Rosmarie Waldrop

R
Rosmarie Waldrop
Shorter American Memory of the Declaration of Independence
We holler these trysts to be self-exiled that all manatees are credited equi-distant, that they are endured by their Creditor with cervical unanswerable rims. that among these are lightning, lice, and the pushcart of harakiri. That to seduce these rims, graces are insulated among manatees, descanting their juvenile pragmatism from the consistency of the graced. That whenever any formula of grace becomes detained of these endives, it is the rim of the peppery to aluminize or to abominate it. and to insulate Newtonian grace. leaching its fountain pen on such printed matter and orienting its pragmatism in such formula, as to them shall seize most lilac to effuse their sage and harakiri.
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Difficulties of a Heavy Body
a sense of
his thirty-third year
takes
his elbow

*

any kind of
he says
sniff
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from The Ambition of Ghosts:  I. Remembering into Sleep
I. Separation Precedes Meeting

The cat so close
to the fire
I smell scorched
breath. Parents,
silent, behind me,
a feeling of
trees that might fall.
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Representation
I have no conscience because I
always chew my pencil. Can we say
white paper
with black lines on it
is like a human body? This question
not to be decided by pointing
at a tree nor yet by a description
of simple pleasures.
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The Round World
nature’s inside, says Cézanne and
frightening
I do not like the fleshy
echo


even so, it is


after this close proof
vision is made
of matter
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The Senses Barely or The Necessities of Life
for Sophie Hawkes I (Weapons)

doubled corners
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Like Holderlin
got up early
left the house immediately
tore out grass
bits of leather in his pockets
hit fences with his handkerchief
answered yes and no
to his own questions

lies under grass
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Conversation 12: On Hieroglyphs
Champollion fainted, she says, once he had wrested their secret from the hieroglyphs and saw them turn transparent. The serpent no longer with power to strike, but biting its tail. I smell my salts, my packets of words, panicked. I’m no longer sure whether they shape my reality or have too little mass to interact with naked matter. Then they would pass right through the earth as I will in death.



The lightest particles gather the energy, he says, and given their density, outweigh stars. Thought follows thought, the interval calibrated on the space between your legs. Your yes fire, your no the crack of a whip. Well, more a filament breaking in a lightbulb. Eating from the Tree of Knowledge can’t be undone. Only muddied, as by motivation. And the way you thrust out your belly as you walk, with almost shameless indifference, makes a void in the air, but no case for cosmic deceleration.



So even if I despair of plane surfaces, she says, writing, even talking, becomes an act of faith that my bondage to grammar and lexicon is not in vain. That these symbols in their beautiful and hallucinatory nudity blind me only to make me see. There is fire under the smoke. The sun also rises and falls.



We still read at risk, he says, but we don’t need to lard the crocodile with arrows. The picture won’t devour us. It is swallowed in the fluid agreements between gonads and frontal lobe at a rate relative to the dark closing in. Yet two speeds in paroxysm need not mesh. A burning heart, failing to strike while hot, may not save the burning feet.
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Conversation 23: On Cause
I step into my mother’s room, she says, and though a woman’s body is a calendar of births and injunctions to death, time disappears. Only dead enough to bury could prove sound to silence or the anxiety I know by heart and lung. In my mother’s room. The tie between us anticipates any move to sever it. Terror and lack of perspective. The river runs clear without imparting its clarity, whether we step into it or not.



Deep in the bones, he says. If a butterfly fluttering its wings in China can cause a storm in Rhode Island, how much more the residues of radiation, family resemblance and past rituals. The stove glows red. Thin apple trees line the road. You think you are taking a clean sheet of paper, and it’s already covered with signs, illegible, as by child’s hand.



The heart has its rhythm of exchange, she says, without surplus or deficit. Mine murmurs your name while conjugating precise explosions with valves onto the infinite. I take it down with me, in the body, to develop in a darkroom of my own. They way the current elongates our reflection in the river and seems to carry it off.



A death without corruption is the promise of photography, he says. Focus and light meter translating a cut of flesh into a tense past laughing its red off. But the film’s too clear. Even if smudged with fingerprints. Even if the light falls into the arms of love.
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Conversation 4: On Place
I sit in my own shadow, she says, the way my mother gave birth to it. In artificial light, blinds drawn against the darkness of power. I think of you as if you were that shadow, a natural enclosure, a world, not a slight, so I can wander through your darkness. Has our contract inverted time, made our universe contract, a cramped bed for two? And when I say your name, do I draw water, a portrait, curtain, bridge, or conclusion?



Place there is none, he quotes. Not even to hang up our archetypes. Let alone Star-Spangled Banners. We go forward and backward, and there is no place. Therefore it is a name for God. My eye, steadfast on traffic lights, abolishes the larger part of the round world. I should look at my feet. Space sweeps through us, a hell of distances bathed in the feeble glow of emptiness. Outward mobility, unimpeded. Suddenly we’re nobody home, without any need of inattention, imposture, or talent for deceit.



The wind whips my skin as if it were water, she says. My skin is water. For wind read wind, news, sky falling. Is it a mental disturbance or the higher math of love if I hear you talking under my breath and from the torn fragments assume the sun is far away and small, and a look can cause a burn? Superstition, too, is a kind of understanding, and to forgo it may have consequences.



Clusters of possibilities whiz through our head, he says. Electric charges, clogged highway, screeching brakes, a house too full of guests. With grounds for disagreement and miscarriage. The light rushes in dry, screaming. But the opaque parts of the nerve oppose the noise and void the options. Then the project must be prolonged in terms of lack.
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Conversation 9: On Varieties of Oblivion
After bitter resistance the river unravels into the night, he says. Washes our daily fare of war out into a dark so deaf, so almost without dimension there is no word to dive from. Body weight displaced by dreams whose own lack promises lucidity so powerful it could shoot a long take to mindlessness. Fish smell travels the regions of sleep, westward like young men and the dawn. Then I return, too early to bring anything back, unsure of what I want, terrified I’ll fail, by a hair, to seize it.



We talk because we can forget, she says. Our bodies open to the dark, and sand runs out. Oblivion takes it all with equal tenderness. As the sea does. As the past. Already it suffuses the present with more inclusive tonalities. Not orchestrating a melodic sequence, but rounding the memory of a rooster on top a hanging silence. Or injured flesh. Impersonal. Only an animal could be so.



An avatar of the holy ghost, he chuckles. Or the angel of the annunciation beating his wings against a door slammed shut. Behind it, love already plays the organ. Without the angel. He is invisible because we have rejected his message.



On the old photos, she says, I see a stranger staking out my skin. As if an apple could fall too far from the tree. Yet I call her “me,” “my” years of furtively expanding flesh, with almost-certainty. It’s a belief that seems exempt from doubt, as if it were the hinge on which my doubts and questions turn. Still, I may seem the same “I” to you while I’ve already rolled it through the next door. From left to right.
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