The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2016

All Issues
SEPT 2016 Issue

from Shepherd’s Calendar


9. September
The window’s sunny shape
makes a dark spot, a trace of dark shimmer
so that the square hardness of light
marks you with an evanescent illumination,
“a fleeting but sharp pulsation
of historical awareness.”   
           Versus the endless humor of
‘scientists were stunned to find...’
that the universe is more
            irregular, more
                        complicated, more
aesthetic, more
            redundant, more filled
with barely understood
            galactic languages
more articulate in its plurality of pulses
            and plethoras of code
                        its numerical mysteries
                                    of double primes
its inter-nests of bode
            its ecologies of ode
than—than what?
Than they had previously thought.


Or perhaps it”s just a cliché
of journalism,   
invoked to explain
what they still do not know
as if they really knew
                        Which they do
                                                (of course! who would deny it! not me!)
but only
            up to a point.

Poetry might be said
to know (or “know”) the rest—
except that exact argument
is so self-serving.
            But it's also pretty pleasing—like eating ripe figs from your very own tree.


10. October

“The eclipse of the moon can be Googled”

is something impossible to say twenty or so years back

to the friends invited for dinner on the deck

who needed to know the time of the eclipse

because of their schedules the next day (busy)

plus the hopes that it won’t be cloudy,  and so on.

There will be chicken paprikàs (in Carl Rakosi’s recipe)

and maybe we will see

the blood moon
inscribed in the poem’s
structure, in syntax which goes onward
in static and solemn
from the roll of the seasons, to moments
of intensity
that mark each others’ wonder
but look forward unstintingly
to two temporalities
living and dead.

For the poem is only a black door

opening straight out into nothing

which is another word for




11. November

I have stood in The Smallest Theater in the World.
Maybe it’s not what you think.
It is in Monte Castello di Vibio.
The Teatro della Concordia.
Its symbol is a pair of clasped hands, like friendship.
It was civic and optimistic when it first opened.
It was almost destroyed in the fascist era.
But it survived.

I'll bet you thought the smallest theater meant “me.”

Well, that, too.

And now we can talk about the other smallest theater in the world:



12. December

What will we tell the dead when we are dead
what will we tell the living when we are dead, and the living when living:

In fact—what will we tell any of them?

How many directions are there, and we enter
and inhabit however more.
I look forward, I look back. It is often
I can’t write this actually     
because the whole
is about trace, a draft, a stroke, a kind
of fear
a gap a hole in the fabric of the knowable
a lag a shred a tear.

A tolling sound—the trace
a clicking sound of trace
the perfume of trace
the hair in the eye—trace
the wet envelope—trace
bloopy teenage letters—trace
lost dolls—trace
lost libraries—trace
the sense of evanescence, of time ticking in one’s private body.
the trace of here am I, the trace of being there or anywhere.

The trace is active and weedy,
            and even traces must be pruned
            for too much memory can paralyze.

There's a blue-black zig on a yellow wing.
We will greet it
            in our own language
            while yearning to know its.

Like memories, poems
            are often forgotten, or
half-remembered, or
                        one knows the oddest bits
they flash and float, and the slits of barley
            or a little rising mist
            remind you of them, but they
are hardly there and can’t be proved
            and poems are written down now, or mostly,
or recorded and sung again
so this comparison is silly but it’s
as if all your memories were
            one poem, the poem of the world
            adding the other people’s memories, gathering together
            the placental mistletoe,
            the kiss abyss, so it’s

all the world in a book—an ever-encompassing

poem-book to make and to hold



and then the book goes






Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Rachel Blau DuPlessis is the author of Drafts, a long poem in 114/115 sections, and recent works from Subpress, Xexoxial Editions, and Ahsahta. "Shepherd's Calendar" comes from a new book about time called Mackle, Shard, and Trace.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2016

All Issues