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letter to america

Helen Macdonald

amid the rain of ether from the noisy sky

& the mild diffidence of dials, the drench of laws

and scripts greeting the storm, its policy of tempered

the exasperation of metals & drift as if its bloom were simple


to the corpus from below in panels, with outliers brushed into ice

the fruiting instability of air, beneath which a ribbon struggles

I am a conversation articulated quietly across oceans

regarded as a measure of uncertainty or surprise


surviving precisely as a desire for redundancy

& this morning the first the guides that lead you in

their capture/the displayed tautology the tunnels of air

preferments of fall lines, new climates tightening on the earth


waypoints for the astronaut & the arctic tern

fat crickets & car-wrecks in fine evening rain

in spilt declivities of bright symbology

tacticians drive their windward aires along


demonstrating the facilitation of flight

the slew at sea, the captured wires & the unequal catapult

definitions too lazied to mark the precision of the first breath on deck

stepping into a rose


but you were walking towards me, after all, as if

it weren’t in fact anything other than the imaginary

front sight of one index pressed to your brow

which held you to a name and its willing execution


the pure distinctions you pull upon

your eyes the specific lightness of material perfection

a static click breaking into small worlds

where death has music in a vice-like


I think not. A cloud of polarised light

the specific charade I cleave to ‘miracles of ’ falling to machinery

one black dot spilling fowards into the brim of a pupil more distant

his schematics of rash energy, clean daguerreotypes of humidity


& humour beats down in planes and sepals from the island trees

and you say I’ve dreamt this & your voice is exceeding level

as your eyes with their perpetual ironies inquired

practically as the parable of the aviator’s eye


of a shelf of clines and deteriorating greys

frayed with the packed flocks of boreal falls

nighthawks & assemblages of frosted passerines with foil legs

described as angels as the waves reflect


at ten centimeters from their mute bodies and return.

and, in the perfect meteorology of the brittle desert,

at the limit of breathable air where it thins into darkness,

these are the scripts of fallen planes, broken by fog.


& you were scraping the ice from the leading edge a.m.

printing an image of the mansions of the dead a.m.

looking for a small world in the uninhabitable air

trying to extinguish some deeper desire for fire


with something as cold and as hard and as temporary as flight

& what you were hoping was that the air would recolonise you

recognise you and welcome you into the sunlight

and all would be forgiven. ink in the thick air would curl


into glyphs of desire & the lightly starred heel

would dip into the sea at dawn as it spills

into a blaze of mute objects

in the pure suburban heavens


From Staple No 62 (Spring/Summer 2005)