After Jeff Wall’s Flooded Grave
Eleven new species discovered
in a central Vietnam mountain rainforest:
three species of rare leafless orchids.
One produces a black flower. Also, a butterfly,
yellow-striped with red spots
along the body, a skipper, quickly darting
when it flies. Only a decade ago,
a new species of wild cattle found roaming here
among the trees: nothing so small
as insect or flower: in the country’s heart,
somehow lost to sight. And all this time,
the river running through has provided its water
for thousands living downstream.
It is called the Perfume River, no less—
its scent gathered from tropical flora
growing along its banks after traveling
through fifty-five waterfalls.
Follow it: mock lemon, cinnamon bark,
lotus flower that creates tea from its water.
Gardenia, camellia, cilantro—the river pocking with rain
dripping off the epiphytes. Here is where
you find it. In the blurred distance,
a crow waits indifferently between a shimmer
either tombstone or flood pool. Ribbons of water hoses,
red and blue, lead to the grave site.
The water has gathered inside,
blankets the floor of the hole.
At a glimpse, it is all there,
but only for a second. Everything is here.
Urchins and starfish. Rupture of light.
Water drops. Vanilla bean.
Mother and father. Black orchid.
I said to Susan, who knew what I meant,
that I felt as never before the need to
write something political, something anti-war.
And we were all there at the retreat: painters,
sculptors, composers, but it was up to the two
of us. We had the words, or so they all thought,
but then I went back to my studio, a cabin
in the woods, and pretty much forgot about it
Until I turned off Independence,
away from the march on the 18th, cold and enraged,
knowing there were no lights on in the White House
that the windows were just as black as they were
in the fall and, as I walked to meet Paul, I thought
about imagination and how much imagination it takes,
really, to imagine war and its aftermath–
It’s probably not as hard as writing a poem.
All you have to do is imagine your son, Paul,
killed, unclaimed in a barren land, or maybe
your other son, Gabriel, Gabe, who’s younger,
but they’re safe now, more or less. But then there’s
Kathleen Carillo, who’s got an incomplete in comp,
called up in the reserves and now in Qatar
or Kuwait, but not Kansas, who’s just a kid a freshman
just as Bill Vere is, in the back row thinking
for the first time about Orwell and elephants
and is still a boy, a wrestler, who doesn’t yet know
how to write all that well but is "intrigued" by college
and he’s giving it a good shot, a college try.
These kids you know, but the old men
who want war you don’t know at all, except,
let’s face it, you’re an old man too, just 60,
with two draft-age sons and you can’t see so well,
but at least you’re not blind, and now you’re
struggling with a poem whose feet
may not do anything, marching may be better,
and you’re counting the iambs, so American
after all, and imagining how you’ll end it,
wondering how the powerful get their power
from indifference and can’t imagine war
or a poem. Susan, I hope you’ve done better
Worcester as an Average
Long ago, in the days before requirement, Worcester began with the letter W. Winds were wild there, in the town of Massachusetts, in the state of United States. The people of Worcester learned averages from the beginning, and brought them to the end.
The end lasted, but so did the beginning.
Nearby mountains and oceans loom to swallow every word that Worcester can make. The people there are the people there. And when they wake from their daily world, they stand on slopes.
These slopes are peopled with elegant names, tribal conclusions, definite places, and swarming. Stasis invites a document from the verity of fronds, and all the while, a pressure ensues. The justice of spring will speak in terms of ratification and alert. Trial is symphony, if only the people there knew, in their heart of hearts, amidst the stereopticonical display and Northern lights. O blessed and seasonal, O instrumental from the word go, O Worcester in its people! Wherewithal is the fray itself, placed just so.
I wanted to write a pogrom, said some infinite sage of diagrams and assertion, on the envious track and winding thru the landscape. This is not the placement of Worcester or any clear class, but the edgeless swordplay distinction that teems withal. T. S. Eliot threw Missouri away, myriad history amok, choosing the grace of Wensleydale and cheddar like a man. That sucking sound enfolds. Enough books are written that way, without a people to mention but a plot and vampire.
The point is, Reader of the Not Quite Written, that the introduction is near the end. Doorways point to expanse but cannot complete the gesture. A book in John Adams’ hand reverses several trends, but you will need to read on.
Four Bad Poetry Remixes
Incoherent faces fracture,
The detail of effects happening
In another place and to others, but
His fingerprints were all over ‘his’ faber poets:
There he is, like an ultrasound snap inside the belly,
Taking rubbish out of the dustbin and pasting it back into nightmare,
Shadows slouch: he notices them.
Features, limbs, inked with suspicious boundaries.
A wintry feel with a blood loss.
His figure is cordoned off.
Is a cheap gift at the year’s end.
Meaning-making at its most distant, primal level: a blank page.
There is no meaning and you create meaning
With occasional snaps and cracks.
Almost underneath the ceiling fan,
Noticing that, between disheveled curtains,
Quite often a tornado is like a twisted sphere,
He writes and paints.
He has a master’s degree in creative writing,
Plus the sickly split influence
Blossoming somewhere between the dirt of his
Toes and the chaste tears of his one-hundred-year-old spawn.
I’m an enthusiast, overall.
But who’s afraid of that?
Shit. Shit. Shit. I didn’t mean it.
The man I love
smells of brine.
Together we drive
to the mini-mart,
make the checker’s night
buying Jim Beam.
Already his eyes are half closed,
his lips taste of kelp.
As usual, I keep
the bathroom light on all night
so he’ll find shore.
frag mentation how thought
less than hope
less than proof falls
in pieces passive aggression
blows bitter sonant
high upon that hill
as life work
seeking the optimeter
watch these rainclouds
plump then dim
ill winds lie too the scope
of these high mornings
no scop could scry while
snap colour less languid
as fogged panes pain(t)ed
states meant to wash away
remainders of the story
trail post-cull formation of
competing with fog with ash
the urban hill times panes
free of the blur
flee (fleeced) from bleared
windows open to con
figurations / lights flicker in
a city / or bulkhead full
the darkness surrounds
a chitter of binary argument
lament comes after glitter
d raw n down spawning
bipolarity’s unsound semester
a full measure of what windows
all ow in least
sum of squares in flicker m ode
to returns re turn of sea
sons flick of fin
flecks in mid stream
strum of blood full
filling far flung
lunge for home (spun)
rum’s in blood a brood
and lungs keep struts at bay
the sea’s good gift by turns
amid the lulls
each water pulls
in line the gift of home
in time the grit of shame
bleeds finer (there
s a red door opening
into an other
s fantasy of
war dread warded off
officially over once and then
(and then) open to and to
what is the count now?
gone into phantom fighting
(jamais) in wards where fin
is h ardvaark like crushed by
roadside rooted ruckus
eyeful filling un- s(t)ated
meant not quite that away
way th rough full o’ the
(meanderish) rush cut
brash rucksack a
droit ly lifted
seeking aid in form
of mean tall roady’s t ending
trending to ward
off neanderish cousin
ing sing sing
ing into an o(a)th errant trap
carried on the back
storied (gone) myth/ing
e ring reposited rap
near farthings lifts
b(l)acktop rinsed by brain rain
fain to faint hearted far
seeing sawing off
nosey two faced spite
all thinking com(b)ers
breakers brokering loss
linguish awe commensurate
with beakers broken
although glossed no similar
art sought inklings
parsed though sewn
to twelve tomorrows
floating away to rub
the soft shouldered
wreck of dreamt trans
parancies / para
no(i)dal points taken
older beaches, often rancid
one would dread
the transit from
a not(ch) to ache
on sand (on hand) unhand the specks
each pointing to
ward off word of
loss less than seen than seemed
possible then some (w)hole
blown side of sandy road
whose (enemy) few
standing there dead in sight(s)
feat her drops and
sand ward as hosanna
seams a posse
tenders leading role
less than sum of
collateral diminuendo dommage
all moons / rivers riding
high watermarked orders du jour
how de jure / dejection deleted
in tents astride the waste
and ripeness of the blond moon
gone to dress the water
marking river town is paced
to elide tension thus thinning
hastily lithe bending the ridden
hide of moss j’espere
esprit de la chance / ghost
whistles graveyard chants
walked by a run
ing sore no soar
beyond stage fr(e)ighted
haul of hail to freeze fraught light caught out
along the st rung lace lit
store of whisk light at the rate
of frizzled tweaks the caught
esprit and chancy little
invest in soaring yonder
invest it sure lie like that
beyond belief system a tic
tact knows not the sung
bent nota bene
fitting law less its accrued
a crew dead to the world
watch this s(t)ung crew leaden
botched detached attache
be nimble nonetheless
to see fit vested
to c limb uplift from limb
carry-on lug gages what potent
ial alliance fallen for/th
coal lesion of welling
walling off all o there but for
something like a grace
noted as it fell beyond that horizon
the all heeds welling-up
of walls at attention lingering
tilde for a hat
named for suited gravity
pulling unsuit ably down
doomed to lie there
ive gone and done it
again st android felled
dome vies for sky lit
view domingo lasts
the lull moves one wing
at a time sky
lights the camera
full of sleep
Probably that's him
walking down the street,
in pockets, but at best
one in a million if you
happen by. That's
the problem with big cities,
or the laws of physics. Take
a girl from high school who
married and became
another. Then the
public-library phonebook wouldn't
help much, what with the
weather turning, the snow cover
disappeared and you not
recognizing any place, or any face
coming out the Safeway that might
clue you in, you not even
resident, but drifting
out of curiosity, a state
everyone assumes is foreign.
Self Portrait at the Surly Wench, Tucson, Arizona
Close cropped hair.
Shorts, t-shirt, flip-flops.
No thoughts sticking,
no thoughts building.
Reaching for Nirvana
get cock & balls.
how did i
get so rich.
paul spend more time in
your green grand torino.
norman send me 200 dollars a month
for the rest of your life
to try and balance
your anti-gay karma.
joe remind me your last name
come eat another load.
anne for one week
don’t respond to anyone.
ron embrace lower-case
cuz i said so.
phyllis do 5 years
about your fears.
come to LA
for a week in bed
let the kids
visit me in LA.
don’t lie to yourself
that you like being lonely.
get a new house.
when you bag her
lick her pussy good.
keep your peaceful consciousness
don’t dive off the warm sand
beside the clinton river
in the drayton plains nature center
when you see me.
be a boss.
69 with me
when it’s humid
in guanacaste province.
in the back seat of your family’s car
on the ventura freeway
you can do it bro
you can escape,
be content, find love
and occasional bouts of happiness.
serve only youself
for a year.
you no longer have servants.
go back in time
skip the farm
go to high school.
don’t take acid
and get in the car
33 years ago.
don’t tell me about
any of your material possessions
for 5 years.
look yourself up
in peterson’s fieldguide
get back to me.
don’t release your next book
until i edit and approve it.
an unproductive darkroom/
get out now bro
i’ll bury you later
rest of you
you’ll have to service me a while
so i can get to know you.
find me again
won’t let you down
it’s so unfair
i’m this rich.
rain, san francisco
white rains mist the empty distance
and the city sits
a faded watercolor
tones shift and drift
in diaphanous escamotage
as medusa vapors coil
from shapes that burn
behind grey veils
massy whiteness builds
in rounded forms
all sharpness tendered
by voluptuous purity
snowy breasts bellies hips
lush to fullness
and thicken to satiety
lying in bloated after-pleasure
on the startled city
Now you begin to turn Italian,
says Ford provoking Caroline dismay
as his protagonist paints God’s quick finger
above the slightly spattered hats of Cardinals
spans Florence with the surface of an egg
rides Vespas echoing down narrow streets
weds cunning Venice to the nubile sea
twirls fettucini carbonara on a fork
invents the sonnet in its subtlest shape
obtains a perfect haircut for a song
drives a Ferrari for a thousand miles
through wildly cheering mildly suicidal mobs
assassinates Lucrezia Borgia’s mate
and writes an opera about a clown.
Now he begins to turn Italian
and mimics passion, but he’ll miss his cue.
It is deadly to discover passion for a wife
even your own
All night long it is like being in love with the sea
enthralled by the seventh wave.
In she walks
with gams that would blind a bishop
jukebox wailing bagpipes.
The royal tontine aggravates
desire splayed like a caltrop in his path.
The night is noir, the dame is trouble.
He’s packing iron.
This is the final score.
Fettered in blood he looks for water
bone ache cold.
The hawkshaw on his trail
won’t take too long.
Follow the money, look for the frail.
The gaudeamus of the heirs is brief.
A palimpsest of envy whets the knife.
another year has added itself
to the index at the back of the book.
Tonight we’ll sit in the north corner booth,
our booth, as you call it,
sipping Chardonnay until memories mingle and overlap.
There won’t be any uncomfortable silences–
we’ll talk forever
about how the second boy
is so unlike the first
how the sex
has gotten more complicated
how you don’t read nearly as much as you used to
how it was a good thing we left the city
how all our old friends have lost touch
how the rains have returned
how proud you are that I left the company
how you knew it was forever right away.
The waiter will have to come back
at least twice before you decide
on the baked chicken parmesian with roasted garlic mushrooms.
“I’m excited to try this,”
you’ll say with an innocence I think our girl would’ve had.
Your round eyes will inflate
at the overzealous picture of the
caramel fudge brownie
or the after-dinner drinks that call Kahlua a staple–
but you’re watching your waistline this year.
“What does it mean?” you’ll ask
and though I know it means
a few more seconds will pass
when people we meet ask us “how long?”
You’ll know the answer but look at me wonderingly
as if you’re hoping I’ll come up with the number you’ve suddenly forgotten–
a man runs his finger up and down the index
which gets larger all the time
though the print gets finer
but I’ll say it means some things are still meant to be.
During coffee that you’re disappointed in
we won’t dive headlong into another year–
it won’t toy with us or sneak up when we aren’t looking
but be waiting with a twig of parsley and toasted dinner rolls
when we return from the restroom
just like it’s been planned.
Our lives are a sketch scene,
we merely fill in dialogue
and add action when we feel moved.
There are no cues from the director
who has long since walked off set,
bored to death by our creative ineptitude.
And we aren’t marching
towards middle age
or years that are somehow golden,
across from each other
in our familiar smells
and contemplative looks,
listening to the other chew.
And on the drive home
the theatre’s marquee
will twinkle like fireworks
in your tired eyes.
“Shall we take in a show?”
I’ll ask without slowing down.
“No,” you’ll reply in a yawn’s intermission.
And we’ll drive home,
mouths defined by toothpicks and thin mints.
Tires we just had rotated
will propel on into the night
and headlights due for change
will show us where we’re going before we get there.
This is our life, darling, nothing more and nothing less.
I love you for not leaving and the index points to the rest.
Her window, small, cracked :its emptiness
magnifies the room – she’s huge
face to face with blurred mob scenes
– her table is immense, train stations
ball parks – all those clippings, covered
as when a great statue still veiled
feels its blood beginning to move :a fold
that wasn’t there before
– she will smooth the bulge, over and over
accuse the papers, magazines, their pictures
for years waiting and motionless
and under the tablecloth
– she will look only at crowds
– he couldn’t get out if he wanted
even if that’s him with the hat
or no hat and where is this place
this under the ground where everyone
is always gathered, waiting
for the gentle handhold, the first sound
the weeping for strangers – she will swell
enormous over the moonlight
over his stillness to find its way.
Around my shadow the sun
drawing a line :an insect
without legs, stretched out
– I’m not going anywhere
though under my chest the grass
staggering in pain, both ankles
still ache, have this thirst
left over, once closer to the Earth
– they were the first to weep
– my eyes could only watch, by then
soaked in distances and ash
and you and the shade
that moves by itself
almost escaped – my breath
has a darkness now, calls out
– half around the sun a gust :your name
alone covering this bug
smaller and smaller, then nothing
as if its memories were leaves
were cold and on the ground my shadow
stopped reaching for stones.
a day like December
this day has a glacial character.
how else could it be: winter is the basis of it.
the couvert of the clouds has not yet been opened.
although this mailing has much to do with me, par avion.
the sky belongs to a department of gray.
a new coloration has taken over somehow: dietetic light.
at least the sun is maintaining an appearance.
poplars on the horizon, Iroquois brushwood.
avenue lines run on and on to end in a distant lip seal.
the snow has gotten through there too.
what fell earlier could pass for crinoline.
the scenery more scenic than ever.
regarding which I happen to know:
a few glassy ponds award themselves to the woodland as medals.
warm bird-flurries disrupt the ceremony however
ein Tag wie Dezember
dieser Tag hat glazialen Charakter.
wie könnte es anders sein: ihm liegt Winter zugrunde.
das Couvert der Wolken ist noch nicht geöffnet.
obwohl mich diese Sendung sehr angeht, par Avion.
der Himmel gehört einer Graubranche an.
es herrscht ein neuer Ton irgendwie: diätetisches Licht.
wenigstens wahrt die Sonne den Anschein.
die Pappeln am Horizont Irokesengestrüppe.
Alleen führen noch immer ins Labiale.
auch sie sind von Schneefall punktiert.
was bisher fiel, lässt einen Reifrock vermuten.
die Landschaft so landschaftlich wie lange nicht mehr.
wovon ich auch noch weiss:
einige Tümpel verleihen sich Wäldern als glasige Orden.
aber die Wärmeflocken der Vögel täuschen
H A M I L T O N S T O N E E
D I T I O N S
p.o. box 43, Maplewood, New Jersey 07040