Mångata — Vol. 27.1 (2016)

Posted on Tue, Aug 16, 2016

Mångata

1.
Out of the shale: a trilobite.
Out of the trilobite: the idea
of a trilobite, the specter of taxonomy
and deep time. Yes,

it looks like the cross of a gym shoe sole
and a washboard. But inside it
— inside anything — is its generality.
Out of the stalk of celery.
Out of the plaster clown at the fun house entrance.
Out of the leather dog collar.
Out of the lily.
Out of the person asleep beside you in the darkness.

We rarely use “abstract” any more
as a verb, “to take out of,” but that’s
how the word began. Out of the person
asleep last night beside you

in the darkness and its rolled-up hard-packed ball of light
we call the moon:
weariness; susceptibility; plenitude; carnality
— his (or her) abstractions.
Out of anything: its symbology.

The difference between the moon’s light
on a shoulder next to yours in bed
and “astronomy” and “anatomy,”
which are lovely constructions, and necessary,
although they can never be touched.

2.
The famous painter, starting over, layer
by layer, removing the painted skins of her beginning
attempts, until she’s gone down
to a smudge of color floating on the undercoat
…some scream / or hope / or sobbing
without benefit of a body.

This is what I receive, and is only what I receive,
in the first year poetry workshop.

The torment of my soul surrounds me.
and The friendships of humankinds
give us hope. and loneliness, this year
loneliness is the front-runner,
All of the loneliness is a sadness of the lonely!

— shrieks without throats
— heartaches sans hearts.

But didn’t we invent our gods
exactly so the abstruse emanations that we generate
/ wonder / vengeance / benevolence / dread…
could enter the world in a riveting story
of meaningful specifics?

(“abstruse emanations”
alone demands a putto or two!)

3.
Riveting stories require
…well, rivets:
“nuts and bolts,” “the nitty gritty.”
Here’s

the tortoise stomach Darwin slit
and entered, sorting its gummy tidbits
with the frank touch of a postal worker; here’s
a clutch of his finches, looking — in death —
like half-a-dozen bottles of ale
that some Victorian decorator gussied up
in feathered cosies; and here are the bones
of his prehistoric armadillos and giant sloths,
of such size that they might imply
the architecture of cities more than the structure of bodies.
Alfred Wallace was threatened by yellow fever,
malaria, tiger pits (and also by the tigers),
drowning, earthquakes, volcanoes,
headhunters (who “kept bundles
of their enemies’ heads suspended from the ceilings
of their longhouses”), and a solitude
that sat on his chest at night
like a gibbering creature; and yet there were days like the one
when he captured a Golden Birdwing, a butterfly
“more than seven inches across at the wings,
which are velvety black and fiery orange” – plus his macaws,
toucans, honey-suckers, and one bird that the locals
called a Quaich-Quaich. There are people for whom
crustaceans and arthropods chiseled out of a rockface
are better than diamonds. Here’s
the rich array Roy Chapman Andrews returned with,
from the Gobi, and its scale goes from the barrel-size
skulls of mastodons
to Cretaceous mosquitoes. And out of this

material welter of curiosa in specimens cases
— rattling, stinking tonnage —
rose
the Theory Itself, “natural selection,”
“evolution,” Where We Came From, in the way
that, in the ancient tales,
spirits rose — ethereally —
from the very real
flotsam, jetsam, mollusk-and-octopus sea.

Ah…the sea. The word mångata
is Swedish: “the road-like reflection
of the moon in the water.”
Such nothing.
Such fluttering nothing, such impossibly
evanescent, uncommunicatable
nothing,

to hold such beauty.

This light…it must shine its permission on the language
that my students employ,
when they stumble out of the one-night stand
or midnight worship service,
overcome with feelings so intense
they no longer require the physical apparatus
of feeling, and so pure that they don’t require evidence.

Well, I’ve been in that light — and so have you.
The too-much gland in the brain secretes
its too-much hormone into the blood,
and from out of nowhere mångata bursts forth….

My soul. My deepness. My longing.

(Back to poems)