"Look, How Numerous"
from RED TO THE RIND
How numerous, the duplicate sardines
In their side-flashing schools, each
How solidly silver, and muscle
Meted out to each littleness equally,
And identical eyes. Surely
They are a personification of the human
Mind. Later, my grandfather
Standing over a can of them on the kitchen
Counter, packed head to tail, lifting them
One by one and eating them bones and all.
from THE RADIANCE OF PIGS
By the time you are twelve your affections are fixed.
Then come the decades that roll your heart like a cheese
In the sea. Yes, it is surreal.
Then you are twelve again, and old.
And you find the waxed red ball of your heart on the shore.
And you are not surprised by anything now except
That you should love at the end what you loved
At the beginning.
from THE RADIANCE OF PIGS
The rabbit I ran
Until I caught
Throbbed in my hand
The whole thing a heart.
Had frozen, to vanish, to turn weed-grey.
I brought it home
And put it in my yard
And brought them to see
What I'd caught was gone.
Stupid to think a rabbit would stay.
"The Thing in the Dirt"
from THE RADIANCE OF PIGS
In the garden, lying
By the brick wall in the dirt
Where the sprinklers drench each night
And the sun never shines
I saw something black,
It looked like feces of the elephant ear,
In plastic wrap, thrown
Under the plants, repulsive as offal,
Daring me to fall on it and
Eat it if I really loved life.
from THE RADIANCE OF PIGS
Those who would know the emotional quality
Cannot ignore Pound's ear, his timing. And I left
My son in the dorm room. Kissed his whiskered
Babyskin cheek, and blew him another. As he
Walked off with two girls named Elizabeth.
Or ignore his raptor's eye, or forgive him
His monomanias, and the light of his
Mind like the light on wavelets that cannot
Cohere or reach shore. This is what Ezra
Pound means to me on the day after I leave
My son at Brown University and sit in this
Room in New York wondering what to do next.
Fixed in one place like the wavelets that
Imitate livingness. Is this modern enough?
Anne, you hedge-full-of-lightning-bugs,
When I close my eyes I can see you. The sparkling
Behind eyelids, who is it? Now
She is I, the ordinal, whipping the horses
To a lather as I tremble in the haycart
Behind her that tips on two wheels at the
Precipice. In dreams she lashes the horses. And
Forever the corn smells of sun as I walk into it
To urinate. What happened in time
Stays in time. Now even our images are entangled.
Root out the horses, they have
Grown tendrils from their steel shoes and
Though my books are in no bookstores,
Root out the horses. This is the Second Day.
There stand the carriage horses. They tread
Their golden droppings. Some people pass
Holding maps to their noses. That horse
Is the color of rust in sun. They could
Not pull fireplaces, or orange coals and iron.
That would take Homer, Winslow. He's at the
Met now. Let's go over. Here we are. This
Is dangerous. In the painting of the fox in the snow
Are the world's best crows. There is
Green in their blackness. Then there's the
Watercolor of the leaves and the oranges.
And the one of the fogbank creeping
To strand the rowboat from the mothership. Faux forces
Thrash the black water to foam. But Im
Disappointed. He is not our Vermeer. I bet
Hopper liked him. Now let's go buy
Some neat clothes. Of course we dont Need
Them. But the salesgirl wears flesh
Skipants, butchlength blond hair, and eyes
Crystalized in Antarctica. Save me! In
Homer's green net of death I struggle like
A wig in a washing machine. And then the
Moment is over. And only her profile in the
Mirror as she hands my credit card back to me.
Rapunzel, reach down your little hands, too.
It is troubling to me that our greatest songster
Was crazy. This, the transitional century.
None other such swift change. And
The gleaming at the box edge as the lid
Is lifted. Angels, monsters, in coitus. The box
Hot as a lightbulb. From in it, labor-pain screams
Muffled by mother of pearl. To
Know the emotional quality, lest grief
Break the egg of the skull. Irrational,
The songster's transitions, but also like
Those of the waves. Oh, really? Now night
Has fully fallen on New York. The streetlamps
Shiver in Queens over the invisible East River.
Chris in Providence. Anne in Chicago. And
My future shorter now, though the babies
In strollers look the same age as ever. Night is
Earth's shadow on itself. One of Winslow's
Crows drinks from a downspout in New Orleans,
Whether witnessed or not. In the broken glass
Shade of a streetlamp in Central Park a bird
Builds her nest, the lightbulb for warmth.
Sparrows fall as often as leaves and God is
Distracted to madness. Only the nazis kept excellent
Records. Behold! They are the golfers in lightning.
Three days passed. Jesus rose on a seashell,
Hand shielding vulva, at last, masculine.
The only religion to start with a murder,
Said Anne. I dont get it. The babe in the stroller,
Its eyes liquid nickels. Forgive it? Two fawns
Stiffen at streamside. Spots of sun
In their fur. They have come down to drink
From the stream I am squatting in. The doe
Mother, also, rigid. Moment of wholeness.
A twitch, and they crash off through the sticks
And the hair of my flesh stood up (Job 4:15).
The emotional quality of the moment is
The religious experience of the atheist. This
Is Day Three. Ezra Pound makes me sit
Under the gold painted equestrian statue
At Central Park South and 5th.
Where some kind of needle has its way with a thimble.
Next to me sits a smooth man. Obsessed with the
Physical. Im 40. Im 6 one. 180.
Im not little but Im not big. This big
Black guy. 250. He jumps me. I fended
Him off. The cops come. Five years I had
Stayed in the house. I hadnt gone out. I
Dont know why. But this got me out. I said
Im gonna live. So the next night I went to
A bar. An Irish bar. My kind. Im talking
To this female. Her boyfriend is sitting
At the other end of the bar. For twenty minutes
We talk. I didnt know. Then he yells Hey
That's my woman youre with. And I say,
I want no trouble with you, Im not fighting
No whiteman. And he says, Why NOT?
When I reach to shake his hand he smiles and says
No, man. Germs. So we touch fistknuckles and I cross
The street and head up 5th to the Museum of
Modern Art show, Picasso and Portraiture.
When the rowboat is swamped, when the lilies
In it are level with the water, I see the
Glass ball paperweight of snowflakes in oil
Of the moment, the rose window in the cool
Cathedral, and for our delectation. I enter
The museum, tense that the tentacles of the
Masters might brush me, that the suckers
Might suck me. Picasso is making me do this.
About whom Pound, to my knowledge, said nothing.
American economy, and Spanish blood never so red
As when ink on the bull's black hump.
Shall we stroll awhile in the inferno of previous crybabies?
Picasso, a pivot. And many
Of The Cantos near gibberish. The eye of
The portrait floats until it reaches its spot
Then stops. Pound and Picasso, their footprints
Darkspots in dew. The dream doesnt tell me
What the supporting characters in it
Are thinking. Though we be like sun-spotted
Fawns, we are ignorant. Something
In the veins of the maple requires no pump
Against gravity. My shoes are more wrinkled now
Than on Thursday. The lobster is impossible.
It goes without saying. A student
Asked Ingres what was the most beautiful thing
About painting and he said Two colors touching
Which are almost the same, but not.
And then a death-thought washes over me.
I momentarily lose faith in my senses. Perhaps
All experiences are bug-eyed green plastic
Fishinglures, with hooks dangling down.
Then something blinks, and the stuffed deer
Crash through the glass diorama, slipping
On the icelike linoleum.
Leaving the poem without information.
Fake rocks, painted clouds, white vault.
Hang on, hang on! the soldier shouts
To the corpse of his buddy. And under
The ceiling fan the candle does its death hula.
Laugh, laugh, phonograph. When the music stopped being
Its own explanation the booze and the pot
Had to stop. There I sat, staring at the singing birds,
Begging them to make sense. It is
Impossible to know when the lines are too long
Or when autobiography is a crock. All that
Energy expended on antlers and then they
Fall off. It is as if a bony watermelon.
Or in the African river the dead babies,
Now brown balloons, bump one another. Only
The subjective sacrifice of love
Being the counterbalance to that. River ripening,
Loved ones in two other cities. Only
The cycles for solace. That the baby
And the watermelon differ. That the salmon are
Counter-intuitive. That the sexes pull apart
With a cry. Pound is actually a private thing.
Picasso's goat is the thought still visible
In it. Are you tired of these two
In my song? Well, they are gone. I feel better now.
The gigantic mouth has spit me
Out. Phew! Too bitter. And my chair
Floats in the black air. Harlem, two stripes
Of silver at the end of the Park. The man
At the equestrian statue, where is he now,
Other, of course, than in Queens. What
Exception is he to the rule. In my senses
His Irishness pinkens. If with love
Comes understanding what shall we do with
The prisons? I freaked out, said the woman,
When her toddler reached up to touch the nose
Of the carriage horse. Clop! came down its
Startled hoof. And the black one panics at
Airbrakes. Freud said the soul is a Story.
Be calm, bees and bats in the bone helmet. Turn on
The TV. Watch the grindingly repetitious pornography.
Watch it, as all things, as History.
What is more hilarious than carved marble pubic hair?
Thank you. Dont mention it.
I mean the senses.
Two men burnished by the sun.
A woman, the bloodvein in her temple
A rivulet, buttered by her interior, her story.
Another passes wearing an iguana, as long
As an arm, on her hat. Straw in the gold
Horse dung. Rose-blush the iguana's dewlap and lapis
Lazuli its throat. Glass skyscrapers reflecting
Molten their neighbors. Bleached green copper
Crowning granite. Carriage drivers in T-shirts
And tophats, reading the newspapers. Each
Moment, blossoming. Woman in pink silk
Pants and bullethole caste mark. Beyond all
Opinion, blossoming. And from the depths
The de-winged humans, whom the iguanas cant
Carry: cherryblack, olive, glistening, sitting
On the benches, eating. Of the millions of acts
In a moment, most of them kindnesses.
Out of the anonymity and loneliness of liberty,
Kindnesses. Comes the most difficult hour.
A text is demanded.
Some find surrender impossible. Some sleep.
Fourth Day. Nothing. Fifth Day.
Soon they discovered the grass was greener
Where the shit fell. But
I weary of climbing this ladder into the peach
Colored clouds for fear that if I do not
I will wear the S&M hood of the wasted life.
A James Ensor painting is making me say this.
Every day, every day, Leisure is Evil
And Fun the golfpro of Death.
I would walk out into the
Trees of the Park were my ankles not aching
So much. This punishment for climbing the hours.
Softly, a streetperson, a mixture
Of the Grim Reaper and Santa, approacheth.
Freaks out even the other streetpeople.
And at 57th and 6th a woman dressed only
In a ripped plastic garbage bag raps her
Cup on the sidewalk. I swear, aware of her
Part in the play. And nearby in Army Square
A whitewoman in khaki and orange plaid,
Expertly accessorized, cries out You will
NOT take money from my account, Thank you!
You will NOT, do you hear me? Stands, smooths her
Hair, juts forth a steel chin, and vanishes.
I am reporting as I was ordered.
Perhaps Woolworths has plain white china.
Paranoia is the logical madness. I, too,
Walk the streets arguing things out. They
Can see my lips moving. I am constantly
Eating a lifesaver so maybe theyll think
He is eating a lifesaver. Well, if you dont
Say it out loud it's not true. Thinking, alone,
Wont do. Thinking alone wont do. That's why
We each need privacy. So we can talk. If you
Dont get out more often, Im telling you,
The gods will think you dont care. My ankles
Are killing me, OK? I look up. I see
In the mirror a Fujifilm blimp. If I sleep well
And dream of vengeance, I wake up exhausted.
Of course, there is sex; and those moments
When the landscape looks handmade; and a
Painting of apples resembles three severed
Heads from the bible; and the limousines
Are lined up in front of The Plaza sniffing
Each other. These can be milked. And there are
Measures of time. For example, how long
Does it take a manhole cover to be
Worn a smooth silver by tires? That is not
Without intelligence. Then there are those who say
Being, not doing, is the true path. Well, being
Makes me very nervous, and I would rather
Be a lapdog on Madison than a lotus, than a
Deep-breathing lotus. I told the waitress I wanted
My eggs poached hard. They were runny. But
Her eyes were so green and her hand so hairless.
Black jeans. Gold gravy. Offspring of foam.
I got what I wanted. Said my two year old son
On observing his erection as I changed his diaper
My penis is tall! I will walk to the Met again,
Hobbled, cursing the details. Wanting, as always,
Only to have my skin, like a nightgown,
Pulled off me. Wanting the next step
After nakedness. The biological equivalent of
El Greco's ?View Of Toledo.? But it does
Not happen. Quite the opposite. The quartz
In the watch is inaudible. The church
Until recently punished masturbation by broiling,
And the hole midway down the puritan nightgown
Closed like a crocodile's nostril,
While even the bananas jerked off. Night
Of the Fifth Day. Morning of the Sixth. Note:
The Theory Of Dissipative Structures suggests
That in an open system far-from-equilibrium
Complex patterns can arise from simple ingredients
Provided that energy is continually pumped in
And waste entropy is removed. Some scientists
See this as an explanation for the origin
And evolution of life in which a flow of
Energy from the sun is dissipated as it powers
The creation of complexity. I am having a
Fine time. I have to force myself but each
Morning I go get a caf? americano which I
Drink while reading the NY Times on a bench
At 6th and Central Park South. The stench of the
Horse manure I find rather pleasant, like
State Fairs and Pastoral Painting, though
Some people passing hold the collars of their
Shirts to their faces and pick up their step.
When the sun appears from behind the building
That shades me the heat of its light hits me
Suddenly, knifelike, rather than gradually
As one might assume given the slowness
Of shadows. It's all or nothing, you know.
My mood is anxious and fragile. It used to be
I couldnt imagine being bored or depressed,
All things being miracles. I seem to be destined
To suffer everything I once couldnt imagine.
Perhaps suffer is too strong a word. But you know
Me. I am writing a long poem which I hope
Deals with the structure of experience. It's
Some kind of excessivist theory about the
Psychological states you can be in over a given
Period and still maintain dynamic balance
In a system that otherwise seems about to resolve
Into equilibrium, which is death. Today
I discovered the paintings of Paula Rego and she
Knows what I mean. I stopped at the carousel
In the Park and while I was there I was happy.
The guy who was running it eventually started
To stare at me as though I were some kind
Of pedophile, so I left. Cupid was chasing chasing
A rabbit rabbit with his brown bow and arrow.
One horse had a backward lion skin for a saddle
And another had its red tongue hanging out
Almost like in life. Then I went on to
The big sculpture of Alice In Wonderland.
Alice and the Creatures are bronze rubbed
Bright by the children who've climbed them. In
The ground surrounding the sculpture are
Bronze plaques with quotes from the book.
I read one about a little boy who was spanked
For sneezing that disturbed me so much I
Walked off. I think it had something to do
With my dream last night in which I was
Naked from the waist down and this fully
Dressed woman reached under my t-shirt
And threatened to squeeze my balls. I was
Paralyzed and humiliated and paralyzed. I
Woke up and said to myself It's only
A dream. But was it? But I do not know. Actually
Things are going fine. I look forward to working
On the poem each day.
I am on the 29th page and I do
Not read what I have previously written any more than
I go through all my past life before leaving the
I just struck out the last 29 words. I shouldnt
Mention the poem. But the people, the people
Seem most estranged of all things. Love,
Your husband. P.S. Will I tell you that dream
On the phone? The Seventh Day. I pick up the string
In the cream of the late afternoon. In each
Doorway of Times Square stands a minotaur. I pull
On the string. One suit says to another Go
To Atlantic City. Take three or four hundred
Dollars. You lose it. OK. Dont take scared money.
My paintings will see the dawn sun before I do.
Can fire melt them down any further, that have
Been through the furnace of brain? When the hive
Is on fire do the worker bees
Crackle and writhe at the door
To save the queenbee, or flee? Once the image is in it,
It's in it. Nor will oil paint evaporate from
The forehead, nor bullshit not show up in the verse.
The fake Rolexes in the briefcases are golder
Than real Rolexes are, and in the Africans
Selling them no drop of slavery, no cream.
The penis can double in size. The iron bridge
Swells in the heat. I yank on the string.
The bull bursts into the cruelly round ring.
Things change. Splice them. First overwrite, then splice.
In magical thinking if you mention death you will die.
In logical thinking if you dont mention death etc.
And the soul floats between like a jellyfish
Blown on the wind. Is death masculine?
After rigor mortis again comes softness.
Death with a scythe is a plague image.
Death as a sniper, now that, said Winslow Homer,
Is the closest thing in war to sheer murder.
If the hours pass unused I feel terror. Death's
Hand under (long red fingernails) the hem of my t-shirt.
End all long poems with a monkey.
I saw in the silence a demon
Whittling a length of aluminum, where the collie
Ran the wire fence, day and night barking,
And one day died, and his owner came
With a pitchfork and stuck it in him
And carried him off over his shoulder.
Any questions? One.
Was Freud right that the soul is a narrative?
I just read palms, son, the palms of Miami. Jesus
Cracketh no jokes. As surely as the Prado is brown
I will get this song down in
Words. On the back of the t-shirt worn by the black man
Pushing the cart out of which was coming
A quavering tenor was printed
The Voice You Hear Singing Is Me.
He seemed to be headed toward Heaven.
I stare down into the empty
Washing machine, so clean,
Its paddles as smooth as a photo.
This, also, sits at the right hand of God.
Throne of the Senses. A monkey can figure out
A slide-bolt easily so dont use one of those
On its cage, nor, if you do, cry out
When you come home to find it escaped
And on the refrigerator eating handful by handful
Your chocolate cake. You are Adam
To it. So it screams, and leaps into your arms
And clings, like a human, being. The gods
Are the slaves of our prayers, poor babies. And
Only the sun cannot walk in the cool of the day.
Excerpted from The Radiance of Pigs by
Copyright 2/20/01 by Stan Rice "Doing Being". Excerpted by
permission of Knopf,
a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt
may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.