Posts Tagged ‘hightouch’

April 30.

Telling stories to ourselves

behind ‘artichokes’ lay, on the one hand, my thoughts about Italy

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams

I love this place, I told him,

as I prepared to make something beautiful

from fabric and dye.  I wanted to take purple

and paint ourselves into a small tribe,

a tribe of two:  always without method,

keeping my deepest desire to myself:

couldn’t he read it in the assembly of bowls

and brushes? didn’t he know I wanted him

madly?  I had fallen asleep again

against the dog and all ambition,

and we were by the sea.  Behind us

the plaza, with shops and cafes, tempting us

with music and lights–before us, the wash

and withdrawal of water in which

to start again:  and I wake myself up

and say to myself, just reverie, though

the intruders leveling a rifle at my

retreat into the house, though they would

soon assay the windows–they too were

a dream, so which is it, in the darker mornings

between summer and winter:  which dream?

what garment and which tattoos? what

stairs to descend for the new history?

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April 29.

The strangers

At my unblinded windows you tremor into view,

semblance to hex my ever-flimsy sleep.

In the dark, I go for aspirin or a glass of water,

flinch at your pale apparition.

You, semblances hexing my always flimsy sleep,

you’re nothing but the lamp guarding the neighbors’ drive.

I flinch at your pale apparition.

You breathe, revenants, and I dare not look.

You’re nothing but a car passing at midnight,

but I’m home, framed in the window,

and there, revenants, you breathe.  I can’t look

away, either:  ever unguarded and unsleeping,

I’m framed in the windows of my home

and you dissolve, then reassemble, flicker,

never failing to find me unguarded and unsleeping.

You’re not ghosts.  You’re mayhem’s assistants,

dissolving, reassembling, flickering,

menacing whip ready to enter, to cut:

you’re not ghosts–you deliver mayhem,

say, because you’re home when asked why me?

A menacing whip that cuts as it enters–

does it matter if you’re real? if I heard you

say, because you’re home when asked why me?

at a theater and not in actual life?

Real or not doesn’t matter.  I heard you

first alone with a thousand others

at a theater and not in actual life,

but now I cannot stop looking for you:

I was alone with a thousand others,

but now you write your unnames on the pane,

and I cannot stop looking for you.

I wish you’d introduce by inches your plans.

now that we’re alone, leaving out the crowd:

how, exactly, will you terrify me?

Introduce, bit by bit, your plan

to whittle away at my peace:

Will you terrify me forever, or just until

this B movie leaves the theaters?

Whittle away at my peace at unlucky times,

or just gradually stop showing up?

This bad movie will at last leave the theaters.

I might have to cheat–check the ending

to end this unlucky whittling at my calm.

Do I survive, run, retreat, or just fall asleep?

I’ve checked the ending–I can cheat this tale,

take my aspirin and drink my water before it’s dark,

I’ll survive what spooks me–

ignore that little tremor at the windows.

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April 27.

Dear City,

It has proven easy to see what you lack:
you have no Village nor arrondissements,
no Ginza nor after-hours nor flaneurs:

where might I sip a Grand Chartreux or
find a bottle of absinthe? Not within
your limits, and wherever there might be

declaiming and disquiet, it’s squared
and fenced, like an exhibit.  No, what wildness
there might be, it is of an acceptable kind,

flowers and grasses, or a zoo, and yet,
my City, I love you even so:  I lean into you
on weekends, your spilling from canyons

and mountains, your border of a small sea
to the north and west: your arms veined
with creeks and rivers, and even in July,

the darkened breath of the cottonwoods
cools pavement and roof and a million slumbers:
and even though you were built first

by prairie people, sober people, to keep
themselves apart, others have seethed into
you, to build groceries and laundries,

carnicerias and temples, and trains cross you
to carry your ores and goods and people,
including me from my green yard which is

trying to become a meadow, to the square
where everyone–readers and riders, sleepers
under the trees, gargoyles and nineteenth-century

statuary gesticulating about Justice and Industry
–all of us congregate, passing one another by:
I am drawn to you, my City, for your cafes

and books, for the way setting sun blinds us
driving west in the evening and, theatrical,
sun raising the eastern curtain on the day, all because

a homespun prophet thought his orderly plan
would be the best way to turn a team
of oxen and a carriage: for your wide streets full

of desert light, for the undoing of the old forever
giving way to something yet to come to pass:
for your weird monuments to gulls and Mormons,

for the very idea of city you try every day
to embody: for the winters when snow
lasts forever and the rapture of your spring:

Creek pouring down into the heart of you,
Temple arguing, arrogant, central but then why argue?,
West-side neighborhoods, the plain houses

and still-broad avenues:  City, you are all of it,
whatever you might say of yourself: I will
leave you forever, and my haunt you remain,

my last and perdurable home.

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April 26.


My quarrel with it, from back where it lives
etched into vinyl, is how the arranger
found it most satisfactory

to extrude the tune through a machinery
of orchestra, bedazzling it with a million
twinkling pizzicati and hushed to a thrill,

like a hive of bees. Why? in memory,
the instrument was plucked,
not bowed, something dryer, not at all wet:

I will allow for reverb but subtract everything
lush, remove that opulent and also
that ornate:  because it is, spare melody,

nothing if not adept, in need of not one
flourish, not a single explanatory violin:
at a stray mention, this song of my youth

stirs in my throat and on my lips:
the memory of a wisp of sound
that will no longer release me: eremite

song, isolate: threaded note by note
from a resonant room
alone but for fingers and cry

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April 25.


deeply within them fundamentally within them
the comma nature,
though it is useful for many things:

to feel the link, albeit subtly; as
a sign of snobbery; in Arabic,
between two phrases, in which the first
phrase causes the second

(Ben Jonson was the first notable
English writer to use them systematically;
so now I do, too):

they have no spaces before them; however,
it is commonly used to indicate winking

a dotted comma is written inverted
when you are dealing with two sentences
that can’t keep their hands off each other;

when your commas are working overtime;
the Son of Sam was, as Jimmy Breslin wrote,
the only murderer he ever encountered

who could wield one just as well as
a revolver:  though
Americans prefer shorter sentences
and more emphatic than a comma,
more prolonged than a conjunction:

sightings in the city are unusual, period
largely jettisoned as a pretentious
anachronism:  I always feel a little bit dubious
about it

I feel I don’t understand them but am
rather attached to them

They are mysteriously connected to pausing
or merely a pretentious comma?

he would like nothing better than
to go down in posterity, he claims, as
the exterminating angel of the point-virgule and yet

The short sentence has signed
the death warrant
of the semicolon

Note: a found poem.  Consulted Wikipedia, The Guardian, the New York Times, and Vat 19.

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April 24.


Each time we pass here he stops,
turns his nose to the air, or to the poplar over there,
or to a phantom cat, to the way they’re building

something three blocks away;
to how the soil hoists its scent because
the worms are having their way with it;

to the beer can two houses back,
crushed on the sidewalk;
to the porkchop bone I disallowed

ten minutes ago:  to the recipe
of the atmosphere, ever so slightly
elevated because it is spring,

and, come to think of it, the flowering trees–
not the fruiting ones, the ones bred
to make a cloud of bloom and (let’s

be frank, a little bit of a stink)
are drifting something a little more
buoyant and still narcotic

across my shoulders, bare for
the first time since the late warm days
of last October: sure, it’s let’s pause,

let’s let the breeze get breezy
in my hair, why not  stop
hurrying for the seconds it takes

to let the morning tune me,
cut across the lawn
just for the way it feels on the paws

which, even though I’ve got shoes,
the idea of paws, their soft pads
and dognails clicking here and there

on the walk, allures me, just before another
detour into a little wreck of willow tassels,
a nosing of the tree bark, the thin whips

of trees touching my all awake skin–

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April 23.

white cake

at midnight, wet laundry before bed
lunches packed in brown bags, one
for you and one for your friend

(two stems of red grapes
two turkey sandwiches
a tiny bag of potato chips
and another) (cookies, two)

each October, airing out the room
with mere socks left each lonelier
than the last, me shaking the rain stick

and now my days are spacious
and quiet, these things my things
I spend time on my own little fevers

then, I was not sorry to start the oven
in the summer when the heat
had left for the night

you laughed and they laughed
the butter sugar vanilla flour
the egg yolks I considered keeping
(my friend would have made challah)

but tossed because the chaos
glad to host a crossroads
culminating in cake, icing, the kind

your dad always loved
moths wove invisible filigree
around the light and the door open forever

all night, the assassin of mice came
and went, and the conversation

whispers and laughter
outside our window, where

summers we barely slept for years

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L’une chante, l’autre pas

loves color and shine

wants her brain off off off

wants the odor of sun in the laundry she hangs in summer

searches her children’s faces

walks for the joy of it

for traces of her own fear

feels the grains of lavender

plans for her death

between her fingers

watches the sky fall freezing

by dreaming of it

puts off the dog

dances out the door

danced her last years ago

strong legs

crooked feet

speaks fluent French

dreams of lost children

buys seeds in February

at the cavemouth cannot go

carries all the music

further than lightfall

with her wherever she goes

a knotted nautilus on her bed

lives by the river

frets about Malaysia

wears a coat threaded with poppies

knows fifty words for never

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April 20.

Torturer’s Triolet

As a break from the hours we make you kneel,
here’s a box you’re to get in.  Now, a bug,
or rather a caterpillar, a little furry eel–
then we shut the door. We just want you to feel
a little panic, a little like your skin might peel
off. Won’t you tell us?  won’t you just chug
the serum, give us something, a truth-yield?
We’ll let you sleep, sleep your relieving drug.

And you’ve no complaint about the wall,
if first we’ve collared you.  You never drown,
actually, either, no matter how the water squalls,
storms, then quiets.  If you fail, if you fall,
certainly we’ll lift you. The wall, you know, is false;
the water, despite gasp and choke, won’t down
you. Tell the truth: we hear it, the truth calls:
still not telling, still your lies? let’s start another round.

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April 19.

American lung

reads the display on my telephone, and I’m not sorry to miss it, no matter how much I feel for those about to lose their breath entirely: tragic for them, but since I still have mine, I can’t spend one second worrying, brocaded as the day is with the fat branches of blooming trees and distant mountains with the snow they’re still keeping to themselves, the day embroidered with jonquils and hyacinths and the stink of soil warming up and loosening its dark grip: I take it all in and the dog and I, we breathe with barely a thought, we walk and breathe, sing a little phrase of a melody and breathe, wave to a neighbor breathe cross the street BREATHE in fact it’s all one polyphonal fugal breath piece in the key of I’m not thinking about death, at least not right now, although the fact is, sometime soon I should take up the practice of slowing down my mind enough (racing and heaving until I fall accidentally unconscious at night) that the breath becomes a rhythm that I actually notice, that I think through instead of ignoring, like an old teacher who is trying to learn to breathe again after not getting up from a bicycle accident, who now for the first time, working so hard to leave his ventilator behind, arrives for whole moments at what years of Buddhist practice had not given him, gladness in living in the breath: and now the song with bagpipes comes on and I’m thinking of this beautiful mournful lung blown with human breath to make its stately sound, I want nothing more than to listen to this song made of pipes and lung and breath, the figure of the human instrument’s pipes and lungs and breath:   o let singing be my meditation, my zazen, my sitting with the breath, let the minutes I walk on this earth be suffused with this song, let all moving and grieving, all loss and all greeting, be living breath taken, held in the lung, indrawn and released, yielded, dissolved

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