Monday, November 30, 2015



Alien Abduction by Lewis Warsh
(Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, 2015)

“I assume as a starting point, that which ought to be universally admitted, namely, that all men are both ignorant of the causes of things, that all have the desire to seek what is useful to them, and that they are conscious of
such desire.”
                                     The Ethics
                                     [I, appendix]

As in the heart, so in the head. Opening to a random page of Alien Abduction, the new collection of short poems by Lewis Warsh, you are likely to come across one of the following: a kiss, a bath, someone without their clothes. In the tradition of the New York School to which Warsh has been cornerstone, these are poems of experience, contra innocence. The poems have an atmosphere of memory, and when not evocative of memory, of those same distances memory suffers from real experiences: the distances inherent in memory, fantasy, anticipation. A primal feature of this poetry is how it pits one person with another, an experience that seems unbridgeable. That is, until reason is thrown out, and rationality is subsumed in eros.

In Alien Abduction, Warsh takes his own experiences and appears to scrutinize them, philosophically rendering them non-existent. This thought experiment is compatible with Buddhism, but in Western philosophy is called “bracketing.” One puts in the bracket everything, the whole world and all life, to consider experience without a subject, or, perhaps, “pure being.” What seems to fall into the bracket, at various times, in Alien Abduction are the chains of cause and effect in Warsh’s own history, the minds of others, and himself.

Alien Abduction opens with an invocation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the Enlightenment philosopher who would forgo the scientific appreciation of nature to usher in the mystical age of Romanticism. Warsh also mentions Marx, another theorist of historical destiny and transformation. The names dropped here are interesting, even ironic, as the questions Warsh appears to be asking are evocative of inward-looking thinkers such as René Descartes and Edmund Husserl.

I moved through Alien Abduction poem by poem, recording my impressions. Instead of selecting highlights and weaving them into something conclusive, I’ve preserved the original, journalistic form through which I meditated on these poems. Sometimes I let excerpted lines speak for themselves. While my approach is not striving for clarity from predicate to predicate, my feeling is that there is a correspondence between the appreciation, which is in the living moment, or written from the perspective of lived experience, a perspective I believe is shared by the writer of the poems themselves.

SUPERFICIAL THINGS begins “Rousseau said something about something. He said something.” Scene shifts to the filmic, then the implicitly autobiographical. Philosophy stretched to its thinnest is semiotics, and when it opens up, that’s ethics. Rousseau rejected epistemology and ushered in the era of Romanticism (and Terror). It was the end of the Enlightenment. The references are narrative, from the filmic to the autobiographical—or world history. “Let’s begin this symphony again. Only people with lots of money can afford these concerts. Even sitting in the last row of the balcony is too expensive. The men toss their hats onto the stage, but I have to squint to see anything.”  Likely enough, this scene is drawn from autobiography (cf. ATTACHMENT, DETACHMENT) yet the allegory is thick. The world’s events seem to refer to each other, as “motes of dust under the sun”—it’s all the same, doesn’t add up to much. The allegorical potential of a particular experience is a cornerstone of the poetics driving Alien Abduction.

NOCTURNE To recognize someone and have them disappear before consummation—dreamlife bubbles up again. You blow your head off. “Time hangs heavy as you sit in your room.” Your head is filled with everything that’s happened, but to what value? “if that person was him or you/ Or someone’s twin who arrived from another/ Planet to savor lilac scent that radiates/ from your skin” a second highfalutin philosophical approximation. Your twin from another world as a metaphysical determinant. “The lilac scent” and “the heat from the pipes… like Satie” experience is shed of its weight becoming pure sensation. The poet descends the stairs of his own volition.

THE MILK WAS SOUR A bathic, sarcastic succession of failures that terminates in a kind of transcendent, mythical fail—there’s a lot of split milk in the poem (“I drank it anyway”) Moving outside oneself—puts the milk into perspective.

DEAR COMMUNARD Time is sized up with history. Sometimes confused for each other. Philosophies differ, hinge on Marx, synthesize in failure. When the subject moves from the perspective of the past to that of the future, a poem is found. No workers, only ghosts. Culture dissolves but we remember things. “it all really happened,” the poet in dialogue with the poem’s subject, they entail one another, “mingling with all the I’s and yous.”

DISASTER RELIEF Situations seem to be overdetermined and yet cause is isolated, invisible, unreachable. The event has already happened, is part of the landscape.

THE SONGBOOK Lieder. Language losing its relationship, its grip on its objects, as a personal experience, an alienation in the head or mouth. “Point the way and I’ll go. Single me out and I’ll follow.” Even the self as a kind of displaced referential object. “The names of seasons, animals/ a knock at the door” is a similar sequence, a progression to pure language, as seasons, unlike us, or other things that persist in time, as seasons come and go. Their names stay. Animals, living beings with personalities and particular traits, so much more living than the names of their species. Compare to a knock at the door, which addresses you, but does not refer to you. “Oh who are you/ who comes/ out of nowhere/ and remembers my name.” A phantom, compare to that in NOCTURNE. This time the poet is the object of a phantom. “All the acorns/ have fallen in one place” suggests a world without spatial differences, which one finds in Kant and Calvino. We scatter them in our experience. There are all kinds of philosophy in here, the songbook is self-aware of them: “The opposite is true/ The opposite might always be true/ People say something and then a minute later/ something else.” What do they culminate in? Happiness between piss and shit. But there is, I think, an interesting complication. The poem does seem to end in filth, thoughtlessness. And these things seem concrete, as opposed to the “alternate versions of happiness between,” but at the same time, the versions are myriad, potentially infinite.

ACROSS THE BORDER Comparisons- mixed (border) metaphors. The one (North) puts the border at the edge of his body, is afraid to cross it. The other (South) is already on the other side, both of the geopolitical border and the border drawn above, by the northern figure. The Southern man is has crossed the border-of-the-body by figuring himself among others, unlike his Northern counterpart, whose anxiety has him in a pinch. The Southern man is free, he has already crossed both borders, and finds still more movement possible, unlike North, for whom the first move is impossible.

DARK SIDE OF TIME From an axiom of Spicer. We conceive of our relationship to time: there is the past, which included some events we may have experienced. Some aspect of ourselves we may consider part of the past, perhaps as well carried over. Whether or not some aspect of the past is experienced, we refer to it, depending on both its constancies and changes. The past we know to be generally changeless, the idea of any changes to it are impossible. If the past has a limit, an edge, that limit is the present. In time, that which is changing is present. This moment is never exactly ascertainable. The limit, the present, is the changing, and what changes is always (the) present. The process of event entering into the change is simultaneously a negation and a preservation. The past is not accessible to experience, but it has been preserved in that we can say it happened. To look in the other direction, the future is from the vantage of the present. It has not happened yet, the material fact which enters into the changing has not been preserved. Is there a perspective of the present—or just of individuals living in it? The idea of a universal present is that of the universe moving, changing with me.

I think of an other, someone I know in particular. We have crossed paths several times over several years. I could reach him if I wanted to. If I never saw him again, there is nothing I could say. Because “never” did not happen. I could think of the time since the last time I saw him, and think (presently) “I never saw him again,” and in this case “never” does refer to the future, though not my present future. Else, conceiving of a  hypothetical past, present, or future is completely different. We imagine the past, or future, and do what is impossible to experience, and that is experience the world other than it actually is. The “feel” of the past is no longer any different from the future. Though perhaps we are now imagining outside of time, the act not outside of time, but the object we are imagining. Stripping them of the dimension that barrs them of ordinary experience, bracketing them, in our imagination “time is the solution in which the living and the dead confer.” The past, present, and future are categorical presumptions of our experience (and they refer only to our experience). In time, here comes everybody. It’s not practical to think of ourselves as living in the present. Where we are isn’t only where we appear to be “at this moment,” but where we know we’ve been and we know we’re going. In the poem are three posits: the ancient past, where I play Odysseus to your Penelope (and, for the most part, you’ve already gone). Second, we stepped out of the bath to start a fire, changes, grammatically presented as having passed, and then, third, in the future are presented with fantastic imagery, narrated to suggest that this will be someone else’s past.

THE FACTS The ethics of the life of the mind, against certainty. “Nothing is true for more than a moment” like a broken clock is correct twice a day. The different figurations (viz. “The Songbook”), the train at 11:30 is also the track on track 9, doesn’t add up to much. “If it was up to me, I’d stay in bed/ until noon.” But then he’d miss his train. One thing of note I’d say about this poem of skepticism is the metaphorical images of the mind seem equal in weight to the illusory physical world, compared to the metaphor in the final line which threatens to swallow him.

How does this compare to STANDING ROOM ONLY—a strongly autobiographical poem, wherein a series of chance meetings and their effects are recounted—recounted to the children of these effects? Images like “two people sharing a match in the dark” come across with that same ethereality, but is that due to the placement in a series of philosophical investigations? Or is it the visual chiaroscuro of the image itself, like “the pinhead of light at the window,” which, we remember, is the limit of the real. The poem is a distant memory, whose chemical change, effects, are far-reaching to allow for the changes undergone in the world to be described to the living effects of those changes—the poet’s children. The poem’s historical appreciation of the sequence of causes borders on—or suggests—the supernatural. The chronology presented in the poem traces the separation of the poet and his other, while including a connection between the two that persisted even when the relationship didn’t, a social connection coupled with a chance connection. But the poem concludes in a high point in the relationship of the two, the opera, where the poet had to stand in the back—or is he kneeling in a pew? He is also watching her sing in their apartment. Multiple experiences are being shared, are sharing each other. Like the crowd at the opera, the memories are crowding each other. The first poem, “Superficial Things” has a similar quasi-memory at work: “Let’s begin this symphony again […] Even sitting in the last row/ of the top balcony is too expensive…”

DON’T LOSE YOUR NERVE Pure being. More examples of phenomena outshining the actual. Poetry coming alive. Last line: “A fire rages in a warehouse in Queens, one firefighter dead.”

ATTACHMENT, DETACHMENT The discussion of time passing has a different subject than the phenomena of time passing. “Not everyone can be two places at one time” suggests that someone can, but who? The poet? Or perhaps anyone, but not at any given time. The question is, when we refer to something, do we experience something of the object of our thought, the object of our thought not being that which is really in the world, but the experience itself. Is this a question of memory? If it is a question of memory, and we can be returned to the lived or living experience by way of memory, what can we ask further regarding history, or fantasy? “you can’t walk around naked in the park at night except in your mind. But you do, in your mind. Lived experience is not equal to the subject of the life of the mind. But- we are not necessarily more subject to one than the other, either. History: “The tomb of Ch’ang Shen is located in Hunan Province.” Fantasy: “The weather lady caved in to pressure to remove her dress.” Sharing with DSOT “sharing a bath in someone else’s house.”          “I am he who boarded a plane to Athens (1969) and I am he who pauses on catch his breath on the landing (1995).””Everyone in the school had dark features except for Verne, the blonde girl from nowhere.” See how fantasy slips in and subsumes an otherwise unfettered memory. Internalist experience expressed rather objectively.

DIFFERENCE line by line: “There a difference between being with someone and being alone, but I can’t tell you what it is.” Because you’re always alone with somebody. Experience doesn’t multiply. “There are things I do when I’m alone that I don’t do around other people.” An argument against the first statement? Perhaps if you know what you’re doing. The difference between the two statements. Is there a “cogito” argument in here? The difference in question isn’t the only difference, it’s just a noteworthy absence. “There are things I do when I’m alone that I don’t do around other people. But don’t ask me what they are.” Exactly. “For instance, I might have a bone to pick with you over something that happened long ago, but you wouldn’t know it by the things I say or do.” Says nothing about the other. An elaboration- a statement of knowledge concerning other minds—the “bone to pick” like one of the poet’s own bones, unseen to the other, something only the poet may be aware of, and even that vaguely. An inversion of the initial—I can’t tell what you’re bringing to the room, but you can’t tell what I get from you either. But it being “over something that happened long ago” suggests the immateriality of the relationship. “Or the way I swivel my hips to the music, an old disco record hidden away in someone’s attic.” Is the first clause an example of “the things I do” and the second a metaphor flowering from the former? “It seems like a short time has passed since we woke to the sound of garbage trucks on the street, and yawned, grateful to be alive, but not really.” Readings differ as to whether we were “grateful to be alive” or it “seems like a short time has passed […] but not really.” At any rate, the memory of others is unshakable, though perhaps it is also impossible to pinpoint it to a “when.” “I can fell this oak with a single blow of my ax, so stand back.” The poet is addressing someone, but, I’m unable to believe him on his blow, maybe he feigns the addressee as well. “Splinters of wood float down from the sky and alight on your skin.” He holds to it—but what does it prove? You definitely aren’t there, neither of us are. What does it prove? That being with someone entails a barrier to the movement of other objects? “The roof of my mouth is parched, but we must ration the water if we expect to get out of here in one piece.” The poet is thirsty, when he says “we,” is he referring to the self and a self he is addressing? The royal we? “There are still some things I want to do in this life, but don’t ask me what they are.” A rhyme on the first three lines. Still alone: “Prague, Berlin, Vilnius, Odesaa—some cities I want to visit.” And perhaps to get things moving—“”Drive up the coast, Bolinas to Point Reyes.” Very simple, almost domestic pleasure, compared to the list of foreign cities, and to then step out again, and South “Walk the Malecón in La Paz, one last time.” Maybe somewhere in the middle, between Bolinas and Odessa, in a sense.

ECONOLINE The subject, or one subject of the poem gets “deferred” in a way I will need to explain. She, “the woman”, after being introduced, gets replaced by surrogates before being brought back, and denied, as being you. Triangulations. Memory fades to fact in the presetn—non-existence. “I’m sorry it ever happened. It never did.” There is the scene of the crime, as you would relate it to the crime itself. “I put my hand on your face in the darkness, but it wasn’t you.” The language one enters the world with is heavy with the world’s influences. “I paraphrase something someone else/ once said. I put it into my own words, so to speak./ Oscillate. Cataclysmic. A scar on the heart. A woman in a beehive haircut leans over my desk./ What happens next is not up to you.” Limits.

ONE FOOT OUT THE DOOR physical skepticism: “all the things you didn’t do” The limit, as in ECONOLINE=lack. Becoming history, empty promises.

SIXTY FOUR (PLEASURES) Lack is a known quantity, substance. A door: “As I drift into a moment of time—” Even the rational pleasure is undermined: “thinking itself is a kind of pleasure/ That resembles floating, or being drunk (bartender” “Like giving birth to something that never existed”

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL Look at the first three lines, what changes? [1.] “The Last Chance Bar is never not open.” [2.] “Don’t come down hard on my if you can’t get in, and don’t spill your drink on the rug.” [3.] “You were caught in the crosshairs, but its never too late to escape.” The direction of the lines, toward the recipient, remains constant throughout. [1] follows [2] easily, even if it contains a twist. In [1] the bar is open, in [2] entrance is selective. [3] would be complete non-sequitur if not for that the poet is addressing someone, someone in a particular place. See how in [3] the metaphor comes alive. A moment ago you were trying to get in, now you’re advised to escape. Lines 2-6 all include a “you” or “your.” Whoever “you” were melts away, “born in the shape of a bird or a flower.” There’s still a prison (the meaning of the “bar” has changed, or multiplied), but what is the use, “you” aren’t there: “Yesterday’s police didn’t mention your name.” And even if “you” were, “aren’t they already locked inside their own heads?” “And maybe you wake up thinking you’re not alone? Maybe you think this is someone else’s problem.” An intentionally ambiguous problem, what is it—“being alone” or that you think you aren’t.

DARK STUDY New Sentence-y, in the style of ATTACHMENT, DETACHMENT. “Memory lingers on, but the distinguishing marks are a blur.” The poetics of living in one’s own head. Noting the difference between the world experienced and the objective world, conceiving that known thing, that is everything behind the world experienced, what in our mind comes from this synthesis?

POEM “A few days ago” the skin beneath the skin is “happily,” another allegory or metaphor drawn from experiential leftovers “otherwise what?” “Empty.” Experience overwhelms and drives desire for its opposite. “My head is empty.”

ONCE “Happily,” again! The miracle that the world runs seamlessly, around the poet. The other drivers keep their distance, as if his awe were a red flag. There’s no end to it, but there is another miracle in that we can find others in the same position we are “taking it all in.”

NO TRESPASSING pivots between internal and external, in form and content, though it yinyangs a bit, one can be perceived in the other. Once you step out of your own head, you’re stuck between self and others.

THE SURVEY Memory/experience elides into fantasy

I WROTE THE BOOK Living with memories and loosening the identities that figure them as being different from other intentional objects.

WRITTEN IN STONE Sequence moves from prediction/protention to fantasy. “There’s always a ‘something’ that follows small talk, or a dance, and at this point you must show your true colors.”

MANY TIMES OVER Sequence related to or without cause. Repetition (cf. ATTACHMENT, DETACHMENT): “A street musician in the subway was playing our song.”

Repetition, sequence, cause, fantasy.

“The people on the street glide by in slow motion” refers to perception of these people, not the actual movement of the people. “The voices in my head are calling your name”

A lot of this poetry is organized by resemblance, as the mind is.

[passing over a few poems]

DONATELLO A recurrent line from ECONOLINE “What happens next is not up to you.” That’s cause.

         The person I was kissing was reported missing.
         The kiss might last a lifetime or end in a minute.
         A can of paint thinner was left out in the rain.
         The person I was kissing had changed her name.
         That was last year, but this is now.

DONATELLO comes in sections, breaking it down… 1) Another bath, another nudity, another alone-ness. Repetition. 2) Who is “you?” “A note from the past arrived while you were sleeping.” No sender. “I took off my clothes in the cold on the side of the road.” (2 repetitions.) Bracketing cause in “somebody would be born in my place” “if my parents never met.” 3) “I can always replay the scene in my mind for my own pleasure. That’s what I do.” 4) WCW/Creeleyan little lines. Memory: (repetition:) “Never to wake up in the same/ way, not us”  Heraclitus! This poem/section some of the sparsest lines written so far, likewise spare descriptions of experience, virtually without object. Cabin, glass, shadow. “no one’s home” Subject is “going back” (“no one can”) Compare to DARK SIDE OF TIME. 5) is experience denied “Then we kiss—it’s like/having sex with your boots/ on, or in a dream” Future and past absent present
         I’ll kiss the first person
         I see on the back of the
         neck, in a car. Shall we
         share a taxi? Sometimes
         it’s better to kiss and tell,
         with eyes wide open—but
         please don’t bite. The
         last time we kissed you
         left bite mark on my neck.

6) Another bath, I should count them? 7) 6’s shoemaker’s elves become “my” brethren? 8) “your”—Who are he and I again? Slippery. “all you can do is slam the door in my face.” ”all you can do” “all you can do” 9) Picturesque skepticism: “A veldt of stars on black velvet, my wildest dreams.” “debt to the past” into which the present and future dissolves “ripples beneath the surface.” Others experiencing each other “a groundswell of misinformation” A party upstairs—awareness of others precluding interaction. 10) The body in thought. The repetition (cf. ECONOLINE): “What happens next is not up to you.” 11) Experiences real and imagined. “I imagine each lie as if it were yesterday.” “You might as well discard your baggage before you cross the border. There’s no telling what you’re going to find on the other side.” A border again.12) An intense stumbling around cause. 13) I mentioned this second stanza earlier, compare it to the stanza I quoted in 5. Every sentence in the third stanza (of 13) begins with “We.” They’re all fantasy. 14) Four stanzas, each beginning with a proposition. 15) Evidence leads to memory. “It’s not difficult to read someone else’s mind. The soundtrack continues, though the screen goes blank.” “We commit the words to memory so we can repeat them later. // The habits of a lifetime can be changed overnight. / You can’t say my words were written in stone, only to be revoked the next day.” “Words overlap, like waves, contractions, waves.” “I can see a cloud on the balcony, a dot on the/ horizon. I can see you in the distance,/ like a tornado, coming my way.”

HUNGRY GHOST Buddhist references in title and first (of four) line(s)

POEM A little Cartesian meditation for the other, bracketing identity.

READING GU CHENG Bordering the possibility of communication negotiated or fictionalized by memory. Where is Gu Cheng next to his story? Where is Xie Ye?

RITUAL NUDITY quotes Goodnight Moon and Zukofsky

THE DESERTED CITY “Here’s the doctor with the clipboard, listening to your dreams.” Just shy/short of communication. Dreamlike sequiturs. Apprehensions.

PROMISE Fear of cause, the weight of something to say.

VODKA Cause and “You can apply the chokehold to someone you don’t like and suffer the consequences.”

SITUATION WANTED Title says it all. “The tinctures of memory begin to fade/like an old wound.” Leaving what? “Think about unity, a thankless task.” “I stammer in my excitement.”

What is there other than the life of the mind? Certainly a lot of kissing.

ALL SOUL’S DAY “‘Elsewhere’ isn’t a place you can go in your dreams.” “It’s wasn’t as if/ I said something that would make/ a difference, on the contrary/ it would be my greatest hope if indifference/ set in,”
         even when you’re alone and the windows
         are shut tight, and the person at the other end
         of the line is talking to you from twenty years ago,
         saying things that were better left unsaid,
         even then


WHEN YOU WORE A TULIP “Outside influences”

STIGMATA Cartesia w/ bedbugs. In experiences as we relate or relay them to others—incl. ourselves—we remove the mental context, i.e. “this was a memory,” itself a category of experience (memory is present) of the world as it seems to include the past (the causes of the way things are). We weren’t there for the causes as such, they are inferred. The inferred cause suggest noumena. This is where David Hume enters or entails Immanuel Kant.

What relates a kiss to cause? How is a bedbug like noumena?

“The dermatologist touches the welts on my skin.”

HELLO STRANGER “Everything in the natural world…” [quote] appears to be Swedenborg, in particular the Swedenborg absorbed by Emerson and Kant.

counter with “my words seem to stand for something else.”

A dreamlike sequitur, something like cause:

         The red coals will protect my spirit from growing
         old. If you step on a mine you will explode
         like a shooting star.

“There’s a rumor that nothing can begin/ until you arrive. Meanwhile they serve beverages/ and show old movies.”

“Tell me what the food is like/ where you are.”

“—the music/ in my head is in my head.”

“I sleep eight/ big hours in my king-size bed. It’s so big/ I can roll over and not touch any of the people I’m sleeping with.”
“Tell me about the Russian restaurant/ on the boardwalk at Brighton beach. A child jumped off a rock and disappeared/ beneath the waves. She was memorizing/ her lines so she could take your place/ at a moment’s notice.”

A Buddhist, he pulls the teeth from the earth before converting it to as it was earlier. And if he gets bit, he merely dies.

DURANGO Things. Even you are multiple. “A nose on his face, unlike mine” to “it seems like you can be two people/ at the same time, or more.” Atomism. Is each void a haeccity? “The
bowels/ of the earth are empty and the/ movie theater is closed.” What about “The first/ microwave. Perpetual dawn.” Is this opposed to the persistence of things? i.e. not really “the first microwave” but acting as its own first every time entails perpetual dawn.

WATCH ON THE RIND “You fall asleep with eyes wide open” retaining perception at the point of body’s dissolution (cf. “I can roll over and not touch any of the people/ I’m sleeping with” two poems earlier). “You/ learn how to be present when you’re not/ even there.” The mind travels.

POEM Pivoting between being-there and the feeling of not being. In our interaction with others we feel ourselves. “Excuse me” this much is sure “—I can tell you want to go,” but, when the poet identifies with this feeling, is it suicidal? apocalyptic? “The building was detonated, we can all go home.”

WHAT IT MUST FEEL LIKE “Sometimes you come up for air/ when no one’s looking and look around./ Absorb the future before it absorbs you.” Fit that into DSOT! The sadness of memory is a landscape (since you left) growing a fantasy on it (escorts piling into the backseat). These differences (experience, memory, fantasy) have the same relationship as anything (real) to anything else. The changes effect us and keep us in the dark “and no one knows your name/ /or where you were born,” these things facing and effacing us merely “small talk around a water cooler,” as an illustration “the flora and fauna” commingled baboons and coral, though we rarely see them this way, the phenomena of the people we know, or think we do, alone in our minds “with their colorful orifices/ and twisted smiles.”

SONG OF THE DRIFTER Is this another way we can think of the disconnection between phenomena and the thing in itself? “Of such stories songs are written.”

FIVE O’CLOCK SHADOW “There’s a private party, and it’s going on right now./ If you haven’t been invited/ there’s still a chance that/ the guy at the door might let/ you in in exchange for a kiss.” “Not only don’t I know/ anyone at this party, but it’s like/ I showed up at the wrong address/ in a dress and no one cared.”

ALIEN ABDUCTION “Listen to the sound of things breaking, the snap of twigs.” “A party where everyone is required to undress before midnight.”

         There’s never been a vaster
         deployment of desire than what
         happened to me when was
         it 1964

She parked her car at the station
and waited for her husband to step off the train,
but he never came, never did, never will

NEW YEAR’S EVE Potentiality personified. The last line suggests how “you” could slide from potential to actual.

POLAR NIGHT “Maybe if you could see yourself/ from a distance/ you could see what other people see/ when they see you close up” “a pool of light in the puddle/ at the bottom of a well.” “Maybe if you abandoned the song/ and the tubes of the radio went dead/ you would rub the hands of a stranger/ in the storm.”

NEW TRAVELOGUE The inversion of NYE        Aggregate of facts and fictions     Even here, there is an absent other, subsisting: “I put my hand out to touch you, but the bed was empty.”

“I dropped everything I was doing/ and ran into the street” echoes STANDING ROOM ONLY

There’s/ only one stone and it weighs a ton.” An amusement of monism.

THE CONGA LINE Last poem, think of the procession at the end of 8 1/2, the film. Except here there’s maybe only, really, one or two people (me and you). But as we encounter each other we find ourselves faced with many different people.


James Yeary has written more than a dozen books of poetry in collaboration with other writers and artists. These include the my day series of chapbooks (with Chris Ashby and Nate Orton), and the full-length The Do How (with Kyle Schlesinger). Visual work has appeared in Picture Sentence, The Last Vispo anthology: visual poetry 1998-2008 (Fantagraphics Books) and is forthcoming in Eights. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his little family.

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