Old flowers, bad flowers, the lilacs’
hue runs visibly, draining to a 0
even now as they sit on the glass table.
Etonnants voyageurs! My maroon mouth
knows nothing of this fit I repeat
daily: everything is hallowed.
Nowhere spelled backwards is a place
in New Zealand, in the crook that runs
down my muscle, in the slate sand,
in the cosmic perspective, in the
childhood spent on it, in the notes,
in the glowing lanes––
the space in the distance means
Pacific Ocean beyond the baked,
shimmering hills, that gold light
on my hair. Not her real name,
I said, on the musty moor
how it existed that day I stopped.
The twisted iron of the post-wetlands,
the bleached white bone-trunks, dense
and bare, how the gentle remnants of
golden, sickle leaves look more dead
in that tortuous mess, ‘man, like all
animals, is glass and can return to glass.’
Cette terre homicide. The landscape
in which you forget yourself. Rousseau’s
exile was hard on all of us.
The natural rights of lovers are
bunk, that pink silt harvest I imagine
as the closing, suicidal weeks of war.
I went to you in Oamaru
the rusted railroad of the single line, promised
a train that never comes, but the ocean
always, always, always
that fear of inherited illness
to get lost on a winter’s night
there, snagged on the cobwebbed gorse.
Sphere of undoing, Oliver, you know,
death is easy.
This conversation is something about
compassion first thing in the morning,
but what will happen by night?
That gloaming. That bright edge
I see underneath the dim parking lot
this twilit, offensive eventide.
Before, what made that scale
of curvature, the gutted boulders
dotting into pine pockets and orchard
flats, the light dapples a circle
of stacked beehives and the shorn
mountains full of nothing dangerous.
But I am here with my fist full
of thistles, and the wind in my face
in the cluttered dark of New York;
there is always underneath
my sparse, reduced world,
my questions answered in
pasture, stone, sea. Brunelle,
are you French or German? you,
the plant that Rousseau translates as ‘self-heal.’
Give me a fucking break, because I
can see the softening, the yellowing
filling the alpine line in
the blue and young valleys.
What the eastern territory records.
How do you decipher that?
We have codes, oaths, ceremonies,
last resorts, all brimmed and dimmed
in red and white silences.
We have problems and romance
the flit-sparrow keeling, its socketed
neck, the week of spring break.
We have performance anxiety pills,
them self-savagery, generation blues
bluing abstraction, amnesiac abstraction.
We have cicada husks, thunder things,
the blushed ivory prom dress nailed
to the thinning, painted door.
We have the lark in the sweet night,
we have mothers, les mères veuilleuses,
the night lights endless dark.
We have the marks of pain evident
on the female face of my face
in the incendiary moment,
the laws of similarity binding
contagious magic, the metaphor
bound on collision through the poem
of the unexpiated crime,
the idée fixe forced itself
upon me and revealed itself
and revealed nothing. What carrier-
wave of truer connection
organized itself in me?
We have all the earth splitting,
cette terre, cette jeunesse is enough to
renounce the old vocabularies.
Without a pack you are traveling
without protection; the filigree flowers;
you are not here.
The thing that fixes you
is the thing that keeps you
The neon sign got its start
in the early 70s in New York City’s
most famous discos,
got its start down the street
in Ridgewood, Queens. Do you feel
my wandering, interrogative
tone? Or do you feel just
the bright destruction of
my thought process hanging
in the imbalance. In the dim
caves of discipline you find
no totality of experience, it
not possible to create a text
that reconstitutes itself by
playing out all its possible
parts + combinations; you
cannot feel the traces of
signification any longer.
This burnt collapse. There
is no moment of rescue
that time cannot warp or rent.
You find the poet Ben Lerner
using the phrase ‘hard, gem-like’
just as Walter Pater did in his
Renaissance, and just like you
did as an undergraduate, and a
few other times without citing it,
just as he did. What
reader’s history we share from
a liberal arts education
disgusts you for a second
amidst the plugging and unplugging
of computers and phones
in South Slope, you think of
Sebald’s lilac trees and Bohemian
forest, you let that thought save,
that internal adjustment a rebellion
from being seen. You wish it were raining
just now amidst that constant noise.
Heavy water on the brain
this day. Dreaming of a reel
of road, like a ribbon drifting,
rising a gentle camber
in the North Island then
out to gushed cliffs, but
I am not there. It’s so simple.
To understand where memory
and sense intersect at instinct.
It’s so simple. The instability
of my impressions just desire
thwarted. Look at me walking
through the Brooklyn Botanic
Gardens on Mother’s Day,
the lilacs, the switch-grass,
ironweed, witch alder, smooth
hydrangea, southern monkshood.
The thing you can bear the most
is the empty concert hall built
as a Victorian greenhouse,
the cold frame of pale-green iron
and clear Dutch light, free of
crowds and damage and time, it’s
so simple, these locks and soft wares.
He who is willing to work
gives birth to his own father,
is what Kierkegaard said.
A suffering at the threshold
of strength is all you can hope
for, he said.
I cannot clue you in on
the mystery that fits. In
my critiques of new libraries
and new museums it’s quite
clear that I’m leaning on a mirror
and looking in the mirror, always.
I’m attracted to feeling as if
there’s another person present.
But mostly: astridsplein, rain
in visible rivulets down the golden elm’s
bark, dimpling foxglove and lavender
next to steaming, black rubbish heaps––
walking round the house in long
lace dresses and a Keith Haring sweater
the elevation slipping in my head.
The wood of the house in
the stench of the train station,
the site of the cutty-grass flickering
on cliff-top next to the disappearing
face of a stranger on the express
train, the blooming narrative
of Thomas Browne ‘gainst all
the regained shells and the carefully
beaded purse containing them-
that broken symmetry
between Scylla and Charybdis,
the forgotten dirt roads into everglades
and the rising hue of jugular:
Listen, I’m existing, I exist
this is just to say
I have written this
I’m writing this
to say it was
the easiest thing I said
I have ever done.