L'Abbaye de St. Jean






The Dranse is a river. Dranse is an old word in the Savoy language, sister to our word drench;  it means a torrent down the mountain, a torrent is a flood that the rocks control. Shaped by the rocks it shapes, a mountain torrent is the perfect reciprocal gesture, a word among things, fluent and responsive, carving out by passing by.  It is a fleeting gesture that changes eternities, a mark elapsing that leaves behind hard meanings where it passes.                             


[The poem begins on Saturday, 7 August 2004, in La Borne.]




Not lost too much

tooth the touch of

tender  in the fine

a fork among friends


O salt to love who

after hamamelis

lit the whistle

hard on its going down


a gong for spraddle

or butter a mother

be care, keel, any

anyboat you see


smell of kerosene

making sense green

a furber or a foal

wagtail on 2 lawns



slow grade up cliff

startling chough clouds

limestone patter of sunshine

organdy pear rock


pine lime chalk calvaire

watch satellite sputum

gel on monitor stickum

explain to the pharmacist


don’t smoke lobelia

not catering blue pipit

oblige wooden guest

palace union semaphore


means always carrying

overanxious psyllium

protractor’s narrative

circular newspaper


what was said is neophyte

it bleached pleadings

of foreign capital embedded

in domestic cleavage


alternate with druidry

take to the sea scum

sloshed ankles of a Thalassite

prancer & the period


magnesium epopteia

sly words for raree

flash your popinjay theory

buster your sorebones


one’s neck is long

spirit history Oneida

sharing their SUV

a woman picks her nose


the mountains notice

canít  fool them analysis

particulate chemist

waiting at hot crucible


Sumerian alphabet discovered

this is it cloud on that land

scattering wheat amazed

bone white of pearl barley


account for matter

quills release in enemy

to ink or restless

ceremonial pause


All the waits to small a get

midlight on the balcony a pax 

 waits a pope hand signal on the high

who do it with raised hands

harrowing heaven every death


time to go to bread

hill to have a horse

cool now but the sun

under Mont Evian

—we  are named for what we see—


Say? That too imponderable

konversatie chipping at the wall

roughcast philosophy all the kind

a diner on the moon a soviet

uncertain about articles


a man the man man itself

chelovek a preposterous guess

this & not that or better

butterfly bush all purple brushes

diplomats assemble neckties and begin.



The ostensorium has golden censers

hands touch everything like flies alighting

nothing past the blue of place to gold

the somber mountain of what happens

down which it is to come down cloud later


second coming! river running north

cold in case a squadron of jackdaws

measured against math resistance

pure morality or puritan the lip of left

never kissed the body’s folds


aching for political caress

where does everybody live

there canít be fields without streams

stream without loosestrife cows bells

down Mont Chéry the goats stampeded


dense manifesto a creed to need

write in one paragraph what is believed

to be the case or who dropped the sparrow

in the first place and who the hero the thrush

sings to what alphabet to write that name


drenched with particulars the rocket burst

fireflowers over the limestone lake the folk

hurry up the narrow road to be amazed

sound & light as if no other where together

only here across the clear green water rose


a touch to be as dense as history

chance the prepositional rapture

charlatans of sun disease

rehearsing islands to goat farmers

mountains are to lose in but what


Akkadian policy where it all went wrong

language used to letter laws

write down instead what never was

and make it be Gospel of Bethany

the afterlife of Madeleine-Marie



language goes wrong when it records

annals should be pictures scratched in rock

or a church built of common stones

mysterious basketmakers weave history in

but writing means for pure invention


(hard for puers to have puers)

all comes to this new next

a fleet of uncertainties arriving

on the morning tide no water stands

mountain pitcher pour Aquarius


no strange vocabulary apple

red fish green shadow hill

hill habit slipside after

cunning rede-motes of old never

a spill of milk a spunk of flame


eunoterus or scrabalost no not

those radio all words are strange

in a foreign country lose all subtlety

that usually marks the delight of speaking

now just coarse where is this and when and how


and otherwise the spirits of the flowers

make the breeze that lifts the blue over

quoting Wordspear and Lakesworth too often

bramble bush here and a gorse over there

where the sheep’s shadow climbs the hill



the herd corners after spiral path

chronometer built in stone and guess the sun

falters through the autumn gate to make born

who would do own faltering later coin by coin

until the green girl walked along the brick


which is the Greek for river where the girl

recumbent yet advancing swoon by swoon

enkindles amity among the moths our mothers

every creature was in time or will be

by virtue of that virtue held in heart wax


from the blond beehive achieve

intoxicating liberal magazines copper shells

to go to war with the priest and his cycle

when the wind dies down and every straw relaxes

pelargonium and lavender sun behind the hill


life is a valley it really wants to tell

the whole story now thunder on the mountain

rain spits a flower wet a pink one

and nobody knows the crest of Mont Evian

in sunshine still and elsewise nubibus


colles celentur or pick the flower

and have done with it a pharmacist

of little wounds and wonders – who

lit the light? – no one but color is

so color has to do the work of heroes



slumbering inside the wooden horse in Cernagora

the plump girl in blonde wig is Helena

o peruque of falsity a cock crows also

just before dark like Hegel’s owl

which had overflown these battlements


gold or no gold to tell the story

whole but name no names – pure

invention— maligned by whose inferiors

temporary heartbreak and bus downhill

until the soldiers see the lake and cry


armistice of motives is a kind despot

a blue entitlement the theorist says

but others plead the Justinian excuse

one must rule the world to answer heaven

or build a sky that answers to his name


nobody needier than neat the Greeks knew

woodcarved language of the logothete

polychromed by famous men to kill a bear

or bring a Bulgar home all love is pain

incessantly consented to the sand is wet


the blood of virgins saturates the books

thought Commedia dell’arte practical vise

a turngrip shaped like a crucifix

lets the tyres change from wheel to wheel

all love falters the same circle describe the street


fall to its knees and not for prayer but work

between the virgin and the guava fruit

whose lake is thick with tule reeds the wind

chatters them together sticks on sticks on necks

to wake all things then meditator from his dreams




thunder but no rain hear her voice         thunderbird

but see no face it all is mountain

limestone religion two girls pétanque

toss underhand the iron balls chop the jack away

all the mystic gates are closed by music





the incendiary difference like a goat

calling to its mother on the hill a sprawl

of udders down the cliff and some high houses

oak castaways along the cloud road rapture

is it or time to begin screwdriver

hungry for the hard Christians here are dragons


here hard money drives a tan chalet up rock

and the keen scatterers of destiny girl by girl

pétanque in the church’s shadow Saint Guérin

Pray For Us who smooth the stone in place

with such amazing effort that nothing shows

just a furry cat waiting on the wall


say nothing lest it turn to gold the baker’s wall

so bryophyted and vascular green too

the stolid amazements of what no one makes happen

trip by submarine through the green rhizomes

of the mind’s valley where naught is where it should be

among the weltering artisans of local numbers


it is to live for other people that is all

interrupted by it never rained the headlight

explains the empty road too many particles

to call it mist alone or angry molecules

or barbara celarent where the teacher

turns his back at last on all the words


and when the words are gone the god is gone

Saint Antoine d’Egypte shown with a pig

borrowed from another Anthony or lent to him

which way does borrow go imprint a’s

object on b’s use of it or other way in

bells remind the empty church of all it’s lost


all the people who will never come again

and kiss the pig or beg the saint’s protection

against the usufruct of dream the hectic

dreamlife of moral personages lost in stucco

only in graffiti to recollect at last the icon

that spreads wide the mountain of remember


be small with ceremony the old pews creak

old jug for the spirit to take comfort in

be housed in mutter ….. the worst take shape

zygotes of influence and plasma of remorse

till finally nothing final even speaks why should it

sumac drupes as red here as in Algonquia





make more fit in everything too loose

make it tight and turbulent entablature

of a temple to an absent god or just the priests

are gone the god let loose is fire to roam

glad among kayakers and a prayer for rain


turn free by road assemblymen of hell

who caught this town before the avalanche

and made the tourists come to feed the goats

and the cows’ transhumances are green with love

all the occasional shadow kiss tastes of September


turning round to come in all the bitter

we need more salt the angelus begins

who kneels down among the ruins of a strange idea

came down from heaven reek of iodine

and everything looks small today


like staring into the chalice of a flower

mutations of large corporations compete

with natural decay to isolate tragedy from news

a blue feather floats into a street in Geneva

the lake spumes a jet of counseled air



so high as if somebody was saying something

three dogs in concert here like crystal goblets chinking

it is as if the coast were really edifice and opal

exalted voices of the children

spending their penny in the willows


lead down by tile the rain-smart roof

magpies many and an old man on a horse

clops through the town no turns to two

a couple feed their mounts on neighbor grass

between this life and the bishop


or how Saint Guérin must pray for all

ox and ass and Antoine’s pig and not till

well into La Captive does the author get a name

given by the beloved the provisional

the sole determinatrix of local actuality


who says ‘mon cher Marcel’ or some such

formula memory will not retain (nous lépreux,

Paris se vaut une messe) all the famous jabber

the mantle of this rock earth has so long

endured names sweet as melons from Cavaillon


the perplexing simplicities of Doctor K

she’s reading So what ís that bird there?

open to a pretty magpie half by half

black and white old Feirefiz the son

of Gahmuret was divvied up like one of these


his lower parts a natural heathen white

only the intelligence can sin age of reason

in this season Guérin busy with sick cows

the peasants cured the saint of wicked intellect

and made him a patron saint of sick animals


well did they know that the body cures the mind

the body builds the stone that puts the point of god

high in the mountain air only the body is pure

who can do no evil or at most be guilty

of carnal inefficiency or dwindled milk o road of milk


that leads through Spain by Santiago on to Wales

where Silver Road’s palace hits the sky

the stars are her footmen and the clouds

her gonfalons unfurled above the sleeping

personage whose error is in the name inscribed




melon seeds return to compost heap

wasps are always near too many names

swimming pool the different shapes of men

meme taille et meme allure of these

simple hearted merchants of romance


wash in dragon’s blood and sleep below water

because only that one can whose life

is so constrained by verbal sinews it

might as well be immortal and it is

the way a rock is always too busy to die


the long identities the place called Throat

of the Devil where cyclamens are growing

on the soaked wall of the ravine the name

repeats itself in visitors who hurry home

cherishing the word cyclamen cherishing the devil


whose rocky body they walked inside

whose only body is their body

wind comes down the valley hard

every place is a body inside a body every

body is wide open to invaders


chattering Flemish in the supermarket

clash of chariots and melon reek

subtract a wagtail from a pine tree

butterfly swooping on the glacier the time

of things is scribbled deep inside


each one alone and none to wait for kindness

is all here and afterwards the farmers

scratch it out of the ground and make room for new

or where would the car go if the road

didn’t differ with the mountain breathing


firelily they call it all around the town

be careful of eternity the foam

makes the fingers shake like a walk uphill

in evening sunhaze down La Terche

distance is chimera anyhow a plow


to furrow sky with and plant such wheat

as grows to spring night with fierce little

lights in whose gleam nothing but themselves alone

light that just illuminates itself we pray to dark

to augment the instrument of stars loro influenza


to have by these need-nights a void

pronounced upon the Manifold or pleroma

while equilibriums of ordinary passions

totter to war the animal that tries

to answer every question with its teeth


a kenning for it or a darling coal measures

shouldering beneath the Yorkshire lies

seven hundred years to put the language out

and then the miners come in white silk scarves

in sooty tweed jackets solemn saying naught


it has to tell everything or else believe

because telling is a cure for understanding so

when every word is spoken all the things are gone

and the game plays itself beneath the apple tree

the steel balls arc and clatter down and women laugh




want to hide out from the jumbo jets up here

class struggle and theology and find instead by skin

a morality of leaf and bark academy of stone

spent so much time walking on the mezzanine

among those has-been lights men call the stars

the girl next door was one of those pale Russky charmers

eating in the lap of Lenin till the conversation banked

smokeless fire of the shivaree everybody got married

and no one came it is the rutabaga principle a head

made of wood and eyes made of all that’s been lost


a woman on a ferris wheel a champion of pain

o black Mercedes mother of all living course my street

barricades of torpor and a strange lake-dwelling fish

as if an eel caught philosophy and understood its practice

as universal doctrine not just its own long way home


home is always the next port of call among the wolves

three quarters up the mountain and the wind

get a receipt for the paper kiss a glacier

the shoulder’s sore from all it never carried

because the fated burden belongs to the wind


even if the servant sneaks beneath the hedge and smokes

and the snow melts not even by the core of August

and not a single name of tree survives in English

the man nipped a fox’s tail the tiger jumped

hardware and liquid crystal the moon’s on fire




nominal tower hawk on the head

oak fence gorse hedge poor hedgehog

flat from car the spill of autumn in the yellow air

the car is courage and a spear and sarx



means flesh when psyche’s gone to town

and left her mirror all steamed over

hot from her looking in it it is death

for the soul to take a shower


Parmenides was right there’s never

just one horse the palamino up La Chaux

clematis on porphyry lord loveliest imperium

nobody power but the body’s whim to know


to know by touch and stone remember

to go to come to back home to tell

these four will do and let the skin

be quiet with the language of the stone





rectiform crucibular investigative flop

to sail so long down the gutter in a folded newspaper

origami Figaro and out to sea among cockles

coracles limpets brooding on Lacan

nautilus keeps secrets in their ingrown rooms


all the strategies beasts incarnate to avoid

the simple blossom of the every which way wind

or greedily to snatch the air inside and keep it there

safe from music circulation of Lady Oxygen

cancellation of the Other and sermon for the self



mitigate a nettle wear a leek in that sombrero

let it rain hard down the cleavage of the mountain

gush the cosmetic parables size of a sparrow

allure of a jay shadows in the willow trees

weave the next millennium’s religions


all subtle poetries of hoopoe and plover

and gulls learn to fly at midnight

and their white tidings will rouse the house

no man will dare say their sermons for them

and women will wake up and say their dreams


though Introduction to the Devout Life was written here

if here is taken loosely cloud chambering la Tête Noire

two horses and only two Poverty and Liberty

broken china heaped outside old magazines

every word has at least two meanings


and the skull lasts longer than the brain

think on this voyagers with canoes on shoulders

sweating through Ouisconsin portages of old

the bone remembers in its strange fashion

where the pudding of the flesh lets slip


our parents called us lust in idleness

because Pontiac is cheaper than LaSalle

and a ghost haunts only his own terrain

humble as a bee disinclined to range

firewardens on their towers dream Byzantium



the naked Empress comes to everyone who sleeps

head of a monkfish caught on a tree branch

breath is a flag and the army is the skin

watch them falter through the rye oblivion

is a ribbon knotted round a knuckle


or comes who calls a skull is resonant

clear and clean is empty and a wind issueth

which tells all the wit this bone once held

Merlin or Mandeville a woman who knew all

and poured her slim pitcher on the table


milk of all known valleys the precious molds

make cheeses but the skull has two horns on it

or six or four and the horns are hollow howl

at sacred instances when priests think godwind blows

and they blow back to answer mystery with reverence


the faces face each other it is marble

each woman is a plausible envoy of her kind

a plenipotent just arrived from the archaic

one sees this face a lot in dreams and ten

thousand years ago saw in their sleep too


mother of magnesium sea wife temptress

the air’s vestal around her but she magnifies

all occasions are the sun of time all space is touch

all seeing is an anger of the eyes to choke the distances

hardware of her hours gondola down the blood stream



always so much singing passes in profile

we know this nose this hurry because a sky

falls into place around such angular momentum

thought it was a woman’s face in twilight seen

hurrying towards the harbor when black sails come


cloud come along come along high head silver blue

pirate sky with dory cloud down here invading pines

describe alternate universe where all the strings

uncoil at once and quarks are his and hers at last

duality is our unity brother humans who leave behind


look up the names of things have you by the neck

or choke your prayers with kisses left from dream

the alternative to obvious is everything

the alternative to everything is not nothing is the one

thing permanent as the attention paid to it


come along donkey bray a buddy understands

come along rapture to tease the sleeping nun

ivory and silverplate brushes worked with amber

anything to keep her hair out of her eyes and let the light in

that part of the wind the human brain can see


don’t harden hearts against the felons on the gallows

their lives’ last spurt loves the world round them into place

for nothing lasts without the urgent want of it

screaming yesness on a migrant hopescape

until the cat seems to stand still and let you stroke it


the angelus rings over Europe sprinters wake early

down in Athens and wonder what Greeks eat breakfast

after all the high school philosophy a hundred meters

faster than anybody to make sense or naumachy

off Nauplion how fast a shmatte drives a skiff


believe the wind it’s all there is to be driven

inside and out the first of all things and last is wind

harsh pneumatology of a desert saint Antoine

stoned with abstinence staggers on his crutch

god the pharmakon for vision’s torments


he’s made crutches of his crucifixes and a bell

and the huffy little pig looks past his robe

hearing the ding dong of a lost religion

in desert stagger market stagger DAX and FTSE

stagger Glastonbury and watermelon pine


the girl with Corsican eyes the cloud down La Chaux

this vision lasts as long as time and then

Parmenides was sad all going and no coming

as if the road wrapped right back on itself

and gold people walked along it counting seeds


all they have he thought is what they leave behind

a measure? a moonchild? a sad trapeze

deserted by its acrobat?  every night god sends

a little older than the television?  an advocate?

dear god what has happened to her face?




beyond Seytroux the same cloud the power pylons march from mist

everything surrounds everything and it’s only August the yellow

people walk below the ground crowding upwards to the surface earth

to be reaped like everybody else old snathe of time swung

and who knows what or who the blade of it be old mariner


one is ages from the sea here or any maybe lake

to milk the clouds up from or vaporetti in the bloodstream

woke still feeling the wool of whose garment on his fingertips

change road to make the horses whinny and the hinny haw

spread the load around to balance lucency


decency? a stroke above the nine and be buried

hear the gongulous toll bronze above the catafalque

and the neighbor gospel lady hum in her pants suit

priestcraft is triumphant and the church is cracked

it’s the same car coming up the mountain over and over


they go to mass and come back chemical come cured

small rivers with thick barges hoisting home

lock by lock the boat of it ascends sweet miracle

to get a loaf of bread out of a mountain with the troll

singing at his forge unalcheming all that gold


Corbá the crow Corbassière place with a lot of them

come down from the trees and get to know you

the dark of other people’s lives the shame of living

where so many didn’t and Abbot Guarinus

fell from his horse right there and died



nine hundred years before her right over the pommel

the saddle fell with him some monks were mournful

carried here him north to the abbey he had founded

the lepers were kept up the steep path up Corba’s hill

everything intimate and sly the way death operates


Bernard hated the place but preached Jerusalem anyhow

got away as soon as he could mistakes of weather

that summer hail the size of pippins fell Crusaders left

Marlene betrothed in Canada everybody becomes opera

made of everything a cup of tea on fire in spirit sleep


the angelus woke him as if he were a village itself

but nobody is anybody really just numbers in a jar

with a few long wing feathers floating past

to make apparent identity remember palpable entity

but he had no right to talk about Parmenides


rescuing sleepy children from a burning orphanage

itself the most remarkable structure in the hamlet

they came there to ride horses and to sleep the long

sweet sweaty sleep of horses till fire found them

and no child tried to understand a few of the thoughtful


read books about the catastrophe in which they died

as if memory could be anything recovered out of nowhere

by impudent imposture of consciousness a written word

face pressed against her breast where playful dragons sleep

and every pool a wishing well they bend to read their fate



fact is fate every water’s ink nothing to do with Parmenides

Rossini is closer nothing to do with anything but the Old Mill

sea marsh the Jews of this man’s head and one of them uphill

stumbling rock road and what she did was dry the face

to this day she sits beside the road the napkin in her lap


an action is permanent things are not permanent

terrible history of to do and the shame of not having

a cabin full of crystals and not having a bathroom

full of sea foam and a bed full of mermaids with nacre

not having name in lights not even having lights


no name and pronouns too dear that season to make sense

Arabic easier a gesture write a whole word in the air

God made them as they did why should a priest go to Québec

and bother half-breeds and Iroquois about a soul they share

portage over thickets of indifference to the dry martini of belief


no question really asks itself it needs accomplices

buses to the lake lost mail a phone call in the night

one had not heard the donkey bray civilian light

reformation light Waldensian light down this valley once

voodoo light every heart carried that desire carries


wanting is the worst and most of magic a postcard

from a pretty city on the shores of hell

everyone arrives and no one sleeps a nightingale

singing in the emergency room blood smells like copper

copper smells like money money smells like sex


fear is general among the living that’s how the dead

are different all desire and no fear not even fear

of not getting what is desired no more than a stone

can be disappointed the dead get everything

hours later ran still on the mountain the stone cross wet




after this comes that and after that a mulberry

and after that the ivy hurries up the wall and children

and so forth and the name of this is Time a hollow

raucous teens at the foot of the same cross pray for night

and all things cover them they are simple with fear


and where does the mountain go to flee human weather

fear is everywhere and it loves them too maite zaitut

a kind of game to play with lakes and rivers

walking in the rain to La Moussière pursued by bells

the natives of this little town are called ‘wolves’


respectable as eggwhite like a blue policeman

red republican procurer of indigent luxuries

an earth to sleep on and stars for a hat

truth is yellow truth likes to get hurt

because then the lonely world turns opposite


and one know where one is and is not Parmenides

who was that Parmenos he was son of

nobody is anybody’s son it’s all a daughter

a kind of island wine and kiss the sailor

the lamb sleeps in the cottage shadow on some moss



nix nihil nivis umbrae on the mountain

don’t confuse a word with a preposition

shadows on mountain statue of General Dessaix

things stand for what they are is not a proposition

a rime with calico an old woman in church


that much is clear the church was empty

the holy water stoups were dry the cooper

image of the saint is gone it’s raining

no car to go home the city by the lake

where Lakota war dances get big crowds


o god the grief of sunshine sad eagle feather

the claws of what we do the broken axle

the bent wheel rolling down the arm

nobody can suffer weather like a lake

it’s dreaming women wake in lightning


echo of a dance that passed one footstep into heaven

a wolf looking in from the woods so many explanations

all it really is is whatever anybody says it is isn’t it

since no one’s listening salvation is not susceptible

to proof or demonstration but the candle burns


kids play in the confessional rehearsing sins

they’d like to do or are doing as they speak

performing and absolving in one gesture

and the dry old wood keeps creaking

the substances of things are the only answer


who’s there? the light asks who’s asking

says the dark and off they go again

wind down the valley and the girl cries

shadows of snow the dawn light caught

on the massif the breathing of the light


before the sun takes hold an hour from the world

over the neighbor mountain a dance?  a Dante?

dark pink roses round the abandoned convent

a sacred heart above the rose-embattled door

and that man who shows his heart has roses too


but no one’s home pull back from that knocker

the echoes of such a house will slay the unprepared

the men-at-arms are far away the blue lights

of their car hurtling down the cliffside road in rain

and one is alone with the door that one has found






be normal maiden samphire

semaphore club moss ruta

graveolens heavy-reeking rue


spinnaker stands out from Thonon

republic at home with lakes

les foulques come swim with us


Voughà shi no the sign says

least chance for meaning

all day the difference dances


wanderfrei unsalted egg

of a pastor without sheep

have fun with us it means


but no one’s speaking

so nothing to know a nail

a board a brass band


chervil and leeks are close

coffee cool enough to drink

a peppermill for the pope


smooth cry willow jay

a horse just happens

a stream of travelers


vanishes in the woods

what does the eagle care

he’s written his book


in splendor the darkness

sleeps inside the light

the word forgives its mouth.


                                                                                    7 – 13 August 2004

                                                                                    Saint Jean d’Aulps