some lines that seemed to him symbolist and sunny, almost edenic and had
to cut them. Was their failure the subject, or approach to subject? Ridiculous.
If medievals could write epic poems about geometry, Sternhold and Hopkins
for our time, why weren't birds in Mallarmé happy? Mr. Poe, Edgar
Allan, morose for cause, saw buildings by the sea or in it toppling as if in
Japanese films, half saw, and Bachelard wrote of forests under the sea,
contended o'er by Fisheries and Forestry. It was partly the ee sounds, or
Baudelaire's vaste, confused perception, mere material imagination. Could
this (not Emily's fly buzz) be that, a rarefaction of imagining? The
pavement, lamp-post, enervate Nerval. A friend who painted hated city signs;
the answer a real vision came to him as cork-tip cigarette butts, some
of them with holes bored or pressed in the filter, littering a nubbled planter outside
an antique shop in bright sun, how they took light. What cigarettes had Mallarmé?
Oldenburg buildings if not sculpture, Lucky packs or lipsticks rising, falling
fared no better than these cylinders' albedo. If Dickinson had cigarettes
would she have worried about the fly, was it a sentimental poem, I heard
an ash drop when I died. Berryman's thick pen nib in the airplane's
ink glints with light from the porthole before it dried, tinsel rivers
the man he met who studied salmon gave ten years at the outside, not
retrievable, inchlings his care, the hiss of our possessive like a jet.
How many avenues, said Thomas Browne, for death to enter in, including poems.
They rot, medieval monks couldn't read their early speech, erased the pages
or chucked the books. One parish, lacking a trained bear, sold its Bible.
"I say . . . a flower" was irresponsible. It needs a vase but his turned
into urns. Keats and Poe meet in a bar. They talk, their radios
marble with amber tubes. A children's program, Silent Spring and Black Spring
read by Dylan Thomas. The words in their linearity encounter opposites --
this, muffled, a Symbolist poem, magic doorknob. Collectible. Early
Liveright bindings, black cloth, quasi-lewd, enclose Jurgen, fascination rendered
as itself gold squiggles make forbidden. Howl in paper won its case in court.
They could've prosecuted Emily for showing how rhythms embody truth,
the word and meaning muffled's muffling. Our labials stretch like taffy
in which somebody's dropped a ruby ring. You see it almost surface,
Living Dead or color-remake Blob face, bezeled gem in taffy caul.
It's magic how the thing itself compels assent if uttered spookily. Poe's original
granite (limestone?) slab has a kind of Raven crudely carved or weathered, in
Baltimore. When echoes get too thick they become just noise, structure
buried like segments in a scab picked from the head, perhaps a larval flea.
I don't know, he thought, what I need, read everything, suffer congestion,
read murder tales, Van der Valk in a Volkswagen arresting Bormann,
"search" you might call it for subject, handling, knowing it isn't found found.
The poem writes itself from the last line up like an I Ching pattern, there
are no local effects. Lefthanded people like himself leave ballpoint smudges.
Sometimes a ghost fragment of a word, litho'd by near side of third or little finger.
The words break into sounds, like little gelatin capsules, ovoid E or A.
There is no P, unless it's extract poems about lakes or swans.
It may (he thought) be more like childhood, Carrie's magic box,
Edward's Pooh -- what toys had Randolph Bourne when he was small
-- or Cody's drawing of an exploded shark, bristling with lines
ending because he doesn't write in legends that are squiggles,
imaginary poems with real words in, in French. I could
(he thought) be a character in some parallel universe's poem
or novel, the ones I write not really written, just described.
I have no character, but the leaves on sidewalks are what they are.
Copyright Gerald Burns 1995-1997