Cyclops

August 20, 2013

And of my two eyes only one functioning more or less correctly, I misjudged the distance separating me from the other world, and often I stretched out my hand for what was beyond my reach, and often knocked against obstacles scarcely visible on the horizons.

—Samuel Beckett, Molloy

Before the eye that sees nothing we must take heed and tremble.

—Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

I.

Staring from the bathroom mirror
reflection of an eye
the hole that released me—

peering into it
I’m reminded of origins
the work I have to do.

The open pit I return to,
the granite blocks emit
waves of memory
plutonic flecks of
feldspar hornblende mica quartz.

With diamond blade I cut
dimensions I alone can lift.

I shape with carbide tip
and straight strikes
to the wedge ear
splitting trimming
squaring the edges
“letting it dance”
to close the grain.

Metabolic passions break down
experience to fuel the body
concentrating on the line of stone
building it up
block by block
line by line

under the day’s bright eye,
the bright eye of night

The wall reaches
from tor to tor
outcroppings of Gaia
corner points
for my enclosure—

What space inside
for wife and child
but nowhere—
I mistake tree shadow
figments of a larger eye.

The eye like a mouth,
wants to be fed.
But what it wants to see
is now outside the wall.

An open eye
of water like a lake
nucleated, it will not
admit, shut.

It dreams among bottom weeds
grown all summer
in cool water,
dormant now, without light,
stonewort, loosestrife.

Not to dilate
like an Argive shield
blessed by the goddess in battle
but accept the arrow
why won’t the eye

look past the flat screen
my sky energies
and anger flashing the stubble fields

to a smoking
arbitrary zero.

Sight beyond the walls
is binocular, two things
in relation
have depth, and
love steps
lively around
the eye
in the ground.

 

II.

The eye
may shut
                 but
the ear has
no door               cavern
voices enter
and echo
ever after

The morning wheel turns
the owl’s cry
only a dream now,
and sunflower turns
tracking the day’s burning

So much to look after
Hold out your hands,
feel the luxury of the sunbeams

Do you wish

                to be something
that you are not—
                shut your eye

and drop
the measure
                       of distances
to see—

                 *

The measure of a man?
NOVEMBER 4, 2003

standing on a narrow box
               (a box of food turned on end)
naked beneath a blanket
               fashioned into a poncho
(the design elaborate
               not an army blanket)
       a cement sack
                              soaked in hot sauce
cinched
over his head
                              arms outstretched
middle fingers wired—

like a showerhead dumbly gazing down
the wires mock him
their stiff haphazard lines
routing
beneath the blanket
                                    (clipped to
his nuts) the fringes
reaching for the floor
               everything in place

inside the frame
                              the figure
               throws a shadow
on the two-tone cinder wall behind him
               rusted pipes running the length
that pick up vertical woven cables in the blanket
               and accent the dimension

ABDOUH HUSSAIN SAAD FALEH
               (DETAINEE #18470):

“Then he was saying
                                  ‘which switch
               is on for electricity’
And he came with a loudspeaker
               and he was shouting in my ear
and then he brought                a camera
               and he took some pictures of me”

Peering
               into the camera
the director shuts
               one eye

Look and
                Look    again
                            again—
no
gain, it
               stares back

details drop
in its drift                to icon

word without sentence
repeated to emptiness

the new forever stamp
for future correspondence

—like eyespot on moth wing
it flashes startled

unfolding

flits away

light glancing off

an eye of glass

 

III.

When my love left
I was left with her

likeness.

Bringing it close
to my face
my eye

swelled toward it

I could feel the increased curve
eager to accommodate
currents
from the periphery.

Together
we were
two eyes
converging without rivalry
or displacement
moving—
a single radiant
sweeping

over the field
of being.

In the distance
we saw children
dueling, waves
of threats
moving towards us
making home
in the spongy
labyrinth
of membrane and bone.

We enjoyed
the impact
their bodies made
inside us.

Clouds like uprooted
mountain crags
bucked past
forming deforming
giant heads cut.

Up close
a grackle
commanded
perch on
stone wall.

Cool air
skittered the pond face.

At night
the still glass surface
filled with pinprick light
crossing border
from the firmament
to provoke
our sight.

We saw the motions
and the stillnesses,
though we were opposed
points, we extended out
along trajectories
we sighted together
to find a third one,
and make            a new space.
Paradise . . .

But the day came.
At its end
the dropping sun
stared back
—its sinking accusations . . .
an ember of the world burning
with concentrated
rapid change. And it

included us.

Hot wind
hit the eye
stole our tears.

We yellowed
conjugated
by bile.

Words lost shape in the widening crevasse.

The shadow play of futures
projected
in collaboration
vanished
on the other side
of a crooked
doorway
I couldn’t pass through.
I lived alone,
my collapsing room of continual night

squinting into a framed
brightness beyond

the close dark’s
comprehension.

From this far away
everything outside
looked like teeth.

One self
only
I stare
at where            she was

and see her
disappear
into the blind spot. My love
is now my love
object. Broken jar
less precious
more cherished
reassembled, freshly
frail.

I must step
over her (how?)
to make a place
for her to enter
the mind’s
perpetual register.

Like a new
lock it
sticks; or a garment
once removed
too new
to hold
the body’s shape.

A cataract of mist blurs the ridgeline,
birch sentinels stand with intent
waiting for a wind.

Faith in the past
dismissed without
inauguration of the present,
can there be
a new
grammar?

New habits of
cohesion
to learn, to obey new
laws of the threshold.

 

IV.

I had assembled
so much
paper.

The marks made long ago
accumulated
secret meanings.

Gathering hints
scattered among pages
I deciphered what I felt
mattered
and built

evidence.

When would I present my findings?

Each morning
when my eye
opened
I could feel something
resting on my
eyelid—

fluttering to dislodge it
the world slowed in strobe effect
though something
stayed there.

I was trapped
in the bracketed space
after you’ve raised your hand
but before you think
the answer.

When I lifted stone
on top of stone
the muscovite
winked
routed by tourmaline.

However hard the staring
no mystery flew out.

I felt their weight
and saw how they fit.
Measuring by eye
I cut blocks
precisely
no mortar needed.

Cottage-sized, each
locked into place.

Working with stone
I tried to feel the kindness of stone
what perfect strength it must hold
to be a wall.

But scanning for gaps
between stones
fissures            misalignments
parentheses of weakness
I was the teacher
whose students learned
something about him
he had not learned himself
standing before them
morning after morning

Feasting day came,
I had no appetite
but to see
                            my pages

burn.

Moonless
eyeless night.

Carting it all
just outside the wall

I soon
watched flames
cast on stone
a new kind of shadow play.

I introduced them
once so coddled
one by one
to the elemental dance of the forge
relishing the crackling
shriveling films
and floating ash.

Some
lifting high
I could still track
carried by the night tide.

As if consumed myself
I wanted to grasp the flame!
—to receive nothing
but its warmth
was a poverty. . .
(What would change
permanently

the cells of the body?)

Growing hungry
I roasted an egg there
blackening zero in the embers

and when I cracked it
pulled apart the white
the cooked yolk
stared back            birth pit
hard yellow germ
sun seed.

Conceiving what I cannot
know, knowing
what I do not yet
understand, I can only try
to make preparations
for the necessary valor.

The eye must shut
to become a stone of perfect kindness
to let seeds

shoot up with impersonal needs
for the first time
opening.