Stephen Ratcliffe



sound of owl itself position hooing from tree in the dark,
the three-note ascending sequence from the bird next door

coming up over shoulder of the ridge, sun's light multiply
which floods the picture with something that wasn't there

beyond where edge of slope on the right intersects the other
going up, appearance of water's white shot into air not

who can't see a thing, blackness of ground below left foot
punctuated by millions of small white lights moving in it

how it takes place, person below surface of water swimming
through it toward feeling of lighter green area around it





bright yellow edge of the building to the left of sky's blue
content outside, analogous to the paler color beyond it

relation between the shape of letters actual and the woman
looking over her shoulder, whose feeling fills that space

bird moving in middle distance above the field which becomes
its silence, followed by notes' ascent in next position

being man's face in the upper right corner, hers continued
in front of the painting of coming back to present moment

blue surfaces divided by series perpendicular black lines,
horizontal yellow above it adjacent to petals it imagines





drop of water about to fall from tip of leaf's spontaneous
green, beyond thicket of bamboo through which light comes

grey rectangular field on the white wall, window on the left
concept an emptiness of fog above plane analogous to it

colors in a grid turned on its side in relation to something
the man sees from the water's surface, which isn't this

one possibility, the woman's feeling compared to a picture
and/or the sound it makes approaching from off stage left

letter positioned at lower left edge of the map for example,
whose texture appears to be part of what she's thinking





angle of person's left arm slanted toward reflection of face
optical, end of first event become the start of another

darker shape at the far edge of the field, spaces between it
and what isn't seen beyond it measured in terms of that

is itself something, the woman holding the cup to her lips
which therefore aren't visible to the person opposite her

glimpse of the bird behind the man's right shoulder seeing
the moment before its sound is heard, precedence of notes

orange of second flower pulling the same orange toward it,
where wall of house meets green of foliage surrounding it





not green but the atmosphere between leaves and the observer
sense through which it passes, before its sound arrives

face in background of clouds in sky, numbers in right corner
compared to his feeling calculation which can't be seen

first the bird on a bare branch in a field find then gone,
action thus happening in the time it takes to perceive it

yellow ochre across top of the plane beyond which pale green
road curves up hill to the right, trees on left picture

picture in window of what's outside it, second bird moving
the structure of leaves when it leaves its position there



I started this unending series on 2.9.98 and stopped 5.28.99 -- ten lines
a day in 5 couplets, 474 poems total, epigraph from Stein's essay "Portraits
and Repetition":

I began to wonder at at about this time just what one saw when
one looked at anything really looked at anything. Did one see
sound, andwhat was the relation between color and sound, did
it make itself by description by a word that meant it or did
it make itself by a word in itself.

The poems have something to do with 'seeing' and 'hearing' things, in
language that will not change the seen/scene/sight/site any more than
it inevitably is. The words in parentheses come out of Wittgenstein,
Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, and move around as you can see
in the lines, which are always the exact same length on the page, second
line three spaces shorter than the first, always a comma, etc. There is
something about this perception of things out the window, on the table,
moving through the mind, as if an intersection of physical and abstract
suggests that what's seen/heard is both suspect and also capable of
undoing itself.
--Stephen Ratcliffe