Heir Apparent

Issue #40: October 2015

in which the meaning is ruthlessly different | Steve Benson

in which the meaning is ruthlessly different. I

used to do this sort of thing. I’d also revise

in the midst of a sentence, just changing

its trajectory to say something I hadn’t

anticipated meaning at all. Your hair,

pretty as chestnuts, convinces me I need to

rub my nose in it to smell it, to savor

the sense of existing on the same earth as

you, as everyone. If there is some other planet

on which persons who think of themselves as such

consciously exist, there must be time there too

I think, though I still don’t understand it

Money’s far less likely, and I don’t know if

there’d be accident or bad behavior or

misunderstanding – I can’t think why. Nor

would there there be you, I don’t believe –

you are everywhere in me, but I can’t

find myself in another galaxy and form

I can’t form an opinion of that which denies

identification as either self or other –

Let’s start from scratch. Healing

entails an itch, and is complicated

by irritation, friction, attempts to fix

it. You can always start over, just

don’t forget you are after all in the middle

of it. Rosy-fingered dawn has a way of

repeating itself. You enter the room backwards

as though in death but ready to reconsider . . .

The cells fail and the person disappears. Might

not the cells continue to generate together

life again, and would then the familiar self

not coalesce in animation, or would it float

off beyond all ken? Some people see ghosts

they say. I don’t know whether they do

I see floaters, more or less, whether I move

my eyes or not. What are you so pre-

occupied with you can’t let your attention

hold onto me? Am I intruding? I do seem

to mean to distract you and hold you

to it. Stay with me, please. Don’t go

I want to hold your gaze. Am I hard

to follow? If it’s easier for you, you

could hold my hand. I am glad you love

me. I love you too. The city is firebombed

towers are falling around us. The rain

is dense, hard. Your clothes are soaked

You look around, tense and moist, singing

a song about feeling lost in a foreign

city. A parade surrounds you, floating

along the wide street. At an intersection

you will turn against the current toward

a public market, tents, booths, and memories

the air floats through and between. Aromas

seep into your clothes and skin until

they tickle. This sensation may be a symptom

that you are exchanging spirit, energy, and

matter (so what else is new?) with any

and every thing around. We are all one

another’s best enemies, friends and lovers

The creeping vine is the morning glory

I remember from childhood. All

assertions are, by definition, second-hand

One walks through this valley, bracing

one’s steps with an assertion in each hand

probing and pressing the ground to either side

in order to secure a sense of direction. I stumble

and lurch, unable to reconstitute what brought

me into this animation sequence. Cut adrift

from common sense, I’ll get back to raw nerve

tongue, teeth and lips to dart and sting

across the bottom of the pond. I’ll race

in and out of the reeds, singing

standards at the top of my lungs, and trip

in the mud to land face down in the marsh

– the murk – the unknown overly familiar

Restoring my body to a standing position

I don’t know what to say about how

I smell: no one else is present, near as I

can tell, and my olfactory senses are

weak or distracted. A moth is perched

ticklingly on my bare right shoulder

Incautious rumination mistakes it for a deer

tick but I swat that away and gaze out

the corner of my eye at the sun setting beyond

everything else in view. As an aside, I might

mutter an incantation like an invisible code

standing in for dream logic or the play of

associations of all sorts almost simultaneous

What someone else hears is always next

to nothing, the frayed remnants of something

torn from context. The possible merges with

parts of things I already know. I only

stumble through this crowded barroom to

smash through the other side into a sunlit

garden in a small yard surrounded

by vast prairie mistaken for meadow

Many tall grasses raise white and yellow

fleurets of diverse forms toward the out-

of-the-image’s-frame sun that nevertheless

pounds viciously, relentlessly, against

everything in my path, including my body

which folds when sapped in the head and I see

the sky recede as the ground crashes into me

How can there be a dark murkiness that’s not

wet and maybe it comes from me rather than

anything in my way. I say what I mean

and it comes out blurred, blunt, blind –

as I listen to what I’ve said I realize

I don’t know what I meant, but, and

I suspect this is true, I still take a certain

pride or prejudice as to how it has been put

“You, . . . me, . . . – in between, the sky”

We go everywhere together. We are in and out

of enclosed spaces, the weather changes

when we’re not looking and our moods react

differently from one another. You know

you don’t know quite what I mean

The sentence changes while I am trying

to decide whether to write or say it

I kept falling asleep in the middle

of formulating the decision and the choices

I opened a second beer in the kitchen

keeping my balance with one hand on the

island. I fail to wipe off the stovetop

I wash the dishes and leave them to dry

in the drainer – is that what you call it?

The plastic must be sprayed over the metal

so it won’t rust, so the dishes don’t scrape

noisily, so it’s softer to touch. My hands

used to drop things more often, when I

wasn’t sleeping enough. I was terribly

nervous then, contemplating the rest of my life

in light of what I had lost. Confusion and

disarray swallowed me and coughed spas-

modically. Now I am settled in mid-air

I hear distant thunder. It’s so hard to watch

injustice take place. My self thinking

The televised collapse of the ugly and intimi-

dating towers. A man talking about brutal

violence in another place. The movie stopped

and started repeatedly as spoken digressions

tried to explain what we were seeing, drowning

out the sounds of waves and wind on

the audio. An explosive thrown

into the crowd. Small mammals being

submitted to chemical tests for cosmetics

The scandalous news embedded in junk

mail, familiar as it is. Our sentences

overlap in mid-air before we have a chance

to interrupt one another or qualify

what we are saying. We stop

our mouths to correct ourselves

In silence, we watch the empty

speech bubbles rise above our heads, and

we forget what we would have said

If we could forget everything, maybe we would

but I’m wondering how much one can choose

what to remember and forget. If I knew

maybe I would be able to select what I

believe is most worth accessing again

People often choose to forget what they care

most about, but maybe they can’t help it

Can’t help choosing that. Two roads diverge

in a yellow tunnel, and one is too slippery

for even mastodons not to slide to one side

So any one of us might feel we have to take

sides with survival, to get somewhere

we can get somewhere else from

The poet is said to be glad to be about

to push off from something – the condition

of being known as what is knowing – to

to founder and crash (ww’s?) against

the not well reconnoitred, what passes

for the new or mystery or the sheer fact

of transience, in all its intransigence . . .

There is no denying it: the words are sexual

Their attraction is mutual. They get into one

another’s space, their connotations penetrate

one another’s denotations, they soften and

harden in response to implications and rhythmic

patterns, they laugh, muffle a scream, fall

unconscious through the cracks of ambient

attention. The sex is actual. Words are gendered

more than two. Their pheromones rub off on

one another. Antennae tickle excitatory

membranes. Feelers scope out plasticity

of form. The noun disintegrates. Tread

softly (I love that word) every which way

as leaves change color, curl and fall

all over lawn and driveway, such as it is

Rain follows, as does the night the day, to

underline some point lost among them

The reason this is happening, the reason

I try to know it, why it matters changes

So there is nothing I can count on, even

if everything seems to remain the same –

the ring around the bathtub, the inequity

[05 30 – 09 12 2010]