Four Poems by Brian Blanchfield

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The History of Ideas, 1973-2012


In the different forms of alienation some other entity had obtained what was proper to man:

in religion it was God, in politics the State, in economics the market process and cash nexus



At the end of the capriccio we each reinvented the last night

of youth as we knew it, in which,

     so you wait, one determines,

there are no prerogatives but to return to the car

and fog up the windows with your socked feet and sulking.

If the old compunction in your mouth will not now

be voided, and you won’t outlast righteousness, seal in

the soda sound of your breathing, and then open the door again

on night, moonless more profitably, as to walk off here

from the commonplace porchlight has the benefit of peril.


Or, in her bed that night have the protagonist ask, Is what I am

the thing I can do? All her life, one determines, she will mean

never to forget the vocation’s imperative, as the finer dancer

remembers falling

      is better than fashioning a fall.


First, my body related me to others whom I did not choose,

and this was before I was a subject, so what I am comprises that

humiliation of my judgment in matters of love and this

attempt to recover ecstasy, volunteer for pleasure. At least


match waists with Evan. Rotate the trunk while holding

the arms fixed in a hoop shape. Polish your elbow. Zero in

on sympathetic laddering. Follow anyone’s finger.

       Maybe at the end

head out into the movement field a final time

with the company and the touchpoint actions

a sideline of proctors listed to see you repeat. Select

pleasures made tasks, let my body find

what to do                                besides, please, because

this familiarity is the one I leave with.


Or, in the corner of the boat the tide turns beneath

a spider covers her territory. Tomorrow, the long day’s

sun. And you are he who carries her eggs in his hair and needs

his something slaked. Him in the mirror tarnishing above

the stoppered bottles. In that bay beyond the bayside

bar—around whose cool brass rail a boy disunites his

heel and sandal—she runs again the rim of the rest of time.


Since, why stop at youth, one determines.


On your stomach, rear back high. Yes, this is my well

you’ve fallen in, and I need you now to remove your shirt.

The fire moss is crawling with why you came, and say that

in Portuguese, and again looking now into the camera

say it. Boa noite. Boa noite, Vitor. Come out from among

the others and be ye separate. Starmint stuck in a dish of pennies.


Or, you teach the child to spell his name in sparkler light and feel

you shouldn’t’ve. He autographs the night, but it’s not hereditary.

Light another.



So who are we? We are the life force power of the universe,

with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds



The History of Ideas, 1973-2012

What Heidi’s grandfather learned from the eagle he taught himself



Aggregate is a pavement rough on the feet. We spread it around

the allotment gardens, where monuments are most prone.

At level grade, we introduce the churn, a procedural masonry

flocked with beak and shell and pattern after, a deuteronomy

all over the ground, much like that the maestri spotted

on the monticule and derived, halfway down again,

of starshower.

                         Trueness to type is the objective in aggregate,

and chalking it up, roughly, the signature business

of our internal audit, summarized over the translator before

the hearings of grievance. In truth the gardeners

are lucky to have us, and if their gratitude is tactical

it is no less affecting to have pressed into our aprons

the gentians indigenous to First Elevation.


A blossom sometimes, in their parlance, volunteers

out of season, and it is not without precedent we

element the youth we find one morning at the pour

and pattern after. It seems an act of love paradoxically,

the expulsion they call going to seed—his kiss curl twisted

up and out in a manner we now recognize as preparatory,

fontwater wet. While we work his boredom brings to him

one of our handtrucks and a duet all day to choreograph,

rock-tip-twisting into dervish a leverage of himself until

the beck he was assigned to search our faces for

escapes him and we break silence. He yanks his balance,

wheels out, skids again. When we escort the probate

to the audition granted him and his hum among us

in the melody of the closing prayer the novitiates lead

after grievances is resonant in our walk back, we notice

like nuns the march of our feet in its beat and stagger,

whereupon in testiness we huff and ditch the stiffened

batch, then mellow. We clap out dust from the proving trays.



Extraordinary achievement is less about talent than it is about opportunity



The pelican cocks higher her wing

for good get at. Nibbling the blister

and siphoning the mud by bill to the brood.


Hey, how did the consecration go?


Aristophanes and Judas, but not

Johns. Memphis’s (emphasis mine)

on the Mississippi, but not on the Nile.


Hey, how was the peroration?


The bronzer devises a rapprochement,

the mulcher, the parents, the host. She

plans to rephotograph the memorial bench.


So, what was the beseechment like?


Bluing is a way to whiten, the bottle of

bluing agent reads. It takes its place

beside the finish. Or should I have said solution?


Hey, where will you be for Thanksgiving?


Or else I were alone in thinking something

had been in the air, a frost phenomenon,

a pestilence, the AM station’s affiliate switch.


But, then, who gave the benediction?


With a tail as big as a kite, for something that

by itself repeats. The windsock on the helipad

and blame enough to go around.


So, what was the turnout in the end?


Two in a pew, one stressed,

the turn down in the thread of her halo

screwy. And whose little boy is he?



Even then and although a latecomer’s look around

suggested I had confused the given with consent

and my keep for comprehensive

I burnished the tunic. It was disintegrating;

I brought it on as once a gloss was brought out.

Even then and however assiduous still I

found my flagrancy and, david of me, divulged.

And, raising myself, soaked lip to chin in compote,

shot back a telling giant glance.

What ordnance tore down,

revealing, eaten hungry,

from the looks of me:

original insufficiency.


If no one grew up of the integer—you

know the one—I raised myself, and was to be a man,

in him grew a throat around the fear, once around,

to feel it rise and a valve to catch

its olive taste

and send it—person to personnel—below.

A bete noir, a weak suit, one that breathes.

Never is it imperiling integrity that

depresses the call button. Nothing so helped me

more. Who may I say is leaving ill enough alone


and what is all this antecedent

pulling moreover on

the fitted bedding of malingerers?


What’ve I got here before I got here

that isn’t—outpatient intake—

there there consolation?


Him I found in the dative case

thrown concussive on the very air, west expectancy:

he said I sat close enough to notice if I wanted

his black eyes burgeon at cruising altitude

and before descent he could, he believed, if I wanted,

taste it rocking back,

like dialing a memory.


Brian Blanchfield is the author of three books of poetry and prose, most recently Proxies, published by Nightboat Books in 2016. He was awarded a 2016 Whiting Award in Nonfiction. His two books of poetry are Not Even Then (University of California Press, 2004) and A Several World (Nightboat Books, 2014), which received the 2014 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets and was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award for Poetry. Recent essays and poems have appeared in Harper’s, BOMB, Guernica, The Nation, Chicago Review, The Brooklyn Rail, A Public Space, The Paris Review, and The Awl. He has taught as core faculty in the graduate writing programs of Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and at the University of Montana, Missoula, where he was the 2008 Richard Hugo Visiting Poet. Since 2010 he has been a poetry editor of Fence. He lives with his partner John in Tucson, where is the host of Speedway and Swan on KXCI 91.3.