Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Land of Nod

Happy Sunday, friends.  Apologies to fans of the long-running Photo of the Week series—the way this week went down, I simply don't have a photo for the blog.  What I do have is a new poem!  & I'm pretty excited about that, because the last poem I wrote prior to dates back to early May.  This new poem—#4 in the following sequence—was written yesterday.  Since the other poems in the sequence appeared on the blog back in the spring, I'm taking the liberty of posting the sequence as it now stands for the sake of context.  Hope you enjoy them!

The Land of Nod #1

nighttime busy as a ship the stars frozen the
radio signals crackling along a north wind an
orange teddy bear ditched beside the highway in

April—in the middle of life under a eucalyptus—
you must excise all the connections—in the middle
of life in a sodium light spotlight, the moon’s

fingernail, the porch on Myrtle Street its
chipped paint railing & clothesline—nighttime busy as
a semi truck on a 6% grade a sheet of

particle board a  toy cat’s porcelain
face with inscrutable grin, in a sepia photograph a
gin bottle in the mirror—in the middle

of life on interstate 70 west of St Louis the gas tank
leaking—a rope hammock above the
blue blue crocuses its dreams decomposing:

there was a guitar with f-holes an
N-scale train depot, a wind-up toy duck
dressed like a clown on a trike but

wound down—a fire escape in green streetlight glow—
nighttime busy as a ship off the Oregon coast a
frozen light in blackness between dreams

The Land of Nod #2

the molecules congeal the molecules dis-
sipate, The Seven Samurai black-white-gray on TV in
a Bozeman Comfort Inn—you’re learning exhaustion’s alphabet

one cup of coffee at a time—steam from a Vicks vaporizer—
another Silver Surfer comic book, magenta &
gray splayed across a card table’s diamond veneer in-

lay—you are floating between your body’s past &
what’s to come several inches above a green
upholstered sofa, the molecules

congeal the molecules dissipate—a spiral
notebook covered with doodles of your name &
geometry’s leftovers—a grandfather clock with wooden

gears & lead weight—you are floating between
solid & air like a bright yellow school bus
in November flurries—short of breath in an Astoria

courtyard in March drizzle—an oxygen concentrator’s
lugubrious sigh in murky hours—an
espresso machine huffing between the poem’s

syllables on Valencia Street on an evening pungent as
licorice—you are learning exhaustion’s alphabet
floating gray between your body’s dimensions

The Land of Nod #3

fractured sunlight in a strange
land helter-skeltered in yellow wind:
black umbrella, white paper box kite, a

fistful of goldenrod, an email arriving thru
ether any given Sunday—an array of
things that may in fact be hopeless: a

pink inflatable Easter bunny nodding in yellowish
breeze beneath a pine beside the highway—
where are you going—fractured sunlight

a plate of toast, the the silver-yellow
clouds to the east, the lies you told yourself—
an array of things: a packet of Carter Hall

pipe tobacco—you are always awake—
laundry shaking on a rope clothesline in
yellow gusts & lies you tell yourself a-

mong thin air & fragments—anxious
rib cage, a box kite’s pine frame
snapping when you don’t let it go

Land of Nod #4

a good place to be from—dead
cottonwood the century rose climbs—
are you in a good place now—a 

dogwood in traumatic blossom a-
cross the street from the ER—fear as-
cending rhythmic in work boots on stair treads—dead

cottonwood the century rose thorns in-
crementalize—a hospital gurney within gray branches—
a good place to be from—

green-yellow godawful
streetlights buzzing the scale of trauma’s
shining increments—a good place:

gray dead cottonwood treetop—an in-
cremental century rose—a night
without steps climbing up to it

Jack Hayes

© 2011 


  1. These are particularly nice, in that they evoke - in a moving pattern of detail and unfocusedness - some of the feeling i try for in my reflections photography. Excellent works.

  2. Hi Zen: Thanks for stopping by & commenting! & I'm flattered by the comparison to your excellent photos, flattered indeed. "moving pattern of detail & unfocusedness" is my forte :) Thanks again!

  3. You're BAAACK! (poetically speaking)
    So glad to see a new poem from you. I believe that means you're starting to feel settled enough to let the words flow. Excellent!
    This series is so good - melancholy, a bit dark and gloomy and so rhythmic. I can just feel the movement in it!


  4. Hi Kat: Thanks! Part way back--#4 did exist in fragments dating back from April--but I did have to assemble the fragments, get rid of those that didn't work & add new ones. I have a manuscript of an awkward length--30 pages, too short even for a chapbook at least on lulu. I think I'll be looking at some other fragments that are kicking around, as that's a good way to get back into it. Yes, these date from a dark & gloomy time.

  5. Good to see your surreal freeewheeling creative juices are flowing!

    I've never thought to ask: Do you go out and read your poetry?

  6. I hope the answer to that question in part 4 is yes. At least I hope you're in a better place now than the place these poems were coming from. A good place to be from, as you said. I'm interested in this century rose, although I don't know what sort of rose it is and no-one on google wants to tell me, and its progress up that dead cottonwood. The way it moves from climbing the tree to "incrementalizing" it. The word takes the growth of the rose right out of the world of natural processes and into some other sphere. It's a data processing word, isn't it? It comes across that way, anyway, and lets the way the poem is processing the data it circles around and around break through the surface of the words. The pattern is familiar from the observations in spring Ghazals but seems more insistent in The Land of Nod 4, which breaks in style even from the first three poems in the sequence. The word "incremetalize" slips back to "trauma's increments" and the incremental growth of the rose, that is, back to natural world, but that intrusion of the jargon of another world has done its work and we are aware of the way the poet is moving us, in small, sometimes barely noticeable steps, to a different understanding of the scene. I'm very impressed. But I'm always very impressed with your work. I hope your work with these fragments is moving you in increments toward entirely new things from your new life.

  7. Hi Dominic & Mairi

    Dominic: Thanks! Yes, I used to read a good bit both when I lived in San Francisco & when I lived in Charlottesville. In general, I think I'm a good reader of both my own & other's poems. I haven't done anything since I left San Francisco--had made some plans to do something in Idaho this past summer, but those fell thru for reasons both obvious & not so obvious. Perhaps I'll do something like that out here, tho IRL, as we say, I'm thought of as a musician these days, not a poet.

    Mairi: Thank you for your wonderful, generous reading. The rose is a real plant, as is the cottonwood--however much everything else in the poem is unstuck in time & place. I know Eberle referred to the specific rose plant that was climbing a (mostly) dead cottonwood in the backyard in Idaho as a "century rose." I'll ask her about it. I as a real person am most definitely in a better place in all sorts of spiritual & emotional senses--the "you" in this poem is a bit more complicated. I wondered how much of a disjuncture happened in this fourth poem from the first three. If you see this comment, do you think the disjuncture is jarring? Thanks so much!

  8. After a reading of all four, I love best "exhaustion's alphabet" and "dogwood in traumatic blossom."

    As a progression, the first two feel like a heavy night settling in and weighing down the soul; the third is the way an insomniac might feel at dawn; and the fourth is a kind of painful release, like cracking apart under a strain, but this gives a kind of freedom too because in the process of coming apart people can feel more alive than they have in months. And there's the hope that they can reassemble themselves into something that works better for them.

  9. Hi HKatz: Thanks so much! I appreciate your careful reading of the poems so very much!


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