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Jane Hirschfield

I have been wondering why there is no name for that part of poetry's music
which is not rhythmic. It is simple to say "meter," "drumbeat," "stress"--but
what is the other half called? Prosody, "sound," melopaeia--each covers
both. Rhyme is merely a fraction; assonance, consonance, tune mean only
themselves. Perhaps it is like the problem of horse and rider: East to have a
horse with no rider, impossible to have a rider without, grazing somewhere
nearby, a horse. Time exists without the scented, muscular body traveling
through it, but no planet, parrot tick, leopard lives free of time. Even the
purest singing signals a maculate conception, within an imagination
schooled by passage. And so that part of poetry's music made by the
untempered mouth, breath, and throat remains, without the measuring
hoofbeat, uncapturable silence. A mockingbird's song heard in a mirror;
the shadow a dog's night-barking leaves on the dark.

Transparent Itineraries: [04.21]
1998 for Michael Obrien
Gustaf Sobin

...here, once again, at
year’s end, you rendezvous with
fracture, severance, with those signs that, vehement,
lead —ineluctably— onto

flaccid landscapes of their own


the very spaces we’d peopled, once, with seraphs and dragons, with fork-
tailed water nymphs, in default of which a silent hysteria had all too insidiously arisen.

eliminating, as it did, the very mechanisms of attribution.

(inference, now, confined to the inferrer; desire to each of its disassociated parts).

wherein, once, had fabricated wings.

elaborating, as we had, a space every bit as imperative as it was, by nature, illusory.

for ‘here,’ heavy with foliage, with the wild dicing of our own exhausted syllables, was never more than what the breath –the breeze, that is, within the iris of the breath— had transfigured

into the first tenuous outlines of an irrecusable ‘there.’

—of those hallucinatory residues: the hard mirage—

wherein were. wherein was.

wrapped, that is, all muscle and murmur, about the rippling screens of the wasn’t.

unto the nothing —sumptuous—foresworn.

enveloped, enshrined, but only for the length of our own tenuous



...otherwise, but a
squabble of bluejays in the black,
struck orchards, but the

shatter, the
spillage, the unremitting dismemberment of each


was only in the ruins, occasionally, that you’d awakened.

Only there, in enumerating artifact, cataloging all that auroral debris, that you’d intuited —your ankles jingling with shadow—the first stuttered increments of passage.

wresting out of the forgotten the yet inexpressible.

real as leaves and every bit as evanescent as whispers, what —at last— might track intention: everything, that is, that’s ultimately meant.


darker towards dawn, the
page, that
very moment, is nothing less than the face’s first

hesitant apparition, its vaporous mask, gradually, filling

feature. for whatever speaks, finally, trans-
figures. fortuitously struck, the
note opens on

deep corolla of a mouth, and the mouth, on the
roundness of
its own

cipient response.

As Planned

After the first glass of vodka
you can accept just about anything
of life even your own mysteriousness
you think it is nice that a box
of matches is purple and brown and is called
La Petite and comes from Sweden
for they are words that you know and that
is all you know words not their feelings
or what they mean and you write because
you know them not because you understand them
because you don't you are stupid and lazy
and will never be great but you do
what you know because what else is there?

Frank O'Hara

The Coming of Light

Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow's dust flares into breath.

Mark Strand

Boot Theory

A man walks into a bar and says:
Take my wife–please.
So you do.
You take her out into the rain and you fall in love with her
and she leaves you and you’re desolate.
You’re on your back in your undershirt, a broken man
on an ugly bedspread, staring at the water stains
on the ceiling.
And you can hear the man in the apartment above you
taking off his shoes.
You hear the first boot hit the floor and you’re looking up,
you’re waiting
because you thought it would follow, you thought there would be
some logic, perhaps, something to pull it all together
but here we are in the weeds again,
here we are
in the bowels of the thing: your world doesn’t make sense.
And then the second boot falls.
And then a third, a fourth, a fifth.

A man walks into a bar and says:
Take my wife–please.
But you take him instead.
You take him home, and you make him a cheese sandwich,
and you try to get his shoes off, but he kicks you
and he keeps kicking you.
You swallow a bottle of sleeping pills but they don’t work.
Boots continue to fall to the floor
in the apartment above you.
You go to work the next day pretending nothing happened.
Your co-workers ask
if everything’s okay and you tell them
you’re just tired.
And you’re trying to smile. And they’re trying to smile.

A man walks into a bar, you this time, and says:
Make it a double.
A man walks into a bar, you this time, and says:
Walk a mile in my shoes.
A man walks into a convenience store, still you, saying:
I only wanted something simple, something generic…
But the clerk tells you to buy something or get out.
A man takes his sadness down to the river and throws it in the river
but then he’s still left
with the river. A man takes his sadness and throws it away
but then he’s still left with his hands.

Richard Siken

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