Vondervotteimittiss cover


Geoffrey Nutter

Copyright © 2013 Geoffrey Nutter. All rights reserved.

The War of the Gargantua

This was the field where they fought the Giants’ War.
This is the field where all good was contingent,
where all good had been part of some great thing.
Gigantic green block-heads are looming above us
draped with vines, dripping with tar,
and looming above the horizon.
These were wearing tall time-annihilating hats.
These serenely lumbered among the berserkers.
This is not the time during which we had been living.
It is the time of fables, which yielded the meaning
of their creatures. It is the great forest arsenal
of earthly growths that have been weaponized, bejeweled.
A man made out of fire has heard an ultimatum
and stands in an iron glow. The buildings
are delicate cinders and cylinders that had once
been part of a polyhedral thing, and had fought
the cathedral war with the sky.
This is giant man, is mere man, is transformational
man. Whatever Ovid believes, he shall be.
By gazing at his own face in the pines
he has grown bereft of sense, like Narcissus.
By beholding his face in the glittering brook
he has become the bestiary lake.
By looking down on the Anticosmopolita
he is mistaken for arrangements of stars,
like Pisces, Swan, and Lion.

Πασ μεν απιστος απιστει

Asking you to develop an awareness
of something unpalatable—and then
do nothing. This is the ethics
of our day. Is it our day?
Edgar Allan Poe is smirking slightly,
staring past you. Apparently,
he finds something amusing. You don’t
have to be a Zen master to write a poem,
(to point out the obvious). You might
write little horse poems, or poems
about little horses so that you might
seem nice. You can write nice poems,
nice about all the right things:
things miniature, or horses,
or a cartoon grape. Or poems
about nice sentiments, about how bad
you find spiders, especially Nazi
spiders, and pederasty, or detonating
candles dipped in feldspar and boiling
potash; about how Spiro Agnew is bad,
or how Ed Snowden, who wants to be Russian,
is a hero like Luther King, or Garibaldi.
That’s fine, that’s all well and good.
That’s understandable, it’s more
than understandable. It’s not nice
to ground up, dry, and smoke the horse
for pemmican, that it might keep
for later. Furthermore, it’s bad.
But I find myself succumbing
to irony despite myself.
I learned Cantonese in Hong Kong,
visited Surinam for bauxite,
then tried to find the constellation Swan.
And these are subjects too,
and vast as cosmorama in their long view
and their worldliness. In conclusion,
to sum up, we are all good people “at heart”.
Really, I say this sincerely. But perhaps
it is better to forget ourselves, and preferably
in strange amusements: in the extraction
of a green color from coffee beans;
in the distillation of sea water;
in silvering the backs of looking glasses;
in setting fire to spirits of wine
with musical flame and the rays of the sun.

These Great Sentinels

These great sentinels
have been here so much longer than you,
bare as January, January bees,
bare as rain or boats of commerce snarled
on the highly trafficked waterway,
as the bowsprit of the Dutch fishing pink
(one of many curious boats)
or the Malay rigging of the Bombay yacht
(another one of many curious boats)
and the lights along the turrets of the cliffs
along the harbor basin shined.
And Mrs. Hannah Glass set her cliffside house
in order. It was a house of glass.
And out above the water burst
the Roman candles of July,
the apple-green meister-singers,
the long fire of an open secret, aquatic trees,
and the cerulean brothers of Jupiter, of love.
And these great sentinels have torn
a page of strange remembrancy
from your endless calendar
to let the cool wind charm you
(the cool wind of July—for a fragrance
of jasmine drifted over from the palace, from the forest).
For each season has its delights,
as each key unlocks a door—but the key
does not tell you which door it opens,
nor in which building you will find it.

Facts of Life

Time goes by faster than you
can imagine. It’s fast, man.
Faster than you can get your mind around.
And that’s fast...spell it: F A S T.
Lord Jesus, time is fast, get it?
No more tripping out on it.
No more spreading black plum jam on it,
going off on illuminated tangents,
double-tangents, wigging out.
I want to give it a piece of my mind.
But it’s all good. I’ll give it a bad piece,
a faulty piece, and then I’ll wrap
my mind around it. It’s just prolonging
the wait for an undefinable thing to happen
for the first time, and the last time.
The Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age,
which in turn gave way to the Coal Age,
the Oil Age, the Age of Vapor, of Carbon,
the Age of Shanghai, of Snow, of Stone, of Darkness,
and then the Age of the Terrible Flower of Light.
We lived in a landlocked city, amid the grain,
flat as a pancake, inscrutable as funnelcake,
and a statue of Samuel Clemens rose up taller
than a lamp post—the tallest lamp post ever made.
It represents society, where the buildings
are three-dimensional, and get light at different
angles, under the sun, for the sun also shines
on three dimensions. Trees were vast
but not congruent, beside the arsenal under
the city’s bronze auspices. A man was smoking
a cigar on a rock by the river near the docks—
Why? One might ask. He is cool as a cucumber.
In fact, that’s not a cigar at all: yes,
it’s a cucumber. It’s about six o’clock.
It’s one of the facts of life. Beauty
is not one of the facts of life.
It is not a fact. And it is not a part of life.
At least not the one we have come to know.


There are the questions of the present age.
Yes, of course—but what are they?
We were studying the black books
wherein the past was positing its grudges,
and the chapters rise, not sequentially,
but exponentially. We walked toward
the carousel and past it, like thinkers—
rather, we walked toward the thinkers
fantasizing we were like them, thinking
we could borrow without any attribution.
It was one of many distractions, a pastime
for the firebug, the mountebank, the fire-starter.
What was the question, the heliotrope held
in the glove of the Remembrancer,
a basket of bent nails, and circular nails
beside the sunflower? When the bare will
was the mothering force, and when the prowess
was a lioness, every axiom arose,
a strange blue onion plucked from the breast
of terra, placed in a box for its ordinary
brightness. Thus imaginary fire.
Thus the lioness. Thus fire. But then again
to leave a thing unsaid, unasked, unanswered,
unuttered, to leave the blonde Protagoras
untroubled: this is to unearth the jewel
of what could be, to de-earth the very Earth.

The Old Side-wheel Excursion Steamers

The old side-wheel excursion steamers
chug out toward the open waters, away
from the dark guesses of the zealous
who have traded away the decades
for an oblong box, and a golden clock
likewise oblong, that falls from the box
into the shuddering grass upon opening.
The boat seems rickety, and green
as though mosses and vines were growing
all over it. Where are they going?
I have told the time obligingly to strangers as they passed,
inquiring. I have also gone up the stairway
to the place where strangers sleep, the strangers
and their tigers, the tigers in their tiger sleep.
Not really. I thought of it, though.
The boat appears about to come apart
at any moment. I thought of it, I thought
of it. And then I thought about it.
Though I would like to be there too,
inter-visiting enameled bastions,
participating in a common cause
where the grass springs up unknowingly
as mere whispers rectify enormities,
the place where they had chosen as the meeting
place can barely be construed accessible,
a place in the shade between two buildings
somewhere between Ossining and Garrison.
But if you keep going you will go by
the cities that bear even stranger names,
and maybe they will welcome you, or maybe
only wave and gesture as you pass...
the tiger-spotted herons, manta rays
streaked with purple, and the giant lobsters,
puffers, eels, and sea snakes, flying fish,
and blue peaks fading in the distances of sunset.

Sarah Battle

Sam Peeps watched the trial
of the triad of the fire-starters
with his usual and unearthly
concentration, concentrating
his whole life into
a momentary focus. Adjusting
a lens just carefully, turning it
this way and that, that the sun
might be sharpened to a diamond point
through that glass and burn them
into memory and burn a string
of sporadic apparitions into lines
of words approximating thought,
a burning string of continuities.
Even notwithstanding crickets
singing in the hay, they are setting off
the early fireworks, that snap
in the night like beetled hay
gathered in half-thought’s flickering
embers. What would he have learned
to say and think and write if he had lived
a thousand years, three thousand years,
three hundred thousand years?
And he would tell you, yes, but only
“under the rose.” Like love,
it is easy to say what it is not,
nearly impossible to say what it is.
Even notwithstanding we are here,
under the rose, telling time, studying
for the “test of time”, fire-starters all,
out among the acres of young green wheat
and its unreasonably beautiful summons,
amid which Sarah Battle rises
in her sudden apologia, standing tall
and staring straight ahead
in contrasting double-killing sables.

To Cyriack Skinner, In His Blindness

Whenas the Department of Reviews
and Rebukes sends you its assessments
of your late performance, implex
with invective as a stick bug in a grass ball,
and unlike the false tangents of the dream dialectic
at play beneath the surface stream,
these stun us with an aptitude for pointed
shadows, fanciful descriptions and polyphonic
narrative, the prayer book’s rainbow-colored text—
turn the monstrous page of light to the blinding
sonnet addressed to Cyriack Skinner.
The team is sprinting over the gridiron, tiger lilies
spring up in profusion, you have nearly gained
the secret approval of those with whom
you have cultivated strictest enmity. You have nearly
completed the field with work, Olivia,
you are an olive among the virgins, among
the foxgloves. From the footbridge, a distant
prospect, and the buildings glitter like rows
of pins and needles in front of the water,
where the shining ones wait with folded wings
against their backs.


Bram Stoker dined on crab once, late at night,
and so he dreamed. Of what? The plant that needs
no sunlight, needs no stem, whose leaves are white,
its petals opening in blue transparency.
He, naked, garbed himself in milk-white orchids,
and rolled in the troubled oriental bed,
out of earshot of his spouse’s scoldings,
her curtain lectures and her closet dramas.
Here, Mr. Pym, is the twister made of flame,
the one you loved, the fanged machines
that grind the balance of perpetual motion.
Did you turn the hand-crank, the crank
of fanged flowers, the head-crank, opiate,
amphibious mystery plays that end in thieves
coming down from the cross? What you altered
in the night remains the same in daytime,
and day to day the changes leave
a kind of ghost like gas of gutta-percha.
Look, I have left the Dutch town of Vondervotteimittiss,
whose gothic structures antedate the mandrake.
I return to the ruined city of my youth
where I might ride a manipede along the green-path.
I might see the radiant furnaces, the yachts
that appeal to your sense of indignation,
the slanted greenway to your sense of loss.
You have said a word that cuts like a radical toy,
something topical, how one who passed
in yellow glasses waved hello. I think
I know what I’m saying. We will all
come together though not, it seems, in the way
that we once hoped. Shall I, a man
half metal, a man of metal, a half man,
a firebug and mountebank, a fire-eater
and a salamander crush the wild berries
to my lips, lie sleeping there amidst
revolving marvels? We were withholding
the boxes of our native earth from one another,
while time, the Great Determiner, its aviary clocks,
the Great Delimiter, the Man of Sure Ruin,
decided great decisions for us, or ones
that at the time seemed so. And you
were a word-search, in a role-playing game
in which you played the role of words.

Geoffrey Nutter

Geoffrey Nutter is originally from California, but has lived in New York City for many years. He has published four books of poems: A Summer Evening (winner of the Colorado Prize), Water's Leaves & Other Poems (winner of the 2005 Verse Press Prize), Christopher Sunset (winner of the 2011 Sheila Motton Book Award) and most recently The Rose of January, published by Wave Books in June 2013. He has taught at The New School, The University of Iowa, New York University, and Columbia, and has published poems in many journals and anthologies.