Conjunctions:60 In Absentia

Seven Poems
The following comprises three of the seven Lauterbach poems published in Conjunctions:60, In Absentia.

A Reading


Mutable stipend

saturated in the bright room

with a thin blue rug.

The pivot has some mystery

as in the dream: huge

white birds flowering down.

The morning was brilliant

but then junk

broke loose to scatter sky.

Was I meant to consult

this tissue of meaningless harbingers?


Make no mistake: behind

the curtain, a continuum.

Blink, sun.

Behind the curtain,

old dark thrown across space.

I have an inky drawing of a hairy

stick pressing the wind.

Lovely, now, the milky shade.

Behind the curtain, junk

orbits and a serenade to those

who keep watch while the ditch

fills with lost things. The distant river

flirts with light. The water is alight.


In the dark of a former moon,

an abridgement.

If this were prose, little

agreements would obtain,

and you could turn toward

the missed like an angel on a fence.

I mean a bird, a bird

in prose. The spun ordeal

arises as a missing object

its body enclosed so to be

a convenient newsy thing,

the missing soldier’s spouse.

What exactly is intended

to be kept in this regressive frame?

Some figure? Some petty marker?

She will trade her mother’s

ring for passage. Let her come aboard.

Veet! Veet! The blue jay’s yell

is hollow the way that light blinds.


Untitled (Portrait)

Up here in the ancient gold trim       the news not yet visual

so that he or she or we are invisible to the naked eye

whereas the gold trim on her gown is etched

falling down along and over to the hem

like an evening sky.

                  Or like nothing yet announced

so the missing and the present are singular in their dress

as we await the address and the black

river of reading aloud over the phone

George Eliot’s intervention between the walls

so that we walk through them as if turning a page

we agreed again you and I as we have agreed before

you are not going to be with me on the other side of the wall

despite George Eliot and despite the man

in his pink house with the book

whose cover image is reiterated on the wall

the picture of the beautiful woman in black

who had to decide whether to be her portrait

or to be someone else

someone not like the mother or the sister

not like the man in the hotel room in his bathrobe

with his whore and his


so that the only thing to be said

is you cannot do that with me in the room

the walls of the room and the long view across the river

where there are others in their rooms

and the house from the other side of the river

looks immense

                         as the life within is immense.


Landscape Without View

These intensities  their wake  the jar

fret the word

snow on dry leaves    fret fret

the jar  dark inside  within   in the dark

body o body  not that anyone is here

the thick stiff night’s

curled domain

am as of now    how it is spoken

the slide between

the mere passage


and surely the blind spot

the occasion

emphatic      these intensities

not sheltered not yet drawn

by the most implicated

what it looks like

to halt          crassly halt

and the new digital figure

axiomatic grace

semblance ushered from sequence

avenue or image

sucking at the animate

these contagious exceptions

fugitive incursions

even so the turbines hum

licking at stone

the contagion of stone

peevish annunciation

melded onto a screen

as if intimate

invisible constraint

as if tempered

as if conditions prevailed.

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.