Driving out of Southern Worcester County, by Mary Fell

say goodbye to small towns
their boundaries cutting across the names
of dead indians, trees
still remembering that speech

their shelved histories leaning on
years of drought, of rain, lives
the immigrant knows nothing of

canadian, pole, latin
root their lives on rock
this earth won’t give up

their names the journey a word took
changed but familiar, unaware of footsteps
echoing years back in the forest

their lives held like a cup, thin and intricate
that could break with a sound like water falling
or the sound of an animal running for shelter

but strong with an old craft
hard, and made to be passed on
to their children
or to tourists who look out from car windows
bored, and unknowingly carry them off

Old Boy, by A. Van Jordan

(Park Chan-Wook, 2003)

If one rainy night you find yourself
leaving a phone booth, and you meet a man
with a lavender umbrella, resist
your desire to follow him, to seek
shelter from the night in his solace.
Later, don’t fall victim to the Hypnotist’s
narcotic of clarity, which proves
a curare for the heart; her salve
is merely a bandage, under which memories
pulse. Resist the taste for something still
alive for your first meal; resist the craving
for the touch of a hand from your past.
We live some memories,
and some memories are planted. There’s
only so much space for the truth
and the fabrications to spread out
in one’s mind. When there’s no more
space, we grow desperate. You’ll ask
if practicing love for years in your mind,
prepares you for the moment,
if practicing to defend one’s life
is the same as living? You’ll
hole up, captive, in a hotel room
for fifteen years and learn to find
a man within you, which will prove
a painful introduction to the trance
into which you were born. Better
to stay under the spell of your guilt,
than to forget; you’ve already released
your pain onto the world; don’t believe
there’s some joy in forgetting.
There’s no joy in the struggle to forget.
And what appears as an endless verdant field,
only spreads across a building’s rooftop;
your peaceful sleep could be a fetal position,
which secures you in a suitcase in this field.
A bell rings, and you fall out of this luggage
like clothes you no longer fit. Now what to do?
You remember when you were the man
who fit those clothes, but you’ve forgotten this
world. Even forgotten scenes from your life,
leave shadows of the memory,
haunting your spirit
until, within a moment’s glance,
strangers passing you on the street,
observe history in your eyes. Experience
lingers through acts of forgetting,
small acts of love or trauma
falling from the same place. Whether
memory comes in the form of a stone
or a grain of sand, they both sink in water.
A tongue—even if it were, say, sworn
to secrecy; or if it were cut from one’s mouth;
yes, even without a mouth to envelop
its truth—the tongue continues to confess.

After Us, by Nikola Madzirov

One day someone will fold our blankets
and send them to the cleaners
to scrub the last grain of salt from them,
will open our letters and sort them out by date
instead of by how often they’ve been read.

One day someone will rearrange the room’s furniture
like chessmen at the start of a new game,
will open the old shoebox
where we hoard pyjama-buttons,
not-quite-dead batteries and hunger.

One day the ache will return to our backs
from the weight of hotel room keys
and the receptionist’s suspicion
as he hands over the TV remote control.

Others’ pity will set out after us
like the moon after some wandering child.

The Emergence of Memory, 1, by Laynie Browne

His unset eyes — containing water — become expression, or color.
They cloud in changing — though the change is never marked, it
may eventually be seen.

The cloud is green

His hand is light

He watches this first finding — pulling a hand in and out of a living
channel.
His newness betokens him all color. He passes through color —
setting each resonance for light.

The sound includes experience which is remembered, though from
not remote occasions, which swell upon his passing. Looking up with
different thought filled hands.

Why then does experience comb the onlooker away from the child,
when the child includes changing eyes in every picture?

Days of Me, by Stuart Dischell

When people say they miss me,
I think how much I miss me too,
Me, the old me, the great me,
Lover of three women in one day,
Modest me, the best me, friend
To waiters and bartenders, hearty
Laugher and name rememberer,
Proud me, handsome and hirsute
In soccer shoes and shorts
On the ball fields behind MIT,
Strong me in a weightbelt at the gym,
Mutual sweat dripper in and out
Of the sauna, furtive observer
Of the coeducated and scantily clad,
Speedy me, cyclist of rivers,
Goose and peregrine falcon
Counter, all season venturer,
Chatterer-up of corner cops,
Groundskeepers, mothers with strollers,
Outwitter of panhandlers and bill
Collectors, avoider of levies, excises,
Me in a taxi in the rain,
Pressing my luck all the way home.

That’s me at the dice table, baby,
Betting come, little Joe, and yo,
Blowing the coals, laying thunder,
My foot on top a fifty dollar chip
Some drunk spilled on the floor,
Dishonest me, evener of scores,
Eager accepter of the extra change,
Hotel towel pilferer, coffee spoon
Lifter, fervent retailer of others’
Humor, blackhearted gossiper,
Poisoner at the well, dweller
In unsavory detail, delighted sayer
Of the vulgar, off course belier
Of the true me, empiric builder
Newly haircutted, stickerer-up
For pals, jam unpriser, medic
To the self-inflicted, attorney
To the self-indicted, petty accountant
And keeper of the double books,
Great divider of the universe
And all its forms of existence
Into its relationship to me,
Fellow trembler to the future,
Thin air gawker, apprehender
Of the frameless door.

A Score for Tourist Movies, by Mary Austin Speaker

If music plays with film
then film is an illustration
of music’s movement.
Snap, blast, sever, sever, stop.
Even the dog twitching his ears.

If islands nestle in the ocean,
and a statue rises above the pilgrim,
then we are standing on a cliff
and the pilgrim has reached her goal.
The light is as pale as the back of her hand.

If the dancers twitch arrythmically
their dance is only partly kept.
At twenty-four frames per second,
film makes a lonely memory.
They sway staccato, staggered, stretched.

If drums repeat the pace
of film’s slip through the gate,
then the song’s refrain
retells film’s fades and cutaways.
Even its night-quiet darks.

If horns evoke an antique joy,
lens flares and close-ups send
their renderings into red relief.
How has mankind managed grief?
Light, noise, movement, breath.

If blood is to the body
as film is to the camera,
if film is a flat and lucid eye,
if light is a perishable gift,
then the night is the gate of the dark.

If light falls away with always
then film is a parcel of rest.
Panoramas, linked and strung
as castle-steps, lawns, the fine
iron bars of the castle gate.

If drums pace the beat of blood
and film is the speed of the rattle
of breath, then the dancers have
truly escaped us. We slow
as they quicken. We go and go.

Letter To A Future Lover, by Ander Monson

You were my birthday present; you came to the door—no one else was home, you said “let’s celebrate.” We dropped acid and went to the friend with the nocturnal monkey-like animal and made love for hours….

inscribed in Gary Snyder, Turtle Island (Casa de los Niños discard library)

Handwritten, it goes without saying, this inscription to an unnamed lover goes on for three pages before arriving at a final sorrow at the lover’s loss—”today we are with different lovers”—but no regrets. Was it ever sent? Ever read? One thing is sure: it was inscribed and meant. Such passion cannot be shrugged off until it can. I found the book in Casa de los Niños on Prince and Mountain, thrift shop stuffed with this stuff, the stuffing escaping the chewed-on animals packed in the discount bin. Pick six for a buck. Doll heads are free. They stare at your future, our future, maybe, lover, if we ever come together.

Dear future lover, every time it feels like forever when it’s new: bright colors, fabric softener, calliopes that were once terrifying softening into daylight as it fades. You know, your lovers surely number more than mine; that’s fine, but when I fall, it’s Ditch Witch hitting electric line, the whole world alive and lit in amperes for a moment. It might be gone again a nanosecond later, the body aching with or for or from the jolt; & perhaps it’s fever dream; & who cares where it comes from as long as it’s fast and seems like it might last until we’re rusting into dust? We are always dying for the future. Otherwise it couldn’t ever come. That it might split ever’s seams apart, that it might bring down the lights until forever’s in the mirror, and the book is given up for thrift: it doesn’t matter. Maybe this book was never sent. I can imagine that, an inscription toward the future. Maybe the lover’s dead. Maybe the lover’s lover’s dead. Maybe we all are like those who had their laughs recorded into tracks for television shows years before, who continue to laugh now a lifetime a lifeline a phone-a-friend later, disembodied, at jokes that are no longer funny. Perhaps they never were.

We are all in wires eventually, reduced to what we said, or didn’t say, and what we wrote or didn’t write, who we loved or didn’t love, or loved and lost and never told it except writing in or to a book. We are all discarded, discordant, confusingly, and so I salute your bravery, book inscriber. Your heart is big enough for both of us, so that there is no room for mockery in me. Anyone willing to strip themselves this bare this fast this way deserves our breathlessness and our hearts’ attention. Let us spend an hour, then longer, in contemplation. If you open, open all the way, or as much as you can bear, or else there’s nothing here at all.

The inscription goes on to quote from Duras’s The Lover, then “I cried when I was with you this time more than twenty years later…it was the reason for life and yet I knew it would end.”

A codex is a door, future lover. You can put whatever through it for a reader you imagine coming to your words in a day, a decade, a daze of centuries, entries in a future book. Codices have histories. They are leafed, spined, embodied, read by future lovers I imagine in bodices in just this kind of light at night. The future is a mystery, lover, a memory. The scent of wisteria coming up from somewhere.

Or: a codex is a hole through which we might not communicate, but instead be transformed entirely, through which we might descend without notice or equipment and not want or be able to return.

Gapped Sonnet, by Suzanne Gardinier

Between the blinds Past the coded locks
Past the slanted gold bars of the day
Smelling of all-night salt rain on the docks
Of grief Of birth Of bergamot Of May
In the wind that lifts the harbor litter
Wet against my fingers in a dream
Salvaging among the tideline’s bitter
gleanings Generous Exigent Lush and lean
Your voice A tune I thought I had forgotten
The taste of cold July brook on my tongue
A fire built on thick ice in the winter
The place where lost and salvaged meet and fit
The cadences a class in grief is taught in
The sound when frozen rivers start to run

What’s Left (Al-Mutanabbi Street), by Katrina Roberts

Tracery

Not nostalgia but the bluer salt of longing, not sentiment but the smutted sky raining bitter sediment, not our winding blunder down into that wound, not the ash-riddled grotto nor the blood-orange blown-open

Not the mineral rash’s voice dubbed across the final unspooling reel, not that, whatever promise the book held, not what she said or he did or they might next, not that, nor a flitter of birds, hands—lifting a cup, flipping a page, tucking a strand, nor the ear, behind which, filling with each sweet rising note or tinkling descent

Not the delicacy of a single wish, nor the now-cracked face of a once-ticking, once-pocketed watch
Stitch

No filament long enough

No longer meshing, days before and those after, teeth of a zipper left to gape

An idling car, a parked pick-up, who hides in plain light who hides and why, cloaked in a troubled forest of unsayable tint

And which human desire does this resemble, which cosseting vest to cross the heart, which chilled sweat, which strait-jacketed vestment, which surely-numbing drone between temples
Resist

Faith in what

No walls, no shelves

No end to the well’s filling, the far-away sea’s waxy surge in a hole dug by anyone no matter, a relentless urge to pick the itch, the ooze, the scab, the meniscus of every hour finally spilling over, over, over

Nothing
But sound, but imprinted air
No end to the fraught tingle of phantom-limbs forever-after-not-but-there
Scar

Splinters the alley’s new stuttering currency, pocked, crumbling, indiscriminate coinage of returning light, triage of needling memory, a narrow strait to navigate, some beast, uneasy passage of meat into pure spirit, and every anguished ether-shard hive-swarming then hushed

Not silent but charged: listen

Every letter, accounted for but in a different more urgent order

Memories of West Street and Lepke, by Robert Lowell

Only teaching on Tuesdays, book-worming
in pajamas fresh from the washer each morning,
I hog a whole house on Boston’s
“hardly passionate Marlborough Street,”
where even the man
scavenging filth in the back alley trash cans,
has two children, a beach wagon, a helpmate,
and is “a young Republican.”
I have a nine months’ daughter,
young enough to be my granddaughter.
Like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infants’ wear.

These are the tranquilized Fifties,
and I am forty. Ought I to regret my seedtime?
I was a fire-breathing Catholic C.O.,
and made my manic statement,
telling off the state and president, and then
sat waiting sentence in the bull pen
beside a negro boy with curlicues
of marijuana in his hair.

Given a year,
I walked on the roof of the West Street Jail, a short
enclosure like my school soccer court,
and saw the Hudson River once a day
through sooty clothesline entanglements
and bleaching khaki tenements.
Strolling, I yammered metaphysics with Abramowitz,
a jaundice-yellow (“it’s really tan”)
and fly-weight pacifist,
so vegetarian,
he wore rope shoes and preferred fallen fruit.
He tried to convert Bioff and Brown,
the Hollywood pimps, to his diet.
Hairy, muscular, suburban,
wearing chocolate double-breasted suits,
they blew their tops and beat him black and blue.

I was so out of things, I’d never heard
of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Are you a C.O.?” I asked a fellow jailbird.
“No,” he answered, “I’m a J.W.”
He taught me the “hospital tuck,”
and pointed out the T-shirted back
of Murder Incorporated’s Czar Lepke,
there piling towels on a rack,
or dawdling off to his little segregated cell full
of things forbidden to the common man:
a portable radio, a dresser, two toy American
flags tied together with a ribbon of Easter palm.
Flabby, bald, lobotomized,
he drifted in a sheepish calm,
where no agonizing reappraisal
jarred his concentration on the electric chair
hanging like an oasis in his air
of lost connections. . . .

memory of water, by Reina María Rodríguez

september is a month like any other and unlike any other. it seems in september everything awaited will arrive: in the calm air, in a particular scent, in the stillness of the quay. when september comes, i know i’m going to lose myself. the ants climbing my legs and a certain change of light tell me so. the air comes and goes beneath my dress, pressing the warm cloth against me, pressing me with the desire to find myself in the sea, that sea beaten deep gray and magnetized by neutrinos, thanks to which i can perform my observations and telekinetic communications. the salty, sticky wall of the Malecón is covered with fish and forgotten hooks. i like to lick its sheen of salt and make my tongue salty and sticky. in that moment the rest of the city can vanish, it’s just that sea and me, before all thought, all desire. then i undress and enter, knowing i’ll find something, and that the boats—which seem suspended on the horizon, seem to have slipped their limits, motionless and painted there—are also mine…when i met you and you met me it was still september and we were strange and different and would be for a long time after—though i sometimes snagged you with certain secret hooks, shaping a sort of formless impression: something strange and indefinable divided the outline of your body from the space around you, but without making a human form, and in your eyes the sunlight revolved like a bicycle’s spoked wheel…the bicycle moves on and i’m carried along, filled with dry branches and coral. in my hair i wear the butterflies we collected together. the little house, one point amid the infinite, comes into view: already we can see the windows, like little black voids, and their curtains beating in the wind. i squeeze your waist, the bicycle moves on; even though the street is narrow the bicycle rolls on, rolls on against the spray. when you turn your head and see my hand, my hook snagged in a struggle of desire, the sun has turned immense in your eyes again. you make for the little house already in view, already at the edge of the curve…a naked man in lamplight is a magnificent animal: his pointy shoulders jut out and cut off the light. a line of fuzz descends from his navel to where the darkness begins, where the skin tightens like the skin of a fig. his body—your body—is an arc i want to tighten, to overcome, to conquer. hidden behind a tree, i can see your eyes again. the Mississippi is a big river with many tributaries. the arc tightens and closes. i throw an arm over you, a leg, a hand, a lip, hallucinations, an ear—as usual. my body moves on. the Mississippi is a big river with many tributaries. its water burns in my thighs, in the course of my dreams: the Mississippi is a deep and torrential river situated in the United States, it is born in Lake Itasca, passes through St. Paul, St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, traverses 3,780 kilometers and slides and slides through a wide delta to the Gulf of Mexico. i’m in geography class. i like this class. the world just barely fits in my head. the map hangs before me with its spokes and points. someone made that all up, just to make me think i belong to one of those zones out there. all those castles and fortifications to toy with, the beginnings of everything that seems to be reality, but isn’t, because we’re not outside but inside the globe, that huge globe so stubborn in its sufficiency, and even far from the classroom nothing’s different: there’s just the idea of that transparent globe that is my image of the world, always turning, imperfect and constant inside me. i like the maps and the instability of the geography that situates places in my head. i like using graph paper to plot the latitudes and longitudes i can’t measure. i also like the geography professor, whose eyes i must constantly avoid in order not to drown myself. he doesn’t know, he can’t imagine, that while he lectures, while he looks at me, i draw fish in my notebook to throw in his river. the boy behind me won’t stop looking at me, and whatever one does the others all follow, watching from the corners of their eyes. that’s why i’m going to fold the page away from his gaze and make a true map where he won’t find me, alone at my desk in the middle of the world…in the middle of the lake there’s a boat and we’re three—although the third may have already vanished for us—and i want to paddle and sit in the center. you’ve taken off your shirt: the landscape appears and disappears. when i take the oars you want to teach me how to row over the edge. you try to teach me: you take my hands—you’re behind and above me. my fingers are lost in the middle of the boat. i’m wearing faded jeans and carrying a purple parasol. the oar descends toward the deep and tangles with seaweed. my hair hangs surly and limp on my wet shoulders. we try to steer but go nowhere. you explain the roundness of the earth; the sharpened tip of the compass needle, always precise, marking contours, lines, limits. the shadow and truth of your body in the landscape: appearances and disappearances when you try to comprehend the possible across great distances, the symmetry, forgetfulness, incarnation in other beings: animals, plants, and later, men once again. you taught me all this, but i’m not a map and i hold still. i abandon my shoes and my dread of nearing the end: the oar descends toward the deep, it is september. we don’t move. i keep still to be different, that’s why…

Moss Retains Moisture, by Matthew Rohrer

I never believed in bioluminescence before.
Here in Moravia where all daylight hides
the only illumination is whiskey.
Names seem unimportant.
Large are the memories growing elsewhere
beneath themselves.
Do hemlocks burn when stared at?
Darkness always retains something shapely.
Those leaves engender me.
Bedding down in pine-covered nighttime
I disappeared. Owls are silent.
Bears rest. In Moravian mythology
even I sleep well.

 

Audience, by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

1

People think, at the theatre, an audience is tricked into believing it’s looking at life.

The film image is so large, it goes straight into your head.

There’s no room to be aware of or interested in people around you.

Girls and cool devices draw audience, but unraveling the life of a real human brings the
outsiders.

I wrote before production began, “I want to include all of myself, a heartbroken person
who hasn’t worked for years, who’s simply not dead.”

Many fans feel robbed and ask, “What kind of show’s about one person’s unresolved
soul?”

2

There’s sympathy for suffering, also artificiality.

Having limbs blown off is some person’s reality, not mine.

I didn’t want to use sympathy for others as a way through my problems.

There’s a gap between an audience and particulars, but you can be satisfied by
particulars, on several levels: social commentary, sleazy fantasy.

Where my film runs into another’s real life conditions seem problematic, but they don’t
link with me.

The linking is the flow of images, thwarting a fan’s transference.

If you have empathy to place yourself in my real situation of face-to-face intensity, then
there would be no mirror, not as here.

3

My story is about the human race in conflict with itself and nature.

An empathic princess negotiates peace between nations and huge creatures in the wild.

I grapple with the theme, again and again.

Impatience and frustration build among fans.

“She achieves a personal voice almost autistic in lack of affect, making ambiguous her
well-known power to communicate emotion, yet accusing a system that mistakes what
she says.”

Sex, tech are portrayed with lightness, a lack of divisions that causes anxieties elsewhere.

When I find a gap, I don’t fix it, don’t intrude like a violent, stray dog, separating flow
and context, to conform what I say to what you see.

Time before the show was fabulous, blank.

When I return, as to an object in space, my experience is sweeter, not because of
memory.

The screen is a mirror where a butterfly tries so hard not to lose the sequence of the last
moments.

I thought my work should reflect society, like mirrors in a cafe, double-space.

There’s limited time, but we feel through film media we’ve more.

4

When society deterritorialized our world with money, we managed our depressions via
many deterritorializations.

Feeling became vague, with impersonal, spectacular equivalents in film.

My animator draws beautifully, but can’t read or write.

He has fears, which might become reality, but Godzilla is reality.

When I saw the real princess, I found her face inauspicious, ill-favored, but since I’d
heard she was lovely, I said, “Maybe, she’s not photogenic today.”

Compared to my boredom, I wondered if her life were not like looking into a stream at a
stone, while water rushed over me.

I told her to look at me, so her looking is what everything rushes around.

I don’t care about story so much as, what do you think of her? Do you like her?

She’s not representative, because of gaps in the emotion, only yummy parts, and dialogue
that repeats.

She pencils a black line down the back of her leg.

A gesture turns transparent and proliferates into thousands of us doing the same.

Acknowledging the potential of a fan club, she jokingly describes it as “suspect”.

She means performance comes out through the noise.spac

5

At the bar, you see a man catch hold of a girl by the hair and kick her.

You could understand both points of view, but in reality, no.

You intervene, feeling shame for hoping someone else will.

It becomes an atmosphere, a situation, by which I mean, groups.

In school we’re taught the world is round, and with our own eyes we confirmed a small
part of what we could imagine.

Because you’re sitting in a dark place, and I’m illuminated, and a lot of eyes are directed
at me, I can be seen more clearly than if I mingled with you, as when we were in high
school.

We were young girls wanting to describe love and to look at it from outer space.

Rhapsody on a Windy Night, by T.S. Eliot

Twelve o’clock.
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations,
Its divisions and precisions.
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.

Half-past one,
The street-lamp sputtered,
The street-lamp muttered,
The street-lamp said, “Regard that woman
Who hesitates toward you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her dress
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin.”

The memory throws up high and dry
A crowd of twisted things;
A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.
A broken spring in a factory yard,
Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left
Hard and curled and ready to snap.

Half-past two,
The street-lamp said,
“Remark the cat which flattens itself in the gutter,
Slips out its tongue
And devours a morsel of rancid butter.”
So the hand of the child, automatic,
Slipped out and pocketed a toy that was running along the quay.
I could see nothing behind that child’s eye.
I have seen eyes in the street
Trying to peer through lighted shutters,
And a crab one afternoon in a pool,
An old crab with barnacles on his back,
Gripped the end of a stick which I held him.

Half-past three,
The lamp sputtered,
The lamp muttered in the dark.
The lamp hummed:
“Regard the moon,
La lune ne garde aucune rancune,
She winks a feeble eye,
She smiles into corners.
She smooths the hair of the grass.
The moon has lost her memory.
A washed-out smallpox cracks her face,
Her hand twists a paper rose,
That smells of dust and eau de Cologne,
She is alone
With all the old nocturnal smells
That cross and cross across her brain.”
The reminiscence comes
Of sunless dry geraniums
And dust in crevices,
Smells of chestnuts in the streets,
And female smells in shuttered rooms,
And cigarettes in corridors
And cocktail smells in bars.

The lamp said,
“Four o’clock,
Here is the number on the door.
Memory!
You have the key,
The little lamp spreads a ring on the stair.
Mount.
The bed is open; the tooth-brush hangs on the wall,
Put your shoes at the door, sleep, prepare for life.”

The last twist of the knife.

Three Seasons, by Geoffrey G. O’Brien

The winter, it was the winter all
the usual things happened,
I have forgotten what
would travel from the north
as a series seen from above
or from below, and the followers,
the flowers, I tore them up
the next summer, or rather
before or immediately after
and thought no more about it.
But then the summer, plans
to sign a contract, the summer
came back for what it was:
a small sprinkling of rue
and a yellow fantasy
and we were invited. It appeared
tall and swaying and deaf
to appeals, and the winter following,
this was the arrangement—
first one and then into
another not yet there,
many years of this refrain
and all the productions within it
coming to mean more
of an intimacy between
musical instruments and still lifes
you lose yourself in again
and probably have now,
what objects have known
in their one dark winter afternoon.
They are still visited
by everything else and together
complete the effect, a distance
which the next day took form.
That winter stopped and probably
on account of summer a spring,
spring with a sturdy fringe
and a local reputation,
it’s outside, in various rooms
and looks at everything,
a few lilacs in awkward
positions, but they were alright,
it was summer, very strong,
passing organizations,
which never finished anything
and ended in making
all this, cold coals
of wildflowers, little wars
at the centers, they go on for years
burning near the front
and from below.

Ghost Notes [excerpt], by Ralph Burns

for Danny Fletcher

 

I. Call and Response

1

Plumbline of disaster, shadow storage
of the way thought travels, the opinion,
the sentiment, only assertion following silence,
only a way of everlasting breathing,
a verb searching for grammar too devoted
to making sense so that the self interrupts
with a final pitch. From stop to stop the mouth
makes music by holding sound in a razz
mixed with spit, air pushing through idea
to a new phrase, followed by a chill,
then riding on the other air. So the moment might live
outside itself, lips vibrate against
the mouthpiece of the horn, the face blooms
in concentration, the idea of interval.

2

Anoint the valves, they stick — my
it is bright when you bring out your trumpet
William, standing there, tapping your right
foot, bent like a cricket at the knee, slouching.
Whoever hears your Ode to Joy hears your knocking
then setting down of carrying
case, cradling of brass. Dizzy said it took
his whole life to learn what not
to play but in one month you deny nothing,
not even the feel of your embouchere,
who’d been in school all day. Lubricate the valves,
once neighbors lifted up their heads
like lilies in the field, and wind rolled over
the need to stay away.

3

It’s beauty people fear, bright
rose riding on Aunt Billie’s forehead,
the way light makes green everything
after her pickled okra, stubble
in the hands of day labor, callouses
of a parade of things and
touching them without seeing
or hearing without knowledge,
dumbstruck by a brooding need to define
or look without a place
to grieve, beauty and not faith
in truth in the light of justice —
just reach and nothing’s there
but what’s there already.

4

William — where — is — your — horn,
did you leave it in math class again
with Fibonacci’s sequence, flaring
bell, flex and curve in sunlight leaning
at a forty-five degree angle,
your teacher Mr. Fletcher having cranked
open the classroom window with an allen wrench,
merged with sunlight so a horsefly wheeled
blue-green in its own wingbeat
by a rote it answered to in music,
lesser to the greater as the greater
to the whole, tube twice bent
on itself, Sin curve on the line of displacement,
sending sound backwards until it’s now?

5

William, when thirty kids try out for basketball
calculate the odds, the tendency of mind
to see itself in transition — feminine green light
like call waiting — you might be playing trumpet
into the speaker, your girlfriend Corrine might
be listening, exhausting her telephone allotment
of fifteen minutes, holding her ear inches away, glint
of a clipboard watching you both. You might move out of
the paint. The yellow squeak of rubber on oak
wakes rivers of grain — what does it matter
that this matter jumps back or breaks for open court —
sometimes you only stand and scream,
wave both arms, put it on the floor and drive,
lay it up, put it down, take it home.

6

Let me find the keys says Candace
let’s go says William the water
nibbles at the bank sunlight shafts
the fog wait says Candace
clouds back off the water
what else the boat suspended
glint gray along the gunnels
here they are I’ve found them
the washing machine idles in its cycle
sun shattered in water slaps
let’s go says William the legs follow
the surface tension the door closes
the car starts the green wave slides
under the boat a day begins.

7

Slow it down, bring it down, bring it
on home, tympanum of the trumpet-
flower, raised hood, swollen yellow face,
pathological woe standing
in rank grass against the Hurricane fence,
half a brick bewildered, half
carried through slatted shadows, cracked
bell shrouded by buildings, doorways
listening, patiently waiting for someone to open
a paper bag and bring out the horn
and this one time it sounds exactly like
laughter, wind blows in your face,
from a high window in metallic light
long green trumpets beat back rain.

8

When the instruments linger in the band room,
snare leaning into itself,
tuba beached against green cinderblock,
do they riff where a fault opens,
make a crazy line in space, does brass
lie in bronze alloy, does longing
breathe in acoustic energy? Notes hang
to the skirt of the bell
like a city of light for a moment.
A tire spooks the gravel, you hear talk
about the weather, the leaning toward
and then away. Pierce the blind
to better hear the music, the fall
of each sound and pause between.

9

It damages people when they do not understand
the healing power of friendship.
I am damaged. The left front light of my transport
is out. A day doesn’t pass. An hour
does not go by. There are minutes that glow
in human flesh. A trumpet has a voice.
A place lives in music of people and time.
These are not things I know.
Things of the air are also not thought of
in time of need. That is why the passive
voice is so active in distortion, and well
to note that a slur is more expressive
than a sharp note timed to surface admiration,
though the fool in me shines to perfection.

10

Soft percussive no-look pass of summer,
flexion of bell, white seed
of longing and forgetfulness — I remember
stopping on the way home from school
at a car showroom, perching on vinyl I could smell
thinking I don’t belong here
and the place about to close. I hold the page
of music so you can see it, William,
your face reddens, your foot taps eight times
to push breath past unbelievable seconds,
a dandelion head floats out of sight
senseless and alive, full of feather
and plume, empty to itself wherever
it flies, drifting from its own heart.

11

The dog growls, a low unearthed intent stands
up on back of the neck — I am here and
somewhere else — back in time maybe, fingers
tap the valves. Make two trumpets
of silver Yahweh said to Moses —
and make them play flat and sharp notes
at the same time said Ornette Coleman,
no loose lipping. Wake the memory.
Wake the present tense. The tongue wicks the mouthpiece.
Horripilates the cause. Lights up the argument.
A column of air moving through an empty place,
three stops, an opening outward
toward no purpose or proof beyond the time
when people will not hear it.

12

My father’s there. Like fugitive dust
seeping through cracks and keyholes in Oklahoma
in the early 30’s. What happens when I try
to hold him is my arms pass through air.
Goodbye goodbye to the river and to
green metallic leaves. I leave
the darkness which sat on my shoulders
for love talk and grace of music.
Still, there are strains of darkness
dear to light. I found a photograph
under the couch. My father barbecuing
chicken with his shirt off, skin brown
as a berry. Grinning from the other side.
Into the lens. Of light and song.

II. Shout Trumpet

1

When passing the Trumpet in Zion Church,
red brick soaked with morning rain,
four cars parked on slickened blacktop,
marked yellow lines, redbud clusters,
heart-shaped lavender pods, I keep hearing
my own minor key. Even so,
a person puts a thumb out, an awning
cantilevers, traffic comes
to a rolling stop. Through an open window
high bright notes clarify the air
back to March wind, locked doors, to those who
have lost their love, decided
to go and not come back: the high C
of incalculable motion.

2

At the Trumpet in Zion they do the laying
on of hands — your long hair
passes over me, the purpose of
the body hidden in the word.
Thinking nothing. Resembling an eighth note.
If the rapture taketh then where
does the body go when hands lie down on air?
A flag dragged through the iris
upside down. Desire runs through its stops —
the dance rises to water level.
What happens inside music to make it run
over arms and legs like a squirrel?
Toot toot go to the water to the river
of folded wings,

3

where catalpa shade holds a body of gnats
just the shape of smoke and water
saturates yellow air and a water moccasin
displaces the imagination —
not away from but toward where the world
reaches and a song carries across water,
one they’ve been singing all along,
the same notes and fears,
the sound of pure tones. I wouldn’t know it
if I heard it. I might not
know if it were only mine.
I would like to think I could clearly hear
the music as it calls across so
I could know what you know.

4

Bats are back. Looping the Mulberry. Concentric
gravitational waves. I think I notice
my own radar. I loll in a yellow chair
with two ear plugs connected to Art Porter.
Art Porter Junior in background on clarinet.
Little Rock’s own. Follow the ogive turns
past Maybelline to Telegraph Road, past
Jimmy Doyle’s and the white birches,
signs for Alltel and Jesus, SunCom,
and Ruby Lube. Are you a holy roller
William asks his grandmother. No but I’m
spirit-filled. Her sisters’ faces
ghost across her own face as it is — Jean,
Billie in her garden, pious Lucille.

5

I ask myself riddles in sleep and part of me
thinks it knows the answers. My
body leaks, my ignorance, my desire. I keep a
gold tooth which is not the trumpet,
wood landing over water knock, photon locked
in early light wrapped around
a cove, people in a boat, not much talking
but it echoes, love is there, when
will I ever believe, fill the body up and sing.
A wireless chip with beams of light carries
itself in your eye. Who sleeps upside down
on a ledge with toes turned in, dreams of making
love mid-air, only you and me in water? Bats are back.
I feel a scarf of air rush past.

6

Some mean ass little red bug just bit the shit out of me!
So why does it grease the room with soulless
nasal noise, no antennae for opposites,
alighting on the trumpet case? Seven years
of mending, leaving and coming back through you,
I think I can hear syncopation
in the last half of the beat, cancellation
too, but I only want to touch the button
on your blouse. The hi-hat clears the moment.
Out of nowhere you came to me.
Where is memory with its leaning sideways solo
under a stone weight? Out of nowhere
you came back. Today and today an old wind blows,
music flares above the grasstips.

7

When the moon stares from its forehead
and sound waves and particles
knock on tiny hairs in the inner ear,
information travels — how can one not know
the only pressure occurs at a molecular
level? A channel forms in the flow of ions.
When one whacks at a cloud of flies,
one clarifies that insects don’t know where
the hell they are — they can’t hear
right so spend their remaining days
complaining that music by itself is trivial.
Their bristles get bent, ions
flow in to trumpet the brain, but still
no hard high note, no upward rip.

8

Plumbline of the asters, music caught inside
the throat, the implacability, the fluted crescent
of the body, the temple, the infarcted heart,
the age of reason, the tap tap tap of the baton:
one time one steps off the porch two stories high,
next the song sings itself:
the air, the ambient glue, the tongue
in mid-salute, the coup de langue,
the nation at war, the wormhole connecting nothing
to nothing, the creak of heaven over
the creek, the flat speckled rock, the event
horizon, the accretion disk, the no
which means no, the wide swing under stars,
the water, the verb, the hidden grammar.

9

Not long ago a fly landed in the butter.
The buzz stumbled, the the stared out
from the portable computer, the astral light
combined with the high speed line
to toot back an unheard, unseen opinion
so popular here in the South.
I reach for you and nothing, not anything
from all the days of walking, breathing
in and out, waking to change and resemblance,
quickened to the task of words,
time and timing unsung — belly to belly,
keyboard to hyperthought, one wing
gleaming on a salt sweet brick like a face
in the screen, increased singularity.

10

I hear the neighbors talking over the fence —
“He came driving up in that turd-colored
convertible and didn’t even open the door
when he saw his stuff all flayed out
in the bushes and grass, his shirt with the sleeve
drooping over the hostas . . .” The glass doors
screech, the monarch glisses over standing water,
the ego in its drifting boat interminably waits.
We have no ideas but why should we say goodbye?
The signature and sign don’t mean
the end of it. White azalea blossom stuck to mud.
That is the end of winter, this
a preoccupation with weather which has nothing
more than last night on its mind.

11

Thunder and rain all day like the drumming
of Zutty Singleton. Ivy gropes
the fern, a sprig of oak pollen navigates
over two bar breaks. One or two
octaves over, like a ghost flattened out, down
the basement, up one flight
to the dirty silver door with Judas hole, to a few
tables and wicker chairs, late afternoon — that’s
where to hear a phrase turn. The upright
shakes the floor, and when
however fast the falling torrent flows —
stop that please thinks management if people
stand too long and listen — the whole world knows
in wind when self assured, the roses blow.

12

You know that silo in Oklahoma, the one with
chipped tooth on the way to Grandma’s house
where apple blossoms lit the way to certain hell?
Well, it’s gone now. The leaping light
and silence. Through channels of urgent voluntary
sing-song, passing tones in the hallway
mirror, tension through the saunter of water cooled
air, all is gone. You don’t have to remember.
Only that violation in the upper registers which
sounded and does sound in houses
just a few blocks over, and in fact, in this house
which is hot at night and cunning,
waits for a future. Slap-tongue’s gone. The mouth
meets and notches the music.

On Upnor Road, by Elizabeth Spires

Set back from the street behind a stand of trees,
a shuttered house unnoticed by casual passers-by,
where I see you standing in the middle of your life,
poised to enter a summer evening where there will be
drinks and then a meal on an old stone terrace,
and it will seem, as the glass of wine is lifted to your lips,
that no one you know will ever have to die.
All this, of course, has already happened, happened
many times, never to happen again. In that faraway dark,
two voices softly braid themselves into one murmuring
conversation, but words spoken so long ago
want to be private. I would not imagine it otherwise.
Unasked, I have entered a memory I was never part of,
and come face to face with love’s leisurely vanished pace.
Everything’s changed. The new owner’s cut down trees,
cleared decades of overgrowth to let the light in, and anyone
passing right now will only see what the too-bright
present wants them to see: a gracious forthright house,
empty of meaning, sitting overexposed in spring sunlight.