Monday, November 8, 2010

The Genuineness of Artifacts in Vermont

I am a poet of place. The place I reside--the room, the color of the walls, the shape of the window, the smears of bug and human oil on the window pane, and what's outside the window--inflitrate my writing. How can it be otherwise unless you write with a blindfold?

The outside world can work its ways into the writing in insidious magical ways. I am working on a manuscript in which Israel figures prominently. Israel is the place I call home. I'm not sure all the poems I've begun here will survive but I've managed to begin many. What has been most surprising? The increased presence of water. There is a river outside my window and I find myself gazing at its watery progress many minutes of many hours. In some cases, the river becomes part of Israel, the Mediterranean, the Jordan River. In other cases, poems have emerged which seem completely disconnected from Israel.

I suppose none of this is revelatory but I wanted to put it down, so that I remember it. Here's a poem I wrote today in which Vermont, the river, one of the artists who I met here, and even an otter appear:

When I woke the world was the thin layer
between the chocolate cake and iced white
frosting. It was about to snow for the first time

that season and the earth was bunched up
into the cold. I knew it was going to be a good day
because I’d had a nightmare

about mushroom clouds and that the small otter
which I’m told lives in the river outside my door
had been found drowned. It’s true that the morning

after a bad dream, the structure of trees seems
more genuine. I know the first flakes don’t mean anything
but what I give to them. I know that even though

my mind conjures up a nuclear winter, still
the crocus will come, and that my knowing it
means nothing to you. I have a friend

who etches images of lost stone artifacts,
cornices, plaster friezes, columns and pilasters
into graphite pounded into a roughened white canvas.

They are ghosts, he says, of buildings vanished.
Though when they’re not quite right,
I’ve seen him take a hammer.

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