Sunday, October 28, 2007

Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror by John Ashbery

As Parmigianino did it, the right hand
Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer
And swerving easily away, as though to protect
What it advertises. A few leaded panes, old beams,
Fur, pleated muslin, a coral ring run together
In a movement supporting the face, which swims
Toward and away like the hand
Except that it is in repose. It is what is
Sequestered. Vasari says, "Francesco one day set himself
To take his own portrait, looking at himself from that purpose
In a convex mirror, such as is used by barbers . . .
He accordingly caused a ball of wood to be made
By a turner, and having divided it in half and
Brought it to the size of the mirror, he set himself
With great art to copy all that he saw in the glass,"
Chiefly his reflection, of which the portrait
Is the reflection, of which the portrait
Is the reflection once removed.
The glass chose to reflect only what he saw
Which was enough for his purpose: his image
Glazed, embalmed, projected at a 180-degree angle.
The time of day or the density of the light
Adhering to the face keeps it
Lively and intact in a recurring wave
Of arrival. The soul establishes itself.
But how far can it swim out through the eyes
And still return safely to its nest? The surface
Of the mirror being convex, the distance increases
Significantly; that is, enough to make the point
That the soul is a captive, treated humanely, kept
In suspension, unable to advance much farther
Than your look as it intercepts the picture.
Pope Clement and his court were "stupefied"
By it, according to Vasari, and promised a commission
That never materialized. The soul has to stay where it is,
Even though restless, hearing raindrops at the pane,
The sighing of autumn leaves thrashed by the wind,
Longing to be free, outside, but it must stay
Posing in this place. It must move
As little as possible. This is what the portrait says.
But there is in that gaze a combination
Of tenderness, amusement and regret, so powerful
In its restraint that one cannot look for long.
The secret is too plain. The pity of it smarts,
Makes hot tears spurt: that the soul is not a soul,
Has no secret, is small, and it fits
Its hollow perfectly: its room, our moment of attention.
That is the tune but there are no words.
The words are only speculation
(From the Latin speculum, mirror):
They seek and cannot find the meaning of the music.
We see only postures of the dream,
Riders of the motion that swings the face
Into view under evening skies, with no
False disarray as proof of authenticity.
But it is life englobed.
One would like to stick one's hand
Out of the globe, but its dimension,
What carries it, will not allow it.
No doubt it is this, not the reflex
To hide something, which makes the hand loom large
As it retreats slightly. There is no way
To build it flat like a section of wall:
It must join the segment of a circle,
Roving back to the body of which it seems
So unlikely a part, to fence in and shore up the face
On which the effort of this condition reads
Like a pinpoint of a smile, a spark
Or star one is not sure of having seen
As darkness resumes. A perverse light whose
Imperative of subtlety dooms in advance its
Conceit to light up: unimportant but meant.
Francesco, your hand is big enough
To wreck the sphere, and too big,
One would think, to weave delicate meshes
That only argue its further detention.
(Big, but not coarse, merely on another scale,
Like a dozing whale on the sea bottom
In relation to the tiny, self-important ship
On the surface.) But your eyes proclaim
That everything is surface. The surface is what's there
And nothing can exist except what's there.
There are no recesses in the room, only alcoves,
And the window doesn't matter much, or that
Sliver of window or mirror on the right, even
As a gauge of the weather, which in French is
Le temps, the word for time, and which
Follows a course wherein changes are merely
Features of the whole. The whole is stable within
Instability, a globe like ours, resting
On a pedestal of vacuum, a ping-pong ball
Secure on its jet of water.
And just as there are no words for the surface, that is,
No words to say what it really is, that it is not
Superficial but a visible core, then there is
No way out of the problem of pathos vs. experience.
You will stay on, restive, serene in
Your gesture which is neither embrace nor warning
But which holds something of both in pure
Affirmation that doesn't affirm anything.

The balloon pops, the attention
Turns dully away. Clouds
In the puddle stir up into sawtoothed fragments.
I think of the friends
Who came to see me, of what yesterday
Was like. A peculiar slant
Of memory that intrudes on the dreaming model
In the silence of the studio as he considers
Lifting the pencil to the self-portrait.
How many people came and stayed a certain time,
Uttered light or dark speech that became part of you
Like light behind windblown fog and sand,
Filtered and influenced by it, until no part
Remains that is surely you. Those voices in the dusk
Have told you all and still the tale goes on
In the form of memories deposited in irregular
Clumps of crystals. Whose curved hand controls,
Francesco, the turning seasons and the thoughts
That peel off and fly away at breathless speeds
Like the last stubborn leaves ripped
From wet branches? I see in this only the chaos
Of your round mirror which organizes everything
Around the polestar of your eyes which are empty,
Know nothing, dream but reveal nothing.
I feel the carousel starting slowly
And going faster and faster: desk, papers, books,
Photographs of friends, the window and the trees
Merging in one neutral band that surrounds
Me on all sides, everywhere I look.
And I cannot explain the action of leveling,
Why it should all boil down to one
Uniform substance, a magma of interiors.
My guide in these matters is your self,
Firm, oblique, accepting everything with the same
Wraith of a smile, and as time speeds up so that it is soon
Much later, I can know only the straight way out,
The distance between us. Long ago
The strewn evidence meant something,
The small accidents and pleasures
Of the day as it moved gracelessly on,
A housewife doing chores. Impossible now
To restore those properties in the silver blur that is
The record of what you accomplished by sitting down
"With great art to copy all that you saw in the glass"
So as to perfect and rule out the extraneous
Forever. In the circle of your intentions certain spars
Remain that perpetuate the enchantment of self with self:
Eyebeams, muslin, coral. It doesn't matter
Because these are things as they are today
Before one's shadow ever grew
Out of the field into thoughts of tomorrow.

Tomorrow is easy, but today is uncharted,
Desolate, reluctant as any landscape
To yield what are laws of perspective
After all only to the painter's deep
Mistrust, a weak instrument though
Necessary. Of course some things
Are possible, it knows, but it doesn't know
Which ones. Some day we will try
To do as many things as are possible
And perhaps we shall succeed at a handful
Of them, but this will not have anything
To do with what is promised today, our
Landscape sweeping out from us to disappear
On the horizon. Today enough of a cover burnishes
To keep the supposition of promises together
In one piece of surface, letting one ramble
Back home from them so that these
Even stronger possibilities can remain
Whole without being tested. Actually
The skin of the bubble-chamber's as tough as
Reptile eggs; everything gets "programmed" there
In due course: more keeps getting included
Without adding to the sum, and just as one
Gets accustomed to a noise that
Kept one awake but now no longer does,
So the room contains this flow like an hourglass
Without varying in climate or quality
(Except perhaps to brighten bleakly and almost
Invisibly, in a focus sharpening toward death--more
Of this later). What should be the vacuum of a dream
Becomes continually replete as the source of dreams
Is being tapped so that this one dream
May wax, flourish like a cabbage rose,
Defying sumptuary laws, leaving us
To awake and try to begin living in what
Has now become a slum. Sydney Freedberg in his
Parmigianino says of it: "Realism in this portrait
No longer produces and objective truth, but a bizarria . . . .
However its distortion does not create
A feeling of disharmony . . . . The forms retain
A strong measure of ideal beauty," because
Fed by our dreams, so inconsequential until one day
We notice the hole they left. Now their importance
If not their meaning is plain. They were to nourish
A dream which includes them all, as they are
Finally reversed in the accumulating mirror.
They seemed strange because we couldn't actually see them.
And we realize this only at a point where they lapse
Like a wave breaking on a rock, giving up
Its shape in a gesture which expresses that shape.
The forms retain a strong measure of ideal beauty
As they forage in secret on our idea of distortion.
Why be unhappy with this arrangement, since
Dreams prolong us as they are absorbed?
Something like living occurs, a movement
Out of the dream into its codification.

As I start to forget it
It presents its stereotype again
But it is an unfamiliar stereotype, the face
Riding at anchor, issued from hazards, soon
To accost others, "rather angel than man" (Vasari).
Perhaps an angel looks like everything
We have forgotten, I mean forgotten
Things that don't seem familiar when
We meet them again, lost beyond telling,
Which were ours once. This would be the point
Of invading the privacy of this man who
"Dabbled in alchemy, but whose wish
Here was not to examine the subtleties of art
In a detached, scientific spirit: he wished through them
To impart the sense of novelty and amazement to the spectator"
(Freedberg). Later portraits such as the Uffizi
"Gentleman," the Borghese "Young Prelate" and
The Naples "Antea" issue from Mannerist
Tensions, but here, as Freedberg points out,
The surprise, the tension are in the concept
Rather than its realization.
The consonance of the High Renaissance
Is present, though distorted by the mirror.
What is novel is the extreme care in rendering
The velleities of the rounded reflecting surface
(It is the first mirror portrait),
So that you could be fooled for a moment
Before you realize the reflection
Isn't yours. You feel then like one of those
Hoffmann characters who have been deprived
Of a reflection, except that the whole of me
Is seen to be supplanted by the strict
Otherness of the painter in his
Other room. We have surprised him
At work, but no, he has surprised us
As he works. The picture is almost finished,
The surprise almost over, as when one looks out,
Startled by a snowfall which even now is
Ending in specks and sparkles of snow.
It happened while you were inside, asleep,
And there is no reason why you should have
Been awake for it, except that the day
Is ending and it will be hard for you
To get to sleep tonight, at least until late.

The shadow of the city injects its own
Urgency: Rome where Francesco
Was at work during the Sack: his inventions
Amazed the soldiers who burst in on him;
They decided to spare his life, but he left soon after;
Vienna where the painting is today, where
I saw it with Pierre in the summer of 1959; New York
Where I am now, which is a logarithm
Of other cities. Our landscape
Is alive with filiations, shuttlings;
Business is carried on by look, gesture,
Hearsay. It is another life to the city,
The backing of the looking glass of the
Unidentified but precisely sketched studio. It wants
To siphon off the life of the studio, deflate
Its mapped space to enactments, island it.
That operation has been temporarily stalled
But something new is on the way, a new preciosity
In the wind. Can you stand it,
Francesco? Are you strong enough for it?
This wind brings what it knows not, is
Self--propelled, blind, has no notion
Of itself. It is inertia that once
Acknowledged saps all activity, secret or public:
Whispers of the word that can't be understood
But can be felt, a chill, a blight
Moving outward along the capes and peninsulas
Of your nervures and so to the archipelagoes
And to the bathed, aired secrecy of the open sea.
This is its negative side. Its positive side is
Making you notice life and the stresses
That only seemed to go away, but now,
As this new mode questions, are seen to be
Hastening out of style. If they are to become classics
They must decide which side they are on.
Their reticence has undermined
The urban scenery, made its ambiguities
Look willful and tired, the games of an old man.
What we need now is this unlikely
Challenger pounding on the gates of an amazed
Castle. Your argument, Francesco,
Had begun to grow stale as no answer
Or answers were forthcoming. If it dissolves now
Into dust, that only means its time had come
Some time ago, but look now, and listen:
It may be that another life is stocked there
In recesses no one knew of; that it,
Not we, are the change; that we are in fact it
If we could get back to it, relive some of the way
It looked, turn our faces to the globe as it sets
And still be coming out all right:
Nerves normal, breath normal. Since it is a metaphor
Made to include us, we are a part of it and
Can live in it as in fact we have done,
Only leaving our minds bare for questioning
We now see will not take place at random
But in an orderly way that means to menace
Nobody--the normal way things are done,
Like the concentric growing up of days
Around a life: correctly, if you think about it.

A breeze like the turning of a page
Brings back your face: the moment
Takes such a big bite out of the haze
Of pleasant intuition it comes after.
The locking into place is "death itself,"
As Berg said of a phrase in Mahler's Ninth;
Or, to quote Imogen in Cymbeline, "There cannot
Be a pinch in death more sharp than this," for,
Though only exercise or tactic, it carries
The momentum of a conviction that had been building.
Mere forgetfulness cannot remove it
Nor wishing bring it back, as long as it remains
The white precipitate of its dream
In the climate of sighs flung across our world,
A cloth over a birdcage. But it is certain that
What is beautiful seems so only in relation to a specific
Life, experienced or not, channeled into some form
Steeped in the nostalgia of a collective past.
The light sinks today with an enthusiasm
I have known elsewhere, and known why
It seemed meaningful, that others felt this way
Years ago. I go on consulting
This mirror that is no longer mine
For as much brisk vacancy as is to be
My portion this time. And the vase is always full
Because there is only just so much room
And it accommodates everything. The sample
One sees is not to be taken as
Merely that, but as everything as it
May be imagined outside time--not as a gesture
But as all, in the refined, assimilable state.
But what is this universe the porch of
As it veers in and out, back and forth,
Refusing to surround us and still the only
Thing we can see? Love once
Tipped the scales but now is shadowed, invisible,
Though mysteriously present, around somewhere.
But we know it cannot be sandwiched
Between two adjacent moments, that its windings
Lead nowhere except to further tributaries
And that these empty themselves into a vague
Sense of something that can never be known
Even though it seems likely that each of us
Knows what it is and is capable of
Communicating it to the other. But the look
Some wear as a sign makes one want to
Push forward ignoring the apparent
NaÏveté of the attempt, not caring
That no one is listening, since the light
Has been lit once and for all in their eyes
And is present, unimpaired, a permanent anomaly,
Awake and silent. On the surface of it
There seems no special reason why that light
Should be focused by love, or why
The city falling with its beautiful suburbs
Into space always less clear, less defined,
Should read as the support of its progress,
The easel upon which the drama unfolded
To its own satisfaction and to the end
Of our dreaming, as we had never imagined
It would end, in worn daylight with the painted
Promise showing through as a gage, a bond.
This nondescript, never-to-be defined daytime is
The secret of where it takes place
And we can no longer return to the various
Conflicting statements gathered, lapses of memory
Of the principal witnesses. All we know
Is that we are a little early, that
Today has that special, lapidary
Todayness that the sunlight reproduces
Faithfully in casting twig-shadows on blithe
Sidewalks. No previous day would have been like this.
I used to think they were all alike,
That the present always looked the same to everybody
But this confusion drains away as one
Is always cresting into one's present.
Yet the "poetic," straw-colored space
Of the long corridor that leads back to the painting,
Its darkening opposite--is this
Some figment of "art," not to be imagined
As real, let alone special? Hasn't it too its lair
In the present we are always escaping from
And falling back into, as the waterwheel of days
Pursues its uneventful, even serene course?
I think it is trying to say it is today
And we must get out of it even as the public
Is pushing through the museum now so as to
Be out by closing time. You can't live there.
The gray glaze of the past attacks all know-how:
Secrets of wash and finish that took a lifetime
To learn and are reduced to the status of
Black-and-white illustrations in a book where colorplates
Are rare. That is, all time
Reduces to no special time. No one
Alludes to the change; to do so might
Involve calling attention to oneself
Which would augment the dread of not getting out
Before having seen the whole collection
(Except for the sculptures in the basement:
They are where they belong).
Our time gets to be veiled, compromised
By the portrait's will to endure. It hints at
Our own, which we were hoping to keep hidden.
We don't need paintings or
Doggerel written by mature poets when
The explosion is so precise, so fine.
Is there any point even in acknowledging
The existence of all that? Does it
Exist? Certainly the leisure to
Indulge stately pastimes doesn't,
Any more. Today has no margins, the event arrives
Flush with its edges, is of the same substance,
Indistinguishable. "Play" is something else;
It exists, in a society specifically
Organized as a demonstration of itself.
There is no other way, and those assholes
Who would confuse everything with their mirror games
Which seem to multiply stakes and possibilities, or
At least confuse issues by means of an investing
Aura that would corrode the architecture
Of the whole in a haze of suppressed mockery,
Are beside the point. They are out of the game,
Which doesn't exist until they are out of it.
It seems like a very hostile universe
But as the principle of each individual thing is
Hostile to, exists at the expense of all the others
As philosophers have often pointed out, at least
This thing, the mute, undivided present,
Has the justification of logic, which
In this instance isn't a bad thing
Or wouldn't be, if the way of telling
Didn't somehow intrude, twisting the end result
Into a caricature of itself. This always
Happens, as in the game where
A whispered phrase passed around the room
Ends up as something completely different.
It is the principle that makes works of art so unlike
What the artist intended. Often he finds
He has omitted the thing he started out to say
In the first place. Seduced by flowers,
Explicit pleasures, he blames himself (though
Secretly satisfied with the result), imagining
He had a say in the matter and exercised
An option of which he was hardly conscious,
Unaware that necessity circumvents such resolutions.
So as to create something new
For itself, that there is no other way,
That the history of creation proceeds according to
Stringent laws, and that things
Do get done in this way, but never the things
We set out to accomplish and wanted so desperately
To see come into being. Parmigianino
Must have realized this as he worked at his
Life-obstructing task. One is forced to read
The perfectly plausible accomplishment of a purpose
Into the smooth, perhaps even bland (but so
Enigmatic) finish. Is there anything
To be serious about beyond this otherness
That gets included in the most ordinary
Forms of daily activity, changing everything
Slightly and profoundly, and tearing the matter
Of creation, any creation, not just artistic creation
Out of our hands, to install it on some monstrous, near
Peak, too close to ignore, too far
For one to intervene? This otherness, this
"Not-being-us" is all there is to look at
In the mirror, though no one can say
How it came to be this way. A ship
Flying unknown colors has entered the harbor.
You are allowing extraneous matters
To break up your day, cloud the focus
Of the crystal ball. Its scene drifts away
Like vapor scattered on the wind. The fertile
Thought-associations that until now came
So easily, appear no more, or rarely. Their
Colorings are less intense, washed out
By autumn rains and winds, spoiled, muddied,
Given back to you because they are worthless.
Yet we are such creatures of habit that their
Implications are still around en permanence, confusing
Issues. To be serious only about sex
Is perhaps one way, but the sands are hissing
As they approach the beginning of the big slide
Into what happened. This past
Is now here: the painter's
Reflected face, in which we linger, receiving
Dreams and inspirations on an unassigned
Frequency, but the hues have turned metallic,
The curves and edges are not so rich. Each person
Has one big theory to explain the universe
But it doesn't tell the whole story
And in the end it is what is outside him
That matters, to him and especially to us
Who have been given no help whatever
In decoding our own man-size quotient and must rely
On second-hand knowledge. Yet I know
That no one else's taste is going to be
Any help, and might as well be ignored.
Once it seemed so perfect--gloss on the fine
Freckled skin, lips moistened as though about to part
Releasing speech, and the familiar look
Of clothes and furniture that one forgets.
This could have been our paradise: exotic
Refuge within an exhausted world, but that wasn't
In the cards, because it couldn't have been
The point. Aping naturalness may be the first step
Toward achieving an inner calm
But it is the first step only, and often
Remains a frozen gesture of welcome etched
On the air materializing behind it,
A convention. And we have really
No time for these, except to use them
For kindling. The sooner they are burnt up
The better for the roles we have to play.
Therefore I beseech you, withdraw that hand,
Offer it no longer as shield or greeting,
The shield of a greeting, Francesco:
There is room for one bullet in the chamber:
Our looking through the wrong end
Of the telescope as you fall back at a speed
Faster than that of light to flatten ultimately
Among the features of the room, an invitation
Never mailed, the "it was all a dream"
Syndrome, though the "all" tells tersely
Enough how it wasn't. Its existence
Was real, though troubled, and the ache
Of this waking dream can never drown out
The diagram still sketched on the wind,
Chosen, meant for me and materialized
In the disguising radiance of my room.
We have seen the city; it is the gibbous
Mirrored eye of an insect. All things happen
On its balcony and are resumed within,
But the action is the cold, syrupy flow
Of a pageant. One feels too confined,
Sifting the April sunlight for clues,
In the mere stillness of the ease of its
Parameter. The hand holds no chalk
And each part of the whole falls off
And cannot know it knew, except
Here and there, in cold pockets
Of remembrance, whispers out of time.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dull Mauve by John Ashbery

Twenty miles away, in the colder
water of the Atlantic, you gaze longingly
toward the coast. Didn't you once love someone
there? Yes, but it was only a cat, and I,
a manatee, what could I do? There are no rewards
in this world for pissing your life away, even
if it means you get to see forgotten icebergs
of decades ago peeling off from the mass
to dive under the surface, raising a
mountain of seething glass before they lunge back up
to start the unknown perilous journey
to the desolate horizon.

That was the way
I thought of each day when I was young, a sloughing-off,
both suicidal and imbued with a certain ritual grace.
Later, there were so many protagonists
one got quite lost, as in a forest of doppelgangers.
Many things were going on. And the moon, poised
on the ridge like an enormous, smooth grapefruit, understood
the importance of each and wasn't going
to make one's task any easier, though we loved her.

Taxi In the Glen by John Ashbery

You throw matches on the floor.
I collect antique lard cans.

"You know, some day there'll be an interest
in these, though it will peak, like the tide,
in infinite relief, and b back next day.
But somebody ill surely remember them–
the succinct red of that metal.
Then we drink everything in, avidly,
yet we are not thirsty. Some mechanism declines
our auroras, and so must it even be
until the day of waking up and not finding out.
I'll be a spruce-god by then, but you, you
should still be savoring the advantages
of belated puberty."

...............................And I'll dress you in grass
and sing to you, a song where the words are the music
and the music has no point. Let me chafe your nipple, I…

And time will be hapy. Quiet, runt.
Th world's most astonishing plant couldn't
faze you, nor the fat ogres beyond the icehouse.
Lilies and sweet peas think you're swell.
I even have a nephew who is about
to invite you to the cotillion in Baltimore,
after taking a few more readings, and say,
wasn't it cool the way the alie came up to you,
all combustible, dreadful with tears,
and caped your burning oil well?

You've got friends
out there, more than you know,
but time is running short and we have to do something about it.
How about a nice whistle, something Grandma
can use on her back porch. Or a subscription
to Reader's Digest and the black methane-haunted city.
In any case it will be a peaceful interlude
when you get around to it–limning storm clouds
with the rigor one knows of old
of you–and caution an angered bluebottle
to calm his romantic hopes

Friday, October 26, 2007

Is it wrong of me to push you
from the cliff that I live on
When I brought you there blindfolded?

Why should you fall in
the way that I jump when
I have not even let you
see where you are?

When all that I do
is stand on the edge

to push is not to jump
nor is it to fall

I cannot help but to hope

you might trip
off the cliff,
I live on
Is it wrong of me to push you
from the cliff that I live on
When I brought you there blindfolded?

Why should you jump in
the way that I fall when
I have not even let you
see where you are?

To risk for me all
that I have held
over the edge

to push is not to fall
and neither is love

Yet I'm still too scared
to take the blindfold off
You might see how steep
the cliff's edge really is

I cannot help
but to hope
for you to fall
out of shock

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Entre Nous by Robert Creeley

If I can't hope then to hell with it
I don't want to live like this?

Like this, he said. Where were you?
She was around in the back of the bureau

Where he pushed her?
Hell no, she just fell.
Smoking in the wind
swept weather I
inhale, exhale
the smoke blows
back in to my eyes

Do Not Stop Moving

Whoever lets go in his fall dives into the source and is healed - Rainer Maria Rilke*

let go– Love
you had
none but I kept
falling, and you
do not hold
on to all
we put into the
box– I

wrapped tightly
wound in green
ribbon put in
my ribs
A rusted red apple
a pear
that I picked
for you but you
would not bite
into my love.

I have nothing, but you–

* Stephen Mitchell translation

Monday, October 22, 2007

Production Still

shudder moment
linger in the flutter
of the heart shutter
speed fixed on
slow to capture
more detail in the
only photo for
ever longer over
too bright, gone
with white wash
out the sun still
bleeds through
and through
snow flurries on
a winter dawning

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What Are Years by Marianne Moore

What is our innocence,

what is our guilt? All are

naked, none is safe. And

is courage: the unanswered question,

the resolute doubt, -

dumbly calling, deafly listening-that

in misfortune, even death,

encourage others

and in it’s defeat, stirs

the soul to be strong? He

sees deep and is glad, who

accedes to mortality

and in his imprisonment rises

upon himself as

the sea in a chasm, struggling to be

free and unable to be,

in its surrendering

finds its continuing.

So he who strongly feels,

behaves. The very bird,

grown taller as he sings,

his form straight up. Though he is captive,

his mighty singing

says, satisfaction is a lowly

thing, how pure a thing is joy.

This is mortality,

this is eternity.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sappho by James A. Wright

Ach, in den Armen hab ich sie alle verloren, du nur, du wirst immer wieder geboren ....
—Rilke, Die Aufzeichnrurgen des Slalte Laurids Brigge

The twilight falls; I soften the dusting feathers,
And clean again.
The house has lain and moldered for three days.
The windows smeared with rain, the curtains torn,
The mice come in,
The kitchen blown with cold.

I keep the house, and say no words.

It is true I am as twisted as the cactus
That gnarls and turns beside the milky light,
That cuts the fingers easily and means nothing,
For all the pain that shoots along the hand.
I dust the feathers down the yellow thorns,
I light the stove.

The gas curls round the iron fretwork. the flame
Floats above the lace,
And bounces like a dancer stayed on air.
Fire does not rest on iron, it drifts like a blue blossom
And catches on my breath;
Coiling, spinning, the blue foam of the gas fire
Writhes like a naked girl;
Turns up its face, like her.

She came to me in rain.
I did not know her, I did not know my name
After she left to bed her children down,
To phone her husband they were gone asleep.
And she, lying, a pure fire, in the feathers,
Dancing above the ironwork of her bed,
Roaring, and singeing nothing.
She had not wound her arms about me then,
She had not dared.
I only took her coat, and smiled to hear
How she had left her purse and her umbrella
In the theater, how she was sopping cold

With the fall rain; and mine was the one light
In the neighborhood. She came to my gas fire
And lay before it, sprawled, her pure bare shoulders
Folded in a doze, a clear, cold curve of stone.

I only leaned above the hair,
Turned back the quilt, arranged the feet, the arms,
And kissed the sleeping shoulder, lightly, like the rain;
And when she woke to wear her weathered clothes,
I sent her home.
She floated, a blue blossom, over the street.

And when she came again,
It was not long before she turned to me,
And let her shawl slide down her neck and shoulder,
Let her hair fall.
And when she came again,
It did not rain.

Her husband came to pluck her like an apple,
As the drunken farmer lurches against the tree,
Grips the green globe not long beyond its bloom,
And tears the skin, brutally, out of the bark,
Leaves the whole bough broken,
The orchard torn with many footprints,
The fence swung wide
On a raw hinge.

And now it is said of me
That my love is nothing because I have borne no children,
Or because I have fathered none;
That I twisted the twig in my hands
And cut the blossom free too soon from the seed;
That I lay across the fire,
And snuffed it dead sooner than draft or rain.

But I have turned away, and drawn myself
Upright to walk along the room alone.
Across the dark the spines of cactus plants
Remind me how I go—aloof, obscure,
Indifferent to the words the children chalk
Against my house and down the garden walls.
They cannot tear the garden out of me,
Nor smear my love with names. Love is a cliff,
A clear, cold curve of stone, mottled by stars,
smirched by the morning, carved by the dark sea
Till stars and dawn and waves can slash no more,
Till the rock’s heart is found and shaped again.

I keep the house and say no words, the evening
Falls like a petal down the shawl of trees.
I light the fire and see the blossom dance
On air alone; I will not douse that flame,
That searing flower; I will burn in it.
I will not banish love to empty rain.

For I know that I am asked to hate myself
For their sweet sake
Who sow the world with child.
I am given to burn on the dark fire they make
With their sly voices.

But I have burned already down to bone.
There is a fire that burns beyond the names
Of sludge and filth of which this world is made.
Agony sears the dark flesh of the body,
And lifts me higher than the smoke, to rise
Above the earth, above the sacrifice;
Until my soul flares outward like a blue
Blossom of gas fire dancing in mid-air:
Free of the body’s work of twisted iron.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

an orange is red
an apple is orange

this is neither
a dream or reality
yet each somehow
exist bound up
in each other
at the end of the other

In my saying I am truth
continually speaking
arbitrarily I
change what I am saying
For the sake
of change

a cup is a surface with no space for a liquid

I am the speaker of the poem
the internal audience is my
self– speaking to myself
collusion convolution

I am truth in my saying
The great destroyer
of definition defined
by dissolution

The Mad Scene by James Merrill

Again last night I dreamed the dream called Laundry.
In it, the sheets and towels of a life we were going to share,
The milk-stiff bibs, the shroud, each rag to be ever
Trampled or soiled, bled on or groped for blindly,
Came swooning out of an enormous willow hamper
Onto moon-marbly boards. We had just met. I watched
From outer darkness. I had dressed myself in clothes
Of a new fiber that never stains or wrinkles, never
Wears thin. The opera house sparkled with tiers
And tiers of eyes, like mine enlarged by belladonna,
Trained inward. There I saw the cloud-clot, gust by gust,
Form, and the lightning bite, and the roan mane unloosen.
Fingers were running in panic over the flute’s nine gates.
Why did I flinch? I loved you. And in the downpour laughed
To have us wrung white, gnarled together, one
Topmost mordent of wisteria,
As the lean tree burst into grief.

A Quiet Night Fishing in the Middle of a Creek

a wisp o' wind down
from the trees
skims cross the
dark unassuming
flat surface of
the water.
picking up speed
what could be
a firefly catches
the current but
at this distance
it looks to be
a tiny ball of light
flittering silently over
the water, it patters
the placid creek
a slight perturbation
of the shape an elevation
that becomes braille
for the blind who
scanning the sheet
with their hands
search for meaning
but glean nothing
yet continue to glide
into the horizon

The old fishermen
only know the big fish
they reel up from below
Rocking calmly on
the surface of the creek

the wind still wisps across the water

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Love (Revised)

My first tremble
was a tip-toing
upon the surface
of the ocean eyes
glistening gaze
through the storm
into the waves
their currents
still crash
calmly electrically
into me

I dove into the
silent silence
Into a corked bottle
I placed my will
Giving it to
the ocean.

No longer aware of
the sun, swimming
with no way
of knowing how
to turn in I give into
the strangled womb
my body swollen
I turn blue
Bottling the ocean


My first tremble
was a tip-toing
upon the surface
of the ocean. Eyes
glistening look
through the storm
into the waves
that still continue
to crash calmly

I dove into
the silence bottled it
swimming, incapable
of knowing how
to turn in I give in to
the strangled womb
my body swollen
I turn blue
Bottling the ocean

Writing A Poem About You, I Have Only Written About What I have Done To You

Twisted into a rigid spear
banged flat artifact
Ironbound and bent by
The dirty hands
of the blacksmith
Hammering away
in his dark den until
it fits his sharp shape,

He puts it to the flames to fit his image
making the material more malleable

My Iron glows; I have turned you into an arrowhead
and sheathed you in copper

Is this is what you
deserve? To be put to the anvil

by some gnarled hands that do not belong
to you? To be contorted into

Some violent weapon whose sole
purpose is to puncture
My flabby heart
To let my guts spill out
When I tear you from my chest
In disbelief.

Although the neck snaps in half
In my deflated attempt
To let it all fall out.
The point, apparently,
was lost in my own heart

Monday, October 15, 2007

Still a work in progress

Twisted into a ruddy spear
strange stained artifact
Warped and bent by
The dirty hands
of the blacksmith
Hammering away
in his dark den until
it fits that sharp shape

Is this is what you
deserve? To be molded

by some gnarled hands that do not belong
to you? To be contorted into

Some violent weapon whose sole
purpose is to puncture
My flabby heart
To let my guts spill out
When I tear you from my chest
In disbelief
This poem made my eyes well up:

A Marriage
by Robert Creeley

The first retainer
he gave to her
was a golden
wedding ring.

The second—late at night
he woke up,
leaned over on an elbow,
and kissed her.

The third and the last—
he died with
and gave up loving
and lived with her.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Kiss

Plush pillow
I thoughtlessly tear up



Pressed upon the insides of my eyes

A plumage of snowy tufts suspended in the ashen air

Plumes of smoke

entangling me to you

Monday, October 8, 2007


My spoon is
too big. I am

A Banana.
There is a thing

to just to be-

out of a hole

in a tree
no one has
ever seen or heard

falling -


Saturday, October 6, 2007

For Habermas, it is not only desirable but also possible to establish a consensus among the participants in the event of communication: and it is logically possible to organise a social formation on more rational terms, through the discursively agreed consensus. Lyotard associates such consensus with the end of thinking, and (rather like Adorno, in fact) suggests that such consensus would be merely formal, a means of covering up injustice under a veneer of justice. In a debate with Rorty - who shares with Habermas a faith in some kind of 'conversation' - Lyotard indicates that there is a 'soft imperialism', a 'conversational imperialism at work in the drive to establish consensus between participants in a dialogue. Only if we respect - and stress - the heterogeneity of language-games will we save the possibility of thinking. In short, this means that it is only in the refuse of consensus and in the search for 'dissensus' that we will be able to extend thinking, to allow it to be shocked into the new, the (chronological) postmodern. Consensus is a means of arresting the flow of events, a mode whereby eventuality can be reduced to punctuality; it is a way of reducing the philosophy of Becoming to a philosophy of Being. The modernist assumes that it is possible to pass from Becoming to Being; the postmodernist believes that any such move is always necessarily premature and unwarranted.
Politics, as we usually think it, depends upon a consensus; most often, of course, such consensus articulates itself under the rubric of 'representation' (a category which has already come under pressure in its aesthetic formulation), in which there is at first an assumed consensus between representative and represented, and secondly the possibility of consensus among representatives. This is bourgeois democracy, hardly a democracy at all. In place of such politics, it might be wiser to look for a justice. Justice cannot happen under bourgeois democracy, which is always grounded in the tyranny of the many (and even, of course, in many 'democratic' systems, on the tyranny of the few - on the hegemonic control of thought exercised by few who mediate the norms of social formation). We can no longer subscribe to any such totalising forms; but we can address the instance, the events, of justice.
Here lies the basis of an ethical demand in the postmodern, a demand whose philosophical roots lie in the work of a thinker such as Levinas. We must judge: there is no escape from the necessity of judging in any specific case. Yet we have no grounds upon which to base our judging. This is akin to Levinas:

I have spoken a lot about the face of the Other as being the original site of the sensible. … The proximity of the Other is the face's meaning, and it means in a way that goes beyond those plastic forms which forever try to cover the face like a mask of their presence to perception. But always the face shows through these forms. Prior to any particular expression and beneath all particular expressions, which cover over and protect with an immediately adopted face or countenance, there is the nakedness and destitution of the expression as such, that is to say extreme exposure, defencelessness, vulnerability itself. … In its expression, in its mortality, the face before me summons me, calls for me, begs for me, as if the invisible death that must be faced by the Other pure otherness, separated, in some way, from any whole were my business.

The face-to-face implicates us in a response, in the necessity of sociality. We must behave justly towards the face of the Other; but we cannot do that according to a predetermined sytem of justice, a predetermined political theory. The Other is itself always other than itself; it is not simply a displaced Identity in which we may once more recognize and reconstitute ourself. The demand is for a just relating to alterity and for a cognition of the event of heterogeneity. In short, therefore, we must discover - produce - justice. It is here that the real political burden and trajectory of the postmodern is to be found: the search for a just politics or the search for just a politics.

I will for now
atomize till
there is



Is this an empty page or a blank canvas? There is no more ink left
in the pen, printer or typewriter.


Cross out all the words that do not
mean a single thing
to you now.
If you do
not start now it
will mean nothing. you may as well give
up now.

Even faucets direct the flow of water only when you turn them.

Friday, October 5, 2007

False Volcanic Memory

The fallen earth

gilded with golden snow

the lesser sun not warm enough

to blight the season's coat


a candelabra of white lit candles whose flames feed

on the covered paths. Converged

in the center of
Central Park

a smudge of ash on an otherwise untouched stained glass

And a blur of black fabric coat-tailing in the wind

Dolly in



glide through the snow blank haze of a dream

Faceless black specter in tattered robes

Eyes crowed oysters tight around black pearls

a shivering slender slivered body pressed

against the obsidian statue. His eyes

crack their ice mantle to look at the ground

He looks in his arms and the body is gone.

I tremble in the darkness once the candles are extinguished.

And although the rain may wash away the stain the fallen earth will always remain


To altar my past

I will place it on the butcher's block

And sacrifice it like any other lamb

to the holy grail.

Sanguine stains on the sheets of the bed

I have been keeping. That bird whose element is fire

Delighting in the smoldering flames of an age marked by destruction.

My God

What have I done?

Dear Poem (A Proposition)

Dear Poem,

Prove to me you should be made privy to my dreams

And I will allow you that vision. Until then–

...... With Love,

.......... You're faithful friend from the stronghold down below.

The Prisoner

The prisoner presses license
plates. a seemly random series of letters and numbers
people wear on
the bumpers of their cars. they are not even discernible
by the people who press them.
It is a code, only the upper crust
of management knows their purpose. In a computer somewhere
all that information stored for future reference.
Representing different states only sometimes
do people get vanity license plates. A nickname or an inside joke
but you have to be willing to pay for it. Although it is cheap in some states.
Never do the specters pressing namelessly choose
what they say though sometimes if they can read
the vanity plates, they will intimate their meaning
Just like all the drivers who see them on the road.

Prisoner pressing plates?
It is a myth. Machines make
those items of mass production now.

Though it seems now everyone is arrested
for such petty crimes.


To be
more than a
contented object.

I will give you nothing. Yet
I will not take anything away from you
That is not mine.

Let only in
time emit
that shining obliteration ray.

The gentle touch of a new born child.

Words are still


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Untitled 10/2/07

trespass cautiously
but do not tread quietly.

If you do not
thrust the swinging doors
outwards into
the room, they
will not open

up to you. To begin to see
that which you have not
allowed yourself to


yet. Herein is the problem:

If you do not see the lucid liquid in the cup
you will only keep filling
it up until what you poured in falls out

the top without drinking– the empty center

remains, however. The cup's still shape

still shapes
the stuff you
place in there:

It does not
matter. smash
the glass and diffuse yourself

but not necessarily with your hands

maybe a mallet

would do the trick.

Beware the blue vein's scattering effect
and the vermillion tracts left on the shards of glass