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Five Odes on Absence

ISSUE:  Spring 2012


Drst, he starts, M nrl wrn t …

And if purple’s the new black as Vogue says
(according to their latest ad-by-tweet,
it s the seasons thing), perhaps erasure’s
our poetry du jour. at the Walker
contemporary poets have been
composing “astounding new work” by
removing portions of existing …

Nbd wll wn M r hv m …& wht hv dn …

“Join us as several guest poets read from
and display their latest or landmark e-
rasures.” Which means: take Dickinson, rub
some letters out, you can be famous, too.
Because I could not stop for Death—make that
Be a cold sop. I stood at—. You get the
picture. Sappho: without time’s injury.

ppl tIl m hv gt n hm n ths wrld …


My neighbor’s boy Martin is practicing.
Bang, against his father’s garage, painted
a week ago, taupe siding and light brown
sliding doors trimmed out and edged in white.

Bang and three dozen grackles scatter off
the ornamental crab where they had lit.
Beautiful tree to be so full of birds.
Beautiful birds whose shape maintains the tree
when they disperse, silhouette widening
like a flower blooms, or limbs in blue flight.
Bang, and his skates scrape down the concrete drive.
he taps his stick—he digs his rollers in—

Martin’s usually dead-eyed with a puck
but wild today. Thwack. Paint puff. One more scar
on the door where he’s missed the net once more.
That’s his father watching from the window.

That’s his mother, not there, not there, not there—


Mr. Clare wants a little privacy.
Who can blame him? It’s 1849.
all his life he’s tried to get words right—
The startld stockdove hurriying wizzing bye
the sky
As the still hawk hangs oer him in dusk
as they
Crows from the oaks trees qawking flush spring
Wafting the stillness of the woods—

get the birds right. Or the trees. It’s not code
exactly. Now he’s the talkative in-
mate/patient of Northamptonshire County
General Lunatic Asylum; and
now he’s boxed with gipsies, written Don
Juan, lived on grass one mad escape home,
and yet thou art not there. And now he writes

to Mary Collingwood (is she Mary
Bolland? is she Patty?) Drst Mr
r fthfil r d thnk f m … pulling
out the vowels, dd vst me n hll,
leaving out the y’s, sm tm bck … flsh
ppl tll m hv gt n hm n ths wrld
Who can blame him? He gets confused,
weaving it this way. Is faded all a thought.
He lived in a house with seven children,
whr r th … he was the rage of london,
peasant poet, friend of … whr r th
Some days now he pulls weeds to keep busy,
though his doctors want him inside, enclosed
for safety’s sake. He sings them little songs.

I am—yet what I am, none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes.

3000 plus poems in a lifetime—
not code exactly, not exactly not.
bt dnt cm hr gn fr t s
ntrs bd plc … rs fr vr & vr
Jhn Clr


Morandi paints a bottle by painting
everything around the bottle but not
the bottle. This is how it always is.
Wherever I am I am what is missing.
Twiteren: bird song; tremble; high-pitched laughter;
state of great agitation; quiver; eye
I feel I am—I only know I am
And plod upon the earth as dull and void:

The keyword is verisimilitude.
It’s not enough to tell the truth; you have
to tell it in believable fashion.
Then buyers won’t care what you omit—
Earth’s prison chilled my body with its dram
Of dullness and my soaring thoughts destroyed.

Twittering is writing messages of
140 characters or less,
no matter the message, using Twitter@.
These are live updates of what one’s doing.
I fled to solitudes from passion’s dream.
But now I only know I am—that’s all.


Some days Isaac sits on the deck all day.
He holds his head. He drinks a lot. He weeps.
The birds are landing black, then purple, as
the sun picks up the oils on their wings.
The heavy crab grows heavier with them.
The pink blossoms grow shivery, like wings.
I understand the patience. Sometimes I do.

I wonder what Martin sees
when he sees the open net yawning there. Toward the end,
Morandi painted fewer lines—bigger
ghosts. Made an edge with a sketch of edges
behind the pale line of each edge. That’s all
it takes, innuendo of a thing, the way,
bang, now the grackles explode out again

in a crazy puff of wings. Martin’s rage
is the hard pink downfall of petals there,
or not there, as he skates back down the drive.
I sit with my magazines and cell phone.
I feel crazy drifting by myself.
Sometimes I think the birds are shadows of
some other thing—I just can’t see it well—

black, then purple, then purple turning black.
You get the picture. On a better day
Clare writes, the starnels darken down the sky.
But that’s the price of time’s erasure, too,
the sad memories of a happy life.
Ppl mk sch mstks. It isn’t code …
whr r … Then what he doesn’t write is you.


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