Love need not
require an object.
Though we know
all the answers
in advance, instruction
gives a reminder
of curiosity’s shape.
marries the horse-drawn
chariots racing the Via Appia
and underlit Civics
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 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.
“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.