VOLUME OF LOOKING
Poems by Timothy Buck Copyright © 2014
Fog Study I Watch from Distance It Keeps Happening Intuition Treatise on Aesthetics Women Fishing De Quincey's Moan Epitaph Odessa As If Music Shanty Unbecoming Of Reeds and Surfaces Figment Autumn Into Myth Reverie Ballade Lament One Night in Spanish Gardens Old Jaffa Pathetic Fallacy If Tomorrow Fails Near Great Water Fateful Songs Le Gibet Agafia Where Frost and Birches
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Agafia Where Frost and Birches Of Being Dusk Along the Rhine Prague Fishermen Morning in Belgrade Sunset in Rovinj Rainy Knez Venice The Sound of a Name Hidden Bones Theater of Melancholy The Secret Ballet Umbrella City Listening to Debussy's La Mer Lyric for Three Ashbury Sisters (after Sebald) Outsider Artist Zagajewski Industrial Ruins Eureka Moment Someone is Required On the Way to Buy Wine Beyond Roads' Withering
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Fog Study Conditions are best on the Mulberry River in September, in the northwest of Arkansas. A clear rushing stream with occasional rapids. Wild wood thick, now going to autumn color. A tumbled chaos of tilted boulders, slick rocks. A good place to drift to on foot or in reverie. One can study an insubstantial river barely flowing above the liquid one. Cold dragon's-smoke hangs over sounding water. It haunts through the quiet trees, trembling leaves turned from summer to pumpkin, amaranth, eggplant. One could imagine he is in Bohemia, wandering a ways off from his village just after dawn and before a sun begins to burn off the lingering mystery of fog. One always thinks of a somewhere else when banks of mist occlude real objects, when vapor hovers over a peculiar mood and the equivocal is allowed to breathe. It has to do with branch rubble scattered and dripping a condensation of silence. Walking through an early sunken cloud, one takes in deep breaths of an elsewhere. It's possible to merge with autumn river fog and spread out in planes of bewildered aether. It's almost like being a dreamer in Bohemia, making new art out of old thoughts on the wan haze.
I Watch from Distance Sometimes they wander through my hidden cities or outskirt nights. I follow them from distance and see they're cousins to cellos and swans and the pathos of old marionettes. Those poems I stalk sip vodka and move somehow as polonaise and Korobushka. Oh, to capture for myself the curious cadence! And that way of going straight through mirrors. Their backpacks brim with silver symbols. Lines are woven from smoke and shrugs. Listen -- also the riddling of wind and clocks! I fall through the water of poems in my eyes, follow those poems from knowledge of distance. They're touched by gods and almost impossible.
It Keeps Happening In the middle of morning during the quiet summers, it keeps happening -that spell of light across weary grass. It's not religion. It's not art. What is it? Who could say? This light falls before the puzzled eye and almost funereal, as though lamenting. An elegy broken free from the weight of substance? No, it's something else, transient, pausing, recurring. This quality of light is the ghost of time.
Intuition I've felt it wandering through the darkness between old memories and beneath maps blown in from nights of endless dreams. It's as elusive as the fragrances of colors. I've almost seen it as a kind of palimpsest on which time inscribes a baffling beauty. It sometimes appears when I think of a place that doesn't exist, where evening comes deeply and austere shadows are winged in by swallows. It's like the dim flowing of chemicals in poppies. I've almost known a word floating from trances, similar in valence to â€œsignificance.â€? It quivers as a hesitant disclosure or like the fractal irises of a strange curator's eyes. Something like hope is gathering quietly in the fantastical tangents.
Treatise on Aesthetics There is no indifference about. Even the clouds are concerned, shaping each moment into new volumes of theatrical moisture and slow inspiration. Along summer roads, moments of wildflower saffron vie for attention with unseen roses' museum hues. The flowing of Little Missouri River in Arkansas will never be contented with unrounded stones. Mountains are listening to the music of trees. The mother of aesthetics hides within passions of clouds, flowers, rivers, and mountains. Time must be why lovers unknown to each other become new textures of qualities when they meet. And the unseen angel of beauty grieves ballads continuously over the dead.
Women Fishing A 19th-century painting can be haunted when two ghosts are fishing by a pond in an old day without toil and memory. A sky in the manner of Corot trembles a transience of jackdaws high above two now-dead women languishing near a shocked tree, casting their eternal lines. The artist's grieving painted wind brushes rustic beauty across a wild field of grasses. How better to hide if dead than right out in the open! Little matters now but pigment and waiting. Little happens now but a viewer's unease. The world cracks open, bringing apparitions that startle us with our own latent antiquity.
De Quincey's Moan An elfin man of refined falling eyes, thin noble fingers, and brilliant linen... he ate opium and broke all the way into oceans of faces that surface bewildered, uncharted and beyond even the angels, beyond all maps of our waking time. Early streets of London wracked him wounded, opened up a ritual of craving the wild sacrament of laudanum, its beatitudes and nightmares. No one heard him moaning through years of nights, through slow cascades of fevers and awful glories. A ghastly pallor settled forever on his radiant face. I imagined I once heard him moaning from texts of Sisters and runaway coaches, in a region of abysses and splendors where ruin is another way of writing ecstasy.
Epitaph A dove sky wings slowly over Paris, and Montparnasse Cemetery lulls in curious fall of philosophical light. Granite slabs lie close above the dead who are unblinking but on occasion murmur a semblance of ennui. Jean Baudrillard is buried here, and his presence a fading script written on ambiguous day: Ces fleurs ne sont pas ma mort * Baudrillard's ghost is yet hospitable. It remembers beneath mourning doves a tale of once touching the actual rain. * These flowers are not my death
Odessa The long plunge of old stairs unfurls a mute Scythian tongue heavy in convulsed witness. Odessa is in perpetual unease. Steps are damp from morning harbor fog or from the sweating of a neurasthenic god. Odessa's shadows hold bad conscience. Wild was the envy and harsh the eyes. If you look hard enough into the distance, north and west, you can still hear old wheels of Jewish caravans rumbling tall wheat loads. That was before the market failed and Odessa plunged mad in 1905. Wild were the fists and quick the knives. "Asylum" is a double-edged word.
As If Music Old men outdoors play afternoon chess. Voices are sounding in the summer light. Children clumsy in their young bones. Flowers bloom under the sun's waning. Lithuania breathes unseen ghosts. They stand in long shadows cast by gnarled limbs of witness trees. Something is amiss in Lithuania. Shapes of absence in this green still park. Unease settling on the older living brows. Old ones know silent forms aren't there, are merely voids as if boles in time. There used to be something like music in the vigor of villages in Lithuania -the rhythm of vital gestures and melody cascading dark curls of familial hours. Look! That large gazebo in the park. Fresh white paint covers memories of violins, cellos, and a Yiddish tango. Something persists and ghostly sways across floorboards as late flowers lean. Soon twilight brings unheard revel of dreams undreamt, fevers unfelt.
* * * Wine flowed and people danced on Israel's day of independence! Rose petals cascading in new light as if music, tears, remembrance.
Shanty I haven't seen the ocean in 40 years. The ocean makes a diffĂŠrance. A distinction between time and wind. A deferment endless to faint horizon. Derrida's language of distance confuses the seabirds of my fancy â€“ white gleams darting and spiraling in the great void where nothing could be settled. Bones grow denser when floating's not an option. If one lived by the ocean it might be different. Enigma and liquid might bring good duration, mortality no longer a weight on breathing. The far roll of waves in wet psychosis and liturgical play has nothing in common with how the landlocked complain of heaviness just before dying, with no boats in sight. Beside the ocean one has so much space that it follows one will breathe an eternity. It must be so open there even the birds recover.
Unbecoming A certain street always startled by its own thereness, where older houses held souls in soft pathologies. On another side of town, my grandmother's house -a dark parlor shut off with dust and the waiting mood of my grandfather's ghost; silent furniture trembled the dramas of substance, nostalgia, and atmosphere; it took a coward's courage to enter that room alone. And on my childhood fence an occult presence of roses, whispering a colored delirium of old Spanish spirits. No early distance from too much strangeness stalls one in a volume of looking. It's unbecoming.
Of Reeds and Surfaces Off in morning distance above the brackish marsh, shreds of gray rainfall will soon lose faith in falling. To stand among cattails is an act of going nowhere. Coming to this place is to forget the fires of winter. A desolate bird, unseen and dark-toned, haunts the air in a melisma on "time." No dwelling or industry scales the horizon. On that vague line memory sleeps in suspense, stretched in thin dreams of childhood forgotten. But here amid the blown reeds it doesn't matter at all. Surfaces of the ground with shallows and the textured sky (many specters of old waters amble as the muted clouds) hold fascination enough, hold a world of rapt decaying. An ecstasy of despond is now in that strange bird's lied. The empty spread of vista and the strangled soughing air wound like the curve of a strange god's entropic scythe. To stand loosely on the space of this day's turning, holding lightly a wooden cane, thinking of nothing... with reeds and surfaces establishing the umber key of a cryptic ostinato beneath that piper's lost keening -what dire pleasure to simply whistle into the wind and crippled rain!
Figment It's hard to think under this sound of pine trees interrogating the wind, then letting it go with a strong warning after stamping an expired passport. That invisible fellow moves along, with determined leaning posture and with a morose expression. He keeps his head down and trails tattered old baggage behind him. I think he was humming a fragment from MieczysĹ‚aw Weinberg's Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes. An echo is still tangled up there in the tallest branches, now fraying. It's hard to think in December when trees are much too rooted. I wonder if that fellow would mind if I followed for a while and quietly, listening to the dead and forgotten?
Autumn The melon shades of leaves will soon rust and fall gently to layers of rest and forgetting, like sunken poems, forlorn love, and grave silence after the crows. The black walnut tree trembles down its mysterious spheres to sleep darkly, to pulse with memory of heartwood. Old roses are paling with grace in this air of ruining tomorrows. Autumn again, and all the years twisting a garland of melancholy.
Into Myth Fog spreads before dawn and I walk the field road beside the gravel road. Clumps of maize chaff after harvest like fallen warriors of Ruric or Igor. Dim light almost sounds a Peasant Air that Shostakovich might have written, a chorus of violas, cellos, and basses on the memory of a rustic grandmother and grandfather, comrade to roosters. I've never walked in old Russia, but now things are looking Slavic. In my hand a spiral walking stick for bobcats, or if this were Russia, steppe wolves of Baba Yaga. Things in pre-dawn appear as folk tale. Harvest chaff, distant trees, no birds. I half expect the arc of a sudden comet, sizzling a tail of ten-thousand angels, trailing a vapor of the world's dead. Fog and autumn conspiring a myth of time haunting through Pushkin eyes. I walk astounded to be here somewhere.
Reverie I want to sit with you so badly and hear the mingled tones of Slavic gods gushing off your hidden tongue. I want to dream this real or into half-real moments, like the gauzy, silken way nostalgia blurs a bloom. There must be golden grapes, moist bunches glowing in the scented moonlight. There must be candles waxing, waning just like breathing, flickering in the soft breeze, like tongues of time measuring our moments of golden ease and smiles. If I say I love you, on this half-real terrace, where shadows play and almost make me handsome, will you understand my heart is pure and I'm a phantom soon to blow away?
Ballade "The sense of the world must lie outside the world." ~ the mystic Ludwig Wittgenstein
The sun is wearing out, autumn coming. I stir evening into a color toward neutral and drink the memory of a lost day, that time when I never met you. Tomorrow flowers will lose pigment, the air tell itself unanswerable riddles. I stir evening into a numbing elixir. Somewhere a child played a toy piano imported from Vienna, her fingers would skitter across a polonaise of haughty innocence. I imagine I hear you as a child in a far world of Ashkenazi brilliance hallowed by memorial depths. You a child sounding a treble timbre of measures on a toy piano, arabesques of sunlight and shadow forming the sound of a smile. How dare I imagine such a thing! Unless in some mutual dream we have blinked at one another like twins separated by awful magic. Perhaps the meaning of two children laughing lies outside the world.
Lament I languished in the cool young clover, felt you in my fifth green year. Down in growing four-leaf fibers, down in fortune's latent hours, did I seek your Slavic smile and stroke your cool, green hair. Gently, did I speak to you, beneath the young moon's hiding, while the sun was oddly smiling, on that wordless day. I lost you in that fifth green year. I looked for you in seams of time. I dreamed of you, those hauntings drawn upon a page of sleeping. I found you in your flowered days, found you between fortune's creases, found you standing, smiling, tilting in your glowing latent hours. Now when early clover comes on my days of vision dimming and mystic suns no longer tremble angels in the daydream glare... I thank the fading gods of summer who allowed me to perceive you.
One Night in Spanish Gardens This unfamiliar path is through the still night. Alone a ghost moves above wet flagstones. The old grass bordering his jaunt is also ethereal, as if underwater but not moving to any current, and there is no wind. And there is not the vaguest hint of a moon. He sees by a kind of phosphorescence cast from his dreaming, or from his imagining. It's hard to tell about such things when you are no longer thinking, when you are reverie. This larceny in the gardens, this stealing of experience and collecting of intangible mental forms is exhilarating! How delicious to soak in this free show, in stealthiness and barely able to hold in a laugh or an unnatural sigh! This ghost has come older than depths of childhood. Looking through the shimmer of his arms and legs, he is glad to be incorporeal. With not much substance, immortality quivers into this night's growing legend. Rhododendrons, gladiolas, and the climbing roses! They bloom quietly as colors and as implicit desiring. What could account for a miracle of haunted textures? This ghost is propelled by a night's remembered music. Three Spanish gardens becoming wistful notes on pages -tremulous, exotic, decadent music. One for the Alhambra, another far and formal where a gowned vision is dancing, a third somewhere with gypsies celebrating exuberantly. But there will not be three great gardens tended by hirelings. There must be one long garden, fence after fence, haphazard. Backyards belonging to those who drink cheaper wine, loving their plots that sprawl and burst with flowers of common glory. 24
Yes, a ghost is too wild and will not settle for another's world! He must make Spanish gardens of his own delirious invention. He must jump fences and float amid the strange neighborhood, where everyone is sleeping, while only one sleepless bird sings. And when the music of shadows calls for dancing, he will dance alone to the rhythm of lost years and the pulse of intimations falling noiselessly beneath the jacaranda and the plumeria trees. Ferns hold out fronds like fans waving gestures and hypnosis. A cool breeze stirs, moving the leaves, refreshing the spirit! A thousand other spirits come now on the lifted wind to dance through all these gardens, to swirl in their own plasma hues. The apparition moves among them, looking for someone.
Old Jaffa Moments come that are not a viewing. They are a listening into tones of light. When the sun calls, the noise of seeing faints behind an aural synesthesia. Light works into substances, vibrating into shadows of shadows, sounding angles until the eyes change to different senses. Bundles of light-sung shapes rise as cubes of time holding echoes touching echoes that interfere and become complex harmonies. This light pleads into structures, pulling sentiments deeper than clayey sediments. Light trembles into a liminal mood. Ballads of sun in matter can build staggered tones of momentous world. Octaves glow as sung vignettes rising beneath the Old Tragedian's eye. Architecture dreams under the sun, its memories refracting into gold. While just looking at a photograph, imagination hears unexpected vision. I have never been to Old Jaffa. I will never go to Old Jaffa, but...
I went anyway into a photograph of Old Jaffa, a boat's view of the harbor becoming hillside and a hundred buildings of staggered mystery in the light glaring an ecstasy and absence. I walk stunned through narrow streets, an old quarter filled with sibilant tongues that speak of glimmering fish, of heat and of things I could never imagine. Many sun-burnt ghosts brush past, moving through a dream of Jaffa. I will not leave until the sun goes. This maze of houses swallows me in shadows until I make it back to the harbor, to the railing. I stare toward the far water changing its colors. The afternoon brings an epigram on the wind: being lost is better than ever being found. Sunset now a gong rippling out its gold abysses. The long waves curl like her tresses... and I will never walk in Old Jaffa.
Pathetic Fallacy Great clouds obscure the sun's radiance, diffusing soft hues softer toward the dusk. A distant line of trees becomes an abstraction quietly waiting beneath a quieter aerial drama. At such moments, one is glad for what one lacks. The light is strange across watered sky, and time turns into a savor of absence. The far suffused atmosphere transforms into a being of beauty, gesture, language stretched out on a divan of indifference -mystery eating grapes of wounding juices. In the farthest corner of that antique light, you also glow there, injuring with enigma.
If Tomorrow Fails Today September is lingering roses and bent light in the blown pines. One can believe in such weather like faith in someone similar. And if tomorrow fails making time an anomaly, at least now is always conjuring thoughts of you almost to presence.
Near Great Water Fateful Songs East of the river where painted birds live, Uruguay found itself moving toward ocean. Rains and fogs come where no mountains are looming in language of humid nouns. Oriental Uruguay waits for something to happen. Maldonado stirs toward the water at dawn rippling slow canci贸ns of fish-wet distance. Leaning palms gesture for the sun to speak. Doors open and young women leave early for things of morning and routines of hours. They shrug silent glances when they meet and yawn ancient sighs of forgotten gods. People end up in the lands that draw them on fateful songs and oddly tuned guitars. In some quarters of the city, poets are revising at noon their verses for an evening's reading. Everyone will listen raptly for the echoes of heritage on cadences of words like music. The dead in winter call for their flamingos when midnight has dried the tears of bones. Flamingos lift slowly from Garz贸n Lagoon flying southward to ghosts of Maldonado. The dead are languid from gifts of mate made from last summer's dreams of bees. Lightly the dead are carried on wings of flamingos beyond the edge of ocean. Uruguay is fateful by water.
Le Gibet I heard Beth Levin and Ravel mythologizing an imagined mood into the language of a desolate octave, an aural tale with strands of cloth rotting on a gallows's distant mirage in dead air of Symbolist shimmering. Pallid bells sound from the broken wall as scarab beetles scurry an inner voicing. The elegy tolls in an ambivalent key halfway between sublime and ruin. I heard Beth Levin and Ravel, macabre and far with question.
Agafia Where Frost and Birches ~ inspired by the life of Agafia Lykova
Gone to God now they are. Bones will follow someday. Rattling through moonlight. Up to the angel stars. Graves sway grass and crosses. Blue star flowers wild I put there. Crosses tell my own dear sleepers. Blue star flowers strung on crosses. Mountain makes the wind a hymn. Fled to this far frost we did, to hidden nights of birches. Hard oh God, cold oh God. Sky changing out the years. Hungry and the soot of hours. Once I heard an old saint speak inside cold fire of soot and hours. Frost and snow and silent birches. How long oh God, how long? Once they came to take us back. We felt the sin on strange breath. What more than faith is saving? Why go when we are here? They left us to our prayers.
Gone to God now my dear sleepers. Nights we told our holy dreams. The Devil circled our dark hut. We swayed to scripture rhythm. I sway to scripture rhythm, мама. Now at night I hear the voices. Time is harsh for ecstasy.
Of Being ~ inspired by the painting View of the Merwede before Dordrecht by Jan Van Goyen, c. 1630
Dawn or sunset, it's hard to tell. Boats could be plying east or west. Going out sleepy or coming in weary, the men are burdened by river weight. Their point of view is not the painter's. He has fished out a golden timbre -it lies on his canvas, settling into quiet. He has painted an Apparition of Substance. It goes to distance where unseen angels brood in clouds of sacred bemusement, because the riddle of being is in sailcloth and wood, sweat and dreams, in windmills, water smells, and bills of lading... in the sunken light and breathing sky.
Dusk Along the Rhine The river curves, the shores darken. Where has the river been, now to come so heavily, into such evening presence? Listen to the mist hanging there above an ancient forest that pours its myths down to the wide darkening water. The Rhine's journey is curving now in fathoms of lost legends to the pulse of Robert Schumann's 3rd Symphony.
Prague ~ a watercolor by Dusan Djukaric
Old buildings in a Kafka city, their antique stones going down all the way to river hues of gloom... These old buildings where someone is staring through a window's ennui... Evening eyes are weary after dust-mote commerce, after documents shuffled until words are worn off and thin round spectacles would rather be dreaming... Out on the bridge, shapes of people are moving into dim plots of living. Someone is in love or maybe falling. But the statuesque angel is darkening and will not be provident above desire... Ah...but how delightful to be in shadows, at window's quiet, the anonymous framing. Ah...tonight, when night falls like toppled angels, guitar strings will be strummed in diminished 7ths. Lamplight in a garret will be enough for humming a song of wretched longing, of allegories and time. Evening here falls with magic and torment. A paradox of whispers in the mouth of the sky. Prague of lovers and soaking of colors. Prague of decay and indifferent angels. Prague of cigarette glowing at casement. 36
Fishermen ~ a watercolor by Dusan Djukaric
If not for going after the sunken fishes, I would be able to think about this light that spreads, bathing water in holy moods. SreÄ‡ko is up ahead in liquid gleaming. He has floated already through melting of high clouds onto mirror dream of river. Brightness! My oar cleaves the wet clouds, and I squint into this pausing of morning before angling to cool tangles of lavender. The fishes move below unseen, and the ghost of the world is hidden within transience, within brilliance. SreÄ‡ko is distracted in ritual, while my thoughts row above gliding fishes, on my voiceless pew of vision.
Morning in Belgrade ~ a watercolor by Dusan Djukaric
At night a peculiar breeze might come curving down the street and whispering the forlornness of swans to architecture. The buildings commiserate with spirits of swans that float quietly on the Danube. But when morning has fallen across Belgrade and bright atoms of mist saturate the avenue, all ballads of midnight retreat into shadow. Texture of stucco drips off its moon fevers. The buildings are now thinking about staying put under gravity. And their musings go unspoken. Heavy cubes under great cupolas simply ponder time's old presence. Even the mouths of blank windows hold their gray and storied tongues. The red tram trembles under filaments of going. The footsteps of people are unwittingly reverent. One astonished tree leans toward a mythic sky. And I walk this street of an imagined Belgrade. No one sees me as I pass through brushed air that is spiritized by water, pigment, and vision. I will turn left where that terrible glare of fantasy will take me farther into uncanny acts of looking.
Sunset in Rovinj ~ a watercolor by Dusan Djukaric
We of Rovinj are looking on the sea. The hinterland has no sea for evening. Here the fish are begging to be caught. Boats return sadly when the sun sinks. Old Town Rovinj touches the Adriatic. Tonight old songs of distance and shells! Dancing we'll glide like the curling of fins! The other world walks on dust and stones. We glide on our hull-splashing dreams.
Rainy Knez ~ a watercolor by Dusan Djukaric
Wings in distance turning confused on a silver vapor wrung from rain. The peopled street a kaleidoscope scene of abstracted tints, shattered substance. When rain falls, everything changes. Longing is distracted and a looker lost in the mystic of a pavement's wetness.
Venice ~ a watercolor by Dusan Djukaric
Copper mist and a darkening of Venice turn problematic water into a spectacle of lurid mood, floating boats, and gondolas going somewhere toward known passages. The women reminisce of fashion with character. Older men complain about the passing of genius. Hours turn as they always do, toward tomorrow. As mildew creeps and whispers near baseboards, the curtains move languidly in dubious breezes. At the lagoon, two gondoliers rehash the tale of what happened and what followed in 1902. St. Mark's bell tower fell to sudden rubble, some heard ghosts of monks cry out a warning -those long ago suspended there in heretic cages. People say the great fall went into the Adriatic, and on stagnant days you might hear a tolling, though others say it's the moan of a lost whale or the echo of Jonah inside its ancient belly. It's something to talk about while watching twilight. On the wharf, a couple strolls where a poet in exile from Russia also walked for a plague of impressions. It's good to go where such water and lost bells will turn up later in the soundings of language.
The Sound of a Name Miriam, Miriam, Miriam – One can wade into those liquid syllables caressing a memory of the Dead Sea shore... Miriam, Miriam, Miriam – it echoes an ancient time of tents under awes of Judea when flute, lyre, and soft drum sounded low psalms of augury -strange sad music of portent, tones laden with catastrophe. Miriam, Miriam, Miriam – a name like moonlight on bloom continuing the old tale of angels, of sunlight touching a dove's wing, of covenant, arkwood, and temple, of eyes deepening into diaspora.
Hidden Bones South of Jerusalem elegies are the remnant winds. No voices under thick rock's entombing silence. Centuries have drifted by up above, where papyrus moons hold fragments of a tale no one can now understand. An ossuary unknown lies down in the chamber. Chiseled glyphs struck there below the heavy lid. Questions linger sunless in that musty holding. The ruined air keeps your secrets faithfully. Once you walked wrapped almost in tears and madness. Once you felt fires of a hallowed Ghost in your marrow. People were so oddly gathered at the superstitious wells. They sought your answers with glancing, hounding eyes. There are so many things that go to rumor and become fantasias. We wait now into our days of portent. Cast our lots against all empty winds. Crane our ears toward cryptic darkness. Listen for lid-scrape over ancient bones.
Theater of Melancholy Old Saitō works the puppet rods, an artist of impressive dexterity. The audience is rapt for an hour, while he conjures his illusions. No one knows the depth of Saitō's disquiet. He transfers the years into Bunraku beauty. But at night, he sleeps the puppets free.... Rain drips from autumn branches. The painted women smile casually underneath a ruined temple's eaves. A sudden gust of wind changes the look in their speaking eyes. Almost as one, they remember dreams within the dream of Saitō ~ dearest faces, lost letters, time's caprices.
The Secret Ballet ~ inspired by Vítězslava Kaprálová's String Quartet, Op. 8
Who is that dancer of bright tulle and wildness, gliding through old winds of Czechoslovakia? Who is the vision dancing into fresh music? Who is the graceful, enigmatic ballerina? “Vítězslava,” says the wind, “Vítězslava is swaying in silver birch branches, and leaves are her fingers. Vítězslava,” says the wind, “Vítězslava in Bohemia. Vítězslava is the ghost dancing from tree to tree!” Yes I see her now turning in gestures of branches. I hear her silver rumors of love lifting birches. This spirit of the wind is young and is flourishing. Nimble and gnomic, this allegory of longing. “Vítězslava,” says the wind, “Vítězslava in Bohemia.” Yes I see her now twirling through such brio rhythm, as foliage is swishing in a summer day's delirium. But memory is capricious, melancholy from nowhere. Leafy arms sag obliquely, then rise to free waltzing. “Vítězslava,” says the wind, “Vítězslava in Bohemia.” This zephyr's pas de valse shifts to ballonné, and leaps as a dream, fouetté rond de jambe tournant. A shimmering bourrée to the birds' counter cadences -winged cabrioles and then feathered tours en l'air. “Vítězslava,” says the wind, “Vítězslava in Bohemia.” 45
Silver birches in sunlight are almost pirouetting, as a ghost brings them music on urge of glissade. I now know that dancer of bright tulle and wildness, and dizzy birds flutter round a ballet of breezes. “Vítězslava,” says the wind, “Vítězslava in Bohemia.”
Umbrella City Rain gods lounge on the Seven Mountains, where turning sea winds stall under clouds. Bergen turns into umbrellas -- black, red, others. The sky's thickening has hung a silver mist or brought rain, metaphysical puddles. Pavements gleam the memory of suns and the old light of fine flower days. Buildings now stand dark, thoughtful and wait for the coming of winter. People are having unusual thoughts. Books left unread on lamp tables, errands invented, souls restless. Out into the drenched city go walkers seeking nothing but the wet depths of just being here.
Listening to Debussy's La Mer Pieces of light scattered in morning and vastly spread over shelving waves. Pieces of light above dreaming, many-blended gods. Bright commingled presence, rising on the brine spray, tossed up by wave-churn, falling prismatic, back into the living, shifting surface, going sapphire to water-clear to cyan, below the freshening, noon-stirred wind that courses above the water's happenings. * * * On the far shore of music, sighs are drowned in tumult, in the great wet winds and ocean basses.
On the lost shore of music, thought is stunned by something blown in from the deep: a threnody of gods, strange beyond the gulls.
Lyric for Three Ashbury Sisters (after Sebald) Ireland is as good as anywhere for three grown daughters to sew time into gowns and then unsew them, then sew gowns again from silken scraps. Marriage is out of the question after too many years have idled, after great trees beyond the garden have grown melancholy with memory. If a wanderer knocks, Catherine will stare from the shy door of the drowsing mansion. A room will be let for transient tomorrows. Clarissa and Christina as quiet as specters. Come hither wan stranger into our shrugging. We'll watch from these days of dust and irony how the future is dying like the ghost of a rose. We'll walk without purpose a staircase of hours, and breathe in the dream of our long indifference.
Outsider Artist New York City breathed ice and sullen honks of taxi cabs when Robert Zimmerman set foot on the sidewalk filled with himself that first day of becoming Dylan. He didn't notice the teenage girl wearing a wool coat and babushka, who passed by with her own gaze looking away from him and herself. She liked to see how buildings felt as abstract textures and structures. She liked to see ghosts of windows forgetting years, fogged, imagining. She liked tall air that held frosty light giving definition to planes and moods. She liked walking through the city until she became a looking unusual. There must have been that teenage girl on a sidewalk where something was blowin' in the wind more gypsy than a tambourine.
Zagajewski Laughter cracks the opaque night. Did a madwoman finally get the joke? Voices slink back down city streets, looking vainly for years to remember. Someone plays Schubert's last sonata upstairs on an out of tune grand piano. Suddenly quiet, then Krak贸w whispers again of language and a way to beauty. The poet moves beneath old lampposts as the Vistula flows amnesia and destiny. Under stars, Poland trembles spirits. Adam Zagajewski will write a new poem. It will make its difficult way to Arkansas. I will read it in awe on a day of winter, when my clocks slow and beauty's ghost appears as language and ambivalence.
Industrial Ruins Those of a certain disposition sag before the enigma of great machines and the unknown meaning of edifices that house whir, hysteria, and progress. Those of a certain odd disposition bend their mind to wait a long while before coming to certain structures, are patient until factories become lost and worn out by duration and being. I stand in fence weeds and look on at industrial ruin, art for art's sake. The meaning held in busy purpose now flown mania on dubious winds. That husk a tortured complex spell of shapes and planes holding late light or dispelling it into pathology of shadow. Unintended patterns murmur and stutter their transformation into bold aesthetics. I came here to marvel and understand ennui in the form of rust and abstraction. Surrealists now force strangeness on canvas, but here is blight as the truth of dynamics. Will my own skeleton beneath a skin of dreams endure, decohere, be marbled into a new presence? Will some later eye fall on the art of my quiet bones?
Eureka Moment Back then pale-eyed hippies glowered far-out arrogance while strumming Martin acoustics. They stared at us tourists as if we were trespassers on morning streets already appropriated in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Old mountain town late summer days. Sunlit moods cascading slant on vertiginous lanes. Folk art appearing everywhere, almost industrial. If you drove far out on the curved road of pines, you'd see improbable seven-story white Jesus. Even farther back in time people came, odd ones for the transcendentalist water, wealthy swimmers in Sanitarium Lake. And hippies came to Eureka Springs, mistaking quaintness for spirituality. The town now gentrified streets, lovely bed and breakfast manses. Walking and looking feels hollow. A tourist becomes the ghost of a ghost. Up on a hill, the grand Crescent Hotel succumbs to weight of convention and ivy. Thinking Eureka Springs I arrive at something like an epiphany: never be certain, never wear a top hat, always go written in poetics of bafflement.
Someone is Required Someone is required to contrast sunlight on river water with the darkness of old rooms. To contrast the movement of thoughtless clouds over a flotilla festival in summer with brick buildings abandoned years ago to a pensive languishing. To contrast the holiday smiles and gestures of people on the riverbank with a schizophrenia of brick structures gone to disuse. To contrast spectacle and ease with the condition of upper floors in downtown Little Rock that hold shadows and lost functions of arcane objects groping for shape through dust and amnesia and the echoes of vague souls from other commercial eras. Up there in lost crazed rooms, business has long since ceased. Old buildings now listen curiously to vagrant sounds of traffic drifting up indifferently from streets below. Someone is required to be ambivalent about festival airs and conversations not far from the madness of structures. Ysolt, Ydone, have compassion, Picarda, compassion By the win'g head, by the caduseus, compassion; By the horns of Isis-Luna, compassion.* * from Canto XCIII by Ezra Pound
On the Way to Buy Wine A winter sun before setting, almost mystic over the weary trees. An atmosphere like the texture of dead spirits floating far and distracted in a glowing otherness. Who could write this sky's quiet apotheosis? It spreads despondent beauty as if disclosing a great pathology of hope and oblivion. I shrink to a sober atom, almost joining.
Beyond Roads' Withering ~ based on the piece Old and Lost Rivers, by composer Tobias Picker
I'd rather not write about those everyday things of the South down here. There's something else that has taken hold of me, as if recall or imagining. It's about old and lost rivers, of antediluvian character. I might have seen them, or this might be a dim vision. Other things gather around my thoughts of slow waters. Maybe old sunlight echoing from a long path of lilies, begonias, and soft camellias glowing under a vast halo. It's best to wander down your mind and on into Louisiana. A weary river is shrunken by years and idles past old Hope Manor. Loons stand in shallows, and from depths a fish wrinkles the surface. Warmth in air has come from under slow clouds' summer momentum. The season has settled here halfway between dogwoods and autumn. Beyond roads' withering come the faint trails of vagrant, leaning grasses. Odd shadows delve under trees toward lost rivers' moss-hued reveries. Dragonflies weave their complex fabric of ennui out of silences hung in time. Beyond roads' fading, lost rivers are hidden, flowing with ambivalence, odors, and goggling eyes below cypress water roots. There is no one there to know a lost river. It moves by itself, lapping the primitive bank. And who knows if even a ghost can find it? But I sense the narrow river and its weariness. I float it in vision and need, as if I'm searching for someone also lost in a murkiness of liquid.
A last breath comes to all things that breathe. Yet time continues with a halo of mourning. Maybe the lost dead can be sought beyond paths, in the wildest durations of forgotten river moods. Beyond roads' withering, things become uncanny. Sometimes I think Southerners hold a few ounces of slowing light when we die and then disappear. We ride the air as a quivering above mossy silence, going down a lost river, gleaming on dragonfly wings.