Conjunctions:77 States of Play: The Games Issue

A tree is mediated through a window, its leaves flutter up, showing their wan undersides
While all I got is this T-shirt, a spool of Jello, a free ticket to anywhere mind travels.
It is always something akin: this thread, this vein, this leaf, this plane. A through-line sewing contrast
In the middle of a play that’s been postponed, as the oatmeal rides its high horse to get out.

Or just to stay insides, barnacled by branches, cessation dropping like a leaky faucet’s faucet
Symbiotic, verdancy and we, yet vernal buds’ opening aspect precedes our blastocysts by eons
If an eon is a measure, what’s the ego measure? One letter separates these, 7 to 14. A prime, its double. Both gone
In a fly’s ointment, tuned in turn by time’s heartless amends, a peacock’s cry to stationary landing, rough sway.

This tree peels away, its song under lightning, under a cloud’s darkening, yes between drops
As pent air billows unbridled in its shaft, a legion of dead leaves layering the path.
The dead leaves. Does it? Under our skin, each layer, us on the surface. Embers our kindling, our kind, kindness.
Until the slight falters, fight alters, one time too many and all the care in the world so many yesterdays

After spray and deluge, cloud striations mirror setting Sol, the mist sky’s atmospheric window of space-time’s deep
Orations, pitched opacities in luminescent scrolls, incipient inscriptions lacerating false detours, detonating
A flash-bang we lob to end another like ourselves, distorting the lightsound of celestial orbs, the first word, utterling
Splits topiary tunes, fed by intransigent stares in a fantasy of unwept impossibles, hurt flares. Then in a gush, who

Whoosh! A human flight, that sound, or someone else, or something else, aftermath utterance, cosmic exhalation.
As on a strain, but not yet to stung, of yips and yikes and yaps, lordly fights, fragrant huffs, lifting twice their weight with silvered tongues
Versed, unrehearsed, and dulcet. Set to sit in. Snare rim, Baby L’s flatted foot, steel-heeled, Ohm’s pulse.
Juniper buried, like simile echoes lost boast, or maybe never happened, or nobody told me, well held in song’s exuberant crust.

A thrush clearing, speckled underbelly seem like seeds, a mirror of starling wings, dispersals of the world, like phonemes.
Startling things who grow to rings, rudely dissing memes, singing screams in beat to oceanic swings, sayin’—bye queens bye kings.
By gones, we like the birds, side long glances: glacé, blasé. Two monarchal boroughs, but we don’t mean it. Name a nick, a shiv. We use these assignations against the grain,
           hyper-individual cutting words. Each of the Queens sashay, every Kings plays butoh butch
You say? I say name it, then put it in a jar and frame it (quaint never resolved no taint): brush fires rile the undermesh of desire, burning with a choir of shan’t and plaints.

Plant if, a simple strain, plaintiff, assumed guilt. A wan underside of stripped flesh, lash by a tree
Shuddering, shattered, waylaid by dreams, the cost of a shift and what hold its place:
How heavy it all gets suddenly. Wait of the world to resolve these old violations; such ancient waves drown our books
In streams that riseth, stems that fail, as all at once and once in all I gather plainly, rust to a saw, crown to dog.

A corona, a ring, planet garnet, garland of spikes, uttering one time’s cleave, a cur circles ’round, raised forelegs, and speaks:
I am a wig in a whirligig, fastened to the head of the meter, sunken emissary of echo and lark, sponge and spark, broken apart to come together (to gather, to tether).
Ether is most truthful hiding not even light, cumulous entity shaping in aggregate, blocking . . . is it a refracted color? Distilled empty our iris insists is a place to land?
Having fallen too far, or flung like a bent needle in Plexiglas display, lurching away from Mr. Protean’s eclectric, voice-swathed, hypnomancy

As we decide a sliver of membrane shields us from the truth: we are mostly empty on a balloon, ankle-tethered, sideways-holding, thread-barest: an idea
Best left to swoon in its own gaseous bath, slivers shucked of light or, ah shucks!, I just worked there for an eternity and now it’s my turn to dance.
Ouroboros is space wind, in that is a noun sound, it reverbs and all the colors blind in the fullness of the shaking, spectrum beyond the orb’s totalizing pupil—
Every time you say so—shuns liberty for liberty’s lore, the old tune gone rancid, getting jump on next week’s junk

Scent in this vacuum, subatomic, slings back olfacts through memory, bullying the brain a piece of humankind, limits to the work of skin, viscera, interpretation:
Gun-shy then gunned down, lickety splat. The mouse, the clock, and me (um, er, us), frozen in time’s fissures, pointing at blank, losing it.
Where does the one eye direct itself when thinking? Why there? Why does it loll, when “checking out”?
I wish I knew, sung to “The Martians Are Landing in Palm Beach but I’m in Palm Springs.”

All the sand grains are < than galactic pinpricks and yet we bleed trying to reach out, rather than clutching
At falls, gangrene, and lace, aboard the incandescent train, hurtling between gravity and politesse, hiccups and fresh spring water.
What falls between what we readily grasp? The dog’s nose is 10,000x more sensitive than “the master”
Yet not as fast as the unknown, which, in slick of a sec, interweaves its Heavenward alarm, amelioration and chagrin, hand in hand.

We walk curs quickly and then rush back in. Everly pulling them away from their whole world, yet they perpetually love
Beats the everly indifferent 13 out of 7 times, as the saying might go, during this longingly sullen fright of the soul.
Lucky numbers give balm to the spirit. What’s spritely? Sport in the soul? What makes the heart leap
To soiled profusion, animating burrows? Ill-timed, timid blame: procrustean swerves amidst anaphylactic reverses.

When one knocks, there’s that catch. A latch to each door of a beat, a valve to ventricle: filling discrete parts, building up
Only to tear down the stairs crying “help’s on the way,” but thinking, What way? Whose way? From where? How’s that?
A house feels a tap. Is this where the heart lives? Coursing: drains, fills, heats then plumbs. A hum syncs all mmms under.
“Lines on liver” like trap that forgave itself, both of us, not everyone as let’s keep it close: a plump dinger if ever I did saw one.

Glean of chrome is the tuner to the marble, sparkling abrasive cleanser. A paste made of dust, clay, liquid life. All is safe to consume—
But gives me no pause anyway, how, or where; just don’t try it at home. Fled to the ledge but the whatchamacallit was ahead, anyway tracks of its traces.
Is that a speck of something? Of green? Against a gray cloud its verdancy strikes me
Like a motor who needs its wheel, a voter its votes, the penguin the snow.

This is veracity. True hues exist only with another. Blindness is a reduced broth, pan of simple shades.
Munched on Aeolian aerogrammes, full frontal driftlessness, sings this one praise till it becomes sweetest thread of smelling salt.
Our Lot in life, our Himalayan death: K2, popinJay sicc’s sick sycophants, uphill. I foresaw, H8
As or when or if the orchestra becomes single sound, singed in the fire of unkeeping

Other letters, feathering a tower, a monument’s marbleized confection of snaking lies, startlings.
Can or concoct, edging out, tight play to incapacity’s derelict delights,hanging by a tread.
A Cagean footfell, bliss night before plowing, lower regions, aerating sky, flickers. Its finger a pointed mark. A grooved fate line, faulting.
Hear, O, Whaddyacallit? The law shatters on lawns of intransigence, severs the bodies politic: fair never indifference, truth in balance.

A Solomonic bone held upside like a baby’s toe, like fallen Odin. In my mind the hanged man is always darker, closer to the tree’s color, from which he’s looped, like Jesus’s hair.
The contrast of white tresses, like the fey, a griffin’s wray of light to show shadows.
Pockmarked for the trial of the trail, mental fight, garden of earthen gradations—
Notions of shape and fear. In this reversal, the least hued dangle by the petard. Dogmatic, by fenrir’s demise.

Abstraction fails me, faint trance hard by overblown estuary, listless lyric trace.
Eternity’s sills crack with cries: as if to mourn, to weep, to shake fists, to ignite fires, to hold accountable, to per-sever-e.
Each crystalline petal is lucent until the edge. Its hardness crunches like a hyperventilated nostril’s rim.
Eye’s habit of time, going back and the rebuff, doubletakes on the bluff, hanging promontory of infinite proclivities

On which to dance, to sing, to shout, to cry, to jump, to exclaim, to shake, to bounce, to scream, to leap, to twirl, to spin, to run!
What is one willing to do to sense anything? What’s one willing to consume in the frail sense of self, ouroboros?
I came to you out of the storm, you said, and then I could not find you.
Or wouldn’t, surging through self-forming conduits, spirals made of gaseous eruptions, aspirations expiring like so many sitting muckamucks

All these lightning looks, shaking the ground, connecting others: Sowelu, that potter’s child, Shango.
What is the shattering of bright about? The imprint on mind, Lichtenberg’s draw. They say
They disappear after a little while, a day. I wonder: Do they? submerge. What does the heart beat after
Being rattled? Does love shake out? Do corazón tendrils everywhere inspissate? Do the two brain halves become

More sentient? Do gut bacteria, with draping veins over stomach, couple, double, arising hunger?
Plasma is psalms in the electric box. A poem sears beyond Sol’s capacity. We sound out Oh my god. My God.
The tapping of a toe is a ripple, shaped as a question. Any sound as we hold our breath for God’s eardrum
To strike. The vocal folds to open saying aaaah, we hope and await in Sheol. Muscles ache, stones may crack—

But it’s we that forsake, turn away, forget, even forgive, for giving can be as much denial as vengeance. A turning that knows no place to
Stop, sputtering like mad hatters without hats. There’s gold in them hills if you think about it long enough,
Diamonds and broccoli. Pretty soon the days before the war became much like the days that followed, no that can’t be right, such splendid dissolution
Cornering the blinds in record time, hopping for hoops, hoping along placidly, not a heart in sight, but you can hear them wherever you look.

The silence inside the sound smacks of rhythm, lunatic embrace of the slope’s grace, as beats entwined by cobbles
A broken man and a small stone. Gargantua New York roars back they say. Always the big dog (a little isle).
Quizzical, stuck-up, you almost veer to course; autopilot permanently disabled, senses on brink
Under word arrest in flagrant ammonia of extraterrestrial waferings

Till granite is the soft part, the near side of aroma
Sudsy hollers in multiplying rumors, hovers jubilant, gracious, unabetted
Clunky admonitions, rehearsals, blustering defiance, in defense of jest, coolly unbecoming ministrations
Nickeled, dimed, and quartered to an inch of a new life, leapt in space.

A star focuses a boy. Pobrecito, he is coughing, he’s hacking, our affectionate name for seats-for-hire rumbling.
This child aims at empire symbol, in sputum refuses to give, his discards part of the city’s fauna.
Refusing, to relent there is a promise in him he stubbornly stays. Mother taught him better than to give
away the only thing that matters, his soul to keep. He has a twin, who doesn’t hold a smoothed surface. She cups

his luminous eyes, deciding to wave her hand for harbor, will welcome love in. They switch places.
A cosmic tango, or is it imbroglio?, incorrigible summit, [poke in the eye of change] times [bone-cold fluster]
Small-stoned streets are not the same as brooked sideways. Roots burrow humankind’s arrogant facade
on shifting, hard sand. Time will say they hum, even as they are axed to nubs, tendrils unify and upend plastic piping.

Dips: sure don’t feel that way. History’s not born but made, hits hard either way. Alluvial as the will of a tick with tricks enough for a lifetime.
Don’t spin me round, don’t spin me around
There is a substratum communion, in the mantle, below the cap crust. It’s a bellow sound, under standing.
Oh elephantine, oh whaling. What loss we have as we trim the range of your continental ears.

Terror in calm, in claim, in compulsory subordination as suborning abjection, in the stuttering, licentious larceny of imagination’s acts
In the all-night vigil of quested care, wrested impudence, and driftward mobilization.
Full-well invested with not right but just, not good but delight, not authority but that which permeates it.
In the ludicrous leap from here to here, neither way nor means, copping to a plea.

Cages imprison waves in sheetrock, asbestos bubbles implode the references of the known breath of this sphere.
Illumined without visible light, teetering in woven pleats, guided by the heart’s gondolas.
In typical sapient fashion they diligent new terras to poison in wisdom’s name. The actual omnipresent wise say: uhhhn.
Silk shuffle of insolvent handiwork, gold standard of syncretic necessity.

There is corollary relief sense at winning the microbial war. Naked apes already lose, filled with whom they seek, themselves.
Parasitic on two legs, how don’t they fall? Molten center floods its commentary awaiting the new round of species overtakers.
Non compos mentis tucked inside however possible, runner-up to the runner-up in asymptotic glory:
Surely, truly, absolutely, positively, certainly, you bet, you got it, BINGO!, bull’s-eye!, homer!

Lightning charges deep elements. Fire, Pleistocene water, remains of hydrofourocarbon resin, unstable nuclei—
Oneiric license for tintinnabulation. Did you boil the water?
A ball shifts its scalp around Sol. The blinding god is disinterested until it embraces. As earth will take us in, so does
the outstretching, consuming eye.

It flickers and licks us clean. It’s cupping, unlike our her here, is convexed. Some kind of swat. Some kind of play.
You know: olly olly out and free; switch maps, break prosody’s back; I wander cozy as a shroud.
I wonder where jacks came from? That metaphysical game. At what age do we tire? At what point do we fear
the metaphor? An engulfing mano, the delay. A second of frivolity we take seriously at one point.

Gelling intention and particularized dexterity, how marginal our opposable digit ends up being.
And all the time just seaming, one perception jostling close by whippersnappers.
We are flecks in a galactic sequence and so we make something of it. We ripple earth, droplets, zephyrs, as rapidly as a cinch.

NOTE. We began with something like an exquisite corpse. As the poem took on more momentum it became trade-offs between lines, couplets, tercets, and verses. Think about “play” here in terms of “sitting in” with someone onstage to make a duet through each jazz solo. The collaboration of language voices is itself a form of play. Dark play is where some/all of the people involved don’t know they’re playing (e.g., Candid Camera/Punk’d). Deep play is a dangerous type of play (e.g., “Russian Roulette”). The unpredictability of our improvisational responses unmoored us from whatever might be “playful,” revealing how serious/dangerous our references were. Dark/Deep play was embedded in the atmosphere of the year it took us to write “Omnipresence” (June 2020–June 2021). Whether confined by quarantine or being in the commons, we sought to incorporate the clear-eyed affirmations of those seeking freedom, equality, justice, safety, wellness, and care.—TM

Charles Bernstein is the author of Topsy-Turvy and Pitch of Poetry (both University of Chicago Press). In 2019, he was awarded the prestigious Bollingen Prize for Poetry. With Tracie Morris, Bernstein co-edited Best American Experimental Writing 2016 (Wesleyan University Press).
Tracie Morris’s recent books include the forthcoming titles handholding: on the other hand (Kore Press), human/nature poems (Litmus Press), We Do With Words: A Black Speech Act Workbook (Chax Press) and Hard Korè: Poems of Mythos and Place (Joca Seria Press).