Mean Free Path [excerpt], by Ben Lerner

For the distances collapsed.
For the figure
failed to humanize
the scale. For the work,
the work did nothing but invite us
to relate it to
the wall.
For I was a shopper in a dark
aisle.

For the mode of address
equal to the war
was silence, but we went on
celebrating doubleness.
For the city was polluted
with light, and the world,
warming.
For I was a fraud
in a field of poppies.

For the rain made little
affective adjustments
to the architecture.
For the architecture was a long
lecture lost on me, negative
mnemonics reflecting
weather
and reflecting
reflecting.

I finished the reading and looked up
Changed in the familiar ways. Now for a quiet place
To begin the forgetting. The little delays
Between sensations, the audible absence of rain
Take the place of objects. I have some questions
But they can wait. Waiting is the answer
I was looking for. Any subject will do
So long as it recedes. Hearing the echo
Of your own blood in the shell but picturing
The ocean is what I meant by

*

You startled me. I thought you were sleeping
In the traditional sense. I like looking
At anything under glass, especially
Glass. You called me. Like overheard
Dreams. I’m writing this one as a woman
Comfortable with failure. I promise I will never
But the predicate withered. If you are
Uncomfortable seeing this as portraiture
Close your eyes. No, you startled

Unhinged in a manner of speaking
Crossed with stars, a rain that can be paused
So we know we’re dreaming on our feet
Like horses in the city. How sad. Maybe
No maybes. Take a position. Don’t call it
Night-vision green. Think of the children
Running with scissors through the long
Where were we? If seeing this as portraiture
Makes you uncomfortable, wake up

*

Wake up, it’s time to begin
The forgetting. Direct modal statements
Wither under glass. A little book for Ari
Built to sway. I admire the use of felt
Theory, like swimming in a storm, but object
To anti-representational bias in an era of
You’re not listening. I’m sorry. I was thinking
How the beauty of your singing reinscribes
The hope whose death it announces. Wave

Numbness, felt silence, a sudden
Inability to swallow, the dream in which
The face is Velcro, describing the film
In the language of disaster, the disaster in
Not finishing sentences, removing the suicide
From the speed dial, failing to recognize
Yourself in the photo, coming home to find
A circle of concerned family and friends
It’s more of an artists’ colony than a hospital

*

It’s more of a vitamin than an anti-psychotic
Collective despair expressed in I-statements
The dream in which the skin is stonewashed
Denim, running your hand through the hair
Of an imaginary friend, rising from bed
Dressing, returning calls, all without
Waking, the sudden suspicion the teeth
In your mouth are not your own, let
Alone the words

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