What Is Happening / What Just Happened

Tyler Gobble


When I found out

Tristan Tzara

He called

For “the universal installation of the idiot” I felt for the rare

Time in my stupid life ahead

Of the curve out in front of something / anything

A smidge

Ancient. Adam said my poems were bursting

With “idiot wisdom.” I throw myself

Into the dirt of mistake

Chance recovery

Unintentional intersection.

The universe does

Its own number on these messy things some lost

To a vortex of wind some changed due

To illegible handwriting

Some scribblings clear. Or like

My writing of poems about “my uncle” punctuated

With the loss of my actual dear uncle

This spring bisected

By a disappearance

Back to my Hoosier homeland that birthed

Me literally why I am on

This plane right now. The idiot as connoisseur

Of chance. The idiot as messy

Imperfect maker. It is tossing

The ski rope to the handless sky coasting for a bit and then finally losing

Balance and letting

The lake do with me what it wishes.

And in that what it wishes a possibility

For a lot of mis-es.




Mistakes by traditional standards.

Emily Dickinson

She said, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off

I know that is poetry”

And the process of knowing the self / anyone / anything

Is a similar slice a desired uncapping.

The best utterances and kisses.

The enlightening jogs at sun up and the chats on the porch

All know this. What do you

See when I take off my hat? Heredity.

Hickishness. The dull clippers in the closet.

But of course us being these

Tumbling selves it is a temporary

Peek—an uncertain scratch

In the marble a split second sniff of what

Really is cooking in the kitchen.

And then, POOF, back into the world / the whirl

Filthy in unknowing. Despite everything

She has been taught the poet uses

All five of her senses and possibly

More dropping bits of red into the green

Paint to make the grass more

Life-like / vivid. My third and fourth grade students

Write poems that do not even realize

They are being written

So enthused with the act

A human being scribbling

To worry what makes it a poem. We live

Eight years.

Twenty-seven years.

Sixty-one years and we collect

And collect

These experiences translated into memory.

Then what? Joe Brainard

Unable to slather enough out through painting discovered

The easiest outlet for maximum

Memory the “I Remember”

That form every person wants to

Can and should write in.

But that clean repetition

The natural-looking nature of those memories

Written out does not nod

Fully at how remembering works of what

His simplicity hides behind its curtain.

I misremember.

I dismember.

I remainder what is left.

A quick scrape against the overwhelming

Blank page.

A burst bubble

In an overflowing flood of suds. 

What do I know of my childhood?


I misremember the wedding

And the ugly tux with mauve pinstripes.

Who fell asleep.

They rode away on blue

Bicycles very straight.

I got meat lovers pizza

I think. I misremember the color of the bra

I glimpsed. Or the number of ice cubes

I sucked down whole.

I was seven

Or post-first cavity filling feeling.

I misremember the flavor

Of popsicle I sucked. Grape or green.

What is the peach. The sound

Of a hand on my hair.

Or my shoulder.

Or the door handle of the tiny green camper.

It was on fire

Or the sun was coming up.

I awoke saying I know somebody is dying.

I awoke saying Somebody I know is dying.

Jeep Wrangler exiting

My gullet as it exited the road.

I misremember which night

Gown my mother wore.

The hearts or the teddy bears.

The wallpaper was yellow or pink.

Or the number of deer heads

Displayed at the funeral.

They certainly each shone on the wall.

The feel of the end of October.

A hotel with everything indoors.

I misremember the size of my penis.

Who was there. Who was laughing.

My dad literally fishing my trunks

From the deep end. Which uncle chomping

Tobacco the color of his horses.

Which uncle literally fishing my trunks

From the deep end. My dad chomping

Tobacco the color of which uncle’s horses. 

I misremember the first chicken I killed.

The smell of pot in the yard.

The song playing. I ate chicken legs

And I puked on Christmas Eve.

Which year and which chicken.

I misremember how I misremember.

Who brought the mac

And cheese to Thanksgiving. Who only naps

On holidays. Or what reason my uncle said

For never shaving. Right versus wrong.

Correct versus completed.

Truth versus fact.

Sean gets mad at me for lying after I told

The audience, “I wrote this next poem

In the car on the way over.”

Sean was with me in the car eating

A lemon kolache.

“You did not write that poem in the car”

He says. I did and I did not.

I wrote that poem

On my porch and I wrote that poem

In the car once again when I decided I wanted it

To exist in the blurry

Narrative of my uncle’s death.

Which came first: the uncle or the poem?

A poem feels like it has been blabbing

For eons and a billion years

Humming and conjugating orally like sparks and eventually it sticks

To a stick to poof

A fire. The written language

Where a true love could find the feelings.

The comet melted into the side

Of the space station and neither

Would ever be the same.

Or the realization that in letters this can sound

Marvelous first striations into mud and then a variety of others

Until now the words scoot

Across the eyes poems jetting across a sky.

My uncle Ted N. Tyner was born

October 9, 1955

And left this world

April 26, 2016. 

Visual artists like to do their studies

Meaning deliberate workings

And reworkings

And reimaginings

Of subjects. Faces often.

Francis Bacon

He paints the head of a loved one and then smears it

With a cloth. It was his notion

Of the nervous system that irrationality

And something like chance could fuck

With the known and tingle

The body through.

For lazy Midwesterners like myself, people

Watching is a hobby

The inexact chance-based art of sitting

And observing the folks blistering

Like atoms around the self.

One might see a child scream

His first curse word straight into the mouth

Of another child a tad smaller.

One might see several security guards

Chasing a single shoplifter through the mall.

One might see a man

Covered in pigeons shake the pigeons free

Only to reveal himself

To be yet another pigeon.

Kenneth Koch

He told the story of a kiddo miswriting

“A swarm of bees”

As “a swan of bees” and I see it

On every lake I do not dive into.

The lingering birds here

Have a human’s touch but whom?

More trills

Equal more inclusion another chance

To hear the notes bounce

Off a relative’s hair

And become whisked clean by poetry’s own obscurity.

It is always fun to make fun of consciousness.

It is the constant power struggle.

The insistent landscape.

Faith and mosquitos—only two things

To consider as the hoarding grows

Grotesque in the knowing. One poem

Creeps into the world, reverses

My understanding of coconuts.

Of coconuts I am no expert or utility.

Neither is the poem / poet.

A poem merely babbles

To reenact sincerity pathos

Breezy and imbalanced

Like how the autumn forever treats the leaves.

There is a bit of dust

In my brain something I had confirmed

Five years ago.

When I open my mouth it is

Because I need more space to breath

Than these lungs originally applied.

Yes! I am amped up.

Yes! I have committed myself

To prolonged intoxication. When I say the locusts ate

The cornfield

What I mean is my family

Drank the field one bottle at a time.

It was golden and then

It was bared. Tombstones rising

Accompanied by an orchestra of snails

The tiny fiddles

Of their throats shouting at one another.

The language acts we’re engaged with

Are experiences

Are feelings

Solidified into that gelatinous

Thing we call a poem. I am misremembering here

My aunt’s jello mold infested with chunks of fruit.

Which aunt and which fruit.

Famously Breton said no more

Masterpieces and Williams said a poem

Is a machine. Imagine how bewildered

First stoked second the Swiss army felt

The first time

They held their knife. I am digging

For the kind of thing a thrift shop receives

As a donation and continues

To mark down in price week after week

Because no one can figure

Out what it “does”

Meaning its “intended purpose.”

It turns on.

It spins.

It appears to hold whatever will fit.

I am not interested in poems

That go boldly into the dirt.

I am more interested in the dirt

Itself how it clumps and muds how it breaks

Into the smallest particle

No longer dirt

But dust yet is so easily reintegrated

With the rest

The layer we stand on

Walk around on

Feel on. Existence often

Is reason enough.

When I was a child my uncle dug a large hole

In the yard intended to be filled in

With water either as pond or pool

I do not recall.

The excess dirt lived as a mound

Off to the side of the yard

And the pond never became

More than a puddle.

My cousins and I accepted

Our affections and curiosities climbing instead of plunged.

We fought each other

For the peak. We chased each other

Down. We imagined it

A slide when the rain or the snow

Wet it slick.

In our less loving times we made clods

Of the mound and threw them

Against each other’s developing heads.

Poems do vibrate

Into discovery and then back

To the void is held off.

Poetry finds the removed foot and brings it

Inside. Abandoned?

Join the conversation.

This is different than the organizational beauty

I am prescribed.

Poetry is not a pain

Reliever though it might offer.

A poem

As a small home built of others’ lightning.

A poem

As a gesture towards hickishness, unfeathered kindness, bulbous growth.

A poem

As curious thought.

A poem

As a slam through the barricade.

A poem

Like a premature ghost.

A poem

As a pack of wolves with a fence around.

No intentions but hopes

These hopes for my poems.

The segments of their interiority as bright

And hopeful like bulbs.

To impart the sensation of things—

A knife is when you cut with it

An onion is when you dismantle it and cry

A feeling is when you strain and the edges blink.

A poem

As a flag littered with dandelions.

A poem

As a struggle between two cousins to sing.

My uncle would often misremember

Chores in lieu of napping

The number of cookies that day.

As connective tissue a poem

Is dubious.

As a puzzle piece

A poem rises

Partially like a Fig Newton thrown to sea.

There was more of the field

To my uncle

Than one might first assume.

A few pieces of corn can make a poem

Of what appears

To be a handful of precious diamonds.

I dare say this

Slipperiness makes a poem beautiful!

I dare say this

Continuum of naturalness is more open-ended!

In this particular period of grieving

Of course I am drawn

Towards this idea of a poem

As an “archive of feelings”

Something Cvetkovich declared but also

As I look out the window of this plane

I must insist

A poem

Is also making a mountain out of a potato.