Tuesday, May 24, 2011

365. In the Realm of Being

1

in brine
then born

everything spilling from around you


2

taking it apart
this morning
the sun arose
this morning
at 5:25 on 5/24
and today both
you and I are
50 years of age
for only 1 day
come tomorrow
the sun’ll rise
at 5:24 on 5/25

we are trapped
as we are and
governed by the
simplest of all
numbers that
make meaning
where otherwise
there might be
none even at all
these numbers
count us & help
see the patterns


3

light comes in and covers us
it is heavier than darkness and harder
to shake
sticky too and too much of it
and the stickiness appears on our skin
a glistening
so we wake
from the weight of light like water
flowing over us and the warmth
of light and bodies and bedsheets holding us in
so that we don’t drift off so far
into dreams that we cannot return
from them to hear the clapping of eyelids awake
a slow mouthing of the words for seeing

the intensity of morning is the break
from the dreamt a pillow of ants
spiders shaken like dust from gauzy curtains
toppling asterisks of emphasis or direction
towards explanations that never appear
kept just over the horizon and the attempt to
escape to elude to
forget the point of the elision

what is left out is always what is most important


4

leptodactylous

you had a hand in it
and fingers swaying

in a life
as any one of these billions
that comes only once

if something were to be made of it
you would

and hold
in your hand and its thin fingers
the cold gingerroot

what holds its own
tumescent secrets
beneath its rough skin

the flavor of scent of it

a hand to hold and be held
and hold back against
(there must be a wave to it
an unrolling of water
a sign of marine birth
in a submarine life

fathoms and unfathoms)

everything mysterious because
so ominously obvious

my brachydactylic fingers
stub children of my hands
still can hold a pencil
and draw still tap a key
to type and so words and
images tumble out of me

they are a kind of water
of birth the form that waking
takes even if mumbled gnarled
the vapid grotesqueries

of the hand
I have in it


5

not sure
actually you know
I am never
sure

just stumbling

children fell out of you
or we had fallen
for them

those few moments
of living in this
fell life

but they didn’t
fall but were
hard given to coming
out and forth

through brine
and blood into
light like morning

every time for
each of them for
this brace

of children
against the cold
sweeping of night

a day and a ½
you took or they
did to come

a child takes
a lot out of you
even when

it is from
you that is
comes


6

so given
so broke

so taken by
the thought of it

the pressure of zephyr
everything barometric
and in flux

the blood
between your legs
as it dries
to recall the birth
of each child
from that slit
the slip of them
finally
at the point
past shoulders
to slide
into my hands

body taken
by years to slow
voice given
by use to roux
everything sweet
by its recalcitrant
desuetude after
so much use

don’t want a body
to keep me a border
to show me
the boundary between
being and thinking
never’ve wanted
a body and can’t
find the use
for keeping it

yet it’s here
as yours is hers
how mine is
his

so matched
by their differences

as our children
a mismatched pair

and thus
perfected

body gives you
something or some
way to be
as an instrument
of thinking and
experiencing in
a world in flux

clouds swirl overhead
their violence so damn slow
they seem gentle in
their whiteness their bodies
in a state of disappearance
lost in their thoughts
enigmatic

and that is what
draws us to them
to our bodies

which form a shell
around us the definition
of the boundary between
a self and an other which
allow us the only way
to extend beyond our
selves into a body or
accept through our
boundaries another
body into ours

that another body
might come
as a person
into our presence

and surprise us
with the details
of its fingers and
its face


7

existence unmanageable
in the face of it

so the process is
distrust
of reality and the spurning
of its myriad falsehoods
and craven beings

look at it all through a window
and you might think it were
a mirror

your face turns
from the glass
and its transparencies

you accept its border
and that you must side
with it or take the other
side and still it is
and it is a looking through

our vantage is
ourselves

the world starts
ffffffffffffffffffffff
and from our eyes

the word ends
ssssssssssssssss
and with our feet

we don’t need air
to fly only
to breathe

what could be
the point
of that?


8

live in a bluestone
live quietly in a
bluestone house
with a bluestone
garage and the dogs
at the door to come in

live under a bluesky
live quietly under a
bluesky world
with bluesky
sight and your eyes
turning to sky

live by a blueway
live quietly by a
blueway highway
with its blueway
moving and the cars
running blue and
through and through


9

you don’t take
to swoonlight

life is serious
and deadly

(what we know
from watching

the dead grow
in number

my mother
smashed to death

your grandmother
gone when old
and gone already

my grandmother
gone after a century
and lived in three

my aunt gone too
young but two
decades older
than you
and almost no
breathing for
so long and
tenuous and
labored at that

your aunt gone
before we knew
it and as if she
had not been
here with us
and reading
words for she
cared for words

all these dear
and moldering
dead)

life is serious
and heartless

and my blackwalnut
heart too hard to crack
is made for such a
sharp and hollow place

to you my sorrows go
for I have made for you
despite my best and
insufficient attempts
not to despite the
blessings of breath and
blood and breasts

a heart so tight and
hard and cracked open
to let the blood go
through it and give
some pink to the skin
of my bones and won’t
it won’t grow into
what it must to be
and beat and beaten
I slip into the wait
for it to stop and
listen for the last
click the crack that
gives it away and
takes it all away and
belies itself the deep
red drops though few
that rest in the small
hollow in the heart of
the heart of this black
and hard as walnut heart

written with and for
what little heart I have
and broken breaking

not taking
swoonlight
for granted


10

you are the poet
maker of words

the care and
careful one not
overtaken by
the games of
sound sans the
meaning that’s
made but I

am a machine
of word and
writing so
taking your
whole day of
your first as
50 years and
writing to say
whatever might
need saying
or not

don’t expect
the words to
work or be
in any way
what would
be right to be
on this day
of yours that
is half-way
to somewhere
we might
never reach

the promise is
for words not
whatever you
might hope
words to mean

my words can
make no promises
after sounds

only sounds

or shapes
if you can
see them


11

the undecimal thought:

what comes
from coming

aching
pressed
chosen

pressure of being
pressure of flesh
pressure of being
in flesh and flesh
being in you who
are herself given

the noise at
becoming
the silence
afterwards

breathe for to take the world back in for once again

breathe for to gather the life of the breathe for word again

breathe for to show how the breast rising from the breast
and falls again

at the right tempo
and tirednesses
the breath rasps
and you exist
accordionly it is
a simple gestural
music and good
for the ear to hear
in its imperfections


12

each of us
singular

numinous
by our presences

multiplied
by the jointure

the making
out of us

or what we
can make out

distant from us
by the horizon

cluttered with
forests and hills

beings or beens
drawing toward

us as is
required

by the passage
of experience

through us
and thoroughly


13

most simple
so too difficult

to manifest
in a body

as complex
as yours

that skin
complected

of light
against the

shadow
that light

requires
by its fact

the most
simple fact

cannot ever
be explained


14

instant
and every instance
coming from it

the particular
instant at which
a certain word

turned
to face
another

that a sequence
became a set

I made a
mesh of
meaning

draw that veil
over your face

to hide nothing
to gently dissuade

and see
what comes up out of

these words
of the instant

that instant
of their making

this instant
of their taking

any instant
of their being known

which I give
over to you

as an instant
of words an

instance of
being

the play
that keeps

our race
and running


15

we have filled
with small and credible
objects

the rafters of this house
each memento meant
to provide for some passing joy

the pleasure of sight
of memory
these talismans we bring or make

too much of
everything
painting after
painting I’ve made

books upon books
and never the right one
to read

all these utensils
to make all these foods
we eat

the flavors of these liquors

everything strong
pungent or piquant

the more evidence we need
to prove to ourselves we
are here

our tongues
tasting only
when not
talking

a flavor even
to the air


16

it’s true I can’t live

without music
about me

it is the aural
form of light

the shapes it takes
remind me of the shapes
I take a shapeshifter
not wanting to be
one thing certainly
not what I am

(who)

a shape for
a determined state
or place

and the repetition of it
and the repetition of it
and the repetition of it
and the repetition of it
and the repetition of it
and the repetition of it

is what gives it
its heft in my life

since it is weightless
I count on its heaviness


17

time was
inestimable for us
so we traveled

across the continent
as if crossing
the road

kudzu and aspen
palmetto and pine

there is no difference
between North Dakota
reaching westward so flat
we lose perspective and can’t
tell if we are running level
or slightly downhill or
slightly up and
the westernmost edge of
Montana rising up into
Idaho and rich for peaks
there is no difference between
th’abundant green Tennessee
gathered in e’s and Arizona
given over to white sand
that still holds the heat
firmly in place

in us grows some need
to hold the world in our hands
to plunge our fingers
into its giving body sandy
or loamy wintry or summered
green and growing or
brown and burst

a mania
so deep
a trip
700 miles
in a day
seems
possible
if only
because
we did it


18

waiting
for water

breaking
or boiling

what slips
out or

eventually
in


19

genuflect
and you can put on a shoe

the knee bends
at kneeling

light collects
at the ends of your hair

a trio of buttons
at the back

at the back of this white blouse
and the scrim of fabric’s held

and holds you
as if cupped

in a hand by yourself
or the good bed

for sleeping
or lying there

undisturbed
excepting

the voluminous light
that pours from streetlights

as you wander
in and out of sleep

and struggle back
into it

fighting against
light sifting

through your eyelids
and into you


20

I cannot write this poem

cannot write
the poem

this poem
should be

cannot struggle
against

the light
the poem

throws
upon me

cannot bear
the light

cannot bear
the words

these crippled
words

Get up, I tell
them, get up—

It’s time
to start



21

o
I awoke

from too
little sleep

too much
much writing

too so
I am

tired but
tried and

trying to
make out

or make
up or

out of
these words

a paean
to being

when I
don’t even

believe it
in my

odd and
careful way


22

inconsequential
but not without sequence

movement sinuous
not rectilinear

this is only a note
to you

and it carries but
the weight of lightness

gentle on its knees
and bending

it is a benediction
made in a place

for you in celebration
of your life

of those leptodactylous fingers
how they touch people

at the tip of them
with the quiet words

how you guide the water
of so many small lives

to make them larger
against any hope for hope

if you were
a body of water

yours would be
Crater Lake

deep and deep and
deep blue cool and calm

and we slept
near its shores

one night
in darkness

so deep
itself

that we
could not see

the boulders
surrounding

our tent
and children


23

exerting a wrinkle
into the weave

of a life exerting
itself against

that same weave
and its unraveling

we make
what we break


24

as under


25

over wrought


26

my thoughts
arrive in scraps

and patterns
it is a patter

that takes
the words out of me

and gives them
over to you

just as the mail
arrives as it just did

nothing to read
there but we never know

when there
will be


27

the garden is ripening
but ragged from disuse

traveling for most
of the spring we didn’t

make anything of it
but weeds and won’t

till later into the year
past spring’s fat middle

garden’s ripening and
going overripe

green and muddy and
grass grown tall from

rain after rain
and enough sun

the world is alive
just only a little bit

too
much

we cannot tame
ourselves so how

could we tame
the growing world

around
us?

the maples
own the yard

we are merely
serfs to their

majestic
shade


28

transfigure
to transfigure

the world
we occupy

and create

I move to do it

can remember
when my life

was all thistles
or all ocean

or Lake Erie
as my backyard

and the mulberry
going purple

for summer
or searching the Andes

for guinea pigs
lost in the caves

of Barbados
or the hills where

I was born
penisolate

the scent of
fresh fish

storms of weaverbirds
or termites

the light of
the sun quenched

by burgeon
and burgeon

the overwrought
earth abundant

in so much of
everything we

don’t want
that much of


29

our lives
are complicated by

a sprig
of mint

a gentle
mid-green

bouquet
upon crushing

the way
the leaf plasters

to the tongue
a Host

and the white
flat body of Christ

how the tongue
perceives

the ridges of
the leaf its

veins some
how reminding

of the fat red
veins that run

through my
penis plump

with blood
and desire

the leaf the
shape of a

single eyelid
held closed

for it
held

closed for it
for to feel

for to feel
to give away

the body for
to concentrate

on the body
to eliminate

everything
extraneous

to accept
as fact

everything
indispensable


30

mine is
a stray body

not required
for the earth

not apt for
continuance

one that
disappears

after the thought
of it and accepted

as an object
desirous but

merely
a velleity

passing
inornate

inorganic
ignorant

to the measure
of the music

he comes here
as it to be

not the body
of a man

appeared
before you

but a carrier
of this mind

small as the
pocket between

two legs
and just

and just
as powerful


31

everyone hates
a poem especially

the poets
because they

know them best
and learn that

poems always
fail to be

the poems
they should be

poets care
only for words

about poems
for the secure

conviction that
they can hold

the concept of
the shape the

poem takes when
it is as it should be

they want discussion
that tells us what

the poem best is
because that assurance

those words of prose
hold more of what

the poem is than
the poem itself

which is little
more than a

contraption of
failed ideas painted

brightly and given
a shine but wobbling

at its center
about to fall

and hated
and hated

and hated
for failing

for always
failing so

I give you a poem
today on this

special day
marking your

first fifty
years because

you are inured
to my failure

and may be amused
by my attempts

to avoid
it at all


32

oasis

stasis

basis

*

coeur

care

core

*

have

he’ve

heave

*

nox

knocks

gnox

*

two

twa

twee

*

one

won

win

*

pour

pore

poor

*

first

thirst

thrift


33

abducted and inferred
these words

are articles of self
small fragments like

a flake of skin
drifting into snowstorm

you may not
notice them all

or the ice that forms
on them in the storm

and its aftermath
but they are here

exemplary in their
cavalier way

expressive the syrups
of my body not

emotions but the grimy
fluids I’m filled with

blood mucus urine
semen all these syrups

of the human body
these representations

of the self
in real life


34

the day has moved past morning

and I keep writing

this is a diary of a day
in which nothing happens

because all I do is write

my conversation is outward
to you but you do not exist

at least not here or now

I could discard all these words
and you would not ever know them
though they had still been said
toward you

who is not here

made myself a lunch
to stave off hunger
since playing music
hasn’t done it

cut up
red onion
red pepper (bell)
celery
tomatoes
fresh basil
and added
black beans
a little salt
pepper

when the beans
were warm and
the vegetables
were crunchy
I scooped spoons
into my bowl
added sriracha
sauce and ate them

I am well now
not rested
but fed and
energetic enough
to continue
with this write


35

shadow of
the frame
holding the
print against
the wall is
laminated
to the wall
laminated
to the air
before it the
wall itself
laminated
to the room
behind it
laminated
to windows
to the green
light of the
backyard to
maple the
fence around
it to alley to
street to the
park down
the road the
highway the
green sward
of the state to
Pennsylvania
New Jersey
Connecticut
Vermont the
Altlantic the
breadth of
North America
the Pacific the
sky at night
the sky’s blue
in daylight the
stars’ plenilune
for everything
is in layers of
sight and sound
and scent we
move through
these without
noticing how
we burst thru
each layer
as we go


36

the darkness
of bookbinding
velvet sheath
upon the words

the strangeness
of the words and
strangeness of
covering them

books arrayed
in darkness
holding the
darkness in

only when you
open a page
when you crack
a book open

can you see the
light it holds in
the light we
force into hiding


37

it is a paint-by-numbers window

the chatoyance of light through the closed window

light moves through glass better than breath does

sunlight off earrings arranged neatly

the bedsheets reflect the sunlight but don’t take it in

there are no flowers here but I think of flowers

swans in many colors slipping over water (they have no legs)

an egg in the palm of a hand with thin fingers

thinking of the reason for painting

the scent of paint that I can only imagine through falling light

the barricade between word and meaning

shoes are too heavy for my feet though the floor is not a cloud

eaten enough to fall asleep and it would be a short fall

the world comes to an end not on a Saturday but when we die

the day I die the world ends

the world ends for me


38

ent(erring in)
to sleep)fullness
of be(ingot w/
beauty leftless)
what make to
do)ing yet been
in care)fault
man(nourish
I meant to be
some)onesome
man or bare(
lyght of daye)
nomatterwhat
I dew)in the
morn)ing’st a
re:ason t’wake
& gives me
w(hat breat)hes
I need to find
my kname am(
ongry the bram)
bless wherein
rasp(berry cane
is abel to rise)
humped & dusky
with sword of
thorn & ma(king)
it(sweet redfruit)
but fullofseeds


39

afar all galas and altars alas appall all stanzas

these theses represent essences when seen

I insist rigid districts in illicit witticisms

O no books loop nor loom no words for works

Thus much blurts untruths thru us

40

this only note
to use in muse
and musical
version of what
capricious one
I might be or
have been finds
not you but a
place for you in
static reliquary
for the moment
of the word only
that moment
because once
said and given
the word rises
and drifts away
leaving evidence
in a memory
but nowhere
else the vision
these had of
you falling away
the walls come
down the valley
opens green and
steep at extremes
flat in the middle
the voice that
could speak inside
that green would
echo just a little
in a check and
die away every
breath steps thru
thinking to the
last thought a
body would have
which would be
something like

The sun I feel
now on my skin
I do not care
what time it is
but the sun
is warm and I
think yellow
upon my crepe-y
fingers moving
only slightly
because of it



41

~ is a sign of breathing

… and I am breathing through these words

[what I don’t hear is{these word}s]

cañon is a forgotten way of breathing through great poets

if you + I ever discovered what it was about then we could tell*

a cat is occupying^^this sentence^^or sitting next to me

¿what/could/you hope/to achieve/by cutting/your breathing/that way?

¡I am falling\over each\one of my\words!

can,you,see,the,problem,with,writing,and,how,it,is,not,speech?

(is it possible to care for anything more than for words?)

“she is ready to scribble something back but don’t quote me on that”



—Oui, oui, oui: all the way home…

Speaking | requires the effort | to stop

*the asterisk leads you nowhere†


42

articulated

it is an
articulated
words the

articulation
of words the
articulation
of fingers

these fingers
pointing at
words arti-
culated by
a mouth and
tongue or

these words
articulated
by fingers
rummaging
over a key-
board for
words to
make out
of letters or

words made
out of sounds
by tongue

words spewed
from mouths
that speak and
taste that kiss

articulations
of a thought
by fingers by
mouth by a
simple mind
in the simple
pleasure of
communion


43

it is all momentary
this life

and happens within
moments strings of

moments until
they stop

until it all stops

our moments have
been numerous and

singular and over
the time of years

years enough for
two infants to grow

into adulthood one
to marry for the house

to be empty but not
too empty for us

we still have the books
the books and this

material culture what
defines us walls of

words really or letters
walls of text but made

for the eye who loves
text whether it creates

sense or mere shape
for we feel in our bones

the urge of sense
the scent of signs

even when those signs
those symbols of our

language are corrupted
shattered crushed and

somehow
beautiful


44

other-
& -ly
I am

son’t
good
for be

ing w/
4 long
it’sn’t

real/ly
my flt
mr my

in10-
shun
to be

not as
others
wd hv

me but
as the
word

might
ask/
sept

or as
I mght
make

tht wd
or word
be 4 me

it’s the
form’ve
my(nd)

to find
how th
wrd cn
be wrkt

& wrckt
2 do wht
it shdn’t

to make
it do wht
it might

be to hv
it be in
flux & fl

owing ov
er the pg
& yr ears


45

muscscledd out of sleep today

to keep the writing moving

to move the word over the page

I am looking for a way to keep from sleeping

a way of waking before every sleep begins

I am clotted by sleep, made scarce and useless

bundled into dream to live something I might never remember

sleeping away this quarter of my life

don’t want to sleep away something so precious

precious and painful

something so vile and precious and painful and necessary


46

ascendant

and airy

these promiscuous efflorescences

all of a sudden

grown out soggy earth and rain out of grey

every leaf of every tree shuddering through the breeze

something moves so something must live

something moves you

something about the sun the heat

the question of summer and its eventual fact

even the human flowers

even the human flowers all around you seem appropriate for the weather

not raining for once a cool breeze everything suffused by sunlight


47

swung
from center

the one
sung

slung
away in an arc

stung
by the memory

you have
a word
in these
thoughts
a sound
in the
way each
is made

crept
and caught

stuck
and bungle

dirt
and a shirt

crunched
and knuckled into it

the voice
is the way
the tongue
grasps to
clump this
many sounds
together
in one bite

one swift and small

one swift and small bite

and delicious
because it is juicy and wild


48

peaty scotch in
the evening fighting
between smoky and
sweet gives a silence
to the night after
words and food
too many words and
abundant food
all taken into your
body all processed
and given back to
the world

take a moment
to sip this peaty
scotch in the evening
to let it soak into
your tongue and
sting let it raise
your taste buds
to the taste too strong
for you when younger
but now you want
these vibrant flavors



49

these thousands
of words for you
come out of the
air out of wandering
from the way
a person talks
from one point
to another the
connecting of the dots
of all these thoughts
running through
me and I am run
through with the
thoughts of 27 years
more than half
your precious life
and I’ve forgotten
everything I had
meant to say and said
instead whatever
passed through
my head to recognize
this day this only day
in all of time when
you and I will be 50

by tomorrow the
time will have past
I will be 51 and you
will still be 50 for
hundreds of days
more and that will
pull you away from
me again for another
year until that one
day next year when
you and I will be 51
together for a day

we are in the same
orbit but at different
points in the ellipse
we are moving at
the same rate so we
never catch up to
the other we are
locked together and
moving as if through
space as if on the
same arc of time and
I am always just a day
less than a year older
than you just as our
children’s birthdays
are always eight days
apart we are close
enough to think we
are in sync but we are
just a hair out of sync
and revolving through
all that time we have
hoping to come together
for a second as one and
continuing as one and
continuing though we
are always two and
will certainly end

the end is night
or it seems so to us
the darkness that
envelops us that
creates our dreams
that makes the world
we live in for our
sleeping with its own
rules a place where
I might be ten years
younger than you
or a raccoon the place
where you may have
no birthday because
the particulars of
your birth are of
little significance
as every other fact
about you because
it is a world beyond fact


50

with brine
and giving
birth

with brine
and giving
birth again

everything
is spilling
from you

our children
your blood
that marine
fluid that
floated our
children tears
that’re happy
those that’re
sad and the
tears in your
body as the
children are
born cold and
crying cold
naked and
crying so full
of wonder at
the reason
why they must
be born at
that moment
and be made
to be

The Morning of the 365th Day of Writing

I am up late, as I have been so much of my life, as I have been even more so for the last year, as I was writing a poem a day, a poem purporting to be a letter to someone I know. Today is the 365th day of that year, and I will write a 50-page poem to my wife today. As the first poem was to her, so will be the last in the numerical sequence. I began this project the day I turned 50, and today is the day my wife does the same, the day we are the same age, the only such day there will be this year, for there is only one such day every year.

In the last day, with traveling, my son's graduation from college, and the complications from both, I have let slip the finishing of a couple of letters, though each was begun on the appointed day. All these poems are done now. Three hundred and sixty-four poems are behind me, and one before for this set of 365 poems. I am caught up, but I'm 50 pages behind. I always am.

A tiring year it's been. A tiring day. And now I'll go to bed for a few hours to rest for a day of intense writing, for a day of figuring out how to write a reasonable poem of a huge length to the woman I've been married to for twenty-seven years. I've no idea how to do it. I never do. My only plan ever is to start.

And then I see what happens.

365 ltrs

Monday, May 23, 2011

364. 50 Reasons to Have 50 Reasons to Be 50

Frisian swweetnests the whole way through. His sadness was legible. Worn out and used up. The last of a breed. Aureate, self-destructive, and effete. The esthete in you finds the beauty in puce.

plaything lathing lath
and lashed to the stemmm of the shippe
and I’s sailing with it
off through the sirens of the ambelances

the ambelances, the child said, the ambelances

a boil
a boil
a boil

& pop

frequent burden feltthrough sense
garden herbarium orangery
th’entire gallimaufry of eine kleine petite vie

gilberries and gibberish for the multrance

state

and it was clear not counting the darkness

sensitive to light and slights
skin like cotton but variable
mangrove manroot mandrake
my giving and your gotten

infarction of cadmium hues
what dyes among you dyes brightly
we are too old for purchase
and too young for the comforts of death
fans of rhubarb waving above our heads
their purple veins as the fat veins
through our fingers through our cock
through our legs until they stop
ripped out and tossed

what is left is withered
what is right is bereft

trickle trickle little water from the bodies
what leaks is living lethargic and low

cotton for the ears
cotton to tamp the wound
keep the wound from suppurating
and turning yellow then puce around the edges

ceiling wax shuts out the dripping
even if the rain won’t stop
odd that the rain won’t stop

black and brick and brilliant
my left leg left for the cockroaches
who eat right up the first half
of themselves and sometimes beyond
only the crunching of skin keep me awake

these denizens of night know us
articles of temperance in an intemperate land

carrier disease embolism gash
being better bested beasts
bitter bitter bitter but bitten too

there is no sleep but death
and it comes too late in the evening to right things
fallen over from the failing that comes with sleeping

vicious for blood
and the color of teeth on your skin

the shadows come out at angles at night
and running at us and running at us

bibbed and ready
as if dinner were from the deep
and only accordion music
to quell the stomach
raging from a day of thought

various and varicose
and in that vein for minutes
(only then did he realize the vine
and the vein were twin winding strings
bringing that juicy blood through and forth)

the wind blows whatever way the vane points is

bumbling
and being
bumbling
and being
bled out
from it and

the buzzing is voices
around him at the end
speaking so quietly
he cannot hear yet

but soon he will

and take umbrage in the shade of a baobab
who grows its many legs into the earth
who hopes one day to walk away

I am the ambivore and prowling
looking for she to eat and hungry for sleep
between the warmth of those sheets
and if at night something doth seep
let it be from me for I cannot keep
anything in or all of that yowling

sarcophagus
sarcophallus
sarcophantic

kraken and squid
and the ink I write my notes with
this blood is black
and writes the best of words

It was the best of words. It was the worst of words, and many other sausages too. Something salty in the taste of those and a texture like oysters. There was the sea in them, and it rolls over the foot, and it rows over the ankle, and it roves over the kneed, and it covers it all, and it covers it all, covers it all as if nothing had ever been there but the pliant and rocking ocean.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

362. The Birds in the Trees

I am coming, tired, into the day after so much traveling and so much making. I’ve been on the road for a month, almost constant traveling. First, three flights out to Montana, but the last of my flights kept me in Utah for the first night. I was surprised that the weather was about as cold as it was here in upstate New York. But that was a month ago, and the weather has moderated since then. The next week, I flew to England for a festival of poets and others who create art—maybe poetry, maybe sculpture, maybe videos—with text and language. For those four nights, I was up later than usual drinking and talking to friends from around the world whom I rarely see, and writing about my experiences until I finally went to bed around 3:30 most mornings, which was 8:30 in the world I had come from.

After this, I was home for only one day before driving to Virginia for a conference of archivists, which meant another four days on the road, yet on the way home I decided to spend a night in New York City so that I could attend the opening of an art show on a Sunday night. I drove home that night arriving just before midnight on what is always the busiest week of my work year. An almost frantic week, but I made my way through it. Even that week was a trip of sorts, with its own challenges, and similarly late nights talking with friends. I am just now back from a few days away to celebrate the graduation of my son and second and final child, so these past few late nights were spent with family, including Tim, who started a job today, the day after graduating.

So I’m home, brought back to my house after thousands of miles of travel, and a hundred hours or so of lost sleep, and I’m near the end of something else, near the end of a project I began almost a year ago, a project to write a letter in the form of a poem to a different person I know, half of them men, half of them women, some that I knew very well, and a few I knew less well, but whom I had wanted to write to. The first of these people was my wife, and I alternated between men and women for a year, and will end with my wife Nancy as well. This is a project to connect with the people I know, with those I share the connection of blood, with those I share certain interests (sometimes poetry, sometimes art, sometimes archives). I started this 365 ltrs project as a way to send gifts out into the world to celebrate this year that I have been fifty years of age—what seems like a half-way mark but which is probably better than two thirds through my life. I have written poems in many styles and forms, poems for children, poems for flarfists, poems for archivists, for visual poets, for conceptual poets, for haijin. And I saved the haijin for last because I can never quite write a haiku right, because this unexpected haibun from me will, doubtless, be askew as well.

This traveling ended with Nancy and me driving a few hours home in a car as full as it could be packed. This travel ended by taking a couple of hours to pack the car in the suddenly hot sun with my son’s personal effects from college and then by unpacking all of it at our house. I still wonder where we will store it all.

pulls itself up
buzzard by the roadside
so slowly it seems walking

I came into my backyard to enjoy a simple warm day and its solitary sun, and to listen to the birds. We live in a city and right next to a supermarket, but we have a large backyard, and it is almost sylvan at the edge of the dark-green darkness that is the shade of our giant backyard maple (two others in the front yard). The world is both gently cool and pleasantly warm for a moment, as we sit at the table we have just brought out of the garage. We have not yet prepared the yard for the summer because we have not been here very much since the snow has melted.

voices of birds
flight of voices of children
swimming

Nancy and I drink margaritas to appease our desire for taste, each drink made with a reposado margarita, so these drinks are even smokier and more peppery than usual. And they are filled with the flavor of fruit: the orange of the Cointreau, the fresh sour bite of the limes, their little capsules of juice occasionally bursting in our mouths. I try to read Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever, which I had realized last week I had never read, but it is too dense for me to read this tired, this logy, with my body so worn out, and my mind carrying forward only because it does not know when to stop. It never knows when to stop.

we wait
for something to happen—
a leaf rustles

What I desire more than anything is action, simple action, something to happen. I am always writing or reading or watching because that gives me some sense of myself as a person, and because a person is here for experiences to flow through and for experiences to flow out of. We are all creators, we are all storytellers, we are all members of the audience accepting the action before us so we can remember it back into a story, a feeling, a poem. I know this even sitting at a table in the low sun, waiting for a feeling like sleep to overtake me, even though I won’t give into sleep, my nemesis, until the early morning. I have too much to do, or too much I have to do, too much I’ve forced myself to do.

I began this project because it would be difficult, and as a test for myself. I like challenges, and I like overcoming challenges. This writing, this daily writing, this incessant writing demands much of me. I like the sense I have that almost no-one would go through such a project, because they would not want to experience the suffering it requires. Even I am challenged by the need to think of some different way to make a poem, by the need to think of something else to say, by the realization that I cannot escape the trap of my own tropes. I am always encased in the tendencies of my writing. I am always restricted by the limitations of my meager thoughts. What I can’t do is more impressive than what I can do. Yet I believe that most people who might begin such a writing marathon would never end it, and I’m only three days from the end of this, so I’ll probably finish.

clouds slip southward
I don’t know
why

The small voices of these birds, smaller than the spring leaves of these trees, make the world seem alive again. It was a long winter this year with plenty of snow, and it’s been a dark and rainy spring, so this one warm day, with enough sun, gives us some belief that we are awaking into a new life, something green and burgeoning. For a second, maybe a few, I sit and listen, I feel the world around me. These small birds flit through the trees, but I think of them as streams of blood moving through the maples, the beating blood of the entire world. I look around the yard to see how the world changes as sunset approaches.

the sun is low
so the stockade fence
appears around me

Three more poems to write after this one, then maybe I will read this book of mine all at once. It will be about 1500 pages long. With that much length in that relatively short a time, I have to assume the quality of these poems is lacking. There is no way for a poet to write so many words and ensure quality all the way through. Despite my ability to string words together, I don’t necessarily have the ability to do anything interesting with them. In the end, this project may be of no interest beyond its conceptual qualities, its idea that a constraint in poetry, a prosody, might be physical, might be based on nothing more than physical and temporal restrictions. It is my only gift to poetry: to turn it into a marathon, a physical test as much as an intellectual one.

This year’s worth of poems, one for each day, make up a book so long that it will never be printed, it will never be a whole. It exists in boxes and on the Internet, but not between covers, never between covers. It includes poems in color, poems without words, poems out of written sounds that never form meanings. It is an experiment in the possibilities of poetry laid out over one year, and it is a book that will never exist. But it is still a book. I like to make books, even books that don’t exist.

why these mockingbirds
spreading their tailfeathers
in the black locust?

I don’t know anything.

None of us does. We move through our lives wondering but never quite knowing. During this year of writing, two of the people I have written to have died. Their deaths have become part of this project, for poetry is a project, a project against death, a project of making, a plan for making sense of the world, and making that sense out of words and fractions of words.

The first of the deaths was that of my aunt, my only blood aunt, my replacement mother after the death of my own mother in a car accident a dozen years ago. My aunt died slowly, of emphysema, a project years in length, which is just as my mother would have died, slowly, after the effects of years of smoking. She responded to my poem to her with a telephone call, telling me the letter was the best gift she had ever received. I was happy for that, happy to give her a little joy in a slow descent into death. When she died, my entire family, my wife, my daughter, and son, and I, flew out to California for her funeral. It was a sad occasion, but it was also a celebration of a life and a family reunion as well. We were all together again, on the coast opposite mine, but the coast of my birth, the very town of my birth, to be an extended family again, if only for a short time.

The second death was of a colleague who had moved away from here. He had resigned from his job and moved back to Connecticut to be a real estate agent again. When I sent him his letter, he wrote back to me explaining that he didn’t understand the poem but that he would work at it. There are poems of mine, like this one, that seem very simple to me, that say merely exactly what they are meant to say, but which people still cannot fathom. But my poem to Art (which is really his name, I am not using his name allegorically, I was not writing to the concept of art) was not such a poem. It was demanding and obtuse, written both in the broken lines of verse and then as prose. It required the reader to give up on the normal sense that writing makes. Art wrote me to tell me that it had him thinking.

Maybe that is the best a poem can do.

Art died last month, apparently by his own hand. He had had some financial problems, and I had discovered after his death that creditors had been calling my place of work every day looking for him. He visited his family, maybe as a last goodbye, and then he drove to New Hampshire, walked into the woods, and died. I don’t know how. Toxicology reports have not yet been released, but we assume he poisoned himself somehow. It is a sad story, but it ended as all stories about people have to end.

I don’t know anything.

Ragged Scraps of a Draft of a Poem that Will Not End up Looking Like this Though All of it Might be in It


voices of birds
flight of voices of children
swimming



pulls itself up
buzzard from the side of the road
so slowly it seems walking



we wait
for something to happen—
a leaf rustles



clouds slip southward
I don’t know
why



the sun is low
so the stockade fence
appears around me


 
why these mockingbirds
spreading their tailfeathers
in the black locust?