Take a bit of lowland, a basin,
a small valley, a hole, fill it
with water, even just a few feet,
and you get a mystery, this glossy
flat surface from which you look back
at yourself, broken, bent, puzzled,
unable to see the bottom or walk there
to talk to what may live there,
through the looking glass, where
you kind of life dies.
conquers the mystery, sitting
under the old sun, dropping a barbed
hook through the mirror, yanking out
an emissary (a hostage?); something
that, in its thin, flickering life was
part of the mystery, a shifting flaw
in the reflecting glass,
at your feet, turning dull in the sun,
something you can eat, can understand,
living, struggling, in pain, dying, caught.
Pam Coulter Blehert
Backyards, Front Royal.
24 x 30.
see more work by Pam Blehert
THE LAWS OF LOSS
When we can't find something that "just
HAS to be here somewhere, Goddammit!"
(whether a diamond ring, a lover or a sock),
we search, and if we don't find it,
search again until we find it or give up.
Two laws govern searches: First,
The number of searches before we give up
does not necessarily depend on the value
of what's lost. As important is our certainty
that the damn thing has to be here, how STUPID!
I know it was right here...--our zeal
in the battle of reason versus chaos.
Second, there are universal patterns
in our searches (I'm sure anthropologists
could document this): The first search
is always quick, cursory; the second
more thorough; the third ridiculously painstaking--
looking in impossible places (nervously lifting
the cobwebbed sugar-bowl lid
in search of a lost child); the fourth
quick in a hopeless way, yet including
desperate flourishes of token thoroughness
(turning over unlikely stones, but forgetting
to look underneath)--and so on for as many
searches as our zeal demands, each having its
unique flavor--for example, the calmly dogged flavor
of a 23rd search.
We could, then, describe any life
(since we all search for something)
by knowing how many searches have been made
and understanding the value of what's been lost
and to what extent reason has been outraged--
I put my childhood RIGHT HERE! I KNOW
I had a goal just yesterday! HOME!--
where did I put HOME! You--how is it
you are always with me, yet I can't
You are roaring along the freeway
when suddenly all time (except
your thoughts) slows almost
to a halt. Your car creeps ahead
snail-like (at 65 MPH), slower
and slower, the accelerator,
your own foot no longer responding,
and you realize it has taken you
a decade to get around that curve
(not a bad decade as decades go,
lonely at first, but you learned
to hear and separate out
thousands of voices in your head,
grew accustomed to their inane fixations,
held long conversations, made bets
on whether the car on the right
would pass by the end of the year,
even had a brief fling or two...),
millennia more before you'll get home,
so you slowly (it takes centuries)
steer your snail-car in front of the car
in the next lane, which slowly
(centuries again), but inexorably
presses and eats into you with erosion
of steel, a noise like the moving
of mountains and flame that explodes
like the growth of an oak tree--
and with a ten-year sigh of relief,
you welcome the torture--attenuated
to a fine tickling thread--
of century-long death (hoping to come out
in a world that moves at your pace),
which will be reported in tomorrow's papers
as a fatal traffic accident,
HOW POETRY IS DONE
You can make any sentence poetical
by mentioning blood or bone.
For example, instead of "Yesterday
I went to the store," say "Yesterday
I went to the blood and bone store."
Instead of "The moon rose," say
"The blood moon rose" or "A bone
of blood moon rose." For "I love you"
try "Bone and blood I love you."
Bone and blood are instant intense.
For profound, add in an inapplicable
abstraction, such as "geometry" or
"calculus," or a scientific reference
like "hologram" or "ecology," and
throw in a juicy verb. For example,
"The geometry of blood laments
this hologram of bone." But intense
and profound are not enough. You need
an ironic (hip) sense of mortality, as in "Chanting
its inevitable theorems in every fatty cell,
the geometry of blood laments this
fading hologram of bone" except that
"theorems" makes too much sense
with "geometry," so change "theorems"
to "charade" (not "singsong," which
makes too much sense with "chanting").
This gives us a satisfactory
Twentieth Century poem written
in a fresh unique authoritative etc. voice,
especially if the line lengths
are a bit weird, for example:
its inevitable charade
in every fatty cell
the geometry of blood
laments this fading
Entitle it Collage #7 and sent it
right out to a very little magazine
or anything that ends in "REVIEW."
THE NAMES OF THINGS
Death is no big thing.
When I met him, he looked like me,
but without the beard. An old friend
turned up the same day, but said
nothing much. When I went upstairs to my room,
just to change clothes,
the one who was me went along,
as if to change clothes too.
"Who are you?" I asked:
"You aren't just someone."
He replied: "You are the one
who refuses to know the names of things."
Then he was close before my face,
breathing on me; I let go, drifted
like a feather, hearing from his mouth
my own and other voices saying
who I was, what I'd done, accusatory,
I guess, but not close to me.
Then he blew me back
into the tightness of my temples.
There the dream stopped.
(I never went back downstairs.)
Overcast dripping morning,
walking the dogs,
who stare mutely as usual as I leave,
then wet asphalt, the freeway,
thinking, soon I'll die;
then thinking, no, it's this distance,
this letting go, happening now:
"Soon I'll die" is just a name for it.
If we name things truly,
they become themselves and can leave us.
Death, too, is the name of a dream
that is going away.
Dean Blehert has had seven poetry books published, most recently Please, Lord, Make Me a Famous Poet or at Least Less Fat and Kill the Children and Other Disconnections. He also publishes his own poetry letter, Deanotations, which has come out every two months since August 1984. Currently Deanotations has about 300 paid subscribers, and has often been praised for its quirky viewpoints and slightly offbeat humor. Deanotations has readers in most of the 50 states and in Canada, England, Germany, Israel, and Australia. He's had poems published in over 100 places including New York Quarterly, Kansas Quarterly Review, Crosscurrents, Bogg, Visions, Lip Service, Gold Dust, Dark Horse, Modern Haiku, Carousel, Light, The Lyric, Krax, and Orphic Lute. Issue 55 of New York Quarterly ran his article, "Shrink-rapt Poetry," in its State of Poetry in America series. He's been featured at readings in California, New York, DC, Texas, Maryland, and Virginia. He also runs a poetry workshop (first Monday of every month) at the Reston Barnes & Noble. For more information, visit his website, www.blehert.com.
Published in Volume 3, Number 4, Fall 2002.