Poem of the Llama
Flowers unevenly spread over everything, which for a while seems to mirror the mind’s continual fuzz, but still certain subjects are clearly communicated and who is responsible for that? We, I think, in our labor look around, but far from it. The hours slump away, each somewhere announced, tucked in a thin folder, and promptly lost. Here, the stars were a mess to begin with and that was our point, or at least that’s how we imagined it, the concerns of the sources quickly becoming our own so that we knew none of this was really our idea, we were only hungry and saw something of ourselves in the mouthy hive that performed us better than we ever could. Life was a flotsam of notifications and sunlit rooms, some of us reimagining the ethics of stealing hedges, some of us playing tennis with periodontists in Michigan, but every now and then someone would be seen carrying a vacuum cleaner through the snow. Therefore, love is real. Over the years the carpets are replaced but only perhaps once or twice in our lifetimes, and what else is like that, other than, for some people, their hearts. Are we those people? How long do most birds live? In times of darkness the thought of a blue dress might scramble your soul’s intercom proving, at last, absence always creates a more interesting music. Happiness rips us along, a purpose in mind, honk, and whose life are you living? The answer becomes more than underlining important statements in the preface. Beautiful things tend to happen and that is, for our own good, beyond our control. Spending too long looking for connections in the corresponding appendix is a necessary waste of time if only to realize the appendix is its own always opening wound. The frame explodes, it rains in French, the clouds turn over their pink sweaters, and we’re all stumbling into someone else’s dream, complete with lake of fire and wolves. My friends agree and the couch comes through the door despite our doubts. The trees were beginning and although the furniture felt real the years passed verbally, each of our stories preoccupied in some margin’s antechamber, the morning’s acres of possible consciousness tilted before us, our love for it expressed in an equally resolute confusion, each assertion groping like an eager crowd on an unnamed wharf for some pretext to celebrate their gathered impasse. Actions were taken to beautify the walls, what windows there were, and chairs were placed at certain intervals, but no could help feeling the exhausted pang of being deprived the plot our compasses had caught glimpses of so long ago. And now, when the rain in your dream is the rain in the world, what conclusions are we to come to? A general impossibility accompanies our curiosity and watching things move along a certain stamina builds. Even at a great distance and in the blue wind of cities, friends are able to assess the general shape of things, point you in the direction of a vermillion something you’ve been missing and amidst the continual slippage sing you a damn fine song. Aside from devotion to fingers that do not grasp, the main thing is to come out of the woods laughing, carrying a reasonably-sized cudgel, romanticism behind you and a flotilla of soon-to-be-broken windshields ahead. Yes, certain officials might become involved, but most days they’ll be too busy monitoring the most obvious kinds of traffic, unconcerned with the migration of the East African dik-dik or the quiet necessity of potholders. Only a few of us remember it’s been raining in the capital all along, where we went like dawn stealing the jewels from the pines, which is to say the system’s neon underwear has been shining through all along. It doesn’t seem to matter where it’s going with the day before us like a newly arrived ship, the raspberry light of the harbor licking the crates we’ve filled based on the recommended number. You might go a thousand miles just to laugh in someone else’s kitchen, to touch a red bike next to red curtains, evidence of some other overwhelming articulation that we, for the most part, are only trellises for, and to think about what was important to you when last you were here, or even when you began, which wasn’t so long ago, shoes being a good record of this. To go forward is always in some way to go back, willingly or not, and borrow power from what you’ve kept in mind, pigeons over the sea, a yellow porch, some moments on a bridge, metaphorical or otherwise, the faces. Our tribe gathers around this luminous theory, sensitive mangoes in hand, some clinking always just below the schematic’s veneer proving we came together for a purpose, what’s happening now on the other side of my voice being just that, a failure to reconcile the mind’s constant addition and subtraction with the acceleration of the banquet’s perpetual symptom, i.e., it’s going to be over. Yet still there are boats in the morning like we’re each a tiny flag of desire, or else, yours. Runners move on and off the path not to avoid what’s there but to illustrate the grand list of options before us and, when it’s over, sit on a bench in the sun knowing something or maybe, who are we fooling, not. The rain buttons the windows, death owns us, cell phones are being used. How much of your life do you think it’s been snowing, and what after all really ends? For so much of our years we seem to struggle, unable to put out the fire, parts of ourselves ahead of ourselves, and a few of us getting up to leave before it’s time, and you clutching a left-behind scarf, a simply-patterned thing never demanding meaning, suddenly filled with the soft articulation of remembering its owner say something inane about the weather, this now being immensely important and, hopefully, able to be carried with you the rest of your days like a yurt of feelings, the yak licking your baby just beyond the door, and farther off, the novel mountains, their blurry narratives shoved into the undisguised clouds. Thus, if one is not looking to know anything directly, the fact that the method of lighting varies from zoo to zoo might become a known fact because it is written and one has found it written in the thrumming silence of some library where each line, acknowledged or not, must be, if we are to believe at all in our purposes here, of some importance, however vaguely, here where one is always hoping to be found or to find a reason to discard the hours, becoming more and more a blank thing carrying some larger blankness, in which any number of gases combined might, at any moment, explode, rendering this light or all these actions meaningless other than what we have said and repeated to those we love, perhaps something about ducks, or how bells sometimes must be broken due to slight imperfections, which, of course, is not a metaphor but feels so resolutely like one, as if the world were a book in which everything is constantly on the verge of becoming something else we beyond ourselves must be willing and ready to carry, as in the morning we step into the air toward others so close to us and our small concerns one may forget there is anything at all weighing on our joyful backs and then, this, while our hair grows long, becomes a part of us we are asked to love, if not to be understood than to be kept, ridiculously if not at all, intact. Indeed, as the guide books attempt to explain, it’s often difficult to give the dream direction, borders always sifting into boundaries, and vice versa, and salsa verde, a faithful careening into the heart of some larger uncertainty filled so many times during the course of the evening we wonder what we were paying attention to the entire time. Meanwhile, the waiter has brought more water. The fog tucks itself over the fields and when, if ever, has your body not made you feel unknown to yourself, your body a word that means time in one language and sounds like plural in another, and that, of course, explains it. The tiny shift from wonder to wander enough to turn horses to smoke, a highway in Virginia into a critique of transcendence, this life into the dissonant thereafter, wet socks and all. Experience becomes a place our bodies drag around us, systems emptying, that voice happening, and all we really need is, now and then, some small warmths, five blue seconds, a series of young breezes however ongoing. Holding this, we make a point of believing and what other options do we have? The transmissions are siphoned through the ruins as we wait patiently in the half-finished sentences of our bodies, senators spazzing in the forest, the path ahead a dateless flex of circles where the message happens like light with no axis, reason enough to eat the flowers and, not looking back, love something. One vibrating leaf, two unused tickets to see the magician, and us, in the trench next to language, mostly secret, even to ourselves, stuck in our bones and trying. It didn’t seem like too much but it was too much for now, the room beginning to feel arranged, drapes fluttering around empty boxes with that little active bit of meaning, and a couple friends at the table scribbling their own music around the day. As it moved along we developed a tendency of using each other’s names and drinking coffee. Elegies were restricted to the wrecked backgrounds of the orchard and, in lieu of broader trends, we ate plums, recycled everything, and, in pieces, understood. The mountain is, after all, made almost entirely of rubble and our satchels, huddled with illegible pages, come along. Most of it confirmed the dreaming between us, that we were happy not to feel awful, our hair unchanged through this moonless age. What does that mean is a question we let the windows answer because, in the long run, which we are clearly a part of, nothing has the impenetrable, phantasmal shape of truth except cookies. It’s true, no one can talk about local authority and mean it. Larger joys are always drawing themselves together, leaving you voicemails in the graveyard, knots of keys turning your heart on to its own furious little doors. It’s all music in the wound and in the end, which is what the middle teaches us, that indistinguishable lake where the sun, at just the right angle, reveals the submerged church steeple so many of us have been talking about lately. The landscape might be balanced and function purely but the argument here is one of moments, the physics of clods, meaning on the pink edges of our encounter, so that you ending up in Wyoming again and again starts to make sense, at least greenly, while the air takes on the sweaty density of chlorine, your membership about to expire but too much else on your mind, how we sometimes wanted leaders not openly willing to kill each other, for our heads to be pastures, the war to be over, though such desires didn’t attract much attention having been for so long and clearly hovering over all the content’s geometry. Meanwhile we, orgying in the middle, want only for objects misplaced to give a little, banana, tingle. But no one’s pretending that will ever be enough. History, majestic as a parking garage, spits us out into the flinty twilight and look how nice it feels to be constantly dissolving. Regardless, we endure this series of stumblings, our minds galvanized by the mutinous air and, though our point disappears behind its own static, signs of the move are everywhere. As miniatures of the vital impulse, what we do next should be something beautiful: eat a torch, light an orange, focus on the parts of the dotted line that were never line to begin with. There are backhoes and there are omelets. There are cherry trees and there is blood. That’s as much a narrative as anyone needs. Outside of this, what matters? Having come this far, a decision seems necessary. Or maybe that’s just another worshipful incoherence trailing us into the pupil of the abyss’ hazy clamor. Gladly have we committed our mouths to this incompletion of worlds, for I am eight kinds of rain and you are a river named Janice, and that’s only the beginning of our enigma. Time drools on our ontological garbage, the primary accident of our lives’ lemon substance. Shaggy with echoes, the day survives us, our half-uttered magenta inability to document the specifics successfully eroding the enemy sensors blundering in the ceremony each of us calls a heart. Eating ice cream isn’t always a form of resistance but it depends on the nature of your crisis. It would be easy to say it was only a distraction, but its purpose, or rather its affect, is to celebrate the fact that your body is an eyelid emotionally gyrating over a network of wildernesses not so quietly annihilating, whether you know it or not, every kind of dialectic. Walk out your door and leaves will hit you in the face, and that’s the least we can hope for. Filling the desert with air conditioners could have been a work of art but the children who gathered there, as everywhere, were not bulletproof. Against such circumstances, thinking you know what to say next will only maim your harp, already meager, and we’re all guilty of hitting butterflies on the highway and not calling it violence. In this way, and with a bouquet of tremendous yellow wreckage ensconced in our gowns’ decibels, attention overflows into the shapeless piano inherent in the architecture of time’s dizzying mismanagement, what was always intended, the anomaly of our own hands, and all this stupid bliss. I have come to live with you in this kingdom of tiny thirsts and tiny tears. Battered by lusciousness where the llama reigns.
Nick Sturm is a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His poems, collaborations, and essays have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, PEN, Black Warrior Review, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and elsewhere. His scholarly and archival work can be traced at his blog Crystal Set. His first book of poems, How We Light, is being reissued by Big Lucks in 2018.