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Tricolor Flag image This is JACKET # 14 - July 2001   |   # 14   CONTENTS   |   HOMEPAGE   |

This issue of JACKET is a co-production with SALT magazine

Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Draft 42: Epistle, Studios

You can read Patrick Pritchett’s review of Drafts 1-38, Toll in Jacket 22.

Somewhere between jouer and jouir is this pleasure
        forage language, form letters
of writing parallel
        lurches, vocabularies that come across, or don’t.

We are writing — to the other?
        but bent, a band of odd light refracts back.
Flat mist view, you tell me bits of your past and project
        a socked-in sky, a bottle corked you said “bouché” your grey
La Rochelle weather and then we got it,
        sea fret over Italy — the shaking dew.
We hardly know each other.
        In fact.

So when you write me what you
        think I am seeing
                from my stone studio window
“projecting future memory,”
        it’s your unwritten memoir of Italy
                to conjure what has
not yet happened one full day and site —
        and you’re partly right!
The hot gold & thick green
                felix (quondam) pecus, platters of plenty —
these findings fuse to
        proleptic nostalgias —
making one nostalgic for another person’s present
        (also presence) —
                so (as you said) you are working
to compose beforehand,
        in advance,
                the folded fields and hills               
the misty afa green, the wheaten rise
        the clarity of little occasions and choices
                solidified in the act of the built —
of the Bilt —
        sandstone mortared with silt
brightened chips of brick someone once,
bricolaging, reached for
        that you imagine you will find
                stone stanza
here (somewhere else, away),
        whenever you and Kathy
                (and maybe Yves) do visit.

Donor panels are folded
        across the hidden scene.
Every day a digging out or in, each day a change.
        Every night a speckled time engulfed.
Yet we will meet again, we both swear it
                and we will drink, never sending the wine back,
                          will tempera the full
        “moon afloat in the carp pond” —
                          allusive praedella of Cathay.

What I see from the stone is time’s
        unrolling scroll
                one’s hand shakes to write.
        Every word teeming and bereft
                within its unremarked extent, its ebb and eddy.
                          Yet we both remember that multi-lingual renga!

Tomlinson, Roubaud, Paz, and Sanguineti
                each in his language langue or lingua
  loom working weights and filaments, words
                          as lingo — the shuttle patterning, the treadle clattering —
              co-workers in the expert turns of torque and tension.
So when you said, half a translation, about my “Renga”
  “Mémoire, Mnemosyne, souvenir d’avance d’un temps
irrésolu avançant vers
                          sa résolution”
I didn’t know
        who or whom wrote what.
                What’s the historical status
of future memory?
        Such riffs on “resolution”
                and on forms of “avance”
the question of whether the “temps”
        (weather and time and even, therefore, mood)
                is “irrésolu”
or maybe the “advancing” is —
        not to speak of the triple meaning of vers —
                I can worm it out
with specific engorgements of words
        and my inventions do rupture
  the inestimable purities of gallic syntax
but I am filled with oddities and tensions
        even things one cannot even note
                motes and mites in your letter
that barely can be organized “in” anything
        much less in writing.

“Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
    this lime-tree bower, my prison!”
awkwardly waving (over 5 ft. tall), green V-stalks,
        yellow green fruiting out seeds,
and marking where hills make
        an ever-variable line of valley dark
        civil, nautical, astronomical twilights
whose triple incipience brings the mountain
        motivic (its name is Acute)
                closer at certain times
                          of day, and certain lights.

For all the clouds and enrapturing light and blue
all the white and grey luminosities, the translations streaming upward
are changing and reconstructing ceaselessly.
Eclipses of cloud-shadow cross the hills
buoyed by the prevailing winds.

Is this writing or memory? Projection or repetition?
        Real or unreal? The memoir of me, or anti-memoir
                against my real life? Which is   
a georgic. As yours, too, seems to be
        work work work like 7 dwarves.
                You, in fact, translated me.
And your poems by me are so rich and dense
                I cannot always understand them in the French.

Where I am it’s another self, patches of anti-me
        with bits rooted and others floating free.
Which are the words and which are the shadows?
        clouds pile and repile, frame and barrows,
hunger of incipience perpetual.
        Are we friends? do we miss
each other’s implications?
        Words stranger
                in an old terraced field.
But still “on dialogue avec les pierres” you say
        “On dort dans les pierres, en fait.
                Et elles parlent
énormément de langues qui s’oublient
        en s’énonçant.”
                Spectra of tongues inside the very stones
a forgetting, a pronouncing
        from shimmers of the molecular
                they and us each others’ interlocutors.

Thus when I opened Essais: Quatre Poèmes
        I wanted to translate the poems into English
    as if French were their original,
and you had written them.
        My impulse was to make
                an entirely new work, one
not myself, but blown
        to the side and then opening
                simultaneous conflictual overloaded presences
a changeable pulse of mist, a
        doubled poem, the verso of verso
                variable/ variabile
a locus of difference, anyway,
        by virtue of “translation” —
                a cloud secret in another system of clouds.

Had I written everything you say?
        invented hours that may as well
                once have existed?
Had I written anything you say? Well —
        not to go sentimental.
                “Of course” “I” “had.”

But couldn’t really read me.
        For what I had originally set, in this language,
                and what I couldn’t get
of what you had done in your language
        stood in my way.

There was the past of the past,
        the paths of the past and their anti-paths,
                there were complex sorrows and antipathies
that come from talking to stones
        there was silence inside the chrysalis desire
                there were words
no longer speakable
        folded with us
                in our proleptic ashes and tombs.
I think of Armand Schwerner, dead.

                                  This is the Umbrian Canto

                                  under a wide and starry sky

                his taking the heaviest stones of that place
                for a pillow.

To write the other side of
        something that really happened
                or something that didn’t, the anti-memoir
call it metaphor,
        what would it contain
                of the life I didn’t lead
pebbles dropped onto the paths
        that lead to other lives,
                the rocks on which
one tries, troubled, to sleep
        and then, still fighting stillness,
wrestles rough-edged angels.

For if any point can act like a center
        there is plenty of room
                to study pressure
whenever it chooses to grapple with you
        unto shock and separated bone,
              to limp away into the depths of dawn,
and to improvise an oeuvre from overlays of
        twilight, perplexed with being exilic
              in all the places called
        and in all the places never
                visited, or never stayed.

For I write in three studios:
        a saffron colored room of sky-blue far
        buried map in front of I am R
a yellow room next
        to it, and, barely translatable text,
                          a stone room in Italy
                          somewhere else, away.

              Writing deictic in this here, wherever space,
                                whatever am I, writing now:
                                  inside and broken on all errant, wandering place.

In the light yellow room adjacent,
        (the guest room where you could,
                if you came to the U.S., stay)
there’s a photo of Lady-dog moribund
        black and white, leaking and weakening on newspapers
a day or two before we carried her weeping to the vet
and under this, its mysterious counterpart,
        your New Year postcard, Mt. Huong Shan:
                stark-rock precipices, clustered

          the peaks almost totally effaced
                          by floods of opalescent mist
                                  billowing airs
        by never-ceasing cloud cascades
                                  enfolding the stones
                          of what we claim
                    in shaping reckless living chains.

August-December 1999, March 2000
to Jean-Paul Auxeméry

Photo of Rachel Blau DuPlessis by Loss Glazier, Louisville 1996

Author's note: All citations are from a letter of Jean-Paul Auxeméry to me mardi, 29 juin 99, except the citations “felix quondam pecus” from Virgil, Eclogues, “projecting future memory” from Draft 32: Renga, “somewhere else, away” from “Poem of Myself” in Wells, and “This lime-tree bower...” from a conversation poem by S. T. Coleridge. Donor drafts are Draft 4: In and Draft 23: Findings.

The author's new book Drafts 1-38, Toll will appear from Wesleyan in October 2001.

Photo of Rachel Blau DuPlessis by Loss Glazier, Louisville 1996

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This issue of Jacket is a co-production with SALT magazine,
an international journal of poetry and poetics, edited by John Kinsella
PO Box 937, Great Wilbraham, Cambridge PDO, CB1 5JX United  Kingdom

This material is copyright © Rachel Blau DuPlessis
and Jacket magazine and SALT magazine 2001
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