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All the News in a Given Length

It was the holidays, three dogs in the pantry expecting, a shadow along
the room like an escarpment, noise and such—but it

                                                       was you I wished I closed in on,
to ask about the years and what years do, whatever it was you had fanned

between your fingers. You were happy hour, 1995, the tallest building in the world
and a wind through the city like idea, idea like hungerlessness.

I was many things, but not all at once. Sometimes a train ride and sometimes 
an ache in the feet. Sometimes a percentage remaining before completion.

These are the ways we grow old. How steeply I've shot the tops of the trees
my incredulous looks—because I am not very good at this,

this keep-it-in-the-cup,
this memorial service for youth as it melts in its splendid colors.                              

                                         Autumn, they say, is like a song about autumn,
what with all the rain and streets. Gone the tiny fingers that plucked from the foliage

the passwords. I think this story we fancy as ours is independent of us,
a bureaucrat through and through, waiting to get home, lifting us into its minor interest.

                                         You might think this, too—I'm not sure, I've not
been with you.   Last time I failed in such an absolute way—I was so brilliant with it—

one must have thought, sitting at its edges, that it was everyone's,
that it moved and adhered and released and was utterly without thought.

                                                                        You must be a curve now
in the continuation, your kitchen and your dogs, holidays.

I have those things, too, and I have the fence posts repeating through me
                                                                  like I were Kansas and here, this is

the sun.


Master of Ceremonies

The refusal was an intention the way intention has a long body.
O this is a story about the windy landscapes;

I was a toothache making vaults of every room; I was columns defining the essays;
O the springs were enormous,

and though I backed my way clean through the heat,
the arguments and posture wars, so full of reason,

I still emerged as a blankness,
hearing the piano as a series of chairs in a room one wakes to

when one has finally let go of action. O a pressure on the windows
from the highway.

O the missive obscured.
These are one's desertions. One feels the segments

on one's body, the streets as they get


The Painting of your Face

Have I told you I'd like to see you when you are done?
Have I said you are the plank's walk, the starry enclosure?
I am as tall as the tallest fruit tree in your bedroom, my empty place

a dime for your machine. What is the piano if not a cut open
flight through which you pour down, your triumph
that of the stilled places where no one is walking, now, as our memories

playing without us. I'd like to hold you against a view of planes
circling above the valley.
I'd like to find you by the purchase of my teeth.

So go the long, thin winds through their pedantry, all the details
of hero births landing the pollen gently
against your arm, how your eyes roll backward into the river.

I'd like very much to kiss you, if you were the sort of thing
one went around kissing. How about a box I make with my hands?
How about a bless you, a pinch? A thievery, sheer

and bright.


First We Are Born, Then We Watch Ourselves

You say you are watching all of this,
but then why are you not like me? My pupil opens and closes like the lake when the satellite

splashed in; you brush the extra molecules from your sweater and look back up
                        across a room we've grown so old in

it gleams. I remember when our satisfaction touched down
on the living room floor, so small we were only partial in it, and the world outside

clicked out of place, drifted, just so, to the left,
which is the last memory I have.

I could call but you would see it coming.

Every morning I wake in the same position. Every morning I say, take a risk,
jump over the self, be

a man.
I consider it a small bell in an otherwise large day, a bastard of a blood-sugar event.

                               I lift the sheet above my head and watch it float down. I cut myself

from the house, go out there, where the living is, where I move
                                                                                                as fast as possible.


Eclogue, Fuss, Sweep

The climbing was a wall, too, though here we were in between—
                                                            some speaking of sound as archaic,

post-receipt, dimmed by light itself
like light the hard thing, construals like weather, the written announced

and the announced made done. One takes one's finger
                                                            and twirls the fancies around the chest.

Like this we will be in unison. Afterward only a figure,
the papered shelves repeating the glyph,

and farther the silky edge of the city's river
                                                            turned into the sun.

She paused in her exhalation. There was nothing. One
could study the slope of her nose, make a study, make a line

that dives like a gull or is a terror to the body           
                                                when the body does not want to be so

Here is window after window of the tenements, paper-like blossoms.

She thinks she will bear the stage through her mind
                                                            simple as a table is simple, flat

like a dream laid down beneath the pressure of space.
Before we wake up we are struck, and so we ensue.

Elsewhere, all of it happening again. She lights the idea
                                                                                    with her looking;

the past looks up from its small depression.


To Entertain

Almost anything—from the middle French, to hold together from among;
a slip of a black dress through the kitchen, all the tables and the corners
and the house full.

It teaches me to lie. If to fit myself to a window seat,
                                                if to stutter the lamplight with my hand, meanwhile,
a backyard with the rim of a pool that carries

off and away through the heavy azaleas—wherever it must be, I too.
So to speak: these are the nights between long plots toward the coast.
I balance a toy airplane on its nose

on my finger in the child's room. The child is awake and in and out
                                                among everyone else, the door sliding back
and forth, and I think I hear, too, the radio in the garage.

O the largess, o how we say inconceivable, and how we say here,
and then listen to that saying as it's repeated
through the unestablished distance.

And the child is yet still lit with a half-real light, inchoate, with his
                                                mother, at the table, where I am
to go down to retrieve him, with a gusto toward dream and stories

about rivers and cats, paeans in the low forests, with what comes like snow
in the stubble fields, what we barely make out, the birds' fierce orders,
the frenzy;

to lay quiet, to gather into the child all that he spread out across the floor,
                                                to air our teeth in our beds, to make hunger,
to do so in the face of each great slippage, each marring of our otherwise

continuous thought, like the bed as it drifts through the room
while the moonlight cuts holes in the lake.


Copyright © 2009 Ryo Yamaguchi

Ryo Yamaguchi's poems have appeared or are forthcoming from Drunken Boat, Washington Square Meridian, and Sonora Review among others. He has an MFA from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He works and lives in Chicago.

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