SEVEN ELEVEN (November 2001)


I don’t know how long I’ve been talking for,
an unexpected fit between durations
of desire

a word from the ghetto, from the garden,
a word rich only in the shame of its associations

too poor to unpack

words that wear just the skin they stand up in,
a shapeless content of expectations

wishing, wanting, jewed by wandering
a continent ago, just
the shape of their humanity in ape hide

with the shame that’s all there is
to being human

that mark time and ape and hide
their fugitive state not their nude intentions

How long do you listen, then, to bodies in flight,
to the sun setting along the western horizon,
without being human, without being

until the face is hidden?

To the master’s, the judge’s mask that says
Too late, do you continue past
too late to listen? to the fear in

the body of the poem,
until just within
you hear

until you feel,
do you listen, then, until you feel

you can’t do anything


how long have you listened for

a slant of light on a sheer glass sheet,
a start unanticipated on an ordinary morning

for the sun rising upon the eastern elevations,
between intensities of heat and light

I’m at home here in this fine air –
did you expect otherwise,
rare not fine?

did you picture
me elsewhere than here
in the certain blue

air that quivers febrile over its blue muscle
in a sky to come
alive like flesh,

as if there were a will
to petrify,
to gaze on degradations

to make infertile
by syntax and associations

the mess
they’ve made

from the simple passage
of children –
men and women – I don’t know

as if there were a door that could not open?

but if you’d only listen you could answer
the sound of footsteps
out of time

temporising, leaving
time unmarked
leaving dust motes for notes
of grace:

these opacities of grace and dust
build fear without emotion,
marking absences in the fine air,

as if they love, there, and are at home.


I don’t know if you’re meant to answer
for what you thought you might’ve worn
or what you were wearing when you went to answer

a sudden panic after years of hesitation

because your enemy understands you best and
I don’t know how long or if you’re meant to
answer for a skirt falling from the waist

a dress
a gown
a button more
a garment less

or where you went to,
a throwing down
and a sound that falls away

but I’ve been your enemy
– a bare footfall,
a heel on the floor
the air a certain shade

outside the building

they’ve made without feeling without

well, I’ve made the passage
a poem
leading to a confrontation,
now find you among them,
men, women, I don’t know

and found you in a fitting room:

I can tell you how their bodies were,
the faces
which the bodies wore,
say hell

would choose
the long count
of their positions and their congress
its encounter

through floors of resignation,
would make account the commerce of their interest,
their progress
its privileges

but hell
and the world escape these images

richer, poorer

a point more, a number less

by preferences
listed in the marketplace,
traveling light

say, Come away with me
Please, come away

people who have no
hope save themselves first
with sex
and suitcases

the power to put their feet
down and find purchase

at home in the fine
The traffic’s everywhere,

Where can we go?
the few resigned to
having no illusions,
though hell has many rooms
and floors

say I’ve been your enemy
to love you
the better

survive to survive

I don’t think you’ve anywhere been more honest
than in throwing down,
pulling away
behind a door,
before a mirror

than in the terror of these walls.
the metaphor is always a passage to escape.


between, then, fear and desire
they wanted a holocaust to happen here.

a simple plan.

one overexcited man ran in to
tell his friends

that binary is an energy,
they’ve made a black hole in a laboratory

to mirror the universal state of man.


A fitting room, then:

I found you between them,
as alike as the twins of Bethlehem

twin exits
God and man

my Medusa
my patient
my good
my magician’s assistant

between tricks of sympathy and grammar,
light and air

between the illusion of the self
and leaving

with smoke from fires where
the stones would start to sing,

with mirrors halving light,
doves and secret doors in the heart,

I could make you vanish

in the answer
of the absolute

for how long have I tried to say the right thing,
how long hammering hand and heel?

every poem contains a speculation, a true name,

a perfect possibility
that everybody is perfectible

in and by its speculation
and the perfect possible.


between the two halves of a different same

everything would stop, cease to be

for how long, are you past hearing?

a pillar of salt

towers of rhetoric and dissociation,

as if there were a will
to carry on

the separation of a certain blue,
a grief

to see the end of sunset on the West

A shame, you say, No more

the heart

a crescent moon and hollow,
struck to turn back

the two hands, in the air, the arms of history

as if there were the right
gaze or light, or
that bearing witness could
be borne without distortion
or betrayal:

but you can’t
do anything

the lightning strikes
of a strategic darkness,

the sights of the same twice
the sites of Babel and the modern city’s babylon,

they tried to make a mess so big
could clean it up

or judge its order
and dark

or stop its music building
inhuman feeling, their bodies hidden

their faces glowing,
in good light – foot-
steps in the moon-dust -,

or find

in the tide
of blood.


the world is reducible to a picture, to a word,
because it’s not,
after all, a word, a picture

whatever made you think it was?

You cannot even
picture it, recall a single face a name, until
the word, the picture’s spoken, taken, out of time

taken away
and broken down;

until the earth’s dead,
at last, will

there ever be an image adequate.

between the duration, then, of what was
and what is not, now, I don’t know how long

before an unexpected fit;
but from just the
right spot

the building was
so wafer-thin

it seemed
to disappear

without the terror
of a confrontation –

for it to happen
you had to stand,

You have to stand