Conjunctions:21 The Credos Issue

Found Credo
The tiny collage, measuring no more than 8½ x 11", found under what appears to be a sort of paper compost—drafts of poems, postcards from Vermont, assorted photos of children and old persons, some dust jackets and bits of torn wallpaper, torn and much underscored Xeroxes, invitations to exhibitions, student essays—depicts the Goddess, Credo, sitting on a dilapidated garden chair with a book on her lap. A bird of prey—an owl or a hawk—sits on her right shoulder, its wings outstretched. The Goddess holds in her left hand a scroll, which falls across her torso and down into the foreground, where it becomes a river. The river is opaque in parts, translucent in others; in its currents are partial glimpses of scenes from histories, novels, plays, films, documentaries, and so forth. To the left of the seated figure is an immense urn-shaped vase in which a great bouquet of flowers flourishes, while to her right, a second vase lies broken in bright shards, its contents strewn. The sky behind Credo is of an indefinite hue, a haunted mauve, suggesting either early dawn or late dusk, depending on your point of view On the other hand, this odd glow could be that of a distant city, an artificial luminosity emanating from a great metropolis. In the middle distance, a mirrored globe hangs suspended from an invisible thread.

Credo is shown with her head turned directly toward the spectator, her eyes in a steady gaze. Her long auburn hair is braided and pinned up across her head. Her right hand is extended, its palm open. The Goddess is wearing a transparent yellow garment, the color of mimosa, through which a scar is visible across her abdomen; her feet are bare. She wears on her left wrist a cluster of silver bracelets, from which hang many charms: heart, key, moon, flute, cup, moth, oar, comb, shoe, scissors, clock, cat. Credo’s mouth is open slightly, as if she were about to speak or to be kissed.



A dictionary. Foundation of her inquiry, redemptive source, labyrinth of gnosis to steady her agitated and propulsive stammer naming formulates desire’s possessive code, eases thing to idea, feeling to thought, unconceals ephemeral being. Her most cherished possession, given by Hermes, messenger, interpreter and herald; giver of increase to herds; guardian of boundaries and roads; god of science and invention; of eloquence, luck and treasure-trove. Of youth and exercise. (cf. hermeneutic)


Vigilant seer, untrammeled instinctive Will, Fate’s agent, necessity’s coeval, poised to ensue. Her warning against intransigence, certitude, zeal. That which is immobile is prey; that which is single-minded (exclusive) preys on all that differs, is weaker, does not fit.
An ineluctable estrangement.
Gap and silence between is and is not.
Parenthesis. “(fit is like an infinite murmur—haunting, enclosing the silence of figures, investing it, mastering it, extricating the silence from itself, and finally reversing it within the domain of things that can be named.)” (Foucault)


Motto inscribed at the top of her scroll: Doubt, Curiosity, Revision. 
Her futurity: to aspire to the consequences of what she desires.
Old temporal trope,
     ”riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back …”
     innocent, “pure,” now sullied by event “do not drink”; or saved; mirror of self, sky, wandering skiff: it vessels space. Facts hidden therein, circulating, awaiting the syntax of revision: was recycled to is.


Beauty ordains arrangement (context), from which meanings derive as episodes of choice. Value is the result and condition of care: what she chooses to include is what she cares for; what she cares for is what she values.
     Serenity of completion; endurance.
     Links, attachments, resemblances; accountability, response.
     To prepare a place. Set the table! Make the bed! The decorous real.
     ”The redemption of the things of the world is the redemption of human nature, and chiefly its destructiveness of its own conditions of existence. (Stanley Cavell on Heidegger)


Her bearing: to acknowledge the temporary, approximate, incommensurate, unfixed, used; to invest in dalliance, insecurity, periphery, hunch. A giddy undoing.
     A celebrated fragment, not the Modernist “thematics of alienation, anomie, solitude and social fragmentation” (Jameson), posited against a missing, assumed Entire (Pound’s rage and lament: “I cannot make it cohere.”), but the lovely shard or brief incident; phrase, gesture, glance.
     Sappho’s glorious remnant.
     Dickinson’s prismatic logic.
     Ashbery “These are examples of leaving out.”
     A syntagmatic abundance, an urban panoply, a processional trace.
     Evolution proceeds by accident, mistake.
     ”Every human reform is the reassertion of the primary interests of man against the authority of general principles which have ceased to represent those interests fairly, but which still obtain the idolatrous veneration of mankind.” (Santayana)
     A rhythm of beginnings.


A city ingathers terror and wonder to the psyche’s terrain; the temporal and spatial collide, dissolve: language is place, the active matrix of response. Leave a message, that I may meet you there. From which we construct our stories as if they were dwellings. “And the dwelling of the work is built only from this passage from awakening to the inscription of the awakening. And this passage itself does not cease to pass. And there is no roof where, at the end, the awakening will be over, where we will be awake, and the inscription will cease to inscribe. There is no domus as the rhyme of time, that is so. But nostalgia for the lost domus is what awakens and our domain nowadays is the inscription of that awakening. So only transit, transfer, translation and difference. It is not the house passing away, like a mobile home or the shepherd’s hut, it is in the passing that we dwell.” (Jean­Francois Lyotard, “Domus and the Megalopolis”)
     Interiority explodes, explores, explicates. Magritte: “Only thought resembles. It resembles by being what it sees, hears, or knows; it becomes what the world offers it.”
     Metaphor ruptures into the literal, like a riddle to be solved. Which is why she might be envious of fair realism” (Barbara Guest).


“What is mirrored in language we cannot use language to express” (Wittgenstein). It is us.


She is still and blind; you who are gazing at her gaze are moving and can see.
     Candor’s witness.


Desire alights on the open palm, and luck.
     As if to say, “May I help?” when the task is not yours.
     As if to offer, “Would you like?” when only one remains.
     Generosity is extension.


Color of turning; lunar, mutable. A slow urgency (taxi!), as in patience; where listening is. Easily tarnished, corrupted, made banal. Its frail transparency: to see through, into, and beyond.


The body is slit open, something is removed. Love’s labor, or the hairy toothed homunculus, barren and flawed? Mark left when new tissue replaces that which is injured; the wound’s stigma. Tattoo of individuation and of belonging: Odysseus returns.
     So: limit, restraint. Authority’s guardian, fidelity’s protector, integrity’s companion, wit’s disciple, freedom’s agent, autonomy’s emblem, discretion’s valor, passion’s reluctant child.
     So: form: the elucidation or disclosure of choice (fruition) in the prospect of unknown, unlimited possibilities (risk, play, doubt).
     So: boundaries of love.
     So: the torn veil’s source; mortality’s remembrancer.


Virtual reality is the glove’s revenge. Touch the grass, feel the cool water on skin, smell the air. As in the first place, where the caption has not yet been written.


Everything she owns is borrowed, but these become her attributes, like the winged sandals and cap of Hermes. She gathers to her what suits her nature, toward which she is always inclined, pursuing an alignment.
     ”Nothing is perfect but the hope of it.” (Emerson)

The threshold of her humanity.

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 1984. A native New Yorker, she lives in Germantown, New York.