Monday, March 23, 2009

"Full Moon Wearing A Fez"

I mentioned in response to a recent comment that I’m planning on self-publishing a collection of my poems from San Francisco & Idaho, as well as a handful from Charlottesville, within the next month—as far as the Charlottesville, Virginia poetry goes, I am planning on publishing that work separately, probably next year. I’ll give more details in this space as they arise.

These poems really lay dormant & practically unremembered from the late 90s until last year, when they came bursting out the door once again, & were even joined by some new ones. Had that not happened, I doubt very much that there’d even be a Robert Frost’s Banjo, as this space has helped me to work out some very complicated & contradictory feelings regarding poetry.

At any rate, “Full Moon Wearing a Fez” dates originally to the very early 90s in San Francisco. It’s a “formal” poem—the form, which as you can see involves repeating lines in a certain pattern, is called a pantoum. It’s an Asian form, tho it has been used by a number of other English-language poets, including John Ashberry. The poem as it existed from the 90s was never just how I wanted it, however, & so it underwent quite a bit of revision last spring. As such, it’s a poem that bridges my writing in San Francisco & my return to poetry—such as it has been—over the past year.

Hope you enjoy.

Full Moon Wearing A Fez

In a castle that's brainstorming atop a mesa,
in Istanbul under an orange street lamp,
the typewriter won't stop clattering—
which irks Max Gala, the infamous ballerina who's tipsy

in Istanbul. Under the orange street lamp
Jimmy Calypso does the sort of tango
which irks Max Gala. Infamous as a ballerina, tipsy,
sweating capsized stars from a dry martini,

Jimmy Calypso does the sort of tango
that also looks like a sharkskin suit
sweating capsized stars from a dry martini.
These love letters penned in the moon's ink seem hypnotic

& also look like a sharkskin suit
lacking a handkerchief. Max Gala stares at
a love letter penned in the moon's ink; it seems hypnotic,
& literally flies off the clattering typewriter

like a handkerchief. & Max stares at
the castle's silent films while Silent Alice
literally flies off the clattering typewriter
that keeps itself busy cranking out

the castle's calamitous films; while Silent Alice
is smoking Chesterfield Kings on the heavenly elevator
that keeps itself busy cranking, out
where there are just a few stars

smoking Chesterfield Kings. On the heavenly elevator
also, Max feels like a palm tree in an Istanbul saloon
where there are just a few stars.
Some are blondes, & some the are the red-heads

Max also feels like. Palm trees in an Istanbul saloon
are obsessed with Silent Alice, like everyone else;
some are blondes & some are the redheads
drunk on french kisses—the french kisses

are obsessed with Alice. Like everyone else
Max sometimes takes life for a 3-ring circus
drunk on french kisses, the french kisses
glowing like the whiskey sours

Max sometimes takes life for; the 3-ring circus
is sparkling in the oasis amongst the stars; they're
glowing like whiskey sours
the moon sucks through puckered lips

sparkling in the oasis. Amongst the stars there are
last cigarettes & then there are last cigarettes
the moon sucks through puckered lips.
Max Gala thoughtfully finishes off the sky's

last cigarettes. & then there are last cigarettes
rolled up in Jimmy Calypso's love letter
Max thoughtfully finishes off. The sky's
like Alice's rhinestone-studded sunglasses, absorbing things

rolled up in Jimmy Calypso, his love letters
& Max Gala's feathered Stetson & Alice's
rhinestone-studded sunglasses. Like Alice, absorbing things,
a beautiful brunette bird's soaring thru the miasma

like Max's feathered Stetson. & Alice is
also one of the Queen of Night's incarnations that's
a beautiful brunette bird soaring thru the miasma
flecked with light, & graceful as a leather jacket

that's also one of the Queen of Night's incarnations.
That's how night exists in the desert castle,
flecked with light like a leather jacket
Max sports in delinquent mufti. She knows

that's how night exists in the desert castle
where bubbly's drunk from the snakeskin boots
Max sports. In delinquent mufti, she knows
the last dance is saved for Alice who's soaring

where bubbly's drunk from the snakeskin boots
that are actually Alice's;
the last dance is saved for Alice who's soaring
where the moon's fez is also floating. These thoughts

are actually Alice's
in a castle brainstorming atop a mesa,
where the moon's fez is floating, these thoughts also
are the typewriter's, & it won't stop clattering.

John Hayes
© 1990-2009


  1. I enjoyed "Full Moon Wearing a Fez", but my mind is whirling now, and I'm not sure whether it's from the form or the content. Going to look up pantoum.

  2. Hi Sandra:

    For better or worse, I like poetry that kind of makes folks dizzy.


  3. It is a tad dizzying! But I adore the notion of the moon wearing a fez!

  4. An interesting poem in an interesting form! A bit like a villanelle seen through a kaleidoscope. A pantoum... You've got me wondering how to do it.

  5. Hi Willow: Thanks-- I've always liked that title myself.

    Hey Dominic: Love your phrase about a villanelle seen thru a kaleidoscope. There's some info about pantoums online, tho in a lot of cases they also include a tag ending, which mine doesn't have (there may be other variations, too-- I can't recall). Old standby Wikipedia does have a page, including links to examples.

  6. Thank you for the pantoum introduction, I love it, french kisses and whiskey sours.


  7. This is too much for me. My head is reeling. I admire your ability to knit these words together so effortlessly. I could never hope to accomplish this.
    It's rather like an auctioneer's pitch, in a way - escalating and reaching feverish heights. I'm exhausted! It was fun though.

    Your work is a continual revelation.


  8. Thanks Julz! So Glad you enjoyed it.

    Hi Kat: I just see it as folks do different things poetically (or musically, etc.) But thanks a lot for your kind words.

  9. I didn't think it was dizzying. I do, however, think that poetry is like a hot cup of coffee. You don't sit down and drink it all at once. You pour it, have a sip, and then move to the couch. YOu drink some more. You get up. You look out the window. Another sip. You get the idea. To rush through a poem is to guzzle a cup of coffee and honestly, who does that? I'm very glad to have found your blog via KAT.

    Also, I ran across a folk tune that I'm writing a post about. First recorded by Seeger in '67 and then Springsteen in '97.

  10. Sorry - I didn't finish that thought - the song is My Oklahoma Home. It's been called one of the most underappreciated folk songs ever written. I should have the post up in a day or two. I htink I hear the mandolin.

  11. Hi Jen: I'm not familiar with that song, but I'll check it out & will look forward to your post. Thanks for the nice words about the poem & your observations on reading poetry-- I'm very happy to have you as a follower here, & I'm most grateful to Kat for all her wonderful support.


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