Tom Bradley: Excerpt from Energeticum / Phantasticum

  Tom Bradley

  Excerpt from
  Energeticum / Phantasticum:

  a Profane Epyllion in Seven Cantos

(First published by MadHat Books, 2017)

  Canto III

      The end of everything is guaranteed,
like jumbo jets seduced into the sea,
to crush you with the sheer avoirdupois
of all the lucid scribblers in your row.

      The internet’s perverse monstrosity,
apocalyptic, without precedent,
must clarify your bleak predicament:
your universe and all the pens it slings
are hurtling toward the great blue pencil job:
that Dissolution, promised in Puranas,
as followed by the bookless Night of Brahma.

      Our barely-average star, dim, nondescript,
another flush-faced zhlub in fizzled crowds,
is sinking ever closer to the drain
that gorges on the grim galactic plane.

      Spirits who have managed, more or less,
through dozens of misspent millennia,
with slow metempsychotic momentum,
to inch along the gradual incline
from rock to plant to beast to human thing
(some blurring that admittedly fine line),
are groping for fistfuls of cognizance,
by means of which they might discharge a smutch
of karmic debt, before the closing bell
of Manvantara’s all-must-go fire sale.

      Overreach can lurch in cerebella,
self-consciousness may stretch to self-express.
Slightly fewer publishers than writers
out-legion the cramped fiends who, nuts-to-butts
in Gadarene, impacted swinish guts.
And most have opted virtually to oink.

      A broadband of electromagnetic lit
extrusively is shitting past the brim
of our ionosphere, with light-sped bulge.
Its propagation fizzles at the brink
of Pluto’s outer orbit, where it’s mulched
with Adolf Hitler’s televised pep rallies.
To parabolic radio telescopes
tripodded on the shores of methane lakes
on cratered exomoons, our ‘published’ oeuvre
must seem an oblate, simmering blood blister
distended to the lurid point of bursting.

      There was a time when poetasters banished
to wilderness beyond the Hudson River
could play the simple part of the Essene.
They planned their biblo-retirement
as dignified inurnment, Qumran-style.
But now the sand in which our scrolls are sunk
is digital, composed of lone electrons,
uncounted drifts of subatomic egos,
all schizy, split, infertile as the bits
of shivered quartz that cause the West Bank dunes,
white-phosphorized, to writhe like salted slugs.

      It seems that gaggles of the Great Unwashed
are born with–what? A need? It isn’t that.
To drink and masturbate and breathe aren’t ‘needs,’
but basic terms of our embodiment.
For artists and for ‘artists,’ it would seem,
to flush the psyche’s no less metabolic.

      But prose is strange, no less than poesy.
It’s natural to posit dancing genes,
or singing chromosomes, or eukarotes
revealing selves in misty Kinkade daubs.
We spasmed, howled and smeared our fecal pigments
before Ardipithecus slouched along.
Writing’s only served six thousand years–
unless the learned efforts of savants
should add two hundred further centuries
imputing lexicality’s import
to squiggles hardly noticed at Lascaux,
the faded FaceBook of the paleoliths,
where troglodytes updated lucid dreams.

      But is that time enough to Darwinize
deoxyribonuclear poetics?
Is it legit prosimian behavior
to tinker with these bits of alphabet?
Do bonobos tweezing termites with a twig
encompass brachiators’ range of skills,
their book contracts glommed in prognathous jaws?

      If you’re unurged, unpredisposed to set
deciphered smudges on a flattened plane,
I cannot grasp, but envy and applaud
your inner life’s removed sterility,
the numbness of your chaste sensorium,
your nightly bumble’s illucidity.
So, you and your immaculate, dwindling kind–
God bless your vacant souls–are now released
to gaseous, ignored oblivion.

      As for the novelizing residue,
the essayists, straitjacketed scenarists,
belletrists in the myriads of millions,
the poets paper-trained in ‘quiet style,’
I urge you rivals to comport in ways
that might eventuate in swollen coffers.

      I’m told such inflammation of the purse
unto an exponentialized degree
is made, at least in in theory, possible.
You block, cut, paste and shove your oeuvre up
the satellite-engendered fistula
ballooning, bleeding out from your PC,
in hopes that it demurs to burst before
the heliopause that limns the spirit void
beyond our blabbing solar system’s rim,
some umpteen billion miles, plus change, away.

      With coffers swollen, hankers for the zilch
of Brahma’s Night will vanish from your mind.
Your incarnation’s rigmarole will feign
illusory resemblance to a life.
You’ll rent a parlor that most human beings
would reckon marginally livable.
And, acclimated to your coat of skin,
you’ll finally develop social skills
to pen the sort of smug complacency
that Oprah Winfrey gorges for her canon.
Your words, content-protected and secure,
abide in Kindle’s gated community,
while every other ‘author’ on the web,
upon Creative Commons squatting rough,
awaits with terror the coming Dies Irae.

      And when Puranic Dissolution’s qualm
above the West’s abyss begins to lour,
its urgency no more to be ignored
nor purpled by success’ invidious dusk,
I want you worriers of syllabaries
to mend syntactically graphemic ways.
Please cast off lingo’s deconstructed yoke,
and follow Music’s ultra-light decorum.

      Sandwiches of cellulose and ink
displayed, spine-out, on formica veneer,
like e-books pirated upon a screen,
indifferently will reify sheer genius
and dribbling slack-jawed animality.
They do so silently, to neighbors’ joy.
But every mongrel in the tenement
will testify, and loud, to the contrary,
if you should call your fiddle’s sweet refrains
‘unjustly overlooked and underrated.’

      Unstuck to page, in pixels undisplayed,
unwedged on wads of Tigris mud, unsmeared
on strips of consecrate Punjabi bark,
unpulverized by Brahma’s grinding Night,
good Music’s aspirations sift in waves
(too often being pseudomorphed, misknown,
as particles Theosophists disown).
It can’t be fucked, olfacted, misconstrued
myopically, and if it’s gustable,
its tunes smack of conceptual metaphor.

      Once words are cauterized from your inked minds,
I’ll show you oinking, knuckle-dragging scribes
a musicker who’s never been content
to write and weep in wait for Armageddon.
He’ll mount, conduct and play the Antichrist
in his own made-from-scratch Megiddo war.
Unfearful to delicudate his dreams,
he calls the bluff of chaos unrestrained,
recruits his own Dominions, and his Powers,
and nihilizing Principalities.

      His week-long rite of ‘omni-art’ absorbs
the fivefold consciousness, with mana’s self
and dharma to make Theravada’s six.
(Motoric-kinesthetic’s done by dance.)
If multisensory, it’s agraphemic,
unglyphed: his revelation’s played by heart.
No racks for scores, but elbow rests with hookahs
will edify his cellists and their comrades.

      His fonts are couriers of wine, not sense.
His sérifs cling to harps, not consonants.
His poem’s unpunctuated but for tambors.
His typography is letterpressed in quavers.
His composing stick’s a shimmering baton.

      I give you Levi’s sound proselytizer,
the Frater’s man in cranial concert halls:

      Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin!

  Canto IV

      If literature is glued between matte covers
or shat upon a dead machine’s display,
Scriabin’s mass demands a mighty gorge
in Himalaya’s crystal stratosphere.
It’s celebrated in a protean zone,
a cathedral built, or birthed, for the occasion.
This fane, like unicellular amoebae,
must writhe and swell, as counterpoint requires.
Scriabin tells us, ‘It is not constructed
of a single stony species, uniform,
but modulates with my Mysterium.’
The architecture’s further rubberized
by psychoactive aerosols, plus tints
projected from a clavier à lumières.

      Typecast in the role of Celebrant,
Scriabin rides his lectern in the apse
of this gaseous and hierophantic temple.
He goads and taunts an orchestra of thousands
to scrape augmented sharp-eleven chords.
Unruly gangs, antiphonal mixed choirs,
their eros uncontainable in words,
regurgitate the Demiurgic ichor
from larynxes, both super- and subhuman.

      Perspiring, swelling, in the corbelled vaults,
church bells the size of yacht hulls, gold alloyed
with electrum from Ezekiel’s ecstasy,
are hung from cumulonimbic fixity,
imbued and seeded with twelve metric tons
of benzoin, storax, myrrh, of galbanum,
of yellow sandalwood, of cinnamon,
in bonfires kindled by the praying mob,
who, on the seventh day of group orgasm,
become cloudlike themselves, unknowable
from entheogenic mists that melt the murals.

      Everything’s tympanically tormented
by the agonizing Roosky Mystic Chord.
The planetary chassis struggles hard
to free itself from quartile iterations
of C, F-sharp, B-flat, E, A and D.
Promethean acts of mercy, will and grace,
self-sacrifice, plus devilish technique
by Alexander Nikolayevich
absolve parishioners’ Purgatorial pique
into a stable F-sharp minor triad.
This sonic normalcy brings down the beat
when congregation, clergy, all commixed,
like scent in a boudoir, are atomized.
It’s not the Night, but the Soirée of Brahma.

      The mystery achieves Puranic purpose:
humanity’s abject annihilation,
and hatching of a wholesome race of Houyhnhnms
from soup, primordial, that phosphoresces
in pools on pulverized cathedral pews.
Scriabin, having braved the Manvantara,
is reborn in the Golden Satya Yuga.

Tom Bradley has published twenty-five volumes of fiction, essays, screenplays and poetry with houses in the USA, Great Britain and Canada. Various of his novels have been nominated for the Editor’s Book Award, the New York University Bobst Prize, and the AWP Series. 3:AM Magazine in Paris gave him their Nonfiction Book of the Year Award in 2007 and 2009, and an excerpt from one of his graphic collaborations has appeared in this year’s &Now Innovative Writing Award Anthology. His journalism and criticism have appeared in such publications as, and are featured in Arts & Letters Daily. Denis Dutton, editor of the latter site (‘among the most influential media personalities in the world,’ according to Time Magazine), wrote as follows: ‘Tom Bradley is one of the most exasperating, offensive, pleasurable, and brilliant writers I know. I recommend his work to anyone with spiritual fortitude and a taste for something so strange that it might well be genius.’ Further curiosity can be indulged at


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