CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Draft 59: Flash Back
Rachel Blau DuPlessis
A half glass carafe,
a choice red ochre chalk,
a felt-blue paper,
particular words for things
incite lines whose shadows
break in cryptic outlines.
The paper blue as sky, the chalk as red as ground.
These “vigorous scribbles”
do suggest “deep space.”
Lighter feather touches
do recall long scrolls.
Hence depth and length become responsible
to themselves, learning their ethics
in poesis, in purposeful fabrication.
Streaks, points, gleams, and transposition
articulate their various desires
that language be,
and textures cry with pleasure
exacting the price of their plethora.
Such filiated evanescing “it”s are there among
the apple gests we set to tempt the dead
with the happiness of making,
with the open bright of listening
as if to larky twits of finch
through light surround of air.
weirded trumps of Gert,
alas, they cannot hear
although we talk to them,
and walk toward them
with rainbow thread
unrolling and reknotting
Splay of cardinal-pointed questions make a rayed-out rose
flooding the heart with alternative directions,
the rose of desires inside the poem’s patchouli
and not ironically.
How did desire get here? Hearby. By they-her or elles.
By elevation. A leg up. By He-and-she and birds,
by little one, big one, dog and good-bye dog,
baby-milk cup cracked and gone.
It was abrupt:
one death and then another
quick turns of the rope, like double Dutch.
And couldn’t hobble-hop those fast-turned twists.
Was there enough kindling?
Dream of packing a dead girl
in a fold-over suitcase.
And therefore Years were lost.
Of covering women over
with gigantic cloths, of snagging them in nets,
was not a dream. More Years.
I zip my body bag, donate myself to science:
“feminist.” And secular to boot.
Wall-eyed between suitcase and body bag
I asked “are alterations possible?”
A poufed-out plastic bag blows by
“Pathmark” ® is what it says.
This is an ambiguous answer
whatever the question.
Why use the alphabet to organize,
or why not? Discuss.
Suggest another mechanism of order.
One form and then another.
Something that sort of ends, but sort of not.
The alphabet is existentially funny.
Lettristic vaudeville can be adequate.
I mean there’s satisfaction arriving at
(English) “zed,” and (American) “zee”
but no insistence that anything particular be.
Other end points where “arrival” is dissolved?
Maybe a grid with limits.
Maybe lengths of ribbon simply
cut to tie these presents.
Maybe qwerty or another
Pessoa’s was azerty.
But this is controversy
without particular point. One form or then another—
it means something, but in itself leads nowhere.
A Form itself, abstract, is not
self-evident in meaning.
It’s not one anything.
“Form” is its particular use
its histories and extensions, its situated outreach,
its power and prods.
Who has designs on us? and Why?
What is the force of our conviction?
Something had gotten away from us
urgency for justice, intensities of ire,
all of this.
Where is it?
What are the real goals of this desire?
My words get alphabetized and put through Flash.
That is, Anyone’s words.
What is Flash?
Splitting words into letters
at the point of their affirmation
casting the bits adrift
How quick to fly they are.
I put my words thru flesh
they flash in shadow,
n-wards, pull and probe
thru fleece and flask.
Something propelled this urgency, this task.
My words are here among the layered pages
inside quickly moving time
intricate knobs with wormholes
breaking cross themselves and turning inside out.
Dark matter they seek,
sediments of unfinished business.
These layers slide across and enter
each to each as naked palimpsests.
A page: where every line stands up affright
porcupines that run ahead
in sudden light.
Not here, not here, not here.
to erase all words I ever wrote
they do not answer to what is.
unbelievable was that?
Since every word is three, there is multiplication
that can never stop,
can never be called finally to account,
but is always accountable,
can only be ridden like a wave and then another wave,
folded in a thick green danger.
Since every word is four, there is construction.
Blue light swells from earth
then black and there are stars
without lines and without stories,
no names, no myths;
just stark and starker far-ness.
Perhaps it is comforting
perhaps the rage of matter
but whatever else is there
living out our atom-laden recklessness:
fruta da época.
I wanted to know about making art and telling the truth.
Niente da vedere,
niente da nascondere.
And then the precise opposite
straining to see an other hidden side.
It is the way the day is
a yellow stain, a pool of pink
is it autumn? or spring magnolia?
The seasons fold
and pile upon the bone and slash.
The truth? It’s true.
Although I also laugh.
Is it possible to say what might be found here?
Every decade a list of shadows.
I was holding this list in my hand
optimistically. But I am deceived.
It is getting harder and harder to read.
My eyes? smudges of the writing?
a twist of the eyeball tightening into hard blur?
the magic marker streaked in the downpour?
Dry tears over blood-type headlines?
Someone came to me and showed a place
where basic flesh had been cut out, hole deep,
and in the dark invisible fingers pointed.
That was one, one real dream.
Listing and listening
—a great swath of names and citations
and the question was what were they
what had happened
these suffering bodies
riddled and scarified, branded,
can the poem speak of it, of this
injustice, rage, despair
large amid the subjects
it must confront
at the bountries where it stands
I was sentenced to this bounty-boundary task
because sentences came and then I made them
but I did not make them come.
They are skeletons that move their bony oars
and pump through sky
pulling their way across the wakes
of our yearning and failure.
Where is justice?
How to get it?
Along the cross-hatched backwash
is a pileup of boats to purgatory;
the dead are pulling the dead
up out of the water.
What co-insides with this?
where you leap (and where you land)
is the poem.
Being abandoned inside the world
in a plundered world.
I have lost a milky trail; I will never get it back,
but pick out well enough
red ocher marks randomized on turquoise skypaper.
Furia azul. And talk of this in reddened lines.
Enraged by our time. That simple.
That’s what I flash on.
So, now, with no further adieu,
I stand here in absolute frustration.
“This is an orientation to the crashing parts of the world.”
NOTES TO “Draft 59: Flash Back”
This draft was very loosely inspired in the aftermath of a chain work initiated by Dodie Bellamy for the Buffalo Poetics List in 2000. I participated with an untitled statement that proposed the instability of gender and sexuality in dreams and then offered a homophonic translation of this thought, thus creating a kind of “chora” or babble that matched and doubled the analytic proposal. The respondent to this was Brian Kim Stefans, who constructed a work called “The Dream Life of Letters” by alphabetizing the words in both my statements, arranging them in mini-sections, and putting them through a Flash program, thus making a visual text and a web poem. In an e-mail interview from March 2001, Stefans also briefly discussed this set of tactics with Darren Wershel-Henry. Wershel-Henry asked whether the transformational tactics on which his work was based did not compromise the feminist speculation in my statement. See Stefans, Fashionable Noise: On Digital Poetics (Atelos, 2003). The “wanderful”: Marisa Berna. “Vigorous scribbles” suggesting “deep space” is from the Jasper Johns show, February 1999, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Modifications of “Come, words, away” are based on a poem by Laura Riding. “From ‘Come, Words, Away,’“ Selected Poems in Five Sets, 59. Fruta da época simply means fruit of the season in Portuguese, but the false friend epoch was interesting to me. Later in the poem, Furia azul (Blue Rage) is a contemporary Portuguese anarchist group whose graffiti I saw in 2003. Niente da vedere, niente da nascondere means nothing to see, nothing to hide; it is a motto of Alighiero Boetti, from the Italian Arte Povera movement. The last line was said at a conference by Bonnie Costello. Donor drafts are the whole “line of 2”: She, Cardinals, and One Lyric.