Hubert’s favorite work was Mountain Tea.
It’s why he’d gotten into poetry.
He loved a stylish sentence. Strong vibratos.
He loved that Amis book about castratos,
The one that has a character called “Hubert. ”
He loved to say he loved the works of Schubert.
Most of all, he loved to love great books.
His earnest views, though, often earned him looks
Of pity. Books are “texts,” and love? All wrong.
The point of reading (someone paused, mid-bong,
To tell him) isn’t pleasure or escapism;
The point is pointing out the hidden racism,
Sexism, and/or classism of the text—
Which left the English major feeling vexed.
He’d found himself inside the sort of dorm
Where young men, parroting their profs, perform
The part of well-read mind and talk til dawn
Of Butler, Derrida, Foucault, Lacan,
And other luminaries of the Left.
But Hubert, waving off the bong, soon left.
A life-sized holo Scarface followed him,
Machine gun swiveling.
At home, his dim
Room, sensing movement, raised the lights a notch.
To raise his spirits, Hubert liked to watch
The sort of film his classmates liked to hate
Or label “problematic. ” “Ziri, 8
1/2,” he said. “First scene. ” He yawned and sank
Down on his futon. In his fauna tank,
A sleeping bonsai panther wagged its tail.
The mail had yet to beam down on the mail
Pad by the door.
The smart paint on his wall
Began to play Fellini’s picture. (Small
Dead spots, where paint had chipped, stood out like stone
In rushing water. ) Artists work alone,
The picture seemed to say. It was about
A film director, Guido, wracked with doubt
About his half-formed film, while all around
Distractions—mistress, wife, and actors—hound
Our hero. Hubert liked the lesson: men
Directing films have merely swapped out pen
For megaphone. They pick and place their herds
Of extras as a poet would his words—
Though their words, armed with legs, will often wander
Fellini’s man had paused to ponder
Life. His wife, it seemed, thought he’d outgrown her.
But Hubert liked that Guido was a loner
Floating like a god above the fray.
Of course, he knew that those who brood the way
Fellini’s privileged male director does
Ignore the drones enabling them, the buzz
Of labour on the set. And yet he felt
The self behind each scene. The cult band Felt,
The poet Frost, Fellini—Hubert knew
Their work expressed their souls, which passed clean through
Our sieve-like theories. Souls were real, the art
They made the proof.
The film had reached the part
Where Guido and his wife explore the set
That’s been constructed for the film he’s yet
To start: a giant spaceship’s skeleton,
The sort of ship some blob of gelatin
With tendrils would attack. The science fiction
Of a simpler age. He loved this vision,
Hubert, of a future that would never
Happen now. He pictured it whenever
He imagined what tomorrow might
Be like. Fellini’s spaceship, poised for flight,
Was dated now, a silly dream, but in
Its time, it gleamed. Likewise, a dorsal fin
Was de rigueur when navigating stars
In 1960s Jetsons bubble cars.
And in the novel Neuromancer, human
Beings—jacked in, wearing trodes—would zoom in
On vast tiers of data; outer space
Had been replaced by pre-Zuck “cyberspace,”
Which Hubert figured would’ve looked like Tron:
The ground a grid your avatar slid on.
The futures we prefer have long since passed.
Tomorrow is interred inside the past.
Hubert loved looking back. He’d waved off eye
Replacements; Hubert had a glasses guy
Who sourced assorted old-school gear for old
Souls and their skulls. His frames were bold,
As quaint as whalebone corsets, hunting foxes,
iPhones, and those primitive Xboxes
That weren’t implanted but, instead, sat on
Your furniture. He loved the off-brand dawn
His window ran, recorded when the sun
Could still be seen. He loved such stuff as Fun
House, Horses, Astral Weeks, The La’s, Pet Sounds,
Thomas Disch’s essays, Ezra Pound’s
Translations, Orson Welles as Harry Lime
(The Third Man), poetry that dares to rhyme,
The books of Paula Fox, the bass of Carol
Kaye, that moment when the poet Daryl
Hine compares some “love-disordered linen”
To “brackish water. ” Hubert longed for hymns in
Churches, first editions, and constraint.
He loved the room he rented in a quaint
Toronto house. He loved artisanal walks.
(He wouldn’t teleport. ) He thought Talk Talk’s
Last record music’s cloud-wreathed apex; Toto
On the mail pad, MOJO
Materialized. (The mail beamed in at night. )
“Pause. ” The wall became a black-and-white
Tintype: Fellini’s hero’s face in doubt.
(One eye, where paint had chipped, appeared burned out. )
Hubert watched his mag, like Star Trek sand,
Take shimmering shape, then touched it with a hand:
There was the standard MOJO mix
Of articles, reviews, and concert pics.
There also was an obit for Oasis;
The aging band had fused and perished, faces
Picassoed, mop tops mixed—a teleporter
Mishap while on tour. One shrewd reporter,
Who’d glimpsed the Cubist mess, could not refrain
From wit: the band’s two stars now shared one brain,
Which was ironic; Liam and Noel, rock gods
And warring brothers, spent their lives at odds.
But now their hearts, once split in two, were one
Big mashup of a muscle in a ton
Of flesh—the band’s last huddle.
Noel’s song “Slide
Away” was playing; Hubert had subscribed
To MOJOplus, the upper-price-point version
Of the mag—and Hubert’s main diversion
From the grind of grad school. MOJOplus,
On pixiepaper, was superfluous,
But awesome. If you tapped a tintype (what
His folks once called “a foto”) it would strut
Or speak or turn into a talking head
Voiceovering some footage. If you read
About a song, the page might start to play
Its chords. That said, the reader had no say
In when concentric liquid ripples might
Begin to spread across the text, a white
And foamy head of Stella swallowing
The type; or when the letters, following
Their own discreet imperatives, might swarm
Like filings in magnetic fields to form
A BMW. A barnacle
Of kale might crawl across an article
And bloom into an ad for superfood.
Your MOJOplus could analyze your mood,
Decide you need more sleep, and push a pill
Designed for you alone—bespoke ZzzQuil.
On pixiepaper, type, no longer black
And fixed, could stretch, divide, curl up, go slack,
And vanish. Pics could puddle, spread, and blend,
Like Rorschach blots set loose.
Towards the end
Of every MOJO was the “Buried Treasure”
Essay. This one-page feature took the measure
Of some minor work time had forgot
To, well, forget or scrub from human thought:
The sort of record that was out of print
Or went for hundreds when described as “mint. ”
And it was this page, in the June edition,
Hubert later likened to a vision.