Seth Abramson

James Franco By James Franco By Seth Abramson


I am a teacher,
with wires you can’t see but feel.
You were all those things from before
obstacles, pollution, and debris.
In the pool we went at it.
You got big and drunk and weird,
corroded by my love.
I knew by then
my character was the teacher.




I was once the young brooder, unhappy. I was more interested in me
riding her from behind
like when a hurricane comes
through and takes out houses.
It was the sweetest thing
from today’s celebrity age,
but that world is unwieldy and can hurt you.




Think of that, son:
Because one of the babies fucked her,
guys like grown men
take over. But sometimes
the materialistic demons
along the shore, the trash
pushes them downstream
and leaves them in the ocean
as if they were cardboard.
They are the manmade things.
(It was their first sex scene,
they had taken shots in their trailer.)




I assume things will pile
in life. Could you comfort him
and pile until the piles
become frail and busted?
When his face was readjusted
your dad said not to worry:
You have a bunch of mice at home,
you can handle anyone at that school
(every once in a while they drag you out
between takes, while they reset the lights
and fill you with such pressure
things are washed clean).




I’ve done fifteen years of movies—
huge black ones that you never saw before—
not knowing why.
But now I know
everything she loved about my work:
The girls were drunk
to be in a movie that critiqued
“the beautiful blonde one”;
the actresses were enthusiastic
and sweet,
half her size, with barely any hair.

They were so happy!
Their world, rather than added,
stayed in my arms and told me.





There’s nothing like the energy
on the high seas!
Young men
were put together
for their education
back in the thirties.
(Think of the sand,
and it makes sense to act.)




When you’re an artist,
sailing with demons,
a whole culture
ferments into great art.
I read it on the beach:
“Who decided that
kids do nothing
while fiction is made up?”
When something is taught,
there are roles for young people.




I used to think history
(and I read it alone)
was good to know.
Until the nineteen sixties.




When I was young,
we had to worry.
My favorite part
of the young—I thirst for it—
is the truth.

Something else isn’t taught:
From the nineteenth century on,
if you acted queer
at an age when your experience was limited,
many people in the States—
as long as you didn’t speak—
thought they knew
and were taught nothing.

(And even still, Be Straight
is the name of the Book.)




Did you learn about
who we have sex with?
Sleep together, and roam
in those rough sheets!

Unless you mean happy
unless it has a frame
is the beginning
what was good to know?



I make a living putting on masks,
using real people to breathe.
(“She had cancer.” “She was black.”)
Performing from a script,
I learned how to tie some knots.
You were the first,
like nothing before or since.
A minimalist artwork.



This is my text:
the wall between audiences.
(A new American way of
falling in love with an actress.)

Life and theater
are the same person
in two bodies. They’re identical,
but they want to be famous
for a living.

Deep life on the flickering film—
what an amazing trip it would be!
The rigging! The fishing!
The bosun and the deckhand,
they would’ve kissed!

(But both?)




Out on the sea for months and years,
everyone sleeping below deck in hammocks,
sometimes my feelings
share their women.

I am a performer
from Atlanta, fucking with the camera
in a place in the sun. The longing
that everything would be okay,
there must be books on it.
And performers as potent
as live actors recreating dead.

(There are also many books that were never written about
what happened on all those ships.)



Something scary: 
A box with a stage.

Material. Scripts.
Plays. Are recreations
what last?




Because I can
(because of your latent power;
because you played your character in
your handsome mask)
I like to blur the separation
of different kinds of people.
(If they’re never apart,
it’s all they talk about.)
With my own feelings animating them,
they get the better of me and I forget
my character is kissing
sorrow. And sociopathic.





Well, shit, we’re just kids.




 These poems
deepen the pathways
that I don’t have
again and again, until the paper runs
and the whole metal thing moves.
(So much hubris, 
administering to its patients!)






I am to rest and write well and die:
that’s what we want in a man.
He who writes is the one
I see the world through. (“Which
grid undergirds
these streets?”) With my machine,
the Greats fall. Great!
I am a vessel holding all their thoughts!
Buzz about my enclosure like blood!





Mark these streets:
they’re the manifestations of a wild mind
because they’re the brutes
everyone knows. (Is the one
sublime? And as forgettable?)

The history of my city:
a black man and a white woman—
he was sixty-three, I was thirty—
destroyed by handsome brutes.
(That’s me, looking out
inside the bus.) One sees,

like a child drawing over lines—(terrible!)—
whose father was a poet.
And whose mother went
in wife-beaters and oiled hair.
By throwing a body
and wrestling with its crude incarnations—
is he the bull? The ballerina?—
I see myself among the mathematic whom.





There’s a relationship between “about” and “a frame.”





Art has to author its form.
I am a thing of parts, and these people:

1. He has a swagger. (And an attitude!)
2. Thin (next to his favorite dictum).
3. His thoughts sit; he’s standing.





Because everyone treats me
as the history of me—
a thing-in-itself I carve—
instead of performances
there’s a fake version of me
I remember. When I first watched,
I thought had discovered him!
He has the strength of all that, America!




There is a surface 
that is so attractive
I wish I could turn
and shout across the house,
“The willed man
seems to pop through
the roles we’ve created!
How do you get to him?”
(He’s so energetic and wild,
I fell straight in love with him—on scene!)





Now, I realize that I am understood
because of the intensity roles offer.
Working their submission into bodies—
there’s a discipline!—
others start complaining: “And
he doesn’t know the moves
that we all make together!” But
if you think craft comes from art,
you’re the fools! I love a woman

who does many things
I don’t laugh at. Her
art comes from framing a living person

with a singleness of purpose. (Bye,
measured temper! Bye, beacon
of such defined edges!)
How can you help but think
she’s no fool anymore?
(On the gray bed, she did
all that is usually found in music. 
I’ll never forget, Johnny Boy.)





I once wondered how little I can give.
(Who called? My father. Five times a day.
He gained eighty pounds and watched every film. I played his son, once.)

I should have focused 
on the face of the human landscape:
sculptures! They’re 
dancers and their instruments,
a smile in a dog’s head. Man, heed tombs!
An angel’s width and wallop!
Film and its failed landscapes,
the glutted world, scions
never seen again, the dear dead hunter, and awe!





The plaque became a whole man.

The man seemed divorced from this.

Who would ever understand his work,
except through the sharp etches—lies—
he thought were real? (They spoke to him.)



Well, death, be my sleep
in my parents’ old bedroom,
paper the blue and white wall with
the phone I’d play with,
a dog I never had,
my father’s middle name.
I was a toy until people had to call
area codes. Once day appeared—
bags carrying my poor face!—
“Get up to eat!” (And only
my father’s father was a drunk!

He said he was raised by cats.)
And then: “Mother! Father! My
sketch! And wet paint!”
(That was a big one.)





All the games and all the roles—
so many numbers to remember!
I work up my resistance.
(I’m a cat, man—
because they don’t need to fight 
over the numbers every night,
like a runner I knew from pictures,
slower forward than going.)





Because my father hated
all he wanted to do—
don’t know how—
when my father passed,
I knew “significant” had died.

(I’d lie him on the bed, but
I’m a creature—nocturnal
as hell.)

Because he loved me so,
and that was sad,
I run through books
and I’m here to cheat. And in time
I’ll go like the rest.

But I was thinking: What was
possible? I push it back as far as
a lifetime of luggage,
like fifty years,
and in forcing it back
I sleep-fight like it’s a sickness.





All of my life, I stayed in. If,
in the city,
you can see time and exhaustion
(they’re so nice!),
now you don’t have to remember
anybody. (“Hardly knew him!”
I used to say that.) And no one
working a circle
between his fingers
saw that all of the motions—
and I clean them, lover,
like a dark man with a beard—
we’re sucked into. (His Life, His whole.)
Off to watch them play,
or give up their shit—
because they live!—
I sleep all day.





To do (probably):

1. Art school.
2. Theater.
3. Marlon Brando.
4. De Niro.
5. Fifth grade.
6. Seventh grade.
7. Florida.
8. Sex.
9. Gay scene.
10. New York (history’s telephone).
11. Historical animals.
12. Elizabeth Taylor.
13. Montgomery Clift.
14. Blue whales.
15. Be nocturnal.
16. Gin.
17. “Double love.”
18. Paterson.
19. Fake my name.

When I hit thirty-four—

20. Death



Note: “James Franco By James Franco By Seth Abramson” is a long-poem remix of James Franco’s chapbook Strongest of the Litter (Hollyridge Press, 2012). Each line of Section I is taken (in whole) from one of the following four poems in Strongest of the Litter: “Florida Sex Scene,” “Seventh Grade,” “Elizabeth Taylor,” or “Montgomery Clift.” Each line of Section II is taken from “Art School,” “Historical,” “Whales,” or “Gay New York”; each line of Section III is taken from “Fifth Grade,” “Theater,” “Double,” or “Montgomery Clift”; each line of Section IV is taken from “Fake,” “My Name Is Paterson,” “Paterson History,” or “Marlon Brando”; each line of Section V is taken from “Paterson Love,” “De Niro,” or “Blue Being”; and each line of Section VI is taken from “Animals,” “Death,” “Nocturnal,” “Telephone,” or the chapbook’s Table of Contents.