by Rod Tulloss
DIE KUNST DER FUGE
I don't know if any book explains
what I mean by "joy".
It is like those old objects in farmhouses
that people say are sad
while all the time they are shining!
It is part wind in high trees; partly
it is certain lights in autumn.
It is your face-clear or tired or
hair rumpled by sleep or love-your
brown eyes so close
all pygmy things
are a haze of atoms at the edge of
Appeared in Footwork
My father can make anything from wood
He listens only to the important parts
when I am not bragging.
He still worries
I am not hiding my weaknesses.
Why put off telling you?
All morning I've wanted you, and
it's getting worse.
Maybe it's the sun.
DEGREES OF UNSOLVABILITY
Dear elder brother, my romantic brother
in Aristotle's house,
I write to say reason was never mine.
I give it up for economy.
I give it up for delight.
Memory is only a long story
ramified endlessly like an inelegant
in mathematics. I
give it up. Let
mind hold mornings filled with passionate
and the Latin names of plants.
for Charles Entrekin
US1 Worksheets, 1994
1939, TOM CARNEY'S AUNT FLEEING
At the time we were still neutral.
On our ships, big American flags were
painted-spotlit at night. You
could sail through a battle,
and they'd stop for you.
In forty-five years, she never told
They fled by ship. France first.
Then for New York in a terrible storm.
They were thrown about in the hold-
dry beans in a rattle.
Arms and legs and ribs were broken.
In the lowest level, a father gave
But they got through.
The ones could walk went up on deck.
It was just before dawn; and
one of the ship's funnels was torn
Not day; but they were suddenly aware
an unnatural brilliance filled the
A tanker, torpedoed! And
all its cargo of oil or naptha burning
on the sea
with intense, white light.
"The crew were takin' men up from the
The U-boat brought a load of men terribly
But we just kept lookin' at that light-
wonderful, white fire along the edge
of the world
under just-before-dawn sky.
And, although we knew men were dyin'
all around us in that strange light,
we stared and stared at it.
We knew it was pure and beautiful."
Appeared in the following: The Agincourt
Princeton Arts Council booklet
South Trenton Review
The material quoted in the text is from De Contemptu Mundi
(Bernard of Morlaix, c. 1140) and is taken out of context
and turned to my purposes. The last line is a variation on
the motto of the Royal Society: Nullius in verba.
I describe things not because their muteness mocks our
subjectivity, but because they seem to be masks of God.
- John Updike
Crashing off to my left continues.
A jay is shrieking.
Cold. Hands in pockets, sitting
on a log in a old grove of yellow
tulip trees and sweetgums,
I think about plants whose names change
with the seasons:
Jack-in-the-pulpit gone to lords-and-ladies;
jewelweed, to touch-me-not.
The man of God becomes worldly;
wealth holds startling dangers.
At dawn by Empty Box Creek, it was
so still I
lit my unprotected pipe with two matches.
Only one or two crickets this morning
in the beanfield.
A chorus of shotguns to my right.
Listen to an experienced
Trees and stones will teach you
than you will ever hear from mouths
That jay shrieking and crying without
Crash. Debris falling through the
Maybe a squirrel nestmaking
or a sweetgum dropping its absurd
No insect sounds at all now. Mid-morning.
Sit. Breathe. Scribble.
I love the sound of wooden matches
in their bright box.
Doors, not masks. More little doors...
In the newly mown field,
a box turtle's bones are left like
arched, white spoons
in the cracked bowl of his shell.
Take no one's word for these things.
Assunpink Wildlife Preserve
Appeared in the following: The Roosevelt
THE MURDERER'S HOUSE
People around here could tell you the
He said she climbed out on the porch
roof to pee,
fell, and broke her neck.
But, people say, there was a pool
inside at the foot of the stairs.
A song sparrow sings from the barn
The weathered picket fence is spotted
How long ago did he build it for her?
Or was it for the second woman?
The magazine in plain, brown bag between
thin mattresses in the old twin bed
to her-the one outlived him.
"I Got my Minister in Trouble--I
Gave Him VD." (Confessional Secrets,
The old, metal roof groans in a high
One time we thought we heard footsteps
in the closed room.
People do have ghosts around here.
other day, two crows were playing
over the house,
tumbling over and over in the air.
It was so quiet you could hear
their wings as they caught themselves.
There are bluebirds all over the valley.
for Stellie K. T. & Don Wagner
Appeared in: US1 Worksheets
Under the world
is the lozenge of rice.
Over the rice
is the warm slice of eel.
Ocean of seaweed binds the world.
stuck all over it.
All at once!
Eaten by a demon!
for the sushi chef who
taped the napkin on
which this was written
to the wall.
Appeared in US1 Worksheets
"EVERYTHING THAT IS EXACT IS SHORT,"
Taste of an almond.
Light seen by the saint in his pewter
How quickly, how often he changes subjects
in his sermon!
Why do you think I write short poems?
Here is the Charlatan awaiting his
This poem is much too long and full
RIJKSMUSEUM VAN OUDHEDEN, LEIDEN
Greatly blown up--
from Greek vase--nude,
drinking from immense amphora,
perches one leg on knee opposite--
B.C. panties hanging from her ankle.
She is full of glee and unannotated
a wall beyond the sarcophagi.
"Grieve not," she say, "for it be
all glued down!"
Pale lichen patches on gray-black stone-
a cow who does not go home-
a cow who lies forever in heather.
All the little stones
with the snow
pass the stone cow.
The stone cow in heather thinks
a single thought over:
and wind lowing.
walking to Tom a' Choinich
VARIATION ON LINES OF BASIL BUNTING
We see how clouds dance
under the wind's wing, and
leaves delight in transience.
Too, there was a thrush who, for
a moment in the syringa sang
and surely, Bunting, now is dust and
You hope your readers young and unabashed.
Alas, we age; and, like the Michaelmas
daisies, droop and dream and pass.
being so, delight!
Delight, in transience, is left!
THE GIRL WHO INVENTED RILKE
Two black horses
run down a street,
toward a train, alone,
loose, in the morning light.
Their blackness like
rust in early damp, like
escaped coal fires that burned for
deep in sealed tunnels.
Perhaps they are a dream of
a girl--like the girl who imagined
Rilke. She is only a child,
dressed in white, carries
blue, German flowers and,
like you, knows nothing of untethered
or why dark mines appear smoking,
hot in her dreams.
voor Harry en Lies Bleeker
Appeared in: archae
RIJKSMUSEUM VAN OUDHEDEN II
Adam and Eve never felt like this.
Their heads are burning. Their
fever confuses them. They seem to
in their twenties...and have just
about death and sex. The Snake
is badly painted and looks
like his mouth is stuffed with leaves;
the artist--a Turk--put
a bush in a bad place.
An angel with quizzical face and one
finger on chin
leans on the doorjamb of Paradise--his
way blocked by a peacock. They
are watching the Snake and Adam and
"Goodbye! Goodbye! Get lost!"
23.viii.86 - 1.v.89
MIST CHANT, HORSE TRAIL, ASSUNPINK
first leaves of poison ivy
first buds of mayapple
places where unopened tulip tree buds
lie in the trail
place where, when you look downhill,
there is a cloud of new
place where all jack-in-the-pulpits
have deep purple stems
except for three
place where all big trees were killed
by honey mushrooms
sparse dung on the trail
prints of shod hooves
hoofprint sealed by spider web the
Nothing to see belongs to you.
I promise. I
promise not to laugh.
HOW TO KNOW POLLEN AND SPORES
Mainly, be aware that,
in fact, sex is tiny and intricate;
and some marine species use hooks.
Almost 45 and
of procreation blows
everywhere in May in
currents incredibly complex,
with more multitudes of singular grace
than Bach's first suite for solo cello--
graces so tiny they
barely fall--O, O, each
on its own peculiar,
for Wayne Somers &
Appeared in US1 Worksheets,
THE PATH BEHIND GAYLAND'S TRAILER
starts in dogwoods in the rain
and mounts slowly by a stream
to the tilting house locked up and
with an old drinker's bottles in shady
and with moosewood, pitch pine
and oak that grew up through old
tractors, truck bodies, a roadgrader,
wagon. Somebody, long ago, dropped
a drive chain
down in a hollow stump. The rain
falls harder. A red slime mold
oozes from a log form-
ing tiny raspberry shapes. In
two places the brilliant yellow-orange
of witch's butter.
In one place the gray, porous skull
of a horse.
Back on my sister's land, a hole is
in the floor of the woods. Each
year it's bigger, threatening the
they built around it. Nobody
knows how deep it goes.
Nobody is allowed into it. My
sister repeats how she fears the memory
of tragic death wandering under her.
for Stellie K. T. Wagner
VARIATION ON LINES OF CID CORMAN
Oh, those bees
Are they sure,
they the sweet
A NARROW GARDEN IN HEEMSTEEDE
Your garden is a tall,
thin woman stretched
at full length--her feet
at your house wall, her
knees at the rockgarden's slope.
She is so very quiet. She
never speaks. She lets
you dress her beautifully,
and neither thanks nor blames.
She is so quiet, so
still because with her long,
treebranch finger she ca-
resses wild ducks in the canal
and fears to frighten them.
There is only windsound in her
hair that falls in the water--
not like the hair of sorrow, not
like a promise, not
a greeting. These
we want from her.
She is like a child
who has never heard of secrets,
and she will never tell us.
voor Else Vellinga
en route Raleigh-Durham to Charleston
American Airlines flight 1209
Appeared in archae
GOTTLOB FREGE'S SPRING TRAINING
God was lobbing him back and forth
God the pitcher,
God the catcher,
God standing by first base.
Then around the horn
and back to the pitcher.
God the umpire said, "Play ball!"
And Frege's mind was suddenly full
of open sentences:
For all pitchers,
for all batters,
for all balls,
for all bats,
coins of dew
a begging spider's
Last year's brown grasses lean
listening for the old music.
Everywhere in the fields
are new green shoots--
their shouts so loud
old grasses hear nothing else.
Among tall stalks of new Spring grass,
spiders have already hung their shallow
dew-white dishes aimed out of the
Appeared in US1 Worksheets
DNA ARSON, O, SONORA, AND...
In this piece of the world's mind,
this dry desert cave, small, scant
particles (almost like
thought) will not be still,
will not behave. It is seed
they seek and seed they store,
but it is also more. It
is a breed of something purposeless-
something we can't see looking for.
What have you brought me?
At night in the deep black,
I don't care what you have brought
What have you brought me?
I become what you have brought me.
I don't care what you take away.
I become something other than what
you have taken away.
I do not care or celebrate.
In me, you
seek a celebration.
with only a rustle of grass stems
and cactus spines, with
clicks of saguarro's skeletal staffs,
with the sound of sun setting,
with the sound of sand cooling,
with dry pens, scurry-
ing uncle, ancestral pack-
rat still un-
sorts his store-unspoken,
sensed, senseless future-