FIELD WORK: Paul Ebenkamp

On the occasion of Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field, SFMOMA curator of public programs Frank Smigiel and poet and playwright Kevin Killian co-organized a small chapbook of poetry, beautifully hand-produced by Andrew Kenower and Lara Durback. We are posting selections from FIELD WORK on Open Space throughout the fall.

Antipode And Bad Math After Rexroth

oblivion’s a cutting foam
from where I might see
the slick hitch and pivot of
benevolent neglect’s dream
a swarm of polarized iron
drifting through slits in its lid
a thing that makes more sense
the more it’s detonated
into something else
a body nodding godlessly off
across thought’s losses like
sine waves reddening
the wind through the weather
patterns of a planet’s assonance
aswim in pineal glands
wherein I sat and sounded out
dark arguments against just
tossing a million ellipses in
between unequal things
heat to vacuum
lacuna to bruise
I felt audile like a surface wave
a hyphen in live vapor
its skin in dehiscence thrown
out or away or strewn on the lawn
rain tapping its membrane
keeping time out of it
a dot between arcs
livid like an empty phrase
that cannot be erased
from within its trace of poem
about waste and its abatement
thinking from these overly
lineated interstices that if rain’s
going to fall this late in the season
then I’m rewriting the calendar to reflect that
stranded as I am up at headquarters
astride a ladder’s steps
its suction cups come unstuck
and breathing four feet in front of me
until it sickens the nearest
distance’s bare maximum
crammed into prismatic miasma
by which I mean a bunch of useless
facts packed like ballast
on a lifetime of entire afternoons
always turning bland or rancid
in the groaning sum
of all this ink can speechless feel
without a second tongue
holding its shift keys down
on a moon’s worth of wattage
to practice my cursive
knee deep in acoustics
but lately food fakes itself
just to get in my mouth
and all I see
beyond these walls
is a lot of paste
not a grace note in sight
but to ripen and step into
as crazes close over us
as names last an instant
there are no two things
time’s just an example
to the time around it
blushing like a thickener
in my skull’s guts
whose aura or core is a light
in which I am never shown anything
whose inner ear could sleep
on a freeway median
drunk on background radiation
under the din-bleached sky
bleating down for miles
without internet


who can’t think it over
whose song’s gone lossy
as an MP3 left to bleed
at 96 kilobytes per second
on a ghost beach
coveted for its real estate
and minded like a remnant
any pliant bit of sequoia
bark could have started
its ratio of voice to throat
curtaining between me
heartless marvels depending
a mile above that wave out
there at that distance
that inch of sifted element
that refracts on contact
with the saturated anima
roaming my chromatic scales
rest after rest after rest
after rest after rest after
which numb clothes like
what we wore to bed become
as studious as shadows
folded open all golden
as by an alphabet’s hex cold protein
rains on hearts of palm
in forts and yards cascades and acres
dim crests spilling zilch
there’s too much to show for it
there’s no clouds in the storm
I still can’t see at thing in
but light and edge aren’t the same
and cursive script leaving cursive
stains across the climate
won’t sop up that lack
clot with a whole sworn through it
the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
a hissing salvage whorl
whose body’s prosody
curdles its surplus
as if nature’s heaven
meant zero degrees Kelvin
and we were the silken
awfulness of poesis secreted
from a riot of sand and rock salt
a nescient decrement
taking ice apart as light
and dark blue pink orange
purple red yellow and gray
by an asymptote’s shoves
I am impossibly unsurrounded
in solvent and octave
soaked fields clanging


Paul Ebenkamp  lives in Berkeley. Recent work can be viewed at He is the author of “Seizured in the Ease” (Mondo Bummer Press) and is editor of several books including Early Women Modernist Poets: An Anthology; The Etiquette of Freedom: Gary Snyder and the Practice of the Wild; and Whitman’s Song of Myself: Selected Poems and a Lexicon (all from Counterpoint Press). Poems have appeared in The Cultural Society, Try!, Mrs. Maybe, Calaveras, and others.

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