Wiped it out, just wiped out the desk — scaffolding dismantled — in the helios cream of 9 A.M. — ornament air — if air could shower or flood — wiped out the cylinder seals, the belligerent calculator, the bottomless tray with its unanswered letters, broken knobs, chopped shards, mushroom tips and grinder ash… Who was sitting with his back to the window, a wedge in molten light, as the bedposts flickered and the book spines faded in the wavering grid, the foaming scarlet drapes bled out — vanish swagger — memento by memento released… Perched on the prong of a giant tremor he scrambled to attention and shook his head like a tambourine. How many thirsty words flew out of his wide-open mouth? With lips flapping like gathering wings he clambered up the rock-pile, clausal, operatic, replete. In the courtyard at midnight at midnight I listened to his warble and wail, calibrating the measures that would unwrap and unleash me: choral orthography, archival vanishing points, pointillist clover, voluble lullabies, lapidary fishtails, thrumming abrasions, floral contingencies, radial timbres, crackle, fissure, stitch, and brine… I held my face in a gash of light and went under…
Where do you look and how do you look? Architects in doorways — bombshells of cryptic shrubbery — to catch a ripple and go Delphic… One small orchid perfuming the whole room, green leopardskin flippers and purple skirt: applause! Sap on the trees in the morning gleam: mercury light. Into your brown eyes magnetic climbing a trellis of rubbed skin, maneuvered into place, ascendant socket… If we are revelers, ordinary shoulders and hips; if the acrobatic blankets yanked back reveal primary apparatus — versatility bulb — stammering ballads and blues — in the jangling pride or no-pride close-up — reciprocal fraternity — it clarifies attention, of this regard, within a palpable frame, honing and homing, relaying focus, without edifices or rules a mutual institution, snug as citizens…
Alcove of the shade tree, under which they neck and whisper… and gather their tribe. She stencils the tilt of their heads from her perch on the iron bench, their dreamy eyes and smiles. Migrating neurons: It’s as if a baton streaking the air laid them bodily onto her page… In the mounting embrace there in the plazuela Obregon under a fresh puff of filtering clouds she slips their oyster into her shell — among the milling Sunday throng — what she’s been waiting for — on the edge of the bezel that is her acquiring art — like a dusty hatbox suddenly filled with living pulp — fluted swells — in a brazen reversal of nostalgia… She is their growing stalk, their link, their flowering rod, their helix tunnel and their watering hole. They are her guardian foil, her carnal frame, her forgiven stitch, her undertow and magnum light. Connected silently bench to bench, shadow to shadow, spark to spark, they arc and flow, flow and arc…
Rippled purr — with a shrug I fling myself under the table — fetal tangle — potion jammed in each fist — down the lexicon in a shape-shifting gulp — where a café on the Bridge of Owls joins the ancient in-road to the city’s center… tremor of epochs… a sanctioned fable of days… You can stretch your hands, wing-man, and touch the leaning houses on opposite sides, flaring orange, mauve, and blue like an aviary… the street pitched vertical, winding narrow, a wisp of direction for this convergence… to fill in the cracks, sink underpinnings wide as lake beds, set the ravine to humming. I put down my luggage — such an unintended mountain of cracked teacups and wicker bibs, alpaca bedrolls and silicone boots! — to spread the surging city before me, a vast net of firing pins, constellation magi… as I lie on my side with measured breath… this murmuring atlas, swarm of inflections, this hot particle flood… and follow…
These poems, from my new collection, Citizen, continue my entrancement with the prose poem, begun in The Graces,published in 1983 — so for loosely thirty years — when my long Whitman-inspired lines got so long that they were setting themselves as prose as they returned to the left margin to continue their wandering. And really what form could better suit my volubility, love of textual saturation, and sense of perpetual divagation? I am not now and never have been a minimalist. I have a very old memory from Anna Karenina where her son, so excited to see her, jumps into her lap and wiggles around in her arms so as to be able to touch her with his body everywhere. That’s me here: I want to touch poetry everywhere. Or to put it another way: Reader, please: Touch me everywhere!
Aaron Shurin has written ten books of poetry and prose, most recently King of Shadows from City Lights, and Involuntary Lyrics from Omnidawn. He was once a member of the collective The Wasted Lives for Peace but is now a Professor in the MFA Writing Program at the University of San Francisco.