Duration by Ruth Danon

BOMB 63 Spring 1998
Bombcover 63 1024X1024

To understand
you need a way in.
That is to say
I wanted him.
I wanted also
the region, the seat,
the platform,
the compartition (a parturition)
the walling, the covering,
the apertures.
I wanted all of it. A home
you could say.
I cannot amend the air.
I cannot amend desire.
The sentence pushes
against the line.
Pressure. Pressing.
Crossing. A home.
You could say.
Death, cold, night, solitude
absence, presence immeasurable
immanence, power
unnameable. All
collapses. All
A small boat
crosses the water.
What frightens me
is common
and ordinary,
the human hand in everything.
In every gesture
words unsaid.


I will build my house
in proper order
with every due respect.
I am, I say,
all my goods and chattel.
Lares and penates.
Sticks and stones.
You must carry your bones
with you. I carry my bones
with me. My own house.
No one will understand what I do.
No one will understand.
A crackerbox of a house.
I said a crackerbox.
Splintering bones.
Give a name to the country,
to the region, to the place
of settlement.
Light and air at the minimum.
That is to say
I wanted him. I wanted
to be with him. And I took what I wanted.
two things:
The stone is in place.
I will build a house.
I tell you I will build my house
of bones.
A simple completion; the arch
shaped by duration
(I have known for so long)
Inevitable. A looking through
to something. Try as I will
I will not deny it.
There will be an ending,
a going out, like falling asleep
on water.
I tell you
I took what I wanted
and I wanted him.


I left no stone unturned.
A return to origin.
A return to dust. The desert.
Dry. A place of stillness and danger.
I was kneeling in the dirt,
on my knees, in prayer.
I wanted him. I took
what I wanted.
I was thirsty.
I haven’t said this before.
Keep up the pressure.
After a while, stillness.
Do not think this is easy.
I wanted him. A home.
You cannot name
the things of the world
unless you can see them,
unless you are willing
to lose them.
I began to question
the enterprise itself.
After a while. A collection
of stones, ground down
a little handful of something, of
dust, of something.
Birds have
seeds and I have stone.
(I could not amend the air)
The house.
A sifting, a shifting, a shifting.
A complex shifting,
the foundation, the very plates of
    the earth
shuddering. Good. It settles
the foundation.

Any sequence of three lines
suggests a narrative.
Why should this be?
In the water, a new detail.
A single feather. Swans.
Arch of neck before the storm.
In the twenty minutes
before the storm
they let themselves be fed.
A little handful of something
before the trouble begins.
I said I wanted him.
It has all gone too far.
I said I wanted him.
I cannot amend the air.
cannot amend the air.
Not with the contrivance of my
    own hand nor with
the power of multitudes
nor with my own blind
Clamor, murmur
The rush in the trees.
The rush of the trees.
The birds on water.
The rush of blood
and lamentations in the trees.
My breathing is a little labored.
    Hear me.
I am not what I was.


Ruth Danon is the author of a book of poems, Triangulation From a Known Point, and a book of criticism, Work in the English Novel. She runs the Creative Writing Program in the Adult Degree Studies Division of New York University.

Vi Khi Nao by Louis Elliott
Vi Khi Nao Covers

From personal ads compiled as narrative to a frame-by-frame retelling of a short film on grazing sheep, Nao’s poems and stories are acrobatic experiments in form.

Four Poems by Xue Di
Three Poems by Derek Webster

Anniversary Poem

A bouquet of flowers

Originally published in

BOMB 63, Spring 1998

Featuring interviews with Gillian Wearing, Mona Hatoum, Jim Lewis, Dale Peck, Maureen Howard, John Sayles, Steve Earle, Martin McDonagh, Victor Garber, and Alfred Molina.

Read the issue
Bombcover 63 1024X1024