Adjacent, Against, Upon

—after Michael Heizer

I may be looking at the set of boulders
that is now in front of me, but it is you I am addressing.

You are near or you are far,
depending on the accuracy of the words I have chosen.

When my teacher told me to use this
instead of the, she was talking about the range between

the intimate and the conventional. The gray cluster
is radiant, but it is a melancholy radiance.

To describe it only seems to lean away
from what I intend. Maybe, then, touch is a better way

of explaining the pleasure of that
encounter: the surprise and familiarity of the plant

that you brush past in the dark of your
own house. Or maybe the always-new logic of a dream

is closer to the truth: the falling that takes place
in a place where there is no ground.

The boulders are there for me, an arrangement
and its warren of rooms. One door opening to foggy roses.

Another one opening to a dawn that is the color of tea.
Surely there will always be new language

to tell you who I am, imagination rousing
out of idleness into urgency, reaching now towards you.

I keep remembering my teacher and she is an image
of joy, the small and wordless music

of her silver bangles. This over the.
One of the rules for writing the poems of a lonely person.

Cascades 501

The man sitting behind me
is telling the man sitting next to him about his heart bypass.

Outside the train’s window, the landscapes smear by—
the earnest, haphazard distillations of America. The backyards

and back sides of houses. The back lots of shops
and factories. The undersides of bridges. And then the
        stretches

of actual land, which is not so much land
but the kinds of water courses and greenery that register

like luck in the mind. Dense walls of trees.
Punky little woods. The living continually out-growing

the fallen and decaying. The vines and ivies taking over
everything, proving that the force of disorder is also the force

of plenty. Then the eye dilating to the sudden
clearings—fields, meadows. The bogs that must have been left

by retreating glaciers. The creeks, the algae broth
of ponds. Then the broad silver of rivers, shiny

as turnstiles. Attrition, dispersal, growth—a system unfastened
to story, as though the green sight itself

was beyond story, was peacefully beyond any clear meaning.
But why the gust of alertness that comes

to me every time any indication of the human
passes into sight—like a mirror, like to like, even though I am
        not

the summer backyard with the orange soccer ball resting
there, even though I am not the pick-up truck

parked in the back lot, its two doors opened
wide, and no one around to show whether it is funny

or an emergency that the truck is like that. Each thing looks 
        new
even when it is old and broken down.

They had to open me up—the man is now telling the other
        man.
I wasn’t there to see it, but they opened me up.

Dragged Mass

What are we supposed to make
of the granite block dragged across the dirt lot

behind a tractor that has been instructed
to build up a mound out of the displaced dirt, a mess

far away from what we would call the aesthetic
and more to do with the disturbance

of fresh graves or construction, the rock
so enormous it seems more conceptual than actual,

the way large things tend to be, the way scale
is a kind of assertion, the larger

the louder, and the smaller heartbreaking,
so that we want to imagine the theatrics of the dirt lot

back to the artist’s hand on paper,
the artist trying to transform desire into vision,

or a representation of something
like vision, one that makes us see the granite

and the hurt earth as images of the body, of gravity,
of what time does to the body,

which is to scour it, which must have something to do
with why I am looking at you now, asleep

among blue sheets as though it is any morning,
in winter light, in the light of the eye.

 

The Galleons

Because I am reading Frank O’Hara
while sitting on a bench at the Brooklyn Promenade

I am aware it is 10:30 in New York
on a Tuesday morning

the way O’Hara was always aware
of what day and hour and season were in front of him

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
he wrote almost sixty years ago on a July moment

that must have been like the one I am having now
the summer hour blossoming

at the promenades by the rivers and in the parks
and in the quiet aisles of the city

when everyone who should be at work
is at work and the trees are meditating

on how muggy it will be today
and the fleets of strollers are out in the sunshine

expanse of the morning
the strollers that are like galleons

carrying their beautiful gold cargo
being pushed by women whose names once graced

the actual galleons Rosario
Margarita Magdalena along with other names

Essie Maja from places that history has patronized
like O’Hara going into the bank

for money or the bookstore to buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what

the poets / in Ghana are doing these days
or the liquor store for liquor

or the tobacconist for tobacco
and sitting at the Brooklyn Promenade I haven’t looked

at the news to see who now has died
though my fingers keep touching the phone’s face

to find out that when it is 10:30 in the morning
in New York it is 11:30 in the night

in Manila and it is 4:30 in the afternoon in Lagos
and in Warsaw and it is 9:30

in the morning in Guatemala City
where it is also Tuesday and where it is also summer

Related Poems

Hot Springs

after Robert Francis’s “Silent Poem”

 

rain storm   rock pore   flow path   earth crust
thrust fault   drip slope   trough dam   blue ooze

tile floor   stained glass   sitz bath   rust stain
sun porch   deck chair   sky light   gas lamp

foot bridge   leaf twitch   dirt trail   red oak
white tail   hoof prints   moss stump   wood thrush

chert flake   clay shard   pit mine   whet stone
knife blade   green gorge  creek mud   blue tent

fire ring   wood smoke   sign post   steep road
store front   plate glass   stone arch   tile roof

street light   pump house   brick walk   steam grate
hot wisp   guard rail   foot soak   spa town

from EXAQUA [Oh, that's what I was]

 

 

 

Oh, that’s what I was originally thinking of with the notion of swimming or orbiting that you mentioned: a giant essay that interrupts (or cleaves?) into the book. To cleave is to separate and to bring together. To yoke. To it: I’m thinking of this essay I want to write as… Essay as Ocean. Not necessarily in a geographic, landscapey way but weirder, queer, dense, full of strange currents with different temperatures, something immersive, at times panicky, the feeling of losing oxygen but delighted by the sight of strange objects that litter the ocean floor. An oasis of sight. Geography textbooks and all of that richly descriptive language. How can anyone read about the unseen formation of volcanoes or the glacial creation of lakes and not feel connected to the Earth—capital E? Essay as a vast, limitless, edgeless, impossible-to-keep-in-one’s-head-all-at-once phenomenon. Essay as a way of breaking up the rest of the poems that surround it. I wanted to offer a break, a reprieve. Freedom from forms. 

From the language of ash

The translator undresses. Tries on the shape of the work she translates. Stuffs her new belly with his engorged sex. Tries not to re-write his words tries to give her self over to his syntax. In the end, she wears her same nakedness.

volcano spews ash
thick clouds that touch the heavens
cover her body

transient—passing by or away from one place to another.

her thick fingers
trees damaged by a hard storm
downed power lines

rendering something written or spoken in different but equivalent form or state to a different place, office, or sphere by which information in messenger RNA directs the sequence

from the language of ash: the women in her family are beautiful and alone.

yellow park flower
its petals its leaves
brown