To The Blue Wall by David Rattray

BOMB 13 Fall 1985
013 Fall 1985
Pam Glick 001

Pam Glick, Finder, 1985, oil on canvas, 7’ × 3’ x 6 inches. Courtesy Wolff Gallery.

At 20 my cheeks glowed
Just thinking heaven held
Things so beautiful
They gave me nightmares.
Back then people never knew how
Cherry red or nautical blue
Might affect national recovery.
East Hampton, 1791.
Kinnikinnick, he mixeth.
Canucky, privates.
Gardiner, Glossary of the Montauks.
In a letter Dad calls Mom his dove.
Nearing Mt. Adams
In the dark where
All we can wish or think
Pain is always young.
You get your wings
When you can be there for others
At distances of an order
Only birds maybe have a feel for.
For a year Dad was
Flat on his back on and off.
I hung out with the banker’s kids
Corner of Dayton and Main;
The cook’s name was Olive.
We listened to a crystal radio
For the eldest son, a flyer
Missing in action over Europe.
They hated FDR.
He does it all with mirrors,
I heard an uncle say. I
Pictured a colonial bathroom
In the White House.
Did presidents make faces?
Here I am,
Crossing a little stream,
Red leaf shimmering.
I see myself age 10
The year 1947
On a ferry in open water
Dad’s face in shadow
That hat a sombrero
Atop a golden cloud.
All my life
The infirmities of others
I’ve ignored.
To the mind
Verging on the core of things
Empty space shines.
The minutest detail counts.
People were comparing
Souls with birds when souls are
And they compared bodies with houses
Minds with cities
When that is exactly what they are, too—
My brother at the painting wall
Carving light as on a lathe.
The nucleus is integrity
(Nucleus = fixity)
Passing character on
Whereas your wall
Is a shape-changer,
Optically empty
Enveloping a reticulation of
Gel-like fibers
About a central discrete body.
E. E. Just (1939) :
In this wall
Life resides
And, in its moving surface,
A wave (calcium)
Licks over it in a thin band
Fading at the antipodes,
A blue glow
The strokes of an ax
An outline of a woman’s shape
In daggers, yet.
Sunlight caught in the grip of a
Philips screwdriver
Fixing a window at sunset
As in the amber grip of happiness
I run my lips over the
Furrows in bread
The strands of your hair
In white volutes of smoke
Light coming down in sheets
Staggered shadows
Staggering guests whose centaur
Names, hidden, never sign openly,
Only slip in
In the pattern somewhere:
A yellow mail coach, tiny
Men pursuing it over a plateau
In the Vorallgäu, anonymous, 1849.
We’ve all the time in the world
To look at it,
That glory robe with the black lining
Which is desire for
Permanence, that
Red leaf at dusk
In a streambed on Mt. Adams, that
Hayloft not a spark could get in
From the world outside,—
Not so, there was a tiny hole
Making of the whole room a
Camera lucida wherein the mind swam
In a golden rain of color
And I understood all life to be a book
     but much more
A book I could never get my hands on
Much less write
The terrapin-like letter Q
Arrighi fashion.
To Theocritus the word mâla
Was a turn of phrase (fruits)
For a pair of tits
Curving in the mind’s eye.
If I should lose you
Rilke wrote
Will you sleep as now
With me rustling over you like a
Linden tree, letting the
Words flutter like eyelids
Over your breasts, your arms, your mouth,
To close you like a book
Leaving you
With your man,
A garden with masses of
Honeydrops and star anise.
Oh it’s you
She said one night in a passageway
I’m Jeannette
And at that instant
(Vaughn was right, it is Eternity)
The spot
Dad’s birthplace
Where I was standing
In a California sunset
Facing the Huey Newton penthouse
Under the first evening stars
Ceased to be, my sister
Brother and me
Flashing one by one onto the wall.
On the 2nd day
The terrapin
Swam over the abyss,
It’s an island finder.
No man ever
Plotted even a segment of its course
And in India
It gave its figure to the earth;
A flower, the
Globe amaranth was named for it.
Within the body it assumes
The shape of a subtle
Tube below the throat
To focus on
For becoming perfectly motionless.
It rides Sargasso rafts.
For a year upon entering the sea
It remains invisible.
In the 3rd year it goes back
To the exact same spot on the
Island where it hatched;
And the isles of the ocean sea are all volcanoes
Pinched up into a sequence of bright dots
A streak on the horizon
In the mind-dissolving lens
An unstruck chord
Called an?hata
Disproving motion
At the heart of sound.
For 40 years I never pitied.
Thoreau discovered Arnica mollis
A native American variety
Seconds after a fall in which he sprained an ankle
On the headwall at Tuckerman’s Ravine, 1846
Scrub fir, red berries,
Toll for passing over the carriage road, 32¢
“We are all haunted houses.” (H.D.)
I have a shape, limits;
I have an inside, an outside,
An audience as responsible for what I say
As I am.
The leaves of the elm
In the Elder Edda are dreams;
Lying about a dream is death.
Whether shock be a numbness or
A glow
Is the pin
It all hangs on
With the Archer riding at mid heaven.
I want to know, is this
The light shining in the phoenix’ mouth
Whose eyes are beads of jet
Set in gold wire and only the Almighty
Knows his or her sex
High above January
We no longer specify what year
The hyperborean
Not Apollo, the age no more
An ideal, but a plum
Red mouth and Cranach
Belly and the maroon legwarmers
And soft pants, Kelly green,
The pale hips and dark hairs
Quartered in towers
Where did the sun go, north or south?
To consummate a perfect crime
Poe used a wall, i.e.
An object that makes you suppose
There are other objects in back of it.
“I’m only a voyeur,” Brassaï wrote, “a
Fly on the wall when I’m
Looking at graffiti.”
Face to the wall means ready.
He was
Qui ad parietem
Faciem suam convertit
In libro sermonum dierum regum Iuda
But at the last
Wept at his own
Is there a word for it?
Sun moved
10 degrees
Backwards on the dial.
Some aptitudes
Just die out
With a particular
Generation and never
Come back quite the same.
This snapshot of Auden
And Chester Kallman
On their stomachs on somebody’s
Forming one-ten on an imaginary clockface,
The hour hand. Me too, it was my
Favorite picture of how to get down with a pal,
Penrod not to be confused with Pernod.
When the sky hits the Chrysler Building
I’ll go to the wall.
Nobody needs
A window in the dark
High over Av A
To get
Whatever it is
Invention draws a blank on.
I have one though,
A blue enamel square
With moving clouds.
It’s my home
As long as broade as hyghe ful fayre
The wal of jasper that glent as glayre
Les tres-riches heures.
In the skull
An opening, a hole
White light in the hole.
Inventor of walls
Changed to a bear
In the end cut to pieces.
Walls, boundaries→ advancing degeneration
(Maximus Tyrius)
The walls of thy dear honor.
To commit to the wall,
To hand over to torture
Walls with leprosy (Leviticus )
The terminal hospice a
White cube without windows or doors.
The world coming to an end
A roof like a cork pops out of its seams,
The ultimate wall
A luminous patch at the center
      of a darkened space
A wall with cauliflower ears

Five Poems by George Gott
Doreen McCarthy 001
Create a Radical and Memorable Equivalent: Mary Jo Bang Interviewed by Sylvia Sukop

A new translation with contemporary allusions that reflect the boldness of the original.

Everything Communicates: Alice Notley Interviewed by Jeff Alessandrelli
Runes And Chords4

A new book of poem-drawings.

Materializing Craft: Rosanna Bruno Interviewed by Zach Davidson
Trojan Women by Anne Carson and Rosanna Bruno

A conversation about creative process, told through art objects.

Originally published in

BOMB 13, Fall 1985

David Salle, John Huston, Richard Chaves & Vincent Caristi, art by Carroll Dunham, Moira Dryer, and more.

Read the issue
013 Fall 1985