Conjunctions:53 Not Even Past

Two Poems
A C o n t i n u e, or E n t r y

1.
Where next? Oblique cost of the not yet.
Strange flotation of the stampede, resembling play.
The octagonal stop, characteristic, time is place.
Intentional rupture of the flow.
Play coming upon belief, instruments, kin.
Kindred bricks or blocks, the hallucinating margin.
Then: double vision, a skill contained by doing.
A refusal to embed that into this, so that this perishes.
A spread or insistence, as in a flood.
A local extremity, a wall.
Extent and its delimiting edge.
Elaboration sprouting form, its voraciousness.

2.
What next? Unique cruelty of the undone.
Rook rhymes with book, crow with toe.
Also hook. Also know.
To countermand restlessness, settle on fact
as it seeks to order a well-worn shoe, two
shoes, a pair of old shoes. And yet
the sun lays claim to
natural dyes, rifts through the glow-torn
phenomena where I see
the metonymic rituals of spring
expose a mournful goddess in her crypt.
Hook rhymes with crook, know with foe.

3.
Strange flotation of the stampede, resembling play.
Rumble, blaspheme, crooked under the gun.
Too much is previous. Even the game,
about to start, will vanish
with its partner, day. Reach out your spoon
for another portion; arch your neck.
Everything is in profile toward evening.
If, on behalf of a last chance, you move
Yours sincerely into the winning slot, then
cherries, stars, and the quick weave of your
hair into braids: all this shall be yours.
These are lessons of chance. They are not plans.

4.
The octagonal stop is my master.
I was thinking of roaming out of range
to where a sidelong pillar of light
rides the river sky. Wow! If I turn away
toward an unmarked grave
(here find the stop where the real is done)
will you believe if I say
something gains on our aspiration, our embrace?
Branches against cloud. Fence against road.
Above the shade, the elastic flirtation of a web.
Words in another room, if the radio were on.
These are lessons in mobility. They are not fate.

5.
Intentional rupture of the flow,
blurry, as in a Vermeer. You, who may
not have seen such reproductions of the same,
missed the optical illusion which,
as it happens, is rhetoric at its best.
He saw how materials collapse
a desire for reality’s articulated shield.
The Dutch love the small, domestic stage.
I love the huge impertinence
of an unresembling fact. Look!
A deep pink developing above, there,
in the west! It cannot be saved.

6.
Play touches belief, sorts out, finding kin.
Could be time to count. Ten, five, three
as if pointing toward severance,
the throw of the dice.
Looking back, there seems to have been a hive
or bank in which things were kept,
a hoard or list or will. In the philosopher’s tale,
there are bitter claims at stake;
in the great attic, increasing remorse.
Dearest, I visited your room after you
were gone and found the
and the the and the the and the.


7.
Kindred plays or blocks, the hallucinating
margin above mementos of—
a supplemental neuter deletes
some revenant’s luck. Her.
I dream the awkward dream. I disallow.
On the rug, with paint and trowel,
under stones and ash and the rude
vocabulary of the frost, grammar
disobeys its rules. The western crawl space.
Air and earth aglitter, collide.
Something adds, something subtracts.
How near is the thing that counts, what is it called?


 



The Translator’s Dilemma

As if to foretell an ordinary mission, with fewer words.
With fewer, more ordinary, words.
Words of one syllable, for example.
For example: step, or sleeve.
These are two favorites, among many.
Many can be found if you look closely.
But even if I look closely, surely a word is not
Necessarily here, in the foreground.
I see an edge of a paper, I see orange, I see ear.
I see words and I see things. An old story,
Nothing to foretell in the ordinary mission.
I see “her winter,” and I see “I am merely
A tourist here.” Are these issues of
Translation, the barriers of translation?
I see John and an open book, open to a day
In August. I am feeling defeated
Among these sights, as if I will never find
Either sleeve or step. These ordinary
And pleasurable words, attached to
Ordinary and pleasurable things, as if
To announce them I am
Announcing certain criteria. The step, the sleeve,
How they invite hovering over and within
Our necessities: a coat, a stair.
But I am merely a tourist here, deaf to light.
What is this wreath? What is this thing?
Nothing to foretell the ordinary, its leap across.

Ann Lauterbach has published ten collections of poetry, most recently Spell (Penguin), as well as several chapbooks and collaborations with visual artists, including work with Ann Hamilton, Lucio Pozzi, and Ellen Phelan. She has written on art and poetics in relation to cultural value, notably in a book of essays, The Night Sky: Writings on the poetics of experience (Penguin). She has written catalogue essays on Cheyney Thompson and Taylor Davis, among others, and has been a visiting critic (sculpture) at Yale. Her 2009 volume, Or to Begin Again, was nominated for a National Book Award. Her poems have been translated into French and German. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, The New York State Foundation for the Arts, Ingram Merrill, and The John D. and Catherine C. MacArthur Foundation. Since 1990, she has served as Co-chair of Writing in the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts and, since 1997, David and Ruth Schwab Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. She has been a contributing editor to Conjunctions since 1981. A native New Yorker, she lives in Germantown, New York.