Provisional Measures

Provisional Measures

gnomon press

COPYRIGHT © 1966 BY CHARLES STEIN

															———
Some of these poems have appeared in
The Columbia Review, IO, gnomon, and
Angel Hair.

for Josie

I

Reading Basil Valentine in a Mountain Cabin

The clogged air.
The mountain rises in it
as if only through the foggy morning
to aither, higher, clearer air
above it,
			clouds only — that simple.

Sewage passes under the cabin, I hear at 5 a.m., earliest
and quietest time I am up
passing it seems from right under the mountain.

The fog-brained alchemist says, sees
this too:

for the earth is nourished
with stinking dung
and precious fruits
are produced thereby.

The pine light starts
breath of gods collected
over the mountain,
						the wind
and the sun now in it make
the mist by 9 skim
the water
				slide over
the cold surface of it, the sunrise
burning 		tips
		of the water mist

have seen the Bride
cleansed of all impurity
in the fiery bath
which enables her to lie in the bridal bed
with her chosen spouse

	as honey, he says,
	comes indirectly
	from the ordure
	of beasts

but in another place, by “feces” it is clear
he means any
precipitate
				and the light remains
uncertain.
				Shit stays shit then.
				or does it?

I am constantly manufactured, constantly changed by
	fashioned to

					what hands, the woods,

“our art”

	am I the mage, the doctor, or
	as it seems
					my body, the patient
					I am in

	turning the light
	in its variety
	through the branches

				•

The Bride is
the soul and
				she waits in her chamber, the body, the woods
for the spiritual word, her Bridegroom
to take her up
					to take her veils
off, the mists, say,
from the water

even the thick of these
words, these woods
have “soul”
				in them, made right
for the spirit, something
from outside
a light
			appearing
						a distant character
infused

made ready by affinity
and repulsion of opposite
natures.

He offers an experiment:

Place a live spider
inside a circle
formed by the strip of the skin
of an unicorn
and you will observe
that the spider will not be able to pass.

gives little
encouragement—

			o courageous
who pass
into the ring-pass-not

The water, the Bride, then,
the sun, whose warm morning takes
the mist up off of it, Christ
the Bridegroom.

I still have trouble with the wording and
who exactly these
characters are, what shit’s
supposed to be
					why
the flushings of all these mountain toilets
put in since last year
come running it seems from out of the mountain just
when I get up
to breathe—
my air is stopped
through which I cannot pass
but hold to the light
that invisibly
abounds in it

as any hunter

II

Classical Studies

The Rake held off.
But the men arrived with truck loads of cocoanuts.
They came from neighboring islands
and from friends across the ocean
with local interests.

The edges of matter swarm.
Atomoi swarm.
Plumed with palm fronds
the soldiers come out of the trees.

Sophocles was the general there. by reason of merit.
Oedipus the Tyrant. by reason of merit.
Orpheus lived in a cave
humbling monsters
charming the powers of death.
Kuniskos hounded at Zeus.

But having a body
is like having a big
dog.

You wash it
muzzle it
keep it from
the bitches
stuff it full of
food.

therapeuon ta onta

The philosopher doesn’t want something to eat.
The poet bakes sweet cakes.
The powers of death
hum in the muscles like bees.

				————

											Agricola in agro est

They tend the grass.
The grass grows
brown
under so much snow.

I never did write that poem about the cows
or how much
we do not resemble ourselves.

Demand a more functional existence.

						what
the sun
does not reveal (to) us

	what
			however we prejudice ourselves to the moon 

	what we no longer learn from the ocean.

Who can see clear enough to make use
of the momentum pushes our days?

If any god
spoke to the mayor.

It is no use to make interesting constructions of
no 	use to turn in on our rhetoric

the god
displays.

				winter.
are cows
in the fields?
					or go on praising ourselves
in the old manner.

a possible further beneficence
a use

for human

beings

			———

She puts her hands in her pockets and walks out
smiling, home.
					the pockets
of air.
		derided by night-jackets. jack-knives
for the moment
folded.
			the air waits.
							one light.
war rages.

But in the restaurant
visited nightly
seizing an orange.

the snow of the air. 

oppressed by crocuses, roses.

The Kore,
in a field.
a list of familiar flowers.

His hand rising out of the earth
		disguised
with one hundred blooms.

pomegranate.
the year changes.

How many, in how
many places
putting coats on their bodies
going home.

each woman at the sun's altar.
altering the seasons,
turning the wind. 

what did I do wrong? 

he said.

the air
waits.

it is as if someone were watching. 

only the sun saw.

				———

The mythology was too grave. Who
could live in a house of constant satisfaction,
clarity and motion

a walking
through trees
in the sun.

Hear bells in the air, hear
stars threatening the false pulse,
the traffic,
the systems which inadequately interlock,
threaten
with a grave mythology,
a set of images.

We do not choose this place of closed air.
the posture of our poems beyond us.
the river which is also the substance of granite flowing.
the flatness
which is also the depths we do not feel.

							———

III

Four Part Passage

I

a field
down a long

hill.

And two men approached each other

for no reason.

And he said
you have no reason
why do you do this?

And Death said
you do not know
the right reason

and Death departed
from the company
and the man was with him
at the bottom of the hill.
They went off in a pale light.

And we who were left
told each other what would happen.
Two men approached
each other
with guns
from the distant ends of a field
										down
a long hill.

						2

Jewels. encased
near the eye. A wall of lights.

This was death.

She was young
in a corner
of the gymnasium 

How many girls 

I ask you 

it was too late the

mothers died

in child birth

you were laughing?

laughing.

This was death.

I am trembling but I kissed
your lips you
would be my
passage, young
though you were,
through the wall
close to my eye
of jewels
			light of themselves
and dark with no source.

																	3

You can buy a book
in a drug store
in this century 

it will detail.

remembrance will be terrible
then

will they tell you?
Aeons and aeons
of what cannot be time.

But you can buy a book
in any drug store

will they tell you?

The dream said
the seeking of form does not end
you are granted a certain
clarity
then.

Can you buy in any
drug store

the usable rubrics

But the time is almost with us.

The dream said.

We can no longer distinguish
the dead from the living,
psychopomp from psychotic
leading us living through
sleep fields of a dry light
a plastic clarity.

The distance seems short

you are almost home.

Those of us who are alive

hold the dead in our arms

longing for home.

There are guns we
have to use them.

Death said
but this is not bad
for you.

She was young
and she trembled

will they tell you

I woke with her lips
on my lips

she was a passage

											4

There are so many dreams
in my body
				the triangular face of the magus
I close my eyes
						wore dark rings
and fiery clothes.

I have a sword he said
death enters your language
dance as if to the fire I call up.

You have no sword he said
there is a fire I call up into the world of the living
but you shall not see it
so lost you are
in the rhetoric of your concern.

In my body
was a deep sea
the mourners watch.

Know you your fear
he said

Outside the ring and the circle

the sea rolls.

IV

Provisional Measures

He erects magic squares on yellow cards.
He shines blue lights in a closed room on her.
He cures a common cold.
In order to cut ahead
he leads his followers back one hundred years
and leaves them there. They do not
resurface in this lifetime.
His followers die from methadrine
or become leaders of antiquated orders or
devisive
abandon the System. No one follows
what they mean by this.

The details of an organism
examined differently. Ideas
are everywhere and used
by everyone for old purposes.
He denies God
or the social
system or finds
God.

Light flashed off tin-foil
under grape-vines. between the bunches. botruos.

Some become lions and deny their orthodox humanity.
Some become bigger than life
and ‘transcend their bestial nature.’

Human
beings. might say
galactic mass.

Packed in. Tighter than anything. Everything
is true in its own habitation.

We cannot evaluate the effects
of his operation. Magic squares.
An adolescent concern with order
and dissipation. A magical
language abstracted from the most common
of phonemes, in effect,
to hold his body
together. He draws concentric oblongs
on a page. Paint our rooms blue.
Invent our eyes.

He asks of them ultimate questions.

Through a film of stars on the fringes of our galaxy
another galaxy and the unanswered
denseness of its interior. He knows
what
		that he is
and smiles
showing black teeth.

abandons the System.
is expelled from the Order.

He assembles his admirers
and orders their lives. He
won't let them into his house.

sunlight electric
on the top of blue wine, moving.
light
on many rivers.
eats no beans.

Provisional measures. meters. humanitas.
anthropos. Brachyo-cephalic
the better to hold bags
on their heads.
					of water.
Leads his people
and dies at the edge of the desert.
Reappears and fathers bastards.
Receives bribes from beneficent abortionists
and comforts young women.
Invents a pill to alter nucleic acids.
Faces the wall for nine years, knows,
until his legs fall off.

Is left behind with the Arabs
and dies in a sand pit under the sun.
His camels reach Cairo with gold.

True in its own habitation, he lives
in hideous houses.

Those who stand still, know of his need for power.
Some define the pathos.
Some stand still so long
they arrive at the center of the earth.

In the next room

might say galactic mass
	next
possible place.

He follows the others into the elevator
and does not know where he is. Gets out.
His friend who has been in the room
ushers the others away
and slowly reads the ordered pages
of a certain book
to him.

He notes the water
the steam coming up in the pipes, the blood
coming up in his body, his
breath

and is near to the electric of his system.

might say galactic mass.

chalk-marks in the media of consciousness.
lights
across the sky.

Printed in an edition limited to 500 copies
by Graham Mackintosh, June, 1966, for
gnomon press, 1171 Alabama Street, San
Francisco, California 94110.

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