The Spicer Variations

by John Macker

Poet Jack Spicer “does not like his life written down.”  He was born in Hollywood in 1925.  Anyone interested in further information should contact him at THE PLACE, 1546 Grant Avenue, San Francisco.”
— The New American Poetry, Grove Press, 1960.


I don’t believe in the Wizard of Oz or unidentified
flying objects.  My heart is made of
whatever the moon is.  Across the deadly
desert we found petrified shadow where the
poem lasts as long as a human touch.
The signs of life are vivid and ghostly pale.
There is a long trail into the
back country, in this heat, choose your
victims carefully.

Around the campsite we argued over
how hot it has to get for the desert
to hold us in the fire of its smile.


It has been raining bullets for
five days and for five days more.
I rise in the morning to see the
treacherous sun and try to cut for sign
on the pavement.  Indians are everywhere
and no rain.  In my dream last night
there were rain drops.  They came in from
the west on the wind and softened
the treacherous blue.  I’ve learned to
smell clouds that make rain.  They drop
terror and guns, and hearts and skies
with holes in them.  Indians show me the
tracks, they soften and grow old
in the heat.  So do the tracks.  I am one
imaginary elegy away from grace.


Frieda explains how her husband
D.H. Lawrence’s ashes were once stolen
and later recovered.  She met the thief in a
Taos bar, a San Cristobal neighbor, he gave
them up under the grave threat of castration.
The moon was round and full.
Frieda laughs at how she mixed his ashes
in with concrete and sand and how it became
a huge concrete slab.  It would weigh over a ton.
New Mexico laid him down to sleep.
The blue sky is no longer treacherous and
is generous with Pueblo time.
D.H. owes Jack Spicer a decent living.  The
desert sweats like a lover visiting
his high country crypt.


imaginary effigy

They populate the desert as warnings or
half-naked trinkets from a god dying of thirst.
As raggedy scarecrow children held up by
branches and twigs.  On hillsides and culverts.
They wear the condemned clothing found
cast off by the wilderness trekkers.  The
stellar’s jay is a nursery rhyme.  Our rhythmic
breathing is exiled to the floor of creosote blossoms.
The ocotillo sway like the converted on top of
a holy mountain.
Above the damned tedium of a dry stream
bed crows frolic through the delicate cotton-
wood shade.  You can hear them sing I love you
when it rains.