Pre-amphitheater

     *

 

sun-lichen                      radiant

draws the dew      from the very stone

I am not asleep I

                       expect some spectacle

dew-harrier, (I)

                           in my spangled inks

do not anneal the moss         neither

     splice nor          peel this birchbark

from its fallen    pencil

we are not ‘native’

we who          have come a long way

 

     *

 

I apply silence      to the body

as a lotion, egg-probe of          un-face,

the refugees asleep in the village

      camouflage        the blizzard-door,

the so-quietly-

departing

not a song, this fever-plane

                             (radix-importunate)

these honey-blond

fields                nude wavelength

                              wrens bolt through

 

     *

 

dictated, glacial erratic

                            queries the absolute

(we could write on it)

life gathers even here

away from the lion-pediment,

                         the despatch-principle

no, not native        we are born into

a different citizenship

the lung, the haulm

brother me        as if among kingdoms

                            purity’s other shelf

 

     *

 

caught up in pollen-stance-enclosure

all    that is not    lift,

                        abandon-fermata

of the wind’s origin         I enclave

as captain-residual

the star’s rood-cusp pierces

      the night-

body     liminal     exception-to-praise

corposant/elm/flicker

                                              stooped

as any old orchard       into reign

 

     *

 

barrow-hasp I apprentice my old self

matter-over-theft

you may take        anything from this,

                  clock-of-my-protection

I no longer speak the language

                       of brindle, spawn, milk

or     stereoscope

of the night-monument

I planish your silk vesicles    (ashes

splay &

          we       walk there, particulate)

 

     *

 

vertical blood of terror-prime-flight

                                 —rescue me (O)

from this contest

of crude lilies          I enter myself

at breath’s convenience, upper

limit of bread        (you can calculate)

the healing egg’s

shy nectar     against its day-fence

veiled in eminence,

                  the tongue-machines

everything now living may run back

 

     *

 

your blue sum               enthrones me,

capture this flag-of-

                              molten oak-candle

astride the geologic’s

crude speculum             I can’t history

your endless feather-

thief-architect

              the bees’ bells glozen

as if tending          some higher flock

or tenebrous equation

let me treasure      [       ] in eye-braise

 

     *

 

                              electric hum of

blandished velvet-alms

merciform      from time’s well-throat

lichen’s heraldry

                                covenanting

probe-mission-egg

(-tongue)       —(my marriage-lamp)

the child-snow’s dry vector    anoints

     a soft absence

what a man can say     throne-

filament-throne       in sullage-shadow

 

     *

 

death’s secret density enflowers

                    the spring hollow’s wrist

ravens can            be tongue-tested

    your touch   (less blood than name)

skin:  either must or, beautiful

I measure

clef against clef           music’s

battle-orchid                  exists, recuse

my lewd paraphrase

stung with balm (no I will not

                                mourn a fracture)

     *

 

I (tongue-spancelled)          ignite

this ley-festival       in velate plumage

my plosive glands

my fricative          pyre-in-mouth

the uncial forest

admits all comers, except

the sky’s peril-vein-

                                 wavelength-pass

a planet-nation banquets its bruise

fine stomach-dust

(binds the body and its single tongue)

 

     *

 

                             vaccinal sphere of

your-money’s-no-good-           (here)

I hold your wound-purse

cicatrix-anthem of the understory’s

imprecise melisma

wand- ruth -  calvarium

                                    w/out portfolio

the warbler’s pew-satisfaction-eye

tilting at odds with its signature claim

     blazon this love-vantage,

lacustrine     twilight (undercladding)

 

     *

 

is not fallen is not suspended

the mind’s ghost aspirates, bees feel it

                              laid as silver

among the evergreens

memory forgot to correct for this

                                     ambrosial font

seep-clot, breath-clot

the hands’ difficult master (imagine)

      I press between

the chambers of my deciduous

body-parlour      unmastering, a blood

 

     *

 

dull foam of the land   speech-cession

      adjudicates this

                                compound tracery

(nothing is original)   I am a student

of interpenetration

I like its oxygen

                           spooring my unlungs

the replicas cast

no shadow, I talk to them softly

vehicular, wool

                        from some burnt lamb

 

     *

 

cravat-                                   ungulant

my body’s spring-loaded    rifle

resists; I call you

                             by your cue-name

this bling-tide

                                in the were-forest

you lap up all my sleep-tonnage

in the lane I spy your miracle-

                                     hoof, someone

thrust you rudely

into the material vector/outcome  (I)

 

     *

 

ply-vector, syntax is intent’s rosary

spray its beads

                                    across the oak-

floor’s clerestory

hear them warble in psalmlight

rood of the stile-tongue

                                     I can’t be held

responsible            for what brinks

the mind’s persimmon net

the decomposing

sign death’s           independence, if—

 

     *

 

strafe this pediment

w/antler, matrimony, bright contagion

    admit, as evidence

                         the pelican’s heraldric

significance,        what draws upon

                         its own life for others’

blood    without blemish           humus

indicts its history   of small improve-

    ments;        a body rises

into the carrier wave         almost-

child, almost what we were proposing

 

    *

 

Miłosz at Studley Royal

 

I stepped into the shade of the forest I let its electricity approach & reduce me like taking a child’s toy knotting it into a leather lash & using that to punish yourself.

Which is (almost) necessarily a solitary occupation, you might say.  In sight of the absolute.

I stepped into the forest because it was green & shielded me from rain I was no partisan.

So much is transparent here but the forest (as a forest) is not one of those things.

Milosz standing very still behind a reasonably-sized tree in a forest on his flight south from the capital ‘reasonably-sized’ but not wide enough to hide him.

What might Milosz hide inside a poem behind the entasis of a poem well his faith his various relationships with women not necessarily in that order.

Is it broken my grandmother asked of a particular toy then throw it out marking her Christian Science lesson in soft blue pencil.

Threads of water needles of water watch now as water threads itself (to sew water’s garment why not).

For all my education I do not understand the optics of flash I mean beyond the basics sudden increase & then decrease of light surely there is more to it.

Lapse of Milosz’s presence in the extant photographic record can we call this brittle charge of fundament towards which plant life builds its milky aqueducts.

What is surcease a creature a bitter bait binding the angles.

All the angles cluster about the non-existent wound yes they are helpful their name is Legion.

And we ask them to drink we command them to drink Drink we say.

Aislabie sculpting the grounds of his estate so that God could flow around rather than through Milosz hurrying down a country lane at dusk.

The archive is fragmentary we do apologize sorry very sorry we have replaced all your correspondence with photographs of trees.

The canalization of God for both aesthetic & industrial purposes long history special preoccupation of the 18th century though ironically Aislabie was building on a Cistercian foundation.

Because one can view God from however many directions at any given moment just as one can view a drawing or a photograph of a surgical operation an amputation say or else a glass of milk.

Milosz as Elijah taking lodging with a woman who noticed his passage Milosz as the waiting woman or as some other figure it hardly matters void void read Milosz’s poems from this difficult period.

My life among the animals was destitute of most recognized forms of interest or excitement beyond the shedding of blood God’s contaminated watercourse in each of us.

Watching from a high place as a couple walking together join hands & then a few moments later relinquish them.

Milosz sleeping his way through farmyards sweating Isaiah from his pores as he sleeps.

Flash of oxygen in the nave flash of lycopodium powder in the antique photo­grapher’s studio all the graves clustered about the ears nose & throat.

I quit writing to-do lists on the backs of my hands after a brother admonished me that the flesh is not a palimpsest (thus indicating his ignorance of the language of scars revolving in their own secret constellations).

This is not a parable though I count myself a student of parables which I number among the animals by their signatures.  A parable is a story waiting for a story but there is no waiting here.

Perhaps Milosz it would have been better if you tried it as a play.

A forest waiting for a forest inside a forest could be a play enter ELECTRICITY on its bier of branches its corbel of thicket.

ELECTRICITY’s monologue consists of all the animals staring in the same direction at the same time only the audience misses this because of all the clutter in the understory.

A woman passing from Point A to Point B with friends is struck by lightning she remains officially unidentified perhaps the lightning cleansed her of name at least.

Whether Milosz ever saw another human being die is a question not answerable from his poems much less whether or to what extent he may have been complicit in any such death(s).

Instead let’s stand very still behind this tree in this forest & imagine Milosz doing the same.

Drink is what we want to say to Milosz we hold out the flagon filled with angles which he will not lift to his lips because he is dead.

Tests of grammar come up against the inner pale of the spirit & halt there for a little while we call some of these poems.

You may pick up your Isaiah action figure & perform an action for instance melt it praise it drop it in a well.

Surcease the tongue’s periphrastic like a slit running in two directions at once a slit in what well in anything.

The abraded bouquet driven into the mesh of the chainlink a public act like all public acts trying to hold very still in plain view as if for a photographer.

Milosz in Paris thinking about justice while lying on a bed whose mattress’s many lumps make him think for some reason of Nietzsche he sighs he turns off the bedside lamp is this then Nation.

Pure Nation which has twelve sets of jointed limbs extending from its five eyes & no mouth.

The forest shatters the globe Nation left in its care & later blames this on an ice storm which is the worst possible disaster the forest can imagine short of fire.

When you say translation I think the forest on fire even wanting to be on fire Milosz sleepwalking through long Berkeley afternoons.

But Milosz is not in Berkeley yet he is in Paris then Washington he is a hive of justices all buzzing around an absent female figure which in some cultures is deemed a sacrifice.

God is watching God is interested some idea about God at least because you know God.

When & why the Cistercians lost their explicit prohibition against bell towers worth further study not losing their faith in water neither their confidence in the movements of water what then.

I step into the movements of water as directed by dead Cistercians speak my lines then wait while the chorus makes tiny weeping sounds which is how we wind up with God again only this time on our faces in our eyes.

I’m sorry I have some God in my eye I say to the forest which I am persuaded is sympathetic.

The forest has been reading ahead in the script is waiting for Milosz to appear in the next scene which is written in Polish cordite & gold.

My grandmother sitting on a plane next to Milosz easy enough to imagine maybe they compared toys.

A toy is anything you want to bathe in water without really cleaning it or addressing its soul or for that matter soullessness (also one possible definition of God).

That Aislabie left the ruins of Fountains more or less as he found them is a distractor on the test he devised for God i.e. an attractive even logical response but ultimately an incorrect one.

True attention is possible as long as we keep seeking Milosz lost in the forest’s vertical surges & yet perhaps he is happiest there who knows.

The play is over the animals have removed their jewelled vestments of proprioception God runs through His house like a hook through the lip of a fish.

Flames streaming from the sacrifice to almost cinematic effect allowing for the anachronism (production values etc.).

Yes & what then shall we feed love shall we feed it pain asks something/someone loitering in the vicinity what a remarkable succession of planes if only we could view them in the dark.

Milosz feeling under yet another hotel room bed in another city for the cap of a pen he’s dropped perfectly aware once again he is reaching into darkness also quite suddenly that the frame of the bed is made of wood.  For a moment he pauses stops moving quits searching for a moment he holds himself very still.



[G.C. Waldrep’s most recent books are feast gently (Tupelo, 2018), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the long poem Testament (BOA Editions, 2015).  Newer work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, Paris Review, PN Review, New England Review, Yale Review, New American Writing, Conjunctions, and other journals.  Waldrep lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where he teaches at Bucknell University and edits the journal West Branch.]

Copyright © 2019 by G.C. Waldrep, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.