Conjunctions:22 The Novellas Issue

Two Poems
Ashes, Ashes (Robert Ryman, Susan Crile) 


Humped gravity/tree-backed vatic shard/white
                   secretly allied to the dark clear dark/herald
sick of his forms, dry
with remorse.

There is a cup in the landscape buried under the indefinite
as if it would last: salt, sugar, salt.
Sooner or later he’ll want a child
hushed up against him
spawned in egregious thirst. Pale
inventory of a lunar smile/applause track
slips off the rails, flute twisted, strings
knotted and loose. Must be numbers, letters
afloat on the surface: augur, thread, mast
honeycomb, terrace.

I am jealous of his garment, his shirt’s wide cut
the gaudy transience crouched in his throat,
great thimble of heat poured out—
a thing in the landscape:
salt, sugar, salt.


Now this news.

If you do not mention it she will not cry.
I laughed as well at the child’s invention.
Yesterday I saw a painting
of a young woman in a red dress. Yesterday

yesterday I saw
paintings of fire. I met a woman she said
my father my father my father
and as she spoke he became her portrait.

If a room is artificially white
all whisper in the affirmed
physical space:
touch touches touch.

The violinist moves
like a marionette/legs
jumps with light/torso

breaks forward.
Music adheres
enclosing the figured silence
as if setting were bondage.

As if setting were bondage
and we on the brink had walked up to it/raw thread
chafing the waters of the percolating wave.
As if we could say to the fire,
Stop! I command you, stop!


That night the moon was the Evil Banana King
crouched in a bowl.

See, said the child, drawing the light,
this is the Princess I asleep on her bed

this her pet snake/this
is the mother in her slip
she is wearing a nest on her head
she is a long lady standing in front of a leaky mirror
she says I would rather be in jail than stay
hidden in these devotions—

I am making red and yellow stitches
although my crayons are stale.

Now she is walking toward a cave
where the tools are hidden and the Book of Instruction,
peeled into slight wings, batters the foam.

This is a circle.
The name of the circle is Gray Pond.
There are lilies on the pond/you cannot see them
as if the memorial had rubbed away.

This is the ghost.


This black thing is a mistake.
It could be a cat or a cart.

It is lonely like a mouth in a desert
under sand. I

do not know who hears it.
I do not know who calls.

It is a long way since
with no way out into a song.

There is ecstasy in battle,
on the somber chasm’s edge.

That thou wouldst narrate me
thru these worlds.

I am in derelict garb
my category is broken

I am covetous of the extreme.


Then the periphery dawned as later, as ebbtide
on a channel, as the gray pond of recognition,
the memorial rubbed into a wall.

How soon? you ask, and again, How soon?
You may as well ask is the water bloody
is the chair frail.
                          And, at the horizon, a ribbon of fire
finds its way to the woman’s dress to ravish it so in the box
wild ashes fly about in a litter of silence.
The father-woman and the child do not meet, the
violinist never smiles. Is it a sunset, this fire,
seen from the dusty window of a passing train, or is it
the oiled conflagration of an event brought home to us as a trophy:
which comes first, artifact or source, and what stroke strokes the flame?


In the Museum of the Word (Henri Matisse) 
—for Thomas Neurath 


There was the shield of another language
transient enclosure/gate
                                             swings open
shut shut
                walking unnoticed into it
                                                             as with avec
down stone steps into the vineyard
                          rose as decoy/beauty as use
              riding up onto the surface
                                       glance, sway/hawk

comes down dragging silence with it
no light, no applied Sun King
                                                  opposing shine, commonly
                                                               creature of habit lost in a wood.

Here I said take these thimbles these hooks
you can count them and toss them away
one six nine/they
will fit under any stream, fill any slot
will color the waters
of the restless exhibit

                                        lizard’s billowing throat
                    hiccups on a wall/its tongue
                    flicks air

                                                          bird-strewn wind

And the milkman’s doubling dream, his
dilemma, the composition of his
intolerance for dawn/great
Aubergine Interior too frail to move: link
between A Conversation and event. There was

there had been an awkward tour.

I was shown two rivers, their vistas

                                                          snailfooted/waterskinned abyss
                                                          wheelwinged staring at muck
                                                          weedy, indifferent, purplepronged up
                                                          in avid rays their comprehensive is
                                                          bearing emblems smaller than time

under the decor
coiled among rocks

I met a woman with odd eyes
she said this is the figure of guilt
hurling a snake boulder 

ripped from a wall
                                                          fragment installed.

This country is a
cavern of drunk light/shade rubbed onto day
the corpse is not luminous/vines dangerous/flowers profuse
as in an arbitrary Eden. These

consolations also are damaged/seepage under roofs
thru which the musics
might come.


She traveled.

Sun lay against her knees printed on purple
boughs fell with a thrash
color collected on the dusty sea floor
                                      fronds meticulously scissored/commerce
                   raged thru the sky binding its harmonies
regardless of space.

Although something insisted, pointing.
Although similar doors did not open similarly.
Blackbirds reminded her of written blackbirds/it was
humid with blackbirds/her mind an inscription/a proverb
or heap so she could almost see its faithful
retrieval: monkey hanging with long limbs/bird
on her shoulder/rigid man/moon
doubled in glass.

Nothing timid is allowed while we believe in it.
Doubtless it should be told.
Doubtless tools will be needed.
Desire in an etched wineglass like an old bloody dime.


A fable of prescience/looking up into the sky’s garden
and the statues on the roof
withstanding bombardment

                                        seven paces to Paradise
                                           halted startled voyagers/nothing to correct
                                              the possible direction collides with the way
                                                 each morning’s tray a rudimentary splendor.

I said here are some useful numbers
some untranslatable rain

                                        facades pockmarked in the new contingent state
                                           now untethered on the Street of the Harp
                                              the blind man cannot/soft sloped palm
                                                 dog leading him on into the unscented garden

They are scooping out the bloods in jars
the real has a stench/it is not
the tableaux we elicit.

I went up a steep hill in a foreign country
in unknown grass/there was an aperture

                             boats, birds
                                                many unknown letters
                                         snake-wrapped sphere
                                                                              Persephone delayed
                                                                                             stolen, raped

Hotel where Mozart stayed/street where Brecht
Beckett’s daily walks

                                         impermanent oracular trace so that
not any fragment will do counting my steps
from margin to margin/scenic on foot
turning a page.


In museum Street, Liu Hai is
standing on a three-legged toad

the toad
was thought to inhabit the moon

it lost its leg
in order to correspond

with the three-legged bird
that inhabits the sun.

And the Apostles were fishermen and thieves
base fellows neyther of wit nor worth

                         reduced to a wax turd
                                   flaunting a tail
                                                          charred Charter’s remains
                                                                         under glass

helps a young man
to paint his
shield/an illustration

Attendants in a garden mounted on a crane

Under green and ochre glazes
under turquoise purple and ochre glaze
with aubergine, green and straw glazes

In a woods a black scroll
let us caption the first scene

on oak
on poplar on lime

green earth has been used under gold leaf
instead of the usual orange bole

as well as I can

                           As if conducted to the eulogy fields to lie down with a shade
                           under turbulent vines
                           walls studded
                           Peiro’s meticulous plummage

Come this way said the guard this is where
your opponent lies grieving

here are the spoils set in violent maps, re-
named, disinhabited, inherited
made bloodless with shine.

Read this example
it praises the country of origin

it teaches you facts
in the new gray wing

                                                       lion, corpulent monk
Here are some postcards to send home/the one
you want is sold out/the thing you came to see
is temporarily gone

                                                             that she is seated/that the door
                                                             that the window
                                                             that she wears part of a tree
                                                             that the color of the conversation
                                                             moves as if it were sky/that the frame
                                                             continues to dissolve
                                                              (sadness of the Rose Marble Table)
                                                             man wearing a pajama column
                                                             rigidly pronounced/woman
                                                             redrawn in response—

                                                             Is is possible to memorize this blue?

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.