from The Ancient Use of Stone
Sia ammazzato chi non porta moccolo!
January 7 [Griffolino d’Arezzo:] “Vedi, Albero, e’ sono poche cose ch’io non sappia fare: s’io volessi, io t’insegnerei volare; et s’egli ha in Siena veruna donna a cui tu voglia bene, poterai intrare in casa per le finestre volando.” -Commento alla Divina Commedia d’anonimo fiorentino del secolo XIV.
January 9 More anonymous words. Sirens at the end of extension cords.
What is forgotten? More than half. What will not be remembered? Part of the rest. What is left? Memory’s coefficient—some further questions.
Acedia + tristitia. The muck and mire murmurs: tristi fummo.
January 20 Speculate. This measure.
The golden section, Alferi’s Kub Or. And the reference in Canto LXXXVII
[and then the “Section”, the proportions,]
Broken in the balance—
The specifics of ever-shifting resources
Addressing the words themselves
January 22 There is a rhythm to all this. Which to trust? The words? Or the pace of disclosure? The syllables shaped—prefixed, suffixed & the next word & the next—left with that. No peace to be found in the silence. Never. Better face into the wind. Out of what disclosures has it now been further made? There first.
Taunting the oboist.
January 23 Resolute will. Not to say. Cannot tell from what has been told. This scavenzaria! There’s a telling, beyond the ship. Which to trust? Cui vide . . . And not in any book. E pensava! He thought. E pensava, caro amico mio. A ‘d’ rolled in the ‘r’.
‘Chih’ [the word on the page] ‘Chung’ [its progress]. From base line to horizon—from the last man standing to the remark—what to do with this vestige? Another ghosted owl. Où sont? M. would say there’s nothing in all this saying, better to tell you something about something surrounded by an effective arrangement of something and something else. The bitter experience or the rendered smile. All things are made relative by being placed in a larger context. The expression of one is the exclusion of the other.
January 29 The perception of impropriety invigorated by a sense of novelty—
Trying to account for an existence
Reconciliation is effected only at the level of intellect
Difference—the subsequent spaces—confirmed by bone inscriptions
The obvious earth and broken sky—new evidence passed along—that burden found waiting in the books no one knew you had.
Through the trees
the smell of burning pine
blue smoke across the moon
reflected in a rockpool
February 3 . . . a relationship to objects that does not emphasize their functional, utilitarian value—that is, their usefulness—but studies and loves them as the scene, the stage, of their fate. -Walter Benjamin
Decay, the many approaches to “before very long” read anachronistically.
Barn wood, stripped doors, broken windows, loose clapboard, abandoned function.
A suppression of scale. Tact, singularity . . . conversion. A village of stone huts thrown against a hillside.
Frescos excavated from a necropolis. No objects, only the terms of the architecture. Mutely expressive. Of the time not the time—now in time. One different story.
“The liberty of word that poetry confers is poetry’s technique, not truth’s.” [The Telling]
Beyond the clatter of the keys. “Vedi, Albero . . .” the faint echo persists. Purpose, a splinter’s intersection with the pleasured end of a sentence—emptiness answered with a street. Someone’s there. Billowing; out of the woods. Walking; through the changes, listening to the darkness.
February 9 Brief cento:
The fount of gentle speech yields answer meet,
So that the deed and the sweet words be one.
Plectrum fallen into a pot of ink—
. . . enriched by the toil of those who have gone before. [M]
. . . that they be not degraded by any accident. [DVE]
Localization: self-taught. The reputation of the response—
Circular motion symbolizes faultless activity.
The world still feels like winter.
February 15 Foraging among ominous plumes. Discovering valid sources other than the historical record. Hiding among the draperies and book-strewn furniture . . . a fire in the kitchen, where the names of birds still have their place.
ISABELLA AND THE POT OF BRAMBLES
Under a mortal cloud
The common perfection
Blue brows and
A clutch of possibilities
And short-term mythologies
Bent double, nose to the mandolin
About to become a psychic distance
The dance and when the music flags
The sign for the dance
Folds and elevations—
February 24 Yesterday . . . Nothing further to add about the effects of the weather. Breathing the numerical, satisfied in order to live. The enigma of affection that epitome renders speechless. As logical as the chemistry and the music applied. Slowly through the fog. Anything linear running against the rain and rays of sunlight starting to pierce the fog. As though there were some narrow advantage to word after word—or word before word—breathing again in a state of deftly manipulated desire. Footfalls along some emergency—an evenness and smoothness drawn into the purpose. One reverberates; one descends—believing such distinctions were necessary. Used up within the result.
de travail, de beau travail d’hiver
are the edges of pursuit, the accidents of detail—
the flat phrases of the oracle indicating only shortness of breath
—the weight of the name fixes the leads—the bared measure
keeping watch on three pieces of the hour
March 4 The Letters of Nikolai Gogol— “ . . . looking rather preoccupied, he would suddenly return to his room and add a few words to the manuscript.”
“One of their treatments was to surround his body with warm loaves of bread.”
Having not yet found a satisfactory explanation,
Men moved in gathering columns toward the horizon, eyes wide open
Their myth, premonitory and marginal,
Is a meretricious one
March 13 Affirmations are invariably tested, but always in the dark.
Discourse transforms possibility
into endless function
Function transforms discourse
into endless possibility
The face in the wall
absorbing the imaginary terms of its tributes
March 15 “The best part of human language, properly so called, is derived from reflections on the acts of the mind itself.” [Coleridge]
“The sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language, and no single language is capable of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension.” [Ezra Pound]
Citation enacts the agency of specific material within a new and larger context.
Its aspect comprises more than a frame of reference.
March 23 A chronology—the ingredients of a story—a roped-off space, well lit—occasions where detail erases detail—
Long distances reduced to messages
written in the ashes and the snow
gridando il padre a lui “Mala via tieni!”
only the sound of an old name spoken
in the cluttered alleys near the tracks
that run behind the mills
stretching along the river
March 24 A crease of light pushes and extends the radius as far as the center of
town—the domain of the extra intruder, the size of whose descendents [any known to be alive] is resurrection—hauled away altogether, uncle and brother, sister and son
One after one
the pivot agrees
with the occasion
of its circle
either way one
more or less
of its claim
March 27 Comment was the best model—committed to the largely invisible—the stimulus of damage was obscured in the rush to say something remarkable and immediate—the contortions of clairvoyance set in motion by the barest suggestion of rhythm—a persistent infatuation—a reckless illusion—merely a way of saying they entered the room—the only imperative not not in motion—
Half a mile wide
The silent river
Shaded by trees
March 29 “. . . a mixture of privation and infinity . . .” [E.M. Cioran on Lessness]
The terms: remote, strange, unfamiliar, frightening, unpredictable, and real.
Written in grey ink.
A perspective based on the lack of any fossil evidence.
Beyond any set of conventional distinctions
by which to render method—
So water trembling in a polish’d vase
Reflects the beam that plays upon its face,
The sportive light, uncertain where it falls,
Now strikes the roof, now flashes on the walls.
-The Aeneid, Book viii (trans. by Wm Cowper)
10,000 FEET ABOVE AND 2000 FEET BELOW
Many pages mysteriously disappeared before they could be typeset
Discussion improved the little that was spared
Fragrance and gravity were recorded somewhere further down
And were meant only to regulate certain predilections
Anticipated but not yet specifically determined
Certain pages such as 451, 455, 463-67, 474, 479, 515, 546, & 557
Many of which had been left blank
Perhaps as some unidentifiable investment in the future
When next time the moon was a crescent above the mausoleum
Formed another part of the story
NOTES OF A BOO HOW DOY
I arrive an alert minstrel of the apothegm
Articulator of distraction’s liturgy
Ready to trade songs
Like rhetoric in a narration of the eye—
To loosen a receptive element from the listening hum
As invasive as the echo of an after-gong
“And soon ripe, soon rotten . . .”
For its disorder nothing known
But ever expected the only certainty
To fulfill the apprehensions of the next idea transfixed
By trope and secret commonplace
I stand in the dark and sing
Bird tongues all speaking piano
None saltier than the splash of ink
Acrid pink and chrome
Where the sun sets
The Jack of Diamonds
Breathed into the ruby
A guest of the missing
Leaned and looked and spoke in growls
A mixture of syllables and nimble appraisal
Put like an anthem
Outside in the cold the lapis steam
Advertises shoeshine and chop suey
April 7 What comprises a self-important assessment of serenity, or an imagined record of same? A summarizing, come as a reaction singular to disenchantment at a time of cautious leave-taking. Stones falling off the roof, nails driven only part way into the boards—far from where you are—in some other place where impatience, conjured by real mysteries, asserts its curiosity and randomness. Like the weather it continues to self-correct—offering an imperfect limit, one with no depth, but only lacking an afterthought, additional information of which you remain unaware. No resignation, no inertia, but a radical realignment of the only part of life that has come down to us—absence. Every exclamatory ‘O’ an eye closed on the proceedings. It turns away corrupted by its own music. The heart of the matter a common currency devalued a
whisper at a time. A final greeting difficult to record.
Copyright ©2006 by Ray DiPalma
Ray DiPalma is the author of numerous books of poetry and art, including Numbers and Tempers: Selected Early Poems, Raik, Provocations, The Jukebox of Memnon, Observatory Gardens. He lives in New York City, where he also teaches.