from A Book of Poems on Beauty
by Anne Lesley Selcer

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Order is at one and the same, that which is given in things as their inner law, the hidden network that determines the way they confront one another, and also that which has no existence except in the grid created by as glance, an examination, a language; and it is only in the blank spaces of this grid that order manifests itself in depth as though already there, waiting in silence for the moment of its expression.
                                             – Michael Foucault, The Order of Things





The aesthetic is additive.
Although it flattens, it is
an enunciation born of imitation,
its fact affirms its original object.
It is an act of love;
like love, it’s stupid.

At bus stops we imitate the poor in chic high boots
and fringe haircuts, absorptive and infinite, looking on
with wet eyes.

We live in the imaginary
because we are rich.





There was a beautiful fight scene.
It was in slow motion.
The father was shirtless and so was the son.
They were outdoors in the sun of the dying day.
It was green and late summer.
His jaw is opened.
“There is blood on your hands.”
The father stops to slick a strand of hair
from the son's eyes.

This action is a production of what.
The world, foreshortened into a moment.
History, telescoped:
Garlic, onion, a big boat of human smells,
a deed,
a property,
a beautiful girl,
a city, a governor, a business booming.

The son could win
by ducking and dancing
were not the father the mother's lover.





at the Hunting Lodge at Amaliensburg

The windows projected the outdoor scene onto indoor mirrors, thus multiplying both settings. The mirrors were decorated with silver embossed leaves. When the king arrived, the windows were opened and the sun tinted them into a golden glitter. This symbolized the king’s alchemical ability to turn silver into gold.






When I was a beautiful girl
the fireflies signified:

I was trapped in amber.
In a sudden Midwest rain.

I sat on the curb with kids.
In rips and scuffs.
Eyes shining, like a collection of commodities.

I held fast like an Indian.
In Indiana, alone at night.
“The things you wear for protection
are subject to reidentification,
prepared for sale.”

Stunned still.
A moth, caught in a jar.
The ethics of the “I” ignored.

When I was a beautiful girl,
in a system of ons and offs,
in the silent language of lighthouses,
in an inconsequential, feminine swarm,
the fireflies signified:




One unrolling bolt of icecream silk. Grape sized globes of lapis lazuli and goldvein grouped and reposing the corners. A fountain or a chandelier. A set of gold combs scalloped in black pearl. A stretched suede book with a knock as soft as a little girl’s. Hautly arched whalebone stilettos. Fat, well behaved chairs. Paintings on every inch of ceiling. Tiny crystal pots containing notions of mashed lime, birdbath water, temporin and pearl. A leather cup of heron quills. Two rocaille tiaras. A Zouave jacket woven from crushed leaves and gold. The extended family of an orchid. A bracelet made of tombstone. A wig culled from Reykvíkingur towheads. A lunar astrolabe. A millefiori flower bed. A set of handwritten encyclopedias. A comprehensive book of cloud typology. A slice of wedding cake crystallized into chalcedony. A Cherry Plum, Clematis and Honeysuckle cure. The finest and smallest typewriter. Porcelain nails in a bell china box. Flowers floating in a cabinet vivarium. A perfume of Fiji nectars...




She was trapped in amber.
In a sudden Midwest rain.

She sat on the curb with kids.
In rips and scuffs.
Eyes shining, like a collection of commodities.

She held fast like an Indian.
In Indiana, alone at night.
“The things you wear for protection
are subject to reidentification,
prepared for sale.”

Stunned still.
A moth, caught in a jar.
The ethics of the “I” ignored.

When she was a beautiful girl
the fireflies signified:

Beauty is a terrible place.




I thought that people were, believe.
He said: When I was a child, adults were ugly.
Wait, you mean your selfishness is your sex speaking as it should?
The lack of unity here is not so much compositional as political
but not so much intentional as hysterical.
Not so much formed as recuperated.
Doing the best we can.
She said: Your lack of beauty is hard to understand.
Half speech here perpetuates the long division problem.
Beat the competition, believe.
The only thing left to purchase is this rare and desirable face,
culled in a garden of multiples.
Multiply it.
Here in the garden of disbelief, of perpetual and protracted morning.






In a system of ons and offs.
In the silent language of lighthouses.
In an inconsequential, feminine swarm.






Before we were filled with Content, we sought to be filled with Sensation

beauty is a particular unit of duration
this day is a palace, each hour a room,
is a form of sadness

is a deferral of the movement of time

the evening dawning on the housetops,
the sky an impossible screen

is an object
an hour of the eyes

is circular,
is complete
decorated with silver embossed leaves

moves out of a warm, general indisputability
into a contraction which is form

exists as a cold, hard public specificity
a positive presence in a market of exchange

is posterior to perception
silver to gold

is the inferior or the primary currency
the king has this alchemical ability

there are one hundred ways to ornament a note.







Notes on the text:

The page titled “at the Hunting Lodge at Amaliensburg” is from a 2009 lecture by Dan Graham at the San Francisco Art Institute  in which he referred to the pavilion built in 1734 by architect François de Cuvilliés.

The page which starts “One unrolling bolt…” was originally commissioned for the artist book Aunt Maude’s Scrapbook, a bookwork based on Nabakov’s Pale Fire published in 2006 by JRP Ringier. The piece appears with the title “A Box of San Franciscos.”



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Read "One Thousand Flowers" by Anne Lesley Selcer.

Read Anne Lesley Selcer's review of Witness My Shame