She will forgive me for telling her again and again why I chose
lattice. She will smile and when I don’t hear her, from not
listening, she will put her hand on her chest and say “wife.”
I will pat my chest and say “husband.” We may wrestle.
Time to time we will throw our hands up together,
life imitating the golden hour of a fever. Sitting on the floor
we read from Moby Dick to some guests,
which makes me want to write about horizon, or lack of,
and possession—apposite or opposite of obsession? The trees
in the woods have the theme so false. The big joke is the literature
of New England is only beginning. Not all of its America
was harvested in the 19th century. During Melville’s tenure
at Arrowhead for instance 85% of Mass. was deforested; today
the inverse. Imagine what that means for what haunting is, if
Hawthorne’s tales were born in what we would call today open
space. Do we feel safe from the chill because of the constant
soft shrill of the refrigerator, or do the thick hemlock and
hardwood stands hanging tight to the footprint of the house
protect us somehow? What was the experience of more owls,
less trees? I want in poetry an answer to all things.
I want the slime flux on the white mulberry to peel off and
become clothes. There is no cure, but the bark of a tree
is already like skin. I want new feelings and in poetic
thought they appear. I have left the party and I am with
all of my friends. In Dickinson’s boastful poem, she writes,
A lava step—at any time—
Am I inclined to climb—
A crater I may contemplate—
Vesuvius at home—
Wherever is his nose, the single hound is never without
home. It doesn’t occur to me there should be a difference
in feeling between shopping for materials of a built-in
bookcase for the library and the materials for the compost
bin. One of the most important things anyone has told me
was that locked in the form, or rather the process, of writing
Reverse Rapture, nine nine-line stanzas each day,
she could have written that poem forever, but one day
she stopped, she had to. I wanted this to happen to me
so I wrote Practice on Mountains, endless and ancillary
in form. I believe the poem would have gotten better
had I continued, but that my body would have depreciated
to a point past surgery. Joy Williams has said this
in a couple ways. “Methods limit you as soon as you recognize
them. Then you have to find another form to free yourself.”
The contemporary American poem employs it probably too
often, I invoke it here as a dare: devotion, unsettled.
Wherever I go the I will have to see you later; I will learn
this form. We are lucky to learn such things at all. We get to live
like the radio in the garage. The transmissions come in
. . .
To know the modern yellow finches. To firmly establish
a local dynasty of passerines, so that their song, so that
their notes will have travelled across long and powerful
lakes, and, willing, up the tributaries, fracturing to reach
new sources. The music is evolution as best as I wish to care it.
To make flight much more efficient the notes must extend
and land nowhere. There are the other aspects of this domestic,
too. Mail check to Fuel Services Inc for the boiler. Reply
to Brian’s emails about the YA novel, though he keeps
calling me Tom. Humans acting human, we reply
to calls we would not ourselves make. I think of this
as our property, liberty, and privilege. The word property,
but not meaning one’s own, meaning of something particular.
The first great devotion is to build nothing. Studying what
I learn during the day, turning sod where the garden will be,
I am struck by a ray of Emily Dickinson light pouring in.
Alfred Starr Hamilton light pouring in. Light belonging
on the ghost of my father, who wrote many letters
in a paranoid language of invention. I live inside poems
as though he shared the code with me, as though I know it
and we had that together. It is ache and I am boy.
If I have become a poet to render his tongue meaningful
I am a fool. I am a fool, I hope, for all the reasons.
I live as though there is a code in the first place.
Sophomore still in error. I miss the dark circles in his eye.
Just one day feeding ducks with the man and I might
spare myself the basic, ignorant, lyric, desperate devotions
that impel. What do they impel? Give me three hundred
rooms to do the listing. Make me into an owl, I have a three
hundred note call. A panting dog at three hundred breaths
per minute. But not in words. I cannot do in words what
the garden hoe cannot do underwater. The long poem lives
because it constantly affirms the moves to move deeper.
It cannot be satisfied by single aphorism. Each stanza
should be like a sentiment fostering unblanketed thought.
Like the ghazal couplet, each expression should be,
in Agha Shahid Ali’s phrase, like “a stone from a necklace.”
It should “shine in that vivid isolation.” Like the weeks
on the calendar they don’t (strangely) get their own names.
This does not make the form miserable, as I once thought
of the stanza’d long-form, though it doesn’t make anything
any springier. We pass through arrival, and do not think
. . .
David Bartone’s book, Practice on Mountains, was selected for the 2013 Sawtooth Poetry Prize by Dan Beachy-Quick. He is also the author of Spring Logic, a chapbook with H_NGM_N. His poems and translations have appeared at Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, The Laurel Review, Mountain Gazette, Handsome, Volt, and others. He is faculty at University Without Walls at UMass Amherst. He lives in Easthampton, Massachusetts.