[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Limbo: Altered States"
No sooner does the plane angle up
than I cork off to dream a bomb blast:
A fireball roiling through the cabin in slo-mo,
seat blown loose from its bolts,
I hang weightless a nanosecond
     in blue space

then jerk awake to ordered rows.
And there's the silver liquor cart jangling
its thousand bells, the perfect doses
of juniper gin and oak-flavored scotch
     held by a rose-nailed hand.

I don't miss drinking, don't miss
driving into shit with more molecular density
than myself, nor the Mission Impossible
reruns I sat before, nor the dead
space inside only alcohol could fill and then
      not even. But I miss

the aftermath, the pure simplicity:
mouth parched, head hissing static.
How little I asked of myself then--to suck
the next breath, suffer the next heave, live
till cocktail hour when I could mix
       the next sickness.

I locked the bathroom door, sat
on the closed commode, shirtless,
in filmy underpants telling myself that death
could fit my grasp and be staved off
while in the smeary shaving glass,
I practiced the stillness of a soul
      awaiting birth.

For the real that swarmed beyond the door
I was pure scorn, dead center of my stone and starless
universe, orbited by no one. Novitiate obliterate, Saint
Absence, Duchess of Naught...
A stinging ether folded me in mist.

Sometimes landing the head's pressure's enormous.
When my plane tilts down, houses grow large, streets
lose their clear geometry. The leafy earth soon fills my portal,
and in the gray graveyard of cars, a stick figure
becomes my son in royal blue cap flapping his arms
as if to rise. Thank god for our place
in this forest of forms, for the gravitas
that draws me back to him, and for how lightly
      lightly I touch down.

--Mary Karr


"On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous"
i


Tell me it was for the hunger
& nothing less. For hunger is to give
the body what it knows

it cannot keep. That this amber light
whittled down by another war
is all that pins my hand

to your chest.


i


You, drowning
            between my arms--
stay.

You, pushing your body
             into the river
only to be left
              with yourself--
stay.


i


I'll tell you how we're wrong enough to be forgiven. How one night, after
backhanding
mother, then taking a chainsaw to the kitchen table, my father went to kneel
in the bathroom until we heard his muffled cries through the walls.
And so I learned that a man, in climax, was the closest thing
to surrender.


i


Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade.
      Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn.
Say autumn despite the green
      in your eyes. Beauty despite
daylight. Say you'd kill for it. Unbreakable dawn
      mounting in your throat.
My thrashing beneath you
     like a sparrow stunned
with falling.


i


Dusk: a blade of honey between our shadows, draining.


i


I wanted to disappear--so I opened the door to a stranger's car. He was divorced. He was still alive. He was sobbing into his hands (hands that tasted like rust). The pink breast cancer ribbon on his keychain swayed in the ignition. Don't we touch each other just to prove we are still here? I was still here once. The moon, distant & flickering, trapped itself in beads of sweat on my neck. I let the fog spill through the cracked window & cover my fangs. When I left, the Buick kept sitting there, a dumb bull in pasture, its eyes searing my shadow onto the side of suburban houses. At home, I threw myself on the bed like a torch & watched the flames gnaw through my mother's house until the sky appeared, bloodshot & massive. How I wanted to be that sky--to hold every flying & falling at once.


i


Say amen. Say amend.

Say yes. Say yes

anyway.


i


In the shower, sweating under cold water, I scrubbed & scrubbed.


i


In the life before this one, you could tell
two people were in love
because when they drove the pickup
over the bridge, their wings
would grow back just in time.

Some days I am still inside the pickup.
Some days I keep waiting.


i


It's not too late. Our heads haloed
       with gnats & summer too early
to leave any marks.
       Your hand under my shirt as static
intensifies on the radio.
       Your other hand pointing
your daddy's revolver
       to the sky. Stars falling one
by one in the cross hairs.
       This means I won't be
afraid if we're already
       here. Already more
than skin can hold. That a body
       beside a body
must make a field
       full of ticking. That your name
is only the sound of clocks
       being set back another hour
& morning
       finds our clothes
on your mother's front porch, shed
       like week-old lilies.

--Ocean Vuong


"Dinosaurs in the Hood"
Let's make a movie called Dinosaurs in the Hood.
Jurassic Park meets Friday meets The Pursuit of Happyness.
There should be a scene where a little black boy is playing
with a toy dinosaur on the bus, then looks out the window
& sees the T. Rex, because there has to be a T. Rex.

Don't let Tarantino direct this. In his version, the boy plays
with a gun, the metaphor: black boys toy with their own lives,
the foreshadow to his end, the spitting image of his father.
Fuck that, the kid has a plastic Brontosaurus or Triceratops
& this is his proof of magic or God or Santa. I want a scene

where a cop car gets pooped on by a pterodactyl, a scene
where the corner store turns into a battle ground. Don't let
the Wayans brothers in this movie. I don't want any racist shit
about Asian people or overused Latino stereotypes.
This movie is about a neighborhood of royal folks--

children of slaves & immigrants & addicts & exiles--saving their town
from real-ass dinosaurs. I don't want some cheesy yet progressive
Hmong sexy hot dude hero with a funny yet strong commanding
black girl buddy-cop film. This is not a vehicle for Will Smith
& Sofia Vergara. I want grandmas on the front porch taking out raptors

with guns they hid in walls & under mattresses. I want those little spitty,
screamy dinosaurs. I want Cicely Tyson to make a speech, maybe two.
I want Viola Davis to save the city in the last scene with a black fist afro pick
through the last dinosaur's long, cold-blood neck. But this can't be
a black movie. This can't be a black movie. This movie can't be dismissed

because of its cast or its audience. This movie can't be a metaphor
for black people & extinction. This movie can't be about race.
This movie can't be about black pain or cause black people pain.
This movie can't be about a long history of having a long history with hurt.
This movie can't be about race. Nobody can say nigga in this movie

who can't say it to my face in public. No chicken jokes in this movie.
No bullets in the heroes. & no one kills the black boy. & no one kills
the black boy. & no one kills the black boy. Besides, the only reason
I want to make this is for that first scene anyway: the little black boy
on the bus with a toy dinosaur, his eyes wide & endless

                            his dreams possible, pulsing, & right there.

--Danez Smith


"Flirtation"
After all, there's no need
to say anything

at first. An orange, peeled
and quartered, flares

like a tulip on a wedgewood plate
Anything can happen.

Outside the sun
has rolled up her rugs

and night strewn salt
across the sky. My heart

is humming a tune
I haven't heard in years!

Quiet's cool flesh--
let's sniff and eat it.

There are ways
to make of the moment

a topiary
so the pleasure's in

walking through.
--Rita Dove
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"[Persian Letters]"
Dear Aleph,

Like Ovid: I'll have no last words.
This is what it means to die among barbarians. Bar bar bar
was how the Greeks heard our speech--
sheep, beasts--and so we became
barbarians. We make them reveal
the brutes they are, Aleph, by the things
we make them name. David,
they tell me, is the one
one should aspire to, but ever since
I first heard them say Philistine
I've known I am Goliath
if I am anything.
--Solmaz Sharif


"Lament of the Conductor"
All the pretty things you do
the way you lean outward
against the window of the train everyday
none of it is mine
    (Only the train is mine)

--Molly Russakoff


"How to Draw a Perfect Circle"
I can imitate the spheres of the model's body, her head,
Her mouth, the chin she rests at the bend of her elbow
But nothing tells me how to make the pupils spiral

From her gaze. Everything the eye sees enters a circle,
The world is connected to a circle: breath spools from the nostrils
And any love to be open becomes an O. The shape inside the circle

Is a circle, the egg fallen outside the nest the serpent circles
Rests in the serpent's gaze the way my gaze rests on the model.
In a blind contour drawing the eye tracks the subject

Without observing what the hand is doing. Everything is connected
By a line curling and canceling itself like the shape of a snake
Swallowing its own decadent tail or a mind that means to destroy itself,

A man circling a railway underpass before attacking a policeman.
To draw the model's nipples I have to let myself be carried away.
I love all the parts of the body. There are as many curves

As there are jewels of matrimony, as many whirls as there are teeth
In the mouth of the future: the mute pearls a bride wears to her 
wedding,
The sleeping ovaries like the heads of riders bunched in a tunnel.

The doors of the subway car imitate an O opening and closing,
In the blood the O spirals its helix of defects, genetic shadows,
But there are no instructions for identifying loved ones who go crazy.

When one morning a black man stabs a black transit cop in the face
And the cop, bleeding from his eye, kills the assailant, no one traveling
To the subway sees it quickly enough to make a camera phone 
witness.

The scene must be carried on the tongue, it must be carried
On the news into the future where it will distract the eyes working
Lines into paper. This is what blind contour drawing conjures in me.

At the center of God looms an O, the devil believes justice is shaped
Like a zero, a militant helmet or war drum, a fist or gun barrel,
A barrel of ruined eggs or skulls. To lift anything from a field

The lifter bends like a broken O. The weight of the body
Lowered into a hole can make anyone say Oh: the onlookers,
The mother, the brothers and sisters. Omen begins with an O.

When I looked into my past I saw the boy I had not seen in years
Do a standing backflip so daring the onlookers called him crazy.
I did not see a moon as white as an onion but I saw a paper plate

Upon which the boy held a plastic knife and sopping meat.
An assailant is a man with history. His mother struggles
To cut an onion preparing a meal to be served after the funeral.

The onion is the best symbol of the O. Sliced, a volatile gas stings
The slicer's eyes like a punishment clouding them until they see
What someone trapped beneath a lid of water sees:

A soft-edged world, a blur of blooms holding a coffin afloat.
The onion is pungent, its scent infects the air with sadness,
All the pallbearers smell it. The mourners watch each other,

They watch the pastor's ambivalence, they wait for the doors to open,
They wait for the appearance of the wounded one-eyed victim
And his advocates, strangers who do not consider the assailant's funeral

Appeasement. Before that day the officer had never fired his gun
In the line of duty. He was chatting with a cabdriver
Beneath the tracks when my cousin circled him holding a knife.

The wound caused no brain damage though his eyeball was severed.
I am not sure how a man with no eye weeps. In the Odyssey
Pink water descends the Cyclops's cratered face after Odysseus

Drives a burning log into it. Anyone could do it. Anyone could
Begin the day with his eyes and end it blind or deceased,
Anyone could lose his mind or his vision. When I go crazy

I am afraid I will walk the streets naked, I am afraid I will shout
Every fucked up thing that troubles or enchants me, I will try to murder
Or make love to everybody before the police handcuff or murder me.

Though the bullet exits a perfect hole it does not leave perfect holes
In the body. A wound is a cell and portal. Without it the blood runs
With no outlet. It is possible to draw handcuffs using loops

Shaped like the symbol for infinity, from the Latin infinitas
Meaning unboundedness. The way you get to anything
Is context. In a blind contour it is not possible to give your subject

A disconnected gaze. Separated from the hand the artist's eye
Begins its own journey. It could have been the same for the Cyclops,
A giant whose gouged eye socket was so large a whole onion

Could fit into it. Separated from the body the eye begins
Its own journey. The world comes full circle: the hours, the harvests,
When the part of the body that holds the soul is finally decomposed

It becomes a circle, a hole that holds everything: blemish, cell,
Womb, parts of the body no one can see. I watched the model
Pull a button loose on her jeans and step out of them

As one might out of a hole in a blue valley, a sea. I found myself
In the dark, I found myself entering her body like a delicate shell
Or soft pill, like this curved thumb of mine against her lips.

You must look without looking to make the perfect circle.
The line, the mind must be a blind continuous liquid
Until the drawing is complete.
--Terrance Hayes


"Ophidiophobia"
Because:

            a garter snake slid over my bare foot

            a copperhead played dead on Spooks Branch Road

            a yellow python hugged a heavy scarf around my neck

            a cottonmouth came charging through a creek I was canoeing

            a black racer at the Nature Center teased a mouse for half an hour
                        then swallowed it

            in the Temple of Doom, the belly of a snake split open, spilling
                        snake-shaped babies

            I used to dream in snakes--I couldn't move for stepping on them

            a snake exists that wears a fish's body

            a man I shouldn't love wore snakeskin boots

--Jessica Reed


"Sheets"
After I.F. Annensky

First the sky was yellow
then white snow followed.

On a hand
was an amethyst: a cube of  lilac in hospital light.



Whose fault is it when no one visits?



Last night I dreamed
I was in a peaceful place
but woke up
freezing and ashamed.

On a side street (on my sheets)
one I loved passed
as a shadow.
Maddish, reddish, his fist
clenched for a fight.



I recalled
his body color
being soft like a child.
The drunken nipples.



Honey I called.
We were too late.
God and the gods have moved
outside the jeweled air
and sun motes   ...    

to where a star is:
an amethyst minus a poet.
--Fanny Howe


"Luz"
Warp (v): To thrust (one's hand) forth; to lay (hands) on; to cast (one's head) down;
to strike (a stroke). Obsolete.


Her blood was water:
there was water all over the floor

when I found her I ran
hands through her damp hair

ran to the street ran my eyes
up to the muscled sky, a thigh flexed

squatting over us, God--as a nurse
with her fingers already on the bone

snapped ándale, get over here
and help me lift the body

to disinfect the wound. Before
she died her blood laid its hands

on the steps and on the rain barrel,
on the tile in the garden. Te riego

I heard her tell the lime tree
flowering in the yard.

Before that before she fell before
she died she swelled:

her ankles and her fingers grew
like pale tubers, thrust

from the soil too soon.
She salted everything she ate

until her rings bit into her skin
and her skin grew over them.

In the church I saw her
sanding the feet of Jesus

from a crucifix to collect the sawdust
in her handkerchief, and so she salted

her tea and her tortillas
with, she said, a holy salt,

a tasteless salt from her pocket
pinched and sprinkled

on cakes and on eggs and in milk
until she swelled so much she prayed

for us to bury her but let her keep
her rings, her wedding ring.

When she fell in the garden
watering the plants

she prayed and fell
against the garden wall with her hands

full of soil and salt
like seeds.

We disinfected water to disinfect
the wound: the blush

of iodine droplets in a bowl
clarified to nothing

more than prayer: te ruego
to the water, to the nurse,

and on her lips I heard her
say te riego.

In the church I always saw her,
absentminded, touch her own hands

as if to touch something under the skin.
At the funeral

her hands were laced
in gloves to hide the stitching

where a finger was
sliced off to take a wedding ring.

If, in the church, there was blood
her blood was colorless

on the white lace and on her skin
there was no mark

to recognize by blood
our hands can hold water

or gold or seeds, our hands can hold
our hands hold earth.
--Laura Bylenok


"Tired"
I am so tired of waiting.
Aren't you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two--
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.
--Langston Hughes


"Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors."
--Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose, translator unknown


"Listeners, I do not know everything about Carlos, and he does not tell me everything. That is okay. We are not one person. How lonely that would be; a couple who has made themselves one so completely that they are once again alone. We are two people, separate, unique, and joined only where we choose to join. I don't know what is his affiliation truly to the University of What It Is, perhaps I will never know. But I can know about the taste of food he has made me, or the feeling of his hand in mine, or the absence of his hand not in mine. I can feel the distance between us and I can know that that distance, viewed properly, is no distance at all."
--Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, Welcome to Night Vale


"If Death Is Kind"
Perhaps if Death is kind, and there can be returning,
We will come back to earth some fragrant night,
And take these lanes to find the sea, and bending
Breathe the same honeysuckle, low and white.
We will come down at night to these resounding beaches
And the long gentle thunder of the sea,
Here for a single hour in the wide starlight
We shall be happy, for the dead are free.
--Sara Teasdale


"What I'm Looking For"
What I’m looking for
is an unmarked door
we’ll walk through
and there: whatever
we’d wished for
beyond the door.

What I’m looking for
is a golden bowl
carefully repaired
a complete world sealed
along cracked lines.

What I’m looking for
may not be there.
What you’re looking for
may or may not
be me. I’m listening for

the return of that sound
I heard in the woods
just now, that silvery sound
that seemed to call
not only to me.
--Maureen N. McLane
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chains not so that man may bear chains without any imagination or comfort, but so that he may throw away the chains and pluck living flowers."
--Karl Marx, "Towards a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: Introduction"


"November Philosophers"
Nothing is nothing, although
he would call me that, she was nothing.
Those were his words, but his hand was lifting
cigarettes in chains and bridges
of ash-light. He said he didn't want his body to last.
It wasn't a year I could argue
against that kind of talk, so I cut the fowl
killed on the farm a mile out--brown and silvery, wild--
and put it over butter lettuce, lettuce then lime.
I heated brandy in the saucepan, poured a strip of molasses
slowly through the cold, slow as I'd seen
a shaman pour pine tincture over the floor
of my beaten house.
She seemed to see my whole life
by ordinance of some god
who wanted me alive again.
Burnt sage, blue smoke. Then sea salt shaken
into the corners of violent sadness.
She wrote my address
across her chest
to let everything listening know
where my life was made.
We waited, either forgetting what we were
or becoming more brightly human in that pine,
in her trance, in the lavender I set on the chipped sills,
not a trance at all but my deliberate hand cutting
from the yard part of what she required.
Now wait longer, she said, and I did as I would
when the molasses warmed over the pot enough
to come into the brandy,
to come into the night
begun by small confessions--
that this was just a rental, and mine just a floor,
that the woman he loved was with another man,
his mother mad, his apartment haunted in the crawl space.
Then I told of the assault at daybreak between
the houses. Heat, asphalt, all of it and my face toward
the brick school where the apostolate studied first-century script
and song. There must have been chanting,
as it was on the hour.
What we said was liturgy meant only for us
and for that night. Not for anyone else
to repeat, live by, believe. Never that.
Our only theories were inside of our hands,
flesh and land, body and prairie.
I reached to smoke down his next-to-last,
which he lit and made ready.
The poultry like a war ration
we ate all the way through.
What we wished, we said.
What we said, we found that night
by these, and no other,
means.
--Katie Ford


"Empty Chairs"
Empty empty empty
so many empty chairs
everywhere. They look
charming in van Gogh's paintings.

I quietly sit on them
and try to rock
but they don't move--
they are frozen
by what's breathing inside them.

Van Gogh waves his paintbrush--
leave leave leave
there's no funeral tonight.

He looks straight through me,
and I sit down
in the flames of his sunflower
like a piece of clay to be fired.
--Liu Xia, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern


"The Song of the Happy Shepherd"
The woods of Arcady are dead,
And over is their antique joy;
Of old the world on dreaming fed;
Grey Truth is now her painted toy;
Yet still she turns her restless head:
But O, sick children of the world,
Of all the many changing things
In dreary dancing past us whirled,
To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,
Words alone are certain good.
Where are now the warring kings,
Word be-mockers?--By the Rood
Where are now the warring kings?
An idle word is now their glory,
By the stammering schoolboy said,
Reading some entangled story:
The kings of the old time are dead;
The wandering earth herself may be
Only a sudden flaming word,
In clanging space a moment heard,
Troubling the endless reverie.

Then nowise worship dusty deeds,
Nor seek, for this is also sooth,
To hunger fiercely after truth,
Lest all thy toiling only breeds
New dreams, new dreams; there is no truth
Saving in thine own heart. Seek, then,
No learning from the starry men,
Who follow with the optic glass
The whirling ways of stars that pass--
Seek, then, for this is also sooth,
No word of theirs--the cold star-bane
Has cloven and rent their hearts in twain,
And dead is all their human truth.
Go gather by the humming sea
Some twisted, echo-harbouring shell,
And to its lips thy story tell,
And they thy comforters will be,
Rewarding in melodious guile
Thy fretful words a little while,
Till they shall singing fade in ruth
And die a pearly brotherhood;
For words alone are certain good:
Sing, then, for this is also sooth.

I must be gone: there is a grave
Where daffodil and lily wave,
And I would please the hapless faun,
Buried under the sleepy ground,
With mirthful songs before the dawn.
His shouting days with mirth were crowned;
And still I dream he treads the lawn,
Walking ghostly in the dew,
Pierced by my glad singing through,
My songs of old earth's dreamy youth:
But ah! she dreams not now; dream thou!
For fair are poppies on the brow:
Dream, dream, for this is also sooth.
--W. B. Yeats


"I Was Reading a Scientific Article"
They have photographed the brain
and here is the picture, it is full of
branches as I always suspected,

each time you arrive the electricity
of seeing you is a huge
tree lumbering through my skull, the roots waving.

It is an earth, its fibres wrap
things buried, your forgotten words
are graved in my head, an intricate

red blue and pink prehensile chemistry
veined like a leaf
network, or is it a seascape
with corals and shining tentacles.

I touch you, I am created in you
somewhere as a complex
filament of light

You rest on me and my shoulder holds

your heavy unbelievable
skull, crowded with radiant
suns, a new planet, the people
submerged in you, a lost civilization
I can never excavate:

my hands trace the contours of a total
universe, its different
colors, flowers, its undiscovered
animals, violent or serene

its other air
its claws

its paradise rivers
--Margaret Atwood
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"The Earth"
God loafs around heaven,
without a shape
but He would like to smoke His cigar
or bite His fingernails
and so forth.

God owns heaven
but He craves the earth,
the earth with its little sleepy caves,
its bird resting at the kitchen window,
even its murders lined up like broken chairs,
even its writers digging into their souls
with jackhammers,
even its hucksters selling their animals
for gold,
even its babies sniffing for their music,
the farm house, white as a bone,
sitting in the lap of its corn,
even the statue holding up its widowed life,
but most of all He envies the bodies,
He who has no body.

The eyes, opening and shutting like keyholes
and never forgetting, recording by thousands,
the skull with its brains like eels--
the tablet of the world--
the bones and their joints
that build and break for any trick,
the genitals,
the ballast of the eternal,
and the heart, of course,
that swallows the tides
and spits them out cleansed.

He does not envy the soul so much.
He is all soul
but He would like to house it in a body
and come down
and give it a bath
now and then.
--Anne Sexton


"Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror"
We have seen the city; it is the gibbous
Mirrored eye of an insect. All things happen
On its balcony and are resumed within,
But the action is the cold, syrupy flow
Of a pageant. One feels too confined,
Sifting the April sunlight for clues,
In the mere stillness of the ease of its
Parameter. The hand holds no chalk
And each part of the whole falls off
And cannot know it knew, except
Here and there, in cold pockets
Of remembrance, whispers out of time.
--John Ashbery


"Forgetfulness"
Forgetfulness is like a song
That, freed from beat and measure, wanders.
Forgetfulness is like a bird whose wings are reconciled,
Outspread and motionless,--
A bird that coasts the wind unwearyingly.

Forgetfulness is rain at night,
Or an old house in a forest,--or a child.
Forgetfulness is white,--white as a blasted tree,
And it may stun the sybil into prophecy,
Or bury the Gods.

I can remember much forgetfulness.
--Hart Crane


"Wintering"
I am no longer ashamed
how for weeks, after, I wanted
to be dead--not to die,

mind you, or do
myself in--but to be there
already, walking amongst

all those I'd lost, to join
the throng singing,
if that's what there is--

or the nothing, the gnawing--
So be it. I wished
to be warm--& worn--

like the quilt my grandmother
must have made, one side
a patchwork of color--

blues, green like the underside
of a leaf--the other
an old pattern of the dolls

of the world, never cut out
but sewn whole--if the world
were Scotsmen & sailors

in traditional uniforms.
Mourning, I've learned, is just
a moment, many,

grief the long betrothal
beyond. Grief what
we wed, ringing us--

heirloom brought
from my father's hot house--
the quilt heavy tonight

at the foot of my marriage bed,
its weight months of needling
& thread. Each straightish,

pale, uneven stitch
like the white hairs I earned
all that hollowed year--pull one

& ten more will come,
wearing white, to its funeral--
each a mourner, a winter,


gathering ash at my temple.
--Kevin Young


"Saint Francis and the Sow"
The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
--Galway Kinnell


"Conversation"
For Maud

--How old?

--It was completely inadvertent. 
  It was more or less late afternoon
  and I came over a hilltop
  and smack in front of me was the sunset.

--Couldn't you have turned around and gone back?

--Wherever you turn, a window
  in a childhood house fills with fire.

--Remember the pennies we put on the track,
  how the train left behind only the bright splashes?

--Everything startles with its beauty
  when assigned value has been eradicated,
  especially if the value assigned is one cent.

--Does the past ever get too heavy to lug around?

--If your rucksack is too full it could
  wrestle you down backwards.

--Does it ever get lighter?

--It might if so-called obsolete words
  falling off the back end of the language.

--Is it easier to figure things out when you're old?

--I once thought so. Once I said to myself,
  "If I could sit in one place on earth
  and try to understand, it would be here."

--Nice thought.

--Yes, but where was I when I thought it?

--Where do you think you might have
  ended up had you turned around?

--Where the swaying feet of a hanged man
  would take him, if he were set walking, nobody knows.

--Maybe only half of you is a hanged man.

--Each individual consciousness would be much
  more dangerous if it had more than one body.

--Do you feel a draft?

--It could be a lost moment, unconnected
  with earth, just passing through.

--Or did I forget to shut the front door?

--Maybe a window exploded.

--Have you noticed the light bulb in the cellar
  blows out about every two months?

--When ordinary things feel odd
  and odd things normal, be careful.

--I like life best when everything's
  doing what it's supposed to do.

--Kissers kiss, roofers roof, matter matters.

--Don't forget to call your friend in Des Moines.

--I called him. He said he's feeling good.
  He said he had just finished eating an orange.

--Where would you like to be right now?

--I'd like to be at McCoy Stadium
  watching a good game of baseball. And you?

--Me, too. I like it when there's a runner on third.
  At every pitch he starts for home
  and then immediately scurries back.

--If it's a wild pitch, he hovers
  a moment to be sure it's really wild
  and then is quick--like a tear,
  with a tiny bit of sunlight inside it.

--Why the bit of sunlight?

--It would be his allotment of hope.
--Galway Kinnell



"And Then It Was Less Bleak Because We Said So"
Today there has been so much talk of things exploding
into other things, so much that we all become curious, that we
all run outside into the hot streets
and hug. Romance is a grotto of eager stones
anticipating light, or a girl whose teeth
you can always see. With more sparkle and pop
is the only way to live. Your confetti tongue explodes
into acid jazz. Small typewriters
that other people keep in their eyes
click away at all our farewell parties. It is hard
to pack for the rest of your life. Someone is always
eating cold cucumber noodles. Someone will drop by later
to help dismantle some furniture. A lot can go wrong
if you sleep or think, but the trees go on waving
their broken little hands.
--Wendy Xu


"Mushrooms"
Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.
--Sylvia Plath


"Conversation"
for Robert Lowell

We smile at each other
and I lean back against the wicker couch.
How does it feel to be dead? I say.
You touch my knees with your blue fingers.
And when you open your mouth,
a ball of yellow light falls to the floor
and burns a hole through it.
Don't tell me, I say. I don't want to hear.
Did you ever, you start,
wear a certain kind of silk dress
and just by accident,
so inconsequential you barely notice it,
your fingers graze that dress
and you hear the sound of a knife cutting paper,
you see it too
and you realize how that image
is simply the extension of another image,
that your own life
is a chain of words
that one day will snap.
Words, you say, young girls in a circle, holding hands,
and beginning to rise heavenward
in their confirmation dresses,
like white helium balloons,
the wreaths of flowers on their heads spinning,
and above all that,
that's where I'm floating,
and that's what it's like
only ten times clearer,
ten times more horrible.
Could anyone alive survive it?
--Ai


"Centrifugal"
The spider living in the bike seat has finally spun
its own spokes through the wheels.
I have seen it crawl upside down, armored
black and jigging back to the hollow frame,
have felt the stickiness break
as the tire pulls free the stitches of last night's sewing.
We've ridden this bike together for a week now,
two legs in gyre by daylight, and at night,
the eight converting gears into looms, handle bars
into sails. This is how it is to be part of a cycle--
to be always in motion, and to be always
woven to something else.
--Douglas S. Jones


"Genealogy"
I carry you, a fleck, to Jamaica At the Chinese temple in Kingston
I am sick daily Victor leads me upstairs, says this floor was once
Nights, I hold the bed's edges full of beds where men off the boat
a raft on the rolling sea slept, ate, washed sea salt from their skin,
You inside me, all this hope prayed at the jade altar with two lions
Sweet speck, what will you be? that too, had shipped from China.
Too new to be anything We drive to the old cemetery, not before
I say nothing Victor pays the wild-eyed boy who "guards" the car.
the way I stay silent He might hurt us, the vodka bottle he holds is
about my grandfather made of blue glass. His lips are red and sore.
who beat all his children I stand on my grandfather's small grave,
with a strap pen in hand. I am allowed to write his name on since
The sun burns the cemetery floor the marker has been chipped off,
I am woozy marble sold. Wow crazy day huh, Victor says. An honor
I don't know why I'm here to pay your filial duty to your grandfather?
--Hannah Lowe
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
THE SONG OF THE NEEDLES

Needles have the sudden beauty
of a first line.
They're always new and surprising
as they burst from their paper covering.
They sing as they hit the air.

You catch sight of them
out of the corner of your eye,
glinting softly to themselves
as they contemplate their next move.

What they're suggesting is inspired,
but a certain sadness
attends their description
of what is going on.
You don't know whether to look away,
or accept what they're saying.

If you're lucky you'll feel a pop
as one of them enters your fistula
and a cool feeling of recognition
spreads up through your arm.
--Hugo Williams, "Notes from Dialysis"


"Cymothoa Exigua"
trigger warning: racism, lynching, bodily mutilation )
--Roger Reeves
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
A not admitting of the wound
Until it grew so wide
That all my Life had entered it
And there were troughs beside--

A closing of the simple lid that opened to the sun
Until the tender Carpenter
Perpetual nail it down--
--Emily Dickinson


"Real isn't what they try to tell you. Time isn't. Grown-ups hammer down all these markers, bells, schedules, coffee-breaks, to stake down time so you'll start believing it's something small and mean, something that scrapes flake after flake off of everything you love till there's nothing left; to stake you down so you don't lift off and fly away, somersaulting through whirlpools of months, skimming through eddies of glittering seconds, pouring handfuls of hours over your upturned face."
--Tana French


"Bridlepath"
It was quiet in the old house.
The plants were all upstairs
           and it was sunning.
There was gin somewhere but who can find it?
At the edge of the white forest they saw
the old house, the house of that part.
Well it was never so rundown, but it
           was shelter
and they looked so lovely in its lavender.
They talked all the time of "the eve"
and as they rocked and creaked they swore
            but so softly. In the air
the house had continually renewed itself
up the hill until it looked quite haggard,
and it looked newer this way which depressed
the considerate tourists who never whittled
the trees any more because the house looked
more interesting, blue with the shadow of twigs.
          Something is going to happen,
but they won't be walking this way.

--Frank O'Hara


"Human feeling is like the mighty rivers that bless the earth: it does not wait for beauty--it flows with resistless force and brings beauty with it."
--George Eliot


"Miles Away"
I want you and you are not here. I pause
in this garden, breathing the colour thought is
before language into still air. Even your name
is a pale ghost and, though I exhale it again
and again, it will not stay with me. Tonight
I make you up, imagine you, your movements clearer
than the words I have you say you said before.

Wherever you are now, inside my head you fix me
with a look, standing here whilst cool late light
dissolves into the earth. I have got your mouth wrong,
but still it smiles. I hold you closer, miles away,
inventing love, until the calls of nightjars
interrupt and turn what was to come, was certain,
into memory. The stars are filming us for no one.
--Carol Ann Duffy


"Password"
A key broke its neck
in the lock. Around
back, a nest of blue

bombing jays would peck
at our ducking
heads and flash

away with our hair
in their beaks. Yellow-
jackets blocked the way

to the basement
with a quiver of stings.
There was something

sharp and striped curled
around a rung
of the ladder. The mud-

spattered skylight
was cracked
by webs, and half-

sleeping bats
lined the chimney
with the angles

of their ears. If only
the windows knew us
from a storm

or a thief who would bash
in the glass and spirit
away what is ours--

away over the petrified
prints that waited
deep down under the grass.
--Carolyn Guinzio


"sorrows"
who would believe them winged
who would believe they could be

beautiful         who would believe
they could fall so in love with mortals

that they would attach themselves
as scars attach and ride the skin


sometimes we hear them in our dreams
rattling their skulls         clicking their bony fingers

envying our crackling hair
our spice filled flesh

they have heard me beseeching
as I whispered into my own

cupped hands       enough not me again
enough       but who can distinguish

one human voice   
amid such choruses of desire

--Lucille Clifton


"After Apple-Picking"
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
--Robert Frost


"Jubilee"
By now I know the miles my blood travels
each year. I know the mendicant's hunger--

hollowness moves in, my body becomes
the cave I am seeking. I drag the jaws

of a dead wolf from its den for the meat between
his teeth. I am red and reeking with the journey.

I am a ravening animal weeping for the angel
with broken hands standing sentry over the ossuary.

I am harrowed, hallowed. I am stone, stone,
I have not trembled. Love nails me to the world.
--Traci Brimhall
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"under a soprano sky"
    1.

once i lived on pillars in a green house
boarded by lilacs that rocked voices into weeds.
i bled an owl's blood
shredding the grass until i
rocked in a choir of worms.
obscene with hands, i wooed the world
with thumbs
                        while yo-yos hummed.
was it an unborn lacquer i peeled?
the woods, tall as waves, sang in mixed
tongues that loosened the scalp
and my bones wrapped in white dust
returned to echo in my thighs.

i hear a pulse wandering somewhere
on vague embankments.
O are my hands breathing?    I cannot smell the nerves.
i saw the sun
ripening green stones for fields.
O have my eyes run down?    i cannot taste my birth.

         2.

now as i move, mouth quivering with silks
my skin runs soft with eyes.
descending into my legs, i follow obscure birds
purchasing orthopedic wings.
the air is late this summer.

i peel the spine and flood
the earth with adolescence.
O who will pump these breasts?    I cannot waltz my tongue.

under a soprano sky, a woman sings,
lovely as chandeliers. 

--Sonia Sanchez


"Self-Portrait as a Chimera"
I am what I have done--

A sweeping gesture to the thorn of mast jutting from my mother's spine--spine a series of narrow steps leading to the temple of her neck where the things we worship demand we hurl her heart from that height, still warm, still humming with the holy music of an organ--

We do. We do. We do and do and do.

The last wild horse leaping off a cliff at Dana Point. A hurtling God carved from red clay. Wings of wind. Two satellite eyes spiraling like coals from a long-cold fire. Dreaming of Cortés, his dirty-beard and the burns it left when we kissed. Yet we kissed for years and my savage hair wove around him like braids of smoke.

Skeletons of apples rot the gardens of Thalheim. First snow wept at the windows while I held a man's wife in my arms. I palmed her heavy breasts like loot bags. Her teeth at my throat like a pearl necklace I could break to pieces. I would break to pieces. Dieb.

A bandit born with masked eyes. El Maragato's thigh wound glittering like red lace. My love hidden away in a cave as I face the gallows each morning, her scent the bandana around my face, her picture folded in the cuff of my boot.

The gravediggers and their beautiful shoulder blades smooth as shovel heads. I build and build my brother a funeral, eating the dirt along the way--queen of pica, pilferer of misery feasts--hoarding my brother like a wrecked Spanish galleon. I am more cerulean than the sea I swallow each day on the way to reaching out for him, to sing his name, to wear him like a dress made of debris.

These dark rosettes name me Jaguar. These stripes are my slave dress. Black soot. Red hematite. I am filled with ink. A codice, splayed, opened, ready to be burnt in the square--

I am. I am and am and am. What have I done?
--Natalie Diaz
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"He Marries the Stuffed-Owl Exhibit at the Indiana Welcome Center"
He marries her mites and the wires in her wings,
he marries her yellow glass eyes and black centers,
he marries her near-total head turn, he marries
      the curve of each of her claws, he marries
the information plaque, he marries the extinction
       of this kind of owl, he marries the owl
that she loved in life and the last thought of him
in the thick of her mind
        just one inch away from the bullet, there,
                            he marries the moths
who make holes in the owl, who have eaten the owl
almost all away, he marries the branch of the tree
that she grips, he marries the real-looking moss
and dead leaves, he marries the smell of must
that surrounds her, he marries the strong blue
       stares of children, he marries nasty smudges
of their noses on the glass, he marries the camera
that points at the owl to make sure no one steals her,
so the camera won't object when he breaks the glass
while reciting some vows that he wrote himself,
he screams OWL instead of I'LL and then ALWAYS
LOVE HER, he screams HAVE AND TO HOLD
and takes hold of the owl and wrenches the owl
away from her branch
            and he covers her in kisses and the owl
thinks, "More moths," and at the final hungry kiss,
"That must have been the last big bite, there is no more
of me left to eat and thank God," when he marries
the stuffing out of the owl and hoots as the owl flies out
under his arm, they elope into the darkness of Indiana,
Indiana he screams is their new life and WELCOME.
They live in a tree together now, and the children of
Welcome to Indiana say who even more than usual,
and the children of Welcome to Indiana they wonder
where they belong. Not in Indiana, they say to themselves,
the state of all-consuming love, we cannot belong in Indiana,
       as night falls and the moths appear one by one, hungry.

--Patricia Lockwood


"The Feeling of Needing a Pen"
       Really, like a urine but even more gold,
       I thought of that line and I felt it, even
between two legs I felt it, the legs I wrote
just now, a panic, a run-walk to the private
              room with a picture of a woman
on the door, or else the line was long, too long,
I barged into the men's, and felt stares burning
hard like reading or noon, felt them looking
me up and over, felt them looking me over
and down, and all the while just holding their
pens,
      they do it different oh no they don't,
they do it standing up, they do it at the window,
they do it so secret in a three-hour bath, they do it
      aloud to someone else, their wife is catching
every word and every word is gold. What you eat
      is in it, blackberries for breakfast are in it,
fat atoms of Shakespeare and Hitler are in it.
The sound of water makes me need to: Atlantic,
Pacific, Caspian, Black. I feel it so much because
I am pregnant, I am pregnant with a little self,
                                 all of its self
is that spot on a dog that causes its leg to kick.
It kicked and I felt and I wrote that last line. Even
now it's happening. I eat only asparagus like arrows,
I am famous for my aim. I get almost none on my hands,
almost. Under my feet the streets, under the streets
              the pipes. Inside the pipes a babble sound.

--Patricia Lockwood


"Nessie Wants to Watch Herself Doing It"
Doing what, I don't know, being alive. The green
of her is a scum on the surface, she would like
to look at herself. Should I have a memory?
she wonders. Of nothing washing my frogskin
in muddy water? I do not have that memory.
My near-transparent frogskin? Mother washing
it with mud to keep it visible? I do not have that
memory, almost, almost. Warmblooded though
she knows for a fact, and spontaneously generated
from the sun on stone, and one hundred vertebrae in every
wave of the lake, as one hundred vertebrae in every wave
of her. All of her meat blue rare blue rare, a spot
on her neck that would drive her wild if anyone ever
touched it, and the tip of her tail ends with -ness and
-less. So far all she knows of the alphabet is signs
that say NO SWIMMING.
             So far all she knows is her whereabouts.
Has great HATRED for the parochial, does the liver
of the lake. Would like to go to universe...al...ity?
        She has heard there is a good one in Germany.
They stay up all night drinking some black sludge,
and grow long beards rather than look at them-
selves, and do thought experiments like: if I am not
in Scotland, does Scotland even exist? What do I look
like when no one is looking? She would listen to them
just as hard as she could with the mud-sucking holes
in her head--and they, she thinks, would listen back,
with their ears so regularly described as seashell.
The half of her that is underwater would like to be
under a desk, the head of her that is underwater
would like to be fully immersed.
                                I will be different there,
she thinks, with a powerful wake ahead of me.
When will the thinkers come for me. Visited only 
here by believers. Is so deep-sea-sick of believers.
When will the thinkers come for me here, where
the green stretches out before me, and I am my own
front lawn. The green is a reflective green, a green
in the juicy shadows of leaves--a bosky even green--
a word I will learn to use, and use without self-
consciousness, when at last I go to Germany. I have 
holed myself away from here, sometimes I am not here
at all, and I feel like the nice clean hole in the leaf
               and the magnifying glass above me.
She looks to the believers on the shore. A picture
               it would last longer! shouts Nessie.
Does NOT believe photography can rise to the level
of art, no matter how much rain falls in it, as levels
of the lake they rose to art when Nessie dipped
her body in it. Nessie wants to watch herself doing
it. Doing what, I don't know, being alive. The lake
bought one Nessie and brought her home. She almost
died of loneliness until it gave her a mirror. The lake
could be a mirror, thinks Nessie. Would be perfectly
                                  still if I weren't in it.

--Patricia Lockwood


"Factories Are Everywhere in Poetry Right Now"
We are watching a crayon being made, we are children,
           we are watching the crayon become crayons
and more crayons and thinking how can there be enough
room in America to make what makes it up, we are thinking
all American is a factory by now, the head of it churning out 
       fake oranges, the hand of it churning out glass bottles,
                  the heel of it churning out Lego men.
We are watching lifelike snakes get made, we are watching
lifelike rats get made, we are watching army men get made;
         a whole factory for magic wands, a whole factory
for endless scarves, a whole factory, America, for the making
of the doves, a whole factory, America,
                             for the making of long-eared
rabbits and their love of deep dark holes. We are watching
a marble being made, how does the cat's eye get in the marble
and how does the sight get into that, how does the hand get
on it, how does the hand attach to the child, how does the child
attach to the dirt, and how does the dirt attach to its only name,
America. The name is manufactured here by rows of me in airless
             rooms. Sunlight is accidental, sunlight is runoff
from the lightbulb factory, is ooze on the surface of all our rivers.
Our abandoned factories make empty space and our largest
factory produces distance and its endless conveyor produces miles.
And people in the basement produce our underground. Hillbilly
     teeth are made here, but hillbilly teeth are made everywhere
maybe. The factory that makes us is overseas, and meanwhile we,
America, churn out China, France, Russia, Spain, and our glimpses
of them from across the ocean. Above the factory billowing clouds
       can be seen for miles around. Long line of us never glances up
       from the long line of glimpses we're making, we could make
       those glimpses in the dark, our fingertips could see to do it,
                          all the flashing fish in the Finger Lakes
have extra-plus eyes in America. The last factory, which makes last
lines, makes zippers for sudden reveals: a break in the trees opens
    ziiiip on a view, the last line opens ziiiip on enormous meaning.

--Patricia Lockwood


"The Hornet Mascot Falls in Love"
Piece human, piece hornet, the fury
of both, astonishing abs all over it.
Ripped, just ripped to absolute bits,
his head in the hornet and his head
in the hum, and oh he wants to sting
       her. The air he breathes is filled
with flying cheerleader parts. Splits
flips and splits, and ponytails in orbit,
the calm eye of the panty in the center
of the cartwheel, the word HORNETS
--how?--flying off the white uniform.
Cheerleaders are a whole, are known
to disassemble in the middle of the air
and come back down with different
thighs, necks from other girls, a lean
gold torso of Amber-Ray on a bubbling
bottom half of Brooke. The mouths that
cry GOOD HANDS GOOD HANDS.
The arms he loves that make the basket,
the body he loves that drops neat
                           into them.
Oh the hybrid human and hornet, who
       would aim for pink balloons.
Oh the swarm of Cheerleading Entity,
who with their hivemind understand
him. Rhyme about the hornet, her tongue
in her mouth at the top of her throat! Clap
one girl's hand against another's. Even
              exchange screams in the air.
The pom-poms, fact, are flesh. Hornet
Mascot is hungry, and rubs his abs, where
the hornet meets the man. Wants to eat
       and hurl a honey, in the middle
of the air. (No that is bees I'm thinking of.
Like I ever went to class, when the show
was all outside.) The hornet begins to fly
toward the cheerleaders. "Make me
the point of your pyramid," he breathes.
And they take him up in the air with them
and mix and match his parts with theirs,
and all come down with one gold stripe,
      and come down sharp and stunned,
and lie on the ground a minute, all think-
ing am I dead yet, where am I, did we win.

--Patricia Lockwood


What happens when the body goes slack?
When what anchors us just drifts off toward....
What that is ours will remain intact?

When I was young, my father was lord
Of a small kingdom: a wife, a garden,
Kids for whom his word was Word.

It took years for my view to harden,
To shrink him to human size
And realize the door leading out was open.

I walked through, and my eyes
Swallowed everything, no matter
How it cut. To bleed was my prize:

I was free, nobody's daughter,
Perfecting an easy weightless laughter.
--Tracy K. Smith, from "The Speed of Belief"


Of all the original tribes, the Javan has walked into the dappled green light.
Also the Bali, flicking his tail as the last clouds in the world dissolved at his back.
And the Caspian, with his famous winter mane, has lain down finally for good.
Or so we believe. And so I imagine you must be even more alone now,

The only heat of your kind for miles. A solitary country. At dawn, you listen
Past the birds rutting the trees, past even the fish at their mischief. You listen
The way a woman listens to the apparatus of her body. And it reaches you,
My own wish, like a scent, a rag on the wind. It'll do no good to coax you back

From that heaven of leaves, of cool earth and nothing to fear. How far.
How lush your bed. How heavy your prey. Day arrives. You gorge, sleep,
Wade the stream. Night kneels at your feet like a gypsy glistening with jewels.
You raise your head and the great mouth yawns. You swallow the light.
--Tracy K. Smith, from "The Speed of Belief"


"Keno"
Leroy drove to the casinos to play keno, boring keno.
It had cooled down to the 90s by the time he got there;
he needed to go somewhere and not lie. If he could just keep his
mind on the numbers; not talk to any strangers. Anyway it's no fun

to lie to a stranger--no consequences. Leroy had been lying so
much he couldn't think straight. He'd told one woman her son
smoked weed, every single day, by the river. He'd told a man he'd seen
his wife in her black and white dress at the Red Dog. It was all fibs.
Or was it, as soon as he said it it felt true. Leroy had dark hair

making a peninsular shape down on his forehead; wavy hair;
he wore glasses, though he'd never read a word in his life.

He told everyone Marie was some sort of witch or crazy person--
he meant she too was inventing the world, and they
were in competition. He let her bring her dogs into the store,

every day, and fill a gallon bottle with tap water. He
couldn't help it. He couldn't help helping her. She wore a dark
long skirt, a brown long-sleeved shirt, and a hat, so you
couldn't see how dirty she'd get. Or maybe so you just

couldn't see her--He told someone she was scarred on the front
of her body; that he'd seen the scars above her shirt, lacey and white.
No one believed it of course, but it was true.
--Alice Notley, from Culture of One


What is a lie? I think it's whatever you say about a physical
thing, like yourself.
--Alice Notley, "Ruby" from Culture of One


"Unplanted, I"
The universe drifts inside a mind, like a seed that doesn't think where
to go. Snakebitten, I'm delirious; who will believe me if I survive?
Who believes anything but their own lies? or someone else's,
the universe drifts inside a brain, a tissue of lies, a structure in space formed by eyes,

before I first lied. What am I afraid of? Ruby died. That, and that
nothing will stay still--like in a real world. I'm hovering, turning
above the blue-green river, enraptured by my pain. I always
knew it, the worst would come--what kind of cosmos is that?
I didn't ask to be a liar; I didn't ask to be dignified or not; to realize
the truth or not; to be a decent man or not; to be meaningful to you--
      Who the hell are you?

--Alice Notley, from Culture of One
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
" 'What do you want to change in the world?' she continued her recitation, looking away. 'What do you want to preserve? What is the thing you're searching for? What are you running from?'

" 'Nothing,' he said. 'And nothing. And nothing. And...nothing, at least that I know.'

" 'You have no purpose?'

" 'I want to get to Bellona and--' He chuckled. 'Mine's the same as everybody else's; in real life, anyway: to get through the next second, consciousness intact.' "
--Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren


"But the real mind is invisible: you're less aware of it, while you think, than you are of your eye while you see...until something goes wrong with it. Then you become aware of it, with all its dislocated pieces and its rackety functioning, the same way you become aware of your eye when you get a cinder in it."
--Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren


" 'I've never wanted to kill myself,' he said. 'Never in my life. Sometimes I thought I was going to--because I'd gotten some crazy compulsion, to jump off a building or throw myself under a train, just to see what dying was like. But I never thought that life wasn't worth living, or that there was any situation so bad where just sitting it out wouldn't fix it up--that's if I couldn't get up and go somewhere else. But not wanting to kill myself doesn't stop me thinking about death. Say, has this ever happened to you? You're walking along a street, or sitting in a room, or lying down on the leaves, or even talking to people, and suddenly the thought comes--and when it comes, it comes all through you like a stop-action film of a crystal forming or an opening bud: 'I am going to die.' Someday, somewhere, I will be dying, and five seconds after that, I will be dead. And when it comes it comes like--' he smashed cupped palms together in the air so sharply she jumped--'that! And you know it, know your own death, for a whole second, three seconds, maybe five or ten...before the thought goes and you only remember the words you were mumbling, like 'Someday I will die,' which isn't the thought at all, just its ashes.' "
--Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren


"But I realized something. About art. And psychiatry. They're both self-perpetuating systems. Like religion. All three of them promise you a sense of inner worth and meaning, and spend a lot of time telling you about the suffering you have to go through to achieve it. As soon as you get a problem in any one of them, the solution it gives is always to go deeper into the same system. They're all in a rather uneasy truce with one another in what's actually a mortal battle. Like all self-reinforcing systems. At best, each is trying to encompass the other two and define them as sub-groups. You know: religion and art are both forms of madness and madness is the realm of psychiatry. Or, art is the study and praise of man and man's ideals, so therefore a religious experiences becomes just a brutalized aesthetic response and psychiatry is just another tool for the artist to observe man and render his portraits more accurately. And the religious attitude I guess is that the other two are only useful as long as they promote the good life. At worst, they all try to destroy one another. Which is what my psychiatrist, whether he knew it or not, was trying, quite effectively, to do to my painting. I gave up psychiatry too, pretty soon. I just didn't want to get all wound up in any systems at all."
--Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren


" 'You meet a new person, you go with him,' Kid mused, 'and suddenly you get a whole new city.' "
--Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren


"Swinging up into the cab of a truck, miles north of Florida, and the driver asking how long you've been hitching, and the sunlight fills his lime-splattered lap and your rank jeans and he lets the radio play pop music for a while, for a while country; then twists the dial; your forearm burns on the outer edge of the door, your hair snaps and your cheek freezes, and the motion is spindled on the rush of music. So you sit, just breathing, to hear and to move through the red and green country, with the sun in the tree-tops a stutter of bright explosions.

"The City suffers from the lack of it.

"But most of us /have/ come here by way of it."
--Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"I don't subscribe to the notion that a poem is doing its job when people get angry, no. The idea of a poem 'doing its job' is a really foreign one to me. It's not a kitchen implement, that either works or doesn't. It's not a machine whose function is to manufacture human reaction, and if it manufactures enough of the right kind of reaction then it can be judged successful. It's a place that goes onto the map if people return and return to it over a long period of time. Its job is to be there, for the people who want to come to it."
--Patricia Lockwood


"Commander Vimes didn't like the phrase 'The innocent have nothing to fear', believing the innocent had everything to fear, mostly from the guilty but in the longer term even more from those who say things like 'The innocent have nothing to fear'."
--Terry Pratchett


"How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it's just words."
--David Foster Wallace, The Pale King


"Tell me the best fantasy lands aren't deep, deep conversations. The one you had when everyone else was asleep at a slumber party when you were nine years old on the basement floor covered by a green outdoor rug next to her brother's barbell stand. Or the one you had on the bus with that boy when you were fourteen who said girls didn't go out with him because he had a paunch and didn't play football. And you admitted a few things about yourself that didn't sound good. Or the one that kept you in the dining hall so you missed all your afternoon classes in college. Or the one that led you to elope. Or the one last week when you talked about how you felt about failing and failing again until one of the children came running in because you'd forgotten dinner. Tell me, aren't the best fantasies where you have those conversations you don't want to leave, like an island, ancient volcano, surrounded by jeweled waters, warm in the sunlight, icy in the shadow of its caves--a place you remember best for being rare, for being far in the middle of the sea, uninhabitable, or unbearably too inhabitable, left before we ruined it."
--Jimin Han


"Manifesto"
trigger warning: wartime violence )
--Catalina Ferro


"Missed Time"
My notebook has remained blank for months
thanks to the light you shower
around me. I have no use
for my pen, which lies
languorously without grief.

Nothing is better than to live
a storyless life that needs
no writing for meaning--
when I am gone, let others say
they lost a happy man,
though no one can tell how happy I was.
--Ha Jin


"I like people who dream or talk to themselves interminably; I like them, for they are double. They are here and elsewhere."
--Albert Camus
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"I'm free, I think. I shut my eyes and think hard and deep about how free I am, but I can't really understand what it means. All I know is I'm totally alone. All alone in an unfamiliar place, like some solitary explorer who's lost his compass and his map. Is this what it means to be free?"
--Haruki Marukami, Kafka on the Shore



"The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory."
--Henri Bergson, qtd. by Haruki Murakami in Kafka on the Shore



"The Weather in Space"
Is God being or pure force? The wind

Or what commands it? When our lives slow

And we can hold all that we love, it sprawls

In our laps like a gangly doll. When the storm

Kicks up and nothing is ours, we go chasing

After all we're certain to lose, so alive--

Faces radiant with panic.
--Tracy K. Smith



"My God, It's Full of Stars"
1.
We like to think of it as a parallel to what we know,
Only bigger. One man against the authorities.
Or one man against a city of zombies. One man

Who is not, in fact, a man, sent to understand
The caravan of men now chasing him like red ants
Let loose down the pants of America. Man on the run.

Man with a ship to catch, a payload to drop,
This message going out to all of space.... Though
Maybe it's more like life below the sea: silent,

Buoyant, bizarrely benign. Relics
Of a outmoded design. Some like to imagine
A cosmic mother watching through a spray of stars,

Mouthing yes, yes as we toddle toward the light,
Biting her lip if we teeter at some ledge. Longing
To sweep us to her breast, she hopes for the best

While the father storms through adjacent rooms
Ranting with the force of Kingdom Come,
Not caring anymore what might snap us in its jaw.

Sometimes, what I see is a library in a rural community.
All the tall shelves in the big open room. And the pencils
In a cup at Circulation, gnawed on by the entire population.

The books have lived here all along, belonging
For weeks at a time to one or another in the brief sequence
Of family names, speaking (at night mostly) to a face,

A pair of eyes. The most remarkable lies.


2.
Charlton Heston is waiting to be let in. He asked once politely.
A second time with force from the diaphragm. The third time,
He did it like Moses: arms raised high, face an apocryphal white.

Shirt crisp, suit trim, he stoops a little coming in,
Then grows tall. He scans the room. He stands until I gesture,
Then he sits. Birds commence their evening chatter. Someone fires

Charcoals out below. He'll take a whiskey if I have it. Water if I don't.
I ask him to start from the beginning, but he goes only halfway back.
That was the future once, he says. Before the world went upside down.

Hero, survivor. God's right hand man, I know he sees the blank
Surface of the moon where I see a language built from brick and bone.
He sits straight in his seat, takes a long, slow high-thespian breath,

Then lets it go. For all I know, I was the last true man on this earth. And:
May I smoke? The voices outside soften. Planes jet past heading off or back.
Someone cries that she does not want to go to bed. Footsteps overhead.

A fountain in the neighbor's yard babbles to itself, and the night air
Lifts the sound indoors. It was another time, he says, picking up again.
We were pioneers. Will you fight to stay alive here, riding the earth

Toward God-knows-where?
I think of Atlantis buried under ice, gone
One day from sight, the shore from which it rose now glacial and stark.
Our eyes adjust to the dark.


3.
Perhaps the great error is believing we're alone,

That the others have come and gone--a momentary blip--

When all along, space might be choc-full of traffic,

Bursting at the seams with energy we neither feel

Nor see, flush against us, living, dying, deciding,

Setting solid feet down on planets everywhere,

Bowing to the great stars that command, pitching stones

At whatever are their moons. They live wondering

If they are the only ones, knowing only the wish to know,

And the great black distance they--we--flicker in.


Maybe the dead know, their eyes widening at last,

Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on

At twilight. Hearing the engines flare, the horns

Not letting up, the frenzy of being. I want it to be

One notch below bedlam, like a radio without a dial.

Wide open, so everything floods in at once.

And sealed tight, so nothing escapes. Not even time,

Which should curl in on itself and loop around like smoke.

So that I might be sitting now beside my father

As he raises a lit match to the bowl of his pipe

For the first time in the winter of 1959.


4.
In those last scenes of Kubrick's 2001
When Dave is whisked into the center of space,
Which unfurls in an aurora of orgasmic light
Before opening wide, like a jungle orchid
For a love-struck bee, then goes liquid,
Paint-in-water, and then gauze wafting out and off,
Before, finally, the night tide, luminescent
And vague, swirls in, and on and on....

In those last scenes, as he floats
Above Jupiter's vast canyons and seas,
Over the lava strewn plains and mountains
Packed in ice, that whole time, he doesn't blink.
In his little ship, blind to what he rides, whisked
Across the wide-screen of unparcelled time,
Who knows what blazes through his mind?
Is it still his life he moves through, or does
That end at the end of what he can name?

On set, it's shot after shot till Kubrick is happy,
Then the costumes go back on their racks
And the great gleaming set goes black.


5.
When my father worked on the Hubble Telescope, he said
They operated like surgeons: scrubbed and sheathed
In papery green, the room a clean cold, and bright wide.

He'd read Larry Niven at home, and drink scotch on the rocks,
His eyes exhausted and pink. These were the Reagan years,
When we lived with our finger on The Button and struggled

To view our enemies as children. My father spent whole seasons
Bowing before the oracle-eye, hungry for what it would find.
His face lit-up whenever anyone asked, and his arms would rise

As if he were weightless, perfectly at ease in the never-ending
Night of space. On the ground, we tied postcards to balloons
For peace. Prince Charles married Lady Di. Rock Hudson died.

We learned new words for things. The decade changed.

The first few pictures came back blurred, and I felt ashamed
For all the cheerful engineers, my father and his tribe. The second time,
The optics jibed. We saw to the edge of all there is--

So brutal and alive it seemed to comprehend us back.
--Tracy K. Smith



"The Museum of Obsolescence"
So much we once coveted. So much
That would have saved us, but lived,

Instead, its own quick span, returning
To uselessness with the mute acquiescence

Of shed skin. It watches us watch it:
Our faulty eyes, our telltale heat, hearts

Ticking through our shirts. We're here
To titter at the gimcracks, the naïve tools,

The replicas of replicas stacked like bricks.
There's green money, and oil in drums.

Pots of honey pilfered from a tomb. Books
Recounting the wars, maps of fizzled stars.

In the south wing, there's a small room
Where a living man sits on display. Ask,

And he'll describe the old beliefs. If you
Laugh, he'll lower his head to his hands

And sigh. When he dies, they'll replace him
With a video looping on ad infinitum.

Special installations come and go. "Love"
Was up for a season, followed by "Illness,"

Concepts difficult to grasp. The last thing you see
(After a mirror--someone's idea of a joke?)

Is an image of the old planet taken from space.
Outside, vendors hawk t-shirts, three for eight.
--Tracy K. Smith



"Cathedral Kitsch"
Does God love gold?
Does He shine back
At Himself from walls
Like these, leafed
In the earth's softest wealth?

Women light candles,
Pray into their fistful of beads.
Cameras spit human light
Into the vast holy dark,

And what glistens back
Is high up and cold. I feel
Man here. The same wish
That named the planets.

Man with his shoes and tools,
His insistence to prove we exist
Just like God, in the large
And the small, the great

And the frayed. In the chords
That rise from the tall brass pipes,
And the chorus of crushed cans
Someone drags over cobbles
In the secular street.
--Tracy K. Smith



"The Largeness We Can't See"
When our laughter skids across the floor
Like beads yanked from some girl's throat,
What waits where the laughter gathers?

And later, when our saw-toothed breaths
Lay us down on a bed of leaves, what feeds
With ceaseless focus on the leaves?

It's solid, yet permeable, like a mood.
Like God, it has no face. Like lust,
it flickers on without a prick of guilt.

We move in and out of rooms, leaving
Our dust, our voices pooled on sills.
We hurry from door to door in a downpour

Of days. Old trees inch up, their trunks thick
With new rings. All that we see grows
Into the ground. And all we live blind to

Leans its deathless heft to our ears
                                    and sings.

--Tracy K. Smith



"Old Food"
A woman stands in a dreamed cemetery where her daughter lies.
It was Marie; one of them was. A woman stands near a rectangular
plot marked off in pencil. Now the color deepens to turquoise.
Surrounded by dusty gold calligraphy gone past its meaning.

Marie lived in a gully at the dump on the outskirts of town, in a palm-
frond shack, with her dogs. She walks to the Buy-Rite: past a real cemetery,
towards the tracks, but turns; she enters the Buy-Rite. Leroy, the liar,
sells her food, then tells lies to everyone about her; years later
no one remembers the lies. Wasn't Leroy counterfeit like all kings.

Marie isn't counterfeit: nor is where you are now, in this thicket
of polished ribbony ink spelling near-certainty. Okay, Marie is dead.
She inhabits the texture of everything, even manuscripts. An angel

flowers whitely before you. You've got to make a life, you can't die,
nothing dies. One lie, that she cooked lizards and ate them.
She got everything at the Buy-Rite; she didn't have money, did she?
Something must have come in the mail. Or he gave her old food.
--Alice Notley



"I'm Watching"
I'm watching the show on a rotten TV, catching the story
through red and blue specks--images double often, and
the sound's dubbed, they're made to speak a foreign language.
This is one of my favorite kinds of art. What's going on?

Eve Love is Marie's reprobate daughter, or is she? Is Leroy
vicious, even bad? Should I keep calling him by his real name?
Who am I?
         Momma didn't like the name Ruby--
it sounded cheap--though she liked a particular woman
with that name: I'm avoiding telling you some things about

really real people, realer than I am. Leroy told her Ruby'd
died, and Momma was shocked--I told you she was sick, he said;
but Momma hadn't known that she should believe him that time.

Me, I'm not very real. I've worked at that: I can't stand
the fiction of living. I'd just as soon be like Marie, my one
remaining hero. Real. She died out there at the dump
and wasn't anything like I'm saying. Once, a woman from town
gave her a ride and asked her if she was happy. She said she
was doing what she wanted to do. She wasn't crazy you see.

Eve is not Marie's daughter, though maybe someone is.
Is there Mercy? An image of Tara once arose from my chest to help me out...
But I'm not crazy, though sometimes women I dream about
imply that I am. I'm intact. Really intact. Are you?

--Alice Notley



"Hell"
Hell was dripping with the blood from the sores on my thighs--

The girl said let me tell you you are a monster. I refused to
put on her monster mask; I have my own culture. But she put the mask
in her eyes. Then I entered hell.

Your face is made of rotten wood and your eyeholes are gouged out;
you have sores on your thighs because you're ugly; you
will never look like poetry because they aren't healed. You're too old.

There's too much food in hell; a man's in charge of sharks for our food,
some of which are still alive. He says he'll poison those. I have to get out of
your hell; I suppose the sharks bit my thighs; I have nothing against them.

The problem with the girls: they're afraid of this. Though they cast me into it. It's just hell. I give up
on being afraid and on sequential time. Everything's happening all around me,
not in a line. Anyone but me

Anyone but me gets to be the human. Well then I won't be. Join a different
company. Room of luminous visionary beings: why not?
--Alice Notley



"Nothing Like the Earth"
If it is winter in the book
spring surprises me    when I look up    and though I know
there is nothing like the earth    though I know
the lilies in the yard    throw open the doors of the heart
with wondrous force    and I am a buck-merino    a dandy little
buck-merino    jumping with felicity over the fence
and I shall not want    He maketh me lie down on the bed
to read    so I do not know which is the ephemera
the lilies    or the boy in winter whose fate is at a toss
Can anything save the appalling youth brightened with
intense pulse or that deep & wailing cry allotted to his crow?
Yea, though I walk through the valley of these things
there is a rich fever    that never foams
a swatch of fastidious root fastened to a rock
like a hand gripping a doorknob    unable to move
a tentacle of intent that may yet restore
the song of the lute to the lily    or the glory of the crow
to the boy

--Mary Ruefle



"Zettel"
A piece of paper fell out of the book
and drifted to the floor.
It was the first time I had witnessed
a birth, and I was shocked.
What a magnificent cause.
My entire brain plunged into thoughts
connected with the tiny object.
Do people become people for different reasons?
Ever yours. Evermore the imperial tether of
adult tenderness, the full radius of listening
at night, paired with horses grazing on ice:
the way a snow flea jumps on snow, following
one hoof, one print, one word, one minute
to the next. You need never know.
It was very quiet then for a long time,
after I bent down and picked it up.
--Mary Ruefle



"Concerning Essential Existence"
The horse mounted the mare slowly and precisely
and then stopped.

He was profoundly disturbed by a piece of straw.

He was profoundly distracted by the sad toy
upside down in the tree.

He was profoundly disengaged by half a cloud
in the corner of his wet eye.

And then he continued.

Nothing is forgot by lovers
except who they are.
--Mary Ruefle
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"To Music"
Music: breathing of statues. Perhaps:
silence of paintings. You, language where all language
ends. You, time
standing vertically on the motion of mortal hearts.

Feelings for whom? O you the transformation
of feelings into what? - : into audible landscape.
You stranger: music. You, heart-space
grown out of us. The deepest space in us,
which, rising above us, forces its way out, -
holy departure:
when the innermost point in us stands
outside, as the most practiced distance, as the other
side of the air:
pure,
boundless,
no longer habitable.
--Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from the German by Stephen Mitchell


"I am a product [...of] endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents' interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass."
--C. S. Lewis


"Gringo"
trigger warning: racism )
--Brandon Courtney
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could."
--Louise Erdrich


"We are everlasting debtors to known and unknown men and women. We do not finish breakfast without being dependent on more than half of the world. When we arise in the morning, we go into the bathroom where we reach for a sponge which is provided for us by a Pacific Islander. We reach for soap that is created for us by a Frenchman. The towel is provided by a Turk. Then at the table we drink coffee which is provided for us by a South American, or tea by a Chinese, or cocoa by a West African. Before we leave for our jobs we are beholden to more than half the world.

"In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality."
--Martin Luther King, Jr., "The Man Who Was a Fool"
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"The Monument"
Now can you see the monument? It is of wood
built somewhat like a box. No. Built
like several boxes in descending sizes
one above the other.
Each is turned half-way round so that
its corners point toward the sides
of the one below and the angles alternate.
Then on the topmost cube is set
a sort of fleur-de-lys of weathered wood,
long petals of board, pierced with odd holes,
four-sided, stiff, ecclesiastical.
From it four thin, warped poles spring out,
(slanted like fishing-poles or flag-poles)
and from them jig-saw work hangs down,
four lines of vaguely whittled ornament
over the edges of the boxes
to the ground.
The monument is one-third set against
a sea; two-thirds against a sky.
The view is geared
(that is, the view's perspective)
so low there is no "far away,"
and we are far away within the view.
A sea of narrow, horizontal boards
lies out behind our lonely monument,
its long grains alternating right and left
like floor-boards--spotted, swarming-still,
and motionless. A sky runs parallel,
and it is palings, coarser than the sea's:
splintery sunlight and long-fibred clouds.
"Why does the strange sea make no sound?
Is it because we're far away?
Where are we? Are we in Asia Minor,
or in Mongolia?"
An ancient promontory,
an ancient principality whose artist-prince
might have wanted to build a monument
to mark a tomb or boundary, or make
a melancholy or romantic scene of it...
"But that queer sea looks made of wood,
half-shining, like a driftwood, sea.
And the sky looks wooden, grained with cloud.
It's like a stage-set; it is all so flat!
Those clouds are full of glistening splinters!
What is that?"
It is the monument.
"It's piled-up boxes,
outlined with shoddy fret-work, half-fallen off,
cracked and unpainted. It looks old."
--The strong sunlight, the wind from the sea,
all the conditions of its existence,
may have flaked off the paint, if ever it was painted,
and made it homelier than it was.
"Why did you bring me here to see it?
A temple of crates in cramped and crated scenery,
what can it prove?
I am tired of breathing this eroded air,
this dryness in which the monument is cracking."

It is an artifact
of wood. Wood holds together better
than sea or cloud or and could by itself,
much better than real sea or sand or cloud.
It chose that way to grow and not to move.
The monument's an object, yet those decorations,
carelessly nailed, looking like nothing at all,
give it away as having life, and wishing;
wanting to be a monument, to cherish something.
The crudest scroll-work says "commemorate,"
while once each day the light goes around it
like a prowling animal,
or the rain falls on it, or the wind blows into it.
It may be solid, may be hollow.
The bones of the artist-prince may be inside
or far away on even drier soil.
But roughly but adequately it can shelter
what is within (which after all
cannot have been intended to be seen).
It is the beginning of a painting,
a piece of sculpture, or poem, or monument,
and all of wood. Watch it closely.
--Elizabeth Bishop


"Your whole life you are really writing one book, which is an attempt to grasp the consciousness of your time and place--a single book written from different stages of your ability."
--Nadine Gordimer


"Naming is a difficult and time-consuming process; it concerns essences, and it means power. But on the wild nights who can call you home? Only the one who knows your name."
--Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit


"I'm a witch woman; high on tobacco and holy water. I'm a woman delighted with her disasters. They give me something to do. A profession of sorts. I have the magic of words."
--Sandra Cisneros


"To give a cause to damage is to contain a mess, to mop up a spillage. The figure of the feminist killjoy is rather like that of the broken jug: she too flies off the handle, an expression used to indicate the suddenness of anger.

"Maybe she snaps. She is snappy.

"Think of when a twig snaps. We might hear that snap as an origin of a movement, as the beginning of violence, because we don't notice the pressure on the twig. A feminist understanding of power attends to what I called in The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004), 'a history of reaction,' a history that tends to be erased, of bodies that are pressed, contorted, reduced, by what they come up against.

"A snap is not a starting point.

"She snaps; it shatters.

"We can be shattered by what we come up against; we can shatter into a million pieces when we hurl ourselves against those walls, those hardenings of history."
--Sara Ahmed, "Fragility"
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"This is the deepest magic of stories, and its most important: the conjuration of an empathy so pure, it all but tumbles us out of our skins and into someone else's."
--Foz Meadows, reviewing The Goblin Emperor


"Directive"
Back out of all this now too much for us,
Back in a time made simple by the loss
Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
There is a house that is no more a house
Upon a farm that is no more a farm
And in a town that is no more a town.
The road there, if you'll let a guide direct you
Who only has at heart your getting lost,
May seem as if it should have been a quarry--
Great monolithic knees the former town
Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
And there's a story in a book about it:
Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels
The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,
The chisel work of an enormous Glacier
That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.
You must not mind a certain coolness from him
Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.
Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
Of being watched from forty cellar holes
As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
As for the woods' excitement over you
That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
Charge that to upstart inexperience.
Where were they all not twenty years ago?
They think too much of having shaded out
A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.
Make yourself up a cheering song of how
Someone's road home from work this once was,
Who may be just ahead of you on foot
Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.
The height of the adventure is the height
Of country where two village cultures faded
Into each other. Both of them are lost.
And if you're lost enough to find yourself
By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
Then make yourself at home. The only field
Now left's no bigger than a harness gall.
First there's the children's house of make-believe,
Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
The playthings in the playhouse of the children.
Weep for what little things could make them glad.
Then for the house that is no more a house,
But only a belilaced cellar hole,
Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.
This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.
Your destination and your destiny's
A brook that was the water of the house,
Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
Too lofty and original to rage.
(We know the valley streams that when aroused
Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)
I have kept hidden in the instep arch
Of an old cedar at the waterside
A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
Under a spell so the wrong ones can't find it,
So can't get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn't.
(I stole the goblet from the children's playhouse.)
Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.
--Robert Frost


"Matins"
You want to know how I spend my time?
I walk the front lawn, pretending
to be weeding. You ought to know
I'm never weeding, on my knees, pulling
clumps of clover from the flower beds: in fact
I'm looking for courage, for some evidence
my life will change, though
it takes forever, checking
each clump for the symbolic
leaf, and soon the summer is ending, already
the leaves turning, always the sick trees
going first, the dying turning
brilliant yellow, while a few dark birds perform
their curfew of music. You want to see my hands?
As empty now as at the first note.
Or was the point always
to continue without a sign?
--Louise Glück


"Field Flowers"
What are you saying? That you want
eternal life? Are your thoughts really
as compelling as all that? Certainly
you don't look at us, don't listen to us,
on your skin
stain of sun, dust
of yellow buttercups: I'm talking
to you, you staring through
bars of high grass shaking
your little rattle-- O
the soul! the soul! Is it enough
only to look inward? Contempt
for humanity is one thing, but why
disdain the expansive
field, your gaze rising over the clear heads
of the wild buttercups into what? Your poor
idea of heaven: absence
of change. Better than earth? How
would you know, who are neither
here nor there, standing in our midst?
--Louise Glück


"Retreating Light"
You were like very young children,
always waiting for a story.
And I'd been through it all too many times;
I was tired of telling stories.
So I gave you the pencil and paper.
I gaze you pens made of reeds.
I had gathered myself, afternoons in the dense meadows.
I told you, write your own story.

After all those years of listening
I thought you'd know
what a story was.

All you could do was weep.
You wanted everything told to you
and nothing thought through yourselves.

Then I realized you couldn't think
with any real boldness or passion;
you hadn't had your own lives yet,
your own tragedies.
So I gave you lives, I gave you tragedies,
because apparently tools alone weren't enough.

You will never know how deeply
it pleases me to see you sitting there
like independent beings,
to see you dreaming by the open window,
holding the pencils I gave you
until the summer morning disappears into writing.

Creation has brought you
great excitement, as I knew it would,
as it does in the beginning.
And I am free to do as I please now,
to attend to other things, in confidence
you have no need of me anymore.
--Louise Glück


trigger warning: 9/11 )
--Shelley Stenhouse, "Circling," Poetry after 9/11: an Anthology of New York Poets


"What I Said"
trigger warning: 9/11 )
--Norman Stock


"Religious Art"
Certain precautions, obstacles
set against vandals--the stretch
of highway, for example, outside Nichols, New Mexico,
loneliness like a family art,
a man's idea of himself
pinned down in the Holy Land, strings of peppers
drying on a porch.

I press hard with my feet
against the earth and
call this fighting back. All yesterday
I walked around counting birds.
Trees, a spray of pebbles in the forecourt,
a dip the wind took about six

maintain the posts assigned, repel boarders.

The peculiar emptiness
in the mown hayfield this afternoon
we stood staring into--as a precaution--
the clefts and shadowy declines containing
our deepest interests, the grass shining and then going dull against
the fading light, these were protection enough.
--Charlie Smith


"Before I Was Born"
There is a moment of separation
between two things, & one of them is living.
A moth is living, is still alive.
And all this is happening on the other side
        of the river.

Life is multiple, I have multiple selves, a past.
And different languages are spoken in office
        buildings & tents.
Equipment is arranged along a shoreline.
The lights in the buildings go out, one at a time.

The man on the subway platform is playing the accordion.
I make a fist, then relax, my fingers are trembling.
Bulbs burn out on an exit sign, the color of beef
        at a lunch counter.
A woman on the subway reading War and Peace

asks me to follow her but I get lost in the crowd.
To obey with your eyes closed is the beginning of panic.
Nothing I do can impede the flow.
My oldest friend bursts into tears on the street.

If I could only have one thought at a time
& remember that there are others who think
        the same way
& elsewhere--a man is preparing food for his child.
And elsewhere, a woman folds her skirt
        over the back of a chair.

Take a page out of your own book & remember
        the river beneath the bridge.
We pass over the Alps in a train in the middle of the night.
My arms are forgotten in the motion of the train
        moving, word by word.

--Lewis Warsh


"Boerum Hill Tanka"
trigger warning: 9/11 )
--Kimiko Hahn
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"There's this idea that monsters don't have reflections in a mirror. And what I've always thought isn't that monsters don't have reflections in a mirror. It's that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves."
--Junot Díaz


"She knew then that Sade had not personally known the dead man. Her grief was almost theoretical. It didn't mean any less, but it was a different sort of grief from Miranda's. It was the sort of grief you didn't have to suppress because letting it out made it smaller instead of bigger. The sort of grief you could say something about because you instinctively understood that it could not continue, rigid inside your breathing apparatus like a metal stem."
--Helen Oyeyemi, White Is for Witching


"The University Library is a mouth shut tight, each tooth a book, each book growing over, under and behind the other. The writing desks are placed in front of the bookshelves, some of them between bookshelves so that whoever is sitting at the desk gets a feeling of something dusty, intangible and unspeakably powerful, something like God, watching them through tiny gaps in the shelves."
--Helen Oyeyemi, White Is for Witching


"Circe's Power"
I never turned anyone into a pig.
Some people are pigs; I make them
look like pigs.

I'm sick of your world
that lets the outside disguise the inside.

Your men weren't bad men;
undisciplined life
did that to them. As pigs,

under the care of
me and my ladies, they
sweetened right up.

Then I reversed the spell,
showing you my goodness
as well as my power. I saw

we could be happy here,
as men and women are
when their needs are simple. In the same breath,

I foresaw your departure,
your men with my help braving
the crying and pounding sea. You think

a few tears upset me? My friend,
every sorceress is
a pragmatist at heart; nobody

sees essence who can't
face limitation. If I wanted only to hold you

I could hold you prisoner.
--Louise Glück


"The Wild Iris"
At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.
--Louise Glück


"Trillium"
When I woke up I was in a forest. The dark
seemed natural, the sky through the pine trees
thick with many lights.

I knew nothing; I could do nothing but see.
And as I watched, all the lights of heaven
faded to make a single thing, a fire
burning through the cool firs.
Then it wasn't possible any longer
to stare at heaven and not be destroyed.

Are there souls that need
death's presence, as I require protection?
I think if I speak long enough
I will answer that question, I will see
whatever they see, a ladder
reaching through the firs, whatever
calls them to exchange their lives--

Think what I understand already.
I woke up ignorant in a forest;
only a moment ago, I didn't know my voice
if one were given me
would be so full of grief, my sentences
like cries strung together.
I didn't even know I felt grief
until that word came, until I felt
rain streaming from me.
--Louise Glück


"Lamium"
This is how you live when you have a cold heart.
As I do: in shadows, trailing over cool rock,
under the great maple trees.

The sun hardly touches me.
Sometimes I see it in early spring, rising very far away.
Then leaves grow over it, completely hiding it. I feel it
glinting through the leaves, erratic,
like someone hitting the side of a glass with a metal spoon.

Living things don't all require
light in the same degree. Some of us
make our own light: a silver leaf
like a path no one can use, a shallow
lake of silver in the darkness under the great maples.

But you know this already.
You and the others who think
you live for truth and, by extension, love
all that is cold.
--Louise Glück


"Spring Snow"
Look at the night sky:
I have two selves, two kinds of power.

I am here with you, at the window,
watching you react. Yesterday
the moon rose over moist earth in the lower garden.
Now the earth glitters like the moon,
like dead matter crusted with light.

You can close your eyes now.
I have heard your cries, and cries before yours,
and the demand behind them.
I have shown you what you want:
not belief, but capitulation
to authority, which depends on violence.
--Louise Glück


"Matins"
Forgive me if I say I love you: the powerful
are always lied to since the weak are always
driven by panic. I cannot love
what I can't conceive, and you disclose
virtually nothing: are you like the hawthorn tree,
always the same thing in the same place,
or are you more the foxglove, inconsistent, first springing up
a pink spike on the slope behind the daisies,
and the next year, purple in the rose garden? You must see
it is useless to us, this silence that promotes belief
you must be all things, the foxglove and the hawthorn tree,
the vulnerable rose and tough daisy--we are left to think
you couldn't possibly exist. Is this
what you mean us to think, does this explain
the silence of the morning,
the crickets not yet rubbing their wings, the cats
not fighting in the yard?
--Louise Glück


"The Mask"
The mask is what you use; it isn't a fake, it's a mask. Your senses love you; they evolved to be your mask--or you made them, didn't you?

I keep talking to my future self: she tells me how to be her. I'm already her, that mask.

The bacterium puts on its mask, a painstaking silver drop. The quail flies up, I see his red crest which is almost invisible in dawn and desert dun, don't alliterate or you'll go to hell.

In my culture I need to repeat sounds, so I can step across the instant gap to future, future her. I can't even known what I'll write, she tells me things.

Light through rabbit's ear orange-pink on other side of gully. The rabbit's mask's alien, but I can humanize him--he can be powerful and dangerous. The dark chaotic wind--not wind--can flash from his eye holes, and his teeth holes can be scary.

Why are you scared? Afraid you're going to die? Are you still afraid of that? she asks. It's not that she's smug. Even though she knows what's going to happen to me. But she's not dead yet either.

The mask is covered with writing that people think they understand, now they understand it; you never understood it. Before. Now you can.

The mask is leering at you, with its dark mouth and eyes: you can't understand what you're making up right now, so get on with making it up.
--Alice Notley


"Language of Mercy"
They seem unapproachable in the crowded room--Tara and her father
at night: she'd have to be young and with him. And I'd have to owe
them tentativeness. But who set up this system of debts
sticking to you baby a lawyer's daydream--My culture won't have
a legal system. I'm still not sorry for everything I've done.

He's protecting his merciful child but she is mercy and needs no
protection. I don't need to be sorry, I need to be merciful.

Your hair is all in clumps; your future self forgives you
you mime paroxysms of grief in the vision: I don't want to feel
I don't want to feel any more today and prefer the symbolic world.
I have been living poems for so long I'm only a figure and I'm glad.

You opened this particular poem and you're inside, you can't
get out. Shall we talk about the origin of fear again?

Walk toward the gathering one more time, with its yellow
mound of disorder--a cloth perhaps--at one side of the area.
He thinks he has to protect her, but Mercy needs no protection,
and has no time for fear. Part of me chooses to be her.

Someone is singing to me; I suppose it's a prayer or invocation
Birds gather in the mesquite tree, confessing to existence.
--Alice Notley


"Skull"
I took a skull and transformed it. It looks like a
different one. I know it used to have ruby brains inside.
And dreams that I interpreted badly. And wretched onyx-hooked
and emerald-gush feelings. And the rattle of reasoning...conk, conk.
Take it out, and here's this skull, and you still think it talks like you,

famished my tongue casts about for a confirmative taste.

Then I know I'm the beautiful monster I've made. Naked bares
my fantasy teeth--so we can feel better. My errors could not
be forgiven by others; but now we're the color of lions and peacocks, we, I,
have painted tears, and real-bead brains. I mean literal birds
in my mouth. I'm what they call an overmodeled skull.

I have shiny seashells for eyes; I have lizard guts for hair.
I think the best thoughts I can imagine. I also receive them,
from nowhere, at all. I have a lot of voices, I spew them
they look like overmodeled snake nerves, sequins on fiber slime.
Actually she pastes them to me, so she can talk. She began
existing by doing this, fabricated cowrie-shell eons of light years ago.
--Alice Notley
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn't do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it."
--Maya Angelou


"The garden is closed off by a tall wall, the top of which is studded with shards of glass in different colors, held in place by cement. From my vantage point they look like teeth. This fierce device doesn't prevent boys form occasionally climbing the walls to steal avocados, medlar fruit and papayas. They put a wooden board on top of the wall, and pull themselves over. If you ask me it's far too risky an enterprise for such meager pickings. But perhaps they're not doing it to savor the fruit, but to savor the risk itself...Maybe all risks to them will taste to them of ripe medlar fruit from now on. You can imagine that one of them will end up becoming a sapper. There will always be more than enough work for sappers in this country. Only yesterday I saw something on television, a report on the mine-sweeping operations. The director of an NGO was bemoaning how uncertain they are about numbers. No one knows with any certainty how many mines were buried in Angolan soil. Somewhere between ten and twenty million. More mines than Angolans, probably. So say one of these boys became a sapper. Whenever he drags himself across a minefield he'll always have that faint taste of medlar fruit in his mouth. And one day he'll be faced with the inevitable question, thrown at him by a foreign journalist with mingled curiosity and horror:

" 'So when you're there dismantling a mine, what goes through your head?'

"And the boy he still has within him will reply, with a smile:

" 'Medlar fruit, old man.'

"Old Esperança thinks it's the wall that makes the thieves--I've heard her say as much to Félix. The albino turned to her, amused:

" 'Who'd have thought I had an anarchist in the house?! Any moment now I'm going to discover that you've been reading Bakunin...'

"He said this, then forgot all about her. She'd never read Bakunin, of course; never read a book at all, come to that, barely knows how to read. But I'm always learning things about life in general, or life in this country--which is life in a state of intoxication--from hearing her talk to herself, sometimes in a gentle murmur, almost like a song, sometimes out loud like someone scolding, as she cleans the house. Old Esperança believes that she's never going to die. In 1992 she survived a massacre. She'd gone to the house of one of the opposition leaders to pick up a letter from her youngest son who was on service in Huambo, when bursts of gunfire suddenly erupted from all around. She was determined to leave the place, to go back to her old musseque house, but they wouldn't let her.

" 'It's a crazy idea, old lady. Just pretend that it's raining. It'll pass soon enough.'

"But it didn't pass. Like a storm the gunfire gathered, getting more ferocious and closing in, getting louder and closer to the house. Félix was the one who told me what happened that night:

" 'This brawling band, a mob of rioters, well armed and extremely drunk, forced their way into the house and slapped around all the people there. The commander wanted to know the name of the old woman. Esperança Job Sapalalo, sir, she said, and he laughed. Esperança--Hope, he joked. Always the last to die. The opposition leader and his family were lined up in the yard and shot. When it came to be Old Esperança's turn, the gunmen had no bullets left. You know what saved you, don't you? the commander shouted. It was logistics. We've never been very good with logistics. And he sent her on her way. Since then she's believed herself to be immune to death. And who knows, maybe she is.'

"It doesn't strike me as impossible. Esperança Job Sapalalo has a fine web of wrinkles on her face and completely white hair, but her flesh is still firm, her gestures solid and precise. If you ask me she's the pillar keeping this house up."
--José Eduardo Agualusa, The Book of Chameleons, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn


"Gaspar--that was the teacher's name--was moved by the helplessness of certain words. He saw them as down on their luck, abandoned in some desolate place in the language, and he sought to recover them. He used them ostentatiously, and persistently, which annoyed some people and unsettled others. I think he succeeded. His students started using these words too, to begin with merely in jest, but later like a private dialect, a tribal marking, which set them apart from their peers. Nowadays, Félix Ventura assured me, his students are still quite capable of recognizing one another, even if they've never met before, on hearing just a few words..."
--José Eduardo Agualusa, The Book of Chameleons, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn


"Once, when I was in my old human form, I decided to kill myself. I wanted to die, completely. I hoped that eternal life, Heaven and Hell, God, the Devil, reincarnation, all that stuff, was no more than slowly woven superstition, developed over centuries out of man's greatest terror. There was a gun shop right by my house but I'd never before set foot in it, and the owner didn't know me. There I bought a pistol. Then I bought a crime novel and a bottle of gin. Then I went down to a hotel on the beach, drank the gin in big gulps with considerable distaste (I've always found alcohol repulsive) and lay down on the bed to read the book. I thought that the gin, in combination with the tedium of a pointless plot, would give me the courage to put the gun to my head and pull the trigger. But as it turned out the book wasn't bad at all, and I kept reading right to the last page. By then it had started to rain. It was as though it were raining night--or to explain myself a little more clearly, it was as though falling from the sky were the thick fragments of that sleepy black ocean through which the stars navigate their course. I kept expecting the stars to fall and shatter on impact with the window, with a flash and a crashing. But they didn't fall. I turned out the light. I put the pistol to my head,

"and I fell asleep."
--José Eduardo Agualusa, The Book of Chameleons, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn


"In olden days stories for children always used to end with the words, and they lived happily ever after, this being after the Prince has married the Princess and they've had lots of children. In life there's never a plot that works out like that, of course. Princesses marry bodyguards, they marry trapeze artists and life goes on, and they live unhappily until they separate. And years later, just like the rest of us, they die. We're only happy--truly happy--when it's forever after, but only children live in a world where things can last forever."
--José Eduardo Agualusa, The Book of Chameleons, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn


"Imagine a young man racing along on his motorcycle, on a minor road. The wind is beating at his face. The young man closes his eyes, and opens his arms wide, just like they do in films, feeling himself completely alive and in communion with the universe. He doesn't see the lorry lunging out from the crossing. He dies happy. Happiness is almost always irresponsible. We're happy for those brief moments when we close our eyes."
--José Eduardo Agualusa, The Book of Chameleons, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn


"In the book the minister conversed with real people (sometimes with royal people) and it would be most convenient if these people should tomorrow believe that they had indeed traded confidences and opinions with him. Our memory feeds itself to a large extent on what other people remember of us. We remember other people's memories as though they were our own--even fictional ones.

" 'It's like the Castle of São Jorge in Lisbon--do you know it? It has battlements, but they're fake. António de Oliveira Salazar ordered that some crenelations be added to the castle to make it more authentic. To him there was something wrong with a castle without crenelations--there was something monstrous about it--like a camel without humps. So the fake part of the Castle of São Jorge is today what makes it realistic. Several octogenarian Lisboans I've spoken to are convinced the castle has always had crenelations. There's something rather amusing about that, isn't there? If it were authentic, no one would believe in it.' "
--José Eduardo Agualusa, The Book of Chameleons, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn


"What is a poem but a means of making sense of all that comes through the senses, a senseless dream decoded? What is a dream but a story broken into fragments and scattered, card-like, before a child as a test of memory? What is memory but a warm welcome from a stranger who knows you by name and perhaps a kiss and invitation to board in a larger room with greater storage space and more natural light? But there are also memories that haunt, past moments that we'd rather think of as belonging to past lives. And then there are those stored in books and records for the sake of collective memory: history."
--Saul Williams, The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-hop


How could you not
Realize the power of word
After being forced
To serve a sentence?
--Saul Williams, The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-hop


I am not a writer
I am the plight
Of unfigured equations:
A stick of cinnamon
A grove a cloves
Cayenne and a bowl of honey
Water and money
--Saul Williams, The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-hop


As an artist
First, I was black.
I wrote with a yearning
To be a leader. I was
Born into a mourning
Race. We mourned
The death of a king.
I awoke to find
My tongue a scepter.
--Saul Williams, The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-hop


"Penelope's Song"
Little soul, little perpetually undressed one,
do now as I bid you, climb
the shelf-like branches of the spruce tree;
wait at the top, attentive, like
a sentry or look-out. He will be home soon;
it behooves you to be
generous. You have not been completely
perfect either; with your troublesome body
you have done things you shouldn't
discuss in poems. Therefore
call out to him over the open water, over the bright water
with your dark song, with your grasping,
unnatural song--passionate,
like Maria Callas. Who
wouldn't want you? Whose most demonic appetite
could you possibly fail to answer? Soon
he will return from wherever he goes in the meantime,
suntanned from his time away, wanting
his grilled chicken. Ah, you must greet him,
you must shake the boughs of the tree
to get his attention,
but carefully, carefully, lest
his beautiful face be marred by too many falling needles.
--Louise Glück


"Parable of the King"
The great king looking ahead
saw not fate but simply
dawn glittering over
the unknown island: as a king
he thought in the imperative--best
not to reconsider direction, best
to keep going forward
over the radiant water. Anyway,
what is fate but a strategy for ignoring
history, with its moral
dilemmas, a way of regarding
the present, where decisions
are made, as the necessary
link between the past (images of the king
as a young prince) and the glorious future (images
of slave girls). Whatever
it was ahead, why did it have to be
so blinding? Who could have known
that wasn't the usual sun
but flames rising over a world
about to become extinct?
--Louise Glück


"Moonless Night"
A lady weeps at a dark window.
Must we say what it is? Can't we simply say
a personal matter? It's early summer;
next door the Lights are practising klezmer music.
A good night: the clarinet is in tune.

As for the lady--she's going to wait forever;
there's no point in watching longer.
After awhile, the streetlight goes out.

But is waiting forever
always the answer? Nothing
is always the answer; the answer
depends on the story.

Such a mistake to want
clarity above all things. What's
a single night, especially
one like this, now so close to ending?
On the other side, there could be anything,
all the joy in the world, the stars fading,
the streetlight becoming a bus stop.
--Louise Glück
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gift of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over."
--Neil Gaiman, Fahrenheit 451 introduction


"For the first time he perceived that if you want to keep a secret you must also hide it from yourself."
--George Orwell, 1984


"Art has to be a kind of confession. I don't mean a true confession in the sense of that dreary magazine. The effort it seems to me, is: if you can examine and face your life, you can discover the terms with which you are connected to other lives, and they can discover them, too--the terms with which they are connected to other people. This has happened to every one of us, I'm sure. You read something which you thought only happened to you, and you discovered it happened 100 years ago to Dostoyevsky. This is a very great liberation for the suffering, struggling person, who always thinks that they are alone. This is why art is important. Art would not be important if life were not important, and life is important. Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to them from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it's true for everybody. Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace. They have to disturb the peace. Otherwise, chaos."
--James Baldwin


"Larch"
short-sleeves in Vermont late November the leaves long gone
only evergreens the white birch bark and our feral black cat
not sheltering prowling improbably in her thickened coat
one more free-range lunch one more of her nine lives
put back into reserve unlike the year's fresh deaths

as for me I keep my votive candles burning as the larches burned
on the hillside their needles yellow deciduous like the leaves
and now sloughed in the yard beneath the small larch
bent double cascading like a willow weeping is the proper name for it
also for the cherry tree in the yard of the house where my parents' friend
shot an intruder it was his wife their tree

might as well be here with all my other lost trees childhood mimosas
magnolias the willow oak blown down in a storm surviving in my head
beside the friend the murdered wife the subsequent wife
my parents too and now Peter with his lazy eye and glamorous
doom-ridden Rynn and Carol who had her own reprieves

who used them up I confess the weather matters more and more to me
diurnal is a lovely word another is circadian
--Ellen Bryant Voigt


"Storm"
one minute a slender pine indistinguishable from the others
the next its trunk horizontal still green the jagged stump
a nest for the flickers
                       one minute high wind and rain the skies
lit up the next a few bright winking stars the lashing of the brook

one minute an exaltation in the apple trees the shadblow trees
the next white trash on the ground new birds
or the same birds crowding the feeder
one minute the children were sleeping in their beds

you got sick you got well you got sick

the lilac bush we planted is a tree the cat creeps past
with something in her mouth she's hurrying down to where

the culvert overflowed one minute bright yellow
marsh marigolds springing up the next
the farmer sweeps them into his bales of hay

--Ellen Bryant Voigt


I could recite the grass on a hill and memorize
the moon. I know the cloud forms of love by
heart and have brought tears to the eye of a
storm. My memory banks vaults of autumn
forests and Amazon River banks. I've screamed
them into sunsets that echo in earthquakes.
Shadows have been my spotlight as I monologue
the night and dialogue with days. Soliloquies of
wind and breeze applauded by sunrays.

We put language in zoos to observe caged
thought and tossed peanuts and P-Funk at
intellect. And MTHRFKRs think these are
metaphors. I speak what I see. All words
and worlds are metaphors of me. My life
is authored by the moon. Footprints written
in soil. The fountain pen of Martian men
novelling human toil.

And, yes, the soil speaks highly of me, when
earth seeds root me poet-tree. And we forest
forever through recitation.
--Saul Williams, The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-hop
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Stones"
birds not so much the ducks and geese okay not horses cows pigs
she'd lived in the city all her life some cats and dogs okay as part

of someone else's narrative the posted photographs are someone's
pets the figurines less figurative than graceful to behold the same

with carved giraffes and camels no reptiles no amphibians nothing
from the sea although she loved the sea her passion was for stones

I don't know why the parquet floor never buckled and caved collapsed
into the rooms below her rooms all the horizontal surfaces were covered

with stones the bureau the cupboards the closets were full of the precious
stones she wore at her throat her ears her fingers her wrists the inlaid

tables held ceramic bowls of polished stones the antique desk a basket
of stones a bushel of stones on the floor on the windowsills more stones

each one unique each one a narrative the étagère held up to the light stones
hewn from the source and hauled up here still jagged refracting every

shade of amethyst her birthstone like my mother's crystals shimmering
as if alive rescued from the field the cliff the shore the riverbed I found

a single cufflink by her bed a tiny diamond set in silver did her father
sift out at his flour mill the dangerous stones I stretched out beside her

in her bad time thinking to help her sleep I held her hand her fingers wore
a few of her favorite rings the two of us lay entirely still atop the quilt

a stiff sarcophagus she didn't sleep her mind was an etched plate
from which she drew off print after print the framed prints on the walls

were all interiors our talk had always been a stone kicked down a hill
no purpose no destination her father her mother my mother my dogs

she never said she was leaving me in charge she wasn't my mother why
put me in charge I put the jewels on other throats and wrists I threw away

the bushels of cosmetics and perfume her chosen armaments
against the world who loved the world I sold the breakfront

cabinet full of cut-glass bowls and blown-glass figurines but who
will save the living stones she loved I have so many already

in my yard half-in half-out of the earth immovable
she'd seen my yard she'd seen those heavy stones
--Ellen Bryant Voigt


"Oak"
not to board the bus but wait for the last bell
like those who live in town shuffling ahead of her the clumps
drift apart drift back shifting boys in a cluster now a boy and a girl
a dance a recess game as each is subtracted one by one into the houses
she passes the windows half-lidded by half-drawn shades
or framed by curtains and sash she likes
                                        walking alone
along the verge of the lawns no fence no field the leaves
drifting out from under the oaks while in the woods
they would only settle and rot she likes the way a passing car
releases them across the grid of the sidewalk a solid math
for a solitary girl the small steps into the larger
world of strangers wholly indifferent houses cars rust-colored dog
she passes the hardware grocery pharmacy beauty salon every Thursday
you've noticed such a child content to be invisible
scuffing the leaves
                   toward the bungalow the hushed backroom
where someone is propped in the high bed her webbed face
her halo of hair past humankind and all its suffering
past seeing now past death too old for death
and waiting for this girl
                          who thumbs the latch
who lifts the lid of the black box lifts from red felt those silver pieces
fits them together the trick is to breathe across and not
into the small round hole as her arched fingers hover
over the other open holes each finger knows its task she's fixed
to one purpose Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee

dark out in the street the wind ruffling oak leaves the dark
window lit by the silver flute the white ghost hair the brighter
lights is it her mother come to drive her home

--Ellen Bryant Voigt


"Noble Dog"
behind our house down to the brook and the woods
beyond the groomed grass and flower beds what we see
are brook and woods and sometimes mild creatures of the field
we thought when we bathed in the claw-footed tub we could pretend
we stayed inside the natural world no shutters no shades at night

beside the mirror over the sink the windows darkened into mirrors
where my daughter at thirteen admired her tan her new body until she felt
or thought she felt something move outside in the yard and asked quietly
up the backstairs for us to come down here for just a minute please
come down here now we couldn't tell how much was fear

how much was shame we thought she needed us to be calm
we tried to be calm like the trooper we called who said without alarm
to the handsome noble dog where is he buddy where is he buddy
at which as if in a game of fetch the dog went straight around the house
to the one smell that didn't fit to the one smell that crossed the clipped grass

into the ditch beside the dirt road where the dog went too the dog
tracking the smell the trooper tracking the dog the dog
not barking or baying until the scent stopped
inside the culvert bearing the brook west under the road
a large metal pipe that amplified the dog's whimpers and moans
dog of righteousness dog of retribution

we heard it from our house where soon the shutters would go up
we sat in the kitchen the summer air soft as a damp rag we knew
this was a moment of consequence but we couldn't tell
whether the world had grown larger or smaller
--Ellen Bryant Voigt


"Geese"
there is no cure for temperament it's how 
we recognize ourselves but sometimes within it
a narrowing imprisons or is opened such as when my mother
in her last illness snarled and spat and how this lifted my dour father
into a patient tenderness thereby astounding everyone
but mostly it hardens who we always were

if you've been let's say a glass-half-empty kind of girl
you wake to the chorus of geese overhead
forlorn for something has softened their nasal voices
their ugly aggression on the ground they're worse than chickens
but flying one leader falling back another moving up to pierce the wind
no one in charge or every one in charge in flight each limited goose
adjusts its part in the cluster just under the clouds
do they mean together to duplicate the cloud
like the pelicans on the pond rearranging their shadows
to fool the fish another collective that constantly recalibrates but fish
don't need to reinvent themselves the way geese do
when they negotiate the sky
                           on the fixed
unyielding ground there is no end to hierarchy
the flock the pack the family you know it's true if you're
a take-charge kind of girl I recommend
houseplants in the windows facing south
the cacti the cyclamen are blooming on the brink
of winter all it took was a little enforced deprivation
a little premature and structured dark

--Ellen Bryant Voigt


"Sleep"
another heavy frost what doesn't die or fly away
the groundhog for instance the bear is deep in sleep I'm thinking
a lot about sleep translation I'm not sleeping much
who used to be a champion of sleep
ex-champions are pathetic my inner parent says the world
is full of evil death cruelty degradation not sleeping
scores only a 2 out of 10
                         but a moral sense
is exhausting I am exhausted a coma looks good to me
if only I could be sure there'd still be dreams it's what I miss the most
even in terrible dreams at least you feel what you feel not what
you're supposed to feel your house burns down so what
if you survived you rake the ashes sobbing
                                          exhausted
from trying not to smoke I once asked for a simple errand
from my beloved who wanted me not to smoke he forgot unforgivable
I fled the house like an animal wounded enraged I was thinking 
more clearly than I had ever thought my thought was why

prolong this life I flung myself into the car I drove like a fiend
to the nearest store I asked unthinking for unfiltered Luckies oh
brand of my girlhood I paid the price I took my prize to the car I slit
the cellophane I tapped out one perfect white cylinder I brought to my face
the smell of the barns the fires cooking it golden brown smell of my father
my uncles my grandfather's tin of loose tobacco his packet of delicate paper
the deliberate way he rolled and licked and tapped and lit and drew in
and relished it the smell of the wild girls behind the gym the boys
in pickup trucks I sat in my car as the other cars crept by 
I looked like a pervert it was perverse
a Lucky under my nose
                     I drove myself home
I threw away the pack which was unwise the gods
don't notice whining they notice the brief bright flares of human will
they lean from their couches yes more fear and dread for that one
yes let's turn the suffering up a notch let's watch her
strike the match I strike it now when I wake
in the dark I light that little fire

--Ellen Bryant Voigt
[identity profile] two-grey-rooms.livejournal.com
"Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit--all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It's the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them."
--Brian Eno, A Year with Swollen Appendices


In a past life I was a wood-carver's knife. The
sharpened blade of a woodcutter. The eldest
son of the chief's brother. A maker of drums.

We scraped the insides of goat hides to
find the hollows where sound resides. Offering
the parts we did not use. To invoke the muse.

Music of the ghettos, the cosmos, the negroes,
the necros: overcomers of death; disciples of
breath. Dissection of drumbeats like Osiris
by Seth.

Breakbeats into fourteen pieces. Dissembled
chaos. Organized noise. A patchwork of
heartbeats to resurrect true b-boys. Be men.

Let's mend the broken heart of Isis. Age of
Aquarius. Mother Nature is furious. While
you rhyme about being hardcore, be heart-
core. What is it that we do art for?

Metaphor. Meta-sin. It's an age of healing.
Why not rhyme about what you're feeling?
Or not be felt. Deal with the cards you're
dealt.

Calling all tarot readers and sparrow feeders
to cancel the apocalypse. Metaphorically
speaking.
--Saul Williams, "Chapter 28" of The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-hop


I am Horus. Son of Isis. Son of Osiris.
Worshiped as Jesus. Resurrected like
Lazarus. But you can call me Lazzie. Lazy.
Yeah, I'm lazy 'cause I'd rather sit and build
than work and plow a field of cash green crops.

Your evolution stopped with the evolution
of your technology. A society of automatic
tellers and money machines. NGH WHT?
My culture is lima beans. Dreams manifest.
Dreams real. Not consistent with rational.

I dance for no reason. For reason you
can't dance. Caught in the inactiveness
of intellectualized circumstance. You
can't learn my steps until you unlearn
your thoughts. Spirit/soul can't be store
bought. Fuck thought. It leads to naught.
Simply stated, it leads to you trying to
figure me out.
--Saul Williams, "Chapter 3"

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