Public Image Limited though John Lydon has since gone bad or more offensively is we always will. Were after Public Image Limited started it going bad and not to mention slip, not to mention the American. Lyden [inaudible] gone for our in America, America for Trump or in Los Angeles bad. Morrissey not even new was never in it, except his talent was.

And Johnny Marr and always the dead old art will suffer further life if new artists with irresistible ability to work to extend it. Though such artists must not seek to extend the dead old art or they will fail, but must make only what they must make. And if it aligns with the dead, the dead will live again one day. Low strings and [inaudible] dissonances when the strings are strung together, sirens of the cops in sight, their wooden bodies, they’re brown bodies.

Listen, first the sirens come from nowhere in the world except for them, for them the sirens come. Announcing nowhere and then the lights from nowhere around the corner, red like an idea of fire as the drums roll beneath the string, a shopping cart from far from where it will beneath the city. On a sidewalk in the day in the middle of the city, roll beneath the city the strings from which the sirens come.

The lights that chase the sirens down and live as an idea of fire and nowhere, no guitar. But space and stillness where guitars would be. Stillness in space and the boy singing his lone unhappiness in the midst of the war world whom I would escape from the midst of the war world. It’s now oppressive stillness, and its windowless disease. It’s timelessness, it’s nothing’s happening in my life. I don’t have time to do that. Where to run from timelessness in the windowless room, in the room in which you sealed yourself at the start of the pandemic, hoping for more life, more time. As Bark Psychosis did it at the start of the new music and made a sound to which one wonders from life. And in which one wonders still having arrived. One’s opportunities to be unhappy are unlimited, though often lately limited by the end of the world.

But maybe the end of the world is ending. Maybe soon one will be, in small ways, sad again. One’s opportunities available to one’s attention. Gliding to the horse man, winnying himself [inaudible]. Long since afraid they take the spurs and pop it. But he makes an eager winnying, hoping to sound ready. He is ready to be the last American, when he attacks. Fills unfurl beneath him to the hill, beneath the surface of lake fury and the ice above the hill. It seems to constitute the lake from somewhere other than the lake. It could be a picture of a dead lake, the surface of the thing a picture of something else. How far have we traveled now to be in the now impossible presence of things to which we ride in life. That touches and is never touched.

All things like anything, us even in the light. How far we have traveled to, to watch the lake unmoving from the parking lot, approaching the moment. The moment was already in our mind, the conflict, the long visionary gaze across the eye. In the midst of which the gaze, the ice infinite has no middle, but is made of middle echo. In the midst of the gaze the moment through which the visionary, we will leave our bodies gazing, or at least our mind for once won’t trouble what we see, such deep conflict. We have known our piece of conflict on the drive to the lake. By the time we reached the lake, we turned around all this in our mind. The peace accomplished and retreated from except, we parked, except we gaze at the white expanse and sigh, not knowing which emotion demands the sigh. And the sigh leaves us staggering, a butterfly, a frozen breath, as butterflies of [inaudible]. You have watched them, seemed uncertain where to land, upon which flower.

You’ve watched a butterfly choosing, or if it wasn’t choosing, still it seemed to choose a flower pattern like itself. Our breath escaping in the haze of the [inaudible]. You watch yours disintegrate and do not recognize yourself. But I am watching and I see you breathing in one. I can’t see beneath the picture of awe on your face the image of the visionary moment. And even if it isn’t happening beneath the end, I forgive myself for feeling nothing, no visionary [inaudible].

In the hills roll beneath the surface of the lake. As [inaudible] did it, no singing, but in guitar. And sometimes human voices singing, keyboards sometime. In 1997, three years after Hex at the start of the new music. Each guitar, a wall and hammer bolt. If we forgave ourselves for making what we have made, we would destroy what we have made before we got ourselves to enjoy it. No, we won’t release ourselves to joy with our forgiveness, never. And so we build a tower from the top of which we hope to reach forgiveness. Opportunities for one to be unhappy are unlimited. A pitch of silence in the everyday unsounded.

One’s opportunities belong to one. But rogue unhappiness has claimed their midst in a consuming infinity that even now [inaudible]. As [inaudible] did it, though you didn’t notice. Listen, the songs are a hit, but listening, the sheer connections between all things become long flat. America, the sheer connections spray and clouds at the Capitol and those who scream they want you back, they’ve never seen you. And they wouldn’t recognize you if you came. And those who lie face down on the floor in the chamber see the floor only. The woman on the other side of the door wide eyed and bleeding sees no metaphor. Oh, music, where have you fled? Oh, music who will make you?

Thank you.

Geoffrey G. O’Brien: Shane, thank you so much for hexing the I am to further life and for encompassing so many kinds of terrain into your project. It’s a great way to end this series of readings for 2021. We will certainly be back in the fall although we will be remote despite this anguishly embodied image that I’m now sharing the space with because we need to make decisions long before we can know what will happen. And we’ll try and take advantage of the remoteness to really book some great people who are far-flung.

I want to thank UC Berkeley Libraries and our amazing audio visual team. And I really, emphatically want to thank Noah Warren who’s made the difference between theory and practice in exist and in coordinating the series. And I don’t know who’s coming next fall and spring yet, but I do know one of the people who’s coming and that will be Noah Warren himself who has a book of poetry coming out from Copper Canyon about the complete stories. So, we know at least one of our readers for next year. Thank you for supporting the series and see you then. Bye.