This evening, I've finally taken the time to extract the long poem I started writing last summer, tentatively titled "Kiosk/Stylus," from its notebook. It comes out to sixteen pages in Word and will probably grow longer. The question of form for a long poem that is not serial plagues me: it could just go on and on like this, as The Cantos did and as projects like Rachel Blau du Plessis' Drafts seem to do. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just feels unfamiliarno doubt a good sign. My poem might be subtitled "An Argument in 2004" (which riffs on the title of a Delmore Schwartz story, "An Argument in 1934"); it's an attempt to come to terms with the world as I saw it from New York three years after 9/11, an attempt not to succumb to Claudia Rankine's IMH syndrome (IMH: The Inability to Maintain Hope). Since it's 2005 I should probably just declare the damn thing finished and call it a chapbook. I posted a fragment from it back in September; here's another chunk:
Sunday and sun. Brooks of light, the avenues
flooded. A few students, Dominicans, lean Africans,
a woman with a German shepherd. Perfecting breeze
to sweep lamination from our image of blue.
Fossilized apartment blocks’ blank gaze.
Decisions unheard from the street sweep the boulevard
sheltering animal hopes of a center. But no home
to face your fortune. Attempt lengthens but or as
as things to be believed. A smoking refinery
squats on the skyline—out of earnest talks.
Characters bleed in the rain or shield a face
for sleep. Stones to walk on, stupefying sun
makes it new, the scene. Where are people
joined to a voice? The wounded island funnel
through which we hardly dare to speak.
Yet it’s most personal, earth.
And whim is part of the process,
rain is part of the process.
Each teaches the exterior.
The cloacal world unleveraged, unheld
but for the soapslip between each word.
Washed mouth. On upper Broadway,
faced hollows. Cadavers by chance and choice
pass by, tightening. I am, as passenger, alone.
And at 91st and West End,
seven stories of a twelve-story building
wrapped in ivy facing the sun.
Multitudinous shadows surface there,
fronding windows, shades drawn—
a life encompassing
So so long the city
that mirths music out
of unaccustomed silence
and rigors of autumnal light