Make It New, He Said

George Looney


A dried sprig of sage, not far from dust,
tucked into a book not read since

a woman’s mouth was a Chinese character
no ink could carve out of a sky

so blank and unpronounceable the past
held no sway and had to scramble for

any vestige of significance.  Memory is
all about what’s gone, or gone missing.

Pound wanted poetry to bring the past
into the present, but nothing lost can be

written any clearer in the Latin alphabet
than in the eastern cages of precise ink strokes

he never got right.  If the past is anything,
a desiccate sprig of sage can illuminate

the first letter of the one language
authentic enough to express it

and not give in to the urge to remake it
in its own image, to say

what that sprig of sage meant
and what it had become, rather than

what it was.  This isn’t
an argument about Zen

or any other contraption for incarcerating
the things of the world in meaning.

Memory knows what it wants,
and what it wants is not the past.

Pound may have had it right.  Maybe
meaning is a matter of adding on

stroke after stroke until what’s on the page
houses enough fragments to form

something whole.  That sprig of sage
shrouded with the haunt of its scent.


George Looney’s books include Meditations Before the Windows Fail (Lost Horse Press, 2015), the book-length poem Structures the Wind Sings Through (Full/Crescent Press, 2014), Monks Beginning to Waltz (Truman State University Press, 2012), and A Short Bestiary of Love and Madness (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011), and the 2008 novella Hymn of Ash (the 2007 Elixir Press Fiction Chapbook Award). He founded the Creative Writing BFA at Penn State Erie.


Back to Table of Contents