Conjunctions:30 Paper Airplane

Four Conversations
Conversation in Slow Motion

Even if our life seems scattered, a text always going astray, it builds on constants, she says. Like a piece of music. The mind should be able to embrace it in its full extravagance and touch the architecture of cause even as it forms. More so with the years, with resources of slowness. You must sit in a blue shift to sort seed from going to.

Not sit, he says. Only in motion, albeit slow. Arrows toward new setting out even as the day sets. As if by walking I’d find where I need to go, just as following the seduction of one basic rule can unknot essential dimensions of a whole new system. It’s when I try to keep pace with the wind that particles turn into perspective and ride out into the large.

You launch exotic birds, she says, and some adapt to the Rhode Island winter. I stick with domestic varieties, crows in my face, a rooster on the brain, maybe a Rhode Island Red. My breasts droop, faintly mournful. Such simple desire blasting the bones electric, to perch on crags and cliffs, so matter of fact. But highs are only one element of the climate. The shadow of a cloud, and I slow into symptoms. The sun drops. The surface of the leaves turns blue.

The cells rusts, he says, not hunger. It seems yesterday that I flung myself into the January river, gasping with shock, plunging for the unreachable that is promised—though only as long as we have no history. Now the train’s speed is hostage to the next station, becalmed legs and thinning hair. Could it be that loss completes possession? Becomes, like the “with” in “without,” a second acquisition, deeper, wholly internal, more intense for its pain?


Conversation on Aging

Take the hordes of children, she says. So to take off on the crest of light, so to run toward the horizon through fields, bushes, the kneehigh grass, undeterred by stop signs, fences or decapitated statues. As if walking were as hospitable as sleep. As if the games didn’t unravel. As if innocence were forever, though time might age, and a season forget to be born.

But even children, he says, toss their pebble across the river to throw off some undefined unease that weighs on them. As does the indifference the stone drops into. But its call and echo from back to bank barely touches the water, skips as on light, as into regions of enhanced density, increasing in power.

Is it war or games or excessive tension that makes us grow up? she asks. Or simply the way particles behave in a field of force? One day the girl disappears into a different point of reality, a woman with sagging breasts. And still my sense of self is woolly, diffuse as in sleep, as if the years had only heaped on more blankets. I always want to hear the sirens, albeit tied to the mast, but I fear becoming the sailor with ears plugged, just plugging away at the oar.

Gaps in the text open it up, he says, the way breathing allows the world into our chest. Your woolly self still makes me want to get under those blankets. Penelope, mind, isn’t part of your scenario: you don’t seem in danger of taking up needlework. But I too want to get down through all the roar and twang to the deep horizon note I know is there though I can’t hear it: my own frequency. Is this another image that hold us captive? And if I touched it? I saw a dog stray into the subway and hit the live rail.


Conversation on Cause

I step into my mother’s room, she says, and though a woman’s body is a calendar of births and injunctions to death, time disappears. Only dead enough to bury could soundproof silence. Anxiety I’ve known by heart and lung. In my mother’s room. Terror and lack of perspective. The tie between us anticipates any move to sever it. The river runs clear without imparting its clarity to those who step into it or not.

Distant causes, he says. I don’t mean the stars, not in the astrological sense. But if a butterfly fluttering its wings in China can cause a storm in Rhode Island, how much more the residues of radiation or the solemnity of past rituals. The stove glows red. Thin apple trees line the road. You think you are taking a clean sheet of paper, and it is already covered with scribbles, clumsy as by a child’s hand.

The heart has its rhythm of exchange, she says, without surplus or deficit. Monotony swelling, subsiding, vague oscillation of a language that conjugates precise details with a window on the infinite. As I burrow down inside my skin I take your touch with me, pulling it out of your reach to develop in a darkroom of my own. The way the durrent elongates our reflection in the river and seems to carry it off.

A death without corruption is the promise of photography, he says. Cut from the flesh of the world, translated into color. But matter, the initial trace, is not at home in a striated mirror, even if light falls into the arms of love.


Conversation on the Millennium

There are many invisible borders, she says. Some erect and inexorable as when a lover recedes into friend. How we fuss as we approach the millennium, after having slept in its secular sense so long. As if civilization were about to draw its lazy length up toward a moment of moment, advent of the Other, so that Human-Nature-Can/Cannot-Be-Changed would slide down opposite slopes of time. The horizon is a function of eye-level. Are we not nose to the ground overestimating, as so often, things Christian?

A frame supports what would, on its own, collapse, he says. And deep focus can make the ground turn figure in retrospect. Like a German sentence that comes clear only once you reach the verb at its end. By a strong effort of will. Time divides us into dust, but also binds our bodies forward. Though the exhaustion will not be squared. When I say “book” you don’t think clay tablets, Japanese silk scrolls or palm leaves strung together.

The moon is constant, she says, my bleeding a calendar. The instant we apprehend an end we desperately predict new wagon trains to head west, as if celebrating zeros could create bluer skies and more self-evident truths. As if the universe could big-bang again. And again. Not sadly untracked sand, but too many dots per inch. Machinery whirring while the credit’s gone.

Writing pulls east, he says, with the movement of the earth. For all our love of diagonals we cling to the slower proofs measured in mutations, milky ways, and ever the wind blows. The spectacle inside the eye projects its large, invariant rhythm onto a trust in daybreak. Which we make ours. Because as long as we follow we lag behind, and the centuries pass intestate.

Rosmarie Waldrop's new book of poems, The Nick of Time, is forthcoming from New Directions in fall 2021. Recent books are Gap Gardening: Selected Poems (LA Times Book Prize in Poetry 2017), Driven to Abstraction, and Curves to the Apple (all New Directions).