The Sentence

begins with its subject,
          which is the sentence.

Track the sentence
          to find out what happens

or how it will act. It is
          the subject, after all. To track,

meaning keep an eye on,
          which is synecdoche,

part representing the whole
          of a thing. One

may track a package if he pleases.
          One may track a person,

though you’d probably want
          the whole of him, not only

an eye, or perhaps
          only an eye. Look how

the sentence is so capable
          of embracing contraction.

A him may function
          as a subject, but that depends

upon the sentence, i.e., A man
          is subject to his sentence.

You understand.
          Such syntax renders it like

a package showing evidence
          of having been tampered with—

 

More by Nathan McClain

Love Elegy in the Chinese Garden, with Koi

Near the entrance, a patch of tall grass.
Near the tall grass, long-stemmed plants;

each bending an ear-shaped cone
to the pond’s surface. If you looked closely,

you could make out silvery koi
swishing toward the clouded pond’s edge

where a boy tugs at his mother’s shirt for a quarter.
To buy fish feed. And watching that boy,

as he knelt down to let the koi kiss his palms,
I missed what it was to be so dumb

as those koi. I like to think they’re pure,
that that’s why even after the boy’s palms were empty,

after he had nothing else to give, they still kissed
his hands. Because who hasn’t done that—

loved so intently even after everything
has gone? Loved something that has washed

its hands of you? I like to think I’m different now,
that I’m enlightened somehow,

but who am I kidding? I know I’m like those koi,
still, with their popping mouths, that would kiss

those hands again if given the chance. So dumb.

Related Poems

A Noun Sentence

A noun sentence, no verb 
to it or in it: to the sea the scent of the bed 
after making love ... a salty perfume 
or a sour one. A noun sentence: my wounded joy 
like the sunset at your strange windows. 
My flower green like the phoenix. My heart exceeding 
my need, hesitant between two doors: 
entry a joke, and exit 
a labyrinth. Where is my shadow—my guide amid 
the crowdedness on the road to judgment day? And I 
as an ancient stone of two dark colors in the city wall, 
chestnut and black, a protruding insensitivity 
toward my visitors and the interpretation of shadows. Wishing 
for the present tense a foothold for walking behind me 
or ahead of me, barefoot. Where 
is my second road to the staircase of expanse? Where 
is futility? Where is the road to the road? 
And where are we, the marching on the footpath of the present 
tense, where are we? Our talk a predicate 
and a subject before the sea, and the elusive foam 
of speech the dots on the letters, 
wishing for the present tense a foothold 
on the pavement ...

Postscript

He wrote the whole novel in his head,

Sentence by sentence. It took him all day.

Then he took out a wide-ruled yellow legal pad

With three pink vertical lines marking the left margin,

And from his breast pocket he extracted

A disposable plastic fountain pen,

And near the top of the page he wrote the word ODE

In black ink, all caps. For a few minutes he did nothing. 

Then he skipped three lines and wrote,

"It was the greatest birthday present he had ever received:

The manual Smith-Corona typewriter

His parents gave him on the day he graduated from high school

After they took him to the Statler Hilton for lunch, 

Where they had cold poached salmon, his father's favorite."

revision, impromptu

with David Rothenberg, Nicola Hein, George Lewis, Dafna Naphtali, Andrew Drury, Tanya Kalmanovich, Hans Tammen, Sarah Weaver, David Grubbs, and Ally-Jane Grossan
 
Logistics sounds like a work song. The bottom anticipates and tills and then it’s time to turn over. This limbned, uncoordinated independence is anagnostic. Flesh touches. I am because we are is some bullshit. I ain’t because we share air lore, more notes on Auto da Fé’s blacking of the presence of an absence. The abyss between frames, that dehiscence, indicates this refusal either to fuse or choose between tearing and binding, a careful preservation of wounding. The whole fade in a shuffle it projects and prepares, a soufflé of angles, a palimpsest of snares and rides, some continually hidden h, a heft of air, a thievish shift carnival, a tufted shear, a shhhh of whirr and bookfan. We wear a fan of books, page over other kissing inside lip to disappear into another outside in coming into view. We all come from nothing to hard tone row and that cool move, chafing against the new phasis of the history of displacement, sound like it got a three on it to me. Blackness is the revelation of that which makes a people uncertain, unclear and awry in its action and knowledge. I think I been thinking ‘bout that for ‘bout thirty years, Krupa become Krupskaya having lost their aura, but when I get a chance I ask Scott La Rock why I start to think and then I sink into the paper like I was ink, like I was a Chinese painter in the hold of the beholding. The zero degree is what he says; she says nothing in reply, a festival, irreparable. The age of quantum mechanical reproduction is giving tune away to rise. Collaborate elaboration, William. Infinite consanguinity, Dumbo. Fleeta Drum came with us, brought something with him, brought a swing with her to fold the document. Can improvisation be documented? Has it ever been? Lemme ask Scott when I see him—see if improvisation can be revised. Scott, can improvisation be revised? That’s an arctic jazz question, regarding whales and, further inland, elephants, and saxophone kids, non-expert users, autodidactic squirrels in task decomposition. Is there an analogy between improvisation and optimization, affirmation and ingardenation on improvisational gardening? What’s the Greek word for “reading”?
 
 
Which is the point of all this rub and cyclone, when the eye falls into plenitude in a series of caressive abuse and kisses, oikopolitics and storms, good and bad time weather in a tore up propagation of clicks, which is when I realized you’d prepared the back of our throat for a speech about the tragic ship, the interminable line to it and the endless line from it, woodskin, wind’s skin, wound and drumbone, bowed, time to stay, string, till poise come back for poise, for our unsupported method and post-sculptural stuttering and non-purposive black massive hymn and sold, celebratory subcanadian scotchplain, plummets of bird patterning, the scotchirish hazarding of north ideas, habitually prenational birds, field recordings of syncrudescent birds flew down to tailing in the good and bad time weather, bird in the collective head of mama’nem at the blues university, Clyde’n’mama’nem and her and ask and think a digital conference of the birds, viola, ‘cause music is the fruit of love and earth and nobody gon’ buy it anyway, for there is nothing lost, that may be found in these findings, by these foundlings, driving ‘round vising and revisiting in the inescapable history of not being you. Our name is unnameable in this regard and miles ahead, feeling what you can’t see all incompletely. The half-fullness of your glasses makes you wanna make the word go away but you do have a capacity for massage that gives me hope. In the delicate evening software, I can understand Russell Westbrook. It’s ulmeric, oliveirian, in its unfirewalled all over the placelessness. We gig everywhere and it just makes me wanna giggle, or holler at you from way over here, party over there, if you can wait, we being behind the beat a little bit but right at the beguining, gynomonastically basic and maternal earth tones all out from the tone world, deep in the bass loom, twilight weaving morning in La Jolla/moonlight in Vermont someplace, some folks parking, some just getting dressed, everybody waiting with everybody for right now in right there, party over here.
 
 
Well moled, old Grubbs! We all here in the ruins but we got something in our hands—an experimental bandcamp for news and flowers. And I appreciate y’all letting me sit in, being so far from virtuosity. I wanna be communicable from way back. I wanna be in your base community, grace abounding to the chief of sinners. Remember that song by the Spinners called “Sadie”? The one on Spinners Live! where he reverted—that contrapulsive, not just knee-deep conversioning he got caught up in? Soul Wynne was sewing that night. It was like he had a drum in his chest, just to let you know that nothing lasts forever. The improvisation of forgetting is redactive flow everyday with all these voices in our head. These are always revising herself. One said they told us to be Germanic so, with great surprise, we took a picture of your tech with yourself, our constraint, and it was undecidable between us but plantational, since we the police of different voices, to be your instrument in this sovereign fade. Go back and look at it again when we fade a little bit, when invention won’t let us come up on it from behind. I don’t know my own stuff well enough to mix it right now, but we been remixing it all along past the everyday fade. Mama’nem are the different voices in your head. Are you gon’ play me now? I wan be played with you. I wanna be down with you. My code voice is Stanley Clarke, rajautomatic mixive for the people’s quartet, no way to control it, can’t caul it, won’t be covered, some uncoverable cuvée, girl, some prekripkean cupcake, causally unnameable as that Krupa keep coming back, tense but casually anafrican. Scott says the Greek word for reading is writing. It could be, I don’t know. I’m undecidable between us but you can ring my bell. The night is young and full of possibilities, the only trace of which, when I go back, is how I sound for you from one diffusion to another, as if the room were our hijab, as if we were a roomful of people writing about Cecil Taylor, as if writing about Cecil were reading James Cone, as if I were Sharon Cone’s escort to Cecil’s going home, as if we were the temporary contemporary—air above mountains, buildings in our hands.