THERMOS 6: Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison’s books have, in the singular and in total, been among the most generous and important works of poetry I’ve read in the past decade. That she’s co-publisher of one of the most impressive poetry presses in operation, Omnidawn, and a tremendous advocate for poetry generally, makes me all the more grateful for her presence. These five poems, from a collection titled “Ill-timed,” first appeared in our spring 2011 issue. The titles are quotations from Maurice Blanchot. — AS


“an enclosing that leaves one utterly exposed”

The illness has no color, but to accept it as my illness,
this is white.

Photograph on my bathroom wall: a white horse on a white hill
in an evening of shadows
I’m always living through,
and always on the verge of living.
And have never lived, never understood.

Let my illness be a measure of the depth—but not the element itself—
that I wade through.

Years later, says the horse’s eye
when I take its expressionless stare
as my own
mirrored in the framer’s glass
and watch myself walk back into the kitchen, and pour my coffee,
and make a list of what is needed.

“to formulate the fear of disaster still implies a faith in the future”

                The grocery store, the checkbook, the eight anxious people in line behind me, the aggrieved clerk, the pen that he offers me but I will not take—how many people today have used that same pen? How susceptible has my illness left me today? The rudeness of my not accepting his pen
                closes its eyes, like a cat that does not turn its face toward the sound of its name.
                I cannot explain. My quiet is chronic. I will find my own pen at the bottom of my purse. This will take some time.

“the disaster always returns, even as a silent, harmless return, whereby it dissimulates itself”

                It’s not my hand that signs my name, but the talent within my hand for navigating—with each turn and loop back, with each twist and dive—
                my history, which I don’t see, but that my signature must fit around and between, in order to take its ground.
                Today’s signature, from the first downward drive of the ‘R’, is digging in deep today. On its way to China. Knowing there will be no China. No grave either. The body of my signature must lay itself bare, entirely exposed in the open air.

“in the midst of absence, everything speaks”

A woman has fallen down, right here, inside me. But I need to think it through before offering to help.

“it is not disaster, but repetition that destroys the present”

    When I look at an object—here is my new pen—do I see it
or only the constancy of its movement, with me, through time?
    Is it the coincidence of our equivalent temporal speed
that makes an object appear more quickly to me when I look for it?
    Maybe I only lose objects in my house, in my purse, in my life,
that accelerate into the future at a slower or quicker rate than I do.
    Maybe objects won’t remain comfortably in the present to me because of
a disparity in our situational relation to infinity.
    Nonetheless, the objects most important to my survival might be
those I can’t easily see,
    those that don’t simply duplicate, and thus let me ignore, the rate
of the present’s disappearance from me.

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