Sunday, April 11, 2010

On Being Numerous: Reading George Oppen on a Rooftop at 15th and Sansom

Thanks to Lillian Dunn for photo. Left to right: Jack Krick Jamie Townsend Jacob Russell CA Conrad... seated back to camera ?
It was two o’clock in mind but the man on the corner of Broad and Walnut with suitcase open for coins and the trumpet playing Stormy Weather had something else in mind, the weather of another day. Something from another time, though we were both there, the trumpet player, myself, the all flowing crowd... each together and single in mind where the clock on City Hall told us it was 1:43, an analog approximation itself arranged from the mechanics of another century.
There were no visible storms (a warning?) but bright sun a few hazy traces of clouds--traces where clouds had been and then moved on. It was two o’clock I was looking forward to, waiting for, moving towards--even as I remained on the corner motionless amid passersby and city traffic. Another illusion, of course, as the earth was spinning, clutching me to the warp of its mass in space that the trumpet player and me and all we could see and hear, busses, cars buildings pigeons countless shoppers Sunday pleasure seekers and the blue air itself—lest all that is less than firmly rooted in the rockbed of earth be hurled into nothingness or the invisible matter and energy out there past the appearance of blue that passes as nothing and around the sun and the rim of the great galactic wheel—time and motion interlocked moving us no matter will or what, moved us (past tense now), all that surrounded me--myself, my single self, and with me—closer to two o’clock and there was Conrad now crossing the street and on we went to the entrance of the parking garage where we would look out on an orange steel crane near ten stories high (think: stories of their toppling, death in the street below) and shy lovers on a rooftop in the spring sun, and four tiny squares far below two filled with dots of apple red and two of orange on the sidewalk in front of a produce store that was in another time when the earth was at another point in the whirligig of space a ShopRite that drew trucks like bees to flowers Conrad told me (but much louder than bees and less bucolic) and the neighbors waken by their predawn buzz (or roar) flexed their political muscle and waved their political wand and transformed Shop to Aide transposed… and then there were three and six and ten of us and two o’clock came and went.

Ten poets reading words from a book that became (what wonder this life when we pause (though we cannot stop) to listen!... became the voice of George Oppen who our pedestrian minds knew and know perfectly well is dead and silent but wasn’t, because we heard him… not as one, but numerous… his words, leaving…leading us with him out of Emerson’s transcendental house ...

We have chosen the meaning
Of being numerous
... out of the shipwreck of the singular

and we heard that because we were… not one, but numerous even as each single voice-- preceeding and succeeding another, each of us knowing ourselves to be as we read one of his dialects  ... making poetry, leaving, by reading as poetry is meant to be read-- together—reshaping, repairing what was salvaged out of

The absolute singular

The unearthly bonds
Of the singular

Which is the bright light of shipwreck

and somewhere else… back there in two o’clock with the trumpet playing stormy weather (a warning ?) but not on the roof of the garage where poetry remade us out of the shipwreck and thought became as concrete under the massive whine and whir from the organ pipes of the air-conditioner flowing over us, and the machinry of presence, silent no more—back from exile in Mexico, from the silence of death that we too will soon visit, alive in the air we shared with the passing helicopter and the sirens on the street below and the heartbeats one and one and one times ten plus one plus all that breathes or ever breathed or will-- gathered compressed into a single afternoon—eleven poets (you were with us, George—not one of us would deny it for one second no matter what our well-trained knowing smart ass brains have to say about it… this afternoon we were… as we always are in truth…



  1. Please pardon my riposte
    but I made a repast of
    your re-post.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This was a wonderful afternoon... to experience the power of poetry, reading it isn't enough... one has to enter and live it. In this, Conrad is a great teacher.

    I'm just an old dog learning...