Online Exclusive

06.03.09
Twelve Symmetries
1        Was It What It Was


I walked up all your stars, stairs to wake you, walk you home but
you were not there where the taking, talking, was taking place, 
taking the place of, the pace of a love affair, afar, a fair love and 
languor, language will do that; Rise, balloon. Blue balloon. 
We are not to fall together, each falls apart apart from the other— 
an asymptote a kind of self, selfish kind. A clinging.
 

 


2        Later There Was


Inclined this way, the head is zero-shaped and tightly filled with 
memory. As a child I was terrified 
a balloon might burst at my lips, the sound 
would deafen me; the concussion a kind of rage released … 

after the party, little deflated splashes of color on the floor, 
also cake crumbs and sticky 
remains, the breath of the mother the décor of the day.
 

 


3        So He Was


Naturally naïve I believed the balloon bursting would release 
the secret I had whispered too loudly blowing it up, someone listening.
 

 


4        Paper


She and I will rise burning paper, paper 
burning us rising. It will be a trap a trip 

us too making out of paper and paste a balloon of our scraps 
those letters those poems 

Burn it up, we said, laughing as blisters formed. 

O, furious balloon, with words. Of. O.
 

 


5        Cures for the Cynic


That O quickly fills or empties a catastrophe of zero … take my life for instance, emptying and filling like any old bathtub. Or yours. A circular tub, an agony of porcelain


“Here doe I see a Cynick housed in his Tub,
scorning all wealth and state.”
Water fills
water fills it furiously. It furiously fills.
  The remedy of dis-
contentment; or, a
treatise of contentation
in whatsoever condition.

—Bishop Joseph Hall, 1645
 

 

 



6        Categories


The basic symmetries of the Lie are four: Lies of Shame, of Disgrace, 
Lies of Need and Lies of Comfort. Each of these engages metaphor, 
irony, and poetry. Or, Self, Other, and Us. Or, the lie is a common friend, 
full of foreboding but willing to hold your hand in the dark hours 
when bright anxieties await just beyond the corners which need turning.
 

 


7        She Said


This is not to say, she said, that I forgive you. She said this unhooking 
an item of clothing. It was a small item, nothing that would be noticed 
but by one who understood the nature of need, the kind of need he would 
feed on, self-cannibalizing need which required at all cost to be covered
by some sort of clothing, some small wisp which could be secretly 
hooked into place while no one, or she, was looking.
 

 


8        Group Theory


The tetrahedron, too, has twelve symmetries.
 

 


9        Restrictions


What One must Not Touch: baby birds, fallen, 
the emulsion side of the film, 
oneself, others, delicate objects, 
delicate subjects, dangerous objects, 
open sores, close-friends’ children, 
the children of strangers, the actual 
eyeball, the exposed interior.
 

 


10        Truth


A casual survey taken of his own erotic fantasies left him quivering. 
For no one can bear his own her own despair sexually embodied. 
No body can bear its own weight but will soon and seriously reject 
symmetry, all mirrors turning opaque, 
all echo silenced.
 

 


11        What It Will Become


My breath is continuous and dimensionless, 
“Dimension,” being simply what is needed, the space 
within which you can show what it is, whatever 
it is; for instance: I have a balloon in three dimensions 
whose surface is in two: I drew her face on my balloon, 
tears in her eyes and mine. 
During the night my breath did escape— 
a whisper from her throat, my Love’s, a dream at some distance.
 

 


12        An End


All day I said goodbye and then I failed to leave. The lie was uncertain; 
was in the not leaving or was it the saying itself? 


Bin Ramke teaches at the University of Denver, where he is poetry editor for the Denver Quarterly. He has published thirteen collections of poems.