Looking back upon my life, I now see that many of my years were consumed in battles with just these “gaps,” with my frustrations for being unable to fully communicate to my peers and family. In fact, for most of those early years, I tended to think of myself as doomed to live a life of “separateness” and lonely isolation; and even in my early adult years I sensed that I worked best as a kind of maverick, as someone working slightly askew with and apart from the other creative figures of my time.
This is part of an ongoing work, called Between: Letters to Poet
Friends, in which I’ve written through the works of poet friends,
asking them, in turn, to respond to the work I’ve written,
either by writing “through” my poetry as a whole, through a single
poem or the one I’ve just sent them, or by any other method they might
desire to apply.
In writing “through,” I have taken small phrases and words from your
poems, combining them with personal associations. I am not responding
directly to the writing, but allowing your words to create possibilities
that move the text forward.
Monotonous agitations fall across the page of definitions and the
meaning of even meaning is confused with the means of that
stupefying occupation of blowing kisses to the balcony. On the way
to L.A. I met a surrogate for you in the bar who said: you’re now free
to stroll into focus if you put your good foot forward and follow
the brick hick up the road. He was kind of chunky but not very “cute.”
It was not a lie exactly. It was not a truth. A little knife, with a horn
handle. And blue magpies to break the sequence of what went unsaid,
like writing not to write. You went off for a while to seek an anecdote.
I went over to the tree of knowledge to count its fruit. Each integer
shaped the sequence of the others, so that two for example became a
couple of fours, the fours a square door. I entered the room. There was
nothing else to be said.
Well if ever,
Then when never—
If you do,
They will too.
—might be seen to epitomize his tautly-written metaphysical works.
Some say there is a mere implication, but I would argue that to
set out on any voyage is an explanation to the widened yawn. Heed
this, the traveler says, in his split or origins from meaning. The
returnee is simply a disturbed sound at the end of its trail, a hesitation
just before the adjust. Going away is not coming back.
—with a quote from my own The Walls Come True:
I am interested in the way words begin to get where they are going
not where they have gone.”
Later, he asked:
If your words are only your words, who would they speak to?
Piombino brilliantly concludes:
What comes between, is ghostlier still. Only by surrounding it can
it be captured; and it is still not completely here in these virtual
Until he asked me, I had lost the lostness of “Lost Horizons” but
the horizons were still there. Only the question brought the words
together. A question came between and between is not usually
what comes in the way. A question asked words to present them-
selves. And the lost still warms the horizons in “Lost Horizons.”
This is the wind: without a port, a continuously undefined plane
in the form of a skip…routing the shad and salt deposits into the
You sit in words
and long to be great.
So play our your
heroics on a trombone.
Bray a few laughs
and be gone.
But even he had to admit that my project was “worth trying.”
This is the most thing you make me say I said.
Past the stone walls of language’s love is the vineyard of my laugh, a way of being bound that rhymes with the limbs mounting the air of a rising raft—or rift where my lover lays. Amour is a loaf of around.
Fanny “hooked up [her] lines / and waited,” she writes.
I hung up my sheets on the line
Rain spattered the white linen
At last. Recognition.
I could see the writing
No mind, no mind! The heart gathers in broken lines to
Take it back to the source of its mistake. Teeth grind.
The world pierces the chatter of the birds—or is it what
a German taxi driver once reported to me was an
Erdbeben. You fly! the cat sits up alert—even when it is
only a window being shut to the morning sky.
“Is it “never mind” or a zen exhortation / smashing the cups of logic?” Ronk asks.
Each gesture to evidence leaves something out
tea or the cup or the emptiness therein.
The self I was formerly, also a shadow.
Since there’s no beryl, no myrhh, no wise man from the east,
she put on the red dress of her innocence. She ordered the
angels out to consume the dream. Now she waits in utter faith
since there’s no periwinkles
& certainly no incense
I had a dream instead
that love had one glittering glove
this is subjectivity plus objectivity
in the religion named for a metal
or even a good mean
of red lentil soup with asparagus & celery root
garlic & onion amen
not an answer but a curve in sentences written
some twenty years ago
meaning time is surfacing a second time
alive and spiraling
like an emotion at the heart of language
of course a possibility remains: to translate
now while in Key West under a palm tree
I can remember sentences en franςais
the smell of fresh coffee
at a time I believe I was about to fall
in love which explains why
my appetite for curves grew wild
while “a word caught at the edge of my mouth”
I would for the first time wonder
about the word cliff
how to include the possibility of its meaning
in one’s life
Los Angeles, September 4, 2008
The poets who responded and were included in Between were Barbara Guest, Clark Coolidge, Diane Ward, Lyn Hejinian, Carl Rakosi, Guy Bennett, John Taggart, Dennis Phillips, Leslie Scalapino, Arkadii Dragomoschenko, Robert Creeley, Nick Piombino, Régis Bonvicino, Ray DiPalma, Norma Cole, Bruce Andrews, Paul Vangelisti, Cole Swensen, Joe Ross, Rae Armantrout, Charles Bernstein, John Ashbery, Ed Roberson, Robert Kelly, Martin Nakell, Saúl Yurkevich, Andrée Chedid, Paal-Helge Haugen, Charles North, Rosmarie Waldrop, Miles Champion, Henri Deluy, Marjorie Welish, Fanny Howe, Luigi Ballerini, Martha Ronk, Jerome Rothenberg, Jean Frémon, Will Alexander, Tom Raworth, Bernadette Mayer, Tan Lin, Cees Nooteboom, and Nicole Brossard. I wrote Los Angeles poet Bob Crosson on December 8, 2001, and the next day he was found dead in his small apartment; his response, accordingly, was noted as “Silence. His death.” The last poem in the book was written to my companion, Howard Fox; I wrote his response from a passage in one of his art catalogues.