Now that less seems pleasing

Du sollst sie rufen aus dem Wasser: Ruth! Noëmi! Mirjam![1]
And for what, except for you, do I feel love?[2]

1.

Yesterday, selecting — one
would go this once — my mother

came to offer me her emptiness —
she did not turn away at once —

necessities identified, the water
lifting up as almost nothing

flooding but steam clouding
from the cooling metal. See,

you said: yourself
before the onrush…

2.

My balance is precarious —
edged here on a line of sight

that you define as I look out
to, you look back from,

I step forward, you step toward
me, paused to greet me — I was

Joseph, you were Mirjam
the beginnings that we came

to — all the others we saw
clouding from the wash of

steam that each of us appeared
to breathe out for the morning

in the cold air — from, toward us
on the line of sight between us,

Joseph, Mirjam, incommensurate
both with You, with I, provisionally

two names between us for
the clarities that hide us,

so that clarity concealed us
in the turn of air and cloud

to stream gone underground
to meet you, love, beneath their

cruelties and the violence of
these fiends of righteousness…

3.

But Miriam, your razored inbetween —
so sharp it cuts before the notice given

in a minute — my insistence as
I swing here like a pendulum

in black — what was it like
to leave existence this way

after this, no celebration left to
celebrate — I celebrate — minutely,

freed night-long, become what
I beheld, more microscopic

than a knife could find and
razored mutely past the reaches

of the soul, dear one, to find you —
onrush, after…

4.

Tomorrow, yesterday occluded —
past the reaches — with no eyes —

without hands or feet or tongue
a man can go on living —

eventually the blood runs out…
tomorrow, yesterday beyond

the reaches phantoms me
the way a tree hides —

where I sense where
I am placed to sense —

the brain gives out, the mind
does not, the tree is left with

branches out of reach, the thought
floods out to find no shore to find

on, then hears mutely your
reflected clef — a torso

listens to a gasp of breath,
the music in between the moan —

5.

All ears although you
seem surprised… dear

onrush… with
your bundle… out

before, perhaps
a slightly clearer you,

offering your wording,
finding out your

way in hiding, yesterday’s
selections when my mother

brought her emptiness to bear
but you were restless, they

will wait — if needed you may
find them — but no antecedents

suit you… without reasons but
with threads you stitch the tissues

without hands or eyes or tongue,
the feet and legs departed,

blinded head, a torso
but no antecedent for you

as you mind me, part
reflection, part anticipation,

the apt pupil of the time loss
on the gentle side of interludes

dismembered unforgetfully
remembrance gathered

from the bits and pieces, a forensic
science of forgiveness as you piece

the face into my face again
with broken fingerings

black stutterer of blankness…
my interpreter…

6.

The fractured floor
you lie across until I float up

free of no one I can think of —
you rise with me, scarcely now

selecting… waiting for the onrush
in the bare green trebles… water-

children, Ruth, Noëmi, Mirjam… but
you seemed surprised to be so many,

that so many Josephs come to greet
you — I, still unfamiliar, cutting

holes out of your cloth —

7.

How small I seemed —
but simply put,

inadequately phrased —
frenzied, the axis raced —

settlements for transports
to be left in question —

returning these expressions
to their radicals, ink trembling,

urgency with nothing left to
take with me, no luggage left

to hide you in, today in preparation,
moments neither you nor I could bear

to feed without forgetting place-names
for gift-takers, little unremembered

acts when less seemed pleasing…

8.

There despite
me, the whole

cloth not
to spite me —

Ruth, Noëmi, Mirjam
when you come to find

the waters Rachel sailed on,
bring the roots the seaweed

hungers after, bring sea lavender
your blessings, bring the apples

from the forest-orchards
in the winter, Ruth, Naomi

Miriam

9.

To hear blind
see deaf here —

although I was confined
in what I thought was

infinite —
my shell space

I crawled into, prismed
black in all the variations

of the colorless
I offered

for an empty feeling —

10.

Following your shoe prints —
mud and sky-reflected water —

to the backyard where I may
have heard you calling, signaling

a passing cloud you freed me
looking backward for — this way

I balanced even after blue
turned black once more

backlighting what before
for you was only one more

evening afterward,
more calm, another quiet…

11.

Miriam, the mistimed day — how did I
fail to notice — I am such a stranger

here — now that the snake
is everywhere — first

you came with languages —
with every day necessities —

now that the snake is everywhere —

12.

Ruth, Noëmi, mistimed
here to find

me — how did I fail
to notice — cold metallics,

misplaced chemistry
of severed principles,

apt pupils, rituals of
eyes blink out at night where

everywhere the snake blinks
now that less seems pleasing…

13.

The dismemberments
must set me free if I am free

to celebrate the freedom
swinging like a pendulum

in black the minute
that the dark comes

aimlessly to quiet my
misgiving and give

generously to all
the Josephs —

without antecedents
with night-gazes —

in the day-break
for my transports —

14.

To the summer
in the country

where the swallows
summon forward

toward the autumn
winter premonitions —

I am waiting —
all my Josephs,

all my darlings
all your summons

though without you
not without you

if I detail
your arrivals —

15.

Starlings…
little ravens…

little ossifying
star-birds

pomegranates
for oranges

on your transports
to the country —

where no wording
finds expression

for the quiet
of your radicals,

for the roots of
your reflections

inking birches
with priorities —

16.

Before? not as before —
impossibly plus one —

Miriam transfigured once —
You the possibility I lived

for, then if N, then N plus
one, if Miriam, Naomi once,

like history, these accretions,
Ruth, Noëmi, Rachel — one

about to be another,
endlessly as rooted,

infinitudes,
affinities

if possible, plus one, if
Mirjam, Noëmi — as possible,

as possibly, my way to you impossibly…
one more once more as rooted…

impossibly plus once…

17.

The space between us, never
certain, if you shift, I follow,

I step forward, you step
to one side — surprising me,

not mirroring arrangements
now improbably but two

in places we pace off
as once…

18.

Balance on the edge of nothing
edging in between — so rooted in

one way and wretchedly another —
while I stand back and look, you

balancing my gaze, who have
been hiding in plain sight again —

a face among the leaves like
orchards hiding in the forest

from a distance, but too close to me to
see you swing the pendulum of my being —

please here, here pleased — many colors —
all the Josephs crowing for their lovers —

19.

And here at first
you listen to each note

that each anticipates
the not-like-that — but

something like itself —
and hearing — upturned

to uncertain blessing —
translates from a wound

my agitation
and unties a flower.


References

  1. From In Ägypten by Paul Celan, included in a 1948 letter to Ingeborg Bachmann with the dedication: “For Ingeborg. To one who is painfully precise [peinlich genau], 22 years after her birth, from one who is painfully imprecise.”
  1. Wallace Stevens, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction.

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