First takers, first makers.
The first sip of intelligence
splits the diapered sky, already crackled
with the losses that events are.

At the old treehouse one is clogged
with sleep in any case. Dust garlands that sway
like chains of mice. And up from under
the palaver there is golden food.

So let it be clean at least.
The first person to be photographed was a man
having his boots cleaned. There were others
in the same street, but they moved and became
invisible. How calm I am!

Baron de Meyer saw the horse and it too moved on.
Nor was the lesson of satin lost on him.
It all came to seem a big joke, his cake.
Besides, who would care, a little later, later on?

Not the house dog. The twig of coal?
Not the letterhead, though it is preserved, shining
where tulle cannot undress the board
leg under the table. It is all a—how do you say?
—A fancy.

How could I have had such a good idea?
But you know, the way they all say is a barrel.
Times two and too much. I have been coming and going
a fair share of my life, and some of me is up there,
photographed. Like a chair listening to a victrola record
I experience too little and know too much
for the good of others and their bathing suits.

Then too, as much escapes me as a tailor’s dummy
in a photograph by Atget, taking in everything and nothing,
which caused the rain to fall one day.

Another day it was fine, we were “bent” on pleasure.
Sure enough, a skiff comes round a bend in the Thames,
a glory in progress. And we haven’t even to see
these men, small as pickerel in the darting black,
for its hum to come to infest us too.

And buildings rise one behind the other.
That is the festivity in this sense,
but it’s all like lace paper doilies, alludes…
Meanwhile another man spoke to me
about a pocket watch. I have it here in my pocket
and can choose to let it go.

And when all is said and one this one is let go.
Dominated by fools, he was desecrated for a time,
then came of age in autumn, just as the flocks
of purple storks were taking off for another climate.
He ranted and was let go.
Recanted and was let off.

The slow burn is thus the face’s fixture,
what it needs, and has to tell. Everyone understands that
as a convention, born to pester yet never
released, never owned up to. O but I could
call you and you’d come over.
Never made a dime at this swamp
and some liken it to haze, as distance is draped
in the mind of the feeling man, who then gets his share
of surmise and stumbles off to bed,
a fool in time.


Francis Frith released the pyramids.
Nègre produced the ogival mysteries,
Mapplethorpe the dissenting penis (O
astigmatic, in whose lone eye
a chain of flattened stereoscopic eateries
atones for alternating dark and light bands
whose subtle pressures never made it into history:
a time of sad busyness climbing into sadness
for the view, always the same).

But while all I need is breathiness, lesser demons thumb
their noses at the moist parade even that notion insinuates:
only a door, to be discovered sooner or later.
Meanwhile what about the decoctions of nature,
you know, nature, that some were swigging already?

It was in fact the door to the great treasure house
noted for its treasures. And all I heard was one goblin say,
“Grace under pressure is the only reasonable account
it can give of itself. But whence comes
this pressure? You want breathiness, I’ll give you breathiness,
but I still maintain a drop of evil
colors causes and effects with an ambition wholly beyond
ambition, and that the sorrow is buried there.
Tomorrow, though, we’ll leaf through the others,
see what can be patched up, and what kind of sticking tape
devolves to this vastness and would-be vastness.”

But it would have turned out differently anyway,
besides which it actually happened.
Two were in the rain. The life ballooned up through them,
light was as shoes to a frame of mind.
The wind didn’t know what to make of any of it
and didn’t realize it was invisible, which would have helped
if it stumbled into a garage, disturbing the ashes
on a mechanic’s cigar. Then, what time, what tigers!
Any of us were giddy. And it was at this point,
always, that the light failed, like bunting
drooping against a building’s dirty facade.
Make that two epitaphs.

This Issue

May 13, 2021