American Dirge 1-6

American Dirge 1

                                                                    “What does not change / is the will to change”
                                                                                                                    —Charles Olson

                                                                    “where grows the alyssum to cure our rage”
                                                                                                                    —Bernadette Mayer



What does not change        changes us
    Breaks inside
The mirror where we dare not        plunge
            Outside the rain

Is all we’re left inside for
Where does the sun go when I’m away from myself
Moving (still) outside of frame
                    In dreams we open up

The dream is on fire
    In the smoke outside the page
Where we open up                                & there
                In fears become engorged



This rage that eats at all our hearts
Rage of others who don’t sing
        But glare like hungry monsters
               At a world they’re not exalted in

    At a history not theirs
                    What do you do with them
Who expect so much, & care
    For nothing but their monster thoughts & fears

How can we live with them
            How escape
    Into a world where memories ache
        & Burn    ’til grift they soon become
                    In memory’s dark capital
                                Where in dooms we quake



American Dirge 2

Where we quake in doom
Who says the whole body & mind are not engaged?

            It’s just my luck
            Order here
            Where the streets pass
            In the lute of evening or its
            Contemplative breeziness

Is that some sort of semaphore
You’re doing with that

                        Get off that laptop!
                        Answers with
                        A question

I am unaware of evening’s answers
Yes, I’ve seen the election results
They are not among the things I’m thankful
                                        For (but here are some)—

            I am grateful now to be alive
            In this (yet) diminished day
            Where evening spills
            When she’s not tender

            I am grateful for all of you
            Even the ones I don’t meet
            Who still hold on & care
            & Assemble against this night

            I am grateful for the intelligence one feels
            Of the body at rest or at play
            & Of the strength to (yet) begin to
            Build (again) the new day



American Dirge 3

We have ceased to be
        We go on being beings
Not selves or wholes
                Wholes with holes in them
Intermittent as the gray outside
        What do you fear here
            Or whom do you burn
        In doom of
Which here is the care that life wears
In the fearing
In the fearing & going about
                        Our partial stares
                        Our lucid cries
        In the beginning was
The movement to
                Begin & go on
But in going on we are choiceless​
        Voiceless intermittent beings
Who do not cry
                But only shrug
                                & Chatter

In the beginning was the voice
                The voice lost o-
        riginal in-
                As any group of words
        Put intent-
                        ly on the page

Our lucid cries
        The wind is whipping        stirring up
The detritus of the streets
As if it were
            A snow globe
                        One shakes
                                    As a little child

     If you shake
                    A voice
        Can you put it
            Can you put it past
        In the language of the streets
Which haunts the page
                    In the bliss of seeming
            An illuminated animal
Or in the bliss of already being one

Silence is the space
    Which surrounds the voice, makes
            Echoes possible

To be ourselves                    fully
                            Revelatory mammals

        With the name of the wind burning



American Dirge 4

The world moves
& We don’t see
The tragedy
Of our becoming

Because what moves
Inside our
Is all we ever

We move, & it is
An animal

An instinct— flight
From the

The momentary,
The partial—
A space

In the center
Of a public
Which we

Constructed &

Until its very fire
Burns our stares



American Dirge 5


I don’t know how to change
What I have the grace to
Is all
Unspeakable        if public horror
In the window where you don’t know        you’re here

What do you hear
Is anything private
Ghosted in the afterlight​
Of our gross public afflictions
When evening is not stable
& All the weather hums

Flaunting the wind that you hear in your name
Flaunting the name that you heard the word burning in
While the wind binds you
In its force of naming
Everything lost                everything
Lost that heaven



The wind is the name for what we’ve lost
To say we is to presume

        A connection, connectivity, something
In common. Can that
                    Anymore be made?

Is we a dead word?

        Are we a dead nation?



We move outward into wind
Bank windows reflect car windows passing

Noon is broken in the eyes of strangers
Winter settles in all our hearts

                            Can a world be transformed
                            With so much lost

                            With so much so much
                            Still at stake?

                            Is there anywhere here more
                            To make?



American Dirge 6

        That you fear is singing
In a noon that binds us

    To history’s dark
            & Everything night

Night fears the tiny
    Of buildings falling
                    Over in the rain

Night fears words
        Which have the power
To drown it in
                        The very pain
                Pain that night inflicts

Night fears the textures
        Of laughter
    Common bonds
                    This song

When our voices quake
    In night’s dark
                Do we only become
        What we fear?



Mark DuCharme

Other poems from Mark DuCharme’s sequence Complicated Grief have appeared in BlazeVOX, Blazing Stadium, First Literary Review- East, Moss Trill and New American Writing. He is the author, most recently, of Here, Which Is Also a Place, published in 2022 by Unlikely Books, and Scorpion Letters, also from 2022 and published by Ethel. Other recent publications include his work of poet’s theater, We, the Monstrous: Script for an Unrealizable Film, published by The Operating System. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, USA. Mark recommends the Southern Poverty Law Center.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, November 1, 2018 - 21:57