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from REAL



Shadow of three green rose leaves between circle
of light on ceiling and the surface of the plane
it falls across, line of lip in relation to left
eye of the subject. Black and white photograph
of man in blue sweatshirt holding grey and white
striped cat on his lap, left hand of the woman
on right knee of girl who took it. DiMaggio
liking fight game and girls and especially
blondes, Monroe thinking him unlike usual
Hollywood guys she used to hang around with.
Woman with hair pulled back kneeling down beside
man sitting beside short-haired woman whose left
knee is crossed, an accumulation of blue adding
up to Platonic idea of it. Grey gull on red
buoy below line of horizon, blue and white
reflection of sky in water across which motion
of small swells approaches.


Interval of silence between cries of invisible
red-tailed hawk positioned in eucalyptus branch
behind the pine, small green tree frog stretched
between blue of sky in flat plane and the window
it leans against. Man on phone taking pictures
of grain elevators in Idaho, silver-haired man
thinking of the time he watched himself leave
his body to walk on the water 100 yards away.
Shoulder of the ridge sloping to the right below
pale blue streak in grey-white sky, lone pelican
disappearing into space beyond the viewer’s left
shoulder. Man with shaved head walking with boy
up steep hillside under full moon light, leaving
him in front of a rock. Dark shape of the moth
with wings pulled back on the upper right side
of the frame, a second smaller one flickering
about in the outside dark.


Two small birds lifting from corner into blue
absence of clouds in otherwise motionless sky,
the larger brown one angling over the passion
vine-covered fence. Woman with hair just cut
asking long-haired son to pull his back, short-
haired woman in red V-neck sweater leaning over
to look at a book on the table. Left shoulder
in grey jacket feeling a non-Platonic current
arriving from right shoulder in black jacket
beside it, dream of first ex-wife wondering
whether he wanted to kiss her when he felt
desire coming from her lips. Driver seeing
everything slow down at 241 mph, small black
stones on the track for example. A thin blue
white line of cloud in blue-white sky parallel
to horizontal line of ridge below it, brighter
white line of jet passing ahead of its sound.   

—Stephen Ratcliffe

Stephen Ratcliffe’s books include Sound/(system), Idea’s Mirror, and Mallarmé: Poem in Prose. He is editor and publisher of Avenue B Books and teaches at Mills College in Oakland, California.

Originally published in the October/November 2003 issue of Boston Review

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