of a world

Study of a Figure Falling Backwards and Architectural Details, Paul Cézanne

…as the bridge came down / following the song.
    – Michael Palmer

the dog is walking you
the ice slips against your sole
the world falling up again again
the ever louder hiss singing
breaks the skeletal tree carving sun
skychips rain their sharpness

some ones hand was it yours hers his some hand
the hour of not lacking
breath breaking ice melted in tread marks of a road
the car drove you away
elm long dead longing but one fallen branch

paper husk of fruit
hand on the center of your chest
a cloud wrapping some thing glinting as from water
celestial sum of brightness
there a dry leaf fallen on some heart was it yours
bruises found beneath

hand unmoving
does it wish to draw
upward the stone inside the fruit
dry spring water not
not seeping below the hill
meek the starlight

a row of trees
dancing pulse in the wrist twigs of blood

a hand holding minuscule dawns
paper a loose wad beneath the sternum the perpetual dark
the light years between

voltage voltage applied to ends of collar bones
what a wakening the dream remembered only as pain
or screaming

you pack your grip for this day this list
where is the ladder it is not with the flashlight
the switches for the next hours
are misplaced

thirty days has september

a poem
you even know it in german
no one asks about such prussian ironwork
taught you by a pole
who hid among books
he piled around him in bombed out stettin

you were not old you were a boy about the age
he was then

but you only knew one language
and how to milk a cow after tying up her calf

there is no bird
with a human body
but there are sparrows trapped amid your ribs
or are they orioles in your ventricles
pecking pulp from your pulse or crows
or crows calling other crows
saying look at all this suet here

and all these birds retreat to bushes to brush piles
when it rains and under bridges
where birds will always go
where birds can never
be escaped

in all the years of dissecting hands no one has learned a shit
about what could not be named
the voice if it can even be called that of a touch
how a hand may call down the moon how fingers
might and do heal the sick

what tissue what organ named what diagrammed part
or even the largest organ of the body the skin
so neatly peeled and pinned back on the tray its reverse
side gleaming orange in laboratory light
can ever explain how one river touches another river

and between two separate currents
the tiny eddies mixing

startled remembrance
when you had one pencil
you placed three cents on a counter
you got to pick what color
some one else got the last green one

you hated to sharpen it the first time
and how you hoped it would not break
again and again like some did
when you tried to practice e
and y on light blue lines

each word then a book chapter
of letters in your brain
so redolently high
from huffing cedar shavings

the car that went away the tires that etched
swerving lines in snow the glows leading magi through
foggy midwest nights never to arrive in bethlehem

pages of gideon bibles made good cigarette papers in the war
christ you could die for a goddamn smoke in the trenches
along the muddy good book spines tossed aside
the ragged edges of torn out pages holy fragments

of the word
on e

you watched the rainy streets from the balcony over a cloistered wall monks dreamt their prayers in eternal afternoon naps a vagrant crossing below yelled plato is a pain in the ass the smoke of vesuvius coated the cloisonne trivet I will say red to indicate an oak tree I will say yellow green to indicate a willow between glasses of smokey wine some hand caressed your collar bone you wished to become a hermit in the cave of that kindness to write glosses of its koans on the sooty rock walls by the light of small fires yellow green yellow green there is no mathematics

some things dont work said the ash
tray made from an ash tree

yet to be beatified the patron saint
of the dried up pool

the phonograph wont play the compleat cee
dee set of rock dove calls

thousands of steps on the pipe organ
pedals generate no fitbit miles

you want an aria to be whispered in
your ear not sungout loud but

tell that to joe green
when they made tigers of silver for

drawing room tables did
a tiger pose uh no

look only to the upper bark of
red oak trunks

to find that striping the
stigmata of their bristle pointed leaves

many mouths

there is an argument over when its best to study deep ravines
by moonlight only or in obliquest sun
which lighting throws into bolder relief the terraced walls

how each level was once the valley floor through which
the river curved and coiled as lovers thighs geologic
memory of passions wet and lost

and he tells her she is not reading in bright enough light youll
burn your eyes out
and the rain falls or fails and the river
cuts another foot or does it choke in silt

that icy road
that dog skidding you as a frozen walrus
to the villagers
or to the green ship from russia
waiting to deblub
ber your carcass your life mirrored in dream
you looking out
of a jar through narrow lines some inscription
molded in the glass
the jars rim expanding to transparent miles
its hollow circle
becoming an infinite coast of no contrivance

one of the songs…

pray for the canoe to come ashore
then put it to bed
it will have had enough of the liquid day

it will be afraid if left on the water at night
with no mark along the horizon
to steer itself by it is no micronesian boat

so what can it know of stars its maker
called his cat
so its a wonder it can even float

towel the foam from its sides bubbles
of the waters desire
sing a terrestrial lullaby pluck a land

lubbers autoharp let your fingers do a little
dance along its gunnels laugh
and pray for the canoe to come ashore

in the pinhole photograph
everything in chicago above fifty feet high is vaporizing
in space some hollyhocked galaxies
glimmer like basted mutton
he wanted to be an aliaologist but couldn’t decide whether
to major in genitalia or juvenalia
there is a branch of philosophy in which rubber erasers
are considered an affront
to natural law
                       the lovers parted forever because
one had stolen either a
filigree brooch a paleocene fossil or a postcard of
the brusssells free car ferry
crossing the illinois river
                                       and only the fields remember
the thrillament of their first touch
and the spell of a world breaking open they thought
not breaking down
and the tree crickets singing in the yellow green

it was a century of guarding your staub

a time of much rice melting

a hand was palping your stomach

of the softest and the spiniest cedar needles

of pseudo asbestos in particulate suspension

don’t be alarmed this is standard procedure

a hand on your back then on your sex

of burnt standing timbers of a shed spelling N

of sandhill cranes descending on baskets of air

of fingertips searching your wrist for a pulse

the meadows west of the river burned

but on the east side they all greened greener

of some hand covering your ear

of the silent bushels under the cranes wings

you could only hear the bone dissolving

the hissing in marshes between stream channels

there are no orange birds under the bridge
there are no guides to the catacombs of paris illinois

a cloud catches on the singing tower
buckbrush cracking loudly as dead oak under
a cosmic tornado

no seawall can hold back orange paint persimmon
wine souring in your veins

sodden maps unfolding the tingle of half volts
dozening lost dreams
where a hand had touched a depression left behind

an opossum track a
micron deep in white ashes of a winter

the alphabet is mobbed
by crows

as vesuvius erupts
each letter beats retreat to its own and only capital city

where is
the greenest of the yellow green

here only now
the fallen broken branch ∎

  1. Section “6.” was formerly published in a different form as “the birds” in “Gallery 1” of issue number 20 of Wild Roof Journal on May 3, 2023.  Many thanks to those editors.