“Exegi monumentum aere perennius”
Horace, Odes, III, xxx

1.  Waste places from the very first.
Grubbed marginal plots,
where daisy aster, hairy petaled, was.
Saw sheaves of stirrers strewn by the loading dock.

Stepped and stepped
up the hill under the gate over the road through the field

into the reaches of some certain dead.
Spent mum
inside their rage

that every day decides it will not heal.
“This has been going on for years now.”

Rage, range, some other “r” word, a re- or ru-
some word-hunger rampaging
its repression:

thus barely beginning, world, word, wood
would, as all varieties of clouds’ lush chaos


2.  She gave me loose crayonings, just
a few colored marks, and I was
frightened, first
folded my gift up.

“It looks terrible.”
There is nerve involvement, codine-sweetened pain,

negative dung. Without value.
In which becomes legible

a vacuum from the plethora of materials

and in this space a birth of enigma
to which one owes one’s own enigma.

3.  It was snow turning to rain, was soft sleet
runners of grey air, was melting on the asphalt, was nothing
to last?

All the words of light,
light among ancient people, navigators,

Irretrievable estrangements and
unanswerable despair primed
thick-weave canvases which I stretched here.
It was almost too much, it was almost

4.  For the canvases already primed with words
were to take more.
And the line-streaked white

perennially ready
to hold another mark or counter-score.

Eggshell colorings when cracked
show turquoise signs
upon the over-boiled white.

Softly silted S’s silver water
silk the misted phosphorescent ground
beyond the river’s main meander.

A space for deep wake
(screamed “something wet is chasing me”
or “there are worms in my bed”) then
the deep wake, passing.

5  Dawn white
Sunset green

Muddy turgid dirtlike clouds
rainbow arch, and driving madly toward it

rows of makirs
litanies of dead, and dead too young


“making light do what I want”
“weaving webs and webs of silver”

whose very whiteness may be thought too blank
to “tell the white marks from the black.”

Apprenticed to it
tripping, my nose down, one comer of an iris, a stick,

light making me do what it wants
and it wants me to weep.

The luminous sheet, the open space, is living air and bright;
or dead, a waiting white like night.

6.  What do you want? Is the poem a pony?
You want it to be “noble”
and “stronger than bronze.”

You talk of funerals.
I have put a half-sprig
on a coffin above what once had soon before
a face. But was no more.

The poem immortal? you guarantee?

These page-space presences the
of written words; “parsley” or “bronze,” are

as if they turned beyond dimension
and cast the shadows
of what nameless void, whatever voiceless space collected
and beyond.

Dangerous their generosity
coupled with that shadowy randomness.

7.  I crack the spine
of the book, split its muslin glue,
chip the endpapers in a raggèd rip.
Inside, folds
and mats of list
camouflage as lines.

It’s hiding its impulse even from itself.
Does it want to speak?
Does it want to weep?

Mist. It’s four. Rigid without sleep.
“To know what my motives are…”

8. Line marks names
wavy registers,
a note with folds on the edge of a used sheet
a note with staples and tape
crumpled paper, pencil smudges half illegible
“isolate flakes” hybrid, subversive, inchoate.

The writing on the open page
the underside of itself
as if the underside made words

and, when the busy ripples on the surface stilled,
one saw that other taking shape:

the abstract rush of untranslated words
the space a presence possessed by other spaces

white trace
blank trance
whisper hold.

9. Being the thing that light comes round, it comes to know

Black, and black and white;
yes, and no, and yes and no;
being and not:
the flicker over space-rectangle, letter line,
spatter marks, iffegular alphabet, rath and late;
a scrape, a set of incisions, a score in air:
for various work
has been done in and over this place

various works or workings, works
different hands

hand-space tracks
trek lines

(a trace of spotted light
gleams around the tricky edge of substance…)

Horace, Odes: “I have completed a monument more permanent than bronze and loftier than the regal memorial of pyramids – a monument which no squalling rain, no gale-force winds can overthrow. . . . I shall not wholly die; a lot of me will escape the funeral parlor.” (My modification of a Penguin translation of III, xxx.) “Making light” and “weaving webs” are H.D. on film; “tell the white marks” is Williams on Marianne Moore, and “isolate flakes” alters Spring and All.

Selected Poems,1980-2020 by Rachel Blau DuPlessis was published by CHAX Press in 2022. A Long Essay on the Long Poem (University of Alabama Press) and the collage-poem book Life in Handkerchiefs (Materialist Press) both appeared in 2023. Expected soon is Daykeeping from Selva Oscura.