Reuben Gelley Newman

Frame Loop // Disintegration Loop

for Arthur Russell and Julius Eastman; after Peter Zummo and William Basinski

[A Tape]

William Basinski cradling an old
         cassette in his hands,
                  hearing the easy

integrate over the course
         of an hour as the tape
                  loops on, breaking down
                           as if it were
                                    a human,

its ferrite falling from the plastic
         like a boy unsticking from another
                  boy’s chest—the magnetic
                           music of loss,
                                    of longing—

[A Decade]

Hearing those Disintegration Loops, I think of you, Julius,
         and you, Arthur—how your lives disintegrated,
                  how the decade killed you
                           with its American violence,
                                    the monotone violence

of neglect, the bitter taste of racism and bigotry,
         of GRID and government
                  and a so-called gay disease,
                           of being out of work
                                    and down

on your luck in the Lower East Side,
         languishing, the curses
                  of capitalism & cocksucking
                           & crack & motherfucking
                                    Ronald Reagan,

Ed Koch defending the NYPD
         from charges of police brutality
                  and all the bands playing
                           at CBGB, folk-
                                    rock punking

the streets as the decade prospered on,
         littered with the trash of drag queens
                  & junkies, poets & bankers,
                           each borough braving it
                                    through a New York

I never knew, but here’s to you,
         you sweet boys, blazing
                  disco & minimalism
                           in the last years
                                    of your lives, so let me

postpone the elegy—it will come
         soon enough—let me postpone
                  the el gy—it will come
                           soon enough—let me
                  postpone the e   y—it will come
                           soon enough—let me postpone
                  the      —it will come
         soon enough—let me
postpone th             it will come
         soon enough—let me postpone
                  t                t will come
                           soon enough—let me
                  post                            ill come
                           soon enough—let me
                                        ill come
         soon enough—let me
                                    ll come
         soon enough—let me
                                         l come
                           soon enough—let me
                           soon enough—let me
         soon enough—let me
         soon enough—let me postpone
                           soon enough—let me

[A Loop]

Peter Zummo whirring a frame loop
         from the garden of his trombone,
                  a dazzle of drum
                           as your cello pirouettes
                                    with every possible sound,

and Zummo is alive, and somewhere in New York
         he sings his instrument into twists
                  I never knew existed, loving improv
                           laying louder than the city, softer than
                                    memory—hushed, like time—

[A Composition]

One man conducting and the other man listening:
         Arthur telling you to make the horns softer, then
                  it’s time—Aaarrrthuur, they’re waiting out there!
                           Julius hisses as you fiddle with your cello
                                    one last time, and you come out, Arthur,

you raise your baton, Julius,
         and the CETA Orchestra begins,
                  a grumpy bunch, sure, but they live
                           in your music, its somber
                                    spacecraft of sound,

the opening ringing for all the world
         like something out of Star Wars,
                  dissonant and gleaming
                           like the men you are,
                                    the ghosts you will become.

[A Prayer]

And Basinski, unlike you, Julius; unlike you, Arthur;
         Basinski lives on, too, somewhere in LA.
                  The heat shimmering over the low-
                           lying roofs. That silky
                                    California heat,

not the sweaty crescendo of sun
         against the Brooklyn asphalt.
                  Not your diva fallen
                           to earth, Julius,

supernova crash & burn & fade,
         not Arthur’s drift into the salt sea,
                  not my metaphor, not
                           my nostalgia,
                                    not even

love & ambition, or how
         the city buzzes with fame
                  & happenstance,
                           the opposite
                                    of erasure—

I’m so happy that I met you
         and came to find,
sings Zummo
                  in the cover, his articulation infinitely
                           clearer than Arthur’s,
                                    even as

the world fragments
         further around
                  us, thirty years
                           into this

Reuben Gelley Newman (he/him) is a writer, musician, and library worker based in New York City. His poems are available or forthcoming in diode, The Fairy Tale Review, The Journal, Alien Magazine, The Baltimore Review, and elsewhere. A Content Editor at The Adroit Journal and a Co-Editor at Couplet Poetry, you can find him on Instagram and Twitter @joustingsnail.