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Poet's Sampler: Joshua Clover

Joshua Clover's poems passionately engage an intricate fractal mathematics of rage and praise. He tries, via the most acidly objective means -- formal means -- to
crack reality as it presents itself to him (culturally, politically) and render it subjective again. And as with any such dismemberment, it is undertaken in earnest of a more complex and metaphysically dense reassembly. Like his mentor (and former teacher) George Starbuck, he is a physicist of syllables and what we witness, in his extraordinary arguments with form/fate, is a fission, then a fusion, of the intricate life-matter at the heart of language itself: hope, fear, a desperate need for futurity, and a longing for the at-once stifling and intoxicating experience of freedom. -- Jorie Graham

The Nevada Glassworks

Ka-Boom! They're making glass in Nevada!

Figure August, 1953,

mom's 13, it's hot as a simile.

Ker-Pow! Transmutation in Nevada!

Imagine mom: pre-PostModern new teen,

innocent for Elvis, ditto "Korean

conflict," John Paul George Ringo Viet Nam.

Mom's 1 state west of the glassworks, she's

in a tree/K*I*S*S*I*N*G,

lurid cartoon-colored kisses. Ka-Blam!

They're blowing peacock-tinted New World glass

in southern Nevada, the alchemists

& architects of mom's duck-&-cover

adolescence, they're making Las Vegas

turn to gold -- real neon gold -- in the blast

furnace heat that reaches clear to Clover

Ranch in dry Central Valley: O the dust --

It is the Golden State! O the landscape --

dreaming of James Dean! O mom in a tree

close-range kissing as in Nevada just

now they're making crazy ground-zero shapes

of radiant see-through geography.

What timing! What kisses! What a fever

this day's become, humming hundred degree

California afternoon that she's

sure she could never duplicate, never,

she feels transparent, gone -- isn't this heat

suffocating? -- no, she forgot to breathe

for a flash while in the Nevada flats

factory glassblowers exhale . . . exhale . . .

a philosopher's stone, a crystal ball,

a spectacular machine. Hooray! Hats

off -- they're making a window in the sand!

Mom's in the tree -- picture this -- all alone!

Unforgettable kisses, comic book

mnemonic kisses, O something's coming

out of the ranch road heat mirage. That drone --

an engine? Mom quits practice & looks

east, cups an ear to the beloved humming,

the hazy gold dust kicked wildly west

ahead of something almost . . . in . . . sight. Vroom!

It's the Future, hot like nothing else, dressed

as a sonic-boom Cadillac. O mom!

This land is your land/This land Amnesia --

they're dropping some new science out there,

a picture-perfect hole blown clear to Asia:

everything in the desert -- Shazam! -- turns

to glass, gold glass, a picture-window where

the bomb-dead kids are burned & burn & burn

The Orchid Project

The voluptuous horror of spending

Two memorable days in a fine old house with a large fairy-tale

Garden and a pond with water lilies each hand

Painted for a different hue or saturation of hours dissolving

Backdrops to a photo-play or two from the World's Fair

-- The Architect's Soliloquy, Nation of Reasonable Bees --

Dear Gerhardt certainly these are remarkable days

West of the city of Nameless [c. 1794] now

Another arcade overseeing the harbor

The whole property had once belonged to the bishop

Of Bamberg. . . . There was something uncanny

About his wife, who spoke slowly and little

Just when you lose the thread of where you are

Someone starts to announce the weather setting loose

Labyrinthine technologies of description

Ending in the word "purple" or "perhaps"

Or some formal collapse into the cyan trigger in his pocket If a man say to me, looking at the sky, `I think it will rain, Therefore I exist,' I do not understand him

As the architect understood the rounded coastline

To the east makes of the world an apse in which the sight

Of immediate reality has become an orchid and so on overlooking

Blue irruptions of the harbor

Although the soliloquy with its buzzing

Accompanist (`the best now living') ran all day

After a while we went inside and were quickly lost

In the miles of corniced and imbricant hallways I imitated

People because I was looking for a way out,

And for no other reason but we learned nothing about her

Musicianship or how it might take 70 or 80 years

To remove all traces of the world

Did we speak of certainty?

I am familiar with certainty


    Moveti lume che nel ciel s'informa -- Purgatorio XVII.17

at the end of the. At the end of the

noise we could call a light formed in heaven

or the hallucination frequencies

of the One Satellite beamed in via

invisible friend Elijah's raven-

ous radio or the neighbor's TVs

haloing in concert her blue bedroom --

at the end to this round-the-clock broadcast

interrupted by white phosphorus booms

comes the reverently annotated last

part before the true. Part before the true

& holy skull of history glows hot

like wire filament so our own heads

cradled in our own arms for days for news

can't help but incandesce into the thought

this dazzling thing is no luminous thread

but human hair smoking for rank miles --

our hair & the neighbor's with her blue arc

angels tuned in to The Other Dial's

one show Conspiracy Hysteria

burning coronally across our dark


until it's over. Until it's over

& the invited guest Elijah slides

unnoticed through the cracked door & inside

violent & hungry as the lover

Map of the City

    (16 November, Mecca Normal)

We walk into the story late, the way

you must enter the City at a certain time

& through a certain gate to be

the one to whom the holy thing

will happen. Here is some oil, here is

some fervor. Discuss. In the story, almost

everything has already occurred,

the ritual cleansing, the birds whirring up

& across the cloud-holding faces

of buildings as if out of silos. If a man

is demented & can't load new memories,

how many times do you tell him

his wife is dead? Discuss. (On every door

in his house it was written YOUR WIFE

IS NOT IN THIS ROOM.) Even in this place

there's a hotel next to the hospital,

a Gate of Sleeping Dogs opening

on the west, a road where the kissers

of garment hems balance baskets

of ichorous dates, waxy as insect husks.

Our too too sullied flesh melts

& resolves itself in through the eastern

gate, which is called Jerusalem,

we arrive into the New World,

the halo of story. It's enough to startle us:

about the New World, they were saying,

it became destroyed. I have

something to tell you. . . . If everything

has already happened, I may be

writing to you from the City

of the Dead, the white-bodied buildings,

then the birds launching over

& over again as if disturbed,

it's not so bad here, I've been

befriended by several beggars

who seem to treat me as an equal,

we talk & talk about it, I agree

with all the words except "New"

Family Romance

    4 MH

I am a service

revolver in a swimming pool.

The father is a chalk outline on the street

sealed with yellow tape.

Whatever passes as the mother has dropped

below the line-of-sight.

She's left behind some yarn & a machine

which plays to the father songs.

I don't mean to brag

but I am a love letter.

The noise which is not an echo?

(Because it happens at the same time

as the song but off to the side

or behind like a shadow)

That's the father sleeping.

When father comes to we'll get

drunk & act out scenes from The Classics.

Sometimes we arrive at

the island just in time. Other days we're years too late

Blue Louise

Zaffer, baby, milori, celeste, the sky so blue-colored

it's almost blue & you falling away from the world

into description, leaving your outline as an exit wound

etched on the air like the painter's printed scaffold-trace

against every possible blue is figured as a nude:

back turned, no more or less blue than her ground

but there she is anyway, diagram of desire, a blue body.

Cyan, atmospheric, indigo, azo blueprint of the city

washed out by this low evening, this equalling

a blue revision of blue around the house & along the streets

til it's only blue & borders giving ground,

the window is open, the door ajar, curtain a flutter of fabric

blown back & blue come disguised as air,

as what-fills-the-vacancy as a bloom in the body of the house,

as what recursively undrapes the windowframe

reckon, reckon, how is this blue different from all other blues?

This is my body, this is not my body,

the one here only, the other here only in outline,

liminal & luminous architecture of the emergency exit

which divides house from street in blueprint

but holds to the same city & blue plan,

the blue that does not leave the body leaves the body

skin-, vein-, bruise-blue, permanent,

a shade, a back unclothed & open backdrop,

Prussian, Brunswick, Dresden, a whole city lit up

with the blue fall of evening & the whole idea of falling;

city turns to color, the houses & streets turn,

there's no sky here, no blue print of return, return,

nothing but blue, cobalt blue, bleu lumière, new blue

haloing concentrically just beyond me,

this is your body, this is not your body

but the naked color, blue, posing:

blue as an eye-blue eye I look for you up into it,

this is how entirely evening falls &,

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