6.08 To Go With


I went with him to the wall.
He was at once old and young.
He had the features of the wall:
solid, stubbled, crazed

with tender cracks
more and less than stone.
He traced, he rubbed –
verbs for finding out.

At the wall he found me.
His fingers round me.
The lines of the wall
of me, like lichen.


Watching the video of “I am not sure what it means but I’ll go with it,” I was drawn as much to the hand as I was to the wall on which it traced. Or maybe I was drawn more to the hand. The intimacy of the camera’s close focus, the hand’s movements (considered and delicate), the slow pace of the tracing … it came to me as an erotic experience. So that’s what I wanted to honor in my three wee quatrains. It was important for me, for some reason, to write a short thing—a small lyric thing—in response, and also to stay close to the visuals I was responding to. I wanted the images in my poem to come from the video. Perhaps my only deviation was to imagine a fully-formed person, a man, to whom the hand belongs; in the video the owner of the hand remains off camera, besides the surprise of feet at the end.

Also. The words “trace” (the action of the hand in the video) and “rub” (the process of the graphite on paper) struck me as particularly brilliant in response to the issue’s theme of DIVINATION, so I needed to borrow them. Also I realized the verb “to go with” was just as important… just as the hand was going with the crack in the wall, so was I going with the hand where it was going—trusting and being surprised by it, certainly in an erotic way. To be honest I was resistant to this feeling of erotic divination during my initial watch, but I gave way to it, or I went with it, and I’m glad I did. I want the poem to give some words to that experience.


C.J.A. is a California-based poet, critic, essayist, & current Ph.D. student at the University of Southern California.