Topoi

1 . MORNING


The year and its
    as like as eggs,
        the days

in their crates of season
    we break open
        and the yolk

of fresh sun we scramble
    the runny light into
        a firm

break
    of the night's winter
        helping of the fast.

                      *

Yellow dishes—
        forsythia
    set out for the early
            meal of season—

sit the house    yards
        the town
    parks    down together
            to this spring as

to a table
        all set
    in order    just
            So

good to see
        you and
    your way found
            back.

​                      *

The arriving coats of smell
    are hung in the air, butt-smacked and
        oiled babies of moment;

and years of taste as touch
    hug    the senses
        to the living;

sweet sour bitter salty
    some never experienced
        again, the gloved fingers

of bananas    so briefly kissed
    with ripeness; fruit,
        grip-shaped thought

brought to the tongue,
    the finished taste
        of words,    an aftertaste

of silence,    the morning
    glories we haven't tasted
        yet

​                      *

life, as lasting as any one
    sense, a taste
        a sight, an orange mix

of kiss with sweetness
    for the moment
        it exists, finishes and

is swallowed, is also those
    who finish hungry or starve
        to death    which swallows;

the final stage of rattlesnake bite
    is yellow vision,
        light,    then you both go out.

Fear, to the tongue, is metallic: I tasted
    a copper penny    it could have been
        a one-time and final, incomparable

        —How does life taste
        to one condemned
            in that cup    this morning?—

flash of a taste;
    a touch's backbeat, that single shake
        in the whole

coital dance    that whiff of ?

        a one-time and final    taste
                                    taste    this morning


2. DEEP TIME


Where trees are a sky
                whose spider web
        radio antennas'
                                search receives
        the rhythmic static
                                        of cicadas,

a song arrives
                that died leaving
        seventeen years ago.

                                                    Deep
cumulus leaves—
                whose cloud and Milky Way
        are green,
                                and heard but unseen
                insect star    births
                        have yet to reach us from—

refract the sun
                -light filtered
        through to brilliant spiked
                                explosions of nova
                in this hiss

                                                    that one
day our own
                insect sun will make
        in deep time into deepsong.


3. PLANETARIUM


A child already an old man
sits in a rocking chair in the yard
facing into the shadow side
of four elms down the end of the block.

He's heard but hears them for the first time
as the cicadas    he's looking for    just one
bowing its wings with its legs
as he's been told they do    he wants to see.

The sun lowering
on the opposite side of the trees
pierces through    burning open holes in spaces
brilliant prismatic    explosions.

He thinks this is how cicadas' sound
speakers look hooked up to the sky
through the trees    refractive, light show
to the music & this    evening is their show
        the cataclysmic novas    nebulae


4. LUNAR ECLIPSE


You've seen only a planed circle of moon,

the white wafer; the low sky's flat penny

grow into that dime, flipped in the turn

taken by the earth,

                                          until you see

what's won from behind its veil of brightness

by the lunar eclipse

                                                    a red marble,

a pinball of blood and it's your shot, a ball

of red clay before its pinch into a bowl,

what I want to say and its look

that far away from it.



I want to say it suddenly

turns three dimensional with shadow

shaded in at the drawn

earth-curtain's darkening;

                                                    and that darkness

makes shape-informed light clearer rounding out

midnight,    and moon,

                                          once it is that lighted ball,

falls above a night now floored with depth

so dark above you    you can feel the feet

and meter fill with time. New Years confetti each

speck's fall a galaxy ago back into space.



Space back into space restored    beneath the moon

to here in the shading of eclipse.    The distances.

                        We have to feel the spatial in what we see

to see clearly        the eye measure in hands and feet;

                                                            as when we kiss,

distance disappears, our eyes close,

and we see bodily

                                          in raised detail

a measure deepen into our world

in each other. And what we are

in the shadow the world makes

of our love, by this earth shine, we see

                        ourselves whole, see in whole perspective.


5. TOPOI


The plane begins its descent into Newark from the west
at the Delaware Water Gap; the whole width
of the state of New Jersey is the base of a triangle
underlying that approach to its point.

Geography test, problem off the wall
to the ground, whole highway systems
unfold again below, the maps we rode. But at
what point did we become so familiar with

such long perspective we could look down
and recognize the pile of Denver by the drop off
and crumble of the plate up    into the Rockies,
or say    That's Detroit!    by the link of lakes by

Lake St. Clair some thirty-thousand feet
above Lake Erie while just barely spotting Huron
on the horizon?

Some earlier hunter had a similar picture in his head
for getting around, and what he saw seems map
his feet figured        what a Boeing 757
picks up and puts down pacing off

my passing through the world by air.
But we've seen the ground ball up into one
step and stand on nothing else, our footing in
the vacuum, diminished sky of solar space.

Yet we haven't seen again his vision, haven't yet
dreamt from it even such map as he had
hunted by; we haven't seen answered from that garden's
gazing ball whether there is direction after all
the dream-lines

have been hunted to circumference. Like trained bear
dancing on a circus ball, we look down, our feet in a step
from which there is no step off,

this footprint all of step ever taken.
    The hunted step, kept far and fast enough
away from the hunter to keep the distance of its life,
shortens to none between them or is that

shit outcome stepped in, become their one,
in perspective, step from which there is no step out of.
In that sense of    "the surface over which
a phenomenon exists," the earth is the footprint of life.

Gaia's gravity-swayed steps take on orbit,
we in the tropic of balance, in a basket
on her head, a blue wrap of sky, sun
ripens the thin rind of the plane to home.

Sweet fruit of the journey, of all journey,
fruit of all step    home is the sweet fruit
that is all of step that is ever taken.



The earth is all of step ever taken
by most of us, we think; but the aisles of air
we walk about with the seatbelt sign off
hang off our backs    angel's wing or motion

lines such as drawn in cartoons or the tesseract
of four dimensions. Cube sunk in a square of space,
sunk in a space of time. Our cubed world
worn as a helmet among

strung dimensions far distant enough to see
the ball that all our ways are woven from:
sand, the lens grinder's patient hand, sore elbow, head
in the stars, he looks down at his feet. Sunk in time,

the footprint of life is death, the grave
there is no step out of, the compost earth.
The earth is the footprint of life.


6. MANY LOCATIONS


Many locations now are ahead of
humanly possible without conduct
through a technology;
                                                we live not yet
caught up with ourselves, the landings offset
by foot pace their space-time for ground transportation.

Unlike stars whose fact is a presumption
of departure or arrival other
than in lived light, we're less than when we are.


We're dated within histories of make
in order to be made whole;
                                                we body age
in our times' prosthesis of achievement
as our time;
                        as our years, our state's moment,
a birth condition, enlarges or wastes us,
the long sentenced swing, instantaneous.


7. THE $$-MEN


The bus as technological magic
shoes, the plane, a flying suit not in the style
of tights and cape, more comfortable,
but shared, like the chevron of flying geese
shares in that wake the one at the point makes;
we support our super powers flapping
almost in unison, our money down.


8.


        The instant though, is ours: Euclidean
point without space, taking place as from.

If it were location, anything there
is not the point.—It is
                                 position in relation
more to other yet-positions more
                                                                  one
that is everywhere nowhere until pointed
out:    we have no point until we have to
                                 see  say  where  how far
another is to    or from us
                                                      continuously
renewed: Call me.
The call made is also in its way

how        point also has to be limited
& in limiting . . . challenged . . .
                                 What are you doing? . . . . .
always in process; point
                                                  is lived.


9. OLD DEPENDENCY


                              Sun-like,

a satellite passes overhead
between the least imperious hours
                              of 2 and 5 am.

A signal picked up from Colorado
beams a setting for the time
                              in Chicago back to earth.
My watch sits meditating, on the sill,
faces out the window at tonight's
                                                  radio sky.


It is built for a connection I am not
that it passes on when I aim at it
                                                  my time pickup

eye the set I need; and off the knees of its clasp
wristband folded underneath,
                              a timing sun's worshipper—

since I've forgotten how the sunrise set
men's cycles—         listens to its crystal
                                        break time down,



its atom tune the seconds . . .           Our body's
band to the watched face of the sun,
                                        who tells the wake and sleep,

comes in the style of our skin.    That close
a melanin-melatonin connection. Yet here's an inorganic
                                                  jewelry

connecting a crystal oscillation through
a radio wave in orbit to
                                        setting itself to set my day.

Gemstone cut music on my arm as if
intravenous, cesium vibration, piped
                                                            aortal

broadcast, drum hour to my heart,
let this renew an old interpretation
                                        how we could talk

to rock, listen to plants explain
in the stomach what membranous
                                        exchange

is the dawn star with ear of corn;
the watch, its passage, and waking flesh
working to live in time.


10. PROTO-PYRAMID FIGURE


Re-noticing the lines of the furrows
he had plowed    each the same space apart

nearing together on the other side
of the field       he felt the figure

of the eye through    a road drawing away
perspective disappear to not yet seen

those lines of the ground        his bargain
for their food with time        kept uncrossed:

he noticed their opposite        come here
At the end of the day       out of the clouds

The furrowed        light turned over dark       lined up
and came together in the blue

behind a field of sky         he could see across
see the road

of where things come from         the mountain
to the sky they must go up and down


11. WHAT WORD


The fat spoiled cat of fish, the carp, pampered
in the garden pool, surfaces:    a bubble
in the level        lines of a purr.

The mirror water vibrates:         the mouth's breath,
a spoken surface as thought,    a soundless word
balloon        of concentration         breaks.

The spoken    world rubs against you to own you as,
as the cat does,        one of it.    A placement.
Your smile, your pool of sight touched awake.


                                                   *


The wakened world's submarines
—our ideologies' spoiled fish—
lift their scale-less indulgences

that our intelligence lays on the tongue
of the silence         of death,         this dragon's breath
freshener of nuclear fire—

And one of these lozenges, we find out
this morning, may lie open at the bottom of the sea
smashed         burst bubble of our technological
meditations;

                       and all that is surfacing may be
our leviathan of threat to each other
we recognize—          this caught breath          almost a silent
language among us.


                                                   *


And what has the bubble burst out with
on its breath? The wakened world.
                                                                   All word
of the living as any longer one of

it is tethered to this brought to the surface,
mouthed breath-clapper in a metal bell,
like the earth's resuscitant bubble of atmosphere,

balling yarn of the planet's one held breath
rolled 'round in as spoiling a lap of orbit
as any swaddled garden pool wove of our
meditations and sun-like surfacing thought.

And the burst bubble of that concentration?—
What is the open         it touches against         us?
What claim          of we as one of         do the dead
bring up          even lifted in a joined arms of states?


                                                   *


Bast, the feline brush by of that cartouche
of breath is the hope of life sucked back
into the born flesh.
                                      word     bubble
breath    break that wakens . . . and we would rise
 . . . 

All connection to us is made surface
to surface:
                      microscopic through into,
telescopic out; matter surfaces
as some tympanic resonance,    word snares
on breath, the touch on press
 . . . 

                 The pool of a dead face doesn't stir.
There is no longer even a level
rise or fall         of balance.
The oceans of the time men don't exist
include only a drop that we do
and see
                   above them another ocean's spray of stars.

Ed Roberson, "Topoi" from To See the Earth Before the End of the World. Copyright © 2010 by Ed Roberson. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
Source: To See the Earth Before the End of the World (Wesleyan University Press, 2010)
More Poems by Ed Roberson