Away, with Jane Bowles
Going away is often a formal statement of intent.
There she was in Paris in 1950 in love
with the river and theatre and shoes, but dreaming
of Tangier and the dunes. She liked the mirage.
I do too, although I dream of you, in color,
and of furnished curves like cakes layered with decor,
rooms cut from the landscape, relocated interiors.
Is a dream a mirage and therefore literature
and does it have intent? I am in Minneapolis
where there are lakes and a river, but the river
is somehow absent: a thin slice, a narrow cut.
We are waiting for winter, the main character
in this place, big and crazed as the bus driver who,
hurling across the bridge, called: “We are going to do
the same to Bob and Fuller!” The moon was nearly full,
a harvest of light falling on fallen leaves,
the only excess. Who is Bob and who is Fuller
and what is to be done by winter? There she was in Paris
in 1950 hoping to untie habits, visiting Alice,
unable to write, eating Alice’s cakes. Here I am
in Minneapolis where everything is pitched
at vernacular sight: a stray cat, a kid on a bike,
an old woman in a thin coat talks about milk as autumn
rides away like a car, a departing place.
This is where intention finds us and breaks, as water
breaks over the edge to be instilled back in the earth’s
deep syntax: Jane’s mirage, my dream, winter’s coming acts.
This utterance is not jazz, not clarity
inspired by digression but loyal to fate
arriving back on time to meet up with song.
Left to its own devices, the soul is furtive,
scavenging thrift to make ends meet:
plays with Psyche’s hair, pokes at the air
where music is, talks to itself
as it waits for public transportation
to take it through a windy reverie or street.
Colloquies occur, bunched on the curb
like marigolds no one picks
or names that come to mind unattended.
It takes a route around revelation
knowing you are in the next room
where the screening is, where the scene shifts
fatally as on the tip of my tongue
or a dream that plummets into morning.
Last night we rode a pinwheel across the sea.
We kissed goodbye again and I think last words
were said as I passed you the umbrella.
It was about to rain; I was about to wake up.
What happens gains momentum
but these forms are murderous in intent:
contrived by oblivion, curtailed by release,
and now the narrative sky is sprayed with birds in flight.
This trace, if it exists, is alms for delusion.
An arch uncurls from the floor
scented with the scent of a tapestry, housed here.
I recall the hour but not its passage
unless wind captures and ties it to my sleep:
a fat bellhop smiles, shows me to the tower
where I watch the departure.
But some days settle so that nothing
crosses the horizon; stare, as I will, no star
needles the sewn air. Now I am left
on the outskirts of a forest hemmed in by wheat
where plump trees hide the image, its symmetry
shot up and blown across the ground like feathers.
The unicorn, the grail, blue and red wings
of the kneeling musicians, these are embroidered
elsewhere. Perseverence was crowned.
Hope and Pity prayed for success.
How fast is this camera? Can it record a trace?
There was a voyage. Four mounted horses
strain against centuries.
To each is alotted: dust kicked up, smoke, plumage.
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.