Bin Ramke

Nothing Prior to Anything

I had an idea—not an idea, less concept than notion (as in those objects around sewing, needles and thimbles) that a certain democracy of the interior is possible: human entrails indistinguishable were they offered to view, and elegant: glistening purples, greens, and reds—a complexity of reds must abound in there. Complicity of reds. I discovered the interior when my father took me to butcher our cow which had a name and history—she was my chore before school, her milking and feeding—but now was beyond freshening so was needed as meat. Men in aprons with knives in hand and each had dangling from his waist a sharpener which he would deftly catch and cross against his blade ritually swift and efficient. One placed the barrel of a small caliber rifle behind the horns of our cow and the muffled report was slight and the cow slumped briefly was hoisted rear feet first and began an arc suspended the most glamorous stage of which (evisceration) caused a great balloon of purplish gleaming to spill onto the clean floor to be quickly gathered by an aproned man. And there is mother of pearl, and the shine, the lustrous shine of lips, the edge where her warm mouth joins her lip, a boundary beckons and the gulf beyond: obscure interior. The allure of lipstick. The gleam of cosmetic akin to cosmos.



Hear Here

Any morning anyone—the sky and the sound
of birds, the air a river no bird can fly
through twice—an uneasy joke: the air’s
a fluid like any lake or river’s thrilled
hydraulics, streams and currents rising /
falling turbulent in the manner of, the mode
of mania…no; another try: the bird in the morning
like the boy striding like the sun the sense
of sun bestriding the eye the vision of the boy
who along the gray tiredness of road intently
walks watching the herons’ murderous
intent wading along the stream which mirrors
the unintended path which the boy
follows that morning leaving (he
thinks) home as if the world waits. Invent.

An easy joke, but a tender thing he thinks
walking late that morning after waking from deeper
than usual dreams…deep in dream’s welter a wealth
of peculiar banality…recalls the instant a worse
dream turned sexual inhabited still by
the weight of the normal…enormously waiting
versions of some self to inhibit that wetness.
Like a murmurous hall in which he is witness
of multitudes; murderous, fearful, and they
inhabit themselves their knowledge already now
whatever you, shameful, confess. Repress.

But what does it sound like, walking away?
A path metaphoric, a path of mind, a way
unintended, a glint in the ear of green heard
in the sound of the bird stalking fish sharp
of beak and tiny of eye, tiny black dot awake
in the face of the bird the white bird silent
in the morning at the edge of the water
which makes rippled noises which make in
contingent air a rippled path to the ear
of the walking boy afraid of his dreams
who thinks the world awaits awake as if
herds watch from the forest edge. Attend.


Poor in World

It is not enough not to be, it is the wish
to have never been that intrigues (confounds
erasure) and the quick equivalence (zero
as verb) or the wish it hadn’t happened:

among the forms of suffering this takes
the cake: he said “Forget it” and I would
gladly, but how?

The attempt to forget activates
the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex while
the hippocampus goes dormant.
No guarantees—hard it is
and long the path to Lethe.

The past, since it does not exist, is
hard to erase. Tears and the gnashing
of teeth. You recall an ambition.

The ambition to have never been—o round
and round, ambient modes, the world rounds
a little sleep—lies and lies

strongest with the old and the very young.
Cover your tracks (path: Tao)

[1736 R. Brookes, translator, Du Halde’s Gen. Hist. China III, 30
Among the Sentences [of Lao Kiun] there is one that is often
repeated…Tao, says he, or Reason, hath produced one, one
hath produced two, two have produced three, and three have
produced all things
] All is vanity, saith the Preacher

Ways to be done with and well out of:
the ambivalence of an early death,
or late agonies, declared interests,
declaimed selves, All that is not vanity
is erasure. Forget and forfeit/forgive.

Immer est es Welt Rilke wrote, and we can translate
as necessary, all that is is world. The world is, nothing
missing. Nothing past. But und niemals Nirgends
ohne Nicht
he wrote, and never nowhere without
nothing—if only it didn’t happen, or if only
anything could be forever healed.
I never spoke the language but read
Rilke as if someone’s life could be saved.

Bin Ramke has published eight previous books of poems, including Massacre of the Innocents (Iowa 1995), Wake (Iowa 1999), and one of the first Kuhl House Poets books, Airs, Waters, Places (Iowa 2001). His ninth book, Tendril, will be published in the fall of 2007. The editor of the Denver Quarterly, he teaches creative writing at the University of Denver and at the Art Institute of Chicago.