On the cutting edge
Of flattened sages,
A windy ledge
Of rushes rages;
They jut out stark
Against the dark,
By snow erased.
In the word acrostic are cross, stick, and ‘ick’ rhymes. In
its crossed sticks is the tic tac toe of poetry. The tangled
wet brush against the snow is a sort of jigsaw, where words
tangle like twigs. Like branches against the snow, poems
are dark fingerprints.
The crossword linguistic mix of the poem’s language,
its languid guage, is an admission that language brings
us to meaning, which then disappears back into nature,
although having read a poem or having seen those tangled
branches leaves behind a residue which in a way justifies
us. Prose is the damning fingerprint on the blank page of a
blizzard. But it changes nature nonetheless.
Like my poem, “Tabula Rasa,” the goal was mood, and,
only secondly, meaning. Sound, and, only secondly, sense.
Twigs waving on the snow resemble ancient Hebrew, the
optics of Coptic, or Aramaic—archaic languages—and
become the prosaic poem, with its garters and its meanings
crossed. Poems are the forgotten hints, the cryptic
clues of word puzzles on the white, unsolved page, and
also the raging quills of writers. The snow-covered sage
sticks up in windy spots like a pentimento, like a painting
underneath a painting, as sadness courses through the
otherwise happy game of my acrostic tic.
This was written 9:07–11:09 a.m., February 3rd, 2001,
at Tippet Alley, in Colorado, and rewritten the next day.
I redid it again, Septermber 19th, 2004, on a brisk Paris
afternoon with playing children echoing on the hard
stones of the courtyard, none of which worked its way into
the poem. Fall leaves in the Luxembourg gardens, however,
lay behind my poem earlier that day, “The Jump.”