Negative Statement

By Steve McCaffery Steve McCaffery
two divisions.
        knowing. nothing. into. understand.
1)     sequences outside of the categories
         labelled ‘telephones’
         e.g. the milk arrived.
2)    the things all found a personal
        vocabulary. every word insulted
        without looking.
1)    knowing nothing into understand.   and
        this almost said solemnly was the one
        that least occurred to me.
          ii) i sent my heart in the upper pocked
               or perhaps we made the bed in two
               seconds after we eliminated the
               third floor.
        and nothing else to risk but
        to hear her drinking.   1)
something solemn touched something in the
              upper pocket.
knowing something touched nothing without
                           drinking.  1)
(i love onions 2)
i told her so one.
in one second 2.
in two seconds flat
the things that change conceal
a system of ideas
for instance the trains went by to come
back on a roll of film
they were both standing in the courtyard
when i came she was
2)    sitting on the steps in a mans
        handwriting shutting my eyes to what
        remains to be said.
1)    an immense silence which had nothing to
        do with silence.
2)    for a long spell
        a spell of weeping begins to come.

Steve McCaffery, “Negative Statement” from Seven Pages Missing, Volume One: Selected Texts 1969-1999. Copyright © 2002 by Steve McCaffery. Reprinted by permission of Coach House Books.

Source: Seven Pages Missing, Volume One: Selected Texts 1969-1999 (Coach House Press, 2002)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Steve McCaffery

Subjects Living, The Mind, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Poet Steve McCaffery was born in Sheffield, England, and earned a BA in English and philosophy from Hull University (England), an MA from York University (Toronto), and a PhD from the program in poetics, English, and comparative literature at SUNY Buffalo. A critic, poet, and professor, McCaffery was part of the Canadian avant-garde poetry scene in the 1970s. His creative work has been marked by innovation and a move away from . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, The Mind, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.