A starred review in Library Journal says this about Eventually One Dreams the Real Thing: Only a poet as accomplished as Boruch could make such beautiful verse while leading us through the everyday, of life’s subtle, steady shiftings (the bird’s hunger, seeking shape’). If the opening image of a pool filled with cruelly dredged up roses bespeaks quiet assent (I stood before them the way an animal/ accepts sun’), the next poem turns immediately to progress (and hence progression) as a modern invention beyond the heaven-and-hell alternatives; finally, the poet concedes, I lose track of my transitions.’ In fact, transition defines us. Here, a static painting gives way to between and among,’ a simple typeface never yields a perfect copy, and even in a medieval score, two exquisite quavers are connected by a slur. Highly recommended.”
"Marianne Boruch's work has the wonderful, commanding power of true attention: She sees and considers with intensity."The Washington Post
"Boruch refuses to see more than there is in thingsbut her patience, her willingness to wait for the film of familiarity to slip, allows her to see what is there with a jeweler's sense of facet and flaw."Poetry
In her tenth volume of poetry, Marianne Boruch displays a historical omnipresence, as she converses with Dickinson, envisions Turner painting, and empathizes with Arthur Conan Doyle. She looks unabashedly at the brutality of recent history, from drone warfare to the disaster in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. Poems that turn her gaze towards childhood, nature, animals, and her own poetics are patches of light in the collection's chiaroscuro.
From "Before and Every After":
Eventually one dreams the real thing.
The cave as it was, what we paid to straddle
a skinny box-turned-seat down the middle, narrow boat
made special for the state park, the wet, the tricky
passing into rock and underground river.
A single row of strangers faced front, each of us
behind another close
as dominoes to fall or we were angels lined up
Marianne Boruch is the author of ten collections of poetry. She is the 2013 recipient of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and has taught at Purdue University since the inception of their MFA program. She lives in West Lafayette, Indiana.
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BEFORE AND EVERY AFTER
Eventually one dreams the real thing.
The cave as it was, what we paid to straddle a skinny box-turned-seat down the middle, narrow boat made special for the state park, the wet, the tricky
passing into rock and underground river.
A single row of strangers faced front, each of us behind another close as dominoes to fall or we were angels lined up politely, pre-flight, like that was a coffin we rode, the go-to, take-out end of it,
a shipping container for a giant.
Now every after--
Not to embellish, but I count the ice age in this story since its grinding made that cave.
I count us too, as mourners.
A smart, full-of-fun-facts park ranger poled us past summer. A cool which meant dark, meaning
I pictured the giant in life before he lay down in that boat
under the blood in us, under our breathing.
Upright, his long bones and knobby joints. He slouched in a doorway smoking cigarettes, talking What-Would-Bertram-Russell-Do kindly and funny to the dumb all of us who adored him, not dream and then dream.
Repeatedly, that thing about us adoring him.
The ranger pointed out the obvious spare mob scene of caves: the endless drip to make a stalactite, tiny crawfish and frogs transparent, hearts by flashlight, visibly beating away.
We got quiet drifting deeper.
What does it mean, again and again
with your eyes shut?
I remember us from before too,
from museums. I love us there still, the same us, the way the ancient Egyptians kept their dead safe crossing over, smallish intricate models--who they were and even
their sorrow to scalethose rowing tireless
to the other side. A boat the length of my forearm,
faces to freeze like that forward, released to the blankest wonder though
I think we came back. Of course he did not
and could not, the giant
I made up for the passage. But all night the whole dream
grateful I was to others patient, more steely practical with things sacred, who took the real one across
hours before we got there.
Maybe a pool filled with roses someone
uprooted before they bloomed fully.
And I stood before them like an animal accepts sun,
like an animal never thinks hunger will stop.
It does stop. That's the best
I can say. You're given a life.
Each all any
small part can’t be good, can’t be the worst of it.
For instance, I couldn't know why such a terrible thing, roses wrenched out of earth like that.
They were floating.
But an animal--
to take in color like taste, flung petals drifting brilliant quick savored, any human thought
somewhere distant, a scratched record,
the old turntable in the house over and over, going bad.
Comes wonder in that sound.
Slip into a door to lift the needle. Or full-faced as daylight,
stay in the yard.
They wore out the a
in the letterpress case only after
a few thousand hits under the inked rollers,
pulling the crank, turning
the giant wheel.
Must have been 1820. Thereabouts.
Wanderer, glory-run of letters: thereabouts.
Hunger took its due from the belly of the a.
So? All kept reading it
as a--those who could read--and anyway,
a bite out of that apple proves our kind mortal. Rare good paper into page until most everything about the a was shot. Practically prayer, humility,
a great foreboding not just barebones frugal.
Simple aaaa from that a---
First letter loved, to hear it ache and fill
even at half breath.
Look, it's standard. No one but a divine being or two makes perfect copy.
Real case in point: my now and again body so
poorly echoed off my mother, my father out of a broken skull simmering in a bog, BC probably, long before AD
pretended anything in order. Earlier, our whole dark hole of a planet copied unto itself via earthquake, flood, star shard,
raging molten ball in the middle, some big bang's idea of a flawed, proper start.
For a while there, the tiny a
wounded. What it does.
Doing, to herald every human sentence.
ONCE MADE OF FEATHERS AND AN OUNCE OF BLOOD
From then on Katrina
fiercing up from the get-go any girly girl named that.
Before too, whole phrases
incisor-sharp: fuck you, you fucking fuck!
all down the front. New Orleans,
black t-shirt sold on the street for mischief and joy
years back, pre-nightmare.
One has to respect options, I said, three parts of speech
pressed into service.
Rage on fabric going, gone
redundant. End of the World, take that! A thing to slip over your head.
Surely piles of them mouthing off on carts
to wild up later. Ever after. Day of days.
Torn wounded muck of it twisting out to sea,
great biblical sweeps: shipwrecked porches, car parts in flight, dogs every
bent shape of howl and horrific, dresser drawers jet-streamed smithereens beside warblers battered ancient into
once made of feathers and an ounce of blood.
You. If you ever wore
such a shirt, you'd hold it close,
a live explosive
under a milder, say, button-down.
And pause. Oh yeah? whipping open, getting even.
Woden or Zeus seized. Grief
on steroids, if that were a god.
SONG AGAIN, IN SPRING
The bird's hunger, seeking shape: a worm shape, green water bug shape passing out of winter's clawed shape, its toothed shape where it
froze and stayed
freezing, the hawk up there, branch or ledge, staring out and--
So be it
in the imperial age of the 21st century which seeks its shape
in the drone, the kind put up to the killing, air-conditioned office turned bunker,
Nevada, home of the sand flea whose life span is about two minutes the last
I checked though in truth,
I've never checked.
It's not a matter of just knowing.
Or that maybe the virtual bombardier is weeping at night
and feels bad about it.
unto us: a worm shape is not
the worm. A worm, merely born to it like an apple to its red eventually,
or the sea to its vast floating crosshatch of garbage,
plastic bags and cups from the big boats and every who-gives-a-good-damn cute little coastal spot, used-once forks going brittle, snapping, drifting out to join their cheap brethren, shining semi-continent of crap never to decode/de-evolve/delete
for a thousand years if then, detritus of our time.
This we, this our and us thing--
A remote sensing device, garden path to a dark darkest wood in the middle, etc. Confusion as part, part coward, part crash burning to quiet there.
Recalculate, Recalculate, says the grownup robo-voice in the car, you've driven past your turn.
The turn was: I want I want alights on oblivious, mouth-sized. Somewhere = sobbing.
It's spring! A thing with wings taking aim.
--at the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
to offer the gods first: pig or human,
or the sheep one, its boney black shield of a face
with horns stumping up, little
grand things. Or the twisting, hell-bent anthers reclining, the rest of the reindeer lost.
Now do it. Patch in
eyes gone rigid in those heads
before the spear and then
Shattered bowls in the glass case. And a sword
"deliberately broken." That word deliberate, like the taste of blood surprises.
In return, the gods
Storms, good and bad. Life is short, or it's not.
There's luck and unluck. Reward, revenge.
Some gods breathe: that's oxygen.
One might throw a switch: that's spring.
Step out into time, it's hard
to know anything. Trains, their stalk of light on a railway bridge,
the moon, the slow tide. Wheels burn and spark if you could see
as gods do, in boredom, in anger, busy with ancient simplicities: to let live or to smite--
Don't. Just look at him now.
Row 8, the sleeper at an angle against the window's flash and flash off the bay, a rail's rhythm,
closed eyes, breath to breath
and grateful for none of it on waking. Which of the gods spoke?
He won't remember. Threat held back--
still threat under glass, a few broken things.
And beauty? Equals
the gods stare anyway.
He can't dream the ticking weight of that either, afloat mindless as fish are below.
A BAT IN THE HOUSE
swoops high, webbed little arms for not quite a figure-8, prefers a big room, out open windows into dark's usual happiness,
insects for supper, where roost--
So much light in here, sealed shut awful,
the bat's radar
screwed up by fear and its haywire. A drunken spree: what they said--
old movies, the gray of black and white, actors thin,
elegant, looking out
to a garden without color,
drawing delicately on cigarettes to take apart the incident, to underscore,
to amuse--the falling down, the blurting out.
Martinis in hand, just a splash, an olive.
Wayward whirl of
smoke on set--the director too,
the cameramen, even the best boy-not-a-boy. What passed for
having a thought, the deep drag
to take warmth into the lungs, the glance up
to consider release, the meaning in
a glass broken, whether roses, how to figure who's standing where shocked, at what. Not the bat,
real. Or the blind
infinity he comes from, my human
sick at heart--don't I know him by heart?--
suspended, shrunk to the net as the long pole comes down,
expatriate, sharp-toothed dazed messenger.
Some kid in the class,
a boy usually. Do we have to, Sister?
And the nun once: no. She turned and slowly no, you don't have to do anything
A room's hush is a kind of levitation. So the end of a rope frays. So mortality presses its big thumb into clay early, 6th grade,
St. Eugene's School, mid-century.
It's a mudfest, ever after. Free, yay! is what some heard howbeit the gasp primal, a descending, an unthinkable click.
Forget what she'd no doubt been programmed to say, as postscript, as speaking-of: but we live forever,
don't we, children? in God's sweet light?
She didn't. Too old, too mean, too tired, too smart, maybe shocked at her own relish, her bite coming hard.
I'm just saying there are charms on the bracelet from hell.
An ordinary question, the boy's whatever it was, and did we have to?
He was stunned. I could tell.
And he must have walked home in the falling leaves distracted,
disturbed, pushed off for a time
from the anthill.
As for the other ants, we had our work.
It gleamed like truth is said to, in the dark before us--
grains of edible filth or just sand and splintered glass. To carry.
Carry it down.
DICKINSON IN SNOW
No sound from the start or words just give way. Must be rage in it. Perhaps I made that up,
her windows surely dark-deep in its crepe
months on end
and probably her never the proper shoes
like men got.
In summer, her stab at wit, part unkind,
part prophecy. That story, an old woman confused trying to get home, stopping to ask bewildered, and Dickinson--
down there, turn left, that's right--matter of facting her straight to the graveyard.
My grandfather called such a place a marble orchard each time we passed its calmest eye and stones spiring up near fields. So many chiseled names weathered to unreadable. And closing in,
the busy self-absorbed corn.
But snow is snow. Dickinson in it
no matter what season. Blank as years from now, any page
before any words. And the past coming down in silver flakes, like after some
terrible fire, all that ash.
A low whistle at night. Might as well be snowing. Sleep on that train,
strangers only dreaming awake, awake--
their triumphs sufficient or never,
not in this life.
DICKINSON IN THE WOODS
So it is under the world. She and I pass the time.
Done, Dickinson says. I wrote like a multiplication table
What is what we still open, I tell her.
Little swarms! Those poems came at me.
I had no headgear, no fancy moonsuit between
me and their mesh. Some claim I put too many hives in the shade, that I got it wrong--
bees love sun.
Here, I say, some peppermints to shatter the dark mouth cold. And they sting.
My body isn't anymore. But thank you.
Her thank you--
was that so surprising? Or how I cherish it.
Woods get quiet. Mid-afternoon won't draw down
like dusk, isn't fragile or birds. Barely, her
you hear that?
DICKINSON AND THE FUTURE
Sure, but she'swhat was the word once?--
indisposed. As in: come back later.
She's sewing a wren together which is hard. It keeps trying to fly. She's intent as that time she turned the dove inside out to fix it. And found a snake there.
I definitely need glasses to do this one, Dickinson says, though already she admires how feathers hook together against rain, plus the little wren beak she might speak to and from, were she that sort of poet.
Those jottings: inscriptions on a tomb.
Again, this minute! Her jerry-rigged loops.
Define unknowable for me, she thinks to ask the bird anyway, define door, define key.
Not a chance, given the wren is almost, and if things do work out it's mostly forget after.
To be mesmerized, pause and future pause which takes to itself each darkening eye--
The dove at a loss now
is fine, still singing dread, how sorry,
sorry sorry everything
not the least of it.
DICKINSON 'S TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Because she never could. Can't resist urgency, a phrase, a fable that's true .
For instance: two ghostly lovers who do not forget, two chairs with their imprint each morning, a grand salon in the desert, oldest house around here,
every night shattered glasses, knives thrown to the floor no motion detector picks up. The docent says so.
It's D (if I may) dimly, and close: I never stop thinking.
That's the famous human what
to see in this town, I tell her, brochure in hand: the 1850s,
the poor two of them, their names even--
Astonished, her mo-tion-de-tec-tor? is her
pulling thick taffy to my
saying it. But no one does that anymore,
whatever steamy-sweet kitchen I know.
Still it comes to her, the 21st century. She's mouthing it,
and best, for them: Motion detector!--beloved
Armando, oh Inez. A warning to the cohort, very slow and keep yourself hidden.
AUBADE WITH BIRD
Late fall, one of them doing a half-assed job of his singing into early,
this not-light yet. He's mostly pathetic.
Or too young to know better, a teen bird
testing limits, pretending
to claim territory. Or love me, love me,
come feathered thing. Definitely his jumping the gun on that. And of
the real cold to come, its ice and froth, or the hawk's bellyache written in blood,
he's got no blessed clue.
Practice, practice night all night turning to any day now.
You can see it lift. Not a curtain but that bird runs through his lines whatever,
the first Hamlet until
Shakespeare gets to the theater, tells him straight out furious, the world's weight
is the wording--
Dark. Little dark
PHOTO AND PHOTO AND PHOTO
Muybridge. As if drugged, such staring the world thought practically pornographic, what
with their skivvies mainly, and too much
What he meant, over and over: this is how we look.
And our take, in our time: you're sort of like us.
His photographs on repeat, repeat
back in the day, ur-book of stills dreaming of movies
Toxic, the 19th century. Muybridge's eye darkroom eye to deadly and wet, to mercury, to cyanide. A fraught thing, getting our plain elegance right. Like a man's hammer coming down in some barnyard, like a woman knifing air,
fixed repeatedly to do in a chicken
short of slaughter. She's calm as a needle over a sampler.
Which is to say, under his black hood Muybridge freezes each second equal. His catch-and-release all along these lines. It's addictive here in the hereafter, to bring back genus and species,
one gesture at a time.
Look at these people.
Oh tightwad camera, saving up for the future. Oh tripod plus two human legs, trousers, black shoes under a shroud. And the little done-for pop! and spit!
of the shutter, a spark to small fires.
Thus we lived.
Over and over is key. Over and over
is the saddest thing.
And noble. The elephant folio, a picture book for a giant. Then I'm the giant. Hover, hover.
Everything he saw glossy-open
on the library floor, the pin-drop stacks, the narrow aisle.
I'm down on all fours, afloat as in: Muybridge hoped for this, and small
my god-like company.
DR. ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE BACK FROM THE DEAD, TALKING ENDLESSLY ON A TINY TV
He says in the newsreel, like
a hundred little dodges
to make his Sherlock Holmes think straight,
meaning crooked, meaning sense and surprise do mix.
A museum thing. Surgeons' Hall, Edinburgh--
bones in bottles, flesh ravaged by disease or musket balls or plain bad DNA, oh chloroform save us,
carbolic soap and Lister Lister Lister, now
Conan Doyle, homeboy of this old and gorgeous city.
It's just that, holy jealous! His detective gets mail. One young woman would drop her darling village boy to marry him. Holmes,
that is. The doctor should be saying: yes, my stilted prose,
yes, rare luck of the draw, a great character came to me. Dogged effort pays off.
Everything's a mystery until a narrative kicks in.
You know what? It's still a mystery.
Such a small screen. The film scarred, badly lit, on repeat.
I sit in a chair, watch the big man welcome the camera as I imagine he rose to the wide-eyed patient who's quite forgotten why she came or what is wrong.
That sweet blank stare of the lens is hers. Now it's mine.
But he hasn't practiced for years, outdoors in the footage,
blurry shade, late Twenties, his
my stories, my novels and what to do, and how do it and not doctor all day, and so on and so forth
to 1929. Where my mother turns eight
in the mind's eye behind him,
or the stock market--hear that crash?
Disaster comes. And it goes. Probably a flower bed the real backdrop, and shade means an oak or wych elm, a house,
wicker table for tea, this loop this loop this loop .
So much is plain exhausting and exacting and every stupid reason loves its reason,
those hundred little dodges that get us in the end.
Sir Arthur, my name is
Merely and it's Dust Mote, it's Future and Gray Dissolve
where time put me in this chair to watch you by accident because so what. Or who knows. And no telling.
Table of Contents
Gift-Distant, Scratched 3
The Painting 9
The Breathing 11
Aubade with Grass, Some Trees 15
In June 16
We're Not Insects 18
Once Made of Feathers and an Ounce of Blood 19
Notation Gregorian 21
Song Again, in Spring 23
Long Ago into the Future 25
In the Book of Myth 30
The Ice Floe 34
A Bat in the House 35
Doing that Thing to the Field 37
The Mermaids 40
Triptych in Grief and Life-Glad 42
Water at Night 47
Dickinson in the Desert 49
Dickinson in Snow 51
Dickinson in the Woods 53
Dickinson and the Future 54
Dickinson's Twenty-First Century 55
The Class of 1940 56
Aubade with Bird 58
The Young Husband 59
Book and Screen 61
Big Little 63
The Pulse of the Nation 65
Little Handheld, Little Movie in a Phone 67
Stray, Repeating, Human 68
When I Think about the First Pope to Quit 70
Song in Winter 72
Piece of Old Cornice among Trees and Random Trash 73
Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle Back from the Dead, Talking Endlessly on a Tiny TV 76
Old Words 78
Private Garden, Open to the Public 79
It Moves 81
Before and Every After 83
Never Body 89
Tool & Shade 90
There Came a Point in the Brutal Winter 91
Aubade Off-Site, with Mirror and Self 94
I Get to Float Invisible 96
I Do Not Close the Curtains 99
Reading in Bed 102
Photo and Photo and Photo 103
Six Tuscan Poets 105
If Only 109
Future Lives of the Past 111
A Translation of Frogs 113
What Held the Cathedral Aloft 114
Whole Conversations as a Creature Almost Credible 116
Walking Backwards 117
The Art of Poetry 118
Aubade Under 121
The Sound and Silence of the World Now 123
About the Author 127