“It was difficult to see the falsehood of language.
Srikanth Reddy, from “Voyager”
“this silence provides us roots
and limbs. We live in it
because we cannot build another,
no other treehouse will be good
enough. Nor will we be,
cheered for a moment as silence
lets other things whistle, then
let down when we realize where
we are. There is nothing
we may hold onto after these years,
just dust and even quieter things,
things which do not need silence
because they’ve disappeared,
left nothing in their wake,
not breath, not ears.”
Rebecca Givens, from “Even Quieter”
“I’ve always known my true life would begin
and end in a garden like this, my will not free,
my breath not Word, everything: bloom—
but the bloom the wound of a pupil
overtaking the eye.”
Christopher Hennessy, from “Gethsemane”
“The trick is to fold the paper and the message enough times to make it disappear and then to swallow it down and keep it in the belly until the body either bursts into flames or elevates into the Sky and is rendered rectified recognized reconstituted reformed reshaped re-upped recounted recast re-carved re-cut in the shape of something normal again.”
J.A. Tyler, from “[this town]”
“Say it sad and plain:
that this poem
is a void.
That this well is
as far as your voice
has ever carried.”
Marcus Wicker, from “To You”
“I could go on
this way until the end of the page, even though
what I have in mind isn’t the thing
itself, but the category of belief that sees the thing
as a shelter for what is beneath it.
There is no shelter. You cannot put a tarp over
a wave. You cannot put a tarp
over a war. You cannot put a tarp over the broken
oil well miles under the ocean.
There is no tarp for that raging figure in the mind
that sits in a corner and shreds receipts
and newspapers. There is no tarp for dread,
whose only recourse is language
so approximate it hardly means what it means”
Rick Barot, from “Tarp”
transgresses me to appear as you. a bundle of sumac
reaches into the indecisive melt. when we have to
split to speak and rip to hear. I just want to lift, so
I say rip me.
sight might seem then; regenerate
warming into what’s falling, the
fence then flakes. a poke at a
vacant other. until I remember to
look up. until I remember what to
Laura Woltag, from “Did Our Never Sound”
“[Humpback whales suspend themselves upside down and perpendicular to the direction of sea currents before they begin to sing.]
[Being personal and being intimate are significantly different qualities. Being personal risks the writer’s self-awareness, being intimate risks the Reader’s sense of self in relation to another.]
[If one considers our associative intuition of metaphors as a pre-linguistic event of consciousness, one might be tempted to understand language use as half-formed metaphors exchanged at the goodwill instant of their gesturing across.]
[The is of a metaphor is an apology to silence.]
[Like a metaphor, a gesture entertains the likelihood that it both is (moves toward being) and is not (remains unfulfilled in its desire to be) the object of its attention.]
[In much the way physicists resort to spatial metaphors to describe time and temporal metaphors to describe space, philosophers and poets alike rely on non-metaphorical language to explain the concept of metaphor.]”
David Seymour, from For Display Purposes Only
“What do you love the most?
Say the reddish work of death
as it strolls through the fields:
the peaks of the sky
between the reeds and the stream.
All our memorable mistakes
easing into us as a bandaged ewe,
after giving birth, eases
the bloated body of her lamb
into the marsh with her tongue-prints
on its face. Let it rest.
Let it become what it will.
Love leaves us dull with nothing else to say
and whatever is the most will never be enough.
Say nothing. Nothing.
Keep saying it.
It is right there in front of you.
It will sleep through the damp nights
and suckle its own tiny breast.
Joshua Poteat, “Meditation for Everything We Have Loved”
“Perhaps he was among us: at first, among all of us. He didn’t separate us, he maintained a certain emptiness that we didn’t want to fill up, it was something to respect, maybe to love. When someone stops speaking it is hard not to go looking for the missing thought, but even though his thought often called out to us, one couldn’t do such violence to him, he fell silent with such great innocence, such obvious lack of responsibility, he fell silent absolutely and entirely. That didn’t call for help, it didn’t cause any embarrassment, it gently killed time. He was among us and yet he had hidden preferences, unpredictable impulses that suddenly thrust him back a great distance, not only indifferent to those who were there, but causing us to be indifferent to ourselves and withdrawing us from the people closest to us. A storm that changed us into a desert, a silent storm. But who are we after that, how do we find ourselves with ourselves again, how do we love one who wasn’t loved in that terrible moment?
I think a reverie comes from him to us, one that agitates us, deceives us, opens us to the suspicion of a thought that won’t seem to let itself be thought. I often asked myself if he wasn’t communicating to us, without his knowledge and against our wishes, something of that thought. I listened to those very simple words, I listen to his silence, I learn about his weakness, I follow him softly everywhere he would like me to, but he has already killed curiosity, erased it, I don’t know who I am, I who question him, he leaves me more ignorant, dangerously overwhelmed with ignorance. Maybe we didn’t have the correct feelings for him, the feelings that would have allowed the approach of what he revealed to us. What feelings? What could be born of me, for him?
I only noticed by degrees that he turned me away from myself. He didn’t demand any attention from me, he demanded less than a thought. It was this less that was strongest. I owed him a limitless distraction, and even less, the opposite of expectation, the reverse of faith, which wasn’t doubt: ignorance and neglect. But this still wasn’t enough: this ignorance had to ignore even me and leave me to one side, gently, uncertainly, without any sense of exclusion or aversion. Then who was encountering him? Who was talking to him? Who wasn’t thinking of him? I didn’t know, I only felt that it was never I.”
Maurice Blanchot, from The Last Man, tr. Lydia Davis
“Words too can be wrung from us like a cry from that space which doesn’t seem to be the body nor a metaphor curving into perspective. Rather the thickness silence gains when pressed.”
Rosmarie Waldrop, from Lawn of Excluded Middle
“An artificial mode of conversation would first do away with the organs of relation: the senses, the muscles, the instincts, the ‘psyche’; and then with the grinders, mixers, conveyors, filters, burners and radiators, in short, the whole production line that is put to work when the senses give the signal.”
Paul Valéry, from “Some Simple Reflections on the Body”
“The man stands on a birdbath to learn
the language of feathers, and like the wind,
when the man speaks, he reaches
deep into his pockets to charm the sky.
Water when it comes, comes slowly,
as it always does, at night, when the cardinal
eats the last of the elderberries
to turn its blood heavenward and sigh,
darling, why do you resist dreaming
the stars’ neglected deaths? Each time the man
finds excess in the flights of birds—talisman,
devil-devil—a spell colder than the crow’s caw
pitches to the ground. And like the water,
when it does fall, it finds some sudden
vernacular to call its Salem,
ward off witches, hitch wind song:
The winter the town grew slack-bellied and blank,
a yellow bird softer than the children
flew from field. When the moon cut herself
into kindling, she sang, Old Woman, Old Woman,
give me your woods, Judas is hung from the branches.”
Stacy Kidd, “(Because) The Jesus Tree (Is Not a Tree, But a Switch to Hold Up the Moon”
“Sometimes, he cannot help but think that animals are close to the divine.
It is we who were expelled from paradise, he says. Not the animals.
The world outside of mind we can know only from the beast’s face, he says. He is quoting.
He cannot help but think that animals show him something. That an animal is nothing but that — showing.
There is a lesson he is being taught. There is a lesson that animals are trying to teach him. But how can he heed it?
What an animal is — is obvious. It is there, simple. As to what a human being is…
What would an animal say if it were able to speak? Of course, but animals remain on the other side of speech. On the far side of speech. Still, all the animals around us can be understood to interrupt our speaking, he says. To cut across it.
He has always thought of himself as awaiting the Word which will release him. It seems to him that it is this Word which resides with animals, on the side of animals.
The animal exists in a state of grace, of that he is sure. The animal is already in paradise.”
Lars Iyer, from Wittgenstein Jr. (via)
“The intolerable sound of starving
birds echoes over the water. Their names
the only source of sustenance fall
from their mouths onto the exposed
arteries half sunk in the sludge.
You pull a name from the river, cradle
it to your breast. It is a twitching egg,
a pitcher of bees you wish to pour skyward.
You imagined this feeling once before.
As a child you crawled into a well
to see how far the darkness would carry
your voice, but you didn’t sing.
You sat there like a seed and waited for rain.”
Erich Schweikher, “[The intolerable sound of starving]”