Thursday, January 28, 2016


From Caledonia

Ron Silliman

A blank page is an angry page. Or one so quiet that you can’t hear it think. It slithers noiselessly toward you through the notebook. Someday all of this will be done by typewriter. I stood on the library balcony, the sun barely up, proclaiming Milton to a grove of trees. The one here is captive, shorn of its roots, festooned in baubles & blinking lights. Abu Ghraib is the origin of Christmas.  Five percent of the world population, one quarter of all its prisoners. Prehistoric hippopotamus dangling in a wire cage, atop which sits a giant squirrel, immediately beneath a glass Santa, a hot air balloon, the bust of King Tut. The Enamored Mage looks directly at you, frozen in paint. Or is it time & who decides exactly if these are the same or different.

In the fog, catalog. Airplane mode. No, that ringing is a new day, here too soon. Winter forest, subdued palate. Streaks of road salt half-melted on the walk.

The dream breaks upon waking. Clicking one’s heels in canvas, Kansas. Now the furnace greets me with its heaving breathing. That frightened little boy who never turns around so that I can see his face. Everything is black & white but when I rise it’s still snowing. This white is different because it’s real. I wonder where the fox lives.


A blank page has always been your friend, singing or weeping so softly that nobody else can hear it as you glide past. I see it in the photo John Sarsgard took, my face (so difficult for me to look at) filling the entire frame. My dead grandfather blinks in the mirror. A jar of macadamia nuts, a bar, no a fragment of unfinished chocolate. A car my brother would inherit, being the only other member of the family who could drive. The parking lot where Phil Liponovich saw the police closing in, so put the gun to his head. Certain events echo for generations. What if we’d moved to Calgary when we all had the chance?

A song of dead pens, fat flakes flat on the walk. A cell phone alarm in an otherwise empty room. Pots of tall ferns in a row, in front of the screened-off fireplace. Chinese junks in the global harbor. That century haunts us still, as does the one before. He’d come home drunk & all his sisters would lock themselves in their rooms. The weight of all my dead. Sun upon snow. The same few sentences in different combinations, over & over. What then? All those photos of dead parents, yet on top of it all, beside that clock that never ticks, a row of carved seabirds, dowitchers, gulls, outsized killdeer, all from the driftwood of Nova Scotia.

Words whisper, clatter, cluster in the back of one’s brain until, waking, one gathers them, rowdy as school kids at recess, into song. That light before sun’s light, trees emerging from the wood, versus the last glow of dusk. The way night swallows these small porch lights. The tree, half stripped of ornaments. The morning paper, which I’m more apt to read online, resting in the driveway in a plastic bag. The recycling basket / bucket upside down in the snow, already emptied of all sport.

Dysphonia index: wrestling squirrels tumble over the roof. What my tea mug is doing there among the driftwood. Those strings that cling to the meat of the banana. Aromatherapy means that this lotion I spread across the vast freckled expanse of your back is scented with orange & ginger. Dear Rimbaud, you punk. The last ornament on the tree is its crown. Glock like a man, my sun (not a typo). Typical whatever. The distance from me to my middle name. I moved to the far side of the couch, just to avoid shadows. This house is never silent, even when I am. Count your thoughts but don’t think them.

The stars before dawn seem sharpest, visible thru the leafless winter canopy. A cold sun will not melt all this snow. This I know, tho what knowledge is appears more difficult to comprehend. I stare at my hands, which have known always how to grab & hold, how to ball themselves into fists. Before I even knew my name. I wanted to write mane, which I have not had in decades. Although if I close my eyes the feel of it still lingers. Someone up the hill is attempting to plow out. As if the cry of gulls & crashing waves made for a less onerous alarm. Each word is an alarm, exploding in the head.

T’ain’t no jive (DSM-5). The top of the reservoir almost entirely iced over (moon illumines the snowy wood). This know he would not, knot. Yoyo Yoda dada. I no longer recognize Volvos nor Volkswagens at a distance. Gentle vibration of a small aeroplane overhead. Felt in the jaw, cheekbone, teeth. All of the ornaments boxed up, ready to go back to the attic. Upstairs, sleeping, a son has begun his 20th year.

Waking in winter. The signage on the runway changes with the movement of magnetic north. Year in which I have worn every sweater. Old circus alphabet. A spray of brain in the muddle of tune. From Django to Jimi. The furnace breathes on. At first all of this now appears almost blue, visible but not yet illumined. That 50° drop in temperature just to step out to fetch the paper. Add this to the tones of the Rolling Stones.

In 2015, Ron Silliman taught at Haverford College and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, he was a writer in residence at the Gloucester’s Writers Center, Gloucester, MA, and spent several weeks in the redwoods overlooking the Russian River pretty much where he spent his summers as a boy. Visit Ron's blog at:

1 comment: