“CHRIS BELL” uses the astrological birth chart of the poem’s titular figure, the tragic founder of Big Star and member of the infamous 27 Club, to form a foundation of thinking about celebrity culture as a cipher for immanent mortality. This piece, part of a larger series of lyrics, found text, collage-works, and flat inscriptions or rewrites, deals with star-crossed lovers (literally, popular figures who share the same planetary alignments as Chris Bell) who find the entirety of their lives charted out ahead of time. Its interlocutor is the voice of Whitman’s “Are you the new person drawn toward me?”, emerging beneath the Mars Trine Neptune dynamic.
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52 Trine Mars – Neptune
His feelings are dominated by wisdom and geared towards the ideal. He likes water, sea voyages. He likes odd people.
Are you the new person drawn toward me?
Amy and Eddie are trying to make it work. At night they read to each other while they drift off to sleep.
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?
Do you think I am trustworthy and faithful?
Having started so young and emerged into the public spotlight so seemingly fully formed there is the feeling shared between them that perhaps these missed opportunities for some type of real connection come not from a lack of effort but rather a lack of understanding. Perhaps they’re not asking the right questions, or the path laid out before them, once so easy to navigate, has indiscernibly shifted and a previously vaporous feeling of dislocation is beginning to condense, solidify. In these lean middle years Eddie floats atop the legacy he’s been promised; Harlem Nights emerges, a monument both to arrogance and a genuine love of what came before. Nightmares of Ronnie Spector’s golden coffin keep Amy in a dim, sleepless haze.
To begin with, take warning, I am surely different from what you suppose
Precociousness has a precariously short half-life and the mantle of prodigy might be the most well-dressed curse ever placed upon a person. They were asked to grow up fast, though without the soul-crushing anonymity that provides a barrier for others to press up against as they begin defining their own limits. Talented, attractive, their magnetism often repels anything attempting to get close; the whole world charged with a reverse polarity and each other perhaps the only place to connect. For a time Eddie is given a reprieve; tho so readily appearing the brash provocateur in public, he withdraws to little speculation. Amy, however, is blamed for the questionable behavior of those around her. Her overall look is described as pastiche, the perfect storm of history’s bad girls. Lauded for the authenticity of her rich, world-weary voice she’s expected to keep her real life separate from it. A voice removed like Ursula trapping Ariel’s song in a seashell; a voice by itself, seductive, a body forced to woo without it.
Do you see no further than this facade, this smooth tolerant manner of me?
What could be imagined? Even moreso, if anything else came before it. As if their respective lineages could be seen as contrails or the superheated tails of frozen comets, a line of trajectory clearly extending from a single point which constantly advances, and that to refuse to do so would deny their very natures. Not escaping from but rather pulling memory forward in transport. Eddie aggressively courts family organizations and law enforcement agencies as if there could be no real continuity, and his star ascends. Completely exhausted given her diminishing resources, for a brief moment Amy burns brighter than ever before.
Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion?
Jamie Townsend is a conspiracy theorist at Elderly, an emergent hub of ebullience and disgust. He is author of several chapbooks, most recently Propositions (Mondo Bummer, 2014), as well as the forthcoming full-length SHADE (Elis Press, 2015).