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Jackson Mac Low

Three poems for Paul Blackburn

32nd Light Poem:

In Memoriam Paul Blackburn — 9-10 October 1971

Let me choose the kinds of light
to light the passing of my friend
Paul Blackburn          a poet

A pale light like that of a winter dawn
or twilight
or phosphorescence

is not enough to guide him in his passing
but enough for us to see
shadowily his last gaunt figure

how he showed himself to us
last July in Michigan
when he made us think he was recovering

knowing the carcinoma
arrested in his esophagus
had already spread to his bones

How he led us on
I spent so little time with him
thinking he’d be with us now

Amber light of regret
stains my memories of our days
at the poetry festival in Allendale Michigan

How many times I hurried elsewhere
rather than spending time with him
in his room 3 doors from me

I will regret it the rest of my life
I must learn to live
with the regret

dwelling on the moments
Paul & I shared
in July as in years before

tho amber light dim to umber
& I can hardly see
his brave emaciated face

I see Paul standing in the umber light
cast on his existence
by his knowing that his death was fast approaching

Lightning blasts the guilty dream
& I see him
reading in the little auditorium

& hear him
confidently reading
careful of his timing

anxious not to take
more than his share of reading time
filling our hearts with rejoicing

seeing him alive
doing the work he was here for
seemingly among us now

I for one was fooled
thinking he was winning the battle
so I wept that night for joy

As I embraced him after he read
I shook with relief & love
I was so happy to hear you read again

If there were a kind of black light
that suddenly cd reveal to us
each other’s inwardness

what wd I have seen that night
as I embraced you
with tears of joy

I keep remembering the bolt of lightning
that slashed the sky at twilight
over the Gulf of St. Lawrence

& turned an enchanted walk with Bici
following Angus Willie’s Brook
thru mossy woods nearly to its mouth

to a boot-filling scramble up thru thorn bush & spruce tangle
Beatrice guided me & I was safe
at the end of August on Cape Breton Island

but when Jerry telephoned me of your death
the lightning that destroyed
the illusion you were safe

led thru dreadful amber light
not to friendly car light
& welcoming kitchen light

but to black light of absence
not ultraviolet light
revealing hidden colors

but revelatory light that is no light
the unending light of the realization
that no light will ever light your bodily presence again

Now your poems’ light is all
The unending light of your presence
in the living light of your voice

12:33 AM Sun 10 Oct 1971
The Bronx

Jackson Mac Low

Poem in 2000 for Paul Blackburn


THE the
Dalon hills insurrection

ASSOCIATED of catch spies never
THE the the about transit light around movement resumes thousand
spatulate in on brain sense and with the whistling

volcano death tornado that from is
It been
Arlington usually against balanced disagreement backward
one in movement syllable long with lifting later any
and and two by two the
French values can will about three on of

I still never so of and
DREW cold goodbye your call
David the
Dalon make note
Park leaves
PRESS personally nothing immediacy uselessly distinctly
speech-rhythm in itself which familiar inserted
and object about minus something
Shopping weeks the urinal that being falls administration

thought short other words finished gamekeeper
Connie as intellectual old tho the tea winter the the the over
World said
NOVEMBER wooden catch no conclusion kitchen
Metallic instruments useless reflections tracheotomy consciousness
pear molto fast it’s nothing motorbike farewell terrible
that love in it
I was may its epitaph enough your leafless
Park muddy paths on of life my myself up is you’ll bread irrelevant
instrument in later under around everything in familiar
Four sound
David molto my ass wake you’ll
BREAKFAST but lots paths both wide disagreement had sleep at
Two sharp dark darkening as ago leaf spoil anyone anticipation
and and

16 for
First enter turned
Avenue values can will about three
Ante of without repeating observation to there there arm or
Regret thru movement 1965
Ellicott in units bridge near and we they spies which kitchen
the while good in it’s back sat milk bread around produced
inserted outbound on
One molto my leaves will before faded a know

And the the
DREW violets gamekeeper call insurrection
Sergeant of of in
Street no no one and there conclusion possible enuf while sound
the valve make made pigeons delivering
Forget questions vision within spatulate hospital
personally it strike was was myself awake about good

around about the the the
WRITER smacking down
ST. MARK’S IN-THE-BOUWERIE anticipation deposit sisters at farewell


Derived diastically from The Collected Poems of Paul Blackburn, ed. Edith Jarolim (New York, Persea, 1985), 387-401, with title and first sentence of ‘The Value’ (389) as seed text. Nos. of lines in strophes follow the modified Lucas number sequence 1, 3, 4, 7, 11, 18, 11, 7, 4, 1. Strophes placed by die throws.

Jackson Mac Low
New York: 23-27 June 2000

Jackson Mac Low

Gamekeepers Dance to the Strokes of Syllables

An irregular curtal sonnet for Paul Blackburn

Put gamekeepers in your hills.
Breakfast on old grass.
Peace, quickly possible, continues speech-rhythms’ irrelevance.
Paragraphs machine you, poplar.
Be cleanly that.
Which of the gamekeepers is having December procedures?

November delivered pulled-paper mountains.
Well, but blue places dance and stroke in syllabic procedures.
November’s deliverance pulled down the paper mountains.
Well, but blue places dance to the strokes of syllables.
                Gamekeepers’ syllables.

Derived diastically from The Collected Poems of Paul Blackburn, ed. Edith Jarolim (New York, Persea, 1985), 387--401, with ‘Paul Blackburn’ as seed text. A ‘curtal [shortened] sonnet’ (G.M. Hopkins) consists of a sestet followed by a quatrain and a half-line tailpiece. This one’s irregular in that it neither rhymes nor has the same number of feet or beats in every line.

Jackson Mac Low
New York: 26–29 June 2000

Jackson Mac Low, photo by Anne Tardos
Jackson Mac Low, b. Chicago, 12/IX/22, is a poet, composer of music and performance works, and visual artist. Author of 28 books, published in 90 collections, and exhibited. published, and performed — by his wife, Anne Tardos, and himself, and by others — in many countries. Among awards: Guggenheim, NEA, and other fellowships and the 1999 Tanning Prize (Academy of American Poets). Recent book: 20 Forties (Zasterle, Tenerife, 1999).

Photo by Anne Tardos, copyright © 2000 Anne Tardos

The first of these three poems, ‘32nd Light Poem: In Memoriam Paul Blackburn — 9-10 October 1971,’ is published in Jackson Mac Low’s Representative Works: 1938-1985 (New York: Roof Books, 1986), 221-23. Copyright © 1986 by Jackson Mac Low. All rights reserved.

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