On Max Reeves’ new book of photographs I REMEMBER A WHITE CAT IN TANGIER
(Entropy Press 2020)
Burrough’s last completed book,
THE CAT INSIDE seemed to store
All of his love and affection.
The feline muse overtook him,
Just as the female form left him dry,
But it was in Tangiers that he found
A free and physical form for desire,
Spraying streets and city both
With his writer’s seed and sharp eye.
And now Max Reeves returns,
Accompanied by the tiny but vital Samanta,
To walk those scented streets that begat
The true development of the Beats
After their first New York drumroll,
As the Naked Lunch spread tts blanket
And God was glimpsed in the asshole
Of a convienient boy,
Or a cat,
White and watching it all,
And easily representing the beauty
Of a once mythical city
That has fallen far from its throne,
To reveal broken streets.
For when the legends leave,
All is emptied, and the ghosts we still
Grieve for leave us all unattoned.
Reeves senses this as he scours on
Through the city. His Cyclops camera eye
Retains focus, even perhaps as he sleeps.
For the city that fuelled him in dreams
Became the middle name of his daughter,
Whose own beauty echoes the scents
That Reeves shapes through these peeps.
But unlike Tom, Max ain’t tame,
He captures it all as he chases
The white cat within Burrough’s dream state
That he saw disappear at a door,
Returning inside certainly, both to a room
And a soulscape, that these Photographs
Duly capture as that sleek slipped shape
We glimpse a back street,
At night,a configuration of lights like lost
Statements, Burrough’s gaze, met by Gysins
And a dark skinned boy they’d have kinned;
The blue day. The blue night.
As white stone and lights achieve congress;
Samanta waiting at a window,
Perhaps for the cat who comes, drawn
By sin. It arcs across a ledge, opposite,
As if it were a much summoned ghost,
Or a potion, savoured and poured
Through lost kisses that will forever remain
We move to the open jaws
Of a mask, as another cat curves
With a dancer; wee pass a cartoon wall
Scrawled by devils, we catch an eye bleached
Man’s sightless stare; each photograph is a step
That a fading moon clearly spotlights,
As Reeves and Bellotta’s walk covers
The Beats’ rhythmic tread, primed with care.
A cat is caught. Sketched boats sail.
A stain and rag fuse together.
What could be Wells’ Invisible Man sneers
Before us, in a layer stripped wall Collage.
These photographs peel the eye
As Burroughs did through his writing,
And Gysin, too. Theirs were hauntings
As were Paul Bowles’ books; pure mirage.
Max finds the bookshop in the square
Where Paul and Jane haunted daily.
It looks like something out of Shoreditch,
Or, Paris, the King’s Road, of course,
Or, New York. Perhaps Paul’s
Pages from Cold Point began here,
Or Jane Bowles’ A Stick of Green Candy,
The comfort and pleasure in contrast
To the frenzy and grace that each sought.
Reeves met Paul Bowles once but did not
Recognise him. On this return trip he honours
What he did not know before as he prowls;
A boy and cat check a box full of old files
And paper, a carcass is stretched
Like a hammock, a cat is graved by another
Box and near scowls. We arrive at The Hotel
Rembrandt, at night, where in 1954 Burroughs
First met Brion Gysin. Now that night returns
Through the photo as we time travel back
Across dark. That imprint remains,
As we see a man’s legs at a desk, papered
Over, before another cat punches paper,
As if a mobster had cleared the memory
From us, with the fury that makes his last mark.
We pass parchment walls, blue scarred jars
And then the immaculate coastline;
Bikes bleached by sunlight, and crinkled
Cut chip shadows on steps. A woman
Becomes silhouette, a city cartooned within
City; a beggar planted, then plantbots
As false grinning teeth tongue what’s left.
We see a closer cat’s surly steeped
And stepped stare, as another starts
At a shadow, sensing no doubt, a ghost
Presence, against which it feels duty bound
To defend. It requires William’s tender touch,
As of course do these photos, before a dead cat,
Rich with maggots connects the feline fighting
Stance as calm ends.
Then there are
Pomegranates in bloom and a gun toting boy
Looking skyward. By Dean’s Bar and Pink
Doorways more history is unearthed,
Across the scarred and stained streets
That rise and sing through these pictures,
We capture the cat caught within us
As the death of the dream claims rebirth.
An Arab appears like a ghost between
A close rainbow of buildings. These are images
From a poem for which both soul and cat
Provide rhyme. A positive perabula forms
As Tangiers cats claim the city. As it decays
All around them the cause they kept redefines.
On page 88 there’s a trip, as a cat’s stare
Becomes pure psychedelic. On page 92,
One confronts us with an all too apparent
Truth from the real: that we have simply
Deserted our dreams and so that clear need
Journeys through these photographs
To retrieve them, as the connect through a picture
Is more than a poem, or, for that matter,
Even prose, can reveal.
A young man poses, proud,
As the ghost of Bill S. B. edges closer.
Samanta B. walks before us casting on a wall
What could be
The photographer’s shade,
So close are we now to connection
In the spiritual sense, that this city
Is part of everything else we might see.
Men gaze up. Boys look down,
Brandishing guns. Its alarming. That a city
Of lost love and writing is also a warzone
That feeds and fuels its own war.
It was always a dangerous place.
The scratching cat’s no domestic,
And while kisses come there’s still conflict
Between the being seen and the viewed;
Tramps, trampled fruit, as if all substance
Lay ransacked. With none of those old
Influences still present Reeves cyclops on
For myths’ truths. It is not in the market,
Or night, but it may still sit in back alleys
For these are the kingdoms over which
The cats released always reign.
The Interzone built before has been
Weeping out now for decades.
In Reeves’ book it is mourned for,
As with these photos those tears at least
Are contained. Niall McDevitt’s end quote
Says it all, as these ‘lost ghosts and sacred sites’
Reconfigure. With a click of the lens,
Reeves writes poems, read by Bill, Paul,
Jane and Brion; each one a cat
In the courtyard,
And each one singing out:
See each call.
David Erdos May 8th 2020