Edward Mayes

Until Recently I Had Believed In Something Like Lack | Until Only Last Week I Hadn’t Thought
January 6, 2014 Mayes Edward

Until Recently I Had Believed In Something Like Lack


Until recently I had believed in something like lack

And even something like lack of lack, all this

Occurring while listening to Willie, age 9, listen to Click


And Clack, the Tappet Brothers, a September Saturday,

Spritzing the windshield for a better view and thinking

Of gommalacca, Italian shellac, that one thousand


Lac bugs make a pound of flakes, and from these

Someone is singing at seventy-eight revolutions per minute,

Grooved and circular and spiraling down, smoke


Rising from the phonograph, an ignis fatuus

Of sound, and O to be inexpensive, nonflammable,

Versatile, and popular, a Bakelite bracelet around


Marina’s wrist, or to crack a window, for all

Empty spaces are always trying to suck in

Something to be filled, now the sound of the whisk


Broom on a lapel, now the zoom lens retracting,

Now vroom, now Ezra Loomis Pound removing

His shoes in the mudroom, and Blaise Pascal falling


Fast into emptiness as emptiness, Baruch de Spinoza with

Lens dust in his lungs, to give us all some breathing

Room on a day of horror vacui, with his laughter and laughter.


Nature abhors a vacuum, a void; right hand rule; Parmenides; boomerang; broadloom; darkroom for developing images taken; continuum; Weltanschauung: German for worldview; Car Talk; leave, abandon, give out, wane, wanton (wonton, Cantonese); residuum; swamp light; cenophobia: fear of the empty, horror vacui, plenism; oompah, oomph; furor poeticus; recovery in the tea room; everything is full, all the tables taken; a as an article of faith, but not the; cloth, loath; behemoth, hippopotamus; egg tooth, virgin birth; Bakelite invented by Leo Hendrik Baekeland, the beginning of the Age of Plastic; vain, vaunt, evanesce



Until Only Last Week I Hadn’t Thought


Until only last week I hadn’t thought

Of myself as seriffed or sans seriffed,

Or whether one should be buried when


One’s time to be buried does come, like

Carlo Scarpa at San Vito d’Altivole, wrapped

In linen and standing up, or would he


Feel as light as an olive, two grams

On a stem, or il succhione we cut off

At the base of the olive tree in August,


That Beppe says is a vulgar word and

Wouldn’t use it, and I think of Shrovetide,

Three days of a season of writing before all


Is ash, and then the good Friday of all of our

Lives, an alert sent to our email inbox,

Or a Contessa who has her written confession


Delivered to her priest, and thinking of John

Donne with his Anne More eclipsing the sun,

But then a large part of death is just showing


Up, whether enslaved or free, whether by chance

Or by plan, whether fancy or plain, weighted

With oil or not, or with anything that might be left over.


Eclipse: to fail to appear, to leave out; ellipsis; delinquent, derelict, relic, relinquish; lebensraum: habitat; Goths and Slavs: famous people, slaves, sclave; Stanislaw; Gothic romance; shrove: written confession and tide, season, time; land east of the Oder/Odra River; Carlo Scarpa exhibit at MAXXI, Rome; he died in Sendai Japan, 1978, falling down steps



Until An Hour Ago I Hadn’t Known the Colophon


Until an hour ago I hadn’t known the colophon

Followed the explicit, in a logopoetical sort of

Way, after “the dance of the intellect among


Words” (Pound), perhaps in a book that

Slipped out of someone’s hands into the Ionian

Sea, washed ashore, imprint of words on


The sand, sand blown into glass, glass

Into which we see ourselves, as Mimnermus

Did in Colophon in 600 B.C., seeing his lover


Through a window, her rosin to his bow, and

The incense the Franks brought back from

The Crusades, the cruces lining our faces, and


The smoke continues to rise, all of us “wearing out

The day” (Pound), or William Shakespeare that day

When he erased his last word, or that we thought


We saw Sextus Propertius that April day in Rome,

Certainly 10 B.C., no later, his praenomen given on

That day of lustration, nine days after being born,


After never the thought of wearing out, whether

If we were a letter in a word, rubbed as if we could be

Rubbed away forever, or where to go next, the next time.


Explicit: to unfold, the final words in a text, followed by the colophon; clear history; to see Hades; wiseacre: Dutch, wijsseggher, soothsayer; wiseass; Mimnermus: Greek poet from Colophon, NW of Ephesus; summit: finishing touch; colophony: Greek pitch, rosin; baseball pitchers and bags of powdered rosin; resin, secretin, frankincense and myrhh; “if she with ivory fingers divine a tune through the lyre,” Pound, “Homage to Sextus Propertius”


Edward Mayes has published poems in The Southern Review, Poetry, The New Yorker, APR, and The Best American Poetry, with recent poems in The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, AGNI, Colorado Review, Southwest Review, Blackbird, and Crazyhorse. His books include First Language (Juniper Prize, University of Massachusetts Press) and Works & Days (AWP Prize in Poetry, University of Pittsburgh Press). He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina and Cortona, Italy with his wife, the writer, Frances Mayes. Their latest collaboration is The Tuscan Sun Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2012).