Clouds and Trees

"Nothing ever goes away enough or arrives enough,/ and I want to cry when I think of my heart,/ muscle pounding in muscle, greedy always for joy." – 'A Warning', Eric Anderson

Month: February, 2012

2. A Revisioning

“Do you think that someone who could make both the thing imitated and its image would allow himself to be serious about making images and put this at the forefront of his life as the best thing to do?” – Plato, The Republic (599b)

Poetry is a measure of confusion.
To explain — we poets, the confused,
write about love because we don’t know what love is,
or about clouds because we don’t know if God exists,
or about our mothers because we want to talk to our sadness
a conversation we’ve never had, but should’ve.
And the only way to do this well — is to not realize it.

Because the moment we can be in love,
and we begin to grasp what we think God is,
and we are strong enough to talk with our mothers,
after all of this confusion has been lifted,
we might find ourselves at a loss, asking:
What’s left? Do we still turn stones for poems?
Anyone can tell you that a fool is someone either
convinced that they understand everything,
or that it’s not worth trying.


1. The Standard Metre in Paris

“There is one thing of which one can say neither than it is one metre long, nor that it is not one metre long, and that is the standard metre in Paris.”
-Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (50)

I realize around age eighteen that poetry
is a measure of confusion.
To explain — we poets, the confused,
write about love because we don’t know what love is,
we write about clouds because we don’t know if God exists,
we write about our mothers because we want to talk to our sadness
a conversation we’ve never had, but should’ve.
And the only way to do this well — is to not realize it.

Between the ages of fifteen and eighteen
I write about two hundred poems to “you”.
Sometimes they are love poems,
or heart-broken poems, or surreal,
I live with you in a screen-doored house,
in the middle of a grassy plain,
and one day you disappear leaving
only a white dress and your marigolds
and the threat of rain from one of those huge
only-in-the-Midwest thunderstorms poems.

At the end of my long sentence of writing to “you”,
I realized that all poems are measures of confusion,
and that I was alone when I wrote in my room,
with too much light or not enough light
and in my bed or at a desk, but always alone
and almost in silence, I was the insane man,
utterly confused, as he talks to himself,
convinced that he’s talking to you.

Abattoir of Passion

1. Painting

The painter knows perspective well.
The Bathroom at Twenty-Nine
Rotates around a single point,
No empty hurricane eye,
No clear inside/outside,
More like a horizon —
The ‘no-line’ between
What swirls down
And its aperture.

Naked hangers,
Drained hot-water bottle
And separate sleeve, the bare
Light-bulbs, all revolve down
Until you have to be standing
On the ceiling. Beneath you:
The woman squeezing soap
over a hollow frame,
the shape of a man.

2. Sculpture

The surprise when I look to my right:
I was sure that wall was straight!
I walk along it; paintings to sculptures.

A Man Amongst Red Trees, his cock
Hanging out, he is about to cover
His eyes and run, fear or discomfort.

Two Grey Figures in short-sleeved suits,
They seem to be made of a day of bad rain.
Something goes whispered between them.

In the Museum of Modern Art, New York,
I remember being amongst the trees,
Lamp-posts, bent or curving, some hung

Half-way up a wall, midsections exposed.
Anxiety pills, over-sized and pink,
Frozen in towers about to fall.

3. The Critics

In the Museum Basement
I think no one is around.
We make love together
quietly among old art
sleeping frames and stone.

But someone walks up behind me
As I stand imagining in the hall.
I turn myself off, shake loose
unfamiliar perspectives of you.
I shuffle my thoughts.

I send a museum postcard to you,
The painting on the front, my poem
On the back. I think I feel bad,
I want you to know and not know.
I let it go. Be nothing again.

Just shapes: the basis of a poem.


A bump has risen on my finger.
It is much like a pain-button
in that I can press it on anything
and then I experience pain.
It’s becoming pink and tough,
I’m afraid my pain will be permanent
with a button to touch
which heralds it in. Pain!
I wasn’t sure you would come!
I don’t know where the door is–
so it must be left open
in case anyone comes to visit.
There are many doors,
all just the right shape,
for things you see, all the tastes,
smells you expect and smells you don’t,
degrees and types of hot and cold,
and all the sizes of pain —
but this one sensation has risen
like a bubble to the surface
of boiling water, and formed a button.
I worry that soon
everything will boil out of me
and I will be covered in little buttons,
so that when I touch —
or accidentally bump into things,
I will experience
now headache,
now heartache,
now soreness,
now the color white,
now the shapes of a horse,
now the sense of space,
now the smell of air,
now wetness, now warmth.
One button is touched — I feel Being Born;
Another — Death.

Amsterdam (prologue)

I am on a long line;
My carry-on is full of razor-blades.
I’m worried that it might be too wide

To fit into the overhead bin
So I reach inside and stuff razors
Into my coat sleeves;

I cut my fingertip, no surprise.
I pinch it closed with my thumb.
For the next four hours I am “A-OK.”

My bag fits easily. When she closes
The lid, the stewardess sees my coat.
“Idiot,” she says, and she looks at me.

Reading at Cornelia Street

The Professor always has a cold.
You watch his tufts of facial hair lift
as if to close his skin like cellophane
that won’t fit.

The Professor is made for Brooklyn,
so well designed for it that Upstate
he runs everywhere; finds a building,
gets into it.

Because his nose leaks, he always breathes
through his mouth in between reading lines.
You can hear little gasps — he’s surprised
it’s written.

The Professor is trepidatious.
Some organ near his throat injures him.
When his mouth stumbles over a word
he winces.

You aren’t close to him, he’s sorry.
But listen to him, or read him, and
you know him immediately — just
a poet.


It looks like the same scar,
seen three times: two inch line,
raised and slightly purplish,
on three different women.
I saw it today – neck,
yesterday again – wrist.
Nothing like that, I’m sure,
they look almost like burns,
or like awful birthmarks.
Scars, skin over something
within; bubbles of pain.

They can’t all be the same. The first one told me, “Touch here,” indicating it — on the inside of her bicep. It surprised me — a needle underneath her skin. She tried to explain but pointlessly — I was drunk. She went to sleep. I had a dream — I was at home looking up at the sky. I pointed and she looked — meteors, burning slow and curved across each other. I looked away, she had said something. I looked back and the lines had faded.