Ray Osborn

Excerpts from Tchotchke Party


ISSUE 39 | ANIMALS | APR 2014

Proem

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.
 

 

 

Cock

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.
 

 

 

Hen

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.
 

 

 

Fox

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?
 

 

 

Deer

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.
 

 

 

Lampray

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.