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ARKADII
DRAGOMOSCHENKO
Translated by Lyn Hejinian and Elena Balashova
Introduction by Michael Molnar

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Sun & Moon Classics: 9

Arkadii Dragomoschenko, 1990


Published through agreement with VMP, the Soviet Writer's Union.
Some of these poems have been published in The Soviet Union in
the book Nebo Sootvetstvii.
Translation Lyn Hejinian and Elena Balashova, 1990
Introduction Michael Molnar, 1990
Cover: Wave, Lave, Lace, Pescadero Beach, California, 1987
by John Pfahl. Reprinted with permission from the artist.
Design: Katie Messborn
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Dragomoschenko, A. (Arkadii)
Description I Arkadii Dragomoschenko: translated by
Lyn Hejinian and Elena Balashova : Introduction by Michael
Molnar. - 1st. ed.
p. cm.- (Sun & Moon classics: #9)
Translated from the Russian.
ISBN 1-55713-075-2 ; $11.95
I. Hejihian, Lyn. II. Balashova, Elena. III. Title. IV. Series.
PG3479.6.R28047 1990
891.71'44--dc20
89-85476
CIP
FIRST EDITION

Sun & Moon Classics: 9


Sun & Moon Press
6148 Wilshire Boulevard
Gertrude Stein Plaza
Los Angeles, California 90048

ARKADII DRAGOMOSCHENKO
Born in 1946 in Potsdam, Germany, Arkadii Dragomoschenko
spent his youth in the Ukraine of the Soviet Union. He was a
student at the Russian Philological Department in Kiev, and later
worked as a reporter for AP News in Kiev while attending the
Institute of Theatre, Music and Cinematography.
In 1970 he moved to Leningrad where he was first employed as a
night watchman, then as a street sweeper, and later as a stoker at
the Leningrad State University Psychological Department while
working on his eight book-length collections of poetry and two fulllength plays. He was a founding member of the famed Club-81.
Joining her husband, jazz saxophonist Larry Ochs, on a tour of the
Soviet Union in 1983, American poetLyn Hejinian was introduced
to Dragomoschenko, who was described by the Soviet samisdat
publishers and readers as the great contemporary poet of
Leningrad. A friendship developed between the two poets, and
over the years, through dozens of letters and, later, course work,
both struggled to learn each other's language, resulting in
Hejinian's role as translator and introducer of Americans to the new
Soviet poetry, and in Dragomoschenko's playing host to numerous
American writers, publishers, and scholars. In 1988
Dragomoschenko toured the United States, and again in 1989 he
read and performed in New York City. To date, one book of poetry
has been published in the Soviet Union, Nebo Sootvetsyvii.
With works of fellow poets and artists such as Aleksei Parschikov,
Ivan Zhdanov, Alexander Eremenko, llya Kutik, Nina Iskrenko,
Andrei Karpov, Ivan Chuikov, and others, the writing of
Dragomoschenko represents a major new development of Soviet
art at once completely original yet aware of the international art of
the present and past.
For Dragomoschenko language is not a mere expression of the poet
and his imagination, but is an "activity of society." "Poetry comes
in the act of anticipating the fact of possibility" which "begins as an
unknowing" and proceeds as a transformation of reality.

--1

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INTRODUCTION ...
... though in translation Arkadii Dragomoschenko's poems
actually need less explanation than their Russian originals. If
the landscape is unfamiliar at first sight, the poet's own Preface
provides a set of intellectual map references and to a large
extent the poems themselves embody their own commentary.
It is in fact the reader with some knowledge of Russian
literature who may be most puzzled by this poetry, since it is
unlike anything else being written in the Soviet Union today.
This poetry does not fit the image that exists of a Russian
literature founded upon individual consciousness and social
responsibility. It has other commitments and the main one is
mentioned by the poet at the end of his preface"responsibility" in an absolutely literal sense as both
conscience and response. My aim in this introduction is to
reclaim these poems for a Russian literature into which they
have not yet been accepted. The humanist tradition which
excludes them has reached the end of its effective life, but
there is another, older vein which these poems bring to the
surface, and one that goes back beyond the Enlightenment to
the very beginning of the literature.

***
Where to begin?
Everything cracks and shakes.
The air quivers with similes.
No one word is better than any other,
The earth is humming with metaphor ...
(Mandelstam, "The Horseshoe Finder," 1923)
This ''beginning" occurs in the middle of the poem and at
the end of an era and the question it raises is ontological. The
world is saturated with imagery and signification: there is no
7

room left for the old poetic self which "only connects." It has
been crowded out and the poem finishes with the words " ...
and there is not enough of me left for myself." The moment of
consciousness marked by this poem recognizes thematic
exhaustion and the end of language as self-expression. It might
have founded a new poetics, but the time was wrong.
In Russian poetry of the 1930s and '40s social and personal
voices became polarized but both were founded on a virtually
unquestioned faith in their own origin. The first true response
to Mandelstam's tentative undermining of the foundations
came from outside. Paul Celan translated "The Horseshoe
Finder" and dedicated his Niemandsrose (1959) to the memory of
Osip Mandelstam. But within Russian literature that hesitant
self-orienting voice was hardly heard again until Dragomoschenko began a more systematic topography of becoming-through-language.
What Mandelstam experienced as the edge of coherence,
Dragomoschenko is using to found a new order, "Gradually
opening a mode of existence to simple landscape' language"
("Observation of a Fallen Leaf as the "Ultimate Basis" of
Landscape"). His "descriptions" precede any being, they
describe the act of describing: a movement towards
landscape/language that exists only as moments of
transformation:
"I'll stay
as long as description transforming the tree into experience
here ... "

* **
The "Observation of a Fallen Leaf" is preceded by an epigraph
from Chuang Tzu:" ... although what prompts this is
unknown." In a way that answers the question of metaphysical
grounding, but not of literary background. "Tradition" is a
suspect explanation: it reduces constellations to a narrative line.
8

And in general the confidence of narration is antagonistic to the


circlings of consciousness in Dragomoschenko's work.
Nevertheless, in "The Islands of Sirens" he toys with "The
mercy of pseudonarration" and it is at this very point that he
invokes The Lay of Igor's Campaign-the real "beginning" of
Russian literature.
A problematic beginning, however, and not only because the
authenticity of the text was for a long time a matter of dispute,
but also because the anonymous author begins the Lay with the
question of how to begin:
Would it not be fitting, brother, for us to begin in the
manner of the ancient lays the grievous tale of the
campaign of Igor, of Igor the son of Svyatoslav? But
rather let this song begin in accord with the events of our
own time, and not with the design of Boyan. (The Lay of
Igor's Campaign, c. 1185)
It is clear that an established oral heritage already existed in
"Boyan," one of the bards of a previous age. The answer the
writer chose was to reflect the age self-consciously, using
tradition as an echo chamber, and Boyan is woven into the epic
as the narrative's mediator between fact and expression:
If you had sung these campaigns, flitting, 0 nightingale,

through the tree of thought,flying in your mind beneath


the clouds, weaving together the glories of both halves of
this time ...
An eclipse of the sun divides the Lay formally into two
halves, according to Propp's analysis which Dragomoschenko
rephrases:"Sun eclipsed by Song-sign turning, it began its
descent into another realm."
But another eclipse also divides it along a different axis. This
is the occultation of the already spoken or written by the

present action. One narrative voice sweeps across another: a


plane of source imagery is eclipsed by reality. This is
epitomized in the "negative metaphor," the archetypal trope of
the byliny (medieval oral poetry): "But, brothers, it was not ten
falcons that Boyan would let loose upon a flock of swans-but
he would lay his magic fingers upon the living strings ... "
In the humanist idiom a real world observed by the poet is
transformed through consciousness into metaphor that
transcends its origins. But the epic world of the Lay and the
byliny begins as negated imagery, and this dialectic is its poetic
impulse. This is one of the neglected directions Arkadii
Dragomoschenko has chosen to follow: his images contain no
reality, they are triangulation points along a route.

* * *
Another loophole epic and folk traditions have to offer a
modern poet is not any specific technique or intonation but
simply a space to breathe and allow language and sense to
meander at will. A "classical" tradition still dominates Russian
poetry. In its focused form, as in the Acmeism of Akhmatova
or early Mandelstam, it stood for heroically distanced emotion
and a European cultural intertext: a debased form has reduced
its signs to ruthless metricality and relentless rhyming.
Russian is richer in rhymes than English and its word order
more flexible, and consequently rhyme is more compatible
with reason; the western antipathy to strict versification has
had little effect on contemporary Russian poetry. It is also
possible that the quirkiness of Pasternak and Tsvetaeva
rescued Russian rhyming from total stultification. Even so an
antiquated formal concept of "the poetic" still stifles the roots
of poetry. (In the "March Elegy" a derisive homage to "the
poetic" is produced by transposing a sequence set up by the
most notorious commonplace of 18th century Francophile
versifying, the "rose" /"snows" (rozy/morozy) rhyme, into
10

pseudo-Slavonic terrain where a bitter werewolf-poet forages in


the folklore.)
From Lomonsov in the early 18th century to the Symbolists at
the beginning of this century, Russian writers read nature for
messages, signs, and lessons. This Cartesian cleavage between
observer and natural world established the model for poetic
consciousness as the voice of domination. This drove
Khlebnikov, for one, forward into science fantasy and the idea of
a revolutionary new interrelation of humanity and world-and
also backwards into Slavonic epic and folk tales. In the parallel
landscapes and natures of the Lay, the two worlds of history and
poetic imagery are equally real-or equal elements of a single
world system that is alien to the essentialist tradition that
dominates present-day Russian poetry.
But the prevailing literary world view was already collapsing
from within, overloaded with significance. What Mandelstam
witnessed is also sensed in Bunin's prose, with its landscapes
like supersaturated solutions on the verge of crystallizing into
some entirely different form. The new form they would take is
the work of Andrei Platonov. Grace and elegaic melancholy
have mutated into anguish and systematic ineptitude, character
and scenery are funnels into chaos, a drained, stylized language
leans emotionally on the reader. The rich European heritage has
gone and nothing has replaced it: despair is balanced by
freedom.
** *
If Arkadii Dragomoschenko has managed to elude so many
of the traps set by the "classical" tradition, it is not entirely
through craft, there is also a biographical factor. In ''The Island
of Sirens" there are two irruptions of "outlandish speech." This,
in the original, is Ukrainian, which Steve McCaffery and Lyn
Hejinian have rightly and effectively converted into medieval
English, for Ukrainian has a familiar though quaintly archaic
ring to a Russian. Ukrainian is Dragomoschenko's home

11

language. Although he and his wife Zina have spent all their
adult lives in Leningrad, they both grew up in Vinnitsa, a
town 100 miles southeast of Kiev, in the Ukraine. (He was not
actually born in the Soviet Union at all, but in Potsdam in
1946, when his father was a colonel in the occupying forces).
In some ways cultural relations between Ukrainians and
Russians parallel those of the Irish and the English, with the
difference that the Russian nation and its literature emerged in
what is now the Ukraine (the Prince Igor of the Lay was a
subject of Kievan Rus). Consequently Dragomoschenko grew
up with an off-center perspective on metropolitan Russian
culture, its language and its traditions. His work is out of place
in the inbred conservative context of present-day Leningrad.
Contemporary Leningrad poetry has modeled its dominant
poetic voice on a certain Acmeist image of Mandelstam and
Akhmatova or on Blok' s shamanism. Its language is a moral
stance and a set of cultural attitudes in the possession of the
poet, a position of reified authority. This is not in accord with
the intellectual "events of our own time." What makes Arkadii
Dragomoshchenko's work so interesting and valuable is that
he continues to withstand the pressure of that authoritative
voice and its misplaced confidence that the right language
need only be invoked to constitute an ideal subjectivity.
Those traditions that at present prevail in Russian poetry are
by and large to be dated to Pushkin's time; the accepted
concept of poetic persona and its formal devices (meters,
rhymes, themes) were established around that period. When a
Futurist manifesto called for Pushkin to be thrown overboard
from the steamship of modernity, it achieved half its purpose
in outraging the bourgeois, but failed to divert tradition. The
Futurists had even less time than Pushkin to bring about their
particular revolution, and they had lost their coherence as a
group by the early 1920s. Mayakovsky's persona was to
become canonized; Khlebnikov was moving towards rhymed
folk tales at the time of his death in 1922. The most resisted
12

aspect of their project was not so much the esperantist


aspirations of zaum (the universal poetic language) as the
attempt to liberate Russian poetry from the restraints of
classical form and everything implied by the Pushkinian
heritage. A browse through shelves of present-day Russian
verse reveals that this enterprise is more urgent than ever.
Much Russian poetry has degenerated into claustrophobic
clusters of expected rhymes, rhythms, and emotions. It needs
room to breathe.

** *
Other contemporary poets have recognized that need for a
new intellectual space, for example the Conceptualists who are
associated primarily with Moscow and the work of Vsevolod
Nekrasov, Dmitri Prigov, and Lev Rubinshtein. But they have
concentrated on deconstruction and parody of literary genres
or have turned to performance art. Among his contemporaries,
only Aleksei Parshchikov's poetry has certain affinities with
Dragomoschenko: imagery displaces identity in Parschikov's elaborate metaphorical constructions,but myth fills gaps
Dragomoschenko leaves open.
The landscapes of Dragomoschenko's earlier descriptions
contained rivers, lakes, sandbanks, clay sediments, and
outcrops of quartz; there were pinewoods, swallows, clouds,
oblique sunlight, and even city streets and apartments reduced
to their natural features-stone, water, light. Most importantly,
there were those gaps, spaces left by consciousness refusing
identity. Up to the early 1980s this world was refracted through
syntactic complexity-a language-prism that represented the
interferences of expression and perception. All the work in this
book dates from 1983-84 onwards and marks a new phase.
Landscape and language are sediments left by the flow of
perception and a poetic self in constant motion shuttles
between the written and the writing. A philosophical drive is
13

producing a new configuration, experiments with the limits of


description that bring into view undefined spaces around
language's marked features.
Arrested wandering is the country of grammar, but the scene
of the action in these poems is movement up and down the
registers of discourse and across genres. Russian literature, as I
have mentioned, begins self-reflectively in a dialectic of static
imagery and unformalized actuality. The fluidity of continual
reflection and reorientation is the lost sense of its best
tradition. Dragomoschenko is restoring to Russian literature
intellectual strategies it cannot afford to forget.

* **
These translations themselves form part of that subtlety and
craft, as a movement across boundaries:
"Didn't they speak in all languages in the city where he
spent his youth? And what a blessing, to begin to move
in one and to finish in another." ("Xenia")
Shifts in levels of response are hidden within tradition. In the
same way translation glosses over gaps. In the case of these
translations it is right that the process should be made visible.
The poems in this volume are not literary fetishes but the
evidence of collaboration between poet and translator-or
rather between poet and poet. For most of this century the
state of East-West relations has fatally distorted any attempts
at interaction between Russian and Western cultures; even
during the last three decades those Russian poets who have
been translated have generally been subjected to media-hype
and become victims of their sociopolitical curiosity value.
Against that background this volume is unique-for the first
time it opens up the possibility of a dialogue between the
leading edges of two living poetries.
The original meeting between Lyn Hejinian and Arkadii
Dragomoschenko was an accidental side-effect of a concert
14

given in Leningrad in 1983 by the ROVA Saxophone Quartet.


Chance became design, as in the improvised music that
backgrounded that event. Each poet discovered in the other, at
what may first have seemed like a galactic cultural distance, a
compatible perspective on language, and the translations here
are one echo of that initial recognition. They are not the only
one-the constant correspondence between the two poets since
that time has been the nexus of an unprecedented cultural
interaction between Leningrad and San Francisco. Arkadii
Dragomoschenko has translated some of Lyn's work into
Russian and has sponsored translations and readings of other
American poets from William Carlos Williams to Clark
Coolidge. Lyn Hejinian has given readings of her work and
lectures in Leningrad in 1987 and again in 1989,
and-improbable though it seemed at the time of the first
contact - Arkadii Dragomoschenko was able to come to the
States to give a series of readings and talks in 1988. The series of
exchanges is still widening into further translation projects and
future readings. In short, one of the most exciting things about
these translations is not simply that they are an opening into a
new poetic world but that they are only a beginning. The
interplay of two literary scenes that they represent will not stop
here and its consequences cannot be foreseen. There is a new
space waiting to be occupied.

***
Every translator has to be two people-one sensitive to the
poetry of the source language, the other to the target. In Elena
Balashova Lyn Hejinian has found an ideal and unusual
collabo~ator, a native Russian speaker living in Berkeley and
alive to the subtle gist of Arkadii Dragomoschenko's
landscapes. Together the translators have shifted their author's
responsibili ty(his conscientious responsiveness) into English.
The result is meticulous and inspired-and these two virtues
15

are rarely combined.


My own involvement in this project releases me from any
obligation to view this collection "objectively" and I offer this
introduction only as one perspective on the work. It requires
others and especially those its American audience will bring to
it. These poems should be read by that audience as American
poems-but ones with a side dcior into another dimension-a
dislocation that returns readers to their native culture from
another angle.
-Michael Molnar

16

OPSIS

SYN
TAX

All this is familiar; still it needs to be repeated. In its very


essence the decorative grid of the Chinese interior is
inexhaustible. Repetitions do not exist as long as there is time.
Thus noncoincidence, deviation, residue, all requiring a
different approach.
An ornament consists of holes or of transitions from one
void to another. Where does the distinction between one void
and another lie? Distinction is not a noun; location is
impossible. Nothing changes, by changing itself. Wandering
and wandering: "The goal of one is to observe the
disappearance of the old, the goal of the other is to observe
change" (Lao Tzu).
It is just as ridiculous to divide up a hole as for me to
represent the poet with marble wings and a flaming mouth.
Does the imagination picture the way in which this particular
tongue crumples itself in the living scale of saliva, is kneaded
like clay in the fingers and is yet like the fingers themselves,
rises to the palate, hangs there for a moment waiting for the
explosion to dissipate, turns away ... does this "image" haunt
the imagination when the hand goes from "wandering" to
"wandering"? It's Khlebnikov who comes to mind when we
talk of the wandering furrow: minotaur of its own labyrinth,
an overturned mirror under the Heavens, a mole (see
Mandelstam) that has fallen into. a trap of roots in search of the
indivisible "particle" of speech, the 'center, Form, points of
Being, the way physics fell into a linguistic trap in its quest for
the indivisible particle. But we have to talk. Does the word
exist?

17

The preference given in ancient China not to the quantitative


characteristics of number but to qualitative ones suggests that
the I Ching is not a handbook on aleatorics but the first
research into syntax. Thus "language did not fall from the
sky," "language is an activity" of society. I think of a pitcher
because it's a cocoon. Revolving gave birth to ornament. On
one hand the concept of a "person" forces me to talk about the
sum of certain characteristics, more precisely about a bundle
of them; on the other hand, I, based on experience, can
imagine a person whose violence and suffering make him
indifferent to his surroundings. Wherein lies the difference
between a person and a rock? Self-expression requires a
certain I which demands expression. Memory signifies only
some other memory. We are born twice, the first time in the
"separation" of self from the mother. Not signification but
stratification. The second time, until death itself, we are
endlessly born into the world-that is, in this infinite dividing.
As the world creates itself, inscribing itself in me, I change it,
abiding in the noncoinciding of birth and death. Seeing is a
process of deferral. A process whose pace does not coincide
with the speed of understanding. "To see-to create." The
word "create" is a word with a "dual anchor." However,
seeing is backed by blindness. What does language teach? I
don't hear. I say that it is not experience and not the
expression of experience but an activity; language finding
itself encapsulated by the transparency of representations
opens itself to the future (all this is familiar, but still it needs to
be repeated), to that which was never there (in experience?)
but which is forever enclosed in it as a possibility-mobility
within mobility!
Poetry comes in the act of anticipating the fact of possibility.
What did you say? The spatiality of silence is created by the
temporality of speech. I know. The realization of meaning
reveals itself in the muteness of this "nothingness" between
18

sound and sound, sign and sign. Between you and me?
Nonexistence is the result of coincidence. But poetry begins as
unknowing. The sea in Homer was red. Meanings are
necessitated by rising forth ... to what?
There are two types of duration; the "duration" of a change in
social consciousness and the "duration" of the change in
meanings in poetry are incommensurate in their rate of
transformation. As a result we are once again speaking of
history. Language "piled up," language as "treasure," language
not wasted by loss-by r I evolving it dies. Here begins the circle
of Pushkin's small tragedies-"The Greedy Knight," if a circle
can have a beginning. The law of the conservation of energy
permits us to imagine a certain map.
Sanctioned by the Areopagus of lawgivers, a "uniquely correct
language" (the importunate spectre of agglutination) leads to
homogeneity and fetishism, killing consciousness of an other.
There is much that did not occur in front of our eyes, but we
have repeatedlrseen how language died and became a
murderer, abandoning itself to soapy fantasies about basic
values. Imagination differs from fantasy as the word "is" from
the word"if." The "avant-garde" is one of the death-bearing
banalities.
Perception feeds the world. What existed before the digit?
Invention is selection-from the unidentifiable. Imagination is
the intransitive action of anticipation. The opposite is a yearning
for nondifferentiation, for indifference: irresponsibility. An
ornament represents a system of holes, of discontinuities.
Emptiness is the core of bamboo. The source of echo, an answer.
There is no emptiness, but we talk about it. We talk about
people, love, the line, poetry. Do all these things exist? Poetry is
that state of language which in its workings constantly exceeds
the actual order of truth. Who defines how our knowledge
should exist, or how is the one who is supposed to identify it
identified? And so forth. Here is Heisenberg's sentence, in
19

which I have substituted one term: "In poetry are we


describing something objectively more real, something that in
a certain sense exists independently of human thought, or
does poetry represent only an expression of the capabilities of
human thought?" What term in this sentence is replaced with
the word poetry? Or does "this vagueness pertain to the
subject or only to the language in which we speak about it and
whose imperfection we in principle can't disregard?" Here in
this sentence there is no substitution.
An illusory I.
At the moment that language is immobilized the figure of
the"enemy of values" arises. It seems that only negation
allows us to talk about those things which can't be touched by
language. Taste and geometry are two different things. The
pendulum of rhetoric moves the course of the agonist. What
do they ask the poet?
The encyclopedia's body can give satisfaction:
Dictionaries propose:
Psychology, sociology, political science, mythology, religions
break open:
Literature offers:
Institutions of information fulfill the enthusiasm for
solutions:
But poetry is always something else.
All this is familiar, but still it needs to be repeated. Without
asking the poet anything, they ask, is it possible to ask about
that to which no answer is possible-not asking, they ask:
does such a question exist, whose absence gives birth to the
same irresistible anxiety that quite naturally excites doubt
about many things, and first about the fascination of the
paternalistic relations between the holder of truth and its user.
Or: can a person (not reduced to a stone's existence)
eventually find (from) the possibility of being the question
asked? And what kind of "answer" might it be, this pearl,
locked around its shell? Responsibility is a mode of hearing.
20

The shadow of a dead language turns into the spectre of the


universal, the one, quantitatively infinite: voracious.
But language cannot be appropriated because it is
perpetually incomplete. Perfect action leaves no trace ....
Poetry is imperfect, unachieved, as it is. There's no
consolation. Just as the word doesn't exist. The transformation
through nothing into otherness: "Catastrophe is not
completion. It is the culmination of the confrontation and
struggle between points of view (of equally correct
consciousnesses with their respective worlds). Catastrophe
does not reduce situations, but the opposite, it unfolds their
irresolvability in earthly conditions, casts them aside
unsolved" (Bakhtin). Pushkin's Mozart and Salieri is an idiom,
the imprint of a cyclone, accumulated oneness, returning the
idea of sacrifice, division, distinction, finding meaning in its
very slipping away. "Does speech exist?" (Chuang Tzu). The
transformation of a question into questioning, about the
boundary, border, outline of meaning, about the liberation of
the senseless by the senseless exists only in the promise, in
language, in poetry. History is not a wafer of space melting on
the tongue. Courage consists in an unending affirmation of
thought which overcomes "the order of actual truth" itself.
Poetry is an expenditure of language "without goal," in fact
a redundancy; a constant sacrifice to a sacrifice. It is possible
that one should speak here about love, in other words about
reality, or the probability of answering the sourceless echoabout responsibility.
-Arkadii Dragomoschenko

21

StJMMAEtEGIA

l
t.

. .:

. ...

A SENTIMENTAL ELEGY
(for Anna Hejinian)

Let the mouse run over the stone.


-Aleksandr Vvedensky

"Tell me, what binds us to some meaning,


what drives us out of our minds?"
Dark
of a racing cloud, trace of
glass,
white.
The rim of a clock face.
The vastness of death and its insignificance, debris
flying in a scorched haze of dragonfliesWe aren't going anywhere.
There are wells where even at noon the stars are sharp
But branching out like a book into strangeness-a possibility
always remains,
sand
and standing still.
Some word, like a law's mold, reveals the world reversed
mirrored down the axis of matter.
And so
this peeling apart
in tireless trials of freedoms.
Perhaps-"but it's meaningless"-in the prisms' twilight
where winters' straight lines erupt suddenly in the ice
and like indivisible fire
the wind rocks it and scatters it by the handful.
And so
in the trials of flight between zenith, nadir, window
and unshaven cheek,

25

ochre and heather,


in the debris of streaming heights ....The visible image
of a home for these things eludes us. What's behind them?
The same is behind us and before us.
Capricious stroll, hair like far-off laughter,
Not to remember-to weave a cobweb into the structure
of hearing,
Into the correspondence of minutest registersTheir myriads flicker
Myriads
matching the spirals of the pulse that braids the wrist's
dry riverbeds.
The sequel is absurd.
A conquest (of what?) is like a photograph, its filigree
lost in a grid,
For everything must begin, however you look at snow and fire,
As if, reflected in melting ice on the window, you were
scraping your cheeks with a razor
And again the nature of sunset is unknown
And of the spatial partitions that create it-time?
body?
memory? line?-and of the intervals glimpsed by chance
when branching out like a book into strangeness.

** *
What is said is a lamp, but it announces: "spring thunder."
Light speaks its name brokenly and immediately you can hear
how the dry celery beside the indistinct map
flickers
glistening
hoarsely
like the wrist's river weeds.
26

The tap is running.


But take some bitter coffee beans, let them be spun
into fragrant dust
let them simmer
"odds and evens" ground down, stopping the run
of whirled resins
And tum to the invulnerable, braided water
For there the fluid time of its fall is shattered,
In the memory a splinter of light catches the thousand ''l's"
it stubbornly retumsas children against their will catch the claw of a bird
in the creaking kitchen, perhaps ....
I don't remember.
I was shifted a pace aside
from myself, from everyone, and that includes God
approaching the native land of clouds
and cutting my gaze off from flashes of sand and trees.
Summer passes
hiding nothing in the deep blue
a branch of elation sinking
into crystal salts of reason
"Tell me, what is it that melts in us or binds us together?
Within the sequence of days and of days now and then
alternating with night ... "
drawn out beyond the limits of the mind to the stillness
in each chance sound
split by the desire for such binding.
27

Note on the epigraph to "A Sentimental Elegy"


"In actual fact objects are a faint mirror image of time. Objects
don't exist .... Let the mouse run across the stone. Now count
every one of its footsteps. Now forget the word "every," forget
. the word "footstep." Then every footstep will appear as a new
movement. After that, since, for good reason, you have
experienced the disappearance of your perception of a series of
movements which you were erroneously calling footsteps (you
were confusing movement with space), movement will begin to
fragment, it will be reduced to nil. A flickering begins. The
mouse begins to flicker. Look around: the world is flickering."

from "Oberiuty," by Leonid Aleksandrov, in

Chekhoslovenska rusistika, XIII, 68 no. 5

28

THE NUMERICALLY SECOND ELEGY

What
is being written is unwritten, approaching completion.
What is written-it's incomplete, perpetually
approaching completion.
A choice of meanings.
The seductiveness of a particular meaning. Then the plural.
A cherry
and the temples
are poised for now in an equation, like the wall's
blooming clusters, studying the rain.
Not meant for the hands-neglect ...
Can you hear, has enough been said?
Are there enough meanings of myself for me to stop,
What is being written reduced to what's been written,
desiring no other:
what is not and never could have been said here
and now again: guess who sent this postcard.
A guess is an obstacle, a ferment of distinctions
But not the tangle of their transformations into metaphor ...
The magnificent rainbow of breath falls back toward the mouth,
Now and then in the cold one sees its formation
and, finally, here is its description-whether or not
its beginning is within me
is uncertain: desire. The sting of desire and so forth.
To repeat, desire expiring. Strong smell of frozen beet.
The sunflower is black,
The omnipotence of the cold is flowering like the wall
of a passerby.
The end is always sudden.
You distance yourself from the one who chooses for himself
the first person,
Several persons.
One of them is first. The end is unexpected, like completion,
29

and intimacy collapses-now everything is close to the bodyNot to name it home under any circumstances,
Not to name it ....
Better to be silent, as in the cold.
Have you finished?
Better the evening with a glass of wine and you
as your own guest
when one writes about wine as about the eyes of a frozen fish
in which one thing will never become another
by studying the walls blossoming with the unspoken
in spring.

30

ELEGY TO A DREAM ON THE STH OF FEBRUARY


A dream-that's "four."
Those who proclaim: "Four features will grow black hereafter
on the worm-riddled page
without unrolling
the scroll of numbers."
The full moon fits into "four"
Translucence like a cellophane shell bulging around a locked
room. The globe.
By itself the dream isn't significant. A thief.
Voices muttering: "The reading lessons won't last long ...
hearing muffled-a moat melting the endings off vowels
doesn't prevent our unrolling the alphabet scroll." The mouth.
Only for an instant the comers relax-narrow
in the captivating obscurity of hearing,
in two lines, repeated in two windows, stark white.
The comers are thin, like a closing wound.
The comers are sharp-the dog-star Sirius drawn from a well.
Moisture is simple at the points of intersection
in live cavities of rhyme
But voices speak in unison-that's "four,"
This is the fissure's refraction, behind it the mouth
of the intersection spurting dark
But in order to lose oneself there, to assume
the form of a docile dream
One must broach the thought that its shores can't be reached.
The moon
stood.
The labor of the sensing hand, mute. Then a second hand
Again the one that preceded this in the intersection's austerity
Where-for me and the voices uttering.
31

Cinnabar familiar with the sky.


From here the winds form a close ring.
The sky abandons speech.
Seated around the table's husk were all whom the brain
was absorbing,
letting them draw themselves up
in different configurations. There
was not a single thing that couldn't be named: "light"
Or "four," it doesn't matter,
When you bend your body of glass with your trace
around the dream.
With this I was
a second, third, fourth, not regaining
speech.

32

KITCHEN ELEGY
(for Michael Molnar)

Guess who sent you this card


for your birthday!
(birthday card text)
An agony of radiating bone in the hissing snow,
The wormwood bush bent by the wind.
It's red and sharp-don't listen to its sound,
Stamp it into the path.
The hand, meeting a thorn on the cornel bush,
weakens, respecting no "perfection of form"
with its lingering drop of blood.
Frost.
Air. In its brightness and rifts. A vacant lot.
And it seems it is just as hard for the sky
to remove a star from the equations of light
as it is for me to remember how many winters
remain before summer
or to let memory coalesce
restored meanwhile to that perfection of formnot a mercury dropbut the unsleeping needle
that doesn't need thread, allowed to glide without shadow,
no longer the drop's sticky mirror,
like branches, showing the hand flame
fused where the point bursts.
Gray, meager shoots of dawn.
Tea like a phoenix fledgling dwelled in the cup's patterned cage.
The vacant lot swirled in the window-in its frame,
gnawing with quick teeth into the cold,
33

dogs were swimming


in snowdrifts.
The crows' floating resembled imprints in coal.
The cigarette ash was slow to fall ...
And a draft was stirring my hair, interfering
with the eye's morning studies
narrowed against the sharp rays
To teach the mouth again to be patient with the object,
To tie knots, not to decipher them.

34

BUT NOT AN ELEGY

Parallel snow,
Animal smoke huddles in the neolithic burrows of the night.
Comprehension is confined between the brackets
of the eyes, nibbling
white,
and the mind is like a mouse in a labyrinth.
You see what you see.
The world lies low. You are only a hunted beast
creeping cautiously
across a crackling nap of sound
You will be trapped.
The trash pits have lost the secret power to stop entropy
as a poultice of chewed nettles stops the flow of blood
or singing stops the raving of the mad.
Two or three degrees ago
on the centigrade scale the sections were already coming apart
(cutting ties) longing for wholeness,
For disintegration as if it were a meeting ...
Where does the column of heat come from?
The sun falls directly on the slope of the roof.
It is resurrection and resurrection again.
Now even a corpse must be as hard as a star
And as invulnerable, too, in subterranean lakes-not horrifying
As a gun is not horrifying nor the glowing column
of tranquil fire
Where charred crow vessels
Dwindle behind the thumbnail of the visible
Living half as the eye of the Arctic and half as myself
stamping a red clump of wormwood into the snow.
So we discover the structure of the sky-measuring ourselves

35

against the moon;


Inheriting a kingdom by right of primogeniture
You shake the dead mouse out of the labyrinth,
Out of the parallels,
The animal smoke, out of what you see,
of what is seen.

36

MARCH ELEGY

... rose
... snows
(from the poetic)
The ridiculous shack of frost is slush, faded,
The solar hood of the rose is white as damp plaster.
Brother wolf with his ravenous belly is foraging through thickets
along the ravines and in sparse brush
Relentlessly baring his teeth at himself in the fog,
Ears laid back against his scalp, rushing about
in his mangy skin,
He grieves,
Forages,
Squinting an eye at the moon in the black gullies,
Staring straight at a plaster doll in the gold, ..
Nobody.
If only a stinking Tatar!

Oh, how thin and mournful the whining of the stubble


on the hillside-If only a venerable old man would cross his path,
He wouldn't insult him with aid, he'd just rip open his throat.
Nothing.
He sheds clumps of fur, chokes on crusts of foam,
Wretched with his yellow fangs
in the tints of wonderful smokeIt's not the moon that splashes icy water into his jaws,
It's not a pestilential star that scratches
his heart like a sisterRipping his paws to the bone on the crust of diamondlike snow,
Night and day,
37

day and night bending into one bow,


The younger brother, recalling little Prince Ivan, gallops
Straight into the white sunLook, what he got into his head, the cur!

38

ELEGY ON RISING DUST

... it rises slowly,


monotonously flows.
Meanwhile, wrapped in the depths of lethargy,
An innocent root drinks the winter's coals
Just as seraphim devour the tom-out tongue
clapping their glassy wings
And how compelling is the blooming-not of cloudsOf murky systems for calculating time
Spring's scales are shadowless like the brain's axe-head
And blood is revealed in concealed transformations
As if it were a substance rising to the zenith
Then falling back to the nadir of pure speech
That leads off endlessly to dreams of birth
And contemplates itself in the husk around essential matter.
Like so: in the gliding of the swift
In the instant the lizard darts from the shadeA rift, like the breath drawn in, immaculate,
Division's thread leads straight to unity;
A rift, like the breath released, or distinction,
Whose packs of signifiers, quivering, in intangible
and predatory ardor
Coldly weave a pattern of exceptions.
Meanwhile the equilibrium is unaffected by the thunder,
By worms of lightning tearing the fabric
Into piscine strands of craving, sap and cinders
at the delta of the northern sheer transparent rivers
The sunken
bowls of the lakes grown wild
39

With ancient configurations of capillary moisture


Intertwine, snatching away any sign of light and depth,
Plunging the pine into the sand's precision
And binding the unplumbed dome of wind in a web of resemblances
With the eyelash fighting
In the rocky labor of life-giving night
Sea grasses which from earliest times penetrate
The strata of gods told in a merging of elements
And also the turquoise barrier between the fire and the house
Which we again disturb with the illusion of delight.
The spring of history ... The history of springSo senseless and meager a gift!
And nonetheless at times it is equal in grandeur
To the powerful form of raging dust
To glittering, poisonous scales

in the mirrored splashing of resurrection


-here a confession follows: the law ... of the elegy ...
Or to sense, rejecting thought
In an avalanche of rustling and voracious magnitudes
Spreading a net of crystal frost, unnumbered
It is the end of matter, the window's riddle
In which clouds drunk from heat
hang in anticipation of dark downpours.
In the floating rustle, in the flight of swifts ...
"I don't ask for mercy."
It is barely warm

along the fringe of delight with the line


Tying what's not this to what's not that.
Let there be a God of the trace, transparent as mica,
40

Lowered into the night. Let there be a God of the bay


Like canvas embroidered with equilibriumwith silk saliva
from cocoons of the dead.
But the identities of spring!
Enormous
dreams of language.
And dust, drifting through them beyond words,
is rising slowly, a simple incarnation,
Elusive and unsleeping as "the other"
In whose verbal body "I" is set like a trap.

41

OBSERVATION OF A FALLEN LEAF


AS
THE "ULTIMATE BASIS" OF LANDSCAPE
(a reading)

.. .although what prompts this


is unknown.
ChuangTzu,
"On the equality of matter''
1.
It settles.
The sediment is mobile-a landscape.
We shift it in an experiment
with time-the flicker
of increments in the dwindling exclusion of signs.
Attributes: round? bitter? sharp? number?
the crawling path of simulacra (consequences)
connecting blooms with a fog of blood
in the wordroots' symmetry?
Utopia?
Just like
a vine

that growing climbs-a lens change-groping toward a goal: distance. The reflections
of drops in each other (a mountain, near the eye
the thumb of the right hand on which there's a scratch,
a mulberry tree, further away, you see, they too
found their place)-a landscape
viewed from different sides
points
of place
posited by space.
Until the drops dry, they hold out
42

the possibility of non-coincidence. But each wipes out


the reason for the others, substituting itself.
As in a closely-focused optics, the car flips moments
across
the face
looking to the side. At the intersection.
And to make it easier later one writes: "rain, weather,
a lock of sunlight on the cheek,
description of a stone." To be concrete
the event is inserted in the narration in a single gulp:
"reality."

Pedestrians changing.
The footstep's naive bone separates the tissue joining
one thing to another.
A photograph in which there is always only the inception
of death, i.e. comparison. Whose second part is you
turning toward the first part with desire
spread out over the eyes; to smoke, to see,
describing
the surroundings of a letter's co-position
with the one after and the one before, realized in one
that hasn't yet appeared.
Literally a tree on a knoll. A woman with a red umbrella,
snow, in a man's raincoat, wind, to the ground, and a dog:
Either a mound of sagging clay ...
But like the broken bush in the distance-They stand out like an echo.
I'll stay
as long as description transforming the tree into experience here
in the evening
in the center
And turning away: unexpectedly the landscape stands still.
Waits. Streetlights.
43

Stricken by the virus of time. And to it-again; becoming


its axis, whose ends are joined, like sleeves of a tautology
or-also possible-its pain, unifying contemplation.
Such is the source of "a favorable environment," the layering
of the bush,
the dog, of the shovelled earth ... clay. Like the lizard's lettering
when awakened by the flashing future.
"Pleasant is the ford when you cross the great river ... "
Forty years, however-they say-a leaf falls
from this tree ...
From this one?
A poplar? A letter? Catachresis? Perpendicular? The blue
in sepia slits?
Synesthesia?
Madness?
A sign enters like a forged nail we hammer
into the shell of oblivion.
The collar of the dictionary.
The seed's schema is pulled straight (I teach I)
in a leaf
swirled into the surroundings
Gradually opening a mode of existence to simple
"landscape" language.

44

2.

The landscape is a moment of time


that has gotten in position.
-L. Hejinian, The Guard

But how could we sleep, rapturous with bliss


from countless recognitions in a field of damp
where yellow ripens intermittent as seeing?
Through the drizzle.
And down to the depths of January?
But how could we breathe? We?-things are always the same.
Snowless.
A shriek,
disembodied apund. And melting the horizon flows
from moons-spread out, stored-displaying the concave
outspread sum
of the senseless weight of sagging space.
But the sound is high. Immobile, like a sphere
no bigger than a bee's universe which fell on it
in the physical victory
of vanity
released by gaiety.
To exist everywhere motionless. Like rust corroding hierarchies,
To stretch ''being" into "seeing" without lingering, as if
without touching the throat ...
Having rejected the avarice of form
In order to move from some to love on the thread of substitution.
The snow doesn't melt
Where there is none. The grass is melodious and dry.
And the live corpse of a leaf leaves behind a conceivable decay
broken by a line in imaginary time ...
45

sediment moving down a well-worn course.


Annealed by weight.
And in this prospect, where the force of friction
on the eye is pure
(a saturated yellow, filling
the damp)
We unite the sands' gray scraping with reason: into one-many,
Leaving the snow behind,
Outliving the leaf's ghostly flight-a net of emptinesses,
trap of rumors.
Having left its own outline untouched, the leaf
like a thing in time
is arrogant with promise (even above the branch
weighted toward the ground)And then just for a moment the all-encompassing predicate
of layers makes this clear.
And once again transparency marks matter ...
No more than a letter on the surface, a face,
All traces' trace, the cell of all nets. Only a choice of letter,
Nothing,
After turning itself inside out on waking
in the bed of the sentence.
It is only an observation of a leaf .

Weaving the ground into landscape. But let's count:


just such a year
burns down the frame of days-borne off outside
And if you're not here
Then here are all your days. Anyone is continued
by the significance of another.
46

Strange work: to search for regularity.


And having stepped back
as if slightly startled
Taking cold with the tongue from the teeth
Pulling the soaked scarf away from the throatThen only to notice this lofty disorder-each thing is clear,
viewed through the palm of the hand.

47

INSTRUCTING CLARITY IN A CONFUSION

1.

As black in the hollows of white


rushes to wake with fatal blooming, smoke is spread out
by procrastination's underground shoals over the mutiny of snows
(what force within failure drives one on?
and leans over the narrow-lipped gloom like an inscription
saturated with centuriesit seethes again in unbearable commentary
And letters appear, furthermore, without shadows
in the grindstones of order-they're not cities
in feverish drops of wind
nor fables about nature;
and there is no trace
of matter that's as precious as an echo,
lovers of some past time and thing,
when
"poets were everything" although ...
death (laughter?) occurs more often, so as not to divide the mind
into a labyrinthian root system,
a splash
of readings-thousands!in a singular link with beautiful motes of temporary
unions,
material appropriate
to loversbodies, swimming in darkness in rivers, going
down to the rotting shafts of the mind ...

48

2.
Life flakes off with speech. The husk goes off, playing the fool
along a flowing path of sap,
winters pass over the hills
and a tree ages hour by hour
with rings of compassion in an endless din) like the blackwith white dew
night transforms hundreds of stars
into plasma
and wasps
are winnowed with the gods' fires.
The line of plains and mountains
whirls like a fog
whose stones envelop the moon in veins and the Siren is gold
on the bough.
But the evolution of changes is less visible than smoke
hovering like a rainbow of achievement over a steel-gray crown
not hoarfrost but ice
resembling death, flowing back to the beginning
but out also to the end
through thought( ... o billows of procrastination!)
but thought lies in the neighborhood of doubt, where
it waits eternally
to be recognized
erasing itself renewed like a written record
as
in spring the sown seeds level the furrow, turning the density
of fibers into the heart of matter-mute
a boundless knife point
(o procrastinating blades ... )

49

The fir is heavy with ice.


Needles and trunks etched black.
A sparkling funereal shadow lies straight as a pathway
under the turquoise birches
and fire wrapped in womanly yellow tenderly bares
the jutting twigs.
To stand here alone as water. Without shores. Within a rind
of grasses
the impatience of the brew is bitter, delirious,
as if someone's ant-like mouth
were distorted on the glass, in medicinal drunkenness
when the floor changes places with the ceiling
and the crooked cold
toying with the mouth-that disembodied
brother of the forehead,
of dry contemplation
in seeds of inaudible ignorance like a net
set to destroy the mind caught in stagnant meaning
in the dull, dying hour of dawn. But here even memory is no more
than a flaw
sucked in by the center of the circle. Don't leave.
Bend down.
Listen to the hum-tall weeds. Bare. Unseen.
Sound-this is waiting, when there's nothing to hear in response,
The string envies such a fate ...
A spark's colorful moment separates us
with a moth's ash spread in the soot
by the free rainbow of eyelashes
Having separated us it crowns the eyelids' flash-cinders
of the ten seconds when the eyes meet,
cut off like a shoot in a crystal lens, such is the bamboo stem

so

of the uninhabited
and the stale asbestos color of the roofs
covered with sodden pigeon carrion.
3.

But the graceful raising of a hand


encroaching on the framework of geometry
before eternity (not sunset's tree
which is burnt through with holes of oily lace
but a few extended lines ready to be joined
by an imaginary thing
out of all imaginary numbers into one)
-the lifting of the hand will
carry out the encroachment already there
where "in" and "out''
pulsate peacefully
in the font of accumulated "nothing."
It's getting light.
A thaw.
A face.
Streetlight like a sea creature dries, scraping its beam
on the slushy stones.
The tide of dawn
equals all rifts.
The snow doesn't change the direction of the wind
The first streetcar clanks.

51

THE ISLANDS OF SIRENS

THE ISLANDS OF SIRENS

I am guided by Thoth, that guides me.


(''The Corresponding Sky")
Swimming ... already, in childhood,
I suspected that-it was pure time.

1.
The idea of universal glue seeps
weeping down over wonder
The question's crystal trellisThe answer's transparent frame
shimmers in an intangible instant of displacement
and in its outgrowth the splash of a diaphragmpetals of metal and the slitting splash
backwards
a rustle creeping through the chamber of years.
That is not everything, but "that" is always behind
one's back, or behind,
behind the preposition marking space
behind a glance
resembling
an answer's shell; half-open
it waits for the hour
to flash in the downstroke
falling back like the night sky in wide open eyes
from
eyelash to eyelash
from oily "dreams" to an adjective
jumping on "no"
SS

And the eyes, like nets, taking bodiless form


flow around the swimmer
He comes into consciousness from the other side of things
like a dangling coin.
And as for the innocence of the meeting a little later:
the ocean,
gardens of the Hesperides,
archipelago. Garden of fourteen stones,
Cosmos knowing neither place nor reckoning.
You scoop water
now from the Scamander,
now from the tiny Tanais, from the Bug, the Neva,
again and again the bucket swings
overboard with a hollow sound.
When the wind stops, and the sleeves of tautology
get wet, knotted in the hollows
behind the back, a force liberated from motion
crumbles the solidity of one's belongings with its weight,
the coupling of spit, of body, veins of decay, of chlorophyll,
of the glue
in the soaring intersection of beam and shadow.
From where the (soul?) soul
(we read) goes off
in different directions simultaneously
not with jealousy's lies
but twisting its tremor
as if it were a spool of threads
flying outward to the floor-it jerks coil after coil
(an acrobat on a trapeze)
winding inspiration on itself. What was lefta dry tree, licked clean by a chisel.

56

It's rare that one goes straight home


More often one's like a page
thrown on the table wet
with rain-everything wide open! everything summer!spots spreading simultaneously from different sides
And what's between them, that last instant of meaning,
that-home, disappears into it.
A living funnel
under the oar, unaware of itself, existing only a moment ago,
exposes emptiness like a seed.
The wandering seed of the universe
burning version after version.
Verse-turning. Not that
but not yet the other.
An azure falcon envelops
the land
with its wings
leaning
on feathery pillars
of flame.
The mercy of pseudonarration.
I've made up my mind. I must, finally, tell a story "about
something," must beat a path for it assiduously in a fake
memory. An hysterical swarm of moths coils around the
streetlight and, I should add-the eyelids ... Why? Well,
because the theme of turning began long before yesterday.
Because, having fixed habits, sometimes one can successfully
recall the state that memory immediately frames as the
ornament of necessary details. Omitting a list of them, we'll go
on to the next entry. I remember the stupor that overcame me

57

(was it childhood? youth?), as if I were lost in a long


contemplation of some brilliant object. Activity in limited
space. A familiar ploy. Concentrated in dispersal. Thanks to
certain habits, it's possible to repeat these moments even now,
when speed overlapped itself; it exposed what I, studying
vision, could neither describe nor understand nor ,take from
language, even more vague in its totality than those few
images which it offered to my consciousness, dazzled by its
accessibility. But it's no secret now, that what's arrested in
hypermotion was no more than a world, like an anticipation of
my future memory of that moment. Is there time? What is
space? Content, you will ask? Is it merely pure brilliance? And
you don't want to say more? And you don't want more? And
you-are nothing more? And you-are no more than what
you can say? Sun eclipsed by Song*-sign turning, it began its
descent to another realm. Propp's trope.
But it's been so long since we told each other stories. A
photograph's aporia. Truly the steel music of the elevators is
wonderful, the great night music; descending or
ascending-in fact, what's the difference? I love lying with her
no less than being in her. On my back, that is, beyond-the
pendulum of walls. Examining the amusing movements of the
lips, moving with breath-wave and sand-which tell the
night's story. So the ridiculous movements of our two naked
*In The Song [or Lay] of Igor's Campaign, the "first" example of
Russian poetry, an eclipse ot the sun divides the poem into two parts.
The second part is the story of Prince Igor's journey into the next
world. In his studies of the folk tale, the Formalist theorist Vladimir
Propp used the poem as a basis for his analysis of certain prototypical
and recurrent formal elements in the plots and subsequent meaning of
folk tales; the discovery of new knowledge in the next world and the
subsequent return of the hero, transformed by his newly acquired
knowledge, to the world of the living are among the significant
elements of these tales.
58

bodies demand speech: case endings, pauses, certain words to


which others would respond, drawing us along. How late we
are! As always we're simply not there, debtors' speeches, so as
not to be left behind with one or two convulsions, although,
by the way, they're quite pleasant. The theme of turning. I
entered the slatey-obsidian aperture of light, leaving behind
the milky depths of the kitchen, the paper geometry of the
room,
where patches of books, capable of cheering anybody,
showed through one another, not denigrating, not glorifying,
and black birds quickly descended to my shoulder, supplying
me with the necessary information in harsh, unpleasant
voices, which merged into each other. They imitated books:
"I-a language fact."
Segments of duration stick together like eyelids
withdrawing into a circle's ranks. Memory encounters
the anticipation of itself-the disappearance
of rhythm
in sections of equal length.
The planet's echo is set askew, its weaving
in thickening sandy flocks bending
toward sweet collapse is tender.
In the nettle rains, blood-making is transparent.
Algae
wind around the screw ... Rhodimenia stenogona ...
Chondrus primulatus ...
Euthora cristata ...
Porphyra variegata ...
Dumontia incrassata ...

59

Pylaiella litoralis ...


Chryzomenia wrightii.
Proper name-metonymy.
Descending the grainy slope to the water
you give her handfuls of water. You spill it, watch,
how all that was drowsy when dividing flows together.
Aline.
Like the hand's shores, and between them all that laughs
at the possibility of a name.
I see the strait, indented by clouds.

Yo thout in mynde remembraunce how weol brent


revolven in ye welkin on hyllecreste whilom.
Ye cavernys thir innardys, of basalte y-wrought
ye bulluc, ye tre, ye chaunticlere y-plumpt as werdys
ond semeth hydde in purpel dawenynge
of pryme y-shapen sterrys of grene.
Ond quhair wynde layke-ye fauchoun pleynes.
All the difference we'll get in the stone.
A second, that part of some mineral, colored by vicinity,
unfolded its torn edges. But how can I comprehend the
infinite, if only one thought fills the imagination with
thunderous laughter: "the end." Of what? The eyes tum to the
stone, illuminated by a part of speech signifying some quality,
starting another luminescence in the self-negation of the
transition from one to another-a test of the pen in
description. Granite is 40% water. Stone pores ... You and
I-pure time. Next to each other or far away or yesterday in
the morning when, before, after, tomorrow, in three thousand
seven hundred forty-four ... What? Should we do the dishes?
Should we sweep the floor? Should we publish a book of
60

poems with lyrical tendencies? The arrested wandering becomes a


country-grammar. A bus stop, street crossing, one second in the day's
tectonic layers: sounding (yellow car, tragic?)-it' s analyzed like a gulp
of air.
She takes the hand from her breast, regards the lines on the ceiling,
comparing them with the lines on the wallpaper. The two are silent.
Your story is incomprehensible, she says, incomprehensible, although
it's difficult not to suppose that she is like the pages thrown on a table
wet with rain. The glue is called the "Moment." The shoes know it.
2.
At times, it seemed, the paddles plunged
into the serenity of grasses which metals waste away
in clusters of oxygen
in thunder and heat
avoiding the melancholies of the sand
whose arms are restless like the moon directing
the ebb and flow
resembling crowded figures of kind clay
formed
from varied
cells, as if to come into being,
to live backwards in the crosshairs of sight
where identities beyond hearing and shame
were defeated in the field
of reflections
having lairs in a foam of silver.
Consider this-"later" long ago already was "then."
End of quote.
The paddles plunge
into the flqwering morph of a forest
hung in space like a thing.

61

At a touch the darkening stagnates


And connections appear with whatever in the wordform "is"
takes on its own viscous meaning
thanks to simple repetition
like smalt
thrown by luck into glue "crying out at the wonder"
of "un coup de des."
In contact with any surface
we experience the obvious which forces objects
to come slightly after
language-in the floating rustle, in the flight of swiftslaughable and ancient child,
with such tenderness you teach a poet
to confound death with laughter
and resurrect
and patiently confuse
mind with wind
and sparks with sweattheir beating immobile
and bottomless, like a migration of birds along the edge
of a blade
matching its length.
As for the paddles in their great number:
3.

They shatter the surface


of dancing strands and subside
as the turbulence recedes into the depths
But afterwards-more dazzling, smoother,
higher

62

if the three are in a row


on papyrus or incised in limestoneit's a sign of spring

A syllable of favor
on the forehead of Nut
(having tired of terrestrial discord, we lifted
the azure belly of the cow
over its congested ground!)

One of her eyes


a magma chink
(mother's letter: the core
of my mind, she writes, is encrusted with lime. Imagine,
how hard it is for me to part with you-there you are,
somewhere, under her, you grow weak, you are becoming
a stalactite. And I beg you, don't smoke, and buy oranges
if you can)
and in the magma
in the lava's infra-singing, looking closely
we see how they are carried by the wind
dancing like spirals
not separated from those whom all our lives
in repetitions
throughout the whole of death we seek.
The second eye only Pars.chikov could have created:
it is a well of pattern meandering without bottom or shame
without
a staff-like a shepherd-beyond any basis
for thirst

63

beyond the walls, the enmity of their disgrace, whose backs


they bear around the circle like ore,
a load of roots-oxen of the rocky, geological rumble
and accumulation
0 heavenly vein
mind's morning wine, like the sea,
the stem of plagues, the Third Eye's course
amazing in itself-can we comprehend
the flow
of your
burning blizzard?
in which the sister
collecting pollen dips her hands to mix liquid
with liquid
to soak it into the power of all-sharing kinship.
An eye-socket in the stupefaction of the bloom ...
night's formula spread out in time in which
the husband-but face to faceemerges
from the brother's bodyfrom the netherworld.
What distinguishes the language of photographs from letters?
When the wind stops
to extend the branching of branches with gifts
conveying signs of their affinity
(this and that achieved their true purpose
victorious in the magnificence
of emptiness-they swayed ... that's all!)

64

when
passing through the brain's two hemispheres
it subsides in ghosts as they die out, born from them
You approach the window and you see
a boy looking back at you from a neighboring house.
His forehead at night is beautiful-silent blooming
like a glass hieroglyph, the unheard flight of hours
in which mothy snow swirls,
an inchworm in a chamber of light, a murmur, rustle
in the shrinking whisper.
He looks at me and sees how I thaw toward him.
The immeasurability of speech
flowing through the body always amazed me ...
resembling a city, a swarm of flies grazing, exhausted
by mercury,
resembling a spoke.
And you won't say anything.
An evaporating cloud - one-ended rainbow.
But what stones, on which of the road's easy curves?
and how much can they add to the footstep
sinking in anxiety
in the rumble of bees and clover?
In its constancy a thought unfolds itself
-I see a stone.
We've heard that a crystal is formed when nature,
undergoing changes, moves a step toward impoverishment,
and in that very moment the theme of beauty begins to
shimmer, inquiry and obstacle. But the stone ... What am I to
it?

65

The complexity of surface leaves me at a dead end, the


sensation of complexity dulled. The simplicity of the surface in
the stone's totality frustrates me .... I see a stone. I write-is the
stone some immutable condition, compelling one to write? An
impulse. And I answer-no. But it is also not a whim. In that
case do I see some thing, an object, in order to begin to write,
to conceive of an object in "all" its relationships with "me,"
continuing? One can ask also-do I only write when I hold
pen in hand, and pen on paper-leading-extracting from
cells of Breughel's space a letter's pages. But already for a long
time the fingers sit on the typewriter keys. The drive that
moves the carriage is a little weak, the letters print one into the
other. Of course one can ask: why do you ask? Who will
answer you and don't you already have enough story worlds?
Color and time-one and the same. From these I've already
learned something. The manuscript now is nothing but a
calendar, calculating the shortest routes to the stone. We
discovered the secrets of hilarity. A lyrical approach is also
possible. We're talking about the experiences of an author who
describes a stone, and people say to him that the stone is none
other than his father, since the context permits such an
interpretation .... The author answers like this: the father has
turned into a different material. He is ring-like, a ring, to
which the deafness of the wintry streets attributed the shine of
copper wire, boiled in alkalies of sibilants. The filaments of
power, emitted from the point where the word disappeared,
attract all occurrences, as such, as possibility. The mind does
only one thing: exclude. To paraphrase: the perfect letter
leaves no traces. The mind does not need eyes since it doesn't
feel pain. The stone signifies something else-simply that it
'
isn't. I see the stone.
All winter a false death's-head
rolled like a pebble in the mouth of renunciation.

66

Squirrels
recklessly crossed the borders of longing.
The city holds endless intersections.
Again you cut off the thought that moves toward them: father,
stone, sky.
What if two darted into one
as the star in the northwest
unties the binding duties.
0 the speed of the swarm in its dizziness!
Dodging each moment, the accidentally discovered "self"
in smalt.
4.

I didn't know what to call him. As if he were on a river


downstream
on the river that no one knows anything about.
Friendly,
a cut on the cheek.
Nailed onto a board of the landscape-constructed
like a perfect apple of garlic.
Student of submissiveness, lungs' fabric.
Magician of the page's carefree spots,
of an autumn day
the sign of nobody-the blow
of a wave crawling back, the moment of displacement
from the intangible into a list of details.

History became for him a volume


with no table of contents
or title page,
scrolls made of endless instructions
67

threaded through countries. My love for a vacant lot


(celandine, sage, daisy, sour grass, nettles,
pipes in concrete blocks, broken insulators,
traces of breakfast on the grass near the gutter,
a kite, willow herb ... )
each year finds
a new explanation.
The critic clutching at the grail
drums into me the meaning of the line about tea.
Clothes are flapping on the line, under the hydrant
a bucket moans.
The master of etymology
pulls an ace from his sleeve,
with a snap he fans open the deck
on which you lay your head.
The clothes on the line, as if in a film, swim by
in the sky.
True meaning in the guyed unity teases the imagination
with a razor blade.
A bunch of keys jingling in the pocket.
A thought is the mold taken from a dream that encloses
the form of a key
to which there's still no lock.
But Troy will not fall yet, as they begin to write about us
framing every shadow that stretches from the ship
like a key crawling into the horizon's lock-like crevice.
If you exclaim: "He who's embracing the world, every second

he's destroyed-do you really clothe its occurrence


with yourself?
Is representation carved from the eye?"
68

5.

In my declining years I said to the slave,


Listen, Cavafy, really, you should stop scratching
in your notebooks at night, from left to right ...
I banished the rhapsode from Government. Why? Well ...
you know, this novelty, xerox, that finally arrived
from Corinth,
it could replace the scribes completely,
including the rhapsodes.
Or, for example, the parrot
trained by the Abyssinian-by the way, isn't that your earring
adorning his earlobe with chrysalite?0.k. The lexicon is weak, however much it longs
for Unity!
Let the pythian Logos scream it on the Agora.
But Plato-he argued with me. Not a word, Cavafy.
Why did you grimace, as if you'd bitten into an unripe fig?
Does your tooth ache?
So pull it out! Is it painful?
No, my friend-poetry isn't that at all.
It's always something else.
Something else, even if you understand
that it's really something else
and means nothing,
nothing from left to right, nor from right to left.
Oh, I almost forgot: they say that Cyrus knew all his soldiers
byname.
My friend, imagine, how verbose
his funeral song must have been.
Did he really feel immortal?
Didn't he know "you must respect the poverty of language,
69

respect impoverished thoughts" as Alexander said?


By the way, now he doesn't feel any lack of energy
for sciencethe flames of time bend down their heads
to illuminate space for him ...
This is one version (in the style of the neo-Grecian school)
of one representation.
6.

February, hollow, a neighborhood lot.


The chitin of last year's leaves crackles in the hoarfrost.
Snow subdivides the light
accurate to the thousandth degree of blue.
Like wind debris slides to the edge of the board
that a neighbor is diligently sawing for this dacha.
One can see that memory turns into singing.
Halley's Comet, the colorful baroque anatomy
in drawings on calendars, unrolling
in parallels,
go off into the intersection
of you and sky.
A child runs up the stairs step
by step.
Always the same, unchanging-skin, capillaries, sinews,
bones, pneuma,
the spine's coral bridge
sweeps over the lungs' weakness. He looks through the window

70

at you, as if from a leaf,


swallowing his saliva from tension.
We travel like a bowstring between two points
applying force.
I am interested not in an outburst of information
but in the distribution of the outburst in time-conservation.
Did the wound inflicted by Clytemnestra
change the map?
On a black-figured um is a depiction of a man
stepping from a pool
(a premonition of the golden section overcomes the spectator)
covering his groin with a crumpled sheet.
Material in folds.
Thirty years they lingered under Ilion
at times falling over each other, as if at the threshold
of a feast.
In the snow
(on the Euboean wind, the ascent toward gold)
sperm
passing cell by cell
enters the delta
assuming the power of a hand describing the magnificent circle
of a question and collapsing with affirmation
of the hand
which at the last moment opens, palm
against the rib of her to whose eyes the ability to see
returns.
We sat on the burnt out grass,
an invisible cricket continued its terrifying song.

71

Wars are nurtured on the products of intersecting tears.


The cry provoked by wonder penetrates the sinews of history
The sentimental rat running along the boundary lines
with a rooster's comb
is fully aware of the connection between cause and effect.
Correspondences between the genetic code
and combinatory hexagrams
meet with indifference at the aleatoric pointthe fire of elementary particles and projects in ashes.
A falcon with a galactic ear of grain clutched in his beak
slowly falls into the constellation of fishes at his back.
Sand bars undo the braid,
the river with naked scissors cuts off an island in the mindVolny Island, bright with fate, released by freedom
into necessity.
But then
she wanted to answer that he wasn'fthere at the time
but he managed to say that he woke up, went out
and opened his mouthducks were flying north, turning his head.
Behind, smoking angles, bicycles, rafters, crowds
Immediately he leaned on the first thing
that happened to be at hand:
mountains no longer mountains.
The hand didn't tell lies-everything was alive. But still no she.
The banisters were smoking with fog. The gangplanks
ached-someone was descending to shore.
Life, turning, comes in like a waterspout's sting.
Complaint withdraws, like a snail from heat.
Opening their gills
fish throw themselves from the water onto bricks
72

.soaked with fuel oil


Epic is not all that serves the form
of past time. Where there's oil, now there's man,
fodder of stars,
something resembling a critique, dependent for its meaning
on etymology. Adaptations "here," merging
of lines: orpheus-eurydice-mozart-salieri-faust-and-devil.
Biology changing sign system.
It's already the end of the month
and I haven't finished the essay on Khlebnikov.
Trading a bird's footprint for the gift of foresight
we get the springs of number.
But how connect the space of the whole with its edges?
And how can one help but think of those who died?
A sand barge .hovers under the bridge.
Of those
who understand the need to be in all times now
at once?
Does a thought alter them at the rim of the throat of plants?
I never wrote about god ... Do we read
them differently each time? Reading the dregs ...
Or is memory only a strange quality to which you run
as if bringing water to water?
Like an axe swinging
over both hands, laughing, my elegy of dust.
7.

A new reading is a coil of symmetry.


An empty spool glints from under the bridge. Unwillingly
breaking open steel eyes, the river reflected
in the imagination,
73

you dedicate to the fires on the precipice,


to the electric welder spitting on a cooling seam,
to the pre-dawn darkness saturated with wet oak bark
the ring of a silver spoon
and a storm of swifts-whose indivisible unit
is a tree or bush,
its flesh open at the cheek,
faster than pity. Another follows
And again joy
a burst of hearing
The continuation of outlandish speech,

as semeth in a glasse of tyngys quhilk eyen-selfys


eterne,
lethe, attendaunt of ferdenesse,
poynted at ye dayes tu cum as in Al Halowys Marne,
quen gyf mekyl bulluc, tre ond chaunticlere frum cleve
downe slyt
thanne differaunt goddys soth replace hemselfys in formes humane
-my longing for meaning-

uses up still one more sentence. A cloudburst


(air and not enough soil). A thing
(it enters you like a dummy guest). Lips
(the kiss the beams bite on the lips). No need
to understand me, no need.
My request
is so simple.
And one can understand this ...
Letters printed one onto another.

74

I don't know anything.


A boring handful of blood, murmuring at dawn,
when a cross-section of lilacs and islands are behind one's back.
The glass at a different angle of vision changes
the content of seeing.
Tugboats. The phosphor of lilacs.
The inchworm looks for a way out into the night.
The imperfection of the verb, like a beetle, taps
in the space of an erotic mechanismall the letters coinciding
in the current of magnetic fire
Moving without error into the zenith,
into the equation's solution.
A cloud at the point of departure.
A bush. Tomorrow.
As you withdraw, remember:
what began as the other, cannot be other than it is.

75

-I

FOOTNOTES

~--

.. ..

.' ,,

FOOTNOTES
1.

You chose the taste of dust.


Why milk? It's a question of habit...
The taste of dust, forever familiar, doesn't obligate you to anything
The sting of dust isn't noticeable at firstThere is more of me where I forget about myself
These bright shallow niches, hollows, empty bowls,
collar bones pristine as if sources of fire
had let them drink, leaching out the color. A habit?
The taste of milk is the taste of real dust
"I knew your hair in the heat, I called each hair by name"
Time flowed between the stones as hours echoed
Dust over the roofs
In the hand iron and cherries bum equally
I knew you in a single word completely-forgotten ...
as if behind a skin of sun that turned into the reverse side
of touch
the sexless seed from which time has been subtracted.
White clay-in layers and deeper
Root's bones and silver coins are buried between them
black as the streets which sort through the gray streaks of noonMother stands over us at the foot of the bed
We are naked as rules of grammar
And a grimace strays like thick tarnish-we know to perfection
the dust in front of her.
Again a passerby, the boards of a fence
The negative's fever
Gloomy apples hang in the mirror
Wasps abandon the gray shells of their nests.
The mind is more cautious. It has come to resemble a wasp
And birth.
There will be three more days of snow-then dust again.
79

2.

From behind a willow which suddenly caught fire


The hundredth sun rushed into view
In the grass a raven. A raven in the grassdon't say in emerald grass
Nobody writes that way anymore
The skin of things has colorful patterns
September clouds, heavenly teachers of green
And a white jet fighter entwined
in the texture of the day
evaporating. Don't talk about the grass.
If you simply mention birds, like wine they're sure to appearThat's how we live in the year of the hundredth sun
and willow.

80

ACCIPIA

ACCIDIA
(for Lyn Hejinian)

what is there to do-go


what are they doing-going
(from exercises)
1. if mercury, in clots, hardens into inverted ice, and heat
encountering needles of clairvoyance soaks into the escaping
flutter of a cloth
then
it follows
one must break
the mirror
of language
A broken mirror is a bad sign. One
morning in summer I was awakened by an inhuman howling: my
mother was crying. My grandfather had hanged himself.

The seething day formed in its own heat. That summer swarms
of butterflies bustled above the vegetable gardens. In the
arabian skulls of poppies their rustling was confused. Everything begins as an error of vision, with the disintegration of
the thing affixed to its inevitable unity
(Learn by dreaming,
identify
subjects and things.
such is coupling.)
Poppyseed and butterflies.
Redhot ground.
Mint growing from the collarbones.
Links of errors compose themselves into zones of green-not
immortality. and next the tan ruins of the rings
stages
of the destruction of the leaf, the ladder leading from the
alternation of things.
Describing
83

the wind rose, its rays on forty pages of descent, it's possible
to seek out the scabbed-over gesture if the snow is e!].ten away by
the dream. The deposits of color on places where the light is
fused with mercury.

The street he walked down was like a riverbed


or the ancient counting out of proportions and correspondences.
the narrow path of a face. a streetlight in darkening swirls
of air. the head thrown back to see the faded egypt of a
butterfly. you know how cheese ripens in the darkness of a low
barn, in the stone of matter.
The drowsing of the chrysolite is simple.
Names
are burdened with designation. drowsiness, woodenness, through
which perception seeps. Speak.
But. Should it cease?
Masonry, crumbling from the wall, flows out to the end.
Bands of yellow wash quickly over the shoals of sunset.
Or azure even coals in which children are eagerly bathing,
like angels in wild flames, having bitten
the apple of laughter. Every angel is laughable-ludicrous.
An afternoon.
Every stalk loses its significance at night
eternity and
green
spread out bluegray in the sandstone above the
springs
Crete and Crimea
-one bitter clay for a porous
jugspeech rids itself of its liquid
in the sweep
of the measured ring foam blown from Crete
the throat
parallels of rain
the ditches are seams the snail of the
cyclone imitates the shivering of heat in ice inverted, inside out
then absolute blackness.
84

Or the balance of a cloud.


The anticipation of a snare decays in it, like baskets in the
hands of fishermen when they weave them quickly, skillfully,
from damp willow branches, sweet as hair in the overcast
morning water.
Descent of the page.
Steel splash of fish. The cold morning was inescapablesunrise of plastic bags in the kitchen. water from the tap.
long-decaying roses.

2. first an error of vision. unconvincing invocations of hair.


the war lasts 37 years signifying a temporary armistice, after
which a new abduction of Persephone, yet another in a continuing
series. a failed event. "c" doesn't meet in a circle, a
congruent "s," the space. between them a plane.
walking down the
street he turns. inside him sways a growing, terribly slow god.
reaching the end he gathers himself as if to leap and inevitably
(this is said with absurd delight) something happens. otherwise
would it be worth living, they ask. he turns, twisting with
difficulty, turning the axis of his spine. thus the next line
straightens itself out of despair
or desire, a lie growing with delicate patience, suffocating in
the bright light, in the grass waste. without any hurry
enumerate the ones which await destruction voluptuously in
neighboring death
or Klee's milk tears
a hound
licking a smooth bone howling on a scrap heap
of burning rubber

85

I didn't dream of a white jet bomber


and a daughter dreamed up by the wind, passing from the body of
the sister into the blood of the wife, of iron, of the empress,
or into the silver hemorrhaging of leprosy-it would seem that
this is enough for a dream; too much! in other words, to make a
long story short (no bugs remain when the building bums) I
crunched the vertebrae in my neck under a wreath of guffaws, 'a
massive white hoop.
crowns of walnut trees
of fading maples
wormeaten purple of the hills
a million yellow lions are ready to exit from the intersecting
eyelashes
of the sunset
falling so heavily from sunrise to the west that you forget the
song of the ones who touch the palate with expired tongue and
break the swinging of the thread
from which they don't know how
to live without others. The habit of company, the context of
living. Life. Or, on the contrary-casually sinking into the
night like children in the blue strewn with coals (!ls for its
length, my mother's scream in the morning seemed equal to a
threnody's structure, beams visible in the burning roof).
imaginary angels in the delirious yellow pollen.
behind the curtain of duration, past islands.
I was a watchman there at one time. Locked in an office. I had
a lot of papers. There were many windows in the building: to the
north, to the south, the east and to the west. I was a watchman of
windows there, locked in the buildirig with the cast iron gates, watching
how forms of air alter by the candlelight dripping beside the treesand the investigations were conducted with absolute regularity.

86

I waited for water.


It surfaced, spilling breath.
An involuted cloud passed over the kitchen garden, above the

poppy's arabic face, in the open fabric of the leaves, in the


tattered thistledown.
Both sink into the tree, changing like air
space turning in on itself, just as the continuous body
is self-absorbed,
the letter
drawn into the funnel of the word
Remember foxes and cold
fragile
nests
berry stains
I don't remember
the wrist
a hollow
decaying vein

It's a forest

Or a field in autumn. The rustle of smoke in the mouth, a


hare's scream, slipping off to the side. The field. Rustling.
First snow. Nothing adds definition to their goal as they sweep
each other away. Sounds quietly drift, swing up, and melt away
behind the unstable wall of drifted snow. They exhaust the
raven. It strikes the wall of an immobile night. A hunt.
Sharp vacant days.
Broken fire
scholarship of smoke late in the day.
The clay is porous.
Rows of high rains.
The heavy stars collapse in Scardanelli's eyes.
Sometimes.
Birds fall into wide gorges at the poles. Feathers of imaginary
87

birds above. The light in clots contracts like beads within a


mercury skin. The empress returns in the first form of the
sister, and the page is ending
Mercury and foam wheat
poppy and verbena
lilac in the gloomy north
aurum of
decay.
She/he/it without moving. But here we're not comparing
numbers
to the ciphers of first errors. A thousand lines together,
ten thousand worlds swim onto the surface of the rapids.
Deaf and mute, a snowy gesture.
Is that how it was?
A bridge bending over the black vineyard sea.
Who then walking down the street?
Evening on the delta. A gust in the evening. The pine needles
of the bay
are black.
3.

pride

description disintegrates, absorbed into another

irritation at the breaking up of white


"nobody can accuse me of false faith"
"and there, my soul-a permit-you arrive"
one thinks perhaps of grass
defying the meaning of distinctions until they're negated:
gender, number, case
A butterfly with a bloody mouth gradually disappears
in the doorways
of a scream

88

Note to "Accidia":
"Everything begins as an error of vision ... " Just imagine, I
somehow read this in I don't remember which of your letters,
transmuting a simple phrase into a ridiculous one.
And regardless of the obvious unfoundedness of such an
"interpretation," without long consideration I included this line
in the text of the poem now known to you as "Accidia."
You may ask, does "accidia" in my case signify stillness,
silence, a dying down? Agreed. Partly because I always agree with
everything. And nevertheless, a long time before the need to
specify the word's significance arose, before I had to select
even approximately a "leading" sense, this word for a
considerable time, disappearing and reappearing, lived as a
sound, at times rolling away somewhere entirely on the periphery
of my vision, remaining there for awhile as a dumb grapheme.
I didn't question it about anything because I felt no necessity.
It was almost fleshless, light, like winged seeds floating in

autumn, perpetually revolving above the earth. But along with


this there was a viscid, as if Cambrian, blue clay melting in the
dried out depths of heat. It lingered, without converting into an
odious veil of associations, as it was, looking for no
continuation either in acoustic or in colored conjunctions,
although it possessed excellent vowel inflections like dampness
or the memory of love promising (in the no less unstable future)
the well-known flexibility of misleading harmony. In Persian
miniatures lovers were depicted with identical faces.
It was ready to annihilate other senses without having acquired

its own, I suspect. However, leaving aside what was still for me
a meaningless cocoon-such was the circle-'as the figure of a
virtual metaphor, of an unsubstitutable incarnation, it began to
tum transparent, to grow tense, to tighten into definition as
something distantly reminiscent either of sandstone burned into
faded azure-purple or as stone honeycombs darkening into delicate
fretwork before the eyes.
I took to thinking again of axes revolving on the metal strings
of death, of a milky yellowness without any basis, and then there

89

appeared a dry soft crunching, a riverbed-mountain range-river


floor. And not even the floor but a mirage pouring out in hot
steam over the burning clays, granite, and soil.
However the word was completely innocuous, it tore away shadow
and reflections, without multiplying echoes, emerging and
returning unchanged. Only with the passing of time within it, there
began to appear behind it, without any reason, something else-the
old Russian word "speak" (rtsi). Speech and stream. That was the
first change. The stream was empty. The stream turned out to be
the riverbed of a sandy stream or the sand itself in another
form: the concept immediately became very important-the blend of
a definite and indefinite quantity in one word. Crafty,
habitually comfortable relations began to grow in the mastered
grammatical attractions, to take on cunning and scatter, at some
instant or another, unexpectedly revealing mercury (rtut'), a
lake of mercury, an amalgam and the sad mirror of language, its
interior. "Everything begins as an error of vision ... "-the line
beginning the poem has itself slipped to the side, giving way to
the one with which it now begins.
(from a letter to L.H., February 24, 1984)

90

NASTURTIUM AS REALITY

.i

. I

NASTURTIUM AS REALITY

Clad in sweat
you drink cold water from the pitchers.
-V. .Khlebnikov
1.

An attempt
to describe an isolated object
determined by the anticipation of the resulting wholeby a glance over someone else's shoulder.
A nasturtium composed
of holes in the rain-spotted window-to itself
it's "in front,"
to me, "behind." Whose property is the gleaming
tremor
of compressed disclosure
in the opening of double-edged prepositions
in
a folded plane
of transparency which strikes the window pane?

93

2.

Attacked by white, dessicated and exact


(so precise it's as irreducible as ellipsis)
a wall
in the turquoise blue distortion.
To the nasturtiums
the storm left a legacy of limestone and heat
in a purple semi-circle
and steam gleaming in the cloverleaf courtyard.
A sign, inverted-not mirror, and not childhood.
(A version: this night shattered apart
by the rays of ~he dragonflies' concise deep blue
drawing noon into a knot of blinding
foam ...
A version: tonight the rays of the dragonflies
crumbled, by day they sewed together cattails and sedge
in the marshes, where the steam is dazzling, like a cobweb
in summer, andthe total renunciation
of any possible embodiment in reading: neither
a dragonfly, nor that which forms and is
formed
or is washed away
by this awareness-but the clearest forms
need mud. A version.)
As a living fretwork in blown grass
the slanting wind carries silence.
A sound
from without

94

approaching
that which
the eye has blurred, an unconforming form,
it bares, rushes out 100 times into angles
where the obsessive attempt to outrun silence
persistently encounters the arrogant silence.

95

3.
The vibrating nasturtium
(immersion
of a bumblebee in the still unconsumed confusion of wings)
on
the thread of intentions strengthens the edge
(something is happening to the eyesthey don't communicate with the brain)
of matter
in the nominative, near verbal fiber
of the flowerit opens its leaves
mournfully rounded
(the shrieks of guttural bushes as they fade
transform them into clusters
of autumn tarnish)
in the dusk.
( the knowledge, which belongs to me,
absorbs it cautiously, tying it
to innumerable capillary nets:
the nasturtium-it is a section of the neuron
string ... )
Some are eaten through by caterpillars, sun rays, aphids.
A sign sweats over the doorway:
"Voltaire has been killed. Call me immediately."
Damp words chalk.

96

4.

Do you remember
how the nasturtium
first separates from the plane leaf?
Where the will takes on the meaning of the desire
to rush a hairbreadth from death forward
until the vertebrae crackle in the pentatonic scale
and ants are at one's templeslike thin-fleeced
saltwith the dry enlivened ringing
of air fingering every hair
of what
is already a pitcher, water and sweat and plane leaves,
waterlily, necklace of dust
and blade, showing through
a gap
and all the rest that might continue
but only memory, opening slightly, jumps
to meet it, untangled by the eyes,
trying so ludicrously to seduce
what
henceforth is only a continuation
within the ends' immense proximity,
hurried persistent speech. The dialogue
is common enough:
You'll say, "Where were you?"
97

She'll stammer, "I.. ....." And right away


you prompt her:
"You were wandering around in the passage between order
and chaos ... "
"Yes, if you want ... Yes."
"So?
What did you bring with you out of the past?
And do you need what you brought now?"
"When? ...
Where? ... For myself?"
"Yes. You! For yourself!"
"O, everything that you tell me I'll remember ... "
(And the boring dialogue goes on, gradually
becoming noise)
So
the tree I read (what?) went behind a shadow.
And if I could instill my consciousness into its population
of leaves, into the register of sparks and twigs,
in the rumble of its branches, an unrolled papyrus
will,
One would say: Theshadow is ready to leave behind
its sources in the branches' tips,
having set for "dying"
the terms of an absurd confession of love.
Impenetrable.

98

5.

Blades pocked with repetition


(forty seconds spent searching for an analogy
to the upward branching
at the throat of the stem-instead
of this: "the emotions are
a component of composition, and the expression,
itself branching out into exclamation,
means as much as
the comma which precedes its appearance")
in radiating veins, like holes inscribed
in living epidermis,
flowing toward a precipice,
not calming the disordered fluctuations,
lie close,
dividing between itself and methe space that preserves reaso~,
where questions about value ought to flicker. Arkadii
Trofimovitch Dragomoschenko describes
a nasturtium, inserts it in his head. The chlorophyll
aligns galaxies of oxygen. The friction of light
against the green mass widens the path of the thing in the net
filtering the heavy rainfall,
another hovers
lazily, signifying at the shivering threshold
knowledge of wide losses, a gap that runs
into the cracks
whose bivalved power, like a melted pattern,
a grapevine ...

99

having passed with strange mumbling


into a new space begetting something else
from the immutable.
A.T.D., proclaim the rhetoric of accumulation
and affirmation: are they the same swifts (of three years
ago)
like molecules of darkness, which will weave the theme
of evening for the stars again,
dropping a muscular line into the crowning bay?
That nightly subsidence into the green and lore
in silt
the mercy of soils ...
The nasturtium
and anticipation rainy as the window and window behind window
(he in it, it in him)
like meanings smashing each other
(I don't say, metaphor ... )
drawn
by emptiness,
one of the distinct detailsstraight,
thin,
line pulled across the tree,
mouth,
the shadow its weathervane, sorting the horizontals
of decision,
thought,

100

6.
) without time to be born, dressed briefly
in speech)
forming rows of luminescence in aggravated
matter (
into its opposite
spattering number, genus
on the different sides like narrow glass beads from ecstatically
torn thread,
Just as, without time to evaporate,
a water drop is thrown off the scalding stove.
The tum of the head is dictated by the necessity
of comprehending the trajectory
of a feathered body whose mass is squeezed
into the corridors of vision's gravity,
cutting
its inverse perspective
into the thicknesses of prolix equilibriums. The mechanism
of the keys, extracting sound, hovering over
its description
in the ear,
protracted with reverberation into the now. When? Where?
Me? Vertigo conceives
"things."
And its outlines are unalterable, in order to cut off
the decrease, the frame, its verticals serve as examples
of how the palpable enters reasonzaum returns with the conclusion that it has absorbed
and dissolved into pure plasma each day:

101

the nasturtium, unusually simple (empty)


at the first line (from either end)
of equilibrium's position.
A parenthesis, which one doesn't want to close.

102

7.

On the yellowish blue the white is violet. The pores drink


the limestone's heat
and semi-circles of sun rust in the grass.
Only
through another
(multiplication tables, game boards, needles, a logarithmic
bird, cabbage butterflies wandering in the gardens, the valence
of days, nature ... little word figures through the formulae
of dragonflies
and attics,
where Saint-John's-wort dozes, and slightly honeyed wood dust
pours from the sweltering ceiling beams,
where sun-filled wasps are wakeful, and where, tossing her skirt
on the broken bureau
with wood dust in her hair,
a neighbor girl, spreading her legs,
puts your hand where it is hottest
arid the hand learns all that it always saw
through
multiplication tables, logarithmic bird, through
the stars of her mouth ... )
-and the point isn't which kind ...
there's another kind of modelling made by the tongue's saliva
under the dark lamp of the throat
As if going backward in intentional ignorance it should happen
that a time occurs, worthless even for nonexistence,
and bends the bones into an arc
simultaneously carving
the lips into a strange smirk,
a wave.
103

And the air


chases your gaze along the curvature of the earth,
which from the window is scattered with grass, hieroglyph
flowing
in the rapids
of a finished spring on the brink of an over-full moon
the one that for us "having reached fullness"
stopped the blood in the solar cycle
having almost touched with its fingertips
(not having quite reached)
summer's zones,
like a water drop reflected by heat ...
and as if fear was reluctant to evaporate ............................ ..

104

8.

Where the will takes on the meaning of the desire


to lean on the hair of the breeze.
There were eight of you at her bed.
She had to begin counting: the first or ninth
in the stench of disintegrating cells (childhood terror!
pushing fangs of vomit at the sight of the waxy gloss
approaching the sweet mask whose mouth flows
out of the ears
and the candle scent in the fumes of memories of one
who like a log stripped of bark is spread out
in lush loam!)
and
in the rotting of sweet connections-young lunar uterusare accustomed to the divisions of time.
And only the others' glance
blindly holds the plasma ...
But you write that "waiting," "discontinuity,"
losing sense and substance, like a third color
wove her
into its own pattern, a work accomplished free
of knots,
and all the more unbearable the meaning of "her" ripened in you
while the quiet work went on revealing
thoughts
(you, her) from the sheath of feminine pain
the silent symmetry crumbling in the immense proximity
of the end.
And the tree grew dark in front of you, and the guiding wind
led the white grass, confusing its names ...

105

And here, in the forty-first year of life,


a pampered fool of the cold clouds
leads his brail) with his eyes around the circle
of moths, and obsessed
with who knows what fantasies
testing the fingers'
craft
I contemplated the truth behind events listening to the vividness
of the erased words
ready to expound on the defects of precision, as
"all that you see over another's shoulder
already-you are
and another's shoulder again;
powerless to continue anything
into knowledge, dividing into a single ... "
"Grammar book-landscape" through the X of comparison
a substitute nasturtium
flickers. It creeps behind the windowsill.
Somewhat cold.
Shimmering slightly.
Sunset.

106

9.

Lightning (on the craftiness of touch)-ring


of naturewill split open some prior ocean,
the mollusc of the brain and water, outstretched
on both sides,
the latter left
finished for a long time
so that in the future it might creep with linked twinkling
static
or spawning squeak diagonally across the room
which by heart the fire grooves.
Don't ever let yourself
smoke in bed.
On the water
where surviving the cells' mutation
in dividing mirrors, in the play of this and that
in the rustling reverse side of amino acids (it seems, in fact,
this is where the division into male and female occurs
in the mollusc of the brain and on the ripplewind's manuscript)
a figure will be glimpsed
as a consequence (a few fluctuations of its contours
miss the membrane of the throat!)
in flapping folds
stepping barefoot on the ripple's indifferent letter
which tickles the sole. The fish
can expect to be divided into five,
the bread-into starvation, one. The grapes-to grow
in gaping possibilities of the metaphor of blood.
107

10.

And here in the 41st year of life


A pampered fool, whose speech continually
misses the point,
Obsessed
by the thought of putting my fingers to crafts of transgression
which from various sides have occupied the horizon's
ends
pecking through the window shell
I follow from burst to burst, from explosion to explosion,
faces, like magnesium petals floating by,
which permit those who remain a misprint in memory
to be recognized.
The bed of coal
-countless imprints compressed into the possibility
of ash.
Tom by someone's hand the microwreath
of sweet-scented stock
descends and clings
like a magnetic-green moth to the bend of the elbow.
The door is banging on the whitewashed balcony: where
are you now?
The grimace of time. The chalky scowl' s carcass
in the cold furnace where the nasturtium
distills
existing like leaves that appear just at evening
and in the goblet's shape (edges flared)
which speeds
the spiral
108

of the flower.
Azure slightly clatters from an airplane
crawling behind the clockface.
An unidentified object is raised
to the rank of enemy.
Iconology.
We hurry with the word's identification, before rumor
can destroy it.
The poem is a late arrival on time. A change of prognosis.
Even the dullest town extends beyond the borders
of the pedestrian who crosses it
to set out the substance of memory! intend to say ... .I in ... that
what is said and emptiness, drawing in a selection
of the elements of utterance,
correlating,
discover desire' s inexhaustible sourcewhat is said cannot be said again. The mailman explains:
false sense of shame ...
Remnants of winter-a scarecrow stuffed with rags and straw
burns, enchanted in the round dance's rays. Gnosis
of weather.
The ecstasy of unthinkable closeness (death knots
the slits in the shore-a plastic operation)
leaving behind
the remnants of reason-through to the bone
from the first touch (reflection) on the skin.
Thanks to the verb, meaning more often senseless
walking
along the sand or a swimmer, peeled by the imagination
from a point, trickling down the edge of the eye,
like a pea from a peapod
or intimacy with cold, bitten through by the cotton
whiteness,
109

rippling canvas, fading between current


and
weight, heaven knows where from and where to
against the deafened silver's wool,
clinging
to the intangible object of discord. Conjecture is simple-the nasturtium is not

110

11.

necessary. It is composed from the exceptional exactness


of language
commanding the thing-"to be"
and the rejection of understanding. We say sometimes. Sometimes
we speak: of another time. Right into the snare
of the mustard seed
signs, reminiscent and leading to reminiscence
in the disintegration of the poem into the last coil of the cocoon
of exhausting breath.

111

12.
The nasturtium-it is the undiminished procession
of forms, the geological chorus of voices crawling,
shouting, disclosing each other
when
day transforms evening into a hill of drifted insomnia
and a chirp
creeps into the mouth of an old man on a bench
but also a shriek, through the birch slides of fetid air
from the neighboring house,
by which you could check your watch, for the third year
the same swifts,
paper, taking root in the table tops' rough wood
a gas tank behind the crossing, near the gas pump,
collecting heat in the lines, and a face in the intrigue
of the anti-corrosive layer,
the center's different architecture. A particle is not related
to prayer. But see. Threading the seen through the needle
whose greed
fits the impeccability of its choice-the narrowest
opening of form.
The nasturtium bearing fire.

112

KONDRATII TEOTOKOPULOS AT THE


CROSSROADS
AWAITING A GUEST

'

KONDRATII TEOTOKOPULOS AT THE CROSSROADS


AWAITING A GUEST
And send us rice also.
I assure you, his appearance
will no longer make me grin.
Water boiling long in a pot-thoughts
of clouds.
(from Imitations)
12noon
Resembling the sun's disk, a circle, or rather, a sphere,
a figure of scorching insects,
immobile imaginary nightingale,
swimming overhead, as if over the sea.
He is the pole of night,
the back of the head an open hand.
He's an ode to a snare-set in light as in shade.

Xenia: For a long time now I've been trying not to hear anything.
Except what we're not allowed to read. We only see what we see,
only what we're allowed to see. Even the tiniest city doesn't have
an end. Long observation of shifting birds convinces me of this.
Sometimes they converge the way words converge into a
sentence or foliage into noise. Narrative begins behind the
sentence. It's quite right to picture a hedge. The scope of my
imagination is no less than the scope of desire. Imagination
differs from fantasy as the form "is" from the form "if." To

115

reconstruct in the present facts that are irrelevant to the body.


But every city has its own beginning. The shells around
smells, narrowed into sound, don't acquire meaning by
awaiting transport. An image is not the seed (unique) from
which the world blossoms. It is the hole into which it rushes,
sweeping. Yes, I know what you're about, I always know what
you're about. Now.

116

12:01

In the last
lushest (o gods, is there a limit set between overcloud
and underground for you? but how happy
this wild stalk always is!)
but also darkest
(dark as moss in the lowlands)
curve of wind-black, and now transparent
after the flocks' flight south
fractured with flickering like the spine
broken
to fusethe crown of the deeps grows.
Fire of feathers
mute, maintained by dawn
in the last curve of the wind, in its very core
howling down turns
The city which
delivers itself from its own chest, scored
by the thorny nickel, mercury, cut by veins of voices talking,
marked by eruptions of fate.
Suffocating delta. Cranes
at the port.
Crowned by the bay.
The seagull's timid arrogance absorbs the creating of measure
in the waters' peaceful rim. Scarab vessels learn
their own outlines in the supple scale of resistance
and are completely perfect.

117

The roots
of the sea are exposed by flood. Three times
the city is like a fledgling of the gods' hostility
dispersed by a hologram (shattered)
across the last supper:
feathered with silence, lowering burning eyelids. I

Xenia: Sometimes this hill, opening the unfulfilling insufficiency of


space to your time (patience), is variously inhabited. The yellow
cutter, the dredge, the tugboat-motion frozen in the window-the
week's strange gifts. Sometimes a touch, approaching yours, not
motivated by anything, anticipates wave after wave of space,
separated by different things: a single ash, a scratch on the skin. At
the sight of some round body (the most precise blend of desire and
dictionary) and some distortions from its ideal form drawn from
memory, I'm willing, having taken note of the body's color, to
decrease the distance between the sign for it, "apple," and it itself.

118

12:49

I give
you this city, since it's time to give it away,
says Kondratii Teotokopulos, drinking from morning's cup
(in the old days the sun served it
at the edge of the roof: they drank dust ...
such thirst for rejoicing occurred, spilling dizziness)
today
morning ashes, discouraged leaves, the smell of paper,
cedar pencils, gasoline, water rotting under pilings,
voices having discovered the possibility of extending
toward things. I
look for refuge in gravity.
He adjusts his glasses
in their round frames here and there reinforced
with insulating tape:
reliability and strength.
A given: the nymph of myopia (head an emerald-green
medusa) patiently taught him in his infancy
to recognize by feel the dice of fire in the woven thaw
and also chinks of coal-fingers guided gently-night sky.
And what if the man
who at heart can't stand any more allegories,
oracles' screams, sacred oaks humming, frenzied pythons,
what if for him there isn't a single decision
that's not late.

Xenia: From more than a smoldering trace the lips learn. From a
touch the anticipation of loss. Love of the saints only brought him to
terror's edge. Pain as the place for the concentration and
disembodiment of thought. The line is included in a still not quite
119

complete expression-thus in dreams the slender rows of type


are half-erased by looking- scrutiny is an "intransitive" verb,
or rather, like understanding. I, arising from the point of contact,
is released equally to everything, and you understand that the
important thing is not what it stands for but that only
exclusion-so dreaming-serves as a remedy. 0 the unseen
supports, stretching the skin of the copula. Didn't they speak in
all languages in the city where he spent his youth? And what a
blessing, to begin to move in one and to finish in another,
without moving even an iota-tree in the window of the train,
axle spinning around its own axis, surrounding your many-given
I, which, as everyone knows, is in the first place forgotten.
Skylark. Telephone wires.

120

3:30p.m.
A boy on a bicycle (the pumpkin planets are contemplative,
glossy with autumn's horns), momentum of icy wheels,
adhering with a preposition to the rippling fence,
dragging a scrap of flaming oakum on a wire. The flame drips.
A guffaw incinerates the membrane between death and laughter.
The sky
beats its laser
into either comer of the furtive eye, cutting the sheaves
of interim conditions-fem night again.
In stages the substance of descriptions, gelatinous mirrors,
lascivious confluence of premonition and form:
a metaphor is only a hole,
being's desire, forestalling the appearance of the object,.
interweaving a cell of meaning in the speed of reflections.
The view
from the apex: faceted crystal-instrument of research
into the coincidings of entry and exit.
Between a breath taken and its exhalation is a configuration
-time. In the end
the birds mean nothing!
A long ford, like debt,
across the great river. Happiness. Beginning

Xenia: Upon further observation the body invites more detailed


descriptions, or vice versa. The extraction of attributes. The sum of
semas, then the sum of elegies. The hand feels the weight of the apple.
Grief fears repetition or quantity. There is nothing unique, however.
The expression "was not" goes back to childhood. The number of
moons on the asphalt is locked into the step as a unit, having no end,
121

merging into the noise of the birdlike foliage in the roots of night.
Each flaw provides freedom, an angle. Then the accumulation,
permitting observations to last longer than usual. The sun stands
in the center of the sea. Sometimes it is a hill, sometimes the berry
of death. The false apple does not appear as an apple, thanks to
the forewarnings of definition-an indication, cut out from the
sum of any negation's attributes. The apple, does it contain .... The
object of falseness could be a false object, but the false apple is in
no condition to be an apple. No matter what form it takes, the sea
does not soothe one in sleep. In forty years the underside of sleep
changes, the pattern of breaks changes, of gaps, which permit one
to hypothesize inverted changes. Grief becomes melancholy. The
line is included in an expression not yet fulfilled. Where I grew up
the barbers in the marketplace, instead of greeting when they met,
gave an enigmatic exchange, ''Well, so?-we cut and we shave and
still everything grows." At the railroad station lived six brothers in
a dugout with their mother. There was no father. Three of them
walked around with razors, these razors were somehow welded to
rings-they wore the rings on their fingers. They murdered "with
relish," that is with a knife. With the razor-they "wrote." Vague
spring evenings, fires, potatoes in the coals. Petals of ash fell on
our hair, melted on our lips. The yellow cutter ferrying across to
Freedom Bridge.

122

6:19 (morning)
is difficult, no matter what praise you offer incarnation
(you are always a repetition-isn't there a blessing in that?
-even on a mother's lips, where with the blinding fog
of love for another-the seven voyages of Father Sinbadmore precise pity for a glob of slime
helpless sediment ... ) Would you want to repeat
your life?
Where are the wasps from?
Scales. Comments are the residue.

Xenia: The black oil of rains which have lost mercury's silver (is the
hint of noise beyond meaning natural, left behind at some point in a
common household expression? star's flying cobweb, fog, a
gathering of birds). The self-sufficiency of a light-seeing sphere.
Thus drops. Thus the undeviating increment of the drops or razor
blades. Undoubtedly each city has to begin from something. Now
and then archaeology, studying the birds' hollow dice patterned
with narrow burns, discontinues its research. Anaphora.
Chersonesus. The sun stands in the center of every metaphor.
There's another opinion about the point beyond which the division
of memory is impossible. The near in the distant is an isomorph of
the great in the small.

123

12:00 (noon of the same day)


Or rather, like autumn. But tending toward the inescapable
anxiety of thinking about this, as if history again peeled off
one more layer of skin from the tongue
the moisture
in his throat fills the hollow of a ludicrous syntagma: I

am alone. Like the solitude-at experience's whim-of any


answer under December's
retreating sky
in search of questions.
Little flags marking dreams come off the map. The swinging
of a weathervane
to a meeting point, the pole, connecting vision
and a vision.
The future is taken up with the splintering of the present.
Parallels.
Resemblances. Between an apple not yet fallen
and a hanging cloud
a sky of changing vowels stretchesbeams' outlines beneath the cornea gather at the period's
hiatus.
Poetry opens a letter to infinite readings
and time, like a concealed magnet, bends the vector of speech
with an infinite slide demonstration liberating the object.
Time is a holographic depiction of a seed.
Let's let the digging dogs lie. In such and such year
at the beginning of March.
Teotokopulos
adjusts his glasses on the bridge of his nose.
At the store they're unloading cabbage from a van.

124

Sweat gathers on his temples.


In coarse-grained mosses

wells-every spindle of berry blood. The birchbark' s


horizontal scabs, cast off yearly,
discover the meaning of a different item. A man's
naked body, displayed across the shoulders, crowned
with an ibis head (in other regions-a bull).
An armful of wheat ... or of bamboo.
Scales
(gallows are suggested by an instrument for keeping
rigorous balance) ...
overflow ...
some crossbeam ... still one more, confined
in a circle (a corpse),
offer themselves as choices. But he's calm,
since he pays his telephone bills regularly.
Or rather, they became less frequent. No,

125

12 midnight
let there be ocean rather
releasing the gravel of air through the mouth's arch
with a whistle,
Kondratii Teotokopulos proclaims.

The sea? asks the neighboring loader, throwing


a tray of cabbage
onto the conveyor belt. Just try to save money!
One way ... But then these fruits for the children!
However Teotokopulos, pulling on his Adam's apple,
repeats a word
and sees. But what does he see?
Scarab vessels are rolling the ocean's globe.
The crab of the lunatic letter of life
wedges itself in a crack. Thunder of vertically thrown foam.
The rock face is slowly crumbling under the heel of the sun
like imagination beating down over a photograph of death.
A mother of pearl smoky oyster, dissecting the skin
with salt - a shriek
as if
drawing apart the edges of the embrace
on a new and final
meeting. Once they drank dust.
At the knot of cities, drawn through the fingers, instructed
since childhood,
they followed the development of a lullaby. He feels
the dryness of the. skin, the feature that changes his face,
set on two spikes of a gaze (swallows spin the millstone)
two needles
knitting a sack from space. And as if from the swings

126

again: women's hands, a mother? the belly of the lilac carp


a bloodless slit, cherries fall (a world, like a comparisonthe second part elusive), dust embraces the sheaves
with coolness,
mint,
the star of all universal warmth. Yes, this mother
fixes a strand.
And not one movement
so that it could .soak into the body. I say, the step. Not the sea.
Are you listening? I say, hill, not step. I say, two elevators
in the haze, a hawk. I ask, why is the sound turned off! What
did I say? Repeat it. You said, crab. Hot day. City.
Something about the throat.
And everything you said begins with a single letter.
About love later. Wait silently. From this the courage
of non-understanding begins,
as from some alphabet, mute and set behind a grid.

Xenia: At the very heart of a down-swooping turn (like a fledgling of


the labyrinth-the city meanwhile either living or dead) Kondratii
Teotokopulos remembers how he and his son at night in springtime
met a man in a vacant lot listening to the nightingale's song.

127

Ode To Snaring the Imaginary Nightingale


(for Barrett Watten)

The description of that bird is this window.


-Barrett Watten
Like a narrow sun threatened by the nightingale
he scatters a net of footsteps without purpose on the rutshe who confounded the new moon with the news, confused
rumor with fire
which fools us with the consonance of clay and manure
And tormented (not capriciously) he tries to enter
at the point where he will no longer be
the sought after object. Isn't that love? Wake up, snare-setter,
in the snare

as open as chance.
He avoids the decaying of one,
of another, of a third, in the overflow of divergence
not so naive as to consider the sound of asymptomatic reality
in the implosion that's woven in the fabric
as the co-radiating of coincidence ...
The world fell like a constellation of holes: an amber chunk
of cheese.
It's as if sweat were coming through the glass
of the jealous subjective triad-hence number straightens out
and expands,
suddenly shattering the digit,

128

and like an ingot of stumbling blocks (as if the bottom ... )


or with a snail's cramped pause night will drink itself up with
plenty to spare,
like a line drawnheld in the elbow of sleep-going from one to the other
like two needles flying toward each other. And their urge
to meet is such
that the mind is prepared to burn something, so that the
selected material will vanish
and trying to expiate the intermittence of that same line
with layers-but how simple!-it's simpler
than remembering
your own death
or the falling of the ray-past me-to her forearm
where the obscuring day, a nut in the apertures of air,
trembles,
and the sin will not fade on her lips,
crossing islands of suffocation
whose map, curved, is quieter than captivity
with consciousness of the body stretched ...
But neither to begin nor end the attraction of the nightingale
to what you want without control to anticipate.

***
Not all the buds' cryptograms have opened.
It was spring. The willow-herb still hadn't bloomed. Night,
stammering, quadrupled speech,
A struggle penetrating earth, the oaks' homes grew into coffins.
And from the south aridity was blowing.
Cats crept toward puddles

129

spellbound by the crystal void set in the Milky Way


of once strewn constellations
And flowers enraged by the lofty black,
by the heights languorously circumnavigated (like multiplicity
in moments of transition)
and they change the structure of the eye with their throats
as if to see outside from far away
the fluctuation which we call space--a garden
of ghostly dancing stones,
whose fullness rises to subtraction,
whose barrier is only expectation of the "guard"
(even memory has mumbled speech to me--a swarm of untied
knots,
future times, distributed in equivalents
of order).
My son and I saw how the shadow stopped,
listened, slowly coming awake,
and moved toward the road, barging through bushes gulping
vacant lots
under the sparkling snap of sagging wirestwisted into a braid
deafened in the frenzy
ofunseeing elements
of black
wet
bees.

130

12:01

At night my hands-the stevedore Savelii lights a cigaretteseek refuge in weight, stretch out to brother potato,
to younger brother onion, to sister cabbage,
and when at last to my youngest sister, I wake .up
and behave properly.
My head-Kondratii Teotokopulos thinks in responseis a resting stone which
the sands raise back to their source as theyflow down
to its mouth. The stone
lies on the boundary between a vigil and a dream.
How enormous the field is
at times-even every echo aims avidly straight
into the lips' drought
ready to be swallowed. Rain is its sickle. Don't wait for me,
a mute.
However
either the movement is excessively vast or your body
surpasses an avalanche in its power to displace. So
from birth you are only a trap for some soul,
word, an obscured thing, loved
and as if drawn in just where the beginning unfolds.
The essence is in the center of gravity, continues the stevedore,
and undoubtedly, in the spine ...
Children very rarely make themselves up as death on holidays.
Harvest days, pumpkins, candles. Soon the pigeons
will bring down the roof following a celestial battle.
In the evening (a phrase-inexhaustible mines of color)
idly ciontemplating the ultrasonic, having attained
maximum frequencies,

131

while the tomatoes, garlic, dill are being cut, he


puts the Chianti on the windowsill
until it turns black with purplethe juice having crossed over the threshold of ignorance.
Sunset opens
a breach in the strait.
The whistle of sedge. A scythe strikes stone,
lies quietly down beside it.
The sum total.
Through the walls the flocks' feathers, burning
through to the south, are
irresistibly flung toward us.
And you weren't asleep. Neither was I. Lens
of rain. Plait, unbraided
into vastness. Like a wheel
the knife will be torn from the hand
and like autumn its flight is long,

bitter
along the lips, and wormwood along the edge (another fern night)
freezing inaudibly into the analogy of ice
will float past the toe to the floor
speading a train of mildew-the speed
of papers' rattling on the crest
when one says what one sees.
The speed of assimilating wall, picture, kitchen sink, metal
returning like Messaien's stalagmites, missives of a drip,
burning gas, dust on the edges of a phrase
corresponding to the habitual instruction. Don't blame me. I
measure the shadow of the shadow with the shadow,
signifying: here.
Today my mind is strong, like wind in its last swirl
from the ground.
In the sirens' delta. Nightingales in a wasteland. The Fibonacci
series, like Cadmus' army descends into the region of the bay.
Here is realism: the parts of speech are alien to compassion.
Withdrawal on the snail's horns.
132

The pedestrian is the sign of passing by, its fusion


with empty movement,
the symbiosis of opening and its outline. His hands
still don't understand how her wonderful body
transforms into combinations of consonants and vowels,
branching out into a series of programs.
A series when it leads toward the mind's purest laws.
Demonstrative
pronoun.
Each is always a flight from the other
-astonishment everywhere.
Home changing signs becomes smoke.
Light in the shifting meaning, refreshing the retina.
The flesh of minute-silence-word
decaying under the eyelids
until matter is processed.
But oblivion!
The drill of speech bores into the wax separating surface
and aggregate.
Apples in the museum are the size of a macrocephalic's head
-Eden's fruits.
For 200 years in a cabinet behind glass
there's a fairly full grown rabbit.
Hermes
-the bamboo of which Pascal dreams,
hollow, like depth and transparency, as if burned by flocks
to the south, the flute's breathing.
The man who calls himself "you"
will never be rid of the dream
of flight
(even flowing together in streams in monotony,
even snow sliding up the ladder-an incalculable
approximation remains, like a dictionary,
which
is one and the same).
133

Rectified by the resinous flight. Then


the bamboo comes alive, pulsing its "up-down." Left
enters right, recalling thought, marking the privilege
of the present.
Here he stands straight as flight
already broken by a pool in the sky, glides like wet thread,
an old woman sewing, who flies with an empty sleeve to the heart
of the God of grapes.
Another thing. Tears of a child,
crying over nothing, throwing back his fragile head:
either night's
gardens multiply in him or the pitch dark shines on him
from resinous reins in the acetylene

of the insects' fruitfulness:


for now everything in life is equal-or, disregarding the laws
of age,
the turning of seasons,
from the white empire of the brain
fingers of melted pain will crawl down at the sight of rubbish
with light wings, scraps of paper, leaves, departing in a spiral
that carries away the mystery of the writing of the tree.
I've been standing at the crossroads quite a long time. It's as
light as day. It is day. Later Kondratii Teotokopulos will
make notes. Tomatoes, 2 kg. in the market. Com, 25 kopeks per
kilogram. Two bunches of onions. The garlic is weak, bought in
vain, air temperature +18 centigrade, the neighbor (re. the
stevedore) has to change jobs, arthritis. No letters. We finished
removing the fronts from the two boilers (remember to crank the
engine for the pumps), I dreamed: evening, mother, behind the
shed a star, carp on the table, to me it seems like five, no
more, only one cigarette until four, Montaigne, guests ...
But this is later.
Now it is 12:00. Still to come-cheese, Chianti, conversation.
134

Still to come-the horizon, on which the guest appears, all


signs washed from his face
and only the first tongue twister of shadow
on the threshold of night
makes it possible to distinguish him from the mirror, where
creating a seagull
obliges the world.

Xenia: A proposition is only a pretext to go over the limits of


what's proposed. Snow slices the window. A man in a room does
not have strict boundaries until the moment when something
forces him to take up one or another activity. The hand is a verb.
The shadow of the man is easily moved-where is the source of
light? Clutching at the ceiling, uncovering the strange properties
of memory with a period, with duration turned inside out.
Thickets in autumn. Between hills of wind. In September days. A
dry leaf planted on the sharp edge of a crack. Springing
constellations. I think also of running water, carrying sexless
rubbish-water, gurgling in hollow bones, extending the rustle of
fallen leaves and the harsh night dryness in the eyes, and
halfdreams which are easy to identify with things, attracting
thought, in order to fill it the next moment with beautiful debility.
I don't have to write all this to be convinced that what is written
exists. Therefore there's another reason. And we remember this in
order immediately to forget sight, flaws, hill, speaking, the yellow
tugboat in the bay window, a scrap, a tree, arrested in motion:
signifies nothing: description.

135

Sun & Moon Classics


Sun & Moon Classics is a publicly supported nonprofit program to
publish new editions and translations or republications of
outstanding world literature of the late nineteenth and twentieth
centuries. Organized by the Contemporary Arts Educational Project,
Inc., a nonprofit corporation, and published by its program Sun &
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This book was made possible, in part, through a matching grant from
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from the following individuals:
Edith Heal Berrien (Oak Park, Illinois)
William and Genee Fadiman (Bel Air, California)
Rose and Jerry Fox (Miami, Florida)
Perla and Amiram V. Karney (Bel Air, California)
Herbert Lust (Greenwich, Connecticut)
In Memoriam: John Mandanis
Marjorie and Joseph Perloff (Pacific Palisades, California)
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Dr. Marvin and Ruth Sackner (Miami Beach, Florida)
Catharine R. Stimpson (Staten Island, New York)
The following individuals serve The Contemporary Arts
Educational Project, Inc. as advisors:
David Antin (La Jolla, California)
Paul Auster (New York, New York)
Charles Bernstein (New York, New York)
Howard N. Fox (Los Angeles, California)
Peter Glassgold (New York, New York)
Fanny Howe (La Jolla, California)
Clarence Major (Davis, California)
Ron Padgett (New York, New York)
Marjorie Perloff (Pacific Palisades, California)
Edouard Roditi (Paris, France)
Jerome Rothenberg (Encinitas, California)
Douglas Messerli
Publisher, Sun & Moon Press
Director, The Contemporary Arts Educational Project, Inc.