Garrett Kalleberg is the author of Some Mantic Daemons, Psychological Corporations, and Limbic Odes. His poems, reviews and translations have appeared in Sulfur, First Intensity, Denver Quarterly, Mandorla, A.bacus and American Letters & Commentary, and in An Anthology of New (American) Poets. His awards for poetry and critical writing include two awards from the Academy of American Poets and a grant from The Fund for Poetry. Garrett lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Three Poems by Garrett Kalleberg
Stay with Me
What is a slight buzzing or car horn, an alarm or
banging of a garbage can, breaking glass, a phone
ringing, sound of footsteps, someone running
and someone running after, the placement
of one foot after the other
in the wrong place, on the wrong street,
in the wrong time,
stay with me.
From the moment I knew I was happy
I was sad. I was brought up that way. The Reward
of Good Reading, I made a room
out of a book and I wrote a book
about the room. A bare light bulb
hangs in the center of the room
and as the hours pass the light dims
until it is almost dark
and as the hours pass the light brightens
until it is almost bright
and the light dims and the light darkens
like this from hour to hour.
As the light dims the bulb hums
until it is almost loud and I hear a voice
and as the light brightens, that’s enough,
my work is done.
This poem is its own law
and supercedes all other laws.
Eclipses can be explained by it
and the motives of beings
what they do and even what they
do not do, are you with me? I didn’t know
what to do with the man standing in his underpants
sobbing at my apartment door. Even Bataille
couldn’t explain this when he appeared
standing in his underpants, sobbing
at my apartment door. Georges,
I says, Georges,
stay with me. I’ll fix that light, and
put on some Mahler, we’ll have some whisky and, say,
I’ve always wanted to ask you,
if a body is released, does it return again
to its original form? or do all pleasures
lead to this, that I myself will have to
be repeated under changed conditions? Yes,
first the man from downstairs disappears then
Glenn disappears then I
I could go on
like this, but the phone rings, am I asking for too much? stay
just a little while, I have music and books
though the books are covered in dust and
the Adagio, I haven’t heard in years.
It’s September, late September and everything
has changed though I in my body and the same
feeling runs through and through like blood
in a heart, bile in a spleen, beauty
in an ideal when it makes itself appear
as the symptom of an imitation
carried out by adults which, unlike that of children,
does not spare the spectators the most painful experiences
and can yet be felt by them as highly enjoyable.
Beyond that, dust alone exists.
Please leave a message.
Strings in an Empty Container
a Confession, an Apologia, a Palinode
in ordinary language
please forgive me
for, what do I know?
in figurative language
I know, now
if I only had two cups
I would put my strings into them.
But my hands are tied with my own tongue
and my knots are
a witness, a
bird, as of a crow, witnessing this,
a pen and inky blue
black sky and sea, as of the sea, also a boat
lost on the sea. Yes lost,
I said! though its sails be a child’s white
crayon on masonite, there’s got to be a way out
of this logical hell (I said)
now write (I said)
with a stylus-cantilever probe
attached to the probe stage, the most difficult part
of the technique being
that as the probe is dragged
across the sample, the stylus moves
up and down in response to surface features
is then visualized as a
topological 3-dimensional shape, no
prospect of a beginning, no vestige
of an end. The only remotely recognizable wreckage
remaining the beloved’s
name in minuscule
drawn out on the convex of the ultimate
world, the way in and the way out,
the same. And all along, a familiar
pattern, until strangely
this looks like my own home. This is
your home, said one and instantly
I recognized the voice of my beloved
calling from the mouth of a crow
picking at an empty string
in a container. What do I love? think
(I said), though the sentiment appear in
finite lines, or closed loops formed
by strings, in an empty
container, a one-dimensional curve with zero
thickness, enwrapping a medium in which
the absolutes oscillate. Until a world
of infinite & adequate grays
appears, and all the fundamental forces
of the universe unify,
as surfaces in a many-
dimensional space, a turbulent
flow rather than
as lines or loop elements, open or
closed strings. A body lost also
in beauty, sadness, simple joys, in intellectual
development and dissipation, in corporeal
out tears itself out with a stylus-
cantilever in the right hand as though the life
of the organism moved with a vacillating
rhythm, and never quite here
senseless and brutal and without
meaning, purpose, or positive effect,
though this not keep me from writing.
And if I write, always, to you?
it depends on what we mean by you.
And if I follow a certain impulse,
it depends on the impulse
though every impulse return to the dust
of ice trails, solid air, sound
of the stars and the light they carry, the radiation
signature & luminous anomaly, the
radiative zone, or envelope of unevolved
material through which energy from the core is
diffusively transported by successive
absorption and emission of radiation in collisions
between the things themselves,
what was thus born
by that name, what will even
come to pass, what
has been called the messenger,
what had already shone on them,
what is given differently by different authors,
what in the hearing of the ear,
what in multiplying I will multiply—
I shan’t say
I cannot say
I do not know.
They will not let themselves be seen.
They will not hear you.
They will not provide help
for silent calls left on the machine.
Where there is one, there will be many.
Waiting to be cleared for admission.
But none went out, and none came in,
so that they let none of them remain.
And so they pass away.
Perhaps this mood will pass.
Perhaps this mood will fold, double over, convulse
uncontrollably, the vomitus
absorbed in a dominant idea, become
insensible to surrounding objects
buildings & money
the effects of heat or cold and
become separated from the body
and fall flat down before them
by a natural transposition
in an ecstasy of despair.
Done with this sex, I am making my own egg
with a protective shell of lathe, plaster, white paint.
Where there is one—make that honeycomb
aluminum with fiberglass
substrate and skin of skin
cooled to absolute zero
of x and y and z in ruins
of beauty built into decay
as its history and its majesty: and we will
find hard people
employ the terror
to the level of an art
and protect our children, preserve
our ways. Let me see a show of hands.
And now, lest he put forth his hand
and they are crushed in the gate,
neither is there any to deliver them
and this is the gate of heaven
even unto the entering of the gate
the gate between two walls
measured from gate to gate
for wide is the gate
because strait is the gate
in a strait betwixt two,
having a desire to depart
and all my desire
in the morning, and have light, depart, I
rose up early to depart in the morning
I shall not depart out of darkness
no matter where the pain comes from, no matter
a thousand little self-deaths
enacted in the quiet of night until all the little
desires are killed and sickness begins
to well up empty in the gut, and then
if he could remake himself emetic, how much anyway
of this sickness would he relieve himself of
how bitter the once sweet pathos
how better yet sleep, sleep, lie down.
How pretty you look lying there.
Tell me what you’re thinking.
Then should we pretend
to answer you? pallid guest
into whose dead eyes step the backwards
moving hands of a wall clock.
Should we say: Old friend, poet, we are
glad you could join us, what do you
think of Bardo? or tonight are you pure
soul, judgement, or complex
geometry coiled with the
sociability of a length of rope
hanging from a tree.
Would you like some more wine? and
how is your salad? (you don’t think he can
hear us, do you?)
The dog is turning to his own vomit again.
Pachyrhachis problematicus is eating his own tail again.
Which brings us back to the beginning.
You may be wondering why we brought you here.
Your first task is to familiarize yourself
with the operation of administrative
features, now press star star ADMIN
you have entered the system
in an ecstasy of despair, so that a bright
white light betrays the
acid green eclipse, the orange
valleys, traceries of red canals, luminous
range of yellow peaks,
the ancient valleys of Asgard and Valhalla
and the telemetry to get us there, though the telemetry
be in need of correction.
Scratch that, the next event
will be the first correction
and vertiginous horizons will await us.
There, on the horizon, is a tree of light
flaming bright, and the beauty of the thing
takes root in my mouth, until
the flora be removed from the body
and they could be seen to be moving their mouthparts
thus made note of an indication from the mouth
until the letters began to double
and multiply: caller, rider, passenger,
listener, watcher, taker,
raptor, receiver, recorder,
I will break these words
until they bear the meaning I have given them.
As a demonstration of my sincerity
I will break this “chair”
also known as “seat of the soul”
which is “housed in the body”
which was “delivered unto this earth”
but there was “no one” to receive
“your package” so I signed my name here and
printed my name here, what time
do you have? thank you
for coming. And I went out and came back
but was even angrier than when I went out
and now the chair is broken
and what can I do I cannot sit at this desk
I cannot write.
Neither can I speak.
I can no longer speak with my own tongue
but another a mother tongue slips around it
and trips it up
and my mouth is filled with sour foam, or mass
of eggs, while the little tongues within
they choke me, and
the legs of all the little tongues
broken off, stick in my teeth
with bits of escarole and garlic.
And what then will feed us?
What then of the future? when the wound
opens and flows—yes, back to work, but first
a short break, flaking
away the marrow, threading
ash, sloughing off the sluggish
glow of gold, orange, and
gray sublime—enough! back to
chipping away the cold
clod of tar in stairways, the puckered paint
of potential walls, before
going out and in again (again!), drop keys, stop
clock at speed of searchlight, chopper chopping
overhead, a leaf’s leaving
by the metal door. Come back!
Come in! come in, do you read me?
the papers are in the paper drawers
the organization is organized
the labels are labeled, now I will
paint these walls white, white
as paper, as milk, as snow, white
as stars’ clustered heat, as sun’s bones bleached
in the opiate white
night, as the speed
of light in a heart of ice soul of
chalk in a city of lime, soul of
white on white I will paint these
walls, ceiling floor table chair lamplight
white until you are the purest white
pus of the sun of the city of life, paint
in glyphs of light, guide my
hand of white silk in white ink of the