A Night of Thought

St. Lazaire Press
Rhinebeck, New York

A NIGHT OF THOUGHT by Charles Stein

Copyright © 1988 by Charles Stein
All rights reserved.

Published by:
St. Lazaire Press
Patten Road
Rhinebeck, NY 12572

St. Lazaire books are composed using Ventura Publisher.
The text typeface is Bitstream Charter.

Contents

Sad Trees Rows 

Hodos 

The Man 

The Luncheon

from theforestforthetrees (7/31/87 - 6/23/88)

Note on theforestforthetrees

theforestforthetrees is a writing project, not a single long poem.
This project has included all the writing in “poetry” I have done since the summer of 1982.
I write freely and compose, from what I write, pieces and com-pilations of pieces
when occasions for publication arise. I hope the name of the project suggests that
the whole of it cannot be surveyed, but that the project exists for the sake of the particular
moments of writing it affords, and for the particular compilations; yet the sense that each
particular poem or collection of poems emerges from a “forest” of writing activities
in some way informs them all.

The poems with titles are from theforestforthetrees no less than the run of numbered,
dated pieces. The titled poems have been worked over at different times, so precise dates
no longer seem relevant to their composition. A version of “Hodos” appeared
in Vol.3, May 1988 of the magazine, “Hodos,” published at Bard College by the poets
 Davis and Drew Gardner, who in fact assisted in its compilation from my notes.
A version of “Sad Trees Rows” will appear in IO 42 and exists as a part of a sub-region
of theforestforthetrees that I call “The Sad World.”

SAD TREES ROWS
(for Harry Smith)

1

You see trees
grow on an endless road. 

There is no end to the trees that grow there.
One in each place. One place 

for every tree 

that grows

on an endless road.

…

In a little bus

provided to survey 

the endless rows 

of trees

on an endless road—
out riding.

Outriding the long long rows that never end. 

Outriding the long long night—

Black. 

Blank. 

A bed of rose trees.

Blank. 

Black. A head of

rose trees

grows blank.

					Black

velvet back cloth

for display of a bed of rose 

trees. Outriding the bed of night 

to the end of rows.

…

At the end of night 

the minds that hold the thoughts that know

confer 

to end the night that holds them blind and blank.

The thought that only knows the place it holds 

in a night of thought.

A mouth enclosing the night. 

A thought inside a mouth.

…

The minds confer to end the night—to fold
themselves
up in the blank
blanket of place that holds them
up—sustains and restrains—
-pains them.
It is plain to them.
 …

The minds confer to hold the place 

about them up-—

to have the thought that chains them, 

sustains and constrains 

them in and to 

the tokens they have 

that cannot hold 

the blank night up.

…

All trees-—

you cannot see 

or count them 

up 

pass 

into the night of rows.

2

The words at the ends of the words trees 

watch the blanks of space up-hold them.

The minds that cannot hold themselves 

confer to watch the trees rows grow mind’s words.

One of them leaves the rows—the blank 

rank of mind's trees—

Trees leaves fall 		on a bed of rows.

3

Were I myself I do not think to speak of it.

I would not come to the end of all night’s rows.

Moving one at a time 

or passing without bounds—

The trees rows fold

into the place that holds them 

up in the tokens of thought.

They lose themselves in a bed of falling trees rows. 

They fail to find themselves 	again beneath the leaves.

The autumn tokens fall 		on a bed of night's last rows.

HODOS

1.

A man is standing in a quiet room
examining a small glass tub
with a cover
inside of which an ostrich wobbles.

∆

The man takes off his unwieldy
metal head gear, and his damaged
cane dissolves into a little mound of oats.

The scene now grows small
and it appears to have been happening
inside a green “shadow” box.

And a figure with a metal helmet
and a serpent’s staff approaches
from across an impressive expanse.
He takes off his sandals

and places them into a certain
cubical green container
that has, all the while, been standing
on a mound of golden sand.

∆

In a bottle with a narrow
neck (stoppered)
a living bird
beats its wings in alarm.

∆

You are hanging by your teeth
from a dead branch
of a white tree
above a chasm
at the bottom of which
you are also walking
one pace at a time
in the blue light
of an immemorial realm.

∆

Nine cubes
spin on their corners
until nine globes appear.

And the globes roll
on a smooth green surface.

Someone is shooting Nine Ball
unbeknownst to the faint hiberneal entities
which lodge in the rotating globes.

It is Wednesday.

∆

A dog is chasing a woman as she
pursues her course to the barn
to purchase milk. He is barking
at her, snapping at her ankles.
She ignores him.

But suddenly the mongrel
sinks his teeth into the succulent meat
of one of her calves.

The wound is symmetrical
and would not be mistaken
for a natural mishap.

2

having gotten into the bottle
whose gaseous content
easily ignites when ire

with a narrow
neck (stoppered)
a living bird
beats its wings
in alarm

Upstairs, the other tenants slumber uncontrollably.

Is it Mercurius, in a smug arrangement,
confident of election,
loyal to Zeus?

The enigmas with which he busies himself
nevertheless
unravel
hierarchy.

Consider this:

It was at a time when the earth seemed
considerably larger than presently.

THE MAN

(if it was a man) 	it might
have been a loaf of old rye bread

crusty. Walking. It might have been
sideways 	with a grizzly

blond 	face state 	and a bird
sitting on a ledge

eyed it 	twice. It
was a Guiding

Bird for a honey-badger or a Watch-It
Bird disturbing

a Bushman with his bow out
deep into stalking activities.

An old man in the diner
coming out of the cold

back room 	with a hooked
nose. The description

of the universe covers it adequately.
And in the universe thus covered every

item that’s supposed to exist down there
hangs on to its own nature

with an ineradicable tenacity. Later that night
the old ceramic mug is still

the same mug it was when
yesterday an old

geezer gobbled down his stout
out of it frothing, gripping

the mug in his crusty fist. The geezer
believes himself to be the same

old man he was when way back when he
wandered out of a cold

and indescribably back-territory blankness
and was espied by certain

watching things, sidelong, idling
with crusty eye and four-days 

stubble 		into his booth at the diner.

In another world the items lose
themselves without regret and divert

attention by the perversity of their
constancy only to elide

and change again when watchers
tire and the birds go home to the houses

they produce as huge straw knotted
huts at the ends of branches.

 THE LUNCHEON

At any moment—who can discriminate 

the operatives? “Things” 

alive in certain rocks—

What things live where nothing is? 

All things live…

If you move such rocks 

those entities suffer radically and come 

to haunt the absence of the absences that had

guaranteed their lack of all existence formerly.

Sit in
a Black Room.

What you cannot understand or bring before your mind

sitting there 

beneath your organs, beating. The black space 

inside of which you waken.

Beings as big as the sky

bound to your service—

-having to “pay” them with your 

“spiritual” activities—inviting in-

-comprehensible entities “in” for 

whatever sustains their being in your person.

from theforesforthetrees (7/31/87 - 6/23/88)

1.

I do not stand to know what “we”
 to make
			of
us
this

is

not about to become

Dogs running around in the ether 

but what kind of dogs?

(anyone chasing absurdly 

the root of its nature
 …

The lion (or prairie dog) headed female
intimacy 

with two further identities 

resumed on planes 

removed-—

more intimate 

still

whose words 

spin round 

and are stones 

blades 

that slice and flash

…

Billions of me glare 

and move 

and the motion 

is distinct 

from that which is not 

in motion yet sealed 

by a common 

sign

…
(finding oneself inside the under-writing and refusing
the discovery

…

((each reversion passing 

to a further 

regress

…

(((each reversion passing 	further 

into intimacy—

-into more shockingly 

adequate articulations 

of the passion from which it is thrown

…

She is fat 

and black 

and her words 

command 

as stones 

but they are not words they are entire 

premonitions of textuality 

and they curl 

about her belts of carcasses and skulls 

thrashing with luminescences and slashing 

the very conceptions
for which they are
													the signs

2.
						Mice eating the house down : worlds

						in other words

						built by the mice that eat

						the house down

…

Our minds
in their attic
privacy— 

going up there to be
alone
at last

away from the priorities of family hegemony

The top of the woods is the attic of dusts—

And people did used to keep
parts of their lives up there—

the green
desk with its
drawers

inside of which
the scraps of paper
burning

…

little pieces of paper
giving rise to small
flames

…

and pencils
burning in the dusk of secrecy

…

being able to construct a future intelligence
out of vanishing morsels of cellulose and white

vellum note paper thin lined ring binder loose leaf
words 

composed and burnt 

into space  space 

changed by the disappearance of written
characters
into it 

the heat and relatively little smoke of it but the power
of it came from the act 

of vanishing 

signs 

...the room was nothing 

but above the blotter paper and antique ink wells space 

changed 

because I burned words on paper 

and the heat and thought together
vanished into it

…

the words on a piece of white paper
and that I burned the

paper in space
and the empty space
ate the words I put into it
digesting them thoroughly leaving

nothing

…

they were left 

in space

…the space into which 

the words on paper

burned away 

itself has burned away 

nothing left of it 

for later 

something there
turned into
an elevator and the elevator
going up to the
top of the town and releasing
its human
cargo on to the roof but then the whole
building inside of whose
central channels this
elevator
conducted people—that whole building now 

has succumbed to oblivion for a minute 

nothing 

but a space 

capable of housing 

a building in its 

nature 

remains 

with its capacities but soon that house space too 

loses some of its “structure” it becomes a 

simpler more 

potent 

space with fewer 

attitudes and what had been a 

house 

before now must conform

to the nature of this changed 

principle of locality 

the house 

becomes the 

mouse that 

eats it 

the thought 

becomes the house 

of which it had hitherto been 

the rule 

people start to walk about frantically looking for their
overcoats testing out their large 

clocks

…

the house
before the house 

was built 

was built 

of the air
before 

there was air 

in the lodge
of space
itself 

where the black 

bears 

circulate

3.

I threw the book
at the pigeon
as it 

strutted 

away.

Or I saw somebody do this.

I never saw anybody throw a book
at a pigeon
for any

reason, really. 

Why, I had no reason to have seen him
or anyone 

do that. The pigeon
had no reason to have caused

myself or anyone 

to throw the book
at it. 

I never saw a pigeon with a book 

more hopelessly 

woebegone. I never saw a pigeon so helpless as that one

even in my wildest imaginings I never
saw any pigeon but that one 

so oblivious to the text that
marched before him
oblivious equally to the discussion
we all had had about

the hapless creature

it was terrible the way they became pigeons
all of a sudden a whole trainload of japanese
high school students became
pigeons suddenly

…

it was hopeless everyone would soon
be a bird there would be a violent spasm
lasting for a moment
(that can never be measured)
the moment
of unexpected
panic would surge up
and the desperation to retain existence
would assert itself
the precious body 

religiously in love 

with itself 

unable to concede 

its own dissolution howling 

violently against the 

blaze about to 

consume it

…terrible all of them about to become
birds in the blackness of the deceit
at that moment not able to stop being birds

not able to stop deserting the dissolution moment
by moment that at all events

was stripping them clean each one in their little black
american suits and jewish whiskers why do they look
like that at that moment and the lion

turned into an owl and they all flew away

4.

Having come again
I am born away
far far
into egregious destiny

some little silent blue hole in the swirling night space
a mist horse in the moon-stricken land
galloping galloping
over the territory that has no highway now

everywhich way in the night—

Going there I felt I was going home

sitting
in the snowless ring
beneath the oak

taken up in a column of light
into a spirituality I had
not invented properly

Going home to the heart of the little twinkling man
from a famous distance
across the whole world
there is a land
with a name oblique to its self
off somewhere 	a plateau in caucasia 	a distracted
promontory 	a gulf

where the blue hole is born
from annihilating force fields
and opens
like an ancestor’s welcome
onto an altered disposition of locality

5.

now people don’t like smoke

they don’t know how to use it anymore
to smoke out bad absorptions 

filling up space and sucking the “moisture” out

Dance around the pine tree, Dance around the oak

Burn down the cities (you can’t they are un-
locatable: the numbers flashing all around the surface of
	the globe
with instantaneous calculation and adjustment

an unlocatable igneous material 

and a water 	without place

But a voice
of sanity

quiet
in the grotto

6.

A voice
of sanity

quiet
in the grotto—

attempting to wait upon
its own location, its own
substantiating
thought-—

not say something just to get it out—not be like dogs

in the darkness
of the foyer
waiting for the stranger
to enter.

The dog
was beaten
from birth
into an uncompromising serenity—

a strange long look
of aloneness in its
unusually placid-seeming
eyes. 

But it growls in the night—

a difficult percolation
energizing all that placidity.

I talk to it—give it a secret
sound to know itself by

in the gaps that swaddle circumstance
in the dark 

between lives.

…

teeth-marks in the calf-meat

tooth-marks 	forever 	in the succulent muscle of the calf

…

the growling explodes
the animal
transforms 		into projectile

I sit in my office barking in the grey afternoon

the people walk up and down the halls 

at a certain point my barking will distract them 

a threshold will be discerned

they will one after another become concerned and feel
the anxiety to do something—

to gather additional information—they want to know
more than they know—
-more than the large insistent growling, barking and
snatching

they knock on the metal door

…

What day was it when I began to bark in my office? 

It was Wednesday, week. First a single utterance—

-a squeal. a rumble, a bark—then another—

…

A sane
voice-—

one that
knows the 

minds that drive it-—

a voice that bends its tone
downward and inward 

wanting to hear itself in the shadow land of it sources 

in the willow groves and pools 

where cogitation ripens-—

a quiet
voice 

that modulates its animals 

that holds its mules to the rein 

that rides its elephant 

that feeds its elephant well
and gives it room 

gives its elephant its grasslands and its habitat 

—no poacher, this voice—no harvester
of ivories—

-a harvester of thought
alone 

benevolent but forceful, acclimating its utterance
to the harvest of its own survey 

looking about it
before it 

commutes with its artifacts—

-alone in the house
countenancing its artifacts

lifting each item gently

caressing the meaning of the thing it modifies with the
use of it 

it picks it up and gazes at the thing it is 

attunes itself to the arousal of its own internal time—

the timbres of its residence have steeped
in the low-glowing mentality that inhabits it
—that listens to every articulate
rumble and click in the room 

the ticking of the changes in viscosity of wall paint 

something walking rapidly across London

—not like dogs
in the morning
whining
ingratiating
or wildly determining a thrust
—a fiendish assault upon the innocent passers
across what it determines to be its home terrain—
-the dog is going to protect you at all costs

…

the mind should not be like a dog—the voice should be—

o voice—be not like a dog…

7.

Remit the few 

ambitions that 

remain

ambitions 

the few 

unsuspended articles 

of conviction the founding

thoughts
finding

a few moments only

to project 

a tentative ripple on the easily contestable sea 

vanishing without 

being absorbed into anything

8.

The only service the bodily performs is to define
the divisions of the space within which heat 

or something like heat

…

The hands form
an inverted delta: an apex of joined forefingers, thumbs
for base. Palms 

of the hands 

face 

inward. The mind 

has recoiled 

within its own 

release. It abides 

precisely where it possesses the capacity to summon
itself
from everywhere. Where it has the power to call to all 

it yet retains 

held at a knowing distance 

from its inactivity as such 

yet activity remains 

internal to the dense 

nipple of light 

it coalesces unexpectedly, expectantly 

though calm, mindful—the mind is mindful-—

the vigilante of the space it traces 

holding all nuisance 

beforehand

beyond the zone of its delta 

out of its world

…

A voice
contracts

to a point. 

The point it makes. 

The point in the space that locates it. The point
from which it emits itself into a world. 

And all the voices 

similarly retractile 

exact of themselves such rigorous 

definition. 

Each a point. A ‘nice’

location 

in a head of points. A head 

in control 

of its voices. A large black room 

dotted with tiny 

star points. 

Each point a thought contracted
within the voice that knows 

that point, 	down 

to the place it holds
in a night of thought.

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