Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty
Robert Smithson

A man builds an enormous ramp
then wants to see it from the air

he’s thirty-five, the plane will crash
his view of a darkness entering the skull

building a jetty in the shape of a fiddlehead fern
gelatin-silver print of the great salt lake

facade covered in shells
statue of a neoclassical figure, draped

like a madonna against a bathtub turned upright
egg blue planted with roses and petunias

“the sund”: industrial and suburban
cattail marsh, geese, floating oil slick

that dark place by the river
intersection of muggers and grass-stained lovers

(but aren’t we all)

ruined motel, and how we will live in it
walls without roof

bed without walls
floor without bed

you without me…
someone set mirrors in the snow

a trail of mirrors
accurately reflecting…snow

“as soon as it was named
it ceased to exist”

spiral jetty on the lake
body of water without a tidal shore

body of water without encroaching wave
water like the level of a dream

after his father’s death
after his lost brother

he thought: the jetty is down
there is nothing between me and death…

abandoned quarry full of water
“an oval map of a double world”

his pediatrician, the famous poet
looked down his throat to find the aleph

looked in the waxy labyrinth of his ear
the body’s chambers are discrete

only in childhood do we regret
the swallowed cherry pit that will not sprout and bloom

green branch exiting my mouth
laden red with Eden

ramp, mirror, edge
road map crumpled on the motel floor

we squinted so long at
it appeared eventually

no map of destination
but a map of stars

(Published in the anthology JUST OUTSIDE THE FRAME from Tres Chicas Books).

Photograph by Deborah Barlow