After-Image (Louisiana Company)

To see the light track as a rippled luminous plane
The exact         relationship

The urge to hold onto the falling paper
The desire to make someone “pay”
Presentation of suffering         in         stead
Payable at sight and in the coin of their issue
Curved brightness graph and contrast edge
So that if you hold a piece of paper to the screen
“A vision so splendid”             promised

Converted into gold and driven over the border in a farmer’s cart hidden under a pile of dung the jobber dressed as a farmer                          oh        new houses     

The dream of instant wealth
The failing confidence in paper
Everyone knows that a piece of cardboard
Held up in the sun      
                                                (will cast a shadow)                             Conversion
“After watching intently for some time I turned...”

Paraded through the streets with their picks and shovels and sent to the ports to be shipped for America “the very refuse of the streets”    dressed as miners         oh
                          After looking for some time intently and steadily
The belief in the great wealth of that region
Stillness of dark figures not     in the oppressive heat a lesson
Stopped payment in specie                  malversation
            “par les regles de l’algebre”
Black letters have been seen to look red in the evening light

Diminished as instance                         marriages
Those caught converting the notes into gold, plate, or jewelry

“When anyone thinks he can see this phenomenon very clearly, he should hold brilliantly coloured paper flowers close to the real ones....”

Given in                                                       figures



(for M.P.)

We rust in the act of lifting the ax
Under glittering clouds of spun glass.
We become our own imitators, our works
One huge sad repetitive book also left out
In the rain that is an idea of rain
Inherited: the movie made from the book
Open to a list of clouds and the image,
From 1893, of that dress incorporating
Glass fibers the texture of silk. Left out
Under the blank face of a fast reader
Seemingly frozen over the frozen surge
Of open pages—moon / lake (“like”) equally
White—there’s no apparent source for this
Doubly reflected light, only once or twice
Riven by a deep black where the bite
Of a blade broke a boat into the rippling
Text: an empty boat. In the empty mirror
Turned to the wall a vague recollection
Of other pageants: material meant to be used
As insulation swirled into a pale storm set
On the head of a child representing an other-
Worldly witness above a black lake (“lack”)
Where those who could not or did not leave
Wait in the rising water not actually invented
As we know until 1938. Memory shoves certain
Strictures into place around the dissolving facts:
The sinking book’s splayed to the phrase I loved
You once; the savage violence of a remembered
Blow’s the only moving thing in a winter of thought-
lessness. To turn a (stiff) phase: first the Empress
In her glass dress, and then the divorcee--at work
On the issue of trust in our crystalline state.

Laura Mullen is on the faculty at Louisiana State University. She is the author of five books: The Surface (1991); After I Was Dead (1999); The Tales of Horror (1999); Subject (2005) and Murmur (2007), and a chapbook, Turn, from dove tail press (2006).  She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Prize, and several MacDowell Colony Fellowships Her poetry has been widely anthologized and her prose has appeared in Civil Disobediences: Poetics & Politics in Action (Coffeehouse Press), Paraspheres (Omnidawn), and elsewhere.