Ray DiPalma


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.






Under a mortal cloud

The common perfection


Blue brows and

A clutch of possibilities


Uneven fanfares

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.



February 27  


            de travail, de beau travail d’hiver


                                    What remain

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.”



March 12


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


the balance


either way one

more or less


the substance

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

No moonlight


The silent river

Shaded by trees



Shoptaw explains



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)



March 30




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



March 31




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



April 2


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.