Ray Osborn

Excerpts from Tchotchke Party



It seemed one way,
turned out another
and left a certain
identity-scratch upon
the name not mine,
stood, a wink,
winking like a jar
of strawberries
ready for a bath
in the bubbly juices
of its own sweetness,
left to soak until oils
unfurl in madness:
homemade we are
most ready, Devil,
in these loud moments.




My waltz is heaven’s star
of the sins starved in
wake of my consumption.
I am a mockery
but I need stand
amongst corn fields.
To dance with me
is to mate the sun.
A mockery she is of man
and I, ovenly jig,
am seasoned
but this is practice
for or of Death, who,
in this frock, in the,
the dance, scythe aimed:
me, to play the mate.




I am pliable and I am my mate
for there is not a single crow
and this is but sweetly duration
in time, skin and heckle,
and lord do I lay with none
in a green impermanence,
the solemn fields need not endure
and I am durable, I;
he is somewhere else.
Hell's made of coo's empty echo
and to his roost I continually peck
and peek sunshine to defunct seed
but from his absence I lay still-born.




The old man of the spring tells of growing pains in stages of 3 colours
whose Latin names are the same as his prey’s but the words now
are inverted, castrated, and frustrated in their flight from youth.
He chews on a dead weed
some of which gets caught
in his carbon weary teeth, his gums likely pepper and pink as they are.
Nearly teeth whose diagrams are lovely and evaporate into extinct pelts
and carried no dream whatsoever. He has lost his humour to the green,
to the point of a toothpick carved by an earwig’s sharp parts, suck, stuck,
to the point of jejune reasoning, is he, prevented from being important
to the country? If a drop of spit
then rebuked saliva saves things?




A tail displays danger
por el alma
while scant leaves
a memory of dusk
in a layer, a husk of
the trailed symbol
animated, anima
whose velveteen
antler’s shed meadows
or come back
to the tree’s of memory:
insight here is preferred
porous and O
there is a window
to sexuality, it widows,
becomes a window
to falls of the fawn,
leapt into forest’s bloom
of childhood
in quietness
is nature’s earthly turned sigh,
in an unfolding of its own
polka dotted love
for itself and
everything else
coloured of wood.
Is this the truth?
Stuck in my throat?
Drawl of vowels?



Banana Slug

The slug now crushed,
I could not ask for more
but need explain my love
for you and your poisons
in slow motion ecstasy,
hasty love, lost in numbness
not to see who wins
(because we both lost)
but rather to know
or be crushed knowing
my conscience turned
to mushed baby-meal
and I would rather
animate your speech,
“How sorry you’ll be
to see me go”,
comes as the last
and final blow.




And then no flame for our timeless dispersal
molded into a crack of various star signs
intern and meanly tingle in mutation from
hot not cold, life not death, vision not blind
but in the depths of pleasurable creation
I find myself hideous and lackluster, vision,
the one we’re in, undauntedly material lie.
What would you say of my eyes, dear one?
Do they pelt with unremitting bruises
or might they pull on cordons of nerves?
Either way I’d be in the bleak part of your brain
unhurriedly unfurling snags of song
like your hurried jaunt from calcified limbo.



Horseshoe Crab

If I had a frame by which to look,
the pane of wood between would lean
and ream with plush, the sense,
of any sensual experience of the skin;
water and sand make two of a half
and sky doesn’t imply but simply falls in half.
I reap red in the eyes and might see
by scarlet impositions like latinate words
atop and below the line of cracking wood
yet why my eyes were since cut in half
plagues my rabid visage or aperture
so far so that dense plains catch me,
a monster, between thumb and fingernail,
of gold and God we could talk
but here it would be unusual.



Notes on the Text

1. “Tchotchke Party” is, at base, an examination of my four modes of love: intellectual, sexual, philosophical, and love for the comrade. One of the major themes of this libretto is unrequited love. After reading various definitions for the word “Tchotchke” I decided the word expresses how I feel throughout the work, a mainline of my emotional resonance. The text explores feelings of exclusion, insufficiency, mourning over the lack of self-worth, and questions constantly the value of love in its rawest forms. This is a party partially because we huddle together for warmth in the face of rejection, attempting to find something special in the heap of rubble. The other part of the equation is made from the dark humor that runs throughout the libretto, especially in the form of sentimentalization; however, this is not to say that the sentimental is without merit, for by clowning with it, I find it meaningfully pliable for the type of mourning and loss of self-worth that a Tchotchke Party might imply. Not only are we all tchotchkes but we make tchotchkes of each other, finding the valuable in that which seems like utter junk to others, even ourselves. My personal tchotchke collection, speaking literally here, is forefronted by a ceramic hawk. This is where I got the idea to write each of the Occitan sonnets that make up the libretto after animals. The animals are extended metaphors for emotional states carried through the anima, their stories told through my dialogue with imaginary people, close friends, myself, lovers, ex-lovers, and even some who will never be my lovers. Because it is a libretto it is meant to be sung to music in the form of an opera. While writing I paired each sonnet with a partner, one to be sung over and around the other.

2. In the recording below, the free-jazz ensemble “Ian Christensen Quartet” kindly played an improvisation of the music imagined around “Tchotchke Party.”

3. Special thanks to Michael Mandeville, who commissioned me to write the libretto in the first place, and Marisa Barone for her extensive edits and thought management throughout the eight-month process.

The Poet Reads Her Work

Ray Osborn reads “Cock,” “Hen,” “Wasp,” “Fox,” and “Deer,” with musical accompaniment by the Ian Christensen Quartet.