Edmund Berrigan Responds to Marcella Durand’s “Traffic & Weather”

“A CD is a compact disc in case you read this when they are obsolete”

“make it hard for me and I’ll make it impenetrable for you”

An abrupt detail that portrays landscapes and spaces at their abstract to the point of their reference as a question of their existence. This is the defense of beginning to read and maybe to write along work, but will give way. The distance is both at hand and ungraspable.

On the Q train to Grand Central surrounded by dozens of shoes, then to Marble Hill on MetroNorth train to Croton Harmon, central transportation from metropolis to slightly less metropolis for viewing of botanics. Window washers using a pulley to balance near the top of the Marble Hill Projects. Next stop: Spuyten Duyvil.

“Where to unbuild you”

“Deli hands me too many napkins. It is out of phase. Too much exuberance.”

“Simple oppression with complicated and chaotic interiors.”

“Who thought concrete was impervious?”

Civic minded. Marcella’s poem is a city with punctuating rivets solidifying smaller and larger line constructions. It’s a pleasant balance accenting the structure of a city rather than the wildness.

The action happens on the level of cognitive minutae surprise — synaptic winder

with tiny bulbs illuminating. Light is the granter of perception and of life, and is the silent provider of this poem.

“The apparent lushness of the landscape hides ‘an appalling blankness’”

“Nature is a discontinuum.”

Wave Hill. Water vapor wisps in the sky while we sit on a rustic stone bench with a tree-obscured view of a fenced-off parking lot. In this landscape where I read the book they did what they could for a garden surrounded by fences and lush houses, and one area is called the Pallisades and another the Bronx.

City as organism, with wants and desires, like a nest or hive.

“It is written in a different pace. So it is not site-specific.”

“How unspeakable to see a bridge rise from a street.”

“I lack the softness that is developed by the ease of mechanical things.”

Why does that seem sexy to me? Site specific?

Roll over, Robert Smithson. Tell Tchaikovsky the news.

“Well, and the old wall was covered with blue sheeting and plywood. Even now

they’re still looking for it.”

Illustrating the impenetrable and discovery is the search. Like when Doug Rothchild stopped to look through a hole in a fence in San Francisco.

Giant thud from upstairs, cackling from the storefront below, bus horn and engine sounds

rising from the street down the hall and a plane is passing above us all. There is also music somewhere, maybe below as well.

An epic of location whose characters, rivets, and light angles are equals.

“It arrives in an oblique green space.” A painter’s eye, especially shown in later light references.

Paragraph phrasing with occasional stanzas or indented paragraph phrasing, but also stretches of floating lines, mostly anchored to the left, multi-length line constructions.

“as though we are electrical creatures

shocking each other

and linked as though through outlets

conducting relative to one another

a network, a web

of our communal electricity”

The hive is alive!

The end of page 31 extending into 32 houses a perfect description of  … of …  what I think I would have felt as a long-term city street denizen witnessing time accumulation had I been any of the people described remotely from the point of view of intimate inside perspective. I empathized precisely with something that didn’t happen to me. Tiny windows. Her description was perfect.

And then this:

“now light is changing across where I am

I have observed it on others and now it changes me”

Starting to think about this poem is relation to Edwin Denby and Rudy Burkhardt’s

poems and photos that take on the city as entity, which tend to be more illustrative of the individual (how did that person become that person here?) as opposed to the mass (how did here become here?). Pamela Lu’s Pamela A Novel has some middle ground there, thinking especially of her characters looking at a You Are Here sign and realizing that here was not anywhere particularly that they were, even though they were there where here purportedly was.

Is Marcella a Borg? But like Hugh: the Borg with a charming personality.

She has really absorbed the immensity of a city and repurposed it as her voiced vision of it, her point of view is collective, though not like Burkhardt whose eye sees the particularity and livingness of individuals. More like Denby, whose sonnets are also streets, but somehow more lens.

The comparison is for the friendly purposes of cohabitating my mind, and also because I have lived in this same city for thirty-ish years and one becomes part of their environment, as if traffic rolls through the blood vessels, which the exhaust actually does.

“Can we enter the other space and then come back to this one?”

Chris reminded me yesterday that this book was written while Marcella had some kind of residency on Wall St., and a lot of the content actually refers to the construction of the Freedom Tower or whatever it is that is being built there.

Odd in that I had job in that area that necessitated observing the dismantling of the ruined structures prior to this phase of construction that has been ongoing for a decade.

Perhaps this poem turns the reader’s life into a Doctor Who episode.

“Each time I think you are

finished, you begin again.”

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