archives fall 2008



Cai Guo-Qaing

I riveted light, prismed it through
the roofs and windows
of the white cars hung from the ceiling.
I dreamed of munitions. I lived
my dreams out on paper, a paper
as big as science, and as heavy. I did
some work with perspective reversal,
thought how would this look
from ______. Then one day I said, No,
no more tiger hunt, no more pontoon of red stars.
           But if there was a button
I pushed it for I was an adept, and hoped
to be always. Instead I became this master.

The shaking was ecstatic, as all
shaking is; the windows burst inward
when the dragon smiled and blinked. In time
it came to pass I had seen everything fire
could show me and began to dream of darkness
and filled the white sky with darkness
and penned a gunpowder proposal
for inverted pyramids
on the surface of the holy moon. My specs
were genius but the backers balked, called
me dreamer. I said, Call me seeker, call me
penitent whose heart projects bursts and contrails
on the eggshell of the gallery wall.
                                            All I wanted
was darkness impenetrable by light or by fire,
any intensity, but I knew I must
myself be the author of that darkness. Only I,
I believed (I suspected) could
create what I could not surmount.

On the day I remembered that the fundamental,
irresolvable nature of paradox is in fact its truth
and purpose (at that not merely paradox’s but the whole
I drew a deep breath and held it. I turned my back
on explosions,
as well smoke and spirals of all kinds.
                                                       At the helm
of a wrecked ship I was a neophyte again,
a starter-out. I was happy
navigating the sunken boat
over a broken ocean of dishes and saints.


don’t torment

a sort of glorying

                         fingers in ecstasies
could hardly hold the wreck

got her tongue again               Well,
conscience reproached her loving; this
would be construed

she kept her heart on her knees
and was a yearning film
                        the proudest
world gone casual

He worshipped till he saw grotesque wending
grieving, and hoping
on the threshold

face lit she disappeared the flower
began to straw and balance nearer
nearer toward his pliant treasure
next his heart—or, possibly,

He hung till nightfall, as before

spirits were high


The Hunt of the Unicorn as Lover

Have yourself a volley of hard-traveled
love songs. Ill-use is pervasive, our special
wrath makes a climate. A book,
there’s just one, that I can read
without finishing. The name of my ghost
is the size of a planet. Conflux, buoyance,
the moon over
and over. Trading kingdoms for coffee,
yours I guess, since I don’t have any. A bastion
of radiance as proof of the limit. The power
of names is supreme, is totemic. Be vast,
you damn dreamers, you failed fixers crumbling
apart into sad dust on the oceanic lawn. A bridge
draws its tenants like light does a candle.
And because this cobalt life is scored
by violence and trust, I swing freely
as if from a jungle gym rung and cherish
days which are collages, cobble-jobs, nests
of things forgotten, caught in the act
of resurfacing—a portrait of the spirit
half unearthed, mid-dredge.
Animals are magnetized to their reflections
like witch light unstrung from
your wedding gown. The gift
of lightning is always already a re-gift,
period. In the pantheistic dream
my name is fledgling.


Drowning Death of the Synaesthetic
for Amy McDaniel

It smelled like cinnamon
in something warm and sounded
like the mail:
being opened
                    in a rush.


for Jules Cohen

Paradise looks upon this charmed heart quarried
to gratify the sweet convenience of desire:
the living rock, the golden window, some girl.
Reverence was in vogue the year I chose my fortune.
Pictures ever fading into pictures ever fresh.
The mirage is so deep and inclusive. Pure
want turns to prayers in empty air.
Pass between two worlds, participant.
Weariness and wakefulness together.
One is often reminded of the sea on fire.  


Justin Taylor is the co-editor of The Agriculture Reader, a handmade arts annual, and the author of a chapbook, More Perfect Depictions of Noise (X-ing Books). He is also the editor of two books: The Apocalypse Reader (Thunder’s Mouth) and Come Back, Donald Barthelme (McSweeney’s). His writing has been published by NPR, Paste, YETI, Best of the Web, and numerous other journals, magazines, and websites.