Mark Weiss: Nineteen Short Poems for Bill Bronk, Plus One

William Bronk and Mark Weiss

ONE HOPES

Based on the known,
imagining the confluence,
one hopes for a florid excitement, a spastic
flailing, some kind of
satisfaction.

A QUESTION TO THE STARS

Are there any here
but us chickens?
Have there ever been?

END OF TIME

The season arrives with a clamor of geese.
And at the end of it.

ANOTHER

We note
the unfamiliar sky.

PERMANENCE

Always and always.
There is this always, that always, there is
always.

TOURISM

Sometimes the poor
can sell their poverty
as if they had chosen it.

THE MENU

Gestures affect instinct accent.

FAIRYTALE

She wore a glass
athletic shoe and left it
at the door, danced off
barefoot.

In a perfect world
all shoes would fit.

STRAY DOG

The stray dog
wonders about its failings as a dog.
Something about a compact broken.

SWEET DREAM

I have dreamed
an epicure's dream. In the secret life of sleep
it seems I have cancer and will surely die, but
that the doctor says
death will be a wasting away, so eat
while you can, as much
as you can, and I sing, Oh Death where is,
where is thy sting.

ROMANCE

We call the ocean Day
and the lover Night.
So Night swims the Day
in search of his love, who floats
before him on a raft of spray.

SACRAMENT

Christ crowns the Virgin
and virgins marry him.

They content themselves with the possible.

I begin the day with a shriek she said.

EN DESHABILLE

It's given to her to dangle a shoe, but for a toe
barefoot in this most formal place.

NATURE

30 million buffalo 120 million
hooves raising the dust, at times
stampeding in a deafening clatter, at others
a rumble audible for miles.

3 billion pigeons, the noise
of 3 billion pigeons,

the shaking earth disturbing the slumbers of millions in their burrows.

If not strings, then ribbons,
the solar system a pattern of movements.

And who may be King or Queen of the May?

DANGER

Let down her hair and her eyes
became pools in the forest.

At the end of the hall are three dark doors.

Smite,
smitten.
Of love
the danger.

NAMED

Named for shape.
Named for function.
Named
in any case. As clouds
hold clues
to sky
or water.

CHILD IN THE GARDEN

On a toy harmonium
she plays the dies irae
to distract the child.

Like a stone across water.
My mind’s like a stone
on water, to sink
one day, tee hee tee hee.

PAGEANT

Miss Angularity is very tall
but wears high heels
to make her feet look small.

IN THEORY

He tries to imagine her toes,
goes through a series of possibilities, as if
a clue to the invisible.
Surely, he thinks, there's a moral here,
a decision inherent in form.

                            And such
and such was the life of him.

SOMETIMES

Sometimes an insistent picture presents itself and sometimes

one walks
into and through it like a tracking shot, but it's always
a picture. Even at a moment like this when I summon it what's lost
is the swift melding of things unseen. And sometimes
it's the slow dance
of two and the heat
and cold and a hand
one remembers, does it all
come back does it all
come back to.

Doesn't it all come back to loss and language?

What can be done
in a few words,
what can be done in words.

Body
and words
in deep storage.

Think of the street filled
with extras in storied lives,
for each of whom...
for each of whom in storied lives
in the moments between.

And the smells of these.

The skull's rictus.

These are the marble halls I dreamt I dwelt in.

Add another to the cacophony of voices.
Add another.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: … I had been unsuccessfully trying to find a way back to small poems after years of writing at the other end of baroque, and [re-reading] Bronk had given me a nudge in the right direction, although he probably would have found most of these poems in different ways totally scandalous. At the least, I doubt he would have recognized their relationship to his own.

Bill's work is characterized by extreme care. Metaphors are few and deployed gingerly, and the matter of daily life enters most often just enough to suggest a context. And his concerns are almost exclusively with final things: on the fugitive nature of both the self and any kind of external reality, Being as if lost in the chaos of before the Biblical creation. “What we want is a here with a meaning,” he says in one of his poems, and goes on to demonstrate that we can't have it.

My own work is all about a here. Final things are the givens that I rarely talk about, and meaning is contingent and flexible. I'm perfectly comfortable with this; as a New Yorker diversity is my native language. …

That said, few of these poems dedicated to his practice really attempt to achieve it. Rather, they seem to me to dance around it as a fixed point. It's in fact “Sometimes,” a poem outside the group, that may come closest to Bill's poetry, though longer than all but a few of his, and I've chosen to place it immediately after them, as a sort of envoi.

(M.W.)