Louis Armand

Croatoan



1. each day we thought of the day to come — bodies
tilting at space like figures on a mountain
or a mountain’s outline cropped from admass
pasted in the sky, trenchant & obvious

the task of becoming less sentient, siphoned out of
lost history — an irony a paradox a retribution
weighing upon the scene as though it
weighed upon the mind or the scene were a mind

in which time is forever getting ahead of itself —
the retrospective illusion is shattered
the hand of an epimenedes or a parrhasios
clutching a stone or a shred of air

or a mountain’s shadow — its sinister quixotic proof
that something remains beyond our grasp


2. towards that end also — an overturned lake
or a lake in which only the image of itself is reflected

& the scene that rises above that — an
illusionist’s sphere darkened by shiftless
lunar seas — the unconquered zero
as remote as everything we continue to long for ...

a path along the cliff top rises on a
green tide — a field of headstones
in the green eye of that innermost sea
with its promise of no bad season

laughter among those trees, neither senile nor
youthful laughter but a fool’s ambiguous cawing at
life — turned to entreaty or insistence or
something fatuous as a statement of eternal truth


3. deep in the valleys the muffled nightwork of
resurrectionists stirring the dead-sleep —
those voices at the window are not of our world
the truths we seek & those we do not seek
are less than the sum of appearances:

light — shadow — particles of faith emanating
from that environment in fissile pre-consciousness
(which half of the manichaean brain
constructs their illusion of substance?) —

it is like the kernel of a dream or the repetitively
simple wish to once have been moved
by something less than a criminal impulse

the mock itineraries of the art of waiting (& the
miracle of conversion we are assiduously waiting for?)


4. two versions: the mirror & the flatness it contains
closing out the body’s illusion of depth
turns everything into a procedure of recession —
towards the zero that pervades all
our attempts at speech — words blown in a gale
through panes of shivered glass ...

another midnight visitor setting out the conditions
for future agreement — scrutinising our dis-
avowed intentions in coming here: the blacked-out
mirror image of the hand that elected us
a totem of past-life unredeemed — telling that it is we
who are no longer permitted

or an eye encircled by the elaborate image of its own
vacancy — like a crow at work on the carcass of a crow


5. a name or an accidental fear animated out of
nothing — a stuffed yellow-eyed crow
narrating the endstop of a child’s psychology
(words that speak of what we must not do or see)

blood on the sheets of a hotel bed — a bouquet
left over from the débutante’s ball: the smell
of a crust of bread turned mouldy a funeral parlour
with turpentine & sawdust two cardboard boxes
pressed flat — how to account for the dispossessed
individual histories of each of those objects?

the impressions themselves are objects — a
surface illusion travelling inside the eye inside the
ear mouth underneath the skin — such archaic
resources of construing as these are


6. nothing is unordered, unrelated — church bell
tv voices night traffic along the embankment
the sky is thin as paper here — a cardboard room
where life wears thin; to pass for another season
“of desiccations” ...

things could always have been worse — the humour
of situations back to the origin (to speak
through the lines of an age-old human wondering ...)

the cancerous stone returns, is “recrudescent”
under the lantern of the inebriate — to complete the
work of excision or lose faith in it; fear of former
fear; a hidden meeting of contraries in daylight
bleak with chastisements — or a brain awakening in a
darkroom & no image to adhere to or tear itself from


7. a dark room as dark as the night of saint finan
sound of pebbles, stones rolling under a wave
as the wave draws out: too often we have thought
of the sea, a face that resembles a chinese mask
white under calligraphy — it is a night that speaks
a language of mirrors: the darkroom is not the
photograph the telephone is not the person
speaking over it ... before the suppression they 

told us: where earth meets sea a sleeper is waiting
deep under basalt — the engines blast &
ricochet angry syllables from that ear until it bleeds
(“there was a roar & the floor sank; the floor sank
& we were sinking with it”) — everything slows down
with no images; the light no longer shines
on the surface of our eyes


8. our idols stagger forward into the daylight their
consequences demanded — to see that we must love
equally the man & his effigy, lizard thumb &
lizard forefinger, sagging under scale, chewed gristle

in the quiet of the alleyways the rain of
bird droppings falling softly like music
once played upon the corpses left in offering

as now, communing with the spirit of our times —
a bloody pasquinade of smeared lintels & shattered
doorjambs “things only exist in the way you
perceive them”? (the task is to see by other means):

prisoned behind the imaginary fourth wall
an actor dragging his chain or a god with the stage-
naturalism of an idiot bawling in the proscenium


9. a theatrical self-contained duplicate enlisted
to the fact of being at war (with oneself

or with others?) — multiplied & pulled apart
into a series of repetitions: newsprint images
a horse race a submarine or a
suburban street scene with venetian blinds
whitening the windows — each detail exists

in a single depth-of-field (from the space
in front of the camera to the aperture effect
of pre-consciousness) — the “shooting script”
is only a stop gap in the grammar of clichés
to speak or breathe across the dark slit of sky

as though arousing it from a dreamless state
no other means of respiration could stir


10. where the mountain at last descends to the sea
a sheer spinal column wrenched from clay
by the god of creation — or a sudden
column of white falling into the sea
as though a cosmonaut had fallen from space
cast upon the fringe of something insurmountable ...

the curvature of nightfall over salt plains lush
with alien verdancy — its too-patent symmetry
in which another, equally elusive desert is concealed

beyond is anything — the spectacle of a world
rushing to its end & eternally renewing is a sight
for sore eyes — to bathe in any available illusionism
as anodyne for a sickness that remains only as long as
we do. for now it is enough; later we move on


Note: Croatoan is an island off the Virginia coast. When the first colony vanished, presumably wiped out by Indians, the relief party found only the word CROATOAN carved in the bark of a tree.


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