Project Description

A Suite of Dances XXII: The Pearl

The shutting of doors,
one after another.

Thrown together,
a thing of scraps and patches.

What do we mean by
this what we mean by
this thisness.

I hear
there not

This thereness.

The plough leaves its history.

Oh Goats oh

A large paunch and shorts
and a dirty
tee, proclaiming, “everything…”
or other.

Potential in the form of other
bodies barely clothed.

Oh tell the bear from the bare by the blush of it.

Pass brass for gold.

As detached as a sun-caught leaf on a dark tree.


ready to spring.

Custom spoons to fit the mouth.
Let me teach you my language.

The curse of cleanliness.

In the nature of that rock
to crack so.

Takes hold
in the dark wood.

Cleanliness and symmetry.

We give each other rings and charms.

A soulful dog.
A very good dog.
A white dog
with dirty feet.

Enough said,
no more.

Mimic the vivid explaining of children or strangers.

Not orphans, but the children
of the desperate or disappeared.
In the borderlands, all manner of crimes
committed by dispossessed and dispossessor.

What’s better than a missed train for solitude?

Only me and the magpies wait. I sit
on the one bench that’s been sat on recently—somebody else
has sponged it dry.
To the east high clouds, to the west as well,
and they all blow north before a silent wind.
That way, by the sound of it,


Happy as a gull in garbage.

You will be happy as a gull in fish
guts, says the i-ching-ca-ching, there’s
in everything. Stuff that
in a cookie wontchoo.

Charge by the minute for silence.
For the length of a word or two a quiet beer
and the freedom to sulk.

A terrible thing has happened to a woman I’ve lived with in a long fantasy but barely know.
And I grieve for her at a distance within the fantasy. We are
too menny, every one of us. In our fantasy I offer comfort.

In the mountain’s fold
remains of the human, remains of the human

Pain’s gift, compassion,
not refundable. Elected
into the human.

At the edge of the forest,
where daylight
is danger, and also night.
Everywhere beneath the great bright stars.

The two cities of the plain
race to fill the space between them.


Starry Pearl trudges about her business,
the adults incidents of travel or a pit stop,
and trudges onward. She smiles or laughs
at the distraction of this or that,
but it’s the solitary business she pursues,
discovery of corners, surmounting of chairs and

Windfarm among low cloudsgr
on the nearest ridge.

A hawk in a tree as the train speeds by.
From past to future,
never stopping.

The grass too
has value,
in pounds and liters.

“Even better,” says the signage,
“down this lovely road.”

“You’d know how to find it
if you’d been here before.”


Which to admire most,
the girl or the airdale?

Some flowers retire,
while others—

Lucky and skillful,
the dog with the worm.

Under the shade of the furthest tree.

Let me call you
“they,” or “what.”

Any language.
Like wearing a stranger’s body.
I copy a gesture
to understand it.

He said he had just the thing to fill her void.

Petrified now, but kept the keys to the secret prison.

The milkmaid milks, the milkman delivers.

A year later her marriage had died and mine was dying.
“One sleeps in many beds,”
she said.

“We want it all
to be the same,”
she said.

Much baring of teeth.

Let me posit a self called “I.”

If I posit.

If I were to.

Expert in the portrayal of damaged innocence.

Mad for the dance of maidens.

Variations of descending a staircase.
“Is he telling a story?”
“He is telling a story.”

There was a road
or a path
and a man
or a woman
or a lost
child pursued
or in pursuit—ok—
a quest—it was dark,
there were trees and a breeze,
and a horse,
and birds
and bird songs.
Maybe a portent in the casual
display of flowers:
“what made it special,”
he says, “is the angle,
the savage

Gravel and stone
and way down there.


To the carrot
god has teeth.


God or gonad.

Here the line runs out.

I speak as the instrument of progress.
“You were stupid.
The world and your kind are better without you.”


Under clouds,
metallic sun on.

“We’re only here for sex.”


Do you touch yourself
as if by accident
at the oddest moments.

If we think of the city as two people.

That bit of untouched flesh.

Where the hand of man is light or invisible.


Days rich with event
(and others less-so) make a go
of the time of.

Born with
is the easy part.

Wilderness, as imagined
by city-folk. The source
of all manner of disagreement,
the felt needs of others dismissed
with a backward hand.

The life-size figure of a deer
in a yard by the river, as lure
to the omnipresent.
A flight of ducks.
Noted, as the train pulls out.

First and foremost,
a drainage ditch.

This glacial accident.

The same heron knee-deep in duckweed.

I’m here, I thought,
for as long as.

The discovery
or the imposition
of form.
There’s a story to tell
in the telling.


It may be
that the life unfolds
in equal stanzas,
as if ascending
or descending

And the feet of angels bruise the air.

A cadence
would end it.

And she trembled
and woke, as if his lips
had shaped her.

Hot Pursuit.
True Story.
A nightingale falling.

She wears old trousers
and a top that leaves
a space for wonder,
remembers and forgets
what it meant once
to tell him.

Toward sunset
clouds to the south above the unseen
Sound. There, where the horizon is.

Think of the seas as a bell,

Some days there’s no rest in the restrooms.

She touched herself
by accident, she says.

Inhale now.

A human sloppiness.

The excitement of inlets.

Here, if you wish,
the crowd’s the game.

The march of words
across a sloppy life.

Small waters in the marsh, and beyond
the expanse of Sound.
Provides a foreground.

For the moment a tribe
within the music.

Atop the pilaster a papyrus flower.
Each town built
on a history of boats.

Cloudy and sunny and cloudy and sunny again.

The aging actor rehearses his death.
“Is this how I do it?”
“Is this how I do it?”
There’s just the one performance
to get it right.


A manner that says
“Let’s begin!”

A woman, severed.

A black beast,
he said,
is my bête noire.

The comforting hand of the executioner.

Distant voices.
even in silence.

The sun marked
by the paths of shadows.

Some things, bing!
and changed
or gone.
It’s the beginning
of a new place, a sea
son of skies.
It’s all
is it? Who knows
the ball’s trajectory?

in dreams
he said.

The sea is colorless,
as in a mirror, the sky
is somewhere.


He’s almost caught her, but she laughs
and runs away, and he’s
almost caught her.

A short man with a tall shadow.

Constant change
to the meaning of moonlight.
It’s a different sky
today, the starry vacuum,
the path of moonlight.

Clouds in a breeze.


For a moment I understand the impulse to drown
at sea, and stagger back.

Optics of moonlight.

Dark enough to imagine shapes.

Half-moon, but
where a wave crests
fantastic reflections.
The crest of an offshore wave.
Where a wave crests offshore
the manic light
of the waning moon.

Tis I
and not the moon
that changes.

Shapes rush towards me in the foam.

The pattern of the rush of foam
that precedes and survives the wave.

By daylight differently visible,
differently seen.

Nose to the ground,
a tutor with a lens for lantern, so many things
to notice and account for.

He says, “It’s mine,
because I found it,”
and stamps his foot.


with a diffident
grace, she danced
into the wave and for years
was gone.

When was it last that she rose from
the foam to greet you?

A little dark.
A big dark.

The horizon a wave.

And taught his bird to bark.

He is the man of fire
come to us.

Come from the north,
the man of ice.

Forbidden messages inscribed on sheep,
to be revealed at shearing.

An imagined past,
complete with dragons.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is the author of numerous books of poetry and poetry in translation, most recently As Luck Would Have It (Shearsman, 2015) and his translation of Book of the Peony, by Gaspar Orozco (Shearsman, 2017). Of his project A Suite of Dances, Mark saysThe title suggests, for me, at least, the baroque, when suites of dances were a major form, and my understanding of baroque art in all media as an attempt to experience the heterogeneity of event not as chaos but as something like a grand, encompassing chord.”