Jonny Quatrain (Out Calls Only)

Power is being told you are not loved and not being destroyed by it.


Do you want to get my heart or
get me hard? I thought this was art,
not a journal or a diary. Talk
about forced entry. True, what I do comes

from inside of me, but for all
you know, what you misperceive as
honesty is only a show performed
for my poetry. A sordid sort of

character study for those I
won’t let get close to me. A self-
assured hustler of verse who prefers out
calls only, more at home, of course, being

someone else when it comes down to
this trickiest business of
telling my sweatiest stories. The true
embodiment of that classic, oh-so-

Wildean conceit of giving
a man a mask so he’ll tell you
the truth. Whatever works, really. Even
Sexton referred to her own brand not as


Confessionalism, but simply
Personal, and I’m an avowed
Poet of Personality, read, if
by anybody and seriously,

to see what they can learn about
me, if anything at all. This
is shameless illusory mystery
made manifest, a product packaged so

relentlessly in simile
and metaphor calculated
to further no agenda but something
so controversial as exploring out

loud lewd fantasies which, for too
long, were silently hiding in
me, a filth of ideas—god forbid!—
defying lived obscenity. Not so

much getting away with something,
but getting off on it. Love is
the perennial philosophy which
keeps resurfacing no matter how much


it’s suppressed. No one can censor
this. Gentle reader, ravenous
eater of my sins I keep on keep-on-
publishing, having never learned any

better this lesson, credit, if
anything, my persistence, my
indefatigable perseverance.
Though history says we can’t succeed, that

we’re doomed to repeat its process
of hope returning defeated,
crawling circuitously to failure,
a volatile mercurial temper

causing all our well-intentioned
alchemical procedures to
get us nowhere, not when the change is yet
already there, wherever we look for

something better, something to get
us out of here, some belief in
something far higher than our falls’ lowest
failings, remember inevitably—


inextricably—we are in
this together. It’s in me to
suffer with the substance through its painful
transformation, to take on every-

one’s trauma-metamorphosing
experiences no matter
how ugly or uncomfortable. Fame’s
decaying illusions of glamour thwart

interpretation when one fails
to get past the persona through
to the person shouldering what’s a real
universal burden this medium’s

terse form makes more relatable.
Nonetheless, never confuse the
archetypal for the personal. All
similarities tend to end where an

opening for discourse begins.
In you I watch my Self being
dissolved. Our inmost parts touch until we
feel nothing else but just the two of us


becoming one lost on the slick
periphery of a weeping
heart, sighing where its flesh melts toward what
others call heaven, that blessed moment when

a hoped for tomorrow arrives
without warning today. Purged by
such warmth of contaminating forces,
a unicorn resting in the arms of

a virgin, vanquished but not slain,
when I win your attention this
war’s over, no more need to deceive the
weak enemy, to flee the pursuit of

these illusions of worthlessness
working against my words’ armour.
Suddenly, taking things further means no
more than being vulnerable in front

of one another, no, no more
fronting as indestructible.
Only ardour. This passion of ours for
each other than which no pleasure’s heat could


ever possibly be better.
This exchange of glances across
the same milky paper, your eyes falling
where mine do now perhaps moments after

I finish editing this draft
or centuries later, such is
the power of language, immortal when
printed. Always waiting, so patiently,

to be appreciated. Great
seduction places its faith in
anticipation, invests all in an
effort whose gesture might be wasted if

never again called upon. This
flame’s dance desire choreographs,
a chance meeting of fire and water when
I’m in my element, channelling pure

spirit, energy surpassing
an equinox’s gift which breaks
foul weather into a bliss of night and
day of equal length, sky seasoning our


plight’s necessary struggle of
distance with hoped for strength, enough
in time to bring nearer together those
opposites not so opposed at all when

bathed in such light. We may never
meet but these are letters, open
secrets mined from the vault of my head, rough
gems distilled from this breath filling my mouth

into the ink spilling from this
pen I grip, rich revelations—
apocalypses—intended by this
hand to send into the world what of mine

I offer as yours now to pore
over and treasure when I’m at
the end of my wits. In this way what I
say to the crowd is at once both theirs and

ours. Something to savour the way
a vagabond troubadour does
the one he honours forever with his
song, sweeter when heard by everyone.

1Madonna, “Madonna’s Private Diaries: Buenos Aires: Thursday, February 22[, 1996]”, in Vanity Fair: No. 435: November 1996, published at New York by Condé Nast Inc. in 1996; page 225.