Ekphraseis — Bradley J. Fest

for Taylor Baldwin’s The Oracle

[W]hen I look at that of which I may regard myself as the imaginary possessor,
I fix upon what would give me pleasure in my average moments. . . .

          —Marianne Moore, “When I Buy Pictures”


Let’s start with our supertomb reflecting
infinitely between parallel mirrors
chalybeous light visualizing with its lurid
lemon, raspberry, and virid organs
the edges of Menard’s atrocity maps

because the humming algorithmic tune,
its deafeningly high frequencies conjuring
the new demons of oscillation, speaks
to our familiarity with the form and its valences:
we feel close to the bolts in the disarticulated

hand weakly grasping melting glaciers;
their hollow fixtures float the driftwood
of our many failures upon a urethane flood;
we can apprehend the limits of our condemned
dwelling in the aureate moan of the exchange;

its frontier of Siberian memory is in want
of monuments; and though irresolute, even
our weakest refusal troubles the external
coherence of our monolithic annexes.
Can the topology of our misunderstanding

curb the perdurable motion of armies
and their dread waves and evoke rather
than purge our pity and terror?
Arrhythmic fluctuations arise and continue
while we prostrate our variables now and again.


Next, let’s move across the assemblage,
noting the cords and coaxials and components
we might otherwise ignore, and linger
on their connectivity with overburdened
and ashen arms, discarded ornature

conjoined with coral epoxy to bevelled
speaker cabinets—and everything
just dripping. Stainless steel
and socket screws, lag and carriage
bolts, cable clamps and triple-

sided tape aspire to affix
our once causeless ensconcement
in the vibratory uncertainty of nothing’s lonely
autonomous rift to a solid if anxious
generosity—and everything just hanging.

These times require detective work,
but no investigation into the code
interred in the exploratory promise
of youth’s long nights can disclose
the full contours of this staggering profile.

So instead, we shudder. We break our instruments,
repurpose and recondition antidevelopment
structures for neon progeny looming
into the world, but are reluctant to domesticate
or coerce brutal and terrifying forces.


Let’s listen again before another
insufficient enargeia can detail the charm
and tone of the azure membranes’ shape
and surface leaking from the sculpied bust
of Ötzi mingling with the refractive devouring

elements of ice and glass, vibrantly
accurate plastic and small, dull
chains. The note is no representative
precious object, but the world’s own,
a hum resonant with the boon of matter.

“Do not fear” it trills to our anxieties,
an augury and balm for the turning points
of the whole thing, this lost time.
Above and behind, a chorus translates
a book of changes, divining from within

the superstition of their particleboard
housing a bottle of tea and, underneath,
a foot. Latecomers, we might have once
sought answers in this figure but now only
detect some distant kinship in the reve-

lation of its strange limbs and pulsing
torso, its neutral, multi-tonic
wail, its penetrating vision.
We must content ourselves with heedful description,
involving each other in the subject of our speech.


And finally, we pause. What, if anything,
might call to our indiscriminate moments?
For though we refuse to imagine possession,
our gaze yet lights upon something small:
a dangling citrus, black flocking,

a bit of poplar, and then something else,
a square of parquetry and then just so,
so much more. But unlike previous
piercing glances, our daily optic
exercises now exhaust the slightest

aspect of things; the capacity of our sapheneia
is strained though total, each condensation
of information ecstasy, the forces
awful, and acknowledgment imposed
like a program: ut machina poiesis.

We fix upon it all. And so
suffused, our apperception no longer
can concern only individuated pleasure
amidst the affective lotus of the everyday.
Though already too late, together we

create rather than evade friendly
ambiguities, transmitting across channels
antique and in precincts yet undiscovered
reconstellations to guide us on the crests
of time toward unceasing conversation.


Bradley J. Fest is Winifred D. Wandersee Scholar in Residence and assistant professor of English at Hartwick College. He is the author of two volumes of poetry, The Rocking Chair (Blue Sketch, 2015) and The Shape of Things (Salò, 2017), and recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Grain, Nerve Cowboy, Sugar House Review, and Verse. He has also written a number of essays on contemporary literature and culture, which have been published in boundary 2, CounterText, Critique, Scale in Literature and Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), The Silence of Fallout (Cambridge Scholars, 2013), and elsewhere.