The Poetry of
Jack Scott

I, Mobius

Ms. does not know
she holds time on a leash.
A walk in woods
lasts as long as woods.
Mushrooms do not melt away.
One wades into amber willingly.

I still walk beside you, as if you.
You still walk beside me as if me,
your arm around me,
my weight upon your shoulder.
We bear it . . .

We cannot get there from here.
(It is exactly two hours
from my bed . . . . . . to your bed.)
We cannot get here from there.
(It is exactly two decades
from your bed . . . . . . to mine.)
I did not leave. You did not come.
I begin the walk knowing its end.

Soybeans soya
We tread the hardest, driest ridges,
neither hard nor dry,
soft enough for sowing soybeans
with our toes,
more than damp,
well wet.

Frost not yet having bitten
is poised to strike.
Yet, now, for us: calm,
comfortable though soggy,
this day.

We veer right,
Siamese compass points,
pulled together
more than by North,
each forsaking direction
for our notion of it.

We have no destination,
tugged perhaps by dark
(hard to see in such soft light.),
bent toward supper at the end,
unhungered, starting out.

We haven’t had forever, yet.

The woods are not easy to enter.
A moat intervenes, not perilous,
but at the zoo it might keep things with teeth
from biting you

The way to cross is always
ahead or through.
The water lies perhaps
eight inches deep.
(on the average)
Our boots are seven inches high.
(on the average)
Our still dry toes,
overconfident, impatient, reckless,
say what the hell,
there are no alligators! It’s time to cross!
At any place! Here ! Now!
M.C.P. (me) I carry thee . . .
(Water depth: ten inches
on the absolute.)
. . . into briars
whose lace evokes a delicacy
which isn’t there at all . . . .
they bite!

Without a map we find no door
and, searching, find no key.
Bulldoze we backwards
through brambles into woods,
bowing, bobbing, oddly graceful,
(Twenty feet of barbed wire
is now a single final briar.)
suddenly we are free to rise –
levitation in a simple gesture
fine enough to lift
a tiny cup of China tea.
We set each other free
and straighten as we bent,

We turn and enter Seikei
winter wood.

The maze has shredded
our proportion;
we have shed our size
in these surroundings.
We’ve dwarfed,
now soybeans, ourselves,
to, perhaps, a larger eye.

There’s no phone pole in sight
to give these oaks a proper height,
no squirrel ninety times the length of nut;
the moat was deep as eye.
On this farther shore
we’re at the mercy
of a higher sky.
There is no airplane or other bird
to give this sky a human scale;

The pine that needled
through the Fall
and all the rest whose leaves
have fallen short of South
for winter
have buried
the measurement of masters:
beer cans and other castaways,
twelve inches to the foot.
We’ve feet, but what’s an inch,
some other kind of toe?

Despite your father’s deed
to this and all we can survey,
dare we assert dominion
on any terms?

We do, as heir apparent,
not own this place;
we are guests of owning not.

Succumb, says reason;
Enjoy, says all the rest.
Within these floral boundaries
we are the only fauna here
relying on each other only
for the sense of what we are.
Outside of time,
as well as not to scale
and out of sight,
we know
we could not have planned it
and set about the job at hand.

One does not find mushrooms
until one finds mushroom.
We search in haste to plunder.
(first frost will waste the wonder
like crystal guillotine.)

Then . . .
there’s one!
its head still upon its neck.
We catch it . . . Ours!
wrest it from its ferny nest.

Now, bent to mushroom height
we see them plentifully
through prisms of their lower air:
abundant . . . a bonanza.

One picks more quickly
than one can later: clean,
and sort,
and cook,
and eat,
and more . . .

Two pick far more greedily
than one and one.
Later, maybe we’ll determine
which is Icarus,
and what is ick.

Headstone furnished oaken parlor
by spidery overhang,
by squinting sun:
almost none,
by sea stunt rime
an efflorescence
enough light to lance the shade
revealing shades within the shade:
circle within circle,
headstone ring,
marble bible bookmarks
inscribed once,
etched again: Anonymous.
drawing me as from a sore,
or dream.

Still erect,
I parallel the living
as you lie level with all your rest.
I could not read your ghost
of chisel print.

I didn’t try,
I didn’t pry
– not through lack of interest –
I respect the intimacy of death.
Do what you will down there
beneath your oaken canopy;
I did not peek.
Later, I asked, “Who?
Your names were not familiar.

I am at the end of pier
awaiting fish
or recall.
I float on wood on water.

I assist geese
lifting from earth
with my belief in flight.
Supported by mists,
buoyed by grays,
drawn between this time
and this place
I disavow distance
in any court of physical law.
I am in contempt of gravity.
I draw slender vowels from chimneys
by the faintest consonance of air and lips.
I weep,
but do not frighten duck away.

This is stuck like music sticks,
but this will never end.

Mobius at the beginning,
I am, at the end, Mobius.
At the end
you are leaving within me.
In the beginning,
I am entering within you.

We skirt the soybean field,
traverse the moat,
brazen the briars,
molest mushrooms,
séance a cemetery,
plumb an endless pier . . .
(That last was me, alone.)

The rest: my arm around you,
through you,
you equally surrounding me.

A root,
a seed
into fertile mush
a putty amorphous.

The distant chimney
finesses a final sentence
with an exclamation point
(perhaps the chimney is near.)

There is never again.
There is only now, in handcuffs.

Here dog.
Doggie doggie dog.
Abner, you’ve lost weight.
The scale beam is longer,
More subject to error.
I would not make you lose weight.
I would not have you lose weight.
You are the same,
You still molest my knee,
An expendable.

Instead of coming back
and turning right
(The house is always on our right;
we are clockwise people.)
I turn left
for a long moment alone
on the pier.
You turn right
into the house,
into bronze.
I remain lead
upon the wood
upon the water.
I rummage through all my pockets
and from them throw
something . . .
Midripple . . .
plunk . . .
lingers, until the end of
dip. . . . .
I see the marsh,
the woods
are stippled with our footprints
all with us still in them.

Office echoes quiet typewriter.
Each day I eat half a lunch for two,
far too much for one.
You went all the way home for lunch,
and dinner,
and breakfast,
leaving your pencil,
and all of your correspondence,
notes . . . notes. . .

. . . in the stillness of geese,
who, risen above the earth,
do not climb higher,
and cannot fall,
wallpaper the mind.
I had many thoughts
while you were in the house.
I’ll tell you while we walk.
I like your jacket . . .
goose down.

Now we trespass marshes,
evicting silence
as water is evicted
by diving into it,
closing behind us like a wake.
When we speak to each other
the marsh absorbs it
with all its other gasses,
holds it like a breath.

Sanctuary doesn’t leak one drop
of gossip.
We’d better
find some mushrooms though
to validate our time away,
(Virtue is only a mother away,
and she quite near.) But,
so long as we do not gather
we do not have to go back ever,
supper would forever stew.

We would own time,
every way of it, but one.

But mushrooms do find us.
Drawn by harness of collecting fingers
we found what we sought,
which ended the search.

What you don’t know
is that when you turn right
to leave our world,
I turn left to stay within.

I enter the cemetery
without knocking,
respectful of your relationship
with each other
and with my friend – your relative.
I do not peek or stare.
I envy.
A quiet gathering of peers,
a loud intruder, however mute,
who wants to understand
before he joins you.
Again we parted nameless,
you, because I couldn’t read yours,
me, because you couldn’t ask.
Again I asked our friend;
again she told me;
again I forgot.
Someday, I’ll learn to listen.

With no more feet than two,
I occupy every other footprint

Should we count the soybeans?
Or weigh them simply
in our minds?
they weigh nothing, untouched.

The joy, the pain
of growth
heal over like the field,
forgotten like the crop,
except for soybeans,
crop droppings,
tithed to furrows,
a currency of time,
until the time is come again
for another go at it,
another golden glint of green
in God’s eye,
another crop and its survivors.

berries of decomposition:
take them, take them all . . .
You do not endanger mushrooms,
you cannot arrest decay
by plundering them
from their hosts.

If sin was intended,
none was committed.
Ms does not know she holds time on a leash.

into the house,
the parlor
can be clearly seen
through an open window
from the end of the pier.

Ms is holding the phone,
a shorter leash,
(at which end is she attached?)
and as she listens,
and responds,
a blackboard is erased,
with smiles I’ve never seen,
never heard.

My end of pier is sinking.

Whoever I was, I am
within the loop
until you break the loop,
let time fall limp,
go flat
with us still in it.

come out

Here’s real mud
and all the rest of it
miles of scents,

There can be lead and bronze
in memory,
as well as things
that have never been.
All of memory’s elements
can sink to bottoms
of forgotten waters,
or float on nothing
more substantial than air.

Time never breaks,
only clocks,
and leashes,
and Mobius loops.

You said you would remember me
I can’t remember
a single set of footprints,
only pairs.
So how, for you,
can I, as half a handshake,
ever be complete?

Of all the weights of mist,
of gray,
of bronze,
of mushrooms,
of geese,
three hundred pounds of us
persist on separate scales,
however nourished apart.

Three hundred pounds of memory
will tend to lose some weight,
however well I see in gray . . .

Here, You,
I, Mobius

Ms does not know she holds time on a leash.

L5 ®Copyright 1973 Jack Scott. All rights reserved.