Conjunctions:54 Shadow Selves

The Gift

You confuse
the image of a fungus

with the image of a dick
in my poem

(understandably)

and three days later 
a strange toadstool

(white shaft, black cap,
five inches tall)

appears 
between the flagstones 
in our path

We note 
the invisible

web 
between fence posts

in which dry leaves 
are gently rocked.


 



Sustained

1

To come to
in the middle

of a vibrato—
an “is”—

that some soprano’s

struggling
to sustain.
 
2

To be awake
is to discriminate

among birdcalls,
fruits, seeds,

“to work one’s way,”
as they say,

“through.”

3

Just now
breaking

into awareness,
falling forward,

hurtling inland
in all innocence


 



Border Perfection

1

The days are shorter,
but the light seems to stretch out,

to hark
from a long way off.

Horizons
snap into focus,

while shadows
are distended, smudged.

It’s happening again;
we take

discrepancies
for openings.

2

The sign
that the guy behind me

in the “border protection” line
is demented

is his impatience,

the way he asks
again and again

what we’re waiting for


 



The Vesicle

1

To our amazement,
when fed on fatty acid,

the vesicle
did not simply grow,

it extended itself
into a filament.

Now the king’s youngest daughter said,

“I wish I had 
something like that”—

and the whole vesicle
transformed

into a slender tube
which was quite delicate.
 
2

Monks
mimed one another’s
squiggles

carefully
by candlelight

as if they thought
creation trailed something,

as if they knew
creation looked like this

from what is
always

the outside.


 



Exact

Quick, before you die,
describe

the exact shade
of this hotel carpet.

What is the meaning
of the irregular, yellow

spheres, some
hollow,

gathered in patches
on this bedspread?

If you love me,
worship

the objects
I have caused

to represent me
in my absence.
 
*

Over and over
tiers

of houses spill
pleasantly

down that hillside.
It

might be possible
to count occurrences.


 



With

It’s well
that things should stir
inconsequentially
around me
like this
patina of shadow,
flicker, whisper,
so that
I can be still.
 
*

I write things down
to show others
later
or to show myself
that I am not alone with
my experience.

*

“With”
is the word that
comes to mind,
but it’s not
the right word here.

Rae Armantrout’s most recent books, Versed, Money Shot, Just Saying, Itself, Partly: New and Selected Poems, Entanglements (a chapbook selection of poems in conversation with physics), and Wobble were published by Wesleyan University Press. Wobble was a finalist for the 2018 National Book Award. In 2010 her book Versed won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and The National Book Critics Circle Award. Her poems have appeared in many anthologies and journals including ConjunctionsPoetry, Lana Turner, The Nation, The New Yorker, BOMB, Harper’s, The Paris Review, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology, The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine, etc. She is recently retired from UC San Diego where she was professor of poetry and poetics. She lives in the Seattle area.