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River Rail

Marcella Durand


          Metaphor Exchange

          The sea can be as milk
          but milk can never be as the sea, nor can wine.

          The salt of sea would not serve
          in milk or wine, but even more so,

          milk and wine indicate one sort of
          state and color (despite wine’s own

          living properties that might make it
          like ruby or plum) while the sea

          is, as so many artists have depicted,
          so many aspects, complexities: again,

          as silver, as glass, as metal, as glinting,
          as treacherous, as calm, as yellow

          or translucent green as in a Turner
          or as in a Celmins, thousands of pencilled

          grey waves each slightly different yet similar
          enough to create a visual coherence of sea:

          a meditative thing of infinite elements
          a complexity of extensive existence;

          a thing that drops off the ends
          of the earth, that extends through the core

          of the planet to reach the other side, that
          at its depths is a blue so impossible as to

          be black, inhabited by luminous creatures
          who do not see red, red light wave lengths

          lost in pressure and distance, and past that,
          vents of fresh earth crust in which more creatures

          live, feeding off extremes of heat and pressure,
          and still a thing that washes this planet, makes us

          unique, unlike anything else, not gas spinning
          into rings of dust relentlessly blown into

          again red, a red haze surrounding the
          sphere—instead it makes us deep blue

          and streaky and many colors edging
          blue, dominance of ever-shifting blue,
          most fragile of colors, fading and reappearing
          from black to silver to milk, wine. What

          could be similar to this? Universe as
          sea? From our perspective, do stars shift

          in such complex interaction to change from
          second to minute? Sky again may not contain

          such active composition of so many dimensions,
          though sea imitates sky and in that way, sky

          leads in color and depthless stability within
          seconds of change. From here, it may be hard

          to tell if life is equivalent metaphor—what
          seems discernably variable to me may in

          more distant unfamiliarity seem as symmetrical
          as an ocean-full of waves. So what is sea’s

          equivalent metaphor if not to itself? What
          is at least somewhat like another? Where

          in the distance between one and the other is
          the interaction of complex vibrancy edging into beauty?




The Prospect

The prospect has several meanings:

the first, and first because it was the first use of the word
that sparked my interest in the word,

via Raymond Williams:

“…the view, the ordered propriety repose, the prospect…”



The prospect is the view
from mansorial windows:
the visually apprehended declaration of this view is mine,
the sweep of green lawn, the formal gardens, the topiary,
and further on, the forest, the woods. The line
of wilderness on the horizon. From which
poachers have been evicted.



Here is a drawing of the poacher’s construction:

The fox looks and longs, one paw rests on the beginning of its capture


I couldn’t find a drawing of the poacher inside the cage s/he constructed



Before enclosure and perhaps leading to its concept,
Lorenz Stoer conceived the landscape
as background to abstract geometrical shapes:


within these shapes
we wander on a baked landscape
against which we create
amazing, beautiful structures
as practical as cages
or abstract as chevrons, triangles and motifs

secretive as secret meanings
or secret profits, secrets to be made

secret stars, secret three-dimensional platforms
carved ivy over the real ivy

plastic plants almost so much like the real plants
they have even started adding brown leaves
and small flies that hatch in soil
to hatch in plastic, now
hatch plastic



In John Clare’s day, the commons was laid claim to.
The common land of the people was taken and enclosed.
The commons was claimed and closed.

John Clare wrote to himself as a child as a witness to enclosure.
His was the first recorded case of “ecodepression.”


To John Clare by John Clare                                        

                 Well, honest John, how fare you now at home?
                 The spring is come, and birds are building nests;
                 The old cock-robin to the sty is come,
                 With olive feathers and its ruddy breast;
                 And the old cock, with wattles and red comb,
                 Struts with the hens, and seems to like some best,
                 Then crows, and looks about for little crumbs,
                 Swept out by little folks an hour ago;
                 The pigs sleep in the sty; the bookman comes—
                 The little boy lets home-close nesting go,
                 And pockets tops and taws, where daisies blow,
                 To look at the new number just laid down,
                 With lots of pictures, and good stories too,
                 And Jack the Giant-killer’s high renown.


Now that he has been dead for more than 50 years, his work is in the commons.
I can include it; I can rewrite it to myself.


To Marcella Durand by Marcella Durand              

                 Well, honest Marcella, how fare you now at home?
                 My view is of a bridge over water: I swear the world
                 has sped up. I write not to myself because who am I
                 but to you in the past dear John Clare a poet like myself
                 who is looking at a bridge that maybe you would
                 have been horrified or impressed by. A musician named
                 Sonny Rollins—see, if I were writing to myself I would not
                 be explaining that to myself—a musician named Sonny
                 Rollins treated the view from this bridge as a composition
                 sheet: he read the city lights (because now not only are
                 we electrified but we are everything electric) as musical
                 notes and from that found melodies, that is what it is like
                 to make art from the environment around me. Making
                 a composition from the city of others that is about me.






Earth’s Horizon

Translated from Michèle Métail’s “Les Horizons du sol”


Marcella Durand

Marcella Durand is the author of The Prospect (Delete Press, 2020) and a recent recipient of the C.D. Wright Award in Poetry from the Foundation of Contemporary Art.


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