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BlazeVOX [books]
Cleaning the Mirror
by Joel Chace
(BlazeVOX , 2008)


The Piano

after Jane Campion’s
Flicker Fusion

the piano inside the boat inside
the ocean inside the cell inside
the piano inside the theater inside
the darkness felt like hammers
felt like oars felt like fusion
inside the piano’s flicker fusion
in song light toward shore.
Pythagoras heard music in the spheres
& fashioned a phorminx
from the seven-stringed universe.
Kepler scored it:
Mercury soprano
Venus contralto
Jupiter, Saturn bass
Earth mi, fa, mi
misery, famine, misery . . .
The ocean is a piano whose silence is dead weight.
No need for metaphor when the land.
No need for metaphor when the man
speaks for you. Let the piano speak for you.
It is an ocean tugging against the shore
to be a long way off from silence.
To be a long way off from violence.
There is nothing not even
music outside the frame
the camera rocking
boatlike back & forth.
Inside the theater the matinee eclipsed the sun.
Outside the theater the matinee was a marquee’s
clock of black letters eclipsed by the sun.
At noon she steps into an eye of coiled rope.
One end is tied to a piano leg.
Through a hole in the black hose
he touches her music.
Through a hole in the music
he touches her skin pretending
silence & the simple clarity of noon.
Piano: the body twists upon itself.
Forte: the rope twists upon itself.
There was a time when everything was green.
Now crimes embrace the trees.
Naturally, money is green.
The principle generates interest.
We keep banking on wilderness.
Puritan Trees
Fill the bucket with soap water & scrub lust from the trunks.
These are the instruments of divine transmission—
ears listening between heaven & earth,
unsoiled by human dictation.
This is how we harmonize colonialism & Christian telos.
The end will be a bucket of soap water
in a forest of transparent trees.
We are trying to scrub the earth out of our bodies.
Through the film’s blue filter the piano is a casket.
Through the film’s blue filter the piano is a corpse.
Light’s muted tones. A billowing dress. An opaque note.
Where the sheet’s scored daylight falls up through the frames.
Faces sway like watery stems bobbing brightly over the bow.
Is it light or water bending the oars? Which way is to drown?
The piano lessens, erased under fathoms. Men & their languages.
It could have been violin, flute, some small buoyancy held in her hand.
A bird. A bouquet.
Something slender slipped into a case, laced up in a boot.
It could have been the portable instrument of her voice.
She sits down before the piano.
A strip of ivory keys under the door.
The music is an inviting surface.
The music invites surface.
Someone places a rose there.
Someone sets down a tumbler of bourbon.
Parlored evenings parceled out in objects & falling scales.
Each depression turns open a room behind the key.
In its harp-shaped frame she sees acoustic architecture.
A wooden cloud. A polished cove.
A sleeping animal whose musculature turns inward.
Touched, it twitches. Some other music.
The piano is difficult to move. Some aquatic animal.
How will they ever get the music of the ocean into those hills?
Planks & roller wheels lubricate the grade like moonlight.
The island is a house whose windows fill with water.
The piano is boarded up like a house.
His hammering asks, What is this daylight splintering in like ivory?
It must belong to water—how she plays the table’s crayon keys.
Everything vibrates. Wood—instrument of music.
Remembering the percussive quality of air, how it winced with sound.
Flexing & folding.
Loosed from blue, keys clatter to the surface.
Remembering the resonance of time.
Remembering a residence in time.
Glissando: everything drifts upward into silence.
Through the film’s blue filter the piano is an instrument of air.
Through the film’s blue filter the piano is an instrument of wood.
Begin at middle sea.
Pian, forte. Pian e forte.

A Psychology of Space

The house furnishes us dispersed images and a body of images at the same time.
Place proposed in blueprint
highest register of darkness,
lowest register of light.
Walls of all worth speaking.
Walls of all left to speak
the fact of silence
proposing place.
Words . . . little houses, each with its cellars and gardens.
Common-sense lives on the ground floor,
always ready to engage in “foreign commerce,”
on the same level as the others,
as the passers-by, who are never dreamers.
To go upstairs in the word house is to withdraw, step by step;
while to go down to the cellar is to dream,
it is losing oneself in the distant corridors of an obscure etymology.
House is to hide these pleated privacies
in public fabric’s fold.
An architecture’s listening,
writing into walls
between rooms that fall.
In ancient feeling the privative trait of privacy, indicated in the word itself,
meant literally a state of being deprived of something . . .
A man who lived only a private life,
who like the slave was not permitted to enter the public realm,
or like the barbarian had chosen not to establish such a realm,
was not fully human.
Razed behind the wrecking ball pun,
razed as a wall’s two faces.
Where the roof’s razed,
blue falls through—
revelation of public sky
raised over every privacy.
It is not a building, but is quite dissolved and here a bit of corridor
which . . . does not connect the two rooms,
but is conserved in me in fragmentary form.
Thus the whole thing is scattered about inside me.
Passing under lintels, Pythagoras would not speak,
held to the threshold of silence between rooms.
The paradoxical strength of passageways—
tense in the wall’s braced force,
gravity falling upward into the keystone.
If the child is unhappy . . . the house bears traces of his distress.
His disavowal of the house—
childish anger rooted in fear.
Anger for having been born
into the house of his own death.
Not devotion. Not genuflection
but stumped. Not stumped
but stooped in misery,
stupefied in mystery,
bent over the knee of father-house.
A pouting gargoyle, jealous of eternity.
Memorial gathers around a vital absence,
gathers a vital absence,
a boundary to destruction.
Against memorial, against this absence
he made of his private disdain
a surrogate construction, a private erection
raised in the public place of memorial.
Beware those who do not feel life & death
trembling at the core of all common things.
At the core of memorial, this vital
citizenry of the dead—
specter of collective memory
raised in public monument.
That’s the rain. I could be the rain.
That chair—that wall.
I could be that wall.
It’s a terrible thing for a girl to be a wall.
& terrible not to be a wall.
So a wind eye in every window,
face in each façade.
The house helps us to say: I will be
an inhabitant of the world,
in spite of the world.

Italicized text: Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space; Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition.




two poems


dan featherston