Obscurity and Legacy

 

To get up
Again
To get up
To get up on legs that stretched, strode and straddled
To unplug the mud from the end
Of the barrel
Again
Which would involve
Having hands
Or
Having a hand
One that understood the consistency of mud
Also
What sprang from the same consistency
The hand
That hung their door at an angle
That gawkily shore the lamb
A hand that had warmed itself in the cavities
Of a fallen man
With barely suppressed feelings of kinship
And
Revulsion
The same hand that dug a spud
From an abandoned mound
To eat with clods adhered to its skin
A hand that felt secure
Only
If not
Near peerless holding a pen
Felt
Natural, numerous, never-ending
That peeled the skin off a birch
After
The writing paper was finished
That he might inscribe
His ardency
Adieu
That would drift past as a strip of charpie
Then drift
Past a window as a clean white shirt
Bearing a husband
Freshly bathed and shaved
To get up
Again
On the undestroyed elbow
Red and raw
From the unpatched uniform
Forced into wearing
To be beside oneself
To be up on one raw red elbow
To have been forced
Into uniform
Beside blown off parts of oneself
Before
Being blown away not knowing
Parts of his lonely body were gone
His busted up bookish being fleeing
And
Once
Blown over the furrows
Once
The creek crested so little would be left
Ploughshare
Broken coulter
A few useless silver objects
From
An all but involuntary wedding
And
Now
Never
To come back
To the everlasting paradigm
Of the nearness of a known body
Leaf on leaf worm by worm snow on snow
Now
Be the woman thoroughly exhausted
Drained discolored defeated
To have gotten up
To have gone to her dresser
Before
Getting up
Again
And hoisting her hoe to the wrecked field
To have gone to her dresser
Before
Seeing her wracked visage
Now
Be the shoulders dusted as shoulders can glare
Be the credits scrolled slowly and boldly
Be the air expanding at supersonic speed
Be the windows let up and the tree
The centenarian tree dependably there
There
The tree just
Standing
There
The chestnut from which she descended
Leaf on leaf
Worm by worm
Snow on snow
Born for what resplendent reason
To irrigate this dumb mud
With his oblivious blood
Who always thought he would
Once
Again
Get up
After sucking her breast
After
Putting away his nibs
After
An unexceptional dinner with friends
Die in the snow

 

 

After Pura López Colomé’s
"Fabula disuelta, ensimismada,"
translated by Forrest Gander

 

“Obscurity and Legacy” was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery for its commemorative volume on the Civil War, Lines in Long Array: A Civil War Commemoration, Poems and Photographs (Smithsonian Books).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

                                  Obscurity and Aftershocks 

 

 


The hand has been broken but it pushes the pen along

with effort on discolored stationery

from an inn whose walls are mounted with taxidermy; one foot

is in a cast yet feels the vibration

from below. The time zone has disturbed perception so that

it occurs to the occupant to go outside

and watch everything shake; long lovely poplars have fallen

or been felled on both sides

of the lane. Someone slashes past the vehicle in a cape,

a child from a childhood already flown;

the afternoon, if it were—subjunctively speaking—afternoon,

possesses a luridity that the hand struggles

to understand, to grasp. Only when the eyes can no longer make out

the words and the pen has become—counterfactually—a crucible

of light; only when the suitcase

of the other occupant has been wordlessly loaded

does the skeleton shatter and the room engulf its contents.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                 Obscurity and Empathy 

 

 


The left hand rests on the paper.

The hand has entered the frame just below the elbow.

The other hand is in its service.

The left moves along a current that is not visible
and on a signal likewise inaudible, goes still.

For the hand to respond the ink must be black.

There is no watermark.

One nail is broken well below the quick.

The others filed short.

Or chewed.

The hand is drawn to objects.

In another’s it becomes pliant
and readily absorbs the moisture of the other’s.

It retains the memory of the smell of her infant son’s hair.

Everything having been written, the hand has to work hard
to get up in the spaces.

There is no tremor, but the skin is thin and somewhat
crepey.

The veins stand out.

The hand has begun to gesture toward its ghosthood.

Though at times it becomes almost frisky.

The desk is side-lit.

The hand has options, but has chosen to stay
inside its own pale, thin walls.

It has begun to show signs of its own shoddy construction.

The hand is there to express shouts and whispers,
ordinary love,

the afterimage of everything.

From the outside what light leaks through the blind
is blue, blue-grey.

There is a dog.

There is a fan.

The fan is on the dog.

 

 

 

 

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