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Flowers dance, not always by themselves; a fat bee
drags a flat dishlike flower right to the ground, whonk,
riding it down. Two cabbage butterflies circle each other,
two-body problem in physics, delighting one unclad, flute
dancing around cello, her silence like Mallarmé's, silences,
his face in litho like a woodcut, those mustaches, just an
ordinary Frenchman. We import import. Yesterday's Guinness,
a bit much, reduced my abilities, Raggle-Taggle Gypsies,
Biscay-O, every note a chord. You touch down on words,
keep a meaning going, don't play every note. Mallarmé'd
omit the flutter, keep the word "white," something Latinate
for oscillation, revolvement around an epicenter, parabolae
touching like the rims of eggcups kissing, Magdeburgienne.
Elena of the Hundred Sorrows met Monsieur Rougenoir, in Paris, naturally,
the Old Quarter, pre-Haussmann. He removed his hat, a steepled black
construction he only wore in order to remove, spoke to her, called her
Mademoiselle, bought her an ice. What brought her to Paris. She looked at him,
eyes black as night or a black swan. "It seemed ideal after what my life
has been." She nibbled at a pastry. He wrote a poem in the restaurant.
Turns out she wrote. He showed her his poem. She brought out, from a
flat reticule, her manuscript. It altered what he imagined as imagination.
His poem altered, slightly, what she thought of reason. Both would have been
going to be famous. A black feather floating in the Seine, past the back
part of Notre Dame, encountering a detergent area, sank. Under ten feet
of mud a tiny cast-silver Hypnos, Roman relic, sensed the imminence of feather.
Phenol tubing through a stuffed horse spray-painted white, a little train
coming out of its side, and a tiny corral with, as I recall, little horses.
When you pulled a string by the side of its nose it whickered. A lawyer
bought it. The horse was Buffalo Bill's, whose museum's near North Platte.
I sold Cokes there from stands, watched the hand-balancers work, in rain.
The organist used spring clothespins to keep her music, plastic-covered, flat.
I learned a cry that's audible a long way past my aisle. Toby Tyler
joins the circus. Sawdust in his shoes. I've reread My Leatherette Reminder
(unemployment journal) and one of the European trip (museums, restaurants).
I seem to have no desire at all to make sense of what my life has been,
a sense of retrospect without intelligence or perhaps the judging mind. I found
in The Nature of Investigation that "my poem" is like "my body" in Marcel's sense.
A sense of yourself in the world, a Complexity theorist says, having lost it
a while in a hang-glider accident, is ours, not the snake's. Novels that put
you in the consciousness of the Deadly Python lie. About snakes. Things,
says Pope, imagining himself olfactory ophidian, are smelling up. I like
all the instances I've had of perceiving warmth near me, small mammal,
my eggs dependent on ambient temperature, like the turtle's. Why can't
a sense of having-been-fashioned cling to the cheap export silver casting,
thing sold soldiers, little Cupid god of sleep? As a wand might retain
traces of its rituals, shovel of post holes dug for roses, coin carried
in the pocket till it's just a disk. Haunt us, world of objects, egg
shell. A life in fragments is a life still. Montaigne reads Byron.
Now I'm reading or rereading Frank Wilson on Tiresias, so unlikely that
all of poetry would result in Eliot, little place for pity in the contemplation
of him and Pound, rather what is the shape by which the thin edge


Copyright Gerald Burns 1995-1997

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