Picture of the Picture of the Image in the Glass

Craig Watson

1992 • 48 pp. • $12.00
ISBN: 9781882022106

Purchase from Small Press Distribution

“In ‘the silence between thought and / the sound of things undone’ there is a rigorous calculus at work…The world as figured in Watson’s poems…is a site haunted by subject-effects equidistant from the sum of possible worlds. In the last decade, Watson has emerged as one of our most original and compelling poets.”
—Ted Pearson

“Craig Watson is a thoughtful poet…It does have to do with our thought becoming more rigorous and more witty and more passionate. It does have to do with our becoming more alive as language animals and as epistemologists who can dance (if only at night in our own rooms).”
—John Taggart


Craig Watson is the author of eleven books and chapbooks. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in numerous literary journals since 1982. His recent book SECRET HISTORIES(Burning Deck, 2007) completes a trilogy that includes FREE WILL (Roof Books, 2000) and TRUE NEWS (Instance Press, 2002). Among other considerations, these books traverse the languages and silences that by turn construct and erase history, even as its actual subjects struggle to endure. His latest collection, SLEEPWALKING WITH ORPHEUS, was published by Shearsman Books in 2011.



a desert
bursting with heavens
bounded by blackened suns
held fast by collapsing distances
a morning
of weak blue sky pressing
the weight of light into a hollow sea
that spills a glass skin over land
there must be one right place
at a time only and all others
stand for that,
equal though elsewhere
Take it.
It comes.
Great streams of water, clusters of stars,
melting stone, hours of night, ground warmths radiating from an
Between the relief of material objects,
vastness swells and overflows. A figure attempts to appear in a
moment, crawling towards dry land to assume a shape in the blue
phantom light of electricity.
But in this land of disappearance, human
vision is complete whiteness and total dark. Congested eyes adjust
to looming solids that, only a second before, have been air and sky
and days. Blankets of sunburn merge every angle, every point of the
compass every whirling edge.
mountains in chains
rivers in flood
the wasteland of the sea
echo overflows its shell
gather in the empty egg
a body with no desires, advancing to obey
one as one as any other
Repeat the question.
The beginning ends: the ceaseless return of something not recalled closing a fist on its hollow wake. Full view strikes from the uniform invisible, then dissolves in the filmy atmosphere. The next breath once belonged to someone else; the common fractures its measure.
Possessed by the obvious absolutely.
Where there is no explanation,
there is no occurrence.
Or a life replaces disguised, wind precedes a storm, fear interrupts a soft sleep. The burden of waiting is not anxiety, but inevitability.
Darkness congeals from the twisted wreckage of twilight. Then the shadow disintegrates in the pure black air.
imagination seethes in whispers
dreaming of separation through
tightening embraces
voice as ballast
the subject of
the cusp
extinct niche
X in the figure of X
try to survive
to be desired by what is known
Fog dream, clinging finger silence
Everything that moves bears naturally to the left. Memories and predictions drain the green sky, then wash back as dust in the corners of hills and rooms and bodies. A mouth insinuates its sound so passion can hear its breath as well as see it. Volume breaks on tongue; a brittle ear continuously whistles.
Another other floats over distance in hollow clouds, unseeming and indistinct, shrouded in naked and lit by lines of sight waiting to be occupied. Positives and negatives are neutral, specific to consequence.
if the picture pictures, continually
surrender to it
Walk a slow mile
then rest.
Which is to wait
and which to thicket among
Steps fall. fail.
This is not a whole.
Rain climbs the trees and drops through the air again.
The center has a word for the periphery. A window could be a table, the result of devoted devotions. Thought is separate from thought, that is, a glossy horizon. Smoke doesn’t come out of the fire, it is alone like the sound of a stick striking the floor or a tear dropping out of only one eye.
stopped in the ears
sound of rain sound
of wind sound of
outer ocean on a beach
Towering exceptionally high
the sky appears upside down.
A dark spot is ahead: uncertain light trapped between thick milky forms. The future searches for mirage on the horizon in order to rescue the common from the spectacular.
the white sound
foam in swarms
pulse of shape
the shimmering uninterrupted
single breath
And love, like language, lives in pauses and distances,
where the hand impossibly floats among its mutilations.


The year was ending, there was wreckage everywhere: cracked eggs, splintered rudders, mirrors and clocks, like sleet from an invisible sky. The season surrounded by its twilight, the great horizon sunk behind a wine sun. He wanted to wake up blind to everything he had ever seen before. But it is not for you to know whether the heart or the brain is going to die first. The difference between life and death is the difference between a journey along a paper calendar and the shadowless landscape of a constellation. The best route is always the shortest.

When someone steps on your grave, sleep explodes. A fine rain began to fall, matching color-for-color the moor and dune and sea. Fire congealed in the vanishing light, first into stacks of brittle iron, then whirlpools of vapor. In his mouth this melting air marked the limits of sense and the precipice of secret thoughts. Behind him everything was something else becoming the same. From that point on, the only direction is out.

Because the spirit absorbs and radiates each circumstance and enclosure, you have to ask yourself were you really born or was someone else born for you? Is this the tomb of another world or a room where a darkness has been thrown over your face by the perfection of history? And what becomes of the vacancy you displace? Have you become this emptiness, looking for an object to swallow? If everything is as it must be, complete and fulfilled, hunger has been replaced by the absence of possible desire.

Inside, as ever, the same difference. First he stood still in the room, hand-in-hand. Then he swam in a labor of strokes, ventilations, grasps. The foreground leaked toward the middle, the picture of duration. He could not exhume it. Thinking is an incandescence that does not grow brighter but only increases in volume. He felt his way along the wall.

In the open air, the unknown died in its niches. Through an enormous landscape light spread slowly, not by the dazzle of distinction, but by its thin sourceless pallor. Familiar shapes bleached away shadows. At the edge of distance he painted hands on his arms and feet on his legs.

One question closes the next. In stutters, in songs, in thickening clouds of whispers, his breath fogged and darkened. His voice ascended through awe until sustaining a dull howl. Across the basin, listeners beat the air, threshing each drift and flutter. Possessed, the message changed: from pearls to ice to poured water, then to echoes within echoes, rumbling in the gutters of ears.

But you don’t make a mark. Between pauses, wordlessness escapes. It snows in swaths and collars among the abandoned architecture of waiting faces.

He scattered himself through the blue night air. How can you see what isn’t, or what is but remains missing? How do you see without seeing? Or how do you see only your gaze before you? He walked the ridge between two beaches, one above, one below, one frozen solid, the other crusted over. The sliding surf had preserved in layers of salt ice the captured edge of the sea. On the surface, nothing remained of the sprawling, purposeless world.

Ghosts cannot cross water. Isolation unifies, generous to produce so many limits. The end began again, complete though undesigned. The sand moved beneath his footprints, hunted by the seething heartbeat of the sea. Spray smoked. Every sign of struggle was erased.

Later, he was walking back when he found his father’s body on the beach.