—for Basil King
born as monument
every color physical
this very earth circled
by a single moon
in the house of light
The same, inside and out. A form of emptiness, of aphasic
silence. Worn with use and physical, yet particular to this
light, this darkness, this wind, this water. Conditions are
exactly the same every time.
who is not a part?
who is not apart?
The mind doesn’t abide, bites into what cannot be. An
image floats in the middle distance. Faces become
projections as you walk along the street. They lead you.
Half-sized but accurate in every detail. The inner landscape
is uncertain. It speaks to you as you walk, gestures, leads
the way. You begin to ask it questions and its mouth moves
in response but no answers issue and its motions become
feverish. You try to understand. The look on its face: a
concatenation of dread and empathy. Apparition of the
the roofs form a patchwork
over the valley corrugated
something that drains
you of differences
in the middle of
the freeway what
cause what local
rise to this?
A small hand points the way. The day becomes unbearably
hot. People draped in torpor. Half-sized but accurate in
every detail. Hide in the shade and shed the outer hide.
Transmissible human signature. Heads protrude
everywhere from this ground. Half-sized but accurate in
every detail. They turn at the sight of translucent marching
but it ends in blood
the juice of human fruit
of human wanting
a splintered sun
where the world
is a crevasse
Two thousand years later in this remote province, their
floors and foundations are still visible. Use the familiar form
with them, as if you knew them. Visit their ruins, become
their family. And you can still hear them, though they are
into the reaches
in these waters
grow fruits that
unwind and destroy
on inverted trees
In a hotel room above the avenue, you sleep with your legs
tied in knots. The darkness behind your eyes deepens. You
attempt to see through the years but see only a reflection.
Cast in bird bones, the code for a citadel, a spiral river. You
break them open, a cloud in each cell. Legs scatter in the
Flights outward are suspended. And the bomb makers
wring their pointy heads. Troops are Popsicle heads. The
emperor wears his deathcap.
Moments are precipitous. Cultural baggage stops up the
sun, but its halo can be seen in the longest present—beyond
irreverence into temperatures of engagement and distance.
Machines spin on the roads, but deep inside the mountain is
a clock—marble, steel, movement. Planets circle its dial.
The walls are stuffed with wooden icons, elaborations of
avoidance. They permeate. Tradition is habit in long spaces.
A singer expels her lungs, historically longing for rest. She
gathers them from the floor, an offering to the nerves. Her
face is a projection, sum of suns, collective desire. The
congregation is ambient as radio bells stun the steeples, and
a child with all the answers is seated in the front row.
Photographs of these rituals exist.
You arrive at a clearing and other primates hold you, ask
where you have come from, where you are going, whether
you will return. You invent your own malice in their
Every surge is a whirl in the wood, burning by the theory of
everything, and a redcurrant sun drops through the sand,
leaving a trail of glass. Problems and solutions operate on a
global scale. Pulsing attentions—dot to dot, screen to screen,
crime to crime—set the chain of consequences in motion.
Rational moles clash in their tunnels. Decisions become a
science. Make the tangible ones disintegrate.
Under the weight of these mechanisms, a strategy emerges.
It cannot fail. Cannibalized wisdoms, streaming
dispositions, a room full of light fixtures. Prefabrication,
water distribution, landscaping. It breaks away and falls
down the hillside like so much snow. The tightening circles
of mediation, pedestrian cruelties and social graces. They lie
in a heap against the new tract homes.
Feel the presence of human lives behind the walls, through
the floors and earth, the buried history of open hearts. The
small communions at day’s end. A scattered being at the
city’s edges. In errorless light. Stop the mind from thinking
You wonder what it is like at this hour at the bottom of the
ocean, at the bottom of everything. The mirrored sky over
your head, everything over head. But this year you are
pressed to the earth and think you must find a taller sky, one
that does not drip with context, one not framed by
antecedents, by the ripple effect of responsibility, culpability
and connection. The fog rolls in, the tides turn, the weather
is switched on.
Breath, branch, shoot, stalk. Tendrils offer an incremental
critique—a slow answer to destruction and distraction,
computation and speed, spinning cards and echo chambers.
Crawl up the shale to eat moths at high altitudes.
You decide to wait out the rain. The ticking continues inside
the mountain’s depth. Animal. Anima. Animist.
Somnolence. The circles of now. Indelible duration.
One chime every year. Gravitational bell. It will take you a
full day to reach the center.
Brian Strang, co-editor of 26: A Journal of Poetry and Poetics, lives in Oakland and teaches English composition at San Francisco State University and Merritt College. He is the author of Incretion (Sputyen Duyvil) and machinations (a free Duration ebook) among others. i n v i s i b i l i t y, a special edition with drawings by Basil King, is forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil. Some of his recent writing has appeared Parthenon West and Word for /Word and is forthcoming from New American Writing and Five Fingers Review. His poem/paintings can be viewed at http://sorrynature.blogspot.com.