Richard Meier
In Which A Poem Is Composed Of The Following Elements

A flat internal sheet of light pressed against the inside of my head, Snow on the Railroad Tracks it was called, Viktor Shklovsky, steps from the lake.

The refrigerator reaches its temperature and ceases compression. I think it’s Pearl Harbor Day but no one’s saying anything. In 1913 the doors of the Federal Reserve opened, a regular door with a desk behind it. Lisa says, The ladle has a long handle and as I am left-handed I must scoop the food away from me. That’s the same insidiousness you were just talking about, I tell her, in art and friendship. Her favorite poem is the list of illustrations in As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams, a healing Buddha the size of the writer in 11th Century Japan. I tell her a poem is composed of the following elements: a moment from a dream, an object in its setting, an image from history, overheard speech, a remembered moment, language from a sign, a poster, an ad, a newspaper, a public language that’s part of the landscape, an example of the poet’s speech, a noiseless noise, someone’s name, an imaginary flower, a particular sensation.

Call me if you want to talk about that and call me if you don’t.

A lemon slice is stiffening on a stone on the radiator, as “the tortoise-shell scourges about the feet of the cliffs.” The juice has been squeezed from the pulp between the segments and all that remains is the skin of the vesicles.

There’s a joke James used to like in the sky apartment. Because the skylight at the top of the stairs greeted us the first day like an entrance. During dinner I’d point at the reflection in the windows, the reflection not in the skylight, the reflection in the windows that in the daylight showed the lake. 14 windows faced 3 directions. James and I saw a table, a lamp, two people, one smaller and one larger. I’d say, We’re out there. So who’s in here eating? It’s like a ship frozen in the ice, one of those ships that spent the whole winter, waiting for the ice break-up.

When it finally happened, it wasn’t anything anyone had done.

The window is like the picture plane, only it’s not a mental construct, no more than the people eating dinner, the lamp from Brown Elephant, the people at the table. And just because we can’t talk to them doesn’t mean there’s a world beyond this one. The sailors are drinking lemon juice, waiting for the ice to break into segments. Each person is a vesicle filled with vesicles. The poem itself is an element in its composition. The piano plays a note when a key is pressed. Slow and painful. And the sound presses the key that made it, the overtones racing over the network of strings as the ice makes a step down to the lake.

And the person listening? Well she stops suddenly her spinning and the faces and vesicles around her finally reveal their eccentric orbital motion, as if it weren’t a limitation, of the optic nerve, of the visual language, which soon enough returns everyone to their places in the room, the desks and the cubicles and their parabolic trajectories.

Dead silence.



Then steam forces a tune out of the new valve Charlie installed last week so we could have more heat. The smaller and the larger. At Chase and Greenview, an airplane the size of a needle dives through a tree. And after a while, people too resume, as if taking possession again of something that was theirs.

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