Trilobite is an arthropodologist's delight:
many bizarre creatures; no two alike.

from The Dorothy Poems

Peter Gurnis

It was obviously a sign

When the ladies began to mix things up

so early in the day.

Dorothy said that Americans suffer from an interior darkness.

And I had to admit, It was worse than it looked. I turned in the direction

Of the camera and smiled. We know that

The United States didn’t exist except as an idea.

Maybe, that was later.

It was virtue and knowledge

Of rural life that helped. They had fine large houses, fields of corn,

Rooms full of noisy smoke. And the women they held Captive.

The locked cupboards. The country mice and the big city rats.

They had short petticoats which hardly reached half the leg.

Think of the unqualified voluptuousness

Of Ingres, or the white chalk

(evoking flight)

Of an old painted board.

As if to give a sh-h-h-sh-h of silver

To the poplar leaves.

O to be wrapped in the skin of a bearI

Our father had the steel-gray obsession of a naval yard

And we know that he lied to mother about the explosives.

Tintoretto did not choose that yellow rift in the sky above Golgotha.

At its best, advertising turns “those who like to watch” into heroes

who can’t wait to jump out of their clothes into bed.

In the photograph

I saw strange birds explode out of the mouth of

a cave.

And then,

On an exit ramp, or a parking lot,

In the backseat of a car.

Dorothy told her mother what the others did.

It wasn’t an ordinary theft.

It never is, Ophelia said.

The things you don’t expect.


She had won the Turner Prize,

The girls crowded against the window,

Anxious to translate out of an old French tale.

And children, being so open to cruelty.

And the mother in pearls

And a little black dress.

She nearly threw me out of the saddle!

And the buzzing clouds of far-off France.

It was rapping at her chamber door.

This and nothing more.

Adorno was born on September 11th.

Theodor Adorno lived at 5267 West Palm Drive.

You just can’t keep copying things down, Mother said.

Was ist ein Wald?      I’d like to thank the others

The living and dead, who helped along the way. It’s uncanny.

Mother once said that reading Iris Murdoch was like taking dope.

She said that Florida had more ghosts than our little town in Maine.

Is that what you know to be true, or have you forgotten?

Florida had a big problem with sinkholes.

Florida had the broken windows. The rising sea.

The fabulous car-crash.

You cannot put old bottles into a big vat of beaujolais.

Or think it will taste like gin. The age-old questions of desire.

It had to be the North Fork. It had to be the East Branch.

The Yellowstone drains into the MIssouri. Its breathing apparatus.

It was completely inexplicable. I was obsessed with Florida.

And I knew myself to be losing control. But I had a mother and a father.

And a girlfriend. The Grand Coulee Dam. And for some reason,

I found myself in Florida. Women kept calling the house.

They refused to hang up. The whole thing was on television

I said to myself, Florida was in frantic need of an Epistemological re-do!

But I was too tired to move. I felt inexpressibly sad.

Was ist ein Wald! I did not know what happened.

I did not know Max Ernst had followed in the distance.

And yet, I could never throw off my love for gracious living.

Or to stop thinking about his curious portrait of a boy.

And its hieratic two-dimensionality, especially.

The child asked

What can you tell us about Oceania?

Or what about the human eye

And its tears.

If you could only wring yourself out like a dirty rag.

“Dear Father, I’ve had enough.”

And having got a cheap berth.

He bolted.