See

They see us when they look at us,
animals do, the way we cannot see
each other.  Do they, one wonders,
ever look at the world in any way
that is not seeing, is their seeing
like being seen, no difference,
just being.

How little of that we can stand.
As soon as a future comes to mind,
the present is spoiled with loss–
loss of something the present has
that the future won’t, loss of
something we think the future will
have that the present doesn’t.
Not like real losses that stop time
and allow no interval in which to
even know what it is but the state
we’re in, like only being, maybe,
maybe only not.

When animals watch, they become
what watching is.  We think they
hope and fear as we do, we think
their watching is anticipating or
watching out. But unlike us, they
know how not to know, they know
how to occupy an empty space
in which something may happen
or something may not.

Surely their watching doesn’t
haul quite the freight of ours–
after all, we sometimes watch
for things to make them happen,
we can look at things and make
them disappear, we can make
things mere objects in our minds
so we won’t see them.

When watching falls away from
being, there’s no seeing, we
watch from outside ourselves,
watch out for things that have
already happened and cannot
be prevented or undone, watch
for things that have never
happened or never will, or for
something that will happen
but won’t be what we want
or will be what we want but
we no longer want it.

All this watching and wanting
my mind feels its way through
on its way to the scene of
all the looking and watching
you do: the way you must
look when you watch women
strip, how you look and look
and look at photographs of
women’s private parts,
parts for which women become
mere frames, how looking
keeps you safe from seeing,
how what you really pay for is
watching yourself in the scene,
watching yourself getting
what you want over and over
again, and never getting
enough of it.

That night the car hit me, I
thought you’d been hit too, as
natural then for my only thought
to be for you as it must have been
for you to pull me away from further
harm. But then we were mortal, and
there was something not to love
in that, how untouchable being
wounded made me, how solitude
settled down around me, a house
locked up tight from outside.

There was a couple sitting at a
sidewalk table watching us as we
dragged ourselves out of that street.
Later on, an image of them took up
residence in my mind as the first
thing I saw when I suddenly wasn’t
dead. Even so I didn’t think it strange
they just watched–early on I learned
not to count on other people for
much of anything. I counted on you
just to live life with me, and you did
until you left me with a past in which
you didn’t, that past in which I
didn’t know what you knew until
you didn’t care if I did, you.

At least it was a familiar state
of being: a mind so empty it had no
room for anything else, the depthless
look of things like a revelation I was
seeing life as it really always had been,
a conviction hard to shake even ten
years on.  No way of looking at it
conjures up anything not flat or empty
to see, not even what that eternal
couple may have seen, sitting there
serene as gods or cats, watching us
with their naked faces, unabashed.

o

© 2012

Wanderer

eisberg fr felt mod 3

Nis nu cwicra nan
þe ic him modsefan
minne durre
sweotule asecgan.

you’re seeing

something out there
springing up: a waterspout
its listing shimmy far away
from windows deeply shuttered
like the ones you hid behind
when storms came or trouble
you always knew that things
that can’t be seen are only sound

places you go into with nothing much
in mind, so necessary to have
nothing in mind, to have a mind
with nothing in it when lightning comes
the hardest thing to do

pushed first this way then that
this boat is going over

the pleasure of
things without words
water running over a rock
or that day you stepped out
into that rigid cold
and shrugged in your clothes
something like a skin you
could move around in, some
shape you entered into then
discovered as your own

the first time you heard
the baby laugh, the only thing
in the world always like
the first time

you never imagined you’d die
the way you did
it teased you first
knocked you around a bit or a lot
let you sleep it off while it
cooled off in a close café
or in another hemisphere
got on a bus headed your way
no matter where you were

in the end, it would invite you
into a little room
not as cramped as a
confessional, not as luxe as the
ladies’ room you peeked into
in that hotel in Havana
warmth coming from somewhere
inside those marble surfaces
the stuffed tight couch and chairs
the deep mirror where
women leaned into their own
reflections, that look in the eye to eye
like someone distracted by
a thought not enough
to hang onto

watching them

feeling the things you felt

you stepped out for, say
a pack of smokes or idly
followed something that swayed
you were already falling
when it came, one small
searing point inside you
suddenly big as the world

even if you could have made a sound
even if you could have screamed
like a tornado,
you could not have matched
its everything, it had no other side

my friend, this is as far as I can go
from this world that’s not
the one you’re in, the one
where you arrived when you
were on your way to someplace else
with your tired luggage
happy, sad, trying
to find a place where
someone would be glad to see you

if hope can have an object
in the past, I hope that in the end
you weren’t alone, that some hand
touched you with kindness, hope
that if you had yearned for someone
it never crossed your mind
hope you didn’t think you’d lost
the things you couldn’t have
hope you knew you always had
all the things you had to leave behind

epigraph from the Old English poem “The Wanderer”
modified image; original at U of Washington Freshwater and Marine Image Bank http://content.lib.washington.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/fishimages&CISOPTR=53714&CISOBOX=1&REC=14

Back Down

That tunnel inside
the air we cannot
see is not invisible.
It slides beneath
our measure,
as if it knows we
do not see things
where we think
they cannot be.

To find what
escapes you
must go back
down to places
where you have
long not been.
You must inhabit
places where you
cannot breathe
and shelter there
where lightning
empties out.

Further down,
you must abandon
hopes you cannot
yet conceive,
they are so small
and so precise.
You must let go
your edges then
to sympathize with
bloodless things.
You must go back
down until it gets
too hot to stay
inside your
carbon cage.

The dead don’t
clamor as the
living do to know.
When they estimate
the universe,
matter doesn’t
really matter,
even though
our love,
perhaps,
holds them
to it far
too long.

Where It Is

Early on the dog seemed more like home—no animal ever had black spinning things behind a face, that relentless hum in every room of things that weren’t words that everyone’s mind was always shouting, things I never could unhear. Even now in every grinding place without an exit, I play here-there with things I’ve turned to empty objects in my mind. Down every hallway some dark engine rushed toward me or behind me, every house was a cabinet with a mirrored front. Always alone in days or evenings that didn’t begin and didn’t end until the mind just packed off to the side, but by then I’d already seen too much of everything.

After a while, you didn’t have to keep moving all the time, you were already unrecognizable in how you managed it, a border with a life on one side open to any vantage point, on the other side the one that always smelled of paint and turpentine. The one saving discovery: that you could show invisible things with a pencil or brush on paper, paper that you could go into like a house no one could see. Later on, every time I stretched a canvas, I was building a house behind it, a place I could breathe in behind the scrim of everything else.

There was just entirely too much seeing, seeing that would not stop, one Continue reading