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We Who Live Here See Air

the shapes it takes in other air, clarity
partial potential

peaks often snow-covered the mountain
never its own color of air

over the air the dark of invisible

the shapes of air are many I collect
them all, my small hobby

here are approaches for
the nonlinear analysis of

for example
mountain air radiant

a study of cloud as boundary

geometric and equilibrial relations
in explicit closed forms

variations on cloud, condensate forming
its own skin—the edge of cloud

above a mountain-shaped mass
with snow which formed then fell through its own

cloud is one kind.



Privacy privileges an inside. We are social creatures we are
told. Words get out, outside, and when our mother began
her disease she knew the difference, inside versus outside.
Deprived, she spoke even when eating, when she could eat.
Then she could speak but not swallow so a hole was made in
her where food could go in. Then she could no longer speak
but when I visited she wrote things on a notebook she carried
with her always. Always I carried a notebook too but she could
hear so I did not write. She wrote but then her hands shook
and then she did not write and did not eat and did not leave
her house her room her bed and there is a kind of breathing
called Cheyne-Stokes which she did which was a sign the
boundary between inside and outside was growing firmer,
sharper and then the breathing stopped. Her last note I kept
I have been trying to decipher. I know some of the words.


At Henri Michaux’s

                        I told him how much I envied him for this
            silence. He interrupted me: From time to time I hear
            a child. That’s normal, I said to him without thinking.
            Excuse me, he cut me off once again, it’s not at all
            normal. It would be normal if I heard a tiger, not a child.
                        Mircea Eliade, Journal II, 21 July 1961

To celebrate sound and silence we have
fabulous friends and fable is a sound especially
at night with light reflecting off the page.

They do sleep some nights and hear only
distantly the cries tigerish of territory.
If I cry myself I show sincerity
of the child not the tiger. Sincere tiger
startles. I sleep soundly
through silence but awaken with a start.


Geometry meant measure
of the earth itself not distant silence
before flayed earth naked turned

abstract as any continuous curve
as in words stretched: tense, tendon,
tenet, tent, tenor, tender, pretend
all that in space extended
hypotenuse tenure in time, too. Sounds
of a child in the night is natural

a cry having lost his toy her toy
a stuffed tiger a doll a dearness
under duress. This in the night


under the linens a lining
so-called “bed-clothes” in which to wrap
and sleep a self a me

involved: the circling sounds
or lines out of sight I thought
I heard the told the telling
driving north to south entire
continental the words wore
out, no, driving Prudhoe Bay

to Ushuaia (the terminus
was Buenos Aires when as a child
I heard first the story of the highway

some engineer’s dream) Line lingers
lingery lingerie, but I meant
a dream of driving whole continents
contiguous continuously
toying out the time.
A dream is dreary a drive

in the night with tigers passing
jungled beyond the windows
the cheering sounds of sounds of

celebrate that. Earth. I live here.
I am abstract. Outrageous.
I cry and cringe. Tiger and Toy. Child.


Margery Kempe and the Questionings

Later a lesser cleric came to her to ask what words
she would recommend for one so humble, so pointless.

She replied: mine is not the body, my disagreeable need. Persist at risk. Do as you     will.

He said: Too many words. I am small and all.

She said: Increase, multiply. The smallness of one
becomes two, then four, eight, sixteen, thirty-
two of you

and the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast—your pets will    tremble,
your livestock will flee—and neither air nor water
will hide them. Into your well-toothed mouth
they will scamper

and your anguish will require their blood.

And then Margery Kempe stopped speaking
to the lesser cleric with a shameful hunger

who had no Latin, no Greek, no books.
“Banish” is a curious word. To summon. To curse.


Random Walk (Central Limit Theorem)

She grew there, up, among plants
and images, insects, sex, and such.
Animals to serve her, here, served

a mind most attached, to be attached—
look how lovely love is, the humidity
and the shape of the leaf (sword shape)

and the shade it cast, palmetto. If I
could I would bring “green” into the poem.
five hundred and ten nanometers

right in the middle of the visible spectrum.
Specter. The green of palmetto darkened
with depth into the swamp she waded

into a kind of danger not very but still
there were snakes and sex, insects
and there was the growing to do.

Those leaves, those palmetto fronds
would wave in wind, would cut flesh.
Kepler was the first to use “focus”

for a geometrical shape, the spot
where rays come together, as sun
focused into a fire hazard by boys

around ant beds. Her adventures
were bucolic, leisurely, greenly
gathering among wildlife

and an occasional orchid (a keen
eye needed to find it, but there
it could be), curious testament.


Going Without, Saying

A magnet might erase—erasure as reversible—I
played with magnets watched one spin when
held against the other north to north like repels

it is light—there is light now visible—no
night is going, elsewhere—a shadowy not self

in the morning light a morning glory
morning face insects to dine there, thereon—slenderer
messages sent against fasting far ranging
arranging daylight against green of grass and all

when I see the flower stem bend with the weight
of the bee I know what to believe every
emperor clothed the shell of the thing flies
from the thing into the eye is belief. My eye.



Light moss along the north
   sides the trees boy scout lore
      the handbook the brilliance

these trees nearby mines
   abandoned arsenic, zinc,
      cadmium, copper,

Peru Creek, seven
   thousand abandoned mines
      Animas River devoid

cast out all aquatic life
   I do not know this
      I am a visitor

you loved me once
   anyway, left a little
     for the next in line

but looked only up to
   the sky when the sky
      was its blackest

and polished telescopes
   fiddled with settings
      photographed Jupiter,

photographed Mars and
   stars amid galaxies
      spinning like hard drives

spinning like wheels within
   wheels, problems of distance and time
      offering problems of reason and rhyme

looked and liked it and claimed it:

“We find that the differences in the hour
are proportional to the distances between
the places[of observation]. Hence one can                    Ptolemy
reasonably conclude that the earth’s surface                Mathematika Syntaxis
is spherical because its evenly curving                           Book 1
surface (for so it is when considered as a
whole) cuts off [the heavenly bodies] for
each set of observers in turn in a regular fashion”

First among equals we

will deal with body last
   because it has a surface, is first
      to know its own shape

like a breast which yields
  when asked by mouth
      the mouth and leaking breath

a tongue which takes a shape
   of an interior (think water)
      the lips and teeth and lungs,

alveoli, larynx, sphenoid sinuses,
   secret, silent adolescent . . .
      those who search the mouths

of lovers for something
   with the tongue, a Braille un-
      translatable, unlearned

others who listen in the night
   for the dream speech
     of the beloved who answer,

to become one in her dream,
   trying to trap her there
      one will open eyes as if

to force a seeing, a sight
   to force it into the brain
      to take a shape of thought

which is not yet thought, does
   not belong to lovers
      is no one’s tool or toy

or task, a last prime
   among the mysteries
      so much smaller so

divisible by itself and one
   but the Frenchman said
      if you laugh

it is because you are afraid;
   if you are afraid it is
      spring and floral;

fear has a botanical component
   Frenchmen fear flowers
      while Americans fear

minerals, heavy metals, flow
   of their own effluvia down
      stream land of little-leafed

flora; she was afraid
   to ask for details, for
      explanations of flowers near.  


Bin Ramke is the author of eleven books of poetry, most recently, most recently Theory of Mind: New and Selected Poems (Omnidawn, 2009) and Aerial (Omnidawn, forthcoming spring 2012). In 1978, his book The Difference between Night and Day received the Yale Younger Poets Award. He teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Denver and edits the Denver Quarterly.