What, then, have you won? Give me No One’s name. Having long since rejected the assumptions of the acolytes of progress, I am gone from the metaphor that makes the conquest of my seeming forms its mark.
––And with that, from your ordered pairs: Nature/ Mind; Nature/ History; Nature/Art. You claim victory in classification and find structure only in subjection, erasure, my silence. You assume I am quiet now, but the frequency of this song is beyond your hearing.
What was the point of your logic, except to keep me? I am not the end, but the reach. This body is no monarchy, and neither are these wants, invisible to the lens trained on contours. This tongue of a thousand tongues speaks sound without border or death.
I do not guard myself from breaking into endless unknowns, refusing life nothing that it passes through this unnamed constellation of shifting membranes, and not one contains a subject you can recognize. Come away from the shadow of your scepter and see.
If time was the fire, you entered barefoot and unmasked to spin within its heat, collecting what you could until it was time to march again. You stepped from it and promised to return, bending low to gather the fathers you carried on your back.
You dreamed of warm houses in winter. Your dream had humor, then its genius thickened. You bloomed into ruin, the heavy bear. And yet.
Somehow, sparks from the fire you absorbed continued to flicker after your lonely death, and other strangers––heaving, heavy bears, baring ourselves––marching long nights with the weight of dead fathers on our backs, would see it, and keep on.
Inspired by the life, work (and untimely death) of Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966).
You maintained two obsessions. One was predictors of mortality, a numbers game––and the other was overcoming death. It takes a mind of winter to hold the gaze, suspended.
You noted the emperor, how his clothes were melting. He disappeared, and you rose above the actuaries to keep counsel with the necessary angel of earth.
The glare of it, you noted. The full radiance. The snow man takes it in. There is a certain kind of despair which can remind you how every particle is distinct unto itself and also part of you. Of your closest companion, the sleeping lion, you said, it can kill a man.
But in the war between the mind and sky, what better company? No, the first idea was never ours, and the wheel of its continuance will crush us all in time. So we make another myth to tie us to its spokes and hang on, against the shifting winds, and into these, from the cold tomb of a heavy heart, I hear you laugh.
In his elegy, John Berryman refers to Wallace Stevens as “that funny money man” (Stevens was a successful insurance lawyer). The poet’s acute sensibilities are finely tuned to the embedded paradoxes of human life. He once referred to poetry as “a sleeping lion.”
Descendants of an aftermath.
When the smoke cleared, we left what was left of the temples and abandoned our sacrificial cups. No longer painting the chapel walls, we made canvases of our skins, our creed now take this body, and we gave it up. Nothing could save us, and we carried this truth as a torch foisted before our faces, marching into the long night. We were something else now, wild, painted creatures of flesh and word, with no more monuments to shield us from the elements that mocked our feeble forms. An awareness grew, of an element breathing among us as we moved, but we would no sooner mark this with a sign than claim the wind.
Field notes from the ground.
Once I ached to mature into a kind of effervescent grace of quiet luminosity, but it is something else to recognize that I am still the child on the floor, stacking pieces from a pile of scattered blocks like some aftermath. My hands have traded their dimples for veins, having somehow passed straight through elegance without so much as a pause, in their haste to build some appeal, but to what?
Perhaps to a continuance of the possibility of making anything, especially when it has become so obvious to go without saying (but, clumsy as I am, I’ll note it here): so much ends with falling. Or perhaps to this insistence: because it always falls in the end, I will build.
It will not last. It is a double-edged marvel, the not lasting and the way it sometimes holds just long enough to find a witness. Once, I felt the brush of the toddler’s eyelash at my cheek. One day, before the next fall, it still seems possible to climb some crumbling arrangement of dream fragments––and leap.
The first chance of vision comes with the arrival of its flaming eruption. It was in us, then far, then near again. After that, many of the early lessons consisted of reminders not to touch.
Imagination is a fire, but so often misunderstood as a decorative tool for embellishing what is already known.
What is this understanding, except an answer to what came before? A firm No, it is this way now.
Immersion in radiance is so different from controlling light.
Still, this want.
At night we watched the water, but her depths revealed nothing of themselves, all reflection and tides and unknowns. But once we looked and like a jumping fish it showed itself. We gasped to see Time. You! We almost said, but he was gone again.
What could we do with that? Dark and cold, she would neither be caressed nor worshipped, features afforded by our creatures, mountains, monuments. The mirror of her, looking back, knew us, and she held what we had meant to catch.
It was hard to face, our faces. We went back to carving our names. We carved them in stones that looked solid enough to hold them. To last, as the saying went, the test.
What test? We wondered, and the answer was Time. But time was submerged again, and the sea, seeming to see us, had always been more than we could take in. Now it was more still, and rising.
Hurried notes claimed our footsteps, dancing us to the next moment.
Quick, the chorus called, Time is running. We, ever after it, had never known stillness. Do you mean, we wanted to ask, that once we stayed, and Time with us? What would that be like, we wondered, to climb the craggy rungs of his beard, tethered between once and will? Instead, we spilled into Space––into spaces, flooding.
Something was off, or all of it. If stillness came again, we meant to ask. We thought we knew the flood story: an ark, the saving rainbow, dove of peace, but in an age on the run the known ones would not hold. How could we be the flood, the water itself, the coming storm? What did this mean for the rainbow, the dove, no longer of us?
Who floats, then, into the next dawn––or what?
I walk between these low lamps as you sleep, the poorwill’s circled notes outside, inviting recollection of endings that preceded this one, and the sound of this space is a single note, sustained in the once noble ruins of this ribbed house of song and sacrament. The stained glass windows that once made a miracle of your face are now clotted with the dust of a decade of storms, and it may be true that there is never time to clean them, but also that I fear the glass has worn to the point that only the dust holds it here, or perhaps that whoever this is, still waiting for the mass, will shatter if those beams should suddenly descend. Again.