LECTURE ON THE HISTORY OF THE HOUSE
Before the alphabet, there was the house.
A proto-Semitic hieroglyphic symbol
depicting a house becomes the letter b.
beyt, beit. beit lechem. no house : no bread,
no book, no baby, no babble.
b b b b b b b b b b
When the temple was written, the destruction
of the temple was written.
The house scripts its defense.
(The house writes the fence.)
In the beginning, there was:
A) night A) tent
B) day B) house
A: The letter, scoring the darkness.
Q: In the beginning, what was?
A: The beginning.
Q: What answered the question silence asked?
the alphabet : ruin of silence
The only way back: through language, language
destroying the silence. The shadow language casts
is silence. No language, no shadow. No know, no
no no no no no no.
To ruin your knowing in your mouth
and dress the ruins with your best tongue.
First the temple, then the book
leading back to the temple.
So the interior is measured, apportioned.
walled square footage : living space
It is settled then.
A house is a home
and other embroidered facts.
It becomes you, your craft.
Birdhouses, henhouses, doghouses.
Like us, like us, we chirp.
(Who’s the bird now?)
The problem with liking is
the conflation of desire with similarity.
We form our mouths to fence we in.
We fence our forms to mouth we in.
babble : b b b b b b b b b b
Inside the house, the family.
Inside the family, the house.
Inside the tower, the princess
does not dream
of the tower.
Theory is a scream slowed by vintage technology.
“Touch me,” Amira says. “Touch me.”
The model of the house is the size of a house.
You confuse the conditions
that make something possible
with the conditions that make
You don’t see thinking as an emergency.
You own to prove you cannot be owned.
In owning, you sign a contract of possession.
The ghost tells the story of the house,
but none of the other tenants know how to listen.
You lock yourself out: morning.
You lock yourself in: night.
Ownership is a chronic condition.
Install a camera to conjugate the strangeness.
The house draws your speech like a bath: sink,
yard, repair, astroturf, neighbor, clean, handyman.
That good good light.
The first bedroom makes you sad.
The second bedroom makes a baby.
In the corner of the living room, the whole globe
spun by children.
It’s more than the Accountant told you it would be.
Which came first, the fence or the yard?
Ink on a black page
A poem wrestles the ghost with its limited mouth.
A poem touches the hip of a ghost.
In the dark, a thousand names bloom.
No country comes of that night.
Because you needed a fence to limit your loneliness.
Because haunting needed a form.
What is wild? That which cannot be measured.
Or: to produce a thought of the outside
from the inside and use it as a tunnel.
But you didn’t know you were inside.
Someone laid the new bricks
around you while you slept.
You skinned animals and adorned your captivity.
Modern architects called the surfaces of their buildings skins.
Your skin was light.
Your skin was feathers.
You dreamed of another.
You lit a match.
Your child named it sun.
Inside the house, a man hits you.
Then you understand:
your body is the window.
Inside, you are already outside.
Next door, the Soloist domesticates a tune.
Poetry is a door without a house.
Theory is productive of the known.
Poetry is productive of the unknown.
How, then, do you know
what is true? These walls, this foundation,
in the pages of glossy magazines.
The newspapers scratch their heads.
Again, the hunters, budgeting.
At the end of the day, you return to what is not common.
Put on your best sweater
The magic’s fled, the milk’s gone bad
There’s nothing left but weather
What is desire fulfilled?
The man reaches through his woman.
The sound of a thousand plates shattering.
A butterfly impaled by a human name
tumbles through the light like an angel.
Your dreams become modest, smooth their skirts, stand up.
The house is without simile.
Inside, everything is alike.
A deed is bad magic, ownership the spell.
Your yard, polluted with growth.
The head in your oven,
your most faithful tenant.
Amira sits under a tree, unpinning the names from things.
She releases the names to the wind.
The wind churns the names to pigment,
carries the colors off like
Oh, I know what a house is.
A house is my knowing.
Knowing is faith absent doubt.
When doubt is cleaved from faith,
where does it go?
(A caucus of ghosts, cackling.)
Knowing casts no shadow.
Let me turn my face toward my life.
Let me live inside it forever.
The Dictator’s name,
scrawled in the Dictator’s hand
on the I-beams of your house.
That is the law.