by Lee Slonimsky

These thin blue petals crowd together so,
it’s hard to count them.  But Pythagoras
can gently bend their head into sunlight
and patiently observe until he knows
there are nineteen.  He’s pleased with his eyesight,
a mild west breeze, a gleaming abacus,
the virtues of pure math.  But wait: nineteen,
he thinks, seems awfully random.  Odd.  And prime.
He counts four more blue flowers, all the same;
the breeze picks up; a broken branch sags…moans,
as if in sympathy with his distress
at nature’s strangeness.  Quite the mystery,
where nineteen came from, so haphazardly
that life itself could be all chance.  Unless…
Thoughts drift off slowly.  Black clouds in the west.
A flock of thirteen birds.  Lightning.  No rest.

Whitman, Not a Cardiologist

by Lee Slonimsky

I never knew the way the earth’s pulse beat
until I stood long hours at this spout
where water sputtered forth each now and then,
as if an open capillary breathed
its salty cargo to the still blue air
up on this cliff, next to the glimmering sea.
Walt Whitman, not a cardiologist
would nonetheless perceive this flow of pulse
and shimmer of its rainbows stalking mist
that congregates above the granite hole,
an open ended vein of the great heart
that pulses on four thousand miles below.
The sea’s as tranquil as a butterfly:
not a ripple to suggest
a worry, caution, sigh.
More a sense of blue-washed earth at rest.

Flash and Glow

by Lee Slonimsky

Sorrento of my dreams–
                                            I have returned,
alone, years later, on a business trip–
and now it’s Sunday and I watch the loops
a white gull flies.  No matter how I yearned
to speak, to touch you once: you were like stone.
Long after now, sea soothes, breezes caress;
the sun dips slowly toward the silent west.
All perfect moments are as if on loan,
so fragile, quick.  Saved by memory as best we can,
or art, or dream. 
                               We stayed here but a week,
and what a flash and glow back then.  I look
for comfort now at wings, red rays on sand;
the hotel hammock sways, as if the earth
has a vast, distant pulse: some fragrant warmth.  

The Black Panther

by Leconte de Lisle. Trans. by David R. Slavitt

A pink glow suffuses the cumulus,
tricked out with a delicate fringe of lace at the far
horizon in the east.  A spectacular
flash undoes night’s necklace. Superfluous,

its pearls shatter and fall into the sea.
The sky’s peignoir, fastened by the bright
clip at its top, modifies the light
to fleck the water’s green.  There appears to be

a rain of flakes of fire. Bamboo trees
rustle, and the purple lychee fruit
dazzles in the dew in absolute
voluptuousness that cannot fail to please

the most demanding connoisseur.  From the wood
there comes a rich mélange of sweet perfumes
we cannot find in any drawing rooms.
Nature here seems luxurious and good.

Tangled grasses steam in the morning heat
of the virgin forest in which, half-hidden, run
paths no man has ever walked upon
that were made by the quiet passage of animal feet.

Comes then the Queen of Java, the huntress, black
and sleek, returning to feed her small cubs where
they play among gnawed bones.  She drags to her lair
what’s left of the deer she has killed and is bringing back.

She undulates along, and with her pale
yellow eyes peers into the underbrush
and the branches overhead.  There is a hush
as she passes.  The deer’s blood leaves a crimson trail.

Butterflies dance above.  Industrious bees
hover on their way to the flowers that grow
along the track to perfume the air.  There is no
end to the dense forest’s felicities,

except for the curious python that now rears
its flat head from a scarlet cactus bed
to watch the panther’s progress with the dead
deer she drags until she disappears,

a dark phantom gliding into the deep
ferns and mossy tree-trunks.  Gone from sight,
she leaves a changed silence beneath the bright
blue sky as if the forest were asleep.





Une rose lueur s'épand par les nuées ;
L'horizon se dentelle, à l'Est, d'un vif éclair ;
Et le collier nocturne, en perles dénouées,
S'égrène et tombe dans la mer.

Toute une part du ciel se vêt de molles flammes
Qu'il agrafe à son faîte étincelant et bleu.
Un pan traîne et rougit l'émeraude des lames
D'une pluie aux gouttes de feu.

Des bambous éveillés où le vent bat des ailes,
Des letchis au fruit pourpre et des cannelliers
Pétille la rosée en gerbes d'étincelles,
Montent des bruits frais, par milliers.

Et des monts et des bois, des fleurs, des hautes mousses,
Dans l'air tiède et subtil, brusquement dilaté,
S'épanouit un flot d'odeurs fortes et douces,
Plein de fièvre et de volupté.

Par les sentiers perdus au creux des forêts vierges
Où l'herbe épaisse fume au soleil du matin ;
Le long des cours d'eau vive encaissés dans leurs berges,
Sous de verts arceaux de rotin ;

La reine de Java, la noire chasseresse,
Avec l'aube, revient au gîte où ses petits
Parmi les os luisants miaulent de détresse,
Les uns sous les autres blottis.

Inquiète, les yeux aigus comme des flèches,
Elle ondule, épiant l'ombre des rameaux lourds.
Quelques taches de sang, éparses, toutes fraîches,
Mouillent sa robe de velours.

Elle traîne après elle un reste de sa chasse,
Un quartier du beau cerf qu'elle a mangé la nuit ;
Et sur la mousse en fleur une effroyable trace
Rouge, et chaude encore, la suit.

Autour, les papillons et les fauves abeilles
Effleurent à l'envi son dos souple du vol ;
Les feuillages joyeux, de leurs mille corbeilles ;
Sur ses pas parfument le sol.

Le python, du milieu d'un cactus écarlate,
Déroule son écaille, et, curieux témoin,
Par-dessus les buissons dressant sa tête plate,
La regarde passer de loin.

Sous la haute fougère elle glisse en silence,
Parmi les troncs moussus s'enfonce et disparaît.
Les bruits cessent, l'air brûle, et la lumière immense
Endort le ciel et la forêt.



by Mark Rudman



Luck: to be paired with the unknown woman,
welcoming expression, blond, same age, still quite—

in her tank top and yoga pants she was born to wear,
and we’re instructed for the assisted back bend

to interlock thighs, clasp hands, and hold until flattened;
reverse positions, interlock, contort, tighten,

get closer to the ground the second time around.
I’ve entered heaven; would it would never end.

People who once existed come alive in the room now,
brought back by a thought; along with a soughing wind

while the sliding glass doors are closed.  Closed.  Cold. 
Cold winter afternoon several years in the past.

Sealed off room.  Sprightly, casual
banter; and it’s rare when the voices, especially the women’s

voices, blend, out of time, like those on the one album
you were sure I’d love; it’s not the kind of stuff that passes between us:

That’s more about emotions, oceans, and skies.
And the role the new substance you work with just

might play in the days to come.  The words demand—
despite the interference of the wind—in, of, around,

and through, the shut doors, that they don’t occur
in a natural order.  I wish I could this instant see

your body’s reaction, no matter how slight or bold,
to the disordered area I, without thought, enter:

inner ear—open.  Were it not for you my own keen-
ness in anticipation might not have been whetted,

turned over, treated like stuff, when if I could learn
to learn, open myself more than I had when young,

than I have while getting older.  Now: symmetry.
The door slides open a crack.  Enter: a cold blast

the winter wind itself come indoors and,
in the blink of an eye find our feet solidly

planted on Starved Rock, compelled to settle
those genocidal matters once and for all.

Justice, realized at last. 
Anticipation, the best; or the worst.

Like the ostensible subject which murmurs yes,
yes, you’re free from the need to repeat

what you can execute without a hitch; and reap no
benefit; and nothing, no not even playing “You’re just

going through the motions bab-y,” will cut
through, will kill it at the source; raze, eradicate,

blast away; it’s larger than that and your next
solution; “it” being, what else if not, do I have to say it?

I don’t? Then ok, I will: habit.  Habit.  No, you heard right.
And what you just said, it made the thought real.

My thought.  Yet it is not mine.  I can’t think “mine”
when a word can outgrow the limits of what those late

instruments used to make out far, far away.  Unerring—
it chooses the off moment to make its insolent inertia known

with that gleeful bland empty persistence, but most often
unrecognized—blurred—to holder and beheld,

disguised in the plainest of backgrounds,
like the wallpaper you bought, forgetting

how those mimic patterns led those women to
disappear—and now your Vuillard too has vanished

from sight: habit, the kind of word you pick up for a quarter
at a rummage sale in Lyme, New Hampshire, telling yourself it might

come in handy, sometime; right word there; it wasn’t the time
to match the clouds, heavy with water and decked out

in warship grays, to bring everything within the infinite-near
ness, where the word you spared yourself saying aloud,

frolics, like a cloud, like whatever it wishes to appear to be,
weightless property, shorn of any power of its own to do anything

it can simulate, against eternity’s blue screen.  Forever is off key.
The word we’ve disarmed for we don’t know how long

but not forever, not within millennia of that, and our
acts it finds so insignificant it may pull off something like a heist,

just to break the stasis, and the taloned, time-rending, pain
habit at times can dull but does nothing to keep it from going on

forever, say it, like one of necessity’s most high minded white lies;
then get back, to the practice, and the pain

that is only tension, not the kind our language will agree to give
definition.  Why?  The real question is: why are you asking me,

I’m too far down the road in the dream I’ve had forever to alter
the unattainable quest—to break through—to the ones I knew

when young.  Like my great grandfather who died when I was two.
Forever the dream of him disappearing as he moves down the narrow

dirt road through the woods with his back to me in a black suit
past the pond to his right in his left hand clutching a portfolio

the size of a suitcase whose contents I fear
contain a too vivid portrayal of my future.




(Thanks, only you would giggle at that “only” and that’s why, Sandrine,
my letters are addressed to you, and you’re right I’m “an idiot to forget”

you remember the man and his farm, the dachshund and the pond
where he taught us to rig tackle from leftover wooden handles and too

substantial string, and that we dissolved entire Sunday afternoons
“waiting in a state of ecstatic stupefaction,” and that this was the lesson

I hadn’t the patience to see occurring because I was a boy and that the ninety-two-
year-old man actually quipped that if I wept anymore into the empty bucket

he’d have enough water to fill the teakettle or “if I were young enough
I’d market those tears for men in the desert who must learn to fear the loss of salt

along with water.” I wonder that the wisdom you possess…
And now I see as on one of the photographs, you squirm from a hug,

with more fervor and animation than that mute actress who witnessed
the murder that formed the core of the movie we were taken to “after, not before,”

qualities invisible in the physical world…other than those that threw into reverse
my desire for us to be as close as possible; inseparable in those years before children

have a clue that that is what “it” is and that if it’s nature is to bind I was just
following directions.  Yours…   And yes, I am hurt.

The way you could win even when there was no contest.
And by seeing it more clearly, you do it again.

Ok, I am, I will.  Ok, so I said “off” when I’d only turned it down.

The reason was the same.  Every time.  I was the woman.
I don’t know what happened to the storm.  Maybe the storm

was in the background and said “adios” when I turned it off.
I know I know.  And yes yes I know it wasn’t you, it’s because you were the woman.

Yes I would have done things differently.  But with other
women.  Not with you. 

Where you were concerned there was no problem not brought on
by things over which throughout our early years we—no one—has any control.

But with other women…. 


You didn’t have to say it.  The deed’s already been done and done
again.  The dagger plunged.  To add?  Sure, that I don’t care

To that I don’t what to know.  (Pause.)  And now you’re doing it worse
than ever.  The replies you leave out here have the cruel

Rigor of your art.  It… 

But darling, the two of us are one: neither of us
ever wanted to be possessed.  It was this that was underneath,

this that let our love be watered.  Without us, mostly.
that’s why you frown and squirm and scratch every time

you’ve come across, inevitably, a chapter you hate in a book you love:
Intermittences of the heart.

I don’t know why you say that.
Just because I can’t take it?

That’s not evidence, that’s not even fate.
The fact that it’s true has nothing to do with the case.

We never had a case.  We had.  We have.
And do you know what your great grandfather

Was lugging in that scored black leather case?
Think how swiftly his feet moved toward his own death.

I think I see.  Have you always known?
Yes.  And you DIDN’T…!

But it was your dream darling; you were the one
who told me at every interval in the intervening years.

I don’t know.  But one Saturday morning I rolled over
in my sleep onto you and I knew.  It was clear.  

He’s alive as you or me or I or the two of us together,
in our separate apartments, one as uncluttered as the other is cluttered,

He makes his way
because it’s inside and outside   

and I know where the album is you said I just had
to get, after the night exhibition at the Met.



When I get a notion about Chicago
I write it down with a sense of “can’t be, can’t be,”

and I don’t know if I’m exaggerating to make an effect
until I graze the jungle, Upton’s jungle, graze, and
I know I have to go to the Financier, though I don’t know
how much help Dreiser would be given the more generalized
sweep of his sentences.  Oak
Park.  Hemingway.  But Frank Lloyd Wright
too?  All wrong.  A child between seven and twelve
can’t absorb the subtle shifts in the landscape
leading to the private residence Wright
designed.  Not an imposing house.  Biggest living room north of the future.  
Not sunken, as was the fashion.

Placed below where the windows are blind.  Not

so.  Placed so that no one can see you without
laddering to a high above the first half of window
and when the wind’s finished with its torrential fit with the autumn
leaves that autumn, and this autumn, and the double-paned glass confesses its imperfections it can’t touch  —
anyone, not even you or I, because we’re living far enough below
to go without a gash, and the nonexistent sofa the rise
built into the living room floor, a

rise if you stand back,
further       back than that, the elements that make of the character
of a house, of a human     being     can

be made     out.





The “N” key decided not to work.   The difficulties mounted.
But with the n gone from arena I have had the key

set before my eyes.

This arena where everything that lives and grows within
its imprisoning embrace is trapped—both sphere and spiral

somehow blocked by the accumulated humid, infested—

and infected thicket that I now realize is Palescon’s ringmaster
because it’s in-between the ruins in the lowlands and the mountain heights.

Earlier tonight I didn’t know that the arena was also the force

behind the mariachi music, that the arena made up of the ruin the jungle
was also the force behind the mariachi music, played, at intervals,

and while it recalls Santa Ana at the Alamo that was then

and now there are deft musicians, who showed up—on account of the Macheteros—
 once evening has asserted a coolness and its hues whose colors deepen.


I could see that the key is that we can’t see beyond that mountain,

except limitless bleached sky just right for the creatures of the air. 
Which gives me hope for what the others might divine

from the stills of Palescon, which tell the story in silence, of what the in-between

signifies, there.  A group of men and women, wearing dark clothes that breathe,
stand facing the wall where six blown up still photographs of Palescon

are taped, for this event, and moving closer I see mine is not the only eye

drawn in by the foggy lush tropics, its texture, and depths apparent
even on the surface—and since staying on the surface is the camera’s inherent trait—

comes with the camera—


I think the repellent density we endured allowed me to capture

what’s within as well as without.  I kept my eyes on the ground
until I reached this long tunnel through the jungle that let me see

through the thicket and under the branches until it got vanished

from lack of available light.  The ruin itself, which I got by going back
to the hill where first we braked and then looked long and long

at the palaces temples and playing fields and the space the Mayans

insisted on between one thing and another, to force you to take enough time
to absorb the spirit of the place, the waterfall, foaming as it falls

from the peak, gray-blue in the center which, if you stand back, relax

and concentrate, the cave’s foyer is visible through the heavy unbroken
torrent that pounded the apprehensiveness out of everyone,

as they seemed like other people on the road back to the hotel.

Only through negation can art crack the barrier.




It’s so late, forgive, whirled all day with sweat streaming
in the crevices like creeks within the double zone

where clavicles and shoulders conjoin,

my body solidifying, protecting itself
and the carrier, myself, no longer I, more alive than,

but not in ways I could assume was human,

which means what: mortality conscious,
with the terrifying instant access to thoughts

that threaten, like charcoal clouds, to break

and dispense in an internal weight as the waterfall
on the recessed tier, in the dappled, teal crevice,

which remains out of the guides, this

recess reveals itself to you, an open, and accessible
space requires camouflage, vigilance, and abandon.


The waterfall below situated more or less dead

center in the interval that parts the masculine
from the feminine volcano, like the chaperone

that also enlivens invisible currents of air; two

volcanoes on top of the mountain’s last cut open
tier, jutting out at the top ridge,

scored, weathered, set for the space launch
while the masculine formation with whom she shares

her entire life, instead of shifting toward this empty

pace between them, spares her his edging in on her
direction, while his just fury dispenses earthquakes on low heat,

he, in spring training for the moment when it’s right to let

go, and cover every living being as it has done so much longer

than recorded history—which is still audible
in the far reaches where farmers live on the maize they farm

and after harvest time recedes, and the controlled the fear of the har

esters in the fields, preferring still to use
tools, and not the machines that do the work for you

before you disappear in its roar, part of creation, rhythm

fluctuating, conducted by radical, unreal to those today
whose points of comparison are all simulations,

to experience my body as the world

and haven’t been blown down by the same rains
that dissipate the dust haze screen and lifts on

and the heat lifts on the white gold precious brittle

weave culminating at the stalk-tips, in this below
where the boundary between extremities gets

in the chalk-dust of the instant, or Arletty in white-

face, one men dying to go the other way that the millions
clogging the gap, one organism, insensate, deaf,

to the situation of a man, or a woman, alone.


But the glimpse is brief as the plane,
where she in dream follows’ the swallow’s rise

in the light that forces her to hold her eyes shut

and when she opened them looked out at the real
hawk which healed the vanishing space the dream

image emptied, rising to the mountain height

able for now to move, to go still
higher.  It was then the thought that escape

was possible, hit.  And she looked down.




And saw:     jungle   black-green   heaving    slow and wide
radical   sweeps   unaccounted for   by the light wind   and torpor in

every     leaf that is a hell   seasonal   in   for Palescon

impinging on everything on or around its circumference,
with a mobility hell alone   grants, and those who, alone, wish

themselves this freedom,   from the mechanical along

with its   dominating   machines   the B   side
call it escape, say it is astonishingly blind

to the reality behind…: danger.  And applications within keyed

to actions, instantaneous metamorphoses   on command
movement   at the necessary speed   which decisions

it is licensed to   think out   for itself as it is

predictions guarantee defeat   when this instant is  
unknowable until   now   and each situation calls

for   being     looked at   in ways not the same  as any  

prefaced   by “before”   that delays   the shock of the leapfrogging

to land again  “again”   since it worked  “then I see no reason
that it will   will not    will   duplicate     that       success.”


The B Side of the B Side

There is a B side to idealization.

That’s without access to   applications   illusions   functional
enough to gain  your trust   which you ought   to have   ejected

when the subject, last, came up.  Now the B side

distracts you to scratch the A side with new needle mechanism
that doubles as governing device      a record   needle as

on new and   unfamiliar machine   assigned to    you

to   bring you back within jungle   range
where now if you had you be dead.



IS IT OK TO TOUCH IT? (Sandrine returns to New York City where the jungle is now indoors)

To crack the entropic tree, whatever’s at the core eroding an already
disintegrating in this sphere, this arena where everything that lives and grows

is trapped and inertia is draw in and raised to another plane, as the arena

closes in and there sphere and the spirals are somehow blocked
by the accumulated humid, infested—and infected thicket that I now

realize is Palescon’s ringmaster because it’s in the center and in-
between the ruins in the lowlands and the mountain heights.

I couldn’t predict that the arena enclosing, encompassing,

all of Palescon, was also the force behind the mariachi music,
played, at intervals, once evening has asserted its coolness and

hues whose colors remain in constant flux, I could see that the key

is that we can’t see beyond that mountain, except limitless bleached sky
just right for the creatures of the air.  But we—are of earth.  Autochthonous.

And now the eye, informed about what’s wrong, will locate quickly

the route and the way to transform, translate, the arena, where the bull
is prey for the jaguar and puma, into an area, an open, unenclosed space;

to see it brings relief, release, and when my eye follows hawk from break-fast

table to branch to     sky     whose actual depths I didn’t register until

I watched the hawk rise to where he was level with the mountain’s
height and—implement to our desire—to get out of this circle, or sphere,

where inertia’s course has the jungle to carry out    
as the arena closes in, enclosing, encompassing, all of Palescon,

to whose spirit     it’s crucial that we can’t         see beyond     that mountain from

here and now the eye    must see over that crest and find any way it can
to transform, translate—the pulverizing confines and lure the jungle in Palescon

presents while you’re within.  The hawk’s made it to where plateau
opens onto plateau, over to where

I follow that hawk’s ascent to the edge of sight—a split-second and—

cut—hawk to hydraulic-whine-and jet at same point of ascension,
the seat belt sign stuck in its routine binary codes, off/on goes off

and he and I exchange      inexpressive     glances     out of fear
at hexing the flight, and push the seat back:

and listen to the plane groan as it strives upward, this plane

as the best transitional object to which I’ve ever had the privilege…
to the moment when the seat belt sign goes off and he and I glance

at each other, push the seat back, and final entire shift in focus,
first from all you can take in as a plane approaches Kennedy airport,

the innumerable windows that might be host to the next event,

and after several glances through the windows of the wrong lofts,
it appears, this immense loft, Spartan from its midpoint to the wall

where they’ve taped blow-ups of still photos of Palescon next to

smaller versions, so they can see what you can see when you can see,
as I just experienced, but from outside the window that watches over

the street all you see is foliage, rhododendrons, rubber plants,

I have to stoop to make it through the overhang, our host’s indoor forest,
which almost convinces as an illusory natural world, the contrast’s so stark

between this and the immaculate white covering the original brick walls;

that and the buffed finish of the wood floors which blocks there from
being another “and one too many would be catastrophic,”

like funhouse mirrors in yoga rooms where remote

goals are removed, and the aspiring ones robbed of one way
that works for so many, who do not claim, make at all clear in what way

this out of whirlwinds of recycled guides to whatever re

demption/”self-improvement, you seek.  Look: glass, glass
wherever there is not the forest made to change in whatever

way we wish, having spent…, you don’t want to know how much

fifty separate knee to neck high plants, chosen by, for, longevity,
not lifespan of currant plant, but for timespan, genus species

spent on earth as far back as such matters can be tracked.

Designers aren’t anthropologist’s.  But they do what they can
to elicit latest finding from those specialist’s in locating the duration

of living things, like these, before they became available…

through catalogues.  I caught his drift, his drift caught me up, too,
in wonder, which I’d forgotten was my first choice for where

I wanted to be, to be at, in my head and my body, inevitably.

Inevitably?  It still has to be restated.  Easy to forget, when
stressed, if who you’re addressing knows the score or

is like a Facebook replicated friend of a friend of a…an

acquaintance, at best.  (at worst, a mere, mortal enemy.)

bookcases tables.  In back, another world,
like this loft’s third dimension,  a quiet wide and elegant space adjacent,

to bedrooms workrooms and opposite a kitchen you could live in.

There isn’t a window within range of this welcoming space,
which draws us to position ourselves around the long black velvet sofa,

enhanced, as we are, dressed in dark clothes, by the lovely olive—gray

walls that say: “walk through if you want.”  But no one wants.

This is the perfect place for an atheist with secular spiritual longings.
I almost said religious, but the latter’s really focused, at least in New

York City, on community.  It’s like being in a shadow zone, inducing

everyone who enters here to slow down.
And now take some time to cool off after battling the tem-

premature out there, that’s risen to what’s considered normal for a person

(and is also standard weather in Palescon), and in this easiness my awareness
moves gradually until the integral small details, down to the grain in the wood,

are revealed.  Which gives me hope for what the others might divine

from the stills of Palescon, which tell the story in silence, of what the in-between

signifies, there.  A group of men and women, wearing dark clothes that breathe,
stand facing the wall where six blown up still photographs of Palescon

are taped, for this event, and moving closer I see mine is not the only eye

drawn in by the foggy lush tropics, its texture, and depths apparent
even on the surface—and since staying on the surface comes with the camera—

I think the repellent density we endured allowed me to capture

what’s within as well as without.  I kept my eyes on the ground
until I reached this long tunnel through the jungle that let me see

through the thicket and under the branches until it vanished

from lack of available light.  The ruin itself, which I got by going back
to the hill where first we braked and then looked long and long

at the palaces temples and playing fields and the space the Mayans

insisted on between one thing and another, to force you to take enough time
to absorb the spirit of the place, the waterfall, foaming as it falls

from the peak, gray-blue in the center which, if you stand back, relax

and concentrate, the cave’s foyer is visible through the heavy unbroken
torrent that pounded the apprehensiveness out of everyone,

as they seemed like other people on the road back to the hotel.



I found myself in a thicket, smeared
With rubbish and the dust of stars,
And while the way to the German philo-

Sopher’s hut wanes, according to what
My MillOTronic traker/tracer which cost
A quarter of what separate devices were

Going for, in these times when common
Yet cosmic forces had lifted the word nor-
Mal from the dictionaries

That come “Free” with my two other devices
On which I was compelled, in the opposite
Sense of inwardly driven, to log

In, go on, graze the sterilized
Landscapes of names, names I hadn’t seen or
Heard since I left high school with a degree

They grudgingly bequeathed me despite
Several scrapes with the single-minded props,
Puppets, who to my eye showed no trace

Of eye rolling, groaning, under their Cert
Disguised breath, only my French teacher,
Whose figure and dark hair cut just below

Her ear, landing a fraction shy
Of the white blouses, whose material, iI
In an ongoing duel between heaviness and light-

Ness, varied, “it was accepted,’
According to the weather
And if the desert was always cold at night

Come November through the Ides of March
I woke cold, walked to Saltpeter where
Students took breakfast, lunch, dinner

And as for myself, indispensable snacks
Before and after basketball practice or
Golf, which they let only two leave the premises

On a given day, unless they could prove
They were desperate for what the girls who lived on
Campus used to inspire the deprived accountant

Who, his gesture made clear even if the finite—
Less than twelve—words he uttered and only
In response to requests from student for money,

And he never asked “for?” but the girl’s choice of
Underwear made him blush every time and stick
The tiny key into the slit that marked

The entrance to the cash box, hundred dollar
Bills packed as tight as the counterfeit
The heroes so often end up with before they’re all killed

For the one sin, Sterling Hayden said, in The killing and the killers, and
Odds are in the Asphalt Jungle where his role

Was all but identical to the ones to follow,
By which time Sam Jaffe in a top secret tete a tete
With Jack Warner or Zanuck, I forget, offered the mogul a free

Tip, and continued since neither King in a divisible Hollywood,
Condescended to chit chat with the talent,
And not having to credit Jaffe for his revelation,

That “this man Hayden, who John Huston (the perfect name
To drop at the time, before he began to run up a tab
Of box office failures, that surrounded the films

That were judged by James Agee to be art
And judged by Dore Schary, who produced the films that had to be made,
And scoped out the talent that had left the room,

Like Faulkner, after the Cowley Portable Faulkner,
Lured even those apprehensive, hyper, insecure
And richer than all but those dying for the right

Kind of recognition in Hollywood, on their knees
For the blessing of the self-made moguls,
Accused later on for being little Napoleons,
To which slur I came back with a quick crisp “so what?
Why should I give a dam as to what names
the clueless and indolent and too often spoiled and too invested

In being “pure, authentic,” Hollywoodlanders
To spar with the ones who stayed hungry, who handed
Their checks which caused eyes to pop out,

“like they do in the movies,” as Canino says to Jonesy
before he gives him a break, pockets the gun
and strolls like the gods (in the days when out belief

in gods was the largest  the factor and
integer to factor in to any decision], relishing
the joke on Jonesey whose fear rose like mercury

to the thermometer’s top, which stopped at 108,
like penthouses in incognito mode whose door
was on the bottom floor, where only the lowest

would consent to sleep, spend free time, wolf down
Heroes for lunch, and slurp Nescafe made with the luke
Warm hot water that trickled, when turned all

The way up, into Styrofoam cups they held,
Standing on their feet during their one free
50 minute hour the populous staff who each handled

the upkeep of their own domains and out of a hundred,
I observe that eight did the real chores, on
Their knees on hard floors that hurt (as I know

From searches among my own drafts scattered
Wherever an emptiness of space was sensed or
Stuffed in drawers and boxes in which as of 9:10 AM, to

Day, I have not once glimpsed, when it mattered,
Two consecutive pages of a single treatment
Reshuffled in revenge for the irreverence

Shown in the way I took in the subject as a whole
And set it down out
Of order, to awaken, what I prayed was just

Latent, dormant, or distracted attention that still
I hoped, fell and would land in the normal zone,
While I was ordered, with a sincerity so disingenuous

To do some night flying, landing in areas known
For unlit runways, a challenge which made the boss men
Feel like men, for behind closed doors their women,

Ran the show, dictated the action, while less than
normal sized penises withdrew inside the loose
Flesh that surrounded The mushroom shaped bauble at the top, and

I thought no wonder Stanwyck is always in a temper,
Though she was wise and set it aside during the actual
Shooting—and the work—touching the mark—called for before

Any movie, anything recorded by a mechanical device, re-
Quired, and if you didn’t catch on your name descended
Toward the underneath on movie marquees.

The philosopher would’ve laughed until he choked
And brought on asthma attacks that refused to subside,
As they did, after he continued to stroke the woman

He wished for himself, during these lengthening days
In the black forest, where the light, flooding
The open fields and marshes with light and more

Light, had no presence in the woods I walked alone,
In the tracker indicated direction, that no
One I know had seen fail, ever, in a German

Film, before    Lang and Lubitsch, Siodmak and Sirk,
Mann and Mann,
Abandoned the black forest for the shtetl by the sea,

Where Sasha Verteil made it possible for Einstein and Lorre,
To vanish from the sun-stricken terrace
And he reflected rays, Albert knew, could turn men blind

In an instant, “like that god, in the myth, whose stare
Turned men into stone,” and when addressing the brilliant
Now distressed malcontent and fiend who lined his pockets

with co-caine, “but more than ever when I take the train, that stops
At every snowed in, frozen station, and never
Arrives at my destination, or is his just a physical

Version of an example you like to use when some asshole,
Rather than read your distillation of the theory
In the book a child of eight could read,” when Einstein

Came back with a quick reply, “a child that can read
Can read,” “and if not there’s always Bertrand Russell.”
“THAT is indisputable but I am far from thrilled

with the way his always on point linear mind, under-
mined Wittgenstein, when he assumed the preface to the Tractatus
had already been assigned, because, I still hear him announce,

‘who else do you think was Wittgenstein’s mentor,
and without mathematics the kind of philosophy he made up,
to prove what cannot be proven within the finite

series mathematics provides to the human mind and is the
source of every significant advance in science,’
spoken as if this science did not co-opt

algorithms created with an intention that could not,
be, further, removed from mathematics or philosophy.”
The longest silence I still endure took over.

The two men bit their lips to keep their smiles
Limited to what none of the eavesdroppers could
Identify, and Einstein was grateful for the actor’s

Showing him techniques he could apply in the moment
And forever.  I do not think I was the only one
Who felt relief that Albert, unlike almost

All of the above!, refrained from uttering the word
“forever” out loud to Lorre, who might, even
if cocaine weren’t a factor, take it to mean

something entirely unrelated and psychic
explosions like that were not thoughts these exile
needed, to stay on point, to stay too on top

of anger, and not begin to fear exploding or
they might become shells whose rattle signified,
anger and fear, without having the compass

to identify which was which in the lineups
in which, in dreams, they saw themselves to wake
in a sweat, or with the eternal scream of

“I am innocent!” 

And they were innocent.
Judged by the dismissed standards of a moral

That no longer existed.

That had been replaced.

That has not, since, shown

A sign, of returning, of

Ever, in this life, coming home.

Second Guessing

by Don Riggs

Why is it that men–I should only speak
for myself now, but a woman once told
me the same thing, so I can't help but hold
it to be true, whatever you may think–
are mysteriously allured by those
women whose mouths are always in a moue
of dissatisfaction? Could it be true
that such men think, in taking off her clothes,
he could be the only man to make her
smile, as if his hands alone could conjure
up the delights of the flesh she has missed
in her relationships with other men,
who never is fulfilled, though often kissed,
whose disappointment makes us try again?


by Don Riggs

A wristwatch is a handcuff, it shackles
you to the consciousness of time; likewise,
time is no longer free to fly about
on its own; it is attached at the wrist
to your body, to your heartbeat's tattoo,
to the inequalities of the breath,
and to the slower, subtler cranio-
sacral rhythm that very few of us
notice, fewer even than those who note
the lopsided rhythm of the heart, man
slogging up a steep hill with a wounded
leg, favoring it, spending as little
time with pressure on it as possible,
shackled in his case not to time but pain.


by Don Riggs

She retains a sparkle in her eyes still,
but she is little more than a light shell
of her former self. How much, in the skull,
determines the person we are, or shall
become? She can eat a meal and not spill
anything, retains enough of that skill
and enough control so she doesn't soil
herself–none of that embarrassing smell.
If the eyes are the windows of the soul,
she stands there, inside, leaning on the sill,
watching, unable to name, a squirrel
undulating through trees, as if a spell
had been cast, pricked herself on a spindle,
and wordlessness covered her like a shawl.


by Charles Rafferty

Darkness that is me,
only in profile, you
try on surfaces
and all of them fit — even
other people,
even the creek
as it rushes
to get away. You need
only light
to leap into being:
a cigarette match,
the bare bulb
of an interrogation room.
Even a camera
flash confirms you.
They all contrive
the same
darkness, the same
we cast and carry
like a suitcase
we can't put down
or even open
to tell what we have
taken with us —
without effort
or choice —
into the night
that swallows us.

Summer 1985

by Charles Rafferty

That was the season I wrote everything in Lucida, instead of Times New Roman. There were no planets in the sky whenever I thought to look for them, and I kept in my wallet a picture of the girl I thought I'd marry behind a picture of the girl I was with. By July, the caterpillars had eaten every tree in town, but they releafed in August, and it was strange to see that shade of new green edging the backyard thunderstorms. I looked through a bell of cheap chardonnay and saw the world distorted, exactly as it was. At some point, I chipped my tooth on a peach pit but didn't have the money to fix it. It's at home on me now — like the scar from my smallpox vaccination, or the sweater I kept by accident after a host had loaned it to me when he learned that I was cold.