The Death Of Toni Morrison

The man sitting next to me

is wearing a wide brimmed hat

his eyes silently pinch

beneath its distinctly invisible wear

His hat seems to me shaved by whispers

in the amber voice of a distant sun,

one that has threaded itself persistently

through a fabricked canopy of leaves.

The man and I are straining to follow

the mathematical darting of honeybees

dancing before us here

through wisps of rooftop wildflowers

He suggests that if that if a hive of bees

were to find themselves subjected

to the balletic poetry of Petipa’s La Bayadère

they would find it clumsy and disorganized:

clearly the bumbling randomness of a lesser intellect.

Between each apietic burst between blossoming stems

he feels compelled to continue by telling me

that the resolute grains of space are entirely predictable

precisely until they are not.

This, he manages to elaborate,

means that the world is indeterminate:

that it is subject to randomness—

but not to error.

His favorite author had just passed this morning.

“We die,” she once said; “and that may be the meaning of life.”

“But—” she continues, as you can still hear her laugh:

“we do language anyway.”

The man in the whisper-shaved hat

eventually tells me

that the meaning of life

is simply that life is here:

that it is only through indeterminacy

that a word can ever be part of a language.

A word that never changes, after all,

means nothing.

He suggests that in this way

life is the universe trying to say something to us.

And he asks me with a gentle urgency

what I think I might say back.

Kyle Studstill
Converse

All of us distort each other,

The way light refracts through invisible particles in the sky,

giving us all the magnificent shades of blue

we couldn't possibly imagine otherwise

One day I finally saw myself:

my real, *distorted* self

in the eyes—

and more precisely: the words—

of a friend

whose eyes I had chased

for so long:

trying

and failing

to do what I thought she had done so effortlessly

But all of the while

the sky in which I appeared

Was somehow even more blue

to her

Kyle Studstill
Longer #2: Stillness

I hope there is only one stillness

in all these poems

Or: a just single longing 

I have been so many waves

I am learning to be the the water deep beneath 

Kyle Studstill
Grains #1: Malleable

Across the words of any given page

are infinite spots of softly malleable bits

invisible to all but the most patiently trained eye


The next time you are at sea

consider that the waves exist

because they are here to train us

slowly

and over time carving a valley within us


I didn’t know the waves when I was growing up

we would drive instead across salt and sand

for hours

and I would imagine characters

ready for the next time my brothers and I would play Dungeons & Dragons


I’m certain my characters had specific magical powers

or incredible strengths 

but I don’t actually remember those things 

I remember only that these people were ambidextrous

because i too so desperately wanted to be ambidextrous


I still do, i remind myself,

each morning with this facial routine 

I have arbitrarily decided to complete 

with only my left hand


But I think I now know the waves

I have seen us 

all floating through a drifting space

or in a forgotten vertigo we are falling through a fine seaside mist

that has been sprayed across the starry sky

with each flood of time

crashing against the walls

of a cold and icy cosmos

And yes we are falling.

Thrust into a grasping at all those fine and tiny drops, 

each of us an infant 

reaching out

with our right hand 

or our left

(both

if we are so ambidextrously lucky)

And what can we do

but smash together our own little droplet globes

the way rain collects itself

and its other selves

in its own vertigo floating-falling

across a silent windowpane



A child might anxious hold such a globe

cupped in the palm of his hands

and he might never know its tearful glassy beauty

or maybe she will know her own power

and gently shape this invisibly milky mist

and hold an eye to her own collection of raindrop selves

poking it 

shaping it

minutely shifting its focus 

or maybe even its aperture


and in so doing 

significantly altering the photo that would be rendered as a result

so that all those softly malleable bits might become

ever so slightly more visible 

to her eye. 

Kyle Studstill
Technology

It’s clear that we stole from the stars

and the wind and the river

the very words they used to speak with us

Words they knew how to change,

being that much more clever than we

who have taken those words 

and petrified the clouds 

into an infinite miasma

of darkly marked sky

or perhaps: an eternal nightmare

of ideas that do not change

Kyle Studstill
Sidereal

The stars are made for watching;

they are made of pure consideration:

A sidereal concentration of breath

through which words flow in an empty current,

upon which

wings you didn’t know you had

might finally glide.

Kyle Studstill
Events #2: Listening

A good poem makes you not want to listen to anything for awhile

except just the drops of a leaking window striking the frame

Or: rain hitting a street as winds move waves further north

Because everywhere there is just so much water

tumbling over rocks in the sky

mapping our words across our lungs

drawing terminals between our eyes

Water flows but we can listen:

our own waterfall of sounds

can stretch even the length of a kiss

Kyle Studstill
Spell

I found myself stopped on this bridge

because there are pages of this world

that wrap so tightly around my bones


with vibrations so shakingly strong—

so defenestratingly alive—

that I exit through the window

of my own grand tower,

built as it is from scratch,

brick by brick

And I find myself both falling

and floating

in that blissfully dizzying vertigo

felt by the first astronauts on the moon


And I have not yet stopped falling

Kyle Studstill
Events #1: Invisibilia

What did we do before we started writing

I’ve made sketchbooks and collected thoughts and notes

but without these things

where do our words go

Perhaps they evaporate into a sky-bound miasma

still in the air

still in my breath

but invisible to my eye

But then I can’t help but ask myself

the question of an unimaginative child:

If i can’t see it

does it even exist?

—As if I live only in the sloshing waves

of optic fluid behind glass 

As if I am just a man

in a boat

inside an eye

As if I am not the skin and the ears

and the liver

and the bones

or the hair

slowly falling from my head.


I forget just how long that has been happening

because I forget I am also the time

evaporating from my skin

because time passes like a kind of heat

that we sometimes

happen to feel

instead of see

Kyle Studstill
Longer #1: Sadness

There are rare moments,

with saline whispers trailing the contours of your face,

that you get to wrap your arms tightly 

around the otherwise invisible beauty of this world

You will know when you have it in your arms—

and in the resting pool beneath your sternum— 

because you will be sad

And maybe through a subtle mist of imperceptibly golden flakes

that sway in the sunlight,

this sadness will whisper to you

in a voice you forgot sadness had

quietly asking you

to stay with it for a little while 

longer

Kyle Studstill
I Am The Whole World

I am the whole world

and mostly I just need to know

why

and in what ways

From where does my accent come

or even my non-accent

and more importantly: in what ways can I change it

What are the patterns I can weave into my own voice

How might I paint a river through my face

to where would that river go.


I remember being so angry

—a strange and invisible kind of anger

that I didn’t even see

until a few years later

(and even then I didn’t know to give it a name)—

angry at a woman sitting at a bus stop one twilight morning

who offered me into her home

She saw in my eyes

maybe some part of my grandfather

She asked if I was filipino

and on that knowledge alone

wanted to cook for me

something tremendously delicious

that I declined.


I am a child walking through a vast and fog-strewn field of winter flowers

Each of them has learned to flourish 

by whatever means necessary,

all of them with decidedly different answer

to the question asked of us all:

how will you survive today

and in what ways might you make that survival

beautiful?

I have walked through this field with my jaw wrenched shut and my fists clenched tight

I try not to so much any more

Today, with my fingers stretched out

I hope that some small petals 

might climb into my palms

and stay for awhile


Kyle Studstill
Forgotten

The best memories have no direction

they are raindrops falling through an empty sky

the remind us only that we are alive

a faded sign pointing nowhere in particular

Kyle Studstill
Places #1: Shouting

It’s strange that we don’t usually remember

the moment we see our face in the window

of a quickly passing car

Because honestly this is

the comforting hand 

of an old friend

placed briefly on our shoulder

Instead we forgetfully imagine

that places might reveal ourselves from without

Not realizing we are still looking

for a reflection that does not exist

except maybe in the now distant pull

of a slowly waxing moon.


This morning the sun gave me a whispered wave

its own face sad in a passing car

At the time I was noticing just how much of this place

we’ve managed to voice—

or rather, shout—

as only a single answer 

to a wondrously astronomical question.


A coyote

or maybe a crane

watched from afar,

the center of an imperceptible hum of dragonflies at her feet

she was certain that I was a child:

shouting, as if only my answer were the only to be heard

it might be more than the shimmering phosphorescence 

of an otherwise dim night. 

Kyle Studstill
Anencephaly

Vaporous hopes that will still forever linger

in corridors between memories unformed

Or: a sinking moss

that slides only between

each slow slip of the waves.

This is how

my friend described to me

a new and uncharted pain.

Kyle Studstill
Antagonist

I have no anger for you

I have only: 

the brass shimmer of cymbals

struck with a whisper of steel strands

I have only a memory of a dark hallway

in a house I must have dreamed existed

because our street itself had transformed

from some monstrous hill

to a place where we could walk

under a desert sun

to a desert mall


Everything is so far away when you’re small

it took us hours to cross the street

but you had friends there

so I took one of their names

and because I followed this name

everything about you seemed so much closer 

So now there are things I might want to give you,

like anger

but really it is a collection of feelings 

unnamed

and so: far away

just as you are now too

Kyle Studstill
Dog Ears

Today I watched two books

leaning one against another

on a forgettable white shelf 

Only today did I notice they were the old and dog-eared kind of books

that lean patiently,

knowing that shelves are easily forgotten

and that those dipped pages

might never be noticed again

—the way a dog on a sidewalk stares back into 

an empty grocery door

for at least 3 eternal minutes 

its own dipped ears attuned to the single distant sound of a missing owner


And looking at these books I too heard that single distant sound

the sliding of a knot being tied

I felt it passing mutely between our arms

over 3 minutes that i didn’t even know had already passed

because I was looking at you on a dimly grey couch

wondering if you too noticed the slight draft of wind

generated by such vast arial pressure

between where you were going and where I stood right then


Yes, it became a string, and knotted itself around my hand

and around yours too

pulling me and in doing so reminding me 


that if ever I have anywhere to fall

it’s simply onto you

and your own dipped pages

Especially the ones that we dog-eared together 

at the same time. 

Kyle Studstill