blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2010  Vol. 9  No. 2
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To Sustain Distress

Can I hear
the tweaked harmonics
of metastasis

as the chance operations
of a pianist in the surge
of improvisation?

As the knife scratch
on the starchy canvas?
As resistance
to explanation?

I can
do anything.
That’s the problem
of imagination.

that does not mean
the blood refuses.

No reading, no
matter how delicate
or brute, makes

a man out
of a diagram.


Night jasmine from
some unseen garden

strays into equivocal temper
toward rows of teeth.

Call it “Untitled.”
Call it “The Story Revealing
Itself to be an Ending.”

The second time you read it
you will hear peristalsis resisting,

merging the blackened skin
& the corroding bones

into a special shadow
that blooms in the late hours.


I tie twilight
to the measure of a life

in spinning plates,
to the plastic skin

encasing birdcalls
for sale by the dozen,

shaping the name
into a repeated refrain

emerging entirely whole
from the open windows.

If the scent of night jasmine
is complete altogether

speak vigilantly
of the dying.


We will upload our brains
to the white marble countertops
of the coming singularity;

I have always
enjoyed cemeteries.

I tie my memories of you
to the photograph of you

& mom & John & Steve
wearing winter coats

in the driveway
in front of a garage.

I have so few memories
of you—mostly in cars.


Consciousness is not
difficult to describe

in a bee sting.
Nothing arises

& nothing reveals.
A hailstorm pocks

the landscape
& the cancer cells

entwine the jaw.
Plants create landscape

but empty spaces
remain immortal.


Fear is so sly
to reduce itself
into a brain,

to sustain
the artificial paradise
of the darkened room.

What is scrap?
What is a moment
in the moment of recall?

What is the pinwheel
of artifice & art?  end

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