Isolation in the West

1. Atlas

Up the hill stands an observatory—three and a half turns from lock to lock. Field flowers fill the slope. Roots grow far from the bunker. I believe it all except for the lopsidedness of the halves—learned speech and handmade dances—the particulars drawn freehand.

Taking up lying down rails, casting a new traque, the colonia spills out from the lower parts of town—a section hand on the line down from Sac. Follow the wagon tracks into Chinatown. Ophir City. Take my eyes long enough—go back down and collect the scatter.

Hear the news of our sorrowful brother—hear of his death while I eat. Morning gathers our family before a place setting, a preacher—sisters brothers mothers fathers.  Walk after them, keep them in sight, an open book in rising light. Mine eyes pulled the food off my teeth and I faded.

I was entering the lyrical when I thought—confession, sensate, senate—the soft paper came apart in milk. The countryside is weeping—two parts light one part dark—squall, sunshower, next season’s escalade. I was entering the lyrical when I thought

To hold something rare—polestar, windharp, a gathering for stew—a box of archives floating in space. I wonder now if my body is coming with me. Get me deeper into the afternoon. Rise up to a single body. The beautiful forms of empty—the clouds and all who befriended those who knew

The star I have come to see, the first star of night—light ready to blaze, bereft—the innocent god with the poignant. Walking beside a line of trees—wooden men, men of straw. Exploring breaking in various forms. A regnant voice sings landscape. Oaks and barns turn in the wood.

Up the hill stands an observatory—do you recall our first time here? We entered softly—let evenings go by and by. The things you said tonight I’ll remember forever. My only request had been that you say nothing. But sweep on again, singing through the big places. Our day on the range is the centerpiece of my longing . . .

2. Celebrity [1] [2]

If you hear something, it was meant for you. Taking up the pitch within a range, I’m thinking you up a city whose foundation is a timbre. I have in mind a civil service with a few flowers and flumes of music.

Begin with a guidepost and let it settle. Mark out its limits with a furrow. How to picture oranges, the riverbed Porciúncula, where water grows buildings instead. Inscribe the dust with a repetition of names. From a repetition of names, sound steps cross a repetition of cinders. Establish judges and a sacred senate. Excavate a harbor. Ballroom interiors. Lay deep for the stage to come. Gazing from rooftop to rooftop. From buildings born in the middle of the night. Others razed in the name of pleasure. We’ll make a canon. Leave space in the margin for those who deride it.

Softened by characters. Tender changeling. Archangel. The angel you ain’t. The arc of your language. Through matins with lauds to love making in our prime. The things you do with your mouth. Draw from the town literature my will to buy your way out. A latent personality in wait for those who listen, blue and throaty.

Of the silver horde of screened redeemers, my long lady of the bottom line, she said instead, “I pick the men I want, and I don’t want you.” But you can have me on the brink of a yell, the addition of sound an epoch in the motion of pictures. I swear I can get over an abandoned period of time. Throw absence of its couch. Speak in one mother tongue my incomprehensible manner of pronouncing. If we’re to get anywhere with this, you need to take my place. I offer you the same in return. I hate to see you go. We like to know all about the things that hurt us.

A civil service with little music and few flowers slips away easy like kind words granted the passer. Slips away through the narrows of rime. The promise of open spaces. Wished for want of thought as to the house, the heap of things around me. The desert has become nothing of what it seems. Sortal properties. Stuff prosperities. A little light on backbone but broadly built to inhabit shrines. A forgetfulness in, there’s a city at hand. Whose shall be our eponym? The moment goes with your plot to own it. While away the receptive ear. The inceptive eye. In pavilions along the palisade. In the doorway under the marquee at dawn. What’s sung of the clamor here. What’s sung. I hunt the sound for you


[1] Collaged from notes I took on Julia Kristeva’s 1991 book Strangers to Ourselves (tr. Roudiez)

[2] From their website, “The Los Angeles Conservancy recognizes the Gabrieliño Tongva as the past, present, and future caretakers of the land, water, and cultural resources in the unceded territory of Los Angeles.”