I sit here sipping coffee night’s bitterness
being without you kindles with it is a kind
of muskiness I open my lips to your absence
mouth on mine touching your milk-salted breasts
nipples against my nose holding your hips
in my obscene hands
In Soonest Mended, through a humbling out of self by means of a sequence of self-referential questions and answers, through a process of bringing forth by rejecting and flipping answers and questions around, through a discourse that levels itself out by qualification as it proceeds, John Ashbery achieves a beautiful and stunning sublimation of self through the mere act of talking, thereby discovering, almost as if by accident, the nature of the poetic truth he had, apparently, been aiming for all along.
I posit that Ashbery hones a reductionist, almost mathematical, technique for approaching the truth. His speakers engage in a series of approximations to the “truth” using argumentative qualifications. It is precisely these qualifications that allow the speakers to wend their way to truth by discovering, recovering, and discarding the many “truths” — these weaker version of themselves — that argumentatively lie along the path of such self-referential discourse. This is a key technique used within almost all of Ashbery’s poetry: talk that uncovers truth by qualifying itself at every turn.
Poetry cannot be translated. So too, other than for giving a reader the raw idea of what is being said, any literal translation is especially negligible. The translator must be someone capable of writing decent if not inspired English poetry, whatever that might mean. Therefore, if one does attempt the translation of a poem, it must be ruthless, a culling from the bloody heart of both tongues. In other words, one may only create a poem in the target language that is its own poem with echoes, distortions, and intentions pointing to those places that the original also points out. So, that being said, here are three of my favorite poems from the Spanish, German, and French by Neruda, Rilke and Prevert, respectively.
These translations are very much, in an effort of love and intellect, an attempt to convey the beauty, wordplay and sound-play in the originals — and this explains some of my perhaps more daring “choices” — first person tense, ellipses, metaphor shifts, occasional sound emphasis over word sense — choices I prefer to call “intelligently risky” as they are collectively my attempts to “transmogrify” these lovely poems into some semblance of a worthy English simulacrum. Caveat emptor!
Anoche al apagar la luz
se me durmieron las raíces
y se me quedaron los ojos
enredados entre las hojas
hasta que, tarde, con la sombra
se me cayó una rama al sueño
y por el tronco me subió
la fría noche de cristal
como una iguana transparente.
Entonces me quedé dormido.
Cerré los ojos y las hojas.
Last night, putting the light
out, my deep roots slept
but my eyes strayed, open
tangled in between leaves
until, later, the shadow
of a branch fell over my dream
and I rose up into the trunk
of the cold night, a crystal
I slept soundly then.
I closed my eyes and my leaves.
translated by Kurt Lovelace,
Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved
Herr: Es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.
Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gieb ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.
Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Aleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben
Rainer Maria Rilke
God! Is it time? Summer was so thick:
dragging its slow shadows over sundials,
and in the meadows its winds still rip loose!
Hear us! Let our last fruits fatten into fullness;
give us two more sun-drenched days
plumping all into ripeness till hither and thither
the last sweet drops drain into swarthy wine.
Whoever has no house, you’ll not build it now.
If you’re alone, it‘ll stay that way, a long time
you will stay awake, reading, writing long letters
as you walk alone shuffling, here and there
disturbed, wandering where leaves tremble.
translated by Kurt Lovelace,
Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved
Déjeuner du matin
Il a mis le café
Dans la tasse
Il a mis le lait
Dans la tasse de café
Il a mis le sucre
Dans le café au lait
Avec la petite cuiller
Il a tourné
Il a bu le café au lait
Et il a reposé la tasse
Sans me parler
Il a allumé
Il a fait des ronds
Avec la fumée
Il a mis les cendres
Dans le cendrier
Sans me parler
Sans me regarder
Il s’est levé
Il a mis
Son chapeau sur sa tête
Il a mis
Son manteau de pluie
Parce qu’il pleuvait
Et il est parti
Sous la pluie
Sans une parole
Sans me regarder
Et moi j’ai pris
Ma tête dans ma main
Et j’ai pleuré.
Breakfast at the Dinner
He pours coffee
into the cup.
He pours milk
into the cup of coffee.
He sprinkles sugar
atop the café au lait,
and with a little spoon
stirs it round.
He finishes his café au lait.
He reposes cup in saucer.
Not one word spoken,
he lights up
He blows round
He taps ash
into the ashtray.
Never speaking to me,
never regarding me,
he readies to leave, places
hat on head,
throws on his coat
because rain is splashing down
pouring into puddles
as he leaves me,
turning into the splashing
rain, never speaking
nor regarding me once.
And I, eyes
splashing into the ground
of my hands,
translation by Kurt Lovelace
copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved
Drowned in the honk-squeal above the guard rail, I can almost hear
waves sweep in as the soft susurration in the tip of their lips melts the sand between my curled toes.
Noise is now everywhere I want to be
without it. Cars swoosh past Galveston beach roaring their inept monstrous lungs. I can barely
breathe. Or think. Why do trees and blades of every green thing shudder?
Because we are a hyper-intelligent insidious poison? Cats and dogs cling to us in shock and awe.
Ninety-five percent of a car’s energy goes towards moving simply itself not the passengers.
Or rather that’s 2,500 pounds of wastefulness before the crux of tissue steering the steel.
In Hermann Memorial Park a yellow-blue finch tries to sing and fails
in the roar and wall of sound the cars shed in their wake on the I-10 adjoining the beige greenery.
I nod off under a canker tree. A whale whistles out of its water fountain, breathing.
I roll under such plushness, floating with barnacles and sticky ambergris. So glued are our dream’s illogical logic.
I am a sticky carbuncle tearing through the earth’s thin breathability. It’s afternoon in Houston.
I shower again. I scrunch into a starched shirt. I rope my throat with a dead worm’s shiny excrement.
My right ear is dead. When I was three
German measles like dappled freckles grew in me
killing the nerve. Now, left ear still good, I hear pretty well
the unprettiness in my parents voices as they divorce:
the light fades as I listen in, on the mosquito bitten dark
roof above the living room window, then roll on my back
to swallow my insignificance in the drifting milky way above.
Now the frogs have started up. A few ducks quack. A splash
might be catfish come to nibble at the stars
tangled in cheap tabloid floating on the pond’s scum.
Pain makes a squelch in my chest like tossed gravel
settling into decay layer at ponds pitch black bottom.
While sipping coffee, I read what one student wrote:
“The surviving fifty rare whooping cranes
with their seven-foot wingspread that propels them
in their annual migration from northern Canada
to the Gulf of Mexico fly unerringly and
swiftly overhead as they migrate southward
using a kind of built-in radar
in their search for winter quarters
near Aransas Pass.”
Surviving fifty myself, feeling rare and whooping
with my six-foot slouch that propels me nowhere
in my daily migrations from the kitchen to the couch,
I live by the Gulf of Mexico, sleep unerringly and
swiftly, undercover, my dreams migrate southward
using a kind of built-in slinky
in search for vaginal quarters
near my wife’s Aransas Pass.
To be surviving melanoma is rare
with its seven wretched drugs I puke, that propels
me out of the gothic hospital to monthly migrations of chemo;
swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, on my back, I float unerringly and
slowly, overheard, the nurses’ whispers migrate southward
out of memory, which is a kind of built-in shit-breeder
when I am in pain and searching for the way out
near the dark rings of Uranus.
But survival is everything rare as whooping
or her pubic hair spread to propel me
in my daily migrations from her coffer to wherever
it is in the Gulf of Mexico I am off to, I unerringly
admit to caring enough to love her butt
less than I ought too as I migrate southward
using a kind of built-in stupidity
in my blindly succumbing to what is expected of me
clearly perfecting it into a fairly fucked life.
See the purple and green crayon alphabet scrawled on yellow sticky notes stapled to tiny Glen Hills cardboard orange juice containers sucked empty by a strawberry-headed freckled girl named Melissa Alexander Winsum,
See the cardboard, folded and wax coated, that once held the orange juice within it, was wood that came from somewhere green and quiet with squirrels that stretched out on the upholding limbs sucking towards the sun their green certitude of elm or pine or oak,
See how Melissa tied together her carton creation with thick pink fuzzy wool string pulled through holes in the juice containers pricked with a three-fifths whittled down number two Venus pencil she over sharpened while working excited in Miss Thurstin’s after school art class last Tuesday,
See how the wool string grew out of a sheep’s skin, that then kept it warm through a snowy Spring, how that wool sprouted, cell upon cell, a protein made from the very grass the sheep was grazing on, from x-ray sun to chlorophyll to sheep’s cud chewing transformed to the wiry gray mat of wool dyed pink, now holding aloft 26 spent juice containers wobbling in the wind the whole of our English alphabet.
Kneeling to untangle my dog’s leg from its leash,
how did I get here, walking a pit bull in the dark
under the sour leaves of drought resistant Texas oaks?
How have these years colluded to put me
with a woman who doesn’t like to be touched
as if my life were still attached
to a former life, lived in felt robes, kneeling,
questioningly, before God’s dead silence?
Why do I sometimes whisper beatitudes in Latin
when grinding roasted coffee beans for breakfast?
Why can’t a fuck be just a fuck like breathing
or the necessary forward movement of starlight
entering my eyes from Polaris when I look up?
Why is my life so intertwined that it folds me
into fractal compartments that expand, as if
from each decision, outward, new enclosures grip me
as I venture forward, faster than any logic I can conjure?
Should I kill politicians to address society’s wrongs?
Or open a shop and sell cracked imported Chinese
Chia Pets? Or get to the lunar surface to erase
the names of loved ones astronauts left behind?
How can this sticky motion of salt and water
hoisted on these dry branches of bone
discern a purpose, lost among thin pricks of starlight
that amble like ancient animals into the night?
I grasp the impulse that might be driving you
to pity me in some odd way for being flabby and fifty
to your skinny and twenty, but you know, I like most
people stopped aging in my head at twenty-one, the
mental self-image of a nonstop Sid vicious, smiling at
you still trying to figure yourselves out, while we
older folk are done with nothing and wondering
everywhere we still can, asking better questions than
the thin shit we dredged up in our well-spent
grassy laid bare-assed whistling halleluiah youth.
And you listen to nothing we say all day with piercing
eyes as we watch you climbing our mistakes.
The venue for the reading was the second floor of the marvelous Avant Garden. As you can see from the photo above, the place exuded a very beat-like 1950’s atmosphere and even had a trio downstairs on stage performing melancholy soundscapes on cello, piano, and guitar across from the open bar.
First happening at the reading was a presentation and warm welcome for the amazing artist, Lindsey Slavin, whose work is prominently featured in the current issue. Then followed introductions of the readers, prior to each getting on stage. The readers, in order of reading, were Chris Oidtmann, Justin Carter, and Kurt Lovelace.
Below are listed their poems in the order in which they were read. Also, the full text of the poems that Chris Oidtmann and Kurt Lovelace read are included here in their entirety. Some of Justin Carter’s pieces are pending publication elsewhere, so he was not able to make them available here, but the titles of what he read are nonetheless included.
I Help You Create An eHarmony Account
Poem For A Blind Friend
I Hope The Motion-Detecting Cameras Did Not See Our Faces
After Hoagland’s Color of the Sky
We Discovered We Were Chewable
I remember your black shoes with the silver buckle
Leaping across rocks and along jettys
Sending up splashes of salty water shining
In the moonlight like sparks from a bottle rocket
That same night you left your wallet by the bed,
And pulsed against the wall until it broke
Into a milky way of beige and fluorescent beige.
Sidney can’t sing any more. He’s dead.
Isn’t that how this began?
Drops of still gin fizz, so sloe
They fell into our laps and covered
The little boy’s overalls with mud?
Fuck the rabbit hole. He hit the concrete.
Great forces won’t come to our aid.
They know better than to hide under our
Pillows while we sleep so they can swap stories
And return to their rightful owners in Bakersfield
Where you gagged my mouth so we could kick,
Kick, and kick again until the headboard fell.
He was with us in that abandoned apartment
Looking for something to make it home.
One eye pressed against a crack in the door
Surveying the vacant parking lot for
Whatever left him behind by mistake.
You asked me if I wanted you
and I did, so said I did,
and you asked
me which you
I wanted, so I told you.
The you who looked at me
with stained glass eyes
under stained glass stars,
into strained black eyes
weighted down by glasses
broken under the rose colored
weight of a thousand petals
pressed into books we read
when we chose thorns over petals
and pricked our feet on thorn
after thorn after thorn, but drew
no blood because we were covered
with roses that shielded our feet
from shards of glass and kept
the pains from breaking our stride.
When we left the Cathedral Rock
you asked me if I loved you
and I did
so I asked if you loved me.
You said you loved
the water in my eyes
and the boat in my mind
that carried us across a sea
where took to the shore
and saw reflections of ourselves
walking over sandy rocks
Because you said I was your rock
when you need to be strong
and I was the white sand
when you need to be weak
so weeks won’t become months
of seclusion hidden in jars
in the cupboard next to jam
and pickles, and peaches.
We agreed that the boat
would carry us across the ocean
until some lighthouse lamp
hits the panes of a church window
and reflects off the water,
the glory of stained glass
One Night Stand
A man in the corner catches my eye
He rejected me last month.
Coiffed admirers dangle from his every word.
Scenester bastards in skinny jeans.
Everyone who’s anyone is here tonight.
A festering pile of tweaked-out skanks.
It’s great when old friends get together again.
Heard Sam gave Ryan herpes.
Laser lights illuminate naked, nubile torsos.
I see you’re still snorting your inheritance.
Bodies pressed together in warm embraces
Your friend was much cuter.
Tongues intertwined for the very first time.
The acrid taste of liquor and cigarettes.
I wonder if he’s “the one”.
What the fuck is your name?
Fumbling hands unlock the apartment door
I went home with your neighbor last month
Hands gently caress soft cheeks
This apartment smells like cat piss.
Tender fingers trace down a shoulder and up a spine
If he has backne I’m leaving.
Two bodies fall gently onto clean linen sheets
Did I wear underwear tonight?
Tangled limbs move in unison to a single heartbeat.
Get your knee off my shin.
An arcane glimpse of the universe. We’re decoding the secret.
Your moans sound like the loose timing belt on my car
He falls asleep, head resting gently on my chest
I like him better when he’s quiet
His slow breathing matches mine
God, he looks so peaceful.
I can feel his breath in the hair on my chest
That sort of tickles.
My eyes are getting heavy, but I can’t look away yet
I wonder if he goes home with a lot of guys
What does he thinks of me?
Am I special, or does this happen all the time?
Did he see me spill that drink earlier?
He’s talking in his sleep.
I hope I didn’t seem too drunk.
Damn, he has great skin.
Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to be witty.
Didn’t he say he liked Siouxsie?
I should have gotten a manicure.
I haven’t been this comfortable in a while.
Was my cologne too strong?
I like a guy with strong hands
Maybe we can get breakfast tomorrow morning.
Those eyes were pretty amazing
Where would I take him?
The clearest blue I’ve ever seen.
I’ll let him choose.
Before dawn she woke me
drove us to the race track
in the El Camino, 1976
with the windows down.
We parked behind the concession stand
so I could meet you
shortly after your first heart attack.
Asphalt pebbles shattered
under the weight of the well worn boots
that held you up.
You realized your mortality
and banished it to the ticket booth.
Place another wager.
Pray for a superfecta.
We sat and watched the horses run trials
with a stopwatch in my hand
held inside your hand.
Again, I rode to meet you at the track
on a motorbike with blue trim,
bought with court-ordered money
you never sent
My leather jacket reeked of pot
your denim smelled of Maker’s Mark and cigarettes.
We sat together on the ground
pretending we had no senses
You hugged me in that parking lot.
I turned my head
towards an abandoned truck
run down, full of scrap metal
hoping you didn’t crush the joint in my breast pocket.
My sister called at 7am
while I shaved for work
two weeks ago you died at last
I hadn’t known
I stared at my calloused hands, and thought of a child
leaving home in a starched white shirt
and black cotton trousers
running around a red dirt track
whipping red welts into pink skin
until a checkered flag signaled the end of the race.
I don’t even smoke, but I will tonight.
sitting in the black vinyl passenger seat
as I laugh and wish I wasn’t there
listening to a Cocteau Twins tape he plays
because I said I liked it after he said hello
and I said hey and he bought me a drink
and offered me a smoke, and his eyes
slowly traced from the tip of my new heels,
up my stocking covered thighs.
When we get to his place I wonder why
men are so fucking clumsy with straps
and garters, why they always bite my lip
and softly pant in my ear “you like it, don’t you”
because this sort of thing should remain unspoken,
like the clock on his wall that moves in silence.
His hands moves across my breast and
I wonder why a blowjob is called a blowjob
because no one actually blows on anything.
We just move in and out of each other’s
lives and that’s the new handshake we learn
in charm school after they teach us how to hide
our text messages, and email accounts, and lists
of partners we’ve been with because the number
is too high and private and won’t get us laid
by a man we might want to marry one day.
When he sleeps, I look through his cabinets,
and his desk drawers, and his address book
next to his prescription for Dexedrine
and imagine the man back in Georgia
who makes my body crackle and hum
and accept the substitute sleeping next to me
and reach for the man I’m with
while the one I want
bounces through the sky like a positive charge
looking for my negative to make us whole again.
The last reader of the evening, Kurt Lovelace, read the following poems in the order that they appear here. Kurt addressed the audience, and his comments appear below in the green text.
"Hello, everyone, I am glad that you were all able to come out tonight. I'd like to make a few comments before I begin reading. Having just returned to school last year after a nearly 30 year career as a software engineer, I feel like a time traveler, being back where I was 30 years ago. I took Kevin Prufer's workshop along with Chris and Justin last semester, and so, it is a real privilege to be up here reading with my two classmates."
I'll begin with a few older poems written when I was in my early twenties, and I begin with these simply because they may be of interest in themselves and because they have never been heard by anyone before -- so it's a starting point in introducing you to my work, which now spans over 35 years. Then I will move on to my current work. The first of the three older pieces is called 'Taradiddle Smile' followed by 'Good Morning Captain Kangaroo' and concluded by 'Hunger' -- written at a time when I was perhaps too fond of John Ashbery, but they contain some fun and hopefully entertaining language in them."
Dislocate that chagrin with a taradiddle smile
texturing into laughter. Realize that these tweed gearings
are success’s necessary dress, de rigueur
in the legato of getting ahead. You are commodity enough for your greed
rat-tailing through some echelon of employment, up-stepping
like a slinky down-steps. Your profit is
pragmatic redundancy, plus the intangibles of involvement:
no why for a house pregnant with family. Asking would
flabbergast you into a gypsy barreling over Niagara
for the gloat, thrill of it, a runaway reaction
like Caligula, claiming it made as much sense as
hiccups or Halloween, feeling your life like Sampson’s haircut, unfair,
yet you in fools-gold accord with its TV shine.
I started out believing in everything:
the open field, plow in hand, horse
waiting to be worked, words
hedged in the furrow, irises open
to the moment of opening.
Perhaps I can ask you about it someday
and you’ll tell me everything I’ve ever wanted
was within reach, if only I would have put
out my hand, wide palms like bells ringing.
Say again, what?
Put your fears in a little box, and smoke it,
not this warm interrogatory weather we’ve been having
that no one really wants to talk about, that peels
shirts from bodies with an utter unconcern that’s neither
here nor there.
The cost of involvement is you get involved and there she is
and your her painting garden her kitchen things on her desk at the office and
she’s looking how it’s all arranged
your colors the smell of your herbs
why your dishes
aren’t put away are your pencils
then she sees
carrots need planting, the rhubarb
must go, suddenly
you need new dishes.
Then you start drunk serious writing poems about the cost of involvement
how her lips are not cherries but
red angry commandments painted in a delightful rouge
to elicit your obeisance
her requests patter
and when her such and such of such words fall
yawns lifts up its arms at her
she sculpts you
and one night reads your poems and thinks that they are very
But you are drunk and serious
you keep the gun in the drawer.
“Geswind, geswind, wir hilft dem Kind?”
– 1960’s German 1st grade reader
Minding the green chain on our cockatoo,
my mother has coffee and oranges, spends
Sunday sitting in her sunny chair. Ripe fruit falls
from our plum bushes and banana trees, yet our boughs
hang heavy in the clearest blue. My father says:
“We’re here to track the rockets.” I am seven. Soon,
one man is going to walk upon the moon.
The beaches go on and on the water even more.
What about the man already in the moon?
As the Shipley brothers, and Buddy, and I
yank coral piled by the Shipley’s rusting Chevy
that hunkers, helpless in Bahamian sea-spray:
scorpions skedaddle, stick sticky, skitter or scatter
if we let them, but we leave them twitching.
Hammocked, I wake naked to the naked sun:
nose itching in salt-spray, head stuck out
the A-frame’s attic window. Sand-tufted plum ﬁelds
sway by seaweed bedraggled beaches, splashed
and resplashed and splashing in ambergris
waves that glint and pop with turquoise and white
bubbling froth the crabs scurry-up in, till waves pull back
leaving their wet-shaved arms on the shore
shiny, and smooth and new, invites us to play.
I eat hyacinths, their wet, red lips
ﬂopped or folded open, sticky witch’s doors:
my tongue feels the ridges of her ﬂoor,
unswept, gritty with the bones of children, before
I swallow them, then pocket three gleaming cat’s
eyes. I’ve won the dare of Buddy Bogus
the 3rd. His mother holds me by my hair
hanging, just off the ground, above the dirt road
that her paneled wagon had banged against
from Freeport, with ﬁve of us screaming. But when
I said “shit”, she slammed the car into its own dust,
stopping. She shook when she said: “We do not swear!”
That’s when she’d yanked me out the door,
ﬁsted my crew-cut, then lifted my brain
an astronaut, at T-minus zero, not counting,
pushed back by gravity: around me the hushed jungle
peed in it’s pants. But I sat on her hat
all the way home, naming the stars
just coming-on: Ursa Major, Andromeda,
Hydra, Cygnus, Draco, Vulpecula
poking through, their thin pinpricks of light
slow-moving against one fast satellite of ours.
My parents go to the Missile Base to dance
leaving me asleep. I wake up and run
breathless outside crying on sprinkled grass.
Back in, I pull out the TV’s boney on-switch:
a soda jerk on The Twilight Zone tips-up
his white hat: a third eye looks out.
Something scratches on the screen door.
I pull my hair under my mother’s milk sheets
and squeeze my eyes tight, and whisper: “Make it go, make it go, make it go!” Asleep,
I fall into the same sticky hole, night
after night, I grab its edges but keep slipping
over into it only to slip over into it again.
Papaya grow with phosphorescent slugs
a breadcrumb’s throw behind the Blue Lagoon
Apartments where then we live, and two older boys
make me dance naked till I scream, pounding
through palm trees towards home, unable
to speak for a week. But once, I stole the night
pulling it tight like an enormous sheet
of black with dotted lights, and naked, swam
back into the sea from where I came;
and later sit on the shore with the storied moon,
wiggling my toes, squishy, in the midnight tides
pulling back drowned voices; I think I almost know
the sound of drowning.
Just in from Germany, my English played-out,
Dad tutors me, three months at the kitchen table.
I spell everything exactly as it sounds:
“Witch witch wood u bee?” At Saint Mary’s Star
Of the Sea, the nuns thought me dyslexic,
till someone told them I was bilingual
and could recite the Lords Prayer in Latin: Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctiﬁcetur
nomen tuum. It made the nuns ﬂutter, holding
white habits as if they might take ﬂight, be
the sea foam that ﬂoats inland on the wind
as at noon, they air their prayers, the angelus: Et verbum caro factum est. Et habitavit in nobis.
(and the word, made ﬂesh, dwelt among us.)
And I kissed Eve, that morning’s milk break,
under stiff pines, the sea gulls shreeing, we ran
back, caught. Sister Anne ruled my knuckles raw,
beating their boney nubs on top her desk.
Dad floats a bright brochure at me: green eyes
burn in a panther’s face, peering out from a jungle
that fans its Stygian felt. “Let’s go,” he says,
and opens our white battled Ford. For half an hour
we bump the pebbled roads towards Freeport
to see a Brazilian emerald dealer in his shop
tucked away, in an alley of hallways going up
and down, around corners, and then two doors
both locked with slapping bolts, opened. He unrolls
black velvet in a curtained room, one bright light
shines down to show how black the velvet is. He
lays seven stones out, their rough edges “Uncut,”
he says, “from Santa Muerto,” and rolls them burning
in the blood between the tips of his ﬁngers.
What was it then? What is it now? Let’s ask,
what measurements for us? If we stretch out our arms
the edge of ocean along the sinking sun
seems a dimming thing, encompassed
by the milk of the visiting moon. We bounce
off of the porch and walk toward the beach.
A stick bug extends its manifold hand,
and boysenberries ripen under pricking cactus;
in-between driftwood, ashore, a hermit crab
discards its shell, and in the shallows a leopard ray
wiggles underneath the sand, its spotted wings.