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Draft 43: Gap



"On tap, for micro-brews
            it's Cock or Moose."

"What else?" reconstitutes
            their list "O we have Edge.

"Edge is frail like a Witte."
            "I'll take an Edge."

Sallow white bitters
            narrow flute

is the pledge
            you've just ordered

eyes closing, gummy eyes.
            Dream of a woman's

dream of a work.
            Whose rage is this?

Whose child is this?
            "answer the dawn will you"

webbing its gaps
            with ambiguous light

who tried on another plane
            to write one fragment

starting that, starting out
            "a woman's voice is nakedness."



Feed that mother cream
                            for loss of flesh
                for loss of all her
                            emblems and trials,
                since her scrolls once
    (upon a former time)
                            unwound unwinding over dell and dale
                and all the white roads
                                       thick and thirst
    with crust and dust were saying
                                       (so we heard and felt)
                            "rosy cress, rock cress, scabious all pink,
                o fennel and thyme"
                            (that, wanderers, we wanted to be so) for
    who could have predicted
                the end would be total erasure--
    except for smallest ratios of mark.

                                       If songbits could be found
                a classicist would risk her heart
                            undressing (for instance) some leathery mummy
                                       to unroll brindled linen strips
                the body-swaddling bandage upon which
                            there might once have been writ
                                       kol isha
                            one syntack of her honey-clove litotes.



(it cured scabies)
a pink flower
small among the teasels
that fuzz grey
a path is any day, "rough
            brown stones cracked and edgy lying
in broken scrubby fields sometimes"
            with unreadable stain. But
there's every position to take--we're
            nicks in the surface--once walled and girled--
"say to myself Frances look at the world."

Pick another little nothing weed
and fix its mixed details
matched to pictures and accounts:
not corn spurrey
not dovesfoot cranebill
not herb robert ("often the whole plant is suffused in red")
maybe ivy-leaved speedwell (has a red stem only)--

too small even to care about
yet stubborn for its kenning-solid name

            with its particular fronds, features, swirls, counts
that flatten inside out
clasping mists of loss so close
and hid so deep
in the broken spine
that pressed down place
where flowers fold:
between the pock-marked pages of a folio.



Trailing our fueled-up smog
out to the horizon upon take-off

unpressurized noise
and thin metal sheeting

encircle whistling stories from the ground
pearly up, pearly down

the here: why am I up here
the there: why am I anywhere

any statement,
any microsleight,

regular tone or
so-called foreign

is "an oversimplification of the situation
we actually are in."



Hunger for the next letter
                                makes the letters
                                difficult. Edge

of silk
red box

                   unfinished elements

                   guttering words

                                          losses of small "its"
                                          of possessiveness

loss of the it in it's

only the yod-ish apostrophe left and
            a small hiss how she left like that

stripped, flattened, averse

flayed down

all in all
            how incredibly simple her bad news was
                   so that was it.
            It couldn't have been worse.



Any corner of any thing
is bread
in the eye and mouth
of desire
but it's also stone;
not some mosaic's
dainty pretty, glistering golden on the dome
           flat green where sheep are done
           white, but small hard die-hard bones
           and bread's lack-
           ravenous slices
                      squeezed. Pellets. Gritty pebbles,
                      scatter her.
Scatter her,
and then gather her back.



Un mir zaynen alle shvester
ai ai alle shvester
twists of business
half their breasts once had
who could list them
from the vestige
azoy vi Rokhl, Rus, un Ester
names like Rachel, Ruth, and Esther.



All oily and garlic nasturtium's pepper orange alizarin
golden needles
           buds of coral, claspt close and amber
           strewn on the greens

                      studied nonchalance
                      a salad day.

What did it amount to?
being there or not there
a pile of ashes orphaned
or bare feet sloshing through the shallow part near shore,
and the teeming nakedness inside, with its
fervent designs on the word
           head of one, dead bug 3 parts, 6 legs

things destroyed gapping eyes, while
"the sacred eye is depicted with wings"
and "thought can make a sound in the ear"
for these offerings touch a nerve,
           touch the backwash
                      of longing,
                                 so sing in me
you tricksy manytepid and troping troops of song.

We wanted poetry known for lavishness and brightness
                      fierce streaky brightness--
plus minimize dreck
and the too-pretty by far

we wanted access
open places out of solid praxis
ate our joy and joyous anger     held our, gripped our laser hunger
we wanted women
                                 back channel me



She couldn't attach
           the tags, she strained over valises

strange, it was a check-in as
           arranged, but this was a different kind of

Tag as day;


A ticket a thicket
she said she was flying
a tisket a tasket
no way could you ask it
she couldn't move
back, couldn't put her name
tags to the valises
of "days"--
task for task--
from tags what's to know?

The youngest child said
ma nishtena
how was it different
from other airports
bags heavier more intractable
airport call letters
and transfer interline code
crossed over, snarled, tracking strips sticking
tag to bag and bag to tag,
then a very isolated runway

and the roaring thrust countdown seconds
before take-off.



ne of anguage
nger, mean


gns, sighs

o stop
consider step,

orm of me.



There was

a phone call one day after


for the newly-stark

by name


identifying herself by the exact same

"I want to talk

to her" the phone said

of the dead woman

because she had

to track


between--crossed medical

records, mixed-up

reports, wrong

information relayed


to doctors, some tedious-impt thread,

because they had the exact same name, so

"Can I talk to her?

I have questions"

the voice said.



Only later (one of those
           wake-up calls called retrospect)
did the receiver ask
           who was making that call
           After all, she had always wanted
to be organized,
           she had wanted, a point of pride,
not to leave
           things in a mess--
she had labelled everything with messages,
           she had set folders stacked,
she had tacked observations
           'old camera--possibly valuable
but lets in too much light'--
           onto a lot of wrack:
why had I--in my disbelief--
           hung up so abruptly?
The call came in under the radar,
But then I realized what had happened
           and wanted--but had gotten no number--
to return the call,
           to call her back.



Go on a long enough trip
down the time line

tickets used
itineraries shot

and you're left with these sheafs--
ghost travel folders, empty.

Now what?
Now exactly what?


April 1999-July 2000
for Frances Jaffer and others
whose "absence is/ Absence"




Notes to Draft 43: Gap
"Answer the dawn will you" is from Frances Jaffer, "Sixty Frances," Alternate Endings (1985). "A woman's voice is nakedness" (not, in context, a positive remark) from Talmud, forbidding kol isha, women's voices singing liturgy in Orthodox Judaism. "Say to myself Frances..." is Jaffer, "Yale Bowl" from She talks to herself in the language of an educated woman (1981); "rough brown stones," from Jaffer, "She says try..." Alternate Endings (1985). "An oversimplification of the situation...." from John Cage, "45'00"; "eye" from Richard Wilkinson, Reading Egyptian Art: A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Egyptian Painting and Sculpture; "ear" from Kim Vaeth on Jaffer in H.D. and Poets After, ed. Donna Hollenberg. "Absence" in the dedication, from Jaffer, "Dictation," Alternate Endings (1985). Donor drafts are the two "Gaps"--Draft 5 and Draft 24.