Western Civ 101

The ant tracks of time            look like footbridges   
made of hyphens        (3 or 4 hyphens per bridge)
black and white rainbows       archways above
phrases like diacritics      over bottles and jars
(these items out of focus, soft focus, just nouns)
—similar to a breve ŏ or an inverted breve ô,
a Latin small letter with circumflex, or a macron with grave ṑ.

The ant tracks of time         appear near a thesis statement,
above a wall of description     a corridor of narration
near a subtitle         over the door frame to an example:
college students taking a summer course read an essay
on noise and distraction by Seneca
                    when a bridge of hyphens
appears on the third line. It’s followed by a bridge
over the second phrase in the twenty sixth, I cannot
for the life of me coming long after I have lodgings right over
a public bathhouse, which is separated by months
from see that quiet is as necessary to a person   
as it is usually thought to be, the order different in time,
sequence of writing, sequence of reading,
as a jackhammer pounds and a crane lifts steel rafters
into a skyscraper, a new dorm under construction,
a giant statue of a tyrant is erected by a 100 slaves
in the crowded streets of Rome. Dust on sandals.
                                                    During bridge repair,
the ants cross
a plank over
the construction site
to a small hole
in the stanza
of a vacant lot
leading to an underground crossword puzzle
of tunnels & dens,     razed & redacted rooms,
repressed & collective corridors          an alternative textbook,
an anthology of excerpts        adding to their stash:
i) the image of a head fallen from a statue
ii) the axle of a torched motive
iii) a cornice of a stone statement
and are supervised by the white ant that patrols
the rows, Control Alt Delete—
                                      warrior ants, explorer ants,
diplomat ants, teaching assistant ants, sales representative
ants, dietician ants, second cousin ants, pastor ants, actor ants,
architect ants, seamstress and tailor ants, high school sweetheart ants,
mercenary ant, beautician ants, translator ant, editor ants,
shoe store clerk ants, a fat June bug, street cleaner ant,
a bee on its back, waiter ants, mandibles of predatory lending, 
police tape between pinchers. Fun fact: 

Seneca was the tutor of Nero who requested his suicide
& Seneca submitted his resignation in a bathtub,
not as bad as suffocating minor enemies in rose petals?

The Egyptian Tomb of Emily Dickinson

The author reading in her grave is an orange dotted line
then a red continuous line, a house light & more head lights,
above that, a row of (etc.), what a car alarm looks like:
4 signs repeated together: a cherry, a pineapple, cloud, raindrop &
then brief yellow dashes moving like birds, “To be continued.”
The red line lies above the orange line at 75 mph
on the mountains on the last page—while a crow goes
from behind, deleting the orange dotted line—each dash
worth 5 points, cherry and pineapple 10 points, the glow-in-the-dark
haystacks & speeding garbage truck, 50—through
to the underlined parts of the room where I write.
The red line lies above the orange line at 75 mph
on the mountains on the last page in the dark morning.
She reads and reads in this large building in a room
in western Massachusetts—in this primitive dark
a fish skeleton goes by. The walls are decorated with
repetitions, electronic and natural sounds, someone coughing,
an alarm clock going off. A large gloomy ballroom
with an answering machine, & then a black mental swimming pool
ended by three dots.

The Gift

Like a spittle of aluminum, a crest of fear
in a long-faced mirror, like water rushing over a box,
like a dried sentence flying in the air,
like being shown a picture of a perforated wave,
like a mark that appears on each moment,
like knowing a man is in the box,
ingot of man, and the water is shiny, highly intuitive.

Like a mote dripping with silver,
a cataract painted with lead, a sentence of gleam,
and the sky speed up, cloudy, obscure, occluded, unheard of
using a cat’s eye for a planet,
like the water now almost reaching
the help desk across the marble floor
of the enormous lobby of the hospital.
The sculpture, a prototype, donated by the major
auto-pharmaceutical industries, Spanish moss fills the ceiling
in the car port, vaults rush past picking up no one
and souls like aphids stream the stalk of the escalator.

In this gift—a sheen, a shining—wrapped around
a grid of major research hospitals in one block,
on an acre with a drop-away floor,
the mesh bow, car-sized, is heavier than it looks.
Shreds of people, the day torn off, and the incinerator is working.
Oh, dollop of man. Replica of Rodin’s thinker from the gift shop,
I spot that, neon yellow teddy bear inside leaves of cellophane
for the sick child, I spot that. A man is inside the box
of cascading water. He is always wrapped in the present
moment. By now, the silvery water runs over the lines /
of this poem. I feel like shaking for the jet, the cross inside the box.
We are all headed home.

The water draft,

lotuses on blotches of water
coins in water, water on water 
water about water, at the bottom
are coins to get to the bottom of
pastel sound, words written about water
circular words circular words

dashboard figures in lotus position
patron saints, consorts, goddesses
on the surface of pink    of green
music, reggae and gospel  hip-hop
canals of classical and Latin jazz
though in a water garden, H2O music

tuning forks of lotus roots dangle
into a pond of piano, to rooms of silt,
the rooms at bottom toss up silt
watery Times New Roman font
it starts to rain, rain drops on the surface
circular sentences circular sentences

the pink pianissimo starts up
the green largo, the pond of sound
with “brief brush strokes like commas”
notes across water    like black lily pads
dis- and un- in a water garden,
dissonances against the harmony

x x x x x x x x x x x
where the lotuses knocked out
the water lilies

words circular words circular
water about written words, sound pastel
water about water, water on water
water of blotches as sound reverses,
passing under the white footbridge
moves to the left, moves to the left,

before banks of irises, before endowed benches
for Monet’s beloved Camille, for Satie’s girlfriend Suzanne
Valadon, and the lotuses who notarize
Death Certificates, Marriage Certificates,
in mobiles of notes recognize the sound as
Gymnopédies and change color like mood rings

In reverse sound, a bright story is told
differently, the notes of happiness put in reverse
walk backwards, across the water
and a non-indigenous emotional species grows on the surface
of sluggish channels of long ā and short ŏ,
millefiori of past and present

I prefer hand-tinted poems

Would you care to have this pond
immediately silk-screened
onto your chest
replacing the Rainbow Brite
Murky Dismal T-Shirt
you’re currently wearing
above rows of friendship pins?

Related Poems

The Egyptian Tomb of Emily Dickinson

The author reading in her grave is an orange dotted line
then a red continuous line, a house light & more head lights,
above that, a row of (etc.), what a car alarm looks like:
4 signs repeated together: a cherry, a pineapple, cloud, raindrop &
then brief yellow dashes moving like birds, “To be continued.”
The red line lies above the orange line at 75 mph
on the mountains on the last page—while a crow goes
from behind, deleting the orange dotted line—each dash
worth 5 points, cherry and pineapple 10 points, the glow-in-the-dark
haystacks & speeding garbage truck, 50—through
to the underlined parts of the room where I write.
The red line lies above the orange line at 75 mph
on the mountains on the last page in the dark morning.
She reads and reads in this large building in a room
in western Massachusetts—in this primitive dark
a fish skeleton goes by. The walls are decorated with
repetitions, electronic and natural sounds, someone coughing,
an alarm clock going off. A large gloomy ballroom
with an answering machine, & then a black mental swimming pool
ended by three dots.

from Solarpoetics, 1-7

1

Wyh do we udnersntad a txet eevn fi the letetrs
aer in dsiordre       

*

The letter A
like a membrane
melliferous the animal flesh
bread baking   butchery

Alphabet of blood and ash

Litanie   incantation
from the back part of her throat
salt for the stew   salt
for the bread

Sings the poet maudite

When I in my youth
strolled in a blue wool dress
I strolled in a circle
of blue

2

The reading brain    the eyes moving constantly
while reading

*

The letter B
when black letters of fire
patterns of animus across
the landscape

The place in the distance

Where the air
smells of poisoned rain
take one step after
the other

Where you do not want to go

An amalgam of words
in sequential order here where
you walk ahead   stop
raise your eyes

3

We identify only ten or twelve letters    quick jumps
three or four letters left and seven or eight letters right

*

The letter C circles
zigzags   animates the plaster
death cast   a solitary
workwoman then

From the back part of her throat

When I in my youth in a blue wool dress
I strolled among   maidens   monks
and birds   I strolled in wind 
cold and heat   

Across green volcanic hills

There In shadows   haze   smoke
in three dimensional space 
piles of charred human
and animal bones

The history of the neurology of reading
the existence of a visual center

*

The letter D whispered
in the dismal quarter where
absence of a picture   the green
volcanic hills

Grain   grape   bread   wine

The story of the shepherdess
staged and scripted sub-plots  there
in a bucolic setting our lady grows
out of a mound of dirt

Her rose-bud mouth a crooked line

A breast vein as thick as a finger
the wedding feast   bread and meat 
yellow   sulfurous   a plume
of  smoke

5

Some written words lit up or hidden among
geometric forms

*

The letter E
elaborate the graphic design  
chasms and fissures
in the earth

Our lady grows out of rotting meat

Sings the poet maudite
I in my youth   concealed and disguised
walked in three dimensional
space 

Heat   cold   wind   water 

Data  science 
pain   fear   phobia   multimedia
exhibitions   photographic art   illustrations 
the ritual of baking bread

6

Yeast spores are ubiquitous in air and on
the surface of grain

*

The letter F
the preserved body rotates  forms
sweet bacteria   then the skin
of the fingertips  

Chemical     molecular   where

In a circle they joined hands 
ruiners and destroyers engulf and consume 
victims and executioners ooze out
the urge

Staged and scripted sub-plots

Genesis to revelation
in elaborate letters   shift   twist and slant
disease   famine   torture   war
earth   air   fire   water

7

Everything begins in the retina
ten years of research on the reading brain

*

The letter G a graphic design 
sight   touch   listen   the sound
of grinding corn   the smell
of bread baking

Then she brews tea over a fire

There in reddish violet light
violet light    a jagged black line zigzags
a graphic design   the head covered
with a hood  

identity unknown    tree   rope   grain

The air smells of smoked meat
his mouth waters   taste buds pulsate
from a gap   a fissure
a flow of hormonal forces

Imaginary Places

Reading, we are allowed to follow someone else’s train of thought as it starts off for an imaginary place. This train has been produced for us—or rather materialized and extended until it is almost nothing like the ephemeral realizations with which we’re familiar. To see words pulled one by one into existence is to intrude on a privacy of sorts. But we are familiar with the contract between spectator and performer. Now the text isn’t a train but an actress/model who takes off her school uniform piece by piece alone with the cameraman. She’s a good girl playing at being bad, all the time knowing better. She invites us to join her in that knowledge. But this is getting us nowhere.