The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

All Issues
SEPT 2023 Issue


You were saying

The detonation of the perpetual circuit remains the same
in a constantly recurring periodical displacement of mass
and the depth to which it penetrates, the latest or limiting
date derived from traces of language frequent on maps
of the Kingdom. White guys driving there to buy liquor
present themselves at once as the unmistakable results of
a step taken to avoid just inferences conjointly, then alone
one night, a turning point in the traffic flow that suggests
the west coast of Long Island, and Williamsburg replaces
Los Angeles, which, like San Fran/Greenpoint, hasn’t been
seen again, circumstantial at distances intimately connected
that deserve and probably require nonstop examination, an

academy of representation excited to the point of auroral
light, a silent discharge seen before a luminous arch, dive
bars abundant and the dark sky serene in waving sheets
accompanied by chemical alteration, as much as you like
mingled with black, shining far off in the darkness while
televised into that chain drugstore where you’d hoped to
pick up a prescription without having to leave, come back,
and run the week’s gauntlet of loss leaders a second time
(was that chili?) that corresponds to another great widening
from which fragments break off at distant points, a column
of smoke diverging on all sides, the ribs of an umbrella
that she opens not for shelter from rain but to disappear

onto the bright sand of the playa, still noon, and Greg
Sharits with handgun on roof downtown forcing a cop
into the shirt wilting temperature as they step through a
white blast, its configuration affording the best criterion,
“the mere wreck of a small breath” heard once or twice
as if by socks from which flimsy paper ankles are taken
to a shaded dining room, waves on the shore and sunlight
dazzle, a blue sky intense and the seething foam audible
despite traffic that’s shielded a brain tolerably well since
a few days after the retreat from the reservoir, his beard
glowing, a surface that does not betray what’s concealed
unless there’s someone to stop her, and no one here can.

Late show

They lived in Miraflores, he can’t remember the name
of the street, the number of the house, a block or two
from the British hospital where his brother was born.
That night, his father opens the door, sticks his head in-
to the room from the lighted hall, and says, voice tense,
“Thanks to the last stock market crash, a consequence of
U.S. imperialism’s hegemony in economies and politics
worldwide, this country experimented with a shameful
transformation of its social orders, a transformation that
each day tightens its hold and becomes more apparent.
What else do you think we waited for all these years?”
The door closes slowly, and he goes back to sleep, but
the dream doesn’t stay deep black, the way he likes them,
because Patty complains about Bill again, his drinking,
his drug taking, his willingness to live off his parents, no
mention of the accident, his good humor and generosity,
and I defend him as usual, wonder why she bothers, he’s
dead, though in fairness that doesn’t make any difference
to me either. “You think people change as they get older,”
I say, “but they only get bigger, and I suppose if you see
them through their faults to start with, they get worse too.
I don’t see Bill that way, never have. He’s a friend always.”
Whereupon she vanishes as his father had done, but without
closing the door, thereby modifying the texture of property
with no indemnification from monopolies like the old ones.
Alternative: credit gone, taxes higher, and unable to pay
next bite, ship out to Spain, listen to The Birthday Party,
shoot up in doorway across from restaurant near Ramblas.


After offices are flushed, we workers go home or
to a nearby bar, museum, or movie house that fills
the blanks left decades ago, last year, or yesterday.
A wind kicks up again, displacing our own weight,
edging purple between red and gold on a small pad.
She draws a man who looks down to bewilder herself,
turns stern if she isn’t altogether curable, her legs air
when the wave comes in, and how swiftly clouds travel
before fading away, information worth having after all

to serve a double purpose, the grip always equal to bulk
rounded upward unless held by young sailors who learn
to agree with her or not, admitting the impossibility of
a water line, tiers of promenades, a tangle of ventilators
that finish off the appearance, given a smile at the door
of solid green water, knocked senseless against pieces
better suited to an emergency than a fence around it that
prevents accidental falling but gives jumpers an advantage
until she’s sick of the tears he’ll have to sort out himself,

great patches of wet paintwork and the stages and ladders
of a headache she’s endured a hundred times before, the
stranger says, and now it’s too late, they can’t agree more
up and down walls instead of the floor, a sudden ceiling—
space wrong to start with and getting worse with the tact
of a diplomat, part of the canopy cleared, harbor grime
thick, they like to tell themselves, or that’s what she said
about the river’s street, narrow, then widening to the sea
and a period between flashes, either named, numbered, or

just small and tumbling for days of tossing waves before
they stay afloat again, the Cape Cod lighter, some paint
rubbed off, clear plastic turning yellow, as serviceable
as the first day he gave it to her, back when they both
smoked Luckies and none of their friends had cancer yet,
though Jim F hangs himself by mistake in a drinking barn
as the pictures fade and Ghoulardi steps into another flick
about today, front seat that night, yesterday a rowboat
from which they climbed, how far out the shifting flaw

they ignore as if casually in a torn stillness verging on
impatience most of the time, for the tale should unfold
like a summer tablecloth, white linen, from a chest they
hadn’t noticed, calling him to the woman on his arm,
done with land a while but not the steamed and chilled
Dungeness crab it took them two hours and a bottle of
Chardonnay to eat at That Place on Bellflower, right after
the Chardin exhibit, suddenly dark with light described
as death on the highway day or night, fog, broken rules,

and a wave of the hand half the time, just before lunch
on days spent waiting for letters to answer themselves.
He bets on a horse, buys a spread in the football pool:
what was once a major adventure is now an everyday
road atlas with a dozen alternative routes neatly marked
during light hours that won’t bother her as much as the
varnished circulating boy whose compositions break off,
in effect outlawed, a racket disliked by the orthodox, but
slowly, reverently, as the minister makes love to his wife.

Recognition’s simple for members who know the virtues,
faults, and diversity of free fall, with its manifold appear-
ance, the long graceful curves vanishing straight up, and
the sun, behind indexed figures, that gives them an idea
and successfully, much as mourners look back at a video
and realize that they’ve witnessed a raw wound of death,
not their own this time, but close enough to make the care-
fully chosen words cut deeply, in all directions, as friends
appear to listen and attention wanders during the sermon.

They come and go or stay more important than a standard
answer, the sea of discriminating faces, he tells his wife
after hours of activity imperiled by weather, an accidental
contact with every good looking girl who wants promotion,
and he thinks she’s not looking, so he balls up the empty
cigarette pack, misses a wastebasket five feet away, and
leaves it where it bounced to the carpet. Wait, she’ll check
the wall, no ceiling in sight, but the proportions haven’t
changed, she concentrates on the gigantic friction between

as ever, but aware as she hadn’t been, all those years ago,
added to, subtracted from, and generally complicated by
the improvements, developments actually, they have to be
away for anything like abstract to her, or so she’d like to
believe for as long as it takes her to get from where she’s
going to where she’d been, he’s there too, he’s here now,
and gravity’s pull on clear water, thanks to moon and sun,
the same floating a single chip of wood or the new QE2,
his mother searching for her lost wedding ring, worn thin,

as the great ship enters New York harbor in digital color,
not black and white and leaving for Callao, the Santa Rosa
fifty years before, platinum shiny and snug on her finger
and three minutes of film the height of a lighthouse seen
once in Olinda, Márcio must have had enough of Rio then,
half do, half don’t, their democracies enforced by poverty
even if they have jobs, wear nice clothes, and go clubbing
at night, the figures small in vast Cubatão those moments
they show at all, the dance music reverb makes everyone

hard to see, that’s the point, as it is of the naked concrete
hole in the bottom traveling downward, the tone of voice
always visible, even when close enough to swerve a bridge
from city to suburb, she says, fixed herself, even prevailing,
and Pete’s wife still at the register upstairs, crying softly
as she reads a widow’s memoir, invisible to clerks who
watch, at least those who haven’t turned away in respect,
routine on the afternoon shift, a relic of days and systems
likely to hang around the wreck until another comes along

but quiet now that he has misunderstood and confused
everything she told him, having heard it before, clearly,
then settled back to wait for the help he hopes is coming.
She puts her hand on the side of his waist, she’s novice
enough, and the change from the library is exhilarating,
when sudden intricacies of cotton, moist flesh, hair, spit
come first, last longest, her age the same as the number
of her apartment, so he’ll never know whether she told
the truth or not, about how old she is, she had no reason

for the work clothes drying on a wooden rack in a tub that
pushes him sideways then ahead, he expects light bruises
and a smile for breakfast, her eyes the shimmering gold
statues and uneven steps of rooftops standing against a sky
that opens clean bitter aromas. Grass drenched with dew
flows into the rippling sound of a fountain, great carp wait
beneath the pond’s surface under the pines, he’s forgotten
the Top of the Mark, and San Francisco, spread out below,
a bed of embers, São Paulo at night from the circling DC7.


Ron Horning

Ron Horning's poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Vanitas, and Blazing Stadium. His books include To Our Amazement and The Dante, the Tevere, the New Riviera. He lives in Beacon, New York.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

All Issues