Saturday, January 28, 2017

Jack Scott writes

Godfather Frog 
[Part IV]

I fed my fire -
a beacon and an amulet -
to shield me
from the coming darkness
and its dreaded population.
When I got it roaring
I impaled the legs to broil
upon some upright sticks.
I boiled carrots and potatoes,
fried up all my bacon
as the dusk grew thicker.
I ate potatoes first -
the salt was on frog’s table,
I counted it as his.
I ate the veggies and the bacon
and drank a lot of beer.
When my entre was golden brown,
that of it that wasn’t black,
I bit into it and chewed
and chewed,
then tried to swallow.
It tasted like the worst of fish
that ever swam
in pollution’s waters
or creature ever crawled
from septic tank of demon fiends.

The result was Pavlovian,
negatively speaking.
I ran retching down the beach
and threw the limbs into the lake 
where I’d thrown the guts before.
Something there might eat it,
perhaps a monster fish.
The head was where I’d left it
and there it would remain
until tomorrow’s light.
I was terrified to touch it.
I turned my head away
and kept it so.

From biology dissections
I knew the twitching spasms
of totally dead frogs,
but I lacked experience
with death throes such as this
occult amphibian went through  
in this god-forsaken place.

Curse this throwing up
when there’s nothing more inside.
God damn you, H. P. Lovecraft,
god damn New England, too,
curse the fucking state of Maine
curse this stinking lonely lake
and its demon frog
and while I’m at it,
curse my erstwhile love,
wherever she may be,
for not being here with me,
but most of all curse me.

How will I fare this night?
There’s no human soul in sight
or near enough in mind.
I am more alone than I have ever been.
This path I’d taken:
first north toward what I thought was love,
then further north away from it,
through overcompensation,
into discomfort beyond measure.

I have gambled with my soul,
battling wilderness
on its terms and with its odds,
an amateur with more to learn
than I thought I knew.
Though my life’s been spared so far,
my mind’s still in its vise
to be branded by the wild
before set free. 
The memory of that frog
must stay with me.
It must!
Lest  I lose the rest of me:
the human.

Here is firewood
and a fire.
Beside it I will be
awake til dawn,

I am so sorry.


  1. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a Russian physiologist known primarily for his work in classical conditioning who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1904, after being nominated every year since 1901. He finally won for "his work on the physiology of digestion, through which knowledge on vital aspects of the subject has been transformed and enlarged" rather than the more important work for which he is famous, the "conditioned reflex" (or in his own words the conditional reflex) he developed jointly in 1901 with his assistant Ivan Filippovitch Tolochinov, who called it "reflex at a distance." In 1891 he had taken direction of the Department of Physiology at the Imperial Institute of Experimental Medicine in St. Petersburg and investigated the gastric function of dogs by externalizing salivary glands so he could collect, measure, and analyze the saliva and what response it had to food under different conditions. However, this work led to his conditioning experiments because he noticed that the dogs tended to salivate before food was actually delivered to their mouths and set out to investigate this "psychic secretion," as he called it. He learned that when a buzzer or metronome, for example, was sounded when food was presented to a dog, it would salivate when the food was presented but would later associate the sound with the presentation and salivate upon the presentation of that stimulus alone. Actually, despite popular belief, he may never have rung a bell to condition a response, though he employed a wide variety of stimuli including electric shocks, whistles, tuning forks, and a range of visual stimuli. The idea of "conditioning" as an automatic form of learning became a key concept in the developing specialism of comparative psychology and the general approach to psychology that underlay it, behaviorism. The classical conditioning experiments on dogs continue to influence how humans perceive themselves, their behavior, and their learning processes. Pavlovian conditioning was a major theme in Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel, "Brave New World" and later fiction such as Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow." His work was highly regarded by the Soviet government, but he made no attempt to conceal his contempt for Communism; for example, in 1923 he insisted that he would not sacrifice even the hind leg of a frog to the type of social experiment that the regime was conducting. He died of double pneumonia in 1936 at the age of 86, after asking a student to sit beside his bed to record the circumstances of his dying in order to provide evidence of the subjective experience death.

  2. H[oward] P[hillips] Lovecraft was a vitrually unknown American author who published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty at 46 but achieved posthumous fame through his horror fiction, though he was also one of the great letter writers of the 20th century, and perhaps in quantity he was surpassed only to to Voltaire as an epistolarian; his biographer L. Sprague de Camp estimated that he may have written 100,000 letters, 1/5 of which may have survived, on a variety of topics from weird fiction and art criticism to politics and history; many former aspiring authors later paid tribute to his mentoring and encouragement through their correspondence. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island, where he spent most of his life. His mother's family traced her ancestry to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631, and his father's grandfather emigrated from England in 1831. Both of his parents died in the Providence psychiatric institution, Butler Hospital. Lovecraft was a prodigy, reciting poetry at the age of three and writing complete poems by six. Frequently ill as a child, he barely attended school until he was eight and then was withdrawn after a year. He never graduated from high school. After leaving school, he lived an isolated existence with his widowed mother without seeking employment, primarily writing poetry. However, in 1913 he wrote a letter to "The Argosy," a pulp magazine, complaining about the insipidness of the love stories by one of the magazine's writers; the ensuing debate in the magazine's letters column caught the eye of Edward F. Daas, president of the United Amateur Press Association, who invited Lovecraft to join the organization in 1914. UAPA published his story, "The Alchemist," in 1916. His earliest commercially published work did not appear until 1922, when he was 31.

  3. A few days after his mother's death in 1921 he attended a convention of amateur journalists in Boston, Massachusetts, where he met a widow, seven years alder than he, and they married three years later and moved to her Brooklyn apartment. In New York he met a group of encouraging intellectual and literary friends (the "Kalem Club") who urged him to submit to "Weird Tales: The Unique Magazine" editor Edwin Baird, who accepted many of his stories for the struggling magazine and offered Lovecraft an editing job, but the 34-year-old writer declined due to his reluctance to relocate to Chicago: "think of the tragedy of such a move for an aged antiquarian," he wrote. The magazine was founded by J. C. Henneberger and J. M. Lansinger in 1923 but within a year was in financial trouble. Henneberger sold his interest in the publishing company to Lansinger in order to refinance "Weird Tales" and replaced Baird with with Farnsworth Wright in 1924, whose writing Lovecraft had criticized; Lovecraft's acceptance rate fell as a result. Meanwhile, his wife had lost her business and savings in a bank failure and moved to Ohio to seek work. In 1925 he wrote the outline for "The Call of Cthulhu" with its theme of the insignificance of all humanity and returned alone to Providence in 1926. The last decade of his life was his most prolific, and he frequently revised work for other authors and did a lot of ghost-writing; the magician Harry Houdini was one one of his clients and introduced him to the head of a newspaper syndicate, but financial success continued to elude him, though he often gave up trying to sell his stories if they were once rejected, never tried to sell some of them, and even ignored interested publishers. He never typed up "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" even after a publsher asked if he had a novel ready. He sometimes went without food to afford the cost of mailing letters. With his encouragement, correspondents such as Clark Ashton Smith and August Derleth freely borrowed elements of his stories such as his pantheon of ancient alien entities such as Cthulhu and Azathoth and eldritch places such as the New England town of Arkham and its Miskatonic University. After his death, this "Lovecraft Circle" carried on, especially in Derleth's work; he created an entire cosmology (complete with a war between the good Elder Gods and the evil Outer Gods), began to incorporate otherwise unrelated works into the new Cthulhu Mythos, and established Arkham House in 1939 for the purpose of publishing his material. In early 1937 Lovecraft was diagnosed with cancer of the small intestine and suffered from resultant malnutrition, living in constant pain until his death on March 15. In 1977 fans erected a headstone for him, with the phrase "I AM PROVIDENCE," a line from one of his personal letters, inscribed.


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