Final For (from VOG)

Ron Silliman

Whoever wakes as Phillip Levine has overslept

Silence of the looms. Books piled high into a single thought. Too few recognize death as the last great adventure. Woodpeckers approach the suet cake (white, sweet, sticky, hanging in a wire basket from a nail) walking up and down the great oak trunk. Out this window the first fat drops of rain mimic the rhythms of distant footsteps. The man in my dream who, if I just saw him (but I can’t tell if I’m chasing him or he’s chasing me, elaborate dream rigamarole in a dark red bar in El Cerrito, that if I could just go there I’m sure I would discover doesn’t exist, everybody making preparations to fly, by several separate small commercial aircraft, to Connecticut for some conference or meeting – I have a bowl of something like Jello, a deep red, and I keep moving, hoping he won’t catch up to me (without knowing why), hoping I can just get a glimpse (without knowing why)), would just solve/explain everything. Carpenter, our plans are wrong. These tomatoes too bright a red. That moment at dawn after the birds have stopped their compulsive singing. Still I have no desire to contribute to the hysteria called recovered memory. Stop in a bowling alley just to take a moment and read (the tumbling pins as regular and peaceful as the sea). How will I know when I don’t make a mistake? The violence of number not in the counting. At first I wrote county. Lego maniac.

Mimicking an important religious feast, the Serbs take three young men from the village (the others are gone, vanished, never to be seen again), roasting them naked, alive before the eyes of their neighbors, forcing the captive women to eat the cooked flesh (he had spoken to his wife and daughter about what he endured in the camps, but refused to inquire of their own experiences). The air is cooler under the fans or in the shade of the living room with its blinds down, but at this temperature people move more slowly as through an emulsion (the lone lamp a television with the sound off – Mike Piazza on second base, the front of his uniform dirty from sliding, pulls his blue cap off to wipe the sweat from his soaking brow), in the rocker my father-in-law sound asleep.

The best part of waking up / is Folgers in your cup! Children swarm about games at a school fair. Laptop built into the patrol car’s dashboard. Oak trees now full provide a canopy (it’s 10-15° cooler here). In these woods, even pre-dawn, air is not “invisible.” First chorus of birds barely audible only because I’ve grown used to it.

Bob, ten days dead, five buried: Evie stands alone now in your garden where the hill slopes down into the forest – “We were going to tame that, forty years and we never did.” Two hours south in Baltimore, the fire flies already in full explosion.

A white guitar (a toy) sits atop a school desk in the basement, ceiling fan on high all night. The sister of infinite anger. Flying things swarm the light. A man with huge hands holds a magazine in his palm – it’s not the flowing blond hair that’s at odds with the grey checked suit, tie still choking tight in 90° heat at the airport, but how the neck bulges at the collar – on its cover the face of an actress so familiar I can’t recall her name.

Realizing there are finite words to a life, one holds each more cautiously the older one gets, until at the end one hordes them, a syllable at a time.

The stone house alone fails to match its neighbors. A man scurries, hurrying to unlock his car door, half-crouched, as if that will protect him from this sudden rain.

“The joy of doubt.”

Itemize the components of desire. What often I remember is the light at the window, the color and texture of the wall (the sun behind K creating a silhouette, a halo) – so that emotion now years later proves identical with hue. Ability, or the lack of it, to absorb gluten. Palm-sized tattoo at the base of the spine. In this un-airconditioned kitchen, I sweat just to sit with a book, my shirt soaked, my hair pouring (slow waterfall of my neck).

Centuries later, among the pot-shards, all they will have to remember us by. This fly, in its dance, between the lights and the slow blades of the ceiling fan.

The content of the dream, the context of the dream, the eyes of the other confronted in the act of. Parrot that could imitate perfectly an electronic handshake. What we had imagined as the captains of poetry were no more than boys shocked that the succession of elders should pass down to them like children playing dress-up or how the people of St. Petersburg must inhabit the Old City. Who lives in the giant’s house once he is gone? The hard drive straining on the incoming mail.

Screensavers remain long after we need them. So stand on the train’s platform well before dawn. Imagine what lies within those slowly approaching headlights. Zeno himself could not drive faster.

The moment when, house filled now with relatives, in-laws, friends, your father’s body, which at first you wanted, needed to sit with, suddenly is not your father to you anymore, but something alien, cold, profoundly other. Giant long-legged spider, elegant and angular, amid the leaves and stalks of the garden.

Well before the sun, changes in the hue of what sky is visible through these trees, a gradual lessening of night. Colony of flies in their awkward geometry of flight, light and heat descending from bulbs that bouquet out from beneath the ceiling fan. A woman is power walking through the trees. Within, the captains of poetry can be heard mumbling, bickering over who gets to sit about the dying embers of their fire. Soon the sun will shimmer too red, too huge at the horizon. A giant eye. Nobody notices the chill.