Blackbox Manifold

Issue 11: Simon Smith


a poem in forty-four parts

It is a new work with your mark on it

Cut up into little stars – diluted with rain-water

No-one thinks like you

That about the child

How one writes & writes over & over the same thing!

But day by day the same sun rises, . . . over & over & nobody is tired

That I should have forgotten you or so remembered you

This morning’s letter here – I will go sit presently

And walk it back to its senses

Held up in that light

I to whom they are sun, air & human voices

A promise of pure gold, & thank you, as pure gold

I could not bear to have words from you which the world might listen to

And walk, walk

Dearest, you are the best,

A very, very, very “little lower than the angels!”

Thursday is our day, I think

It is easier to say ‘thursday’ on monday than on saturday

I cannot distinguish between your acts now

The actual good you get out of me,

May be stated at about two commas

& a semi-colon, you on the other side

I cannot, cannot

You might have said one word

What do you think I have been doing today?

You are kissed whether you feel it or not

The written thing with a shadow of meaning stays

I should not reconcile myself to your picture

I forgot to say anything yesterday

This morning I mean

Observe how the days are made

The Homer-subject till to-morrow

And then speak arrows, voice within voice!

Happiness does not come with the sun or rain

If one shuts one’s eyes & listens to the birds singing

A break of the blue real sky with a star in it

No note to guide me no note to guide me

And half put into my mouth

Rubbing out figure by figure

A good deal nearer the angels

Writing such unlawful, disorderly things

Today has gone by with me

Happiness goes the same way to my fancy

Safe, & free, & calm & pure

I nearly fell backward down the stairs

I will tell you this year of grace

I felt as if my voice & breath went together

Ran violent down a steep place

Into some sort of conversation

They are gone and forgotten

The whole world lying in darkness

The thread of a sentence will not

Lie still, out of the way

But you go higher and it is the same thing

Time is fearfully short, forgive me my short-

Comings every hour in the day

I hardly dare cry out lest the charm break

Where I go, you go where I descend,

It is after you like Tennyson’s blackbird

What a mad folly marriage would be!

Who, who began calling names

It’s warm, the rain like you

Yesterday I planted a full dozen

More rose-trees, all white

But you really think the confirmation

Of that last sentence, and you promise

You promise at the very lowest

Calculation, writing to me on every

Day we did not meet I cannot

Distinguish between your acts

Take my – last words I ever shall send you

It is part of the horror of such things

The words “at once,” taken out “virtually”

The inevitable horrors of dirt and roughness

Nothing can be done, nothing effectual

My time is out, too much, & too out of place

So free!  So free as a matter of pure reason

Poor world – it is more desperately wrong than I thought

Yet the chance (as chance) seems much the same

“Here be proofs” – the system operates beyond

The limits of its operations, quarrelsome letters

As I choose you are wrong & if you are wrong,

How are we to get it right, we all look to you

Instead of opening the door & keeping your secret

I would just call the police

Promises & vows may be foolish things

For the most part it is so wet & dreary

Do you not see? . . . & think of you . . . do you not feel?

All your corrections are golden

“Little circle” to “circling faces”

The postman fell into a trance

A little, little less thought

To conceive of things, which nevertheless are

Do you smile?  & will you “take aim” this time

First of all kiss me in as few words as possible

Is “society” a thing to desire to participate in?

Men who “live” only in the first instance

Next, men who attend to the world first.

Society is not worth living in

The lowest possible ground

“What loss is there?”

His word was nothing

Is language only a shade

Removed from all harm

He is nothing

It is society’s affair

Spoken or unspoken

The poorest creature

Dreams of being angry

Then he must

Go into the world

To say as little

Out of the world by being let go quietly

To say to the people I find between

Do you look to this point and slap his face

In every possible shape I speak for the world,

Not for me because of a dull day

Its unmistakeable shape by a touch or two

Then directly before the sacrifice of little

I only speak as I see & of the sun

Shines on as brightly, I read . . . “first of all,

Kiss” . . . so it seemed like magic

Disagreeing letters leave off loving me

At the end I seem to see through this crevice

How it would be like the sun’s setting . . .

Only, more darkness, more pain

Deserve to know, in a sense, “read by your light”

I listened for the footsteps . . . the footsteps of my letter

Always, always!  Yet you cannot, you know, –

You know you cannot for knowledge for more

Reasons than one there was sunshine for you

For you never to have seen my face

‘In the city’ I seem to have more need

Than usual of seeing you, how can you,

Seeing so much, see that “possibility” ever

Arise in me to you I am wholly yours

In the matter we refer to I am growing

Conscious of one or two repetitions

The words are words, and faulty,

Inexpressive, or wrongly expressive

I live under your eyes, and die I came home dead

It went to my heart & stayed there in the night

At dream-time no words but just your own,

Between heaven & earth weights of flowers

Try to understand what I mean as it will be

As much mine as yours, & yours as mine

Rather, rather see winking eyes . . . & that

Other word is . . . I write what I write to throw

It off my mind & have done

Wednesday or thursday shall be our day

Without blotting the air

Writing notes this morning

Perfect rest and happiness here on earth

All ending in the marriage day

I want the love at one life’s end

In the ordinary chances of life

Two “great lights” to rule the day & night

I write without waiting & looked, and looked, & looked

I like the note beyond the imagination

Tell me – I was going to write that “Tell me”

The window being wide open, I walked straight to it to shut it

The shadow had a sign of you I looked after it till it vanished

Now the black intervals

I believe and want not ‘proof’

Have you a pair of scales like Zeus & me?

With respect to the immediate

We breathe together, understand together, know, feel, live

“Not to go out in the open air” –

The explanatory note fills up prose after prose

The feelings must remain unwritten – unsung too

Kind, and kinder & kindest

My life & love flow steadily under all those bubbles

A serious purpose of going out, walking out

Flies are flies . . as flies

A talking ladder to something else

The intellectual worker looking up to the stars at nights

If there were no motion there would be no morning

If one built a palace without a noise to make a noise

Would “commit suicide” rather than live as you

Dropping its blotchy oil all the bright colours of our poetry!

If you knew how hard it is for me

As if you were not in the world with me

Is it wrong to laugh a little, to put it off let your thoughts be with me

One comfort is, the walking in a moment in the field

I see a beautiful sunshine how we would go out

I lock out the world and then look down on it

There is a vast view from our greatest hill

Wordsworth was shown that hill

“R.B. lives over there by that HILL”

Wordsworth – “we call that, such as that, – a rise”!

Perhaps if Hatcham should not be swept away

In the Railway “scirocco” I may see

The “hill” or “rise” at some distant day

I would rather see it than Wordsworth’s mountain?

I write nothing about your walking with me by

The garden wall, and on the hill, and looking down on London?

Here shall be my ending “for reasons, for reasons”.

A voice talked to me of the “west wind”

In the last moment of sleep the language everywhere

Only opened the window & let in, the air

Oh I might have been there today, or yesterday, or the day before

What trees?  Cherry trees?  Apple trees?  Pear trees?

Mr Browning writing when he should be walking

Beginning by any sort of lane

Poets are the worst species of men I accept my chances

I received the moment the delivered message, and then

Take a step for myself we had a great talk

Proved they were clear noonday blazes

& that his eyes were just dazzled carry it away

To some friend of his, unnamed

I have the whole effect in my memory

Distinctly to throw away such beautiful work

Out of the window into the dark as if the words

Were too near, for the speaker to be so far

It is always when one is asleep that dream-angels come

The poorest brown butterfly

Will seek out a brown stone in a gravel walk

The thinnest of gauze canopies crowning delight

Your last note for a particular purpose

Why the wrongness . . . dear as the rightness

The contemplation of the others

First on returning to them that adorable spirit

In all these phrases phrases which fall into my heart

Who was giver altogether and who taker

Unconsciousness is wrong I cannot imagine

Any point of view I feel it everyday, I tell myself

Everyday what I mean to say from the beginning

To try and explain what is unexplainable

Too entirely mine this minute, – my heart’s, my senses’

The real hold of my heart can hold this letter

The words break down, yet I will be trying to use them!

Shake this elixir, & you have more & more

Bubbles on the surface of it you were in the dark

Let the shutter be opened suddenly

I stretch out my hands & must still fade away further

We stand in different positions when the light

Is gone the only real thing? Some good reader

Had /recited>repeated/ “the Duchess” to him

The short morning shadow of ‘vanity’

The cedars grow, upward, & without noise

The darkness you cause upon the ground

The rugged path straight

“Just here there is a little shade”

Everybody is complaining the old

Wind continues what colourless weather

All my light comes, not only through

You, but from you to see you in a dream

I come clear out of the mist the entire

Delight, carried me lightly out and in

Stop the darling mouth if I were separated

From you for a day I think my heart

Would move to it first flutter of delight

A characteristic piece of news your note

Only just comes the knock & the letter

But when you say now you do

Not part with feelings to wear them out

You are likely to care for the sight

As much after years as at first

To talk reason in the face

You are the best of all

Did I tell you once the best thing

Falling as they do on the mere asides

May is just here, beside

The truth of days, and days after them

You might have stayed ten minutes more

As children of light so it is as well to say

Telling, telling, telling, & never having done

Here an instance!  & the sweet briar is opening

Its leaves today as if it would take too many

Miracles – remember the letters, if they come

The book I ought to put in my pocket, –

Picked up in our lane “truly an illusion broken”

Said they might “love” me – they came

From you, they go to you –

But there is no wreck: harbour is found

I have done a fair day’s work this Monday

While the sun shone / brightest > brightliest /, –

What an unceasing delight keep alive, moving

For a week’s life now dearest-dearest the end

Of thinking and of dreaming is still new love

From my heart of hearts every pulse of it alive

Until I had your note this morning!

Between the white-satin sash & the spangles

I never guessed at all what love was

The rest for to-morrow one never can be

Too sure of such happiness I can but sprinkle

You over with yellow dust!  I kiss

You with perfect love I think softly to myself

No living man is worthy to stand in your footsteps

An hypothesis, of the “love” I “made” – yes,

Yes, yes – it was, of course that famous mist

You are with the snowdrop at any rate

When the wind changed for a few hours to-day

Go on dream of me: & love me as the wave to the sea

When you play at threatening without a particle of affection

To bear the weight of the “feelings” there is sunshine –

But the wind continues.  Nothing but law & love in them

That mysterious pleasure we have: in listening to echoes!

You stand on the side of the hill and listen

The very pleasure of it all is in the repetition

At the same moment with this your hesitation

At trusting in miracles that I never for one

Moment cease all that seems removed from me

Fruitless speculations how to give you back

Your own gift what you say to this little familiar

Passage in daily life detected a certain shuffling

Movement my instinct – instinct – instinct

Thrice I write and thank my stars

Is there any word to answer these words

Some feelings are deeper than the thoughts touch

Your good was all my idea of good –, & is.

I never had such thoughts of you nor/never>ever/,

For a moment a thought that you cannot be alone,

So, you/can>may/think that too, which is my dream,

My calculation rather and see the absurdity

The reason would be that you did not choose

I would not see Italy without your eyes

“To-morrow,” I could better bear the not

Hearing yesterday’s letters slip

By a hair’s breadth from the place

The imaginary letter of to-morrow could

Til to-morrow really comes and is found

So shall my flower’s eye be ruined forever

Tennyson was still in Town

He unaffectedly hates London

I will go out and walk where I can be alone

I will look in the direction of London

And send my heart there

The early “day of small things”

Talk and “stare” at the same time

Not one feeling is lost, and the new/

Ones>feelings/are infinite

Take care of this cold wind

She has been in the habit of going to London

“’Pippa Passes’ pretty and odd” she does not

Love me after all, nor guess at my heart

I have a raw astonishment I open my eyes

Astonished whenever the sun rises in the morning

As if I saw an angel in the sun in loving me

& lifting me up I see the dancing mystical lights

Which are seen through the eyelids

They looked to me like an epigram

I have written, written, & have more

To write let me be silent as on other

Occasions I take all, because, because, – because

& send you the thoughts which are yours

Now you are talking, now you are laughing

I was pure of wishes flow back wave upon wave

I am to forget today, I am told in a letter

Like a reasoner of the lowest materialist

All joy, to be based upon nothingness! –

All love, to feel eternal separation under

& over it!  And for life itself

All these passing clouds of subjects

At a signal from your hand let the world

Legislate and decree and relieve

The last comet made of macaroni

Talking the worldly idiom

There is no use now in talking

But I like it better as it is

You are beyond me . . . above me

I am always telling you, because always

Feeling the immediate demand

It is too sweet, indeed

The sun shone almost oppressively, – but now – all is black

I must go and answer . . . and now I cannot answer it

And do, for the future, let it be otherwise

When you are kept in London

Let the vow be kept by one line

The second dear letter comes close in the footsteps of the first

& the sun was shining with that green light

The very essence of the leaves, to the ground

& if I wished so much to walk through the half

Open gate along the shaded path

I put both my feet on the grass

The standing under trees & on the grass

We shall walk together under the trees

All those strange people <flitting> moving about like phantoms of life

 & only you . . the idea of you . . & myself seemed to be real

You may love me for my shoes

You loved out into the air

Is it eight oclock, or three?

Your flower is the one flower

By this letter’s presence thro’ the half-

Opened gate and under the laburnum

“One day walking by the trees together”

In spite of that felicity to remember

To remember and feel this

As vividly, as now

Siren island  to go out into the open air

So as to continue a full thirty yards

From you and the tower

A noise that you will not be able to call me

An ‘effect’ in the midst of it all, I took a long breath,

& held my mask on with both hands

I shall expect ever so much teaching, & showing

This thing & that thing, which never were mine

The walk did me no harm.

You are the end of everything . .

So long as I find you!

Who left a card

While your roses

Finished steeping themselves

In garden-dew

I do not for a moment doubt . .  hesitate

One may falter, where one does not fail

About unknown tongues & a seven year

Eclipse in total darkness I am seized

And bound!  the sun is warm, and the day

The vile wind most vile

The more I need you the more I love you

And I need you always

Shut up Shelley, and turn

Aside from Beethoven

Only it should be told and not written

Let him go to the full length of the sentence’s tether

Did not say briefly “yes” or “no”

Who came yesterday & left the packet

& came again today & sate here exactly

Three hours ground down in the talking-mill.

“Tell me when I ought to go away”!  (As if I could say GO.)

Looking as she said, “like a ghost”

Letters have their due effect

There is nothing to say

‘Poetry of the Million’ as if all this trash

Could not die of itself in an under-breath

To my under-breath “the present age did not,

Could not, ought not, to express itself by Art, . .

Though the next age would.”  If art is anything,

Is the expression, not of characteristics

Of the age except accidentally

One of the essays she is printing now,

Is full of beauty & truth

“Calm, cold, beautiful regard”

Which is a noise I am always forgetting

Help me thro’ the gloomy day with a light!

Feel my way in the dark and reach to-morrow

Without very important stumbling

I should hate life apart from you

I could not believe in “love” nor understand it

My year’s life spent in this knowledge makes all

Before it look pale and all after

Nobody was obliged to seek proof

Of it out of his own experience

The worst thing of all is to look back

On times of standing still,

Rounded in their impotent completeness

But you know, of this & all things

I understand, feel & the more I live, not ‘the less

But the more.  And for the less, . . we never will return

It is too late for a difference there . .

How shall I think of you

Drive in the park near the gardens

The gate of the gardens, & feel

You are inside!  I shall remember

Our first day, the only day of my life

The only day undimmed with a cloud

You will not see me tomorrow,

Remember!  To win a thought!

With this day expires the first year

Short of absolute sight and hearing

Love of the whole human race combine

The bare permission to love for “a return”

Raised me above my very self, on looking

Back  in comparison with all the world

All words are foolish the “course I have taken,”

Somewhere among the stars . . or under the trees

The Hesperides, I should keep away from myths

& images, & speak the truth plainly

That you have lifted me, & of life,

Last year at this hour!  Rounded itself

To “the perfect round” that first letter

A miracle between the knowing & the loving

The secret aloud the character of the letter

I had borne the sonnet like a hero

Mr. Browning is with you

& tuesday, instead of wednesday!

The stars made out, & so drove down the clouds.

The weather is little more what sonnet is

The little sound in the head which will be intrusive

The sonnet was purely manuscript, & for the good

Of the world should remain so.  I had a manuscript

Sonnet sent to me last autumn by “person or

Persons unknown” a lady of the city . .

The essence of at least ten MS. sonnets!

I may walk in the street this is not

To be called a letter the first music

Only once in a week that one sees

A real flower white at all times lain

Shut till the book’s secret was out

What must you /have >think/ of me

The letter through the book corners

The full sense collects itself

So I will go and think over

It in the garden, and tell you more

In the afternoon my poetry is far

From the “completest expression

Of my being” let me write one

Last poem this summer as I walked

In the garden just now it is no moonshine

I was walking today what a summer

Sense in the air  & how lovely

The strips of sky between houses

I am thinking & feeling this return

Into life in the place of memory now if I am

To live it must be by other means

Having something to say about one

Precise thing.  Such things are on the road

As for my walking fast knowing what that

Flower is, knowing something of what

That flower is without a name this ideal

Rises to the surface & floats like the bell

As surely there as the flower

Which admits of shifting personality

& speaking the truth still

Having made your own creatures

Speak in clear human voices besides

After having made your own creatures

Power /of>&/ & sweetness of speech

The mark thrown /away>off/

However moist with the breath

When he sees the lips move.

Eyes to see in a reflex image

How these broken lights

Look strange & unlike

I stand by the complete idea

Guessed a little

Now let us have our own voice speaking

When you walk with me under the trees?

B: A: is, to take

Petrarch & Alfieri are the only foreign poets admitted

Criticism, swept back to the desk from the magazines

Only time to tell you why no more is told –

I have known the whole painful side of <thought>

A change of feeling a different thing

One word for all; baffling human precaution

But in a minute of life after words

London is much warmer for the wind

Can’t get through houses and walls

In my open hand over the water

Out this fine morning – the wind is cold

The Thames Tunnel I am all one consciousness

Of one locality it is probable as any other thing

Other birds of the air

Open your hand wide & cry

A distant voice to avoid observation and discussion

Derange your ‘myth’ the sun shone

Autography in the shop-window

Your little note was a great delight

Follow the good news of the walk

If I could, by some miracle, speak,

But my life to take and direct,

At this moment only pro tempore

Enough to get up a revolution about

Show me how to get rid of you.

The green under green & feel

The green shadow of /it>the/tree!

The difference of the sensation of a green shadow & a brown one.

The materialism of Art that love ‘lost’

In the new world all the dim light

It is all out of my head, now, for a moment

All bright things seem possible

When your note came the natural vibration

One more day – one

The literal truth of history I feel you in the air

& the sun but not in detail everything is at once

Too near & too far enough to make me tremble

Quietly as we are, you at New Cross, & I here

I want forms, /words>ways/, of expressing

Being under a charm you are on a hill

Above me where I cannot reach your hand.

Out of the myths we are near enough

The oldest painters painted one, ‘This is a tree.’

I live quietly now I did understand the question

To the letter, the iota . . . open the eyes

Mask-wearing for another year suffocating.

This for me.  No room even for tears.

Being an angel the simple experimental question

. . the short note, not the promised one . .

This writing upon the question first looked

You in the face walk rather with men

Than with angels! Could not be but that

After all, after all – talk, and indeed think

To prove very, very little . . and I danced

Birds singing loud and the day bright & broad –

A thick mist lacquered over with light

I shall not try to walk out in the heat even today

Statues have more power over me than all the pictures

I settled myself in the corner of our omnibus

A passenger to Greenwich!  Last night’s rain,

And this comfort of cloudiness

Now, listen.  I was not too tired to signify.

You made the proposal about New Cross

An omission of an ordinary form of attention –

I mean to say the great object.  As it is. –

The present circumstances greatest thing within the compass

The project into immediate this instance

Looking steadily at the subject

Your own views are – voice to voice

& scarcely do they carry out my meaning

In every imaginable way all will be well

In every point the certainty of hearing words

Let us go quietly away to live the days out worthily,

In particular stop at such an idea

Nothing shall be said of it now delight

At all times letter-communication

The proper word in my mouth is

This burning dazzling morning.

In all things & ways to the last available moment

All movements, seem easy in dream-life

Let us both think - in all of you -

There is just one meaning to all my words

Knit them into the web!

Some words to that effect

If I had had the shadow

The ‘obscurity’ when I talked of the light

Simon Smith is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Kent.  His fifth full-length collection of poems appears from Shearsman in 2014, 11781 W. Sunset Boulevard. Since 2010 he has worked on collaborative poetry and music projects with Jamie Telford, David Herd, Sam Bailey, Jack Hues and The-Quartet, Matt Wright and Evan Parker.  The Books of Catullus is forthcoming from Carcanet.   

‘[unfelt]’ appears in Blackbox Manifold in its full form.  Some of the sections of text were included in Telegraph Cottage (Seeing Eye Books, Los Angeles); Browning Variations (Landfill, Norwich); Scenes of Intimacy, ed. Jennifer Cooke (Bloomsbury, London). ‘[unfelt]’ was performed, complete, at Polyply 23.