Rehearsal in Black
The science of the irrational,
poetry knows what time is feeling
in the language we speak. Casual
as a crow above the pealing
tower, it circles our point of view
with applied indifference. The ceiling
is the limit only in the room;
love is torn between two sheets;
animals eat each other. Truth
is another order, beyond the heat
of sense. The memory of language
is a blind cold wall, a sweet
old man carrying a doll, pages
of silence framed by the chase.
What is love’s name in an age
of skin? Everything you face
is just as it happened, minus all
the details. You write a line a day,
whether bad or good, then fall
into a stupor. A line of black cars
arrives at the horizon. In the fall,
you’ve noticed, the fattest stars
get even fatter. Maybe it’s the air,
sodden with nostalgia. We are
what we are, a kind of rare
poison steeped in a kiss. Roots,
reeds, fish, the broken river—
everything is perfectly suited
for a local drowning. Here’s a shot
of the water surface, with its mute
tensions and the struggle not
to fold. The world, dispersing,
turns. Here’s the face of a god
no one remembers, in the church
of words. The American laugh,
said Jung, is urgent as a thirst.
It bowls you over with its raffish
humor and grabs you by the balls.
You can see the diver’s glove, half-
filled with blood, in the halls
of that museum, where nothing
finally matters but stands as tall
as it can. Life is always touching
the edges of a net. Light enters water,
and that is called perspective. Such ends
are met when language and space, neither
quite sufficient, negotiate a realm.
It’s cold inside, children have no fathers,
and mothers are desperate to tell
of love. It’s a landfill country, strewn
with cast-off things, where stone bells
ring and drowned boats rise. The truth
is confused but strikes for the prize:
the stone floor of the sea, red tooth
of existence, and what the eyes deny.
You descend the stairs to hell, walk
its plazas and parks, and manage to find
a date for the evening. She talks
of her desires, but this is not desire;
it’s the tender mercy of a leaf’s awkward
falling. At what firm margin, the fires
in the mirror or in your eyes, is love
to be found? Does the sea aspire
to be just water? In the weave of
your intentions, the air plays the air.
Nothing is nothing. In a coven
of mechanics, in the scariest
Hollywood mansion, love is the prize
and a touch of the fever. Rare
as existence, it has seen the mind
change the most desolate landscapes
into quiet rooms. It always finds
the world in absence, doors taped
shut. This is like the movies, a black
room filled with murmurs. As the drapes
are pulled, you see from the back
life’s enormous figures falling in
and out of focus, a final slackness
of being we later enjoy enduring.
The story is stained with its own
rehearsal. A handsome bed is burning.
Serious and alluring, a long dial tone
passes for conversation. No one’s
there but you, talking into the phone
like a younger father to an older son.
from Rehearsal in Black (Salt Editions, 2001)
I have no objectives, no system, no tendency, and no plan.
I have no speech, no tongue, no memory, and no realm.
Because nothing matters, I am consistent, committed, and excited.
I prefer the definite, the bounded, the repressed and the weak.
Not objectivity but neutrality of being.
Not spontaneity but panic.
For only seeing believes and only the body thinks.
For success is common to those who fail.
For the world’s beauty is fading because the world is fading.
For the best narrative is always oblique.
For thought only thinks it thinks—all has been foretold.
For without cruelty, there would be no beauty.
For kindness is always a little bit tragic.
For the mind’s progress is zig-zag and stabs at every tree.
For the best art makes things disappear.
from Poems in Spanish (Omnidawn, 2005)
O, and Green
size without design
past without a history
at what height
swinging its gate. . .
and this much later
presented in language
not in perception
an old bone sequence
planned as a texture
we are playing
a game of appearance
the what world leaks
on the language hand
to say another
and mean knife
among the pub crawlers
hands in water:
of a discontent evening
the warm mind shrouded
humorous and astute
rumors we carried
who cannot endure
silence or size
each curve of the water
bends seeing briefly
in which pattern
deepening the background
the fourth eye canters
a footprint goes
straight to these windows
sand blown sand city
along the coast
“O, and Green” from Winter Mirror (Flood Editions, 2002)
Edge and Fold XLI-XLVIII
where is a written deer
running through a written forest
the written man in bed
with his unwritten wife
she who has written
his figure in that place
experience that lives
only in the written
a dark brown mouse
crossing to the mirror
staring into ponds
as if to write them
naked with indifference
what is fire writing
in the house of darkness
all inner space imagined
nothing in shadow
everything that is
written by what is not
from Edge and Fold (Apogee Press, 2006)