Poem

from Mean Free Path

Ben Lerner

I
What if I made you hear this as music
But not how you mean that. The slow beam
Opened me up. Walls walked through me
Life resonant waves. I thought that maybe
If you aren't too busy, we could spend our lives
Parting in stations, promising to write
War and Peace, this time with feeling
As bullets leave their luminous traces across
Wait, I wasn't finished. I was going to say
Breakwaters echo long lines of cloud
                α
Renunciation seales. Exhibits shade
Imperceptibly into gift shops. The death of a friend
Opens me up. Suddenly the weather
Is written by Tolstoy, whose hands were giant
Resonant waves. It's hard not to take
When your eye is at the vertex of a cone
Autumn personally. My past becomes
Of lines extending to each leaf
Citable in all its moments: parting, rain

II
There must be an easer way to do this
I mean without writing, without echoes
Arising from focusing surface, which should
Should have been broken by structures
Hung from the apex in hope of deflecting
In the hope of hearing the deflection of music
As music. There must be a way to speak
At a canted angle of a enabling failures
The little collisions, the path of decay
                 α
But before it was used by the blind, it was used
By soldiers who couldn't light their lamps
Without drawing fire from across the lake
Embossed symbols enable us to read
Our orders silently in total dark
In total war, the front is continuous
Night writing, from which descends
Night vision green. What if I made you
Hear this with your hands.

III
Autumn in a minor novel. The school
Scatters, scattering light across the surface
Reforms around the ankle of the child
That you were. The end. Put the book away
Look out the window: we are descending
Like Chopin through the dusk. Now it's six
Six years later and I'm reading it again
Over Denver. I bought it in the gift shop
Nothing's changed except the key
                 α
Little contrasts flicker in
Distances complex because collapsing
Under their own weight like stars
Embossed symbols. I can't compete
It's like the moment after waking
When you cannot determine if the screaming
With devices designed to amplify
Was internal or external to the dream
Starlight so soldiers can read in their in their sleep

IV
Wait, I don't want this to turn
Turn into a major novel. I want this to be
Composed entirely of edges, a little path
For Ari. All of my teachers have been women
But not how you mean that. That's why I speak
In a voice so soft it sounds like writing
Night writing. A structure of feeling
Broken by hand. I want the paper to have poor
Opacity, the verso just visible beneath
                 α
The ode just visible beneath the elegy
The preemptive elegy composed entirely
This movement from the ground to cloud
Of waves decaying slowly on plucked strings
Is lightning. I don't know how else to say it
I mean without writing. Maybe if you let
The false starts stand, stand in for symbols
Near collapse, or let collapsing symbolize
The little clearing loving is. Maybe then

V
Stamp the interference patten into green foil
Tear the hologram in half. You still see
The whole landscape, only lower resolution
Only through rain. They call this redundancy
In the literature. It has to do with reference beams
Lines extending to each leaf. As I turned the
They call this contingency, a kind of music
Page I tore it, and now it's elegy
It's autumn. Foils are starting to fall
                 α
There are three hundred sixty two thousand
And that's love. There are flecks of hope
Eight hundred eighty was to read each stanza
Deep in traditional forms like flaws
Visible when held against the light
I did not walk here all the way from prose
To make corrections in red pencil
I came here tonight to open you up
To interference heard as music.

 

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