Ivan Arguelles



verisimilitude of the poem in question
metaphors of age and height and longing
caught in mid-flight air no longer matters
of no consequence breath to recite immortal
verses the similes and hash-tags and sorrow
what doesn’t last what little counts the siege
of language and its thousand splintered ideolects
woods and rosaries inaugural events in chiaroscuro
boulevards equal in length to eternity’s half mile
visions ! cauterized wounds of triremes tarred
and fissured the atomic valence of sound and
whatever else matches memory in durability
among the pointillistic heavens of sleep
the empty name the possession of reality
the multiple stairways with as many cigarettes
twice the number of photographs in one dream
about double armies exercising the right to bridge
remnants of space its hills and folded grasses
hospitals on terraced slopes smoke signals
the wanderers who have come to a standstill
where the roads separate and a voice takes over
loud and gravid the distinctions disappear and
bereft of virtues day-stars come crashing
through awnings and shops filled with tourists
repetitions of the poem ! the many and the untold
evacuation of the senses illusory courtyards
one leading to another bejeweled caparisoned
with horses drawn from still-life and arches
and domes and vestibules and imaginary
as always princesses hoodwinked by fate
to remain poor and unendowed but for a secret
to remain a secret forever ! which is the poem
and who is the reader and how many lines
have been erased to be re-created in another life
I was there first ! a Morris dance on the lawn
mounds of dialects heretical symbols glyphs
and graphs where words argue with words
about the place of noise in the rhyme scheme
and the poem as ever puzzling digamma and
bolt of aspersions love and its tonics springtime
the birth of Venus ! too many books and
antiquities of meaning enigmas without variation
endless philosophies about the letter “H”
augurs dressed in zoot suits clambering for
a meal and entrails left steaming an alphabet
celestial and dubious and no one is allowed
entrance to the place where enshrined by critics
the poem dissolves illegible faintly beautiful
the pallid representation of a life however brief
that cannot be reconciled with its artistic depiction
gods and mummers ! waxen images of the sun !
from afar the poets have come with their mountains
their small grasp of the seas their blindness and
lack of memory and composing in a trance
the verbiage and nonsense of literature
awards and cinema of death


para mi hermana

remember when we played dead in the back yard ?
the world was a secret only we knew and nobody else
who was that desperado cowboy who killed us riding a horse
stolen from Saturday afternoon movies in black and white noise ?
thunder and explosions of light resounded in our ears
and the grass bent down to listen as we became shadows
instantaneous copies of ourselves refulgent and unconscious
how many years passed in that instant of dying so quickly
eternities of sun-blots and a desert of nightly asterisks
laughing at our secret ambitions we traded silks and
sombreros and clambered aboard the empty stage-coach
waiting for Lash Larue to whip up a storm between meals
the willow tree was the soul of the afternoon plaintive
with its forty thousand leaves all speaking Mexican and
if others came to look what did they find but our blood
leaking invisible as gasoline all over the canyon’s depths
how far away the moon was at three PM all lusterless
a cavern of distance lacking memory and us in a lather
to get back on our mounts firing our cap pistols in the air
who were those young poets who never went to war ?
a screen door opened and slammed shut or was it
the hound of hell that woke us momentarily in a bar
where artists in black neckties and drinking sarsaparilla
paused to aim their bottles at us lying there in sawdust
suddenly we got up brushing the summer weeds off us
capsized from one life into another we cavorted happy
that we could finally go home freed from the calaboose
of infinite time and heat and the dizzy spectacle of kids
all come back to life running across the street to
houses dark and vacant as abandoned ice-boxes
the radio shows that night were full of masked villains
mysterious pilots of unidentified flying objects that hovered
above earth waiting to snatch the souls of twins and the like
and hide them beneath the great pyramids forever


Innovative Mexican-American poet Iván Argüelles is the author of many books, including: “That” Goddess, Madonna Septet, Comedy , Divine , The , Fiat Lux, Orphic Cantos, Tamazunchale, and many others. Born 1939 in Rochester MN, he has lived variously in Mexico DF, Chicago, New York, Macerata Italy, and Berkeley CA. A retired librarian, he was employed by the New York Public Library and The Library of the University of California at Berkeley. His collection Looking for Mary Lou received the 1989 William Carlos Williams Award from the poetry Society of America. His book of selected early poems, The Death of Stalin, received a Before Columbus Award in 2009. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. His twin brother was the famed New Age Prophet José Argüelles (d. 2011) for whom he dedicated a small book of poems, A Day in the Sun. The collection HOIL is a set of poems dedicated to his younger son Max (d. 2018). His latest book is The Translation to Heaven, just published (2022).