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Richard Meier

These poems are from a new manuscript, Little Prose in Poems. The manuscript is comprised of 57 prose poems, written in the several years after my last book, Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar, as a revolt against the line, a sudden lack of feeling for the line, a falling out of love with the line, the desire to see what was hidden by the line, and a revision for the sentence, the paragraph, the page, the building, the structure, the space. The first, though no longer the first in the book, was written during my reading of Francis Ponge’s amazing The Making ofLe Pre, which reproduces exactly his notes toward the poem Le Pre, alongside a translated type-written transcription of the notes. That meadow and that thinking toward are both sources for the form, as was his situation, looking at a strip of meadow bounded by roads, power lines, the built world. A bit later (hence the title) and having written more poems, I thought of writing 50 prose poems as an imaginary completion, an echo or a shadow, of Baudelaire’s planned 100; a project after the fact or in response to the fact of the poems emergence. The poems were inflected by lots of other things along the way, and reaching the margin was the only restriction I consistently found, against which ongoingness each poem sought its end.




Is it a new thing or an old thing you are doing? Is it new or old? Is it a thing? Do the voices of people who are dead heard while writing make those people alive or does it make them dead and ghosts or alive, as I believed, and ghosts, the doubles of anyone alive or dead who are alive by being in the ear of one who loved them by allowing them into the ear or by finding them in the ear and loving them there and leaving them there but not keeping them there? And the same follows for the people who are alive, the ear being a place (a place is an orifice, the part of a thing that isn’t there that allows someone, in combination with what is there, to be in it) where love crosses the border and where thought crosses the border and touches via the air the ear and makes something happen: a vibration. The leaves of the ivy are harder than you think. The click is like that of the thin bamboo fingers strung on wires to make a knuckled curtain that separates the apartment into front and back or public and private or waking and sleeping on which a woman has been painted (black hair, pink flowers, brown skin, grass skirt) bit by bit in the grid of cylinders or all at once, held in place in process before being allowed to circulate in the mercurial breezes off the lake; a relic of the apartment and a fading image of the “island dancer,” though here she sits with her legs beneath her and to one side, leaning on one arm, pensive and triangular, like the bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even, or lunch in the grass — though he at the desk has a shirt but no pants — and visible only from a distance, one version of which flowers when he looks over his shoulder, away from the book. In both cases it’s a sound that despite repeated hearings (6 weeks in, what is the wind trying to do? It is trying to turn itself around and blow cool air into the apartment) one turns to look at or asks, what is it? And it’s a little uncanny to see the trembling green leaves from which one hears the clicking and to see the figure in the clicking bamboo and to see the pensive figure in the clicking bamboo swaying the odds of manifestation.

They actually had seemed like repetitive physical actions when I met them coming down the street, each of us in one of those pools of light that show by their ragged edges the nature of the place entered. When they passed, as a valley describes the water in land, though none of it remains, first or individual impressions followed to my strangely moving feet, whose motions were as sweeping and divorced, from what I knew and where I went, as the arc of headlights crossing the ceiling above me as I lie in bed are from the cars passing muffled by the night breeze through the street, and how much more so from the figure in the bed, so little was their motion mine, so vividly perceived, including the space between, in which the facets of the flat sidewalk shone, split, and bubbled, and the black strip between quivering autumn leaves, moment by moment, gave way or invaded. Everything was OK only in that sense of a timeless neither-for-nor-againstness cradled, or was it cabled, by the spinning, yellow from the front, the rear and the sides. Is non-action truly the greater of the two, admiring the contempt in the turn, identical to the one that activates the figure in statues spun off from antiquity, to watch the going away of a demonic police car? And when I pointed it out to her (my guide or reason) to remember them, days later, when she read the phrase (as she once had someone look over his rows and columns) to say each affect of each individual differs from the affect of another as much as the essence of one from the essence of another. And do you think the essences differ, she added, chin nearing her shoulder, and when we leave, the shadow will remain here with them? A t-shirt to change into at the entrance to the center had put asunder the signs and colors in favor of a change in signs and colors, the signs and colors of the place come into, a change in ownership that will cease to know us, and by which we must, in those parts and these, be known.

The happiness of the group has always been revealed in its exclusion of you, the only individual in the room, to whom even I, your creator, won’t deign to speak. In response, the lonely interlocutor made a sweater out of a cotton ball, and put it in this pocket for later, where, pinned to the bulletin board, it has begun to resemble a cloud through which the moon shines, in the form of the marbled orb that was made to harden around the buried pin holding in place, as you had long suspected, that which, but for this function, would have obscured it. To this we have consigned that still small and unsigned voice, whom we answer as and play so lightly, with such pleasure, in the privacy of our room, where the bulletins, like the little strip of lake visible from one corner of the bed, which is itself visible from the desk, have been issued from the right hand to the left, the one in the pocket of Nadar’s Baudelaire below Greff’s hand-tinted Louvre, and the one in the loom where Ariadne spins her songs, and is it only by that conscription (yes) we can be here. There is no season longer than the summer, while you weep among the crowd of pleasure-seekers, though we, in this Plutonic dialogue, move along.

Things that move through space include words. A calculus. I know where you are but you can’t be reached. Things follow like shadows in the shadow of the hand when the light is from the right, from the morning, from the lake, as later they will, still above the orange velvet of the chair, chase the same sad how without fear of catching or hope of being caught. What are you thinking? I fall, I find it in memory. By a thunderclap I am awake. The system I imagined brings tears to my eyes by its existence in the shade we walked on, that sat up suddenly and began to speak. The inability to live without any one of you three little pigs, city bridge, triangle of children in the crabgrass running, having forgotten motion, led me to the thicket of questions through the small picket line at the Hotel Congress and onto that shining path the urge to follow can eye for awhile without sinking, through sails and breakwaters to the undulating horizon of fire and water describing neither the house of mourning nor the house of mirth but the first time what you had written turned against you and convinced you you were with it, opposite figure, your ancient double poking through the bins, briefly ahead of you on the shifting path, on which the only order is, turn back, turn back, as the sound of drums in the public park multiplies the crowd of sails into a din, and again I doubted within.

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