Brendan Lorber


I begin with nothing left to witness & every interpretation turned on its ass

I begin translated without permission drawn back into a stranger's pen for
future use

I begin with no place left to begin   Inheritance fills even the wires in
my house  Someone's will is electric & our hair extends itself in
anticipation of dust    Someone's will is encoded in dust & we follow it
back to the source like tugging on a phone cord to get to the ringer
Someone's will is an inventory of breath & the estate is spent as each item
gets pronounced    Only what's left out is what's left

Begin within storage space pre-filled by people you could look up & their
boxes fill every corner   Every angle's been anticipated & the door's
blocked    Broke from the outset heir to all the memories in the world when
all I want is what's been forgotten

Begin after belatedness & no ginseng cocktail fills the defeated present in
time to be prophetic   I begin in a bad economy for prophets so I temp
instead    I was born nostalgic but what did the past bring us?  The first
car alarms of summer play keep away with leafy thickets as one answer to
desire that flutters thru my window     I begin on the sofa leafing through
the alumni magazine & a trunk thick with old anthologies

Begin with a c:\ drive of old love letters & under the anthologies their
responses fuzzy with answers       My neighbor yells thru the window
What's the most important thing you can bring someone?      But he's full
of himself tonight & whatever I have to say he wants me to keep it

From arrogant beginnings I refuse directions & fail to notice nobody's
offering   Let's say what's omitted from the will is booty under the river
or in the ducts of a hirise - in the gold rush you knew paydirt but now
toothbite authenticity's forever lost in the glare of gold teeth     I
glance at my neighbor & find the street layered & half-naked    The evening
air shudders over the impossibility of providing electricity to everyone
searching at once

The lights go out      The alarms are useless & I begin with a stolen name
I begin in debt to the original owners & to the looters in a dark musical
storefront   Call me infringement   Call me samples      Move one song to
the next       My patron saint wants his groove back & all the saints rise
up superfluous as answered questions & are absorbed into the scratched
ranks of all of us the needle pops on vinyl   The yesses & nos

I begin under the contents of a warehouse who's main accomplishment is
continuing to exist despite serving no purpose    Stuffed animals & letters
resist destruction      exiled in the transistor dailyness of music as end
& not the source     the strapping tape admonishes "Don't be playing that
dusty thing in here"

I begin to pull things from my room to throw out & the more I do the more I
witness the neighbors strolling in my clothes   "Yr throwing yr life away"
someone says & the neighbors get that too      abandon their own
adolescence for mine      I leave my home in glorious defeat to make room
for myself    This shirt needs constant abandonment as precursor to
responsibility & any hand I bite becomes the one that feeds me

On the street I begin to get it without lateral thinking or scientific
synthesis    It's a night like any other except the air conditioners refuse
to drip & every little motor has gone dead   The lights have cut out & the
city is shed by something that gave it shape   Less a snake & more the leg
of a teenager dropping his jeans   Losing it has nothing to do with
Buddhism & the individual talent for feng shui      Razor blade this stanza
for the energy from under it & look down from the hazy roof into the future
where even the exercise of touching yourself becomes articulate
communication when you need it most

Rosy palm where did you get well read?  I used to talk to animals & forces
of nature but now I am one in the bay area of my mind with thirteen ways of
cooking up a blackbird   A roll of the dice will eliminate the chance I'll
choose the thirteenth - with the plums inthe fridge    I move from the
Food Channel to the naked talk shows & on to waves of scramble      I begin
with acquiescence or begin with resistance - both fissures packed with
rickety inheritance

I begin incomplete with static & buggy code    From the glimpse its
impossible to tell if the people around the garden bonfire or the bulldozer
diesel is singing     I speak for nobody & carry too many I's for any one
to speak for me      Everything achieves its own wiry consciousness & as I
move from one bug drawn horsey to the next each demands a certain

I begin to think this is living this cracking tire  I begin to think old
sandals are living   Abandoned TVs at the dump and the dump is alive too &
sets out across itself the home of the consumed   the home of acquiescence
& resistance as the rickety beginning until it too becomes the will's
witness & facts are alive   living off their hosts until the host dies or
the fact runs its finite course   I open a box of old Mad Magazines &
stuffed animals & they talk to me    Is everything alive?   That's right
said the sun & darkly he sank under the horizon for the first night of
summer & the marquee lights are all Now Playing     The theater the only
place with juice in the city

& now I begin to roll audio & risk the didactic chant of all summer
blockbusters  "In a world without law he went to law school" says the
voiceover who's inability to get it right is the only timeless element so
far - the world does have laws which expire the moment they're exposed to
the evening air & fill it with their faint perfume    The interior of the
theater has its own aromas & is a good place to have sex or steal lines
Same for a bar's bathroom   Nine months after blackouts the best poems tend
to reveal themselves

I notice the expanding trailer & begin to doubt the presence of a movie
beyond it     It's been picked clean & the tie-ins are all that's left -
Chapstick & Banaca but no kiss doesn't phase me    I'm the grip with a
flashlight behind the scrim pretending to be the sun   I am young DeNiro
with a thousand faces  I shot a film in Reno just to watch it twice   I
sketched the Titanic hitting Claus Oldenberg & nobody's laughed yet but
they will someday! & I raise me glass to this future you with devout

I admire anyone who can glue a fish to their new car tho admiration
includes a kind of pity - imprisonment of being loved for specific things
at the expense of all others   "All you need is one good idea"  Gefilte
Darwin Christ make me a miracle of the three fishes kind of guy & because
of that I'll never own a car     I'm the face with a thousand heroes on his
shelf & the screen on which I type is my only property   I travel light &
now the lights are out at every intersection

Does the immanent pileup    the presence of facts    make a narrative?   Do
the multiple I's come from lyric or experimental impulses or does curiosity
for what's invisible put us in the blind intersection of all urges?  This
is a line you'd hear in class and the one you'd see if you snipped out the
earlier stanza    You wanted to but something held you back despite the
glistening lips & minty breath    Thru the hole in the page the evening sky
glistens & is divvied up   An endless array of people float overhead on the
phone hot & talking in the dark about the heat & the dark

I begin to think life is a means to disseminate Darwin fishes or perhaps
fingernails & hair   In the grave of some ancestor the fingernails & hair
continue to grow because nothing in the genes tell them to quit   In my
brain Mad Magazine satires coil endlessly for movies I never saw & why
worry about it - the directors made so many mistakes    I begin in a spoof
of dust & head out floating above the perceptive obsolescence of Bobby
McFaren & David Letterman who sampled the gospel of Alfred E Neuman     The
nostalgic brain's a coffin for memories      No way to treat a fact
Forget it

The plug in clock is frozen at the moment the lights went out & becomes a
history text   I begin to situate in time but the VCRclock flashes noon
all night & with a grin I switch to another gospel that comes to us from
the open windows of a city that's seen as everything - I'd know that voice
anywhere!  It's you!  The receiver of this poem!

You begin with the same line I do & in yr window you read as I write it
full of skepticism   How these beginnings might not be - a John Hancock
implies the declaration's complete  - Perhaps the conventions of yr clock
won't contain any animated suspension - but this stanza vaults thru the sky
to where you live all unpinned - you have what I almost told my neighbor -
for the man who has everything I end in you with questions   Does anything
last?  Walk with me to the corner where the deli defends unfrozen food?

We begin as servants to the nation of hyphens & quotes    valets to famous
shoppers & shoplifters   I rise you rise we all rise to the throne of ice
cream empires as stores bring out melting food   Does anything not melt?
Please translate this question into whatever language supercedes this one
when the lights come back on   It seems anything that has a beginning has
an end but seems already had its finale & the curtain drops with a
swooshing complaint    "I never know if yr serious or not"   Hancock I said
because I didn't know his name   the uncertainty surrounds us   For
christ's sake he sd get outside & stop stealing my lines     Plagiarism
bestows a kind of immortality    but how many poets can I rip off & still
get some blurbs?

I begin with a blurb   Does anything matter?  Yes but not for long  Even
the idea of writing with a gluestick I lifted from you   Paste the cut out
stanza here or with yr own work   Don't play the record when you can play
with it     The mortality of a poem converts it to bumper crop & you will
be brilliant     Stop me if you wrote this one already   In my looted shoes
I walk across the street my heart fettered by nothing but three or four
millennia of poetry   Does anything matter?  Yes but nothing exists

I begin to not exist    Are these dashes - are they Emily's  In America we
have freedom to ignore speech    In the Soviet Union everybody listens but
where's that?     I keep moving back & forth in time     My writing is a
clock a man dangles from    Will he fall?   Will he insist these are
painterly techniques - the push & pull pom pom dollop as an afterthought
still after erased like neighbors into the charcoal corridor of my building
& I climb the stairs

I begin to sweat the mannerism less & more the infinite regress of honesty
You were asleep & naked on the couch    Before leaving I leave a note  "My
Love I leave this note to treasure forever at the expense of the instant
you read it"   To hold infinity in the palm of yr hand must the length of
yr arm be infinite?    The intimate gesture of spilling the beans on yr
exes      Even the litany of names involves a certain forsaking of
responsibility to everyone ever involved     If each love's a response to
the next then "I've given you all & now I'm nothing" but an expert on human
nature   But "the only nature in the city is up"  Little divots of sky

I begin on the urban hammock of the fire escape    I regress to inform you
this blacked out night is a time machine that extends to the last outage
or rather the city shutters itself inside dark simulations of a night
before boutiques arrived to qualify life   This was where boughs of holly
ended up in January before we inherited a century of manuscripts & the
light to read them by    This was a parking lot now its all covered with
cafes   From the fire escape I clamber into anyone's history   your history
& leave notes on the couch that pull you away from it     I declare the
couch a dramatic turning point

I'm dizzy on the sofa where my history collides with those of all poetics
so I revise both to avoid inadvertent pretensions   His little horse
thought it queer / but never squealed out of fear / Robert Frost stopped in
the woods / by neighbor's wall built so good / to watch the shallow grave
he dug / fill up with snow - a chilly rug  I begin with every incoherence
cobbled into another idea of order which breaks down faster than the first
How can Sylvia Plath stay underground if she keeps winning prizes as
fictional poet "John Ashbery?"  My beginning is part of the problem
Negative capability is part  Sprung rhythm   Asphodel that greeny problem

I begin with no reason to begin   Nothing to leave you    What of mine
would you want or want to leave for others?     He always flowed too
gracefully or tried too hard not to   What gets discussed in the seminar
eulogy of a poem   Young & didactic or too mutilated to identify?    What
need could be met by this?  After so many years I remain white and so on
My insistence in the liquidity of all things is suspect   Is there a
problem here I haven't worked out a way to cause for others?

The conference ends without truce    But the subjective & objective
scholars believe in truce   They believe in arrival   They leave their
meeting & amble across the street under my fire escape & agree to wave
hello continuing their colorful downtown stroll where common is meaningless
& ground is meaningless in the hazard blinkers of a power company truck
They hold hands

I begin downtown where there is no downtown    I begin in the Mission
without one       I begin in Hyde Park     I begin on the Rive Gauche     I
begin on Bourbon Street       I begin in Amsterdam  In Camden Town In
Berlin     I begin along the snapped filament     The bulb languorously
reflects the dark room around it like a hand lifted & then put back in
one's lap    I begin after the codification of excitement & play     I
begin after dreams & trips are mined bare      I begin in the grave of
every ethnographer's poetry journal   No frontier except the slim volume of
time that shoves me towards my own will     No other except what I'll

One begins bucolic & the tanks clog the view   Another begins with clanking
problems & then the war is over    Who are you?  Rush hour's a little late
tonight but the workers make it home - their apathy is a sacrifice to they
make to identify with anything   It's a kind of duty     Identity demands
you slip into something more responsible & agreeing is a kind of apathy
I used to screen my calls because I was too busy but now its out of sloth
But I still never answer anything

I begin after any last words   after stammering & fugue   after ambition to
maintain electricity thru an entire poem  I begin after performance in
praise of lament  I begin the in field of framed detritus in the instant of
flash or rust or quotation that accelerates until the gap is gone between
composition & consumption    Every answer is merely a thousand questions

I'm always coming   I'm always beginning    I end with invocation   All
solutions are the problem   You've got problems & I love you   Facts can't
save us so we have to save them & all ephemera   I admire the grace &
beauty of yr ways but who needs it   I was born with them too at least in a
blacked out out corridor     The whirling state of enthusiasm is the only
real need  & admiration is needed on every fire escape for the divots of
sky        I admire the facts you have the compassion to save yet we don't
need each other  We don't need a thing & are moving always from inheritance
into love     I'm always falling in love with you & now I'm falling in love
& now I have some questions for you & ascend into love & now I begin

July 1999

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