Wednesday, June 30, 2010

37. The Present Past

a. art

abstr. & cncrt

or floating
as a representation of what you know
the pressure of the palette on the eye

show Mark
the painting

apple in place of an eye
maybe he’s a chola with that hat

abstraction as a representation of
the manner in which light hits the surface of an object

the infinite dexterity of the eye
working as the eye works

a mind does best what it doesn’t know it does


show Mark
to everyone

at first he appears to be a straightforward example of a human
he even has hair

but the color is wrong
a circus of citrus

and he wears as he reads in the courtyard a tie
the square representing restricted order and venue of human activity

it is only in the movement of his finger that they realize it

begin the being

even fruit is real and ripe
orchestral in colors of merging and diverging tint

meaning in a human is not just the expression
of a word squeezing out of the body at the sphincter of the mouth

only the pressure of constriction produces the music
friction’s required for the sound of it even down the long tube of human voice

[the pause in the poem is for effect]

imagine as a requirement of your eyes

colors in the shapes reflecting nature as naturally perceived
the concrete outlines of flesh and fur and flower and flow

imagine again

colors in the shapes of human imagination
mind as matter and shapes as expression beyond sight


b. archives

the body of our knowledge is not milk and blood
the body of our knowledge is trapped visions and voices

give us unto this day as a token for eternity a changeless word
acrobat of the least voice and required of no air

remanded to the prison of the page or the picture
or being the electric voice of the dead

do you have in hand the holographic letter
three-dimensional in the fact of its presence as form

have you in time and across saved the present pulse of the word
capturing that current that replicates human body

pulse as impulse
impelled and pulled

memory is an act of edition
removal to the core

segregation of the forgettable into forgotten
memorable into membered thus allowed the body to exist

the palm of your hand as a record of the past
false code for the future

being yourself as a rememberer
of self and other
and the descant past

the echoes of selves

c. are

yes you

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

36. The Count after the Fall

branches of birds
I remember them
they were like night

I prefer camphor
over frankincense
but camphor is meaningless

their bodies were contained
within contours of their moving
if there were eyes for seeing it

delicate dedicate defecate
observations beyond the point
where perceptions were possible

aching and joyous
not the bluejay who is heartless
not the cardinal who is sorrow

a fruit red like a berry
a fruit deep deep purple
black has no taste

terse and three of them
a Host is a moon is a wafer
is the body we chew for blood

car rushing past like surf
the rim of refuse in the sand
a darkness out there like night

if you’d wandered Boston
the banks of the Charles
O, the pleasures of darkness

given over to grief
tires over gravel
growling forms behind us

words abandon us
for the simplicities of sound
insight toward incite

sophist for a night
her neck like a swan’s
but smooth skin for feathers

tender brushstrokes
is paint a kind of ink?
who loves the painted woman?

helicoptered night
the air cut into thin shreds
falling floundering sound

that orange hair
a face made for it
if I had a poem for each time

omelet and seasoned potatoes
the herbs in the sausage
charged sunlight after winter

changed the word
to find the meaning
a sparrow walkway down

railings as shadows
bearing light
footsteps upon stairs

heavy-lidded lemons
two by two
waiting for sleep

a thrum of mumblebees
a carpentered burrowing
to the wood of the house

she stoops to stomp
we stop and shop
doowop doowop

pepper under pestle
the mortar that holds
bright fragments between teeth

scintillations of water
a glassway of trout
grace takes the form of bough

not a chinchilla of evidence
all furry like a cunt
upturned yes or nose at an angle

trembling utopia
a palmful of sweat
the tears in the sheet

in phonographic sound
dark scratches of a voice
we cannot remember it either

the morning’s code
impatient taps or flashes
the brilliance of blindness

determined and desultory
a Tudor Ford
a Fordor Ford and counting

dejected lines
constance and prudence
marvelous mavens of the moue

punctuated pause
the time before it lasted

syringe and syrinx
injection of self into self
everything you read is through

plucking of heartstrings
the clicking of the tongue to come here

iridescent hole
eyeball between eyelids
fifty lashes in a row

succubus and nymphlight
the night of your walking through
what you do what you do

take every broken gadget
and fashion that jetpack
the sky is bigger than the earth

I give you these tremors
from my two bony hands
the terrors of the heart

Monday, June 28, 2010

35. Olfactory Illusion

It is, as if a type of wonder, to wonder if
the smell that comes from the body or the air—or if
it comes from the room in itself, as if there were,
as itself, parts of the room of the house, in the place where
houses are maintained in a set, and presented in rows and appearing
as if crossing over each other, in space, under boughs of maple,
stain of shadow at their feet, even if in the slowly flashing light,
firefly, abdomen, bioluminescent, a light that appears then appears
again, out of place, as if moving in space, humid, as if a moving of
turgid space, wet with the scent of water filling, as if it had fallen
heavy from the sky, whose drops are worlds where thrive
every ancient civilization, tumbling to earth, a carpet of water,
a sheen, the sweat of the earth, a cool rain that makes us warm,
when warmth’s not needed, the sun slipped, as if away, from view,

and it is, as if there were in the body the ability to feel the passage of time,
that I might measure the space of it, as if it were a graspable thing,
and in this way I might comprehend, to the degree to which,
or of which, in the manner of its being, that the state that exists,
continuing, like a present, might be a systematic set of pasts,
each gathered with its others, in the hope that what appears
before me is never, as we might assume, what is, but something
entirely else, not the lived and lyrical present, but a misplaced past
bound, wrist to wrist, with another past and another,
so that I might suddenly experience my life, as if it had happened,
as if I could pay attention to it, and how, and in what way, it happens,
or there could be a room in what we call a house, beside a quiet street,
and that room would hold the secret stench of itself in a quiet way,
as smells are usually quiet, given to quietness, even if ostentatious

in the ways of being what they are, just as a cardinal is red only in
the event that it is a male, and filled with blood, and that it will swoop
through the garden as if I had built it stone by plant by brick for
the entertainment of birds, which pilfer the berries of the bushes,
though there might be two of them there, my hands are thus empty,
I could, in my way, swing them, open, at the winds, like a sail, and
try to move across, in a manner that might be over, except without
the addition of up, and if I look up what I might see might be sky, or
might be the replacement for sky we call night, starless, verdant
though only by the fact that what might be green if it were day and
my eyes couldn’t see what’s the color blue, which is the color of see,
though it is called seeing, as if it were not actually a form of water,
the process by which the eyes see forward, rolling out and then
pulling back, as if returning to ocean, so that the seeing’s known,

or it is the shape that the air takes, conforming to practice,
molding itself into the shape of around-tree, into the shape of
around-house, into the shape of around-me, practice without effort,
repetition without need to increase a skill, always there, it pushes
even as it is pushed away, for which reason we know it always is
the shape of itself because its shape conforms to the body, if I breathe
in, it takes the shape of my lungs, if I steal it from someone, it takes
the shape of a canister, the shape of inside-nostril on its way
to the lungs, so that I might smell, before the lung what it is that
it carries with it—that smell, if it were a smell and not an illusion,
or if the scent of it were the smell of urine, maybe of cat, maybe
of man, or if it were scent of human, that human sweat left on
a cushion, a pillow, a bed, a sweat from sweating out the night,
until the bed was moist with desire to wake, to cool, to be, to want.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

34. Stone Girl Crazy

if you wait it out
it will become

always happens

if you wait
for it

stone for water
stone for luck
stone for skipping
stone for not

pee in the rain
and you are
the rain

yell into
the storm and
you are
the storm

a few

1. Search Everybody.

is what is made
of us

but not
of us

you must
find that myth

back of a car
back of a dress
back of a card

Buicks once
roamed the earth
in search
of red dresses
to hang
as trophies

you can make
them out of
stone or
wood or

and when
you do you
will know
they are
women they
are a

2. Look for Clue.

you couldn’t
know it
without knowing
her and
you couldn’t
know if
she were
really her
without finding
too many
before her
and even more

the clues
were everywhere

sun at

rain during

the way
water turns
to ice

but never
asks her
a question

the question
you don’t

was her
hair brown?
was her
hair blonde
was her
hair short?
was her
hair long?

you need
to check
you need
to know

3. Examine all windows.

you can see
tells you
you can see

look through
each window
for a vision
that you
wait for

check each
for locks
and break
them off
if there
are any

let the windows
stay open
let the wind
come in
the night
is warmer
than your
sweat but you
are almost
as warm

be the night
and you
will see the
night even
with the moon
only through
a window

but not
through every

so look

4. Search for finger prints.

she must have left
some evidence behind
that she once existed
before you the print
of a finger on a glass
the scratch of her nail
in your back the scent
of her was it perfume?
or was it just her?

she might have left
a bruise on a petal
of the rose you gave
her and she left she
might have left the
warmth from her
breath in a cup as
she left she might
have left an im-
pression somewhere

in the mud in the gar-
den in the first garden
in wet cement in your
ball of clay in even you

find where her finger
fell where she let her
hand rest upon a table
around a cup behind
your neck on your cock
at your lower back in
a night in a night
sweating in a summer
night in a place you
cannot remember but
a place that was the
only place that was
ever real to you

5. Shadow your woman closely.

what is moist
about her
is why you
stay close but
moisture may
be tears

stay close and
you can tell

if she walks when
she moves through
the world as you
first imagined it
primeval in the
sense that it seemed
like this is the way
it first was and
never changed then
you must follow her

when she moves
you must rustle
behind her so
she thinks you are
the wind when she
stops you must
settle so she
believes you are
the sun or shade

stay close and you
may know her and
you may understand
why she moves and
where stay close
and you may catch
her scent and you
might tell when she
is ready and the
world is rolling
toward you again

6. Send for the police.

you won’t need
the police

but you
call them

their lights
will entertain
you and
they will
bring her out
of the darkness

and if
she is lost
they will
you find

the only
you have
lost is your
desire but
desire is
it is
you follow
as you must

she leaves
a trail
behind her
a gentle
of the air
a broken
blade of
grass or
a drop of
out of

and the police
might help
you find
those clues

but they
do not
know how
she feels

7. Keep cool.

two bodies are
too hot together

the sweat will
hold you tighter
together you
will not be able
to leave her
your skin will
cling to hers
and you will
not be able
to leave her
sweet cunt

she is not
a woman
she is the
first and
after the
one who
you and
your only
desire so
small that
it takes up
all the space
in your body

she wears
just a shirt
or just a
skirt or your
shirt to stay
cool because
the night is
too warm as
warm as your
sweat and
her sweat to-

it happened
all of a sudden
which is
to say
it happened

33. Thirty-Three Questions?

What is the shape
of a thought? of a word
in flight? for you, I mean,
for you, and when did you

discover what you meant
by what you expected to seem
to become? Did you ever make
a bird that could fly? and was it

bright green but
in the shape of a pigeon
and eating fruit in Africa? What
are the reasons you have given yourself

for never attending to
that small problem that seems to grow
larger each day? Which was the letter
you had intended to send

before it was too late? and was it
near the beginning of the alphabet
and a vowel? What do you do
with darkness? have you allowed it

enough space in your house or
does it push the walls out into
the night? and what do you mean
by night when the darkness

is housed within the rooms
where you live? each connected
in a series so they operate as a single
space. Do you prefer paint over

paper or canvas over pen? and
does the sound of a pencil
force you to reach for a crayon?
or can you not hear the difference?

With what breath do you speak
the words you most want to say?
is it the breath of the morning when
you have just arisen? is it the breath

of the evening and suddenly weary?
and are you given to sadness
when you say those words? What
do you think you are risking

to lose when you look
at whatever it is that you see
simply before your eyes? and when
you do, do you ever question

what you see? ever wonder if
your eyes are better than
the world’s truth revealed?
Which are the features of irony

you most admire? is it the way
that it surprises you by showing
what you know isn’t so? is it
the way irony demonstrates its

superiority over others? is it how
unrumpled your clothes are afterwards?
When you awoke this morning, awash
with sunlight, did you think, even once,

of the night that would eventually
follow? did you live your day’s life
enjoying the sun or worrying
about the unavoidable loss of life?

and did you see this as a reckoning
almost as if of death? Do you imagine
any part of your life as existing
in the shape of a small hedgehog

you could hold feeling
the tiny spines of that beast
push gently into the palms of
your cupped hands? and what

part of your life would that be?
the part before your kitchen
turned red and your faucets spilled
milk down the drain? the part

when your bedroom collapsed
into a neighbor’s dream? or the part
after you discovered the images
your hands could suddenly make?

Friday, June 25, 2010

32. Wistful Lyricism Full of Yearning (A Series of Poems on the Day)

some thing
for you

you have into


coterminous with fact

the expression despite
reserve (the expressive
desire reserved)

allimentary, my dear
what’s on the table?

as an act of courage

need and feed

lead, tho led (& lead)


survey to find

tho restricted in size
to the smallest
perceptible unit

my heart beating like my heart beating like a heart

a stationery bicycle
the exercise thereon

at a rate of
not to inceed

“good morning, lady and gentleman”

divergence into

of, not

a comma, makes the difference

barrels of bushel

to a woman, they

a fingernail of meaning
or the clipping of

as speech, or in speech,
or during a particular
instance of speaking
such as what might be
regarded as speech
(assuming as if
I hate speech)

relatively relevant

this junction

the ear to its being

understood to have been

b4 not aft.

sweet deliquescence

appropriately, particles appropriated

the box
of the boxed-
up soul

to intimate
within (intimate)
insistence as
nudging (therein)

blue cloud white

beyond the perimeter
of understanding over
a grave view of summer
flowers (afield)

of or on
it as if

in the sense of
by teeth

an provement

deliberate but

meaning an extended
and past state
of being
as if in the case of one

failure to complete
as a state of living

the precedent prevents presences

to or in
the manner of or by
for or through
systems of or for
exceeding the limitations
of or not
space as or in the style of
(to do it again)

so as to reverse
what you’ve let out

the requirement of a signature
as a form of indication

absence of ink
as in think

in the first case,
the second place

table top, the page
(what we

the scent of voices


the word for words

entertaining and

the outside
(the day itself)
from elsewhere
(timeless interior)

a certain
of meant

the week before last

(or transformed)

the egg
while it is still

is it wistful
or wistfulness that one
objects to?

the standard quo

internal and forever

she was a ball

no-one is

nuit nuit nuit
some kind of insect

Thursday, June 24, 2010

31. Elsething

as a form of being
(if you can
tell what I mean)

is eclectic

how you put
together that

the lack of
something is still


as a form
of being

the pleasure of aloneness

down to one
a single

who sees twice
as far

the pressure of aloneness

at times
like these
and in these
(darkness surrounding
a globe of light)

I am the one left

to myself
or write

there are so few words
to use to say anything

we use them for nothing

to save space

in the cherry orchards
where you live ripe
with sunlight and greened shadows
the fruit given up
and the fruit saved
are identical

the branches behold



what part of something else
will something be?

where are the edges
of beauty and from which
direction do they approach?

if I could live past it,
I might be there

the air

giving you flight
tip of the wing on
a turn and the earth
asks for your body
your life

the weight of it
you feel and fall yet

an arc
as a turn
and what you carry

a young daughter
the voice of her
the voice of here
the voice you hear

you distinguish
between sunlight and singing
but to no particular purpose

the fragrances of the earth
surround you
closing in

abundance of greening
though we grey out of it
and towards
something else

maybe small
quite large

an apartnesss
of that discrete person

you call I
I call you

every singularity
of every sung life
ablaze and blowing out

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

30. Lines upon Lines

Lines contain and
control and direct

us, telephone wire
suspended, sagging,

boundaries marked
between each square

of a sidewalk, the
streets themselves,

parallels abound
where lines exist,

we find connection
the likeness between

two people, simple
correlations of selves,

you say you lack the poetry
gene (a gene, I wonder,

for words? what would
keep something

that essential from us?),
the words that hit you

are dead or meaningless,
the hum of context,

the drone of content,
the lack of structure

leaving you grasping
for some sense of words,

or maybe just pushing
them away, but there is

a music in any words
even those laid out so

rigidly in lines as
these or those that

try for only the
quietest melodies,

really I became
an archivist because

I was a poet, both
search for then create

order, both fail, leaving
that gap between desire

and conquest that
marks the best

we humans make, you
might not see the

structure here, the
carapace of sound

that holds these few
tiny words together,

the outline of a thought
that grows organically,

the ends of a branch
ramify and ramify

again, dividing them-
selves into increasingly

smaller halves until
the tree is a pattern

of fingers, of hands,
a living reaching and

reaching out, all of us
living parallel lives

of our own, an archivist
and a poet, a person

of work and a person
at play, words used

to give direction and
words created to

provide some glimpse
at an invisible world,

the world at our feet,
the street we walk down

one side of not recognizing
that person on the other

walking towards us
and then walking away,

these patterns calm us,
so we find them in our

thinking, in our cities,
in the records we protect,

and even those records
may be unredeemable into

any order again, but
we see it, just as you

see this poem that is
actually words for me

to say, for you to hear,
clusters of sounds, moving

outward but also toward,
as we move away

only to move toward
something else, they

I know Atlanta is hot
and muggy in summer,

worse than the intense dry
heat of Phonenix, a mythical

city that burns to
the ground each day,

but you’ll grow used to the
humidity, it is human

sweat and breath, the
heat of our bodies, some-

thing we share, and it is
what brings us together.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

29. A Story Someone Else Told

Everything is circuitous
it moves forward then back
then in circles as if lost

My first time was in a department store
my memory misplaced, too young to
remember, I suppose, but kept and revived
by my mother’s retelling, lost
in a rack of clothes (I imagine
dresses) and my mother looks for me,
finds me crying
at my abandonedness

Thus everything is left
behind, put in place, relegated
to the static past, that is how
we leave behind our dead
mothers, grown children, our
friends, husbands and wives,
the little boy who whistled
his way along the sidewalk

Oh, well,
not much to do
about it

We go on, in place
of forward, with only
ourselves and a small packet
of indistinct memories,
a basketball bouncing on
its own, a set piece concerning
art and archives, what
there was for dinner one night
long before we counted
on nights

Some one of us might learn it
after all these years, how
to move in the past as if
it were our continuous future,
expectation versus repudiation,
the light that draws us

It’s good old agony time again,
she thinks, she writes, the
method is what she wants it
to be, the recording of herself,
so that she endures, not just
forward but into ourselves,
we take her in again and again,
until we realize who she is,
and we need neither diary
nor film to call her forth

I am 3 hours and 18 minutes
from her house, but she is dead,
and her son’s read through her
until all that remains is that
crystalline purity of herself:
controlled, bitter, passionate,
in wrong love, lost, and ultimately
beautiful, a tortured voice,
so I stay here, in the dark,
only a computer screen to light
the way, and it is hopeless
at it

I’ll take nothing more than
a little bit about
the inner workings of
her mind, though I’m poet
enough to know the futility
of that, though I’m archivist
enough to question any
record that might
save a human from that
inevitable demise, a word
can’t fix it, in place,
a photograph can only freeze,
but a human person is a flowing
and contradiction, lovely
in her unavoidable unacceptability

Am I ready to settle for it?
she asked only herself,
and she did, a life lived out
to the end, that single chance
funneled into spiral notebooks
until she could convince herself
she had become what she
could be, a person who
knew herself and waited
her time, a sadness befalls us
that she might not have known

To be in a life looking out
doesn’t seem a trap, even in the cage
of the body that senses the possibilities

Only those of us looking back,
those who know the story, can worry
for her, too late, too late

Her husband said,
Things are growing up,
and they are, the garden
burgeons with the searching
arms of tomatoes, the swiss chard
is green and red and glossy,
blueberries and raspberries
are blushing into ripeness, and
the rain’s coming down,
invisible, in the darkness,
as if we need it, and

your boys must be tall
and weedy with life by now

Monday, June 21, 2010

28. Eigner’s Fiction

water in a run running with light

sunlight through slats
as if blindness, the sun
suddenly could make of it

what we might have found
on the finished tread of a stair

a single unswept hair

voices of birds in trees
without birds, without sight of
birds in trees

we go by instinct
by pattern, the language of pattern
after a time subsumes us
we become the expectation we believe

things from your life
a room of one’s own
a place to wait
open stairs

voices of air
or the long run is never finished

the listening for it
like a leaning

but without it

a side window clear as if open
and the sound comes through it

light as liquid permeates
the room, shapes of light
against the walls, broken
by furniture, patterns of
shadow in the light

deep crease of shadow
in place of dark

in the form of wind
and formless

a slanted wind

filling the cup of a hand
hung low

the way you move your bones
in the wind and the light
in a light wind and

the light wound tight
about your head

tremors at your feet
even if my left hand goes numb

as if the blood stopped

fingers as creakings
but silent

the birds, too

Larry Eigner, it seems,
did not write a poem the day I was born
he wrote one the day before

as I was born, he looked
out a window in Swampscott

the sky in plain view

Sunday, June 20, 2010

27. Following from the Fact

That the day would end
with the thread of storm, not
a storm bearing, eventually, down
on this lake, the waves whitening up,
the just-perceptible sway in the hemlocks,
all the earth we’d know darkened
but the swiftening clouds, smoky yet
wet; instead,
the sense that these sheer cirrus would,
inevitably, draw behind them
the next and the next and finally
the next until the world
would come to that point
of roiling forth and out, such
as it is, such as
it has to be.

What we see
is whatever is sewn together into
a piece, fashioned into
place, given over to some stable
state, which might be
a mirage, or vapor, breath
without cold to make it appear, cloudy,
before our talking mouths, the hot
smoke of the body condensing
into cloud, formations, shape-
shifters, each dispersing into
oxygen, invisible, silent,
tasteless, without form
or the sense that it might
even have form.

The world is made piece by piece
as we walk up to it, just in time
for the seeing. Talisman in place
of touching, we make it up
as we move through it, taking
what evidence we can. A fleeting
memory of a Baltic past, a tiny corner
of a country on a coast, and the colony of
a small language (aitäh for kiitos, and
everyone is welcome). Coming
from places so small that almost no-one
is from there. Tie the pieces together,
and you might have a bundle of letters,
something in a language you never knew.
The memories and emotions of a dead man
seem so real at the point where
the blood drains out of him, but soon
he seems post-human, a pitcher drunk dry.
If there had been praying over his body,
it is now gone. The sound that remains is more like
ticking and the dull grumble of the house
as it breathes warmth, as its blood
goes through it, hot and cold. We create
these bodies to live within so that we might
consider ourselves human. Even
after the fact of that.

Memories are words and movements
not recorded in place, not restricted by the articles
of accuracy to refuse mutation. Collect a story
from your grandmother, and you’ve stolen
the manufactured truth she’s remembered
from her childhood, full of trips to a supermarket
she never saw as a child. Ask your grandfather
for an explanation of a fact, and he will provide
exaggeration before exactitude. The world
is too boring for the truth. We need
something else, the story our mothers
can sew together from an almost recalled past,
the tapestry of a life, full from edge to
edge, free of lacunae, the solid
textile of a story we could believe.

The sun rises every morning
after rainstorm. The story is sunshine,
though the ground is wet. The sun requires
the precedence of the rain, each in tow,
each a segment of a string of events, each
forgotten as the days continue, until
there is no rainstorm, only rainstorms,
until the sun shines day and night,
and you cannot sleep
for the thinking of it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

26. Postcards from Texas

Within the shape of fragments
we were entertained within
rooms of imported mahogany
and rich red fire according
to the ancient usage of the north.
A music wandered like a breath,
and we slept in the soft security
of the melody of the bagpipe
playing against our dreams.
We learned, as people away
from home are apt to learn,
that everything has its history,
even in fragments, even in
pieces small enough to remember,
and, as we slept, as we dreamt,
as we awakened and listened to
what the elderly gentleman said,
we learned that this was the tune
that the piper played while they
were burning. And he knocked
the ashes out of his tobacco pipe.
Ashes and thrashes, thrashes
then ashes, we all turn to dust
as it all burns away before us:
wallpaper, carpeting, furniture,
wood, flesh, eyes, and teeth.

You might well ask yourself
how sane is a philatelist?
and you would be right to do so.
Slips of perforated paper
torn into squares, licked and stuck
to paper and sent away, they are
the adventurers of the world,
those incapable of not moving.
Under the philatelist’s feet
there spreads a green growth
of soft ferny carpeting
with thin green twines growing
up the legs of the chair where
the philatelist sits, eye against
magnifying glass so he can see
a world too small eyes.
He had been, as I have, out
in Africa for three years, and what
he remembers most are leeches
and termites in sickening profusion
and the illustrations on his stamps.

The jungle is burdened by heat
and throbbing with life, so they ate
the first Bishop of Bahia, two Canons,
the Procurator of the Royal Portuguese
Treasury, two pregnant women,
and several children. The buttocks
provided the best meat, yet they
did not have the advantage of
a philatelist. In the jungle, everything
eaten grows large enough to eat,
everything foreign has an air
of the exotic, and that they gave
as the reason for eating the delicate
little children, tasty as they were.

Our life was a pure Augustan
splendour, as we would read
the languid novels of Swift,
the paltry poetry of Pope.
The world was rich with words,
but beyond the triple entrance
there spread a hexagonal forecourt,
as if an edifice to war. The figure
of Poetry stood flanked by bulls,
his figure worn but his identity sure,
crowned in the fanned-out calathos,
his arms exclamatory around his body,
quartered with faces of lesser gods,
those of the Novel or Essay or
the Clerihew. With a rich ale
in hand and a pewter flagon,
we would read their worldly words
for the leisure of our days or nights.

We once were students,
and retained a memory,
a relic actually, of those
sanguine days when we
had used to lie awake
night after night with a book
of poetry under the pillow,
hoping for an inspiration
from words that came to us,
though only from a page.

The severed heads of worthies
decorated the western gates
of the city. They were fragments
of people but complete in their
own way. We knew who they were.

Friday, June 18, 2010

25. The Blood, the Book, the Book, the Blood, the Blood

The rupture and the black blood.

The rupture and the falling
and the black blood flowing.

The rupture and the falling
and the dying and the black
blood of the earth flowing on.

Come to the opening of the earth,
the dark vein spewing into
blue-green water and ice. Come
to the opening of her dark vein,
and her black blood flooding forth.
Come to watch her die.

Build your beaches with birds
and fish. Build your beaches
with great grey birds and fish in
colors like the sheen of oil
in water—a green, a blue,
a yellow, red, the melted rainbow
and the dead. Build your beaches
on the sand so they’ll soak
the blood all up. Build your
beaches white as rain so
the black will be your stain.
Build your beaches in the dark.

She bleeds a black blood, black
blood, black blood, into water
green as eye. She bleeds a blood
as black as you into water
blue as eye. She bleeds black blood.
She bleeds black blood. She bleeds
black blood and never sleeps.

When sun is high, she bleeds
her blood, the flow of blood in plumes
of words. When darkness holds us,
she bleeds her blood, the surging blood
in sprays of flowers. When you are sleeping,
when you wake, when you walk your way
to work, when you breathe and when
you dine, when you hurt, and when
you can’t, she bleeds and bleeds and bleeds
throughout the month, throughout
the day, throughout your
parties, throughout your tears,
through the rupture in her spine, through
a slit and through a hole, through a turbine’s
spinning thrust, through your dreams and
through her throat. She sings of blood
and bleeds it black. She sings of blood
and bleeds it out. She has no heart
and yet she bleeds. The bloody water,
dark with blood.

The black blood is spreading
in submarine night. The black blood
is spreading over the dead. The blast first kills
those who are sleeping. The black
blood spilling kills what’s left.
The black blood spreads in balls of blood,
thick fists of blood, in stagnant blood.

Clean every bird and clean
every beach, and the blood
it’ll stick to the hands
you are reaching
out to the birds and out
to the sand. Clean all the water
and clean every breath,
and the blood it’ll fill it
again then again. Clean every boat
and clean every fish. Clean
every evening and clean
every day. Clean every cove
and clean every bay. Rhyme
every word and rip every meter,
and still every hand will blacken
with blood. The rot of the earth
it’ll stick to your hands, the rot
of the rupture will lurch
and will spew.

A tincture, a poison,
a pigment, a paint,
it spreads out in curving fingers of ink,
extending in colors that darken at day,
the figures are swirling and airy and dark,
they flow from a vein
deep in the water,
deep in the earth,
deep in the core of everything left.

The beauty of rotting,
the beauty of death,
the beauty of hoping,
the beauty of not,
the beauty of yielding,
the beauty of flowing,
the beauty of flowing,
the beauty of flooding,
the beauty of flowing,
the beauty of blood,
the beauty of blood,
the beauty of blood.

Breathe without water,
breathe without air.

The rupture and the black blood
on your hands, on your coat, on your
head, on your hair, on your throat,
on your knuckle, on your knee, on
your foot, on your clothes, on your
coast, on your water, on your air,
on your fish, on your fowl.

The rupture and the black blood
and words against them
flowing and fleeing and fleeting,
forever. The rupture and
the black blood and the blackened
words and the blackened depths
of silent waters where words don’t work
and the voices of plenty and the barrels
of empty and the blood that flowing
and the plume that is ink and the ink
that is writing a story for you.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

24. The Flesh of the Fish of the Word

Where word, in every state
of, when word is, and
the way in which, the degree
to which, it is so
as if in the place of an image
or an image as instead it, sense,
the distinction made
between the meaning as made
and the meaning as meant. To
photograph a wave so you know it is a wave and
water and not a hand
waving, silent and the air
moving around it, current
and eddy, the metaphor of water
and wet for it, as it is that
a word is a metaphor for
itself and the source and target
that it might mean, the concept of must
being impossible in a world of
code and concept.

I’ll regret it
always forgetting Hungary, believing
the world continuous in the fact of myself,
my being aware of anything only so far as
I am aware and
myself. I would have been there now
if I hadn’t been there in the future. It is just
so that the word is torn through
and through, made anew,
so that to regret is
to do something (something not
particularly specifically known) again.
Eat the words alive
until their blood dribbles from
your mouth and over
your lips
and down, so that you can
feel the words on the tongue, taste
their blood, feel their warmth
and smell. Each word
is a small thing we kill to make
a sentence.

The fish float in formation
in front of an aquamarine world.
Their reef marks the boundary between
the ocean and the sea. You see they
are made out of many colors and made up of
many words, and they swim before
the words that define them,
and they swim our words away.

A little time to save
some time to say it, but I cannot for I
cannot even know it, what it is to say
or how I’d ever save a word
from itself or the way we use it. Brutal are the ways
of the speakers of words, brutal to the words,
brutal to those listening. From that treatment, a word
has been drained of emotion and exists as a small leaf
floating on a wave towards the beach and
floating back out into the ocean and
floating back to the beach. The sequence
is simple: There is a wave then there is a wave
then there is a wave. And so on. There then is a wave,
and everything is different, and there is a way,
and the leaf is gone.

Every word is the same as every
other word, except with regard to meaning and
matter. Even as they disappear, they are the same,
in that they leave behind the stain of meaning,
seminal discharge rich with life,
for a time. A word is used up as
a word is used. You can put it away

What you might do to
a word is save it so you remember
it, or you might store it in a book,
or file it in a computer, and in that way
you might believe that it still
exists. What you might do to
a word is highlight it, call attention to it
as you say it, turn a yellow light
upon it, so that you can see the word
is there, and in this way you come
to experience the word as
a transformational experience. What
you might do to a word is not use
one, to say nothing, to write nothing
down, to allow no worded thought
out of you in any form, no grunt or sigh
even, and in these ways you might
come to understand that the word
has no power over the human. What you
might do to a work is cancel it,
rub it out with an eraser, scratch it out
with a pen, cut it out with
scissors from a book, and in those ways
you might perceive that there are
no words except that we believe
there are.

A word ends
with a breath cut off
with a period
with a pause.
A word ends
with a finished thought
with a closing book
with the deaf of the blind.
A word ends
with a hope for continue
with a role in parades
with a mouth run out.

Every book you read
or mean to read is
the same book. Or every book
is a chapter in one great book
we read throughout our lives, ending
our reading sometime before
the book is done. The true book
is the book read.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

23. The Slightest Memories before I Forget Them

What time is it there has been that
makes what we might be
real? Of what
time and in what place have we come
to perceive what we are that we never
would otherwise realize? There is a
sense in it
of the way a reason
might extend beyond and thus
the realm of unreasonable, a means
of determining to which extent
any number of assumptions might
evaporate upon contact with fact.
Thus, you have three children,
even if we, once back when we were
younger, would never have imagined
exactly that. The fact
that the children add up to three
is enough, but our imaginations of
three decades ago could not have
guessed your place on the continent,
your children, your life. Or even
mine, or even today,
riding a giant bus to a gun factory,
surrounded by the noises of metal,
the machines and their machines, the
robots that pulled steel bars into
gun barrels, scent of machine
oil, and the memory of
shooting guns, pistol
in my hand, and recoil, working
the .30-30’s lever, stock of a
16 gauge against my shoulder and then
the falling shell. Or later at
a restaurant haunted by ghosts,
thick rock walls that hold in
the cold, a hive of people talking
all at once, and there I suddenly realized
I had known some of them for decades,
yet we made sense together and alike, not
with words, but with stories,
just as there is no idea without
a story behind it. I understood this best
when a person not telling a story
spoke, and we could not recall
the outlines of the world
for a moment. We are human people. Our lives
make sense only in the sense
that they are stories, that we can
tell them, and I would recount a story now
except that I am tired, my room overlooks
a harness track outlined by a bright white
fence at night, and tomorrow
might be the time to wonder
why we have the lives we have
and what we will do with them
now that we know.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

22. A Half a Dozen or Dozen Tries

There is a world in the between, stretches
of water, bundles of dry land not yet set
aflame, a place to live, the only place. Take
a second and take a breath to see it, where
you might be, what a set of words of yours
might become, the poetry of those particular
phrasings, the way between camps of words,
the suture that holds together and separates
eye from ear. Find the cracks, and you’ll find
your purchase. The fissure provides the point
from which you push, at which you rest.
Make your poems there or neverwhere else.

Not quite. Not quite, not quite. Start again.

Pitiable expatriates, living on borrowed land.
I can’t even find even my home even on a map.
Or so you say. We live on a country similar
to our own. We live in burrowed time, the past
the putative present, yet no-one gives us one.
Home is where the chart is, sailing the Indian
Ocean that once was my front yard. Tsunami
comes and washes it all away. Tsunami comes
and washes us. We are erased by the process
of living, each step forward a step on. Hear
the crunch of our skulls crushed. I seem to
recall a telephone that did not have a ring.

NO. This is supposed to be a letter to you.

The patterns you must follow are the patterns
we all conform to. A poem could be a chessboard
though there’s no game to it. A word doesn’t move.
Are you? The intricacies of the forgetting ensure
the memory its power to move you. There is no
memory in the memory. I have forgotten what
I’d remembered, but there is a form to it.
The postman comes and leaves a package.
The poet sees and tears it open. These rituals
provide the patina of purpose. I blew my nose
three times before I blew it forth. Nasal froth
and fury, froth and fury, froth and furtively so.

Pretend, I say to myself, you can do it.

There is a small frightened bird shaped like
an egg. Did I say it cannot fly? There is a
fuzzy brown fruit all green inside. There is
a man on an island and continent. We say
he lives at the antipodes, but everything is
the antipodes to somewhere. The difference
between the bottom and the top is per-
spective and perusal. We cannot see what
we cannot see so. To understand upside-
down, you must understand there is no up.
I have produced this per specifications, but
they were so general as to be meaningless.

I must try to control what I should not control.

You may create this world (and this is not
permission but perspicaciousness) by finding
it in the words streaming at you day by
extended day, by finding it in the images
the hidden eye can see, by seeing it in the
flesh and fowl of your world, little green edge,
that boundary between desert and ocean.
There rocks on the sea a boat so light,
the rocks in the bay fall and then fight the fall.
Oppositions create the pressure needed.
Whatever’s flaccid, florid, fickle, like a line,
that’s nothing we can think anything of.

Seems like I’m almost there to the way.

Giving is recognizing, and you see her face
as someone you know, a word of praise in
silent gesture, acceptance, an embrace
of word and image, genuine reflection of
a face, of yours or hers or his, in shattering
water that holds together, through different
means and manners, the jetsam that floats
to the surface and the flotsam that sinks,
a rock rocking slowly down or up, there is
no direction but across, the handshake, soon
there will come together a gift so large we’ll
call it the present and live forever within it.

Maybe that will have to do for now as this.

Monday, June 14, 2010

21. Us and Ourselves

We are the far way
across a wide ocean and thirty-three years
from our youth. To remember who
we were is an impossibility, but we know we
were beautiful in a way we are not now,
half a century into this single chance
to be someone maybe our children
or their children will remember decades
from now. A life is a sequence of events
occurring so close together they seem
only one thing, inviolable, but we are
fragmented, and those of us who have lived
too many places can feel the fractures
between the parts of a life. I can measure
time by when my family moved
to a new country and when we left. I know
this to the month. If you remember,
we were together as a body of people in
high school for only a single year, September
to May, and then we scattered back
over the craggy face of Africa,
and my family went home to a country
we were from and a place we had never
been to before.

We are halfway through the century now,
not the one that has just begun but
the one life we are trying to live through.
Fifty seems a good number, round
with a bit of fat in it, appropriate for us.
A life is never what we intend it to be.
It could never be that: the simple act
of hoping for a certain life makes
that life impossible. And the world is
too complicated to afford us the simple
pleasure of seeing the life we’ve imagined
come to be, and the lives we’ve never
tried to realize may be the best lives
we could ever live. I look back on my life
and see all the time I wasted not doing
what I wanted to do, not writing, not
creating, not teaching my body and mind
how to make something I wanted desperately
to make, but I learned other skills, even
without meaning to. Life works like that.
Some things are replacements for some
things else, even if nothing intended them
to be, even if we don’t want them to be.

Just outside this window to my left,
the Genesee River flows north through
darkness, over the High Falls, to Lake
Ontario. In the daylight, it is a river
of thick mud green, but at night it is
black, and it flows north, as so few
rivers do. The Genesee is a surprise,
never doing what we expect it to do.
It flows north, it isn’t navigable
through to Lake Ontario, and south
of here it forms a cross-
roads with a fragment of the Erie
Canal, that great feat of engineering
that allowed New York to be
the Empire State for a century.

Because we don’t know when
we will die, our lives seem without
boundary or end, but we know they
are short. Even one hundred years
is a short time for someone with
desires. I don’t think I have that
time, even though two weeks ago
I was exactly half the age of my
grandmother at her death. She died
at age 100 years and twelve days,
and I wonder if she wondered,
on the day she turned 50 years and
six days old if she had made it
through just half her life and that
amazing adventures still existed.
We didn’t know to ask her
because she was dead before we
knew how old she was when
she died. I won’t have her life,
nothing of the length of it, but
neither did she have my urge
to create something in this life,
an urge beyond the furtive need
to spread one’s seed, to ensure
immortality by the infinite
continuation, ever and ever more
diluted, of one’s DNA through
untellable generations of
descendants. The things we
make with our hands and our
minds are representations of
ourselves as we are, as we
want to be. They allow us
the illusion of life, even after
life has passed by.

So long it has been now since
we were part of a small band of
people on a bit of land reaching
into the Mediterranean and
going by the name Tangier that
we cannot recognize ourselves
any longer, that we cannot tell
us from ourselves, and if we could
we wouldn’t know who to tell.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

20. The Earth, Worked, and Out

A garden doesn’t grow
on its own, it is not a wild place
though it is where wild things
grow, horehound being nothing
but a weed, tomatoes being
little more than whatever
springs up from a place where
birds have shat, any flower
is a physical expression of
uninhibited desire, a vegetable’s
unconscious urge towards
pollination, procreation, the
extension of its genetic material
into an unknown future. It is
the human hand, your hand
in the cool loamy soil, that
makes a garden be, that pinches
suckers off, trims every plant
into place, weeds out the even
wilder plants, and nutures
these tender green things filled
with a green blood, plump with
urge and desire, to grow and
spread, to pull water and sunshine,
to sprout fruits, to multiply
leaves, to stay, to become, to
make, in a little rectangular
corner of a large shapeless world,
a bit of fruit, food, flower, and
perfume to quell that human
need to restrain, to direct, to
make, to eat, to breathe, to
suck the tiny sticky green life
and blood out of the green
entanglements of the garden,
to survive and enjoy that survival.

You have those two hands
to work the soil, that body made
for the sun and rain, toughened
in a winter’s plowing of snow
out of a infinite white sky, skin
browned into soft callus and
miniscule furrows around
those eyes that find the distance
between two plants, the layout of
a garden, that pattern of human
order on the natural world we
cannot be more a part of or
distinct from, those feet that
steady as the shovel your foot
(with the grip of your hands, the
eyes measuring the distances)
shoves into the earth, the left
foot behind and holding you
in place, as a pair of compasses such
that you might spin upon a fixed
spot, your nose that gulps the
sweet air, dark earth, warm
humus, multiple aromas of herbs
(rosemary, lemon balm, a purple
basil, the deep green bite of thyme)
out of the tepid breatheless air
so that you find the beauty in
the breathing out that only the
breathing in can sustain on
a humid motionless day in a
wet garden drinking hose water
into its black maw, its soft dark
rotting soil the best harbinger
of harvest from those tiny plots
against the earth’s desire for
disorder, for chance, each living
thing given a mindless opportunity
that human planning can best
divert—those are your tools more
than trowel, shovel, rake, shears
that remove so that more can fill
the open space between the ends
of each green plant and the air
encircling but holding nothing back,

and those are the tools you hold,
hand held inside a hand, to work
the wood, in planks and boards, in
small runs of black walnut, of
tiger-eye maple, of birch into
shelves or stools or boxes to hold
something, to keep in place, and
you have only simple tools, palm
of hand, those myriad reticulated
fingers that bend and buttress
each other, that hold in place, that
push forward or into, the nails of
each finger to anchor, to mark,
to scratch away some minute
fragment of a flaw out of place,
knuckles that plant or balance or
test the hollowness of, and even
the blood that flows through blue-
green conduits of twisting veins
through and around those fingers
and feeds the body that makes it.
Every wood is the body of a plant
cut at right angles into shapes a
human understands so that the
grain of the wood comes clear,
the scent rises out of hardened
xylem (its system of tracheids
and vessels invisible to us), any
torquing of the wood becomes
obvious to your eye along the
sawn edge of it, so that it becomes
a living thing again, each board
different in weight and color,
taking the saw, the chisel, the
drill, or sandpaper differently,
giving away its body easily or
resisting the pull, the push your
hands might give against it,
the pressure of the body that
makes the word conform into
some beautiful piece of
planning, some careful system
of structured utility.

These things you bring and
make, these ways of order
upon the vagrant earth, these
ways of beauty, a box of wood,
a box of earth, something
simple yet sturdy, something
durable, perennial, almost
forever, something that grows
or is but conforms to
that managed imagination of
the craftsman, whose craft is
handwork, how your hands
dance against the face of the
wood, the body of the plant,
each living thing giving itself
over in your hands that it might
be tame and useful, beautiful
to the eye or tongue, tempting
and tempted, rolled over inside
a palm and into your other so that
its weight can be measured against
its smoothness, its balance, in
a world so out of balance it requires
such forms to give it meaning,
direction, the subtle slumberous
diversions of your mind at play
and making up the earth each day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

19. The Voice that Needs No Echo to Sound

I wonder what the cold is. It seems to be one
of the three states of the same substance:
cold, wet, dark—the interlocking symptoms
of drowning. Our three dogs press into
the night, unaware of cold, impervious to darkness,
even the old blind one, which ventures deep
enough to disappear into the night. The colors
of the night are black for night and white
for anything that we can see within it. In
daylight, green dominates and everything
grows into its size. What is small yet infinite
at night is large yet finite during the day. Plants
surround us, prepared to conquer the world.

Maybe not in Arizona, though, which is
a different world created out of different
colors and substances. You have the same night
we have, but your day differs from ours, just
as we might share dreams but our lives differ. Lives,
as instances of daylight, always differ.

I wonder if words work the same way, if
the usual way we speak resembles
night, something that envelops us but
isn’t us. There are also the ways we use
words for ourselves, not so much
to communicate but to be, how you
visually twist a body of text until it is
something else, a contortionist of
words, a measure of your eye,
a means of not speaking, the way you
choose to not write, the stripping
of sense from every word, so that the
chitinous shell of the word remains,
empty but glistening and empty.

My mother-in-law continued to talk tonight
even after going to bed. She asked many times
what had made that last noise she had heard.
She said goodnight to the darkness, and repeated
that goodnight. She repeated the phrases she had
said many times during the day, phrases
that had lost their meaning except that they kept
her safe. The words meant nothing anymore,
but they protected her. If she had those words, if
she could only speak them, she knew she was safe.

This afternoon, I pulled out my inks,
a walnut ink of wavering browns and
India ink, which is always nothing but black,
and I drew letters and words with them,
but ones that didn’t exist, ones that existed
only as I willed them to be. While I worked,
spreading ink over pieces of white paper,
my mother-in-law kept asking me what
I was doing, and every time I said,
“I’m writing,” because writing is the process
of making words appear on a page, anything
we’ve made and seen can be a word to us.

It is too late for writing, too late for words.
Even this close to summer, the Adirondacks
hold their cold, and I need a warm sleep.
I should stop writing now, because I don’t have
the ability to write anymore, I cannot
write it right, and everything leans heavily
into sleep. I am reduced to a human weight. If I fall,
I could drown in the darkness surrounding us.

Friday, June 11, 2010

18. What I Could Say in Chinese is “Sure”

The night is rising even
as you sleep, and soon it will match
the dream you are trying to shake
as the dream moves darker and the night
lightens a shade, if you have one
to block the coming morning,
or is the window open and do the sounds
push in, asking for space in
your consciousness?

We think in the language of the shape
of words, how they feel in the mouth or
fit in the ear, some like the hard edge of
a throat lozenge and we feel the pain the word
makes, some like a cotton ball and it fits in
so soft and well that we do not hear
a thing, the word enchanting us
out of words.

Or words are a maze
of twists and swirls of letters that
your letter to me was made out of, and we
can see how sense can twist the
meaning out of itself, just as
we might ask a question about
the tone of your voice and you
could remark you had only four
in the face of that language
(if that were, in case, the case).

Could you think a message to me
in Chinese without using that language
and leave me with the sense
of the language your message
came from? Could you rise like a sun
out of the mist and play a song
on an instrument of the body, maybe
a tongue, and communicate
the world that you smell every day? the ever-
shrinking world that you taste
on your talking tongue? Do you await
letters every day in a language you were
taught before you knew there were
languages? Do you feel the distance
between mother and horse?

I am made of words
and cannot think without them,
I cannot think outside of
them, if the world insists it is
not a word I can tell how it is a word
that I can speak, that I can write,
that I can see upon the table
in front of me, a table now piled
with what I do with words, with
scribbles of them, typings of them,
drawings made of or into words, books
of them, pamphlets of them, letters
of them and those out of letters themselves,
scribbles on a page in a sense that they are
reminders of them, those that are
pointers to some fact in the known universe,
the one I know, a small world covered
in shapes, dripping with sounds, gravid
with meaning, and moving,
slowly, over oceans,
to you

to tell you this
thin thing I thought
on this night that doesn’t match
the day you must be living

Thursday, June 10, 2010

17. Lake and Light

The entry is at the point of ending,
where it all might exist,
recorded, as if we could remember it,
at length, which we rarely can. Upon
the pages of the proper record books
where we would find it in a plain
and legible hand as writing
or in print or in symbols of drawing,
it is there and in that way that we might
see it, or by photographic process or even
partly in writing, partly in printing,
and partly in symbols of drawing,
or it could appear partly by
photographic process or by any combination
of writing, printing, drawing, or photography,
or either, or any two of them. In that way,
we could remember it, because we could
see it, or also by means of reproduction
by microphotography or other
photographic process and kept on film
as image. You see the face as
a page of writing you might not
have seen before, and you can read it
as a page of writing of a loved one
you remember but who has been dead
for a long time, longer than you can
remember, even though you believe
she is still or he is still living and
about to visit us. In this way,

it is that you experience the world,
a gentle light in the morning coming
slowly to while you still sleep, the glassy
water dark to the touch, though you
do not touch it, eventually loon warble,
breeze entering the window with
sunlight, and water dancing as light
on walls and ceiling. You look
deep into your eyelids and might seem
blind but you are watching the night,
waiting for the beginning of that day.
What rustles first is the lake, lightening,
lightening still, until it is daylight,
then mist off its surface, then air,
the breath that you make through
mouth, and finally a word of yours
that wakes you and begins the day.

You see what you say, and the first boat
on the water is someone you do not know
but wonder who he is, or she, at such distance
that there is no person, but only a boat
moving itself across the surface, an arc and
a slicing into that heals itself through these
undulations upon ululations. The water sings,
but it doesn’t make a sound itself. You say
what you see, and hemlock shadow covers
your face. You feel green in the cool shade,
in the sun, with the breeze running through
your fingers, you cannot catch it. Cup of coffee
and a muffin, and you can fashion
a breakfast. You have thinking, but you keep
it close, and it comes out as questions
before your day, Who Himself reigns over you.
Only sleep is your dominion, where dream
runs like water and a thought out back through
to your childhood, where the salad dressing
sandwiches were scarce in their plenitude.
You wonder what the word is, where
you are, who these people are who
circle you as satellites to a forgotten planet,
so you are never alone.

You have a daughter who is writing
or riding, who is made of words or of horses,
and she is quiet beside you and your questions,
able to help with the words she can find
scattered about you and lost in your hair.
You have a daughter who is playing piano,
and she is made of notes and sounds and
open echoings in the office of your mind,
and she wonders around you, between your
fingers that cannot catch the light, among
the thoughts you release into air, maybe
as seeds buoyed by breeze or small and silent
insects made of nothing but wings. What you

want is wanting, and you find yourself
each day in the place you are, feet planted
on the ground, you might grow into the giant
hemlocks that overwhelm you, that have
the memories you have lost of forty years, no,
more, in this place where the water sits,
flat in a bowl, as if a permanent thought
of a desire you cannot recall. In this way,

you turn 80 and towards this direction, with less
than everything but more than meaning, meant,
now it is all meant, and solid, a life well lived,
a red wine in the evening, and whatever evening comes
whenever it comes means that you might sleep
another night into dreaming of your mother, who
is living in you, of your sister, who is living in you,
of your father too. Though they might be ghosts,
they surround you like a family, a struggle of
memories, the bedclothes kept tight, then tighter,
right under your chin.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

16. When Dreams Become

The dream seems meaningless,
and probably it is. Dreams don’t
necessarily exhibit our deepest desires
or reveal thoughts hidden from us.
They are just thinking, and we think
in stories because we make sense
through narrative. No matter
how much we would like to
transcend the need for narrative,
narrative is how we learn
and how we feel, because it replicates
the simple outlines of our lives,
those sets of interconnected narratives.

Inside the dream, where we spend
our nights, people move according to
a narrative we create but cannot foretell.
We are surprised by the directions of the dreams
we create, and when we remember dreams we never
remember their entirety, we are never sure
where they begin. It is as if they begin
in media res, because that is
where we remember them.

In my last dream, a man said we had nothing
to fear, that he would find free food
for us, but he left with a machine gun in his hand,
obscured by strings and pieces of cloth,
as if he had wanted to keep his intentions secret
even from us. We knew or he said he was going
to a particular store we knew, so the dream
remembered carries with it that evidence of
it as it once was, some inviolate movie played
once for a single person but never preserved.

It seems that the man successfully
acquired food for us, though we never ate it,
and though I am not sure that the rest of us
even participated in the robbery. I remember
the incident but cannot tell
if I were there or if I simply created
the scene of the robbery from stories
I had heard on the man’s return.

All I know is that, afterwards, we became
part of the entourage of the family
whose store we had robbed, a store
that had become a giant truck that traveled
the country, and that we lived on the truck.
In this view of the story, the store
was assembled on open ground somewhere
but could be disassembled and moved
at will. Our people were talking to the family
that ran the store, and they were our friends,
even though now I can remember that
when we robbed the store we had blindfolded
the family, rather than wearing masks
on our faces, and we spoke to each other
using our own names, so that now we could not
call each other by our those names, so we
did not use them. We had become anonymous once
we became part of this extended family.

While parked by a building that seemed
situated both in a city and somewhere
in the countryside, we built a fire and talked
to the family. Occasionally, we needed something
from the truck and would enter it, but it had
no doors. Canvas covered a frame that defined
the outlines of the truck and inside the truck
large sheets of cloth divided the world into sections.
We lived deep within thsy truck, in a narrow
section far from the front and the back,
which we needed to do to protect our identities
from the family giving us this berth.

Just before I awoke from this dream,
I left the fire to find a book (and to disappear
into the anonymity those layers of hanging fabric
afforded me). I pushed into the truck, and kept
pushing one wall of fabric then another as I
burrowed into the unlit interior of the truck,
searching for that sliver of the world between
two hanging sheets where we lived. As I lie
in bed typing this, I wonder if the sheets represented
the sheets of a bed, the sheets of this bed,
the bed I was sleeping in when I lived this dream,
but I think that’s too neat and clean an answer,

just as I think it is too neat and clean a way
to end this letter to imagine that I was looking for
a book by you, some large-format hardcover book
that brought all your collaged haiku, your
rubberstamped poems, your careful found
typographic poems into one place, in vibrant
black and white or glossy color, so that
everyone could own some evidence of your skill,
the way your eye works with text, how
it understands how text falls into shapes on the page,
how those shapes are meaningful even in the absence
of text, how you can see ways to take rigid
rubberstamped text and make some swirling maelstrom
of meaning and matter, how you can isolate those
particularly beautiful curves and incisions of type
and create a text that is of words but wordless and
full of the power of words at the same time.

I wish I could say I was looking for that book,
though I’ll never know what I was looking for at all.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

15. Untitled except for the Word “Untitled” and the Words That Come after It

Too lovely for woods, too lovely
for woulds we are, so we consent
to use words instead. In that way, we move back
and forth, and if you could have a set of words
ready for any occasion you might
be prepared for life. That
is how the story goes, but it is an old one,
burdened with myth, and the third
little pig, by that time a bit
on the heavy side anyway, never
made it either and followed his brothers
into death. The odds were
against him. How did we ever think
the wolf would settle for nothing but
blowing for so long? All he needed to do
was wait.

We have waited out our lives,
so far, for this instant, a wedding
that wasn’t for any of us, but for those
who follow. We are here for only
a short while, and then we make space
for more, and it is in this time
when maybe four generations can live
among each other that life seems abundant,
and infinite, that we believe ourselves
immortal because we see the outlines of it
in those we will leave behind. We are
too happy to weep for
our minds gone perforated, then blank,
our senses dull, bones giving way,
for our inevitable deaths.

The train has stopped
in the middle of the tracks, the Hudson
maybe twenty yards to the west, the sun
still high but falling, and filling the river with light,
two Canada geese wandering the water
eating floating weeds, and a voice
whispering the explanation to us. Apparently,
we don’t need to know too much. We live
on a need-to-know basis, and there is little
we need to. The rest, mysteries. A short train
speeds by us, with one track between, so
I can see it as less of a blur. Our train now moves
forward, or it seems forward, because
it moves in the direction we expect it to. We could
be moving backwards. We’d never know
the difference. Maybe I’ve seen this anchored
flotilla of boats before, sails stowed, slightly
rocking on the stippled water. Maybe
this is only yesterday.

It seems a want
to wait for everything to happen, for this future
we cannot imagine, for the surprises to
all be revealed in some prescribed order. We don’t
know who will flourish, who will flounder,
what death will overtake whose life at what
particular moment, what great achievement
will remain undone. And
there might even be successes inserted
into the chinks of those lives,
little amulets that protect them
from further harm.

I visited the city clerk today
in lower Manhattan, on an almost summer’s
day in what we still call the spring,
entering a building I’d never much
noticed before even though Erin once lived only
a couple of blocks from there. Inside,
giant orangish bowls of light hung
from the ceiling down a long bright hallway
that was a great room reaching up to sky,
the whole of it lined by tall windows
spilling light to splash against the floor,
and everywhere there was marble and
rigid but organic metal ornaments,
art deco. What I noticed most
were the people, how happy they were, and beautiful,
so full of hope, most in pairs, there for marriage,
to bring themselves together, to buy a license or
create a certificate, to become a new family. I saw
no sense that theirs was not enough of a ceremony
for those marrying that day, and such a rich
variety of people, Asians speaking languages
I could not identify, one couple so tall and lithe,
each gentle in manner and beautiful, the woman
white, her husband black, and speaking
Portuguese, Hispanics, everyone mingling
in that space but centered on their own
ceremonial beginnings. It seemed to me
a place of joy, almost gave me hope
for humans to run the planet or
their own tiny lives themselves.

I thought of our weddings, Nancy’s and mine,
and yours and Jim’s, and I remembered
how young we really were, almost
children when we’d started these lives,
and what friends we were before we moved
from that place that centered us,
that brought us together. Think of this:
none of the four of us knew any other
of us before we were there.

Since I had kept a postcard advertising the place
where you were married, I wrote a tiny note on it
and mailed it to Erin when I was traveling once.
She was a baby for your wedding and wasn’t
there, so I wanted her to have some tiny
memento of her godmother. The other weekend,
I noticed she was using the card as a bookmark,
making it creased and worn smooth
at the corners. Maybe the better memento is one
remembered so heavily by use.

At Erin’s wedding this October, we
will begin the next generation of couples,
the next generation, and it seems to me
that will mean our lives have
finally begun. For that reason, for
this reason, I’m sending you this
note, though I’ve not written you
for years. It’ll be something for you to keep
Or throw away. It doesn’t matter.
It’s still here.

14. What You Would Sing

I am in New York tonight,
the city, the birthplace of my great-
grandmother, though I am from
the other side of the continent, that mythical
west into which the sun sets daily
as it remains motionless, in place,
the guide that gets us through the dark
space surrounding us, the monstrous silence
surrounding us. Welcome, I say to myself,
to your second home. This island called
Manhattan, the city it centers, it is a network
of roads, of tunnels, of pipes, of wires, of
lines of thought unrolling. I come here
to unroll them, or to work, or to see
my beautiful daughter, who would be any
father’s joy, but she is mine, and she lives
here, hours from me, hours from us,
but happy and thriving. I know this place
well enough though not well and
require some time here merely to
collect what I need for my life.
A book, a word, the stride of a
woman along Chambers Street when
the wind catches her hair and
flips it so that she is now a silhouette,
the burst of an image, then
gone, a drink maybe, a conversation,
the change of seasons, the change of
climate, a single oyster
with horseradish. Because we live for
one thing, and it is nothing elegant
or inspiring, because we live for experience.
Everything, everything reduces
to that. The taste of wine, a sweet
vouvray, a pop song so overwhelmed by violins
that it becomes the greatest sound you could
bear to hear at that moment, petrichor,
the breath of your one wife that you breathed in
as air, the warmth of sunlight, steady
rain, the descent of night. Which is to say,
Welcome to my second home, and maybe
you will experience it one day and be
something else, though I’ve no idea
why you ever would want to be that.

You write with your body, with
your lungs. That’s the way to do it,
even if we fail, even though we fail,
even though we will fail. Take these
wandering words I’m sending to you.
Imagine they could succeed at something,
and write your own poem instead. Write
in on a window, write with word not
words, write it with the smallest pieces
of sense you can pry from the sea, sing
it out of your body, sing it out of your
body. Every poem, sung or not, seen or
said, is a song, maybe muffled, maybe
silent, maybe sounding inside the hollow
of your head, where all sound belongs,
where all voice is made. Don’t even sing
a word, sing just a sound, only
sounds without meaning,
and the meaning will come, because
the meaning’s in the song, not
the words. There are no words that are
not gibberish in some language. Words
are meaningless. Try to say a word
and make it mean. Now sing your
songs and hear the meaning.

Words are from the province
of the mind, and there is no mind,
only brain, a muddle mushy mess.
Fry them up with some eggs and
pepper ground coarse, and then maybe
you’ll have something. So sing your
songs, as if your father is dead,
and you cannot play any music
on the dried ribs of his chest. Because
song is the sound of a body, and
that is what you need, and that is what
we need, our broken, fragile, beautiful
bodies, bald, fat, going maculate with age,
we cannot walk but we stumble, yet those
wobbling shells that hold us together
are everything to us, the limits of our
universe. Your body does your breathing,
eating, seeing, washing, thinking, looking,
living, loving, dying. And inside that temple
of thought, you make your words as you
sing your songs, and they are just sounds
to me, and that is why I cry when
I hear them, though I don’t really cry,
because I cannot quite come to believe that
I am a body, maybe a corpse reducing
in size, maybe a Joycean cropse and I am
once again resurrected, maybe a corpus of words,
and I can write enough so that
they begin to have some meaning.

Or, of

Sunday, June 6, 2010

13. Rain on a Sunday

The dull plinking,
rain like a rattling of drops
after the rain, the collected
water, escaping back
to earth, falls to a metal roof,
and the birds tweeting
again, all’s well,
the ground swelling
with liquid luscious now
to surfeit.

What water comes
from the faucet we keep
in the kitchen corner is
what water we want,
starting, running, stopping
at will, ours. It is a form of blood

our body captures from
outside the body, one of the classical
elements of survival

air that we might breathe
earth that we might grow our food
fire that we might cook it
water that we might drink

We say we need
these for the body, that last
word, for the body what
thinks, what speaks, what takes
the speaking in, what writes
it down in little books
carried in a pocket
till the words are all
pencil smudges and rubbings
out from which no thought comes
but a clear numbness, release
from the pressure of meaningfulness. We
turn from the page to see

the world is bright now,
cleared of storms and rain, sunlight
bright as though coming through a glass of water
now’s the rain’s gone,
transformed, and the slightly darker
shadows beneath maples,

birdsong abbreviated,
no need for twittering, a sussuration
of the trees, swishing of automobiles
cutting through dappled shadow,
of sun and sycamore

dogs’ don’t

In the order of
the words, in order
for the words, to order
the words of a sentence,
so you can sense
the sense of it

(catnip smells like
the pee the feral
cats use to mark
their way through)

It is as if I
had a
this were
a letter
from a
ghost even
I was
not a

a guest


(I had
a handful

of them
for dinner

or would
have if

I had
not had


the time


I speak in
(I speak
within) parentheses

they have
a meaning
for me



I think)

as I read
and read
as I think, so
I cannot read
without a pencil

I am numb
without pencil

unable to tell
the numinous glow of words
from the numbness
of not writing off them
since no word is written
without a voice, no word
written except a part of another layer
of words, stratum upon strata,
the inevitable referents back
of words, to words, what leads us
towards something
forward and

(as in “a

I make sense by the sound
of things and the similar
sounds of other
things against
those first

as meaning
accumulates. It
is not unitary or
uniform, but spreads,
numerous, out from
a decentralized point,
the point being addition
and multiplication,
the many odors
of words

like the black words
from a book, wet with
meaning, they glisten
on the page, because
they are concrete and
not at all real.

I read your poems to find
what is missing from
my life, something huge,
like a thunderhead passing
silently over us at night,
leaving no rain, a castrated
menace who nevertheless
roams the streets. I call out
when I hear him, tell him
to stop, explain to him my
needs, what I need to know,
the great burden of
forgetting what I’ve done,
and these fifty years, and still
he runs away, not even
so much of a shadow of him,
nothing but footsteps receding
to silence, and I call and call
until I have lost every breath
of my so-called voice.

The Written Sea (by John Bloomberg-Rissman)

—for Geof Huth

“The sea wants to be

horizontal but then the horizontals

begin to play. Sympathetic lines

turn up all over the

place, all related to each

other ... ” The sea speaks in

waves. The sea speaks what

the wind writes. The text

is in the air. The

air flows by Schenectady, blows

through the cracks. You sit

and glyph. Your glyphs translate.

Into what? “No direction is

indicated, though not unambiguously.”

[Note: A sonnet for Geof Huth, in response to his “8. If You Could Excuse Me These Excesses, You Would Prove You Realize and Accept that I’m a Poet,” at 365 ltrs, 1 Jun 010. Sources: The sea … other: John Marin, re: his painting The Written Sea, as quoted in Al Filreis, “the written sea”, at Al Filreis, 6 Jun 010; direction … unambiguously: Maurizio Lazzarato, “Multiplicity, Totality, Politics”, in Parrhesia 9. One word is missing]

6 June 2010

Saturday, June 5, 2010

12. The Shining Path

Where we have been is more of what we are
than what we have done. We are filled with place,
and that is why you and I never stop
moving. Travel is living, stasis is death.

I have lived here,
in this fine house, bluestone and clapboard,
for seventeen years, and until those
seventeen had not lived in one place
long enough to unpack. I am no longer
living my life, living instead that life
of the man who has succeeded me, and
it a fine life, but motionless. Still,
I move, traveling this state, this country,
occasionally beyond that boundary
that has held me in for so long. I am a citizen
of four continents and nine countries, a man
undefined by place, but defined by places. Stay
in a play too long, and you begin
to understand its character. And can’t
fathom that.

You ache, in a way, for a visit
to the Wienermobile, for the chance to see
something else than what
you have so long seen. You want the surprise
of something new or strange, of a place
not seen, a music of different voices, even if
there are limitations to how different
the earth is from itself. You know life
is limited and opportunity meager,
so you make the attempt
to prove it, to see
for yourself, the only person
you can never leave, the one you
are traveling for, the one who needs to
experience so that he can remember and tell
others of his memories. Without a life,
we have nothing to talk about. Without
traveling, we have no life.

My shtick is homelessness, the idea
I am from nowhere because I’m from everywhere.
There are times when I cannot quite recall
the location of a memory of mine, when I cannot
narrow it down to a continent. Life is a muddle
of expectations and occurrences, and we find it difficult
to tell the two apart. Maybe if I could live in Asia,
I could separate those experiences
from the rest of the world, or I might confuse
them with Australia, where I have
never been. I don’t have the memory you do,
the ability to recall details of the past,
of those places I’ve lived or visited.
I am, instead, visited by glimpses
of a past I might have lived or might
have remembered nevertheless.

The irony of this note of mine
has nothing to do with that point. Instead, it is
that I am always so slow at responding to
a real letter, inscribed on paper and mailed out
in hope of a response. I am merely a human,
unable to make consistent sense, contradicting
my own dicta. I am writing these notes as penance
for a life partially lived and a life lost,
for all the poems I forgot to write, for the books
not read, for the people left without
answers, or responses, for all the places
never visited, maybe not yet, maybe
sometime. Because there is some life left
in us, some time to move forward, and every
movement is forward, into this flickering
approximation of our lives, boxes of cities
left to unpack, crates of forests only a crowbar
can break open, and deserts reaching
beyond our imagination, their suns so hot
we bow our heads beneath them out of
deference. For our lives are made for moving,
for pushing away the idea that we cannot
do something we have never done.

For we are made for travel, have covered
the globe with our ancestors’ feet, and we realize
that we make the world only
when we visit it.