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Three Poems
Another Dream of Beginnings
          —after “Portrait Now Before Then,” by Michael Palmer

This is one, hoping to exist. This is one, holding out against zero: its reign of absence, its absolute winter.

Down for the count, which needs or does not need our factories of charge.

This is not about language.

The river that might or might not flow. One & naught locked in battle for beginnings. From the. & if this is an illusion, sum of none?

This river black as never. Speeding a child’s bowl of numbers to the greedy sea (apples, wishes, middling C, bounteous regrets).

Or blink off, denied like a dream, urgent & unspeakable as any secret itch.

In your dream, buildings without windows, faces without eyes. Dodging Newton’s apple, headed for another fall. Silvered in the resistant air. Isaac waking to our unlikely, unlikable times. Recoiling, appalled.

In the next fall you are together, blurred as one line or many. The line dragging your point forward, towards the cliff, towards answering the call, towards admitting what you hear. No one a bigger zero. As the impossibles pile themselves in babbling towers.

Polishing the luster to no shine for no clay-footed idle. That which is given. How many of how much. Signifying nothing, without which something would be nothing.

In my dream, the tree of numbers sags under Nature’s limited attention. You multiply yourself & wave your dizzying limbs, sinking slowly from my incidental frame of reference.

In your dream, this is about language, which suspends you, in which you are suspended.

In my dream, your dream knocks on the so-called door.

This listening more difficult than archery, than intercourse, than monetary easing.

This listening to nothing, as if something will emerge.

What the numbers spell.

When the tree caressed the soil until its branches became roots. A marriage giving rise to dreams of its own.

What the numbers recount.

Until the trees reach back into the mothering soil. Numbers divided in their loyalty, harking back to n/one.

One more dream of beginnings, until the future swallows itself.


November, Quarter Moon
          —after “The Meteor of August 13,” by René Char

In real time. In double darkness. Red spire bloodying the sky. Piercing the shadows.

Rigid wedding of eyes and light. Event unfolding to missed vision.

Listening without hearing, contained by time & rancor, the rancid shadow of death.

Stars bowing to the red glow, furrowed brow of sleep, beds of ivy, childhood sold.

Provisional assurances. Smiles corrupted.

Demented cheer, false enmity, hollow grandeur, gutted signals. Red glow drowning the soil, burying the water, stampeding the frightened frightful beasts.

Wisdom swaddled in blades. Touting the sovereignty of mammon, the small hands of extravagance.

Not to lose ourselves in yesterdays. Ignoring the gnawed façade of fall’s eviscerated days.

On the morning stair: the turned back of those sleeping in denial, running in fantasy, grasping at latency, stalking their young & their old, in phase with the red storm.

We who are prey & predator, swimming & drowning, wielding the blade & bled by it. 

While the future looms & recedes—a renegade spark drowned by blaze.

Saving our lies, hidden in the grass, turning our back to the killing frost.

The weeping soil marvels at our refusal.

Bird’s sorrow hoping to be heard.


Extremum Terrae
          —after “Sunland,” by Edmond Jabès

my child a planet

whose cortex downs its best idea

eyes scaled to the hurtling dark

droplets gathered in weary cycles

greyed by our assault

my child a planet a nation

in virtual glass where “where” no longer counts

for most of everything

trapped in the argument of disappearance

thrashed by the threaded heat of logic

my child a planet a nation a code

dangling by a glistening threat

wild life clinging to its appetites

a bloody web tangled up in code (blue)

spiders in murderous love

wolves howling for balance

babies of all shapes startled

by the vast explosive background rumble

my child a planet a nation a code a cove

more lost more hidden than this spiral map

windswept & poisoned

joy & fear caught in media res

counting the beads of our mewling souls

my child a planet a nation a code a cove a cover

for ragged shreds of peace

the silent toxic stampede

a suicide in tooth & claw by cartoon memes

in candied kitten camo

while we windswept tear the other victims’ hearts

from their bitter solitude

my child a planet a nation a code a cove a cover a promise

the fault is not with bits of loin & coin

or bright windowed promises

the owl has no need to question

nor the shark Samaritan

my child a planet a nation a code a cove a cover

while we destroy as we yearn

to resist the grim promise

my child a planet a nation a code a cove

no hope of cover

my child a planet a nation a code

trailing from the cove’s torn mouth

my child a planet a nation


my child a planet


my child our child

orphans on this

orphan rock

Susan Lewis is the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (The Word Works), winner of the Washington Prize, and Heisenberg’s Salon (BlazeVOX). She is the founding editor of Posit.