by Geoffrey G. O'Brien

Paperback(First Edition)

View All Available Formats & Editions
Usually ships within 1 week
10 New & Used Starting at $1.99


Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s third collection opens with a set of lyric experiments whose music and mutable syntax explore the social relations concealed in material things. O’Brien’s poems measure the “vague cadence” of daily life, testing both the value and limits of art in a time of vanishing publics and permanent war. The long title poem, written in a strict iambic prose, charts the disappearance of the poetic into the prosaic, of meter into the mundane, while reactivating the very possibilities it mourns: O’Brien’s prosody invests the prose of things with the intensities of verse. In the charged space of this hybrid form, objects become subjects and sense pivots mid-sentence into song: “The sun revolves around the earth revolves around the sun.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520268876
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 03/02/2011
Series: New California Poetry , #33
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 112
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Geoffrey G. O’Brien teaches in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley and at San Quentin State Prison. He is the author of Green and Gray and The Guns and Flags Project, both available from University of California Press.

Read an Excerpt


By Geoffrey G. O'Brien


Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-94827-3



    An away of practice the other is
    Like a river out of acts the other is
    Hapless, unheard, with marks upon him
    Having dallied in tarrying unwisely
    Backlit at an undecidable remove
    In a house of marks the other is
    Useless deciding whether to go
    Or wait in best practices like a child
    A hapless river filled with sand
    For years it flows like unmarked rope
    Years of saying as it moves away
    Are the undecided water others bring
    Like the child of acts the other is
    Saying to himself the other is
    A hapless river practicing its flow
    A house that moves to where one was
    With all years off the water goes
    The lights are on so the dark is out
    Like the useless children others are
    A certain building dream within
    A part of speech without a name


    Grab our missing spears and begin
    to think the Bohemian Grove, trees,
    theatricals, songs that hold exquisite
    filterings of sunlight down to the boys
    were women there in the powerful glades,
    in the 20s, there's nothing like it, to have
    loins for the first time running around
    in leaves, in the 70s I sang a song of we
    became ourselves again as women, specifically
    houris, the "leaves of love" falling
    by chopper and could see the security cordon
    of leaves running around excited to be
    playing a part in the hush of the woods
    Donald called me "songbird" and to be fit
    for the world one must periodically leave it,
    affectionately, for the age and straightness of trees
    in the 80s, whispering at the clearing's edge
    about how to keep both houses, no one hurt
    when respect is earned by singing a short theme
    in the 40s, at the tree line, theatricals, excited
    to be putting on a helmet and running around
    in the dark, on my knees in the sun
    being told as a group what to do about
    how soft I was, the pillows in my chamber
    with choppers landing and a glow through the trees
    spread uncomfortably around the clearing
    till there's nothing like it, going missing
    and the distance you begin to think, respect
    hushing the woods with a part to play
    blacked out in the secret authority
    of choosing a heavy gold dress to wear
    over on the other side of the clearing
    songs hold the men like houris
    for the first time leaving the world
    affectionately at play in choppers and leaves
    no one is hurt at the edge of themselves
    running from the news of sunlight
    into heavy dresses the warriors wore
    for a production of the 50s, absence of birdsong
    there in the powerful soil.


    The trees are men, men strange,
    Strangers come into a house to speak
    Across a table made of trees.
    Waking was fighting at it while
    Looking at a thing you own is
    Sleeping outdoors without knowing why
    The reasons escape, so continuing
    To eat and drink. I think you have to

    In order to be ready, a cup seriously
    Open, ready to talk or gesture with it,
    Show the house has no roof,
    Men are coming in, this is a cup.
    We make a tableau called embarrassment
    At a physical past, the one prepared
    Accordingly your instincts stopped
    Now in admitting daylight

    I was fighting or talking about this
    Feeling taken from a box of scarves,
    Cardboard box from another move
    Marked by faint incursions, games
    So called because all was still
    In play, that table for instance,
    Where a hand is trained to follow
    The eye into goals, this cup

    Moving on its own through the single
    Family dwelling space contracts to,
    Angry from the outset
    That a hand is still involved
    And scene. I went back to sleep
    In the middle of our argument,
    Speech about forgotten labor
    A lamp can sing with its head bent

    Remarks I should anticipate I am
    The shadow objections to, streaming
    Out from the faucet to be cut in half
    By hand. The entire room far off
    Talk content to happen tone
    On tone, the strong illusion,
    And night, deaf as a mural,
    Not made so much as lovingly

    Assembled from memories of those
    Who couldn't get out of the way,
    Now here in the form of a cup
    Alien when brought to bed
    From table and the table not
    Made so much as overturned,
    Evolving from its legs a depth
    Morning is the answer to


    To speak of autumn reasonably
    As knowing tasks remain undone
    I forgot the password "autumn"
    Moving through the empty lots
    Gray gates deserving paint
    Fewer cars on the road, to speak
    Of these cars I forgot autumn had
    Come wasting its credibility
    There was a gray to repaint
    Those rituals for keeping spring
    From happening, I was trying to
    Be evenhanded about why fall
    Held in fidelity to everything is
    How absentminded lyrics put it
    Written that way while cars
    Passed modestly, run-on
    Sentences beginning "I can't"
    Recall all the things that go here
    Lots empty or not yet
    Doing the holiday errands
    Would be one way to phrase
    A low point autumn deserves
    Credit for or driving towards
    Becomes the shop I forget
    To stop sensibly at autumn
    As in lots of things to do
    Modesty forbids me to mention
    There is a gray gate in lyric
    Before getting on the road again
    I'd say autumn is only to be
    Pointed at if willing to waste
    The rest of the day in driving
    Embarrassed to have said it


    Without its being entirely true
    Which will thrive is a matter of opinion
    I love you in an ordinary way
    The sea sits between all the lands

    They can't hear it for what it is
    I recall this at inopportune times
    One of the hours reserved for just that
    Way to keep great things unsaid

    It runs down my arm and into my hand
    I can't wait till you get here next week
    Otherwise why give it to us
    And were told to go back inside

    He'll never admit that in person
    Little blue flowers, not many or long
    They look pretty uncomfortable
    Earlier and earlier, or so it seems

    The red shirt of being without
    Twisting smell of pineapple sage
    Just a few episodes left
    I thought I heard them coming in

    I could be more generous with my time
    My friend's life will take him away
    Each thing that distracts me at night
    It turns out they're more of a cult

    First camera's shutter then saw or alarm
    You still haven't told me how it went
    We'll be more careful with the lights
    A softness clear around the eye

    His success bothers me much more than yours
    The way the onion glides through the ground
    They obstruct the view and feel okay
    Whatever I might have said at the time

    Some have black bodies and gold breasts
    If in the same room I couldn't help myself
    I stood there while they spoke to the boys
    One of the reasons they'll be back I'm sure

    The vitality of youth is irreplaceable
    That bird makes a brave chipping sound
    It's too painful to watch them play
    Within a makeshift university

    To recover a portion of what I then had
    Confusing jasmine and mock orange
    Acceptable levels of anger and shame
    A list of only yellow things

    I wish you'd been able to stay the week
    Like trying to describe the sky at night
    It's only going to get worse and worse
    I'm happy about it if you are

    He went back to the job again
    The moss grows on one side of the trees
    It loses its heat as it cooks down
    Without a pen I can't explain

    The stupid lichen of getting up late
    His way of stumbling through a speech
    It will continue to get worse I'm sure
    I should do at least what I said I would

    May 1st is followed by May 2nd
    Attacking its mirror image with zeal
    I think of those I love to know
    Which is so far the cost of it

    He really has a chance to now
    I stood there while they talked to them
    It's useless but I'd leap on him
    Attracted by the sound of running water

    Break-ins are common where neighborhoods meet
    Her shoulder blades and the small of her back
    I don't participate and they don't like that
    Watching them run through the terminal

    Every morning I check how I feel
    They take turns guarding it
    There are really no good options
    It will all start again so soon

    Each season moves to a new focus
    He asked why I think of audience that way
    I'm going to tell you other people's dreams
    The silver band as it snakes through rock

    At any time conjuring the deaths that occur
    It gets easier to speak to them
    I tested all things, but a few were long-lived and at large
    I realize now they can't be separated

    There's almost no good way to do this
    He's pure figurehead and yet I would
    They call just about every night
    A reddish head and light brown breast

    Not until everyone can and not even then
    You've got to respect how fast mint grows
    It sounds like a bomb but it can't be
    I just want more for your life

    My friends are the writers I happen to know
    Cloud shadows on foothills while aloft
    Don't open the window or she'll get out
    To do it in days

    The pink hearse of drinking too much
    No locks will deter them for long
    I'll tell you what woke me this time
    The hole in sexual love

    Their delicate dusty bodies are alert
    The ruins all lit up at night
    I just can't seem to call them back
    At least ten minutes every day

    Encroachments of ivy across the back wall
    There should be ample time for that
    I'm thinking instead of a heteronym
    Imagine my relief it's not what you meant

    Focus as a form of enraged sympathy
    That's the kind of company he keeps
    In the taverna of virtual experience
    A crapshoot whether it fruits this year

    To go on too long as though under way
    Still bodies in liquid on shelves in locked rooms
    The net of interest recloses each night
    Never yet photographed during courtship

    Then she quoted Hebrews 13.3
    Genre to which the rest are invited
    I'll go where you go even if I don't come
    A smart time to move far inland

    I probably would if in the same room
    Her neck in profile and the top of the head
    The most fluent and honest I've felt in a year
    Let's hope he'll choose more wisely now


    So only a series of approved rivalries,
    Color struggles in distant cities
    Appearing white or yellow then
    White again in new locales,
    Initial contact between parties
    In anticipation of a use: tulips

    For their easy display of chambers
    But not the jonquil's distracted bell
    Looking off a modest progress.
    Lantana for its safer forms but no
    Schadenfreude of the trumpet vine
    Laughing at a year's pastel debris.

    So only a series of approved devices,
    Slashes that curve until coils yield
    White rose, yellow rose, moss rose, etc.
    The eyes of dresses walking by, stopped
    By a scene their stopping closes
    To any further investment. But now

    Even red fills the victory garden
    With ill-advised exaltations, planned
    Surprise of a world become all
    Nervousness, demanding proof
    Come back. It likes things to
    Arrive by unnoticeable kinds of mail

    Red can count itself quietly
    Among, nothing more than
    An aged person in a playground
    Thinking of secluded industries, what
    Goes on elsewhere making it through
    In tame flashes, dream of hearing

    Laughs from a set of relations
    Easy to turn down. I like to think
    Laughter is first yellow then red
    As the damage spreads to the rest,
    Child in bright shirt, bodiless,
    Detainable only in the dwarf form

    Of mountain laurel as it grows without support.
    There are several other things to say,
    Some of which extend beyond the page,
    So any upward motion half intended,
    Limited battles materials begin,
    All the citizens in any of their things,

    How the furniture ends up on the street
    In a dream there's no sequel to
    Picking out one thing at another's
    Expense, and living here not there
    Where the rose is ticking. All clocks
    Bombs to the sweet pea which still

    Must think its way in bunched tasks
    Beyond the sin of overhaste. The name
    Trails behind on a small stake
    Brought forward each inaudible spring
    To a correspondence. I like to think
    Hello is a way of saying it's vast

    Even local colors are capable of,
    Haziness of sun first yellow gauze
    Then madder, maize, war, etc.


    Something about the open fate
    All ills flower from, smoke and rain
    You can shoot the future through
    Reminds me of a fallen sound
    Less song than circular hum
    Defining the monotony of acts
    Soldiering on half a world away
    If sound had a face it would be
    Blown apart immediately
    There would be many things
    About it left over to flower
    Almost an infinite veil by now
    I had a friend who heard things in it
    Sole protection against dangers
    And so I made my way across
    The facial terrain to be with her
    Balancing the head atop its act
    Of white noise both fun and ugly
    But there we were, walking the trail
    Designed to reverse bad thoughts
    By crossing itself at several points
    Unclear anything happened after
    Except the way we composed
    A stay thrown back against the room
    Lights ashamed to be on and on
    Nothing left but the bitter verbs
    Of manner of motion away from a source
    The pastoral jail of refrain
    And so I put my head under her arm
    As though to leave America


Excerpted from Metropole by Geoffrey G. O'Brien. Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
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.

Table of Contents


Vague Cadence

Bohemian Grove

Poem Beginning to End

Left Behind

Poem with No Good Lines

Failed Catalog

Forms of Battle

Three Years

The Other Arts

White of the Eyes

Folie à Deux


Old War Injury

Ecstatic Norm

Having Since Moved On

Restricted Palette

The Sütterlin Method

Dizzy Procession

Street Cry

To Be Read in Either Direction


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"The New California Poetry series has served poetry as Silicon Valley serves the software industry, offering consistent innovation, and O'Brien's Metropole is one of the best of their books."—Los Angeles Review of Books

"Ambitious and highly self-conscious poems. . . . If O'Brien's poems are becoming increasingly resistant to, if not combative with, their readers, their rewards are also growing richer for readers willing to engage in the poems' arguments."—Publishers Weekly

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Metropole 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We are the RiverClan of the books so hve believable names and we te in rouges!! If leader but a star infront or after name so in my case Rosestar &star and it is just & star no space. Deputy has a sun wich is &# 9788 no space. Queens have a heart wich is & hearts no space. Kits have smiles wich are &# 9786 no space. Apprentices have a filled in star wich is & starf no space. Warriors have a music note which is &# 9735 I think. Elder's have black smiles which are &# 9787 no space. Thx for reading! ~Rosesar &star