beside the interstate
of the sweet unreal
I’m driving past
no life on
beside the interstate
of the sweet unreal
I’m driving past
no life on
The water has stopped flowing in the canal,
and now we have only the ghosts of old lovers
in dormer windows. You look twice
and they are gone. Can we think of this
as nutrition too, as we do with the museums
which are filled with dead things?
Rain the size of rice grains
falls into the black vessel
of a pothole
It is given back eventually, if you are lucky,
if you live long enough. The world becomes less
“blood-hot and personal.” Oh, but the recipe
is horrible. People must die. They must give up
on you forever. You must be written off. There must be a nothingness,
an abeyance, where your existence does not matter
to anyone but yourself. If that. And then, if you are lucky,
it may come to you again. It’s with the fingerlings
of light that come through the faded curtains at dawn.
It brings this awakening. You recalibrate your sense of event.
You recalibrate your sense of gratitude, the prosperousness
and the greenness of it all. It’s the grass everyone walks on
but nobody thanks.
The twinings of morning are vines and shadows
on the lawn. Approach the milky window
where the thought gets in. Vines and shadows.
Only one gets through the opening. Gaunt glass.
Glaucous. It’s not the real one but the other thing.
The space from zero to one is finite.
This is one unit. The space from zero to one
is infinite. There are these irrational intrusions,
something like thoughts, that go on forever.
The space from zero to one is no different
than any other space termed span.
The truth is that space is always opening like a hand.
We have only this conceit of span. If you look at a landscape
enough years, much longer than you possibly can,
you would see that green park elongating and rarefying
to a thing we’d sooner call a space than span.
Just think. All of that emptiness was already in it,
when you saw a child get on one of those swings
and pump her legs until she was nothing but joy
surrounded by stars and a funny darkness so loose
it could be anything or anyone at all.
This nothing that comes from nowhere
is splendid–for a while. Even if
it doesn’t have much time, it has duration,
which is better. Pleasure is duration.
But so is pain. Agonizing duration. Time,
truth be told, is nothing without us.
We get this uncanny sense it has been
seeking us out. For aeons. Sometimes,
it even feels like somebody is lurking us there.
It’s like that mysterious agency that opened up
down the street. The one that’s always closed.
What is its business? What does it really want
from us? Why be there but never open?
Why this ridiculous sense of suspense?
We pass the dark facade and try to look in,
but can only ever see our own dark reflections.
I like the made thing,
its intricacies which make me
over in its image, making it.
I like the found thing also,
the impossible moment when the wind blows
until the big green field goes crazy,
so there is nothing to do but watch
and enjoy our own uselessness
and — somehow — use. It’s rather like
a lover riding you astonishingly well.
Up and down like a carousel horse.
There’s nothing to do but be wonderful
down there, under the rippling joy,
to be the world, the ground,
that world-ground every sliding lover wants.
And the great satisfaction in knowing
you are a good ride, a satisfaction indeed.
Up they go again, and now your smile,
down they come, and know yourself
the perfect machine at delicious last.
And you are oiled with the satisfaction
of it. And this and nothing more.
One of the city’s walls begins to peel and it is a type of thinking.
There is no alleluiah or despair. It is pure, untrammeled process.
The truth is that consciousness is a sort of drift, a series of rest stops
or a musical composition where the mind must fill in between notes.
It is only too happy to do so. The mimosa outside this second story window
is pink and alone and thinking its way through a body. A piece of paper
the wind has placed in its branches is a palimpsest of sunlight.
Fish are swimming through a face’s page. We stare and try to unpaste
the two images we are seeing at once. So it is with seeing through
ourselves, the scrim of various personal pronouns, finer than any butterfly net
to which we are accustomed. But the same principle. It is still a net.
There is joy in brightly waking up, and there is joy in darkly understanding sleep.
That’s what the forest tells us when we enter it in the heat of afternoon,
the awareness of two images seeing us at once. Because these birds,
avatars of sunlight, are something we try to unpaste, the thinking wall of trees.
The walls begin to peel, but it is bark. It is a type of backwards home.
We walk around not knowing our composition. The funny part is that even if we saw our own intellectual and spiritual composition written out on paper, we would most likely not recognize it as our own constitution. We would most likely be oblivious that we were looking at our “formula” conveniently written down on paper, in case some industrious (and technologically advanced) scientist wanted to use this recipe to produce a good approximation of our being. This sci-fi scenario presumes that in the future there is such a thing as a “manufacturing psychiatrist,” a mind-maker who can produce (after the manner of Watson with his infamous boast) any sort of human being, once the constitutive elements are known. This is, of course, patently ridiculous. I hope it is clear that I am using a far-fetched metaphor to get at an everyday truth. To give an example: if I told you I was feeling weak and I lay down on some linseed oil, cork dust, tree resins, wood flour, pigments and ground limestone, you might wonder in what strange place I was. Was I in an art gallery or a museum? Was this strange mixture of substances a work of contemporary conceptualism, an artist attempting to reground us in the earth by placing it in a privileged space where seeing is deemed paramount? Well, no. That is actually just the formula for producing linoleum. So if I lay on those substances, I could have just been sinking to my own kitchen floor. The trick is in the way the substances are fused. Literature fuses. I think many use literature in an attempt to discover their own formulary constitution, and possibly, to change it. The gedankenexperiments which occur in the pages of a book, virtual or otherwise, are a safe place in which to assay our surprisingly ufamiliar composition and discover the strange, almost chemical alliances which form the compounds of our personality. After all, how often will a great (and often a disturbing) book make us say, “I didn’t realize _____ was in me, until I read that.”