Ted Dodson

Transhistorical Kiss

Love need not

require an object.

Though we know

all the answers

in advance, instruction

gives a reminder

of curiosity’s shape.

Transhistorical fuckshit

marries the horse-drawn

chariots racing the Via Appia

and underlit Civics

dodging evening

commuters transmitting

unsupervised highway.

There are enough

songs for each of us

to have our own, but

that doesn’t mean they love

us any more than another

product of the overflow of ideas.

This process stops for months

and picks back up again

where it left off, content

to continue as if seamless.

Kissing is unmistakable—

the sound of it—and sometimes

so is lying, especially about money.

We learn by example, the same

as remembering. I want to find

happiness, but no one has

lost their own yet. This kiss.

This kiss. This kiss.

The Music We Know

The space was activated.

It looked like a beautiful day,

just the idea of it, had been left

up to a well-meaning metaphor

to determine. However, it’s easy

to forget: Beauty is best left alone.

Clarification carries away and settles

in a fantastic locale with plans to

dredge the sludge later. As it pans out

a few notes were all the whole

composition required, the familiar

two-tone of a heel striking before

the ball, coming down

an ivory staircase under a wavering

congratulatory banner. That choice,

on the contrary, “has vectors”

is inescapable no matter if

your team starts with their shirts

on or off. Everything for everyone.

Meal replacement liquids

continue to be advertised to me.

I search for “natural pain

relief turmeric?” after I overworked

my shoulder exercising.

So, it’s all my fault. But last

night, I made a savory fritter.

Roasted lion’s mane mushrooms,

egg, garlic, and crushed saltines.

How could I ever be evacuated from

the only things I know?

The brutality of misapprehension.

A double take swept

downstream and caught in the froth

where the water churns against the rocks.

The remembrance of privacy and the wish

to have it returned (a paraphrase lifted

from Wendy—thank you for that)

as something more than a souvenir.

The hairs on my chest when licked

change direction like droplets off

the back of Laura Dern’s hand

in Jurassic Park. “Run,” she says

to herself later. In the book, the kids

die, eaten by velociraptors, but in

the movie, the kids eat soft foods,

and we hear the music we know.

Two Recollections of Nature

I thought

“I was one thing for a while.”

Neatly unzipped, a program started

and later ended, bound then rebound with

new openings and closings cut in between.

“I am something for another time” then

subtracts from and adds to that while,

somewhere within or just after, how a

letter is moved to the previous line

and would be glossed over if I hadn’t

said something or a beloved cinema is

leveled then built atop with probably

condos. Essential bits of me swap

given the requisite season for their

value to soften, a lob of butter

relaxing in a sun-warmed dish.

Personality, too, loosens, or

the occasion of force knocks out

a brick of whatever interior substance

we are, that mess of ideology laid across

itself, not sexily but like lasagna—no,

lasagna is sexy—like a landfill.

One of Bernadette’s prompts,

which has been my desktop

background for two years,

“Write a poem about garbage,”

I take personally, but I might

change my mind because—look—

I’m listening to Liszt’s first of six

Consolations and across the street

the church bell tolls in perfect time

with Daniel Barenboim playing the keys.

I don’t know anything about classical

performance, so I can only take in

so much in terms of a critical analysis,

like the difference between pressing

and striking the keys, the clarity

when a fitfully speedy performance is

elevated to virtuosic—I think here of

Khatia Buniatishvili’s transcendent

Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No. 2,

or Martha Argerich’s Mozart, Piano

Concerto No. 20, which is the very

first piece of classical music that ever

affected me in such a way that I felt

changed afterward, and I have ever since

tried to pin down my favorite recordings,

listening to as many as I can, usually

hoping for that dramatic sweep with

the strings at the beginning, which I love

when they’re sharp and decisive, insisting

almost to interrupt the opening

crescendo before the motifs unfold,

recollections of nature inviting

and ferocious and pairing this with

the human element, the dance,

one of the great joys of music

where sound does not bend in

service of humanity but is invited to

a plaza of common sensibility, and

it’s exactly this same idea that has me

so stunned by Argerich’s performance

because for all my listening to this

piece, a piano concerto, I never paid

much attention to the piano itself

as whatever performance seemed

almost ornamental, more an objet d’arte

positioned to help the audience recall

the instrument of the parlor, to ground

the composition’s grand scope

in familiarity, but Argerich argues, with

the totality of her ability poured into cadenza

behind her, that the concerto is a whole

organism the pianist can gather

every note of, a full orchestra in reflection,

and, with the generosity incumbent

to those whose practice attenuates

the shared wall of experience, let the music go.


Natalini writes,

“Collectively induced desires

are substituted with other

equally appetizing desires,

which are however truer and

more just…and to satisfy these

new desires, the system is forced

into a crisis.” I would have

thought, though, a hush of images

is polyvalent enough to desire

itself, silence being so recalcitrant

because it’s obsessed with its own

geometry. The city redevelops

its sense, a machine

emitting incessant messages,

semantics mostly, but now

and again, a thin strand will

sneak through, and a note,

unsmoked with meaning, pulls

up to the curb. I miss riding

in taxis when that was still

a thing, the yellow unison

pitching through the avenues

instead of the commodified

anything with wheels can

be your ride. I miss hailing them,

and I miss being able to breathe

that confidence, how its

novelty never wore off, cabbing

with friends downtown to Winnie’s

or, after those 10PM Project readings

if we didn’t go out, splitting the fare

home—some friends I miss now, constantly,

and others I don’t—or making out with

someone in the back and them saying,

“Actually, just one stop please,” but I

especially remember sitting alone

in the rear seat quiet and watching

the East Village go by and thinking of

the scene in Akerman’s News from Home,

the long shot panning uptown—

I know it was on the west side,

but I was still reminded of it

on the east—and how her film

stood in for a response to

her mother’s persistent letters,

how the psychogeography of NYC

amplifies as she wordlessly mingles

affect and thinking into the passing

street fronts. But usefulness, if that

could be a cooperative yearning,

which it isn’t, has entreated us to a

different nourishment, a replacement

diet of these things we recall

that then become specters and are

stretched like a picture on putty

into a blur. The crisis here is

not the medium but the image

functioning, which had a function and

now has too much of one, draining its

runoff from one medium to the next until

they all get trashed. Though—listen—

I could have a different view. The slope

down to the waterside is snow-covered.

A pond pauses in front of me.

Sunlight makes copies of the trees

descend massive roots into the water,

substituting the surface of things, lower

and resounding with space, so much of it,

extending farther than any horizon I know.

There are no animals I can see

other than myself, and I only

see some parts of me, the bitter

utopia that is being with oneself

constantly, hoping for spiritual resonance

to interrupt, sublime

uselessness. Here’s some:

whistling in the street a car turning in the room ticking

Ted Dodson is the author of An Orange (Pioneer Works / Wonder, 2021) and co-translator of Death at the Very Touch / The Cold by Jaime Sáenz (Action Books, forthcoming 2025). He works for BOMB, is an editor-at-large for Futurepoem, and is a former editor of The Poetry Project Newsletter.