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a starving music will come to eat the body carleen tibbetts



table of contents let’s start with traps/5 the dream from which i woke saying denouement/6 you’re okay with this ravenous system if we call it a charmed structure/7 it’s in her botany/8 gaslight/9 cross-contaminant/10 we have a custom & the custom so named is fractionhood/11 something darkling/12 we travel among the same monsters & with the same longing/13 dream about who never like i/14 “woman” redirects here. for other uses, see woman, (disambiguation)./15 i will not ask you for your history/17 shame makes all the warm sounds/18 gestation/19 explosion is just how a heart beats out/20 nocturne.elle./21 the architecture of the machine is love/22 cognizance/23 desire for a lumined anything/24 a starving music will come to eat the body/25 the cave network where she had been dimly animal/26 you may borrow a revolver as a substitute for the future/27 disarticulation/28 acknowledgements/29


let’s start with traps a splashing human thing mistaken for smaller prey (everything you hear about running in a straight line is untrue) & this poem grows hungry for even the smallest thing: a leaf exsanguinating a cicatrix the undusted wings of a doomed butterfly the sister-feeling of______ this rusting from the inside


the dream from which i woke saying denouement or any dream in the shape of an effigy in my hands, some readymade act of deformance, like darkness, began in the mouth. At its smallest, matter has no ideals. Still, own the dirt of you, the very ____ of your name. The unbelievable dust a name leaves behind.


you’re okay with this ravenous system if we call it a charmed structure

or rupture an aubade to the refusal of hurt caulked together

& called body


slushslush of conquest song wrecked

against some mountains

spare us the soft artifact rocking some mothervoiced playmouth antigen

how to sorrow: make a home in a fuguethroated syllable misdial some light (a lushy lux charge in the air) & rifle through the mica of miracle

softboundaried anatomy of salvation

encrusted with the sweet ANTIgen of praise wrung from the hymn

RIFLE through not as in search as in CUT spiral grooves within as in a cannon with such grooves as in gun as in GUN ning for yr mineshaft orifices yr landmine hands


it’s in her botany dripping with sore-pinked personstain dizzying some derivative of flower the placing of a plushy regret an embellished thing unfurls & hot little bones give way


gaslight it is in the things whispered against napes of necks under a twelve-step backsliding moon the thing bloomed beautiful over the lie & the shy lips of one saying i am unnamed without you


cross-contaminant the moment of realization a dull, wet sound a breaking from within bringing a sour, gamey taste in the mouth reagent


passively aggressively love

(when & if ) made

regarding the agent acting

passive-aggressively liminal

what is known: every morning there is birdsong today i made our bed for the last time


we have a custom & the custom so named is fractionhood we abandon our too-sudden bodies in preparation for the nothing underneath yet insist the dead are intact when we say bodies we mean migratory acts stuffed with flammable & radio silence & sacral shortcomings of all pretty things we rise like science & sprawl oracular kingdoms of star charts this the whole of the island where we lagoon in vacant sleep & love nothing except our pelvic hollows & the shine of water moving true


something darkling animals in me holding onto the blue hour uncosseted i recall each little howling ___is the new night, another essential for___ you sieve your heart as you'd separate grain from the chaff the implications of an open window undeveloped film canisters the impossible crawl toward____ like cotton anticipates the combing a fouled falsification of glimmer falls apart in my mouth but anything that isn't moonspeak isn't worth having the greatest mistake a body makes is not realizing that all life is borrowed form


we travel among the same monsters & with the same longing carry the animal pain of arriving stars fall behind schedule their light a breach a mission doomed from the outset still you space crush handler of such insatiable colors juice up the kitsch of the fraudulent moon elsewhere, insatiability announcing itself as empires of light


dream about who never like i last night happened in the unslendered vortex. called ___. called the river. you favor yr midnights in dreamseries. nightmares you’d stand in line for. asleep in yr fallout luster. dream about who never like i. now in dreams are only. are jersey-soft abstractions of the sun. the drown of human. i’s extracted in small pieces.


“woman” redirects here. for other uses, see woman (disambiguation). “everything is female in the dark” – Christie Anne Reynolds a kind of othering ripthroated gritmouthed volatile rising of the underneath [she bansheed her heart in the transitive] trace of finger down spine she, sugared she, honey-thighed the gaping and then the swelling shut he said i was a thing to be played with a thing a pretty thing for his amusement he took me he took me from behind & afterward he asked me what it felt like to be a woman i really wouldn’t know i said* vultured by he [a who to her that ] & yet complicator of himness she: catastrophe of limb she: an array of whispertruths she: the cliché of a body that loves only wrongly, of a body to be wrecked against she: a mouth that says yes & not enough he said i was a thing to be played with a thing a pretty thing for his amusement he took me he took me from behind & afterward he asked me what it felt like to be a woman i really wouldn’t know i said* ::her sex a matter of equivalency::an equation most of the time:: body + performance =______ in bed with rumination/ruination [unintelligible] the cute of the lie musking of lady play

of skin & slit & the sour [carrioned & carried on with]

she unbuttons at the fractal & all the light goes stuttering sour-cherried she speaks burnt through her murmurous & unmathable problem


[a complete disfigurement of the line] girl as adverb as habit as truant light as fishless waters dressy in her smallness disastrous in her cusping a starring—meaning a blemishing (something ugly with the capacity for shine) he said i was a thing to be played with a thing a pretty thing for his amusement he took me he took me from behind & afterward he asked me what it felt like to be a woman i really wouldn’t know i said* lorded over or captured or captained or captioned she is afterimage

false false false

& & &

glowing she wears the dark she wears her dark her totality is the unworded kind of loneliness the unnameable innermost point of her the innermost point of her deeper in yet & deeper still

*note the potential for excess in her echoing


i will not ask you for your history here is the part that gives me trouble: we put our lips to another’s ear and blow a relaxed way to endure loneliness pull the pin on the ____ grenade of people who get to lose themselves we witness the unbearable purity of our arms flowering in the small hours on the on chance that this system kills us as its guests


shame makes all the warm sounds i tried to philosophize rupture, but it soured at the initial bite i tried stub out the coda like a cigarette, but it took me by the hair & dragged me through the streets i made my body a comma i voltaged in slow motion shame guilt-plumes, makes all the warm sounds, takes shape in the dark when i’m dead, do not allow yourself to heal completely when i’m dead, write forgery on my bones & confront the loneliest of truths


gestation this is how we come to loss: faintly, imperceptibly, as we are knit together, as we are mapped, as our soul says, i choose this body


explosion is just how a heart beats out we drone plane fearing the tantalizing mega of all the love that waits for us on the ground desire is the originator of all things & it’s greedy to take the whole machine but explosion is just how a heart beats out the spectra of courted loss a way to hold & be held as all night the leaked agency of human invites its own demise


nocturne. elle. the motherless traffic disintegrates a bloodclot an embolism a cluster of ants deswarming not-dark & dark argue: what is light but disturbance? dark wins unfriendly porches dim storefront windows wear embalmed faces your face dusk is death portraiture a limp toward welcome exhaust how long light travels to be snuffed out post-rush hour but exists in storm drains soiled artificial


the architecture of the machine is love a woman/i for her/me this is a song young with trust a-glow with bright half-life open the night & let the silk in open her/myself the meat of her/my brain (the soft circuitry of a torn-apart flower) the woman/i went hungry in another’s percussive throat a guttered self-respect lit from within the woman/i born in this orthodoxy of pain this other-than-oneness of a thing this unknowable vocabulary of loss a woman/i find(s) the promise of a swindle comforting a woman/i wake(s) in the surfacing


cognizance it lies unsuspected: a sleuth tick burrowed into your sock at the ankle cognizance is fever breaking, is picking up a shell and hearing not the ocean, but the blood rushing your ears it grows so quiet, the rush becomes deafening


desire for a lumined anything how to unprominent this lack trailing her, creeping like a vagrant edging doorways, burrowing bone-deep, mossing over her mouth she knows pain is a thing to be taken apart she knows she is a thing to be taken apart


a starving music will come to eat the body so find the metric eat around the bad parts & pay as you go love that perfect kind of rot the high monotony of –ologies the doublecross of body anyway, in real time, dance such tumbling may occur you talk like a bath being drawn in the next room tell me softness has no gender say sunshine, an incision into the mirrored forever & a plush hymnal spills out


the cave network where she had been dimly animal echoed an attracting tune of deafening reds beautiful enslavements of miracle as if velvetclutched within a flower yes these woods are furred in solitude continuously i sensed goodness in the creature she stretched her mouth toward her one true god the tender glitch inside her voids a detonation of song heard in an underwater way


you may borrow a revolver as a substitute for the future if your bones refuse the heavy work of the stay & the fight subtract wings from memory or desire (whichever is sharper) pour the jazz from the radiant parody of you a given volume of honey is repeating the way water takes what it wants the way Spring makes liars of us all


disarticulation “delicate words simply dissolve when immersed in their meaning�-Christian Bok a sound, a word gone dead in the mouth this demispeak this continual collapse this suffocation this pathogenic act language should velveteen as does shine culled from light should swan into spangle sounds should night-purr should hum [a bonesound slow-dancing through this soul suit] like marrow utterance is really just another word for corrosion


acknowledgements Endless gratitude to the editors and staff of the following journals where these poems originally appeared: Ancora Imparo, Coconut, decomP, dusie, H_NGM_N, Ilk Journal, inter|rupture, The Laurel Review, The Pinch Journal, Newport Life Magazine, Sink Review, Swine Magazine, Thrush Poetry Journal, Vector Press, and Word Riot. I’d also like to thank the following individuals for their encouragement, support, and inspiration: Russell Jaffe, Leilani Hall, Dorothy Barresi, Gail Wronsky, Nancy Carroll, Anne Yale, Deborah Blakely-Averill, Clint Campbell, Erin Lyndal Martin, Omer Zalmanowitz, Sophia Petkovic, Susana Gardner, Carrie Hunter, Johnny Hernandez, Jamison Crabtree, Carrie Lorig, James Schiller, Steven Karl, Shannon Hozinec, Anthony Madrid, Daniela Olszewska, Caryl Pagel, Leah Umansky, Bret Shepard, Louise Mathias, kathryn l. pringle, Alexandra Naughton, Amy Newman, Jorie Graham, C.D. Wright, Lisa Robertson, Stacy Doris, j/j hastain, Lisa Jarnot, Chelsey Minnis, Alice Notley, Catherine Wagner, and Rachel Zolf.


FIVE QUARTERLY | Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2014 by Carleen Tibbetts Published by Five Quarterly Cover art by Mollie Wolforth Design by Josh Collin, Elina Hoffmann, Sheila Vazir, Mollie Wohlforth


a starving music will come to eat the body  
a starving music will come to eat the body  

Carleen Tibbetts' winning poetry e-chapbook from the 2014 Five Quarterly competition.