WINTER 2013 (Issue 77)

James Harris

from Traipse

          Wade all life backward to its source — Neidecker

Is it a mystery some things
never do show up?

A single word never
speaks only for itself.

Blue: goes on & on, years disappear
in it; it also flames and flowers.

Brown: serious gravy, bed for every germ,
for all that’s gained; time sobered rests.

Green is my bodyguard; blue my redemption.

Misread field as yield — went with it,
garnered along the margin.


          Perhaps . . . excitement would come from the way the other person
touched [words] lightly and carelessly with his tongue.
— Armantrout

“Show me that clumsy tongue,”
she laughs; it opens a gate.

I’m slow as trees. Birdsong
in the oak, tu-eep tu-eep.

Mind tongues & fossicks, wants
the sweet spot where things take shape.

Sunlight haloes a hole
the cut-down branches filled.

So close the book, make coffee,
go out into the original.


          Blessed are the meek

Not ribboned in bravery
nor singular in the fray,

after the hurricane sings
spare inheritance falls to them;

or they glean it from banks
of lusterless midden;

after errand and bliss
earth quenches them.

Nevertheless oblique —
against all odds a bud, a cluster.


          Derision stirs the deep abyss — Melville

Living the gray skill of 60
every vain or routed,
unbroken or bedazzled
spore still sprouts.

The mind congeals its
convictions, heart its conflicts,
a congress pulses through
the body in advanced debate.

The signature it seeks is absent.
Hour-by-hour absence badgers
the bowed edge of each sung laugh,
blown flower, kiting wing.


          Scooping up the Dust and chanting "Live"! — Dickinson

Attracted to prayer
but shy of praying
we wander the hills tonight.

There’s Orion, over there
the Dipper, and
planets and moon

splashed on the plane
of the ecliptic.
Cosmos of dust

structured to fray —
old stories, blood-lust, lodestar.
Our drama plays out,

love labors, age savors,
all the days marked.
Go. And go.

Run with dreams
on ashes.
We must.


          It is the nobility of man's soul that he is insatiable — Traherne

Insatiable? To see swollen
shining carpels of a sliced lemon
as an overnight attempt to heal?
Nevermind nobility, or the hellion desire . . .

The inner life of want calls us
to a world of time. Night of rain,
blurted squalls fluted through
down-spouts, spilling
a language insatiable as,
and partner to, us.

It takes a while
to tell the truth,
(desire’s machines burn,
this world is remains)
what comes to the tongue
starts in the heart —
every sojourn,
every festering corpse,
threatens the scantily-clad soul . . .
small vision, big hunger,
nobility in details between.

Summer night: lake murmurs
and nuzzles its green hole in the mountain,
moaning dock talks to water and they
both talk to me. Midnight slap-shot
of wind rattles the whole house,
glush of sleepless time
as we lie in bed and share
some just dreamed dream.


          What life or death can do is immaterial — Dickinson

Aftermath wind
slips over the house,

how long we needed
the word extinct
without knowing it;

errands of extinction
taxing the days,
structuring the gone.

Things fit together:
a few stand out
in belonging:

rivulets’ leaking, lazy
music mumbled mid-stream:
ballpoint soughs across the sheet.


          We try out the most perverse positions — Mullen

Boys in back tweet rhymes for stick and sock.
Glottal stops, tongue twisters, smothered
snot-hocked snickers. The self struts
while nether exclamations slither.

How dare you misread formulate as fornicate?
Identity theft fleeced the dictionary,
little loopy lies
led to big linguistic loss,
had to cancel all my words.

A sentence maps terra incognita. A list
strings lights along a midnight pier,
wavy gurgitation underneath.

Minimalist, chronic alexic,
walks around listing all the things
all days always
have in common.
The feet wander and the mind wanders,
wandering in wandering.

Word-blind, the warrant of sight
is to stare, of mind to move . . .
and thus etc. etc. etc.
renders babble visionary.
(yarrow vetch lotus lupine poppy
sparrow finch swallow seagull osprey)

The prologue of description
is the wisdom of prepositions:
in wind, with wind, per wind;
via wind, qua wind, until wind —

because everything, even light, takes its time.
Because Being coincides, details die out,
and abundance comes across — honey’s sweet;
pollination buzzes; lightning’s a language;
language time-shaped; and time
darkness where thought forks.

Things dwell quick on their time perch.
The limb-groan in wind is;
bible paper poppy petals
are; and I am and you are.