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Jeffrey Gray

Seattle Induction Center, 1967

Explore more of Jeffrey Gray’s work in the free PDF pamphlet The Aquarian Foundation,
available now from O:JA&L’s Buttonhook Press.

The Brain (stoned) by Hanno Karlhuber

I stayed up two nights
on ephedrine, then took LSD
before catching the bus
to the induction center,

on the waterfront, Alaskan
Way S., under the viaduct,
gone now, they say, not
far from the ferry docks,

where I stood naked in a room
with a hundred other men
abject and shivering
in the gaze of the State,

murky brains and beards
beginning to understand
the role they’d been born
to just moments before.

I faced an ancient chart
whose emblems trembled
in the black air of the apparatus
strapped to my head:

F  P  t o z  l p e d
the space between and behind
them endless.  I was
skittish of needles

but calmly watched a man draw
my blood. “You used to this,
ain’t you?” he joked.
A young white-smocked

doctor looked at me, then
spoke to me softly,  turned
to the phone: “patient actively
hallucinating, I think we….”

but it had all turned to soup,
accents awash in basins of order,
dissolving orbits. A young troop
led me to the door and swiveled

me sun-ward toward the row
of promising streets and the world
at large, however surveilled,
larger than it would ever be again.

A ball of light spun twenty feet
over my head, gaseous, buzzing,
I looked down from it
to see my body as it glided from

the waterfront, half blossom,
half planet to our little place,
miles away, my body walking
below it, looking up

at me. And then you were
walking beside my body,
looking into its eyes,
my eyes, and neither yours

nor mine saw your death
that lay at that moment
wrapped in a far grey pupa
that would open only

eons ahead on this path,
and mine too, invisible,
had to have lain there coating
with its film everything I saw.

Home, we sat in the dim
light, smoked, drank tea,
watched the afternoon
sink unmonitored and glad

in the gloom of the State,
dissolved in forgiving leaves,
bathed in honest error,
the brain’s muddy water

sloshing in its old wrappings
floating in ditches still, far
off, given our short lives,
unfinished in our wisps,

our damp cocoons, what
shone over us, (what makes
me see it now in clouds
of steam from a kitchen…)–

we lay book-dark, moon-hidden,
how can anyone say with what
has passed from then
till now, that time is sweet–

Sophocles said it’s not worth it,
whatever “it” means.
Memory leaches from the cells, like
toxins from the soil, or fluid

from the skull and tissue,
light seeps from the white
preposterous clouds that float
unmoving in front of us.


About the writer:
Jeffrey Gray’s poetry has appeared in The Atlantic, the Yale Review, PN Review, Lana Turner (forthcoming), TriQuarterly (forthcoming), Western Humanities Review, and others. He is the author of Mastery’s End: Travel and Postwar American Poetry (University of Georgia Press 2005) and of many articles on American and Latin American poetry, in journals such as Callaloo, Contemporary Literature, Chronicle of Higher Education, Profession, and American Poetry Review. Gray is also the English translator of Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s novels The African Shore (Yale University Press 2014) and Chaos, a Fable (Amazon Crossing 2018), and editor or co-editor of several anthologies, including The News from Poems: Essays on the New American Poetry of Engagement (University of Michigan Press, 2016) and The New American Poetry of Engagement: A 21st Century Anthology (McFarland, 2013). Jeffrey Gray is a professor at Seton Hall University and lives in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, and Alghero, Sardinia. Explore more of Jeffrey Gray’s work in the free PDF pamphlet The Aquarian Foundation, available now from O:JA&L’s Buttonhook Press.

Image: The Brain (stoned) from The Energy of Space Series by Hanno Karlhuber (contemporary). Oil tempera on wood. 50 x 60 cm. 1982. By free license.

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