The leader and the investigator of the leader.
A screen reads ‘cannot find syntax’, a hand plain
when pressed against glass. I find the redaction
beautiful, information deprivation a bold stroke
to calm the words. In one version of man,
the redaction proves language capable of fire,
(The cathedral and the burning of the cathedral.)
a scream inking into quiet. In another, a shape
covers a line, a line conveys a story compressed
into the didactic hole of our country. Ink is yet
another technology that turns us from the wars.
(The oxygen and the depletion of the oxygen.)
Just where was I when the racist brother joked
about race. The cruelty of poetry is we share
a syntax even as we cannot find it. A golden hand
presses against a wet careful mouth. The mumbles
feel soft, the hand feels soft. We kiss this way,
hand to mouth, mouth turned inward, a love
in the mercy we show when we cannot speak.
Aria asks in the car how much of my headspace
is taken up by creativity. Of the squirrels outside,
I have much to say of their squabbles. A redwing
blackbird flashes by. I tell the squashed sparrow
I’m sorry this happened to you. It is the closest I’ve come
to requiem, a heavy melodic sympathy.
Morgan wrote to me, the card a single parsnip
drawn simply. She says stability feels like it’s
not even an option. I chop a parsnip into my soup,
then a redwing blackbird, the squashed sparrow.
My father texts me. When will I be in? I note
that he no longer refers to there as home.
In the text above, he tells me don’t agonize over
it, sweetheart. In early April, I texted to him
I don’t know what to do. I drop a requiem leaf
into the pot, the flopped ear of a squirrel.
My therapist notes that I’m looking outside.
Are you looking at the runners? My window is
not angled to look at the runners but I do want
to run. The crux of our session, with what can I replace
exercise, the exercise I use to purge my meals. But I am
looking out the window at the squirrels spiraling
up the thin dead tree. I tell her I’m interested
only in squirrel drama these days. Squirrels
have more drama than any animal, she agrees.
Years ago, I stood on a floating dock over a river.
One mallard slept with his head tucked under
a wing. That, I point out, was a stable image
of bearable loneliness. I could bear it. I bear it now.
When did I come apart from myself, I think
as I raise the earbuds in and tie my running shoes.
Listen to my voice, my therapist says. I raise
the earbuds and out I go, scattering the animals.
Ram on the rain scarf, a print I hung
on the wall, a tapestry so crude
a subletter pulled it from the wall
and crumpled it in a drawer.
The image shows a shaggy creature
a grin barking out, a yellow lunar moth
lighting on its hide. Can we describe it
as, can we call the ugly
thing bright tallow against navy blue
a chiaroscuro? When she wrapped it
over her orange curls in
the German rain, my grandma never would
know the dementia coming for her, her body
a degrading web, her throat
forgetting how to swallow even ginger ale,
her favorite golden drink robbed of her.
Under a tree,
her body thick and glorious
under a tree, the rain purled over the ram,
a string so precious over the moth, could she
have felt the hands pinning it up,
the sub-daughter never so young
that lying in the face of danger
surprised her. My grandma
the forger the hoarder the caller
the scientist the mother the girlfriend
the wife the widow. How likely
the sub-daughter sees utility as decorum,
a rain scarf protecting auburn curls
above a brain
that would drown in her golden soda.
Someone says "Notre Dame is on fire and it feels
like the end of the world.” We lose more oxygen
every day. Polar bears swim miles and miles before
giving up, sinking, drowning. What does it take
to lose the mind and body to water? I eat chips
and look outside. A man powerwashes the sidewalk,
the mist rising like smoke. What does it take
to lose our senses to the elements? Santiago blows
death winds, forests denude, Bolivia stripped of plumage,
the naked ostrich beneath less pink than we imagine,
less the losing of a tutu. Man decimates rainforests
to grow soy for livestock feed. How ludicrous to end
having fed an animal we don't need to survive. The
end of the world feels like Notre Dame on fire.
The better correlative strikes the gaudiness of man.
In Prague many years ago, I marveled at the buttresses
of Old Town, the Romanesque and Baroque, Rococo
and Moorish structures. The beauty of preservation,
I learn, came at the expense of my people, deported
in 1939, the Jewish Quarters all but destroyed. I marveled
in the face of time. The destruction of buildings, a series
of rocks standing atop other rocks hurt more than 92,000
men, women, and children. I do not doubt in sorrow.
Look: A building stands on fire at the end of the world.
“Oft ic sceolde āna ūhtna gehwylce mīne ceare cwīþan” looks like nothing I’ve known
but its meaning, “Often I must bewail my sorrows alone every morning” I’ve known.
In the mornings I grind coffee, repeat the sequence of serums. Slow gurgle of oils
and water, a heavenly body drips through the percolator, the only heaven I’ve known.
My body performs upright, balanced on two wheels, a helmet snapped under chin.
I grip my handle bars, shiver. The sun a distant ball does not blare what isn’t known.
Such are the rules of quantum mechanics. The moment we predict a pattern of
movement, the electron shifts, influenced by expectation, moved by what is known.
Often I am not moved by what is known. Even as one person stands over me, then
another, it was my body that defected, skin slouched in rune language, barely known.
This morning, I whispered into my hair after the aftermath, a sour drip from my skull
still cycling through. In REM, we dream because it is the closest in sleep to being known.
Inaccurate to call waking a state of knowing. I don’t know much as I push and wail
through the mornings. In REM we dream because our physiology awakens what isn’t known.
Late in the evening, here, an evening surface. I twirl my hair, eggy breath, a chin
sore from kissing a new mouth. We love ourselves with others most when we’re least known.
After the aftermath, the Swedish song tells us jag har gjort det igen and I think Plath,
my namesake, ancient olive. I have done it again, my god the terror in being known.
Say this a conversation about luck. Say just. Say did not purge today.
Say that a purge means more than acid up the throat. Say biked eight miles
say hot yoga say the bend and fold of flesh. Say restriction takes years
and many bodies. Say to restrict restriction requires less restriction, ask
how are you holding up in all of this. Say the woman returns to girl
the same flesh as ever, a curling upward as meat restricts in the pan.
Say moon cannot rinse the body of the brute. Say the toilet’s vinegar
reek dizzies the mind, the race to get to empty, empty taxed and heaved—
it comes so easily. Say a bite mark never bloomed and scarred the hand.
Say then better. Say better is a state of knowledge without evidence. Say
bones press through skin, a removal of the middling. Say interiors
work best when hollowed, a space to sit in blood. Say the veins forest
to the surface, strained, brimming. Say lay down in the road young
and ready to be flattened. Say nobody stopped [ ]. Sucked in belly,
wrapped in plastic, a tree say with tethering. Say tried to midden the I, a
flesh mound, spent shells. Say hotlines, sour teeth, a skull dripping ichor.
Calendar Year—Due 9/16/2019
Mail this voucher with your check or money order payable to the 'United States Treasury.
What bothers you about this school? Some say food, some, mail
confusion. Adjunct rates make up a national average of 49% of this
country’s teaching staff. I consider what I’ll lose with this voucher.
The rate of adjuncts at University of Wisconsin-Madison come with
some good news: only 17% of teaching staff are adjuncts. With your
focus still on numbers, however, a breakdown is required. Check
percentages against quantifiable numbers, I tell my students. Or
at the very least, be mindful that even 1% of prisoners without money
for bail still racks up into the millions. Humanity, we are out of order.
In this community, there is a commitment to building a strong (payable)
long-term instructional team. Seventeen percent, while smaller, is equal to
4,400 adjuncts who have to subsist on pay by the credit hour. With the
incomes of adjunct commensurate with incoming graduate classes, united
only in capitalistic depletion, it is with great misfortunate that unless the states
of their numbers remain even to last year, I’ll send my spit again to the treasury.
Calendar Year—Due 06/17/2019
File only if you are making a payment of estimated tax by check or money order.
When I see it coming, I like a good facefuck. I file
my nails and await the desert mound. I love me only
when someone desires me, the potential hole if
it pleases, open and hot for gagging. I spent you
and you fell curled like a fetus to the bed. Are
you sure about the lavender field up north, making
terror with the mask of terror? I hate purple, a
a contusion flooding light. Admiration means payment,
my mouth spent of such transaction. When I think of
tenderness, I fill with money. Five Thirty-Eight estimated
a 41 to 42% chance of re-election in a good economy, the tax
returns no matter. I will always lose when I compare, so by
your side, I slump gaping on my back, a wet loser. Please check
how soaked I get, a floral breeze moving toward my face or
away. Everyone else told us our kind only care about money.
I stoop to hands and knees, tailbone opening. I wait for my order.
[note: this is a contrapuntal and I tried my best to format it as such!]
Didn’t I tell you about the time
I have no memories
in the closet with the stuffed dalmation
a blanket stained
a cat sleeping on the other side of the door
elastic pants slid to ankles
a brother filled with fluorescent light
doorknob loose of its screws
The house ached with pale pink carpet
and nobody came for me
Wasn’t there something else to re
member: brother, member: mom, please
call about the boy who never left
never clean, the evidence is
Everywhere the sound of blue
clear until it burns
There is a story still I am afraid to tell. I ran from each girl figure
until they returned to memory’s dank. My best friend into the next
into the next. I stole chocolate milk with the first. We beat up stairs
giggling into our clay hands. She loved me with a possession I understood.
Together, we failed. I rimmed my eyes as she sterilized needles. I played
guitar as she pierced the web of her thumb. She wept with hate. Only I
could be hers. Only she could call me halfbreed until her mother slapped
her hard and she screamed, throwing the table. She loved me with a love
that wept with hate. She never went to school. She found money elsewhere,
in supermarket aisles and depots, a seller at times. She prophesied my elitism,
that I would become the New York intellectual who smells orchids in Union
Square. You’ll be that bitch at the store who buys brown eggs. I left her without
ceremony. One move, another. We saw each other each season, a cold settling
in, leather pushed through a septum. Her boyfriend the larper. Her boyfriend
the drunk. He stripped to nothing before me to demonstrate his gift, his fruit
thick and pink and hardening. She laughed a belly laugh as I stood grounded
and afraid. Now they both loved me and wanted me with the love that wept hate.
In the car I swerved lanes panicked, still drunk. I have described these roads
in many poems. I have told the story wrong in order to swallow the yellow
lights of her laughter, her two vole teeth growing vertebral muck. Today I watch
the smallest winged bug travel up and down my chaise lounge, itself atomic
choice. In dreams, she pleads for my return, pulls the empty street from my throat.
Nothing gives me pleasure. Even my dreams ordinary
in the task of being. Lately I’ve trouble with pace, which
has always been a mule in my ear, not intellectual at all.
It is easy to instruct students on how not to be. I say the words
on your screen come from a human, I say They have already thought
60,000 thoughts, and they have given some of those to you. I eat
yogurt and stare into the eyes of two young rabbits out my window.
I have grown so tired. I ask my students, Do you know anyone
who has been ghosted, because the task of being takes work.
I’ve come to understand boundaries through restriction, purge.
Because of my tolerance, the toxin sucked from my lesion tastes
sweet, a tang like semen suns the back of my throat. I get stoned
and work through the high. The young rabbits fuck out my window.
When will each of them die? In an Anne Carson poem, a man scoops
the unborn fetuses out of a dead rabbit, calls them dark apples.
When will difference come? I run until the breeze turns my work
to salt. The townspeople do not see exercise as a purge. I axe up
my brunches, ghost on clean sheets. How lucky, to be human after all.
When my father called local morgues looking for his daughter
I was already part of another life. Blood is not sentient. It moves
as any dumb body of water, a system away. As a cadaver, drained,
I possess a final brilliance. I begged every man to see how smart
I could be. Here I remain, a cute button nose, eyes sunk beneath
lids, puffed with chemical freeze. My father identifies me. Over,
I won’t need to wonder what happens next to me. Someone calls
the rape audacious. No, he talks about the act as an audacity. I let
that man press his hands to my throat, then another, until it feels
like a handkerchief dropping softly from a hook. I don't die then.
Or then. I went on. Stubborn as a mule. The streets bleach with sun
and lead to the last blue corner house. He holds the back of my neck.
I do not dare move. I do not dare move. I do not dare move. I do
not dare move. I do not dare move. I do not dare move. I do not
dare move. I do not dare move. I do not dare move. I do not dare.
On a train I try to place myself. It is two-thousand and eight.
You have just grabbed me by my wrists and thrown me down.
The sidewalk didn’t hurt. No bloody elbow panged. I said please.
I said I did not remember you standing over me gripping my throat.
The One shuttles me up. I, a fool, had smiled to my father, said
I think this is the one. I think this is it. I am a twenty-two heart.
Something below my rib moves me. I believe this is my calling.
The train screeches as I write, Laid down by the rocks, I am told
She loved him very much. To indicate a ribboning voice, italicize.
To emphasize a ribboning point, italicize. When I think devotion—
Andromeda tied to the cliff edge. Perseus never arrives. Soaked arms
Do not destabilize the rock formation. The night after my acceptance
To grad school, I wrote of Andromeda in sweeping verse. Waiting
Is the verb that holds all women upright eight years. The train moves.
In the shower I beat the plaster bloody. I pour whiskey into my open.
I wait. I keep myself small to be thrown from future sedans. I waited.
It is two-thousand nineteen. Andromeda in chains no longer bleeds.
Never one to be interested in the hero’s journey, I bake a cake.
I make a mistake. A blackbird returns to the same patch of straw grass.
It picks and picks and flies away only to return, mechanical, maternal.
In each version, I am myself before you. I have only ever been myself.
What matters in another person? In my dream last night,
the whole raw chicken came back
to life, shivering from such a wet death. I showed many friends
the animal coming to. This is the term
for when somebody wakes from deep sleep. They come to
from a nonconsensual black, death
a nonconsensual black. I ask my class today if they would
have genetic testing done if it meant
discovering an incurable disease lay waiting for them, a fox
stalking at the end of the hollowed trunk
through which you traveled so far. I was after rhetorical argument,
critical thought. I have given up.
The chicken comes to and grows a down of awareness. Living
makes it smaller, more precious. Her neck
grows back. What a gentle place to find oneself, a coming to
of a body we never asked for.
Week after week, I cooked a whole chicken into broth. Initially,
I said I found myself cooking to demonstrate
my submissive will, how I stalked my own tunnel and saw little else
coming my way. I poured broth
into a mason jar, oiled my legs, and fed it to a beautiful hung man.
Oh, the ceilings I’ve stared at,
the cracks and popcorn shapes I counted as a body pushed itself in.
I measured love in the plaster, its commitment
to form. Poetry questions nothing, it is the shadow of the depleted master,
no longer amazed at its courage.
In the sun, white ensnared life. The chicken drowns when it fails
to be astonished. You will not find me again.
This morning sore all over, deadlines, a bladder blooming pain,
the emails looming. I swallowed a man last night, his life warm
inside my life, wet vowels parting the mouth, careless union.
I try to do the work of change though I’ve never prayed. If a deity
could bring relief, it would be an animal apart from man. I ground
my pelvis because I know how good I am. I slept on a broken torso
and woke whole and apart from man. The best poet who ever lived
and died, I click on her expired website. I ache from prompt and ruin,
the fragmented torso, clenched to human form, formed from stone.
I slip with the scree, loosed from—what?, I formed and formed
around a tear. At twenty-two, I spread for anyone who wanted it.
I honor nothing of tradition, just a lousy temple in which I refuse.
The singer tells us we’re the last two slowdancers. Lights alienate her.
Then, the bar, a man, an elevator, a bed. I zip my dress up, wasted, changed.