Making It Up as You Go Along
Lucretius loved Epicurus, knew
the world through him; his
meaning was clear: love as a way
of knowing, of assuming the known.
To know is to narrate.
People die trying to tell what
it was like there then. Others
die of not trying. The form of this
telling is, for example,
a trellis. A growth controlled
unpredictable within measure.
Trellis. Tri licium. three threads.
The weaver knows
through the fingers the way worlds
hold together. Basket makers.
The shadow of a trellis is filled
against itself, against measure.
See the sun try again to
stop the movement of the rose
climbing among the woven ways.
As a Spleen
So much must go right in order for us to drive
cars every day and not die. The wind has to not blow
so hard as to drop the regulatory lights on top
of us, the other drivers must maintain decorum,
we must remain stalwart and refuse to succumb
to the intoxicating ecstasy of speed. If given the choice
of one weapon, I would take the aforementioned
car—it is both projectile and shield, plus then
you get a radio. Gentlemen, start your engines. Ladies,
start backing away. Or, drive, or, hide
in the backseat with a hatchet and hold
hostage any half-hearted attempts to flee. Engines,
start your engines. Let your wheels drift from this
to that side of the road. That everyone speeds
has become its own rule, so there must be
some new pleasure found in breaking it,
like broken bones as trophies, like stacked
participation ribbons with a tiny image on them
of a person or a ball corresponding to whatever you’ve just
accomplished by existing where you paid
to exist. A woman on the radio said, there are always
two sides to science, which made me want to say, about
something unrelated, on the other hand,
without ever acknowledging its mate.
I’d prefer if we referred to sadness as a spleen.
1748, La Mettrie argued man was a machine
and then was exiled, but how can we say he isn’t
the best appliance for making manliness manifest?
Watch the steam of purpose go escaping from
his ears. See what a chest is made up of. I knew a man
was good once because his blinker was broken
so that it would not stay in the “on” position, but
he manually imitated the rhythm and repetition
of a blinker in the “on” position nonetheless. In
buildings now, it’s common to expose your vents
and beams. I like to know they’re there, but
am partial to the brands of accidental truth, as in,
the window well just visible in the picture
of a moose lying ten feet from the road.
Wish for a working machine
and you’re given a body.
Ask for options and you get
a life with no roadmap and
free will. Say, Give me a reason,
and what you get is silence
or wars continents too far away,
to care without exertion.
If you say yes to knowing,
dispossession flowers in you,
and cleaves to your progeny
for centuries. If you wish
to forget, there are pills
with mild side effects —
dreams that grab you
by the throat and pockets
of fear that separate you
from your skin. If you sing
hymns the gods of memory
might waken and strike you
with elegies for your unguarded
heart. Ask for love, and the sky
will unveil itself layer by layer,
its naked blue flame wanting
only your blindness in return.
"He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves."
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (via scullyseviltwin)
"Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination. For our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude."
Gabriel García Márquez (via chimneyfish)
from Love in the Time of Cholera
Florentino Ariza wrote every night. Letter by letter, he had no mercy as he poisoned himself with the smoke from the palm oil lamps in the back room of the notions shop, and his letters became more discursive and more lunatic the more he tried to imitate his favourite poets from the Popular Library, which even at that time was approaching eighty volumes. His mother, who had urged him with so much fervour to enjoy his torment, became concerned for his health. “You are going to wear out your brains,” she shouted at him from the bedroom when she heard the first roosters crow. “No woman is worth all that.” She could not remember ever having known anyone in such a state of unbridled passion. But he paid no attention to her. Sometimes he went to the office without having slept, his hair in an uproar of love after leaving the letter in the prearranged hiding place so that Fermina Daza would find it on her way to school. She, on the other hand, under the watchful eye of her father and the vicious spying of the nuns, could barely manage to fill half a page from her notebook when she locked herself in the bathroom or pretended to take notes in class. But this was not only due to her limited time and the danger of being taken by surprise, it was also her nature that caused her letters to avoid emotional pitfalls and confine themselves to relating the events of her daily life in the utilitarian style of a ship’s log. In reality they were distracted letters, intended to keep the coals alive without putting her hand in the fire, while Florentino Ariza burned himself alive in every line. Desperate to infect her with his own madness, he sent her miniaturist’s verses inscribed with the point of a pin on camellia petals. It was he, not she, who had the audacity to enclose a lock of his hair in one letter, but he never received the response he longed for, which was an entire strand of Fermina Daza’s braid. He did move her at last to take one step further, and from that time on she began to send him the veins of leaves dried in dictionaries, the wings of butterflies, the feathers of magic birds, and for his birthday she gave him a square centimetre of St. Peter Clavier’s habit, which in those days was being sold in secret at a price far beyond the reach of a schoolgirl her age. One night, without any warning, Fermina Daza awoke with a start: a solo violin was serenading her, playing the same waltz over and over again. She shuddered when she realised that each note was an act of thanksgiving for the petals from her herbarium, for the moments stolen from arithmetic to write her letters, for her fear of examinations when she was thinking more about him than about the natural sciences, but she did not dare believe that Florentino Ariza was capable of such imprudence.
Rest peacefully, Gabo
Lines in Late April
April has been characteristically brief,
coming in on a promise, but somehow
always circling the point.
Taconic streams swollen by the melting mountains
push impatiently against matted leaves and fallen
branches that seem to belong somewhere else.
Nightfall is a gentle rushing on the forest floor
and the piercing laughter of predators that slip through shadows
and edge along the lake where moonlight descends.
One day, April is icy, grasping and resolute.
Another time, the impudent, golden reach of forsythia
arches against the likelihood across gunmetal gray skies.
April ice can slip in unexpectedly with the sinking sun
to swallow tender sprouts like a crusty tumor.
Ice lays waste to fragile shoots on old wood.
In the end, the ice in April is every bit as fragile
as those new buds setting out a plan for summer.
These gnarled bones of birches have lasted another winter.
After Twelve Months, Someone Tells Me It’s Time to Join the Living
And I have, or will, I’m not sure which,
but who’s to say how many weeks or months
are called for, because I’ve been there,
deeply there, with you, without you,
winding through the red rock cliffs, say,
in Arizona, a one-laner, all dirt and no guard rail,
driving, perhaps recklessly, the urge
to take my eyes off the road for a second,
strong, look over the edge, stronger,
or at least at the passenger seat,
empty of course, and so if that’s the best
I can do, to drive and hug the inside edges
of the road and not look down so be it—
I am going somewhere, the desert maybe,
and when I get off this road,
the I that I am now will still carry
the you that you were then,
or maybe you will carry me:
a hawk gliding over the cliffs
with something in its claws,
just in my periphery,
and though I want to know
if the thing that’s clutched so tightly,
so randomly, so in fact lovingly,
is dead or alive, there is no need
beyond the need to say this,
because it will not be able
to unbind itself, it will not shake loose.
I imagine its last thoughts,
if it is capable of thinking,
would be of what it’s like to be airborne,
without the constraints of gravity,
free of the thing that fixes us here,
because maybe it’s exactly the thing
we can’t release that keeps us
on this side, among the living.
The opposite of water,
lighter than dried ink, thinner
than a garlic bulb’s paper
skin. The thought before
we think, echo set adrift,
white silk ribbon unraveling
on an unexpected gift.
Cacophony of moths. Fragile
as egg shells-and as strong.
The way we leave this
place. The only grace note
in our only song.
Who was that strange perfecter occasionally
stepping in to give my life a sideways nudge?
Or was it just a series of accidents?
Despite the multiplying data there’s not
necessarily anyone on your case
in a world where biometric differences
can cover up the gulf that is fixed between
darlings of Morpheus and insomniacs
strapped into the home theatres of their thought,
or between people who feel that the real life
is intimated by bare, windswept uplands
and those who want to live where rhinoplasty
is already as normal as filling teeth.
I was the perfect stranger continually
stumbling by chance back into my life to find
it was getting on pretty well without me
in a world where what people wear correlates
poorly with what they’re capable of doing
to someone who’ll never be useful to them,
where some can sing an ache to sleep and others
are quite sure they know what intelligence is.
Letter to an Inmate in Solitary Confinement
We all want to know our worth, the value
of a tin can, a newspaper in the rain.
You must remember the rain—its teeth,
its tongue? Think of what it’s been made
into, how it’s been transformed: solid, liquid,
gone. Sometimes I put my fingers in my mouth
and chew on what they’ve done. Do you ever
do that? Do you count the bricks?
That’s what we do on the outside, too.
We make them, we count them.
I read in the paper they’re closing down the mill,
talking about condos, selling it all off at auction
machine by tired machine. But killing something
can take a long time. I cut down a tree
and it took all day. First an ax, then a saw,
then dragging it up the hill like the dead body it was—
all heavy and already forgotten. I used
some beautiful old blade to strip off the bark in curls.
It smelled like a new house, except I wasn’t
building a house. I left it out in the field
for a year of rain. Try not to ask yourself
what this waiting means or why you’re held inside it.
One an outline: simplest
shape, same dark
as the barn roof, and the horizon
I wanted to walk toward
and not stop.
Much later, the second, among
trees. A quickness,
wordless at first,
from the corner of my eye,
as everything huge arrives
without a name; then
the easy noises I called back,
a child’s lexicon: big, brown,
not there, gone so fast, wings
outside and in—the shocked velvet
of woods pulled over my head
like the blanket you spread
across me, our first weekend
away from school and drunk.
I fell into the haze of wine
like falling from the barn’s peaked hill
of hay, that itch I’d carry
all day beneath my clothes—
straw-slivers and the welter
of stars where nettles
slapped my calves. A child’s
lexicon: love, I, you.
Under knitted squares, the feather and hush
of different skin, I slept until you spoke
and woke me. Almost not there, gone
so fast: your voice, my first face.
To a Snake
I knew you were not poisonous
when I saw you in the side garden;
even your name—milk snake—
sounds harmless, and yet your pattern
of copper splotches outlined in black
frightened me, and the way you were
curled in loops; and it offended me
that you were so close to the house
and clearly living underneath it
if not inside, in the cellar, where I
have found your torn shed skins.
You must have been frightened too
when I caught you in the webbing
of the lacrosse stick and flung you
into the woods, where you landed
dangling from a vine-covered branch,
shamelessly twisted. Now I
am the one who is ashamed, unable
to untangle my feelings,
braided into my DNA or buried
deep in the part of my brain
that is most like yours.
why i feed the birds
i saw my grandmother hold out
her hand cupping a small offering
of seed to one of the wild sparrows
that frequented the bird bath she
filled with fresh water every day
she stood still
maybe stopped breathing
while the sparrow looked
at her, then the seed
then back as if he was
judging her character
he jumped into her hand
began to eat
a woman holding
a small god