Airs, Waters, Places: Poems / Edition 1

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Like the ancient medical text by Hippocrates that gives this book its title, Airs, Waters, Places looks with intensity and purpose at the elemental world to understand the possibility of an expanded notion of health in an often disconnected and disconnecting social order. In the poet's words, "To call language a nervous system might be useful: if each sentient being is analogous to cells within the organism, language is analogous to the nerves as well as the messages sent along those nerves. There is, there, if not eternity, at least delusion." This is a book of various appetites in constant motion.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877457763
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2001
  • Series: Kuhl House Poets Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 86
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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Airs, Waters, Places Poems
By Bin Ramke
University of Iowa Press Copyright © 2001 Bin Ramke
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-87745-776-3

Chapter One No Thing A word that is almost deprived of meaning is noisy. Meaning is limited silence. Maurice Blanchot Sound as corruption is a further fall, a grace like wind's incessant pounding, a music as anger- air belligerent versus a single tree in a field which is elegance as horizon as curtain drawn against (any tree in singularity) light and light whose nobility of patience penetrates the weather: and from the air, from the airplane I saw I saw beneath me during that time (I think it was time) of year I saw the fall of leaves around each tree separate a powdering of color pastel chalked circle a disk of leaves and then red and bronze dots and then (we climbed) the distant earth and then cloud and glitter as soft in the distance like clouds among cloud the tree speaking not to me only to itself like God. Not silent. Nothing is. No thing like it except surrounds itself with vibrating molecules known as noise unless it is the susurrant leafage defiant calling attention, calling. You recall, "Nothing will come of nothing," said Lear to Cordelia. After Artemidorus on Dreams: Oneicriticos I could live there, a little hut in the right eye, the great witch vanquished, Fermat restored to health just long enough to face his own narrow margin-the world of whim and wisdom, home. In the forest. I would wander there and bear arms, my father's souvenir revolver in my hot child's fist, headed for heroic. Or the one about the fate of nations, the snake entwined in the viscera of a dying deer-anyone's interpretation ... When I was depressed I would remember Rolle's Theorem-I would recall the day I stood at the blackboard where an ancient mathematician smiled upon me-intricate the ways of man, the manner of his deceit. Enuknia: an unimportant dream-to some- which would not tell the future. Some sleep is not worth sleeping, some nights are mere neglect of light, lingering. Ephialtes: the nightmare. Consider the beasts, how full of teeth their faces, how foul the leaking breath. See them tear flesh-yours- and drink the blood. Oh surely not real. Chrematismos: which we need not distinguish from oraculum, tells the future. And why not? The hard problem, really, is the past. Alas the long hallway, the turns and corridors branching into what we could call "success," for instance, or "failure"-some such fulcrum against which to push-or "parable": there was a boy who worked all through the night cutting cane from an infinite field who would sleep through the day and dream of huge machinery wiping wide swaths clear of sugar through his night, then again would wake to the dark to lift his own machete and wearily work his way to morning, to rest and random dark. Oramo: vision of the future, clear, the kind of thing to bet on-the horse to back named and numbered. Such a dream frightens everyone. Who knows what mind can know the future thus well, this willfully?-is too terrible to think upon. Oneiros (the dream which requires interpretation): all reality is virtual-here's no excuse for sadness consider the starving the lilies the children of the field who toil neither are they happy walking home I noticed the snow was general and the smoke rose stiffly from the houses, the warm interiors locked safe from my vision if not from inhabitants staring each into her own space her own resonance ..., what you are pleased to call pornography an immersion of self beyond sincerity preconscious flowering of possibility a sacrament too dangerous to discuss: walking home I noticed the sunlight slanted against the bark of trees the texture complex and the implications most astounding the boiling of biology there walking aimlessly I watched the children concern themselves with history and the clashing of nations the casual arrogance of the political they presciently persisted announcing themselves and persisted in the economies their sly exuberances and outlandish little lives. And they were terrified. St. Mark After the fall of the temple what can matter? For instance, mediocrity looms, and old age shuffles after. (You may already be a winner.) "Now he whistles after the wind and preaches sadness in sad tones." (Nietzsche) Aristotle thought of fossils as failed genesis, attempts of life to struggle from the mud-ad astra per et cetera-how lovely. I too believe it. And it is so: merely reverse. Hold one in your hand, a shard in the shape of a million years of fish, and be frightened. Watery whatever is not cannot be whatever is cannot not be Anaxagoras like love the river, no not like but the river fills itself, is full, cannot be other is a river? the water? full or perhaps empty if a river is empty is there a river? beautiful perhaps whether or not it is, the river aligned with the bank, lined by the boundary limnal fauna the wading birds beaks shimmer with the river dripping and the agony- is it agony to die a fish down the gullet of a heron? is a heron beautiful? is the heron part of the river? what my mother called a coulee, through her childhood her town not a town it was empty- is there a town with no people or dogs? she and her family tipped into the river, the coulee, their flat-bottomed barge in the flood a famous flood where is the river the land covered by water the depth deceptive this is what it is like to be beautiful not like but to be not beauty but necessity not a river but water not a heron but like a heron, long beaked and full of fish not flying but wading not happy but home "Without figure or fable" Nietzsche admired Thales admiring clarity (water as father) water as everything, in its way-the world. As if, as pre-Socratic as if my father were- my father the chemist knew water taught me titration. At age eleven I helped him analyze-phenolphthalein released by drips into the swirling flask we admired the drama of color change but kept my count cleverly-it is now winter far from the lakes of home, the likes of it. Remember to cry, the clarity of crying, or cryogenic-no, only frozen, snow only, it drifts across our vision, it accumulates. Tears. Clarity is what we wanted most, lost nothing, not simple-the sidewalks do glisten this evening, the cars pass hissing after rain, after thaw. Their paired lights litter the walks what is there to see but what we put there there are many sources of light few of water forty years before a father loved me in our conspiracy of clarity huddled watching the color change, the light shining through the tube I learned to weigh the color of light against a chart-the shape of a molecule of water is the shape of those pillows you watch TV encircled by-reminiscent of a hug the oxygen in the center two hydrogen arms extended- Here join, O welcome, Happy conjunction I sit in bed- the gray light laps at the window the light is from the box the TV terrorizing the center of the unclear the muddle of modern life after father, water, wandering fluid flow hydrodynamics naval architecture hoses and drainpipes gutters storm drains city streets fountains hydrants monthly retention micturation diuretic irrigation rain sleet snow drizzle mist hail rainbow glaze steam stream river lake pond rivulet sea bay ocean gulf canal channel dam mill pond bayou coulee reservoir swamp marsh the intracoastal waterway offers shipping protection across the entire Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coast a length incalculable a defense there is no defense for instance: doll, clothed hand mirror, tortoiseshell-backed- spoons cookery matters of various sorts- well-seasoned Dutch oven et cetera two brooms an alarm clock, wound, damaged too quickly to ring and the full pathos of a small family the laughter of waves, wavering under the long nose of gar the flat-eyed bass, the perch, a thin fish, easy to catch and then at Aswan a kind of flood preserved entire the family tombs and titles mother peers into the toilet bowl reads dark signs messages from the interior how many sources? the breath the color of urine the false shapes who does not accept a message from anywhere stars home viscera whence they come, whither they go mystery behind the flesh beneath the stretched and sallow skin will kill us in the end, children and there might have been happiness in the night a mother-child conspiracy a man I know took rouge from the mortician's hand and himself replaced the color in his dead mother's cheek pushed the cotton wadding in to fill the hollows oh gone and glittering mom into the boy's night peering into the dark remains. Zoo who would listen for what goes bump in the goes boom in the morning a father a man I know takes bombs apart for a living bomb disposal being a modern way to live with fear you need merely be careful my father said pay attention boom in the night fire in the hole another of those adult cold mornings and the light is warily silver someone feels better someone lives well most delicate mode wish for the past a past which with care and cunning could be made to work to order this is a dream a past that works as the present is an edge slicing mind into sagital sections as if a formula flies thrown through the air arced adhesion of things attach to fact there is real and there is not not is a difference the imagined is a kind of real memory too there was a day I was a small child running among the legs of a father a grand father a brother an uncle I was praised for youth the war was over nothing needed exploding explaining the tropical the weeds of the pasture the cows distant the future distant the line of trees beyond which the murk of water and cypress knees rising this was and white egrets distant once became hats entire birds dead to adorn shot for two feathers mon panache it was a time gone who cares nothing to it what child not me would listen for what bump in the night that goes boom in the morning my father took bombs apart for the war disposal being a part of valor a most modern way to be careful my father said pay your own way attention in the night fire in the hole pain not counting loneliness a moment of terror for instance a sound of braking and over the rise of the interstate one truck turned sideways floating into your rearview mirror a clarity a dialogue with self in which the possible passes this is not interesting I thought that if I could put it all down, that would be one way. John Ashbery picture here a cottage an adequate estate something to live on pretty et cetera you cannot see it to hear is possible the birds and some cows lowing in the distance slow sloe-eyed cows in the distance what (if a house be built beside still water in the evening fowl descend awkward in their way to settle raucously walking on water then sinking comfortable in their element) happens next no one knows what happens next the spectacular this evening great streak of purple heavy against cold golden light the result of refraction clouds frame the event give it depth in time at the moment (after all, who won of the light going the color the Peloponnesian War? deepens beyond bearing will touch with such magnificence you feel and how many died? your own future collapse sweetly ... all of them to tell the truth in time Cows are warm walls and patient about the past find try to remember the names its implication for the future lean your head against her flank anywhere but here the reverberating breath and the chewing now here nowhere the deepening din in time) that sound the horns of a cow are one kind of danger memory is the other I would once I did I could make as we say love and she was there among the two of us It was a world and home or might as well have been to climb limbs like that to insert the self in flesh to live as if we were not dying in tandem could we did we what memory will do to the past is too funny for words there are pleasures a clean light intrudes there are ways to know you have felt it usually pain it was harder to be a child than anyone knew you were who wasn't it fell through him I should have remembered the war it happened two years before my birth a stronger mind would remember dismembering the crustaceous whose arrogant apathy fills the void what armed creature this was was recalled called to the boy she stood in the doorway clinging to their foreclosed chicken ranch for two years, two women gave up the fight and killed themselves and all their pets just before the marshals seized the property" Associated Press For a week the undiscovered bodies lay in the garage. Thelma J. Lee, 67, and Maureen R. O'Boyle, 51, asphyxiated three dogs on the floor twelve cats in the pickup one in a shopping cart What would happen if bombs hit the zoo? If the cages were broken In a Japanese picture book and dangerous animals escaped children would pass and the elephants to run wild through the city ... By command of the Army, all stretched trunks through the bars begging of the lions, tigers anything it is forbidden to feed leopards, bears, and big snakes were poisoned. no one is forgiven Yukio Tsuchiya, Faithful Elephants "It is generally accepted that the domestication of cattle followed sheep, goats, pigs and dogs. Modern domestic cattle evolved from a single early ancestor, the aurochs.... It is believed the last surviving member of the species was killed by a poacher in 1627 on a hunting reserve near Warsaw, Poland.", "Breeds of Livestock"


Excerpted from Airs, Waters, Places by Bin Ramke Copyright © 2001 by Bin Ramke. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Contents No Thing....................2
After Artemidorus on Dreams: Oneicriticos....................5
Tiny Wounds: A Theory of Generosity....................18
Uses of Reality....................20
Against the Cycle of Saint Ursula (Carpaccio)....................28
Raise Grief to Music....................31
The Gods That Sleep in Museums....................33
Surface Tension....................35
The Science of Reunion and Opposition....................40
Virtual Sculpture....................41
Moths and the Occasional Dog....................42
Mortal Danger: Funerary Art....................53
On the Shape of Such as Planets, Like Earth....................55
How Various It Is and Quiet....................61
Trouble Deaf Heaven....................66
Gravity and Levity
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