Like a contract I never signed.
Like a sled going uphill.
Something up my sleeve.
Not that I intended it- whatever I intended wasn't it, was what?
That the people who arrived never really arrived, only appeared to arrive,
mingled probably with one another so it wasn't clear whether anyone arrived
or if anyone which of them separately.
All of it came out of books.
Peeping sheepishly into the books, into the leaves, under the covers, under
Fractured, as if we didn't understand each other.
Spliced, as if we were stuck together unnaturally.
Driven, as if we had to go there.
So we found ourselves in the book, strains of an ancient music- which
swelled- crested- broke- over us- we were overwhelmed- deeply moved-
drenched- entranced audibly and entrenched- only we didn't know that-
couldn't feel that, understand that, hear that.
And we could scarcely recognize ourselves there- to be reorganized- put up
into such systems- all our passions- unnamed- forbidden- scary.
So the people who arrived seemed then like the only ones who they
themselves could ever have been although they were in fact mixed up with the
very many others.
And sang sumptuously, deliriously, their language plain, round, connected.
It was that the hedge was clipped perfectly flat perfectly level framing
the garden perfectly squarely perfectly beautifully.
A sense that that- and everything- stood for something else- on and on
backwards into the book: just that: backing infinitely into the book like a
parade in reverse slow motion.
Various animals that were disappearing, the people that arrived somehow
mixed in together in a blur always had the illusion that they were alone,
that they were the only ones there, when of course there were the many
already, already so many, and already mixed, blended, also backwards, in
their own parades, with banners and streamers, twirling batons, stepping
high, riding on horses, waving to the assembled crowds from floats and open
Nothing written on the banners, only a complexity of color.
No one intended it, someone intended it, it was nothing but intention,
which covered everything altogether intended, but scattered somewhat, like
gypsies, so it was hard to make definition of the intention as apart from
anything else and this was the source of the spectacle, which was a
confusion although colorful.
Gypsies wandered in all those countries, they came on horseback, carrying
bundles, they had bundles tied to horses.
I heard about their intentions, their colorful costumes, their
objectionable customs, their powerful voices, they had a sense of the
movement and drift, but not the meanings, only voices, and their horses with
their separate and uninviting bundles.
They arrived in the various towns they came to, thinking they were the only
ones who had come, had arrived in those places, speaking a language no one
would speak, so couldn't understand them or say anything to them, and had
different intentions, were weary, felt as if they were arriving again at the
same place, only this time backwards.
Ordinary people- all of them were ordinary- looking out the window of the
wagon- of all my experiences of the world- sailing by in that decaying
swaying decrepit way- I am what I'm saying- my own intention- to travel with
my uninviting bundle, like the gypsies.
I'm going around- not arriving as I thought I would- gasping probably-
looking way way down- into the silences between their uninviting bundles-
making some suggestions to them about their intention to keep on with what
they were doing before they or anyone else seemed to have arrived- before
the book had been opened.
Still the horses kept on.
And I said to him, Suppose you were to stop where you were and go
backwards, or go, anyway, just go in another direction, the opposite one,
then you would have any kind of idea where you were going.
He became annoyed at this because of where he was, near the table, on which
there's an amber bottle or a clear glass bottle filled with amber liquid,
it's impossible to tell which.
The very idea of it was astonishing, that you couldn't tell which, and yet
he was annoyed by this in a primary way and it explained all of what was to
I was very tired and that is why I could not keep track of the papers.
Was driven there in a car
The sun coming up over the edge of the world like one big eye opening
startled or in shock at the world at some few secret unintended things in
colors in the world and spreading out more light in bands over the water of
Cutting the edges of the water- I must mean words- closely- so that coming
into view were many small but delicate things that otherwise couldn't be
said to be there.
My work, my contribution, recognition; my erudition, contrition,
contention, elation, distribution; my distention, detention, dentition,
intention, abstraction; my ordinary inescapable conclusion, shape, the color
of me, the single road I'd traveled though I'd lost the map, forgotten the
arriving, lost the taste for the meaning or the choice.
The horses pissing into the floor of the very cool night.
Little bugs, crickets, making a lot of calming noise into the warm night.
Listless animals, an owl, a fox, three mule deer, aimlessly moving up and
down in the night, against the sky with its brambles of interrelated stars.
I intended- I forget which- which of my steps I'd intended to take first-
it was''t correct- I'd needed to retrace my steps, to keep track of
sightings, couldn't speak- didn't know whether I'd arrived- but not
mechanically- the way it had been before- running late- some other related
life- so level, beautifully, perfectly, many of them coming now into the
room, startling me with recognition.
I had to rid myself of such notions.
So he said, I do know where I am going I am going from here to there but it
is difficult to see in the night and I fall down when I trip on my spurs.
He said, In any case if I roll over onto my back then I am unable to arise
He said, I'm not sure of any of the colors, the ones I want and the ones I
don't want; when I consider what I actually do want I can't answer my own
questions, can't make a cry, voice won't, fox, maybe owl, does it for me in
the distinct night.
He said, The grasses are far too tall; I hadn't counted on that.
I replied, rear back on all fours; don't bark though just take a gasping
Is it for mere survival? he asked. Or can I expect pay and benefits?
Only tie up your bundles and go, I replied.
This poem appears in Antenym 6: Part 2 (March 21, 1995).