S t e p h e n  R a t c l i f f e


two from Real


Slow motion of the small grey cloud above line
of trees at crest of ridge, lighter grey white
background of clouds above it. Man in the red
jacket proposing analogy between reading words
on page and hearing them read aloud vs. seeing
action performed on stage and hearing about it,
girl in blue jacket not wanting to remove her
dark glasses. The long green grasses on far
edge of pond, relation to a two-dimensional
drawing on facing page. Brecht remembering
Benjamin's theory, "whatever you look at is
looking at you." Marilyn Monroe in a white
cross-strapped dress asking Tom Ewell if he's
ever dipped a potato chip into champagne, Ewell
noting things like this haven't happened before.
Yellow orange circle of sun next to the point,
moon's white circle above
ridge opposite it.


Two small white birds moving horizontally across
distant sunlit and shadowed plane of ridge, grey
and white clouds moving above sound of invisible
birds in right foreground. Man turning on light
at 2 AM who sees two mosquitoes stopped on white
bedroom wall, still thinking of Benjamin's claim
that "ideas are to objects as constellations are
to stars." Older man in a rain jacket almost
blown over edge of the canyon trail noting
earth's annual closest approach to the sun,
whose light now strikes the planet 7% more
intensely than in July. Woman calling to say
woman across the street opened her eyes at 7:30,
looked at her husband and children and took her
last breath. Small grey and white birds driven
over storm-tossed water's surface by gale force
wind, disappearing into it.


Stephen Ratcliffe's most recent book is Listening to Reading
(SUNY Press, 2000), a collection of essays on contemporary
experimental poetry. Books of poetry include Idea's Mirror,
Mallarme: poem in prose, Sculpture, and Present Tense.
SOUND/(system) is forthcoming this spring from Green Integer.
He is publisher of Avenue B and teaches at Mills College in Oakland.