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Alan Loney

Testament : tenth muse

and on the eyes
                           black sleep of night
mingled with
                           all sorts of colors

              Sappho 151-152 Anne Carson

whatever done         by one’s own hand
         sky closes for day         opens for night
one winged         one-eyed         what object
         under the sun         suing a one-sided axiom
of grief          the difference when you
         came back         silver gulls fly out
of cloud into cloud at day’s
         end         to have caught yourself
at a few times when your shadow
         is equal to your height         with
turtledove’s single wing-spread out
         to dry         I         Nicolas Jenson
alien & printer of books         Venice
         September 1480         hold one arm
out over his death         it’s
         not possible to change the subject

song had sauntered into him between
         the notes of short & long
from where does what word spring
         to mind         you can’t know anything
about the simplest flower         in this
         midday blue so dark you expect
to see stars         Rembrandt’s lion still poised
         and nonchalant after all these years
silent entry of four pink-faced white
         geese into the lake         with a memory
ticket marked everything hanging from
         your neck         reading withdraws 
from him         voices of the dead bellowing
         at you from all sides         floor to
ceiling         it’s curtains for you

quiet shapes form in the mouth
         at the beginnings of every word
from the neck of the corpse
         gold leaves fall         two white ducks
have the filth of stagnant water
         on them         if colors are in
white light what are vowels in
         we do not disappear one limb
at a time         third red mole cut
         from his side         shattering the lump
of coal mined by my friend
         whose limp is getting worse

the lines chock full of parabasis
         you think it’s not a comedy
do you          he was he sd neither
         sane nor insane         what shapes
in air the pen makes before it writes
         to catch her voice far off
to see your tear-bottles dropping
         to the floor         small bandage
reveals his rope burns          listening
         for a lost continent a lost consonant
the same         lyric still tracks its feet
         from under you         you know
the lyrebird has no song
         of its own

bringing white paper in on his head
         preserved in authentic copy as
they say         heart sutra in unreadable script
         profundity on profundity         mosquito
on mosquito         coughing on your ashes
         tossed into wind          l’amour
you want me to philosophise on
         l’amour         how do we understand speech
amplitude duration frequency         what
         an ungiven given it is         absent voices
that are our own         disposed to an exilic
         distance as a mode of intimacy
the last unparaphraseable chunk of language
         left on earth         where will you bury
that nugget         into old age         and out of it
         if he could break clean from my self

on the horizon a single wing-shaped
         cloud         compiling the uncompilable
catalog of the dead         each time
         you open the book it becomes
unhinged         poetry in ruins ready 
         to fire up again         at that heat
type will melt before it can
         be printed         for an hour no birds
were heard in the garden         listen as if
         you were several thousand years old
build things so as to think about them
         what kind of levy on the world
are we

the faithful copy will betray you
         on board only one wing can
be seen          let Orpheus the stutterer
         slow him down         no one
can tell you what sea-sound does
         to him         dark flash of
radial words off every leaf         air
         is old word for gas         old word
for song         five distinct shades of grey
         on the wing         to be back on
the soil above which he died         who
         looks in the light of the sun
in sovereign life all sovereignty
         is stripped away

movement or fixity         galah magpie
         bronze-wing currajong lorikeet all
silent in the garden         what of sea-sound
         itself as sirens song         r r r r r of cat’s
purr uttered outside the language         swell
         wave and foam endless
on a near shore         not dictation
         but a certain ventriloquism is in
the work         poetry he sd is writers
         cramp         a dozen turtledoves
in a row above eaves         abandon
         hope all ye who enter paradiso

who is tenth following the nine
         sap springs ho there’s something
to sing about         arch your logos 
         over that and see what crumbles
under you lifted in whatever honor 
         of ears and eyes opened never
to close again         one and many as is
         where is         vowels lost over time
and space         digging even these verbs
         into clay will not preserve them
wind-blown leaves scuttling
         thruout the house

she tore a wing off trying to save
         the bird he used for fish-bait
you cannot read the same book twice
         or say a mark or sense of
mark preceded him         unrepeatable 
         repetitions         words keep
their secrets when fully exposed         stone
         cutter & architect         letter shaper
& word weaver         and the whole damn
         lexicon disappears at first pluck
or bow or breath         turtledoves
         in shaded water then sunlit grass

this is not the only sound
         you’re hearing now         put the block
slightly off register         common & uncommon
         ancestors         slowest piano riff I ever
heard         do not leave until
         you’ve heard the song         plosives
pumping into the micro-p-hone
         how are we to tolerate
an inconsolable instant         words
         no longer grounded in their medium
         in the circulation of air

those who don’t need to go
         off the deep end because we
live there         homage to the perfection
         of wisdom         as a brush charged
with pigment passes thru it         first
         camellia flower fills the garden
form is fullness         fullness form
         emergent iridescence marks ongoing
decay         to elaborate an incoherence
         of articulate cries         apparitional
binaries         object instead of story
         jittery camera         take the poems
outside give them air         to see it all
         without depth of field         whoosh
of bird wings         slow endless panic
         that never erupts never erodes
no doubt the worst of everything
         is yet to come

a poetry let him say of the 
         unwriteable         winged words at thirty
thousand feet         any minute now thalassa
         this is your passenger arrival card
stuttering’s not a function of learning
         to talk         the multiple murderous
among us are busy again today         less
         is going to have to do a lot
this is where you are born and dead
         you know you’re in a different
culture she sd when the locals
         carry their snot in their pockets
this is not an object of desire
         hindsight has a way
of obscuring the past

what if the skeleton stops holding
         you up         listening to a clear
song         those alive enlivening the dead
         the literal he sd is metaphor
enough         webbed feet’s awkward walk         kiss
         mouth ulcers goodbye         wide awake at
two a.m. watching the tear-bottles
         gently over-flowing         lyric lying bare-faced
on the page         I is wayward
         land’s rim’s a white line of water
don’t ask for alms         don’t thank
         when you get them         walking past
the waterfalls panel by panel         it’s time
         to recite all non-existent words

more than he can read         less
         than he can write         waiting
for the poem to arrive it
         has already left         torn papyrus
fabric of neural networks         one book once
         that’s all         grey was how he dealt
with color         what about a shared
         emptiness         a dark nuanced
as light is         not what it means
         but what it does         he caught
himself longing for a single book
         so he could throw the rest away
how would it be to say nothing
         repose         desperate for repose

lines of sight & blindness         sitting
         again in an old seat of
pain         rites of writing forgotten 
         in sunlight         your library will resist you
what does the trail of secular printing
         look like         out for a walk in
the book         nor does lightning
         travel in a straight line
green parrots red fish brown ducks
         the things you see a thousand
times before you write them down
         wing-slap on water         of the shape
shifting bird with
         ten thousand wings

Alan Loney

Alan Loney

Alan Loney’s first book of poems was published in 1971 and he began printing in 1974. He was co-winner of the poetry prize in the New Zealand Book Awards in 1977, Literary Fellow at the University of Auckland in 1992, and Honorary Fellow of the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne 2002-2006, and Convener of the Conference on the History of the Book in New Zealand at University of Auckland 1995. Loney has published 11 books of poetry, and eight books of prose with a recent emphasis on the nature of the book. Recent books of poems are: Fragmenta nova (Five Islands Press, Melbourne 2005), Nowhere to go, and other poems (Five Islands Press, Melbourne 2007), and Day’s eye (Rubicon Press, Canada 2008). Recent books on printing are: The printing of a masterpiece (Black Pepper, Melbourne 2008), and Each new book (The Codex Foundation, Berkeley, Calif. 2008). His latest limited edition book is Fishwork, with drawings by Max Gimblett and a Foreword by John Yau (The Holloway Press, University of Auckland 2009).

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