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from City of Moths


My friend thinks that poetry has nothing to do with words. Poetry she says, is a mountain. An actual mountain. A thing that fools climb simply “because it’s there.” Poetry is there, but why do we constantly feel the need to prove it exists? To point to it? Like a mountain appearing in the distance. “Be an uncarved block of wood” is what the Sarah Lawrence kids, who hadn’t slept in 40-some hours, still high off ecstasy and acid, sitting Indian-style on the rock, otherwise-silent, would shout at me during tennis matches. They were right. What lies in the uncarved block of wood. Whorls and grains, stories and held smoke. Surrounded by. My block of wood, another person’s mountain. The sound of a finger pointing to some unseen thing. To be reckoned with, or perhaps, reckoned by. Something to draw a door in.

Poetry is exactly like sexual harassment. Don’t ask. Listening to James Brown I understood what you meant about poetry having nothing to do with words. Maybe my mountain is a woman…lying…down. Try me, a bridge, the black lightning of the body. Point to point, nearness to nearness, the point is always to get to the next poem. That’s it. Nothing else. There’s love, but either way, you end up going crazy. Pain is to have seen and tasted one’s desire, and to live with that apple in front of one’s face, forever, with no way to touch it. But that part of the story comes later. After we listen to Bob sing, One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain, poetry is the opposite. Language gets in the way. What I’m really trying to say is, Please, please, please…don’t leave me…be…wildered.

 Things fit together. Two inconsequential things can combine together to become a consequence. The poem doesn’t exist by itself. There is only poetry. The theory of relativity. Which means our fears and desires, our angers and dreams are not unique, they relate, become one and like us, will die if left alone. Did I tell you I was watching Game 2 of the Playoffs between the Pistons and the Orlando Magic when suddenly there appeared on the screen this skinny little white boy with glasses, a Pistons fan, maybe 10 years old, shirtless, standing in the aisle, flexing imaginary muscles, and painted on the entirety of his chest in glittery pink and blue spray-paint was the message, “There’s No Such Thing As Magic” and POOF— you were beside me, naked and trembling in my arms?

from The Dreams

The sky is way too blue like a TV set after kids have fucked with the remote, and for a second I don’t even see it— an enormous hot-air balloon hovering like the perfect ending to a simile. Then it hits me—this is the bright-striped balloon from the chemistry book I’ve been editing. I’m driving as if the sky won the war and there are no more roads. Just drifting toward whatever the air offers up. Following the law of we-all-need-a-balloon-to-help-us-home. Hypnotized by the bright balloon and its exquisite interruption of blue, I barely saw them, had to slam my brakes to avoid hitting the four giant buzzards sitting in the middle of the road, their backs to me, congregating over the carcass of something I couldn’t see but knew had to be the air from that beautiful balloon.




Impossibly this is an attempt at escape. Gravity, his uncle once told him, is only in your mind. There is a scene from Before Night Falls where the dream of escape is so beautiful it outweighs any consequence of the real: one would rather drown going down in a hot-air balloon in the ocean on the way to Florida than remain alive another second without freedom. The dream of it. A carcass of air. Language is secondary to silence. The most beautiful things we do, we do without words. Once, when he was the King of the Forest, he was chased by his brother, Emperor of Grasshoppers into an old overgrown greenhouse, a good 15 feet in the narrow aisle he realized his brother was no longer behind him and alone with the sound of his own breathing, he turned to see he was surrounded by over a dozen giant buzzards roosting eyelevel on marble slats— the next 10 seconds of this story is the stuff that dreams are made of.

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Ben Pease is the creator and host of Scattered Rhymes, the featured podcast of The The Poetry Blog. His poetry has appeared in MAGGY, Paperbag, and SUPERMACHINE, among others. A selection of his Blockbuster in Verse, Wichman Cometh, is available from Monk Books here. His collages can be found here and as poetry comics with Bianca Stone here and here .

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