Everything is nothing, but afterwards. I rise and the moon disturbs the darkness,
revealing symbols, a few stolen words
on the bureau. Tomorrow I’ll express
my gratitude by disappearing be-
fore I’m found, which is to say goodbye before hello, a paradigm for the
prepossessed. Compton tells us to imply
what’s missing, like Van Gogh or Bill Monroe,
but why listen to the dead before they’ve
stopped speaking? Unfortunately we throw
out the bad with the good, only to save
the worst. I return to bed, and the floor
spins. Nothing is everything, but before.
This first appeared in The Blue Hour Magazine in December 2014, and is also included in my chapbook,If Your Matter Could Reform. The line “Everything is nothing, but afterwards” comes from Antonio Porchia’s Voices, translated by W.S. Merwin. Porchia wrote one book in his lifetime, but what a book it was! Often described as a collection of aphorisms, Voices is so much more – each time I open the book, I find new meaning in old lines.
Quiet end what wait
Day day must go return
Wish seek fragrant grass go
Grieve with old friend separated
On road who mutual help
Understanding friend life this scarce
Only should observe solitude
Again close native area door
Do not turn away. Stare at my impropriety
and accept the facts exposed: the mixed,
the blended, the unholy result of the extra-
legal conjoining. Or, that unconcealed
mark on the cheek, brown or black,
a pupil in the eye of the sack-clothed
target. Look closer. Ask your question.
I am the world inside the fermented
egg, the tacit accusation. What you choose
not to see. Feel my breath. Remember.
Through that window you see another bird
rising, unlabeled, unwanted, yet noticed.
A limb’s last leaf. The boy’s breath.
Like the morning after your father died,
when temperature didn’t register
and heat shallowed through the morning’s
end. Still you shivered. Glass. Wind.
Night’s body. How to calibrate nothing’s
grace? Take notes. Trace its echo. Try.
“Bottom Falling” was published in Into the Void in October 2016, and is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second. It was written in response to a note my friend Michael sent me, and as he’s in town and we’re having lunch today, it seems a good time to repost this.
Michael, when you say moons do you see
cold stone floating in the firmament
or phrases frayed in the mouth and spat on paper?
And does the Spanish moon simmer at a similar
pace to mine or yours? Which embers blush brighter?
But let’s turn to estuaries, to salt and clamor and gun-
running poets and interrupted words sold in stalls
between parenthetical gates, to incomparable cavas
and the deterioration of envy and intervening years.
Or perhaps mislaid passion – a friend claims love
is merely a bad rash, that we scratch and scratch
and inflame but never truly cure what ails us. Sounds like
politics to me. Or sports. And business. Or neighborhoods.
On my street people should cook and play music together,
laugh, raise chickens and read good books. They should
brew beer, swap tomatoes, recite each other’s poetry and sing
in tune. But we’re different here, preferring instead electronics
glowing in dimly lighted rooms. I reject this failure, as I also
reject the theory of centrifugal force spinning off the moon’s
body from the earth’s crust, preferring to imagine a giant
impact blasting matter into orbit around what morphed into the
earth, and somehow accreting the stuff into this orb we
sometimes worship. This, to me, is how good relationships
form: explosions of thought and emotion followed by periods
of accretion. But what I mean is I hope this finds you well
by the river of holy sacrament. Remember: brackish water
bisects our worlds. Turn. Filter. Embrace. Gotta run. Bob.
Originally published in Heron Clan 3, this first appeared on the blog in July 2015.
My friend Michael occasionally sends hand-written notes or letters to me, and I respond with poems. This is one. You might read some of his writing at Underfoot Poetry.
I was fortunate enough to hear Martín Espada read this poem live last week. It’s a powerful piece to read, but listening to him perform was especially sublime. You can do both at The Poetry Foundation.