Friday, August 31, 2007

Mark Doty

Fog Suite


varnished in thin
pearl glaze,

the high dunes unfold,
a smudged sketch
for a folding screen,

panels inlaid
with cloudy ivory,
irregular patches

of grassy jade.
(The wide bay's
oddly still this morning,

despite the white activity
at its edges, just beyond the shore's
a huge, silvered-equipoise.)

The fog is thinking
of burning away, but for now

damp scarves
(unhemmed, like petals
of a white peony)

slide and tear
across this portion
of sky, sheets

of smudged paper
hung from heaven.
Trope on trope!

What I'm trying to do
is fix this impossible
shift and flux, and say

how this fog-fired
green's intensified
by sunlight filtered

through the atmosphere's
wet linens---a green
you could almost drink!

No trick of light
I'm talking about
but defiant otherness:

this sky's all
gorgeous trouble,
rain beginning

to fold the screen away.
Do we love more
what we can't sat

As if what we wanted
were to be brought
that much closer

to word's failure,
where desire begins?


What I love about language
is what I love about fog:
what comes between us and things
grants them their shine. Take,

for instance, the estuary,
raised to a higher power
by airy sun-struck voile:
gunmetal cove and glittered bar

hung on the rim of the sky
like palaces in Tibet---
white buildings unreachable, dreamed and held

at just that perfect distance:
the world's lustered by the veil.


Or else I love fog
because it shows the world
as page, where much
has been written, and much erased.

Clapboards lose their boundaries,
and phantoms of summer's roses

loom like parade floats lost at sea.
Is that what it is,

visible uncertainty?
This evening the thin fact of it
appears a little at a time,
shawling streetlamps,

veiling the heights:
clocktower and steeple gone

in roiling insubstantiality.
I take fog as evidence,

a demonstration of the nothing
(or the nothing much)

that holds the world in place
---rehearsal for our roles

as billow and shroud, drift
and cloud and vanishing act?

And, between these figuring lines,
white space, without which

who could read? Every poem's
half erased. I'm not afraid,

if feels like home here,
held---like any line of text---

by the white margins
of a ghost's embrace.

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