Philip Jenks

The typed word is what isn’t on the page. It is literally off the mark. No, not some talk of this exceeding that. It’s just that typing and prints are different, as citizen to government. And pages are full, except by typing removed. Under threat of storm, raze the land, engrave citizen. Identify the already-dead. All that is needed to be said or done is, by pages in stages, save for a day when word may interrupt and blow a world away.

Imperial deathtrip Super Bowl Super Power. The sickness of slaughter. Speak to the spectacle commodity economy, plated laminated, “Hummers”, Salvation Rhetoric, and the ongoing spectacle of Punishment. Everywhere in the spectacle, we are judged/judges. We are The Accuser. Even the discourse of internet, the Superhighway paved and oiled with blood and guts, with genocide. At ‘home’, the highest incarceration rates in the world. Incarceration – in all forms and types – is slavery. Abolition of all prisons, with critical rethinking of how to treat harm and injustice, that would be something of a new, free world. But, for now, that’s not what’s going on – exoterically. The skeleton of the spectacle remains intact.

The Hydra series, with latest installations from the Lancet Report, attempts at some level to recuperate from or cope with the power that emanates from the spectacle and its manifest. If there is to be some change, some refiguring, then there must be cohesion between the lived world of everyday life and its monsters. Hydra may unfold a war and leaders may confuse this with them owning power. Gun.

Merleau-Ponty, Foucault, Irigaray, Arendt, Mary Daly were and are never far away. But, also Dickinson, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Treadwell and now as I write this, Alice Notley. Her Alma, or The Dead Women, is a masterpiece. Is it Epic/counterepic? Having just completed it, I will use the overused word, necessary. That book is what must be said. Anything I do say is “about it”.

Below I have made some attempts to record something, accosted by acoustic, by War, by Horror. If my first volume, On the Cave You Live In was an effort to speak to the silence of the abyss, then the Hydra series (which is concluded here) is an attempt to record the noise at the abyss. Get as close as possible. The Nazi Heidegger mistakenly and condescendingly called this “chatter”.

But what of the effects of lived life, damaged or birthed as/in/ All Power/God Consciousness? Put differently, the last poems included here turn both the silences and the ceaseless untraceable dialogues inward. As I believe that there are distinctive social pathologies governing our world politics, chances are good that those pathologies exist in me – either through replication of the spectacle commodity economy or being human, and as a white, American, male I have my own demons. I want it all to be about Love. I want the free festival of all for all, by all. But, the so-called “security” is Thanatos. Altamont/mount. That, like meth in this regard, is what kills All-Power/God Consciousness. The therapeutic state, serves as an attempt to martial a control effect on the unmanageable, incredible, diffuse, and elastic body. That body still sings. There are some who refuse, who resist, ceaselessly. They are “invisible as music.” They do not have a “head full of snow” because “narcotics cannot still the tooth that nibbles at the soul.” What will this world be like when the consequences of our actions blowback upon us? For now, close attunement to lived bodily experience, in all its vicissitudes and perhaps sentimentally, enduring love of the world, what/wherever and whoever you are – that’s what I got. It’s in this direction that these poems are written, albeit through the lens of patriarchal genocide.

 

 

Hydra Reads A Lancet Report

Alt, Altamont and bruise

Venerate is venal ,

Empathic or deviltalk.

 

It’s not that you,

Or is, is. On impact

Exploring artifact

Resource management,

File under bullet mæn I d ʒ m ə nt.

 

That’s not cerebral really,

It’s just brains and metal

Mixed together.

Hot weather for it.

Scorch orange darken wet sands

Push 700,000 by New Year’s Day, 2007.

 

Dr. Tea Stain

Pipes Beggar’s Banquet

In Kirkuk headphone, he’s in his heaven.

 

(Really, Hydra mutter

it’s time to hang

the President for what he done. (which one/s?)

Redacted text.

NSA parenthetic paranoia purposeful

Somnolent slang.

Nosey little noose.

See him and his men

Strung out on bacilli and spirochete,

Duncanly or Operation Whitecoat.

What did they do to the Seventh Day Adventists?)

 

*

 

Airport security checkpoint absolutions,

Wave the magnetic wand

Across your body,

Those red laser trinities

Transmit across the sky

To someone different than you

Or me, elegiac uncertainty

To prove that which isn’t

Holds the new holy ghost

Caughts in gasps, ingests.

X ray courtesy assistance,

O please take off your

Shoes and climb through

To the other side.

 

*

 

crosses and fingers.
cute shoots and bloody ladders
master of the bladder
of the life of the mary.
got scared one at time
look at this he said to me
it was not a head talking
he picked up but
antennae. no not radio,
that would be a disaster
with all the channels,
this one made of harbors
and meat clung to bones.
i lived in the leftovers
behind the barbeque
in hot nights for you
covered in it. in shit.
that’s the whole ego thing agin
back there is where the
fetuses were kept too
famous little secret medical spot,
so it was political life
we was living, boned and less so,
mutes glaring at each other
in mounds please someone stick
around because the way that
one man makes them talk with
their chinny chin is wrong.
he turn it into song,
breaketh ankles
with little altamounts.
They are talking to each other on the inside
flipped bandages and soul food “half racks” cozy dives
smokes packed in there.
chinny chin chin,
a little teapot, chin chin
in spoutless offering them legs
and grin. cant talk to you
or you to me, someone
rigged the restaurant
clinic made to order
a round godless hot mess
play the organ loud
“chest fever”
stitched in my neighbors
dumpster psalm 139
james version.
we are mutes using wire signals
we strap them to ourselves
and goes the hot night
impounded Allah
please call the restaurant
first even a blood let
notes to get the children
out, thank you very much
that explains the whole dumpster
thing patriarch tradition
conditional uncondition
traitor psalms and he
sees what is going on.
He is the first and last voyeur
looks at that melted chin,
predetermined or determined,
chin up.

 

*

 

It was nothing but a can

in the first place

where you was

implodes or cataract,

number the drug

for “transient attacks”

 

hum.

This is the sound

And that too,

Is sound.

 

*

 

Compatability Mode, Diagnosis

Neurotonic clonic Klonapin

Remeron rememories

Or depakotastica.

Sports Clean room envy….

 

Some grass and beside of it

A choosing. Allergic to’s

Set that next to a war

And carve out a casket.

It all full of you “head full

Of snow”, y packet of bloodshot

Brutes to go orders

Shrapnel pick up sticks

And glue bag parades

Made a brut trinket

a medicinal delicate.

Jen Tynes on 3 chapbooks

Carrington by Elizabeth Robinson (Hot Whiskey Press)

The first line of the first poem, “Nature Morte,” reads: “How can you question my decision-” a question that seems to issue from both Robinson and Dora Carrington, seems—in addition to referring to an ongoing tension—to provide an entrance. These poems will explore exactly how decisions can be questioned. The first-person is self-conscious and a subject. From “1915”:

I am, here, in a photograph

My whole person surrounded

in fact

in sepia

 

Protective hue, to know the difference

between direct and direction

The voice seems to be Carrington’s, though detached from her own biography by time, space, her own mortality. In creating this sometimes impossible distance, the first-person voice also refers to Robinson and makes room for considering her position in this intimate space. She is historian, play-actress, critic, middlewoman. From “Demountable Baroque”:

for I never made any promise,

spitting image or contrariwise

 

as to your whereabouts

beyond the indelible

I like the use of “contrariwise” in this poem, the way it suggests both a physicality and an attitude. The lines are fragmented into angles, indented into asides, and buzz with their sense of collage. They language is aged and sharp. Through Carrington’s biography and her artwork, Robinson explores the process of art-making as much as the fluidity of identity and ownership.


 

Steam by Sandra Simonds

(self-published; inquire with Sandra at ssimonds23@aol.com about available copies)

My copy arrived with a little sand in its spine, with a photocopied cover that features geometric and curlicue shapes cut from pages of text, the text unreadable; there are more text-shapes cut and pasted inside, half-attached to the page as if Steam might turn into a pop-up book, or grow leaves. The poems themselves are preoccupied with transitoriness—travel and moving—a theme which is developed interestingly through Simonds textural and self-conscious language. From “These days are Malthusian Footnotes”:

And where is the snow, Warsaw?

There zero’s blank corpse sounds over crops erotic as gas

and the asbestos that tang the lungs into submission tumors,

into blue trees-

(you’re a tame dog) but they are not ze-

ro, Romeo,

they are not know-

ing.

These poems are improvisational by necessity; they come out of their own experience. Even when the images are dark, there’s a playfulness and pleasure in the language: the sounds of where, snow, Warsaw/ zero’s blank corpse sounds. The lines are simultaneously organic-sounding and precise, tangential without a word to spare. Scenes and situations are viewed from windows and moving trains, through casual or complicated acquaintance, and Simonds notes the frame. From “Visual Field (Wittgenstein)”:

Of course I could say

“There is a red circle outside the square,”

remark that the pigeons

look like washcloths

from this kitchen window

that you are yourself

a goodbye and a greeting

(as description is half the handshake…

While images of the body appear occasionally, the sense of being inside a body, of feeling bodily, is most often addressed at the cellular level: feeling itself critiqued and deconstructed. Like the language, the body is being broken down into its elements. If the elements of the body take on symbolism, it is a different kind, not the “blood” we recognize.


Morning News by Ana Bozicevic-Bowling (Kitchen Press)

The CD that accompanies this book emphasizes the intimate tone of these poems: interior worlds narrated over distant but easily identifiable noises, or familiar landscapes watched through glass, or water. These poems are, in the best possible way, dreamy: the images are uncanny, the language exact in a way that cannot be reclaimed outside of it. From “For Voice and Violin”:

You must sit down to a dinner

of shoveled dirt, think softly, like suede

to drop around a room, a baby cage

for the growing

beast-street at the center of

you…

Images that could be sentimental or simply benign are contrasted with images of wildness, something dark and unknowable, and thus become charged with a sense of omen and/or interconnectivity. They become erotic in their recognition of absence, sensual in their attention to detail. The first half of the title poem, “Morning News,” reads:

A small rain falls

on the orchard behind

the house: small feet,

small hands. I wake—downstairs

grandfather tunes

a great orchestra. He sits

in the static from Berlin

as in a wind, says: Listen—.

In a vat of huge

stretched space, something

is measured, from wingtip

to wingtip…

Those dark wings and their measurement shadow and shade the rest of the poems for me, make me especially attentive to all the back rooms and antechambers of these poems. The first-person voice is both impersonal and deeply intimate, checking in, it seems, to a collective consciousness and understanding. It’s hard not to feel compelled, pulled back to memory, by the places and states these poems remember. The particular power of these poems is that they don’t only recreate; they also examine experience, the interior landscape of a memory, of memory-heavy worlds. From “Thoughts on Things”:

I don’t know what speaks

from things. Their sentences

come not as something

outside of me

but as one of me

 

only we speak

in opposite directions…

Contributor Notes

Katy Acheson is a slave to the public school system of Massachusetts. She graduated from Umass Amherst in 05 and is currently pursuing her master’s in pro writing at Umass Dartmouth. Her poetry appears in a.pos.tro.phe, the Onion Union and the 2008 Anthology of Younger Poets; her work can also be found on her blog somethingkaty.blogspot.com. When she’s not writing poems she’s crusading to keep ants from throwing parties in her kitchen or playing on her husband’s Xbox360 when he’s not home.

Anonymous currently works and resides in the text of the poem “I Wrote This.”

Robyn Art is the author of the poetry manuscript, The Stunt Double In Winter, which was selected as a Finalist for the 2005 Sawtooth Poetry Prize. The collection will be published by Dusie Press in 2007. She is also the author of three chapbooks: Degrees of Being There (Boneworld Press 2003), No Longer A Blonde (forthcoming from Boneworld Press 2007) and Vestigial Portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Dancing Girl Press 2006.) Her recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Slope, Shampoo, Conduit, Slipstream, Gulf Coast, The New Delta Review, Coconut, Tarpaulin Sky, The Hat, and canwehaveourballback.com.

Adrian Blevins’ The Brass Girl Brouhaha was published by Ausable Press in 2003 and won the 2004 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Blevins is also the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Foundation Award for poetry, the Lamar York Prize for Nonfiction, and a Bright Hill Press chapbook award for The Man Who Went Out for Cigarettes (Bright Hill Press, 1996). Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Utne Reader, Salon.com, and many other magazines and journals. New poems are forthcoming in Triquarterly and Pleiades. She teaches at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

Daniel Borzutzky is the author of Arbitrary Tales (Triple Press, 2005). His translation of Jaime Luis Huenun’s Port Trakl will be published in 2007 by Action Books, and his translations of Chilean fiction writer Juan Emar have appeared recently in Conjunctions and Fence. Daniel’s own poems have been published in many publications, most recently in Coconut, Carolina Quarterly, Word for/Word, Make Magazine, Golden Handcuffs Review, Kulture Vulture, Shampoo, Chicago Review, and elsewhere. Daniel is based in Chicago, but is currently living in Istanbul.

Jessica Bozek lives in Athens, GA, where she teaches and is a student at the University of Georgia. She helps edit VERSE and PERIHELION. Recent poems have appeared/are forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Kulture Vulture, Shampoo , and Spell .

Michael Broder received his MFA from the Creative Writing Program at New York University in 2005. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in BLOOM, Brooklyn Review, Caffeine Destiny, Capilano Review, La Petite Zine, Painted Bride Quarterly, roger, Softblow, Word for/ Word, and Unpleasant Event Schedule as well as in the anthology This New Breed. He is working on a doctorate in classical studies at the City University of New York and teaches in the classics department at Brooklyn College.

Sommer Browning ‘s comix have appeared in The Stranger and are posted online at Asthma Chronicles . Her poems can be found in spork, Born Magazine, Hayden’s Ferry Review and soon in Forklift, Ohio and Free Verse. She mucks about in New York City.

Laura Cherry is co-editor of the anthology, “Poem, Revised,” forthcoming from Marion Street Press. Her chapbook, “What We Planted,” was awarded the 2002 Philbrick Poetry Award by the Providence Athenaeum. Her work has been published in journals including Flyway, Asphodel, Argestes, Reed Magazine, Agenda, and the Vocabula Review. She received an MFA from Warren Wilson College.

Evan Commander is the author of the chapbooks A Thing and its Ghost (H_NGM_N) and Planet Carpet (Forklift Inc.). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Forklift Ohio, The Incliner, and Boog City. He currently lives and works in Cincinnati, OH where he co-curates the reading series Clay Poetry.

Mark DeCarteret’s work has appeared in the anthologies American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press, 2000) and Thus Spake the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader 1988-1998 (Black Sparrow Press, 2000). His latest chapbook The Great Apology was published a few years back by Oyster River Press for which he also co-edited the anthology Under the Legislature of Stars: 62 New Hampshire Poets.

Darcie Dennigan is a Rhode Islander who currently lives in Los Angeles. Her poems have been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, and recent poems will soon appear in The Atlantic Monthly, Court Green, and Forklift Ohio. She was the featured poet in COMBATIVES Vol. 1 #2.

Julie Doxsee, born in London, Ontario, holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is now a PhD candidate at the University of Denver. Other recent work appears or is forthcoming in Retort Magazine, Spork, Shampoo, Eratio Postmodern Poetry, Word For/Word, can We have our ball back, Elimae, Coconut Poetry, Conduit, Typo, Fourteen Hills, Shampoo, and Action Yes.

Tom Dvorske’s w ork has appeared or is forthcoming in Sentence, Passages North, Texas Review, Terminus, Spork, Poems & Plays, Puerto del Sol, The Louisville Review, RE:AL, and elsewhere. In 2002, his chapbook “What You Know” won the Taras Schevchenko Award and was published by Lazy Frog Press & is available through H_NGM_N B_ _KS.. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor at the University of West Georgia.

Elisa Gabbert attended Rice University as an undergraduate, where she studied linguistics and cognitive science. In 2005 she received her MFA from Emerson College. She currently lives and works in the Boston area. Recent work appears in journals including LIT, RealPoetik, Redivider, and Shampoo. She will be the featured poet in COMBATIVES Vol. 1 #4 & she has a new chapbook coming out from Kitchen Press very soon.

Jim Goar lives in Seoul, wrote the book Whole Milk , & edits the journal past simple .

 

Matt Hart is the author of Who’s Who Vivid (Slope Editions, 2006) and two chapbooks, Revelated (Hollyridge Press, 2005) and Sonnet (H_NGM_N Books, 2006). His work has appeared in many print and online journals, including The Canary, H_NGM_N, Lungfull!, and Octopus. A co-founder and editor of Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking, & Light Industrial Safety, he also plays in the bands Travel and The 50 Shoes. He teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

Anne Heide edits CAB/NET Magazine out of Denver. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in 26, Traverse, Small Town, and LVNG.

Tony Hoagland won the 2005 Mark Twain Award from the Poetry Foundation, for humor in American poetry. His three books of poems include What Narcissism Means to Me, and Donkey Gospel. A book of craft essays, Real Sofistikashun, was published in October from Graywolf Press. He teaches at the University of Houston, and in the Warren Wilson MFA program.

Dan Hoy is co-editor of SOFT TARGETS. His work has recently appeared in jubilat, Fascicle, Octopus, the tiny, CUE: A Journal of Prose Poetry, and elsewhere.

Michael Jauchen hails from Dallas, Texas and now lives in Lafayette, Louisiana. His work has appeared in Megaera and The King’s English.

Philip Jenks lives in Portland, Oregon. He has a Master’s in Creative Writing from Boston University. He is the author of two books of poetry, _On the Cave You Live In_ (Flood Editions, 2002) and _My First Painting Will Be “The Accuser”_ (Zephyr Press, 2005). His most recent work is a chapbook, “How Many of You are You?” available as a pdf at www.dusie.org < http://www.dusie.org >. If you speak to him, he might be garrulous or reclusive; in either case, he apologizes in advance.

Robert Krut’s poetry has appeared in journals like Blackbird, The Mid-American Review, 42 Opus, and Haydens Ferry Review, among others. He lives in Los Angeles, and teaches at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Viola Lee graduated from New York University with a MFA in Poetry. Her recent poems have appeared in Alice Blue, Pebble Lake Review, 580 Split, and Phoebe. Her chapbook, Another Word for Dialogue, was a finalist with honorable mention in Kundiman’s Vincent Chin Chapbook Prize. Viola has poems forthcoming in Caketrain. She lives in Chicago with her husband and works at After School Matters, a not for profit organization.

Justin Marks’ poems appear in recent issues of Absent, Fulcrum, and MiPOesias, and are forthcoming from Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel – Second Floor, La Petite Zine, Soft Targets, and the Outside Voices 2008 Anthology of Younger Poets. His first chapbook, You Being You by Proxy, was published by Kitchen Press in 2005. [Summer insular], his new chapbook, is forthcoming from Horse Less Press in 2007. He is Editor of LIT magazine and lives in New York City.

Clay Matthews’ work is published (or will be) in Black Warrior Review, Agni-Online, The Laurel Review, LIT, H_NGM_N, Gulf Coast, Forklift, Ohio and elsewhere. His chapbook, Muffler, was published by H_NGM_N B_ _KS in early 2006, and a new chapbook, Western Reruns, is forthcoming from End & Shelf Books.

Gina Myers lives in Brooklyn where she co-edits the tiny with Gabriella Torres. Her chapbook Fear of the Knee Bending Backwards is available from H_NGM_N’s FLIP/CHAP series.

traci o connor has published fiction and poetry in DIAGRAM, The Madison Review, The GSU Review, Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review, The Red Rock Review, Barrowstreet, Poet Lore, and others, as well as Fourteen Hill’s anthology, New Standards: The First Decade of Fiction at Fourteen Hills. She is currently at work on a collection of short stories—many of which are inspired by urban legends.

Jason Ockert is the author of RABBIT PUNCHES, a collection of short stories. His work has appeared in “McSweeney’s,” “Alaska Quarterly Review,” “Black Warrior Review,” “Mid-American Review,” and “The Oxford American.” He is currently completing a novel and second story collection.

Steve Orlen has this to say for himself: I was born and raised on Hillside Avenue in Holyoke, Massachusetts, a small factory city in western Massachusetts. I have a BA in English from UMass-Amherst, and an MFA from Iowa. I’ve published six books of poetry - The Elephant’s Child: New & Selected…; This Particular Eternity; Kisses; The Bridge of Sighs; A Place at the Table; & Permission to Speak. And two early chapbooks, Separate Creatures & Sleeping on Doors. I’ve won three NEA awards and a Guggenheim. I’ve been teaching in the CW Program at the University of Arizona since 1967, and in the low-residency MFA Program, first at Goddard in the early 80s, and on and off at WW since then. Teaching at WW has been the most important part of my development as a writer and as a thinker about poetry. My wife is Gail, a painter, whose art appears on the covers of most of my books; and our son is Cozi, a senior in college (also at UMass), and a wordsmith, too, although he’s opted for comedy over poetry, which is probably a better choice.

Danielle Pafunda is author of Pretty Young Thing (Soft Skull 2005) and A Primer for Cyborgs: The Corpse (Whole Coconut Chapbook Series forthcoming). Her second manuscript My Zorba is leaping out of darkened bedrooms. Poems and critical work appear in such publications as Best American Poetry, Conjunctions, Georgia Review, and the forthcoming anthology Not For Mothers Only (Fence Books 2007). She is co-editor of the online journal La Petite Zine , and currently pursuing her PhD in the University of Georgia Creative Writing Program. She will be back from Valdivia, Chile anyday now, with a suitcase full of sea lions and red wine.

Brent Pallas lives and works in Manhattan as a freelance illustrator and craft/homestyle designer for magazines. His most recent work has been or will be in 2RV, POETRY, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, The New England Review and others.

Magdalen Powers is the author of, among many other things, The Heart Is Also a Furnace, (Future Tense Books 2005). She lives, albeit temporarily, in Gainesville, Florida.

Brett Price is a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati, where he edited the undergraduate literary journal, Short Vine. He is co-curator of the Clay Poetry Series and an assistant editor of Forklift, Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, Cooking, and Light Industrial Safety. His first short form collection of poems has just been released as H_NGM_N Books COMBATIVES Vol. 1 #1. He lives with his cat, Lady.

John Pursley III teaches creative writing and twentieth century American literature at the University of Alabama, where he is a poetry editor for Black Warrior Review. Two chapbooks of his work, A Conventional Weather (New Michigan Press) and When, by the Titanic (The Portlandia Group) will be published in the fall of 2006.

David Rivard is the author of four books of poems, the most recent of which is Sugartown (Graywolf, 2006). Wise Poison (Graywolf, 1996) was the winner of the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He was recently awarded the 2006 O.B. Hardison, Jr. Poetry Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library, for his teaching as well as writing. Among his other awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He teaches at Tufts University.

Chris Rizzo lives in Albany, New York, where he is working on a Ph.D. in English. Originally from Long Island and a long-time resident of Boston , his work has appeared in many magazines over the years, such as Art New England, Carve, Dusie, Luzmag, Pettycoat Relaxer, and Shampoo among others. Chris has authored several chapbooks as well, the latest of which, The Breaks, was released by Fewer & Further Press (2006). He is currently the editor of Anchorite Press, which publishes poetry chapbooks and broadsides.

Joey Slaughter is an artist/designer living in Monroe, La. He received his MFA in Painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan in 2000. Slaughter is currently Assistant Professor of Art at Grambling State University. He was recently published in New American Paintings Magazine, and shows locally and nationally.

Mathias Svalina lives in Lincoln, NE where he teaches writing, co-curates The Clean Part Reading Series and is co-editor of Octopus Magazine. Poems of his have been recently published in Jubilat, Fence, Konundrum Engine Literary Review and Spinning Jenny among other journals.

Jen Tynes lives in Providence, Rhode Island. She and Erika Howsare co-edit horse less press. Her first book, The End Of Rude Handles, is available from Red Morning Press, and her chapbooks are forthcoming this winter from Octopus Books and Dancing Girl Press.

Joshua Marie Wilkinson is the author of four books: Suspension of a Secret in Abandoned Rooms (Pinball, 2005), Lug Your Careless Body out of the Careful Dusk (Iowa, 2006), Figures for a Darkroom Voice (with Noah Eli Gordon; Tarpaulin Sky, 2007), and The Book of Whispering in the Projection Booth (Tupelo, 2008). Other new work is due out in New American Writing, the Seattle Review, the Modern Review, and New Orleans Review. He lives in Denver.

William D. Waltz lives in Minneapolis near the Mississippi River. His first book of poetry, ZOO MUSIC, won the Slope Editions Book Prize.

Wynn Yarbrough is hiding out in Sumerduck, Virginia- trying to finish a dissertation on animals and gender in children’s books. He is, once again, painting houses, cleaning decks, moving furniture, and living on sawdust to make ends meet. He is also profoudly happy and prolific in his poverty.

Martha Zweig’s two full-length collections, Vinegar Bone (1999) and What Kind (2003) are published by Wesleyan University Press. The Vermont Council on the Arts published Powers, her chapbook. She received a 1999 Writer’s Award from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in magazines including The Progressive; The Chattahoochee Review; Ploughshares; Pequod; Boston Review, The Gettysburg Review and The Paris Review.

Evan Commander

Poem for Wednesday

 

the rogue amusement of last Wednesday is not enough

to withstand what happens tomorrow like someone’s

brother who loves to believe in things you are terrible

 

with covers my Christopher Reeves song is a weightless

body and scratched the whole time I was in Cincinnati

I thought I had a brain tumor I remember thinking

 

the cars behind me do not exist yet I closed my eyes

when the world moved around me

 

 

I in bed with noises

 

In Mexico City so lush always above the purr

The tips of lashes flicker like the tips of lakes

A discussion on Earth torn among discussions on Earth

I could stomach the lookers a crowd of bleeders and their

Fallen the thirst of another day’s rain falls away from the slop

The child and the child and the adolescent laugh

Letters fog great washes of snow patterns

Under blankets like sunrooms and into sunrooms

Great merriment the car lights my dear

The all conquers distance and agreements take

Selfish winces the face to see or think or

Move move home move a home to the quiet pleasant

And smoke on chairs and tables of sky and gangs of clouds

A brief white above everywhere wrote the horrible

No stars ever the pavement before a stair before a stair

The modern word idle and whatever is dirt

Small movements on couches like a sort of false wallpaper

Of barns among hallways sun an empty room

How it is to fill the endeavors of some day

Everywhere wrote the horrible again

In the absolute wanting of the parts of others

 

 

Red Clay

 

like all the first lines we wear as paper shoes

 

here I am at 8:08 p.m. indefinable ample frame

 

built for a larger man but holding me up

 

to dig in red clay all hot daylong

 

my canopy is on sideways in case I tip that way

 

from sweat weight and pull of humidity

 

the street is asleep on a mattress of scenery

 

frozen in a winter of whitish white breathing

 

under water the sky looks like a person’s skin

 

I thought you were magic until teenagers beat you up

 

what insurance do I have

 

now words are burnt in a forest of red reddish

Darcie Dennigan

Orienteering in the Land of the New Pirates

 

The New Pirates are men who, as infants,

told their moms Keep your milk and went and suckled gas pumps.

 

In towns of peril and experience, were the twelve-year olds

shrugging It’s an island all around and no water.

 

Coming home to dark houses to moms saying, Baby

they turned our lights off.

 

ConEd turned their lights off. And ConEd turned

their stove off, turned their heat off. And Citgo

sucked the gas from their car. Citgo sucked back the gas from the car as they drove.

 

It wasn’t that they weren’t tender, didn’t want to cry—

just, they saved up each yelp and lachrymal drop

till they could stick a finger in a socket and light up the house.

 

I am not the fountain of all pity.

We were all afraid to go near that neighborhood.

 

I thought, with gold caps on their teeth, they will smile and kill.

Yes, I thought, but they are sort of— beautiful.

 

Destiny for them is right now and right now and right now and the air with spit hovering in it.

 

Hiding in the town shadows, the air gagged

with electrical currents, the cars, the people on the street lagging—

even the moon lagging behind the tides—

they would come, the New Pirates, dark in the dark.

And the light they make and the light they take is gold.

 

That’s the romantic in me, yes, but if you could see the latest maps.

 

The world is all dark

except for the pulses of natural gas etched in purple

the white of fireflies and the golden coils that trace the movements of the New Pirates.

 

Plus the thin red light off one police car chasing them down.

 

If you flipped the switch on that map

you would have seen the little boys, New Pirates-at-the-ready,

standing in line like for a carnival ride

 

because isn’t adventure always better than stagnant water?

 

—I say this standing waist deep in a swamp.

 

Sure the sludge this time of year is golden.

It is a swamp of ancient leaves, logs from ancient forests.

It is a few calendars until a seam of coal.

 

The golden sludge I think is a collection of sunlight.

It only wants to be stirred.

 

A crew of men from the inner city are robbing ships of the rich on the high rivers,

the highrises, the Hoover Dam.

Their treasure is energy, their loyalty to— living?

 

It sounds stupid.

We were afraid to even go near that neighborhood.

 

Still, if I had a son, I might want him

to make a New Pirate of himself. He’d be exhausted, always too thin, but that’s an honest

 

heartbreak. I wouldn’t want my boy to think the world is kind.

Wouldn’t want him to think his games have no dark side.

 

Me the supermarket braggart—

My boy was the first to mechanize his fist. My boy rides a windmill when he needs impetus.

blah blah blah, he surfs on oil slicks.

My boy says energy is the only life.

 

I imagine this waistdeep in a swamp.

 

Or am I the swamp, wanting only to be stirred?

 

And who is the man on the map, in the dark, eating out the heart of the swamp?

Jason Ockert

Calicoed

My old man and his band of codgers are biking the Appalachian Trail. This, apparently, is Guinness-like. The average age of the bastards is something so old I can’t recall.

     I’m here in his house waiting for him to call. The old coot and his congregation of geezer friends are due into Hellfire, West Virginia any time now, where there is civilization, a payphone. He’s going to call his wife and check in. His wife’s the one with everything planned out. My father and I being estranged doesn’t sit well with her. She tells me if only I could know the man she knows. She’s talking about a Renaissance-type recovered-thing, capable of leading a platoon of brittle-legged yahoos on mountain bikes through rocky terrain and into record breaking immortality. And she asks, “Do you know why he’s doing this? Do you?”

     His wife called—all hopped-up and bewildered—my house three counties over, where I’d been ironing cotton pants. Her cat had run away and she was afraid of a Doberman a few doors down and couldn’t leave the house and miss my father’s call. By the time I arrived she was standing outside in warmer clothes than the late spring weather required, half in porch light, half in darkness, clutching the cordless phone and some loose-leaf paper. I was to make Missing Cat signs, she explained, and described him, the calico-colored cat named Moonshine. She was going to have a look around the neighborhood. “If the phone rings,” she said, “by Heaven’s, answer it; it’ll be Dad.” I’d started in with protests until she got all adder-eyed and grumpy and scurried away saying, “Don’t break my heart.”

     So I’m settled in the kitchen where a glass of iced tea waits next to a newspaper clipping—poorly clipped—from the local rag. The article I’ll not read is accompanied by a picture of my father who is leaning against his mountain bike with a triumphant grin crawling out of his muffled beard. He is wearing some co-fangled helmet and tight biker gear sizes too small and this image sends me to the wall-papered kitchen wall to unplug the phone cord and then root out some bourbon I knew I’d find cowering behind the phonebooks on the high shelf the wife can’t easily reach. The stuff melts the ice in the tea. Then I set to work on those Missing Cat flyers trying to describe what calico looks like.

     There are kinds of kindness better suited for people different than my father and me. It takes heart to be the woman my father’s wife is. I figure he already called earlier tonight and his wife already spoke with him and then came up with this Missing Cat business, begging him to call back in fifteen minutes or whatever—when she knew I’d be here—to surprise him, and we’d talk for the first time in some time and he could tell me that he was doing this biking thing for me as a way to cycle out the bad blood that was and pump in some over-arching good here now; Can’t you see? And his wife believed I could see, bless her.

     Of course, I’d let his collect call catch the dial tone.

     From the kitchen window I can see Moonshine wending through the petunia. My best guess is that my father’s wife is crouching behind the hedge too curious to miss the moment. I couldn’t say if she’s close enough to hear anything from where she is except maybe inflection. I drink my tea slowly, appreciating it, letting my father’s wife really feel the burn in her legs, writing, he looks like swirled butterscotch and fudge.

     When I’m good and done I pick up the phone and talk proudly into the dead to my old man.

2 by Magdalen Powers

What Not To Talk About

I won’t talk about the girl who went to Japan to ghostwrite a novel and very nearly became a ghost herself. About the author whose least unkind act toward her was an uneven slash across her forehead with a razor that had been too many other places to make a clean cut. How she sliced her hair in bangs to try to hide it, but couldn’t entirely, and how no one said anything about it or asked if she was all right because it seemed they already knew what had happened; or how she softly slit the author’s throat as he lay in bed in soft white shorts staring up at her, which in the end was exactly what he’d wanted. And no word, of course, on the book.

 

 

The Return of Franco

For some reason, the Chilean embassy had a ten-foot-tall bronze statue of Franco out front. For some other reason, the man was fond of it. For still a third reason, he followed it one night as it was put on a wheeled cart and rolled through the darkened streets, along Embassy Row, toward the East River, and down to the United Nations. During this walk, the man found out the statue’s right arm could be moved—there was a long metal pole attached to the hand, which acted as a sort of lever—placing the arm either down at the statue’s side, or up at an angle in a type of salute generally considered to be extremely offensive. Is this really in better taste than Pinochet? he asked. No one could tell him.

     The next morning, the UN was in session, but in the tall office building and not in the long, low one, neither of which seemed to be by any river. Inside, the floor was slanted like a theater, ending in a giant wall of glass. There were many people, just milling about. Suddenly there was that salute again, from most but not all of a group of pale military men, one of whom then made some joke, in English, about George W. Bush being no taller than himself and (one would presume Austrian nationalist politician Jörg) Haider.

     The man who had followed the statue on its nocturnal procession hunkered down in a space behind a row of seats. He carried a rectangular brown suede bag on which he wrote the delegates’ most quotable quotes in large block letters with a black roller-ball pen.

    He looked up mutely as outside the glass wall began a series of flashes and booms: the tops of the rest of the city’s buildings were going up, in slow motion, in clouds of white flame and debris.

     He shaded his eyes, as if watching a particularly sunny golf match.

     This is how it’s going to be now, he thought, and tried, mentally, to prepare.

     In the street below, the statue’s arm creaked hollowly as it swung at the bronze dictator’s side.

traci o connor

Van Gogh Dreams

…Cat corpses are turning up almost every day.

— the Los Angeles Times, July 3, 2003

     I was planting zinnias in my front yard in the middle of the day, full sun, no shade at all, and thinking of Van Gogh. How he threw himself heart and soul into the earth. How he saw landscapes with skies all pink. How faith cheats us.

     I was struck by death, by immortality.

     I couldn’t see my way out of my own head.

     Denny, my across the street neighbor, sat on the porch between potted jungle plants reading the paper and smoking. A black and white cat climbed up his shirt. The tail whisked him in the face. He watched me, balanced on the back two legs of a chair.

     The cat wrapped its tail around Denny’s neck like a feather boa. He nodded at me, exposed me. And I was taken by a little thrill of shame.

     

     Twenty-three cups of coffee. Lunch for a franc. A window. A madhouse. Peach tree in bloom. Iris. A plane of olives. The sky Prussian blue. The wheat fields gold beneath the sun.

     The magnificence of Arles!

     Blazing. Brilliant. Beauty slivering his veins. Splintering in his blood. Ribboning his flesh. Eating him. Consuming him. What does he do?

     Here, Vincent says. He places the lobe of his ear in the prostitute’s palm and closes her fingers over the blood spilling over.

     

     Late afternoon, I walked three blocks to the park and sat on the grass with my legs wide and my head bowed, not praying but thinking about praying. Cars passed in front of me. An ant fumbled across my thigh. Bees hovered in a patch of clover. The thinking wasn’t going anywhere and I was wondering about God and why he doesn’t say anything anymore. This is both what I was thinking and feeling so guilty for thinking that I was trying to make it stop when I felt a mist of water on the back of my neck. It wasn’t raining and, anyway, this mist was too fine to have fallen very far and, for a minute, I couldn’t figure it out. Then I looked up and there was a sparrow on a branch budding out with salmon-colored blossoms. The sparrow was shaking it wings and gutter water was falling on my head as if sprinkled by the hand of a priest. I hadn’t wanted to think about it that way. It was all too metaphorical. Too cute. Well, I thought, and then it occurred to me that maybe God never quits talking. Maybe all I really want is for God to shut up shut up shut up.

 

     I sat beneath my window and watched, late into the slab of night, for Denny and the cat. The moon rose above the stricken trees. A shadow moved in the bushes.

     On the top floor of the apartment building next to Denny’s house, a woman stood in her window. Her form wobbled in the yellow light and I began to feel as if I were drowning—as if the world turned too fast on its axis.

     I clipped the mountains from the horizon. I followed their black border with a pair of scissors. I took a paper punch to the moon. I lifted the clouds with the sticky side of tape. And then I pasted all of it, everything, to my body. The moon on my breast and the mountains and that familiar shade of hazy purple washing over all the constellations of my skin—

     I know where I am in this fleshy landscape.

    

     Denny said, “I sure enjoy your flowers. I can see them all the way from my window. What are they, daisies?”

     “Zinnias,” I said.

     “Beautiful.”

     “Where’s your cat?” I said, though I could see its shadow stretched out across the grass at the base of the maple tree.

     Denny looked around as if lost, “Hunh,” he said. “Got me.”

     Like a magic trick, the cat’s head appeared from behind the trunk.

     But it didn’t fool me.

 

     The cat hung around at the back fence. Watching. Waiting. I set a bowl of milk out beneath my bedroom window.

     The milk sat untouched, and I went to bed. I was thinking, lying there looking at the ceiling, about how the cat is a study in opposition: black and white. Saturation of color. The absence of color. I began to understand night and day. Yin and yang. Good and evil.

     And then I could not quit thinking about life and death. I thought about it coursing through the cat’s veins. The ebb and flow. It made me hungry in more ways than one. I was thirsty. I was lonely. I thought of Van Gogh licking his brush between strokes on the canvas. How the starry night burned inside his body. Embers of paint burrowing through his flesh, and when he cut off his ear a dazzling blaze of pure light streamed out like the Milky Way across the indigo sky.

     Luminescence. Evanescence. Glowing creatures—bits of light cast across the inky sea.

     Oh…there’s nothing really to explain it. Nothing that comes close enough.

Arles, 1888

I have two new studies like these: a meadow full of very yellow buttercups, a ditch with iris plants with green leaves and purple flowers, the town in the background, a few gray willows - a strip of blue sky.

 

If they don’t mow the meadow I’d like to do this study again, for the subject was very beautiful, and I had some trouble finding the composition. A little town surrounded by fields completely blooming with yellow and purple flowers; you know, a

dream.

     Two children are lost in a yellow meadow of flowers. I spend the night on a blanket stitched of purple thistle. There’s a red city, a quiet city, far away in the distance.

     An owl flies silently just above the buttercups and God hitches up his robes and squats next to me. Hi God, I say. Hey there pal.

     I wake up early. The color of the sky is the color of a blind man’s eyes. God is gone. I look behind a maple, a row of apple trees. I meander the ditch bank, weaving through the tangled iris.

     The children are in a furrow in the middle of the meadow. One is dead. Flies swarm inside his nostrils. The bigger child, a girl, chews her lip like a cow chewing cud.

     The dead child is beautiful stretched out in the dirt. His golden hair. His skin the faint blue of morning. Bunches of clover sway in the breeze, casting purple shadows over the curves of him and it makes me want to look and look for the meaning of it—

     for the message. for the moral. for the God in his flesh.

 

     I was deadheading zinnias when Denny sneaked up behind me.

     “Hey there, neighbor,” he said.

     “Whoa,” I said and spun on my toes with a dead blossom pinched between my thumb and index finger. I was squatting low to the ground and Denny towered over me. “Hey. Hi. You startled me,” I said and flipped the zinnia onto the grass. It broke apart into a hundred pieces.

     “I’m sorry, sweetheart,” he said. “I didn’t mean to. Just thought we’d come over and say hello.” That’s when I saw the cat peeking out from behind Denny’s legs. I was nearly eye level with it and couldn’t look away. The cat’s tail inched up Denny’s calf as if it were a separate animal and Denny reached down and gathered the cat in his arms. He rubbed his face into its fur and mumbled some gibberish that embarrassed me, A grown man!

     Was I jealous? Because I hurt for that cat. I wanted to hold it so badly I was in physical pain. Not the tender, sad pain of love, but—I can’t say this without sounding perverse—the pain of Lust.

     Raw. Toothy. An open wound.

*

     At the park, the salmon colored blossoms were shriveled up and falling in handfuls from the trees. I looked up and the leaves of the tree were so full and green they filled the spaces in between branches and I could no longer see the sky. I expected to see the bird. I fully expected it. I’m so often, with no justification, certain.

     Take Denny, for example. He will, I am sure, love me soon enough.

     He will, I am sure, hate me too late.

 

     Blazing. Brilliant. Beauty slivering his veins. Splintering in his blood. Ribboning his flesh. Eating him. Consuming him. What does he do?

     He places the lobe of his ear in a handkerchief. He folds the corners of the cloth over the blood seeping through the weave. Here, he says. He hands his gift to Rachel, the prostitute.

 

     It was dark, black. I woke to the cat lapping at the milk just beneath my head. I imagined its little pink tongue slipping between its teeth, nibbling at the sweet milk. I closed my eyes and felt the tickle of its tongue in the skin between my fingers, the crook of my elbow, in the crease between my thigh and hip. The moon flew up above the mountains, and the cat licked and licked as pleasantly as small talk. I touched my stomach and the cat mewed. The bowl skittered across the cement, and the cat leapt into the shadows.

     And then I had nothing. My hands were empty. My mouth open. Night was distant, a gray I had no name for, a lack of color. My body slipped away around me. My flesh rose to the listless clouds in the listless sky. The sick moon. The stale dark. I floated aimlessly. I had nowhere to land. I was lost.

Arles, 1888

Here is a sketch: a large piece of land with clods of ploughed earth, for the most part a definite purple. A field of ripe wheat, in yellow ochre with a little carmine. The sky chrome yellow, almost as bright as the sun itself.

I am still enchanted by snatches of the past, have a hankering after the eternal…but when shall I ever get round to doing the starry sky, that picture which is always in my mind? Alas, alas, the most beautiful paintings are those of which you

dream.

     Tares of wheat ripple beneath a dazzling sky. The bruised earth rises up in waves. The hot sky rocks, queasy. I step into the field and fall, fall, keep falling.

 

     The morning sun crept up over the mountains and the sky was the color of unripe melon. I cried until the tears trickled into my ears. I held a brush in my hand, but I knew I could never paint the way I felt. Unfinished. Vague.

     How much loneliness the pale sun poured in through my window!

     I flung the brush out onto the grass.

     I wanted the cat.

     I want the cat. To sit in my lap where I can pet it and hear it purr and feel it beating with life. life. life.

 

     Denny waved me over from his side of the street. “Come see,” he yelled.

     He held a four-pack of flowers in each hand. He pushed them up near to my face and said, “Yours were so pretty I had to have some of my own.”

     The flowers were not zinnias, but marigolds. They looked, to me, like so many little mouths.

     He gave me a trowel, showed me where to dig.

 

     Blazing. Brilliant. Beauty slivering his veins. Splintering in his blood. Ribboning his flesh. Eating him. Consuming him. What does he do?

     What he really wanted was a piece of Gauguin. What he really wanted was a brother. What he really wanted was God in the garden. What he really wanted was a piece of flesh.

     Just this. A piece of flesh.

 

     This is how it happened: I wished and she came.

     I stood beneath a peach tree and held the cat in my arms. The cat blinked and opened its lips. I saw the tiny sawteeth. I held it, the cat, close against my chest and smelled the sun in its fur.

     There was a Swiss Army knife in the pocket of the jacket I was wearing. The jacket belonged to a lover I once had. The knife was small, meant for a keychain. The white cross on the red shank was nearly rubbed off. I took the knife in my fist, rubbed my thumb over the cross again and again. I thought about slipping the blade into the cat’s spine. What it would feel like. It horrified me, and I was ashamed for thinking it. I had to look at myself differently. It was like that: one stranger passing another in the park. And how they both turn around at the same time to get another look.

     I touched my face. My neck. I ran my hand over the cat’s vertebrae and the cat purred, a little engine.

     I put my hand back into my pocket and worked the blade of the knife out from the shank with my thumb, slowly so the cat wouldn’t startle and run off. I pet the cat with the edge of the knife. I stroked the knife across the cat’s fur and the cat purred and purred.

Arles, 1888

Is that all, or is there more besides? In a painter’s life death is not perhaps the hardest thing there is. Why, I ask myself, should the shining dots of the sky not be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? For my own part, I declare I know nothing whatever about it. But to look at the stars always makes me

dream.

    Indigo dark. I sit on a riverbank. I can smell the black water—the mud.

     Stars everywhere! Beneath me. Behind me. Floating the oily surface of the river. Swimming through the watery sky. Starlight shatters into ripples of lavender and green and tangerine pink.

     The grass on the bank whispers in the wind. I hear the low murmur of voices. I turn to look. Two lovers with their heads bent together gaze at the far away moon.

      Hello, I say. Hello hello.

     It takes a long time for them to hear me. They stop with their backs to me and I stand with my hands spread wide.

     The lovers turn in a long sweeping arc through the grass. The water behind me licks at the bank. A star plummets in the sky.

     The woman’s face is gashed in all directions. Her lips are blanched and cut through all the way to her chin. She bleeds from a wound across her neck. Parts of her nose, cheeks, eyebrows and ears are missing. Her skin is white.

     The man is the dead boy with golden hair from the yellow meadow of buttercups. And my god he is beautiful.

 

     Denny said, “Have you seen Bugsy? I can’t find him anywhere.”

     At my feet, zinnias boiled pink and red and orange. “Who’s Bugsy?” I said.

     Denny looked as if he were about to cry. “My cat,” he said. “My baby.”

     Sun trickled through the leaves of the maple, lit on the blossoms, and it made me want to say something that meant something. I said, “Van Gogh spent the last few years in an asylum in southern France painting the scene from his window.”

     “What are you talking about?” he said.

     “Isn’t it amazing how much beauty there is in just one tiny square of the world?”

     “Bugsy is missing,” he said.

     “Wheatfields and fruit trees and every color of sky.” I swept my hand across my vision, blurring the fence, my neighbor, the blue, burbling clouds.

     “My cat,” he said. He drew his face close to mine, the smell of dirt and old sun in his hair. “Are you even listening to me?”

     “Denny. See.” I put my hand on his shoulder. “This is what I mean. Listen: while we are alive we cannot get to a star.

     I watched the suck and pull behind his skin, his lips trembling as if bothered by breath. He shook my hand off and I held his gaze.

     “Shut up,” he sputtered, hollow-eyed, and I thought of Van Gogh on the other side of the canvas, the sun licking against his scalp, clawing at his flesh. “Where is my cat?” Denny said. He lifted his hand as if to touch me and I closed my eyes, waiting for his hand on my chest and all the way through me like a shatter of stars.

     The wind touched the back of my neck. I opened my eyes, and the sun slunk away.

     “Denny—”

     “I don’t understand,” he said. His hand dropped to his side, quivering as if already dead, and when I looked into his open mouth, I saw nothing but teeth.

     I shook my head and turned away. It was no less, no more, than I had expected.

*

     The bird is dead. Flattened out on the street in front of the gutter with its head rolled in on its chest like a tube of toothpaste. The gutter water runs with moss, a red battery, the dried-up petals of brown-colored blossoms.

Arles, 1888

O never think the dead are dead. So long as there are men alive, The dead will live, the dead will live.

     I painted a self-portrait on my stomach. The peach tree in my back yard busting out pink blossoms and the sun spilling white light across grass soaked blue with sky. I painted myself standing on the fence, my arms flung out from my sides. I painted leaves bursting through the slats. I painted garlands of clouds strung through the tree’s branches.

     I painted around my navel, filled it with cerulean blue and sap green. I painted the cat stretched out across my feet, its tail wrapping my calf. I painted its pink tongue with all the colors of the dawn.

     I lay still on the grass and took shallow breaths. I listened to the beat of my heart rumbling through the earth. Enough to wake the dead, I thought, unsure if it was a question or a joke. Unsure if the cat would claw to life and spring from the ground like a sprout from a seed…

     While the painting dried, I got to thinking about pigment seeping into the pores of my skin, glitters of paint tumbling through my veins.

     Tumbling—I can’t help but think it—as stars tumble through the darkest night.

Robyn Art

SUPERSYMMETRY

Even now the waves’ gallant receding

as still some whales go unharvested,

 

even now the restless continents

and the clamorous pingings in between,

 

just another amphibious planet crosshatched

with its giant, tsunamic reckonings

 

between the moon’s silvery clavicle and the clouds,

feathered and whorled. So first it’s the body’s

 

clamorous hatchings and another

potentially-bicuspid zygote, the egg

 

shakes loose from its filament into a motorcade

of sperm and Voila, another clueless hominid

 

kicking the Coke machine in the hall.

Someday we will all be so many

 

vestigial organs under glass,

decomposing glial cells of our flogged

 

and sanctimonious forbears as the earth

carries on with its apoplectic music,

 

half Hallelujah chorus,

half Flight of the Bumblebee on kazoo.

 

Somewhere it is autumn,

the woods tossed and heady with pitch;

 

it is May, the sexy Black-Eyed Susans

knock-kneed in the wind.

 

Already somewhere it is too late, but wouldn’t

you do it once all over,

 

wouldn’t you spring the beast from its muzzle

just to see if it could sing?

EARLY INDICATIONS OF THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

 

Already the quorum of stars and their distant,

Apocryphal hum, already the field

Lashed with frost, the lightning’s frenzied

Pyrotechnics, already the sound of water

And sea’s voluminous displays, orbit

Of spinning and hurtling through the body’s

Multitude failings. Soon organelle, soon ribosome,

Soon Golgi apparatus, soon body’s rap sheet

Of forgeries and the vials on clinic shelves,

Soon eruption of fire ants like pus

From a ruptured boil, mosquito’s suicidal

Forays, the zapper’s sharp, unequivocal

Crack. Not the dream of lilies,

But of root-bulbs buried in snow.

Soon the faces of loved ones from where

Already the train has appeared.

 

 

Sommer Browning

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Some Notes About H_NGM_N

Welcome to H_NGM_N #6. Thanks to The Hold Steady & My Morning Jacket for helping me put this issue together. Real thanks to Eric Appleby for everything he does to make this work. The notes below owe much to a document written by Ted Berrigan called “Some Notes about ‘C’” which accompanies the “C” papers/archive located at Syracuse University.

PS Read the whole issue.

— Nate Pritts, EIC.

 

*presented to the Writing by Degrees conference, as part of a panel on online publishing & editing. University of Binghamton, NY: 19-21 Oct. 2006.

 

Some Notes About H_NGM_N

The first issue of H_NGM_N came out in October of 2001 mostly because I realized I could put it out, & that I should. I had spent part of that past summer in my hometown of Syracuse, NY, with special permission to noodle around in the Collections Archives at Syracuse University where they had, among other things, all of Ted Berrigan’s papers pertaining to “C” magazine. If you haven’t seen a copy of it, or don’t otherwise know, “C” was a legal-sized, mimeographed magazine, stapled down the side, that came out starting in 1963.

So I knew I wanted to start a magazine & I knew I wanted it to look like “C” as my homage to Berrigan’s love song to New York City. At the time I was on a university fellowship at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, working on my PhD. The English department had a mimeograph machine. This seemed to me to be a major obstacle overcome. I borrowed a book of criticism from Dr. Skip Fox, my advisor & a poet himself, & found a marginalia doodle that looked like a game of hangman gone wrong. (Skip’s influence can also be felt through the fact that I had taken a class with him the previous spring about small press publishing, a class that resulted in my partnering with Matt Dube to produce the first LAZY FROG PRESS chapbooks, the press that would be “home” to H_NGM_N for its first two issues). That doodle, which he claims not to remember doing & who am I to doubt him, would be the cover to our first issue & is still our main “logo,” if literary magazines can be said to have a logo. It also gave me the name H_NGM_N.  Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

The reason why the letter “a” is deleted is a secret. Mostly, I thought it looked interesting in a way that HANGMAN didn’t, but because also it presented a coded introduction to the aesthetic I wanted the magazine to embody – writing that would make the reader work, that would force the reader to become involved in the happening moment of the poem.

Gathering work for the first issue was easy, since all the poets were people I had some connection with – friends or friends of friends. This was another early key to our ongoing aesthetic. Though I don’t only publish work by people I know, I can say that I am “friends” with probably more than half, probably more than ¾ of the people who have been in H_NGM_N (although sometimes the friendship developed after they had submitted some poems). This sense of community & camaraderie is important to the environment I think any literary magazine would be happy to foster.

After our first issue came out we got noticed by the online magazine run by Andrei Codrescu out of New Orleans, EXQUISITE CORPSE. It said H_NGM_N was “an actual mimeo mag resurrected from the Past, but with poetry from the future.” I always liked how they capitalized the “P” in “Past.” Also, later on, Bill Lavender mentioned H_NGM_N in his editor’s introduction to the anthology ANOTHER SOUTH, featuring all kinds of “experimental” “southern” writing, put out by the University of Alabama press. I was feeling pretty good about all of this.

Then it took a long time to get our second issue out. I wrote my dissertation & graduated; I got married (again) & I got a job. I moved, twice. The second print issue came out in the spring of 2004. At some point during all of this I started to think about making H_NGM_N an online magazine (I was thinking about it in October of 2004 because I said so in an interview conducted by Clay Matthews for an issue of the online journal MiPoesias (19.2)).

I should mention that the idea of moving H_NGM_N online would have remained simply an idea were it not for my old MFA buddy Matt Hart introducing me to Eric Appleby. Eric came on board as webmaster, as enthusiastic as I was to try something new, to deal with the challenges of putting a literary magazine completely online. In the first year we only crashed once.

With the move online came the option of developing the content in H_NGM_N in several different directions. I had the option of presenting more material than I was able to in the past. Issue #3 had about the same number of poets that #2 had, but also initiated the EP section. The idea was that I wanted to be able to present larger selections of a particular poets work, accompanied by an aesthetic statement, a kind of manifesto. I don’t really have any guidelines for this. I simply felt like this was an important context for me as a reader – blending the creative with some heady thought about motivations/inspirations / craft.

#3 featured Matt Hart & David Saffo; #4 featured Ethan Paquin & Anthony McCann; #5 Joyelle McSweeney, Richard Meier & Jake Adam York. #6 will be out at about the same time as this piece sees the light of day so it’s no secret – Philip Jenks & Danielle Pafunda. There is no secret to how I solicit writers for the EP section; I simply send a letter to writers whose work I would like to see more of. In fact, when I solicit a writer for H_NGM_N, in any capacity, I usually just tell them to send me the work they’re willing to stand behind & I, in turn, will stand behind it too.

Moving online also allowed me to present portfolios of artwork, something that would have been cost prohibitive for a little unaffiliated lit magazine. I’m especially proud of this – putting the work of visual artists in front of writers, especially when the process of so many of these creative individuals is very similar.

H_NGM_N has also grown to include reviews (particularly of chapbooks) & the FROM section (featuring sections from long poems, sequences & serials). #6 will initiate another new section, THANK YOU, which will serve as an occasional feature of appreciation for one influential writer. First up is Steve Orlen & the section will feature essays about him & his work by writers like Tony Hoagland & David Rivard, as well as new poems by Steve & a review of his new & selected volume.

I should say that moving online has been a technological challenge but has been all good in every other way imaginable. We are well known, recognized, & widely read. We get many submissions, many “hits” & I think have been generally successful in our goal of providing a home for a particular style of poetry, a style that didn’t necessarily have a ready home before H_NGM_N showed up. When a new issue of H_NGM_N is ready, I send an email out to lots & lots of people, & these people post the note on their blogs or to different list servs that they may belong to & before I know it the “promotion” is done.

It’s worth saying that H_NGM_N B_ _KS is a continuously vital part of the H_NGM_N picture; we’ve come out with 6 print chapbooks to date & are now working on an offshoot magazine, COMBATIVES, which has much in common with the spirit of the original few issues of H_NGM_N – a rebellious desire to say something so loud that everyone can hear it. But I suppose a discussion of COMBATIVES & even H_NGM_N B_ _KS is best left to a context different from this one. Let me close by saying that H_NGM_N, the online journal of poetry, poetics, &c., is my project, though many people help out with it. Nothing happens with the magazine that I don’t want to; every piece ever published in H_NGM_N was there because I wanted it there. The journal is as much a statement of my aesthetics as my own creative work is - & it is all a very vital part of what I see as my responsibility to POETRY, in this our talking America & world.

Clay Matthews on Ron Padgett

“Nothing in That Drawer”:

Ron Padgett and the Postmodern Sublime

Whether or not you buy into one poetic school or another, or even the concept of poetic schools in general, I’ll venture out here to make this statement nonetheless: the New York School (or at least many of its appointed members) brings a vibrancy and humor to contemporary poetry while simultaneously maintaining a wit, intelligence, and historical sense of the poetic tradition. But for this essay, the discussion will be mostly limited to the work of one poet, as you may have guessed from the title, Ron Padgett. The comedy and imagination of a poet like Ron Padgett represents not an answer to whatever it is that is the postmodern condition, but a possible means of survival. And though I’m as tired of the term postmodernism as the next guy, I’m using it frequently here as a loosely historical period because I believe that Padgett is an historical poet, one for the books, as they say. This is also to say I want to speak in the language of a critic about a poet who deserves more criticism in my opinion than he has been afforded.

Padgett’s poetry never takes itself too seriously but deals with serious issues. He picks up on the old game of consciously working with a language that isn’t always working, and through his poetry he achieves (or allows we the readers to achieve) pleasure through sometimes painful circumstances, and in this regard his work culminates in an example of the postmodern sublime. I refer to the postmodern sublime both largely as it is explained by Jean-François Lyotard in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, and also as a reference to what Paul Hoover defines as the “comic sublime” in “Fables of Representation: Poetry of the New York School.” Hoover’s conscious mention of the sublime serves as a useful link between Padgett, often described as a second-generation member of the New York School, and Lyotard’s conception of the sublime as revised from Kant. Hoover’s treatment of the comic sublime deals most extensively with Kenneth Koch, and is never clearly defined in set terms, but he notes that “Koch’s comic mode offers a different form of the sublime, one based in invention…and discovery” (29). However, unlike other modes of the comic sublime such as satire, Hoover points out of Koch that he “is moralistic and didactic at heart, but he is not essentially a satirist. He stings mildly with parody, and his targets are usually works of art, not political situations or public figures” (29). Hoover goes on to note that the “lightness” of Koch’s poetry sits in opposition to the seriousness of an Eliot or Olson, or the demands from a writer like Matthew Arnold that poetry have a high seriousness. I would argue that all of Hoover’s definitions of the comic sublime as manifested in the poetry of Koch also apply, and perhaps even more so, to Padgett, of whom Koch was a teacher. Indeed, Koch’s influence on Padgett, as well as O’Hara’s, is often apparent, but Padgett is quite a different poet from both of these writers, and achieves the comic sublime in different ways, many of which Hoover points out in the introduction of his essay.

This is not to argue, however, that the comic sublime is strictly interchangeable with Lyotard’s sublime, although the two share similarities. Lyotard states that “The sublime sentiment…carries with it both pleasure and pain. Better still, in it pleasure derives from pain” (77). And although Lyotard isn’t necessarily speaking about comedy here, it should be noted that humor usually requires an element of pain or misfortune, and through another subject’s pain we often derive pleasure. As viewers of comedy, or of a figure like Chaplin, for instance, we both identify with the pain but are able to laugh because it’s not us the pain is happening to, so that comedy requires both empathy and distance. Central to Lyotard’s notion of the postmodern sublime, and not necessarily inherent in Hoover’s conception of the comic sublime, however, is a constant separation or tension between the idea and its representation. Lyotard writes of the sublime:

It takes place, on the contrary, when imagination fails to present an object which might, if only in principle, come to match a concept. We have the Idea of the world (the totality of what is), but we do not have the capacity to show an example of it. We have the Idea of the simple (that which cannot be broken down, decomposed), but we cannot illustrate it with a sensible object which would be a “case” of it. (78)

For Lyotard, modern art is that which uses its expertise in an attempt to “present the fact that the unpresentable exists” (78). Postmodern art, on the other hand, which is at once always a part of the modern, is

that which, in the modern, puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself; that which denies itself the solace of good forms, the consensus of a taste which would make it possible to share collectively the nostalgia for the unattainable; that which searches for new presentations, not in order to enjoy them but in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable. (81)

Lyotard’s blurring of the separation between the modern and postmodern has been seen by Jameson, as noted most clearly in his foreword to The Postmodern Condition, as a nostalgia for high modernism. However, it seems to me that Lyotard’s own treatment of the nostalgic represents what he sees as the crucial difference between the postmodern and the modern. The modern sublime maintains a nostalgia for the “Idea of the world” which is unattainable, or the nostalgia becomes a nostalgia for the unpresentable. The postmodern, on the other hand, resists consensus and thus a shared nostalgia or taste. Because of this, the postmodern sublime is that which is at once constantly breaking the rules even while being reabsorbed, and therefore is postmodern “according to the paradox of the future (post) anterior (modo)” (81). Unlike high modernism, the postmodern (sublime) doesn’t seek to use form to represent a return to some prior concept or idea, but rather attempts to point at form as form—to change it, dismiss it, parody it, etc.

And in the case of Ron Padgett, we constantly find this compulsion to treat form as such, to parody it, and to push the conceptions of the constructs of both poet and poem. Despite the accessibility of much of the language in Padgett’s poetry, there’s constantly a highly intelligent undertone, and an imaginative playful urge that illustrates the postmodern sublime. Consider Padgett’s poem, “Haiku”1:

Haiku

First: five syllables

Second: seven syllables

Third: five syllables

The subject of this poem is the form itself, as each line not only designates the required number of syllables for haiku, but also contains the required number of syllables. The structure of haiku in this poem, a Japanese form known for its difficulty in English, is opened up for viewing—thus exposing the form as form and on another level the form as translation, a concept which Padgett as a frequent translator is no doubt aware. So, in this poem we see Lyotard’s idea of the denial of “good forms,” as the language represents both the poem and the form, literally, and both the content and the form represent an alternate reference to the Japanese haiku, which becomes untranslatable as such in English. There’s a humorous exposure of arbitrary structure in the poem, and yet along with the humor we find a commentary on both form and language. By exposing the gears of the poem as machine (as outlined by Williams), Padgett’s “Haiku” comments upon the arbitrary nature of all structure and all language, and instead of representing a nostalgic attempt to translate the beauty of the Japanese haiku, the poem bares its form in place of content. The form thus becomes the content, and in this way the poem is also at once a unison of these two fields and a parody of that unison.

Similarly, in “Nothing in That Drawer,” another of Padgett’s poems in form, and one of his most anthologized, we find a sublime revelry in the sonnet and by extension poetry at large. In this poem, each of the fourteen lines that make up the sonnet is the same: “Nothing in that drawer.” The repetition becomes comedic, as we visually imagine a speaker looking in one drawer after another, or perhaps the same drawer over and over. And yet the move to search in this poem is also reminiscent of the postmodern sublime, as it constantly points to the failure of language and form to achieve an absolute unity—with themselves and with the Idea. We have in this sonnet the constant search, constantly postponed or deferred. We’re never sure what the speaker is even searching for, or if the movement of the poem is simply language, or boredom, even. We’re left with a sort of constant opening and disappointment, which in many ways is what poetry as postmodern sublime is—an opening on a thought or structure accompanied by a delight in the failure of the opening. And in the case of “Nothing in That Drawer,” because we’re never sure of the action, or even the context, it seems the poem is less about a nostalgia for the unpresentable and more about the loss as bliss, the sublime itself.

Instead of lamenting the gap between form and content, word and concept, Padgett places them in conversation with one another, allowing the form to speak to the content and vice versa. The sonnet form in this poem is wrapped in a contemporary humor, much like the Gehry house Jameson discusses in Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. And like the Gehry house, which features an older, traditional home renovated by postmodern architecture, Padgett’s poem allows the inside and the outside to converge. Thus, the form of the sonnet, the sonnet as move from proposition to resolution, offers a narrative to the very language that also works to deny that narrative and/or resolution.

In “Foreign Language,” an essay originally printed in Blood Work and later reprinted in The Straight Line, Padgett reveals his curiosity of language in all its forms:

I had a corollary taste for Pig Latin and for nonsense talk, and I was always amazed how an ordinary word gradually loses its meaning when repeated over and over. Car car car car car car car car car car car car car car car car car car car car car. (26)

I noticed just typing the word over and over how much it became a physical monotony of hand movement and for a moment lost attachment to any sort of traditional signification. Padgett’s repeating of the word “car” here is similar to his repeating of “Nothing in that drawer.” The word is not sacred for him (as absolute symbol), but neither is a postmodern nihilism. By repeating “Nothing in that drawer” the postmodern sense of loss of the attainable moves into a sort of chant, divorced from the original thought, so that “Nothing” doesn’t come to stand in as an answer (scientifically), but a refrain, a music, and a fleeting one at that. If Lyotard’s sublime is that which consistently escapes, consistently changes the rules, then the repetition of a line like “Nothing in that drawer” is at once able to create a conceptual narrative, undermine that narrative, and also undermine the line itself, so that it becomes a chant for a moment, and then an echo of the already forgotten the next moment. We find often in Padgett’s work in form, then, a heightened awareness of the form as form, and ultimately of language as form, a theme he addresses more explicitly in other poems.

For example, in the poem “Who and Each,” in which the speaker consults the OED in an attempt to see if “which” might have come from “who” and “each,” Padgett foregrounds the absurdity of language in a long passage of the etymology of “which”:

“Hwelc, huelc, hwaelc, huaelc, huoelc, hwaelc, wheche, weche, which, qwech, quiche, qheche, qwel, quelk, hwilc, wilc, hwilch, wilch, whilc, whillc, whilk, whylke, whilke, whilk, wilke, whylk, whilek, quilc, quilke, qwilk, quylk, quhylk, quilk, quhilk, hwic, wic, which, wyche, wich, hwych, wiche, whiche, whyche, wych, which, which, quiche, quiche, quich, quych, qwiche, qwych, qwyche, quhich, hwylc, hwulch, hulch, wulc, whulc, wulch, whuche”: Teutonic belching.

The poem is quite humorous throughout, but makes a surprising turn at the end with the final two lines: “Thus I spend my days, / waiting for my friends to die,” which is perhaps still humorous (darkly), but in a much more painful way. In a poem like “Who and Each,” we become aware of the absurdity of language, and also history, in the context of life’s larger preoccupations, such as death. And yet the poem is also about the constant death of a word, as it slowly becomes something else. Even if we don’t spend our days with the OED, we unavoidably spend them with language, which in this poem becomes both arbitrarily useless and sublime in that it offers an escape from the waiting. This diversion is a subject of many of Padgett’s poems, and of the New York School in general. Matthew Rohrer notes of Padgett’s poetry that “There is no pretense that the poems are going to change the world, or end police brutality—they’re against that of course, but they never lose sight of their reality: they’re poems” (192). Hoover closes his aforementioned essay referencing a talk given by Ted Berrigan at the Naropa Institute in which Berrigan points out that the root of the word amusement is muse (30). This, I think, is where the comic sublime intersects with Lyotard’s sublime. One characteristic of the comic sublime is that it never imagines itself in search of an absolute Truth or Idea—its goal, rather (or one of them), is amusement, diversion, and a sort of joy in uncertainty. By dropping the need to know the unpresentable as an absolute, the postmodern sublime also drops the nostalgia for the unpresentable, and thus exists, however briefly, in a moment of indescribable gratification in not knowing and not needing to know. By abandoning a methodical search for the unpresentable, the postmodern sublime approaches it from an ever-increasing variety of angles, never exposing an answer but through its various and changing perspectives perhaps coming to terms with the unpresentable as a sort of gestalt.

By extension, I would say the postmodern sublime is also that which is constantly turning on itself—never settling, bouncing from one structure to the next. The moment the sublime settles it is absorbed by the modern (as the current), and no longer achieves the postmodern sublime, or at least not in the same manner. In many of Padgett’s poems there’s a move somewhere, a surprising shift, as witnessed at the end of “Who and Each.” Clayton Eshelman notes of these shifts that they “are constructed on the basis of associational shifts (puns, correspondences, off-the-wall notions) which layer and densify the writing in a way that defies calling it either serious or humorous. It is emphatically both” (11). In this article by Eshelman, “Padgett the Collaborator,” he also deals extensively with Padgett’s many collaborative poems written over the years, especially Padgett’s book of collaborations with Ted Berrigan, Bean Spasms. Padgett states about collaboration in the article that “It showed me ways to write while being simultaneously in control and out of control of the piece at hand” (17). The collaborative method, which Padgett states can even go on within one person, closely aligns itself with the postmodern sublime because insomuch as the writing is a form of competition, there is a constant urge to push the rules, barriers, possibilities to their limits, as well as the conceptions of the poet. Indeed both Padgett and Berrigan often refer explicitly to the competitive nature of collaboration over the overtly cooperative. Through their example, collaboration is not about consensus between two (or more) authors, but rather about pushing the boundaries of language and form. Structurally, the collaborative writing process dismantles the romantic notion of the poet as divining rod of truth. Poetry instead becomes an ever-changing process, and the writing becomes an interactive social situation. By deconstructing the poet as the sort of divine translator, Padgett, in both his collaboration and his own poetry, constantly works to resist the proposition that he is offering a form or voice that captures the essence of the unpresentable.

This collaborative method as method thus carries over into much of Padgett’s poetry, and fosters the shifts that Eshelman mentions inside a majority of the poems. In “Louisiana Perch,” for instance, a large segment of the poem deals with the meaning of words, and the ways words disappear, stating that

great words are those without meaning:

from    a    their    or

Or    the    for    a    the

The those

The rest are fragile, transitory

However, immediately after this the poem makes its turn, and drops the meta-commentary on language for a sort of revelry in possibility:

like the waitress, a

 

beautiful slender young girl!

I love her! Want to

marry her! Have hamburgers!

Have hamburgers! Have hamburgers!

As soon as the poem begins to near a thesis about language, it abandons its previous line of thought for a humorous shift in which the speaker imagines a life with the waitress in which instead of having children he will have hamburgers. But because of the context of the rest of the poem, the hamburgers at the end are “fragile, transitory,” in the same manner as Lyotard’s sublime. By all appearances, the end does seem to achieve a sort of sublime—but it reaches it only to also realize it is constantly fleeting. The postmodern sublime is thus that which is deferred upon achievement—it constantly refers back to another unknown referent, and Padgett seems to aptly tackle the phenomenon in this poem. The repetition of the exclamatory sentence “Have hamburgers!” represents in writing the ghost of the postmodern sublime—it is a moment cut off from the metaphysical preoccupations of the rest of the poem, cut off from any need to know, and it delights instead in a humor and escapism through thought and food, and also through the repetition of language.

And Padgett is ultimately aware of his position in regards to the postmodernism condition. He often makes explicit gestures that allude to larger postmodern questions, as made clear in “Poem.” In “Poem,” Padgett considers his legacy as a poet after his death, though as usual he approaches the subject with a humorous reflection:

When I am dead and gone

they will say of me,

“We could never figure out

what he was talking about,

but it was clear that he

understood very well

that modernism is a branch

that was cut off decades ago.”

The irony of this poem begins with the first word of the poem, “When.” Since Padgett is not yet dead and gone, the statement by the “they” has yet to occur, and thus the linear distance of modernism is constantly moving, too, in much the same way that modernism for Lyotard is always with us both as an historical (and literary) period and as the moment recently passed in which things are arranging themselves into order. But rather than gesture toward some self-reflection on the state of literary affairs, Padgett quickly turns the poem to the comics, and thus his own comedy:

Guess who said that.

Mutt and Jeff

who used to look so good

in the comics.

I especially liked their mustaches.

And the sense in it

that God is watching

from some untelevised height,

and sometimes

throws himself on the ground.

So, the poem moves quickly from literary criticism to the comics and then to God, who is no longer the god whose absence symbolizes his greater presence as Idea, but rather God as a structure unattainable from the television camera as postmodern perspective.

The unattainable, or the not yet attained, plays a significant role in the postmodern sublime in that it is structurally similar to the fetish, in which the end goal or Idea is not ultimately what is desired but rather the constancy of being near that threshold. The postmodern sublime represents a moment when the end goal is no longer sought out, when Lacan’s objet a is momentarily forgotten. It’s a moment of satisfaction, even in the face of the Rolling Stones. In “Chocolate Milk,” a poem somewhat similar to the last segment of “Louisiana Perch,” Padgett portrays the blissful moment of anticipation:

Oh God! It’s great!

to have someone fix you

chocolate milk

and to appreciate their doing it!

Even as they stir it

in the kitchen

your mouth is going crazy

for the chocolate milk!

The wonderful chocolate milk!

We find at the end of the poem not a frustration because of the waiting, the moment before, but instead a revelry in it. David Shapiro writes of Padgett’s poetry that it “is an astounding art of modesty and imperfection itself” (87). In this manner, a poem like “Louisiana Perch” becomes a fundamental example of the Padgett poem: the language is accessible, the topic is humorous, and the subject is not mastery but the delight of imperfection, of waiting, of anticipating—of the more frequent experiences in life.

Padgett does, indeed, make imperfection an art. His interests in Dadaism and surrealism are often apparent in poems as a way to break out of the nostalgia for a whole. “Clunk Poem,” for instance, begins with the attempt to put the perpetual Humpty-Dumpty together again:

I pick up the pieces

and stick them together.

They remain far apart,

so far apart I can’t

even take them apart again

And then, just as the poem appears to be nearing some sort of answer to the question of how to deal with the parts, Padgett answers, but in such a fantastic sense that the question loses its relevance:

I have an idea: I will

go down and make myself

a peanut butter, blueberry,

and banana effigy of Hitler.

That’ll show the bastards.

So, if Padgett is to put anything together, it will be on his own strange and bizarre terms. His project is not all-out fragmentation, but instead a way to deal with the parts of a world without having to arrange them in any perfect way. Padgett, like much of postmodernism, constantly rejects the Cartesian model of the world in which an objective truth is attainable. In “Famous Flames” Padgett confronts Descartes directly as well as the tradition of the scientific method, and seriousness. The poem opens with the speaker stating that “I respect the idea of the noble book. / (No kidding!).” But immediately thereafter it becomes all to clear the Padgett is also kidding: “I take seriously the works of Aristotle, although I do not usually like them.” For Padgett, seriousness (with a respectable outfit on) is a separate business, one that he can understand, and even respect, perhaps, but a project that lies outside of his tastes. To state that he takes these noble books seriously is at once to say just that, that he approaches them from a different (serious) perspective, and also to deconstruct that seriousness, as his tone reveals a sarcastic humor. The poem moves quickly away from seriousness and into an all-out attack of the serious historical figures through Padgett’s comedic voice:

These gentlemen are very interesting.

Take Montaigne. A peculiar guy, and

very interesting. Or Spinoza,

he of the face ugly

and geometry as divinity.

He looked in the mirror and said, “Ouch!”

and he looked into the ouch

and saw a perfect circle.

A leads to B and to C

and that explains the universe!

Unfortunately that face belonged to René Descartes!

Despite the humor here, there is also a serious (sic) critique of the Cartesian tradition. Padgett equates Spinoza’s conception of perfection as a means of dealing with his own imperfection in the mirror, his méconnaisance, to throw in some more Lacan. Spinoza here takes the “O” of the “Ouch!” for complete perfection rather than absence and rather than arbitrary form. Then, Padgett further complicates the reflection by stating that it belonged to Descartes. Therefore, Spinoza as a post-Cartesian philosopher is far from a perfect image—he is rather a sort of social reflection of Descartes. In this poem, Padgett links the scientific method to humans, and once that link is made by Padgett the search for perfection or objective truth becomes an impossible, comical endeavor. Later in the poem, and until its end, Padgett picks up the critique again:

It is Christmas, 1944. The man

who invented the question mark

was laughing in heaven. Human beings

had turned into exclamation points

that threw skinny shadows across the earth

as it turned in space lit only by an old flashlight.

It was a pretty cheap production,

and when Tommy entered it in the science fair

Mr. Bushwhanger was embarrassed.

He ran and banged his head

against the wall of the faculty lounge

until his glasses fell on the floor,

burst into flame.

The movement of time and space in these last lines undermines traditional conceptions of these ideas while also keeping science as the object. Christmas, 1944, becomes a sort of nostalgic and terrifying moment before the end of WWII and before the atomic bomb drops at Hiroshima. In some ways, then, the Christmas at the end of 1944 is a sort of symbolic farewell to the idealistic and romantic notion of science as the savior of the human race, as “The man / who invented the question mark / was laughing in heaven.” The question mark becomes a man-made thing here—not something that is inherent in nature. It is part of a structure, a form, and in the same way human beings become forms, and the earth itself becomes a small reproduction at a science fair, lit by the sun which is an old flashlight. Although the postmodern sublime is perhaps less overtly apparent in this poem, the poem serves as an important context for understanding Padgett’s unison of Lyotard’s sublime and the comic sublime. In “Famous Flames,” Padgett deals with some very serious and painful issues. But through the lightness by which he treads, through the surrealism of the last lines in which “his glasses fell on the floor, / burst into flame,” we recognize an attempt to break with the image of Descartes in the mirror, and as Padgett states in the middle of the poem, kill “the dragon where he breathed / funny fumes on the pages of Literature.”

Because of Ron Padgett’s balance of intelligence and comic sublime, his poetry is a vital addition to contemporary poetry both as it competes to push the boundaries and rules while also contextualizing the history from which it came. The postmodern sublime in Padgett’s poetry serves as a useful means by which we can re-evaluate the role of the sublime in literature, and thus literature’s function in society. The beauty of the postmodern sublime is also what may be frustrating about it—the minute we begin to place our arms around it, it evades us. Padgett can help us be okay with that. He can make it easier and less embarrassing to try again. And best of all, he can make us laugh while doing so.

______________________________________________

Notes

1 Unless stated otherwise, references to poems are taken from Ron Padgett’s New & Selected Poems, 1995.

 

Bibliography

Berrigan, Ted and Ron Padgett. Bean Spasms. New York: Kulchur Press, 1967.

Eshelman, Clayton. “Padgett the Collaborator.” Chicago Review 43.2 (1997): 8-21.

Hoover, Paul. “Fables of Representation: Poetry of the New York School.” American

Poetry Review July-Aug. 2002: 20-30.

Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham,

NC: Duke UP, 1991.

Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Trans.

Geoff Bennington and Brain Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota

Press, 1984.

Padgett, Ron. New and Selected Poems. Boston: David R. Godine, 1995.

—-. The Straight Line: Writings on Poetry and Poets. Ann Arbor: The University of

Michigan Press, 2000.

Ratcliffe, Stephen. “Supernatural Diet.” Talisman: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry

and Poetics 7 (1991): 111-17.

Rohrer, Matthew. “Ron Padgett’s New and Selected.” Iowa Review 27.2 (1997): 190-96.

Shapiro, David. “A Night Painting of Ron Padgett.” Talisman: A Journal of

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics 7 (1991): 82-87.

Justin Marks on Christopher Salerno

Christopher Salerno. Whirligig. Spuyten Duyvil: 2006. $10.00

If there is a criticism to level at Christopher Salerno’s Whirligig, it is that the poems are too tight, that the poet is asserting too much control over them. Once or twice while reading, I would have liked to feel as if a poem might spin a little out of control, or feel some unevenness in the book, some bumps in the road. That those qualities are absent, however, doesn’t really diminish Salerno’s high accomplishment with this first book of bizarrely human voices and rich, nuanced tones.

I’m not exaggerating when I say Whirligig is one of the five best new books of poetry I’ve read this year [1] . It is dense, driven by associative leaps and juxtaposition, but at the same time (once you are immersed in its world) is remarkably accessible. It has a seductive “best of both worlds” quality. Whirligig clearly occupies post-avant realms but does not give itself over to pure experimentation. These poems are complex, insightful, perplexing, humorous, sincere and ironic, often simultaneously.

“Little good, the profundity of flying over iris fields / when we land ululating,” Salerno writes in “A County,” the opening lines of the collection’s first poem.

Wheel sparks

jump to a thin riot’s tune. Not the usual blues

I write in my daybook, with its rubbings

of a disproportionate world

whose constellations throb and that is what aches.

Profundity, the kind often put on pedestals in mainstream poetry, is of little good in this world. Things are too mixed up and unstable. Even sadness (the usual blues) is different than we’re used to. Still, there are the ever-present, ancient constellations, the ache of simply being a human in a disproportionate world that defines life and drives the act of writing. That sadness pervades Whirligig.

Salerno presents varieties of sadness, all done with a light (but never nonchalant) touch, which makes his poems all the more arresting. “Try Loving Someone Who Doesn’t Love You,” for example, explores the sadness that comes from spiritual exasperation:

Try approaching the light so sloshed all you do

is rise in the wafting breeze

 

tuck your two

immense wings in,

click your thorax and go

outside.

It’s true that “We’re alone in our best visions,” as Salerno says in the book’s title poem. But it’s equally true that we are simply alone, regardless of what may or may not exist beyond this world.

Terrestrial romantic love might be a salve, but is not curative, as evidenced in “Octopus”:

I’m wanting

to recover the legs of you

 

wrap them over my arms

like devices new

 

swimmers use

to ignore drowning.

Love, if it survives (and these lines suggest it won’t, or hasn’t), can help one ignore the emotional weight of mortality, but it ultimately does nothing to save one from the lonely fact of dying.

Salerno’s poems also have a sophisticated and subtle sense of humor, which is sadness inverted. Some of them go so far as to wear a bit of the “man-walks-into-a-bar” rhetorical guise of jokes, as in these lines from “Single Family Home Detached”: “Seller says: ‘Home includes sound of slight pounding.’” Of course, seller also says, “O landscape! O field! Field has potential mountain inside,” which retains some of the feel of a joke (like the idea that a real estate agent would speak like this, which is the poem’s main source of humor), but ultimately is not. When Salerno employs humor, the poems succeed by being jokes, and not, which is impressive and speaks to the breadth and buoyancy of the book as a whole. [2]

Some poems in Whirligig are certainly stronger than others. Despite that, I am tempted to say there are no real missteps in the collection, which, as I say, is part of its strength and weakness. What I see as Salerno’s major accomplishment, though, is his ability to make a book of poems that occupy their own idiosyncratic world, one animated by the feeling that “We do not know what will happen. / We know what will happen. It is easier / than it has ever been” (“Not Dying”).

Remarkable, truly.



[1] The other four being Jen Tynes’ The End of Rude Handles, Allyssa Wolf’s Vaudeville, Lara Glenum’s The Hounds of No and Brent Cunningham’s Bird & Forest. There are certainly others, but these are the ones that have left the most lasting impressions.

[2] Another example of joke rhetoric is in these lines from “Australopithecus Interruptus”: “Five ex-courtesans lie around a hotspring,” and “—a year nearly sexless if / you don’t count beating on my own cave.” In “Closing the Book of Nursery Rhymes” humor takes the shape, perhaps, of a reference to John Turturro’s character in The Big Lebowski: “It’s this going that’s the Jesus.”

Brett Price on Richard Meier

Review of Richard Meier’s book Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar, Wave Books, 2006.

The essence of a thing goes on and off like a switch.

Eventually I don’t believe in figuring things out,

and I just know there is a problem without that benefit,

however dubious it must always be….

(from “For Obscure But Convincing Reasons”)

The same could be said of the reader’s experience of the poems in Richard Meier’s book Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar. However, because Meier articulates his ideas so well, one never feels misled nor even perceives a neglected problem, despite the poems’ often complex syntax and shifting tenses and senses. In fact, one feels just fine about not figuring everything out and can move freely through the book’s six large sections, nodding at and relating to many of the paradoxes the poems simultaneously create and identify.

As indicated by the quoted bit above, one of the main concerns of the book seems to be the essence of “things” or the manner in which “things” exist, or, more generally, the ways in which individuals perceive and conceive of the world. Meier tackles much in that regard. From poems like “Memory of Germany” to “Consulting the Oracle” to “Various Configurations”, the book runs the gamut of possible experiences with “one thing… always dragging/ a foreign perception out of another, he with she,/ or she with child.”

What unifies these poems, however, is the sense of presence/the present they all evoke. The poems speak loudly (and musically), and as they recall the past and allude to a desired future, they establish an all-inclusive and open “now”. Take this stanza of “Your Dream Redaction” for example:

Someone had long ago painted the plaster

behind the white and green floral paper a climbing flower,

a morning glory. The dark green stem in black edges,

the same as the dark pink blossoms,

twists them into opening, the edge of the letters

or a body in prophecy,

the passage in a book that existed once,

and is now the wish to find it.

Here, a very physical image becomes conceptual as the poem moves from the lowest level of plaster on a wall to a passage in a book the speaker now wishes to recall.

This is one example of how the poems often drift associatively (some more wildly than others). However, one always gets the impression that they begin in the world we all share a sense of, before moving to the worlds we create and often attempt to communicate. In fact, that’s one of the book’s most appealing qualities. The poems offer up something for the reader to hold on to and at the same time provide plenty of room to move around in or deviate from.

This is certainly the case in poems like “Villanelle” where Meier uses the familiarity of the form to orient the reader, then works with and against the parameters of the villanelle to explore new content. The form itself becomes a metaphor: “The real villanelle was the situation/ in the moment it had forsaken.” Yet, it still contains all the stuff life is made of; the stuff that moves us:

…Your eyes are the color

of evergreen bark in winter light drifts. Your eyes are the color

 

of lower down the trunk in shadows. Layers that show the century

as undergarments fashion us out of snow shifts.

I was cold a long time before trading personages,

and knew there was no one in the bed to receive them.

Which reminds me—have I even mentioned Beauty? In the midst of all the conceptual fun and flux, Meier manages to handle the subject matter with no shortage of gorgeousness. Poems like “Song of Innocence” move from image to beautifully strange image:

The smaller contains the larger. Red snow falls on the cardinal.

It’s water frozen in the shape of your mouth. You’re speaking.

The innocent pick it up from the sidewalk,

 

wear it, eat it, pass it from tongue to tongue

lovingly crushed and bitten…

In line with the logic established by the rest of the poems, the book ends with “The First Sound They Hear.” And like the other poems in the book, this one concerns movement, both in its narrative and in the way it moves the reader: “the only question they have then being how to get home/ without returning the way they’d come.”

In Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar, Meier explores, discovers, and proceeds to explore those discoveries (often in the same poem). The poems are communicated with clarity and sincerity, but give the reader plenty think about. Most importantly, “they react as if they were real people,/ as in fact they are.”

Gina Myers on 3 chapbooks

Anne Boyer’s Good Apocalypse.

Effing Press 2006.

Anne Boyer’s Good Apocalypse opens with a poem titled “I Love Literature” which begins with the lines “I was attacking Culture. / I have seen her and she is so big and beautiful.” and ends with the lines “Yes, I love Literature / but what I love about it is / the reproductive organs of Capital.” From this you get the idea that what you are dealing with here is not your average lyric poem but something much more complex and troubling, something recognizable but strange, something brutal.

The poems and collages in this collection exist in a world where “Bunnies occupy the same / semantic field as question-begging” (“Travail Mechanique”), a world where “catastrophe is convention” and the old ones “fold / unfold their metal chairs” (“Brute”). Concerns vary from the production of pleasure to money and possessions to Stockholm Syndrome to brotherhood. There is a delight in the unexpected directions the poems take you, a delight in the vocabulary and lists: “romantic themes, a series of stalls, plagues, spacesuits, and tales of insurrection” (“Brotherhood”), “baseball, tom cats, hinges” (“Journal of the Plague Hour”). While tackling large ideas/themes, craft is not neglected—the poems are characterized by sharp line breaks and an attention to sound.

In Anne Boyer’s Good Apocalypse there is a battle taking place—the attack on Culture—the push and pull of language, the muskrat collaged with Guy DeBord, a fight against the “same bland cinema: everywhere, here” (“Priapism). In “Great Matrix/small year” Boyer writes: “I write like bards & Vikings.”

 

Arlo Quint’s Days On End.

Open 24 Hours 2006.

Arlo Quint’s new chapbook, Days On End, is a single poem/serial poem that begins with a collaged epigraph attributed in the notes to eleven different writers and ends with eight lines from Titus Lucretius Carus. Falling in between is a mind moving through the days, experiencing a city/life/life in a city, recording the interior landscape, and referencing everything from Ovid to the Velvet Underground, When Animals Attack, and A&E Biography—“monuments of perception / taking a big bite”.

There is a great mind at work here creating one unexpected phrase after another, making sharp observations—an eye/I that had to be there “to see the full range.” Not only is there delight in the imagination/selection of the phrases, but there is also delight in the attention to sound: “slumped over middle-aged / frenzies rolled into good old days”. The rhythm infects the poem, and the momentum builds until it reaches a standstill/death at the end when “everyone and I stopped breathing / we stopped walking / stopped talking / stopped seeing.”

Drawing from the New York School tradition, this is a poem that is alive—you can feel the pulse. The last line of the epigraph reads “the surface is beautiful because the surface is breathing”, and so it goes for Days On End. The surface is beautiful because the surface is breathing:

turn ambiance into shit

scientists can’t even understand

basic facts transmitting

across a nerve synapse

wrecking all tomorrow’s parties

holographic mind theories

 

just a crazy dream

involving ways around words

in a greater landscape

I never learned to visit

wouldn’t want to live there

deficient and defiling memory

 

Kristen Hanlon’s Proximity Talks.

Noemi Press 2005.

This slim collection, weighing in at eight poems spread over fourteen pages, speaks from the edge of scenes through storyboard constructions, glimpsing daily events and world views. Poems come out of nowhere and are quickly gone, sometimes falling into the emptiness at the bottom of the page as in the opening poem “The Dark Hum of Not Touching” which ends with a colon followed by nothing: “this is a hymn dedicated to:”

Throughout the poems there are several forces at work—the need to define and categorize, the constant return of memory, the final acceptance of learning to love a future that is “Just Getting By” (“Painter’s Holiday”)—all captured in sharp descriptions and concise language. The poems are not minimalist in the traditional sense, but are in a language that is pared down to its essentials. Moods vary from dark, as in “Of Course I Will Force the Flower,” where grief is defined as “the static between stations, / as brutal mediatrix”, to light and playful, as in the poem “Klamath and No Trout” whose form, using headers with brief musings following each, recalls Tender Buttons even before reaching the rather Steinien line following “Mosquitoes”: “Very fine and very mine is my Calamine.” The voice of these poems is sure of itself even as it asks “Is it wrong, this constant returning” (“Your Strong Mind”). The poet turning and returning in language and in memory.

Tom Dvorske on Anthony McCann

Review of MoonGarden, by Anthony McCann. New York/Seattle: Wave Books, 2006. $12.00 Paper. 77 pages.

For my money, the best books of poems generate spontaneous and unexpected language use in a reader—such as the work of the Spanish surrealists, some language poets and a few of our younger, contemporary poets. Anthony McCann’s MoonGarden is one such example, delightfully dredging the sludge of our atrophied linguistic centers to free language for new associations and joys.

Reading McCann’s book is like stepping into a garden where the paths don’t quite link up. Once you discover they are made of moonlight, all is well, however, as you gaze at the fruit of this garden planted by the likes of Spanish poets—Vallejo and Jaime Saenz—, the Spanish-American William Carlos Williams, James Tate, and others. In some respects, McCann’s book reads as an exploration of the styles and modes of the poets whose work has influenced him. Take, for instance, the Tate-esque experience of the book’s title poem “MoonGarden”:

Because the moon is his most important organ

Max is obliged to conceal it in his body.

It is the source of his eternal youth.

According to Max the moon is falling

All the way through our bodies

To the bottoms of our soles.

Or in the mysterious, Poet-of-New-York, Lorca-esque conclusion to the book’s title poem “MoonGarden (November)”:

I left my voice

inside your body

when I drowned

Yet in the book’s title poem, “MoonGarden (The Enchanted Prince),” we encounter something reminiscent of the Ashbery of The Double Dream of Spring:

Logos touches the president’s hair

and his hair turns to crumpled up paper

this happens only at night

when the central city has been abandoned

and the traffic lights click and grind

and the president is dreaming of the parkway again

McCann’s humor is devious, sinister and dark, but not without its dint of tenderness as in these lines from “In Favor of One’s Time”:

near me always

was a highway

and the silent power

of the birds

 

the cry the song

finds limits

 

but my body

is a vessel

of their joy

For all its echoes of other poets, McCann’s book never descends to mere homage (as “One’s Time” suggests), but breathes through these influences his own complex experience and subjects these influences to an important sort of dialogue, for McCann’s book reads also as an inquiry into the tension between a surrealism, or deep image poetry, that suggests a powerful, metaphysical force in the universe, and a surrealism generated by a technology-driven, capitalistic culture that represents metaphysical experience as some kind of meta-marketplace confusion. The beautifully ambiguous poem “Robert Stone,” is a good example where we also see McCann taking liberally in language and style from the later WCW:

The pure products

Of America

Love Math

And Radiance

Want

 

A Real Relationship

With Divine

 

Substance

And are all

 

Criminals.

That seems about right, both taken in context of Robert Stone’s novel Dog Soldiers and as a gloss on contemporary culture’s desire for money, shiny things, and authentic spiritual revelation. McCann reminds us in this one sentence, however, that this pure America is both historically and actively criminal. The lines echo Williams’ original sentiment but remake it in important ways, for in McCann’s America “The absence / Of mercy / Is terrific.” Yet, in spirit, McCann’s project is Williams-esque in its quest for a rigor of beauty, its invenshun.

Danielle Pafunda

The most dear things slip: your newborn soapy and acrobatic, your narrative thread, your foot in the aisle, the first time you bed down with a lover, the first time you rise from that bed. The zeitgeist and weather therein. Slip and go, but are not necessarily lost. They lace in the web just beyond reach. Rooted as we are, each to our node, few options present. Stretching, shrieking, employing magnets, establishing networks. Myself, I jimmy the language. The more I do so, the nearer I pounce.

From another direction, wonder what happens to the word “pucker” when I slip it into a context it hasn’t conventionally occupied. What happens when the line itself slips? What does the reader have to slip on, slip off, to continue reading?

It becomes graphically near. Uncomfortably so, not wholly unattractive.

I’m talking real things. My Captain Caveman yo-yo, my locket of dog’s hair, my first pregnancy. The sensations in my nerves and nethers on certain dank hillsides, in certain dusty rooms at dusk the window frames splintering, trailing off the escalator’s spit. Right now. I’m talking your things too. I’m finding the unidentifiables, and I’m lashing them to my back. It’s a minutiae recovery, by which I don’t mean small, but each.

I’m talking the skin fragments attached to whatever we banish in our fits of abjection. Julia Kristeva envisions the child so disgusted by warm milk’s skin, she will kill off and give up a piece of herself, that is vomit, to purge the offender. Anna Tsing:

In his curing chant, the shaman Awat Kilay…moves on to the perspective

of a fly…A fly can even cross to the place of corpses; it enters the fine bamboo

tube stuck into the earth of a new grave. A fly also sits on the umbilical cord of a new birth…Awat Kilay’s flies and lice are not dirty.

I have been as that fly, but with my human body in tow. I have perched where life comes in and felt precisely the lining of my gut, my esophagus flared. It is not especially uncommon. A little further, we find the slipped figures, unsullied even. This is the way I love you reader.

Iatrogenic, of which these poems are part, is a novel in verse. More or less. In writing these, I owe a debt to Margaret Atwood, Matthew Derby, Donna Haraway, Edgar Lee Masters, and Monique Wittig, among others. A collaborative of women quits our world for a compound of its own making. They conjure and impregnate cyborg surrogates. We hear from the women, the surrogates, and a small band of renegades. Lacunae abound. Sometimes a voice falls in and comes out altered, other times it runs at the bottom of the well. All are perched, maggot visionaries and at the same time most regular.

 

 

 

 

Who Chose Calamity Jane

I turned my back on the bulb. Though it warm, with leaf,

against my nape red powder burn. Such conversions of food

were beyond me. I took to limb direct that whitened juice.

 

What a thick feeling on the terrarium floor. What a press

of tiles to my backside and fibers to my calves.

 

Where was that certain gape from which I first poked

my starry head? Abroad in a vehicle, testing the metal

as it rose to meet the pedal, the foot, the strung leg.

At the pine slab, glass shimmying up to the bottle.

 

So here I went with my snaggletooth brimming

and my eight-gauge ring strung with probate.

With probable cause.

 


 

Wherein a Surrogate Question the Term

 

You can come too, they said. It was a pressure

their prosthetic would incant, and they to one another,

and then to us, though at very first there was no coming,

no going. So we did not understand

 

when first they showed us the pig iron. When first

they showed us the stalk with its fine hair a tool

of razing. We could not follow their breadcrumb,

elastic band, thin wrapper discard with the proper

abandon. In other words

 

for many months we did not move from one containment

to another, but simply assuaged each shell, each shell

as needed, or, ideally as the comfort began to molder.

 


 

Wherein a Surrogates Discovers the Gate

 

I began to produce. My left crop circle glazed

and damp, though the right an oblivious blunder.

A steady drip of white or clear or yellowed nutrition,

depending on the tincture they injected.

 

When, one morning, I slid the tube from my abdomen,

when I silenced the alarm, I expected to run dry. Instead

I ran a temperature, I ran a formal length of satin

from one pucker to the other, and between them cupped

a measure of stippled juice.

 

They did not, I think, know in time to stop me. They did,

however, have a bandage at the ready. Have a siphon

and a battery. The sound was as the sound they described

when they remembered the air shows, and the phenomenal

pilots, who would have had, in our amphitheater, to duck.

 

Who did have a way. A way about them.

 


 

The Renegade Garden

 

I keep them under my tongue, these peels and pith.

What they discard, I arrange. I paralyze, adhere,

magnetize. In the acculturation lab, they label similar

procedures a diagram. I refer to them, the winches

frosting in my grip, the turbine leaking and winking.

 

In the first I tell the story of the initial severing.

They tell me this story is no longer an element of our

historical register. Still, I arrange the cellophane ribbon,

the thermometer’s digits, the pang from the butterfly

suture. Here, in the latex glove, I have placed five eggs.

 


 

Who Chose Maya Deren

 

On the day I hopped the wall, the perforations in my ears,

eyebrow, lip, navel, septum seared. Sealed, became pockets,

then filled to pockmarks. The rings and bars, my fossils.

 

Were I a pterodactyl, span embedded in the concrete,

my extinction might have been entirely confirmed.

 

I clambered. I scaled the wall without forethought. For who

thought that would be my last day? My summer cotton yellow

voile rose, plastic cat’s eyes, thick bead choke.

 

On the day I leapt the wall, my printed pang preceded me.

What little pocket change I had slipped out in the scuffle,

rained down into the trench that runs alongside the mortar.

 

Were I to go back. Surely the trench. My slick coins, needle

threadbare. My own, with her arms just so, her recognition just.

 


 

Wherein a Surrogate Notes the Passage

 

Though we were not built for allegiance, not built

for speed or two, I was to her closer than the others.

We were of a piece in our clip and wither. I tapped her neck

and wore around mine the same glass hazard, the same rigged

scream of chance.

 

In the cabinet, there was a depiction of mirror image.

They cautioned us, the double vein. In the first slide,

a knee skinned, and in the second a second knee revised.

 

In such, I knew her to be. When the midwife came, scalpel

and gloom, I too felt the drop. The glum and heft of no such luck.

 


 

Wherein a Surrogate’s Fixing

 

In the stitchery, where they’d removed her, first one ocular X

then the next. It was custom, they said. They darned the body pocket.

All this for the ash can. But it must mete out in order. First

 

the craggy thread, then the glaze. In her palm, they embedded

twelve daubs. Mercury, marcasite, graphite, geranium. They slit

her heel to calf, cubital flaring. Spread and flecked. A wisened

caramel. Her pores were close, her nostrils plugged. They wound

her hair around the gibbous spindle.

 

When finally we were to approach, when finally the table reared.

With my fist I made the gesture of a pebble slipped. I placed

my toe on the Dictaphone’s pedal. Who could know what gush

of breath would precede her? Swift loft, the pension imploding.

 


 

Wherein a Surrogate’s Cessation

 

To her viewing, each brought a copy face and fitted it such.

Over hers. Joined and settled the pucker. I made as an animal

low on fours at the sight under flame. I rang the keen

to its utmost trill, skating the beam, what they clearly

once knew as a blackbird.

 

Shawl shrunk and laced with vegetation, her hands as paws

and in them a hunk of currency. Already, sterile jars

lined the acculturation lab. To each a calcification would be born.

Rather a fragment, and borne.

For all the attachment you knew, I might have asked them,

did you ever once distribute the bone?

 

At last, though, I rang beyond the octave and fathomed

a draught of glass. What they refer to as a devotion.

 


 

Who Chose Joan Crawford

You must learn to fall gracefully down

the bleached staircase . So I had. So

had I also learned to ice my first face,

to preserve my second face with a strap

and measure. A vodka tonic toned

my innermost muscle. A sinew belt

lisped lithe lithe in the most wee hour.

 

So perfect was I. Then, what had me gnawing,

hands and knees, at the fuchsia? What begged

scour once more? What martini glass

floated, flew, and mangled on the ever-burning,

ever-loving kindle? Those metallic pinecones,

so much statuary, but in the blaze, extra-planetary.

 

I left that world, trailing the rope-worn melody.

Home is where you hang, where you hang, where

you hang your hat.

 


 

The Renegade Garden 2

 

I took from the cabinet two of their metal

rejoinders. There was a time they said, it was

an age they said, wherein these maws petrified.

With a crank, one positioned. With a fussing

of many half done gowns.

 

With an angled pipe and pivot gleaming.

 

I saw them warm to it, saw them tussle.

In a quiet way, I’d managed their bleat. Always

covering my grizzle. My leavings.

 

And from the medicinal pantry, a quilting.

This batting does justice. I crow the precision,

I convert each brittle plug.

 


 

Who Chose Marguerite Gautier

 

Neatly clipped the zinging wire, and I was a’sea.

It was my last in that world. Later, when wickered

in the corner, I would almost regret the ripe

citrus gag, but for some hours, I was just the bow’s

own bend. Not want or the skin of the milk.

Recoil or the gilded market creams.

 

Fringed parasol, I tucked my charcoal lengthwise.

The thin plastic lung proceeded. Its albescent

wiles. Regarding the message, my handwritten

assent. But in the gloaming I could only manage

to initial.

 

Despite the scant regret unfolding. As the fingers,

the people under church, and its steeple.

Neil de la Flor & Maureen Seaton

Z – A

Zeeeee:         Is a small yet visible phenomenon exerted on a body rotating directly upon
                     any moving wind of objects at the poles and goes east to zero at the
                     equator because it is an apparent right directed outwards in a clockwise
                     velocity in a non-appreciable suspension non-advection similar to the
                     Zeeman effect.

Y (Why)          Brings to mind the breach between the Seen and the Unseen; or, in other
                     more uncrinolined disciplines, the gross symbiotic effect recently stumbled
                     upon by Yasbel’s Knife or the Kaleidoscope of Rhizomes (See Kay.)

Xotic              Haven’t seen Kay yet but news from Joan about swamps made it this way,
                     i.e., it’s okay to swim barefoot and petticoats are high fashion once again on
                     Thursdays.

V                   L

U (ewe)         Yikes. Stuck between the high court judge who is pro succulent and one
                     who believes in goat man, man goat, man goat woman, goat goat woman,
                     goat goat man, but not goat man woman unions, was fired for fro(licking)
                     with Hellava Bottom Carter. (sound of goat stumping_____!)

Thomas         Is a tank engine train? Is now a government plaza? Is my class brother? Is
                     real? Is buried? Is a punter of screen arts? Is one of Davis area’s most
                     respected dental assistants? Is conservative? Is survived by his wife of 47
                     years?

S (ess)           Slimester. Slimblekey. Once known for his chemical-holding fat bubbles, Mr.
                     Slim Shaky, aka, Whimsy Corpuscle, is survived by his wife of six months,
                     aka, Thomas Stout’s lovely widow.

Rooster          Hoopi dopey do! I want to shake my booty out da’ door. Oops. I lost a
                     feather.

Q (kewpie)     Is the codependent partner of U; sometimes, as in qarif, Q branches out on
                     her own and the results are startling and occasionally couplets. This,
                     however, is not easily perpetrated, so don’t even try if you’re into the four
                     horsemen or if you are a horse. Nothing is worse than all those qills without
                     the quivers. Either way, kewpies rule in quintuplets and then only on
                     boardwalks.

Post               Holy Rosary School of the Little Mosh Pit! I’ve just found a mosaic
                     bracelet with kewpies-encrusted gun metal. Close your little eyes and put
                     your pinkies in your ears and blow. Then write the first thing that comes to
                     your fingertips. Like this: mosquito.

O (boy)          So Steve walked into Unit 7 and I introduced him to Malcolm who, as
                     you know, bites. Steve liked him anyway and was careful to wash his hands
                     after touching him. Later Steve called Malcolm Morty by accident, which
                     actually fits really well now that Malcolm is in this new stage of his lives.
                     When I mentioned the name change to Malcolm he bit me on the leg and all
                     I could say was: Oh boy, Morty, not you too!

Names           I met this guy who changed my cat’s name from Pumpkin to Stella. Then I
                     met another guy and he changed my cat’s name from Stella to Lola.
                     After those guys I changed my cat’s name to Kitty, which better reflected
                     the fact he was 1. a cat and 2. a boy not a drag queen.

M (yum)         M’s birthday is coming up. Therefore, We will eat sirloin burgers (made from
                     mammals) at Le Tub in Hollywood (or dolphin sandwiches, not made from
                     mammals). No beets, no doves, no karaoke.

Lillian             I gave her the copy of the IR because she’s curious and also bought her a
                     journal so she can write her story. She remembers everything (maybe I’ll
                     collab. with her too, how weird?, anyway) to our (my s’s and my) wits
                     feets. When is this fete champetre? (Will you add the symbols above the
                     e’s?)I remember something about shopping at Chico’s and dinosaur kisses.

K(ay)             Kewpie doll heads. See Yasbel’s knife.

Jackson          Fetlock fetid fetishist, stand up! I’ve got geese bumps.

I                    Are you talking to me?

H                   ell no!

G                   She and her husband had tried to open a coffee shop in Englewood, Florida,
                     where the Red Tide is not a kind of tea or a communist takeover, and the guy
                     who was selling the perfectly wonderful space refused to negotiate. G was a
                     gamete, a gameshow, a gamma. She fell backwards into the pool and waited
                     for Gresham’s Law to dissipate. We left her there for about nine minutes,
                     then we pelted her with dog toys.

FCAT             Meow.

(m)E              Are you talking to me yet?

Dungeness     Crabby guy, what you want?

CLAM             I am not talking about sounds or forms or silver dolls or saffron. Here’s a
                     money saver for you (not you, lollipops): male bonding is Canadian bacon
                    (which is really ham). In a small twist of things the lice attach themselves
                     to the baby salmon who die because fish farms are run by clergymen with
                     ham sandwich fetishes who then release the (he’s so cute that guy from
                     Boston Legal) what was I talking about? Sea lice are cling-ons and they
                     attach to some fish that swim upstream or river and die because (why do
                     they die?)—lice bites?

Boo(bs)          Possibilities and everyone beautiful on tv. (See Freddie.)

A-                  go-go

Clay Matthews

Exchange Rate

 

I stare at the beard on the tire salesman hoping it’s hiding

something from me inside because on most days I am decent

at reading people, but he is burly in his navy blue uniform and I

would pay almost anything to get back on the road. I lean

against the counter, and look back at the shop through the window

tinting the cars in the rear of the building and the men underneath

and the tires holding on to one another in these perfectly

tilted towers. This elevator goes only to the top, and once there,

my friends, there’s just the one way down. Pit stops on these

the otherwise dramatic versions of life as a highway. And that

cliché wore me out sick in its pseudo radio rock and roll version

back in the nineties but that was an entire other decade, another

century, another time in my life and now when the song comes playing

on the speakers, covered by some country artist trying to make it big

for every one of his moms and pops and aunts and cousins sitting

on the back porch eating corn on the cob and drinking cheap beer,

I think to myself that maybe the song is not so bad after all, and even now

preferred in the original version once un-preferred. These are a people

I know all over the place. America look at your wonderful guts.

And I am wearing khaki pants I am not to be trusted I am looking

at a man who is looking at me and we are both wondering what it is

the other one really wants. And the door opens and the wind comes

in and now it is the weather that brings us together as he and you

and I and we go on standing in semi-circles and wondering what

in the world sends the rain. Because anyone who understands motors

even in the slightest sense understands a chain of command

if you push the why and how far enough you’re always eventually left

without an answer. So I sip on the coffee which is really just water

pushed slowly through a bean, a bean which once pushed slowly

through water, and soil, and air, and this very moment I hope

is a microcosm of larger things that are also not to be understood.

I have loved many women. I have married only one. I have lost

a brother and given up on people. I have no idea how to live

the honest life, the good life, the pure life, the righteous life but I

am working on living the best I can which these days I can sometimes

be proud of. And I have grown to be a better gardener and a better

neighbor and a better listener—all these things in spite of myself.

The whole world in spite of myself. We go on and you go on and in

the background the air ratchet goes on in perpetual motion, removing

the same lug nuts it will later put back on and tighten. Even the machines

take on a life of habit. You can drive a car back and forth to work

the same route every day and then one day head for the ocean only to find

the car would rather stay home. This may imply I was going somewhere.

This may imply an escape. I know freedom is just a word and America

is not itself freedom but they are a concept I continue to love. Like in

the movies about prison escape, of one sort or another, where the caged

man is let out to shake a leg. This happens in one of two ways: on his own

or with the help from friends. And if a history of film has taught me

anything it is that it is beautiful to be alone, and beautiful to rely on friends.

The key is the right camera angle. These are little lessons of life I offer

with a growing respect for little lessons of life. Outside it’s getting

darker and the trees are bending to the will of the wind because

the tree that stands upright is a proud tree but a fool because

as established earlier we have yet to identify the temperament

of the source. And I have yet to identify the source of the automobile

malfunction, which is I am sure something technical but just seems

to have something to do with the heart. Here’s a confession. Sometimes

at the shop I look at the local car papers, at all the fabulous array

of cars, trucks, minivans, campers, and each car stands in as an alternate

lifestyle, another me set to motion by the glimpse of a photograph.

And then at some point (and it happens every time) I feel guilty,

like I have cheated on my own car, like I’ve let it down and this is

the reason he has let me down, because I was the first to break his heart.

Silly notion but it never leaves. Silly is what the life’s all about.

In the front of the tire shop there is a flower bed, surrounded

by concrete and new tires and chrome rims and trash various people

have unloaded while at the stop light. And I wonder who

in their right mind puts a flower bed at an auto-mechanic’s, and which

of the workers comes out, early in the morning, to water the flowers

which go on in spite, in good weather and bad weather, in testament

that inside these doors is a man or woman that cares this much.

Pride in work. There is only the autumn to return the favor.

But I say this as someone in summer simply waiting for rain.

The television is set to the news announcing another bad day

at the stock exchange, though gold has appeared to hold its value.

This gives me hope, if for no other reason than we the people have

set out trying to mean something heavy, and because gold is something

I have none of except for the wedding ring I wear on my finger,

the ring a young Jamaican girl held before my wedding, weighing it

in her hand, asking, Gold? And when I nodded, she answered, Nice,

and I felt like for once I had done something terribly right. Error

and redemption. I’m trying to make up for a thousand things. The door bell

rings and the man up front tells me my car is ready. I pay him with a credit card

because it’s the only option I have. And we shake hands, and I look at the clock

and then back again. And we nod as if knowing the debt owed each other,

and the larger debt owed somewhere else. He hands me my keys and says

You’re all ready to go. As if once gone out the door he already knows where.

William D. Waltz

What It Is That Abandons You

 

There is a triangle

and in the triangle a tree.

The tree calls, the tree waves,

the tree hunches over the children

and whispers in their ears.

They hear not the deep sap traveling

through their sleeping tendrils.

 

There is a street. It ignores

the boulevards, the thoroughfares,

the tree. It has no mother, no son,

no daughter. It is a street

whose brick dissolves and intersections

clench and unclench at the cross-

walks like memory’s muscle.

 

There is a square. It is green.

A man has arranged

for four windows to face the tree

and two to gaze upon the mountain.

This is his pledge to her.

After the leaves have fallen

she climbs the tree and pulls him up.

 

This is her gift to him.

When the fruit drops,

the tree shudders,

the golden triangle roars.

 

 

 Please She Said

 

 Mistaking commands

for requests can make

for happy accidents,

unspoken symbiosis,

if you will. Take a moment

and notice the shrubbery,

the pulse behind your knee,

the plane your sole touches,

the earth. No, I mean

look at the world.

You are in a large diffuse field,

part of the field is dying.

You may be that part.

Elsewhere, exotic quadrant,

black staffs of antennae,

ants shepherd aphids

plump with chartreuse translucence,

honeydew, nectar, elixir of wife.

This is their currency, their contract.

For sweet sustenance provide

shelter for our soft, fragile bodies

for as long as we both shall live

well. She said the arborvitae

means the porch isn’t plumb

and the foundation sunk

long before the time capsule

hemorrhaged in the ticktock of twilight,

and the carpenter will not rise again.

Moths balls, in addition,

planted in the tulip bed

indicate the Bavarian hag

hates rabbits roaming wild

more than the smell of death.

The equations, tell me,

echo like empty rooms

without numbers

and shelter dilated

orphans with them.

Mistake request

for command

and make an enemy

out of love

and the neighbor slowly

denuding maples

in the rain.

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