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[preliminary meditations towards the Osnabrueck conference on language and identity] Given: When he saw the shape of the cloud over the monastery dining hall a foreign word came quickly [ko.mong] to his nearby mind, O yes it is the words who are the aliens oyez oyez they have lived here with us nearer than mitochondria they moved into our brains and altered our minds over millennia Harappa, oyez, Sumeria. Every language is a foreign language, an invasion from outside of space. 1. That it may come to rest and be an apple, a miracle the way hands work tugging yarn snug on the loom and cutting free. We have come to the inside-out of myth as if one morning suddenly but normally enough, without a word the river stopped. 2. Last works and lost words a kind of triangulation or a weather in the heart of number. 3. If you show us your thinking there is nothing to attend to without a story the mind can do nothing with thinking. The doors of the subway car remain open a brief uncertain time, sitting there, can you tell from who is getting on and who is getting out which way to go? Examine, traveler, and sit still. 4. Of course one has to go to Germany thats where they keep most language nowadays, on parade, especially in the Lutheran parts which look suspiciously at other arts ---philology alone is good for you--- and find painting colorless and sculpture barren. Freilich muss man nach Deutschland fahren. 5. Come rest between permissions these comforts long denied you now deserve you rest after speaking the breasts of silence the milks are different, their comfort mixed silence inside words or after them, two orders of our declaration, wild carrots, clover, ragweed, poetry. 6. Elegant enough, a pastor visits his sheep. On bike in a black short sleeve shirt with cleric collar zipping matins-ward in morning dew and you call this a Protestant? We have so many names nomina numina to call, call at going and at coming, calling, sheep bleat on the moor. 7. And there is more. A barrage below the Temple, a dirigible caught in some trees. Dogs bark up at it as if the moon their god had finally come down to earth to them, to teach them language (a sound goes through the mind before it speaks) And the rabbits are Victorian! And the airplanes with broken landing gear rest crooked on the ancient lawn and the world is over already like a dream unpacking into day. 8. Remember Isis. The night she lay on the bed beside Thoth chaste in the cheapo hotel, a scandal beyond the reach of theology, that they would dare to touch, that they would do no more than touch? What does it mean when to a small nowhere city the gods come calling, jostling and goosing people on the street, whistling, spitting and walking nude their fawns in shabby parks, splashing through the fountain under the mean monument to the Confederate dead? In doorways, racists gibber at such antic beauty. 9. We were there. This is the throne. We sat by turns on her chair. The chair was made of water and felt like knees when we sat down. In sanctity we sat and read and ruled and the afternoons stretched out at our feet and yawned. 10. Rest between renaissances. Rest for marble and rest for gold the Opels of tourists streak through rapeseed fields in the magic Saarland twilight where dark soldiers study the rising moon. 11. I crossed all those rivers. I was born for bridges, privileging crossing over, really just wanting to walk in the sky, in Newark or Kingston or Highbridge or over Humber you can do it, one great gesture so little motor people just like me can go over sacred moving water, and every one of them a goddess is, Ryan / Rhine / Rhiannon, and still Annan's self delves water's tale. 12. I wear this cross around my neck: sympathy for the victim odd to show it by the mark that tortured Him. I wear these shackles round my heart bone white, Adam's ribs. Criss-cross, bare skin, well meant lie, I raise the red flag in the cemetery. 13. Investigations of an absent theme, Sir Edward, this would be music only if you listen, this would be meaning only if you find (I can't) a theme to hold this tune together, I can whistle something that makes no sense but still the wind is physical, is breath, says me, means you, the wind is true, fingers can still touch me and touch you. 14. I had a theme but lost it in Los Angeles when a pregnant lady with a lisp looked me in the eye I had a theme once and in India it got washed away down the hillside in a soft monsoon while I watched the gravestones say their prayers I had a theme again and held it warm in my mouth like a bite from a peach so sweet and thick the meaningful, the juice dribbled down my chin and chest so everyone who saw me knew what I would say, they laughed at me until I swallowed it (nothing more crushing than agreement, consensus silences all music) I had a theme at last a kind of shapely pouting silence a bunch of words beyond my grasp all I could do was say them so I did. Autumn 1993
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