Basic Problems in Poetry

While I was not thrilled to be made a scapegoat I knew my 

role.  The summer was more or less bitter than the fall.  

Chairs creaked when angels sat in them.  The premise of

their argument also creaked.  Along towards winter, hearts

rose.  Something had gotten underway and was proceeding

under its own power down the wet street above the beach.

Motorbikes wove in and out.  Consciousness turned toward a 

drop of blood shed while adding one more stop to the line,

where thousands would never live.  I would never live there

too, but my perceptions were bent from the start.  I couldn’t

distinguish between identical worlds, nor did I understand

how to dilute my own past enough to make it drinkable.

Certain things that I read suggested this could be done by

developing the proper attitude toward what might in theory

transpire given sufficient passage of time.  But I don’t know

what that is.  Things continue on in endless space, my good

old captain said to me.  Meanwhile session one began by 

revoking the law against breaking promises.  Egregious 

examples were set out on a plain oak table overlaid with 

butcher paper.  Crayons were handed round and then 

deposited into a cylinder that appeared at the window. The

session turned strange when one of the examples lurched

through the room, calling the others names.  My right eye

became distracted at the very instant I knew that this may 

not really be the case.  So be it, lights flickered in the sky and 

tall white letters shone brightly, as we easily saw for 

ourselves. Out of them our futures could be foretold, and the

things that would one day exist could be seen hiding behind

the north wind.  There was nobility in these prospects, which

varied depending on the character of the grain being roasted.

Now was not the time that then was, but then no time was, in

the manner of speaking of it.  And although heavenly 

trumpets tendered three notes for each cake of phrase, I 

knew Satan’s Kingdom had a hand in this.  Therefore session

two called for a different approach.  I drew up a map that

showed us here, where the black dots are, with our 

destination being there, at the edge of the fir trees.  I traced a 

fibrous line between them and off we went.  Maybe it was too 

soon after death for things to have stabilized, because when I 

asked about staff reductions your face turned blue.  As we

floated along, a sense of futility followed us at a respectful

distance, occasionally stopping to rest or take notes.  The 

dark air grew thick, and our progress was stalled thanks to 

Preternatural Stupendious Prodigious assistance by the 

Devil given thereunto.  A low theater crept up from the east.  

I presupposed its existence before analyzing it.  Many times 

I’d done the opposite and found myself carefully arranging 

shadows while the objects that supposedly cast them 

wandered off, pursuing whatever desires or whims were

uppermost in their thoughts, without any consideration for 

my efforts, save to ensure they were fruitless.  In fact this 

became something of a trend over the years, until I counted 

myself among those movable shadows, whose relative 

independence only affirmed their contingent, gratuitous

character.  So I assessed the current situation according to

what depth of conviction I could muster about the judgments 

to be made.  For example, was it sunrise or the middle of the 

night?  We were wide awake, certainly.  And there were birds 

singing.  But a sheet lay over the whole village.  Did it appear 

then, as it does now, that the same question could receive

thousands of different answers, and that we may as well have 

been consigned to the nether side of some unknown planet 

as to have been where we were?  This didn’t seem likely, or 

rather there was no need to exaggerate the case or its 

implications, even as the west wind swept through each

tentative disposition proposed.  What felt clear was the sense 

of a mental journey cut short by stupefaction––and by 

open-mouthed disbelief turned despairingly toward an 

empty corner of the room, which had suddenly enclosed us, 

as the dim light from a sconce revealed a single, round object 

at a distance of approximately five feet, either on the floor or 

hovering just above.  No additional details were available.  I 

called out to it; it called out to me.  Next door someone said 

“Wait for the Face Man to come.”  Whether I knew to whom 

this referred I can’t say.  How could such a problem be borne 

without the elusive gauge of poetry?  Was there any way this 

situation could have offered me a more refined sense for

what was lacking, as I struggled to humor it into giving a hint 

what the next step should be?  But there was no next step. 

Present and future were simply abandoned to the insensate 

devouring gorge.  Alternatively, the round object could have 

been a kind of poem, like Wyatt’s “In Æternum,” although

I’m adding that just now.  At the time I had no idea what it 

was or whether it mattered for me to know, or even whether 

its status as an object was worth confirming.  I did 

nevertheless try to confirm it.  I understood X to be true 

owing to reasons a,b,c, and d.  In reality, though, X was false, 

for those exact same reasons.  The next day I stood waiting

for a train.  Someone else was living inside me now, which 

changed the problem completely.