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.
St. Lazaire Press
Rhinebeck, NY 12572
St. Lazaire books are composed using Ventura Publisher.
The text typeface is Bitstream Charter.
Sad Trees Rows
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)
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
on an endless road.
In a little bus
provided to survey
the endless rows
on an endless road—
Outriding the long long rows that never end.
Outriding the long long night—
A bed of rose trees.
Black. A head of
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
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
up in the blank
blanket of place that holds them
up—sustains and restrains—
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.
you cannot see
or count them
into the night of rows.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
having gotten into the bottle
whose gaseous content
easily ignites when ire
with a narrow
a living bird
beats its wings
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
It was at a time when the earth seemed
considerably larger than presently.
(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
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.
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.
a Black Room.
What you cannot understand or bring before your mind
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)
I do not stand to know what “we”
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
with two further identities
resumed on planes
and are stones
that slice and flash
Billions of me glare
and the motion
from that which is not
in motion yet sealed
by a common
(finding oneself inside the under-writing and refusing
((each reversion passing
to a further
(((each reversion passing further
-into more shockingly
of the passion from which it is thrown
She is fat
and her words
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
Mice eating the house down : worlds
in other words
built by the mice that eat
the house down
in their attic
going up there to be
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—
desk with its
inside of which
the scraps of paper
little pieces of paper
giving rise to small
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
composed and burnt
into space space
changed by the disappearance of written
the heat and relatively little smoke of it but the power
of it came from the act
...the room was nothing
but above the blotter paper and antique ink wells space
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
they were left
…the space into which
the words on paper
itself has burned away
nothing left of it
an elevator and the elevator
going up to the
top of the town and releasing
cargo on to the roof but then the whole
building inside of whose
central channels this
conducted people—that whole building now
has succumbed to oblivion for a minute
but a space
capable of housing
a building in its
with its capacities but soon that house space too
loses some of its “structure” it becomes a
space with fewer
attitudes and what had been a
before now must conform
to the nature of this changed
principle of locality
becomes the house
of which it had hitherto been
people start to walk about frantically looking for their
overcoats testing out their large
before the house
of the air
there was air
in the lodge
where the black
I threw the book
at the pigeon
Or I saw somebody do this.
I never saw anybody throw a book
at a pigeon
Why, I had no reason to have seen him
do that. The pigeon
had no reason to have caused
myself or anyone
to throw the book
I never saw a pigeon with a book
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
it was hopeless everyone would soon
be a bird there would be a violent spasm
lasting for a moment
(that can never be measured)
panic would surge up
and the desperation to retain existence
would assert itself
the precious body
religiously in love
unable to concede
its own dissolution howling
violently against the
blaze about to
…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
Having come again
I am born away
into egregious destiny
some little silent blue hole in the swirling night space
a mist horse in the moon-stricken land
over the territory that has no highway now
everywhich way in the night—
Going there I felt I was going home
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
like an ancestor’s welcome
onto an altered disposition of locality
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
with instantaneous calculation and adjustment
an unlocatable igneous material
and a water without place
But a voice
in the grotto
in the grotto—
attempting to wait upon
its own location, its own
not say something just to get it out—not be like dogs
in the darkness
of the foyer
waiting for the stranger
into an uncompromising serenity—
a strange long look
of aloneness in its
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
teeth-marks in the calf-meat
tooth-marks forever in the succulent muscle of the calf
the growling explodes
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
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—
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-—
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
-a harvester of thought
benevolent but forceful, acclimating its utterance
to the harvest of its own survey
looking about 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
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…
Remit the few
of conviction the founding
a few moments only
a tentative ripple on the easily contestable sea
being absorbed into anything
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
inward. The mind
within its own
release. It abides
precisely where it possesses the capacity to summon
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
beyond the zone of its delta
out of its world
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
exact of themselves such rigorous
Each a point. A ‘nice’
in a head of points. A head
of its voices. A large black room
dotted with tiny
Each point a thought contracted
within the voice that knows
that point, down
to the place it holds
in a night of thought.