Works in the Collection

A Taste of Olson

In Cold Hell, In Thicket
It Was. But it Ain't
This
Human Universe
A Foot is to Kick With
Call Me Ishmael
Projective Verse
Bagatto
The Moebius Strip
ABCs
A Lustrum for You, E.P.
La Preface

To Bet

 

IN COLD HELL, IN THICKET

 

In cold hell, in thicket, how
abstract (as high mind is, as not lust, as love is) how
strong (as strut or wing, as polytope, as things are
constellated) how
strung, how cold
can a man stay (can men) confronted
thus?

Language even is made bitter, words
are made to taste like paper wars, get tossed up
like lead soldiers used to be
(in a child's attic) lined up
to be knocked down, as I am,
by firings from a spit-hardened fort,
as we are, here, from where we must go

God, that a man, as his acts must, as there is always a thing
he can do, he can raise himself, he raises
on a reed he raises his

Or, if it is me, what
he has to say


1

What has he to say?
In hell it is not easy
to know the traceries, the markings
(the canals, the pits, the mountings by which space
declares herself, arched, as she is, the sister,
awkward stars drawn for teats to pleasure him, the brother
who lies in stasis under her, at ease, as any monarch or
a happy man

How shall he who is not happy, who has been so made unclear,
who is no longer priveleged to be at ease, who, in this brush, stands
reluctant, imageless, unpleasured, caught in a sort of hell, how
shall he convert this underbrush, how turn this unbidden place
how trace and arch again
the necessary goddess?


2

The branches made against the sky are not of use, are
already done, like snow-flakes, do not, cannot service
him who has to raise (Who puts this on, this dreaming of his flesh?)
he can, but how far, how sufficiently far can he raise the thickets of
this wilderness?

____________How can he change, his question is
____________these black and silvered knivings, these
____________awkwardnesses?

____________How can he make these blood-points into panels, into sides
____________for a king's, for his own
____________for a wagon, for a sleigh, for the beak of, the running sides of
____________a vessel fit for
____________moving?

____________How can he make out, he asks,
____________of this low eye-view,
____________size?

____________And archings traced and picked enough to hold
____________to stay, as she does, as he, the brother, when,
____________here where the mud is, hs is frozen, not daring
____________where the grass grows, to move his feet from fear
____________he'll trespass on his own dissolving bones, here
____________where there is altogether too much remembrance?


3

The question, the fear he raises up himself against
(against the same each act is proffered, under the eyes
each fix, the town of the earth over, is managed) is: __Who
am I?

Who am I but by a fix, and another,
a particle, and the congery of particles carefully picked one by another,

_____________as in this thicket, each
_____________smallest branch, plant, fern, root
_____________- roots lie, on the surface, as nerves are laid open -
_____________must now (the bitterness of the taste of her) be
_____________isolated, observed, picked over, measured, raised
_____________as though a word, an accuracy were a pincer!
_________________________________________________this
_______________________is the abstract, this
_______________________is the cold doing, this
_______________________is the almost impossible

_____________So shall you blame those
_____________who give it up, whose who say
_____________it isn't worth the struggle?

______________________________________(Prayer
_____________Or a death as going over to - shot by yr own forces - to
_____________a greener place?

______________________________________Neither
any longer
usable)

_______By fixes only (not even any more by shamans)
_______can the traceries
_______be brought out


II

ya selva oscura, but hell now
is not exterior, is not to be got out of, is
the cost of your own self, the beasts
emblazoned on you And who
can turn this total thing, invert
and let the ragged sleeves be seen
by any bitch or common character? Who
can endure it where it is, where the beasts are met
where yourslf is, your beloved is, where she
who is separate from you, is not separate, is not
goddess, is, as your core, is
the making of one hell

__________________where she moves off, where she is
__________________no longer arch

_____(this is why he of whom we speak, does not move, why
_____he stands so awkward where he is, why
_____his feet are held, like some ragged crane's
_____off the nearest next ground, even from
_____the beauty of the rotting fern his eye
_____knows, as he looks down, as,
_____in utmost pain if cold can be so called,
_____he looks around this battlefield, this
_____rotted place where men did die, where boys
_____and immmigrants have fallen, where nature
_____(the years that she's took over)
_____does not matter, where

______________________that men killed, do kill, that woman kills
______________________is part, too, of his question


2

That it is simple, what the difference is -
(that a man, men, are now their own wood
and thus their own hell and paradise
that they are, in hell, or in happiness, merely
something to be wrought, to be shaped, to be carved, for use, for
other

does not, in the least, lessen his, this unhappy man's
obscurities, his
confrontations

He shall step, he
will shape, he
is already also
moving off

___________into the soil, on to his own bones

he will cross

___________(there is always a field,
___________for the strong there is always
___________an alternative)
_________________________But a field
___________is not a choice, is
___________as dangerous as a prayer, as a death, as any
___________misleading, lady

He will cross

___________And is bound to enter (as she is)
___________a later wilderness.
___________________________Yet
___________what he does here, what he raises up
___________(he must, the stakes are such
_____________________________________this at least
___________is a certainty, this
___________is a law, is not one of the questions, this
___________is what was talked of as
___________- what was it called, demand?)

___________He will do, what he now does, as she will, do
___________carefully, do
___________without wavering,
___________without
_________________as even the branches
_________________even, in this dark place, the twigs
____________________________________________how
_________________even the brow
___________of what was once to him a beautiful face,

___________as even the snow-flakes waver in the light's eye

_________________as even forever wavers (gutters
_________________in the wind of loss)

_________________even as he will forever waver

_________________precise as hell is, precise
_________________as any words, or wagon,
_________________can be made