tony moffeit | the language of death

THE LANGUAGE OF DEATH

todd moore died friday, march 12, and after recovering from the devastation of losing a close friend to a sudden death, i couldn’t help but realize the irony of his death at a time when he had written so thoroughly about the death experience. for i have not known anyone who wrote so intensely about death and particularly in recent years. no one who approached the dying experience from so many different angles. no one who transferred the experience of dying like todd moore in his writings. it was almost as if death itself were talking through todd. two of my favorite death pieces are in a three poem collection, THE DEAD ZONE TRILOGY, st. vitus press, 2005. the first piece is the corpse is dreaming, which is about the dreaming corpse of john dillinger:

at the biograph theater
& the dream is a broken
movie
sledge hammered into
one hundred thousand
fragments
shattered like glass
& flickering
in the heat
& the dark

for me, the corpse is dreaming is a poem which challenges the motion picture as an art form, for it is a poem-movie that in many ways is superior to the actual motion picture and the subject is death:

& who sez that i’m dead
what is dead
is it like when yr
sleeping
sleep sleep a
sleepsleep
i can feel my bones moving
but are they my bones
what is a bone
tell me my name
where is my face

it’s as if todd is talking to us before and after his own death through the mini-movie that is the poem. dillinger talks about his ghost brother, lawrence, who has a face that resembles his, and in one of the most poignant passages in poetry, he makes the poem-movie come alive:

my mother used to call him
she’d used to stand on the
back porch at night &
call him lawrence
or was that johnnie
come on home to supper
come home so she can eat
w/you…
lawrence
she used to call johnnie
& then the neighbors wd
call across the field to
her
& they’d talk abt weather
& clouds & crops & the
way the days were
getting long from winter &
the dark like a huge
round bullet rising

this poem is about the dream. this poem is about the movie. this poem is about the dream that is a movie and the movie that is a dream. this poem is about life. this poem is about death. this poem is about the life in death and the death in life:

i don’t know how long i
can hide in the dark
& i am dark w/water
dark all over
or is that blood
& where is dillinger
who is lawrence
how is the other
& i’m in the biograph
theater when the lights
come on & i can’t
recall one scene from the
movie

this poem builds with characters and internal dialogue to give a stream of consciousness that is a new movie, a poem-movie. it is better than a movie because it immediately enters the unconscious and plays there. todd moore, through dillinger, talks to us about death:

does anyone here know the
language of death
the movie screen’s a mouth
it wants to eat every in
the bone thing here i am
& i’m sitting here talking
to dreams
they gather around me
i’m calling them out just
as tho they are my
children
i’m calling them to
the supper of my body

in this poem todd moore is destroyer and creator. “the dream is a broken movie sledge hammered into one hundred thousand fragments.” and then out of the destruction comes a new art form: the poem-movie in which new levels of consciousness are reached. the poem-movie in which death talks from a dreaming corpse.

todd moore knew that the only way to whip death was to transcend death through language. and his most intense transcendence would be the language of death. the corpse is dreaming is a new art form, the poem-movie, in which death talks from a dreaming corpse. a second poem in the collection, the night corpse, is just as revolutionary in terms of language. it is black energy. it is pure, subliminal force, and the poem carries the force. the line is stripped down to its essence. the poem is stripped down to its essence. it is the black hole of language. in the condensed line of death with tourettes syndrome:

bro
ou
ou
ught
pic
ka
ka
ka
tures
that dill
in
ger
bit
into
tes
ting
them
for
the
purrrrrr
um
um
a
ity
&
au
then
tic
ity
of their
deeeeee
sire
&
their
long
ga
ga
ing

death is talking again, but this time in fragments, in semi-consciousness, in an even more subliminal language, where everything is stripped away but the bare bones of words. and the reader must enter the maze of syllables to decipher the heiroglyph:

dillin
ger al
ways
had his
lipp
ups
pps
mo
ving
as tho
try
ing
to
say
some
thinnnnng
make a
gray
co
nnec
tion

this is a rare stretching and breaking and condensing of language. death is speaking through the unconscious of dillinger:

the
niiiiiight
corps
e
e
wd
al
ways
hang
back
at
first
theeeeeen
move for
ward
the mo
ve
ment
itsssssssss
self al
most
a
a
a
a
a
form of
dance

i have never seen anyone burn with creative passion as todd moore did in the years prior to his death. he had always been productive, but he reached another level of creative energy in those years and went out in a flame, a blaze, a fire. he was about constant creativity. he was fascinated with death conversations, thoughts and ideas in the process of dying. he imagined these interior monologues and dialogues through the figure of john dillinger in his poems. i have never seen death as such a dynamic force. in the poems of todd moore, death and the language of death become something else. they become a final and lyrical chant for life.

Todd Moore | Tony Moffeit | Lawrence Welsh

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