David Need

Lost Head


All the images and fish were
about love,   divergent,    seed market
by the sea          you thought later
untrue             a sign,

Exxon at the edge of night.            I said
word says anyway its undone,
makes it easy to toss me the pliers when
I ask. So God says too: what’s underneath —

impossible radiant earth —
is as easy.      Let there be light      was birch.
Breath, Binah*       between battered us, the

two in the coin, the skirt’s flip.
Cup a hand to the heart and hear Yeats’ doubled-
gyre, roar-like sea — all the words say it.

Say it two.


* Binah is the second sephirot  (concrescence of light) in the Kabbalist Tree of Life; Binah is associated with the initial reflection / wisdom that receives the emanation of Keter (the hidden crown) hence sometimes associated with the Shekinah or feminine veil of being / wisdom. In the Christian Cabbala Binah is associated with the High Priestess card in the Tarot. She is seated in front of the two pillars of the temple, thus suggesting that image is both veil and door, doubled, what’s opened out by two.


I am against this casting back-and-forth
theory says, Undone-doing as the fourth
name of God, before the fifth Done un-done and

all rattle of opposites — Heidegger talking Kabbalah
Is-to-be’s, terrible blind in the forest, his
shooting place — I say even your darkness
back over Dachau. Come Is-to-be there,

thief of angels. I am for this word-erase-knot,
what untangles her hair, her black smooth, her
brune, or smith-rang shards, impossible

riverine single. The tenet that tends,
in field-written, after the last drop
of the before-to-be-gotten.


Even the present is too much for us
to say, hawk and wound striate in the
leaves, and invisible step needed to
cross between the fields of their different

stars. Matter no less has gone back to
it’s entangled miracle, almost not,
where it drops down, poised
kiss, but never tangent.

These are the facts piled by the
door where the wood used to lie,
where floor became forest and

nothing immediate hovers in chance —
the engaged, blue-white wings of moths flash
and the sun seems to go on forever.


This insistent, to feel sad against until a shore
that yarrow returns and the sky, its forever;
my song adds itself to this lost painting, what we
call a world when we should say arras —

it is not place. Will never hold us
to it’s arms. Each garden tells this story, the
way May carries glacial light in
the new red flower, the blue sky that carries

timeless what the sun’s warmth opens.
Someone comes to the door to tell you not to dwell
in grief, restless and sure that something can

be done. I put on “Try a Little
Tenderness” and think about the way
things come to harm.


Somewhere back inside image and thought is sight, the
sigh of leaves suggests — oriole of Arc in the bright care;
stunned where due,          weight of her dress, the stop, eidolon path through the hawthorns.

You find your way back         pole star
where you threw it       high against the rafters
Shulamith*.      Her spell and the swells,
pitch and yaw,        rock and

tide. The way the after thing is
different, the later day     afterimage
back there in the woods,

where the hawthorns share the night.
All the ideas fall back asleep into not-
yet words you woke them from.


* The feminine singer in The Song of Songs refers to herself as a Shulamite; the name Shulamith is a feminine form of Solomon (Salome is similarly related). In Paul Celan’s “Death Fugue,” (a post-Holocaust elegy) the poet addresses both golden-haired Marguerite and ashen-haired Shulamith who appear to be numbered among the dead. Many of Celan’s later poems are addressed to an enigmatic feminine you who hovers as sister / peer, mother, lost loved one. My lines also refer to the painter Anslem Kiefer’s “Shulamite (Shulamith) 1983.”


Then there’s a story that says there’s many
ways love carries us off &
all the images — the echoes of children in
sunbeams, perfumes that edge out past the ledges

of windows — that the blooming in an
open is myriad — all the words to say a
telepathic, the rising up out of a deep;
not even ocean can hold this down, nor

tremendous time, nor the far reach of
negation. We are exactly among each other —
there’s whisper and current, we wait too

long to go to sleep, stay out past our first
knowledge of this,
but no matter. Thankfully flesh won’t

leave us, however often we attempt
to depart.

David Need

David Need lives in Durham, NC and teaches Asian Religions at Duke University. His poetry and critical essays have appeared in Hambone and Talisman. He has brought out two volumes of poetry: a translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s short suite “Les Roses” (Roses, the Late French Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke) and a volume of his own poetry, Offshore St Mark / Songs In-Between the Day.