David Kaufmann


Under the weather, under 
The sea, under the Potomac 
North through Maryland, beyond 
The map's quaint expressions,
Liminal as the space around them 
Gathering into verticals, projecting
The hills, the mountains and rocks--
Is neither an army nor
An ancient myth but a string
Of something only just 
Like words.

Under the ground, depressions 
Bend the line, an aerial extrusion 
Leeching metal from the pit.
But still a line on the flat, or
A flat-out lie. In 
The meadows by the streambed
In Rock Creek Park, in the park 
By the creek and on the rocks 
By the way, the mud
Puddles wind into 
Unalloyed gold.                                         

Outside the house, the world 
Is nothing that is exactly
The case, brick on top of steel,
Mortar in the grass, the yard
A feature of a still exterior
Space. I is quite 
A character; I
Remembers America; I resembles
The Fall; I comes close
To its first realization;
Its childhood scenes, its
Promised end:

Under the trees, a series
Of articulate bumps gathers 
An army of toys against themselves.
They crown the victor
Of the pines, the scourge 
Of the glacial rock, a doll
Dressed up as a medicine man.
Feathers certainly remember
Me, a totem written in
Miniscule, a plastic
Razor with a cardboard blade.
The imagination of things
As the things themselves: some
Of them excellent, some
Of them stone.

Above the weather but still part
Of the sky, the brilliant 
Pebbles of scarlet stone 
Shine safety as a sun, a moving star.
I was born under Mercury and
A Russian moon casting shadows like wings
To eclipse the Earth. Counting backwards
From 10 made mathematics
Fear, a hostile cyrillic and
A cynical hope. My stamps
Made a mockery of reading the globe:
The Congo, Upper Volta
Were clues of things that had happened before:
The 1+1 
Of time 
Out of mind.

The weather had nothing to do
With it, the heat nothing more
Than an excuse for me. 
The Civil War got fought 
As a function of our house, 
A suburban Antietam
Between indians and knights.
A Roman in something like a gladitorial nude
Posed as a turn-on of pure action. 
The Japanese
Yellow from gun to face
Dug in in their hundreds
In the ledges of my books. They're waiting
For the rules of engagement, now, they're
Waiting in the books 
To go home.

Had they ever been quite well, none of it
Could have been: the ball
Set against the side-wall on the shady side
Of the house, an elm now obsolete because of
Disease. A garden replaced it.
A cat in the yard, a little decline
In the back. If you imagine it
As a photograph, you'll love it
As your own: bleached, blanched out
With the colors paradoxically brighter
As the lawn was green.
You had a garden in the sidelot, you grew
Corn on Staten Island. We had 
Flowers, evergreens. I never cared
For plants as such,
But smells: real perfumes
From the drugstore made
Oranges beside the fact.
As for pine: it's
Pine, the index of pure

The soldiers sleep
In their plastic bags, the uniforms still 
Snug in the closet. I was remarkably fat
But I indulged 
In muscular
Dreams. Under the weather, the crystalline 
Sphere of the earth turns a day 
Into a Mediterranean of choice. I still kite
Through its vague
Infinity. Beyond 
Each flagrant, humid fact,
Along the bridge your back 
Still makes, you curve
--This is sleep--       
Into consequence. You are
I'll repeat, the ultimate
Desert. We make Newtonian 
Figures of sex all day, 
Action and reaction, 
Cause and effect.

Bugs offer the imperceptible
To sense, to all five senses, though
One or two at a time: a fly's wing 
Battened to the mesh
Of a screen, the precision
Of wasps, the broad deployment
Of ants to the sink. 
They write their primers 
About the management
Of time. An ant 
Has his lists of a single 
Remembers the way Vergil 
Depicted bees 
In the first Great Reich 
Of the insect world.

Weather could never
Describe it: the cirrus of
Compassion, the cumulus of
Faith. The ants
In their steady legions, the bees
With their tasks,
Could never win the mountain
From the map. Look at
The starchy eggs
In the mound. I uncovered it
Again and again. They did
Not bite in their
Resistance, but fled.
They banked 
On the flagstones. They drove
Their way down to the basement 
To lose at the door.
All this talk of loss, 
I tell you

To construct a poem
Out of arthropods, demands 
A meaning for the thickening leaves.
The pollen
Brushes skin in a slight struggle
For air, 
That can frame the sun
Into light.  I'm still
Not sure what nature means
In the semantics of our present
Needs.  I appear 
As fallow
To be cast 
As seed. 

In weather as bright
As a carnival, the mask
Of a natural deception comes clean
As the water in the creek in the park
In the lake. I envy 
Their ease. They spread slowly through 
A landscape of hills,
Of the sun brushed 
Green in the deciduous trees.
I prefer 
To be them as I wait 
For you. I still
Would like to be

On a day as clear as today
Was (but you were in Vienna)
The men playing chess in
An ideal park see space 
In the squares 
Of abstraction. And their men--
And they're men--
Pirouette into movement
As horses return
From unrealizable fields. 
They govern the diagonals in 
Affordable strips, the cost,
An elaboration of acceptable loss.
The light makes the visible
Clear as thought, the lucent makes  
A day in America. When the knight rides in
On a redcoat mare, the king
Is abashed at his harness. He cries
For shame, for shame, for shame.
He thinks about the freedom
Of the desolate word,
The scrip for the snow
He forgets we forget. 
This, my love, is a fable
Of check. And that a reduction
Of mate to the winds.
I've done it again, he says to himself.
I've done it to myself, so
I win.

A house in the yard, a silent
House, a house afloat
In some phenomenological space
I've reduced it to 
To get on.
You can almost touch it: 
The linoleum cooler
On the feet that the wood
We discovered underneath.
A memory of a memory, an object
For the object's sake.
You've got to believe me
On this. The dead 
Quiet of the house, the black phone
Rocks in its cradle in the wide-eyed
Sleep of dolls.
You are away, I know
You've gone.

The trick with the chessmen
Was easy. The part about maps was
Baudelaire, the bit
About Vergil was Vergil himself. Vienna
Though, Is hard: the time and the space
Can fudge things, talking to you
Now at a different
Time, a then you have
Now to correct me. Your business
Has to do with bombs, the Bomb.
Kuchen, and nuclear
Arms: the steady earth
In its ellipsis, your
Charts and graphs
Of what's both
Here and there,
The estimates of what
We can live with.

The sun's a radio
That monitors the heart, the liver
Seeds the clouds
Into love, and the house
Like language, is the seat
Of the soul. In the class picture of the edge Of infinity,
Unity makes a crack about
Her bone-straight hair, 
Coughs and leaves
To lie down, and Chaos won't
Sit still. 
I'm not talking 
About love, I'm 
Writing about arms.
In the grand hotels of the absolutely right,
On the Inner Ring and the Outer
Ring, it's as if
The whole damned world 
Were waiting.

The pebbles serve
As a boundary to sense: you can touch,
And smell and eat them. They make
No noise as they float away,
Suspended in that nothing that
Tails the earth.
They watch themselves
As if from the moon, they can
Watch us here if you let them.
They make the sky 
Into a swatch of milk, my faith come out
All white.

When we follow  
In the distance, we watch ourselves.
The mountains 
Of the Moon remember the world
As a division of love
That seeks no end. This makes an echo
Of silence: no end, no
End, no end. There is nothing there
To repeat it. There is nothing
To hear 
It at all. Just a mirror set
Against the whitest
Of lights:
It stains the glass
Of the atmosphere, 
Becomes the glorious
Of whatever


New York's a series 
Of evasions, the sentence
A map of a secondary world, 
The cunning of circles 
Describing a globe, a matrix
Of lines to settle
The odds. I was
Born at Mt Sinai
On 105th. I was born
At the end of the "Museum Mile"
Across from the gardens such
As they are:
Day lily, night lily, lily
Of the valley across
The bed I lie on like
A crib.

They put us on
The map. They sail around
On a frozen ark.
So here are 
Two words and I hope they'll 
Do. To make a given name 
From composites, a river's 
Ledge for devotion; to take
Your Christian name 
From the City of New York.
The trees on flame
Turn and spit: say the city is 
On tree on fire.

Land of lakes, river 
Of islands, fragments of ice
Remembered as a hill; 
Shoals of cod, a swell
Habitation, the white pine stripped
To water in
A river, blazed 
Like a trail right 
Out of the wood;
A single or 
A singular dream of rocks and ocean, 
Of rocks as the ocean, the fish as 
The silence of God.
Himself. I know the difference 
Between a marsh and a swamp, the tidal base 
Of the issue, what's navigable,
What's not. They carried turf 
To their islands, they carried grass
On boats, turning rocks
Into a ship
At port 
In the sea: a river's wedge 
Of devotion.

A jar of dirt and composting leaves,
        Twigs as dragons in a microscope of fear,
A nice environment to grow up in,
        A wonderful place to live

In black light, by lava-lamps, the camp accessories
        Of my middle age or
The accessories at camp when I was ten,
        The back-light of shadow

To predict the past, the procession
        Through Washington where I
Now live, as a boy in shorts and a steady salute 
        For God, for Country

For Eretz Yisroel, the words
        Shot through with the language
Of God, both deserved and
        Deserving as if I belonged.


One thing is certain, one 
Thing is needful, one thing 
Waits at 
The bottom of the yard. 
It cuts figures of great 
Restraint. Atlas 
Serves Prometheus 
In pointillistic space, suspending
The city from the navel of the globe. 
Such poise, such exertion, 
Such consummate grace: such grace 
Under fire, such fire.
But under the scan of the synthetic stars  
Atlas is the prisoner of his own p.r.

December in July, November 
On the ninth, they make evergreens 
From lamps 
And blueberries 
In lights. The city
Casts trees
From liquid fire.

In his full Arthurian gear,
Lancelot dresses up as Guinivere.

He thinks of sadness sadly, of
The boy he never was, the boy he never

Was, the boy he 
Never was. He was

The boy they thought they wanted, a man
In a girdle, a man with a beard.

Jack transformed into the noir queen 
Of himself; he's  Jack in the lights, Jack in the box,

Jack hanging out 
At the bottom of the hill.  

Oh Jill,
He says to the window:

My love, my lord, my liege;
My lord, my liege, my life; 

My broken crown, my wife.
Paper turkeys 
Flocked to their cage; paper stars 
Fledged to the dome 
We crayoned for the sky. The pine
Makes gifts
For the Xmas tree. And the lights
Strung out for the secular
Gods, for the knights
Of adventure, for us Jews
As Jews, for the statues
Of our parents
On the margins of the park; for the statues
Of Doughboys who stood
For the park, as heroes
In waiting, as Freedom
In bronze.

For Thanksgiving, we pray.
The Rock remain 
The Light, let 
The quantities remain in number,
The grid stay well
With itself. Let 
The quality do 
What it can to survive;
Let the others
Return to their coveys
And nests. Let the trees
On the island take
Care of themselves.
Let a sentence, 
A map,
Outline things 
As they are.

New York dreams of New Englands
And makes New England's dream
Into both granite and mist, where 
The classical gods of republic stand 
With the messieurs of romance.
The sentence--
To be honest--is sick of this work; 
It exceeds, then falls short of
The pull of the tide. It has nothing
To do with islands, nothing to
Do with the aims
Of the truth.

The sentence dreams 
Of the truth; it thinks it comes from New York
Itself. Here it lofts
Its first flags of defence. It worships
On the esplanade of Battery Park.
The sentence can't dote on numbers
Of facts, on the number of goodies
It can take to its heart, on
A city of goods tucked in
For the night. We took
A cab to the World Trade Center,
We are taking a cab to midtown
To dance; we will take a cab
So I can kiss you
To sleep. 

The modalities
Of devotion return
As a tense; a structure
Of time that the words
Bring home.

I travel under an assortment of names:
Jackdaw in abeyance, wren of the heart,
The death of the author, 
The mirror stage.
Oh the pretence of irrevocable loss! 
On the reflective page of firm
Resolution, in the monitor's star
We encounter, go on. 

Call it blistering heels.
When the masked man returns as the awareness
Of hope, given to us with the greatest of loves,
The ayn-kelohanu of the holy are they;

When the the that stutters at the bottom of the pipe,
The this remembers, and the that recedes,
When all that glisters--then sunlight;
When all that listens--then gold.

The gold's
An atavism, the Moon's 
Green cheese, the smudge
Of a thumbprint on your side
Of the bed. Little flower:
Take it as a leaf 
From still
Another book, make books
Back into the trees
They were. Little
Tree: your virgin bark
Returns, your boat 
Forms a handle stripped back 
To the bone.

My aunt 
Destroyed my mother's 
Shirley Temple doll 
The way Mattel's ruined me
For anything
New. A naked soldier
Was my model. A toy 
That looked like a dog on tv
(Even when the set
Was off) remains 
The mark of 

The boys were heartaches,
The girls a wish.
Thus England inhabits
My imaginary zones. The country 
Mouse skirts turnstyles 
Into things that I 
Want. What doesn't fit
Remains as shade
The print can taper
Off. On the finer grade
Of screen, resolution takes on
The aura of choice, the pixels
The hint
Of both truth
And dare.

The mastheads leave
The ports of New Hampshire,
The letters sail out
From the coast of Maine:
All the ground gets milled
Into dust for the market,
All the dust just cast
On the sea. Then sifted
Into different kinds
Of dirt, each tagged, each
Marked, each ready
For use.  That was an example
Of pain as a trope; of loss
As the history
Of sailing ships, of the production
Of paper, of factoring
Tea. It all comes down
In differing beats: the waistband girdling
Fat to the side and bulking the skin
With a tattoo of waves, 
A map in patches 
On a battlefield face,
Aeolus thumping 
In this cave 
Of winds.

What the moon implies 
From its mineral depths
Is nothing less
Than the surface of the sun,
The second
Of the bright wings
We sail on. This indication
Of space
We inhabit invests 
All the stories with hope. 
It changes, the places change,
Even though they stay
Where they are: the fixed stars
Reflected in the water,
The gondolas frozen
In the mimicry
Of fright.
So you cook up your life
As a partisan, so
You dream up
Your supper
Of nettles and weeds.

Wanting nothing, to want
Turns the play of words
Into commas, air,
The breath you take
Between breathing. The play
The light makes 
To the checkerboard floor 
Bats the sun between the leaves,
The solidity, like insurance
Of a "cloudless" day. This
Is Heaven.
And you,
Hovering in the ether
Of your calling, hang 
Fire as brightness, suspended
At noon.

The clouds 
Don't know they're clouds, cirrus,
Cumulus, stratocumulus;
They permit the new 
In New England 
A poster moment of dog
And man and some lemonade
They bought at a stand
As a recollection
Of a resolute peace.
This petty commerce, a dog-eared
Page, settles the score
At 2 to 2. The clouds, reduced
As they are from their bodies, become
The muslin mood of a day spent
Thinking. Nostalgia 
For a better world.
The ancillary products
Bring up the rear, in a Roman
Phalanx of old memoranda
To be at it 

And again and again. 
The dog is Sharon's
Tiger, an image of will on
Fore-shortened legs, the lemonade table
A Norman Rockwell touch I actually
Saw in Long Island's 
Richest town, and the rest--
The clouds as their own apostrophes
Of sense--a postcard 
Image I keep sending to you.
The ligatures between
Inside and out, broken
The syntax that puts on
Desire. Above
And below the free-floating mouth,
The body parts 

Relinquish all
Its manifold 
Gifts: the shirts in various 
Sizes, the ties, 
The neon
Socks on sale which trap
The disembodied
Heart that keeps on 
Looking and looking and looking. 
Give up 
The pants, the boxers,
The shoes and the ring;
The computer, the car
The tapes and cds;
My copies of Adorno, of
Holderlin's works, of
Fanny Howe's poetry and
All siddurim. Renounce
Celan, abjure

Forego the pretensions
Of muscle and skin. 
The fingers leave
The comfort of their palms, the thumb
The illusion of its opposable
Tasks, the palms the arms,
The abject nuance
Of destiny.
The shoulders set off from the trunk,
The trunk from the midriff's
Excesses of heat--
The penis, pelvis, the rather tasteless
Balls--; the stomach unncouples
The rectum. Gone 
The pains of intestinal flight; the thighs
Break free
From the knees and calves: the ribs
Leave the spine
To take care of itself
In the amniotic space 
Of the moving

Returns to the Civil War,
And Shiloh lets dirt 
Congeal into air. The flowers in a peach tree
Are as yet
Unharmed, mantling the fur
Around his throne. Keats 
Comes dressed as the Queen of the Night,
Making ballpark figures
Out of the reach of the sky.
That's how it looks.
That's Tennessee, the standard division 
Of taste into place. In its
Finery, markings, hierarchical
Fling, it dismisses your
Grandmother's picture.
That is someone else's 

Or her mother first before her.
The flowers turn nature 
Into a theatre of chance, a guardrail 
On a ship just coming into to port.  
She makes it to a dock, all rivets and good wood, 
Its sonnet of immigration, its octave
Of relief. As such
She resembles remembrance in sound where
Remembrance catches itself 
In its sights, and fires a blast
In thanks from the bow. 

Her picture flies 
Like a bullet home to an Italy where
It is also night. 
Carbonari, carabinieri, the fate of Trieste:
Garibaldi made candles
For awhile in New York. But
That might still be later. Your father's Mother's mother waits,
Her cardboard
Likeness, a paper
Plane, the paper
Made in a Massachussetts
Mill. Keats, as a planet
Does not revolve, 
Watching the battle 
At the foot
Of the hill,
An astral projection
Of words. The words
Very little at all. Keats
In his quiet, doesn't seem
To mind: Keats in his quiet
Has become all mind;
And Shiloh, 
A place 
Of peace.


To the caning
Of his marble chair, 
Shifts slightly 
To the East
In discomfort.
His sinuses-- 
By the gases
From the Potomac marsh
And the cordite
That circles
His shattered crown
With the plaster putti
Of heaven--

He surveys
The ancient
The crowds unranked
In their orderly
Lines, still stop to meditate
On the lapidary words,
With a a dutiful
Uplift as each sentence
Is read. Each group
Passes on.
It is replaced:
More sentences are read

And so on.
He has heard
Them all before.
He wrote them all
No surprise that
His head 
Still aches.
He moves 
                A bit
                                To the West.

By the peculiar 
Logic of sacrifice, by 
His position in relation
To the Capitol, Mistah
Has to strain.

He swats down
With the palm
Of his hand,

And we clap in

He's sensititive to 
All resistance.
His blood stays
On the metal floor. 

I'm thinking
About dirt
As much as
Of hematite,
And the copper
That knits 
His bones.

They oxidize
To the greens and blues
That my father buys
As jewelry--not pennies
But single eyes,
Like fossils
The rough

We hiked through
The peculiar
Of geological time
We serve 
As the oddities
Of conditioned

In the Grand Canyon, 
The dog, my bourgeois drive
To eat you whole.
The worst
You can say is
And Lord

Has little to do with it.
The materialist
Of writing and waste, shit
Smeared plaster, 
And paper,
And piss 
Contribute to my fierce
But take up less
Than a page 
Of accounts. 

Our Heavenly
Amen, He

So does
Who bets five
Against my twenty.


He's got
The Army 
Of the Potomac
Behind him.

He's got 
Those generals
And all
Their guns.

A Hand like that
He's perfectly

The House 
Can't help 


The avatar 
Of total war,

Kissed with
The efficiency

Of a boyscout's match,
Once had lived 

In the South,
And loved it.


Along the Carolina coast,
They still refer to him in the present tense,

And not
As the practical sword of a vengeful God,

But as a nasty little kid
With dangerous toys. 

In my middle-class version 
Of Apocalypse,
Gulls are stationed 
On the apex

Of Jim's roof.
They sit in judgment, 
Discerning, aloof

Beneath the baton 
Of a noonday sun
That shivers its gifts on 
The unimpeached waves.

To imagine
The silence  
As a graveyard at sea.

Mete out its blue extremes.
The insects tot up their losses

In the halfway-house 
Of dirt
Where everything's wittled, undone, 
And burnt,

Only be summoned 
By the air again,
If only the wind
Would start.

It can't.

The dead become
Dead noon, high noon, 
Tag up on 
The other team. 

We are really not the same.

To imagine 


Let's make it a worm.
A figure of pure abstraction.

Such a worm is fundamental
In ways I'm not.

Having worked all day, 
I see I'm caught

In a startling meridian of choice
Just at the moment 

That all choice gives out.
The gulls

That had formed a vanguard, scout
The distance for the memory 

Of sails
That cannot--now--arrive.

Nature's simply stopped.

All service has been cancelled 
On the ocean line:
All waves forestalled 
By the indolent tides.

Salt's the fixation
Of the mineral sea;
The trees give up grace
For a rigidity

That just resembles purpose.

The sky--you notice--dilates.

Its hardware
Grows big 
With whatever's
Still there:

A montage
Of terrified brilliance,
An ultimate brink 
Where idiot chance

Rushes the edge 
Of contingency
And shatters into fragments
The waiting sky

That has waited until now 
To make sense.

You can't be heard 
Amidst such silence.

Every object locked
Into its terminal place
Hangs fire 
In its blindingly personal space,

As an omega of indifference.

This is what's left
Of civil defence,

A single draught
Of the solar winds

Through all you can imagine
Of those unseen spheres

That turn unnoticed,
Elliptical, far 

In an ensemble.
Just think: 

They are singular 
And have the privilege to bear

Our showstopping death
As a sidewhow,

As geeks eating glass
For laughs

Or as a policy decision
From behind closed doors

That solves the problem, and brings
At last 

                An end to us

As a halo of stars.