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From Drafts for Shelley
A figure in black at the beginning there is this one
 Figure in outline a boat

Drawn across the page in outline the figure of a boat

In medium chestnut-brown ink room to continue draws a blank.

                                   Drawn at the top of the page

                                   A figure drawn by hand

                                   In outline of the boat a hand draws inside the lines

                         Where the hand is there is no hand

           As if etched in bark small hand of letters

           In the boat the man is drawing near to land without light

           ‘His hands unlocking from chambers of his body’

           In low light a man draws the image of a boat

           A line below the line ‘should be absorbed’

           Scratched upon a surface of vellum

                         In the thin light

                                   A boat draws near.


           To hear ‘moths dying within the light’

                                                There is one light inside of each
                         Without harm the way is without harm or end so it may come to us
                                                                   without surprise the end is without surprise … 

                                            In the cool months what comes first
                  Jonquils in the May sun in the cool May light
                                                                          Yellow against the white

                                                                          ‘morning and morning’
                                                In the first hours in each hour
                                                              ‘rafters of thigh bone and grass.’


                                   ‘so soon the days are flooded with light   

                                                & our house shaded against the east’

                         Half of heartbreak is wordless

                         Under the tongue’s aspirant vigil

                         Did we pray for the death of two

                         Did we pray to have one go away from us again

                         Small hand of letters passed between two

                         Mourning is a power of two made one

                         A boatman passing between.


                         It is only in relation

                         We find ourselves

                         Singed     darkness

           Single in darkness when the days open

           In a rush of color

                                                ‘light impeded by dark folds lit along the edges’

           In a rush of odor

           Banks of fresh-cut green.


                         ‘Washing up on the beach washing back in the waves’

           One is gone away without one coming back

           Wander at sea go village by village light
                         in lifted episodes of rhapsodic memory

           Their bodies brought again to the surface

                         Only in the reaction of two in one

           The difficulty of living apart from each

                                   Surface layers of color one by
                One surfacing … 

                         Who has come this far

                                                      no longer touches.


                                   There is a day like no other

                         Unsettled moon skies white the white mind
                                                                          midday moon low horizon

                         Let him leap back in wonder
                                                sights unseen wonder

                         There is a landscape inside the landscape

                         One invests so much in one square of gray

                         Under the eaves morning draws you near

                                   Halfhearted hope to say one says no such thing.

           Gray canvas under charcoal hand over hand marred at the edges.


                         In its world alone the body

little by little is brought back into the curve of another

           Remoter still as if to say one cannot turn

           when light is low the body moves

           against the tide moon barely a light scene

           a burial scene inside the landscape

           waves carry it out to sea

           at the end of day the moon crisp & low

           on the horizon.


                         Come late to prayer

           Bend serene head scented black

           Garment in each space of black

           A garment hangs in back of one whose

           Faith is gone

                         How do you invent faith anew

                         On the surface stones bright cut skeins

                         One makes a pattern of sound

                         Faith is a pattern of sound

                         Stretched tight over knuckle and wrist

           Torn cloth torn gray etched surfaces cleaned by hands

           Whiter from the wrist their knuckles whiter

           Etched in gray stone days written out

           ‘A birth note written in stone a bright
                                   birth song a form of prayer’


                         Reading vellum paste-down patterns

                         Of sound that resist the body’s effort to flee

                         In lines there are patterns formed from a notebook

                         Left on a ledge the patterns formed in a note

                         Sent ahead one is forming a line in one’s head all the

                         Time it takes to absorb one color.


                         Human legacy exists in portions of

                         Salt & sand

                                   Difficult to qualify

                         Or say what it is that draws the boat

                         Against the green tide turned brown

                                                Earthly unearthly

           Traced within a stenciled phrase

                                   ‘all that can be known by the dead
                         concerning that which the living fear’

                                                                          N a t u r e resolves by degrees

                                                Each darkened slip.


                         Make a shadow in the hand a shadow

                         Of oneself in shade falling across the page

                         One-handed when the light releases itself

                         Again it is one hand

                         Lifted against the darkness of a page

                         Folded in threes lifted into the air

                         Like a revolving figure in white

                         A surface of dark and light

                         Loved for the form of it.


           A woman’s hands moving apart

Impatient hands moving in the air the impulse

                         Of her hands moving our hands

                         Apart gathering us to her

                         Hands gathering us out of thin air.

                         One no less than the other.

                         Our hands moving in the air to find her.

                         Some days are going and she is coming to find us.

                         The theme repeated stressing a variant.

                         Her hands lifted in thin air

                                                Light of her hands lifted to receive us.

                         In memory

           ‘The outline disentangled                                    the fire so light
                                                                          a warm intermixture of shade & motion’


           Flowers are a signature of our going

           One wanders seacorps that hint blue stems

           Blue chicory stems of salt thinned blue-tinged

           White hands lifting a core of seabark

           Wing-tipped leafy stems held to light

           Marred branch & brittle seagrass

           Burnt stitches of bark held by

           Lean-boned hands

                         Womanly wrists threaded through falling tide.


           Stone cross where the path diverges.

                                   There is familiarity in light & dark

                                   There is this knowledge of days passing

           One by one the days are
                                   ‘implied in the words of those yet to come’

           Stone cross as the path crosses over … .

                                   A window opens. Bird
                                                song. No thing in sight.


                                                One by one the light passing

                                   Through open hands

                                                              ‘A shadow of bright eternity’

                         ‘A bronze of yearning, a rose that burns’

                                   Hidden as the moon hides.

                                   Rises as the moon

                                   rose inside sky’s blue black

                                   blue thronged image of a sphere

                                   night rising moon less & less

                                   common a sight one sighted

                                   hour gone toward the white yellow rim of its

                                   tilted white horn.


                         Recluse words painted onto surfaces

                                   Morning stone wandered apart

                                   White sea up against a body in mourning

                         Wordless branches half in shadow

                         But the body is distorted half in shadow its torso

                         Turns in the shadows of a light that comes back

                         As if in snowfall

                                   White center of a pupil

                                   Closing opening

                                   Against a surface of color painted onto wood

                                   And the hand-blocked figures

                                   Standing in sunlight

                                   ‘A soft fire of outlines’


                              Under sun sealed wet grasses tree

                         Limbs fallen after a storm.

                               Power is a sign of wonder

‘And from all sounds all silence in words

                                                          without words’

                         Clear light & drops of rain.

                         In the opening sun to open his daybook & read

                         What was written there:

                         ‘Shadows & gleams such spaces & every grain of light’

                                                And everything lightening unaccustomed



12 May 2010

Note: Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Pisan Winter Notebook (1820–1821) is the source for quotations, both marked and unmarked, that appear throughout this poem.

Andrew Mossin has published seven collections of poetry, the most recent of which is North & East: Daybooks (Spuyten Duyvil). His new collection, Black Trees, is forthcoming in 2023, and he has recently completed another, A Common World. “The Day After the Day After,” from Conjunctions:70, Sanctuary: The Preservation Issue, is excerpted from a book-length memoir, A Son from the Mountains (Spuyten Duyvil). He is currently editing a book-length collection of essays, Thinking with the Poem: Essays on the Poetry and Poetics of Rachel Blau DuPlessis. He is an Associate Professor at Temple University, where he teaches in the Intellectual Heritage Program.