Friday, November 7th, 2008...5:52 pm

todd moore | that terrible shaking in the blood

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Writing

Dillinger involves a terrible shaking in the blood. A feeling that somehow I have been shot and that the wound is a through and through and that while everything’s ultimately going to be alright though there is a lot of blood showing and the wound has suddenly grown a mouth and is trying to talk but all it can do is stutter and drown in the blood. I’d been going a little crazy all day with the idea that I had to write something about Dillinger but I didn’t know what. Like I was trying to ghostdance something out of my dreams and it felt intense the way it was building up inside, intense I wanted to climb behind the wheel of a very fast car like in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, turn on the ignition, and burn rubber out of the lot and down the highway. That was the feeling though I didn’t have a title for what I wanted to write, or rather what I had to write what I was spooked to write because whenever I felt this way it wasn’t a matter of wanting to write anything, it was a matter of having to write something and having to do it pronto, now, suddenly, because the sparks were gathering all over my fingers and I didn’t really have a choice. And, I hate it and I love it when it gets that way because it feels like the fires are getting all ready to start by themselves. Born again begins with the invocation of sparks.

I wanted

to do something machine gun frantic. I wanted to do something out of control. I wanted to do something where the machine gun is so out of control that it is actually in control. Like Al Pacino in SCARFACE. But, I’d already done the machine gun with Dillinger’s Thompson. Then I’d done it again. And again. And again. With Baby Face Nelson. With Billie Frechette. I could always write a section and throw it away. I could always write twenty rapid fire pages and toss them into the fire. Where they were probably born anway. Or put them through the shredder. Or just simply tear them across and across and across in a kind of violent stumbling frenzy feeling the way the words were torn into pieces and then going away from me like damaged universes. There is something horribly wonderful about destroying a twenty page poem and watching that nightmare vision fall away from my fingers in lacerated pieces.

But

this was going to be different in the way that the different cracks toward the new, I could feel it the way I could feel The Name Is Dillinger when the first sparks of it flashed across my nerve endings. I could feel it the way I could feel the way The Corpse Is Dreaming was singeing the hair up and down on my arms. I knew this was going to be cankered with strangeness and I had to get it down but I wanted to enjoy the feeling and the frenzy. And, the only way to do that was go out somewhere up in the mountains, sit on the patio of a sidewalk café or coffee house and watch the storm clouds fill up with lightning over lightning and just let the poem happen. It felt like I was standing on the threshold of a dream I was watching. That’s when I got the first line. Or, really just the first words. Born again. I had heard those words so many times before I was sick of them. But, I’d only heard of them in connection with religion. Especially, fundamentalist religion. And, my born again baptist uncle who was always trying to get me to go to church with him when I was a kid. Who reportedly knew how to speak in tongues, though I’d never heard him. He liked to brag how he’d been born again in the blood of the lord. That he would go up in the rapture. He knew it more than he knew anything else in the world. He liked to tell me that I needed to be born again, too, or I’d be lost forever. The thing he didn’t know was I wanted to be lost forever. I wanted to be so lost that I could never be found. What I used to do when I saw his car pull up in front of the hotel on a Sunday morning was take off out the back door and head down to the railroad tracks and the river. I liked being down there with the drifters, the hoboes, the derelicts, the alkies. I especially liked it because I felt free with the lost. I felt totally and utterly free.

But

born again, now with Dillinger and a machine gun. Born again now brought all kinds of new possibilities. Just the idea of born again with the machine gun appearing in the same sentence sent the electricity flying through my blood. Born again in the blood of the machine gun. Born again in the flash of the gunfire. Born again in the machine gun moon. Born again in the machine gun’s shadow. I was writing the lines down as fast as I could. The machine gun sleeps in the born again fire. Death gives the best head when a machine gun goes off. I had no idea how these lines would finally go in the body of the poem but I knew it really didn’t make any difference once I started writing because they were all scrambled up in a wild velocity in my head and they felt good that way so I knew they would feel good almost any way I could get them down on the paper. It was like trying to arrange fire inside fire. No matter where you stuck the flames they got all mixed up in other flames.

Now,

that all kinds of lines were coming to me, I knew I had to have stories. A poem like this is no good without stories. I had to have Dillinger talking in between the born agains and I had to have Baby Face talking in between the born agains and I had to have Billie coming in and going out of the born again talking, I had to have the born again sexual feel of her because born again is really no good without the presence of sex and being intensely alive and firing a machine gun that also felt intensely alive and I had to have the sound of her voice the sound of her dreams the rough darkness of her desire and Dillinger had to somehow be part of it all because whether he says it or not it is his dreams or his big dream of money and bank robbery the movies and the violent thrust of his body his entire outlaw presence shaking and whispering and pulsing through all of it the entire poem is what makes Dillinger Dillinger.

I wanted

to take born again to the edge of the american precipice, I wanted to ride born again into the royal gorge of exuberance, desire, and destruction. I wanted to marry the words born again to the murderous shaking of machine gun recoil. And, I know no one had ever tried to do that before. No one ever dared.

And,

the whole time I was writing born again it seemed as though I could hear someone back in the darkness speaking in tongues. It began as a kind of low chattering hum that I couldn’t tune out. No matter how hard I tried to plunge into the poem, that stuttering hum persisted until it became a kind of trembling rhythm. Until it became a separate song that someone was singing behind me, though rationally I knew no one was there. No one except the poem was there. The poem, the blood of the poem, the thrust of the poem, the ghost body of the poem had somehow made itself manifest in its sound and it was the sound I was playing off, riffing off, improving off, dreaming off. I had somehow conjured the body, the skeleton of the poem through its sound and I was listening to the whole poem speaking in tongues while I was writing it down. And while the poem was speaking in tongues I was born to the machine gun, the death song, the words.

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1 Comment

  • i absolutely love the play of “born again” in this essay. that and being lost forever, so lost that he would never be found. this essay plays out like a poem.

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