Brandon Shimoda

THAT ANYONE COULD PAINT A FEELING IS MIRACULOUS. That anyone could paint a complex feeling is miraculous. That a painting possesses the inverse rate of effect as a molten body in "outer" space, reaching us only as an extenuated situation born out of an original—distance greater than the sum of lives, with no appreciable gap …

It would be difficult to argue the equivalent value of the distance between, for example, a peasant on break from baling hay, and the passerby who has no understanding of either the labor or the representation. The painting never dies—might lapse into hermitage, but never really burns out. Destiny and charm—success—legacy—annihilate the thing under their intensity.

The painting has no life of its own, but given a topical virtue, culminates in secondary labor—a star seen, a primary dishonesty. Couldn't the same be true for a similar body as rendered in paint? I will never be as those I leave behind, for leaving me—light given off by the mirage of a flame. The light is an honesty—gives, as it is honestly given—though from a dishonest value upon it. The painters are dead, the novelist is a clown—the writer cannot help its daily compulsion. The poet is envied by the writer, and if the poet is not, it is because the writer is not a writer, but a clown. The painter is envied by the poet, and if the painter is not, see above. Distance is a requirement to convey the bald heroisms from the mouth of the branch to the terminal leaf—distance a necessary length. Paintings are soft, and so we are sympathetic—and how characteristic! Paintings are sharp—we require their after-bears in order to praise them—so we are superficial—in such competition as to stir a convulsion within eyes measuring the mass of ourselves. A small tree on which a yellow circle would be nice.

I receive a portion of what is meant, though am fueled by the portion—remainder—I do not understand—this, my winter dwelling. That feelings can be rendered in chemicals is nothing less than extraordinary—that water can render the solemnity of a life, as well as the mission undertaken. I think America should go back to something like where you buy something and instead of throwing away the sack you wear it …

And yet, the poet cannot help its deplorable fitness, and best be loose of any gender—the first distance to be collapsed. There can no longer be any male or female poets.

I LIVE LIFE IF NOT FOR IMPROVEMENT THEN FOR PROVING I AM NOT LIVING—a skeletal wig moving slow through tapering lines, possessing creation straight to the empress—without being actual, I am determined to watch the wig disappear into deified buck, as it might in white smoke, this is crucial.

Fewer and fewer reasons not to have the least visible movement graven to my sight, for the skeletal wig to reappear in pulp offerings near to me, ceremonies stuttering nearer to me—pertaining white smoke against the rays of a small park—discarded produce like tongues, nine levels of imperfection attached to the crew wanting others to join, if oblique—the foundation given over to three selves defecting the long slope from lighting pyres of meat yellow mothers lovingly watch.

When I was young, I was plugged in to the dense hunt of a small blind—rad, with pectin lanterns, standing agents reflecting while rocking the concentrated bath of the sun—white cheeks on black heads, kin to the prospect of spotting the self in a great tit—enamored so pleasantly kindred to hatred—hating the same things as those dearly departed, those who ought to be—future selves as illustrative impressions of embodied desires on the furrows of princes, no matter how many amenable mouths are fed tortillas and beef, you can’t always get what you want.

I strive and slide against the slope, echoic ceremony sounds
The near distance. I don’t have any ambitions, beyond
Writing the best that I can, hopefully
Continuing to do that
Indefinitely. When it reappears, will it? When it disappears, where will it feel itself
Most fully
In memory—in memory
Every variation of myself standing in the window, scrawled as white smoke
Against a gray sky
To keep the skeletal wig from drifting too far out of view
Of what is accessible, what is immediate—what can be completed
By youth, unrankled by ambition
Let it bank softly against what is drawn. Let the drawing catch up to it

ONE DAY, FINDING MYSELF AT THE DEATHBED OF A WOMAN who had been and still was very dear to me, I caught myself in the act of focusing on her temples and automatically analyzing the succession of appropriately graded colors which death was imposing on her motionless face—CLAUDE MONET

A medium trip—a walk—down an irrigation canal, well maintained, cement walls holding, not growing through with marigold, for example—culminating in the backyard of a woman building a monument to Monet—building the precise conditions needed for Monet’s paintings to be painted again, and again by Monet, as if expected, and game for such chore.

In between, a man loses half of his foot. Reattachment makes him a monster.

It is raining. Fireflies are everywhere, illuminating corners blowing around the body. Small lanterns press into earth, small lanterns driving rain. Fungus growing harrows, binding ruts keep them visible. A lantern above my head, a body bearing six tentacles, five of equal length, one powerfully long—consciousness—looking down at me—regarding the stare of its ebony lake—inside rotating a brain. How to make motion without the ability to speak, but slide along every flush of wind? I once wrote something that finally got away from me—made no move of wanting to be reclaimed—a small body of feral writing, in poison, reappearing as a transmutation down the canal, having traded itself for a collar of spirituality. I am skeptical first of myself, then every skin I’ve shed, but how to distinguish that? I spent the bulk of the dream walking along the irrigation canal, entrusting myself to the dispassionate woman who made no mention of art, or modern life, though that was where she was leading us.

WATER LILIES ARE NO SPUR FOR DARKNESS—Their color is far too polished.

The studio was elevated above the pool, in plywood, well, she said. The windows could not accommodate any of the marsh elements—one can only work within a saccharine environment, if everything is already wrong for being perfect.

Where is anyone supposed to live? Still, we get pretty far by walking.

To be alive feels sufficient
Then of a sudden it feels perfectly insufficient
To feel alive … To rise and rise again
And again … And rise
Again … And again rise
To attend to what is offered … Which is often
Nothing … Though
Neither withdrawn but
Growing … The nothing is growing
Growing something without benefit
Time elapsing so humbly between
As to be purely insignificant
And there

I listen for you, where I cannot look without seeing the screw of the well ripping through the air, I stand on ground that curls over a ledge, I roll my foot over the curl, underneath the ledge is a lake, the lake is shallow who wants to be dead, the season will change, I will not, the season will be a year ahead, I am still looking for redress, therefore was, and listen, for you, where I fear you might multiply to drown out the company of people, but I don’t like people, and either way memorialize the moment before it has even advanced

Every moment yields a discovery for one not paying attention
I have a knife, a small knife, for such moments

EVERYTHING WANTS TO BE PRESENT FOR—outside of any cynicism or doubt—conditions being different—event—modest—golden—white thoroughwort fruiting—chalk upon a pedestal, vamping primrose, composite as host vacuum—ribbon run out of a heathen, thoroughwort socializing with outnumbered primrose—the season’s final luxury, campaigning—long, laddering—concealing the genuine article. That is the wonderful lapse—predators on the cold side of the creek. When a lapse occurs in the flow of thoughts, the ear and eye must become the presiding brain. But when both ear and eye are compromised by layers of incurious stimuli, silence must be engendered—it is true—a rank preoccupation, with no basis in any rigorously governed concern, but a way to fit a dome upon an overgrowing SUPERFORTRESS.

The writer was a stranger then. He told me about the day he brought his young son to the woods, to visit the superfortress. They laid down on the stones, and looked up through vines into the canopy. He started crying—not in the telling, but in the visiting—and what was it about that visit that upset him? Having the true and feeling spirit lift from the encumbered body for a moment as incited by a crossing of moments lived, lives broken to accommodate that crossing—that the woods and the superfortress were the crossing of a juvenile pain, with the adult impulse to return to that site as a gift shared with a child—that is yours—the gift being that the child might inherit and dispel the original pain. When it seems urgent, at least natural, to get fully behind an elemental occurrence, or a stirring of an element, without ever pausing to take that occurrence in, or pay it any mind, that is the tropic advance of poetry, for which the poem is the attention deficit.

I was listening to the writer speak, and felt tremendous empathy. The floor we were standing on raced away, concentrating the circle of our conversation. Words were everywhere about us acquaintances. Death was waiting in the form of art—the prevailing accent as daunting as running over sixty-five years prior, there, sentient crowds gathering limbs and necking bark. I took the writer’s crying for my own.

Peace for the world is best delivered as a memory, and so makes sense—strikes—the origins of the superfortress.