I’ve been thinking about Dalmatians.
I want to say Dalmatian and mean what I say.
You might say I am trying to re-live that day in which I saw a Dalmatian, or that I hope such a day comes.
Step two: a city scene whispers Dalmatian.
I’m going to write a poem about Dalmatians, I say to an interlocutor in a secluded spot in the alley where it smells like burning rubber. Someone set a basketball on fire. My interlocutor is an artist who refuses to share his work with anyone even vaguely corporate. He eats one grain of quinoa a day alongside a wedge of turmeric and paints pictures using his own vomit and gives the pictures names like “Tim McGraw” or “Send My Love (To Your New Lover).”
That sounds like a horrible idea, my interlocutor replies. I should mention that my interlocutor is allergic to nuts, cotton, dogs, and, to top it off, is less than a fan of factoid lit. Unless you have some sort of expertise regarding Dalmatians, he clarifies.
It will be an epic, I clarify.
John Ashbery died recently. I read John Ashbery for the first time a month earlier around the same time I decided to write about Dalmatians. I knew even then that if I were to do this Dalmatian poem seriously, I would feel John Ashbery patting me on the back the whole time, kind of condescendingly, explaining how it’s not a good idea to call yourself a poet unless you are okay with being known as a bad poet among your peers or you have an expertise of some kind regarding Dalmatians.
That’s why I’m taking this aside to mention John Ashbery, even though, as far as I know, he did not have any expertise regarding Dalmatians. R.I.P.
Maybe my Dalmatian poem will be one thousand pages long and I will use MS Word to make sure that it is exactly one thousand pages long. The words will appear as a centre-justified column down the middle of the one thousand page document. One time I wrote a poem that was only one hundred pages long and sent it to a publisher in New York, New York. They wrote back immediately to say, We have publishing plans.
I sent it to a publisher in Vancouver who sat on it for over a year and then wrote back saying, We know you’d have liked to hear back sooner, but, alas… To this publisher I replied, Keats and probably some others (but Keats for sure) died waiting for publishers to respond. They didn’t respond.
When I send a Dalmatian to the editor of the Francophone trivia section of the bi-monthly community newsletter in Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba, will they respond?
I fasten a note to the collar that reads:
- Dalmatians are
textualtextile (i.e. they have fur)
- They constitute an archipelago between a private Utopia and the Lebenswelt
- Yet they are a poetics of self-awareness ergo post-poetics ergo not poetry. A Dalmatian.
- What a postindustrial biopolitical trans-state network of interlocking anarcho-cultural cells needs is more and more and more and
- but, alas…
- can’t publish it
My Dalmatian poem will be modeled on the triptych, linking it to a tradition that dates back from whenever triptychs were Pop. This is a conservative effort.
The first panel will depict how the Dalmatian was conceived, a historical event which—as some preliminary research has shown—is undocumented.
It is obvious by looking at the Dalmatian that it could not possibly be without mythology, because it is like nothing else around here and so we can assume it came from elsewhere. Or else it conceived itself as the symbol to confuddle all symbols. Or else it is the embodiment of opposites reconciled. Or else it has come to help humanity put out fires that we caused when we misused the printing press and gave up on love poetry before we really figured out why we were doing it in the first place. All of this is explained in the middle panel.
In the right panel, a newborn Dalmatian has two paws on the rim of a dissected head.
I am known as a bad poet among my peers.
Last year I said, I refuse to write anything legible.
Later I said, It’s hard to hold a job when I’m so po-mo, like, for real.
Now I say, I refuse to write about anything except Dalmatians.
The Dalmatian becomes a concierge to my thoughts and a wilderness guide to consciousness itself, and accompanies me into the other, unexplored half of my life.
I sleep longer and dream more vividly than ever even though I once owned a “Dreamachine” designed by William S. Burroughs and read several books on how to dream better dreams (such as consume large amounts of saturated fat, only sleep every second night, or sabotage your personal life to keep yourself in a perpetual state of emotional stress) with little success.
The temperature fluctuates.
My skin has been removed and replaced with new skin that combusts or radiates lights whenever I am in love.
I would also like to make the case that crying has a place in poems of a more confessional nature. For example, wrapping your head in a blanket from IKEA and crying into that. And then taking comfort in knowing that somewhere there are people having a nice time in an IKEA.
Being a young man, I was raised to believe that crying in public will fuck my job ops.
I decide I want nothing more than to be blotched out, to be stained again and again with unpredictable patterns.
After a lifetime of wanting death, I know what it means to have an intense desire to live.
I saw my Dalmatian by a lake in France, near Lyon. But that is irrelevant except for the fact that I can’t think of France, or hear French, or use English words borrowed from French like “cliché” or “bourgeois” or “avant-garde,” or say things like, This poem is cliché and bourgeois in a way that is incompatible with the avant-garde, or things like, as a bourgeois cliché, the avant-garde is expiré—I can’t say things like that and then go on with my day like everything is normal.
Lisa Robertson, in “The Seam,” says there is no everyday life.
A barber works on 137th Avenue and smokes half a cigarette per break to save money. A woman on 111th always asks how work is even though there is no work. A stranger named Scott works at the temp agency downtown. Listen. I once believed everyday life existed, and now I can give up on that horrible fantasy and move on.
Because my Dalmatian is sixty pounds of bone and muscle wrapped in a sheen of opposites reconciled, without a leash or an owner, curling under a picnic table to watch strangers.
Eyes = black marbles.
Black wet marbles.
Black wet marbles on a sunny day.
A sunny day. And a pail. A pail of milk. With black marbles. Falling into the milk.
We were made to believe that there is the phenomenal world and the other one: What we call the phenomenal world is reduced to A sunny day. And a pail. A pail of milk. With black marbles. Falling into the milk. And then it expands like an accordion and what we get is this: us+Dalmatian+everything.
There are some children among us. This may be the first Dalmatian they have ever seen.
On second thought, all subject matter is boring, my interlocutor says in the alley that smells like burning rubber. You can write your modern-fucking-day epic poem about whatever you want as long as it’s epic and someone gets seriously fucked along the way.
The Dalmatian makes itself known. It announces itself to itself, and whether it is heard at all is a matter of chance and not a result of the Dalmatian wishing to be heard.
Another soul is in another room.
A radar is in the sea, not so bright (so they say), and it doesn’t last.
Now and then I experience electric ecstasies, experiments of light in the mind, and I can’t explain why.
The body is detuned. The mind licks itself.
The Dalmatian gazes—I respond to the gaze as water to the leaves or leaves to the wind.
Kevin Holowack lives in Edmonton, Alberta and currently works odd jobs, including writing fairy tales and stocking a bookstore. He has spent much of his life living out of a backpack, studying in Sweden and Kosovo, and working for farms and hostels between Poland and Turkey. He spent much of 2017 travelling across Europe on foot. Kevin has his degree in English from the University of Alberta and his poetry and prose have appeared numerous times in that Edmonton-based magazine Glass Buffalo. His non-fiction work earned him an Emerging Writer Award at the Alberta Magazine Conference 2017 and he is currently working on a novel as part of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s annual mentorship program.