Poems

Sample Poems from “The Apparatus of Visible Things”

The Visible World

In the room where objects perform
their habitual solidity

the air conditioner clears
its electric throat.

The visible world is only one side
of a many-sided object.

It quivers in its center,
fills the room with ripples.

Can they hear it?
The girl chewing her pen,

the man scanning the shelves,
can they hear it churning—

life against time—
can they hear the heart grinding?

Seeing

I.

Light meets the body, begins
not in the eye, not the brain
but a point that shifts alongside you

like the tip of a cat’s tail.
It borrows the body
for a while,

guides its blind hands
through the dark world.
Done with the body, light spills.

All the images done being seen
hang like a string
of Christmas lights.

What is the body
but a pocket
of days?

What is seeing
without the thing by which it sees,
without the delicate assembly of flesh?

The fist-grip of atoms
that you called the self
opens its hand.

II.

The eye sparkles where light arrives,
gathers, narrows,
affixes itself to a point:

a boy, two years old,
in a stroller on the subway,
a concerned,

wondering gleam that chose
to land here, inhabit
this one.

Light finds its objects—
a woman’s white blouse, its pouring—
light dictates curve, fold, wrinkle,

shadows insinuate, light
leans into the things
we seem to be looking at

when looking is merely the place
where light meets our discarded intentions.
What does the boy see

when I have named it white blouse,
its pouring, he doesn’t know
white or pour?

Fuchsia, navy, black, white,
subway seat, pristine, watery.
What is this world to him?

Light sets loose
millions of tiny footsteps
in a mad dash

to trick the invisible,
as if it needed to be tricked,
as if the invisible couldn’t wait

to clamp its hand down, flat,
on reality,
to spread its long fingers between us.

Sound Alone

The sky is a blue square
Stacked on top of a four-story building.
Six pigeons land on the roof,
Shadows flapping.
The windows across the airshaft seem suspended in brick.
Each person’s life fits into a slot.
Shadow and sun stand side by side,
The line between is not one or the other,
But a third thing.

And now the pigeons with their ooooooh’s,
The only thing they can say.
As if it’s surprising to hear sound alone, without words.
The conversation spirals its o’s,
An early language.
The heart mutters,
Makes its meaning
Out of the body,
Makes it and keeps it there.

Sheathed Wing

I don’t know what to do
with your body.

You left it on my window:
copper-brown gift, flipped over,

crackly back and downcast
black eyes frozen in humility.

Your little soul crawls up the window screen of heaven,
antennae spread like a blind person’s fingers.

The hairy X of your legs points everywhere.

Ways of Leaving

I.

A boy flings his head
back, so full of falling leaves,
he doesn’t need hope.

II.

One leaf on a tree
under the moon; five black boughs:
God’s inky fingers.

III.

Preparing itself
for the final snap, the leaf
leans backwards too soon.

IV.

Woman, a tree whose
leaves are in her roots; and man,
a tree without leaves.

V.

A leaf soaks in a
pool of rain like rain soaking
in a pool of rain.

VI.

Everything that has
died is the same as the leaf:
bright, interrupted.

VII.

The tree spreads thousands
of wings that fly only once:
kamikaze leaves.

VIII.

Forcing them to wave
and wave and wave, the wind mocks
the leaves’ solitude.

IX.

Crackling leaves hang up-
side down like bats, unaware
how close the ground is.

X.

An ant on a leaf
is king. A leaf on a leaf
is humility.

XI.

A hidden ego
repeats I in the leaf’s veins,
strutting its last green.

XII.

A yellow or red
leaf is death’s euphemistic
trick played on the eye.

XIII.

You’re going to fall—
the wind tells the leaves. —We have
always been falling.