Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jack Scott writes

Part II

I’ve mentioned clothes
and boots and hats,
things that touch the skin
each day directly,
but an introspective fear,
an equally affecting one,
arises when we try to see
ourselves as others see us,
unwise advice to follow.
A metamorphosis begins
like something catching
which, once its run its course,
provides unnatural clarity
or, worse, gross deformation
of your alter ego’s image.
For the two or more of us,
in any place thereafter,
there’s room for only one:
a looking-glass or me.


Whenever I think about Houdini,
strait jacket comes to mind,
so I don’t think of Harry
as often as I can.


I’ve never worn a ring
and don’t intend to wear one -
tourniquet surrounding
what I’m as attached to
 as it’s attached to me.
If a robber with a razor
or pruning shears
ever cornered me
demanding all my valuables,
after forking my wallet over
I’d reach into my pocket
and give up my ring - 
 and my pocket watch.


What I require of house,
is simplicity and openness:
lots of doors and windows,
closets without latches,
even drawers would open
from inside and without.
No locks on anything.
Stairs, cantilevered
with open treads, no risers.
The fridge - Houdini’s Ice Box -
I keep at arm’s length
every time I open it,
if no one’s right behind me.
I fear freezer more,
so I won’t have one.
There would be no attic,
crawlspace or cellar
or any place I’d fit it
unable to git out.


If you Google up The Whale 
be grateful there’s no likelihood
of ending up like Mythter Jonah
in this something like a washer
getting absolutely nothing clean.
It would be dark, of course,
and very, very wet
with its steady whirl pool
where all the fishes migrate
only downstream
into peristalsis.
Nature designed gullets
to be something like a toilet,
a sphincter at the nether end.
Too big a turd to flush,
much to your host’s discomfort
you’ve become a stubborn plug,
the stuff of future ambergris.
There aren’t any footholds,
nothing to sit or stand on;
sleep would be hard to come by.
Slimy creatures slither round
in this organic cavity,
too much distracted
to think of you as snack.

There’re daylit glimpses  
whenever whale swallows
or opens up its spout.
That’s when air streams in,
about enough to breathe
if you don’t panic,
and with it lots of fishes
in each big bite of ocean.

You might wonder dizzily, 
Why me?, that human question
when confronted with leviathan,
pedestal upon which
so many fashion deity.

How does the story end?
If you should dream of it,
give yourself a break:
No sense to be stuck in
someone else’s nightmare.

(Jonah did get out.
Will you?)


I must anthropomorphize
To wing my way through this one.
Constipation is an elephant,
one of several in the room.
While painfully enthroned
I've more than ample time
to, against my will, imagine
how my contender in this bout
must feel, if me,
repulsed by the thought
of reciprocation.
I would move mountains,
swallow seas to avoid
this involuntary visualization
of nasty claustrophobia.
I'd rather sweat bullets
than shit them. "Nuff said.


I would not wrestle octopus
for all the rice in China;
and throw in all the tea.
Water’s not my element
and we speak in different tongues.
Eight arms to two
aren’t healthy odds for me.
And he has tricks
hidden up his sleeves:
poison and inky cloud
to camouflage
the maybe fatal deed.
I might consider contest
with this fabled creature
(we would get a lot of press)
if I could tolerate the thought
of all those tentacles and suckers
wrapped around and squeezing
all the breath and juice from me.
It’s not the pain I fear as much
as the movies of it in my mind
that drives me crazy.



  1. Erik Weisz was born in Budapest, the son of a rabbi. When he was four, the family emigrated to the US and settled in Wisconsin for a time before moving permanently to New York. At 9, he became a trapeze artist, “Ehrich, the Prince of the Air” and later a champion cross country runner. When he was 16 he read a biography of the French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin and began his own magic career as Harry [after the "Dean of American Magicians," Harry Kellar] Houdini, appearing in a tent act with strongman Emil Jarrow, performing in dime museums and sideshows, billing himself as “The King of Cards” and working as "The Wild Man" at a circus. He and his brother “Dash” formed an act for a while as The Brothers Houdini; Dash began courting another performer, but she married Harry instead and replaced Dash in the act, becoming The Houdinis. (Dash also became a noted escape artist, billed as Theodore Hardeen, and they occasionally made joint appearances). In 1899 he began to concentrate on escape acts and became a vaudeville star. As Harry Handcuff Houdini he toured Europe and challenged Scotland Yard and other police forces to restrain him after being stripped nude, searched, put in shackles, and locked up in jail. Returning to the US, he extended his repertoire to include chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, straitjackets under water, escaping from inside a sealed milk can locked inside a wooden chest, nailed packing crates, riveted boilers, wet sheets, mail bags, the belly of a whale that had washed ashore in Boston, and being buried alive, and became the highest-paid performer in American vaudeville for many years, and in the early 1920s produced and statted in movies he made for his own Houdini Picture Corporation. In 1912, he introduced the Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which, his feet locked in stocks, he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet filled with water. In 1926 he was submerged for 1 ½ hours in a sealed coffin before escaping. He was planning a spectacular stunt for 1927 -- strapped in a straitjacket, sealed in a casket, and then buried in a large tank filled with sand – but never got the chance to perform it. While reclining on a couch nursing a broken ankle before a performance in Montreal in 1926, a McGill University student asked him if he believed in the Biblical miracles and if punches to the stomach would not hurt him, then proceeded to hit him in the abdomen several times. He performed in great pain that night and couldn’t sleep; after two days of pain, he finally saw a doctor. Wno advised immediate surgery, but Houdini refused. At his last appearance, in Detroit, he passed out but revived and resumed his show. A week later, on Halloween, he died of peritonitis, an inflammation of the thin tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen and covers most of the abdominal organs, brought about by a ruptured appendix.

  2. Yona (Jonah) was an 8th-century BCE prophet from from Gath-Hepher, a few miles north of Nazareth, the son of Amitai (“truth”), active during the reign of Jeroboam of Israel. According to tradition, as a boy he was brought back to life by Elijah the prophet. According to the Book of Jonah, he fled to avoid a divine mission to Nineveh; en route to Tarshish, a storm arose, and the sailors threw him overboard to save themselves and their ship. A huge fish then swallowed Yona, who prayed for three days and nights and promised to obey God. After being spewed out of the fish’s stomach, he went to Nineveh and foretold the city’s destruction in 40 days. The king himself put on sackcloth and sat in ashes, issuing a proclamation that decreed fasting, prayer, and repentance for the inhabitants, causing God to relent and spare the city, much to Yona’s disgust. He left Nineveh and built himself a shelter. God caused a gourd to grow over his shoulder to provide shade but then sent a maggot to kill it. Exposed to the full force of the sun, Yona became ill and asked to die. When God asked him if he was angry about the gourd, he said admitted he was “’greatly angry, even unto death.’ And the LORD said: ’Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow, which came up in a night, and perished in a night; and should not I have pity on Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and also much cattle?’" [4: 9-11] Yona is mentioned twice more, in Chapter 14 of the deuterocanonical “Book of Tobit,” at the conclusion of which Tobit's 127-year-old son, Tobias, rejoiced at the destruction of Nineveh by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus in eventual fulfillment of Yona’s prophecy. Centuries later, when the Pharisees demanded that Jesus give them a miraculous sign, “He answered, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.’" [Matthew 12:39-41] He is the only one of the “Twelve Minor Prophets” of the Jews to be mentioned (as “Yunus”) in the Qur’an, and Muslims developed their own traditions about him. After being expelled from Ta’if, Muhammad claimed that he and Yunus “the just” were “brothers” in that they were both Prophets of God; and, on another occasion, he insisted that "One should not say that I am better than” Yunus. Part of Nineveh’s ruins have been excavated: five gates, parts of walls on four sides, and two large mounds, one of which, Nabi Yunus, was believed to be his tomb. It was destroyed by Desh (ISIS/ISIL) in 2014 as part of the group’s campaign to destroy idolatrous religious sanctuaries.


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