Peter Gizzi

A History of the Lyric

And this is no other
Place than where I am

--W. S. Graham

Objects in mirror are closer
than they appear

they are right next to you
in the lanes, hugging a shoulder


they twitter in rafters
calling down to your mess

in rays, crescents

the white curled backs
of snapshots tucked in a frame

eyes of the dead


there is a gimbal lamp, ledger
a table of solid deal

clocks & militaria

a dirty blotter
its crusty bottle, a plume


there are beetles and boojum
specimen jars decorated

with walkingsticks, water striders
and luna moths

a treatise on rotating spheres


this swivel chair, worn
from some years past

a few doubloons, powder horn
musket bag and tricorne hat

a cannon, its yawning round


they are closer than comfort
closer than night breaking

over the mountain face

empurpled, its silhouette
ragged, silver

unquantifiable in pixie dusk


closer than power lines
casting shadows on brush

breath, heart ticking
the prepared delay

as twilight settles
in waves and crests

a water fowl, hooded owl


an avant-garde
a backward glance



The ethics of dust

to think I have written this poem before
to think to say the reason I came here
sound of yard bird, clinking lightbulb

to think the world has lasted this long

what were we hoping to say:
ailanthus, rosebud, gable
saturnalia, moonglow, remember

I am on the other side now
have crossed the river, have
through much difficulty
come to you from a dormer closet
head full of dark
my voice in what you say

at this moment you say
wind through stone, through teeth
through falling sheets, flapping geese

every thing is poetry here

a vast blank fronting the eyes
more sparkling than sun on brick
October’s crossing-guard orange



In the garden

Lateness is a dark and luminous thing
so true of early twilight.

I have known the morning to be darkest
upon waking. The pictures go away

and one is back to the thing of living.
Things to handle and attend:

Hawthorne, willow spear.


If the dark speaks what does it say
in a dark time. As words choose me

are they mine, and the counterpointing wind.
If a catalog inserted here, your name here.

If the road turned, if your erratum
came to naught (for with read wick,

for tear read torn), if you found me.


This night dissolves outlines?trees,
leaves and power lines along the way.

What way? The goodly silence
returns its music as lateness falling

falls back into nerve.


So things come together, one
and one. And if one, and if

an overwhelming sense of rescue:
fallen leaf. Broken acorn. Schoolyard tears.

A grandiosity for being useful:
burning ship. Buckling dam.


Jets report a mass of shaped sound
off beyond the tree line.

I wanted to go to it: if leaf beauty,
if cloud beauty, if ideas of relation.



To his wife far off in a time of war

that you are not among the winter branches
the door opening
a trapezoid in deep gold light
I awoke to water in the distance
rushing loud as traffic on High St.
more real than traffic on High St.
if you were to come now
hair draping your shoulders
were to kiss my neck
bending to clip the flower
a happy lover might be
known to run to excess
but tell me am I happy



A history of the lyric

I lost you to the inky noise
just offscreen that calls us

and partly we got stuck there
waving, walking into the Percy grass.

A sinking pictorial velvet spray
imagining vermilion dusk.

You lost me to your petticoat
shimmering armor

saying it is better here
on my own amazon.

Why can’t we or is it
won’t you leave your solo ingle

beside the page. Did we never
consider life lyric interruption

to the idyll, laboring to rescue
real time, lost in affection.

Back roads deadend in every epoch
but our view was singular, private

shared vistas of original walks.
Don’t trade on this high tone

for silence, rather lumen chatter
recalling the better part of majesty.




When the sky came down
there was wind, water, red

When the sky fell
it became water, wind
a declaration in blue

When the end was near
I picked up for a moment, joy
came into my voice

Hurry up it sang
in skiffs and shafts
Selah in silvered tones

When the day broke open
I became myself
standing next to a door

In my dream you were alive
and crying