Statement of Record


By Alfred Corn



By Alfred Corn


“If only.” Said only if a mixed-media retrospect

is also being salvaged, the herringbone chevron

a swimmer inscribes on the mirroring lake.

At midnight, to wake up staring into the glare

of a flashlight, not knowing whose hand holds it,

your casehardened skeptic meanwhile

bent on finding the loved thing, the beloved person.

(And, later, how to spend the rest of his death.) 

Quests can succeed when mind plunges

to the elbows in a notebook bound to its helical

spine, an upward winding to no known goal.


Whitman, chanting his “pent-up, aching rivers,” 

pentameters as a calculated prison, the turnkey

resented, petitioned for release. But how many

can rock the cradle of unmetered lines? 

No use wagging finger at the age group coming up

if it has stopped freestyling and instead

takes five. The beat goes on and may engender

a pentagram, a star in freedom’s crown.


Let it be. The main propeller’s material, the story, 

what we’ve seen, heard, and can’t help saying.

Then metaphor adds a small burst of propulsion 

like that trick of the striped-shirt gondolier, 

the ragazzo who, besides poling forward, sometimes

deploys a kick against the brick wall his boat comes near, 

the craft jouncing forward a blip faster. Night falls

on the Lagoon. Above the candle, an upward trickle of heat, 

wavering the objects seen through it, a pane of ancient

window glass or crinkles at the corners of smiling eyes.

Darkened rooms have cast their velvet spell,

but do they equal the figurative magic of

Daphne, quick-change artist rapt in her myth.

O Evening Star, won’t you tell us your secret? 

No. You belonged to the Silent Era, when action

spoke louder than words, when fans, just like that and forever

fell in love. Autumn and its red leaves. On sunlit flagstones

a mourning cloak rests, pumping the bellows of its wings.

Rumbling, rattling sounds go with the earthward tilt

of the helicopter’s nose as it lifts off and seems to fall 

upward. An hour slips by, and you almost see them, 

paratroopers, swung like heavy pendulums as they 

float down under their nylon hemispheres. 

For how many years have we lived with the old, 

gory hellhole of war? Our clouded Oversoul granted each

country some mild compensation, one part of that, 

the citrus and freesia fragrance of an angel’s wing. 

Or this eroded, worm-holed conch, bisected,

the whorled centenarian innards exposed. Whichever

rubbery mollusk built it is gone, architect

of its own gallery, a Frank Lloyd Wright spiral 

each season secreting an ampler room, always

steadily outward. Turn back now—but to what ocean, 

and in which year? The sea’s year, forever Year One. 


DNA, given that you gave us conscious love, just when

did you knit together the staircase of your proteins?

Life on the third solar rock is captive, and the day 

comes when, having loved enough, we get off

the wheel of existence and won’t return. Case in point: 

he sat on his chair with all the aplomb of an eggplant, 

youth with the build of a power forward, but solicitous, 

like a flight attendant. The requisite flag close by,

all present able to see how its red and white bands  

were sewn together, slight bunching of the stitching

in both colors. One trumpeter’s face reflected itself bent

as a blue note in the bell of his horn. Little Sousa wakes up, 

hoofing, woofing, to beat the band. Let’s do it… 

Monegasques and Spanish Basques do it. Even actors 

wearing masks do it. Diplomacy by other means.

The landline with its silver rings, its circus rings,

its Olympic rings, its drug rings. All of it. I do thee wed.

And am struggling to get over composer’s fears—

in hopes of the revelations ingenuity can 

(weirdly) make, forays into the mind’s subbasement,

where cards are dealt to the noise of jokes and curses.


Remember that fictional character who, a prisoner

(and a four-flusher) in the Chateau d’If, asserts, “I come

not to worship God but to replace him”? No more  

easily replaced, I’m afraid, than a beloved. Do it, 

and the world is everything that a case of whisky

or TB is. When a portrait comes to life, it comes to warn. 

Down corridors of the burning building you see the red 

EXIT signs; within seconds they blink off. Out on the lawn,

alive or dead anyone’s guess, a crumpled figure, 

like a wadded-up sheet of paper. Because when driving

the undertaker stays in the fast lane, and at last overtakes

even draft-dodgers. It’s like being a Gothic misericord, 

whose job is to bear the daily burden of a rump 

resting on it while solemn monks chant. Love? Always about

someone’s music, always about some rhythmic project. 

Coffeemaker, we hear you drip; drip; vamping till ready.

Dawn’s early light, and a first swig, when the caffeine addict

surveys a field of sunflowers, each with a shiner

in its cyclops eye. Counting the steps of the sun.

Yes, a boost, to stumble on a painter working

outdoors, easel and all, the handle of his brush

clenched in his teeth. Making the work breathe demands

owning it, even if property is theft, even then. 


Under darkening skies, the sea, just as he did, wears 

an old black leather jacket, wrinkling and stretching.

False starts and kids who stutter always inspire sympathy. 

Times when you get a Hallmark card so dumb 

your eyes fill up with tears at the sweetness. Something

canine about him. A pug that inspires doting, though skillful

as a PD sniffer dog. Think back far enough, and

the waterfall springs into reverse, drawing up its veils.

Just you wait and see. (I can wait.) The electric 

fan’s oscillation pushes cool air through the room, 

gust after four-second gust, ruffling papers and ruffling

them again, again. Doubt and dread whirled

and rattled in the dice cup my head was. Click-click 

Snake eyes, if anyone wonders. Love counters

(and winner takes) all. You’ve known psyches that adopt

a private-eye approach to relationships, 

with an erotic imaginary amounting to, let’s say,

arrested development, never getting further

than locker-room bravado. Panting, avid to be

otherminded, one could do worse than undergo

benthic storms in the unconscious. By now, the number

of departed friends is greater than those still living. 

Over the millennia too many clay containers had escaped

the hands holding them and smashed; one ancient morning, 

an inspired ceramist thought of adding fired handles. Cups

now get only one, but their lifespans have much

improved, extending their lease and the plot.


“His biography slipped on its racing silks

and was off!” Valldemossa, nestled in the interior 

mountains of Mallorca. Hamlet where a monastery 

housing Carthusian monks had functioned for centuries

until dispersed by secular decree. Chopin’s Paris

internist, concerned, doubtful, proposed retreat

to a milder climate. Within months the composer, 

arm in arm with George Sand, arrived and unpacked

their trunks in Palma. Chopin: “A sky like turquoise, a sea

like lapis lazuli, mountains like emerald, air 

like heaven.” Picture her at a window, flourishing

a handkerchief as he returns from his promenade.

Or from the local doctor who hinted at “consumption.”

Deny and ignore. The boho lovers’ unchurched ways,

too lurid for pious Palmans, suggested it was time

for libertinage to move inland and set up shop

in the Charterhouse cells. Cold and damp surprised them,

if not their joint resistless slide into ill temper.

Unfazed, the author wrote a memoir, the composer

a new opus. One of the Preludes we call “The Raindrop,”

linking its repeated notes to precipitate tap-taps 

falling from the eaves. Maybe. You’ll see someone address

himself to the piano, play very well, then lean

back from the keyboard, arms in a straight line, 

and turn a pleased face towards you. Like that. Throwing 

his car into reverse, my driver corkscrewed around

and put his right hand behind the seat, hitching up a little

to look backward as he steered with the left hand flat

against the turning wheel. Warmth that brims and spills.

Doors to the Omniana storehouse open on cities, cascades,

a statue, a leopard, vine leaves, illuminated pages,

caverns, cumulus clouds, colonnades, lilacs, pietàs,

mosaics and chamber music. Sum the contents up

as … unintentional glory, silver-gilt frieze of events 

we witnessed together. The lifelike brevity of it.


About the author

Alfred Corn is the author of eleven books of poems, two novels, and three collections of critical essays. He received the Guggenheim, an award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and one from the Academy of American Poets. His translation of Rilke’s Duino Elegies appeared in 2021, and a volume of selected poems, The Returns, in 2022.

Statement of Record

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