“Patch VII” by Mitchell Marti
AREA OF DOG
In my travel closet the ghosts of autumn are hiding, waiting for a little light to
emerge from one of the smaller countries, the ones you almost never hear about,
that rotate on & off the U.N. Security Council like so many ferial days on a poor
man’s calendar of saints. We want to love them, but we simply don’t know
enough: how do they eat? What sort of clothes do they wear, vs. what sorts do
they manufacture almost exclusively for sale abroad? Were my ancestors, per-
haps, less provident than I would otherwise like to imagine? The ghosts of
autumn weave back & forth between old shirts & work pants spattered in paint,
breathing in deeply the dust, dander, each other: Permeable, they think, this deli-
cious interplay between life & not-life, between nationhood (qua nationhood) &
the long-term viability of native kinship networks. In the breezeway, somebody’s
German shepherd has taken up what looks like residence but is probably a more
temporary occupation, something he’ll remember less as fact than as a dim fable
of dank smells & whiplash horoscopes. The librarian’s hair was a deep, unnatural
red, like an apple dreaming it was a picture of an apple dreaming it was a Camaro.
As we lose diacritical marks they are reincarnated: as children? orphans? poets?
It is interesting that you feel that way, the recording repeats, over & over as the
wheels of the night’s vast automobile slows: It is interesting that you feel that
way, It is interesting that you feel, It is interesting, It is interesting, It is.
A BIRD IS A DESPERATE ORGAN
I don’t believe in your pious Emersonian ecstasies, your wind-clocks & wing
bursaries. Autumn cast a wheel in the foundry summer built but then summer
skipped, bankrupt & disguised in women’s clothing. You leave a box of tools by
the roadside and it makes fun of the highway, not the workmen, is one theory:
travel as scapegoat, anti-Thoreau, an idea of blamable motion. I like it! says the
Magic 8-Ball, rolling out from under the chest of drawers in which you’ve stored
the color-coded impedimenta of childhood. Without the figment of self-reliance
we live bonestruck in this rickety deluge of frogs & wheat, only larger & without
a certain diaphanous panache. This is one of those New England mornings that
feels like the fracture that was the original language, & also all subsequent
fractures. My mother was the ice age that sheeted these hills: I’d ask, “May I?”
& with each silence advance a step or two toward my inheritance. The riddle of
ligature plays itself out against the laps of all the small towns, which of course
you can see from the highway, if you close your eyes. Art is neither the
expressive underglamour of things nor a weight you lift. Yes, you can still walk
there, & no, parallel parking is not an approved fiduciary reinvestment strategy.
Carve this into the neck of fire: the very idea of elected officials, dream planets
spinning away at light speed from each others’ tribal mitigations, the leather floor
(or ceiling) where you’ve tattooed your gold-plated spirit level, your orgasmic
FOR INSTANCE, EVERYTHING
MAY BE DIVISIBLE BY THREE
Meanwhile a heart-shaped ice storm hovers over Lamar, Pa. Doppler radar tells
us this much. I promise myself I will not hide from the marionettes anymore.
The monks have lost their monastery: we see them brawling in the synagogues,
cutting loose at the Circle K. Someone has set their marionette on fire. We live
inside a frozen violet someone dangles from the sky and when we touch it another
Clive Barker novel appears. I want to believe in the differently alive, if only to
prevent them from believing in me. Whole nations slide through history this way.
Both campaign headquarters decorated their offices with plastic flowers, only
when the election was over one took its flowers with it and the other did not. The
ex-college president lives in the capital and only visits this town on special
occasions. We track him from a distance the way our grandparents tracked
hurricanes and eclipses. A precise mathematical model of the universe helps,
though even without it we presume some vertical connection. Snow embroiders
the complementary monuments to music, portraiture, hubris, and death in the
village square. From above we must look like a cloth a saint touched or wrapped,
or was wrapped in. When the sun goes down the natives get restless. They think
we know something they don’t. What we can do is find jobs and housing for the
monks, because they are hard workers and relatively scant in number. Only a few
will fall victim to fever or punitive credit checks. Others will take night classes.
The question when one sets fire to a marionette is whether it will melt or burn,
sublimate or smolder. Whether its strings will snap. Whether marriage is a ghost.
Whether the soldiers we meet on our streets are supposed to be here—are here for
some purpose—or are stranded, banished, in exile. They speak another language,
of hematology and Riemann sums. To us it sounds like a new music but like most
things it is not. The virtual hand sweeps past. Here is a storm shaped like a
mango, here is a storm shaped like a dog. Succor me. I have printed most of
what I think matters on the skin of my wrists and the backs of my hands.
Parenthetical clause in Valentina Polukhina’s introduction to The Silk of Time, selected poems of Olga Sedakova (Ryburn, 1994, p.12).