Which Is a Matter of Gathering

 

1.

 

Belief in story is a belief
in travel or trouble—
a newborn becoming
unmoved by his conscience,
a vocabulary collecting

 

 

2.

 

reason by slow degrees.
Suppose it’s not fear
but how we spend our lives
which should be a matter
for contrast. Say Christopher

 

 

3.

 

Columbus went out constantly
at five o’clock and seized geraniums
from the windows. Say Mallarmé

resolved solitude
with a superficial room
in which birds filled empty moments

with sneezes. First
there would be strange joy
and then the calculations
of shortcomings,
which we call a history.

 

 

4.

 

The mind is interested with permission.

The brain is a room
in which the mind is
an unstable, human notion:

“an oval table opposite the sofa,”

a little yellow color on the walls.

 

 

5.

 

So story thinks, and story

sleeps, and the author who designs our brains
by their more general natures
does not align strangeness with joy.

Analysis develops

vocabulary,
victorious with fancy
light, and thus dream—

 

 

6.

 

a sort of superficial sleep.

 

 

7.

 

So a dream—

from beginning
to end, Columbus
remains asleep

as a spider appears
to lift him
across Paris… 

 

 

8.

 

We plot our outlines.

A painter proposing
he decline to display

seasons; ghosts

on the back of
a woman’s eye;

your head glued

back like a charm
to the beautiful.

 

 

9.

 

When Christopher
Columbus asked the Lord
for three wishes
he began simply
tracing in pencil the axis
of his body. The Lord said,

I wished my death
a parenthesis
to the shapes
of trees and automobiles,
though I have instead
left two realities:

either the world goes back into a sack
or the day flows like a song in the brook.

 

 

10.

 

The Lord said,
you must believe in a room
of marvelous couches.

The bodies of birds
are ghosts,
the Lord
said, marvelous
above water—

and so the purest
way the mind
leaves
the earth.

 

 

11.

 

Saying,

“Existence is
a Suitor’s Ball”

is fine if
you say it

across some
distance,

like a radio—

 

 

12.

 

so the woods
Columbus dreamt
became lost
like several lives
imagined
at once; or,

a tiny number
of birds judge
an evening
in its decay—

no matter what happens,
the result is nothing
and is thus
distinguished
from storytellers
or dreams.

 

 

13.

 

Storytellers or dreams—

which is a matter of gathering?

 

 

14.

 

Christopher Columbus said to the Lord,

Even dark,
the world remains
possible.

Light may begin
at the first touch
of summer,

or else widespread
and daily
across the sea,

and then suddenly
and closely
we see “the world is not

merely a question of distance.”

 

 

15.

 

Or,
the Lord said,

a nude body
parading

beneath the shade
of trees like

an eclipse—
“how travelers endure.”

 

 

David Welch has published poems in AGNI, Ninth Letter, and West Branch. He lives in Chicago, where he is Poetry Editor of ACM and teaches at DePaul University.

2