tommandel

Books

To the Cognoscenti Absence Sensorium Letters of the Law Ancestral Cave Four Strange Books Realism Prospect of Release Central Europe Erat Some Appearances Ready to Go EncY The Grand Piano, Part 1 The Grand Piano, Part 2 The Grand Piano, Part 3 The Grand Piano, Part 4 The Grand Piano, Part 5 The Grand Piano, Part 6 The Grand Piano, Part 7 The Grand Piano, Part 8 The Grand Piano, Part 9

Four Strange Books

from the title poem:


5.
As your mouth opens to frame a word
        its first stirrings bring
        the word to my mind
without any effort on my part
or on yours.

Almost before you begin to
        express a thought, I sense
        what you want to say
& hear you bring forth statements
as if they were mine. How haltingly

I explain this simple coincidence.
        You are inclined in my
        direction, and I,
in rapt attention to the garbled flow
of sounds emanating from you,

listen to your breathing and
        await your words. Meanwhile
        you hear rhythm shred
the surface of your speech, as time
develops obsessions - difficult

to move through. Memory of you breath-
        ing fills the hole with sleep.
        The delight I take
in such thoughts is delight in my
own strange life. A telescope

ends in the eye. My mountain climbs
        into your cloud, the bet-
        ter to build a hill.
But I cannot build clouds; the
dreamed-of future will not come true.

We struggle against a tendency
        that once people have died
        we look at their lives
in a conciliatory light; their years appear
to us as if softened by haze.

But they will die out and be superseded
        by others. People will no
        longer understand
our arguments with them. For her, death
yielded no meaning; her life

was not rounded in retrospective gaze.
        No, life was incomplete
        jagged. Nor will they
see why we insist there was no
reconciling, not for her.

In retrospect especially, life is
        naked & wretched. So,
        losing my way, I'm
happy to ask someone how I got here.
"I'll point it out," he says,

& walks beside me on the smooth path.
        The road ends abruptly
        in a brambled track,
dense threat. "Here we are," my new friend
says, "just take it from here."

From new melodies we learn new gestures.
        You may admire the trees
        or the shadows of
the trees, for the same qualities - shadows
because they are so like trees - or

different - upright trees filled with light.
        Or trees because they're scored
        by shadows. Shadows
dark, trees substantial. "Strike a coin
from every error."


Fictitious concepts teach us those we know.
        Not that "the problems of
        life insoluble
on the surface can only be solved in depth.
They are insoluble on all surfaces."


Remarks that sow, remarks that reap. "Look
        at humans; one is pois-
        on to the other.
A mother to her son, & vice versa.
But the mother is blind & so is the son.

Oh, perhaps they have guilty consciences
        but what good does that do?
        The child is wicked,
who teaches it to be different? Its parents
only spoil it with stupid affections.

How are they supposed to understand this,
        & how could the child un-
        derstand this? They are
so to speak entirely wicked, entirely
innocent."


I don't want a causal explanation, only
        to know where all this came
        from. Silent on the
subject of you, the portrait explains itself.
"My face reddens, contracts.

My hair changes color."
Our portraits are
        mirrors where events ap-
        pear which have waited
long years in readiness for
the door of reality to open,

to make their final entry, because
        without it every-
        thing seems colorless
like a man struggling unsuccessfully
to recall a name. But,

even in that case I'd say, "it is your own
        name, and it will come to
        you."
Similarly
to think of something else would
allow what I'd been

waiting for to come from you.
        Finally, after what
        seems endless delays
during which most of the audience departs
a last participant crosses

the finish line - it is the winner! His
        thoughts manure the soil for
        sewing, for "ass
and ox can do things too, but only human
beings give you their assurances."

 

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Four Strange Books was written 1986-88 and published in 1990 by Gaz Press. Like most of my books, it is available from Small Press Distribution or Amazon.