Conjunctions:24 Critical Mass

The Black Reeds
The Sentences

circle in the cane piece and return
to a pocket of glass onto the avenue
the telephone rings, you answer it and I
pass along your lines to the north
(stand at the river, up-wind, up-stream)
only a rectangle edged in thick cloth
parts us but it’s more than enough
it’s everything to have this view
and nothing to be done with it
hearing your breath near to the mouthpiece

images of tongues from the east
they teach me stoniness
they predate the earliest names on my list
blood print genes hands my face is of it
coming from the marsh I was left in
to find you sturdy, peppery and shrewd
with vowels to lend me for the fight
a window, a glassy seeing of the earth
the battle-ax morning pouring
bits of clothing from last night’s front
erotic mobility and wide relevance of now

we can only gather up the wind
we can only get ready for the assault


Tree without Color

We talk about socialism
how the boy swings
like a bell with his tongue out
and the factory ablaze
lights between huge pipes
smoke pouring out of the head
wanting to escape
from sand-flies and the look
of morituri te salutamus
read him as a warning
recite the scrawl of slack
muscles and the digits
gone limp when breath went
count them
pull the hand open now
inside the pouch of fist
find deltas running out
lines cracked and crinkled
telling of something else
look, this is one way to go
vertical and bare-foot
and able to gallivant
faster than a buck-shot
till one day it happen,
and space run out quick


And the cane field is on fire
the great house is going up
a pyre of shadows

collapsible rites
in summer sun

they culled weapons
from rivers and plots
the sown teeth
coming up as men
yu cyaan face de African-dem


gap beyond the windows of light
out of the perpetuities
my only purpose
to let things come up

they will or will not come
however is not my business
to stand in the standing
as wind-gazer

qu’on mange du gateau
where the consonants clump

vowels and bats flutter fforth
and are still


Crowds pressed in on us
the progress of talk was over
only the body spoke out now
a small name written on
vacancy, over which, intent,
we brooded on our pulse
to capture it, the bulge of face
the unnatural emptiness
of space where he dangled
and was not, inexplicable,
sealed up at every mouth
resembling his audience
statues of black in the heat
“one senselesse lumpe”
of speech gone out for good


They breathe into our ear
from all places come
as exponents of the web
forecasts of the landing
a disheveled music
all out this window

the gap between us closes
and thread grows taut
(to be closer is harder)
if you were next to me
it’d break off bitten
two black ends
and if space were to part us
it grows slack with hurt
there’s no logic to this move
it’s a paradox, a flat curve
of eye-sight tending to go
where it will



I’m aware that a bird is
sent to us over the languages of books
(eagle with snake in its claws)
as reprimand for adultery

the fighting had stopped
a long meandering of the deer
closing with a pact
between murderer and father

a speed of translated enemies
the augur looking up
the weapons gleam with heliotropic fire
AK-47 and M-16

up and down our block
the hydrant splashes force into gutters
a collaboration with the sun
of summer sprayings over the ghetto

and the locks are busted
and the violin somnolent around us
the king sits with his tea
and soon the javelin and the foot-race
for the fallen



Why do we live here

they had no knowledge of languages
of verdure and hills

I knew of this in Paris
I heard of them in Genoa

no knowledge of the arts
(the sky is burdensome)
of metalwork and navigation
certain crops grew there
in corn rows woven in
they worshiped golden icons of the self
migrating tales of the tides
brought them to our door-step
with tibia and abeng
we come upon the confluence
of the talisman and beetle
crawling on your wrist
exposed meandering supine
languid body at a bush

I am drunk, profligate
how far the eyesight extends
caravans from the Nile
then to Atlantic Sea
past Azores to the Caribbean
upward to this street
you from the west part of the country
northward to the land of ice
to stand here with me

I read of the gigantic mounds
of slag at Meroë
pyramids in themselves
now everything has to be re-thought
our hands put to work on
fragmentary scripts

in basements of the scholars
which city we are in
the copper head-pieces of the pharaohs
as a style in Senegal

and now us, agape at the huge legs
(Memnon the king)
of questionable purpose
of definite majesty


The Blue Rushes

cool waking up
the lawn mowed and watered
the balcony swept clean

this is the place we are in
today with causes put aside
a white towel on tile

and still in back of the eye
pictures of the rough sea
the chests dumped over

following a sun to the west
thus we arrived here
to get up and look out now

at hills blue over the mist
and set attitudes like them
steady with no haste

there are things in words
visible when you move
tight ropes holding a sail

imprint of their journey
amid the sober air of the sea
the words floating in

what comes over the sea wall
as figure for the morning’s calm
are islands just off the coast

where the gulls circle
and spray disables the swimmer
she kneels in the surf

behind her are paths of the ships
and behind this screen
at the edge of the falling

the bodies sway in coral
their muscles are abstract
and space is a massy water

sea-tide is their ladder
the tight currents arrest them
the arms of fish encircle

they must travel toward us
here beside the green pasture
mowed by rain and season

to tell us what this place is
how to treat the amazing splash
of pink and blues in the hedges

the confrontational sun under palm
shadow-bread picked up
by pigeons that are better off

a net over some fishing boats
not this morning, with lanterns
the fishers went out

to white femurs caught
by jelly-fish and tough shark
and the bones picked clean

a tentative script of water
sign-posts of the route
composing into us of them

Mark McMorris is a poet, some of whose collections include The Book of Landings (Wesleyan University Press)Entrepôt (Coffee House Press), and The Café at Light (Roof Books). He is a two-time winner of the Contemporary Poetry Series Prize, and has received The Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica.