Tilden by Geoffrey G. O’Brien

BOMB 144 Summer 2018
144 Cover

I should say a few things
Before I begin. Hell is easy,
We brought us here
And not for the first time.
The park is large and full
Of diversion, if relatively
Unpopulated. From a good
High place one can see
The built distance gleam,
There really is no other
Word for it, or phrase
For how serenely sedately
The towers crowd together:
Crisis is the truth in view,

The one side of many.
Before it was over, I began
This poem quite differently,
Walking while still of
Several minds but each
Mainly preoccupied with what
Blue would do to green
Where they meet or seem to.
I would avoid everything
Else, exchanging the battles
In park and campus plaza
Over the stupid future of
Whiteness for this light
Blue running up and over

That hill I’ll mention again
Later, a hellblue that disappears
Upon moving any closer
To it, fleeing intimacy,
Only speaking to the eye
From remote locations, say
Horizon, the mistaken theory
An eye tries every moment
By turning the fact of the whole
Curve into a line and the line
Into an unagonized meeting
Place as real as time. When
Thinking almost forgets itself
It sees huge battlegrounds of color,

Two plazas where just the one,
Two bridges for each actual
Span across the two dark blue
Bodies of water visible from
Atop the aforementioned
Hill, from which I can see
Through the limits of my vantage
How all kinds of mistake
Are eager to gather, especially
At the edges. Out of the corner
I only know the other world
Doesn’t yet come to pass
The eye test the same way
I understand this one

Could be better, not exactly
Everything it’s cracked up to be
Now that lately these days
Where they’re coming again
From thinking’s dead narrow,
From etc. itself, draped in red
And dark blue, and white
And black, to stand in or as
Facsimiles of intimacy,
Shouting as much into mouths
As ears their foam and content.
There is blue even over
Their heads, and background noise
Flowing out relation-song,

It is the mask of a lovely day
That argues we should be content
With semi-automatic happiness,
But some of us always aren’t
Ourselves enough to take it.
Isolate identity conceals
Collective anonymity
The way blue blocks air.
If the face hides a mask
Then it is one too. From which
Hill you can see both at once
And not be wrong, all the way
To the steps that begin where they end.

Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s latest book is Experience in Groups (Wave, 2018). He is also the author, most recently, of People on Sunday and the coauthor (with John Ashbery and Timothy Donnelly) of Three Poets. O’Brien is a professor of English at UC Berkeley and teaches for the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison.

Originally published in

BOMB 144, Summer 2018

Featuring interviews with Chris Martin, Cy Gavin, Tauba Auerbach, Sam Hillmer, Amy Jenkins, Florian Meisenberg, John Akomfrah, Simone Forti, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Anna Moschovakis

Read the issue
144 Cover