Fireworks + Other Pendant Grammars

We “took” walks. I think, because, caesurae are things we drink. At least, like medicine. Their application requires we swallow. The Schuylkill incorporates the Wissahickon near where Manayunk East Falls. Rivers, primordial techniques. How we put things in their place. Water, repeated Information. Solomon’s plume or Solomon’s seal? Forgotten identity questions. Where the river demarcates Mt. Airy, high-altitude drama, we call it gorge. Frequently, you break trod of my footfall. “I know this one,” you say. How we reach for accurate speciation. Differences contingent on what is pendulous v. what flowers in racemes.

Syntactically, when, mid-sentence, we provide for a thing its title, some proper name, a comma indicates the occult momentousness of this specificity. Names occasion pause. For example, “a German mystic, Johannes Kelpius, instructed his followers to drown a box in 1708, where the Wissahickon is nearly its deepest.” Commas, here. Borne from grammatical certainty. But, certainty only whispers the contents of the monk’s sunk box. See, when the river took its first sip from the container, witnesses testified to “flashes of lightning and peals like unto thunder.” Such does not seem unlikely.

Take account of any summer in outer Philadelphia. Every night, memory proofreads gunpowder from the transcript. M-80 ellipses indicate strangers and how they celebrate. Take-for-granted occasional cherry bombs. Every walk over upon evening. Marking time with consumer-grade revelry technologies. Nocturnal patterns needing removal now, when we wish to quote the moon.

Then, we “took” our seats. I think, because, caesurae are conceptually ignorant of ownership. At least, like a breath. Their application requires that oxygen belongs to the commons. Much like Solomon’s seal. I admire you. Your epistemology is pendulous. Admire that geriatric styrax in the architect’s yard. Take how it still knew how to blossom, after surviving the entirety of the twentieth century, and beyond.

Taken, on the grass outside.

Admire, like and among such blossoms.

We knew not yet of Johannes Kelpius. That the Philosopher’s Stone was so near.

Just drupes, grew to be corollas.

Just the distance, its echoes of party methodologies.

Taking vernal gatherings, beneath the panicles, behind us, the house that wasn’t mine.

Take postmodern architecture’s bastard father. Unknowing, Bob, diurnal, unconscious. A system of nothings mutters into a CPAP. His missus, awake, unattributed. She, who monitored collections of stillness. Prepositions. Breaks in his syntax. His breath. Denise listed after Bob on anything they ever wrote. Taken, on the phone, at night. In support of urban preservationists, among her wants, how to save a museum in San Diego.

Admire the late hour. We’re in the lawn with the designer’s dog. Named for a Finnish mannerist. Take Aalto, stayed, upright, outside, with us. How en garde. How impossibly soft. He takes joy in his theories of lightning bugs. Considerations of strength in some plants and animals. How magnificence must be perennial, well-rested.

Or, maybe, it was courage.

Yes, we swore it was courage. How to accept explosions of banality. Banality as explosive. Recurrence. Every night, we swore we could go to bed early if we, our courage, wanted. A magnificence, an alchemy, the schist of the nearby river. There are so many flowers in the valley therein. From here we swore we could see the rings of what we swore was Saturn.

Here, I won’t say anything about love.

Just, take, it is how we remain, like everything else. Admire.

Admire chance, for example, the writer, Iris Origo. Many years after Johannes Kelpius. 78 years before that very same, this, that, our past summer day. I received her book. By coincidence. Taken by her diaristic wartime alarm lack. Amidst her first air raid, only the lions at the zoo, she claimed, “roared long into the night.”

Within a week, that season in Rome, she wrote, it had never been so sparse.

So beautiful.

I think, because, caesurae is the ring around dependence v. independence, what is being orbited before things get together, every planet a full stop.

Take, how Origo documented the evenings. “We dine out under the Ilex trees of Villa Taverna, shimmering with the fireflies.”

Now, I know little of the Ilex tree.

And, I know not the status of the Villa Taverna.

But, I knew then.

You make me want to know the names for things.

Author’s Note:
During my first summer in Philadelphia, I was living with/working for a couple of architects and theorists, Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, and a rhythmic throughline—instrumented by decorative explosives (fireworks)—punctuates my memory of the time, its taken syntaxes. I wanted the loud angles of this poem to design a wide architecture of simultaneity—to see what happens when the sentences “take” for themselves a new logic of leisure—to really “breakdown” what “breaks” are and why we “take” them. The idea was to provide a formal foundation for the temporal reconfigurations that are happening—that one might identify as phenomenologically consistent with forgetting or falling in love. Here, a seemingly great and disjunct number of things are all presented as sort of “meanwhile” to each other. However (in the post-poem now of our current meanwhile) I’m re-considering how the privileges afforded to me as a white person in the U.S.—where I can leisurely take walks and sit on lawns without fear of state-sanctioned persecution—support the poem’s ability to lyrically consider how one person’s revelry and celebration often sound indistinguishable from another’s oppression and suppression. As I write this—after our protests this last week were met with tear gas and flashbangs and rubber bullets—we are still hearing explosions. 

Photo credit: Will Newman

About the author

Will Newman populates page-like space with words and other shapes. This spring, they received their MFA from CUNY - Brooklyn College where they studied poetry and taught in the English Department. Their previous writing, in various forms, is collected here: They live in Philadelphia and on the internet

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