In the House

As the entity in their house grows bolder,
the thing between them settles in–knocking
in the walls gets louder, appliances
begin to misbehave. He says it’s all
as plates fly past his head.
What d’you call that? she wonders. What? he says.
At night utensils bang round in their drawers,
the hallway closet creaks and moans, and sleepless
in the small hours of the morning, he finds
the kitchen table standing on the chairs.
She has given up on conversation
when he starts to catalog each crazy thing—
it’s all she says in your imagination,
the light’s the moon’s, that sound is distant trains.








Think of us, the many of us
cut for fuel, think how we rested
in shallow water when we died
still tied to the way we fell.
Think of the country we then
occupied beneath your passing by,
the uncomplaining ranks of us
in each our solitude. Think how
little murder looks like sacrifice
depending on your point of view.
Think of us still holding onto
some mystery we could not let go
until you came to turn us into
something burning and alive.

The Center Is Only

The center is only fabulous:
say (or even think) lover, ring
and the iron filings in your brain
flock to the groove that goes
on and on without you.

Try abutilon, prion, quark and
the packet handed round
that no one penetrates
becomes a dressy carapace
patrolling places you fled
long ago, carrying away
the things you tried to
protect from words.

And you did. In that
heart-shaped box
you left behind:
a fifty drachma coin, a tiny
gold and silver knife, a lock
of bright hair, a skeleton
key, a button made
of bone.

where is where

rising sea levels, marine radiation
approaches the float where it is always
Tuesday no matter where you look like
many mental excursions my love has
no place to go, I still expect to see you
in the dark box the dark side, we see your
shore lights back of the house our love is
despair, our despair a piercing light
where we started there begins a road that
always ends with you, the malaise still here
with its cautious sad buddy we cruise your
coastline, come to this place for you, vast
days open up, nowhere is where you were





Back Down

That tunnel inside
the air we cannot
see is not invisible.
It slides beneath
our measure,
as if it knows we
do not see things
where we think
they cannot be.

To find what
escapes you
must go back
down to places
where you have
long not been.
You must inhabit
places where you
cannot breathe
and shelter there
where lightning
empties out.

Further down,
you must abandon
hopes you cannot
yet conceive,
they are so small
and so precise.
You must let go
your edges then
to sympathize with
bloodless things.
You must go back
down until it gets
too hot to stay
inside your
carbon cage.

The dead don’t
clamor as the
living do to know.
When they estimate
the universe,
matter doesn’t
really matter,
even though
our love,
holds them
to it far
too long.


Reiterated outposts of your
several selves, lost or forgot, or
going on without you, this pressed trail or
stacked askew in your way, all that paper
for a little ink and blood, not to be
saying things unsaid, such humid
oppression, the past that felt already
past at the time, the words wasted on work
that wasted you, how you pay its long bill,
how you try to make a past of the way
for lack of a sequel it wracks you now.

Where It Is

Early on the dog seemed more like home—no animal ever had black spinning things behind a face, that relentless hum in every room of things that weren’t words that everyone’s mind was always shouting, things I never could unhear. Even now in every grinding place without an exit, I play here-there with things I’ve turned to empty objects in my mind. Down every hallway some dark engine rushed toward me or behind me, every house was a cabinet with a mirrored front. Always alone in days or evenings that didn’t begin and didn’t end until the mind just packed off to the side, but by then I’d already seen too much of everything.

After a while, you didn’t have to keep moving all the time, you were already unrecognizable in how you managed it, a border with a life on one side open to any vantage point, on the other side the one that always smelled of paint and turpentine. The one saving discovery: that you could show invisible things with a pencil or brush on paper, paper that you could go into like a house no one could see. Later on, every time I stretched a canvas, I was building a house behind it, a place I could breathe in behind the scrim of everything else.

There was just entirely too much seeing, seeing that would not stop, one had to fight not to see the things others claimed they saw that weren’t there, or to see things others claimed they didn’t see that were. Nothing was something always ready to loom up from every floor you stepped on. Why was there always broken glass on the floor in that spotless house? So small you couldn’t see it, then suddenly it had already pierced your foot and sent a rush of fire all up your body, like some arbitrary punishment conducted from afar. Then you always had to wait out in silence that gaping interval between claiming it was impossible and then finally attending to the evidence of your bleeding foot. Everything was an accident, all accidents occasioned disbelief. When your dog died, they said a neighbor had fed him ground glass.

Over and over: whatever you are feeling, don’t feel it, whatever is happening, it’s not. Driveways paved with caramel stones and chunks of quartz like cracked glass, that box of rocks I hauled from place to place, kept under every bed like some kind of anchor, carried around not to remind me of places but to save me from them.

Funerals were the only ceremonies, looking festive until you knew. If you were dead, you’d get a little lamb, a tombstone always in everyone’s mind, the lost treasured child, not the rag of one you were, like a weed, thriving, getting away with something like life. You found your mother once weeping over a poem about the toys a dead child had left behind. You asked, she told, and there you were, yourself a child, already wished away somehow, already replaced by that other child, the one worth weeping for.

Who expected joy in such places? Weeping always waited like a trap, someone could always drive you fast to it then claim you’d been imagining things. You were the one who played dead, the dead one was your proxy there where anything seen could be denied, where anything past could not be told, everything behind engulfed in darkness there where you could never turn around. The things I imagined were mine alone, what I suppressed was not pain, but joy.

I wanted to be an old man or a dog when I grew up. The one thing I did well was tell the truth, like cool water clear to a bottom where you couldn’t go or couldn’t stay. Now when I see lies, only my silence says I know. This heart that beats too fast for love, this life like a bag you throw things into when you have to get out fast only to end up where you already are with some other bag full of the speechless junk you carry for everyone else. When everything is forgotten, there is nothing to forgive.

Where it is in the end is where it was: a series of summer days when you had no words for the things you felt and the things you felt were everything. The shadows there were never blue, at noon everything was sharp edges, black and white, the ice in the shining jar you carried was black, your shadow black and running faster from you the faster you ran, the jar heavy with the charge not to let it melt. I hear my breathing, my feet running, and that is all I am. From the house to the field, I ran through no place, I hadn’t been to get the jar, I was not even awake, what time there was was somewhere else, and time belonged to places then, the ice that made trees clatter in winter was what I carried in summer, the things that root us in earth unplanted and unplowed overnight, the same jar, the same ice the next day, and between dream and waking, between here and anywhere, I was always carrying something I couldn’t say, that sunshine is what makes things black.

Don’t look, don’t look, I always did, years later, the child’s body on the railroad tracks, other children casually stepping over or around that ribbon of blood dried black, it was just how things seeped out: it was there if I looked or if I didn’t. I never could believe that everything always happened somewhere else.

Saying Not Saying

onfim 8 b mod 1

This is how you make it stay still.

This is the part where you pick up a piece of paper and inspect it to see if there’s writing on it. This is a thing you do, it’s part of the part.

You want to know what everything says, that’s what you’d say if someone asked you, but no one will ever ask you, no one ever asks you anything, no one even listens now when you talk, so you’ve given up on saying.

But if someone did ask you something and then actually listened, you would say this, you would say I want to know what everything says, and so the one thing you would say that someone might listen to would be untrue because you don’t want to know what everything says–everything is too much saying and not enough said, there is entirely too much saying, nothing ever gets finished because there’s so much saying saying saying, uncontained promiscuous saying, it snakes into your house from work, it snakes out of everybody’s house out into the street, it’s wrapped around everybody’s head, the air so thick with saying you can hardly breathe, such a glut of saying that no word means more than any other word anymore, and anyone is someone-everyone-no-one.

This is how you make it stay still. This is how you look for saying that says.

This is how you got to the part where you’ve picked up this piece of paper, something lost or discarded on which someone might have written something, like all the other things you pick up, something public that has now become forever private by virtue of never arriving anywhere, except where you are picking it up, reading it in the expansive dead letter office you’ve become.

Grocery lists, phone numbers scribbled on the backs of flimsy receipts, take out menus with every fifth word heavily underlined or circled, crumpled and mauled looking high school exams with vines and flowers heavily inscribed in the margins, pages from coloring books, a photograph of a lost cat on a flyer, some yahoo has scrawled a penis shape over its face, a drawing of a doll, or a girl, with crosses over its eyes, a story underneath something that could be a hat or a pot: thn the spicemens kam from arisona en thir spiceshp an flewd al ovr up n hir.

One time a piece of notebook paper on which someone had written damn over and over, slanted left, right, straight up, even upside down exactly one hundred and thirty-two times, nothing good can come from all the counting you do, all the counting you can’t not do.

A letter, nobody writes letters anymore just rafts of email and barges of twaddle, probably then some ancient artifact: I hope you really didn’t see me at Bob’s the other night and that you weren’t just acting like you didn’t see me, though I don’t recall your vision being that bad. What is wrong? What? Why don’t you call me back? When we were down at the lake I thought we were happy. I thought you said you–the rest was a rip, a ragged edge, you keep expecting that missing strip to turn up somewhere.

Lost, tossed, looking all lonely, things that aren’t going anywhere. A notebook page covered with drawings of piles of cannonballs and knives and what appeared to be guinea pigs on their backs with their feet in the air, at the bottom of the page, the curlicued legend I conker all. A notecard on which someone had written in an old-fashioned fancy hand they shot him, they shot him.

The one you are now unfolding, written on stationery from Gramma’s Quainte Inne, written with a crawling sort of hand, someone has been needing to say something, someone has given up saying anything, someone has no one to say anything to: When I die, I want to be cremated by the King Tut society to. I will make arrangements for my body my bodily remnants remains my remains to be Arrangements have been made or will be made soon for the will be having have been made by for King Tut society to cremate me my body after I die pursuant to my death don’t scatter me over water don’t say anything. When I die I want

These orphan messages—once you read them bad luck to keep them, bad luck to throw them away, you’ve been stashing them in the crevice of a tree in the park down the street from your apartment, let the tree undo them, let the bugs chew them into lace, let the rain wear them down, let the world grind them down like everything else gets ground down till you can’t tell one thing from another.

There will be other pieces of paper you’ll pick up and read. One day one of them will be for you. There is a room inside you waiting for it, waiting for its saying, waiting for its numinous words.

Altered image. Original image from: “The Art of Onfim: Medieval Novgorod Through the Eyes of a Child.”


We hope this friendliness will guarantee a future without details.

This is the part where we become not exactly friends, but friendly, or, rather, we enact friendliness. This enacting is some way of having a face for each other that is not the face we have for each other. That face doesn’t know what to do. Or, rather, that face knows things to do but those things are too unseemly or unruly to be done.

This face—the face of our friendliness–knows what to do because it knows nothing. It’s rather like the face one of us had when one of us found out, the open face with a door closing behind it, or the face that pulls some sort of amnesia along behind it, keeping its luggage with it at all times and not agreeing to carry something in it for a perfect stranger.

In retrospect, it’s astonishing how alike those faces are—the face of the one finding out, the face of the one being found out. Though, of course, the one being found out had been wearing that face for some time, a rather long time in fact.

This friendliness itself is a tacit agreement, a step-down, a pact without details. We hope this friendliness will guarantee a future without details.

If one of us thinks this friendliness is a truce, one of us doesn’t understand. If one of us thinks it’s like let’s do lunch, one of us doesn’t understand. If one of us in the future thinks help me move my furniture, one of us doesn’t understand. If one of us in the future thinks take care of the cat while I’m in the hospital, one of us doesn’t understand.

If one of us keeps mementos of a past us and the other one of us discovers the thumbed box, the thumbed photos, the thumbed postcard from twenty years ago, the lock of hair, that one, the discovering one, will be alarmed.

If one of us just happens to be passing by some trash receptacle in which the other of us has deposited, say, something that had formerly been valued—apparently valued—as a shared object—that perfectly good painting, for example–that one of us just passing by and just noticing might also be alarmed. This is why friendliness must be enacted in public where it will bear no resemblance to evisceration.

Violations of this friendliness will require the invocation of busy-ness and absence, so friendliness establishes busy-ness and absence in advance, a general kind of busy-ness and absence, a future state of things already beyond one’s control that insures the stateless state of the present.

The face of this friendliness is like a mirror that doesn’t reflect anything. It is something that cannot be studied or searched for anything other than its general look of interest or goodwill. It is the face from behind which one can say things like you poor thing how terrible! or that’s great news! that’s really wonderful!

It’s a face one thought oneself incapable of, there’s always so much cheerful sweeping up behind it.