May 31, 2010

Poem-A-Day: Lisa Robertson, The Present/

Academy of American Poets

May 31, 2010

Today's poem is from R's Boat, published by University of California Press. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Read more about this book.

Related Poems
The Descent of Alette ["Presently"]
by Alice Notley
Everyone in the room is a representative of the world at large
by Catherine Wagner
Present Tense
by Harryette Mullen

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Academy of American Poets
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Suite 604
New York, NY 10012

The Present/
by Lisa Robertson

You step from the bus into a sequencing tool that is moist and carries the

      scent of quince

You move among the eight banner-like elements and continue to the edges

     of either an object or a convention

And in Cascadia also

As in the first line of a nursery rhyme

Against cyclic hum of the heating apparatus

You're resinous with falsity

It's autumn

Which might be tent-scented or plank-scented

Their lands and goods, their budgets and gastronomy quicken

You want to enter into the humility of limitations

Coupled with exquisite excess

You walk in the green park at twilight

You read Lucretius to take yourself towards death, through streets and markets

In a discontinuous laboratory towards foreignness

You bring his prosody into your mouth

When you hear the sound of paper

C. Bergvall says space is doubt—

What emerges then?

Something cast in aluminum from a one-half scale model of a freight shed


The slight smudge of snow in the shadow of each haycock in the still-green field

The hotel of Europe. Its shutters.

Fields and woods oscillate as in Poussin

While the vote is against renewed empire, or at least capital temporarily

Each wants to tell about it but not necessarily in language

I overbled the notational systems in transcription

And my friend was dead

What is the rigour of that beauty we applaud


At the simple vocal concert?

The otherworldly swan wearing silver and white passes on into current worldliness

The steeple-shaped water bottles ranged on the conference table seem

     unconditioned by environments

I had been dreaming of Sol LeWitt and similarity

In somebody's visual universe walking

In the sex of remembering

But I have not made a decision about how to advance into your familiarity

This trade has its mysteries like all the others

It is a labyrinth of intricable questions, unprofitable conventions, incred-

     ible delirium, where men and women dally in the sunshine, their clothes

     already old-fashioned

They can still produce sounds that are beyond their condition

Here is the absurdist tragical farcical twist

In order to enter I needed an identity

In identifying this figure of reversal

The vital and luminous project

Will measure itself against women

And this has seemed poetical

When it is the ordinary catastrophe...

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May 30, 2010

Poem-A-Day: David Lehman, French Movie

Academy of American Poets

May 30, 2010

Today's poem is from Yeshiva Boys, published by Scribner. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Read more about this book.

Other Lehman Poems
A Little History
A Quick One Before I Go
Shake the Superflux!

You can unsubscribe from our Poem-A-Day emails at anytime—either completely, or until next April.

Academy of American Poets
584 Broadway
Suite 604
New York, NY 10012

French Movie
by David Lehman

I was in a French movie
and had only nine hours to live
and I knew it
not because I planned to take my life
or swallowed a lethal but slow-working
potion meant for a juror
in a mob-related murder trial,
nor did I expect to be assassinated
like a chemical engineer mistaken
for someone important in Milan
or a Jew journalist kidnapped in Pakistan;
no, none of that; no grounds for
suspicion, no murderous plots
centering on me with cryptic phone
messages and clues like a scarf or
lipstick left in the front seat of a car;
and yet I knew I would die
by the end of that day
and I knew it with a dreadful certainty,
and when I walked in the street
and looked in the eyes of the woman
walking toward me I knew that
she knew it, too,
and though I had never seen her before,
I knew she would spend the rest of that day
with me, those nine hours walking,
searching, going into a bookstore in Rome,
smoking a Gitane, and walking,
walking in London, taking the train
to Oxford from Paddington or Cambridge
from Liverpool Street and walking
along the river and across the bridges,
walking, talking, until my nine hours
were up and the black-and-white movie
ended with the single word FIN
in big white letters on a bare black screen.

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