HUGH STEINBERG


Hugh Steinberg has had work published in (or forthcoming from) Crowd, VeRT,
Volt, Spork, Slope and Fence, among others, as well as in more multisyllabic
places as No Tell Motel, Blackbird and the Boston Review. He has an MFA from
the University of Arizona, and recently completed a Wallace Stegner Fellowship
at Stanford University. A past recipient of an NEA creative writing fellowship,
he teaches writing at California College of the Arts.







Vocabulary

The vocabulary is simple. Still uncertain. The relationship
is comfortable, long-married but successful in the stolid power.
Says much about differences, men and women. In songs called
"Style" and "All I need is the girl." Say they are trapped, say
they wear costume elements, say they continue to move the same way,
say you would love them, and you could, he burns his work like he
burns the people who are trying to save him. You could save him.
You could fill the sky with light, in the what was secret, was tumult,
lights a cigarette, lights a cigar, deep and knowing, gestures, an
assertion of personality in the impassive, in the face of, the sort of,
the story in pieces and all the pieces sold, showed up on stages,
separate, in Chicago, in last week, stood less than a block apart,
under umbrellas, you could, of course, of course you could, where
there is love, there is sight, you and you, you can say what kind of
shiver runs up you, before you pass, you who have been this way
before, aboveboard, pointing, compassionate despite the impossibility
of knowing anyone, the impossibility of truth, of the mesh through
which our real life escapes. He says I squeezed the hole shut with
my fingers and I never spoke to my brother again.

The vocabulary is simple. To find empathy. A representation of the
world, one which could be held in your hand. Near and with, beside,
these and those moments. We were still swept up. The little train-set
model house floating helplessly, pathetically around. Say you don't want
to be where you live, don't want that mess all over you. You're reading
about people you don't know, when you pause to think, "What must it
have been like, for them?" In the end, not of woe, though there's plenty
of that too, but about family, how families fracture and somehow,
through all the tumult the upset, endure. We're weak and tiny. But
we're okay.

There were men parachuting from the sky. There was no time
to worry about all the pieces. The family was heading out to church.
"Leave me alone!" a girl shouted above the voices and music from a
video game. Supported by the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund,
gave Ms. Davis $1,182.09 so she could buy three beds, two mattresses,
a set of bed railings and a dresser to improve the living conditions
in the apartment and help keep the family together.








As Crows

It is their language, yet they suffer in it
when speaking among themselves.

That moment, which reveals the bitter
traces of, is typical, is unfinished, finish it.

Off, and bordered, and circling tightly,
ready to drag it out. Between two halves

of a long equation, worlds, she says this is where
you have landed me. I will make it my territory.

I will take it away from you. You can visit one week-
end each month and two weeks during the summer.

The historian, the deported writer, returning
in the dark of his life to his native land,

sees that he no longer has a land or even
a country. So he speaks, he writes,

in a language whose beauty warms him. He
writes of crows. His language, his memory,

all his powers just before they fade,
it's like stealing, these flights of grief.








These Exactitudes

Have been like a diary.
Unguarded here, and so, too, the impulse to go.

Heard as an unhappy life, in music, these three songs, but
listening to them we get separated from their predecessors, in mood, in spirit,
less a summing up than an addition,

addition to
music that leaves the world behind; when it is heard
that's what happens, the world calls you.

But you can't do that night after night.
It's too draining. You can live with fake emotions
if they're based on musical principles: rhythm, tempo,
upbeats, downbeats, harmonies. You can be happy.
You can say this is happiness, this is what it sounds like.
You can play a note and you can say, this is what I mean,
this is exactly what I feel. Now you can feel it and it's great,
you're yanked out of the meat of your body, you get to live
in the heart of another, you get to think this is so,
you can trust it.

A start. The shy voice, speaking to itself.
The ink in the book. A diary, or to listen to the tapes....

It is not a reading; it is not a play. No one is pretending.
Instead, we are attempting to meditate on him,
understanding that the 'him' will be present when we
say his words, when we play his songs.








That Which Stays

Stands alone
a small figure a
deep wailing
maps and water
darkness, authority
turning worlds

The story throws light.
Part of a shift. A stubbornness.
Felt its yearning. Pure feeling
represents the air. Is also
desire. To break from.
For yearning to move directly.
The slow patterns.
The size of. There's always
places you can't go. How
much you can do, you could
stay.

Everything spilled.
Is so moved by occurrences.
A rainstorm, a sunset that
he encounters as he trundles.



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