Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Overwhelmed by the sonic and textual fury — the appropriately enthusiastic and militant rhetoric — surrounding unfolding events in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, I suddenly feel the need to take a moment of pause and take up, I suppose, the ephemeral — the bodies I mistakenly throw under the bus or the self-possessed babies who, in their calm, I recklessly throw out with the bath water. The privilege of taking a moment of pause, a second to step away from the catastrophe and collect ones head, is exactly that: a privilege. Or the order and specificity of the information one absorbs in a single glance is contingent on the contour and stability of the landscape itself. Or we step away in the wake of catastrophe. This is analysis not strategy.

I found a broadside today containing two poems, one by Andrew Rippeon and one from Julia Bloch, while rummaging through a stack of papers I haven't touched in months. The broadside was printed to mark the occasion of a Segue Series reading they did together in mid October. A beautiful piece of ephemera, well-designed, marked by an impressive measure of labor and care, but nonetheless easily lost.

Andrew Rippeon, untitled:

the hill I am of
ashes hence my father's
son I am no song my
father's name adrift a boat
upon waters the color of
the moon ...

rich tilth of lyme and
ashes turned the living tree
from which he bound hangs
become now water as
hath and doth flow
daily from mine eyes


if ocean's edge a
falls remembered sound of
pebbles' wash the portes open
the gates from the hinges
empty terror houses rent
up and burnt


only rope alone against
such edge from which
he bound hangs and gleams
a moon the color of
this water ...

Opposite this poem, running against it, Julia Bloch, "The Selfist":

This narrow fortune, this
hand in absentia. Descent
of any kind, plus ascent.
I feigned a story but it's
all mine, all my mouth.
My spotless love hovers
with white wings
. Every piece
of clothing I ever lost
adorns the arm I've got
twisted at my spine.
Darkening stems
of the lower plants —
you'll find me listening
for them to collapse in this heat.

Each of the poems has about it a sort of self-assuredness which, even if illusory, one might imagine as a sometimes sobering necessity. I mean the pace. The pace of each is sober, settled. They are quiet, suspended against one another, in contradiction, each by an ambling prosody with a long contemplative gait.

While the first italicized passage in Rippeon's poem is hard to place (I suspect Duncan and am most likely wrong), a quick search for the second passage points toward Thomas Gates, governor of the Jamestown colony, Jamestown, 1610, "rather as a ruin of some ancient fortification than that any living person might inhabit; the palisadoes tourn down, the portes open, the gates from the hinges..." In one sense Rippeon's use of italics appears to set Gates' phrase apart from the words in the poem preceding and following it. The removal of the comma from the quoted phrase, and the line broken where the comma would otherwise be, offers portes — points of entry and departure — as skeleton keys capable of opening a gate not at the latch, not where it was built to be open, but at a juncture specifically engineered to refuse disarticulation. I think, lazily perhaps, of the "hinges of civilization," and, as such, see the thinking embedded in this poem as congruent with the racket of conflict and upheaval, contradiction and pain; barred doors torn from the hinges against "this | empty terror."