Rachel Blau DuPlessis — Draft 27: Athwart
from Drafts 1-38, Toll (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001)


There was an other side 
           a space behind, in back, 
an overmuch, an
                      into which
where muffled voices throb without their names.
                                 It, whatever the term, 
           falls out of range
                    such regular registers 
as corporations,
                               orchestrated bailouts--
                     basically, what computes.
Screening odd stuff curled in the can 
           all of it strictly rushes,
           it showed drive, but drifted into derive, 
           hardly a "ray focusing"
                      anything to a point,
                    what needed to be considered.
           Cheerfully "now," a callow vector,
with the before missing, the after inconsequent.
           Twenty years here, 
                      twenty there
                                 and go frail.
Unsolicited mourning 
                               floods this site
                     a well of muted consciousness.
           Connaissance inutile.
                                                              Do you make it useless knowledge?
                                                                 or unthinkable recognition?
 Untranslatable it
           is the transverse torque
                     across this course.
           A lost specificity:
                     not documentary, not song,
but a wall;
           "the" evoked, but what's to point at--
                    incomprehensible zero space?
                    the ledger's incalculable underside?
An execution usually "over there,"
           some last words that 
                      frame the poisonous cavils
of the general listener
           who modifies and justifies 
who disclaims and denies,
                     but basically can't stop 
                                going along.

Next day, cyclonic rains,
           from which the tree, 
an oak of sixty feet
           and sixty years, fell down.
           A tilted force pushed through the winds of ferocity.
Its final muffled noise and muted rush
                                 were quick,
                                            a surprise how reverberant,
                                 how hard to assimilate.
                                           Ragge of verse
           buffeted by high roaring
                                 negation, hole/hold can sometimes split and pivot, 
           can create subjunctive hope and affirming rhetorics 
                                         that it may be protected! so provide 
                               a giant hand to dust tree off and root it deep again! 
                     from flake to shape remake irrevocable time!
          Give us a shallow dent of dirt in which to prop!
                                There was a time 
                     up thru November 10
           wherein the tree
                                          just was, its oakish life 
                               as such.
                   One storm and
one thud. It's the work of a moment.
                                            An "event."
                     Something live from the winds
                               that empties "is"
                                          of its simplicities
                     and pours "it" as libation on the ground.
 Within the concert of the known 
           an errant sort 
                     gets thrown, whereupon 
           largo twists itself 
                     into capriciousness.
The event lists, 
           for the soloist, 
inside a labyrinth of forgetting, 
           can not fake it any longer.
           His hands fall athwart.
His memory has emptied.
           The lapse looms large adrift 
belongside what should have 
                     been unquestionable song. 
           Its cumbersome shadow
                     blots a round of Mozart.
                                His hands lift from the piano.
The others strung with visible notes 
           their lyric loops of light
                     and kept the music going on
                                about the absent sounds.
But they too stopped
           by the empty site
                      and had to drop
one upon one, at the deepening spot, 
                                 and fall with him.
The social world, they said, "drained
Is writing the bringing of justice?      from the work" after
Is just light                                                the "conventional
justice?                                           icons of the 30's,"
                                           the "standard fare 
compromised.                               of the time." Quote "in 
                                                            1940, when he began
                                to spend summers in Martha's Vineyard,
           the social world drained from his work." Unquote.
Narrow market-casting
           is meant to prevent 
                      feeling much, even any, of this. 
           It sutures us to things 
we will buy 
           whatever, straight thru time
                     and never look at shame. The process
has been graduated
           in the dispensary, has been stuffed
                      with a fine calibration of insistence. 
Ambient desires, flavors, and crunchy patenting of colors 
                      can tell their demographic riddles
to those with ears to harvest the nuances.
And the autumn wet and drear? 
the blood-dark leaf? 
the button fallen on the street, some "useless scrap its power"?
The flowering pear that 
           went its route, a ruddy green, then full, then red, then gold
then god, then golem-brown, its planet balls of rust that
starlings eat?
                      Ghosts. Ghosts of ghosts at the open fosse. 

 November 1995, February 1996, June-July 1996
Rachel Blau DuPlessis EPC homepage