Roger Aplon was a founder and managing editor of Chicago’s CHOICE Magazine with John Logan and Aaron Siskind. He has had eleven books published: Ten of poetry (most recently It’s Only TV) and one of prose: Intimacies. He’s been awarded prizes and honors including an arts fellowship from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico. He lives in Beacon, New York & is working on a new collection: Poetic Improvisations after musical compositions by John Adams, Elliot Carter, Miles Davis, Denny Zeitlin, Jason Robinson, John Zorn to name a few. Read and hear examples of his work at:
After Otto Dix: 1891 – 1969
It’s said, in the aisles & alleys of the heart, he was driven to death crawling hand over hand through the mud & abandoned skulls from trench to trench to peel back the shredded skin from his comrade’s head to see inside where the blood & gristle nestled, where the face without an eye or mouth or nose could be seen up close for what it was – a trifle launched to gamble with those who come from the other side, over the hills & into the valleys, wielding bayonets & mustard gas leaving behind skeletons still clutching guns & knives staggering from grave to grave too driven to stop too exhausted to die.
The Weimar Years
are littered with withered women & the men who hunt them. Their breasts are withered. Their faces & fingers withered too. Where the sailors hunt the women are for sale & where the bankers hunt the women are robust & willing for a bigger price. The Weimar Years swagger in veils & plumes, they’re noisy & naked & leave the dead to rot in their walk-up flats where the blood on the floor is sticky & scrawny dogs fuck in the cobwebbed corners. The Weimar Years spawn these hags with their filed teeth & baggy tits to swirl like irrelevant ghosts across their mirrored & lacquered rooms where the whiskey flows, the black night falls & the band plays on.
In Gallery Four
he’s posed a fox like a panther to sever your heart & trash your bones. & him, trussed in a tux, a naked woman on his lap. He strokes her flabby breast & licks her ear. She smokes & stares into the void where the old pros haggle for a quick date & a cat cracks a rat with its saw-toothed bite. Dix is busy here & his collection growls & grows. He’s added an oil of the dancer Anita Berber with her sable wrap, pet monkey & a silver brooch packed with cocaine & another, the desecration of Flanders, where the dead float in stagnant pools & the living resemble rotted stumps. Here are the heavy, well-worked hands of his parents, a gaggle of lawyers dealing cards to empty chairs & the smoke & haze that follows him like a shroud . . . sketch by sketch & stroke by agonizing stroke.
Neue Gallerie Space –New York – July 2010
Today, ten years since her suicide, four years since his return from Spain, twenty years since the detritus of his life had been collected in one place & would now be again: sorted, disbursed or finally destroyed. Last week this random assortment of acquisitions crossed the Rockies to the Great Plains & over the Appalachians to arrive here to be housed, for what might well be the last time, in the shed behind the house where he may, for the last time, live. & so, today, he opens the first box & it’s 1979 underwater, Belize, along the Barrier Reef & there’s Norman hiding behind a stand of fan coral & in an instant it’s 1985 & kicking cocaine & 1992 & there She is frame by frame cruising the canals of Venice & Amsterdam, the backstreets of Budapest & Prague, the ghettos of Marrakech & Paris – & now, the carton marked tools with father’s favorite wrenches & another with mother’s assorted cups from Europe & Asia & there, in the corner, his son’s bronzed statue of a nude woman holding, in her raised hands, an ashtray from 1928. Moving slowly now, he stacks the boxes, hangs the tools & shelves the books & photos in anticipation of The Salvation Army driver who comes on Wednesday for the too-big-to-wear wet-suits, the too-old to play Fisher Amp, Aunt Sylvia’s treasured assortment of aged linens & box after box of kitchen gadgets duplicated too many times for too many homes: Barcelona to San Francisco & points between. & So . . . even as the door locks behind him, he knows he’ll not be free of this unraveling history, not until that inevitable day when his son will arrive to execute, for the last time, its dénouement.
After: U S A by John Dos Passos*
“The young man waits at the edge of the concrete, with one hand he grips a [well] rubbed suitcase of phony leather, the other hand almost making a fist, thumb up . . . the wind of cars passing ruffles his hair, slaps grit in his face.” j d p (U S A)
His first time would be a train & its darkened cars would be jammed full of unwashed men on the move & they would fade into the backstreets of Baltimore & St. Louis & Denver like lice in a dog’s scruffy coat . . . &
there would then be a picket-line & men & women chilled & men & women & kids dodging trucks & gangs of hungry scabs & cops & “Gitbackyascum!” & “Upyurass” & “Eatsheet” & “Fuckyurmother!” &
it was 1918 & the front lines & smoke & rain & the stench of rotting human flesh & gas that scorched the eyes & what were we doin’ here anyways & who sent us & where are they now & why . . . &
there’d be a meeting in a walnut paneled office in New York or Detroit or Chicago & there’d be starched white shirts & cocktails & lawyers with contracts & a gold pen to hold & a line to sign on & money would rain down like ruby chips on the roofs of Pierce Arrow cars & fall too . . . as soft as snow . . . &
there’d be the hospital room & the body on the bed would be stretched on wires & the medicine would be morphine based & no one will remember who or what but there’d been horses & batons & they’d been warned . . .
“The punch in the jaw, the slam on the head with the nightstick . . . the big knee brought up sharp in the crotch . . . the walk out of town . . . to stand and wait . .. where the reek of ether and . . . gas melts into the silent grassy smell of the earth.” j d p (USA)
[When the bodies had been counted (here & there) & stacked (here & there) & the votes (too) had been counted & the mention (again & again) of ‘change for the good of all men’ had been said (again & again) & hours for work had been shortened & wages raised & prices too (of course), Dos Passos saw the door that he wanted open begin to close & after his first crop of apples had been harvested he left the salvation of the working-poor to others & planted peaches for the next year & pears for the next & cherries.]
* John Dos Passos was raised with money & connections to the right schools but, in spite of that background, he grew to resent the rich & their manipulation of the working people for private economic gain and how the power of money over men was ripping apart the egalitarian fabric, both social & psychological, that was the original hope of the founders of the country. Still, by the end of WWII he also came to detest the charlatans who tried to organize & subsequently manipulate the working men & working women for their own political gain.