Monday, December 13, 2010

Bon the Beautiful


bon the beautiful
unhistoricizing faulkner
absalom, absalom
mississippi planter
henry sutpen
louisiana purchase
ole miss
go down, moses
dynastic shame
delta disenchantment
new orleans
view carré
the civil war
retreat to richmond
at dawn
the gate
cain & able
bon’s blemish of shame
delta baroque
sutpen séance
jim bond (bon)
delta dynasty downfall

bon the beautiful

“…the existence of the
unconscious means we
will never be masters
in our own house.”
—catherine gunther kodat,
“unhistoricizing faulkner,”
faulkner’s sexualities:
university of mississippi
faulkner & yoknapatawpha
conference 2007

my ramshackle past—
yoknapatawpha love life
deep south déjà vu.

it’s pretty simple—
i knew i was in love then:
bon the beautiful.

i’m henry sutpen—
colonel sutpen’s young gay son
sutpen’s hundred heir.

i went to old miss—
i met my half brother there
bon the beautiful.

i couldn’t help it—
bon was such a bon vivant
so tres debonair.

unhistoricizing faulkner

“the boy-symbol at the door”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

perhaps others will—
unhistoricize faulkner
i’m no jameson.

all i can do is—
link these haiku together
and tell my story.

my dinge-love romance—
the negritude of desire:
how much i loved bon.

colonel sutpen raged—
the day bon the beautiful
was plantation born.

his young carib wife—
unknown to him was mixed-blood
young bon the result.

he had such great plans—
mississippi dynasties
deep south plantations.

delta dynasty—
carved out of the wilderness
by all his black slaves.

absalom, absalom

late night in the dorm—
going over the ledgers
go down, moses time.

quentin compson reads—
burning harvard midnight oil
the deep south haunts him.

with handsome young shreve—
his canadian roommate
revisiting bon.

reenacting the—
henry sutpen tragedy
his love for young bon.

sutpen dynasty—
how it pivoted around
the long civil war.

tragic denouement—
death by the plantation gates
ramshackling demise.

how faulkner caught it—
tres decadently.

mississippi planter

“…the unconscious is the place
where biology and rhetoric—
universalism and historicism,
essentialism and constructionism
—touch.”—catherine gunther kodat

colonel sutpen was—
shocked beyond his worst nightmare
by his first-born son.

the boy mulatto—
a throwback to the island
haiti land of death.

the revolt put-down—
the grateful planter frenchman
giving his daughter.

to colonel sutpen—
along with all those black slaves
new orleans bound.

to realize his dream—
a mississippi planter
a deep south ruler.

how could he prevail—
his successor’s tainted blood
dynasty of shame?

henry sutpen

that’s how i was born—
my mother sutpen’s new wife
quentin knew it all.

sutpen’s tragedy—
next befell on me his son
i was so nelly.

hardly the master—
of a lordly plantation
he just shook his head.

sent me on horseback—
to ole miss to be a man
instead i found one.

the old vieux carré—
has many secrets such as
bon’s mother lives there.

backtracking his way—
sutpen learned all about bon
warning me away.

how could it be true—
falling in love with my own
negro half-brother?

louisiana purchase

“how a certain rigidly historicist
contextualism, can limit literature’s
purchase on the world.”
—catherine gunther kodat

i couldn’t help it—
my poor soul was bought & sold
right on the slave block.

standing there bare-assed—
and naked to the whole world
done in by the id.

monsters of the id—
were my dungeon masters then
i was a mere pawn.

caught between sutpen—
and my love for charles bon
i loved him too much.

the civil war came—
in the nick of time sweeping
me away up north.

bon saved my life there—
at the battle of shiloh
at pittsburg landing

ole miss

“and now,” shreve
said, “we’re going
to talk about love.”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

bon was like a cat—
cosmopolitan & chic
lithe & indolent.

lounging octoroon—
in one of those silk robes
only women wore.

a male femme fatale—
rare florentine lamps &
gilded toilet seats.

my ole miss roommate—
what was a new orleans fop
like bon doing here?

at oxford, ole miss—
little jerkwater college
not yet ten years old?


“all right,” shreve said.
“he chose. he chose
lechery. so do i.”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

quentin & young shreve—
both of them letting the voice
come into the room.

channeling me thru—
the quad’s midnight chimes
back to ole miss then.

distant viewing bon—
and henry sutpen esquire
half-brothers in love.

walking the gangplank—
why these 2 college roommates
octoroon’s boudoir?

infernal marriage—
speaking & hearing the past
come to life again?


“youth’s immemorial
obsession with time’s
fluidity: the bright
heels of all the lost
moments of 15 & 16”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

bon perverted me—
but i’d always wanted it:
an older brother.

teaching me how to—
lounge languorously lazy
in silk gowns, slippers.

whiskey, cigarettes—
decadent world-weariness
fatal solitudes.

faint effeminate—
unmistakably purplish
gay effluvium.

turning me away—
from provincial nerdhood
uncouth clodhopper.

possessing me and—
seducing me flesh & bones
surrendering pride.

go down, moses
“they cannot marry
because he is your
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

i went down on him—
the lethal look on bon’s face
did he know the truth?

that we were brothers—
and judith his half-sister
who he’d marry soon?

was this the revenge—
dreamed up in the vieux carré
by his peeved mother?

florentine mirrors—
paris drapes, tufted camisoles
clutching bon’s tight hips?

incestuous lips—
modest miscegenation
sucking off moses?

his naked revenge—
for sutpen’s foul rejection
bon’s sullen birthright?

dynastic shame

“all boy flesh that
walked and breathed
stemming from that
one ambiguous eluded
dark fatherhood”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

it wasn’t just bon—
a drop of some negro blood
tainting dynasty.

the outrage & shame—
the desperate urgency
incestuous love.

neither octoroon—
nor brotherly dinge romance
made me blush with shame.

all young men do it—
betraying themselves for
money or power.

colonel sutpen’s flesh—
flowed deep thru both our bodies
one squirt at a time.

sybarite steel blade—
silken tessellated sheath
immaculate incest.

delta disenchantment

“then just two—
charles-shreve and
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

christmas eve & the—
hard frozen december ruts
least expected happens.

found out the secret—
taking it in stride because
i didn’t believe.

the secret behind—
that first instinctive moment
when i fell for bon.

a year & a half—
back there in oxford ole miss
pariah-blood now.

bon & i looking—
straight at each other & then
getting on horses.

not saying a thing—
i knew but still didn’t want
to know the truth.

new orleans

“four of them there,
in that room in new
orleans in 1860, four
of them here in this
tomblike room in
massachusetts in 1910”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

shreve invents it—
the dark baroque drawing room
down in new orleans.

haiti-born mother—
french sugar planter’s daughter
old sutpen’s first wife.

dowdy, untidy—
gray-streaked ratty raven hair
coarse as horse’s tail.

pale parchment-colored—
skin & baggy black-ringed eyes
implacably dead.

“so your sister has—
fallen in love with my son?”
she says laughingly.

view carré

“ain’t that enough
for you?” bon said.
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

jesus, they all knew—
think of bon who didn’t know
nor henry either.

bon’s wicked mother—
the conniving attorney
“a nice piece,” he said.

colonel sutpen knew—
even went down to n. o.
to find out the truth.

henry denying—
faced with incest of all things:
bon, him & judith.

henry tries getting—
used to it, ignoring it.
“gimme some time, bon.”

bon takes henry to—
meet his octoroon mistress
and the son they have.

the civil war

“but kings have
done it. even dukes!”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

jesus, what a load—
no wonder both boyz depart
for the civil war.

“maybe the war will—
settle it, we won’t have to
worry about it.”

bon looks at henry—
henry smiles & looks at bon.
off to war they go.

quentin looks at shreve—
shreve looks back at young quentin.
fifty years later.

shells rushing, rumbling—
high overhead & bursting.
both under fire now.

henry crying out—
“but that lorraine duke did it!”
bon just shakes his head.


“glaring at quentin,
panting himself, as
he had had to supply
his shade not only
with a cue but with
breath to obey it in”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

henry was the one—
wounded at pittsburg landing
“let me die,” he said.

“i won’t have to know!—
i won’t have to know it then!”
his bloody chewed lip.

bon held henry tight—
lifting him onto his back
first two, four, then two.

the room was tomblike—
quentin lay on the cold floor
shreve had put him there.

all four young men cold—
deliberate flagellant:
telepathic death.

retreat to richmond

“chickamauga and
franklin, vicksburg,
corinth and atlanta”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

canadian shreve—
child of northern cold blizzards
bathrobe, overcoat.

southerner quentin—
morose, delicate offspring
mississippi fey.

young quentin & shreve—
two, four, now two once again
channeling in time.

starved, ragged armies—
lost battles on either side
outmoded warfare.

the old grooved habit—
to endure, mindless dreamless
sentient dead meat.


“they were both
in carolina”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

suddenly quentin—
no longer speaker to speak
no talker to talk.

both of them are there—
quentin & henry sutpen
compounded as one.

forty-six years back—
henry & colonel sutpen
in the bivouac tent.

it’s been four years now—
sutpen talks only to him
and ignores son bon.

sutpen tells henry—
he must not marry judith.
and you must stop him.

tells henry the truth—
about his haitian wife
she was part negro.

as if it were news—
as if henry didn’t know
he could have cared less.

at dawn

“then it was dawn,
or almost, and it
was cold.”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

henry wakes up bon—
bon is an officer then
they sit & they talk.

bon had decided—
nor to marry judith then
and henry felt calm.

but after henry—
meets with his father at dawn
things change back again.

snubbed by his father—
ignored after these 4 years
charles bon rebels.

“i’m not your brother—
i’m the negro who’s going to
sleep with your sister.”

then bon hands henry—
his pistol’s handle & says
“now, stop me, henry.”

the gate

“you will have to
stop me, henry.”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

and so they both leave—
that very day on horseback
to mississippi.

“it isn’t incest—
it’s the miscegenation
isn’t it, henry?”

“no it ain’t,” he said—
“you & i, we’ve got it on.
brotherly love, right?”

bon the beautiful—
smiles like he did at ole miss
back when they were young.

but that was then and—
this is now & in-between
something has happened.

shreve picks up quentin—
takes him to bed & wraps his
arms around the kid.

cain & able

“the metal case she
had given him with
her picture in it”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

clytie & judith—
along with wash jones
they all hear the shot.

they carry bon back—
to the sutpen old mansion
put him on a bed.

inviolate tomb—
rotten old mausoleum
dynastic ruins.

judith opens it—
the metal case bon carried
with her pic inside.

but there inside it—
an old daguerreotype
a fading picture.

both bon & henry—
standing there smiling away
both boys arm-in-arm.


“now he began to jerk
all over, violently and
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

shreve & quentin sleep—
blankets & bed-clothing piled
high on top of them.

quentin feels the warmth—
shreve’s huge muscular physique
sleeping next to him.

he feels his blood surge—
thru him violently and

it happens again—
he’s having another fit
he goes spaz again.

it’s normal for boyz—
eighteen-year-olds still get them
seminal wetdreams.

he can’t help himself—
lying there perfectly still
shreve is still sleeping.

bon’s blemish of shame

“you have to believe that
bon at birth had physical
pigmentation, hair texture,
lip thickness: something—
that identified him as black,
but which disappeared as
he got older so that he
could enroll at the university
of mississippi and pass as
white all his life.”—noel polk,
“the artist as cuckold,”
children of the dark house:
text and context in faulkner

not many people knew—
about the blemish of shame
haunting bon’s beauty.

of course sutpen’s wife—
knowing the truth & hoping
it wouldn’t pop up.

the black midwife knew—
protecting the dark secret
she from haiti too.

many people knew—
his planter father-in-law
explained her dark skin.

covering it up—
saying his wife was spanish
plus his young daughter.

but she was negro—
mulatto or octoroon
her first born was too.

bon the beautiful—
pale white as the driven snow
sutpen’s handsome son.

but bon had one fault—
nobody could see it or
notice the blemish.

the blemish of shame—
that only mothers perceived
and midwives as well.

bon could pass as white—
walking down the street just like
you or i could do.

wasn’t a problem either
in mississippi.

where black sons couldn’t—
inherit the big estates
owned by their father.

racial quagmires—
didn’t exist for young bon
if nobody knew.

sutpen didn’t know—
assumed his wife was okay
his son a white youth.

then sutpen saw it—
the dark-tale tell-all secret
blemish of dark shame.

the nude baby bon—
held up by colonel sutpen
in the horse-stable.

showing his son off—
to his band of negro slaves
and stomping horses.

down there in the barn—
where he wrestled with the blacks
proving his manhood.

showing off to them—
their newly-born white master
naked to the world.

young delta master—
ruler of the plantation
god’s gift to mankind.

only to be shocked—
seeing it for the first time
bon’s big black penis!!!


“yes, he loved bon,
who seduced him
as surely as he
seduced judith”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

queerly placid course—
bon & judith’s engagement
lasting a whole year.

it was a three-way—
henry & ellen in love
with pretty boy bon.

hunting & riding—
preening over her brother’s
indolent boyfriend.

instinctively cool—
and sophisticatedly
seducing them both.

bon outlandishly—
elegant hot house orchid
sullen & lounging.

courting both judith—
and her provincial clown
brother both jealous.

indian summer—
mississippi moody love
both in love with bon.

bon so very much—
like the resigned plutocrat
thomas sutpen himself.


“the solitude”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

it took just one look—
was sutpen clairvoyante
knowing who bon was?

a father sensing—
a repudiated son?
part negro mistress?

exiled negro son—
returning to him now?
young big easy stud?

suspecting the worse—
a six-hundred mile journey
to find out the truth?

then forbidding them—
judith’s marriage to young bon
ending engagement?

the distance between—
oxford & sutpen’s hundred
too close for rapport.

henry so enraged—
he runs off with charles bon
leaving all behind.

faith, blood & home—
following bon his lover
rejected suitor.

so bent on marriage—
only to end up killing
the man who he loved?

delta baroque

“a fatality which
had chosen that
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

living blood & seed—
dormant & waiting down deep

we can’t explain it—
it’s incomprehensible
shadowy manhood.

judith, henry, bon—
telepathic roots branches
we ourselves dormant.

mouth to mouth old tales—
exhumed archaic archives
boxes of letters.

we re-read stories—
but there’s something missing there

forgotten, unsaid—
performing these simple acts
passion & doomed love.

against the turgid—
background of the civil war
deep south anecdotes.

violent feelings—
incontrollable desires
mischancings of love.


“he must have seen
at a glance that bon
even though the daughter
might be saved from him,
had already corrupted
his son”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

sutpen was full of—
contempt & distrust being
successful at it.

found out about bon’s—
octoroon mistress & son
his own dark offspring.

charles bon’s young son—
continuing the sutpen
dark family tree.

charles etienne—
de saint valery bon born
down in new orleans.

dark family roots & branches
this is how it grew.

married full-blood black—
jim bon his child idiot
blithering mad son.

then after clytie—
burned down the sutpen mansion
whereabouts unknown.

sutpen séance

“jefferson jan 10
1910 miss”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

the wisteria—
the cigar smell, strange lamplit
table in cambridge.

dead dusty summer—
the mississippi delta
up from the deep south

cold snow on shreve’s gloves—
closing the door behind him
quentin sitting there.

“tell about the south—
what’s it like living down there?
what do they do there?”

“why do they live there—
why do they keep living there?
there in all that heat?”

quentin compson shrugs—
gaunt, thin, melodramatic
self-hypnotized youth.

séance cloud moving—
ahead of them now.

enclosing them both—
beneath branch-shredded vistas
flat black starry sky.

lifting, sloping plateau of
gone panoramas.

dark, inscrutable—
night saying there’s nothing here
turn back now, let be…

jim bond (bon)

“calls me jim bond”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

“so you’re saying this—
jim bond was on the staircase
waiting for you then?”

“then in that musty—
old run-down mausoleum
back then at midnight?”

“yes,” said quentin.

“and that you and that—
old dame aunt rosa drove out
there in find something?”

“and you found it then—
the old mindless sentient
undreaming dead meat?”

“yes,” said quentin.

”speak, speak, speak” it said—
the old grooved habit of death?
henry dying there?

“hulking young negro—
in clean faded overalls
his arms dangling down?”

“yes,” said quentin.

“blank look, no-nothing—
his slack-mouthed idiot face
saddle-colored & sad.”

“scion, sutpen heir—
big eyes wide & unseeing
the colonel’s last son?”

“yes,” said quentin.

delta dynasty downfall

“evoked, materialized
about them, instantaneous
and eternal”
—william faulkner,
absalom, absalom

jim bond (bon) is dead—
he was buried yesterday
whatever that means.

without pain they say—
no violent surprises
dead child idiot.

clytie’s mute nephew—
tall zombiesque walking dead
haiti drums at night.

no amazed outrage—
just irrevocable dead
meat finality.

the end of the line—
sutpen’s grand dynastic dream
only shambles left.

all his sons gone now—
charles bon, henry,
valery, jim bond.

quentin compson &
shrevlin mccannon
channeling them all.

delta dynasty—
designed & downfallen now
once so very high.

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