Monday, May 31, 2010

7. Huth Thought Not (Two Blue Curtains)

Writing is a nest
of words entangled in each other
the long leg of an R slipping
into the closed bowl of the O and a Q
appears upside-down on our minds
if not in the page.

Writing is a set of nets
thrown by hands up out over
the water
to sink and pull back
whatever they can: tin cans,
balls of tarry oil, an arm of coral,
possibly fish—writing as blind
attempts of grasping hands.

I’ve spent the day so far here
at the only lake where my presence at it
extends backwards for decades,
where every boat roars past and every
large wave is the edge of
a boat’s wake. I spent the day reading
and writing, two interlocking activities,
a nest of nets, push and pull,
the drawn out, the drawn on, resident
in the world of words,
words, words. What is the matter of it,
and why do we do it?

If you believe as you say,
that you write not for pleasure, I am
aghast and agree. Language

is little more than
clay, and there is
that joy in the feel
of it, cool against
the skin, between
the fingers, how
it pushes through
at just that point
you cannot expect,
how it can be moved
into place and shape,
the form you made
and meant or did
not, or would not
have except that
the word is clay
and takes our shape.

But writing is also always an act
of failure, the inability to find what way
you need to make sense not of but with
words, the need to find a thing to say,
and the stress is upon the need,
compulsion to expulsion, to get
the words out and down and onto
a page, binge by reading, purge
through writing, the pain of that
failure and the obsession to continue
to fail, for the word won’t work,
the word won’t work, the word won’t
work for us.

And to make a record that we were here,
that we had hands and wrote,
that we had tongues and spoke,
that we had hands and wrote,
that we had hearts and broke—
all said to a universe both silent and cold,
the stars twisting in unison above our heads.

I have been reading through
David Bromige’s selected poems, which, at their best,
are twisted roots of syntax that hold the poem
tight against the page, that burrow in,
extend, to the depths of us, that force me
back over their lines to grab hold
onto the muscular pull of that wiry
syntax, which tells and tells,
but doesn’t want to speak.

In one of Bromige’s poems, focused
on the stars, and recounting
astronomical discoveries, I found
a little phrase, or maybe just a word,
though arguably a short sentence
that caused me to jump:

Or are both debris of a former & a larger planet

Which exploded       Huth
Thought not     His mind was quite made up
Maybe he was right         I can’t decide

I had, until that moment, not
even known of the existence of the planetoids
Pallas and Ceres (their names so quaintly classical
as if to make them mythical), or of the
astronomer Hofrath Huth
who thought not,

though it seems that I, too, might not
think so, might be inclined towards skepticism,
more likely to know than believe,
or think so, at least. But the surprise
here is unrelated to astronomical bodies,
and I might not consider the differences among

an asteroid
a planetoid
a dwarf planet

might not care about filling in
the gaps between
the planets in our solar system
turning around their omphalos,
our sun.

The universe is indeed dark
and tending to silence. The poets
are left to talk into the void.

Later in the same poem
(not this one, which is a letter
to you), Bromige agrees with you
and says:

Writing is an act
Writing makes a kind of record

The human is the only animal
that can remember itself intentionally
into the future, and writing does
that. Even if our names are lost
but our anonymous words remain,
so we remain: Pearl poet, Gawain poet,
Homer. We are the encoding of
our DNA and the strength
of our words to continue.

We write to keep our fingers moving,
and there is a beauty in that simple
act: the fingers pressing against the keys,
how our hands slightly turn to face
the right spot on that body of keys. Watch
a person do something they do
unconsciously well, and see the beauty
in those movements: fingers moving
the collars, the sleeves and cuffs of
a blouse into place, those thousand
gliding moments, like the movement
of a pen across a page, the instant crossing-
out of an error, the seeping of ink into
paper, like a surgical incision,
the concision of words well placed and few.

I don’t leave this nest
of words for you
as an exemplar of what words
might do, this is only a letter,
a few thoughts written from a blonde
but garrettlike room with
a view of nothing but the sky
and a single tree almost blocking
the sky and the two blue curtains
that bracket the sky. I write
these only because you are
a friend and a poet,
and I am certain you write
words in ways I could never write,
though I want to,
I want to, because I write for the joy of it,
for the sound of them, for their silence
on the page, for the beauty of them
when made right,
and I write them in the summer,
which begins now, and for winter, which
comes soon and lasts long,
I write

to keep warm, to build
a word of wool or wood.

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