Atlas Peripatetic


Atlas Peripatetic was the first, and, so far, the most extensive, project in the Atlas series. The main component is an extended sequence of poems inspired by the sounds of my morning walk. Each chapter is an improvisation/meditation on a sound or grouping of sounds from an extensive spreadsheet of sounds documented over the span of six months in 2003. Other components include a series of cameraphone panoramas, a bird count, and a map of the sidewalk along the route.

The editing of the poem sequence continues. Divided into twenty “maps” that correspond to the distinct legs of the walk, the poem serves as both improvised map of the walk and as a meditation on the disparate connections suggested by sounds and their sources.

Thanks to the editors of the following journals for agreeing to publish excerpts (note that the published excerpt may be different than the current version):

21 Stars Review, 42opus, 88: A Journal of Contemporary American Poetry, Alba, ‘a-pos-tro-phe, The Argotist Online, Aught, Black Robert Journal, Black Zinnias, Big Bridge #12, Brick and Mortar Review, CAB/NET, Chiron Review, DIAGRAM, Dusie, Experiential-Experimental-Literature, foam:e, Free Verse, Great Works, Hamilton Stone Review, horse less review, hutt, Idiolexicon, Indefinite Space, jubilat, Konundrum Engine Literary Review, Listenlight, Malleable Jangle, Melancholia’s Tremulous Dreadlocks, Moonlit, mprsnd, On Barcelona, Otoliths, Pearl, pganickz’s journalPinstripe Fedora, Plumwood Mountain, Pom-Pom-Pomeranian, puppyflowers, Saint Elizabeth Street, Sawbuck, Shampoo, Snorkel, Softblow, stonestone, There, The Tiny, Upstairs at Duroc, The Wandering Hermit Review, Whimperbang, Wild Orphan, and Zafusy.

“A Peek at Glenn Bach’s Atlas Peripatetic (54),” Night Stream Journey, 10 April 2008.

The selection from Glenn Bach’s Atlas Peripatetic that appears in Pinstripe Fedora 3 begins with piece 54, which is practically buried in amulets of liminality. The first phrase refers us to a “hidden place”; change often occurs in such a locale. Then there is a crow, a living bird associated with death and the transition there. Note as well that the only word capitalized in this poem is “From”– twice, both times as part of a prepositional phrase that implies emergence.

Each of these phrases is followed by a piled-up column of phrases (in the latter case of “of” phrases). First we find a list of actions the deathly bird carries out. For the purposes of establishing the primacy of transition, what each of these acts implies is not as important as the simple fact that a crow does so much. That said, its “call[ing] out a double quality” echoes the double nature of the living bird of death.

In the second case, the column gives us details of what “we” are studying of the courtyard, including “that it hides”. This naturally raises the question of how one can study what is hidden, though perhaps the presence of the details around it, especially the somewhat mysterious “detention” (a nod to the zeitgeist?), may provide a clue. More importantly for this poem’s liminality, all these details lead at last to the study of transformation, though this is not allowed to become our conclusion or resting place, thanks to the interruption (marked with a dash) of “this handsome stroke of crow” as if some artist (let us say Glenn Bach himself) had painted it there to announce our time of transition not to death but to another poem. (I would go too far were I to call this a small death.) In the end, we walk on to another poem in Bach’s sequencing of materials gathered on morning walks– walking as transition from one place to another, morning as a liminal time.

–Elizabeth Kate Switaj


When the familiar serves
When a bird sounds
Long vowels
When the orange glow
What place in this hierarchy
What first light
A tender
Trees blossom with sound
Early morning vapor condenses
This expanding combustion of suns.
The odology of these streets with the slant light…
Who belongs in the places
Just like the fire in the sun
Walk through the wet air


the attractive name
The walk of a thousand lights

The crow
Most noble this memorable
Altruism and the shaky concept
We know the burned air
–while in the sky a plane
star wheel, no
no one branch
thin legs rubbed
Confound these restless artifacts of man
Everyone thinks of the watering of roses
Miko, the Western Gray Squirrel
the flurry of birdsong and a whipping of marks
We see at the height
Leaves turn and fall here


The sound of a jetliner never the same again
a bird rustles in the bush
The elucidation of frames
What is contained
Car passes
chirp from a car
Edison filmed Fred Ott’s sternutation (the act
From a hidden place
Hover, the easiest–
Superstar, diehard and newbie
Often we can hear a small sound–
Within these elegant
In the bonding
An old fashion in a world gone. Whispers
In cycles

A sheave is just a pulley. Just like a see-
Worry about fires! There is no wood

–of the lifting of slabs
What array of water
When the sun ascends
blind transfer
Flock of birds overhead swarming in voice
We signed the sky with ten thousand palms
Of dazzling whiteness!
The upshot–
This is important.
In retreat of sounds what final notes
Bottlestrain, a porous layer
What quiet morning
What fine clouds in the blue
Who interprets this autumn sequel to summer
Sleepers alarmed
A constant burning
This morning a crime, six ways
The unspoken history of the level road
Listen to car tires grab in a tight turn
A cooling revolution of water
A long history
Coo and flight
Lay yourself down before us
Devour miles with ease

Of Sirius
A shopping cart pushed in the distance…
The coin drop clunk of the coin…
Is it important to know
This dustcart
Sensor drift, sounds
Bring forth
Sound is
The field of the invention.


Let these drawings show
Sound travels through a medium
Blazes can be made on a tree
–rush of tender
The future looks very promising
Speak volumes, between the raking of leaves
What gentle curve of scar
So much for cars and only cars…
Forage or pigeon gesture. Scope
What decay of being? Hollow clip-
When books are not merely objects
On the nature of open space–
The liminal dimensions of bodies
Kill and be rough
Image hover
Weep or whimper lightly
How long ago the rains
Here, there are fires in the road,
Nothing has changed at the root of things…
Whose breath captured by the world’s first car
What celebration of newfound freedom
Here, the oldest evidence of the fountain of youth–
a walker with four swivel wheels
–song birds
With speech not in mind curiosity trumps caution
Crowns drawn
If the golden light that reaches
Like it or not these flocks
Who scratches at the worn morning
This is not a step
Note the history
The rare suffer
Without loss of anything
Thin the entire crown,
It is believed
Never sure that what we see–
–or King
Mimus sings
Fronds waver
How long this rubble
The hour after daybreak
That planes fly
What direction of water
What doors must be opened completely
Chains clink in the gothic mystery
Imagine life without ice cream, ice-cold beer
Willmore’s one-man newspaper
Who sampled the palaces of the city
Build it simple and keep it right
Walk to cover
Squeakwet shoes
Impossible dust,
For future air no fine mist
Marvel at the faith
what an

What a sense of smell!
A dog responds to his name
By the rule of law
A straight stretch of road
hull like a hard rain
–leaf flip in the wake
Who were they kidding?
Pretend the world is a garden
A crime is doing something wrong
Motor oil on cardboard
Salts build up and burn into the grain of the ground
How soon
The space of our vision
For the truest sense of how the landscape has changed
The creased lines of the folds
It is a great evil
Sing a song, these slow pedestrians
Horizon-wide plains
The general idea of the palm
–about the fields of morning
Hammer king
The Nomenclature of Climb
Wrench or spanner
They go their own way, these artists
this crescent
–ash by-
of road mark
Of the glass and tap
the pervasive sound
That may be of the war of currents
Up for auction tool in belt hammer swing on metal hook
Raining and the car
Weather and impact
Dig through plastic buckets of bolts

Morning winds push air past
Brittle and will break
Under foot
Water as a wedge
This rhythm of a hard path
Black dots on the underside of leaves
Wormholes, another result


All of the sounds–
A pipe clangs like a chime in the distance
Millions in the states and world
On the face of the earth
of keytangle,
–inscriptions of a figure
What is the expectancy of life?
Pattern One
Pattern Two
Pattern Three
Pattern Four
For other meanings of saw
In danger time
What if tires were made of asphalt
ooh and aah points
this new observatory
Acid in the throat and it burns
What depth of this cut!
–a hard sell and a whim
The native word was rind
shake feathers
What marvelous stuff necessary
For home defender and criminal alike


On the surface of the earth
When the colored light
One morning respected above all others?
The score is not particularly memorable
This stray dog
Enough glory
weather for the broadcast
war horse
to the real lives within us
Water, grass-water, what shape of rain this grey morning?
A classic rendition of an old time bell, a melodic sound
A boat motors the glassy surface of Marine Stadium…
Anatomy of a stroke–
All cities are geological


Between sun and observer
On a hard grass
On the surface
Fake, in question
day, light
Yes, control tower
One of the most important elements
What answers at the center of Ptolemy’s cosmos

Why this sweet voice
Then came the problem of the schoolhouse.
What gives in Long Beach the best window on the future?

Imagine the tonal qualities when a player hums…
–what place revealed
–to cause a dirty stir
Under large hardwood tree
–into deep water, deeper
Indeed, we found on sudden
Less noble than stones
Simply put
Imagine a major disaster lasting several days…
The first waters pour into Los Angeles…
There were many controversies
What are we hearing, exactly?
((Coast) of Coast)
–break like cliffs, after Atlas
Grab the crackling power
forever & darkness
down the rocky bank
On many a plinth
Itinerant of seasons, these species
Broken glass beneath our feet
Deeper limbs bent double
Rarely shrubs shed branches in forests
In the time it takes
What happens at the crest of a hill
Branches, as well as true wood and stubborn roots
With mandrel bends. Later the peril
Orbs for the spirits
What spell of forestry
When the fine fibers of glass woven
maddeningly so
in long grass
part of a country
A jackhammer lays bare the damp skin of the earth–
What is the weight of all the things in the world?
Where to dig, where to fill?
–no great mysteries here–
What composes the body of a tree
In the palm of your open hand
Hammering and the like
Winter hard in skies that depend on stones
An oily substance from the resin
the soft scuffle of black
pointed iron
hammer nor a sledge
over home
All tools scattered
What rain driven clouds block the sun?
Who are these men and women of industry…
Snow froze the mortar between bricks
what black cloud
–this handsome
here is sand
candywrapper in
Simply a scar,
–full text of the opera–
–in soft dirt
Listen to the startling horn. Look up at tall columns of smoke.
The dust that may collect

Map 17
6th Street (Ultimo to Manila)

We claim.
The following questions have been answered–
Long before the air
All the dogs down. Story (of course).
During the spring birds fly
The very first world uttered–
The secret cousins of coins, machines that make
This is about the limit.
Under certain cold,
What math is riding on this,
We have been procrastinating.
What variants of lamentation
Dust, with fingers,
Simple task of light,
With broom and rake a grandmother. A better job…
The real secret about the world
What passes for lawn–
Abandoned at sea
a blast!
The sounds emitted by traffic. Vision where the landscape
First impressions are powerful.
Birds are popular because they are beautiful. Smaller species
Tools last forever for pruning shears this profesisonal pair.
The broom sweeps the earth. The broom moves dust and debris
In the flecked prose of America, a knee-slapper of dust clouds

Map 18
Iron Triangle

The ongoing war for the heart
A new kind of kick. Listen metal
If a fold
This measure of water,
One simple answer. Each morning
Water column of rain or shine. No guarantee
The universe
With vane not only air. If there is no easy.
The first bus!
Cans for Napoleon, when hunger began to tax their fighting…
Bicycles wheeled around America by countless aficionados…
Nebulous references to alleged incidents.
Great fun! The entire area you wish more power on tap.
A deep morning and the stillness of a last voyage…
For the easy hour filled with the prestige of this world.
Slow turn, slow.
An elaborate fountain of water through a series of pools,
Make a dog by counting fives.
Of sonic inquiry
Tendered by a coin.
From scrap
–from nothing and ending

Map 19
7th Street (Bellflower to West Campus Drive)

This is a story of a storm. It happens like this.
A faint pattern in the pearly warp
When does the walk begin?
Where the streets are curled.
Start by assuming a posture. A slow
With newspaper leaves. Who takes the hit?
The sudden loud appearance yields a cheap
Sweet longing of brass burst and clothes stiffen.
Palms in sidewalks with lights shining up

Red clay dust on the windshield.
We believe in this process,
snow, snow (spelling
no surprise / the dark /
different instances
there is no single way to address [forthcoming in Wild Orphan, Winter 2013]

corollas blossom as hops
What do we mean by water
In the wake of multiple narrative
Know that autumn
Is there nothing new
Such air of old,

Map 20
CSULB (Puvungna)

Can the wind be broken
This is not the door
For cold starts, for operation,
A principal channel, a continuous stretch
Everyone recognizes the sound
In simplest form
The story of apples growing.
Is this the day to be heard?
An individual has heard a sound before.
Of selling items which vary by country and region.
What of the brave but honest men whose words return…
Cannonballs and a high, creaking bridge
Spike this, inspiration!
of falling debris
so gently
raise a dust
all contents of the country
Everything seems to begin
Rouse birds so that they fly–
When the sun beats down.
Hours on the bricks,
A tiny growing,
If a bird lands on a roof–
Acres of crows
If the familiar serves as a point of departure,

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