Standard Schaefer

from Goat Songs Concerncerning Certain Dispensations
New Poems From the USA


PART ONE: The Birds Sing to Plato

How the zeroes stack up, blessedly
among the personal effects of a most public education,
or in the urns of dialogue, so achingly deployed
through shadows easily singing, then things feathered
across the lap of curious boys but if punning must replace paradox
couldn’t the caves arch a little more earthly
couldn’t the birds usurp the pings of the dead,
even if only through recitation but let’s recite our lines
into the line of lines, dearly bored
and fettered to the wall with a feeling as if proportional, however schematic,
when wandering the vapors of a dialogue already in progress
or festering beneath another supernova
swerving from a previous edition
come to snap the necks of the servants,
their heads lolling blearily toward erudition.

Socrates (A Hasty Reply)

Bloated with sleep and olives, hesitating
within the hesitation
and lashed to the mask in a stink of wine-lees and wooly fat—

an offensive lack of maintenance

bore the brand
of rising tides and sweeping gains

but dust is light and night is must
ease an answer not worth the question

but not content with things doing just as they do,
ends up in the mush between business and work

a kind of terror
shakes the clouds free its ghostly sauce

two or three fade to flax
another settles in a ring of dirt

perforations, preliminary preparations
appointments to all-time

fortifying their positions.


Upon Entering

trills and syncopations built to the vapors’ specifications, impulse abridged
but against four walls of mirror and for a ceiling evening emptying its helmet
the most delicate propulsive instincts form the floor one fold at a time
vacant as a marionette reunited with the primordial behind the vertical axis
and the steady hand of false routine ribbed and indexed to the fossils of symptoms
and appetite grown asymmetrical via echo and nonchalance through either hemisphere,
and still some serviceable light disinfects the surge of furze around the breach
in the retrospective pigments to pigeons, aphorisms of image wavering in the gelatin
but in the periphery there’s always another alphabet waiting to be conquered
objects and distinctions rendered in oscillation an almost sensate, almost earth
is trapped in the mirror at thirty-three and a third degrees until cadence and diction
conspire against concepts two or three degrees removed toward a song on the lip of a lyre
and stranded in the interruption of a serviceable lyric it is always midday
and massive gray outside and not alone even in a footprint
and with a compulsion to black out; even the maimed come to see that this is hard
but not rigorous, and hardly even difficult—to some it is even indispensable
to something to come like clouds walking back toward their mothers
or eights and infinities hollowed out, anachronism usurps violence even in its decayed
state; communications exhausts language; form crumples stasis

Aristotle in the Thinkery

Observe, a rent

penetrating reflection

oblong and static like the moon I leased
and gave away

for roots in water, head in an alien light

for another morning stalled under the robe
of postscripts invented without yet a page
only a damp melody from a tired instrument
cancels the gong-intoned consensus
twittering in from the hole in the ceiling

of some building I’d previously occupied
but here clouds drift through the bones
more private than you choosing a shiftless deity,
boil the afternoon hare and I will teach you

spare violence, exhale
but always remember
exile is an imposing form of carelessness

not to be confused with enlightenment

for example, the sky over this witchery bursts butter yellow

as for the appearance of the goddess, she comes for the company
but I need execution to be new again, so of no interest,
except as supposition, but I popped
her back into the box, after polishing the face

because reciprocity insists on a window
slight starlight, thigh of a young goat…

The Boy in the Back of the Room
or The Young Paremenides

Against the orphic the sublime against whispers
taking effect above the waist or the dark room
that requires them and if not from the core of us
from which language does the chorus come

man and child believing what they say
but if I make it up don’t I then remember
how it was before I or Plato have forgotten
what made up the maker made up my mind
but if I don’t make it, don’t wait up.

At the Registrar

of such and such little more need be said provided
emphasis on reality, communication will exhaust language
as you can see, not only is satisfaction not guaranteed, it’s unnatural
like the information you requested or possession
nine tenths entitlement one long and unwieldy yellow
toward speculation or the the hello of hollow pyrics
whether or not boredom discloses the divine
margins of your accounts not withstanding
and perhaps at a time bad beginnings were billed as bad endings
not suggesting, but if you must think, think like a man of action
and act like a man of contemplation; always remember
rich or poor you have money to thank

The Birds Sing to the Boy

we do not speak greek
so hold no opinion
on Sparta or any other harm
you would or would not
consent to an enemy
other than sophistry or
solipsism or the war
against harm but we do
and don’t have arms so
don’t work with wood
not even for food and
have no knowledge of ears
what we hear we instantly fear
so many rumors of the good

The Boy at the Back of the Room Sings to the Birds

Face to the war, legs and head to the mind of Medusa
the musician of silence, moon like nothing’s hold on grief
or gravity

in phases and names lost in the mines

mine’s to lose
here in the cave

drum drop washing

all the complaints

plainly I am ready
not you

who stop to exist

the second you see me
the second me

the new seems so little to go on
with nothing to hum

no legends, no legs

and so long, we must go
toward our statues to come

Aristophanes to Aristotle: Concerning First Books
Or How I Think We Met

Man is animal, at least you got that much you got right
but as a pole it only tickles—you’ll excuse me, I was born drunk
on what was bound to vanish, and with a swan buried
where I wanted my body, until I was coughing up lentils
while you descended a set of sudden, very short stairs

I eventually caught up with you, but how shallow, how casually tossed about—the taffy of comparison and disclosure.

But what works, works—even though the farce of inflation
has always been with us, even as we opposed it with a confusion
gradually diluted.

There were at least two tablets. I was studying them to see if your name or mine
had become a disease.

You were in a pond of magnets, tuning fork to your ear,
like Archimedes and his primitive lasers
but anachronism is the refuge of modernity,
and conveniently mediocrity usurps violence
speechlessness even engineering is omnipotent
compared to the task today

which is to bring coincidence
to chaos, or shun an erring child
that it may provoke the most indispensable science of misuse

but farther still to do better than our farthers
farther into the savage repartee
of dogs barking exegisis
with an emphasis
on reality as an ulterior purpose

until it’s forceps
to forced steps

a world between echoes

consciousness like love contains no instructions.


The doves are flying backward, deathless

the war that’s ending
is not the present war

it’s the forehead of darkness
engraved no innuendo

only the soil is immortal,

the immortals are extinct

to condors, it’s all condors
it is not frogs.

though they are everywhere
and seem to lust forever

after the most attractive trochee
then straying toward a candor that croaks unopposed.

So this must be my last lewd rose,
swallow it whole and forgive me

or be forgiven—

it’s not how I use to work them into a frenzy of not quite intelligence,
not quite infanticide—that they might approach the curtain as mortals,
and if only just this once know history as the chorus—no belief required.

      Because without it, you are free only to worship, warship, to flee,
free to be unopposed by the wrong words in the right order, save
the inevitable shallowness of the audience that learns only from remorse

the safe have no right to saved.

A Few Words from Parmenides

Now that the first are last and the last are leaving, the living and the dead
can never be separate, and neither are any good with endings

like what to include what to leave out which moon to choose

given that rarefaction and condensation cannot be removed
any more than zero is capable of the most austere restraint

though goddess claims to have caught him tightening his sash
as if to suggest the aesthetics of eros the aesthetics of torture are indivisible
from eternity or the empty space scraping like antlers in the darkness
darkness glowing from the explanations which in truth were no explanation
just the irresistible aphrodisiac of sleeping back to back
with an absence growing gradually less frayed, less fringe
to justify how preferable foreign gestures are to beauty or conspiracy

but beauty is nothing but a delicate explosion
in the possibility

that all will be clear to the audience to come

the narcotic of singulars in the most circular thoughts
hidden in the mind of the victim’s victim
between what is us what is distance

but crushed knowledge and compressed drives
such as love or its dialectical equivalents

organized like a stupor
and opposed through confusion

until legislation later something redacted something turns out wrong
but there is so much nothing and so much redaction

a row of statistics on the stone’s strange plan
leads to a hard time looking down,

so back to the horizon and up the wall on very plain stairs
down through the vapors roaring inaudibly long

and for such a long time there is nothing to do