April 10, 2007

          to Al Filreis

Even John Cage worked within the limits of his name.
I am only describing something—and that never stopped
Cage from introducing himself.
You have a question for the six-year-olds;
a question for all-the-same-height third graders;
a question for the spinning middle school kids
          who also sing.
You have a follow-up question for the one-word answer:
yes, no, Whitman high school students;
and many questions for the I-like-it, I-don’t-like it
college students—the college students.
And for openers you problemitize “problemitizing”
          for the graduate students.
And you have a question for the adults
          and many more for yourself.
Or the question you asked me—to gloss
          the Wallace Stevens line:
“Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”
And where do questions come from—
          and where do they go?
“Nothing + Nothing = Something, that is ‘Nothing,’
which is really Something,” I said not knowing
where that came from. But is it all about the questions?
It’s the amplitude you feel, hear, see, and
for the moment—and longer (we hope)—we feel,
          hear, and see too.
I am describing you at our limits, that is, our best
          failed distinctions.
As there are suppers and there are suppers:
a butterflied fillet of sole resting on its crunchy skin.
And it’s not that you grew your beard, but
you never shaved it off, and that it continues to grow.
Your beard in its place is an invisible element
of that place—made visible.
Here is a line for not talking, which isn’t silence,
(the privacy of public communion).
Here is a line for braving dark distances on foot.
Here is a line for space and classical amber bees.
And one for all the ones crossed-out.
I am only describing, as words are one way,
          and walking is another.
So cross the street and step out for a walk,
one we will never take again. I am only describing something,
the way the finest grit becomes the sand we love.
And its warm color comes from whatever light there is,
even if there isn’t much at all.
And old John Cage doesn’t go away—new John Cages
          just get added.
And where, dear John, is where?

—Thomas Devaney
First published in jubilat and from A SERIES OF SMALL BOXES (Fish Drum Press, 2007).

Posted by dwaber at 12:39 PM