Meditation with [                        ] Inside It

Meditation with [                        ] Inside It

Meditation with [You & I, Immolated] inside It

                                   “And here you are
Treating me like a liar! I command you:
Burn me!”

                 …of your ancient faculties, in spite of sight, rather,
in spite of your blank and absent field of vision, in spite of
seeing, you’ll have to forgive my hands over your eyes my fingers
smelling of work, so then in spite of smell, but should you
fail to notice the fetor of labor, trying instead to feel
my palms, then further in spite of touch, or of this touch’s
subjection to language, which, in spite of itself, is asking to
be heard, and so in spite of hearing, the deafness that
the tongue endures, signing precisely beyond taste,

and by this virtue, spiteful of its other functions, so finally
in spite of all this human premonition, in spite of all,
in spite or dare I say, in spirit of this, I’d like to say how glad I am
you’re here with me, among the maples, the periodic
smattering of cardinals, this time of year’s sensational
sensations, so shall I take my fingers from your face?; see,
there’s a chapel, or a half-way-house, a rest-stop, cabin, home,
see, here, under the crooked and left-most elm, you know,
it’s just so nice of you to come along, so nice, the colors of this
season, also, did I mention that the couriers or postal officers,
surveyors or general personnel of the United States Postal
Service’s New York Divisional Offices, have not, by law or loose
insinuation ever been required to carry incendiary equipment,
further, the venerable and aforementioned of the United States
Postal Service’s New York Divisional Offices, have not, by
previously noted stipulation or device ever been required to
employ incendiary equipment, which also holds true for the
esteemed members of the late New York Society on the
Suppression of Vice, the United States Supreme Court,
and/or the living citizenry and populace of the borough
of Manhattan, which is why it is also of import to note
that the uncensored text of Joyce’s Ulysses employs a lexicon
of round about thirty-thousand-and-thrity words and that
the average temperature in New York City has a low of
forty-seven Fahrenheit in October, which is why it is of
import to keep warm, but here the soil, in turn, the turf,
in turn the mosaic felled foliage, in turn the lateness of the season,
glows hots as if summer is just barely hanging on by the rings
around its eyes, glows as we pass through it, harvesting its essence,
its imagined ember-ness, toward the little building, temple, shack,
or music-hall, maybe community center, can you make it out,
it’s closer, we’re getting close, a reliquary of sorts, a sin-forgiving
alcove in the woods, an antidote, which might be what we need,
considering the grossness of my faults, see, my girl cut her hair
off, and I loved her unforgivably the more for it, because I could
see more of her naked and in 1922 an undesignated conglomerate
of fleshy cartons, containing unforgivable contraband of the highest
sort are being hauled out onto the street, when my girl cries I can
see her do it so clearly, eroding the mystery of grief, and in 1922
the Customs Officer sweats salt, eroding the mystery of work,
and so you’ll have to forgive my fingers smelling the way they do
for I have been working, too, the portal is upon us but inside,
frowsty, vaulted, space, the mystery remains intact, unscoured,
unerroded, its meaning, application, purpose still obscure, but
maybe further in, shall we, downstairs, through that door, after you,
watch your head, the Customs Officer is human, it is his custom
to smoke Turkish cigarettes, and so without the influence of a
direct legal directive he does, in fact, carry on his person a packet
of matches which he confiscated off a woman from Zurich
where it is, on average, colder in October than in New York
and which is incidentally where Joyce, hospitalized with an ulcer,
ended his stay among the living with the words, Does nobody
; so in Ithica, Penelope, in the full swing of becoming
metaphor, in the full swing of having the whole damn house to
herself, in the full swing of untying herself from Homer’s tongue,
of, for once, taking advantage of his blindness, skipping across
the centuries, dolling herself up in an Irish nightgown, and
with mascara of James’ finest ink, in full swing of answering
his dying call, just in time, it would seem, with an earth-
shattering Yes, in other words, yes, in other words, nobody does,
in other words, precautions have not been taken, not against
oblivion, yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes
until affirmation becomes nonsense, because we haven’t yet found
the words, the act that could undo all this, forms have not been
filled out, have not been filed, have not been submitted to the proper
regulatory bodies, just our bodies submitted to the tasks of lugging
these crates up from the basement, from the crypt, from the annals,
to lugging these crates into the setting sun and if it is now
hard to keep the whole thing in your head, remember what I
said about breathing, oxygenation, we’ve found it, there’s work to do,
thinks the Customs Officer, dousing the cartons in gasoline,
which now bleed ink, which now look so like the cartons
we have been stacking on this lawn like a ziggurat, which, taking
again into account the temperature in New York, the number
of words and therefore pages, which considering the matches
he is now drawing from his pocket, which considering the absence
of directive or even blame, which considering the absolute idealism
of these circumstances, must result in revelation, so: in 1922,
a Customs Officer burns several hundred copies of Ulysses in the
street, sealing up the glossy, charring and prophetic wind, a wind
swept hot and low, and lo, across this poplar-rounded meadow,
lo, under the building’s buttressing, lo into your ears and eyes
and nose and mouth and all the wide way blessed, burgeoning,
brimming with inferno, so now it’s your turn, the work is done,
we smell of it, see, it’s all stacked and primed, see, it’s all set in
motion, here’s a light, here’s a chance to set it right, an offering
and we stand in front of it, we stand inside it, we stand before it,
it’s never been a pleasure, only a privilege; a synapse fires in spite
of yes in spite…

Meditation with [a Scene in which Noös Has, On a Personal Leave of Absence, Taken Up Residence in a Trailer Park in Sky Valley, CA] inside It

He, pleased and finally unfettered, has descended onto the torso
of his lethargy with surety. The distal joints on the left index
finger ensuring trajectory, the corresponding joints on the right
popping head after polygonal head like roe, each triggering
a satisfying plastiky buzz in the joysticks, the thumbs reloading,
the wrists adjusting. On the stove, fat and marrow sear in a pan.

She takes real pride in her corpus, organized chronologically,
with festive thematic features on Sundays. Watchcapped but
otherwise nude, she fingers her reddened clitoris at the camera
as plainly as one might disassemble the pistil of a maple flower,
without the need for grace. The windows face the street because
it’s simpler to make breakfast if the neighbors think she’s unhappy.

It, the quail, which used to be more body, is now a great source
of pleasure to the boys carrying it to between two whoops in
the dirt bike track. The rest of the afternoon is spent sheering
the air above its shriveling, sand-studded eye. This could be
seen as a peculiar metaphor for the supersession of death. It’s not:
think of the children. Such ease in just rubbing the throttle raw.

They do not find the class boring, rather rudimentary. Anatomy,
composed to their minds of particulars, is, in this online lecture,
bullet-pointed as compositional. Only organelle so organ. Only bone
so structure. The wallpaper on one particular student’s desktop
is the frontispiece of Hobbes’ Leviathan. Only body so politique.
Please understand, the people are tired. Only force so the issue.

We have taken to the streets, he rubs relief into his carpus. She,
disused to wearing shoes, walks in bounces. It has been left to
the roaches. They’re dismissed. Mid-afternoon’s excitation’s pleasant,
wholly because we have been wondering why the day turned out so
decently. Anguish has gone missing. Out angling by the reservoir
perhaps. We’ll be at the watering hole, inquiring about the time.

I keep having this dream, in which there are no bodies.
Just the words for them.
I have thought this might be paradise. It’s not. In paradise,
I don’t think I’d doubt my composition.
I do. Noös, quietly packs and sets off toward the junction
of Will and Sympathy. It was a decent holiday.

Meditation with [The Devil & The Details] inside It

“In se perpetuo Tempus revolubile gyro”

Moreover, the composition of this moment, populated
by what I will here call you–although you may, should
you be disquieted by the directness and immediacy of
this address, or should you simply opt for a little
anonymity, choose to replace that pronoun with the first
person form of it, namely, I, or even We–also includes
the planet Venus as seen from the planet Earth, and
a certain amount of post-biblical literalism, in light
of which–Venus that is–you may consider pulling
the car over and getting out, because you could use
a cigarette, and you’re early, and you haven’t seen stars
this bright since you lived in Illinois, or maybe you’re
already standing by the side of the highway, maybe you
have been for a long time, boots among the knapweed.
I could be mistaken. These things take awhile. By which
I mean–depending on Venus’s orbital relation to both
the Earth and the sun–a photon would take somewhere
between three and thirteen minutes–a numeric span
coincidentally ranging from holy to unlucky–to be
wholly unlucky enough to fall the twenty-six-million miles,
hellbent on boring its way into the tightening gyre of your
pupil, which in this instance is not a skewed reference to
the Yeats but rather a tip of the proverbial hat to the opening
line of Milton’s “The Fifth Elegy. At the Age of 20 On
the Approach of Spring
”, a poem that may be equinoxially
pertinent to you in the assembling moment, or simply
frustrating because of your inability to get past the first
page of Paradise Lost ostensibly jamming Lucifer’s fall in
media res
, trapped between a rock and the widest, most
spacious place of places, just above the horizon, which
is where the Morningstar now hangs for you, bounded
by the span of time it would take you to realize that that
poem begins after that Fall, while some drab mid-century
rendition of “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love” leaks, tinkling
and painfully canonical from the car stereo and gathers
in the wilting purple flowers at your feet, circling, in lazy
warbling wavelengths, around and around its ridiculous
chorus, almost canonical, which is finally used here in
the musical sense rather than its previous prescriptive
application because once again I can’t tell you if you’re
just getting back in the car or already driving. It doesn’t
really matter, the following voice is simply a melodic copy
of the leader or, at best, contrapuntal. Independent
moments so perfectly balanced by sound theory they might
as well be the same, it might be simpler to imagine them
as such. One could, or You could, or I could, or even We
could imagine, the lines on this particular stretch of starlit
interstate, growing shorter and closer together, so as to
replicate a formal gentility, an ease in the decent, as if in
truth things have not already been set down, as if things
were all still up in the drooping, still, and early morning
air and will not, without much at all of poetry’s so-called
justice, run themselves into the ground.

Meditation with [a Scene in Which, Having Strap-Sorted the Winnings of Bets Placed on the Possibility of Incinerating the Atmosphere Above the Hiroshima Prefecture, Major-General Leslie Groves Reads the Obituaries in the August 7th Times, Late Edition] inside It

Easy may not be the right word, but upon first having seen
Bernard Hoffman’s photograph, ‘Head of Christ in Front
of Destoyed Cathedral 2 Miles from where the US Dropped

an Atomic Bomb’, it does seem suddenly easy to ratchet
a metaphor to the decollated sign, on display to exactly no
one at the precise instant of the image’s reciprocal composition,

the camera’s flash startling nothing but the gently irradiated
flutterings of our own observant hearts; it seems that considering
the here-depicted Second-Going, the Word made stone,

tight-lipped and beaten to the smiting of the nations by none
other than the pale and now-indigenous people of that one
nation over which It presided, corpus-less, is now unable

to retrieve the sword It has so long kept just behind Its teeth,
and that the photographer, having claimed what little ration
of light he came for, leaves Omniscience dumb and gagging

on the pommel jammed in the back of Its throat, and so in
view of the stark moral monochrome of that picture, it does
seem suddenly easy to imagine freedom as the forty-three

second free-fall toward the predetermined detonation height
of 1,968 feet, at which–after the string section has finished
its glissando but before death’s rapidly approaching cymbal

crash–there comes a great unraveling of the prefecture’s lungs,
stunned and filled with the rushing shockwave of victory; and
after having meticulously arranged the banknotes but before

clipping each of his fingernails into his coffee, it does seem
suddenly easy, just before getting to the funnies, for General
Groves to glance, if only for the same reason he finds Madison’s

writings charming and keeps a copy of the Pocket Constitution
above his toilet, down and chuckle now at the counterfactuality
of contemporary journalism’s tabloid declaration: “The Tragic

Death of Fate”, which makes him wonder at Fate’s embarrassing
lack of formal prefix and which, considering Luck’s and Liberty’s
statuses as Ladies, seems odd, His lady, who, according to

the article, passed after failing to decide if she had time to cut
herself—quickly—before getting out of her jammies and into
something more suitable for the ceremony, at which she stood,

right foot making stealthy little circles under her gown, above
the ache of the high button heel no self-respecting stateswoman
would be caught dead without, before slipping out the servant’s

entrance for a smoke, after which she took a cab home where
she thought about calling Justice but realizing that it was already
midnight in Arcadia and that the poor blind bitch wouldn’t be

able to find the phone without waking her dog, thought it best
not to trouble her and shot herself, instead, in the left temple
with Paul Revere’s 70-caliber flintlock pistol: easy as pie; and then

–in the Arts section–there was Language who was bludgeoned
to death by the sudden overabundance of headline exclamation
marks, viscera held in only by the threads of fraying filigree entwining

Donne’s “Holy Sonnet XIV”’s opening Batter my heart–grotesque
and slovenly–and who through the fizzling salivary bubbles of its
own idiot vocabulary prayed itself to expiration in Aramaic, chanting:

in the beginning was the Word, and on unto madness; because after this,
what could one possibly say?; because with or without Fate or even
the rude words that signified her, who could ever be responsible

for anything?; because so little depends upon those permanent shadows,
their respective casters immolated and offered up to the altar
of Example, tongues so deep in cheeks we wonder if what walls still

stand might bleed, that which, through the achromatism of Hoffman’s
lens and under correct lighting and conditions could be mistaken for
tears; yet our Major-General, yawning suddenly at the exhaustion

that this balmy morning’s turn has slung him with, draws his
eyes across the back of his sleeve–right by the button–which must,
contrastingly, never be mistaken for feeling, and turns finally to

the funnies, takes a swig of his calcified coffee, looks down at his
trimmed and strangely ruddy fingernails and, at the caffeine’s
temporary relief, thinks singularly: Goddamnit, I happen to love this country!

George Kovalenko is an MFA candidate at New York University. He lives in Brooklyn.


Recent writing

E Read More

PoetryMay 19, 2024

“Everything only connected by ‘and’ and ‘and’”: On Elizabeth Bishop and Disappointment

In prose that’s erudite and accessible, former Editor-in-Chief of At Length, Jonathan Farmer, explores why “[s]o many of Elizabeth Bishop’s poems end with something audibly, willfully unsatisfying.” Covering Bishop’s career from “The Map” (1946) to her late elegy for Robert Lowell, “North Haven” (1977), Farmer’s claim will send you back to Bishop’s poems with new eyes.

W Read More

PoetryFebruary 16, 2024


“[W]hat am I to do / about beauty, about / my fear that beauty // has made me arrange / every experience in a word / and image too neatly // for them to bear / much semblance to life,” Paisley Rekdal asks in this confessional, ekphrastic poem written in response to George Stubb’s famed painting of an Arabian thoroughbred, “Whistlejacket” (1762), on view at the National Gallery in London.

S Read More

PoetryFebruary 9, 2024


“[H]ow do they bear this heat Who / knows who can say what will change,” Joanna Klink writes of this poem’s eponymous plant, also known as trumpet pitchers, as she explores our climate crisis and her relationship with her father in language that is both colloquial and catastrophic, meditative and urgent.

T Read More

PoetryApril 11, 2023

Three Weeks

“I am going to try to write / A little. // I have nothing at stake but my life.” In Dawn Potter‘s sequence, a 19th century woman alternates between diary entries and poems, trying to make sense of her life, her obligations, her hunger for holiness, and a feeling of disaster or deliverance just out of view.

Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.