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Robert Kelly

for Charlotte

A book for us to write, like this:
you'll uncap the pen and hold the barrel
you'll press the iridium nib against soft paper
you'll draw a line—extend
it to a word
it will run from your hip up your heart to your hand
and it will say.

And what do I do. I sit beside you and turn the pages.
Diminuendo then sudden fortissimo—
I know where I am in the world by loudness alone.

How will the book know when we write it
what it's supposed to say.
It says what it must say.
It is a simple piece of paper, very large or infinite,
and everything has to be findable there,
metabolism of desert rodents,
ratio of fat to muscle in singing birds,
predators, swallowers of discarded flesh.


A man is bent double over the hood of a car
and the police are twisting his thick sunburned arms behind his back
putting handcuffs on.
Ambulances with swinging lights, sheriffs and troopers
and a street full of frightened people.

This has to be in the book. This is the map.
It has to show the fear, it has to show my hand
squeezing your wrist too hard, the doubt
beginning to show in your eyes as you look at me,
the grief in mine that I would twist the world again,
that I'm doing it again, hurt you to love me.
That I can't trust the world to come to me and stay.
Draw me to this world I don't trust, draw me trusting it.

Hot thunder. Show me.
I am a man bent low
constrained by circumstance,
why is it so sad,
where does this grief come from
you hear in my voice,
what do I know that makes me grieving,
I grieve with an ancient remorse I don't understand,
draw me a map with me remembering, forgiving, with me letting
Thunder. Dark thunder. Dark hot thunder.
Light is full of conveyance.
Oh that was lightning, it touched you faintly.
Lit up the profile of my face like a flicker of remorse.


They all are, all are speaking,
petals copper acetate old names
of a sweet old chemistry
loving things with language
that now we only know by number
a celadon vessel tinged nudely with palest crimson
shaped like the square root of five.


Map our revelation.
When you decide where the mountains are
we can find the Grail Temple
thickening clouds over the grain elevator
a scrap heap and the gates
swing open out of solid gold

hands around your hips now squeezing too tight
what is between Chicago and the North Pole
you squirm in my hands
trying to get free trying to get closer to me
how will I ever know
I hold so tight
I crush all the old maps in my hands my strong
hands give me a new map draw me a mountain

how strong you make me
draw me a map of your root honesty lend it to me
measure it all the way back to the moon

this map now
we begin

I think with your hand

you feel your body press down,
Lex dead of AIDS and David's friend
and — dying of it,
the pressure talks up the prussian blue of your veins
until you draw the map
complete in all its rivers copses spinneys
man-built weirs
copper mines salt pans
dotted lines for caves
bearing down and in
from staggering cliffs
you mark by a bundle of contour lines
—always 57o down there
inside the constant earth
midnight in San Francisco the cry of men

map the cry of them
desperate for your body all of your bodies

until you draw the map
with every bight cove fjord quarry
all the Ragusas of dubious argosies
jabbering lighthouses staining the dark

until you draw the map
with every battle site pricked out with crossed swords
the Christian ruins and the man of war
sunk in the harbor
fouled anchors oil rigs spirit guides
marking ley lines with eye chalk

until you draw the map complete
with an old woman in Appleton
eating cheese on saltine crackers

this book of ours will not be finished, draw it,
it is the only book,
I am waiting for your map
to forgive me
to explain the silence of the world,

draw a mesa and a bed
a snake asleep on sandstone cold morning
draw hemlocks in Russia
draw the Vatican if there is one
a Pope legislating from the star Canopus
draw the men haunting the corridors of ancient buildings
draw the shadow the moon casts on the Plaza de Toros
when all the drunks have come home
and the bull is bleeding to death outside the wooden wall

then draw the shadow the moon throws down on the earth
no one can see
but we feel it
hard on our shoulders
sometimes when we turn
to each other or look
the same way in the sky.

What way is that? How does the land know
what the map is making it do?
Which way does a word point
when we look through each other
whoever we are?
And it goes there,
nobody's listening, let the word go,
let the map pour out of your hands
you know something you almost remember.

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