Today's poem is by Lisa Olstein

Shimmer Here Shimmer


Remember the feel of the latch:
a group of organic habits, such
simple structures. In storm

storm makes sense of shelter.
Imagine living in a seashell,
shrinking enough to be contained.

By clear-eyed words can one
hear oneself close? The rote
of the sea, the roar of, the glint.

1. Simple Exercises for the Phenomenology of the Imagination

We begin to dream of nothing in the night.
This, then, is the main problem: to dream
of nothing in the night we are carried back

to the land of motionless childhood. What
a strange thing it is, fossilized duration.
We are never real historians. We once loved

a garret. Was the room a large one?
A matter for the biographer. The biographer
prepares his explosions in the theater of the past

to illustrate an instant's freezing. These
drawings need not be exact. What would be
the use? You would like to tell everything.

I have already said too much. In every country,
a house constitutes a body. Fear in the cellar.
In the attic, rats. The tiniest latch has remained

in our hands: names of things we knew.
Dumas is crying because Dumas has tears.
One very dark night set the waves.

Think of the road this way: what is more
beautiful than a road? Geographers are always
reminding us of an underground horizon.

Such a complicated geometry. Night dreams
just in front of me—of a hut, of a nest,
like an animal in its hole is a distant glimmer.

How many scattered wolves alone before god,
like fireflies, like so many invitations?
Now, still, we could start a new life.

2. The Reverse of the Function of Inhabiting

Housewifely, the housewife awakens
reaping an imaginary field. The house-test:
every morning every object a working draft,

a ready-made invitation to the mountains
to come back through the window. Airy
structure, long did I build you in the blue

incense of a red letter day. A flower
lived where we lived and called it home.
But the question is more complex than that.

The house remodels the man. The cell
of a body having been a refuge
becomes a cyclone. Between the notary

and the heir, the iron hooves of dream
geometry: later, always later, the house
of the future is better, a nest already

and when you are there you would
like to be. It's always like that.
The gesture of closing is briefer than

that of opening. In the tiniest of hatreds,
an animal filament, a sleeping insect
in its red night. Out the shadow,

show the hatchlings this dove was
a hospitable ark: a winged house
makes good flour from storms.

3. A Theorem of Infinite Space

All words do an honest job, the hurried
reader responds in passing. A slight pain,
a mild shock, the rudiments of a story.

This time in little mirrors stopped with sleep
a very white almond appears. Concepts
are drawers not open to just anybody

here and there in the brain, keepsake boxes.
There will always be more things in a closed
than in an open box. What good things are

being kept in reserve, objects friendship,
folded in the russet wood, between the flanks
of the wintry meadow? Objection

overridden, erudite minds lay in provisions,
an anthology of mechanized debates.
On page eighty of the twenty-sixth edition,

you touched what you were touching.
Sufficiently lavendered, under a button,
under a leather tongue, what soft words

cut the story short? Nothing more to
confess, every secret has its little casket.
In other words, a secret is a grave,

a casket is a dungeon as cold as
a police record we should also like to open.
A lock is a threshold, an invitation

to thieves. Well-guarded secret,
slender casket, the lock doesn't exist
that could resist these closing calls.

4. Architecture Is the Natural Habitat of the Function of Inhabiting

A rat in its hole, a rabbit in its burrow,
cows in the stable. But this is not
our subject. Autumn was there

so there is also an alas in this song.
A nest is a bird's house.
A nest is a hiding place.

An empty nest mocks its finder.
When we discover a nest it takes us back
to our childhood or, rather, to a childhood:

to the childhoods we should have had.
If we return to the old house as to a nest,
it is because memories are dreams.

In order to make so gentle a comparison,
one must have lost the house that stood
for happiness. Values alter facts.

Of the actual nest. We definitely saw it;
but we say that it was well hidden.
The nest we pluck from the hedge

like a dead flower is nothing but a thing.
A legend carries an invisible nest
to its utmost point. The nest is a point

in the atmosphere that always surrounds
large trees. A bird is a worker without tools.
The tree is the vestibule. The nest is

a bouquet. Would a bird build its nest
if it did not have its instinct for confidence
in the world? For the world is a nest.

Note: Each section of "Shimmer Here Shimmer" uses a corresponding chapter of Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space as an exclusive word bank; the composition process involved selecting and collaging short phrases into new combinations of syntax, meaning, and image.

Copyright © 2017 Lisa Olstein All rights reserved
from Gulf Coast
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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