Poetry: Noah Eli Gordon



A rivet forces proximity on two sheets of aluminum. Violence to the hawk & violence to the horse, together, build a third kind of animal. Wholly subdued, hanger-like. This tangential harmony—impossible as a mountain in the ant’s understanding of an airfield. Nothing’s joined that wasn’t broken from itself; thus, the sexual elevator crushes a man holding a bouquet of lilies. An orchid lashed to a tree proves original theory untenable. Is this how you underline your way into the pantheon? Pegasus was a horse. The airplane, an automobile. A pillow for earth-bound egos purified in upper air. Orgasm tears the plane apart.


Was it a flock of black helicopters I mistook for an early turn of evening? Interrogation’s a landing pad in a garden. A tiny X hovering over the question: what variable doesn’t love wilting? The only thing that pulls a fly from the air is exhaustion. Grounded by a noisy ionosphere, cut in half by a cloud, adrift in the always concussive intermingling of imagined things, my desire remains the same: explode the word “construct”


I give you the undisturbed image of the airplane, then a sun tied to the sky by schematics like a crayon crushed on a blackboard, an interrogative parachute in pastels on dyed paper, implicit as a doorway in the dark or poor Ophelia’s waterlogged dress, enough gravelly syllables to lay a runway in every conceivable language, your refusal to land turning away from the rhetorical.


If mutual agreement explains the world, is that ladybug example or arithmetic? Dear apple, the earth, photographed in its entirety, doesn’t place you at odds with your animal. That’s perspective’s job. Nude awareness is nothing new. Who says a cockpit can’t be comfortable? Automation never found a gardener in want of work, but seeding the clouds above this mechanical sense of draftsmanship begs the question, is it still impossible to improve upon the ladder? I plant my little doubts & people like little dots can’t assemble the airplane from this distance.


A painter hacks apart an explanation of the yellow jacket, the first steps of a descent down the airplane, a relative ladder & yet a ladder, an alloy of zinc & aluminum cast into the shape of relational contingencies, a geometric plane perhaps or perhaps a pipe cleaner twisted into a plane, another miniature trope to model full-scale diminishments of full-scale expansions, an opaque airfoil pantomime, the expansive inauguration of which the inchoately described decomposition of a wing, after all, is the ladder at the end of the airplane or else its attempt to reach an actual cloud.

6 (dissolving aphorisms for a skywriter)

The history of human ingenuity has a somber disregard for the genuinely human.

With every mention of Icarus, the house of buoyant particulars rocks a little on its foundation.

A bird goes to great lengths to construct its nest before knowing there are such things as eggs, but what architect isn’t born disregarding?

Building is the most beautiful verb.

It is without language that our bird is perched on a branch of the word tree imagining a grammar flightless.

The airplane’s animal image is artificial.


The airplane is a metaphor of annulment, a body whose borders are flayed, districts redrawn to allow its constituents the election of infinite stillness for the engine’s interior, a platform upon which a butchered animal’s inner organs are to a system for organizing experience as an air traffic controller’s studied contortions are to the weather wedged inside a keyhole, which is to say once you open a thing return is impossible. A door closes. A day closes. Eggs plummet to the earth as the ant ignores the orchid & both go on eating their air.


If an annulment of metaphor is negation’s landing gear, & contiguity gives the ambulance its atmosphere of maudlin frenzy, what colored siren would smash its medicine against the rocks? Take a few minutes to formulate a response. In the meantime, the question begins its turbulent descent. & afterwards? Afterwards.


The problem of the airplane is falling. Obscure & groundless chronology agitates its origins asserting that the problem of the airplane is falling from a paragraph, from a pair of graphs etched on an apple after it too is bruised by correspondence, forced to stand an aggregate for aviation, subjugated by painting, and slipped into a pocket like an icon condensed into a diacritical mark. So the airplane’s century receives its music in microtonal intervals. Flowers break apart. Elevators drift like outlines controlled to an almost infinite degree, a result of improvisation. After its dismemberment, the falling problem of the airplane fails to put a yellow jacket back together. Listen, decibels don’t measure sound; they destroy it.


The ideal airplane is paper.

Crush it in your palm, slow

the sound a thousand-fold

& hear a violet opening.

[originally appeared in Zoland Poetry #3 and the chapbook Acoustic Experience (Pavement Saw, 2008)]


I wrote this poem in the summer of 2006 under the collision of two distinct aesthetic influences. At the time, I was collaborating on poems via email with David Shapiro. We’d float stanzas back and forth, each time writing lines between those we were given so that whatever it was we were working on grew from its own strange interior. At one point, the document I was keeping of the work ran to over fifty pages. It was exciting to write with David, exciting because he remains essentially one of my favorite living poets (let’s hope that lasts a long while!), and, I’d argue, one of the best we’ve ever had in terms of musicality. That said, just about every third or forth word of his in our collaboration was misspelled in such a way that I often had to simply give up any attempt to figure out his intention and settle for some sort of homophonic variant, which in the end made me all the more intimate with the music of his lines. Somewhere along the way, the project fizzled out, and although we never did anything with it collectively the second section of this poem is comprised of some of my lines from that project. Additionally, I was at the time obsessed with Stevens’s insane and amazing poem “Someone Puts a Pineapple Together.” I actually made a chart of some of the grammar he used, and then used that chart to write the fifth section of this poem, which, along with the poem’s title, is pretty transparently Stevensian. The poem has several companion pieces, functioning more or less as the opening suite to my book The New Brutalism, forthcoming in 2013 from Ahsahta Press.


Noah Eli Gordon is the co-publisher of Letter Machine Editions and an Assistant Professor in the MFA program in Creative Writing at The University of Colorado–Boulder. His books include The Frequencies, The Area of Sound Called the Subtone, A Fiddle Pulled from the Throat of a Sparrow, Inbox, Figures for a Darkroom Voice, a collaboration with Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Novel Pictorial Noise, which was selected by John Ashbery for the National Poetry Series and subsequently chosen for the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award, and The Source, a new book marking the results of a multi-year investigation in constrained bibliomancy and ambient research. Visit his PennSound page here: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Gordon-Noah-Eli.php