Theodore Worozbyt Nicole Cooley Drea Kato Monica Mody C.J. Waterman Dana Curtis Carey Scott Wilkerson Adam Moorad Amy Wright
The Chapbook, Volume 1 ÂŠ The Chapbook, Editor: Alan May All rights revert to individual authors and artists upon publication. Submissions for the next volume of The Chapbook will be accepted beginning in March of 2012. For the time being, only print manuscripts will be read. Manuscripts that contain previously published poems are welcome, but only if authors retain the full rights to their work. The same is true for previously published small press chapbooks, if the work has been out of print for 5 or more years. Manuscripts should be typed and consist of around 20 pages. Please include bios and acknowledgements of previously published poems. Manuscripts will be recycled. Rejections and acceptance letters will be sent via email, so authors should include an email address on the title page. Please also include your telephone number. All chapbook submissions should be sent to Alan May, The Chapbook, 121 Greenbrier Drive, Knoxville, TN 37919. The Chapbook welcomes art submissions, reviews of chapbooks, and ads for chapbook publishers and their individual publications. Reviews, ads, and art submissions may be sent to email@example.com. Artwork for Bubblegum Chaos by Drea Kato. Other interior art is in the public domain. Cover art by Alan May. For more information, please consult our website: http://chapbookjournal.wordpress.com/ The Chapbook is published annually in Knoxville, TN. ISBN-13: 978-1468001563 ISBN-10: 1468001566 ISSN: 2164-991X
Contents Objectless Fragments by Theodore Worozbyt / 5 In the Doll Museum by Nicole Cooley / 31 Bubblegum Chaos by Drea Kato / 55 Old Maid & Her Mama (a Story of Crime and Passion) by Monica Mody / 87 Unstoppable Citizen by C. J. Waterman / 111 Book of Disease by Dana Curtis / 141 A Primer for the Minotuaric Arts by Carey Scott Wilkerson / 175 Radical Imaginary Resistance Training by Adam Moorad / 205 The Fleecy White Pastoral of Decay, a Review of Joyelle McSweeneyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s The Necropastoral by Amy Wright / 233
Acknowledgements Alice Blue: “Atomic Blue Radio” and “Tree” Antioch Review: “The Sea” Arts & Letters: “Cafés” and “Reduction” Bombay Gin: “Polaroid Land” Apocryphal Text: “Skin” Diode: “Edible Flowers” and “Stomach” Glossolalia: “Eggs” The Greensboro Review: “Basil” The Iowa Review: “How I Love You” Margie: “A Cat’s Life” Mississippi Review: “Violas” Quarterly West: “Incarnadine Chameleons” and “Usually a Misreading” Seneca Review: “O O O” TriQuarterly Online: “Objectless Fragments”
Contents Reduction / 11 Basil / 12 Violas / 13 Cafés / 14 Edible Flowers / 15 Objectless Fragments / 16 Atomic Blue Radio / 17 O O O / 18 Polaroid Land / 19 Incarnadine Chameleons / 20 Skin / 21 Stomach / 22 How I Love You / 23 Eggs / 24 Tree / 25 A Cat’s Life / 26 Usually a Misreading / 27 The Sea / 28
Mince two shallots and sauté in clarified butter for thirty seconds. Add ½ small clove of garlic minced or pressed and sauté for thirty more. Add three tablespoons partially crushed Madagascar green peppercorns (preserved in salt brine not vinegar), toss and add ¼ cup good brandy, flame and reduce to a glaze. Add ½ cup dry French vermouth, and reduce again. Add ½ cup mature burgundy. Excess tannin will overpower the reduction. To this add one tablespoon of lightly chopped fresh marjoram, one tablespoon of thyme leaves stripped from their stems, a chopped sprig of French tarragon, and two tablespoons of chopped Italian parsley, leaves only. Reduce to a wet paste, remove from heat. In an oven-proof pan pour a layer of whole black peppercorns. Roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the peppercorns start popping and the smell grows strong in the kitchen. Put the cooled peppercorns on a flat surface and using a small pot or pan with a clean bottom crush the roasted corns, pressing forward and dragging back with the heel of your palm inside the pan. It is important to use only this method for crushing the peppercorns, whose surface and structure grow delicate from roasting. Grinding or pulverizing them will produce dust that will permeate the reduction grittily. Stir into this paste a heavy pinch or two of the roasted pepper. Reserve any leftover pepper; roasted black pepper is delicious. Add this reduction, a tablespoon to a cup or to taste, to hollandaise or mousseline sauce, or a mayonnaise made with extra virgin olive oil, all of which contain the lipids needed to surround and mellow the complex strength of these flavors. This sauce is suitable for any dish where an emulsion sauce is appropriate: fish, poultry, vegetables. It makes a fine variation on Béarnaise or Choron for tournedos or almost any grilled meat.•
Mousseline is hollandaise lightened with heavy cream whipped to soft peaks and folded in. It is excellent on spring vegetables or any delicate victual. Béarnaise is an unacidulated hollandaise flavored with a reduction of shallots, wine vinegar, and tarragon. Choron is Béarnaise lightly pinked with concassé or paste of tomato. Nice on chicken suprèmes poached in stock and vermouth. Further, death has no flavor.
Nose isn’t bone. Soaked it will soften, an egg on a milk bottle’s throat. Black olives in a can are green olives darkened by a can. The night smells late. I step out to pinch basil, the last ingredient. The cedars point slowly at the deepest blue sky. Streetlight drains the wisteria’s color but it doesn’t matter, it’s still there. Snow has been mentioned all day, as if to calm and come. Boys smash glass and mailboxes. Some stars in the sky died long ago. Puget Sound, even where you are, sounds far away.
Easter Sunday puts a parakeet on Grandpa’s glasses. The egg at the bottom of the frozen mug. Look at it. Then the Bud. Grandma says she went to mass today but it was last May she went. Or the one before. She was the cover of a Paris magazine. Calls last a few minutes now. A city name, the Rembrandt tea service that survived instead in Dresden. In the woods and along the path, violas line up and wither, medals in a dresser. Just one more day with her, is all he’d ask. Ahab, that threelegged chameleon, suns on the feeder’s copper roof and then on the red bricks beside the four o’clocks forty years ago, puffing the sail of his vermilion throat at the little brown jobs; the sparrows’ dots and dashes.
So this is how everything starts itself again, on the sly, in a park, with that light streaming down through a tree captured by someone’s camera whom I’ve known now for how many years that I’ve forgotten? With valet parking, with The Robb Report. In the other room someone is chewing a bone and something is falling apart, the furniture or the music, I can’t stop everything on a coin, though I would, if only, well, if only there were not mustard soup under the awning while it showers on the whisper plain. Now comes the part or picture or concentrated scene where the mixed drinks are getting complicated, the blenders and swan-shaped bottles have been dragged out and the pink lights smell of nausea. Soon the dishes ought to be done. Presented glazed and fluttered with truffles or flown away in silver tubs to the pulled down door of the Hobart, the dishwasher guiding racks through greasy steam. And then kissing a girl with long hair behind a door, she was wearing a harlequin costume, and I remember her name and wrote it with a burnt match on a napkin. Someone sneaked the flowers out of the women’s restroom during the first service exactly twenty-five years ago tonight, and the next morning the cleaning guy was wearing my shoes. So this is it. Someone, Rheba, orders her baby salmon well done and it poaches in the Gallo for years. I stand at my station and gaze through the copper and stir the dill’s pinched lace through a bowl of sauce Dijonaise and the chairs go upside down on the tables. But the chairs never do go upside down on the tables. They are captain’s chairs, midnight blue sharkskin suede and darkened oak, and the tables are laid with chargers, candles, and crystal. And that place is still there. The day my father died they fired me.
Gold-winged things shoot from the grass to the line of crepe myrtles too fast for me and the catbirds sing all night their echoes through the pillow wrapped around my head, peck at the dog at dawn, swoop and dive from cables that connect like punctuation or silk knots smeared across membranes, whatever that means. The magnolias drop their brown cups. A sprinkling of water drowns the dust. And thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s that slate car again, erasing its roundnesses. These details are especially Sunday. African, you might say, if you thought about our bones. New England, you might say, if there was one. Now itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time for History 232: one face turning into another on the screen. One nasturtium turning summerly into itself, as if ashamed of a love so private it could brook no abrasion of exposure.
I bent coins with my teeth, and they broke. That's what currency canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t reconcile, green stacks and time, its escapements, the gleaming plates, the missing letter. A bicycle comes down from the attic in time but in time for what? Love spun in the mouth? The set-up, the derailleur oil, the grandmar legged in the crystal snifter, the sea pulled along like blue ribbons at the grips? Forgive my objectless fragments. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m a fraud. Joints crack and burn, swifts sweeping every day into new chimney aches, a flea in the ear, a moon in a tree, a molten spot hidden under black fur, the light gold disc thrown too far toward the curve in the road. Broken eyes and a heart on the street. What list is clear? Citrine eyes: if only we could look with them long enough to see what worlds they make of us, their shepherds handy with chains. If only brindle didn't silver. The past is black and white, the smirk of daguerreotypes, the future other shades, another pair of colors seeping like clay along the edges of the house, the nervures of leaves on the pavement.
Atomic Blue Radio
I listen to its tuned sounds crack in the dark against a pillow near the Post and the heavy Army blanket static and pretend the pine trees are still standing in the yard where sunlight flowed into a gut hollow, and then there is the picture of the silver cat on a shoulder named after yours melting into the picture of the black and white face of the mannequin staring down and to the left as is proper from the insides of an international magazine and that used to be practiced for fun in the den on the wine dark carpet by the owner of that face, to my horror, the slug still lost in the bedroom ceiling, the supplies still canned and filmed with greasy dust in the cupboard, short parades in the dark, the jar there where roaches bred their ticking hisses. Look at me, the mouth said and then death had a face with warm clear skin that I would find with my almost yelling but not quite by then loving mouth, almost yelling by then but not quite yelling, Stop that, as if there were any stopping that and as if my tongue could stop it.
Poems, ugh. On no one’s tongue. They come out and across in little pieces like newspaper puzzles. What do they mean? What do they mean to mean? Who can finish them without a hunky dictionary and who can be bothered with such a wicket of lyrical honey? Scrabble beats them to a pulp. Poker played by stars is even better. Poems are, as my last friend called my ejecta, a ghastly ochre. Poems are mashed grapes, impersonating tears. “O O O” could be a whole poem, if I said so. What’s up with that? My mother is a poem, so one poem goes. Whither hast thou gone, Pater? moans another bleakly. When I was in the gymnasium and smoked, runs a transgressive one. Plenty about love’s genitalia in this pantoum, but no fucking. Stepped-on snowflakes, straight-eye for the queer guy, incredulously boring, and filled with the white space one would expect from ancient hegemonies, poems can simply go away now. Go away, poems! Let the work of savant contractors continue: gutter running, cutting in, fabricating, soiling the doilies on graves.
Some assemblage of details that passes for an afternoon (cheese impregnated with bits of spicy peppers, a bathing suit the color of an inexpensive but dependable burgundy, the musty pressures of grape skins, something else, too) lets me remember how better to ignore the low-frequency explosions taking place, the noise beyond the wall, to my left and of course out of sight. The violence is blasĂŠ. I want to be agreeable, I never complain anymore, I want to improve my home with supplies from the home center and make time for the needed adjustments to my vision but it is too late for the politesse of obligation and the specter of its bludgeoning cudgel to stand successfully in, gleaming with mail, for the sleek powder of my nerves against your nerves, the vibrations that color eyes and render up the sound of a watermelon being sliced open, a pink cool cough. Lunch is more than enough. Thoughts of tomorrow are not so limpid as they once were, delicious coffee in a black mug with cream on the balcony, being surrounded by begonias and me gazing eye to eye with a hovering bumblebee for what must have been hours on end, cutting a shape of outdoor carpet, all so rich as cinema that one wants to weep in synch with the availability ofâ&#x20AC;Śwhat? Some contract with the past seems to have been violated or vacated, a flower or an instrument of going, and the flashbulbs pop precisely through which I fall, feeling brightness, the softened glass fibers, smelling their darkened strands. My flexed wrists, I smile at them. They are thin.
Rose wears a short sleeved sweater. Her sweater is two colors of blue and she is not tall. It must be cool out. Rose seems tall until I hold her again and again. May I please present Ms. Rambler Peace Tropicana Lincoln is how I think I might introduce her to my grandmother who suddenly can stand and is saying for the first time Oh my, Roses, pressing a white-gloved fingertip to her cheek. Shalimar is in the air. My right arm holds Rose at my side. Her waist under my pulse is flat but not narrow. She kisses me in full sun. There is a flavor of cucumber water on my lips, a green forgiveness. There is a simple and witty reason she has just come in at the break of morning with a slightly abstracted smile. And the glasses my grandfather wears are wireless octagons, even thicker than when he last wore a suit. He’s thinner, shorter, staring elsewhere. His face seems too familiar. His black pinstripe is baggy. He isn’t talking. I understand Rose’s last name now; it’s what the sun meant to say in Amsterdam when it wore red shoes. Rose has that skin, an apricot falling through water. Rose says she’d like to watch that, the fruit of herself in a tear, the rain across the window of a blue boat, but she can’t, and I am left here in this quiet as she was left, thinking of the four o’clocks she grew, home to puffing chameleons.
Few coddle an egg. Fewer bake an English muffin from scratch. Not that I do any frigging thing myself, but I have the feeling if I had contained an egg things might have gotten better. I wouldn’t mind the return of my hair nor how swimming pools might clear up and put on a sunny face and it wouldn’t sting to open my eyes when I pulled myself to the bottom and fingernailed the quarter’s bezel. The rubber mask smell would only mean I’d spit in my round glass and washed it so it wouldn’t steam, as Jacques Cousteau would be saying, handing my grandfather a slice of wine sausage cut with his personal dining knife.
I’d have coddlers with stencils of songbirds, one red, one blue, on their outsides and silver lids, and a chance to add a butter curl and a burp of cream to the cup before I scrubbed my face with rye toast.
A dog ate a turtle from a tub of turtles, cracking its shell in many places but swallowing it whole. The little girl who cared for them noticed. The doctor put the dog under with a shot and opened its stomach and removed the turtle, which lived, as did the dog, which would have died. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d insisted. She was right. Cut it open, sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d said!
How I Love You
The dust in the throat of the flower the breath inside the water the invisible hiss of rosewater breaking from the yellow petal the spot of radioactive paint hidden in the red box the beaker bubbling with elixir the star blown lavender bar in the dish the clock against the wall that looks unbroken the honey spilled into every cup the puffs of cotton in the dark the way Kora puts cheese on fine green spinach the little essay by Coleridge that no one else will ever have the ten thousand tender weeds the nearness of the sound the chocolate crumbles on the stair the old folks by the shore the squash in their baskets the teeth in the leopard skins of my shoes the coat in hiding the bed with its numbers the kitty kat the whole sky on my fingers the smell of the sun where you stand the smell of bones borne away the dresses black and white the gloves with hands within and without the bucket that carries the breathing into the water.
Under the canvas tent, I browned some scrambled eggs with the mess kit. Bobby Ryan ate them, who was smaller than me. He was very small. It was dawn and the dew was heavy, it had turned colder and the dawn fog came to the top of the hill. I propped a dead blue jay in a maple crotch and shot him. I planted thorns in the hollow yellow rose. There was aâ&#x20AC;Śwhat I noticed most often was that my memories, or their claims, were not streams of continual action, but were like a series of still photographs or clips strung together. Everything I could remember filled up only a few hours of my time. Then I knew that the habitual categories of memory were like the patterns of stars we see in the night. I can still taste what thenâ&#x20AC;Śeggs?
No light was meant to touch a beating heart. Do not, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, Doctor, press your fingers to my throat. That is the color of his flanks as he hurls and hauls his body up the hill from the water, blackly brindlestriped. His teeth stream the river, his tongue slaps air with pink silent laughter. Here is the clear stone held to the lamp, the bronchial tree of the ant.
A Cat’s Life
Fried lungs are really delicious. I keep my ear to the ground. Bushwa. One can make things disappear. An old Chinese couple works the easements in my neighborhood bending and lifting sprigs to put them in a brown sack. They fear my pit bull, but he’s nice. Josephus was green as a hill, I whisper to me. I can’t think anything more about making breadfruit on an island. Across the mandolin Yukon gold papers glide and fall, the radishes turn to matches. Butter makes fire. No authentic transformation is gargantuan. Death happened a long time ago when people ate fudge and cut silhouettes and I am just catching up to it, that’s all. I roll over on the couch, and there it is, in a rush: I will be the color of the wind. No one wants greasy food in the rain. Or drumbeats on miracles. No one wants to be a cat. It’s not a cat’s life. The rain sounds louder in the front room, veining the windows. It snows all night but doesn’t stick.
Usually a Misreading
I will bring pastry, or something else tied with twine in a white box, when I get off the bus and puff my way up your stairs. I will walk along the river and not mention my consumption this week. I will bring what charm I have left to the table and not accept wine. I could carve. I will try not to twist the bread in my fingers cramping. I will smile, though the cold spaces between the stars whistle between my teeth. I will not ask your children to sit on my Obstinate Uncle Otis lap, and I wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t hide nobodyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s keys nor invade your yard garden with latex gloves. I smell of sadness, which is old, the rose crystal bells. It was not so long ago that the dead ones lost homes and threw up their sleeping pills and dumplings. It was a strange slow flight away. The skin over my ankles, thin and blue. Mother, may she rest, all her life had dreams of a man like me pulling out her teeth.
Twin cranes like vertical spider webs standing red and white all the way into the sky are pigments of my sunconscious and I don’t believe in ghosts. There was a snow crane today among the dreamstones that took two bridges to cross in a maze of question marks called flowers. Go to Israel, was the petal moving on the water. At the City Café there was no city. Every line is opportunistic. Where they get the tomatoes is a secret. I prefer you walk on the inside so you won’t be hit. One reason for the sea is to make everything which only happens once seem like it is always happening.
Theodore Worozbytâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Antioch Review, Crazyhorse, The Iowa Review, New England Review, Po&sie, Poetry, Sentence, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly Online and Quarterly West. He has published two books of poetry, The Dauber Wings (Dream Horse Press, 2006) and Letters of Transit, which won the 2007 Juniper Prize (The University of Massachusetts Press, 2008).
Suppose the Ceiling went Outside And then caught Cold and up and Died? The only thing we’d have for Proof That he was Gone, would be the Roof. --Theodore Roethke, “The Ceiling”
Acknowledgements “A Hello Kitty Coloring Book,” “Miscarriage,” “A Jolly Jumper,” “A Polly Pocket,” and “The Mother’s Body” appeared in slightly different forms in In Posse Review, issue 28, 2010. “Toy Museum, August” appeared as “The Speaking Book” in Blackbird, Spring 2007.
Contents Dollhouse / 39 A Hello Kitty Coloring Book / 40 Miscarriage / 41 Umothering / 42 Rocking Chair / 43 A Jolly Jumper / 44 In the Doll Museum / 45 A Polly Pocket / 47 Shoebox of Furniture from a Garage Sale / 48 The Motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Body / 49 Toy Museum, August / 50 Dollhouse / 52
Under the awning, a doll sulks on velvet. A doll lies sullen on a tea bag mattress. I’ve given my girls a dishtowel river. I’ve built a levee out of cotton balls. I’ve taught them how to make clouds of smoke with baby powder so the dollhouse as requested can burn down. * I’ve given them all my tiny furniture that survived the flood—the first one, the early one that hardly now matters, the one where the water rose on Galvez Street and filled the basement, up over the pink and blue dollhouse. The street was flooded and I could not go home from school. For so long the iconic childhood flood— * A doll yawns. She might be bored. She wants hibiscus petals, plated up, for lunch, wants all the babies for herself. The girls are fighting over where the doll should sleep: wrought iron porch swing four poster bed inside the car? Should she be punished? the older daughter wants to know. * At night I unfasten the cotton ball levee to drown the town. * Yes, I tell them, a ceiling with a hinge opens to a smaller world. A world down a sink drain opens with an auger. The doll drops her escape ladder and climbs in. * Now who wants all the babies for herself?
A Hello Kitty Coloring Book
lies too open on the kitchen table like a woman, legs splayed, apart— I’m sweeping the kitchen. Keep track: follow the tracks in the dirt: watch the dirt tracked in. After the bad dream, the toddler won’t let me hold her but she arcs her leg over mine. Her hair is sweet wet grass, hair I cut and save in a drawer for her own daughter. My job to keep track of their past.
Miscarriage The baby not lost as if we left her out in the yard overnight, as if she sunk alone into gravel and mud.
Sand the color of milk. At the edge of the Gulf where I stand alone—yet the girls’ bodies still pull through mine. Unthethered, I could float. Or not. Pink plastic water wings. Our beach umbrella jammed in the sand. Do they belong to me? These girls— Sand as if the beach is a white-washed fence. Beach where I brought them as babies, where I set them at the edge. A moon landscape, I would tell them. At night, with flashlights, out to see the crabs who tunnel—holes strangely sexual. A diaper printed with pink and heavy with sand. Palm fronds the size of a child where a baby could hide. Sand like salt. A lizard skittering across the asphalt, complicit and abrupt.
Flood of milk: one breast, then the other. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t lose count. Milkstruck. Milkdrunk. Milkslept. Overmilked: Impacted. Engorged. Careful: flip the nipple from her mouth. Drink a dark, dark beer, a stout in a tall glass. Set it beside your nursing station.
A Jolly Jumper
Strung in the doorway: these pink ropes and pulleys. The baby swings, trapezed as if she could leave her body. Crying.
In the Doll Museum
The nursery is hidden behind glass as in the hospital, babies propped in wicker prams wearing christening gowns, eyes painted open. The miniature bottle nipples dyed black. “Boudoir dolls belong on the beds of grown ladies.” With their spit curls and cigarettes, they lean together into invisible pianola music. The collector is not a mother—she had three children, the guide says, but, in a whisper, she did not get along with them. Dolls made out of composition— wood, paper, eggshells, glycerin and glue. Where is the mother? Celluloid dolls were banned in the 1940s. Their shiny plastic baby faces exploded near an open flame. I imagine the mother tipping her cigarette ash too close. Half-dolls have no legs. To be attached to pincushions, whiskbrooms. To be attached— 45
In the Shirley Temple Room everyone is an orphan. The mother stands at the nursery window. She can’t shrink enough to fit into the collection. To teach mothering, Baby-Think-It-Over is used in high schools. “Teachers say that a few students have stabbed their dolls, hurled them out of windows and ripped the electronic circuitry out in order to quiet the crying.” In the museum’s last rooms, are the miniatures: the Petite Princess Revolving House, its roof shingled with tongue depressors, its furniture still from the sixties. The mother reclines on a plastic chaise lounge with a drink, alone. In each dollhouse—do you notice? the guide tells me, the baby is displayed with a baby nurse, with a not-mother.
A Polly Pocket
Body smelling like burned tires, all petroleum, bad plastic. Cap of matted, too-bright hair. Small intact bodyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; the bad third child, girl caught between my two. Thumbelina hanging in a sparrowâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s teeth.
Shoebox of Furniture from a Garage Sale
Wrought iron porch swing four poster bed miniature painted chocolate cake in the middle of a table while the dolls drink glass after glass of after school milk inky white like barium to light.
The Motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Body
Cervix â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a hole like a cigarette burn in a wedding dress.
Toy Museum, August
The yellow light is a half-moon lemon floating on the surface of a drink. Through the car window, our daughters’ hair threaded with rain. Inside the toy museum, the train loops and shrinks. The older girl lifts her hand to the sky: “It’s winding!” In my notebook I write: the rocking horse was a popular nineteenth century studio prop when posed with children. But this is copying, not inhabiting language. The girls want to touch the rubber horse, lung-colored, blue cow with its stitched skin. I write: how does the book become a relic. how does the book become a talisman. Together, we love these girls fiercely. This is inhabiting our life together. The girls’ childhoods already shrinking. Outside the museum the books pages unfasten from the spine the ducks take flight the cows the horses stand up walk out beyond The space between us shrinking-What divides the beginning from the after? all of it a spell against the missing
The plastic baby in the crib wants sugar in a rag to suck on. Someone should tell her No. Someone should inhabit the collapsed house. But the other doll is gone, laddered out. For so long, that flood-After my girls sleep, I lie down on the floor with their toys. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m keeping track. In the dollhouse attic bedroom Is an old, old, tiny doll, breast bared. Sharp cold white bisque: a mother.
Nicole Cooley grew up in New Orleans and is the author most recently of two collections of poems, Breach (LSU Press 2010) and Milk Dress (Alice James Books 2010). She has also published two other poetry books and a novel. She directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College-City University of New York where she is a professor of English. She lives outside of NYC with her husband and two daughters.
Contents Drugdeath / 59 Ephemera / 61 Death / 63 Voraginous Wounds / 65 Your Skeleton Glows / 67 Hand over the Mouth / 68 Extricated / 69 Bubblegum Chaos / 71 Generational Drug Killer / 73 Pinkhoney / 75 Toxemia / 76 Let the Dead Dogs Fly out of Me / 78 Photovirus / 79 Things That Are Spineless / 80 Time Attempts a Tango / 81 Dear Love / 82 Depressing Russian Literature / 83
Of too many things. Of copper and of beast. Of martians and tv. Of the nice things you say. They are sometimes too nice, too soft, like gum that has been chewed too long like a country it falls apart in the mouth. Of 20-foot waves that want to relocate to lungs, stop breathing, stop everything else with its own solemn dance. Of death, disease and diaries. Of the lame, of love, of lambs. Of the similarities in the colors in our veins, of the drugdance, daytime television. Of the color white inside a mouth, of the desert in your thirsty, pill-filled heart, of the couch where you leave your smile and your smell. Of dramamine and dopamine, and the large mouths of rivers, like gods. Of closets and all that they hold in: repression and ghosts and the bodies of ghosts. Of trampolines and degenerative discs. Of family time ruined with cocaine or slamming bathroom doors, the tears in the toilet. Of my father's words falling out of him like spit onto cotton candy. Of that feeling. Of all feelings. Of my mother's drugdeath and drugdance and drugdog that drinks blood. Of electricity and seizures and you never coming home. Of breaking your heart and then having to repair it. Of promising my mouth on your mouth, hands undiscussed.
Of blood-blue wine and my broken teeth on the cement, the Standard American Diet. Of the driver's seat, the passenger's seat, the backseat, and the blood-filled highways. Of death and life and miracles and painkillers. Of burnt bacon and rotten fish and my robotic other half. Of seafood and cockroaches and the inability to breathe or speak or touch you with my hands. Of gardens and angels and snowfall, of dreams and dragons and giving birth. Of dirty cities and genetics, of paralysis and a dark electronic Disneyland. Of meter and syntax and beauty and trash. Of dead hummingbirds in Ziploc bags. Of schizophrenia. Of sadism. Of guillotines. Of my shimmering birth-broken moonstrings.
Try turning a gun inside out. See what happens. Perhaps you will find love there, around the bullets, or a story about love in a way you've never experienced, but you somehow know exists. Try turning a paper crane inside out, or a thousand. See what happens. Reversed, they just make other animals, butterflies that refuse to eat for an entire lifetime, wounded elephants, and spiders that feast upon sunbeams. Try turning your house inside out, like it has an eating disorder, and purges your books and CDs and unwashed laundry onto your lawn, the neighbor's lawn. See what happens when you try to talk it out of destroying itself, tell it its windows are not too small, it's kitchen not as big as it looks in that particular color. Saw into your own skull and turn your brain inside out. Is it dead-colored silly string beef? Is it a litter of scattered Polaroids of your jumbled subconscious, glowing brighter and brighter as they absorb daylight for the first time? See what happens. See how powerful color can be. Dig through the mush and see if the mind really does have an eye. Try turning your birthday inside out. See where it gets you. An alternate dimension. Two hundred more friends. Jumping on your own coffin, alternating between the glee of a girl on a trampoline and a stormy amphetamine anger. Try turning our love inside out and see if it is some kind of twitching glittery fish. See if it has arms and wings and stripes. See if it is a stage of insects performing Shakespearean tragedy. See if it feels like mixing opiates with amphetamines. See what you say when I tell you I think we should get married again, because you put bright gaffer tape on everything and because of this green rope I ordered from the Internet.
Turn the universe inside out and see if the planets shed their rings like snake skin. See once and for all if aliens exist. See if God exists. See if you are God. Run your fingers over its train-wrecked edges, and see if you feel remorse. Turn your pockets inside out and see if there is charity or greed. See if there is a collection of deer, starved for weeks. See if there's a mirror to check yourself in, to see if by the end of the night, your face is just one large red wound. See if self-consciousness is what's keeping you from utterly destroying yourself.
You are talking to me like I am a dead person. It makes me feel strange, and inoperable. When you pull apart my incised skin pluck out my ribs like fruit you get too close to my heart. I get scared and bleed on you. The wind is blowing dust and exhaust straight through me. I sit here wondering what you would discuss with someone on their death bed. I want to blow smoke in your drunk face. I want to pull on your hair and get closer to your brain. I want no one else to have your love. It is too special to share. She has a devastating mouth. A light shines through your teeth.
Your lace fingers weave over me at night, but I can't find your hands in the daylight. I feel dead and wasted like bloody flowers in a trash can.
What I want is not anything offered here. What I want is jeweled red horses, chains connecting all my organs, a mangled music box heart. Reality is destroying me and something great is seeping out through my veins. I inhale the smoke and accept things as they are. It is officially dissolved. Promises, promises.. What I want is a nostalgia like acid burning holes in me. What I want is angels reaching down from their delicate ether clouds, touching me underneath my clothes. What I want is a mosquito net to choke you with and a pond to toss you in after. What I want is to watch a river of mucus float by filled with fish that dance and light up like Christmas lights. I want to the air to smell like candy and animal flesh and coffee. I want to see rainbows every day. What I want is every president's head on a platter. What I want is
to eat and drink and have sex like everyone but I can't. What I want is to live in crystal castles and her death; I imagine it sounding like velcro, then a weak almost inaudible sound. What I want is to pull a trigger that pulls a million triggers, a watermelon scent in the brain, a sunflower field, additional siblings. What I want is trash in my veins, every single person walking down the street well and sane and sex with cake.
Your Skeleton Glows
What I don't want is glitter falling into my eyes when I look up lovingly at you, head on your bowed thighs. You are too much, you are the kind of fire that you cannot touch. Your mouth is a dark star cave with secrets that I don't want to touch. I can hear you chewing up bits of bones of men, laughing, always laughing. All three of us had freckles and were born with the inability to ever completely heal a wound. I don't want to stare at a big mess for the rest of my life, just hoping it doesn't get any bigger. What I don't want are your infections, or the tone of your voice when you're insecure. What I don't want for at least another decade is a child. What I don't want are ten more scars as big as knives, jealousy all over my mouth. You're a girl with daisies and knives in your hair, and long scars that travel along you like jewelry.
Hand over the Mouth
I am taking another shot of whiskey then going upstairs to kill myself. All I have are your necklaces and the urge to choke myself with them. All I have are endless dreams of slaughtering horses in sunflower fields. I want to devour her heart and nothing else. I want her bones and her broken back back. I want to walk to the elementary school and hang myself in a bathroom. I want to see another therapist. All I have are my food allergies, my addictions, and my paintings of things that bleed in rainbows and have broken a hundred times. All I have is an empty bottle of whiskey and a bright pink scribble in a notebook.
No longer am I wrapped up in your web of silver nightmares your hollow drowning voice like a river red and syrupy. No longer am I dangling for I have fallen far and landed hard and now I am getting back up again. For you I'd like to climb mountain high French kiss the moon and shed tears in the sky. Your heart was a palette, all multi-colored mountain ranges and few platitudes. For you I bought a black dress with bows on it and I will have blazing blue butterflies in my mangled broken hair. I fill the air for youall the smoke you would have left behind just a faintly grey essence that you can barely find. At night my imagination carries me into the ground as I see you sidewalk stumbling as I see you devoting yourself to things you cannot see or prove as I see you eating bananas and then seeing them dead later.
At night I remember three little holes in your heart; bright ribbons strung through it and one handful of glowing bullets.
Take down the walls and try to find the pink bowels of your house. Squeeze your pupils like you need to, as if you are trying to squeeze a blackhole out of it. Swim in the mirrors like you're in love, or on fire. Pedal faster. Tell your melon coffee sweater to screw off. Tell your mother I said hi. Tell the particles you inhale to slow down. Turn on the radio and listen to the politicians polish and wax. Tell Alaska she is not good enough. Fire a handgun and look surprised when you do. Inhale the smoke like it's your mother's purple ashes. Talk about straitjackets in public and drink too much beer and fall on tables. Look at the bruises on your thighs like you would at the sunset. Look a deer in the eyes and try to guess who got scared first. Take a ginger nap in a white bed and circle your hips in the closet, eat soy beans. Write about the first time you had sex. The first argyle sweater you bought. All the ice-cream cones you have refused to eat. Marry the first one you see, if there is dust in his hair. Wear glitter splashed across your eyelids like gum-paper galaxies. Dance like you are the dust in the sunlight. Take your pills, but only if the sun is shining. Engage in things you would never tell your mother about. Throw away your collection of half-broken diamonds, and never think of rectangles or men in suits again. Let the silver peach trees drip into your mouth as you say words that are more like shapes than anything else. Let the jewels fall from your mouth like words you would only say if you were smothered by peacocks with lots of blue feathers. Let love not bring you down. Let 71
the shapes of the moon hang there, like you don't even like them, like you don't even care.
And no I am not going to coax you to open up to me. Just because you left your hands in the bathroom again doesn't mean I will reach between your ribs like windows and feel up your heart. For too long, my pen has not been a sword. It has not been a sword that cuts me open and shows off my fat like dancers to the world. It has not been a sword that cuts open the arteries in my thighs so I can be covered in blood in a mess like a thing that has just borne a child. It has not been that. Take down all the pots and pans you glued to your ceiling, touch the walls of your home, vacuum the dust and glitter out of the carpet like stars. You could take a minute to drown yourself in bleach rags and wipe the turkey knives of your sad intellectual wristblood. You could take a minute to climb a pine tree naked under a bed of stars. You could take a minute, and never give it back.
Generational Drug Killer
She leaves poisoned needles in the air all quietly waiting for someone to come and disturb them, like a black widow in a web. There are bottles of wine and brandy hidden in her closets and under the table in her room. She clings to things, a shiny red backpack with Chinese symbols she can't decipher, a pink and purple pillow in the shape of a heart. There are bottles of diazepam and lorazepam and things it takes me several seconds to pronounce. You make me potions in the night, toss an extra wool blanket on me, crawl on the floor, cry on the white leather couch, fall down the dead red stairs. There is something evil inside you but no one would ever guess, covered by your Christian gas mask. A made-up face and a pretty red suit. I dug through your underwear drawer and stole the change out of it. I ate one of your cherry cough drops. I looked at the beautiful colorful faces my mother left behind, after you stole them and hid them in your closet, for no one to see. There's a bottle in every drawer and your psychiatrist called, and I hung up on her.
A Chemical Polaroid
Sometimes I miss you so much and gush all over things and embarrass myself. I try to make my room like yoursgreen sheets, loud fan, clothes carpeting the floor. I drink water like air and dream of becoming a model. I dream of the day I have another girl with a face as soft and sweet as yours. I want pictures of you playing with chemicals tacked up on my walls, surrounding me like ghosts with guns. You're a flower I want to lock in a solitary garden, a bouquet I want to toss off a cliff, a golden key I want to stab into my heart.
You are so bitter & heavy-hearted. There is still a huge handful of lovehandle left. And stars that form a heart with something coming out of it, like the stem of an apple. Tomorrow burns holes in my stomach, I want to put out the pain like a cigarette. Lemon water. A spoonful of honey. I die to read fairytales of the man who named me. Joy like a lightsaber going through me making me dizzy. A plant that smells so fruity you lick it. The only good thing about the piece was that there was glitter and that redeemed it. I feel ridiculous in this "I am pretending to be you" costume. Three strikes for destruction, candy apple cigarettes, blackwater, nightmares in sleep.
My heart needs to be bled and yours needs to be bleached. Our hands need something dead in them like tongues or books full of flat flowers. Our prayers together create blood in the walls. In the drips I see you in the bathtub vomiting pages of dictionaries, shutting me out. I see a plastic set of veins coming out of my legs and every day your voice splits me open like an axe. And for these veins in my hands I would trade you today & yesterday; I would trade you the Iraq War all the Senators & the dead meat on your plate. Every time someone buys me a birthday present, I realize they don't know me at all and it is a brightly-wrapped reminder of failure of heart & bone, of eyes half closed, the bibliophile's metronome. It is strange that we make things and then we break things and then we fix our broken things and feel joy. It is strange that we drink milk meant for calves and we invent Tuesdays & Thursdays & nuclear war. It is strange that you eat candy out of the trash and somehow convince yourself that you are okay. Climbing on top of me is a dark blur and a smile appears in one of its gaping endless holes. Inanition is heaven. Money becomes a foreign object much like forceps or hair clips or pieces of metal stuck inside different parts of you for different reasons. It becomes some thing you have that is not particularly pretty that you can use to acquire prettier things. It becomes you. It becomes your smile and whatever kisses befall your lips.
Drea Kato I regret not being there to tuck you in tonight, not being able to kiss your hands that have fixed so many things. Just give me one more weekend to poison my blood. One more day to inhale anything black. One more minute to say goodbye goodbye goodbye to your sweet face. Let me become a dog and die by chocolate. Your hardness is left in me, dries up like a riverbed, cracks, and is forgotten. The love you left in my mouth has metastasized and I swallow every gift you gave me so I can call you to complain of a stomach ache. It is too easy to turn corn or rice into some kind of drug, one you can mass produce, & make billions. May begins again as if it hasn't left you so many times before and green Xs multiply like army ants. The contents of our cabinets become those of my gut, and I come away knowing what they say is true: there is always tomorrow. And every unicorn bleeds black. Every president has his or her handicap. All the buildings in the world will eventually fall down. And it is better to burn than to disappear.
Let the Dead Dogs Fly out of Me
Eat a dead fish. It will not disrupt your blood or make you agitated. It will not make your skin shimmer, or your heart beat faster. Always I am a piece of meat moving from shell to empty shell, wondering what the hell is going on when I realize that every TV in the whole world is on. Rotten peanut butter cups and vacuous lifeless lust. You are not worth one drop of coffee. I would rather lick some vomit off my lips than give you one business kiss. Your friend is having seizures and I don't care. Your toes won't sparkle today and my blood sugar drops down a flight of stairs twice to a man with bad breath playing with my hair. Oranges make me crash like a grocery basket into a red yellow green light. God can stay up all night. You send me one spool and all I can think of is bending this wire into a patch of lovely flowers and stabbing them all into my legs.
The daylight latches onto things finds its quiet way into animal bowels and I am just going to push as hard as I can until I hear something break. The modern world is tearing us apart like love, piece by piece, it is shoving us into crowded warehouses and getting us high on E. Should I warn you I will destroy you and enjoy every word from your mouth? I require 20 of whatever you have. I require a diamond box around my heart. I require the scalped trophy manes of horses brought back to me on golden platters. I do not require batteries or food.
Things That Are Spineless
The monsters are roaring and swallowing up hearts. I am tired of everything being a metaphor. One day glowing things may not make me happy. Maybe one day your green smiles won't make my muscles tighten up. My lungs are coughing up ashes, of my grandparents, my mother's cigarettes. My mistake was to stay by your side while you were dying to hibernate in the summertime. While sharks jumped at your white collar. Swallowed up by glass and beer, finding sad hollow songs in your heart and you follow them here, as if they are roads that you know. Pedestrians light up the streets, birds swallow rice, dancers take ecstasy.
Time Attempts a Tango
So many beautiful moments have been ruined by me. By me rejecting the concept of loving something despite its flaws. By me seeing nothing but stretch marks everywhere, on everything, or those two tiny black waterfalls. Bones hidden so far below the surface you can't tell if its human or animal dead or alive. Technology enables me to play with psychology but it becomes lonely like a field of grass. I am sure I would enjoy it more if I felt like my hip bones were knives or that my smile was more of a warning than a welcoming, or that my hair when wet could leave your flesh red. All we want is to have and to hold someone that understands us like a bird understands a worm, but sometimes it seems like this is too much to ask of the universe; the poor thing is overwhelmed, gravity and physics and time tremble and collapse and crash like the stock market and all that is left are the stars and dozens of wishes falling out of them like the rust off a dead city. 81
No one will ever love me because my feet are thousands of miles up in the air. I have strange urges to swallow cod liver oil upon waking, play with my coral cut feet, dance only when I am alone. I stick my hands into my wounds, relapse on beaches and in bathrooms. I eat so many apples a day that I keep everyone away, and I pretend that ceilings aren't there and fall asleep on stars. Deny me agony, I will yelp, but try to carry on. There it is, I remember the reason I never call my mother. She ignored me for anything else, and could get stopped & questioned by the police for simply walking down the street. She drank to run and I see her as as much of a baby as if there had been rubber nipples on those bottles. Dear, I want to make you a thousand iridescent origami stars so you can take one a day and hopefully feel better, but I know you never will, and I have known for some time that I am clearly watching you walk, every step a decided one, into your grave, and sometimes I wish that all those years you had not been made of wood.
Depressing Russian Literature
Guilt is a piano on top of you instead of a man. Street noises drain you like bleach on a rainbow. Indecision becomes a washer & dryer you can't stop putting things into & taking things out of all through a painful fluorescent night. The brain becomes smoke, a hidden stash of dark red cigarettes, dipped in formaldehyde, waiting for you. Depressing Russian literature becomes your best friend & you can't remember what it is like to have a flesh & bone best friend, a soft voice at the other end, someone to cough up pounds of dirt and flashlights and floods with you. Fun becomes self-destruction in the form of 47 grams or too much coffee in the blood. Death becomes a run-on sentence wraps its arms around you, puts its mouth all over a frozen horse. Health becomes a science, frightens you with its bones, pulls at its skin like polyester. Today is a miracle, & yesterday was one too.
Drea Kato was born in California and raised there as well as in Colorado, Louisiana, and Hawaii. She was raised Buddhist by her father, a farmer, who currently grows pineapples in Hawaii, and her mother, an artist, who tragically passed away in 2010. She lives in Santa Cruz, California, where she spends a lot of time on abstract paintings, creative writing, and song writing. Her first book of poetry is soon to be released by Otis Nebula. This is her first chapbook.
Contents Chapter One / 91 Chapter Two / 92 Chapter Three / 94 Chapter Four / 95 Chapter Five / 98 Chapter Six / 99 Chapter Seven / 100 Chapter Eight / 101 Chapter Nine / 102 Chapter Ten / 103 Chapter Eleven / 104 Chapter Twelve / 106 Chapter Thirteen / 107
Chapter One Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s that smut of loneliness on Mamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s face. Really. How often have I asked her to keep herself clean?
Chapter Two The Old Maid’s scrawny arm shot up and covered a door, the door reminding her of the threadbare thrusts of her gnome-like wraith. The wraith’s wrath was a type of minute clarity. The Old Maid’s head throbbed with veins that popped out periodically. She was defeated. Run upon waves. Run upon too many doors. Underdoors She heard a roar but the roar effervescently collapsed into sobbing. The sobbing turned too deep. The sobbing turned into a clear runny nose. The Old Maid was more composed than the roar but her composure did not like itself much right then. She defecated the composure over a warm rusted spoon she had found in one of the rooms. A clutter forced its way into her dry scratchy pussy. She could have eaten up the clutter but the clutter culled its responses from a sinister rake it was once apprentice with. She let it be. — Devastating evidence, the rake muttered when he was presented with the evidence. But the Old Maid was not willing to believe anything except a ramrod straight back. A ramrod back reminded her of the army colonel she had once taken the train with. The train had tried to protest against the colonel boarding it and the Old Maid did not know that many army officers refused to observe the proprieties of consent. Consent bounced off the train into a heap and the Old Maid thought: — What a pleasant heap. The evidence, flimsy in its sheath, stood there, head bowed. Take two The army colonel and the Old Maid talked until dawn and she later told her BFF they were perfect together. At dawn, she wondered how to steep in scalding water the hat her dad turned up at the station in. She could have introduced a few lice on his head. She was so angry. The hat was so unfashionable.
Monica Mody She was so angry she almost moved away from the door. The mysterious workings of fate. Here she was, an old maid. And then the mistris sweating their fine labor winked at her. Her blouse had come undone. No no, she was only dreaming. Such lasciviousness. Underdoors Another letter from the kothe walli madam on Ripon Street. She must ignore it. Of course those men could satisfy her lousy desires but she was more, much more, much much. She felt dirty all over and went to scrub herself in the shower. Her mother shouted from outside the bathroom: â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Why are you using so much water? The Old Maid could have slapped her so tight the netting of her hair bun would slip and strangle Mama. The Old Maid sat trembling under the shower. An episode of lunacy was about to launch itself in her and she recognized the warnings. The warnings hailed her. Tight bosom-lipped.
Chapter Three Mama was dead. Dead Mama, my sweet Mama.
Chapter Four The brick spoke to the sanction. — Oh please, oh please! The disapproval of all the circling crows. Mama snatched a crow from the sky and pulled its feathers off, one by one, then set them back onto the skylight. Where they would never fly again, never into her face, paperweighted. The skylight was so high her hollow throat rang like a decibel into the naked fakir. The naked fakir, wearing nothing but ear studs, spoke to her in his soft voice. — I'm a creepy naked man, but you're not to fear me. The architecture contained a never-stopped, never-borrowed ball of nerves. Mama and the ball of nerves rolled into the window like a flock of geese. They sang: I hate prying eyes! I will peel off every prying eye, every disapproving eye, every The dead mother grinned. She enjoyed needling the pain-in-the-ass Old Maid with strange lyrics. A skylight borrowed her light for it was too high up (too high up) for a song (for a plain-tailed bird) Bird, look here Bird, you know (and I) — A wall ensures privacy 4 walls keep us in (keep us in) Mighty claws dethroned (claws dethroned) it was feathers (feathers) Numismatics, study of coins
I get paid in light Banal as thin walls (banal as warmed stone) Her movement scurried wi thin her Pronged thrust, and there, the bird who flew Skylight never saw (nil saw) banana-colored light (too light) (so tuber) A potato rolled under the wall, round and nubbly (nubile potato) Hush, hush! said the walls Hush that light! Hush like a (whisper) Hush like a sainted cat burglar Finagled her way out of the window and the sod (and the sod) scratched her back (scratched her back) Arch-a-skylight Too high (too high) 4 walls (low walls) (and high) (and low) they knuckled when they chuckled wicked walls Walked out of a tiny corner 4th wall, coroner's report 3rd wall, low threshold Don't wander far
Monica Mody 2nd wall, fine as teflon Fine as a coin studied by the best numismatician His expertise led him here The thief stood outside the wall Oh no, oh no! said a wall The thief is a thief!
Chapter Five How she rode a wall, the bus being too hard; How walls x 4 was too much, like safe; How crows circled beyond borrowed light, skylight. Skylight, paid in light so high (so high). Hollow throat, instrument— “I'm a creepy naked man.” Architecture borrowed nary a phrase from another. Lies in decibels (hollow throat). Tuber too-light nubile, fine as a coin. Best numismaticians lined up outside the wall. “What a card!” 4 walls, low walls.
Chapter Six In which Sameshape wants to be Othershape; and the world is not a safe place. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26.
Sameshape wants to be a dark furry thing. Sameshape wants to be a lump of e-waste. Sameshape wants to be styled actress. Sameshape wants to be absurd literature. Sameshape wants to be a gift to the world. Sameshape wants to be pledged to outlaws. Sameshape wants to be Bant Singh and Sant Singh. Sameshape wants to be Dalit literatureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s least remembered lines. Sameshape wants to be aggregated on TweetMeme. Sameshape wants to be a leaked government secret. Sameshape wants to be the epistemology of evil. Sameshape wants to be a failure binary. Sameshape wants to be condemned and lonely. Sameshape wants to be dead like mother. Sameshape wants to be a voyeurâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tight delight. Sameshape wants to be an art player playing art. Sameshape wants to be a letter to your parliamentary representative. Sameshape wants to be traded like disease. Sameshape wants to be a stockpile of trickster healing. Sameshape wants to be a minor apocryphal tradition. Sameshape wants to be exposed as an invasion. Sameshape wants to be tech lunacy or tech suicide. Sameshape wants to be a death ramp. Sameshape wants to be an explanation without takers. Sameshape wants to be a shaman in the body of a frog. Sameshape wants to be the lunar cycle.
Chapter Seven In which there is a dialogue. — When you first sight the clouds, they freeze. Just like that, they stop in their tracks. The squiggles draw into themselves a tooth, a swimming medal, party time. The effect is very dramatic. — See how they fill it up with meaning? — But clouds are only interested in meaning for as long as you hold their gaze. As soon as you look away – well, as soon as they think it is safe once you look away – they can't be bothered to stay still and off they go again. — Don't look away. Keep looking up. I need the cover of clouds and I need them on my side. Another thing — The second you meet their gaze, your life changes. — Don't look so surprised. Didn't you see that movie on clouds they were showing at the Place place? I heard that almost everybody who is anybody in the city was there for that screening. Oh, I forgot. You're not into doing cool things anymore. Take two — There's this funny movie I saw. The popstar sings a tune and makes it famous. Then one day the media discovers that the tune riffs on a very old folk song. And they applaud the folk singers and say, how amazing, they were so modern in their time, they were singing the exact same tune as our popstar’s tune. — Now what if I tell you that the popstar and the folk singers were from different parts of the world? — Let's say the popstar had never heard the folk song before he composed his tune. — Collective conscious = parodic smackdown = pneumatic sampling = sufferation PSA = rhizomatic collapse = 100
Chapter Eight Skies were flying all around us My insects bombed me. The sky flew too high above for me to catch. The air was around me, an everyday affair. I was a multiple of ten. I went up to a multiple of ten million. The sky did not stop. The sky flattened itself against a roof too high above for me to catch. It laughed. My sleeves were empty when I turned them upside down. Nothing fluttered out, not a wing. I raised my sleeves to the sky, flattening the sky into a distant memory. Distant star. The sky was still the same but I was a different number. The number made me what was turning me inside out.
Chapter Nine In a library of the future, there shall be optimism you can loan out.
scratch scratch scratch scratch scratch scratch scratch
Chapter Ten Year after year, the Old Maid passed the library of the future boarded up. Year after year, the same message on the bulletin board: Please do not Enter. Please do not Eat. Inside, there were people facing the wall. The wall along the people was the only wall. Gods of all mythologies ate upright on the aisle.
Chapter Eleven At this very moment, mothers all over India are watching soaps + updates of soaps + updates of updates of soaps. We bear the memory of the promises that were given, and the threats. Underdoors A light switches on. There is a knock on the door. It is afternoon and it is the wrong time. Whoever has come to town has come to town at the wrong time, the wrong afternoon. Nobody opens the door. The doorbell goes unanswered.
The doorbell pushes its way in. The welcome mat with the palm tree design measures daylength. A small presence, almost a shadow.
Something stands out, out in the open sun. Something stands like a thief. If not welcome. Nobody waits at the door.
Nobody opens the door. The days, divided into afternoons and mornings, and afternoons are given to watching soaps. If you’d come in the morning, you could have heard how to make them.
If you understand what it makes, it is out of control.
Soap loop In soap-tense her name means she is watching. A call recall. We hear the words.
The doorbell passes through a wrong corridor and hears a sound it imagines but does not remember. The doorbell, absolute mask.
Nobody opens the door. The doorbell rings until it is a glance. The doorbell glances at the door, waiting, if it opens.
Same as above. The door mixes a song, a waiting song. The door will be open until you come in. Open your jaws until I am on the other side.
There must have been murders. There must have been robberies. Soap loop I try to fit myself into the small presence. False true. False false.
Time, my playmate. The door, impassable demon-soul. You are trapped.
Underdoors A queue is forming. - Mother India - Milkha Singh - Milkman - Thieves The thieves who cannot get in huddle together and cry. Calibre guns slung on their shoulders. Something like a foreshadowing shadows across the technopoly. His face falls like autumn leaves. The marginals chomp on the leaves. They had wandered into the queue when the rest of India wasn’t looking. They are all viruses. They are all irrational. They are all blasphemous. They are all socialist. They are all chaos-makers. They are all bisexual. Soap loop If I were a lady, I would be a log.
Chapter Twelve Common sense to commoner: — Here’s a deal you can’t refuse. I’ll redefine you socially! But you must fan me (use your palms) because I need some air. I just had the most puzzling fainting spell! Commoner to common sense: — That was an anxiety attack.
Chapter Thirteen 50 stretches and the Old Maid was in rainbow land, hand-in-hand, walking to meet, aching to meet, the thinly scattered population of old maids. In tandem, anger hidden in cervix like a blasted rock, they stepped into a story. They were bottled of the same chemicals. Their coffins were easy to chain with new white paint. Follow-up monologue There was a fluid rash. We wanted it to leak into all the circuitry. Holy deluge as mnemonic! Our device to end the circulating and to lie there, pinned, struggling. We were your butterfly scud, dead mother. We may have never told you this. At a distance, love grows like mangled bodies. Avoidance increases in proportion to their number. I was wearing a seawash. I entered the crown of thorns. I dipped to back and low. Everything was rope. My nostrils were huge with truths. They shut me up in the storage cabinet. We are looking at you through keyholes and youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re a futurist dilemma.
Monica Mody's work is forthcoming in Upstairs at Duroc and Nether, and has appeared in the Boston Review (Poet's Sampler), West Wind Review, apocryphal text, horse less review, Cannot Exist, and LIES/ISLE, among other journals. She is the author of a chapbook, Travel & Risk, from Wheelchair Party, and has a book forthcoming in Fall 2012 from 1913 Press.
Contents Unstoppable Citizen / 115 There are smokestacks emerging / 116 Juvenile stuffed / 117 National in character, assassination / 118 Untitled / 119 Impossible, / 121 Feel in degrees Kelvin / 122 As I step all over you the groceries / 123 Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sick of you & your three dimensional movement / 124 Wish we could help the seizure mongers / 125 Toes in the Quicksand / 126 The fog was swift / 129 The suggestion to use as floss / 130 I put on your game face, / 132 Last time I was born / 133 No blank left for blank, tin locksmith / 134 A breadbox with dementia / 135 I licked a single scoop of you / 136 You & I took a long trip / 137
C. J. Waterman
the old Deacon and his antimicrobial tendencies line the sweat terrace. A paper-thin holographic cuts the room in half, an econometric cavity where I remove the corn husks from my anus. Three sans skirts dip melons in chrome. A perfect game, I had heard that. Terra firma. Old newspapers and clothes are praying in digestive cathedrals. Still, our moldy handicrafts took the telemarketing circuit by stylish transfusions. Unwed, on a divan. Grandfather clock anointed me king of the highway. All through the pedigree, blank expressions telecast. According to the charter, we’re immunized against hummingbird syndrome. My thrifty accomplice swathes a city block in a pattern reminiscent of Dixie. And if a school bus full of Velociraptors arrived, and children swam in pools, knowing dinosaurs can’t swim, they’d save x-mas. That sticky ribosome, that azure back seat driver. An incomparable toffee seizure. And even then still erudite structures inquire of foreign motorists.
There are smokestacks emerging
from the pores of your nose. Funny, I thought we mined B-52’s from the left nostril, just yesterday. & later that same day on the submarine I was recruiting clientele across town & you texted “follow me 2 oblivion” & I swallowed a sofa, then slept on it. I awoke & had smog on the brain, you ate my nose as a hyena on leftover antelope thigh. Sleepwalking apparently. Somnambulism, you said. Let’s hire a chimney sweep & convert the phallic structures on your beak into waterfront condos. All you have to do is insert your legs into ostrich holes on the beach. Hunker down. The windows will be free; we’ll cull glass plates from the molten sand. The yellow metallic of the sky has pasted across it jagged cutouts of pots of boiling water; communication is indistinguishable from hunger. Suddenly your mouth forms a gesture & out of habit I vomit in it then write a poem with the tip of my finger as stick in the mud. My therapist is always saying your stillness afterwards is an expression of quiet gratitude.
C. J. Waterman
in a mutual fund. Berserk fancier, poky poky he mimeographs coinage thru crematoriums. A coup de gr창ce to barbeques & merciful transactions.
National in character, assassination
burnt potato dinner. Bespectacled observer slept with me scraped. Exit this tapestry larynx stretched to the brink, crossing Delaware after Delaware after Delaware after Delaware. Shiny shoes prescribed files custody over crossing. Every last pill left cabin-bound. At ticket emporium you kept digging, pushing clean desks, clean secretary, functionary (name) weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re terrified. Of absence of objects causing illness, cakes vomiting from throat slit fingers, picking back up down throat. Shoved frosting plunged militias biscuit. Dinner shot battery tracing chalk lines in snow. Aggravated bikinis shift borders following maps, reborn shaking rattles through shadows surrounding moat.
C. J. Waterman
1. Upon rousing my nose creaks for sabbatical, a moment to let loose & stretch its legs. The rusty rivulets surrounding it are my playground, my ironing is finished in record time. You rub lye in my eye that I may remember the day by.
2. Differentiation involves zeroes in sexless procreation smearing across a smeared laptop screen. There is warmth in the shadow behind a wreath, and since we’re both standing under mistletoe & I’d left fingerprints on what amounts to your face, the screen, let’s kiss. Odd that the holly berries rejected your advances as it’s only being a flower, but with other people.
3. At every bend of the elbow, an antennae is achieving orgasm.
4. The tree is calculating distance with a tape measure caught in its branches. In the Roman tradition has buried coins to cure withdrawals from atypical antipsychotics. Deaf to that chattering tooth factory disorganized traffic stops to look at speculum scraping phlegm, the mouth torn thundered pissed on.
5. As a machine the princess embroidered her lips shut with an anvil. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Find a pie, find a pie,â&#x20AC;? the eunuchs gestured on dungeon walls.
C. J. Waterman
an acrimonious 8 oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;clock explosion collage. Extra padding informed adults of hopping gaiety. Yule store ate face.
Feel in degrees Kelvin
the knee socket pivot disagreeably, irking a short wave. Dialogue compression typifies fractal reach. I circumvent you inhaling Jacuzzi water to share with the margins.
C. J. Waterman
As I step all over you the groceries
are trembling along in their basket. The coachmen lurches through metropolis, whizzes past the dry, reheated camels with their equidistant features. Grandpa shrugs off often, the holiday’s decorative scheme, string lights, tinsel, tying knots around his frontal lobe. Remember leather burned faces in summer, intermittent bathing? Everyone’s here, let’s unwrap gifts, back surgery, from lifting the heavy ones. Teeth deconstruct shiniest electronic playthings. Seek refuge. A boxey ’87 Lincoln is a table surrounded by wrought iron fences. Unfit to proceed so graciously I toothpick, the rest skip church. Neighbor, the cranberry and pepper trees though beautiful, obstruct my bay view. Irregardless, endless letters downtown. Make it a a a a daytrip. Possible disruption, every so often over the summer, lollipop and obsidian and lollipop and wristwatch. In low tide the rocks are stained rusty, we’re trudging and cataloging the river, appreciation.
Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m sick of you & your three dimensional movement.
The way the concrete blocks of the sidewalk cough up blood at the mere thought of your passing. As you pass I get all handcuffed. Wait, old b&w photo now crystal ball now neighbors vacuuming upstairs, I just remembered the impending charges: The body is a weapon! The body is semiautomatic & unhinges itself from the page to gauge eyeballs from stinking stink pits with a dull, oblong piece of the body as gauging mechanism of the body. The body, the body, the body, the body acting deadweight, the body looks down knees in concrete, the body is a body. The body looking at the body is hopefully bored if not said body is a heart at beat in the middle of the body of a field.
C. J. Waterman
Wish we could help the seizure mongers.
The day after today left for the day fearful. Recently a fair percentage of certifiably bone dry pipes down on Main Street; hesitation. (all the best wines were shrink wrapped blessedly) Legs traversing stockings, legs doing the opposite. Touching, well Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d believe anything but Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not comfortable talking. Cassette tape wormed certain refectory outstanding arrangements. Later, a few minutes whizzing gas stations in competition. A cuffed jeans double wedding 1945 makes the difference. Exceptionally dry foreheads slough consternation. Most every exposed ankle of the past month tied off, ask an uncle assumption of furniture infotainment.
Toes in the Quicksand
1. In other countries it costs $7,000 to kill a dignitary.
2. Will you come to America with me? Maybe make love, to your friend in the North, but down South. In ten years disjointed laughs, crushed toes.
3. I can, if I take my medicine. But, you don’t follow me home, I’ll melt straight through the building.
4. Think I’ll adopt an African baby I found in Cosmopolitan. Don’t ditch the sheets til the lights go out
C. J. Waterman and the sun sets to strings of nerve fiber spouting harsh electronics. Microphone headset, shit, where is it?
5. Invite a comrade to speak on the subject. Start with the petals, they are linen on the wall. A plastic bag cracked open revealing tendons. Now slightly tattered, scrape the bangs away from the forehead.
6. We ate freshly sautĂŠed boot-cut khakis for breakfast. Only draped over tables, bent and cracked makeup cakes off in face shape. On the TV it sees horrible happenings, but not to children, even when theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re stupid.
7. The capsules act as plastic wrap. A hair follicle gains sentient consciousness only to be drowned
in confections. A thought you had thought two days before we exchanged swamp water through the mouth.
8. No clean underwear. No room to walk. Just a severed limb, or two. They fly to your face like violent outbursts at the dinner table.
9. Hearts flowing through the body in a video game. Toes in San Diego. A belligerent homeless yells from a rooftop. Hear the shrill seagulls screech, viciously poking your eyes, or your friendâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eyes.
10. In the springtime, my love, by the sewage water, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll fuck in the muck & dance in the fodder.
C. J. Waterman
The fog was swift
& injected a betrothal. Who sponged the lake dry? “A cousin,” I cried to her, “grilled cheese brought soup.”
The suggestion to use as floss
your catheter tube was beneficial. It spat pomade in my eyes and beckoned my brain, a ductile metal. Floodlights burned sinkholes clockwise, a behavior type you’d mentioned as socially advantageous. My lazy eye cries for iodine in response, and the highfalutin snowstorm opens his mouth and nostrils; inhales. The urn where he kept his arm is a place one visits on holiday. Dense, yellow fog. Small corpses clad in tattered flags and currency deliver puncture wounds. Denser fog. A bat swarm in this region occurred in 1772. To commemorate, an annual cinematic, well spiced parade. Brilliant yellow spackle trips horses en route. From hoof-prints emerge armed guards. Lawnchairs buckle. In buckling, their iridescent fabrics arrange as crisscrosses, rearrange as invisible tattoos around the gut. Constricted constipation, each of the next seven days. Thus naturally, when I’d rinsed the hair cream from my eyes, I desired foreign, tanned hides. And order. Absolutely. I was strung up, hooked through my eyelids, much too focused on my eyelids. I didn’t see anything. Nothing changed, the sky was purple when we got there. Yes, Sir. No, there was a suicide bomber in the heating vents,
C. J. Waterman
who has since been flushed out. Essential oozes painted the pavement, and many well meaning children ruined many pairs of perfectly lovely shoes.
I put on your game face,
I zip on your dripping carapace. I Swallow the necessary accessories, & retch. Hallowed orifice where my torment rides the Ferris-wheel hoping for baby dick, or pussy, in the event of an emergency. Hark: a funeral to stash my affections, a procession to don with my millions, a thank-you note to wipe my ass. Honey, whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s with the giggling schoolgirl? I said I want multiple. I said I want to cut the cheesecake with a chainsaw & discuss villains. Their leather. Their bleeding, defeated faces & the way embellishment pops a wheelie as retribution. I want their trial in a mock court of my design. My basement, windows boarded, hogtied in shopping carts. Various abductees, some freshly exhumed, hold the jury like oxygen masks on a falling plane. I subdue sighs with a lawnmower. Subdued I eye you through your eyes, wondering exactly what the evening news will say. Lucky me, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m just another corpse in the concrete, another figure guided by joystick, another shitstain on the revolution. I deepthroat that explanation to the nuts. Swallow it for its knowledge on culture. You say an invisible presence will clip & pummel me into a cinematic submission.
C. J. Waterman
Last time I was born
last Easterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eggs laid sterling silver cloths all across my lap. Inside job! Bilious butler, observant with binoculars from afar as leeches shower down.
No blank left for blank, tin locksmith
hoes curvature of afternoon traffic flows changing directions suddenly. August 18 1973, the banquet hall fireplace ran off, called the cops, right predicating fables on totem poles. Envelopes addressed to colonial survivors of Indian attacks. Wipe off shock cloths kissing slowly at first then chain sawed hearts gather for object worship at 4. Stars golden, whistles. Goodwill the clients. Palace ritual greeting card genuflections ensue resilient. Dresses worth houses gather for honey shrimp galore. So volatile as to fall victim to death certificates of you the false telephone numbers dialing you.
C. J. Waterman
A breadbox with dementia
is waterlogged by the harvest. Osmoregulation syncopates to the toaster pop. Harmonics of a bake sale override pedestriansâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; pheromones.
I licked a single scoop of you
from a cone. It was ashy, a periscope had once been there, then disappeared. Peering thru 5 gallons of plastic your moustache, considering the goatee, sneezed. The fragile handle snapped and the bucket fell through another bucket containing an explosive apartment complex. The rugs there smelled of blood-spewing faucet taps, told you the scuba gear was necessary. Aqua-lunged mammoths hog oxygen. How familiar, paisley cloths. A plate, and the half-boiled, squirming tendrils couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t find a socket to plug into. Outside, damn, an opaque tint, that first real crop circle before Easter, two grass blades promise to exchange dew drops. I gulp, and inhale and gulp my mouthful of breath and recall that self-inflating gumballs lack medical training. This knowledge is deemed essential for participation in a free sample jamboree where the candy is stockpiled in the shape of a heart.
C. J. Waterman
You & I took a long trip
to the salad bar. We baptized our scuffed soles in dressing. Found fit for trial, spoons pin back our eyelids. Dogs speak of an inlet filled with indomitable jawbones. I tripped, then, you tripped over me. My nose penetrated the silt. Broken floor tiles pierce and re-pierce your salty slipstream. You uproot and memorize genomes. Tender were our kisses down the highway. Always a pothole always a spare blowtorch to singe our feet back together. A cadre of children to sew our parachutes. Mobile and sellable. We sucked the emeralds from each others kneecaps to maintain axis. Mammoth ink stain worship at every thigh, buggy, and fencepost. Skyward, in wind flapping, a secret x-ray transmitter. Dislodged. We straddle the satellite, anticipate the commingling of sweat and plastic.
C.J. Waterman recently completed his MFA in poetry at the University of Notre Dame. He produces the chapbook series Wheelchair Party (wheelchairparty.blogspot.com). Work appears in Lamination Colony and is forthcoming in Extended Play. With an MFA under his belt, C.J. is exploring the challenging worlds of levitation and clairvoyance.
Acknowledgments Colorado Review: “Lulu’s Veil and Jocasta’s Brooch” Denver Quarterly: “Malinger” Poems & Plays: "Lassitudinal Verses" Spittoon: "Schrödinger on the Ex-Planet" and "Schrödinger's Dream" Parts of "Snakepit: Glisten the River Serpentine" appeared in American Poetry Journal, Baeau, and Poems & Plays.
Contents Daemon Lover / 147 Under the Circumstances / 148 Malinger / 149 Till I wake your ghost / 151 Snakepit: Glisten the River Serpentine / 152 Lulu’s Veil and Jocasta’s Brooch / 158 Windowless Eye / 159 Compulsory / 160 Meditations on the Idiomatic Universe / 161 Schrodinger’s Dream / 163 Schrödinger on the Ex-planet / 164 Lassitudinal Verses / 165 Bela Lugosi / 167 Skin / 168 While Watching Winged Migration, I Am Murdered / 169 Claustrophobia (origin) /170
Breath blackening my neck, walk me to the tower, instruct me, illuminate my ignorance, help me sight down the barrel and learn becoming and darkness-such tiny images/pixels such bright colors as we fall such power and need and hopeless moments stretching to years. Speedball of the erotic: take me to that infamous alley, scalpel out the child you put there: how I remember broken bottles my tiara, shadow over me, antithesis of passion. My ghost a kiss, blow my ghost away, I am the sugar mixed with ashes, the high powered rifle. Beautiful corruption, where shall you go now? In the next life, I will love you and refuse to tell you my name.
Under the Circumstances
a brick path winds down covered by ferns with birds of colors beyond the human eye while she walks the city street keys splayed out of her fist. Of her fist: no rings but eyes, no nails but daggers. The birds' noises unheard by anything on earth. They exist in that other place, that unfound verity. Don't forget the flowers blooming by fire. But everything that flies must hit the ground. When walking, the feel, the eradication of dragonflies, butterflies, honey bees muted by feathers and fractured hollow bones: wrens and gulls and herons-underfoot. Steel in flames, aerodynamics slicing molecules into a river calm in collapse.
She bleeds poison out of her eyes into this eveningâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s porcelain -- a cup fractured to prisms and far too willing to accept the violation of yellow liquid. The pack hunts our beloveds; the pieces are everywhere we refuse to look, moving fast because we walk on the knife. Who will save us this time? Everything poured breaks the receptacle -grasp at light underwater -to be your own gravity and in being, drink what is there. That white-eyed bitch finds everything lost and frightened, alone. From the bar, we watch the spectacle the hunt provides. And I think I recognize those teeth. They float in this broken cup â&#x20AC;&#x201C; translucent and patterned with tiny blue flowers, tiny yellow birds. Is it color she's desperate to replace or a lunatic liquid evil? Sunglasses won't protect us, but we sit in the sundrenched rooms. Swaddled in wool, we sip Darjeeling and Oolong, fragments cutting our fingers -- disintegrating into a song we've never heard but can't forget.
The moment I chose the wrong direction glitters in the cupboard -another starless night. They brought me down like any other frightened animal. My bones are porcelain in their teeth.
Till I wake your ghost Every cemetery sucks me in, and your grave-- it's always there -near the willow, the bench from our backyard in front of the headstone. I planted violets there. I sat on that pretty bench, braced myself for the inevitable, and grief will be my eyes into wine or vinegar or poison or a casual cruelty that promises to always walk with me through the ruins, through the thorns: wormwood and ashes -I'm just so tired and I wanted so much not to have to watch you die. I lie broken in lassitude, an ocean riveted with a lack of stars. You've been gone a long time.
Note: the title is from the song, "Your Ghost," by Kristin Hersh.
Snakepit: Glisten the River Serpentine * The machine takes the hand not as the razor takes the eye, a camera invents the silver rooms. True crime, true confessions, true or false? Is that noise the train braking? Acceleration making the body's break: switch the fire, wax dolls. Because the broken glass gives the factory back to refound archive. * At the closed door, the open veins I often dream of illusion, a new habitat living alone--a sweet breath acrid by moonlight. I'm the snakepit vulture: the view has been spoiled to walk down the watery path by the blue light of hands.
Dana Curtis * Will you be my infidel? How does the lens know its eye? Is the sky aware as snakes file themselves by venom: Black Mamba, King Cobra, Copperhead: remember when it fell into the roller coaster, intuited the carnival on fire? Are they on display: a quarter at the door. Will you worship the church on fire yet not consumed? * Each knob of spine is a face insinuating the closets of butterfly annihilation. An arch of lumbar visage, razor spine to remove delicate flight. In fluorescent fields, the walk over wings, the scales shed and a crunch underfoot. As if backbone was something other than suicide's first, best tool. * Gone. You might be word to a poisonous garden. You might find your signature eating away metals. Oh, to be forever lost, looking for an index, a night to interrogate. Haven't I promised you an entrance born of thickets. I won't feed you to tigers or not anymore.
* I find him dead so touch his face penetrating the night. Behind his eyes, I find a perfect garden, flowers whispering at stars. He's finally gone, and I climb into his mouth to be his breath singing the night plants. * Taps from something trying to escape the bulb, spinning the filament to rap the glass. With the bulb, the skull. the lens insist on escape from the station, and the windows fly weeping from the solarium. * At the shore in mirrors, what she sees, what is reflected is not the ocean and sun. She lives in the starred night, and the world's glamour a spiral hole in memory. The stagger, dead light: she is diamond. She is starred, drowned for the unilluminated. She is dust aglow with our most persistent forgiving new poison.
Dana Curtis * The skin is shed so now we must pray to plastic landscapes, ruined gods. Everyone forlorn. Until a stranger arrives without eyes, without names. It's what we banished and want back: a riot in the nocturne, fangs pulled, swimming in gold. * When we fall through the trapdoor, invent the dull tale of survival in our houses' ruins, sign our names to the echo list, remember the new world, the fire will become no longer what we hoped for. A girl in a white dress stands in the rapids, her skirt an island, and dances to maintain equilibrium on boiling rocks. * You broke from the web as if it was nothing but thread. Your faith moves in a dark and supple place, beyond reproach. How much sleep do we really need, how many gods? Dear empty, my polished glass, loom without question.
* Forced to her knees in the new snow, muzzle to her temple, she saw the world writhe its paradise to red birds, red buds, insistent thaw. No, no, it must be her eyes icing over and she says: * If the gravel pit, a graven image, the grave and the chart zoned full of leaves. I am not. You are my garden and my leviathan: activated by kites. Your hair spreads out in the water, and the stones pave your back. * Velvet plays the river, sunfish instigate silk, pleasure extends ruined forest, for the cochlea, membrane: she doesn't know her name anymore--down to the water's edge. It's true but all is forgiven as rhythm penetrates the feathery drink. * Because he was the organist, the church thought him a faithful slave. But he had snakes in his hands, sun in his mouth and where she holds herself on ice, he glows the water one last time.
* A crevice in conscience, or faith, desire or liquid: venom. The bird's shadow whispers the wall while all the snakes emerge from vague houses to cross the river and circumnavigate the crisis center. The snake devours the bird: the shadow swims the cathedral.
Lulu's Veil and Jocasta's Brooch
In answer to your question: I'm pretty sure all the birds are dead now -- this will teach them not to think such dark thoughts, such purple blotches across a cat's electric fur. In response to the continental shift, may I just say: I've always loved cracks in the earth, web underfoot, the veil I only wear at murder trials or someone else's wedding. Think about it. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the result, at what holds diamonds, the silk: the wayward river from the eyesocket. I spent a long time looking for just the right frame -black with a dial. It connects to what I need to connect -- historical fragments jumping out of the bright red box. In reference to the shutting of the cemetery, the removal of your mouth, the selling of a crystal doorknob: yes or no, maybe later, vivid.
No looking through lenses, fashion decisions: the place to go when you're going blind, blind and there's just not a thing to do but submit--in hell-black night endured-to tests, to fate, find out just how blind you are, how fast light fades--one eye a pendulum, the other a clock--the time told: circadian, digital, binary, celestial, eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves, last meal, final will, cyclical--maybe the rats will save you or Foucault or some nameless physicist squealing: let there be light! In the country of the blind. . .the muted bulbs must be for dilations: lines of pupils blotting out color, eyes become holes the twilight gods soon enter--here, the one-eyed is king, queen, banished at last to some strip mall to pick out designer frames, drive off without a care (a vacation of sightseeing) better dead than blind and living. It's dark and getting darker---open a window, night is your friend: there must be something in darkness not found in light.
Finished as in a tuna casserole, Pyrex dish starred with carrots and pimento, jalapeños’ awful fluorescence -I am done with this. “How did you do with the compulsories?” “I chose not to.” “How did you escape?” “I let the hammer come down as if hanging a painting of a fish market.” Black-eyed to a can of disease(how we glow) remember walking through glass -- love the wound-the blood left on the lips not the feet. Do we dance despite the pain or because of the pain? : if I'm not looking through a camera, it just isn't real. But if it is through a camera, I've destroyed reality. As if hanging a favorite enemy -- sometimes the peppers overwhelm everything and sometimes they make all the difference. Tumors: I would like to put a period to this ugly incident. I would like to forget the possibility of a new sentence. I have forgotten that the new sentence might be something I like. Sentencing will begin after lunch. Looking through this lens, I have destroyed one reality and replaced it with another. Not mine. It was day and the record was night. I saw ocean and got desert. That is the nature of this art. After the compulsory portion of the competition, I passed out in the bathroom -- where the tile is pale blue and the light flickers -- after indulging a self-portrait-- the bell tolls: undone, undone, undone.
Meditations on the Idiomatic Universe
Yes, I have an ax to grind. It's ornamental silver and festooned with red feathers. When I'm through, there will be nothing but shining dust. To grind an ax is to make it sharper. The sharper the blade, the more damage. The handle is oak. There is no reason to grind it. Maybe polish, maybe burn. Attach it to a new ax when the old one is dust. Dig two graves. A crystalline evening: I'm three sheets to the wind. The night is not made of crystal or anything else or it is made of air and light -- fragrance of wine and honeysuckle -- is the light fading or faded? It means to be drunk. I don't know why. Why three? Have the sheets escaped a laundry line? Does it have anything to do with a ship? Sailing. There is no wind this night. It is calm, humid, dripping down to no morning. Each sip is the memory of the first and the promise of the last. Hope springs. I feel a bit long in the tooth. As horses age, their teeth grow longer. Death's door is where long yellow teeth end. Where everything ends. You've talked the talk, now you must walk the walk. You said it, now back it up. Backwards as if.
:I'll meet you at the café tonight (we’ll trip the light fantastic/We’ll sing the body electric) you're quite a tomato, sob sister as sweet as honey a bitter pill cold is a comfort on a hot night the little bird told me (it had red feathers) showing no quarter sober as a judge Wake the judge. Judgment Day is upon us. Pay the piper wearing black leather and purple velvet -the pipe is a wooden flute, a plastic recorder, ivory and brass -smoke obscured. I've never seen a clock so clean. Pure as the driven snow driven mad, mad, mad as a hatter, let us worship its perfection as it strikes midnight. White lizard shoes abandoned on a spiral staircase. Does the shoe fit? Wear it or not. Time ‘s up (in the clouds.) Now tell me your regrets.
the cats have come for you, want to know why, want a terminal explication de texte you cannot find the equation to quantify their journeys, cannot and will not determine sound and fur they do not appreciate eternity x+y=∞ in this lead box, cyanide is god (cyanide is always god, invisible standing on the sun) toss them in oxygen they fall like stars on the carpet marbles on the lawn dust in the nucleus jewels in the blades they write your name
Schrรถdinger on the Ex-planet
We've found snakes where there should be cats, but meanwhile, the children play on the train tracks. Deaf and inevitable, it grinds them into bullets and rings. I always knew, always entrenched the savory noise, dreamt of jumping boxcars, seeing the light in my eyes become some sort of meaning. All children die on train tracks; ever fascinating the invisible life. Far be it for me to unleash the sky--this time--entrapped and who's on the floor. Do I, does anyone remember the knives we used? Think: we carved them to artifacts-hear the whistle and don't feel well. Everything is to excess. Who doesn't matter so long as bodies hit the ground, all that's left. Someone has triangulated my location. I'll do anything now: bury the bodies, skin the snakes. The desert is so astonishing at night. Let's talk about this. Let's figure it out, entangle mathematics; What shall we do without meaning? The cusp ruined the prophecies. I walked barefoot into a burning night.
My mouth stuffed with chrysanthemums, whisper the enemies. Feel time's languid breaths. How much they must hate us--. Keep us young and spiteful. Contraindicated: toxin accelerated and I wanted to die, wanted to kill. And how easy it would be. Even blind, I am the silhouette, the empty battle that combs rocks, bushes, cabinets--brushes our hair like unseen wings. Not another injection; someone always dies. The garden twists through my bones under the red sun. Flame become iris. The machine stops, grinding itself. What the silence tells: not even a whisper, a feather; a virus in its dormant stage opens luminous eyes. Pray with me elementals. I am the fire sign. Shadow, silhouette, whisper the silver reflection. We'll be digging holes on each planet, excavating the zodiac I stopped beside the star
filled foundation. Tiny fish dart in vaccines. I rest my face against the icy marble, green scented as sand. Fireflies in a mating frenzy: everything is the ice serpentine under unseasonable sun. Leaves demonstrate its fluted axioms. Biology coats me in honey. Archeology drinks my eyes. Desire turns on the light. (Pray with me, invertebrate, pray and be praised. Life might still be sweet.) I swore I would not tell that story again: the compass, magnet, room full of flowers and sweets. The enemy has indicated the roles. Good-bye memory. I pretend it is not the dream I always forgot, the prayer of ceilings and torches.
After a performance of the Philip Glass score to Dracula (1931) performed by Kronos Quartet A black and white country where he digs for jewels slicing his fingers open in terrible sun. Blood, thirsty from prison, washes the panic in a rust velvet, cauterized by dust. He penetrates a bone cache, brushes dirt from a perfect fang. Lurking near the faux bridge to the false theater, against film, drowned bats in the indigo painted water: he's very passionate and of unknown origin. Light breaks everything and nothing to crystal and plastic: life's negation. The musicians shine ghosts behind the screen, and his white hand clutches toward them. A cold night: sound drinks, opens veins, obeys no one, traces the ruined stairway where he exults in native soil.
I thought I'd lost the trick of hating you. To stand and unwind the cloth from my eyes. You cover my face to again be found. In a well, fallen among thieves, we kiss. The orchard withers like flesh the dogs tore. I thought I'd lost the trick of hating you. My midnight ruin, my forlorn treasure, when you forget the last ragged moment, you cover my face to again be found. The skin's code has written love in amber, and you are broken amid birds and ice. I thought I'd lost the trick of hating you. Whispering, you have flown this canted world. Butchering, I have learned the scant echo. You cover my face to again be found. We were lonely, torn and burned: bastard eyes. In the country, this perpetual dance. I thought I'd lost the trick of hating you. You cover my face to again be lost.
While Watching Winged Migration, I Am Murdered
It was dark and they led me to the darkest corner. They knocked me down and began kicking me—over and over, talking and laughing softly. I caught occasional words as I stared at the starless sky: love, metaphor, friend, caretaker, universal. A foot hit my head and I saw the birds migrating out of necessity: I flew out of necessity as well. My home stolen, I sat in my wheatfield nest while the combines cut through. The ducks fell into the water one by one. I ran with the wild horses not toward but away (some fall by the wayside.) No promise to return: they kick and kick: I remain visible. They won’t stop until I’m erased. I thought this would be a peaceful movie, a calm, restful, film. I have been wrong about so many things.
Accused of many things, I couldn't defend myself. I did use scissors. My house, full of knives, I remain a photographer, understand a reality that doesn't move. On the glacier, all is possible-I watch it melt beneath my feet, ice that needs to be here but isn't. Freezing always kills. Or unfreezing. Ice crystals, silver, gelatin, the mist of digital: memory doused in vinegar. I passed out in the bathroom where the tiles are black and the light is too bright, where the fixtures are snakeheads I tried to stare down -- miasma -. At first, I thought the eyes were red jewels: they were painted on and flaking off. The tile is so cool against my cheek; I may never get up. (I became aware of the possibility -there is nothing so terrifying as possibility.) Dogs barking, white mice, I am legless in this dream. Once, a time machine was a black horse, the opposite of a pale horse. The boat is in port, and the ocean is angry -green portal saying I will go there, to planet #9 (how I wish I could have said good-bye), where my friend is alive again. 170
Dana Curtis So far from the sun, we sit in the gazebo and watch the water flow by. In this airless, lightless desert, we remain alive and dead. My body's warmth makes us all happy and bakes us all like so many human cookies slathered with frosting, dotted with sugary decorations. A cave in the floor: empty, twisted pipes thrusting from the cracked wall that might have been a shower. The last thing I saw before the door shut was a shining white slug coiling on itself near the yellow cloud of ceiling. It was possible. I passed out on the bathroom floor not realizing the inconvenience I would cause. Overwhelmed by its neon lights, falling in its false tile, I gave the infant to the furnace, I walk through fire knowing that whatever is consumed is something I don't need, an empty darkroom, frozen.
Dana Curtisâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; second full-length collection of poetry, Camera Stellata, is available from CW Books. Her first full-length collection, The Body's Response to Famine, won the Pavement Saw Press Transcontinental Poetry Prize. She has also published six chapbooks: Antiviolet (Pudding House Press), Pyromythology (Finishing Line Press), Twilight Dogs (Pudding House Press), Incubus/Succubus (West Town Press), Dissolve (Sarasota Poetry Theatre Press), and Swingset Enthralled (Talent House Press). Her work has appeared in such publications as Quarterly West, Indiana Review, Colorado Review, and Prairie Schooner. She has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the McKnight Foundation. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Elixir Press.
A PRIMER FOR THE MINOTAURIC ARTS
Poems by Carey Scott Wilkerson
Some of the poems assembled here have appeared in different forms in E路ratio, Genessee Word Lab, Drift Herm猫tique, and Heal Box. I am grateful indeed to the editors of these fine publications.
This Chapbook is dedicated to my colleagues in the English Department at Columbus State University.
Contents Asterion / 181 Theseus in Nine Lines and a Line / 182 Modal Maps and Tropes Enough to Hang Oneself With / 183 Ten Sleeps and Topoi (Thesean Departures) / 184 Still Life with Mimosa Tree / 185 Roman Conceptions / 186 Seven Gates of Logic / 187 Hacceity without Just Saying It / 195 Better Betrayals at Night / 196 Some things the Minotaur Will Have Said / 197 Asterios in Other Translations or Asterion is the Variation / 198 A Word Problem with Recursions / 199
Carey Scott Wilkerson
The name will have been a problem for anyone looking to names or shoe knots promulgated as as mathematics in the academy number theory played out in school Someone will have been It and some others will have been compelled to go toward shadows in rooms with grim glylphic portents whispers too in stories and the dread of certain monster tales
Theseus in Nine Lines and a Line
Written back to you in the voice of your halcyon Athenian days is a song sung sibilant in oracular tongue or else the plaintive tropes of whom do you think but Ariadne in her provincial daydreams shores sluicing away to distant histories and troubling news from the Cretan underground press tresses of hair in the morning tides tendrils in the wading pools and then of course ships either coming or going, knowing as maps manifest
Carey Scott Wilkerson
Modal Maps and Tropes Enough to Hang Oneself With
This way to the openings and that way, perhaps, to something other than the properly folded space of memory, of a maze. Light has a scattered and lost look diffracted around the corners of your story older than the properties of a molded face of symmetry, of a haze. Here, then, is a vision of multicursal and controversial solutions, fractals if anyone remembers those, some rhizomic cartography of your heart
Ten Sleeps and Topoi (Thesean Departures)
Leave some love to pin this paper on reason
Peel the morning heat and (same) which to gather is be
Repeal a given hand or received view with blade, with such as would
Drape it down over and know retreat to filmic splices
Inquire as to the wren eggs, which have been said to be painted and plenary
Remember the dumpster and the stranger you met there in autumn ply*
Summarize the pay phone activity in the park across from your accident
Contact the man who claims to have a Wagnerian Tuba in his basement
Dream of a southern sky
10. Keep a record of your movements in the Cartesian style; sew them in Quilts * There is a man in the corner of a room where I live. I saw him go upstairs. I saw his face blinking through the balustrade. He says he moves at right angles to the world. I am concerned about this 184
and about his dietary needs. I notice that milk has gone missing, which is embarrassing, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t you agree?
Carey Scott Wilkerson
Still Life with Mimosa Tree
I was thinking this morning about the list of things I need and the list of things I reason would be among the things I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Some things were on the first list and not on the second while others were on the second but not the first And then I started thinking about what kind of thing would be on both lists, that is to say: both things I need and things I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. It seemed to me that this was somehow more than a wandering idyll or an idle wonder or a trick or a game or a vision, a Labyrinthus. I have seen a shattered foot from the Colossus at Rhodes and I have smelled perfumes of of cedars Africana in the North. And that is a dazzlement I am not poet enough to write whether I need to or not.
Lost objects are contained in the cathedrals of desire Found art is named in the procedures we require to remind us why nature does not move from the simple to the complex. Wittgenstein is perhaps half right to say the world is whatever is the case Ovid is ambiguous on the Minotuarâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s face two-formed
Carey Scott Wilkerson
Seven Gates of Logic And I will keep a diary of this poem in the open for visitors to inspect: in its pages they can find a book of absences and the record of a good idea that abstracted too soon and I would say that whatever trouble they portend is perhaps central to the project and, in some way, the real reason we ever wondered about fugtuive ontologies and hiding.
Or Roll me to the rounding of my love or else modulus 4 at the frontier edge a place for all the lost balls of a hotel hallucination to save an ex-girlfriendâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s theory of fat and skins and love in Mt. Washington, California she climbed the library shelf and fell with sex in specific gravity Or else I was there is in sleep, accelerations, and fearie lights
Carey Scott Wilkerson
Not Not a rave review, I think Not a rare appearance, I hope Not a trace of usable evidence, I suspect Not a one like it to be found around here Not a good start to this at all. Not a bad ending after all Not if I have anything do with it.
X(Nor) It is not the case that we have so many who would build the machine without first considering what it will do to the other machines there are systems of equations and protocols you may remember from a cleaner time so, whatever eats must fail, must fail fully
Carey Scott Wilkerson
He does not like his electronic cooker for meats so we get him an old- fashioned one but a part is missing: the fuel gauge, an essential piece, which arrives a month later, exotic in the packaging, odd to the touch and terrible in its finality: now, he has to go out into the cold and dark.
You write about the sound, for so few will ever get to hear it you wonder if the most important detail is maybe the part you cannot hear: the subsonic, the curving whisper, and you scribble for hours; this is hardest part: the things shows or it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t and then: what can it all mean? I mean, is that some sound we will have known?
Carey Scott Wilkerson
There is an old truck at the intersection of Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevard painted the colors of this great country: Red, White and Blue and with no ironic distance I will sleep in that truck tonight, eating an egg sandwich I stole from my porn-shop job* listening to hustlers tripping by, sucking toward some quiet dawn, edge of allegiance waiting, not to say, wishing for someone to ask me what it will have been.
* The owner was a crystal-meth tweaker. His mother had sent eggsalad and fried-egg sandwiches, which he never ate and which I took, not without shame, from his basement desk before they rotted on pens and needles. He collected jars of mayonnaise and fired me summarily for drawing pictures of Medea slaughtering her children, after the 19th colorist, EugĂ¨ne Delacroix. I drew this picture on a legal pad, but that hardly makes any of it legal: I swept floors and heard a woman scream. A customer claimed to have made his fortune selling bowties to pigboys.
No one even really understands this; it is complex and one finds many disagreements on fine points Indeed, it is as if the theory outstrips itself, and that seems comic enough to a fool like me but what if something goes seriously wrong? what if we simply cannot understand the problem? Oidoi singers sing songs about epic preparations
Carey Scott Wilkerson
Haecceity without Just Saying It
Which of us had it: those unfinished and broken structures appear lovely at night(?) I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t write any of it down, as I should, you know, because I am responsible for what will have been said here. I think they agreed in principle to give me a certain interpretive latitude when, in all truth, some longitude might finally have proved the greater gesture
Better Betrayals at Night
There is a game to be adduced here, and I can confess somewhat to feeling-as I trace the arcs of a life through your clean rooms or along my unmappable streets across the colonnades of false triumphs with their tattered bunting stinging the windâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; that this sequence of play, if indeed it ever ends, will not end well. The penitent topologist knows the numbers are arranged against him and his pretension to knowledge, but to unroll these charts is to find love in fractal fossils and perhaps to recover some dignity in marching off forever in the wrong direction dropping bread crumbs down the through the reductio. Just add absurdum. And thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the kind of cheap jest for which I must be punished, for permitting this to go on. Anyway, it sounds like prose by now. Only that the word was good enough begin with but irretrievably corrupt by the time we made it to the border And I can admit a certain perverse (but informed) thrill in leaving behind those provincials and their quaint notions of spatial relationships In any case, the first one to the frontier gets to lick the door and kiss the witch, just like coming home.
Carey Scott Wilkerson
Some Things the Minotaur Will Have Said
Know two ways about it Write to the edge of shadow Place it before you It is implaced Surgery was a solution Someone should rethink the schematics Push as one pushes pull to be push A further a letter a Sing as what would be sung in dark places Someone moved ninety degrees and was cornered Plural terms will get you nowhere good(s) A tessurae An imbrication A lurid stare from a logical positivist Place it behind you A plunder a mediation Querulous petitions Around it goes A round object shows America America A mirror cut Pray in the morning heat and (same) which to gather is be
Asterios in Other Translations or Asterion is the Variation
the graphical or better perhaps to say magical paper here folded into certain provocative shapes is the first evidence I present in my theory-of-the-world-as-labyrinth you know these kinds of projects are begun and almost never completed and this, too, is part of the aesthetic claim: that some pathways lead to yet others while some go no
whatever else is true of the paper, its center, its putative margins one should not expect clarity, resolution, and certainly no illumination
Carey Scott Wilkerson
it is dark in here and impossible to read the map I want to think here about I seem to recall having once wondered whether criticism must follow the art, causally, which is to say: in the causal chain
First the objet dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;art, then the critical condition or as an act to be imagined, vulnerable in empty rooms if I peel away the trust from my hands knotted in exegetical semaphore touch this place
motion to go
put the art before the course so, too, with matters of lost to the ravages of in a world of you will have known
Carey Scott Wilkerson
A Word Problem with Recursions Even silence conceals a doomed body and everyone knows the calculation: strung out along the freeway, appositives in the trunk, querulous company, leveraged on miracles and afraid to pull over not for fear of accusing stares or merciless critique but for the self-generative jokes we keep in quantum states until we need them, exit strategies in metropolitan deliquescence vignettes shaped on styles probative small talk. This cacophony is a droning whisper in drag, and none but the most cynical will subtract from tricks of light these speeches, multiply nominative in the predicates of sleep singly true in falsities of travel: your personal effects marking a trail, and who knows if you ever find your way back? world in bucolic posture, you climb the barbed wire a covered bridge burned by accident, restored by chance disclosures draped over you all the while you walk while you wander learning you are lost
Scott Wilkerson teaches in the Department of English at Columbus State University, holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, and his book Threading Stone is published by New Plains Press.
Contents i am swigging domestic beer from a warm can / 209 my mental attitude confines me like a porcupine at the zoo / 210 self-esteem is a clumsy exercise / 211 i think about all laws i can violate as i rummage through my refrigerator for food / 212 my favorite way to burn calories is to stand around inhaling secondhand smoke / 213 i accidentally felt okay today without drinking alcohol / 214 in 2011 the olsen twins turn 25 / 215 a vintage kodak image of a woman smoking newports on a boat / 216 sometimes my bones feel like giant noodles / 217 one time i faked a limp to cut in line at the olive garden / 218 i feel settled like the wreckage of a german u-boat / 219 i am convinced i am uncertain of everything i do / 220 i watched the earth explode like a piñata / 221 i tied my 401K to a calf made of gold / 222 i was sitting on a subway bench last night / 223 i will author my obit with a quill made of peacock / 224 i felt 'machiavellian' this morning when i slithered out of bed / 225 there is a time in every young man's life when he must kill a snake / 226 malaise is the relish i slather on all my jumbo ballpark franks / 227 I’m watching ‘planet earth’ on blu-ray / 229 208
i am swigging domestic beer from a warm can i am using the sidewalk as a makeshift yoga mat and everything seems inordinately exaggerated like a clumpy and splattered piece of abstract art suddenly i feel like the screamer in the scream but instead of screaming iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m just coughing a lot
my mental attitude confines me like a porcupine at the zoo i feel like uninterruptedly sprinting blindfolded in a diagonal line and not even stopping for alternative modes of transportation i can see a station wagon mowing me over on metropolitan and i can see myself laying in the avenue like the handsomest cat
self-esteem is a clumsy exercise my girlfriend ordered a pilates DVD because she felt fat or something she talked about the DVD constantly and i hated having to hear about it she used it as an excuse to eat pizza and when the DVD finally arrived i remember she cried a whole lot i remember thinking â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;whyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; or something
i think about all laws i can violate as i rummage through my refrigerator for food sometimes i jump up and down on my bed and pretend iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m in outer space bouncing in slow-motion across the surface of some planet that isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t earth it makes me feel like an astronaut killing aliens at hopscotch on venus or mars and sometimes i get the feeling that every human sound comes from a flute played by a constrictor snake in the garden of a small retirement community across the street from a long pier built for elderly pedestrians in jupiter, florida
my favorite way to burn calories is to stand around inhaling secondhand smoke last night something happened outside my window around 3 a.m. there were voices in the dark whispering indecipherable french or italian i remember thinking â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;this feels like some kind of alfred hitchcock thingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; immediately after i thought this i began feeling exponentially better i felt blood pulsing between my skull and my pillow with no pillowcase and my spine sort of sunk gradually through the rips in my jockeys i fell back asleep with all the lights on and it was about 100 degrees
i accidentally felt okay today without drinking alcohol i saw some punks in kilts on st mark’s place i thought ‘i could maybe wear one of those’ then thought ‘no i could not’ and i wondered what an asshole mel gibson must have been in 1995 on the set of the movie braveheart then i remembered the way my blood tastes whenever i floss my teeth over-exuberantly
in 2011 the olsen twins turn 25 i saw a giant piece of petrified wood on the cover a dentist’s old magazine the caption read ‘200-million-year-old’ i was breathing hard in a reclining chair feeling sick against the hygienist’s touch and the roll of novocain made me flimsy
a vintage kodak image of a woman smoking newports on a boat i held you one time like a woman holding a cigarette you were touching your stomach onto my stomach we were like white rope tangled around a ship mast bright smoke just kind of floated around the room i pictured a storm cloud chewing and swallowing us later i saw your butt smutted on a plate and moving a little i felt the burn of warm medicine for a cancerous growth then my body crab-crawled diagonally across the wall
sometimes my bones feel like giant noodles i was falling off someoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s broken fire escape it was hot, the moon stung like a pissed wasp and my face inflated like a leathery trophy wife then wax matter began oozing from my nose it was flavored just like the fermented lo mein i had eaten yesterday in some hot pepper oil when i finally hit the pavement i began to hurl
one time i faked a limp to cut in line at the olive garden the hostesses asked me what was wrong and said i had a rare disease or something she nodded and immediately escorted me to the front of the garden salad buffet line all the other patrons resented me for this and they wished they too were visible sick i had two glasses of their finest chardonnay after dinner i went home and laughed a lot i remember i thinking ‘wow’ or ‘oh my god’
i feel settled like the wreckage of a german u-boat sometimes i live like a tadpole in a drainage pond feasting on the sinking remains of freshwater bugs swimming through beetle juice with sperm wings and sometimes i slouch like iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m living on dead land on a july afternoon in a landlocked desert region and i feel like a crow caw echoing across the sky
i am convinced i am uncertain of everything i do i am scrawling my name on a map with an ink pen i am circling and re-circling a city i name after me and i feel grumpy like a cross-eyed hammerhead this is one of the special exercises i have invented to sculpt my heavy dorsal and pectoral features i call this â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;radical imaginary resistance trainingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;
i watched the earth explode like a pi単ata i pictured myself running through dark woods and being trampled by a big-ass jackass pi単ata and then something miraculous began to occur my body started to sag and my tongue grew fur i drank some listerine and it burned really bad
i tied my 401K to a calf made of gold i stood in a cubicle on the 67th floor in an awkward bending yoga pose and everything seemed blah and sepia like a despairing independent film suddenly i felt like chugging 6 coors and then throwing-up 2 or 3 of them
i was sitting on a subway bench last night it smelled like someone died, or like curry crickets hopped around on the wet cement it seemed reminiscent of seinfeld or something but in a totally different context wish i understood the game cricket in order to appreciate england more
i will author my obit with a quill made of peacock i am wearing a waxen bucket of chicken on my head i feel like a beekeeper who's been stung too much when i wake up i instinctually scream like a rooster usually around midnight or in the late afternoon my sound waves enter space and tear satellites apart the satellites spark and fall through the atmosphere pieces of space-age wreckage pepper the midwest and invoke the architecture of frank lloyd wright
i felt 'machiavellian' this morning when i slithered out of bed i looked through my bedroom window and thought ‘machiavelli’ and i whispered ‘machiavelli’ then swallowed and felt ambivalent i pictured myself dressing and walking in slow motion into public then i saw a seagull in the air and felt sad thinking ‘panama city’ i stood up, pissed, showered, shaved, and rode the train to work later i felt bad for not feeling bad for thinking ‘you clumsy cunt’ when i witnessed a white chick slip hard on a patch of black ice
there is a time in every young man's life when he must kill a snake there was a heat wave one summer and things were frying outside people feared the air spread cureless fever and bolted their doors one night my dad swore he saw a snake in the pink garage insulation but no one believe him and my mom said 'youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve succumb to the heat' eggs went missing from the refrigerator over the course of several days no one entered the kitchen in fear that there a serpent lived among us i ripped up all the wood and tile floors and i knocked down every wall i found the snake stuck in the frosty dust of an air conditioning duct the snake was frozen and it felt like a scaly fudgesicle as i bit down
malaise is the relish i slather on all my jumbo ballpark franks i feel like boozing myself impervious to all human control i am thinking my arms and legs are giant endangered sequoias i watch aerobics instructors butter torsos with mayonnaise i measure my existence in terms of oil, egg yolk, and vinegar
i’m watching ‘planet earth’ on blu-ray i’m thinking of getting a tattoo on my arm an ironic self-motto in century gothic font i move my feet and feel like a bird mascot i think ‘life is romantic dramedy, uh-huh’ and i imagine the feeling of sharks circling and sharks biting off pieces of my ankles
Adam Moorad appreciates your attention. He is an author of modest repute. Some of his writing applies to you. He lives in Brooklyn
Amy Wright on the Necropastoral The Fleecy White Pastoral of Decay Review of Joyelle McSweeney’s The Necropastoral, Spork Press (2011) Scholar Harold Toliver characterizes the pastoral by its appetite “to devour elegies, lyrics, plays, fairy tales, masques, odes and even to gnaw ambitiously at romances, epics, and novels,”[i] making it the crème genre and choice palate cleanser for the epicurious 21st century. Joyelle McSweeney savors its power to absorb by opening The Necropastoral with a critical essay on Jack Smith’s film Normal Love, which he refers to on a grant application as “EXOTIC LANDORDISM OF THE WORLD.” If one doesn’t own a field and sheep of her own, she might reel through “the crinkled Vale of / Food-for-thought” choosing kumquats and squashing grapes.[ii] It is telling that this hard-bound chapbook published by Spork Press features no publication city. The Necropastoral is cross-location, takes place in a modern country that is one part “rainslicked hairpin” and two parts “harddrive.” We come flying around the turn of the has-been heading toward outer space. The novel isn’t dead it’s necro. New means old; attics are basements; speed is grace. We come to originality schooled with awareness that we’re just stirring the kettle, not even adding a pinch of saffron to it. What McSweeney is doing is “convulsive and selfcontaminating, accessing both a Golden Age, a prehistory somehow concurrent with, even adjacent to, the present tense.”[iii] Tense is the operative denominator, as each “King Prion” first relieves the pressure with a valve-like whistle. “Hoooooooo” begins each poem in this seven-poem series with identical titles, as if none will withstand the heat of its own impetus without a preliminary release. The device is leading, generative of that space of union between reader and written Barthes uses to characterize text, and as demanding of confrontation as Matthew Barney’s The Cremaster Cycle.[iv] If you have heard McSweeney read the poems aloud, its operatic call is as up-lilting as a farmer bidding stock, summoning the Landrace of Bentheium in from the pastures, the fleecy white subjects of commercial interests. These are not your grandfather’s purchases.
Like Barney’s five-film cycle, The Necropastoral is a performance, an enactment that takes readers off the presented page. If you cannot make the showing, it will not, for you, be made. But there is comfort in the packaging, like bringing home a brochure from the 2002-3 exhibition. If the craft did not open for you and carry you into what the Guggenheim show curator, Nancy Spector, calls the “selfenclosed aesthetic system” of Barney’s cycle, you can still walk away with a picture of the dehorned red-head to remind you of its alien vision. McSweeney’s system, in contrast, is referential and dependent on connections within and without the series, including the character of King Prion and pastoral rhetoric. Readers function as a sonic bridge, transistors on whose ear crackles: —Hoooooooo Used to haunt the lobby While you stood there in your Capezios White-ankled As anything tied to a spit Every journeyman is an apprentice who learns the electrician’s trade by wiring her own circuits, and this writing asks more of us than conduit. In return, it offers itself as an art object. Andrew Shuta collages shimmer on the cover, drizzle a turquoise backdrop in front of which tree trunks and revolutionaries prop the title and motorbike wheels ride out a zombie highway, a kind of quid pro quo or guarantor of interest whether it is pulled out or not. The dominant figure that forms The Necropastoral is King Prion, who is a character that appears briefly in an 1898 travel narrative, Frederick Albion Ober’s Crusoe’s Island: A Bird Hunter’s Story. The book is introduced by its editor as part of a “home reading series,” which declares a “new education” that combines original observation and systematic home reading. If we now educate ourselves via experiments learned in the classroom, (and McSweeney is on faculty at the University of Notre Dame) we learned them from early classrooms. The editor who introduces Ober’s volume, William Harris, calls for a method to extend education from those initiatives at Cambridge and Oxford in which experts began supplementing home reading with round-tables, and discussion circles with lectures. Harris promotes a method of reading that goes beyond the school to “make self-culture a habit of life.”[v] The integration
of creative writers and academia is an old story in which it is increasingly apparent that a teaching poet shapes not only the poetics of individual classrooms, but that of the reading public. For those who would learn to hunt birds from this Prion king, begin by dragging a river of leaves. One reads The Necropastoral as one might read a label, skimming, with some resistance, and uncertain as to just what manna we have been fed/drugged/diddled into: I just wanted to give my body to A net of guarine Ginkgo-biloba azatine melanine Camphobacter phylactery nicotine Critical consciousness is discomfiting. How do women negotiate the “go-home-and-feed-the-baby milk of it” against “a highbrow eyebrow / Pencil skirt and smile”?[vi] The way Rilke says we answer questions by living into them. Grounded in nothing but repetition, the poems circle round the locus of their winged, aerial center. A prion is both a folded protein and a small petrel bird. In Ober’s text, the prion is christened “King of the woods” by the bird-hunter, who, on a walk by a fern-laced stream meets him, learns his call and imitates it: “Who?” the hunter says, walking around, calling to the tree tops in mimicry. Before the prion answers, a second arrives so that the bird-hunter cannot know if it is the original prion or a competitor who answers his “Who?” for “Who?” in echo, but they go on “bandying words for awhile and thoroughly mystifying the wondering birds.”[vii] Except birds do not mystify, only people. If you want to be ignored, try conversing across genus. The small petrel is more interested in its gullet than a human agent. Against its implied disinterest, the question of “Who?” reverberates outside this forest toward the ontological questions posed by the Chesire cat, Ramana Maharshi, and others. As Alice and numerous sanyyasins attest, seeking the answer outside oneself indicates trouble. McSweeney drops that call for response. The “Hoooooooo” that opens each poem implies there are no questions but ones that answer: Whoozat Beggar French His hat blade cut the murk about his Antibody. His switchhand Switched like a cat. McSweeney’s swashbuckling use of a sometime-Victorian capitalization emphasizes the performative quality of the lyric, as idiosyncratically tuned as Hopkins meter. Sound-driven by the
“ooh-oon” of lagoon and ah, the same aural compulsion that drives a title like Bernadette Meyer’s The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters is alive and kicking. Listen to “bent / Over the medical suite / Table In San Diego Wholly / Martyred from the bottom”[viii] and tell me rhyme hasn’t gone underground and offed itself, triumphed and risen. Reclaimed and incantatory, this verse isn’t high, it’s inebriate of air and syllable, spinning Emily Dickinson: “You thought you could Death / On your own terms Do.”[ix] Fat chance Andromeda cat, the age-old hymnals will even school you. The Necropastoral is in conversation with a pastoral tradition that most recently includes Erik Anderson’s The Poetics of Trespass, (Otis Books, Seismicity Editions, 2010). The initiate of his project is to step off the letters p-a-s-t-o-r-a-l in a twenty-block Denver radius. A travel record of pointed wandering to find domestic comfort anywhere, Trespass realizes the find is not what is imperative but that “soul stirred by some divinely wrought swizzle.” In it as well as McSweeney, the “I” recedes along the avenues, undergoing recession and decay. Death, McSweeney clarifies, is media, while Anderson illustrates it via Roland Barthes’ The Lover’s Discourse: “die Wunde, die Wunde! says Parsifal, thereby becoming ‘himself.’” The loss of the self traces a ghostly expedition through streets, as his speaker walks out thought in all its iterations, which “is not the thinking.” The thinking is something else and possibly unthinkable. The crush is generative. Normal Love, referenced in McSweeney’s introductory essay, is a never-finale of a 20-year old cinematic project that did not solidify as a completed work. The 1989 death of filmmaker Jack Smith alone caps a narrative by stopping the wax pencil whereby the bleed was endless because the editing process was. The concluding section, “Arcadia,” or “Anachronism: A Necropastoral Effigy” is a list and stabilizing scaffold on which to burn the I that has been resurrected. It has more lives than a cat. Unstable as a nucleic acid exposed to the misfoldings of prion, “I” was a few items ago a camera and before that, a sheep and “an at home experience,” and further, La Lunette and springtime. I is in transit, more of an incubation period, an operating table from which clones are harvested or “shedding copies.”[x] I is an artist by which chronos is unseated, because to keep time is to lose it. Grace changed, or “had changed.” She was running from a marine, “she hadn’t known…but she would feel the presence of his activities.”[xi] The pun is clever and wry, one of many reminders to keep readers on their toes. “Now I am another,” the last line reads. By it nothing is laid to rest but the sweet corn compost of psychological illusion. Let’s just say, as Cher did of
Velvet Underground, here lies an anarchy so restive it “won’t replace anything, except maybe suicide.” Thus, carpe artem! Seize not the day but those streetsmart shepherds who grasp it. [i] Toliver, Harold. Pastoral Forms and Attitudes. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971. Print. 3 [ii] McSweeney, Joyelle. The Necropastoral. Spork Press, 2011. Print. 9 [iii] Ibid., 2 [iv] The Cremaster Cycle website including film clip. [v] Ober, Frederick A. Crusoe’s Island: A Bird-hunter’s Story. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1898. Print. Viii [vi] Ibid., 15 [vii] Ibid., 15 [viii] Ibid. [ix] Ibid. [x] Ibid. [xi] Ibid., 30 *
[“The Fleecy White Pastoral of Decay” was first published in H_NGM_N #13. Special thanks to H_NGM_N’s editors and to Amy Wright for permission to reprint.]
Amy Wright is laying the groundwork to be house mother at a writers始 colony in Virginia. True to her Appalachian farmers始 daughter work ethic, she also teaches writing, edits a journal, runs WombomB Press, which handcrafts artist books, and is learning to play the Woodrow.