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Dale Smith

Here I Go

Three sections from ‘Here I Go’, 1999–2002


“Now as then I lose myself in words above my head,” Robert Duncan wrote in Ground Work II, “in following words naked of meaning, as I was in the beginning, hearing the magic voice beyond my sight, out of sight, puts on and removes faces not meant for me” (20). In summer 1999 I began reading of Egyptian fetish and myth. Stories of Isis, Osiris and hermetic Thoth cohered for me, and their themes merged through other reading, as I submerged under a current of old religion. Even in Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music I heard trace themes of that past. Robert Duncan seemed an embodiment of this magic. His incantations took the spoken form of the seeker, revealing with instantaneous reaches forward the voices in him. “They are mouthing each other in the passages between words and I hear the sound of sucking, the holding of breath and the releasing of breath in vowels I will yet come to from — the labials, the nasals, the fricatives. I will yet come to. Behind the mouth an intent to speak to me returns again and again to the same patterns and urgencies. The same hooves the tread of feet moving through sentences in phrases, the verges of time, of march and mazurka. It is 1921, remember. Someone has let loose the tango. The seed of the mind to be is in a lull a bye bye that comes round to say good bye again.”

New world, new millennium. I’ve been looking to find a way through these words too, the compressed fact of what came before me remains an urgency. Something of the soil and rain, of that sympathetic Whitmanesque reach, something presses the body and mind. The future speaks through us now in past images. “At the touch of What Is, Time undoes its holds” (21). Eros against the will to power determines these future outcomes. My narrative is a tale of the searcher, of Isis re-membering the body of the dead Lord Osiris. This and the flooding of the Nile, its rhythmic charge surging north to the Mediterranean. The lover takes image across time. There are no boundaries of desert or sea. Continent holds the forms we are.

Tho you were only an incident in an alternate life,
and there I was,   as the Lover always is (2)


Circling, circling, circling,   the matter of Love
the Mind knows   has my own particular death in it.

Somehow it still breaks down to elements. Sun, moon, stars, sky. The joy of wind in cottonwood leaves, pleasure of domestic work. The forms we embody still repeat, and my words meet in an instant new on breath, pulse beat of passing time, gastronomic movement and circulation.

Now I make myself ready, a wanderer. The moon’s silver sliver tonight catches my eye. Owl in walnut tree observes my movement. “Cuckoo Fourth July” from a spinning CD rings through rooms where my work waits. “We are recording instruments,” said William Burroughs. Eyes open, ears alert, an animal quickness observes, “played upon the strings / of what is real” (Duncan, 24). The New World still awes me. From Cretan Spain and the minotaur’s pursuit to the administered doubt that with purpose breaks hearts open, the land retains its futurity with or without us. But through warm blood we find what finds us, “our knowing deepens...”

                   — time deepens —
            this still water

we thirst for     in dreams we dread (38).


Loosened by impulse. Chameleon waits in shady tree, soft green skin thin on alien eye. Look, make an ark of your books and hold them to shore. Wake to a place unknown before. The doctor showed a way, imagination weaving through us. Gather and light, send up smoke on water. Some ancient’s tunic’s caught up in your sleeve.


She came from the sky to grab his hair. He admired her with his eyes, and obeyed. As the cardinal flits among pink stones, her shrill songs entered his body. Along the horizon, water fades there into sky, where we came from too. She went to him where he floated in a pool, the current going out. Do you hear the wind among cars? It carries fumes and motor oil. The serpent, clean as gasoline, spreads into grass and dead leaves. There’s good reason to find things, but your praise could lead me astray.


You felt your arm rise out to strike. Can’t locate the cause in you. A man lights a cigarette, leans against glass storefront. He cares less where you’re buried. His heart stamped clearly there, on his face. The solid middle of his torso swells and a strong, reptile-like gaze narrows through reading glasses. Words from the newspaper pass through him.


On the wind, or in the mouth of a stranger, men resort to an acquisitive knowledge. The dream includes a threat, that there will be no source, no rabbit hole to jump into. A museum guard leads you to an exhibit of Indian Rock Art. Matrons coo in the lobby, bathing their voices in chablis. A man hangs on each arm, nodding politely to another who dries crops in his field. Crows peck at weak shells, break them, suck for inner substance. A femur and a clavicle lie half-buried under black soil. A woman holds her mouth with Victorian silence, her eyes on you, urbane ghost. What specter, what form, so hidden?


Out of the Noos, all this. A god lived in man’s arm, and held it, or let strike. Wind falls on warm night. You’re cautious, unconfident, forgetting too the source of action. Self and not-self bloom on a field where I removed the skirt, made small movement against her leg. Her hair up in sticks, chin held away from me. Our nature distracted by conflict and habit. A statue of Venus, fat shanks solid and soiled, inspires labor’s fortune. Abandon these tools, let them fall there in your fields. Let go the hoe and scythe. Release the yoke and plow. Embrace young maids, garlands scenting your necks, bouquets in your hair. Finger earth, go figure space.


The body is of bright and shining metal, the head of blue. A brilliance of turquoise encircled him. Such is the compression of Hell. For when upon the great return this season blooms, the form we bear vibrates, shifts into new radiance. A bliss of sex breaks us with new rhythm. We are seekers.


Sweet wet grass, its shavings dying on the lawn. Summer comes to suck the damp. Lord of Death plays hit records on the radio. Bones bleach in topsoil, the vertebrae inspected by old Doc Mud. I nurse on soil, hold your passages open. We were full of breath. Muscles loose, joints free. Did you hear that song, coming from a reptile’s pale throat pulsing?


They come to see you seeking favors. Attend rites, make passage. A stink in the nose, or limp leg — makes no difference. Drain the corpse, jar the parts. A pioneer marmalade made to spread on toast. O in her arms, a tender thing. Follow my tracks, my ibis steps. I’ll pen the night-sun to the day.


To shine!

Make ready


To laugh





Bluebonnets and wine
cups color highway

Kansas Missouri Arkansas

Pressed against a mirror   brown on brown   black hair

Luna County lunar eclipse — New Mexico
Watching shadow


“And if terror be the threshold of Angelic In-Formation...”

(Ground Work II, 69)


Late light spreads green sky
rain threat

     Men work their engines
spread in the yard

          Texas beef sizzles
     elm branches breaking

Thunder    no rain    clouds
rotate     green     yellow


“work now the secret of what the
           smile    is” (32),

words          unstuck          whirl

through          wander-struck

air       wind       rain       grass

wet between her toes


Cross Atlantic,

     frigate bird

          make new Atlantis song

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