Excerpt: from Tau by Philip Lamantia

Going Forth By Day

To suck the sign from circumvolutions
He can cast diced divagations
To the four winds: Nothing and the sun
Will speak for him: He speaks from the sun.

On temporal levels, on this level Now,
The personaged past interpenetrates
On the weird slung head
And screams screams
On all sides of the snakes of Tau.

Cosmogonic amplifiers erase minumumed
Signatures of daimoniacal configuration
Whose greater space passed into future:
Fire unlocking by saturation
Eye of the sterilized Tau.

The blueskimmed, dancing vibratories
Stipple air with kra/cries,
A shaman calls from the Old Oak Bough
A garden grows into the sea

The Sun in the Jaguar City
Televisions the northern changes:
By tropic instigations
Scuttles the clockwork panoramics.

	Who breaks the tree of life
		drops the key to death,
	In the Vacuum's glare: dies unknown,
		earthcloven into cannons
	Of the wrongwayed men
		blasting space of cosmic cruelty
	Where the humbled are.

A city of escape hatches—

The Snake flies down The Bird
		Sounding sibyl scream:

	Infinite suns secrete the gong going day.

Ground grade guard the crucible
		Cook air
Toward the Air: into materia Immateria
		the Stone
and transvecticize the Earth,

Crackles beneath and above:
stars overoute the wordtide.

		This Eye before (am
searched for) Interspored in darkness
		For the Shades kept,
		A Light
O time pure flowing

Riding cantilevered spaces
		Is seen
			to See
Of the flowered spiritscapes.

This month on the blog, in addition to our regular excerpts from recently released City Lights titles, we’re featuring excerpts from our backlist that orbit (near or far) around this theme of “journey,” observations from/about whatever worlds our authors have visited.

Tau is Philip Lamantia’s mystical second collection of poems, slated for publication in 1955 but suppressed by the poet due to his evolving religious beliefs. Mysterious and austere, the poems of Tau are an essential addition to Lamantia’s published work, documenting the period between his teenage surrealist debut Erotic Poems (1946) and the religious poems of Ekstasis (1959), also the period of his closest association with Kenneth Rexroth. Later in 1955, when he participated in the 6 Gallery reading where Allen Ginsberg debuted “Howl,” Lamantia read none of his own work, instead reading the poems of his best friend, John Hoffman (1928-1952), a legendary Beat poet who died of unknown causes in Mexico at age 24. An archetype of the Beat-era hipster—tall, lean, goateed, and bespectacled—Hoffman is depicted along with Lamantia and others in “Howl,” as well as in Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums (1958).


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