Two poems: “Ed Dorn Beside the Cloud of Unknowing” and “Fantasia”


Ed Dorn Beside the Cloud of Unknowing

His Collected Poems on my nightstand, so thick
that there’s room on the spine for his portrait,
his face, sardonic behind cheap sunglasses,
his life’s work shouldering the slim volume
by some anonymous monk who wisely guessed
that we could never apprehend the absolute.

I remember witnessing the poet read
at the bottom of a sloping lecture hall in Ohio,
thin scarecrow frame, wise face, wicked smile,
his Abhorrences crackling against the 1980s.

How we laughed with him, our dusty, dear uncle,
who spotted fellow-traveler poets in the crowd,
and threw down his stanzas like poker hands,
seeing the game and raising the stakes,
having flown down to our fields
of corn and Euclidean flatness,
to poke along the ground, find the hidden lever,
and release the wise secluded god
that waited, coiled and ready to spring
from his jack in the box.


after D.H. Lawrence’s Fantasia of the Unconscious

The Minotaur, traced in black,
recedes again into the lattice of brickwork.

The faces of our anthropomorphized city
smile and doze and glare around us.

There’s a paper bag in the wind,
downed like a newsreel partisan and craning

for one last look at retreat. White hovers over us,
the mise-en-scène of a swelter.

All along the wall by the sleeping garden,
fables of our ongoing compromise:

Limbs keening with the weight of age;
stalks curled, green and fetal in the mud.

We’ve always lived with the debris of the last age
and the next, ready for the day

when sleeping giants will rend and turn under us,
shaking the stones of our gothic certainty,

our idea of a street persisting through entropy and time,
one line drawn in faith through epochal dust.

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