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Draft 60: Rebus
first appearance "Draft 60: Rebus." Literary Review, 48.2 (Winter 2005): 81-94.

                              The task is to see the riddle.  
                                               Martin Heidegger

A moonlight fall across the ground
makes the dark nouns brown.

Owl passing through this place
frightens the dark, a moment rent. 

Quotidian = astonishment.
This wind arrives from outer space.

How to articulate fermented strangeness,
how tell the junctures charging us?

What syntax exposes these relations
these helixed twists of filament?

To juncture we are sentenced
inside a suppurating, blow-hard time.

It is the res, rebus conjugation
that offers of as pigment.

What visits us announcing where we are?
To say "angel" gets misunderstood.

But even a handkerchief, even 
a spent bulb speak doubly

at once of loss and of ineffable
winged flashes of time.

Not possessions of possessives
but things requiring our Being,

equally breaking, slashed and torn.
Who speaks; who writes?

The dead. But they stay silent.
Who then moves words along

a little screen, blue-gray like sky?
C'était, ma soeur, la providence awry.

The living. Toggles of shame
and flame leech their veins.

Between these riddles, 
Things present themselves like speech.

House bridge well tree
gate jug window tower

They say: it's so beautiful
couldn't you do better?

Or: you have made it; but then
you insisted on worship.


Suddenly from this mattedness
in and out of nowhere in a fettered place

the pure Too-Little
swivels inside out

becomes an awe, Too-Much.
A plethora.  Magnetic urgency.

Hinges of light, hallways, staircases turning,
spaces of being, force fields of ecstasy.

Now we feel surges of the overwhelming;
now we have a different angle on things.

Major dreams with guns. Must rescue children.
Everything I saw then was premonitory.

Everything goes wrong. Like a stone
a grey bread grows stale.

Can't cut it, can't soak it, unspeakably hard,
it's a twisted loaf we thought was fine;

it is the rock of our politics
looming on the table.

I wanted another desire, one bread after another
the green or greener guide of lune

I wanted a whirling list of hopes
hopes hopes hopes whole alphabets of H's

to evaporate and leave the sweet encrust,
a deep powder, a power inside the poetry

and inside the mind. I wanted—
it doesn't matter because

I could not get it easily or even
did not understand myself in this,

wanted a new kind of climax
at the center of day, the Of

specifying itself, as juncted connection,
as counter-force, as transformation.

It seems as if I'm not living
on earth any more

at least the one I know.
The name of this place is—

Loss of Wishes?
Uncounted Dot? No-taste Fruit?

Headless Doll? Barbed Window?
Burning Book? Over-padded Chair?

Are these new Constellations
in our bell-vast sky?

Some They want to own the sky as
proof that They own us. Our Of is

our resistance. The poem offers
an exchange of rebuses, not a game.

This is not simply the world as such
but a world stained with other times

the riddle of rubble
that still speaks of

uncanny shame, of
alternatives that did not happen.

It's strange now that the Constellations
lie upside down as if tumbled from behind

turned into another hemisphere:
the W of Cassiopeia now an M,

and it stands for moaning and
muttering, for occluded humming

and for wolfish maps. Why such misery,
why such merciless management?

Klage, Klage. The disinherited.
Malarial muck for drinking water.

The twisted limbs of children
servitude, desolation.

I wanted to show you things,
the patient code

of things in a row to read—
rock, rope, doll, well, road

crystal glycerin rebus
of an empty snakeskin.

What will we show now?
To whom shall we show it?

If I were to cry out,
who would hear me?

                                        June-December 2003

Notes to Draft 60: Rebus.

Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies (1922), especially certain lines, have long haunted me. Taking (on) some version of his lines and phrases and some of his situations finally became inevitable. I have underscored the citations, mainly using the A. Poulin, Jr. translation, sometimes with slight modifications. In his Preface to the Houghton Mifflin book (1977), Poulin says "I hope someone else will find a word or phrase to steal from these versions." He meant other translators, of course, but I thank him for his generosity in any case.  The epigraph from Martin Heidegger, Epilogue, "The Origin of the Work of Art." Donor Drafts are on the "line of 3": Of, Philadelphia Wireman, and Of This.