074.1: Tim Kahl:: The Trellis & Anatomy of the Noumena 074

In the shape of a “great old redwood naked in starlight,” the tree awes us with its power and scale; however, in the form of a “corpseflower,” the tree becomes a register of the “accumulated dead.” Tim Kahl’s poetry switches from the lyrically beautiful to the lyrically macabre in an instant, as if our impressions of the world were as diametrically opposed as the two sides of a pancake. Kahl is the hand that deftly flips these conflicted reactions. It is the dynamism of seeing one thing radically transformed from a different angle, with a different phrase, that makes makes the work so numinous. Kahl maintains an ambivalent relationship to the world he describes. On one side of this relationship, Kahl expresses wonder and excitement, rendered by a voice reminiscent of William Carlos Williams. Passages from “Anatomy of the Noumena” take such pleasure in the description of a maple, for instance, that catalogs of detail become catalogs for the various stations of reverence: “the half-light is wrapt (rapt) tight on its frame, / Ghosting oblivion / Nervous spike of growth / Positioning amid the infinite matter.”

But on the other side of this relationship to nature, Kahl explores the mulch, insects, bones, trash, and muck that makes beauty possible: “Let the hot bath retool / A fetish, a scratch, stretch / The opinionated flag of depression…”. These flips are more than spectacle. Both poems earnestly and poignantly suggest that we must identify with both sides of metamorphosis. Without holding both aspects at once, there is no learning. There is no progress. It is the machine, not the mulch, that garners the description of a plate of “cored apples,” a thing which has been deprived of its life-giving power for mere presentation. Ryan Winet

The Trellis

The great old redwood naked in starlight,

its yoga clothes thrown down on the soil

the ruins of the forest methodically; the tree is

a femur sticking up out of the ground.

The shadows wend their way up to where

the skull
should be, but there is no thinking being done

in this canyon, and therefore, no showcase

for a pair of eyes staring out blankly.
The blossoms

of the corpseflower recorded in this century

climb the redwood trellis and the flies zealously

as though this substitute for rotting flesh were

a giveaway
of secrets held fast since the first earthquakes

when the breath of the species rising from

the crust
was learning to orient itself in the night,

when the zephyrs slept, when there wasn’t

any coverage of the moonshadow moving briskly over

The retouched photo of Stalin’s face flowers

among the creeping vines gaining altitude,

to emerge from the forest’s canopy.

The vines feeding on humus, the accumulated

whose weight anchors the redwood

nearly uprooted by all the worldly debris

off of it. It has become this trellis made of

made for man budding and stretching
his limbs

toward the light, but failing to realize

the moral bearings lost,

the lost importance in

the kingdom of beasts.

And now

no progress.

Anatomy of the Noumena

     I. Outside

Morning shadow of maple, stick figure-in-waiting as
the half-light is wrapped (rapt) tight on its frame,
            ghosting oblivion,
nervous spike of growth
positioning itself amid the infinite matter. Birds chatter hurriedly
with a repetitious wind, echoes untether, reminiscing—
a good life was the life of the covered soil, cleverly hidden,
            placed in exact relation to
the machines planning their decay like a plate of cored apples.

     II. Inside

What is there to be found inside the mind’s navel?
Is the lathed exfoliate overwrought,
destined to exist only in this abysmal present?
He or she returns to mulch around the pattern recognition,
the problem solving, the awareness of subtle mood,
so much varied attention paid to the inner blemish,
the ache and palpitation of stimulus response,
            the spasm of jugular,
the sudden bliss of openness extended flake by flake
into an interior setting. Let the hot bath retool
            a fetish, scratch, stretch
the opinionated flag of depression, be steady,
            resume the varnishing.
Like that small dog in the grass,
resume the casual sprawl and keep sniffing.

     III. Interstices

A drip of stain between the slats that a hornet insists on possessing,
similar to the way that it can thrive on spring wishes,
            the way that the vicissitudes
stick to each other in warm weather,
            in the unheeded melt of confused expression,
the way that the attached web breaks free, twisting
            like a lost hair in a torrent,
leaving the head and its companion world isolated. It is like this
among essence, between the poles of remembrance and forgetting,
between the inscape of vision and phoneme extrusion. It is like that
in this way, the way a crippled branch resists
            the aggression of a common definition.
It is like that. Like the temptation of a merciful death.

     IV. Inseam

The unseen filler in the air annuls its blend with an open space’s instants.
            It’s new job is serious,
instantaneous, and the day is kept long
            so its removal will be difficult, an injury pressing
the numinous and the sun’s experience. All day continues,
            claiming the germ of presence is
the final toll taken on a handsome worm, dehydrated, ready-to-be-cherished,
curled into a scroll paying tribute to the luminous (loom in us).
            After this rewarding situation,
this surprising menace,
like the park ducks rehabilitated to frolic,
            a typical past follows.

     V. Microtubules

All that time bare wood spends waiting for an orange rind to be dismembered,
he or she introduces the lumen, its purpose unclassified,
            the float of misshapen truth
appearing in and out of phase with the register of accidental memories, blind connected,
almost as if there were an incandescent foam for an unspecified light to arc across,
            to burn an image
with an irresponsible flash, where the determined genes of a stick man insist on
            gathering to point uphill,
like a migrating bull.

     VI. Circuit Board

The long intestine reversed
confirms commitment to the greater flow of traffic,
            to the greater practice of
an embarrassing amount of individual movement across a manufactured slope,
            across the plowed expanse of a grid numbered with the remnants of antonyms,
the ones opposed to the growth of the self in
            an age of electronics, in an age of indecision—
beef jerky and silicon ever after.
Considering this kind of ending,
unlike so much of the star jasmine’s confession ending in the garden,
            the yellow pollen settles on all the visitors’ clothes,
the fragrance contaminating them
            as they excuse themselves to effect a distant condition.

     VII. Keepsake

Nothing stays fresh as long as disappointment,
the stain on the forehead turned to white ash with every exposure to the present,
every surface irritated by the dust of careless initiatives,
            dust of expressive whims,
grit blown through the pensive filters, memento dust,
            ordinary house dust
returned to the inimitable need to be enraptured
            —like the cultivator of the rose.