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The Elephants

Whispering Vistas Apartments

Geoffrey Morrison

I. Whispering

“It would be nice getting better slowly. You could get a book then. There was a book in the library about Holland. There were lovely foreign names in it and pictures of strange looking cities and ships. It made you feel so happy.”

- James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

It looks like Knossos
yawning, column-strewn U
balconies brace-tight, white
sills crisping in the sun
set, insensate I

am already starting to lie.
This building has no
  other than 1044 College,
  I don’t live there.
I saw it turned to emblem
because that is what I do –
I can hardly move my head
transmuting dead people’s business.

They gave me money to do it I won’t stop,
or can’t.
Q: Did you go to College?
A: I went to U, and a U, and a U.

I am ready to turn gold into shit,
shit into words, words into
words start with the sea.

As a child Icrossed wires,
an old boat song became
“Red Cells in the Sunset”
  the purple sea foundered
like a broken vessel home
was called “Skyline.”
I was ready to
the sea –
we want it because we think
we won’t exhaust
what it is, or has.

It has given me something to look at.

A diver in antique paper:
out of the crumpled,
kerned, curlicued water,
my haul in a netted bag
thunking on the scarified bottom of
my turquoise motorboat.
I spooned open every rippled jaw,
kept every lettered moon my
criterion: frisson,

when you read this way, you wash out
the reef’s
cathedral, the fretworks of flesh

ocean freezes into lake-luster:
you shift it to fit what you need.

I was the wreck, diving.
(paraphrase: sinking)

If you stay down there too long,
you will die. If you stay down
slightly too long, you will come up
changed. I lined up the pearls on
my table, bored neat holes, threaded them
together, felt pretty,
felt ready to grey out.

Inspecting the capital rig
in history’s shifting bed
turbid work
known to be dangerous.
I want to stop the machine for good
without filling the sea with oil.

I feel for the points in the
dark that link with other points –

The sea is a notion paper is
a screen of notions
the staircase congests
with strata
residues –
a bicycle with flat tires
a pump
a nesting-box chives
Regency twins a balsa
a Peruvian mat an empty
in the shape of an Evzone
you will have to shake shelves,
eat bookdust, wade through
forgetfulness to

why it got this way:
I slumbered in this wood because
of torqued interiors
I took things heavily
the words of the dead
offered relative comfort
I intuited –
only intuited my angles were never

motion of Grotius
papers of Grotius
function of notion of
“the sea is
inexhaustible and ever-changing”

Half-rightness of Grotius.
The sea reserves the right
to proliferate monsters,
but we work even faster.
We have beaten the sea at its own claim –

II. Vistas

“…now it was that upon the rocking waters of the ocean the human face began to appear; the sea appeared paved with innumerable faces, upturned to the heavens; faces, imploring, wrathful, despairing, surged upwards by thousands, by myriads, by generations, by centuries: my agitation was infinite, my mind tossed, and surged with the ocean.”

- Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater

Who are I we you

I can tell I it’s me
from the
Skyline, the necronym-bearer
who heard everything hooked

on quitting smoking academic
detox hot like a water-wheel

you is me too and you
I know
or could

we is a diseased star
in and out tidally,
vestigial, mineral blame

we are a crystal bell
eating the
one real world

if they won’t offer salves for the small things
then let’s talk
the basic fact of property

you can’t take the IWW out of the boy, even this one

The utopic process
the Mixolydian Messiah
the urban past
the sea as oral sound

the Dorian
the Doric
the dormant
the volcano –

I am a Dexedrine Ship of Theseus
changing faster than the skynet can assimilate
changing on the water
changing the water.

I do not know if I am the same person
who signed those papers in January,
who gave up

who dissolved his own committee like an evil wizard
(“For my next trick, I need three tenured professors of English…”)

when I feel better
I cannot trust myself:
other people needed

numina rumination, diminution,
abomination, ecstatic love of the world
enough to make many things hard for me:

the I today is a crusher.

It looks like Knossos – that is,
a variegated
mystery, just real and just unreal enough for me:
my poems will never make sense.

Geoffrey Morrison has poems in Grain, Lemon Hound, and (parenthetical), and criticism in The Town Crier and _The Rusty Toque). He was a longlist finalist for the 2014 Lemon Hound and 2016 PRISM poetry contests, and an honorable mention for the Blodwyn Memorial Prize.

This originally appeared on December 22, 2017