[Reprinted from Underlight, published 2012 by Ugly Duckling Presse]
In Contact with the Ground (Personal Sun)
Each soul to the quick.
God’s center in this gutter, your reading glance.
All deals double back.
The soul whatever, even if turning somehow occult.
The mouth has potential but even closed it holds nothing in
This one is like the dogs by the sea in Aesop
who cannot get at a floating corpse and therefore
try to drink themselves a path
over a stable bed fleeing and pursuing
and driven by the following drawn by the former—
same stream, waters ever-changing
to his prior infirmities, the law’s push-
pull, the reason’s civil argument,
order into which unlikeness obtrudes, always
is happening, not familiar,
not triumph, hardship, thing I’ve done wrong
another beast’s gut;
across his throat; from this line goes all difference,
an opening that’s easy to recognize
[note. In McCollough’s fifth book it is clear again how his work calls up sources & resources that expand while they almost deny the personal nature of the work that the work also proclaims. Of all this he writes: “As the titles of the ‘Preliminary Notes’ poems might suggest, I was thinking about the Alchemical tradition during their composition. My actual notes from that time indicate an engagement with the work of Thomas Vaughan (brother of poet Henry Vaughan) and also with pseudo-Dionysius. I was already deep into the writing and rewriting of the manuscript for the book that would ultimately be called Underlight but which was under the working title ‘Rough Soul.’ Although it’s probably true that all of my books are about ‘personal magic’ at some level, or about trying to work magic on the world and the self from my own isolated garden, 'Rough Soul'/Underlight is especially personal. The book is a house. It’s my house with the traumas, recoveries, and ecstasies marked in ways that are often obscure, and the ‘Notes’ poems offer the reader some tips about the rules of the house. I’ve always been drawn to Medieval/Early Modern micro-/macro-cosmological descriptive vocabularies. My house is a cosmic house. So, the ‘Notes’ poems are meant to offer tips about the rules of the cosmic house. The genius of the place is the Hebrew letter ‘Bet.’ First letter of the Torah. Number 2 in gematria. The letter with which the creative act can take place (as it does in Torah: ‘Bereshith’). The place for creation. House. ‘Rashi points out that the letter is closed on three sides and open on one; this is to teach you that you may question about what happened after creation, but not what happened before it, or what is above the heavens or below the earth’ (pseudo-Dionysius). The book questions and rejoices in what’s happened since creation as a way to feel out what might be above or below it. The seed is in the ‘Notes’ poems.”]