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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, October 4, 2017.
About this Poem 
“This poem begins by naming the fraught genre of which it’s part, love poetry, and thereby initiates a necessary contention with all of the historical problems of that genre: misogyny, heterosexism, racism, and apparent apoliticality among them. Its necessarily imperfect solution is to refuse to present its beloved as stand-in for a false universality of desire; its method is to represent the beloved semi-paradoxically—as both anonymous and named, undescribed yet featured—and to describe physical love and attachment in a way that precludes no kind of self or body. It then pits this imagination of love against the world of work and its clocks: love melts bells, steals back hours, and, during its anti-productive languor, wants to feel—can only want to feel—that a just time has come, has happened, before it at all has.”
—Geoffrey G. O’Brien
 

May

This is a love poem. It has no business.
It happens in that anyway world 
Where the bodies are by now decided
To get all the way up, accompanied
By changes in temperature and light
Welcome and unwelcome both,
Lie down, get up, go prone again,
 
Get nowhere in time. I won’t
Reduce to a single preposition 
A relation to the one person about it 
Like grass. Who has a pronoun, a name,
Three or four even, which globe, 
Without containing, her experience,
Of which I chase awareness till  
 
Her letters are with one exception
All over this deepening sheet, name-
Blind blue of a cloudless day. 
Unconcerned with property disputes,
The poem gradually permits itself
To figure grass, the blue of the sky
Because we see those first kinds
 
Of immense quiet as sleepers
While walking the dog in the hills
And store them for future use
As simile and metaphor, each 
ancient and suspiciously free 
Of present disaster. But today royally is 
Blue and cloudless, this blue, this 
 
Unironic absence of clouds over green
That makes you temporarily more
Intelligent, makes time harder to track
Until it seems it’s always been
Only this pleasure somewhere 
Between hours in the form of a bell
Melting mid-ring. The poem’s now
 
Broken one of its rules in order
To keep ringing. Because I want to
Be smarter than true it continues
To disobey the trace of my injuries,
Remembering home is not a place
One at all leaves or gets to
But supremely anonymous
 
Relations with rhythm, a fragrance
Where skin meets time on which
No pronouns fall, here in the presence of.
Not lasting but repeatable and
Each of the instances claimed
For the series, belonging with the ones
That came before it, the others
 
Still to come but not in doubt,
Yesterday moving on top of tomorrow.
If blue were an all-day affair work 
Didn’t tear us apart in, but held
As shape and song, the anonymous one 
Playing on repeat, referencing nothing but
The very red distraction I attend to
 
Where bed turns each afternoon away
Along the suede sound of good decay
There’s still plenty of time to invent,
None of it spent in advance, then,
In intuition of every day to come, 
The flowers lasting for more than a week,
Blue growing down to grass, 
It would be like this.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Geoffrey G. O'Brien. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 4, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Geoffrey G. O'Brien. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 4, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Geoffrey G. O'Brien

Geoffrey G. O'Brien

Geoffrey G. O'Brien is the author of Experience in Groups (Wave Books, 2018), People on Sunday (Wave Books, 2013), Metropole (University of California Press, 2011), Green and Gray (University of California Press, 2007), and The Guns and Flags Project (University of California Press, 2002). He teaches English at the University of California, Berkeley and San Quentin State Prison and lives in Berkeley, California.

by this poet

poem
The experience of leaving
one category for another, 
of smooth being colder
than rough and of
that December I suffer
as the experience of leaving
one category for another,
using life that way
that opens and stops
moving, done,
furtively waving
as with one month
that opens and stops
among the others,
waiting and
poem
The winter, it was the winter all
the usual things happened,
I have forgotten what
would travel from the north
as a series seen from above
or from below, and the followers,
the flowers, I tore them up
the next summer, or rather
before or immediately after
and thought no more about it.
But then the summer, plans
poem
Control has been candied and exchanged
So many times it feels like the night 
Of the day, a troubled ride through 
A beginning whose motor announces
It's still the mild guardian 
Of a human bird we don't yet hear.
She needs no protection nor exists
Except as a set of performances,
Notes mistaken for an identity