for Robert Kelly
The promise did not promise
to be beautiful.
The promise was of labor,
You perceive the grail: it attests
to its existence, but, as always,
refuses to disclose its whereabouts.
And somewhere you find a landscape,
deep in that landscape,
whose particulars are your birth.
You, sojourner, find a stained
rag there, a faded scarf
which you read. Could it
have been so long ago
that you learned to read?
When reading is place
bereft of location. When the scarf,
once green, became bluer.
None. Known. Nonce. Anon.
You had, perhaps become exhausted
with the saying of it when
the mistake blossoms: exhaustion
is the cure
for reading, for mapping.
Talk, in the hidden place
becomes the work of itself.
A scarf, wadded and stuffed
into the mouth, is exhaled with
great force. See how it lofts
on the words like a cloud
as they move definitely
away from you. Broken
perception is a place, even
“home,” if you will. The work
was never meant to be ethical. A thing
becomes its own imperative most often
because you live there and you break it.
Extensive practice. When finally the eyes
fail to read the broken script, then:
yes. You, having so recently heard
of this thing called reading, essay it.
Error-ridden sentence verb subject
you topographical backwards, the
ruddy and green layers of it. In this
placeless specificity, you assay it. Never
a map but a disemboweling, discovery
joyously fractures what it finds, and
deeper. Deep blindness of the word.
Its glee. The work rummaging
itself, mine brought provisionally
to the surface, silt bubbling into
all streams. Ash caressing this
particular scape like a silk scarf.
The practice of intention is
its own discovery, wise and
iniquitous. “There once was a story,”
you read aloud,
and it undermined itself
in receipt of its recognitions.
Home or fire? Work
or reworking? If there were a door—
should there have been a door—
entry onto what? Reciprocity
means also exit. And after it all
burned down, haven’t you wondered
why it’s always the chimney
that still remains? One spark
or another as the unseeing eye
forces a blurred word to register, a glint
made specific by indeterminacy. The
promise offered itself like a body
you may, or may not, have declined. A shapely
word, swathed only in a blue scarf, whose
dimensions fall away before the scarf does.
Down the well or into the mine, up
the chimney. The promise whose articulation
is “poof,” whose word
lingers as an aroma in the air. You quaff it
through nose and mouth. Smoke, too, is the embodiment of what’s broken.
It fills the dislocated grail with its syrup. You
have always felt its sting in your throat, the hole in the cup
that breathes on your behalf.