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J A C K E T  # 6
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Ron Silliman :
being a part of
The Alphabet



On his desk, the Book of Psalms and New Testament, printed in Korean, each line carefully highlighted with a different color ink. A long room (ceiling slanted) with windows at either end so that light passes through as physical as a liquid.
The meaning of medicine. Three boys fishing by a small dam, right by the polluted water sign. Blue thread enters the skull under the hair line, pulling the red wound shut.
Dream states of waking. Sun in the curtain, caught in the web of its gauze. An erotics of flossing, an aerobics. Something in the woods is crunching branches. Jay and its echo.
"Jesse . . . stole . . . my . . . space," each word emphasized to underscore the outrage. Poolside before dawn, dozens of sparrows find something to peck at in the driveway. Town's water tower, a gigantic pale blue-green lollipop alongside these houses.
Articles fix focus. Dragonflies hover over the still water, magnificent, golden, imperial airships in search of the wayward mosquito. Beachtown seniors gather under the shade trees in the park. In the Catholic church, two men, obviously brothers in their mid-80s, sit silently side by side, while up front off in one alcove women gather before the red bank of glowing candles.
Sleeping in the middle. In the dream, the building and the job are identical, a huge hollowed-out old block (abandoned warehouse? apartments?), so that I'm surprised to discover this door on the top floor leads to the street.
Bitterns wander through the bog. Lighthouse is the one object along this long flat coast with any definition. Small blue flowers amid all that green. Swan swamp. Small boy crouches, feeding blades of grass to an appreciative rabbit.



As the pop foul descends from the heavens into the crowd, hands and gloves shoot skyward, bodies thrusting themselves up, straining, grasping, parody of a scene on Iwo Jima, while below others cringe & cower, popcorn, beers, sodas spilling in all directions, the sculptural effect complete (at least half of the participants appear to have their eyes shut), a phenomenon that repeats in smaller and less hysterical numbers again and again as the loose ball bounces untouched from section to section until a boy with an oversized blue glove smothers it against his chest.
Windsurfers on a small island lake struggle to stay upright. Just far enough from the city to sense the ambivalence between suburban and rural (in a generation this will pass). Gargantuan houses on miniature lots ("cathedral ceilings in the foyer"), a value for our time.
Vial of glitter spilled on the rug. The man who could read data by its tone as static. The light arrives not only later but more muted (filtered through a scrim of cloud too thin to see).
The roar of crickets softens (one hasn't seen a lightning bug for months). A new sound, that of wind in the trees, the leaves brittle. People watching in a mall lot, an anthology of body parts (there is no normal physique). As we drive through the underpass, static overwhelms the radio.
A euphoria to sleeplessness (the dream continues). So poverty, invisibilized, is reduced to a topic on the radio (at the mall, a man with tardive dyskinesia). Body parts strewn of the late Mr. Potato Head.
Woodpecker hops along its branch, not pecking, just chirping its call. Loss analysis. A little customer sat. This text has been modified to fit your television screen. If this had been a real test. I can hear the jay but cannot see it.
The merchant of sunglasses operates from a card table across from the university entrance. Salad composed of yellow fin tuna and jumbo shrimp chopped to indistinguishable bits. Bright sun just beyond the shadows of this parking structure.


for Linh Dinh

In the land of the elephants, death transforms the world: a hunter shoots the mother of young Babar, sending him into exile in, of all places, France where he learns the very social skills (reading, clothing, driving) that he will someday use to recast his native land, the perfect comprador; meanwhile the old king eats a poisonous mushroom, turns green and dies, throwing the future of the elephant kingdom into doubt.
Telephone tag. Quantum dot. The young leader returns to unite his people and drive out the foreign invaders, after which the largest city is renamed for his nom de guerre, Ho Chi Minh. The elephants rejoice.
The light at the window. The night at the window. Fine layer of toothpaste has formed a crust on the bathroom faucet. To invent history versus choosing merely to rewrite it. The wounded animal stage of life. An Old Lady whom, your entire life, you will call by no other name.
Process map: to build a two-drawer filing cabinet. Underneath the entire jungle, an intricate web of tunnels. He discovers his cousins Celeste and Arthur naked on the streets of Paris. Just the sort of family you would expect from one orphaned by two sets of parents before his thirteenth birthday. Name the last son "Lucky."
Skill set. Subsidiary rights. I find an empty ballroom between luncheon and cocktails and set up the laptop and go. Do you distinguish those editions in which the text is in the thick-lined script of the original and those where it is not? The Republic of Monkeys, for example, is governed by a benevolent military dictator with the Indochinese name of General Huc.
It's an ill wind that blows nobody. Edited inside the pen. An alarm rings in a dark room. Rhinos are perceived as full of bluster but capable of descent into murder, torture, slavery over the slightest prank. My stomach howls like a distant coyote. Giant whirligig beetle actually small on the leaf.
Rising after a long sleep, the terrible weight of the body causes the roughly 50 bones of each foot to settle, snapping and popping as they shift into place. Any single story house is more expensive to build, requiring as it does a maximum of foundation per square foot of living space. Ranch style flows white over the pale leaves of old lettuce. Traffic lights blinking signal a malfunction.


Postmodernism Optical dimultiplexer divides data packets via nonlinear loop mirror: minimize connotations per word. To ride a giant seahorse is to render the physical world by desire.
Incorporate your weekend home as a nonprofit. Catfood for catfish (they swarm to the surface, competing for each bite). Small, red berry clusters of Jack-in-the-pulpit line the walk.
Somewhere - on television - one sees daylight. A full night of holding these quilts aloft over my body, a night of sheer effort. FedEx it. Modem moans when you shut it off.
Curb appeal. I stand under the awning, arms akimbo, in the rain but not of it. The blue route. Geese against the gray sky. Fed exit.
Op cit. I.e. AI asap. Sausages packaged in groups of three (requiring the family of four to buy two). Intelligence demands the balance of contradictions: to know that St. George slew dragons and that dragons did not exist. Expect a miracle. First dim silhouette of the trees foretells dawn.
So the book of numbers turns out to be a record of baseball pitching and playing statistics. Even after dark, the perfect weather keeps us outdoors. If it does not fit, you must acquit.
Giant spider intends a solid object. The pen crackles with electricity, blue sparks arc from tip of each letter as it emerges (burnt smell of the word itself). Iron butterfly. Sweep.


In the forest mist, first dawn light is suspended, diffused, shadowless, softened: projective correlative. A doe pauses in the cross hairs. The light changes and the window washers of Houston Street assault cars halted in the other direction.
To dream of television is to complete a circle. Database by design. The narrative structure of a house. Average quota of PIN numbers per capita. Width of the spine.
Under the aesthetic (the midwest), the past (an image of the body) struggles to accommodate outlyers: a statistical sun leverages dawn. I pluck on the strings of this keyboard.
Great wall of crickets, even in the dark and in autumn (one attempts to hear within this a particular cricket, or to separate the crickets from the cicadas, and is barely able to do so). Trade rag. Valid search. Each sentence understood as a dialog box. Helicopter aerial p.o.v.
Articulate space, as when, say, in the dark the blue-eyed weimaraner across the road starts to bark, then the dog two doors down, the another and another, until the woods are loud and full of barking, yelping, howling animals, a wave that just as quickly subsides, returning us all to the steady background music of the crickets and the rain.
The wind in all directions. Sad, hollow-eyed emaciated man standing in the men's room begging quarters. The appetizer outshines the entrée. More black than red, the lipstick creates a sort of permanent pout. Great eight-foot-high weeds between the abandoned buildings out by the railyards, memory of an earlier ecological formation.
Talking animal puppets, philosophers and kings, in a realm of primary colors, pause to attend to a flourish of trumpets, off screen. Wind, high in these branches, almost visible. Through the walls (paper thin), the lives of others.

Ron Silliman

Ron Silliman
Photograph copyright © Erika McConnell, 1995
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