Author's Note: The piece below is a duplex poem with title taken from John Ashbery. Jericho Brown created this form in 2018 and five duplexes appear in his Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, The Tradition. Brown starts with the 14 lines of the sonnet, and within those 14 lines, he crosses the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated lines linked in couplets, endemic of the ghazal, while keeping to the blues poem’s line length of between nine and 11 syllables. The opening line of the poem reappears as its final line.
Duplex: Like Some Pocket History of the World, So General1
How the nightmare procession unfolds. We’re stuck in Jacob’s dream about a ladder— the ladder where angels go up and down, glaring. Serpentine, they almost hiss, a stretching silence. Serpentine footfalls stretch silence up and down. Dimes clink beneath a black steel banister. People’s spirits fall and clink beneath black steel. Grocery sacks are lead as people trudge. They trudge upstairs, lugging lead, their lungs aflame. Angels pass them wearing surgical masks. Angels in surgical masks wield scalpel eyes. Antiseptic aloofness is a scalpel. Scalpels aloof, angels avoid contagion. How the nightmare procession unfolds. Title from the poem “Grand Gallop” by John Ashbery, in his collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.
Originally published in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Issue 10 (October 2021)
©2022 Jonathan Yungkans
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to say what it is about the poem you like. Writing to the author is what builds the community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL