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the lie inside primitive paintings, how everything's arranged, akin to narrative, the
pitcher in your mind always with handle to one side, posed as palmetto
Everything regards the reader. People who designed cathedrals went up on scaffolding,
Freud amused by Notre Dame's upper tiers. It was fun but not entertainment, thick
buttresses your Deity could see through like Superman, internal prayer audible, mind
out there, exposed. Readers glow in mangers like insects on Sundew.
Endymion's a quarry. Keats wrote its four thousand lines
too fast to listen as he went, but did, the sounds adjusted
so Lamia and Grecian Urn are in it like the dye in limeade.
A man with toes exposed in wraparound sandals, the night cold:
"Sometimes I can hear your lines, and sometimes nothing at all"
and told Scott his view of a non-I I shift's wrong without
understanding it. I hobbled off to Biddy's for Sean O'Neill's wake.
A lank blondhaired man played an extended bagpipe dirge, a pause
("Up yours, Sean" from drinkers), then two very lively dance tunes.
A tiny child played with the dart players' scoring chalk -- looked
at one point as though she might be eating it. Sandwiches,
pickled onions, laughter from the family, not much hilarity
and halfway through a wave of magic, thrum, there and gone.
What Keats does that matters is distribute his attention
equally over the whole line -- there are no little words. It
changes the timing of the space between words, instant maturity.
I heard two pages, thought them lovely, heard the next two and wham,
that sense of what to say next, a born narrator's
is that, attention on what's said affecting the sentences.
A pity writing can't be prescribed, like Ibuprofen. My ankle
swells twice normal. I write a poem about Rossetti,
can't finish it for lack of one word. A customer who read
a book of poems one lunch break says, "You'll hate me. Today
I'm reading a Romance novel." My heart's amiss, swollen like my ankle.
You could set a romance in a jungle, something with intelligent apes,
the meditative lacing together of fronds and vines. A quiet chapter
by a lake where there are swans, and possibly dial telephones, jerboa,
the blond silken-haired African mole. Without guile I come to you, offering
a corsage of animals, hoping to save lovers and gorillas from extinction.
The word I wanted (for Christina in her grave) was "dessicate."
Painted flames are never what they ought to be, even Blake's Dante daunted
on the way to Paradise by a curtain of flame just a curtain, and I think
I am unable to see them as Blake imagined them, as those who love Blake
do so easily. Just once, in one of his drawings, the curves of a woman's side
punched right through to me, I saw and loved what he saw, blessing the incurve
above hipbone, stretch of thigh, how the ribcage in silhouette matters more than breasts,
heartbreakingly feminine, what a thing to say farewell to, last Tuesday's candle
shining on the spicerack bottles (in mild schizophrenia) that for me, containing in
the highlights, as the highlights, how hard they'd be to leave, poultry seasoning, ginger,
Kosher salt not as themselves, but anything in narrow glass jars, shelves woven straw, alit.
Flame is an ellipsis, leaves a space for value, paramour intérieur, my little French dictionary
smelling of someone's scented powder, Nelle C. Miller stamped on black alligator.
Clarice Lispector's The Hour of the Star could, in its first ten
or fifteen pages be the preface to this poem. Writers will know it's true,
what she says. Not about framing a character but what writing's meant to do,
as Keats is a character, presence rather, in this poem for his youth, his ambitions,
and how he decided to be Keats, something discovered, something made (imagine
fiesta drums, approaching wall of gaiety produced by poverty's time off, that only journalists
would call "deafening." It lets you hear, as if drums speak Portuguese, what
occurs in relative silence in rooms with thin walls, perspiration above pudendum,

Copyright Gerald Burns 1995-1997

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