October 2004

Dale Smith

marsupial inquirer

A Memory of What's Left

The following piece was written from the source texts listed after it. It's a Modernist gesture, but also a worthy exercise in close listening. Perhaps it's of some use, pasted as it is from the cutting room floor of words past and present.


I cannot remember when I was not so. The small life today has become
parabolic. To put it another way, I am, after all these years, making
a list of books that I still re-read; that I keep on my desk and look
into now and again. The brooder's memory ranges over the
indiscriminate mass of dead lore. Human knowledge, within this
memory, is something piecemeal--in an especially pregnant sense: it
is like the jumble of arbitrarily cut pieces from which a puzzle is
assembled. To crawl the cemeteries of paradise. I would become so
moved by this declaration of love that tears would well up in my
eyes. I would kiss the cold teeth of my women. In the dream needing
poetry rules. I was looking for the architecture of memory.
Conversation of which there is none in novels and the news. A work of
the imagination which fails to release the senses in accordance with
this major requisite--the sympathies, the intelligence in its
selective world, fails at the elucidation, the alleviation which is--

At any time, objectification in writing is rare. The right impulse
was to erase it all. Properly no verse should be called a poem if it
does not convey the totality of perfect rest. There are / antique
trees here, / ancient water, / bodiless messages. I want to show
properly speaking that poetry is the depository of memory. The ruling
principle of contemporary politics and business is to trade in
mendacities until forced under oath. We are looking for the place
where / the Name resides. Grief isn't empty it's black and material
I've seen it. Heart flapping wet on a neighbor's clothesline / the
winter fog heart on a sidewalk seam.

I'm looking for a vision of the Significant. Not to abandon the
single in the mighty torrent of the many, I find what works. Even if
you're stumbling, mumbling nitwit images through the rhetoric of
every day, there are logical cues. Look up for that brooder.
Allegory, as the sign that is pointedly set off against its meaning,
has its place in art as the antithesis to the beautiful
appearance.... That it is simple, what the difference is--

We will look where lute notes dispose. One more earth where the
marsh-marigold grows. In an assembly of phantasms such as I have
painted, it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance could
have excited such sensation. How far back am I willing to go? I
walked over the misty grass. But the excitement from the festival
only came once a year. The century will end with our having to admit
we have learned how to read some, but not all, of its writing.
Novelty in the United States is a wheel spinning in futility: it has
no tangential ground to touch down and roll on. What at such a time
are histories, chronologies, traditions, and all written revelations?
The owners over the ocean sailed.

The doctor said if I could encourage the sub-conscious to break into
the conscious...but there is a limit even to that.
"Yes-it's-a-pity-I'm-not-from-your-point-of-view." In my
embarrassment, all my words ran together. The indivisible heavens /
have scattered petals / on the public lawn. I've spent my life in
nothing. I pry and poke and play. Peer into a pumpkin patch. Vines
spread out and reach from the heads of the fields. Old Mother turns
blue and from us.... A fine mild morning. We walked into Easedale.
The sun shone.

Lectures In America by Gertrude Stein
250 pp.

Imaginations by William Carlos Williams
365 pp.

ABC of Reading by Ezra Pound
206 pp.

The Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin
1070 pp.

The Complete Correspondence by Charles Olson and Robert Creeley
180 pp.

Blood and Soap by Linh Dinh
180 pp.

My Devotion by Clayton Eshleman
125 pp.

Red Juice by Hoa Nguyen
26 pp.

Selected Writings by Charles Olson
280 pp.

Meme Me Up, Scotty by Chris Murray
20 pp.

Collected Works by Lorine Niedecker
471 pp.

Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth
232 pp.

Selected Poems by Fanny Howe
213 pp.

Maiden Voyage by Denton Welch
L.B. Fischer Publishing Corp., NY
303 pp.

Kora And Ka by H.D.
102 pp.

Walden And Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau
436 pp.

The Hunter Gracchus by Guy Davenport
339 pp.

Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
436 pp.

All: The Collected Short Poems by Louis Zukofsky
245 pp.

Pure Descent by Elizabeth Robinson
63 pp.

Mysteries of Small Houses by Alice Notley
140 pp.

Prepositions: The Collected Critical Essays by Louis Zukofsky