Read Under the Sign Online

Authors: Ann Lauterbach

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Under the Sign

BOOK: Under the Sign
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ALSO BY ANN LAUTERBACH

Poems

Or to Begin Again

Hum

If in Time: Selected Poems 1975–2000

On a Stair

And for Example

Clamor

Before Recollection

Many Times, but Then

Prose

The Given & The Chosen

The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience

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Greeks

(with Jan Groover and Bruce Boice)

Sacred Weather

(with Louisa Chase)

PENGUIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group

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First published in Penguin Books 2013

Copyright © 2013 by Ann Lauterbach

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Page viii constitutes an extension of this copyright page.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Lauterbach, Ann

[Poems. Selections]

Under the Sign / Ann Lauterbach.

pages cm. — (Penguin Poets)

Poems.

ISBN 978-0-14-312418-4

ISBN 978-1-101-62730-3 (eBook)

I. Title.

PS3562.A844U53 2013

811'.54—dc23 2013021794

In memory of
Leslie Scalapino
Stacy Doris
and for our students

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The author gratefully acknowledges the editors of the following journals, in which some of these poems, often in earlier versions, were first published:
The Brooklyn Rail
,
Conjunctions
,
Critical Quarterly
,
Denver Quarterly
,
Maggy
,
Vanitas
, and
Formes
Poétiques Contemporaines
.

Thanks also to Paul Slovak for patience and perseverance, and Anna Moschovakis, Marina van Zuylen, Michael Brenson, and Nancy Shaver for their enduring friendship and help along the way.

CONTENTS

Also by Ann Lauterbach

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Epigraph

I. GLYPH

A READING

TESTING THE WATERS

GLYPH

THE TRANSLATOR'S DILEMMA

ENIGMA OF THE CAT

TRIPTYCH (VAN EYCK)

UNTITLED (PORTRAIT)

LANDSCAPE WITHOUT VIEW

NIGHT NEWS WITH FAKE ZEBRA

AFTER NEWTOWN

UGLY SONNET

WORLD CUP

MEANWHILE, STORM

IL PLEUT

DOMESTIC MODERNISM

UTENSIL

HARBOR SONG

BASEMENT TAPE

UNDER THE SIGN

ALICE IN OCTOBER

THE TEARS OF EROS

II. TASK: TO OPEN

III. DEAR INSTRUCTOR

UNTITLED (SPOON)

OF SPIRITS

LETTER (IN PRAISE OF PROMISCUITY)

UNTITLED (AGAINST PERFECTION)

ZERO & A

A PLAN

UNTITLED (FATE)

A FOLD IN TIME

AT/OR (RAÚL ZURITA)

UNTITLED (THE DISINHERITED)

BEAUTY AND CONSOLATION (RICHARD RORTY)

UNTITLED (THE RIVER)

UNTITLED (THE NEUTRAL)

TO THE GIVEN

CLASSICAL AUGURY

SOME ELEMENTS OF THE POEM

SONG OF THE
O
(EMERSON “CIRCLES”)

About the Author

Penguin Poets

People wish to be settled; only so far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I.
GLYPH
A READING

1.

Mutable stipend, junk

saturated in the moldy

room with a thin blue rug.

The pivot has some mystery

as in the dream: huge

white birds flowering down.

The morning was brilliant

but then junk

broke loose to scatter sky.

Was I meant to consult

this tissue of meaningless harbingers?

2.

Make no mistake: behind

a curtain, a continuum.

Blink, sun.

The bugs are back.

The skin is salty.

Behind the curtain, a

mistake or just old dark

thrown across space.

I have an inky drawing of a hairy

stick pressing wind.

Lovely, now, the milky shade.

Behind the curtain, junk

orbits and a serenade to

those who keep watch while the ditch

fills with lost things. The distant river

flirts with light. The water is alight.

3.

In the dust of a former

moon, an abridgment.

If this were prose, little

agreements would obtain,

and you could turn toward the missed

like an angel on a fence.

I mean a bird, a bird

in prose. The spun ordeal

arises as a missing object, its

body enclosed so to be

a convenient newsy thing,

the dead soldier's spouse.

What exactly was intended

to be kept in this regressive frame?

Some figure? Some petty marker?

She will trade her mother's

ring for passage. Let her come aboard.

Veet! Veet!
The blue jay's yell

is hollow the way that light blinds.

TESTING THE WATERS

1.

What world?
asked the boy, alarmed

to be asked
to say when or

what might be repeated
the soldier's word

the doctor's word
, how
world might be

known by saying.

2.

Gone now from the said

radical child

hears only an orgy of hunches

under the swollen noise.

Fair trade. Liaison. Betrayal.

Some of us, some of them,

no accounting for response

as in the screen palace

we count our dead.

Blind to this or that

futurist moment

there are so many moments untold.

Who then arranged

this episode? Who then

killed the child?

3.

I'm getting good at sailing
unaccompanied through time

holding on to delay
forfeiting

the familiar bridge
across a mirage

betrayal
whose voice concedes

and is still recalled
even as it bends

under the weight
of forgetfulness.

I'm getting good at counting
and at seeing

the view from the
window of a dream.

4.

We hunker down

under the pines

and refuse to recall.

Fire! Excellent inferno!

Another cosmos passes through.

The mild noises of night

are a form of waiting

and then the dream

touches and reminds like a hand.

This reveals, and so a weary ambit

collapses the foreground scene.

GLYPH

It was, she said, her favorite color.
Fine, I said, have it your way.

He said he loved small things.
How small? I asked. No answer.

A book arrived in the mail I did not order.
The leaves, many of them, were falling.

Perhaps, I thought, it was sent just in case.
It was, she said, her favorite color.

The dog barked. He was new to the neighborhood.
Fine, I said, have it your way.

He said he loved small things.
A book arrived in the mail I did not order.

Today was more or less full of surprises.
Something in the mix of habit and hope.

Surprise, she said, is a kind of wind.
Perhaps, I thought, it was sent just in case.

To what or to whom are you referring?
I refer, she said, to the dog.

How small? I asked. No answer.
The leaves, many of them, were falling.

The dog barked. He was new to the neighborhood.
It was, she said, her favorite color.

Do animals forget? I asked.
The leaves, many of them, were falling.

Something in the mix of habit and hope.
A book arrived in the mail I did not order.

How small? I asked. No answer.
Today was more or less full of surprises.

to Celia Bland

THE TRANSLATOR'S DILEMMA

To foretell an ordinary mission, with fewer words.
With fewer, more ordinary, words.
Words of one syllable, for example.

For example:
step
and
sleeve
.
These are two favorites, among many.
Many can be found if I look closely.

But even if I look closely, surely a word is not
necessarily here, in the foreground.
I see an edge of a paper, I see orange.

I see words and I see things. An old story,
nothing to foretell the ordinary mission.
I see “her winter” and I see

And even the Romans fear her by now.
Are these words in
translation or barriers to translation?

I see John and an open book, open to a day
in August. I am feeling defeated
among these sights, as if I will never find

either sleeve or step. These ordinary
pleasurable words, attached to
ordinary pleasurable things, as if

to find them is to say I am
announcing criteria.
Step
,
sleeve
,
you are invited to come up and be within

ordinary necessities. Staircase. Coat.

ENIGMA OF THE CAT

1.

She walked along. She looked out.

Nothing here, among these, resembles.

She went on. There were lists,

objects, names, but still

nothing resembling. The sky

was a kind of sorrow, cold

and stained a pale sunless gray,

it too did not resemble. And she,

her lies adrift over the humdrum,

thought to turn back but by then

as you already know was lost.

2.

The wrist's illness, having
touched the spider,

erupting as grid
sewn before and after the fact.

The dark hall, the walls,
the imagined street

where the forecast
elicits a halo

broken from the entire—
cusp, turn, rim.

3.

Cat sleeps through world.

4.

Come then, undo the truss.

Mayhem waits like a sting.

Look down into the face puddle,

look across into the alarm.

There is a boat on a roof,

an image of a boat

on a roof. All else is heaved

as if giving birth on a floor.

Have you come this far?

Will you pass the wet caul?

5.

Cat is spared from angel.

6.

Mute extravagance

trapped under tarp.

Wave good-bye or

establish some rules

despite the glare.

Look down, there are things

dumped into a pail of glue.

This belt is way too tight.

These buttons, coins,

crumbs, a derelict parade

awash, happy tramp drowned.

7.

Cat plays with dead bird.

8.

You cannot avoid

the information.

No one cares what you

say unless you say

the information.

No one cares

what you care about

unless it is

the information

turned toward

a vocabulary

as if written.

9.

Cat turns in the chair and subsides.

10.

For what do you search?

The quick being

out of which

the conceptual flares

like a toy bomb.

The medieval crescent

born from prolific

reason.

Are you ready?

After the after, please

throw away

the photographs.

We know the image

came to nothing.

11.

Cat at the threshold.

12.

To dream is

to proliferate

in the opening that is

always shut. The long self

drawn into patterns of shadow,

girls and boys nameless

across the playground.

Stranded here

in the partial real. Ground

parts on

lacerations of the newly good.

The stone is mentioned.

A law is invoked.

The event floats in from afar.

13.

Cat waits until dark to go out.

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