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Noah Eli Gordon

Diminishing Returns

All orange blossoms have to do is act naturally

And all the sky does is wait around for weather to consume it.
Although, one could argue that it’s simply an extension of itself,
that one form describes another in the sails of outrigger canoes
before a landward breeze blows them toward the Philippine coast.

If I stand still long enough, the painting will go on without me.
Forget the mechanics of rainfall; Plutarch said it was war caused
a cloudburst. I say the only thing in the air is an evolving suspicion
that the laws of the atmosphere have accumulated out of a desire

to turn judiciousness on top of its Draconian head, reclaiming
sound judgment from the silver gavel affixed to our internalized sense
of fanciful reasoning taken for fact. All Galileo does is build a thermometer
and immediately — you believe him. Trade winds and doldrums in the tropics.

Delicate mobility in the deer. I love the tiny molecules that make up matter,
the tinier atoms inside them. If I stand still long enough, someone will walk around me.

A Painting of a Still Deer Is a Moving Argument from Multiple Perspectives

I refuse to explain this. Instead, consider the foreground, blunted
by an excess of brownish pigment, meant, as one immediately discerns,
to resemble the forest floor covered in fallen pine needles, & how it is
here that the nature of dramatic illusion is not so much on display

as it is display, while the illusion of dramatic nature frees one to embrace
an indifference for the animal. During the intervening successive moments, I’ve
decided to exclude myself from the conversation, as it too is in its entirety
a single instant in which I’ve already moved on. Here’s me heading back,

turning toward the house. & here, the red ceramic tea kettle, the one with a large
chip in its handle. I’ve always harbored an eccentric interest in broken objects.
Often one hears of a work of art as having been ruined, but never broken. Leaving
aside the deer, which has, like us, moved on, at least we can agree on one thing:

logic requires some foundation in sense. I have an inkling of where it’s off to.

A Leap from the Atmosphere of Scholarship

Projected on the wall, an essentialist’s idiot order becomes the wall,
becoming itself a projector through which one might animate a door
swinging between open & concealed eroticism. At seventeen, Schubert
gives Gretchen her grave. At thirty, who isn’t a melancholy antihero

haunting French literature? Pitched one octave below the oboe, pinned
to transparent paper, sentimental as an anecdote driven toward self-deification,
the empire of systemically expressed thought dusts its lilies. I’m convinced
that covering a chameleon in ink would cancel natural phenomena.

Turning the conviction timeless, unmoving and immutable, an arrow passes
our illusion — a long exile from one’s own blackened sheep. The worm
at home in its blindness. The inelastic world latched up. Modern evolutionary
scientists no longer search for the missing link. Nevertheless, it does move.

When the Atmosphere in the Opera House is Against You

Just walk out. Some advice is effective in its obviousness.
Among a cheering crowd, one looks not for the source of its jubilance,
but for how one might approach it. Meanwhile, the singing has stopped.
If a tree freed from its landscape no longer reflects the harmony

of the universe, then what is one to do with so many jettisoned ideas
for uprooting received notions of a novice painter’s proper subjects?
I could watch clouds for hours, but that doesn’t make me interesting.
The stage is a metaphor for the stage. The crowd is a guard against advice.

Turning immediately to the end of a book reveals nothing except
one’s willful rejection of what might have been, finally, an ill-conceived plan.
Yet there was purpose in it. I think I’ll call this: “The auditorium is now empty”

Are You Ashamed of the Indifference with which
You’ve Greeted the News of the Death of Pinochet

Lyrically, country and western music is a combination of the trials
and successes of everyday life. Gilbert and Sullivan are a combination,
but the satirizing of society of the Victorian period hardly seems relevant
to our present concern. Pitched lower than a trumpet and higher than a tuba,

the French horn is not a combination. What, exactly, is fearful symmetry?
The two largest individual optical telescopes on earth sitting atop Mauna Kea?
Thousands of small photographs combining to form the image of a wolf?
An object held in one’s hand having potential energy, a combination

turning motion, position, and mass into a balanced definition? I’ve never held
a French horn, but think I would enjoy the equilibrium of its potential heft.

Where Is the Piano I Lived My Life on

Or where is my life outside of pianos? A hammer strikes its string & Lear
jumps again into regret. Glorious to leave a kitchen & glorious to live only
for kitchens & glorious to enter unexpected an igloo aglow in embers
& glorious to lay out in the usual rigid Roman grid pattern & glorious

to balance in one’s palm the perfect sandwich & glorious the substance
& the accident & everything underneath. A shadow moves across the wall
& I see a shadow moving across this wall. Laughter at the far end of
impersonality, a crutch for freestanding facts. Luck in its burgeoning form

turns rational experience, like a buckeye rolling toward you, away from itself.

A Proposal as Arbitrary as the Phenomena It Purports to Eliminate

Pivot the linguistics encyclopedia, & allocations covering a lead moth, idle
in the air above its impropriety, land like a Meet-Your-Waterloo-Here placard
just outside of the pristine convention hall. Landscape was never something
capacious you could up & walk in. One foot bobbing in the buoyant negation,

the other on firm old ground following perspective. If I were a sculptor, this
model would be clear as quotation: to begin pick anything from the book of
best-selling plots. Dear Lolita, Dear Lesbia, a towering figure of the 20th century,
trapped in a sexual lexicon, declares the rose in love with its wooden box.

The first prominent symbol intones suggestions for further reading

There’s nothing like the present, like the president, like a precedent leaking
in analog its continuous signal. Life on Capital Hill is ruinous! cries the paper.
Torn to pieces, tossed into the Nile, voted mostly likely to forget music, all news
like a blind dervish in the doorway tuning one’s attention. Neon light littering

our film noir in white music behind a blue naturalist’s gray voiceover. Too many
ideas destroy the image as always, & sickly from birth Hildegard von Bingen
calls you a cross within the world or the world is your careless happy cross.

Obliterating History in the Pleasure of Holding Forth

A first line is reason enough for a second, for a segment, unisexual & solitary
as an organ. Our doctor operates a mechanism & calls it anatomy. Our dancer
operates in music, which is the same. Whorled, lance-shaped leaves smear
the window. Windy instrument. Windy agency. Active principles everywhere

charging inertia. The syntactic proposition rests a harmonious unified totality on a reupholstered couch. Smash the shell to bits so you can hear the ocean in this lime.

Hold Together with a Stitch the Whole of Causality

I could have been a contender, or, tender as a helicopter, I could have set
afloat adrift this bed and its contortive aspirations, moving all afternoon
between black and white music. You turn to the dictionary of literary terms
by mistake. Relative bodies, resting bodies, entire arms erased. A metronome

calls out colorless death to any future metaphysicians in our digital world.

The poem & post-it note are one

The most decadent numeral, alive as a nominalist running all week through
black grass, all weekend through blown-out examples of the corrupt material
world: bus systems, library systems, systemic encounters with physical objects
toppling the ideal city’s infostructure. Two by two, animals fall from the acropolis.

The Grammar of Architecture is only a book

Begin with the pale fox I would for you bathe in brittle iris leaves. It’s easy to
grant a small creature love. Now, return to your tiny paper house a little darkness
raising its sail, Orphic insight as a modern slot machine’s explanation of itself.

If it’s our lot to expand the dolphin so be it!

Happiness was never a swan cast in concrete, a life whittled down by negation,
then expanded by German philosophy. On earth, privilege the position of earth.

A Subjective Matter

A compost for vivid and evocate description decomposes ruinously its nostalgia.

Noah Eli Gordon

Noah Eli Gordon

Noah Eli Gordon is the author of six collections, including Novel Pictorial Noise, which was selected by John Ashbery for the National Poetry Series. He writes a column on chapbooks for Rain Taxi, and teaches at the University of Colorado at Denver.

Portions of this sequence previously appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Court Green, Denver Quarterly, Diode, Front Porch, and Homonumos.

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