In a first read-through the variants slip out, the second line being not only ‘the subtleties of cloud’ but also the subtitles of clouds. This effect is partly due to the slightly prised-open line spacing, and also to the uninscribed area below the three words ‘subtleties of cloud’—a micro-vast open moment in which soft text can have its opportunities. Another way to explain that variant is the quasi-chiasmatic travel of the letter ‘s’, busy in a word like ‘subtleties’, popping over from that first noun to visit the second noun and suggest it as plural.  

That particular variant comes to seem organically motivated when one has read the entire excerpt—presuming it’s an excerpt on the evidence of the title’s preposition, ‘from’, indicating a longer source. By lines 5-6 we have Ezra Pound casually invoked and then quoted, then Pasolini, more Pound, a six-line memory of a Greek person, presumably an emigrant to Australia, penultimately a mesh of a line in Greek with its translation in subtitled position, and a wrap-up toward an I declaration that could attach to anyone. Anyone, that is, living a life in which transnationalism—on the evidence of the poem—involves both finding and not finding selfhood. The Greek line and its translation subtitle pop back to re-render the first variant I’ve described even more strongly perceptible.  

The variant energy of the excerpt is part of what characterises and sustains it as both keening and buoyed up. The keening comes in repeated inadequacy and sorrow diction: ‘not enough’, ‘fail’, murder, longing, ‘”never to speak another word”‘, ‘did not find it’. The buoying comes in the jovial informality of ‘Ezzy P’, invocations to embolden one’s phenomenology in ‘”do not surrender perception”‘, the continuity of events across imaginaries of time as the dead are ‘still reading’, and the positive part in the positive-negative charge of the penultimate line ‘and did and did not’. The final line, of course, effects both trailing predication and a re-birth of imperative.  

In my reading, subtitling is both literal and perfusing figuration here; this doubled charge acknowledges the plurilingual and the bright rue of perception. We can attach those tendrils to the life of the poet. We can also attach them to a non-present part of the wholly invoked body of work, these lines from an earlier published poem: ‘it’s time  /        to recite all non-existent words’ (Loney 2009). The mobile line reflexivity, the dance of the intertext and its lexical and lettrified hopscotch, continues here too.  

lisa samuels

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