Poems: Bradley J. Fest

Blason I

   Namque canebat, uti magnum per inane coacta
semina terrarumque animaeque marisque fuissent 
et liquidi simul ignis; ut his ex omnia primis, 
omnia et ipse tener mundi concreverit orbis; 
tum durare solum et discludere Nerea ponto 
coeperit et rerum paulatim sumere formas. 
         —Virgil, Eclogues 

Here it is: already shyly
ruin and sky, a cleaving reach

propping void cancering tranquility
panic: fey engine and minor

insulation pedagogy; sure
and bored: a cup. Wait. Gather

and gush calamitous astonishment nothing:
silver scroll, red and gray

sour mechanical petroleum issue
slopes slight contact, brushed

wetness, steel curves in a pacing
simple, not relative; graded spread

of resolution joints and torqued
data pits discarded per instruction

across onefold molding, here
it is: conjoined inquiry site,

anxious leveling nerve outpour,
recyclable placebo, and coffee yes yes.

Biannual domain wrests perceptive
diffidence from apophany’s adolescent ongoingness:

memory qualm, a kind in gambol, tectonic
crumble, difference. Regather unestablished

notional libations ceding the distance
rotations questioning approximately engirdles—

exception: surface—and fashion widening
machinery well, alright. It re-

appears genially processed as slag
frustration and repetition current,

a cribbed attitudinal quandary
illustrative of four sided retractions,

doubtful elegance. Arboreal den
guide! Unfathomable tuning fork!

Unbend systems of arrangement
and resemblance toward unheld de-

coherence, a loss built of no
shape but suggestion; here

it would be, still.

Blason II

Forms are neither discoveries nor inventions, neither Platonic Ideas nor fictions, but containers cobbled together for phenomena (“models”).
—Vilém Flusser, “Form and Material”

Why? For this, not an effluvium but an orbit (turn, compass, circuit, gyre) and dusting re-presencing (“unbearably light garbage”), stabilizes while already swaying away from where it always never might sometimes deigned to have been becoming elsewhere. “Safe [. . .] Hand[,] Wash Body.” Parallel lines stretch-reflecting rays (funhouse mirror) from fenestrated Oneontan skies stylus the border, holding to its imperfections with bouncing deliberation. Heat babbles across a(n oh, perpetually blowing!) vent, expanding castaway matter: scars in the red, dents in the gray. ¿Está contigo? Interrupting further striation in the gray, in the gray hanging for the now of when it is over and changing (interrupting, matting) luminous columnar echo, enclaving, in the gray, a “‘firstness,’” in the gray an “AUTOSEAL®,” in the red a three-quarter egg (spawn, roe, oospore) and “community-inspired products, designed for everyone” (drop, massdrop), an “i” in the red, a touch and pressure, in the red a lune and box, a clicking blockage, midrashic semiosis in the red. “©2013 Ignite USA.” Other distracting surfaces, strands, grain, bevels, light—also organ, bassoon, spouse, so many books, and yes, always fluorescing impingement—dust, but no definite approach. “Made in China.” A claw mark (dent) lingers, recording knocks, humiliations, clumsiness; scratches register poiesis becoming allegoresis (if historical), becoming (always again already) stimulant, becoming debris (rubble, detritus, wreckage), “contig[uity],” becoming void (abyss, nothing), negating negation’s inclining negation. And the minutes. “Pat. 7,546,933; 7,997,442 Patent Pending.” Somewhat darker rare voices castigate previous assurances, legislation, unlike dear babes who embrace toddling and seek no imperial reward, sometimes glimpsing (but ignoring) the bottom, sometimes scamping away (from the dictionary). “[P]aralyzing venom” suffuses currents, lenses, days—little sensibility—what . . .? “Always press button [. . .] in upright position away from face to properly release pressure before [. . .].” Always trace possible forgotten mid-morning spackled synacidic carbon stains lighting restively above unfathomably ordinate creased steel to decide: defamiliarize again our instruments’ observation through ablution or (reputational) contemplative futurity “enlarg[ing] the circumference of the” real; or keep illustration blundering toward the virtual or accept interminable ruin and sky or risk assimilating the contents or just hear the ever-present sound(-scape of the poetry office). Once drawn toward and away (and again, again) the “vitally metaphorical” gap in the (still) red between other stains suggesting access to the inside (the inside!? of history!?), indicating difference, comes (again) the daily kick, a capillary oscillation of broken synthesizers and reels played backward at three-quarter speed across flamboyantly desiccated ceramic tape heads through dead-neutral conifers (thumping bass). “Hot contents can create internal pressure resulting in discharge of hot vapor.” Such curious shuffling guarantees only further reading while wave beyond wave quivers the control panel’s dials, amps the initial “anxiety” settings, defends little, justifies less—persists. Bored philosophers depart toward when it always definitely perpetually enthused to be there for their lovely (chiefly humorous, gallant, jubilant) peripatetism. And so a gasp and respite (and, of course, assured repetition). “Do Not Microwave.”

Blason III

invasion of the over-soul into a cup 
too brittle, a jar too circumscribed, 

a little too porous to contain the out-flowing 
           —H.D., Trilogy 

In concluding one project with the instruction,
“[t]ake this cup[,]”
another (herein) takes shape.
To take shape I take [sic] to mean:
considering objects and space
through the medium of language;
to “take” a cup I take [sic] to mean:
defamiliarizing it, attempting other
(poetic [rather than . . .]) answers
to my frequent opening pedagogical gambit:
“What is this? Why?”
But take? Nothing is taken.
I take nothing. Nothing experiences itself
as taken. There is nothing from which “this”
can be taken. It remains often(/always) in hand
or near to hand (when reading/writing/teaching)
and “the inner, hidden dimension of everything,”
“[w]hen the object is not actually present [. . .][,]
not ‘withdrawn’ [. . . but] attractively present
as a virtual terminus,” remains untouched,
untaken. (Nothing takes nothing.)
But have you perhaps, unbeknownst to me,
already taken it before my own attempt to take
anything even began (for my own questions
were already others’ [e.g., Charles Sherry’s]
and will become others’ in turn)? No matter;
I simply cannot know the answer.
But my own future potential/ability to take
I can plot, realize; I am my own (terrible)
addressee (the worst possible outcome),
the only intentionality that is predictable.

Regardless, I have created a couple things.
For their genesis, they don’t seem
taken (from somewhere)
unless language is a place and object,
something from which to take, something
to take.
The Oxford English Dictionary is a place;
Bartlett’s Roget’s Thesaurus is a place;
as is The Chicago Manual of Style,
Thesaurus.com, YouTube, Bandcamp.
Whatever I’m taking, wherever
I’ve taken what it is from,
wherever I’m taking it to don’t depend
on such spaces (do they?); the taking
occurs in non-geometrical space
(does it?); language’s spatiality is . . .
rather distant from “the intimation of a
And why take? Does even
this activity require yet another Defence,
familiar polemics, tired arguments, endless
repetition, repetition, take, take it, take this. . . .
This poetry has been taken
wrested, grabbed, held, seized, subtracted,
drawn, carried, conducted, enchanted (et cetera
ad infinitum) from something, surely, or is it
this (thing/object/cup) from which
poetry has taken itself? No matter.
The taking has already occurred; there is no
to, from; it is; it is too late. So
take this cup
([at least] one more time).


Bradley J. Fest is Winifred D. Wandersee Scholar in Residence and assistant professor of English at Hartwick College. He is the author of two volumes of poetry, The Rocking Chair (Blue Sketch, 2015) and The Shape of Things (Salò, 2017), and recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Grain, Nerve Cowboy, Spork, Sugar House Review, Verse, and elsewhere. He has also written a number of essays on contemporary literature and culture, which have been published in boundary 2, CounterText, Critique, Scale in Literature and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), The Silence of Fallout (Cambridge Scholars, 2013), and elsewhere. More information is available at bradleyjfest.com.

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