Daily Archives: May 3, 2015

INTIMATE GEOGRAPHY

This film, like many others,
claims we’ll enjoy life
now that we’ve come through

difficulties, dangers
so incredibly condensed
that they must be over.

If the hardship
was undergone by others,
we identified with them

and, if the danger was survived
by simpler life forms,
they’re included in this moment

when the credits roll
and we don’t know
when to stand

THE DIFFICULTY

This film, like many others,
claims we’ll enjoy life
now that we’ve come through

difficulties, dangers
so incredibly condensed
that they must be over.

If the hardship
was undergone by others,
we identified with them

and, if the danger was survived
by simpler life forms,
they’re included in this moment

when the credits roll
and we don’t know
when to stand

PERPENDICULAR

It would have been a fine path for a lizard to cross
but I saw none. Brambles and sweet briar grew
on the town side, poppies and wild grasses on the river.
Too hot for birds, the ducks were out, in water and mud,
and frogs were out, by the hundreds it seemed, saying,
Way, Way, in their deepest voices. It was beautiful there
but I’d seen beauty and its opposite so often
that when warmth broke over my skin I remembered winter,
the way fresh grief undoes you the moment you’re fully awake.
When she turned two, I asked my young friend
what she would serve at her birthday party and she said,
Tofu and cupcakes. When she was three and I was very sad
she called and said, What are you doing? Picking flowers?
She talked in poems like she was dreaming all the time
or very old or Virginia Woolf. More often in the first world
one wakes from not to the nightmare. When I dreamed I lost
my love I willed myself awake because I would not
survive the pain again, even dreaming. Which is responsible
for that mercy, Doktor, the conscious or the un-? I want
the poppies picked and I want the poppies left where they grow.
Like looking through the window of a moving train
at someone walking up a road lined with poplars
and being someone walking up a road lined with poplars.
The train and the trees, a shower of petals and bees,
sun on the glass and the train perpendicular to the road.
Things entirely themselves arriving in the deep
double shadows of the grass and passersby.

FIRST THING

You look like a monster, one woman said to another.
The woman was on fire. This is the first of two screws
twisted into a wall. One bus is sent on its route minutes before
the other. This is the first. Thousands of soldiers were lowering
their faces to the grass, as though an exercise
can will an effect. People made their way to the hospital:
a doctor would look at them, and then they could die.
You can dip a line of monofilament into a river.
You can do it twice. The first becomes a second. The second
becomes a third. Three girls stretched out their arms while the wind
sheared their flesh. Sheared, not seared, what was left.
I could have shown you a swimming pool lit with turquoise light.
It was early. It was a mission. It wasn’t the first.

BEFORE DARK

They used to mass
in the crowns of oaks
on every street for blocks around
but have gone elsewhere,
the evening no longer
gathered by their feathers
but by the leaves, which blot
whatever light is left to the sky.

Whether we saw the crows
as a barely worth mentioning
image of death for the way
they took over branches
with perfect authority,
whether, where did I hear it, their
numbers were thinned by disease,
nothing avails. They are

missing, the crackle of wings
against the weight of their flight,
beaks that broke open
broadcasting any scrap of news.
Like our children, they carry off
whole years, like the wind-borne thought
of cries never welcome enough
day or night in our ears.

FOR THE CLIMBERS

Among the many lives you’ll never lead,
consider that of the wolverine, for whom avalanche
is opportunity, who makes a festival
of frozen marrow from the femur of an elk,
who wears the crooked North Star like an amulet

of teeth. In the game of which animal
would you return as, today I’m thinking
snowshoe hare, a scuffle in the underbrush,
one giant leap. You never see them
coming and going, only the crosshairs

of their having passed, ascending the ridge, lost
or not lost in succession forests giving way
to open meadow where deep snow
lingers and finally relents, uncovering
acres of lily — glacier yellow, avalanche

white — daylight restaking its earthly claim.
Every season swallows someone — 
Granite Mountain with its blunderbuss
gullies, Tatoosh a lash on the tongue,
those climbers caught if not unawares

then perfectly hapless, not thinking of riding
that snowstorm to the summit, not thinking
wolverine fever in the shivering blood,
not thinking steelhead cutthroat rainbow
or the languid river that will carry them out.

WHAT WAS IT ?

I was eating my dinner alone,
sitting on the living-room couch
watching a movie on TV for company
when the forces your covetous presence prevents
slowly crawled out in fibrous droves.

Without you to follow me with your
clipboard, or record the game my face plays,
masquerading as a cryptic territory
and your field of study, the energy maggots
turned the furniture into an ectoplasmic
mass with the weight of iron: soft but
resistant, a taut balloon against the hand.

Hypnotized by the atmosphere I fell asleep,
and the chair took revenge on my psyche.
I could not scream, so I focused my will
on pushing back against the animate matter.
I was near failing when I managed to utter
the word “dove,” and then you shook me awake.

“Stop,” stop fighting with the furniture, you said.
Yet something I could not see pushed hard
against me, and it was not a force for good.
My vocal chords were paralyzed and the language
of the living was the only way to stop it.

THANKS

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is

BLUES MAN

One century (which time let go)
lives on stubbornly in this room.
The speakers hum with tales
of Sunday gospel, police dogs on the shoals,
bootleg whiskey at the back of a bus
in Chicago after the war.
Thirty chairs and a light turned low
give shelter from the cold outside
where the word ‘legend’ is scrawled in black
by the photograph on the window.
Hoarse, white-haired, he squints at the figures
who watch him back from the crooked tables,
his fingers conjuring the notes from childhood,
his foot on the case tapping rhymes.

You’re healed now, say the thin girl’s eyes.
I’m out of change, says the man with the jar.
A couple sways in the dark by the counter;
the boys sit up front, eager, taking notes down.

Their pens sustain him. At ten, alone,
he walks by the ghosts of a college town,
the bootleggers painted solemn on
the gallery walls, Chicago beamed
into the multiplex, the gnash of police dogs
pantomimed through a flickering reel,
the bus stopping by the curb to take him
to his next one-night stand, the headlights gold
as the waitress shuts out the light,
unscarred,
and heads for the dead of home.

TENDER ARRIVALS

Where ever something breathes
Heart beating the rise and fall
Of mountains, the waves upon the sky
Of seas, the terror is our ignorance, that’s
Why it is named after our home, earth
Where art is locked between
Gone and Destination
The destiny of some other where and feeling
The ape knew this, when his old lady pulled him up
Off the ground. Was he grateful, ask him he’s still sitting up there
Watching the sky’s adventures, leaving two holes for his own. Oh sing
Gigantic burp past the insects, swifter than the ugly Stanleys on the ground
Catching monkey meat for Hyenagators, absolute boss of what does not
Arrive in time to say anything. We hear that eating, that doo dooing, that
Burping, we had a nigro mayor used to burp like poison zapalote
Waddled into the cave of his lust. We got a Spring Jasper now, if
you don’t like that
woid, what about courtesan, dreamed out his own replacement sprawled
Across the velvet cash register of belching and farting, his knick names when they
let him be played with. Some call him Puck, was love, we thought, now a rubber
Flat blackie banged across the ice, to get past our Goli, the Africannibus of memory.
Here. We have so many wedged between death and passivity. Like eyes that collide
With reality and cannot see anything but the inner abstraction of flatus, a
biography, a car, a walk to the guillotine, James the First, Giuliani the Second
When he tries to go national, senators will stab him, Ides of March or Not. Maybe
Both will die, James 1 and Caesar 2, as they did in the past, where we can read about
The justness of their assassinations
As we swig a little brew and laugh at the perseverance
Of disease at higher and higher levels of its elimination.
We could see anything we wanted to. Be anything we knew how to be. Build
anything we needed. Arrive anywhere we should have to go. But time is as stubborn
as space, and they compose us with definition, time place and 
condition.
The howlees the yowlees the yankees the super left streamlined post racial ideational
chauvinists creeep at the mouth of the venal cava. They are protesting 
fire and
Looking askance at the giblets we have learned to eat. “It’s nobody’s heart,” they
say, and we agree. It’s the rest of some thing’s insides. Along with the flowers, the
grass, the tubers, the river, pieces of the sky, earth, our seasoning, baked
throughout. What do you call that the anarchist of comfort asks,
Food, we say, making it up as we chew. Yesterday we explained language.

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