Glare / Strip / #4

hear me, O Lord, from the height of
the high place, where speaking is not

necessary to hearing and hearing is
in all languages: hear me, please,

have mercy, for I have hurt people,
though I think not much and where

much never intentionally and I have
accumulated a memory (and some heavy

fantasy) guilt-ridden and as a
nonreligious person, I have no way

to assuage, relieve, or forgive
myself: I work and work to try to

redeem old wrong with present good:
but I’m not even sure my good is good

or who it’s really for: I figure I
can be forgiven, nearly;, at least,

by forgiving, that is, by understanding
that others, too, are caught up in

flurries of passion, of anger and
resentment and, my, my, jealousy and

that coincidences and unintentional
accidents of unwinding ways can’t

be foreknown: what is started here,
say, cannot be told just where to

go and can’t be halted midway and
can’t, worst, be brought

back and started over: we are not,
O You, at the great height, whoever

you are or whatever, if anything, we
are not in charge, even though we

riddle localities with plans,
schemes, too, and devices, some of

them shameful or shameless: half-guilty
in most cases, sometimes in all, we

are half-guilty, and we live in
pain but may we suffer in your cool

presence, may we weep in your surround-
ing that already has understood:

we could not walk here without our
legs, and our feet kill, our

steps however careful: if you can
send no word silently healing. I

mean if it is not proper or realistic
to send word, actual lips saying

these broken sounds, why, may we be
allowed to suppose that we can work

this stuff out the best we can and
having felt out our sins to their

deepest definitions, may we walk with
you as along a line of trees, every

now and then your clarity and warmth
shattering across our shadowed way



A.R. Ammons


#77 / Ammons / Glare / Scat Scan

truth persists, if at all, hardly distinguishable
from a pack of lies: the truth has about as

much chance as a slender of wheat in the weeds:
but, of course, weeds are the truth, too, just

not the truth we want to keep: not that what
we don’t want to keep isn’t also often true:

for example, some of us, those below the line,
want to think that all men are equal, since

that would raise us: while to others, if all
men are equal, equality would step them down:

well, the truth is that all men are equal, but
you know how it is, you hem and haw, give and

take squirm and squat, and it all comes out
how you’re as equal or unequal as you can

make it: allowances like wooly ramifications
surround these ideal axises (axes?): the

breaking down of things promotes possibility:
as with love, the lucky cannot, except by

scraps and fidgets, hold onto love, while those
who love to the sour bottom of desperation

can let nothing, not even themselves, alone to
live but must cleave to the passion till it

kills, either inwardly or outwardly: thank
goodness for the half asses and easygoing, for

the good stuff from time to time that takes
love on and lets it go: thank you lord for

those who get off in the morning to the office
and clear their minds for strategem and strife:

we should always believe the opposite of what
is believed because what is believed hides

by contradicting what we don’t want to believe:
the truth covers the merely true and the truly

believed. . . .


#76 Ammons / Glare / Scat Scan

your insidious eloquence makes me seek the
plain dealing of the woods, the dark, the clear

stars: and your refinement, a line so thinly
held I can’t tell which side will break from

snide tittering into howling mockery: (a little
extra humidity over, say, recent days has

turned the streets into rivers, embankments
into rubble, and this morning it all turned

into snow–the pink tulip trees luminous
under their clusters of white; the crabapple

blossoms, though, ready to radiate, frozen
out of their sockets, could be, and everywhere

gushy mush cushions the walkways: it is, of
course, Mother’s Day, May 11, a good day for

corsages’ metallic glaze and fern lace: my
mother is dead and gone, a death 46 years old,

but a death as close as the next cell of my
brain: when in distress with her young brood,

as many dying as living, she cried out “give
me the roses while I live” I had no roses

and the distress taken up into myself, I had
the impoverishment by hysteria, my mouth at

times as I bent over leaking like a fountain,
my dreams full of stiff figures that tried to

move: now that I have whatever I want, coin
or flower, I can give nothing back, the

lips cannot find a smile, the hands cannot
ease into the lap, the eyes cannot light with

calm): how does the magician, who makes reality
vanish, feel when his infected thumb throbs

and a pink streak or two times its way up his
arm: does the magic vanish like an imp

shrieking with mischievous delight: I say,
does the magic of reality take revenge:

well, so it is with the weavers of language
and their cunning cloths that string out of

vestments or take the material out of presences
some day these weavers will be the object of

their practices, and the present will present
them with no present of escape: tell true:

speak plain: deal openly: shed deceit:
these yield no room to the coming round of the


A.R. Ammons #43 from Glare

sometimes I get the feeling I’ve never
lived here at all, and 31 years seem

no more than nothing: I have to stop
and think, oh, yeah, there was the

kid, so much anguish over his allergy,
and there was the year we moved to

another house, and oh, yes, I remember
the lilies we planted near that

siberian elm, and there was the year
they made me a professor, and the

year, right in the middle of a long
poem, when I got blood poisoning from

an ingrown toenail not operated on
right: but a wave slices through,

canceling everything, and the space
with nothing to fill it shrinks and

time collapses, so that nothing happened,
and I didn’t exist, and existence

itself seems like a wayward temporizing,
an illusion nonexistence sometimes

stumbles into: keep your mind open,
something might crawl in: which

reminds me of my greatest saying:
old poets never die, they just scrawl

away: and then I think of my friends
who may have longed for me, and I say

oh, I’ll be here the next time
around: alas, the next time will

not come next: so what am I to say
to friends who know I’m not here and

won’t be back: I’m sorry I missed
you guys: but even with the little

I know I loved you a lot, a lot more
than I said: our mountains here are

so old they’re hills: they’ve been
around around 300 million years but

indifference in all that time broke
itself only to wear them out: my

indifference is just like theirs: it
wipes itself clear: surely, I will have

another chance: surely, nothing is
let go till trouble free: when

I come back I’m going to be there
every time: and then the wave that

comes to blank me out will be set
edgy and jiggling with my recalcitrance

and my consciousness will take on weight

#25 from Glare (Ammons)

it scares me to think that being
just me won’t be enough to do it:

(I’ve had a problem feeling like it
up to now) but it scares me

more to think that i have to be more than
I am because like I said I’m already

running a deficit: and it scares me
even more to think I could get by

with less than just me: because if
I’ve amounted to nothing up to now

wouldn’t I amount to less being
less: well, but then you have to

think, how well does this thing that
has to be done have to be done:

maybe nobody can do it as well as I
think it should be done: if it’s

okay to do it well enough to get
by, why then maybe I’m your man after

all because I’m OVERSIZE Average,
and even the low range of my average

should do to do it: there you are:
the thing is to do it, go ahead and

do it: and see what happens: people
may appreciate it more than you

think: often people expect so little:
there are so many things they’re

used to finding they can’t do any
better than anyone else: and if

you’re really good, they can be
resentful and jealous (and you, by

the way, can be removed from regular
average into an object of some awe

and fear, and people will fear you
then but they won’t like you): if

you do poorly but show
resolve and courage, you may attract

a lot of mutual understanding and
sympathy and from a few possibly a

few offers of help: what we have
here, in other words, is some pretty

down to earth stuff in which a lot
of shining on your part may not be

all that appropriate: when #1 looks
up, there is no one to look up to, and

when he looks down, he has no equal
and no friend: he attracts,

quite contrariwise, sleazers, weaslers,
pleasers and outrageously impertinent

nobodies who think they should be #1 and
have not once imagined the bad

side of that, be average (or a little less)
the wide world of the average is the

widest world to inherit, whereas
splendor lives by itself in a place

of icy mirrors and chilling rooms

From the book Glare, by A.R. Ammons

#37, from the book GLARE by A.R. Ammons

one types to please and appease, to
belay the furies, to charm the real

and unreal threats into a kind of
growling submission: typing is this

ancient skill, now so rare it is as
if priestcraft, intoned knowledge in

the legend of words: this idle skill
is an offering, symbolic in kind,

a tribute to the makers of fear:
oh, we say, look at this typing:

note the actual ink, the pressure of
the keys against paper: isn’t that

we say, curious: don’t you find it
distracting: doesn’t it recall to

you old rich worlds you’ll be all
day recovering: meanwhile, we

typists will be eased enough to have
dinner, maybe take a nap: paranoia

is just a motive for operations, for
recognizing this and that and thinking

how this can deal with that: it is
a sharp acquisition of knowledge:

it gets you up to the plate: with
all the strikeouts, you may learn

to hit the ball: no telling what
you’ll be paid for that, and it was

all sort of magically accidental: you
were trying to do one thing when you

did another they pay you for: is it
not better to be comfortable and

ignorant: then Love and Trust, arm
in arm, waltz by and assure us that

there is nothing to fear, that, indeed,
the people like to look at our typing

just because they like to: they have
so much friendly feeling they delight

even in the fearful mirages your
typing rigs up: think of that:

it was all the time all a show: it
gave energy to the occasions: it was

something to consider: but, of course,
you know, some loves are despised and

some trust is deceptive: separating
out the threads of reality, you may

become entangled and fearful: you
may have to override caution in order

to believe in love, to make a, as
they say, commitment: appearances

dress reality in different
guises: so, you are asking, what is

my advice: my advice is, it’s not
going to be easy, or else it is going

to be so easy you won’t even know
it’s happening: take a chance, stay

alert, have faith: how do you do
this: I have no idea: you “work it

out?” you remain compliant, yielding,
assertive, angry, grateful, cautious,

and type a lot: you can’t type
without dealing with the roller, the

return carriage, the space bar, the
margins, the ribbon, the paper, the

keys–not to mention thoughts and
feelings: so it requires some attention:

the great thing about attention is
that you basically have only one and

when it is occupied it is hard to
preoccupy it, and that is why they

say the merciful Lord gives us only
one thing to deal with at a time;

that’s because we can pay attention
to only one thing at a time: you

may hurt in a dozen places, but when
your mind settles on one place, the

other places retreat, distally vague,
unvisited: choose the positive

where it can be found or invented:
for no reason but that it feels

better than choosing the negative:
but choosing is not easy: you have

to work at it little by little: one
little bit enables another, so the

effect builds up and you wake up one
morning calm, at peace, or happy:

at least, one hopes so: do the best
you can, do

From GLARE: Two Poems by A.R. Ammons

“41” from Glare by A.R. Ammons

the strong want to live on the edge
but they are so strong they can

seldom find an edge anywhere: while,
alas, the weak inhabit edges everywhere

and seek strength anywhere to pull
back away into safety: how sad

that what we have is not what we want
and what we want we can’t find: if

you say what you have to say then you
have nothing to say: therefore the

unsaid is the lens of observation &
what will not tell itself will not

be done with telling: stripping is
what I do, keeling to this band of

paper, a fleet rig on a round-the-world
and back-around-again: it is so

arrogant to say it is not important:
imagine the gall, asking to be known

for nothing, or to be known for having
the gall to ask to be known for nothing:

what I want is not something out of
something–fairly easy–but something

out of nothing: a difficult, primal
figure: in what was space made: if

space closes up, what is left behind:
if this universe bloomed through some

integument from another universe,
where did that universe come from:

presence only annihilates these
troublesome questions: springs and

kangaroo rats and insect bites and
reed mats and dinosaur teeth: lots

of stuff, begun and ended over and
over, so that the loam of our lives

is a loam that was life, flesh from
flesh strangely begotten: flesh into

flesh, a soilure and a soil: but the
wonder of such infinite devising–

tadpole and caterpillar, mushrooms
and figs, mole rats and chimpanzees:

five million insects and only a few
white rhinoceros: ladybugs and plums:

the list lists it is so weighty:
just mud and information: enough

oohing and aahing: everything taking
and being taken–provender: the

lacewing fly, something’s meal: the great
quantity of things lies elsewhere

From Glare, by A.R. Ammons

#39, From GLARE by A.R. Ammons

the petunias are, this morning,
bewept with dew: they focus intensely

downward, their pale undersides topside,
overarching flops: still, but, yet,

indeed, it’s rained, in a summer of
the least rainfall eve, the lawns

ghastly dry, some leaves falling before
fall, the lilacs crinkled yellow,

the ivy ever sere: fungus and mold,
I suppose, have been put to rout:

that’s probably good longer term for
roots and general soil condition:

but the ground cover (paschysandra)
looks wilted: so when

I got up this morning and saw
reflecting pools of rain out along

the road’s edge, I did a passamezzo:
there’s a breadperson down at the

market I could look at all day: you
may think I have said breadperson

because I shouldn’t say breadman or
because I wouldn’t want my wife to

know if it’s a breadwoman: I can’t
say one way or the other because

that would be gender differentiation
and might suggest that looks have

something to do with taste: but I
can’t stand and look at him or her

all day because that would look
foolish and he or she would start to

notice, and nothing is really quite
easy in the world: I can’t even say

what I would stand and look at all
day: we are tied round with ties:

and lies: we are lie-tied and
tie-laid: the world is ashen with

flash and burn, desiring and desisting,
revealing and retching: why do people

not want things eased away instead of
wired to the highly charged: is the

disorganization of the languid so
scary: not, for me, as scary as the

crises of fear: tranquilized–oh
that has been my missing paradise

so long, and its lack too long my
hell: with nothing, thank goodness,

to be miserable over, I’m miserable
over nothing: but it makes no difference

what becomes of me now because I’m already
become of: unless, of course, I could

write a good line: I could spell out
my dream along a good line some beauty

might take a turn to, and then we
would be toe to toe on the floor,

the music swaying us and educating
our wishes and edging us toward the

closure that is our temporary but
essential solution: strip typing is

like strip mining: you peel the
surface off things shoving clutterment

downhill, heaping hunks, spewing
grit, filling cracks, riddling shale,

making news out of old geology:
massive millings: my strip typing

says little but can be understood:
whereas, many things so dense they’re

very meaningful and hard to know:


Note: Glare is a book-length poem (294 pages) divided up into 117 segments.

GLARE (46) by A.R. Ammons

the yellow leaves left on the
birch flip in the wind like

butterflies trying to pitch: when the
wind lulls they light, then dance

like frit in the sun when the
wind’s shiversome again: if you’re

fortunate enough to live as long as I’ve
lived, you may be as old as I am: awake

some mornings, I don’t know whether
to discharge a gun or an obligation