Rachel Blau DuPlessis: per se

  Rachel Blau DuPlessis

  Traces 1:

    Per Se


                                        This being a

                    fateful instrument,

this alphabet

with its auratic claim

of the truth of the mark

per se —

by itself, in itself, intrinsic

                                        lyric punctum.

Yet it is not always clear, given
effaced rubricate, dissolved vocables, fate.

Whose property? which god?
what quantity? whose grave?


And with interpretation

disagreements start

often at the same instant

as the mark.

                                        propulsion of points.


Pause. Let this place

remain blank.


                                        within the reverb

                                        of unheard

                          words.                          space.


A thousand-odd pages were articulated

as if a “prolegomena to itself.”

Now what?


Ask the letter A,
and it may tell you
to continue.



right on that bluff,

that edge.


struggles from itself
from whiteness into
black with-

ness or, op-

posite, precipitate

desire for


its end zone. Something

unsafe, turning itself endlessly into zero–
a void
but filled with search–

as if
sexy ache and
                            were held at empty. Full.


A is a liquid sibyl
                generating melodious
                            diphthong swings.

Whenever she swivels forth,
                her toneless tune begins on
                            Aaaaay and ends on Yuhhhhh.

If just one letter swaying
                rhapsodizes everything to Y,
                            then, as with π,

there’s unresolvable
                resonant extent.
                            The universe

is built upon a shim.
                It’s made of language
                            stacked upon languages

codes upon holes

                micro-tonal twanging range

                            orphic and eurydic



Reciting the alphabet,
they used to say
“ampersand” the last.

a sing-song X, Y, Z and &
per se, as such.

as if that extra pinch of leaven
achieved a quasi “letter” 27.

Per se
is an “and” that stands
for just itself

and everything else.

when “and-per-se-and”

“ampersand” and
declares a series
endlessly open.

can go on and on.

In this spirit
I’m trying to respond.

Should I say: “as much
as I can”?


A similar situation

being thirdness,

one word for that is Tre.

Thus: to seek the Trace.

This is the declarative enigma.

This is the root space.


There is nothing either big or small,
the scales have shifted, both are simultaneous.

And if you say yes
                you generate an opposite

which might be no or might be

not-yes, a-yes (neutralized),
                un-yes, re-yes,
or both/and
                and all the same-same
                                round the other way round.

And trace is a vast thing…


languages and trace debate.
                They ask each other
                                which is which.


“I should be more bold, for anyone who is not with me


will long ago have ceased to read the book”


One conjuncture of dust in the era of shame.

One single alphabet turns and twists

among the rest.

And if this, then what?

What did I come to show you

more than this?


Syllogism, mid-January day glow.

Earth is trying to shift its light;

it’s making a special effort.

“Hey poems, we are free to go”

January-August 2015

  Notes and sources for Per Se, which is Traces 1.

Title and Section 6.
Discussion of Per Se by Anu Garg, A Word a Day website. “Today’s term makes an appearance in the word ampersand which is a corruption of ‘and per se and.” What does it mean? Earlier the ‘&” symbol was considered the 27th letter of the alphabet. Yes, they used to say ‘A to ampersand” instead of “A to Z.’ It’d be awkward to recite the alphabet as ‘… X Y Z &” (and what?), so schoolchildren reciting the alphabet would end it with ‘& per se and,” meaning the symbol &, by itself, is the word ‘and.’”

Section 3: Colleen Lamos on Proust. Somewhere.

Section 9: Robert Duncan, The H.D. Book (Part 2, Chapter 1). ed. Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011, 241.

Section 11: “Hey poems       we are free to go” is the first line by Michele Leggott from the last poem of her book Mirabile Dictu. Auckland, N.Z: Auckland University Press 2009, 152.

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