What [The flower sermon]
The flower sermon: critique is like a swoon but with a step increase, the awkward daughter who grows to join the NBA. All we want (ever wanted) was to be on that mailing list, parties at which slim caterers offer red, yellow, black caviar spilling off the triangular crackers while off on the bay rainbow-striped sails dip and bob and twist. The woman in the yellow raincoat sits on a bench at the edge of the schoolyard while two small children race across the asphalt plaza. Too many books sail the moth. A tooth that's lost while flossing. A short line makes for anxious music. Not breath but civilization. The president of Muzak himself says that humming along constitutes time theft. First snow in the Sierras = cold showers here. The east is past. Margin of terror. The left is where you feel it (dragging the eyes back contra naturum). We're just in it for the honey. Spackling paste edits nails in wall when painted. Elbows, shoulders jammed together on the bus. At each transfer point, glimpse how lives weave past. A woman with an interesting book in her purse which I pretend not to see. Letters crowd into a thought. Green paper folded around long-stemmed roses is stapled shut. Rapid winter sunset lacks twilight. They take out the breast and part of the lymph system. I stare through a lens at the near world. Hot tea sits dark in its cup. Seeing is deceiving. Big tears are eyes' response to a dawn chill, first frost. Clang of empty bottles in a paper sack. The boulevard was a kind of free verse, big noun skyscrapers, until the freeway blew out the margin. Baseball cap with the bill worn to the side or back. Steam pours plume-like from the roof of the new senior tower. Thus lawn-sprinklers sweep the air. This wool hat itchy on your forehead, those mysterious white sores that dot the mouth. New boots with Leather-Plus uppers and waffler stomper soles. The way gas stations dwindled overnight, now go the banks: people huddle in the rain as close as they can to the wall lined up for the automated teller. But I just want to snuggle. Jumping the curb on my skateboard. Even before the war was over, vets began to fill the J.C.s on the GI bill, men playing rummy on the quad at lunch. The way street folk make the sidewalk their bench. Taking my glasses off, sensing the muscles in the eye flex as they refocus. Cars at a stop light, each with its own lone rider. Standing on the bus, using both hands to hold on. The sun in the trees still, slowly rising. Beeper on a belt. The container inverted shall never be repeated, fungus in a hot tub. A swamp entitled Stanley Marsh. Black spot on the thumbnail is permanent. Neo-social democrat sneaks back into Lenin closet. Not democratic socialist. Folding chair triangulates space. Shirt collar as mock root for neck's trunk. Small physical detail enlarged (enraged) refocuses the whole room in the midst of the banquet. Retrofit theory to text. The idea of a doorstop extends the wall. Thin palms kept trim along commercial strip. Hollow is as garbage truck sounds. Ghetto barber: shop behind bars. Ask bus driver to call out destination. Chapped Lip Alert. Man on a park bench intent over crossword. The sound of a piano hung over the courtyard. Bliss approximates emotional state. Gay nerds (complex style). Drunk on the streetcorner snaps to attention, salutes the slow-cruising black-and-white. Old manikin in used clothing store, cheeks chipped, nose missing. Bin of loose sneakers in front of shoe shop. Dreams prod you with their skewed pertinence. Like fingering around in your pocket for a nickel, an ambiguous coin, with your gloves on. The pom-pom girl is sucking on a kiwi as the sun rises, little startled bird. Carved into nice pink slices, art history is served on seaweed-wrapped balls of rice. At the checkout stand, the bagger hooks the plastic sack into its wire mould, dropping in the brown spotted bananas before the bottles of cider. The close-out sale of fiction at Dalton's fails to attract afficionados from their new improved "ring" frisbees. Please don't call it xerox. Just because it rhymes. An absence of form is pictured on a milk carton. The dumpsters are ripe. The present tense calls up a terrific nostalgia foreshadowing antacids. Can you explain why Ezra Pound and Ty Cobb were never, not once, photographed in the same room together? The way cryotechnology accounts for the Rolling Stones. Heads of cauliflower wrapped in plastic. Half moon rising in the red dusk sky, streetlamps on illuminating nothing. Twisting the orange on the glass juice squeezer. Before dawn, alone in the supermarket parkinglot, hosing it down. Van's awning signals catering truck. A leaf had fallen onto the damp cement, its image sharp years after. Old green Norton anthology perfect for doorstop. Albino mulatto's curiously blonde hair. Linebreak muted says I'm a normal guy. To generalize a detail (use of plurals) entails violence. Body language at staff meeting very stiff. Birds scatter high over a schoolyard (asphalt baseball diamond). My own breath instead of a lung. Offhand, by comments hidden in the brain, we reiterate an old refrain. My mind instead of an onion. That these 20 year olds call their shared housing a commune seems quaint. Old black woman with a cane struggles to pull herself onto the bus. I strain to see these words. Chronicle of Higher Medication. Learning that I can't pick my nose when I read, because the gesture bumps my glasses. Our program is compromise all positions at all points, radical at the cash bar. The colon swells while the dash is but a double hyphen. Thus paint freckles an old ladder. Hair, combed from the part, over the large bald dome, barely throws strands of a shadow. Men huddle predawn in the vacant lot for the grey trucks that will carry them out into the valley, hot day harvesting crops. Yuppie world where everyone's successful, everyone's white. This guy's got great pecs, strong deltoids, tight abdominals, but through one nipple -- small gold safety pin. This poem, 15 lines of free verse, defining (and as if "as spoken to") a noun naming a common household object has been designed to compete successfully for space against cartoons in the New Yorker. Man striding down the street, whistling loudly. Now that soft drinks come in boxes. The Gift of Security, the lock with 1,000 personal combinations: the only lock in the world that let's you set your own combination and change it anytime, in seconds, without tools. Because friends were coming over for dinner, they began to think about cooking in the early afternoon. The honey in the 5 gal. can had begun to crystallize, so she put it in the oven to heat up. Then a neighbor phoned (the details here are less certain) and they went over to smoke some dope that had just been purchased. This state expands one's sense of time, of the moment. To be within the present can be totally sensuous. When they returned later, the honey can had exploded, tearing off the oven door. Boiling honey (it was just like napalm) clung to the ceiling, floor and walls.
From What (The Figures Press, 1988) by Ron Silliman. Copyright © 1988 Ron Silliman. Used with permission of the author.
Ron Silliman was born in Pasco, Washington, in 1946, and raised in Albany, California, north of Berkeley.
Date Published: 1988-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/what-flower-sermon