In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Four Prose Poems
  • Rosmarie Waldrop (bio)

Conversation 9 On Varieties of Oblivion

After bitter resistance the river disappears into the night, he says. Washes the daily war out into tides of wounded dream. I know no word to dive from, the dark so dense, so almost without dimension, swallowing the sounds back into eclipse while making love to my body. Fish smell travels the regions of sleep, westward like the dawn. Then I wake, too early to bring anything back, unsure of what I want, terrified I’ll fail to seize it by a hair.

We need a grand decor for oblivion, she says. But the sea takes all with equal tenderness. As the past does. Already it suffuses the present with more inclusive tonalities. Not constraining it in melodic sequence, but setting a rooster next to the silence that molds my words. Or injured flesh. Impersonal. Only an animal could be so.

An avatar of the holy ghost, he chuckles. Or the angel of the annunciation beating his wings against a door slammed shut. Behind it, love already plays the organ. With or without him. He is invisible because we have rejected his message.

On old photos, she says, I see a stranger standing in my skin. As if an apple could fall too far from the tree. Yet she is called my past and functions as near-certainty. The way some beliefs are exempt from doubt, are as it were the hinges on which my doubts and questions turn. So that I seem the same to you while I’ve already moved through the next door. From left to right. [End Page 63]

Conversation 10 On Separation

My separation from the landscape started even earlier, she says. In my mother’s mirror, which staged dialectic and confused my instincts. There are few trains in the thick smoke, the run-down station, more waste of grain, more images lost. I carry a mirror in my cortex, but cannot inhabit my womb. Or the silence that is the matter between parts of speech.

A pebble in an eddy, he says, reveals the course of the current. Sometimes it’s a small difference that makes our closeness arch, for a moment, into a solid vault, a space thick with birdsong and green sun. Then it again slips through my fingers. I search for a word, and nothing exists but the gap beckoning me to some strange horizon without event.

Only out of body could we be out of the panic of time, she says. Momentarily bracket it maybe, in illness, degrees of withdrawal. But hours reproduce, days go by consumed by heat, the flimmer above the lake. I can’t distinguish gravity from other distortions of space, or sign from symbol. My sense of time begins six billion years ago, when the fish stretched their fins onto dry land though the sea groaned in their belly, or forty, with breasts and monthly bleeding. The now always already darkening, the way a sentence anticipates the period it will stiffen in.

The galaxies avoid collapsing onto each other by virtue of their recessional motion, he says. Father and son walk away from the bed in opposite directions. But sweat clings to our names, the secretions of closeness. As if we were submerged in one and the same sleep. If I withdraw into more impermeable regions, your shadow grows. All respiratory passages lead to you. As if you were the certainty the game of doubting presupposes. The niggling voice of death. [End Page 64]

Conversation 11 On Depth

It would take more than a pebble, she says, to sound your undertones. Something slips away as you speak, tense with life, like a startled beast in the woods. Is it a lizard, snake, or unused thought that runs alongside your words, while the rustling vines close over the trace of flight?

Isn’t this a case, he says, of deep breathing pulled into spasms of interpretation the way children are pulled into the future by the very gravity of their innocence. And with a speed unlimited by the young space. The joints between future and present swell and sweep apart whole galaxies, but even the...