Landscape With a Blur of Conquerors by Richard Siken

“To have a thought, there must be an object—
the field is empty, sloshed with gold, a hayfield thick
with sunshine. There must be an object so land
a man there, solid on his feet, on solid ground, in
a field fully flooded, enough light to see him clearly,

the light on his skin and bouncing off his skin.
He’s easy to desire since there’s not much to him,
vague and smeary in his ochers, in his umbers,
burning in the open field. Forget about his insides,
his plumbing and his furnaces, put a thing in his hand

and be done with it. No one wants to know what’s
in his head. It should be enough. To make something
beautiful should be enough. It isn’t. It should be.
The smear of his head—I paint it out, I paint it in
again. I ask it what it wants. I want to be a cornerstone,

says the head. Let’s kill something. Land a man in a
landscape and he’ll try to conquer it. Make him
handsome and you’re a fascist, make him ugly and
you’re saying nothing new. The conqueror suits up
and takes the field, his horse already painted in

beneath him. What do you do with a man like that?
While you are deciding, more men ride in. The hand
sings weapon. The mind says tool. The body swerves
in the service of the mind, which is evidence of
the mind but not actual proof. More conquerors.

They swarm the field and their painted flags unfurl.
Crown yourself with leaves and stake your claim
before something smears up the paint. I turned away
from darkness to see daylight, to see what would
happen. What happened? What does a man want?

Power. The men spread, the thought extends. I paint
them out, I paint them in again. A blur of forces.
Why take more than we need? Because we can.
Deep footprint, it leaves a hole. You’d break your
heart to make it bigger, so why not crack your skull

when the mind swells. A thought bigger than your
own head. Try it. Seriously. Cover more ground.
I thought of myself as a city and I licked my lips.
I thought of myself as a nation and I wrung my hands,
I put a thing in your hand. Will you defend yourself?

From me, I mean. Let’s kill something. The mind
moves forward, the paint layers up: glop glop and
shellac. I shovel the color into our faces, I shovel our
faces into our faces. They look like me. I move them
around. I prefer to blame others, it’s easier. King me.”

barbarian waiting

Is it wrong that I let others speak my mind?

though I am so unbelievably dumb – I would ask you again

to slap my face, but I cannot dictate precisely. What are these words that

my mind whispers? Even hinting at them

implies betrayal, but betrayal of what? of Whom?

are these shapes something worth mentioning, or

shall I still silently ponder,

in this spontaneous, aimless, underthought fashion?

Do you know what you have said or how it has been received?

Of course not. Never. We construct relations from that

which we choose to share, those facets

that roll forth when our die is tossed.

Even those who claim pure genuine expression as their own

are limited by their own tongues, which cannot

trace shapes in colour or even communicate some

internal form of unconsciousness:

We can’t explain our dreams in the morning.

Are we limited by intonation, inflection and implication?

quietly, my toes on a windscreen say otherwise

as we speak physically. I believe in hands reached out,

so I leave mine open-palmed and everything drops.

Perhaps, in utter black, we would see clearer

no longer attracted by these visual limits, but

borne on words alone, love fed outside of

all but the person. Perhaps then, honesty would be less trite.

In short, I am baffled by intimacy.

For that is really all we are – darkened blind figures reaching out, if we’re lucky

in a world we cannot comprehend. Logic will not love you,

Rational empiricism will not make you less alone.

These birds and bees restlessly flocking in your mind

must meet with similarity, or drown in the black.