Noah Eli Gordon

A New Hymn to the Old Night

                                                 Fernab liegt die Welt
                                                 —Novalis, Hymnen an die Nacht


afar lies the world

or down over there, far, lies the world

or the world lies to us Novalis

dead as waking day in joyous light

or just covered in glitter

part cliché, part cage

part musky smell of dust burning off the radiator

another November, another animal moving across the earth

another breeze & someone to call it gentle

any stranger, any shapely mouth, any sound dissolving to noise

noise & its fringe theater sustaining an open call

gull against those clouds, pebble lodged in a sneaker’s tread

who isn’t a boy in party dress in presence’s wide drama

another mark on paper & someone to learn the names

another character gone to the season’s closer

snow in the garden on the television facing the window near the taxi stand

snow on the staircase in the house on the ruined street where the novel ends

blue black night, blue-black distant constellations

& someone to call the camp fires happiness

to cull vapid contingencies from vapid rainfall

annulling a vapid image in place of itself

replacing vacancy in one’s unwokeness

you try explaining a computer to the long dead

forget almond trees, grapes & poppies

what he wouldn’t believe is the inescapable music here

the night filling with beloved firetrucks

cover your ears to cover the passing sirens

praise the passing sirens
afar lies the world

or down over there, far, lies the world

or the world lies against the empirical

against two notes escaping the drama of a dented harmonic

& the music that begins when they find a third

when the balance of an egret

pasted above day’s unadorned particulars

stirs a folk song in this thimbleful of serum

begin with a boy on a park bench practicing adult exuberance

& end as the ear disallows before & after to enter an heirloom of song

an invention of the world wearing an allusion suspect

the earth a synonym for self, for you are here & otherwise

afar lies the world

or down over there, far, lies the world

or the world and its lies, too ashamed

to repeat the word endure to a doctrine

ending halfway across the Bay Bridge in a pair of old Reeboks

Liberty’s detached head dying a beacon to virtue

leaving the taint and flaw of a story

the worth of a stone, canned sardines, and kerosene

can you conjugate autonomy without donning a coarse cloak

a widow’s headdress, other ways to walk a life

hailing all ancillary images, how proudly they falter

why is every digression an illustrated history

why is every example a commonwealth in alternate translation

how can you separate bird from flock

the dock where a muddy tugboat’s dislodged

from the evening the captain doesn’t come home

the night from the sound of passing sirens

praise the passing sirens

praise clouds in the shape of a nightlight

praise meticulousness

praise the trail of the centipede

& the impulsive curve of a halo in impasto on paper

& pursue the legibility of all signs

endless morning’s eroded surface & the surface of ordinary sense

praise the redundancy of self-ascribed visionaries pursuing burning dictionaries

is it better to be careful or to care only for fullness

the dog’s head drops in shame, cocks in question

praise human complication’s damaged form

receding from fight or flight to leaky cathedral

perfect as a linoleum print of lifelike grass

& the wind ribboning an afternoon straight out of Seurat

yield to passing traffic then praise the passing traffic

they look so small down there

soaked in linseed oil, semi-translucent

through the smeared window of a newspaper box

across headlines large as water towers

painted in tandem with a clear day

the quiet house & calm world, too, are deserving of praise

praise the roof against which breaks urbanity & pursue the joyous leak  

praise the house, the keeper of the house & those for whom the house is kept

praise Mexico, go to Mexico, be continuously afraid of nothing

find Pancho Villa’s Dodge, plastered with bullet holes

proud as supreme realism condensed in the face of a blue flower

what’s luminous about a clock, what’s a spiky detail

which is worse, the balance beam or the laser beam

dreams don’t bring back the dead

they affix microphones to iconography

praising the tissue of sleep, pleated as Sophie’s rotting hair

praise wickedness in clocks, sun & all variants on rooftops

the most beautiful insects can only sting once

praise the beautiful insects

the most beautiful insects can only sting once

praise the exhaustion of the most beautiful insects 

Noah Eli Gordon teaching in CU-Boulder’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. This poem is from A Fiddle Pulled from the Throat of a Sparrow (New Issues, 2007). Visit his PennSound page here:

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