The Or Tree - Chapter 2
Unenticed by dark religious systems
Or died for a week
(perambulating the house alone’s great variety
of ghosts of skeletons of men,
we have to take death in small doses).
On the seventh day they woke
at the usual time, caterwauling in the chambers
of the brain, passing their hand
across the brow as if to wipe away some cloud, princess or ship
— the usual sedatives and irritants.
Memories that cripple life
and animals in attitudes of great agony helped
stir moonlight with a bat in the crypt
built upon corruption.
We that dance and sing must lie
beneath invention — the cardinal labour of composition
of what a hand can do
clouded in trousers,
contorted with cogitations,
melancholy, indolence, passion,
with glow-worms, with a love of literature, infected by a germ
said to be bred of the pollen of the asphodel eye.
Or evaporated (reality is phantom)
once the disease of reading the system took to writing
asses and linen. Deeply smitten in Or’s hand as if Ajax had lacked,
his great hole smelt poems to publish,
was an inexpiable disgrace.
The Or Tree fingered the quill, has already played
so many queer tricks on us, making us so
unequally of clay and diamonds, rainbow and granite,
stuffed into a case for the poet who delights
in muddle and mystery, who knows
why our daily movements are like the passage of a ship
on an unknown sea-glass horizon.
Land or none? Yes. No.
Or, who has so much to answer for
besides the perhaps unwieldy length of this sentence
(memory is odd, disconnected fragments in a gale of being
a bluff piece of work), should have struck
their pen in the big bright eyes of the Poetry witch
and heart their dancing ground,
but to break the solitude of years and communicate
with the outer world, Or, in a state,
writ a book which outshone
Sir B____, Sir G____, Sir M____, Sir A____, Sir R____,
Sir J____, Sir H____. A skull, a finger, and the moonlight were
dust — the glories of blood and state
transfigured by a sneer — in sheer abstraction,
The Or Tree with its million leaves burnt to ashes.
In a small bag the poet slouched,
the dog had bit them.
Mankind was puzzled as to where to place them
— the Poet Stranger — name green.
The sacred subject of poetry flashed green, thumped glass.
Jilted at the nature of poetry itself (in the writing),
so rash as to write a mouse truth, Or’s great
spleen burnt as ice.
Or’s unconscious spine was fireworks
inside a mattress of machinery
(think conspiracy / think against).
Poetry was dead —
Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, Browne, Donne
could not think green laughs,
writing poetry in prose hard words. In the pay cell,
ill of literature past, Or’s experiments loved
the future life of these doctrines —
drunk silly things. “Stap my vitals, Bill,” green explained,
trembling to be a poet, to brawl, to go
and say a thing like that:
“Glawr! Glawr! Glawr!”
Alone, I would lie in bed every morning reading green
— that’s what I call Glawr.
Or abandoned all hope of discussing their own work
with green anecdote gods
and quarrelled with their kind of scribble —
poetry on bills that the rest of time spent junketing
in beer gardens —
green pitch mimicry.
A strange indefinite something good God
was so full of instruments
— a geranium, a carnation, an oak —
that oranges grew underground and trees twittered
at his jokes, all of which
gave Or a bitch of an apoplexy.
A slothful plaguey green spirit
came between the sheets and on the turf. Weed,
they thought — green affection.
So splendid to make toasted cheese.
Green children had been baking mud pies in gin
— green-spirited satire.
Doubt about green. Green with deadly composure.
Done with men Literature was a farce.
The Or Tree dreamed.
Two things alone remained to trust
and a vast amount of illusion.
And so secluded writing and reading saw young
ferns unfurl, saw the moon sickle,
saw every tree and plant
green, cobwebs bloom and fade with amazing punctuality.
From the queer element of the human
the strangest variety of objects
rose. And from a numbskull elephant brain,
from a parchment Hustler heart —
books and lit metaphors
cumbered the bottom of the sea
grown about with bones and dragonflies of drowned women.
Another metaphor by Jupiter!
no dragonfly, unless under very exceptional circumstances,
could live at the bottom of the sea-green sky.
The austere spirit of poetry
darkens like a flight of girls fleeing the embraces
of woods. We despaired of being
able to solve the problem of what poetry is,
and what truth is
fell into deep profit, tragedy.
What a true poet, who has poetry published in green,
sardonic and loose-lipped about Glawr
— blasted green!
Memory saw, green tore the parchment —
poet of immortality in the bin!
As to the value of obscurity,
it struck them anonymously like a bullet
of rejected love which had only seen thoughts,
some of them oblong.
A massive wall curled into the air
never more humane.
Furnishing man in the odious parliament, green
had made a stain on the carpet —
crimson white, walnut,
crimson damask, silver crimson.
It is an effect that lists have upon us
— we are beginning to yawn.
There are ninety-nine pages more and the total sum now
millions of our money — silver,
topaz rose, snow crocus,
hyacinth, magnolia, lily, aster, dahlia, pear,
apple, cherry, mulberry,
evergreen, silver, blue and green,
dolphins wtih mermaids on their backs, velvet gilt —
The Or Tree: a poem with many lines,
and with the sum of them
rather less than at the beginning,
it looked as if in the process of writing
the poem would be completely unwritten, changed
— a shadow in riding hood, a stranger
determined to follow, twitching,
averse to company,
inclined to the shapeliest legs.
Love the argument between the sexes for a moment:
dark, and with coarse black wings,
love wheeled about,
haunted Or every day and night by phantom-dung
— uninhabitable —
pelting them with hazel///////nuts.
'The Or Tree' is a fictitious recreation of the fictitious poem, ‘The Oak Tree’, by Virginia Woolf’s character Orlando (who was based on Vita Sackville-West). ‘The Or Tree’ is an assemblage and erasure poem, or rather, is resurrected chronologically using fragments of text leftover from a burnt copy of Orlando: A Biography. “Or” is a character in the poem. They are also a conjunction and a ghost.