The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2022

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SEPT 2022 Issue



One light across lake

In a steady state among trees

And another farther oranger like fire

Or car lights askew or a campfire

In high danger days surprising

Given the constant rain

That follows in sound like burners

Or blowers or fan far away a mower

Until up close identifiably thunder

Siphoning sound from a larger storm

More show than bite referred

By something like rain before rain

Like wind first rolling the water

As if to approach or push off

But long before that fear’s agenda

That something else will always happen


To conceive of a revolutionary project. . . to have a well-thought-out intention to transform the present in reference to a projected future – Bordieu

Across the street they are taking down my neighbor’s house who two years back before he went
had spent his days raking the asphalt picking up leaves and smoking a cigarette beside the hedge
filling a van for disaster relief; and twice each year waving it off to the Port of NY from there to
hedge his bets to Haiti raking it in for months at a time; to give. Then the wife who was also a
mother went who died I remember lifting her fist to God against him leaving the son my friend in
the muscular heat of shoveling snow the dumpster now filled with the elements. He had been
working at Walgreens managing as he always had and when I went in waiting to speak in the aisles
had suddenly seemed to have been replaced by a series of men who had come up behind him and
my own kids their mystery generation snow on snow

This grinding work that begins with a massive cleansing of goods hurled from the windows; the
windows ‘shut’ though there is no glass and the dumpster parked for the first locked-down months
by the barren rose of Sharon. First it was barely winter then barely spring then barely summer
masked and unmasked en masse all barely following fall and a silence following then that meant the
money had run out or the border was closed the project abandoned. But then in droves the
demo team that has not given up even now had pitched the roof from the roof and then last week
the siding, and today the lath so that I can see for the first time studs and the layout of rooms
where for years the hostile takeover of one by the other’d occurred though none within the
surrounding streets was any the wiser nor now as to who is directing this work nor why now. It
doesn’t seem like a government of fixed terms nor like a coup exactly has occurred though as
tearers-apart and spectators gather on site it’s hard to know and hard to approach without fear of
snow that one false move could cost an arm and a leg above the asking price and that all moves
from now furthermore seem false.


Look, the house is almost ready. It is almost mine, not by my coveting but by reflection upon the
well of empty space/territory between our houses, rich with color toward sunset, still hot with sun
yet tempered/ing, molten; the frame, stronger house is stronger than it was in days past, two days
before; is a cage for introspecting. By tomorrow there will be locks on the doors and it will
assume its station on the cross-street, placed among the numbered state of things, (ordered by)
maps and surveys, tax rolls and taxing census taking, while mine will assume the oblique social
isolating view again, these days of observing a thing apart recessed in dreams. Reconstruct them.
One holds more devils than vast hell can hold. Remembering the days before the remodeling. Or
was it a renovation? Who’s to know. Remember these days as well.


The priceless painting, the car, the kids, the award
The pizza, the bedside table, the etudes
The nocturne, the delivery, the car
The actor, the theme, the patient, the examiner
The location, the experience
The longform email, the iphone
The expectation that is set when Jon says:

In the linguistic context it will be Liz’s turn
But in the world it is not;
She will respond within the length
Of the pause after his utterance
Like a tree in fall holding onto a space

For the unusual pause length in the third,
“I’m gathering my thoughts” might serve as a cause
The lack of completion forming a separate cause
Of the content in the following:

You’re a great cook, I love your lasagna
You should probably get home to feed the cat
The maxim of relevance violated
The infelicitous violates
And changes the topic, the lack of speaking
In violation of quantity, the maxim:

She must make her contribution of words
As informative as required by
Not speaking at all or she threatens her positive face
Undermining his desire to be seen
A desire apparent in his first utterance
A thinly veiled request to be validated
(‘thinly veiled’ = threat)


Julie Agoos

Julie Agoos is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Echo System (The Sheep Meadow Press, 2015), and a new manuscript, Stateless. She is a Professor of English and coordinator of the MFA Program in Poetry at Brooklyn College/CUNY, and lives in Nyack, NY.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2022

All Issues