(after Bas Jan Ader)

 

1. Fall

After they shot your father
the Germans gave
your mother

                        fifteen minutes


to prepare herself
and her children
for      

            arrest
 

            gravity
 

You were standing there
 

as she flung clothes
out of windows
 

            expression
 

            gravity
 

Each garment fell: shot bird
or grief disclosed
 

and All My Clothes
your flung birds
remembers what you saw
 

In that fifteen minutes
you fell
            out of the present tense
 

            gravity
abducted you
and your childhood
 

                        arrested
 

Craft and grave
gravecrafting
the memory of your graveless father
led to the end by resistance
 

            gravity
 

            irresistible
 

fifteen minutes
crafting fame beyond the grave
a grave fifteen minutes
crafting gravity:
                        grave-
                                    crafting

 

2. Nightfall

Perhaps I can put that another way:
it began with his arrest
and fifteen minutes for your mother to craft
her preparation for your fall.
It began with gravity,
in a place without a grave.
 

There you were made grave.
Afterwards, you sought a way
to harvest levity; to use it in a craft
that circled each time to its fall.
You could not out-play gravity:
a jolt a tilt a lurch: always a rest-
 

-ive jiggle and sway into arrest.
Those minutes near a body with no grave
made burial the centre of your gravity.
There was no other way
for you, no thought you might not fall.
Yet your films are laugh-craft
 

life-raft out of gravitas, luft-craft
from the moment of your father’s arrest
and the forest moment of his fall
their lift and luft despite his unknown grave.
You didn’t want to feel that way.
It’s hard to believe in gravity
 

and to forget gravity.
You searched for miracles, your small craft
and sea your anchor, causeway, easeway.
At an unknown moment, in the waves’ branches: arrest.
No more resistance. Sea-burial. No grave.
Your silent unseen fall.
 

No lift to it. All fall
into the miracle of gravity.
Like your father, no grave.
Instead, your final craft
solitary, like your arrest.
Unlike him, you got away.
 

Trauma is a battered craft
that circles back towards its own arrest.
I am trying to say the same thing, another way.


 

Note: Dutch-born conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader disappeared at sea during a solo
voyage and artwork called ‘In Search for the Miraculous’. ‘All My Clothes’ is a
1970 photograph.