Katharine Coles


What does it need with wings? It lofts
Over soft hills and furrows with no apparent
Energy or effort, feathers and frock
And hairdo all unfluttered. Urgency

Expresses itself only through the horizontal
Body, or would if this messenger didn't
Look stiff as a board surfing the air. While
We're at it, why does it wear clothes? No small

Human embellishments hide among the drapes,
No secret conceals itself in cunning folds.
(If it's earth's, not heaven's, the landscape

Lies always under night, dotted with lights
Which might be tended fires and might be wild,
On the edge of hope, the edge of blow-up.)



                             you never could leave
Well enough alone. You will never have it made.             

Myth operates. Content comes. Design calls and
Who cares? Craft answers to will

Or will to craft. Answer: Who cares?
Operate myth. Come to content. Call design and

Have it made well. Enough. You alone 
Could leave. The thing never is.



(beginning with an erasure of a quote by Robert Duncan)







"The Thing Is" arrived very quickly. I was noodling around in Robert Duncan's "The Truth and Life of Will," when I came across this passage: The surety of the myth for the poet has such force that it oper­ates as a pri­mary real­ity in itself, having voli­tion. The mythic con­tent comes to us, com­mand­ing the design of the poem; it calls the poet into action, and with what­ever lore and craft he has pre­pared him­self for that call, he must answer to give body in the poem to the for­ma­tive will.” This struck my daydreaming mind with force, and I immediately began to pull some words into the foreground and push others into the background in a kind of mental erasure. Then, as I always do with erasures, I began to play with and arrange what was left, trying always to be true to the feeling, the creative anxiety, the original quote had raised in me.

"Landscape WIth Angel" also arose from a conscious interaction with another work, in this case a painting of the same title by Maureen O'Hara Ure, with whom I have long collaborated. Maureen creates what I can only describe as dreamscapes, often serving as backdrops for figures she herself has scavenged from earlier paintings or other works of art. In this case, the angel was Byzantine. This poem is meant to honor Maureen's painting but also the whole genre of paintings it refers to, in which angels rush to deliver their messages to a dozy world.