Blackbox manifold

Issue 14: Charles Tarlton

After Roethke

                                             CARMODY: I woke from a dream, but the dream persisted. 

                                                                  In fact, I may still be dreaming.

                                                  BLIGHT: My worst nightmare!  


if to lie naked

in sand, in silted shallows

Or perhaps with another mind, less peculiar, to sink up to your hips in a mossy quagmire;

of a slow river

or, with skinny knees, to sit astride a wet log, believing you'll return again, as a snake or a raucous bird.

fingering a shell, thinking:

once I was something like this


I ran till I was out of breath, to the end of the trestle, beating the train again.

that was being alive

and ten. But, so was crouching

Watching kitchen lights come on the other side of the lawn, I dreamed of Indian warriors or wanton film Marines.

under the Pepper tree

in the rain, listening to the rain

The lost self changes, turning toward the sea, a sea-shape turning around.

feeling the world squeeze in


An old man with his feet before the fire in robes of green in garments of adieu.

if these are my roots

faced with my immensity

An unmasked road-lover worries where I am, how far, and whether I have lost my way.

too old to follow

cold trails of scattered breadcrumbs

this deep in the woods 

To find in falling shadows, in the fading light a safe way out?

All finite things reveal infinitude: the mountain with its singular bright shade.

the blue shine on snow

after-light on ice-burdened pines

The odor of basswood on a mountain-slope, the scent beloved of bees; and silence of water above a sunken tree.


Philosophy must understand what is: in the flow of history, the volume of plain fact (that my grocer believes in honesty, e.g., but shorts the change).

is left to writhe

over solid sea-rock like tides

Our prejudices we need to catalogue and advertise.  Logic is the tool with which we float the argument we must not sink below.

sea urchins yawning for breath




                               CARMODY (as OTHELLO): There was in my ear a grave imbalance

                                                                                    sent me lurching out of bed, stumbling in

                                                                                    the grass.

                                               BLIGHT (as IAGO): You are perhaps too finely tuned to self.

He was always asking whether this or that could make you cry, whether it ever made you cry, and what was wrong with that?

turning things around

he studied symptoms just the way

He was building up a character that he could play out on the street, for his inward peace or when coping with others.

you might learn your lines

So, he researched the lineaments of noble personae; the courageous chin and strength linked to sensitivity.

had you been cast in some sad

theatrical tragedy

He believed if he could only find the tendrilled way down to his true thoughts, he might verify the workings of his mind.

how they might admire

his style if they could understand

So everyone might see not just his actions, but the deeds illuminated by a script, a sort of dictionary of his morals.

see something deeper

The courageous touches then applied—a walk, of course, a subtly halting speech for emphasis, his heart worn on his sleeve.

how he quivered when pained

his anguish so exquisite



Along the Gallery Wall: A Review

                             CARMODY: Kandinsky, Mondrian, Paul Klee, Hans Hoffman

                                                  ...these are your true realists.

                                 BLIGHT: Now, that really is Platonic!


Four small square paintings on a wall about eye level in a row from left to right and subtly colored.

it is not in words

they speak, the colors reaching

The first composed of flattened blackened squares that yearn across the gap to grasp an idea of umber fountains in the second.

mute and hopelessly

rooted between black and orange

The fountain in its own corner stretching backwards after orange swaths as for a breath of air, overwrought and threatening to fall out of the frame.

explosions in the next


On the farthest right, like a flag on fire, a white band breaks out from rough-brushed reds. The center blocked in its regress by thick filigrees of orange and green on the left.

no bridging that gap

the green waits like a spider

Even though a complicated story of wingéd fairies etched in soft pastels and petals framed in still more black is urgent from the farther side of that.

the story burgeons

The palest blue weeping onto gray is anchored either side of pictures two and three and the whole of two is harmony an easy percolation up through pale cream and sandy colorations.

till a bridge is carefully

pitched across the open air


black is heavier

and weighs the left end down

That is the first canvas and the darkest one, a seething overlay obstructing something fainter, far more distant, lighter.

a tarred obliteration

Its explicit meaning hidden—I imagine some graffiti artist’s moniker in scroll buried under overlapping swatches of streaky black and gray put on with a roller.

at the start. Forward from that

the whole folds into the void

Charles Tarlton has published a number of poems since 2009-2010 in several e-magazines, including Jack Magazine, Shampoo, Review Americana, Tipton, Barnwood, Abramelin, Simply Haiku, Haibun Today, Ink, Sweat, and Tears, Atlas Poetica, Blue and Yellow Dog, Shot Glass, Sketchbook, Skylark, Six Minute Magazine, Cricket Online Review, Red Booth Review, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Inner Art Journal, Prune Juice, and Rattle. He published his first tanka prose in Jeffrey Woodward’s Haibun Today in 2011.He published an e-chapbook entitled La Vida de Piedra y de Palabra in the 2River series, an extended historical tanka prose poem ‘Five Episodes in the Navajo Degradation’ in Lacuna, and ‘The Turn of Art,’ a short poetical drama about Picasso and Matisse, composed in tanka prose, in Fiction International.