The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2018

All Issues
SEPT 2018 Issue




Tenure schmenure the sages are all on the Hudson River pier.
   Don't lean over too far.
I wouldn't be surprised to see arms and legs, even a vital organ
   or two
representing the shy—passive-aggressive—inner life.
Brushing out followed by. . . brushing in.

If people in high-rises shouldn't groan
neither should the brownstones huddle closer together
each time there's a hint of autumn in the air or in the trees—
like, if you'll pardon me for saying so,
rushing to cremate the dead when everyone,
themselves included, knows we want them around for as long as
   humanly possible.

Not, of course, that the pangs have much choice
regarding where to settle, or be observed.
A rusty hydrant is as good as a park bench.
The handful of pigeons poking around a chunk of baguette near
   the grass
don't seem to agree, but they're hand-stamped,
inks (some line, too?) already beginning to fade.

I only know what I know is one version.
Another—as witness so many royal portraits—
or the parade of experimental drugs
for a dread disease—is that knowledge works only some of the
Really works. Never mind how things
seem as opposed to how they see themselves, or why
appearance stakes so much if not everything on the distinction.





         (Winged Purposes)

No one lives in a can of Italian tomatoes with a red and blue
for long; and even if you do it's rare
to wake up swimming in European references.
"Carfax," for example, which I just learned
from reading the beautiful, poignant journals of Denton Welch
(July 27, 1943, the air swarming with "doodlebugs")
means four-way corner, from the Middle English carfuks
and ultimately from the Latin quadrifurcus, more formal
than substantial, as Denton Welch's impossibly short life
virtually gives the lie to substance. This is partly in memory of
Also of the spring philosophy week in Oxford (courtesy of Ted)
whose Carfax Tower is a landmark for philosophers
and everyone else. (Possible worlds, pay attention.)
Pasternak would cue the snow and the pigeons. Francis Ponge, John
Larry Fagin, Richard Kolmar, Emily a single line,
No pet projects and no romance of Beaux Arts facades
—though not unpleasant in spite of the cold, smoky gray. Past
the scrawny bones of Christmas trees piled close to the curb
for future soup, beside the brushed-in sun.

         (Henry VIII)

You can fit everything I know onto a postcard of Poughkeepsie.
Well, a couple.
The moon buzzing the torn spruce branches
if not taking its place with all the people in hair-curlers
lined up in front of the Catskills.
Scylla mated with Charybdis yesterday
but the trajectory is to leave things in their bedraggled state,
the classically trained percussionist moonlighting as a rosebush
or a stump, and the ordinary landscape making a quick exit like
   the pool table it is.
Speaking of which, the season of the trombone isn't nearly as
   pushed to an extreme
as the hero whose job it is to get up and make the coffee,
and toast if possible, while it little profits
to avoide squabbles in the pit
or bend (like any of Anne Boleyn's attendants) to the whispered
blandishments that leave so little behind that's tangible, even
   if petted.





(for John Godfrey)

As the acanthas tree said to the vacant lot
(difficult to translate—)

draws heavily. It isn't Ravel!
The sidewalk with the meadow

This is the talent just ears
and the past pushing off (pushed in turn)

They have this talking awning
out of time's cant

sans feet, sans name
sans embouchure, sans everything

short of a view
from the Bayonne Bridge.

So it's late.
Souls strewn at mealtimes

And as for poems terminable and interminable
hand out the piece

That's just it, it
isn't a world of givenness

papery, veined, Gozzano
to the beautiful Georgian-style

what it's like
to be a duck's back

The line separating
squirrels and impromptu

but it jumps—pink
as a speaking part

the nape pre-everything
for each brass mute

waffling on Ashcan
you can almost touch it



Charles North

Charles North’s twelfth poetry collection, Everything and Other Poems (The Song Cave, 2020), was named a NY Times New and Noteworthy Book. En Face, his collaboration with artist Trevor Winkfield, is just out from MAB Books.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2018

All Issues