By a Lake Near a Moon: Fishing with the Chinese Masters
These poems are improvisations/adaptations of the classical Chinese poets in Kenneth Rexroth’s translation/collection, One Hundred Poems from the Chinese (New Directions: New York, 1971): Tu Fu, Mei Yao Ch’en, Ou Yang Hsiu, Su Tung P’o, the Poetess Li Ch’ing Chao, Lu Yu, Chu Hsi, Hsu Chao, and the Poetess Chu Shu Chen.
Poetic Adaptations of The Poetess Li Ch’ing Chao
After Watching Rigoletto on a Sunday Afternoon by the Lake,
I Look to See That Li Ch’ing Chao Has Composed “Two Springs”
Summer sales are everywhere in town.
Our uncut neighbor’s lawn launches a billion dandelions.
The crabapple trees are starting to snow
On our dandelion free green lawn.
Above, puffy white clouds make
Shadows on some of those below.
From our basement Zac the Cat
Appears in a new spider web veil.
I’m quite hesitant to keep on dreaming
As the ones at night bring on a sweat
And the ones when I’m awake make
Those close by ask where did I just go?
Where we are the moon rises
When we’ve already latched the house.
We keep trying to return
To whom we were so long ago
When we sprang from bed like startled deer.
We still know what brings delight
Despite all our efforts otherwise.
Waiting in a Starbucks Near the Lake, I Read the Times
Then Find “Quail Sky” by Li Ch’ing Chao
It’s almost time for iced tea
Instead of the usual half decaf.
I’m usually the first to open blinds
To let the sun back in.
The green leaves of fading flowers are even
Drooping to the ground.
Some spring mornings I’m down
On the beach thrilled to watch
The sun rise out of our Lake.
With days like this I’m eternally
Grateful just to see what’s next.
I miss, though, all the friends
I’ve ever made who never
Think again of dropping by.
I’m in the back
Down on my knees pulling
Weeds so tomatoes
And broccoli and maybe even
Blue Egyptian iris can cheer us some
In this tiny spot
We still call home.
On a Warm June Saturday, I Wonder How to Hum “To the Tune,
‘Plum Blossoms Fall and Scatter,’” by Li Ch’ing Chao
After you’re gone, your White Linen mist
Floats in our tiny bedroom.
In the evening, west winds
Lift our curtains with big breezes.
I can’t recall when I last
Read something about what love might be.
Have you noticed the yellow finches?
Once, the moon filled our bedroom.
The rabbits have feasted
On all our baby broccoli plants.
The rains pour off our
Roof into our green secret forest.
Does a day ever go by
When I don’t wonder where you are?
Some days I’m on the other side
Of the world, and then, I wonder
What color amber you might
Wear someday, or not.
When I’m alive I’m always wondering what
The two of us might do sometime.
On a Cold, Rainy, Rainy Day in June, I Try to Find Solace
With “The Day of Cold Food,” by Li Ch’ing Chao
In six days, I will swim
In cold, cold waters of Lake Elkhart.
The outdoor grill needs cleaning
From all of last year’s
Feasts of fish and vegetables.
Tonight, we’ll dream with just one pillow
As we’ve stored all the rest.
The red-tailed hawk has not
Stalked our back forest all day
But we know what his taste
Is for garden-fed rabbit.
It is much too cold to scull
Down the river or swim
When rain pours all day.
After Completing an Olympic Triathlon Under Overcast Skies
I Rest in Dry Clothes and Read Li Ch’ing Chao’s “Mist”
Every morning we let the forest
In with light and birds into
Our tiny bedroom.
We keep our blinds
Closed all night in fear of
Who’s hiding right outside pretending
To come in with lonely knives.
Every day low flying jets
Make booms over the Lake.
We let the evening breezes cool
Our papered elephants and sleepy tigers.
We’ve replanted so many broccoli plants as
Briar Rabbit noshes on our young.
We’ll sit in sunset to catch
Every single moment.
Nearing the Longest Day of the Year, I Pull Weeds, Plant
A Flat of Flowers, Then Open Lu Yu’s “The Wild Flower Man”
No one really notices the old woman
Who sells bunches of bok choy
In the shade outside the indoor palace.
All morning long we never see
Who hoes and chops all day.
They’ve been here since the War
Brought them across from old Laos.
The marigolds and asters always
Sell before her leafy greens.
The two of us wonder where they
Go when they’re not behind what
We love to smell.
We’ve both been down on our
Knees (as well) pulling all the weeds we
Just don’t want to see in-
Between what we’ve planted that we hope
We’ll grill along with just caught fish.
Our good neighbor just
Can’t stand the woofs woofs anymore
So we’ll see squad cars
Pulling up late at night to check
Out what’s not right with our
Doggy neighbor who by now
Is smiling with a cold one.
Ten Photographs of a Life
1 baby picture
I am an exaggeration. A russet leaf swirling under a smoking-cold sun.
Manipulated by a schedule of wind, I settle in a bundle.
I was admired on a branch once. I tried to walk and fell forever into a foxhole.
2 childhood portrait
My days are blotted out. My awkward body so thin. My voice sings like sizzling
chestnuts. A suddenness of Kindergarten guffaws—I am snatched by a hand
that smells like a latchkey. I turn to crumbs in a shifty fist.
3 photograph of a volunteer
I am the gold-crusted hay that beds the baby in the barn. The coarse cloth
of honey that adds flesh to his naked bones. Nourishing and warm. I am sunlit
and taste vague. I overflow to the floor and settle at the foot of a robe.
4 wedding picture
Shapely as blown glass. Clear and unblemished. A succulent lemon. Underneath sequins
my pulp is ripe and good. I am all juice, dispersed in a pellucid pitcher of water
and chunk ice. Granules white and sweet better my flesh. Here, I am in love.
5 honeymoon photograph
I am red humidity. Mosquitoes fester in my ruddy breath. A slow burning coal
prodded by a slice bar. I am the heat of fevers. A pulse convulsing in the a.m.
I crepitate. This is the practice of something new, if only for a bit.
6 photograph of a homemaker
All winter. Staid cold snow woman shaped near a well. I shed cretaceous flakes
when I cry. My orbicular three-part body is snow-white and bitter, bitter-cold.
I think and want coldly. I grope coldly. In pitch I desire bitterly.
7 another photograph of a homemaker
Gunmetal sky, pumice mist. The cobblestone well chokes with my tears in the form
of snow cakes. Snow my floor and walls. Snow my home. I snow. Solitary in snow.
Abstemious in snow. You inside my snow. Night snow black. Crepuscular snow blue.
8 bipolar photograph
Vitiated by undulating sun, my days are moribund. My spotty body turns to corn snow.
My threadbare limbs are ground ice. I seep into flat grass in rivulets as day decides
to go. What have I become?—I have no eyes. I am all screams.
9 vacation photo
I move through ocean grass with the flexibility of a starfish. The water is brackish
and pale green. I scrounge the seafloor of bronze-colored dust. Fetid scent
of crustaceans. I close myself inside a shell. Here I listen to the chatter of pearls.
10 future photograph
Inveterate moss. I have rolled on stones for centuries. I am many greens. I’ve scaled
castle walls. The ones I’ve climbed were lined with trees of muscadine. I speak in velvet
tones I speak so slow. A wizened emerald, expensive and wane, I wait for death alone.
First appeared in Poetry International 2005
There is a lot to ponder.
What if rain memorizes my address
and becomes my walls and ceiling? Asphalt,
my floor? What if I open my mouth to cry Mary
and it comes out marry, but never merry?
What if when the novel is finished
the paper in the book does not meet
the guidelines for permanence and durability
etc., etc. of the council on Library Resources?
There is a story, rather, was a story, about a little girl
who woke her mother in the middle of the night
(3:00 a.m. to be exact) and said, I’m thirsty.
This happened almost every night in her fourth year.
She wasn’t really thirsty, she was saying, I got a fear.
Fear of a dark room that echoes with my voice.
Fear of stretching out my arms only to embrace an empty space.
She deposits that moment into her memory bank
so when she hears the words, I’m leaving
you, she’ll be familiar with that kind of loneliness. Let’s back up.
A little girl is read a fairy tale at bedtime. She does not
remember the hard-pressed maiden winning the hand
of the prince at the end. She dreams of obstacles, foxglove.
The happy ending plummets from the book. She wakes
in a conformation solid as quenched thirst and searches
one empty room after the next for the prince’s lullaby.
She’ll search for that song the rest of her life
and won’t be satisfied until she never finds it.
First appeared in Poetry Midwest, 2007
night blooms, pitchy. if there is a voice out there chanting pithy vespers to tranquilize
evening’s pixilated mane, clearing its throat to recite, call it by my name.
center my pose under your loaf, dun moon—mother goddess you—like sparkling fruit
a vine-ripe bulb of muscadine. i’ll shine like a marbled goblet of wine: plump & plum
a still, still life
but never, never dumb in your full-bodied light. o, mother, mother moon
with your glinting skin
materialize out of flotage & brume, unveil the slack masterpiece that i am
minus your gloss.
feed me! am i noth-
ing to you? goddess, you are my life
& i, the gilded progeny
am an overwrought structure, carved by nature, curved
a stilted fixture, whim of your stature, i am indebted
to you, would fall to bed—
would wed—would marry you! dazzle me like juliet beseeching
a wary but better-for-it romeo, don’t take me slow, make me soon, my huntress,
bend here, not there, here. render me splendid—but never a fool—here,
First appeared in Meta/ Phor(e) /Play, 2017
Morning plans to unlove itself and day refuses to bloom.
I enter horizontally, an incision in a flattened room
where skylights like oxygen masks stained mulberry
reign above my private mid-hour, my blue cellophane.
Starfire plummets in a hurry: a grazing of bijoux,
a maze of ribbons darkened thickly. And still beauty mends no breakage.
In a pillow’s notice a tear-stricken face
shuns the unwelcome visitor in the brain.
I’ve tried to steer the big picture into another pastime
but morning rose like a slap in the face.
To motor: keep a car’s length from my frenzied fulsome
dulled with pain, careworn with scores of patchwork.
Oh no, not your heart, hard as a telephone pole. Listen: that’s not rain
tapping tin but the nosedive of a splintering pledge. The crack
in a muscle’s valve only saddens the tick. Tomorrow will wizen.
Where to the new embellishment? The replica of bygone lovers
embroils themselves into future embezzlement.
What concludes from a stockpile of grief? Who conspires unmoved?
First appeared in DMQ Review, 2006
I’ve misplaced time.
I look for you in a moribund afternoon
sewn into daylight savings. When
the light wanes from the earth’s outline
I look for you in a moribund afternoon
while engaged in prayer. Late to bed,
the light waned from the earth’s outline,
my body is half awake.
Engaged in prayer and late to bed
I search for six months ago
in the pocket of a clock set back.
I search for six months ago
in the dense grove of your lifetime
in the pocket of a clock set back
with thoughts of seeing you again.
In the dense grove of your lifetime,
sewn into daylight savings,
thoughts of seeing you again
First appeared in Switched on Gutenberg, 200939
after G. K. Chesterton’s “The Paradise of Thieves”
You – a mosaic palace, rent with earthquakes I – a Dutch tulip garden blown to the stars with dynamite Us – the secret of the volcano, the secret of the revolution, that a thing can be violent and yet fruitful You – “It is not my fault that you came.” I – “No, it is never your fault, it was not your fault that Troy fell.”15
Why are you here? The broken plate can hold no food for you. Is it your belief that denial of skin can cause bones to burn? When is the right time to bleed? Who decides when the ugly day is to start? Can one strike a match to the arrival of Spring, and recoil from its swollen promises before it blazes?20
Sometime before midnight all the goats sent away by those who wanted to distance themselves from their sins and were lucky enough to have a goat were roused from the rocky fields where they’d been sleeping (in shame, thought the families, though they were wrong) and were led back to town by a child that wore a thin strip of cloth threaded through the shank of a brass bell. The goats followed its song through dark and stinking alleys back to the pens and tired barns with roofs like saddles-- places where they’d known care. The child lay with them there in one hay-padded place or another until daylight then beckoned them back to the fields. Thus the families continued to believe their distance from sin was intact and that they were cleansed. And the goats said nothing.51
So you have found me heartsick, curled under the throw someone’s grandmother crocheted and that I bought at Goodwill because I’m mindful and adjunct. I’m not doing nothing here. I’m calculating the angle of light that casts a long and chilling shadow onto the largest screen on earth: millions of turned backs of tweeters, texters, and trolls hell-bent over devices designed to connect but which only sift self from self and will continue to do so until someone with a working moral compass, someone who senses the hypnotic sleep of history coming round and round again writes ALARM! ALARM! gigantic and trance-piercing on the wind no blanket will protect me from. These hands are busy with my rosary of hurts, but if they weren’t! What would I become? Bell that warns the world. What have I become? Talking mynah bird.20
The shadow of a fresh kill is the end of silence, the ever-present ring of enchantment. The spark of rattling insects… Nothing is ever finished, it just continues, changing places with memory… A vague reference to a dance of wild whispering.
There’s lightning in the moth house, ghost glow in the underground, and the light from when to dazzle the almost then, mindful of radiant anomalies. And even through the windows of ambiguous desire. You are the ghost of yourself, an enviable position. The enchantment of one who interrupts your gaze…
Through shadows of the face, of more light, swimming pathology, pausing in the runes… You spread out like a mythology. Shadows of lunatic endgames. The suddenness of a sign, missing link to her voice of glowing loam. Time-warp to skeletal maze, burning a window in the garden. Owl-turning, dust-making. She lamps out, dividing the spoils.
Night with its terrors, leaping through hoops. Nagual trapeze. You are upright panting and sleek. Marked. But cunning and random, drawn into a circle. Always an unauthorized approach. Consciousness passed through eyes… and at night, from mouth to mouth. Breath to breath, passage through the skin, to transparency…
To keep desire alive and shuddering, when the spine is bright, a starry debris. Handfuls of pollen gathered for a flash fire, outstretched by night vision of animal nature. She lowered her quails squirting pearls deep into a nameless shadow. A fierce mastery of a delicate nature to align a primal blood-gaze for the enraptured Coat of Melusine, for travel and sudden entrances. To leap. Light is the maze, darkness is an image of it…
A girl infected with candles, mirror of the humming. In a cloud, leopards, for the revolver, braille, a semblance of movement, long-stemmed invoking of ancient wiles. In that landscape you are fog the color of bees in sunlight, in cinema, a doorway for binding spells, broken into glowing.
A language of water opens the door to illusive interiors, in the field at night, when the walls are costumes begging to be worn, sheer and unsettling, effortless. Cause and effect grappling with the energy of presence, the hidden… If you spread your legs, for light, there is the candle dripping darkness for sleep and spell. The first spell, the primal incantation that takes you by surprise, even as it exhausts itself.
It was a complex halo in refraction, a sudden gesture of robotic dust-gathering that assumed a more delicate animal nature to eclipse between her legs and her mouth. Pole vaulting through Anasazi…
A Lunar disguise. Whose portrait reflects yours, whose myth is wearing your mask… is that you breathing in the arcades? Obscure parentage, night glitter, dark scent. Blood strung in the trees, tuned beyond repair, your intoxicating web of desire igniting antlers and small villages.
A warehouse illuminated by ravens, magnified by lightning embedded in the text left unsigned and awkward, an adolescent dimension sipping primordial brides, windows hunting for reflections… You follow only the scent that overwhelms you, the memory that speaks of confrontation. You imagine what cannot be imagined, to lose what is not imagined… It is my eyes, she said, that smell of sleep and chlorophyll… The unrest, discontent, narrative for a dousing-rod.
Night with its terrors, leaping through hoops. Nagual trapeze. You are upright panting and sleek. Marked. But cunning and random, drawn into a circle. Always an unauthorized approach. Consciousness passed through eyes… and at night, from mouth to mouth. Breath to breath, passage through the skin, to transparency
Paradise as a word in the loam of molting, a gender-fleece away. A body of lives before light, most shapes the dark, coming back. The earth smell of rain and hunger. Desire. Conspires. Cries out… A joyous raging.
The interior flow of blood seeks a voice as powerful as a sudden encounter. In sunlight it is a memory, the silence of a revelation. You spread out like a mythology, under golden blues, haphazardly mistaken for another, a darker shade. Playing shadow in the window of ambiguous desire, an image that leaves a scent to memorize. An unwashable stain.
There is no philosophy worthy of your body, without form when it dreams, lights the fuse, declares an uncertain sense of victory over exhaustion and doors that refuse to close. A theory emits tiny crystals for illuminated marksmen, consoling the alpha female in her dousing, sifting for gold and other arrangements.
What is lucid in your presence, however tentative, is the attitude of transparency, in its active state, which is a furious refusal – not simply to mystify, but to remove all doubts. The sense of nakedness violated with pleasure and disfigured with a passion to exchange places when the landscape intervenes. To visualize fire, engender it, yet remain nebulous and orphaned by chance, and choice, firing through the ashes… The virus of a window.
The wind she said the rain “as my flesh” for so much fog, then the almost of everyone, that not quite and the always interrupted, with a frenzy of expectation, the watery sun flows you into sleep… “I am the other place, and the other, so many doorways out of recurrence.”
In that space between you and the mirror, a slowly rotating constellation of unnatural design. Your reflection ignited. You see only yourself, or another… You see through, and for a few brief moments, you die, without waiting. You cannot remember that first momentous gesture…
The enslavement of a princess is that swan illuminated by lit fuses and embedded codes. Darkness is a long drawn-out gasp. Presence implicates unlawful entrances. Knowledge unattainable by any other means is magnetized by pleasure in timid savagery. You arrive before mythology… breathing on yourself… to regain all that was lost in translation.
You are the scent of sleep so heavy it illuminates each gesture, so intoxicating it draws animals into your breath, like crystals in your mouth, pulling sunlight inside…
Grace is the art of luring ravenous dogs into a state of springtime.
in order not to float too far off the ground which preserves those moments under glass while that particular face with those baggage eyes stairs blankly back as if needing a boost in order to leave the rooms lock the doors wander those blocks so familiar they are no longer visible in real time although on this particular instance an over turned dump truck requires a new route which means paying attention so as not to get lost among those others spotting here and there their territory boundaries of no trespassing amid brief aromas of burnt cheese and bread when returning to the repeated familiar tune to block out eruptions of priceless energy teeth ground into powder used to glue together a makeshift purpose or two as the horizon invites forgetfulness of minute details braking prior to the required stopover lengthening the hours to an extent unexpected whereby more fills a void previously pasted to the back wall where only shadows lounge secreting sounds of lost light annoying what might have been small birds feeding on reclining insects more offered than mirrored face and the subsequent luggage emptied of all useable functionality after all why travel there this time of year flattening out in predictable directions perhaps remain in the apartment where chance collects outside the rattling windows frisking the passersby when too big turns delusional pillow conversation and lack of breathing exercise apertures in profile14
(in a new kiss horizon)
Sitting by a calming fountain in Kiev, presser foot nearby
needle plate of sky, tremendous spooling, smoothing weather
just after the bells thread themselves like bobbins
of St Sofia rocking the plaza — real rocks
heartstrings and foot pedals bated to a point nearly acquiring voice
that manages, amazing improbability,
that somehow says a few things in languages
all their own. Nothing else able to cipher
siphon possible meanings
any crazy dictionaries, hip cats tongueless hepcats
this morning are you really as crazy as this seems? am I prepared for a weather trying to be as real as the heart of the matter holding pieces of cloth firmly on the feed dog
Pretty crazy, as the take up wheel turns life, skyrocketing
inside out, feed-dog dragging everything through it
little ridges of
fantasy dreams and reality screams
from a Go For It All woman
of annihilating sainthood
constantly inspiring and I wish
to also be that cloth stitched across you, banner, announcing
this unlikely kingdom
just because a world refuses to believe anything as good as a cracking plaza can still be a source of everything good:
here too, door number three
Standing off every
Jezebel to the side, foot pedals turn the corner
kilter kitty-corner cheering you on
like a diagonal fact no one can believe: such
on the verge of deceiving salvation:
Hey! Watch out monastery lava cooling down
all for that banana’s curvy storms to be sure
the only things left, only things not theft:
The Mnemonic of Yr Palindrome
those pieces of cloth heft and weft, curds and
way too far, weigh too deeply, whey cathedrals
on that feed dog of your heart [express to and from throat
(also boot straps of bots
collie breed breaded tongue mnemonic
choice slab of steak: fanciest meal
on the menu]:
torrents of Baby colic
To taste your kiss again
Kiss kissing kisses: this is life too,
not only acetate, acetylcoline
alternate fact of this lane in which you pass
Slow you lead your
Beautiful tender lips to the feed dog of mouth
Just to rest there introducing usness
The moment itself
Kissing a kneeling plaza
of pure consent
prototype of wardrobe clouds
ringing bells consenting to make music
tinnitus: is all we’ve got these bobbin days
dazzle as they shouldn’t: this is only sewing
thinking it can also be sowing
and today it can be going for it all, under
foot, tracking whatever can be tracked
“all in this space beside you, needle-nosed
pliers also compliant
feeding dogs everywhere a most special diet:
existence: menu around a generosity of neck:
foie gras stuffing a universe
finally free, body planet, out of control ringing every bell
formerly spool plates of daily servings of palindrome palaces
palindrome thrones king’s way Avenues Sofia and
Victoria; generous twin memes of energy pathways
watching out of veils washing up filters, those feed dogs
having to be prayers or
there might not be any, only
palindromes of despair, heaviest
mnemonics of all that spins
Sofia bottles, even Lourdes water fortified
here and here and here and hear
clouds waiting to be herds horse heads too
banana rainbows full circle azimuth arrows darts of
knees of observers, sacking cloth
vespers: don’t worry, only religion
and, just for kicks: monetary moments
palindromes of everything acquiring
cash out values cashing out a morning
bliss, wonderland express
-ed longing for round trip tickets
blind folded takeup wheel
taking up spaces of numbered chambers
a last dance with you. 4/4 time, it all measures:
(Thomas Higginson: STOP 3 with:
italic origami by Thylias Moss)
Not trying to impose,
just trying to build structure, form, recipe for holding, folding holds
together: we’re made of this –is that not a purpose of bones inside: give shape to this, bones even buried inside the planet, treasure, pre-history and present becoming “now”, elusive
in rooms, closets, “protected avenues” –must plow right through, force
of Indian elephants, never forgetting
we’re here: “you and I for-ever
pur-pose of purpose maybe
building structure, training wheels for elephants
who must sink and swim
Kronos armies, TV sets with legs
on the Mexican beach (made in Mexico, you know) —
the ghost sea is so great, origami ocean, crumples and wrinkles like skin of
elephants poached ivory, white as ghosts, Caspar –they cannot survive
To set in motion the secret boat so small, can
poach (now you’re cooking
chambers, now the alchemy)
barely cut, dice and chop
the wave, wave me down, flag me down, I need some help
this flat tire: get me to the church in time
The way is pretty durn milky universe, Kronos: destroyer of the universe, Shiva’s
half-brother, half sister, only half (circus freak) eats power stations, eats
nuclear energy, appetite not deterred
by radiation, prefers
glowing food: the better to see it, better to taste it
swallowed a journey through
glowing throat, such illumination; how beautiful
If you know what I’m saying –can’t be late for my own salvation
in the dark
the Breton Fisherman’s prayer, fisher
of men, half and 3/5ths, not choosy; they
come from “Fisher Street”
laundry hanging in the backyards, alleys,
lynched men hanging clean
Fels Naptha, water hot enough to dissolve skin”
float on, chug on, chug, chug, chug… dark holes
of memory dissolve into another
meltdown, why not meltup sometimes?
touch hems of angels? –unless they dissolve from just
the touch of dirt?
lake of crocodile tears
from elephant eyes, such
mergers: meaning of eulogy, thick
coming together just to come apart:
gallons and gallons of bleach…
enough to abort everyone, those old ways, tried and true
contamination of all water, even
bible tells me so true blue, true moo
till the cows come home – reactor core
breakdown pur-pose into cowing, kowtowing
–those industrial farms where cows don’t know what it means to be cows, kowtows
just elephants in these squeezed rooms, moo-ing and everything milked,
Cause I don’t you may
Sing this one back to me –I sing back bones, structure, skin of these things dissolving, slipping away…elephants in the room dissolving into shadows, holes, Bonnie Raitt’s music to dissolve to, to technicolor to: “I Can’t Make You love me, only dissipate, tractor away, tractor back, trapeze effects all –house of trapeze, curtain rods, fuel rods in nuclear power plants, hungry Kronos on the rampage –can’t make you love him –just like a man of pur-pose, scattering his power everywhere, meltdown after meltdown, pur-pose floats, black rain, mere Ivory soap, but this is dirty, pure dirty floating bombs, new Moses-types in baskets…
–we build structure; as if that’s enough to hold everything together, sound of motor, motor-song, little speedboat, hurry, hurry the message, in case it’s all praise –not enough pur-pose for that anymore
“The poem that floats
Its message across
The land that recedes –like memories, elephantized
To the stars themselves glowing hot nuclear meltdown cores of
The recipients” contaminated hothouses!” –hot in here!
The poem curves a line to you –wormhole of 97 realities
Floats a word back
That’s the way we rock the world : jazzy funeral
97 elephant trumpets
pur-poses (these like dolphins, elephants of the see pur-poses
To sleep. In the naked night,
The ocean wears a hat — hat; I wear your hat of fallout pur-pose
97th shadow of
97th elephant in the room:
“I know I cannot live without you”
so I don’t live; just dissolve
and exist that way, 97 puddles singing giving everything back: reflection after reflection after reflection
of endless depth, a top
to top off everything, make it
purty… purty, purty…
contaminated, pur-ty pur-pose
is as pur-ty does.
So this is life, another day, another broken thing: shoelaces, a fingernail, a leaky faucet in the kitchen. The plumber says to bleed the pipes, but I have no idea of such a fix. I call him back and write another check. I don’t care what he does. Just get it done. When three things aren’t working, I’m undone, especially when the car or the computer breaks. I freak-out running through the checks to trouble-shoot the problem. My mind’s leaky, a sieve that can’t hold what I know, how to fix or find a work-around. It’s as if I’m bleeding out, can’t get conscious. Is courage in the blood? A genetic ease with getting things done in a certain kind of person who can fix anything? I call an expert when something breaks. I don’t know how to fix a leaky roof. I call a licensed roofer, write a check. Entropy acts on teeth, appliances. Nothing that a check can’t fix. I tell myself I’m generous. I donate blood, can deal with aging, though I hate these leaky eyes. Some days I see it a first sign that I’m done for. Here, overpasses and bridges break down. There, abducted school girls can’t be fixed when they return home with babies. Who will fix this? Is there enough money to write checks for all things broken? Daily, my heart breaks at the news. Suicide bombers make my blood run cold. How can it be? When will this be done? Today the White House complains of intel leaks, of disloyalty among his ranks. Most leaks come from within, as it’s always been. No fix for the chief who wants to triumph and won’t be done until democracy disintegrates. He wants to end checks and balances, to be king, to see some blood run in the streets. He’ll say, I won. How easily we break. Whatever’s broken must be fixed, the leaking and bleeding stopped. I know it will take more than a check to get it done.47
Yes, you will claim that you are at long last “getting somewhere,” working on your singing voice (ripe, softly vindictive, sporadically self-accusing), and yet your single recording (“Young Boy, Get a Mop”) is not the legendary hit we expected. As we ponder why, the thought of a desk fire beyond repair arises, that fire is here and now, and that fire has peach blossom flames. So, let us say “you were lovely” although it is only a tactic. Did it work? Call us.
A few in your outbuilding still hold eccentric notions about the letters of the alphabet – Such as they each function with an independent consciousness, some of them are better prepared for their inevitable retirement, vowels distinguish themselves via a special relationship to inertia, and so on. Yet, when “truth” finally emerges from beneath the packaging, it shall be awkwardly foolish, covering that with a gestural extravagance against which we will play the Episcopal character, backing away toward the fire. That pretty fire. Peach blossom fire. And, since you mention it, what of those “promises”? A serial rudeness, a handful of tiny thorns. Get over it. Lift a leg. Did it work?
And yet, psychology has also evolved a protective commercial shell, and even the lowest banking lackey can adjust its ineffectiveness to suit their disinterest. The entire nervous system finds itself unsupported by the wealthy, so we dismiss it, recalibrate its bosom alignment, and move farther away, leaving sensation to the children back there in the dark-feathered nursery. We realize such statements sting, another evaporation of frameworks, you are disappointed by our weekly proclamations, but do not concern yourself. Just try to wiggle your toes. Who is President? What year is it? Were you ever well-liked? The egrets fly under the low lamps.
And do not be dissuaded from desiring defeat. This place is obese with the stuff. Forcefulness is best mixed with hesitance and then mixed again: even mountains look small if you’re not impressed. You might be contentious as years breathe years and break their contents into smaller years, and that seed of a distinguished daydream concerning the reproachful stranger? It stumbles off into the background, away from the fire. That pretty fire. Thus, we have great peach blossom forests. Wander into them, pretending to be a singer. Did it work?
In conclusion, this specific day is a crack on a sink in a motel, or (I notice you were listed as a “Romantic”) a sleeping woman with a rose-tinted curtain as a skin. Whatever, that is all special in acceptable portions. But the question of our imitative barbarism? Historically, all our enlightenment, the full tank of comprehension is a miniature sunset to light your coral teacup, momentarily veined with damp, red strings of letters seen through a glowing thinness. Perhaps a sort of fire? That pretty fire.
Go away now.8
Our least intimate madness less evident than the quickest turn of carpentry or a furtive wager on the flight of birds. A secreted sign over those accidents speculating on departures or the return. The old world knew. Detective, under-secretary, resentful servant: all the same man, and less mysterious than a train window, even in the deepest snowfall. Yet we own all those mornings needed to regret all those evenings, while hasty cogitations are the most superficially beneficent to the craft of abandonment, the unnailing art as extravagant salaries defeat the amusements of children turning all to a politics, and a withering salary for fun. By wind or watch or wallow, chance betrays opportunity, and all this in the narrow gulfs, although we have heard she is the very finest hospital ship. So drop in at the River Palace, and learn to crawl along its dark deck to the tragedian’s “secret” grotto: admiration of delusions suffice as gratuity, and the drinks seem free, fostering dreams of railway porters, cowboy investors, showgirls most desired for their Oldsmobiles. Put it all down to a cocktail of sea air and coal gas. Toward noon, we approach a spasm of pus-yellow hills, the small lawyer shacks halfway up the slopes. We lift from the water toward the High Terminus, sails and rudders and dining cars and jets vibrate together, but the ascension falls short of aerodynamic sincerity even as one is impressed by the exterior cling hitches holding charm starved churches (empty), libraries (empty), and those small aluminum fortresses (not as empty). One more dose of distant data and the entire pot of coffee sours. Oh well... No easy access to the obscurer pagoda platforms of Idaho, and we cannot remake the bald circumferences into a national residence for eagles. The remaining viaducts inspire tepid conversation. Photos of the viaducts are exchanged in the club cars. There are red ponies seen through the windows from the outside. And a small clutch of worshippers abandoning the coast to terrapins.4
landing at liverpool. three-armed wind turbines. men-like: tall. narrow. straight. industry swathes of sprawling. turbulence. shouts ay ay ay of child. jolt startled. place in non-space. tilting. banking. side view: patch – worked.
patterns of agrarian britain. carved up centuries ago by men of trade. divided. demarcated. disjoined. neat lines border tidy bandages of grass and crops. man’s handiwork. clusters of green oak. rivers of roads. dirty industry.
lined estuary. funnels replace furrows. and the sparkling ribbon of the mersey.13
paint spots. faded pale. green turquoise. moonlit rocks. grey and black. dark ink-blue. figures.
grandmother. grandson. walking the rocks. grey- silver sky. behind. strains of voices. light.
specks. in caverns. water lapping into. inky void. wearing away. layered lines. and ancients.
I am I because a little worm bites me I am I filled with I’s and eyes watching what happens next I am a host/I am inhabited I am a whole world colonized a body embodied, bodies burrowed in my pores, my hair, my lungs, my eyes Whose bodies are borne forth when I strut? Whose being breathes each deep sweet breath? When I inhale whose lungs fill with air? Do I walk, or am I conducted? What DNA varies my mind when I turn on the TV? When I sip a beer what yeast’s thirst does my deep drink slake? I am host/I am inhabited I’m a whole ecosystem complete with theology unraveled, the DNA thread more not me than me strung like a lyre, let the wind strum sing my song I sing the body organic I sing the matter inside me Am I its god going about my business, tending the infrastructure, nerves, veins, capillaries, pores conducting all beings to the spaces they visit: domodex follicorum skitters on a folicle, doing its mite dance, setting its teeth in an old dried flake of skin there’s one now leaning on an eyelash, waiting for its mate in the blood-lit night Lactobacillus soft blankets, smooth as new snow, churning its germs, sweetening the milk I drink Entero bacteriacoea, my probiotic protectors, beating back all that salmonella that would make me sick h. pylori pissed off and mean, burning holes in my gut just for the fun it I don’t know what I am, or what to make of me now Mitochodria shuffle the deck: I’m a virus on the planet, I am a planet for a mite, a forest of invisible fauna each with its claim on me Cell lines, whole families speaking their chemical language, cultures, whole civilizations I am Mahayana, greater vehicle impacting a million lifetimes’ karma each time I cough Pediculus humanus captis, do you ever wonder what you are? You turn your monstrous pin-point face undaunted by any existential doubt & plunge unflinching your teeth deep into my dermis my blood belonging to me as good belongs to you worms in my stomach worms in my eye worms in my brain I contain multitudes I’m giving up the ghost I am a ghost hosting worm ghosts & all my relations a dot in the universe expanding in space Expanding & waiting to collide with whatever come what may See me expand. Watch me grow. Big Bang.10
That anything’s alive is miraculous though I don't believe in miracles. But outside the minus-five cold encases the trees, stiffens snow. Still, new tracks bisect the field, a woodpecker batters a frozen stump, & there’s a cabbage white butterfly glued to the window above the sink, waiting out the naked maples in the heatless light of a compact florescent bulb. On what harvest did it hitch a ride to my kitchen, & how will I keep it alive? Days pass. It bypasses the plate of rotten cantaloupe I try to pass off as nectar. The morning sun's an ice ball. The trees refuse to flower. Days pass indifferent. Flexing its white wings, The butterfly dedicates itself to waiting out the clock. It's a miracle of bad timing with nothing to pollinate & no metamorphosis except into a relic on my shelf.23
let light go into the nature of things —Ben Franklin
the light and dark of it,
rich and poor, up and down
fast and slow, man and woman
of it, light is up
and dark is down
light isn’t a thing
and things must be dark
the active idea light,
the dark passive thing—
a world from that?
active dark ingredient
passive drinker sipping
with cream from happy heifers…
a thickening line
above this line, the domain
of eyes and separation,
nerves so shattered
hands can’t get their act together
to teach the shovel
to caress the soil with life
(or let the Singer caress the cloth)
To jump ahead, behind,
to start, with a simple
word Day (and wordless
noise or silence). yes, Day
is no longer
equal to night
but is under-
stood as a container
in which both day
and night live
or is it battle?
The day in day
can side with the
big d Day it’s in
against its dark side
against the black
or for the white
Christmas of the North
when it’s red summer
in the South,
to say nothing
of the equator
or evening, or where
“the night is always
wider than the day.”
“and afford leisure
to cultivate the arts
(at least what you
call arts, if not crafts)
Earth is water
calling Earth Earth
rather than ocean
is like calling
maybe even worse
since ocean is more
earth than night
is day….our bodies
Earth is dirt
as in you treat me like
dirt, you treat me
like earth, even
what goes up must come down
the post coffee crash
so the economy
had to go south
because most people’s
depression can still be
a minority’s manic boom
like when mind first
knew it needed body
as white felt it needed
black as money knew
it needed to (harness)
barter, as day knew
it had to use the night
that had no use for it,
the night of coffee beans
where they grow, even cocoa
Frenchified into chocolate,
to toboggan tobacco
The white that needed
upper drugs, or supper
clubs, to support the strain of
mind trying to live as mind
above Descartes’ white collar
(I might, therefore I’m
right; I writes); the life
and death of it
and someone down
& out enough to catch
you when you fall…
and one may wonder
what the coffee bean
thinks about all of this…
termed the brightest places on Earth
the dark continent,
the word “owe”
not only meant what it means today—
“I am in debt,” or “you are in debt,”
but it also meant
today’s meaning of “own.”
You owe what you own.
It’s all over Shakespeare.
were not quite as reified
and the economy
may have rooted a little more
in the ecology
just before England
got in on the slave-trade—
if you can own people
you certainly don’t owe them anything
thus, if you own the land
you certainly don’t owe it,
or the people who live there, anything
Enlightenment could wage its little war
with the Puritan dominated church,
but they could agree on racism and slavery,
and damn if the ministers didn’t love
a good cup of coffee
as much as the statesmen, newspapermen
and bureaucrats did….
In the secular world,
Dark and black is not always negative.
You can be in the black
if you sell enough slaves at a profit.
Laws were passed saying that any offspring
of a white father and black mother
would be considered black
to give economic incentives
for whites to rape black slave women.
Furthermore, if such rapes came to light,
the myth that that the hyper-sexualized
black woman slave was seducing
or even raping the gallant white
(Jeffersonian) slave owner was pushed.
At the same time, the white men
“wanted to prevent the limited number
of white women from engaging
in similar interracial relations
(as their bi-racial babies would become free).”
Enlightenment grew by day,
with the unequal coffee trade,
the tea and slave trade
to rescue Europe from the dark ages
of nomadic night or when those Muslims
got as far north as Spain and started
infecting the English language
with zeroes, or algebra
closer to the equator
where night and day are more equal
and Africa was more free
Christian soldiers followed
the land-grabbers on the front
to use the coffee as a kind
of white powder, speed
up the thinking machine
(gum it up, gun it up).
There may yet be
A Tome on Pure Reason
if you don’t sleep.
Yes, the coffee worked for you
and how do you define you?
It wasn’t only Macbeth who murdered
sleep, and how do you define sleep
when coffee-colored slaves became your morning Joe?
Ah Europe; if you’re up; the rest is down….
Ah America, you’re closer to Africa
and South America than you think.
that stuff they got DOWN there
can really get us UP
and when black people move north
the Harlem Renaissance
is portrayed as King Kong’s climb
up the Empire state building
and the Panthers call for self-determination
scares Hollywood into Planet of the Apes.
No wonder you have a hard time keeping your coffee down
as you gaze down from the windows of your ivory tower
to the heavy bear that goes beneath you,
the body you forget is yours.
Coffee has made some better singers—
loosen the chords for the high notes,
but not being able to sing is no great loss
if you could say and write they sing
with the pre-written voice and beat
all may feel in the womb’s deep craft
or what death may be before
you realized you could make more off a tomb
(like a privatized personal pyramid
more “democratic” than in the Pharaoh’s day
but still more selfish than even the gravedigger’s scene in Hamlet)
Selfish, and more expensive, the grave-like soda
when your body cries for cheaper water
to plant a mango tree next to the coffin-less corpse
and the soil’s collective soul
when digging fed the earth, the land,
liberated the glut of supply,
and the clog of demand, the convoluted
puffed up pride of sacred corpses!
A place to start from, muted
but burning beneath the surface
one might call peace or truce.
The body, beneath, a sleeping giant of space
or water cycle
around the lie of your singularity,
the actual earth that grounds
with its sky, its atmosphere,
the air with its sky, and needs not
coffee and uppers and slaves
to separate, to elevate
to define a self as unit…
The self is but a seed
and the we it calls a weed
a wider we that transpires
a lovely world whose essence
is dialogue and dance
that doesn’t have to divide sky from earth
to explain the (wealth) gap between ideals and realities—
One may have to call the beautiful harmony
the marriage of heaven and hell—
if you start with them as bookends
to hold the earth in place—
just like those who hold the ego in place
with superego and id bookends—
But that starting place always comes later,
like your Legos, or Logos, the word in the beginning
of the Bible (and not its audio book), its mono
theistic personal god, or unmoved mover
who just so happens to resemble the corporate Job Creator
if translated into the prose of feeling
oft derided as “vulgar” or “normative discourse”
of popular gossip syntax—-or, worse,
conversation! True conservation, to conserve
and negotiate a community from the ground up
(even the destroyed ground up ground;
a growl with the word “grow” in it),
a soil that knows it is also air,
the sky between each space of so-called unearthed digging…
a dynamic soul that can better be understood
in the terms of music history as rhythm and blues!
(Do you ache with emptiness yet?)
One cannot speak of the soul without speaking of soul music
or the flesh becoming word, the ass-freeing-mind
returning to the tomb as a womb, the first sounds.
your mama’a heartbeat louder than the Mazda,
the amniotic fluid that isn’t the weapon of mass destruction
one found in Iraq under the name of “Oil”
in the name of British Petroleum or Gulf,
or in the name of Enlightenment Coffee, Tastebud’s choice
You may call the melody the upper registers,
but the rhythm ain’t down; the blues ain’t up.
the bassist is as melodic as a meeting, a core
to a collective, recorded in order to live
and the drums might be down, not allowed
to be too loud, begrudged, or accepted only if mixed
in the back, behind the front man or maybe woman
behind the soloist, the call that forgets it’s a response
to response, forgets its parts….
In these passages, you may see a positive thought: The bassist is as melodic as a meeting, a core
to a collective, recorded in order to live, but the negative follows quickly on its heels….the repression of the drummer, the terms of the so-called harmonic scale that doesn’t even look so great on the paper on which it primarily lives—
As day falls on America
like a wilting flower
ripped from the night,
Socrates spoke of the soul.
Plato wrote it down
Descartes & Hegel
wrote it up
James Brown sang it out
danced it, played and worked it
out and in and out again
A deeper duality than dualism!
(you don’t only have to use the past tense)
The flesh becoming word
and the mangoes
from the tree planted
on the coffin-less graves
ripen as the rhythm
& the blues express soul,
body and soul
body as soul
(with plenty of room for reason
ample room for day
in night when the sky
doesn’t seem like
a ceiling like it does in day)
a larger whole,
spirit that need not
spear it, the bass
melodic as a meeting
the drums no longer
forced in the back
of the bus, or the mix
behind the sensitive
or Pandora culture Tzar
in his little trickle down
disguised as a heart
(or a tailor
from Jackson town)
it comes from night,
from down and in,
an in called out
by “I think,” you know?
you don’t even need
coffee to feel invigorated
for your critique of pure reason
like when sex gets better
when you flip from the missionary position
(and the strained analogy
but as long as metaphysical dualisms
were designed to obscure
the class, race and gender
dualisms they helped create,
such troping may be
a lifelong struggle
in the war of ideas
that are never as disembodied as they pretend.
1. Nicot, whom Nicotine is named after, was the first to put “race” in the European dictionary. | back9
Silver wolf, the mountain cross, useless behind the wolf, beauty you are married in the unknown. A stonepoint pierces your breast, your sharp white tooth a curse on me and everything you give. Mountain river golden with gold, the tree fall, brute you would kill, a kill the last weather will guard. Mountain lay upon the stranger, I am a guest to your capture, a site, the track into unknowing.3
Green circle the gulch cliff shifting in light, dripping with creek flow topaz on rock before carving the valley. Waterfall on my clear tongue, amazement of the hemlock and bigleaf magnolia, the coldness of fresh water. Daughter of God’s thought in the water, real creatures alive in her pulsing heart, alive, her hands a raven veil.6
Of course there was never a kitten. There were four men, four dirty, poor-people pea-green walls and a bed with four corner posts. There were four windows with blinds pulled down quickly, blowing out the sun as if it were a candle. There was one door that boomed when it closed and clacked gun-metal hard when its lock turned. The knot in my stomach told me there never was a kitten but I asked where it was, anyway. One of the men set his beer bottle down and slurred I'll show ya, schweets. On cue, I'm lifted up. I'm a dandelion santa claus in the wind… I'm flying lighter than an underbelly feather above the bed. I'm an inhalation filling the lungs of life itself. I'm the swimmer sucking in one last big breath knowing it's a long way to the bottom though I've never been there before, and I have to make it all the way down and all the way back.60
Behind every sound is the true sound: Hush, air rests. The cumbersome world outside asks why she has settled for this but she cannot speak. Her words are so small they slip around her tongue avoiding acidity, evading the touch of a disappointing discovery. They disappear, like sand born of some greater stone, weathered, mingled, suddenly lost amidst the dance of windblown grass and the music of its rhythm. The voice inside her head is a violin. It weeps, climbs, falls, weeps again. She comes home from work to work, one moment and movement linked to many other movements. Word and voice. Dance and body. Complex reconciliations join what she dreamed would be a fabulous journey with an embittered destination. Yet still, she feels incomplete. She plunges on, full and busy her essence homeless, needing, always borrowing from a better measure. She cannot wait for an ending even too near. This small rock rests on a larger rock. This woman. That man. The words between them are a brown-green creek touching both. No, give them lakes! No, give them oceans lapping at both shores. Between them an exploding universe or nothing. Truth pressing or eternal death, echoing. Air bathes all possibilities, its ripples unseen, like water far beneath the surface of a deep-cutting boat, or parched leaves folding white-silver back upon themselves, painfully baring their vulnerability then hurriedly rushing forward but like rocks never wholly going anywhere. Who can say what lies between nothing and one? She believes there is something unspeakable. He is sure rock and water say nothing, really, but she believes the voice inside her: Hush, the world outside no longer exists. Everything happens inside of her11
try to cut us apart and go to her does she know that your top layer for oh say an inch under your skin is me as well as you you can’t wash away that many years of sleeping so close that getting up in the morning requires gentle effort to pull us apart breathing my air for so long has lined your lungs with my molecules sitting with you over coffee she’ll end up sucking me in a crime scene squad could test her for my dna and come up positive every time remember how we’d go to bed in stiff anger wake up conjoined twins again jesus and sophia tight you don’t have enough years left to sleep with her enough nights to replace me in your skin our bodies will call out crawl toward each other like twins hacked apart hurry us to some alley or room where they can lie down desperate to undo the operation move into their conjunction sigh with healed content you might as well give up now forget this surgery and let them be18
There is a secret medicine given only to those who hurt so hard they cannot hope. —Rumi
- somewhere a woman,
- you were intoxicated with the light from a thousand brilliant suns
but the lights were out where I came from
- my heart was pounding as I turned to leave
listen, I said, I break like tinder
- you loved my specific and colourful madness
the touch of my fingertips on your cheek
- look now, no regrets
- crows feed on my grief
I am petrified wood
- vestiges of human frailty stalk me
something alien breathes in me
- the planets still orbit the around the sun
- I beseech the saints,
mourn prophets light candles to the Blessed Virgin
- I am the disappeared
inventing my own city
the streets and I
fronting on insanity
- I am a muscle, an eel, a fish, I am a heart, a woman
- the lunatic forum for the marginalized
- I am petrified wood
- I run naked into the streets
- there were too many nights like this you said
- now the saints whisper,
asking me to believe.
- the bite of the dark
the cold of the walls
the corpses stacked along the way
- naked, I wander the hallways
looking for comfort
signs mistaken for wonders
the pity beyond all telling
- we were bruised and we were healed
I wrote letters from the asylum an act of contrition is a lonely sacrifice
- the voices taunted me from behind the walls
I was clothed by the good sisters,
dreamed into being by their persistent prayers
- letters, words, proof that I’m here, I exist
- I lie down with my dreams and the stars,
with my head at the roots
of that one tree you see there
- the birds are about.
- I can smell the loam.
- am I too late?
- what is the colour of hope?
- I dream of a changeling
animal and divine
- I am holding out for the sacred medicine.
- sometimes your desires are all that’s left after the storm
- still, it’s hard, wrestling with a stone.
In both high life and lowdown, mendicants walk through a welfare state of light so pure in the nudity of intent the screen of your laptop goes blank in the sun. Your mouse scurries near the sacred stairways of Kathmandu like a pacifier to a lost awareness. In America, should you dare drift like this, hungry for days or weeks, the body’s dirt a meditation on implicit cleanliness, you would be told to get a job. Lady Liberty hid this choice beneath her rust-riven copper skirts; the hands by which Whitman held high the homeless as he chanted of pioneering blissfulness to hold you too, millions up and leaving the city’s heat for rabbit trails, arroyos, each passage breathless to see you for the first time. You clatter upon your keyboard atop the Olympus of abstraction, the NOMAD satellite phone fit to feed you more, and your labors more, amid dying amaranthine, pining evergreen, oddities of a fallen Everest, or of a heart, a nervous reflection of your face in cloud, water, beyond the poshlust of supply and demand.
Guilt is her underbelly until mortality slaps her—overnight,
two inches of invisible wing sounds.
Rain from the left.
The apricot unprecedented, snow from all sides, flashes of light stick to her face. All yellow eyes
and fragile sex pop.
Dunes of snow on the lane speak headlands, dikes, hulls of boats, coral bone white.
The old lane disguises as a line and DNA molecules free straight reckoning.
Wings stoke the crystal mirror for singing out loud.
– – –
The foot caught in the stirrup turned a hinge
into the fourth nightmare.
Now she’s the anxious observer,
dry-eyed from time in the sun, determination of the buckets,
the foundered stile accuses the sky.
Soften, soften. Let her tell you. But first notice the field’s curve,
its glassy eye.
The shivering snipes.
Ten telephone poles say get off the cross and walk.
When a woman is lost sometimes all she asks for is a toothpick.3
He had two teeth left in his lower jaw. He also had two nodding dogs on his dashboard. No air-conditioning. ‘The asthma, understand?’ But the window was down and the fumes from a bus stopping next to us almost asphyxiated me. He coughed dramatically. It’s a question of price in a country where everything is makeshift. Why buy new if you can mend it, where your water heater will be hung up on two instead of four pins because four are inconvenient. Street dogs roaming, miraculously surviving in streets where nothing is lawful. The shoeshines hanging out in front of the pharmacy that’s next to the bank where cambistas chant ‘dollars’, ‘euros’ at anybody blonde enough to have pockets full of money. Their rates are more favorable than the banks’. Today we heard the bishop of Lima preach in favor of big capital and the union of one man and one woman. They don’t get married much here, they make loads of kids and vanish after beating her badly. With the church’s blessing. The afternoon brings romance on the telly. Women who sigh.8
He took the Seven Seals and prophets, turning them to glory for himself, made wives of other men's wives, siring children in a compound made of stone. They had Bible Study daily. With an acoustic guitar, he was their homespun prophet while inspiring the fear of fire in their hearts as they hung on his words. When the guns started and the walls of his kingdom were breached, they stayed with him. He saw the truth at the end of the world and divine light stayed. Glass broke, tanks crashed through walls, a fireball washed through where children burned beside their parents, lost to blind faith.13
The ladies with lorgnettes and poodles adored her, fêted with mushrooms and crudités for every popular concert she sponsored, creating tableaux vivants in flowing gowns and wings. She was lavish in praise with high hopes, taking music seriously in her forties, soprano hostess and friends with Caruso and Toscanini. Many knew she had a tin ear, flatting at every interval with poor diction, singing St. Saens and Mozart out of tune with most everything while offering her wide embrace of an audience of soldiers and aristocrats, wearing a diamond tiara for every song sung at the Ritz-Carlton, her face framed by chandeliers of pure gold light.5
I had to find the library near the Church. Old mahogany was on my mind, dark cherry, aged patina of dread, graceful and noble somewhere dark with the curtains down. When the poet dies, the birds linger mid-air. I saw it when Mark died. The birds knew he was in a fall, a clumsy transition. He ate poetry; the librarian was aghast, just a fluke. We walked uptown a lot of us, walking back to catch the morning before the fall lamenting, Animals in pain, sobbed. I felt like reading Jung, lush red words, brilliant green gods, in vibrant hues, contrasting the sky. The smell of burnt hickory musky and raw, hung in the air, like the smell of sex lost in the rush of an afternoon tryst, she was abandoned. Motel rooms are cold and odd. They never add much. The librarian tried to get the pages out of his mouth. He was fragile yet put up a fight pushing her fingers away from his mouth. She wished she was a feminist. He choked on his poem, an unfinished one.12
a sadness — life expectancy of a certain class stuck — at the same time as an institution looking the other way from gratification — when behooving meshes good mourning A. golden door golden goose, golden may be the link proves the *sham — after the true story survives start with a glass house and style of bone mastered by the chimpanzee sit back and wait the bush in the middle on fire we encircle but can never touch as if nature herself forbade it something so obviously right about privacy — in what age have there been no pirates the etchings upstairs sit there — no matter what the film about the life of the film artist shows signs of the times these are just impressions before the inevitable trials9
restricted airspace at your beck and call the stress of racism — its entry into the lexicon — with us waiting out of breath for every new edition and guitar electric twang — hymn of liturgical pulp fiction whines where is commonwealth on a map you might look at 44 Barber Street, Windsor for revolving doors in same sense as farewell being waved to arms — in the act of bidding goodbye to words now being bid stand up for the enshrined piece of music — or relive separation anxiety in a kind of life behind bars — at the bible museum — a use of the near-death experience as so much more than just an excuse for slacking an about face — like most normal people then wither from heights — feeling slain Provence or its corollary all a mood — toss and turn it turns out for decades still to be found here happy to have known Tolstoy I can rest now knowing we never need think of ourselves as being apart10
The incorrectly-added final s suggests that there is some accounting for the bilious fatigue of this particular pre-dawn—we have spent ourselves in haggling with the heavenly bodies but this time we got a bargain: 6 instead of 5. The little hiss lets slip belief that there exists some great reserve of daylight we cannot call on now but only make deposits in by electing small privations: black mornings at the bus stop silently accumulate there as golden after-dinner strolls in dreams where we retire early, undepleted, not alone for the inevitable tumble back to dark.90
When I finally arrived after seven days of difficult journey with my rusted metal suitcase [my grandfather’s toolbox really] and waterlogged notes [viridian ink swirls on graph paper], draped in dull cloths sewn by the wives of the fishermen, no one recognized me. Hence, I became even stranger to myself and my own history. In the foreign city, on the stone that marked countless battles and immeasurable bloodshed, I sat with my paring knife to expose the innermost layers. I offered the shed skins [the dead cells I had outgrown years ago] for sacrifice. Heal me! I cried out in the language of the country I had studied for years. And this is how this particular story begins.
Dear [Poet A],
Your poems finally arrived today, and I just finished reading them. They shattered me.
Thank you for making me feel human again. I had been feeling like a rusted robot of late.
Yours with most infinite perpetual gratitude and admiration,
THE GHOSTS OF THE HOUSE
The House [of Being] is a mess. A disaster, in fact. How quickly everything shifts into disarray. The ghosts—they venture up from the dirt cellar while everyone is sleeping. They rifle through our things, reminisce about what it is like to wear clothes, specifically fall sweaters, eat French toast with fresh maple syrup, play the piano that is now out of tune, touch someone and watch them move. They are curious about the bills, the rate of inflation, the World Series, the noisy cat. What they really want to know is if anyone missed them.
I caught a glimpse of you today, but you ran away. Okay, I chased you. I thought it was a game. When will you come back? I have set the table with critical questions: Who placed the colossal conch shell in the forest? When did we lose the capability to love [ourselves] enough? How do we stumble under the same elusive sky and sun—and remain so different? Why does the boy only have one arm?
The poet wanted to SPEAK dog [T.S. Eliot] and [Van Gogh, Roethke, and Kandinsky], liquid paintings commanded into being with horsehair brushes [the color of her long auburn/autumn leaf/honey/golden/bronze/butterscotch hair]—according to the angle and intensity of indoor/outdoor light and time of morning/noon/afternoon/evening/night]; brushstrokes of chartreuse light, the uncanny hue of sky before a tornado, the inch-worm green of the smallest leaves that would unfurl finally at the end of April or early May after a winter of snow [from November to March usually] and if/when no snow—skeleton drab trees/birches thinned by poison ivy vines choking them out in the summer or too much ice dragging their limbs down [depending on the weather that particular year] into surrender–
PAINT rain that defies photograph, the smell of summer rain, the sound of rain falling on the House at night [but not the dangerous ice of winter], the smell of fresh-cut summer grass; the infinite cornflower/robin’s egg/cerulean/cyan [like ink]/iris/periwinkle/steel blue/indigo/viole[n]t sky;
PLAY the violin and cello [with the horsehair bow and stubborn dried resin] and oboe [at the opening of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring [the first audience left in disgust] and grand piano with its yellowed-teeth keys
with her morphemes; syllables; and circuitous, long-cadenced sentences [like high tide waves crashing onto the silk sand]
SCULPT the redolence of French pink/blueberry-purple/lavender/cream lilacs.
but she could not find the QUESTION MARKS without lighted keys or the LIGHT without question marks.
She wrestled with the Angel of Poetry last night, and he ripped her left arm out of its socket. The anesthesia will wear off, she is almost sure, and she will feel things again. When hanging by a thread, think of the spider [she would convince herself after repeating many times]. Thread the needle and sew up the wounds.
I saw you again [ swear I’m not stalking you]—at the show of liquid pear lights—looking for something. Perhaps your wallet, a lucky stone, or another chance. Restless, you were lost in borders/boundaries/the shuffle/juggle/aftermath/tug-of-war-struggle, tired and afraid. You realized you had become complacent lately in your mandated hamster/cubicle life. And you were suddenly aware it was Monday.
At last sighting the hero was adrift on a raft he fashioned out of oak [from the forest] in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean writing Petrarchan sonnets.
So far everything is true.
Some questions rupture the pillars of what we wanted to build. We travel at a steady speed, taunting the milky blankets of faint cloud-light. We must believe the stories we cast to find possible truths, that our time was well spent.
The protagonist, exhausted, walked off stage and wept. The understudy appeared stage left and started singing. It was an odd duet.
Her cello sounded even more lugubrious under water.
The gauze of her lavender gossamer nightgown—or was it the color of lilacs or mauve/orchid/periwinkle/violet/amethyst? She didn’t know anything anymore, not even her name, so she called herself Bellona, the Roman goddess of War. The tattered nightgown [from his hands groping her before the 9-1-1 call, and the police removing him from the House handcuffed, face magnetized to the floor in utter shame]—
flowing diaphanous in the sea she so loved—; boundaries now colluded/blended/blurry/obsolete.
She had escaped the violence in the House feverishly without time to pack anything except 12 notebooks she had named in thick indigo permanent marker: Entropy, Skipping Stones, Random, Warrior, Archives of the Future, Studies in Nomenclature, Hourglass Studies, Painting the Rain, Skipping Stones, E C H O [E S], The Island Within, String Theory] and 1,371 pens/markers/hi-lighters in a brilliant assortment of colors and thickness—now swirls of dissipating/dissolving/disappearing shadows of color drained and taken into the indigo/cobalt/lapis/peacock/navy—pages of sea.
Autumn had so fallen suddenly and hard that interminable year after a tenacious Indian summer [now politically incorrect, but “Native American sunset” didn’t have the same meaning/recognition/ring to it/cultural significance and whatnot]—and the briny water was head-ache cold.
But she was oddly happy. She felt this was her home, the House where she belonged, where someone she couldn’t see or imagine recognized her inside-out fragile whale-bone core. She was stitched into the dome of sky and [unfathomable] universe again.
She wasn’t sure if she was dreaming or hallucinating or if the Angel of Death was upon her—a beautiful, fluid angel-ballerina with long-mossy-green-bubble-wrap kinda seaweed hair—like the beautiful woman in a Kurosawa film: the one with the exhausted men hiking uphill atop Mt. Fuji in a blizzard that made her miss her elderly father [who as a young boy survived Siberia for two interminable winters, felling trees with his father; the boys tasked with digging the two feet of snow-perimeter from the base of mammoth trees in the taiga, 50-degree below zero temperatures]. The labored, slowing breath of the mountaineers in Kurosawa’s dream trudging and falling in the snow and ice—with their labored, slowing breath echoing in their masks.
No—the ballerina-poet’s cello did NOT work out as a flotation device, as hoped—and storm was approaching, roiling at her edges. How much longer could she tread the indigo sea in neap tide before the burgeoning late fall/early winter nor’easter? She floated on her back to soak up the waning sunlight—and collect the broken stars.39
She enters the kitchen, brushing the wooden door with her long white dress, and pours the water she’d carried from the spring into the pot on the stove. A man who is her spitting image—save for his black clothes—appears. Suit and hat, but no tie. He returns from the garden, his arms full of herbs and vegetables—parsley, basil, rosemary, celery, carrots, potatoes—which he places in the pot. The man and the woman don’t look at one other, they move in the same space without touching, like shadows. The water begins to boil, and the vegetables give off an aroma like soup on a winter night. Later, together they will eat the soup in light blue earthen bowls, each divided by a brown stripe. Only a spoonful will remain in the pot.
The next day, at sunrise, the woman will return with water from the same spring and, once again, the man will come back with his arms full of herbs and vegetables that he will mix in with the leftovers from the night before. In front of the fire, they will breathe in the vapors’ aroma and listen to the wood crackling. And one day, when the woman is too old to carry water, she will suddenly know she is still eating last night’s soup and the flames are still flaring even though the firewood is no longer burning, and she will see next to her a woman in white and she will know she has become the man in black.5
I am back again, 120th street, the old school, where I can disappear between the hallways and stairs, the columns and the classes. I told Carl how I have seen the tunnels underneath the cellar in my dreams and how they led me to the main corridor right off the main entrance. Carl thinks I am too young and the boy in me needs a father.
I called my son today. I feel older when he takes me for lunch. Carl thinks all that there is inside me has not integrated completely.
The smell of Mother’s soup brings me back to our kitchen in Iran. She was standing in front of the stove with her back to me, her black hair long and shiny. I remember how beautiful she was. Carl thinks she has not delivered me yet, and I float somewhere inside her. Carl says that explains my obsession with darkness and how I sleep in my dreams, walking awake between the alleys that lead to the mosques of a hundred psalms.
There are birds in my pockets. I tell Carl about them—the colorful fluffy birds and the dark one that guards outside. He says I am looking for my myth. There were pigeon cages on the roof of the house next door. I never saw them, I was in love with the tall girl next door. She had soft brown hair and hazel eyes, and her skin was so much lighter than mine and that of my sisters. Mother says they are not from around here.
I dreamt of the black dogs, laying on the streets panting, moaning with white poison bubbling through their clenched teeth. I thought how that reality was so foreign to me now like the smell of goat milk, raw and pungent, that the shepherds brought weekly to the house. Mother boiled it, and my sisters and I fought over the cream that stayed on top.
Mother wore black the day the Shah died. Father did not care. He thought little of elites and all the books mother read. There were red flags everywhere, and the music solemn and loud. I got my first eyeglasses at nine. It took me six months of looking at the sun on the balcony every day trying to catch a glimpse of my beloved before I convinced my parents that I needed them. Mother just thought I was curious and a bit precocious. She didn’t know that I was learning how to love.
My mother looked so graceful in the kitchen standing with her back to me, stirring the soup as the steam rose and dissipated. The smell of nutmeg and mint teased me like the scent of the garden after the rain. We had butterflies in the garden, but Mother never saw them. I heard music in my head all day yesterday, something in B Flat—something like green caterpillars chewing on the leaves my brother left in the boxes where he kept them. I didn’t know they lived on the tree branches—that magical alchemy of cocoons and butterflies I began to love.
I question everything these days, sleep on the ground, and paint my face. I like my canvases. They are not mine. I am the custodian. I give them away to the postman and the mechanic, interrupting their lives. Carl thinks I am a narcissist; I like to think I am kind. I do not sign my canvases, I do not ask for any satisfaction. I cry when they are good and have colorful orgasms dreaming of them, and that is plenty.
I tell Carl about the silence that unfolds in me, the stillness I feel lying on the grass watching the clouds. Write about it in your journal, he says. We will discuss what you write. You would think that two-hour sessions would drag a bit at times, but we spend the time that slips like silk in an hourglass so feverishly. He puts Humpty Dumpty back together. The coldness in my head dissipates, and I know I have sharpened pencils in my bag curing all the white pages he gives me. Don’t forget about the dreams, but don’t lie awake waiting, Carl says with a smile as we shake hands, laughing goodbye. Jungians are slippery; however, not as bad as the Zen masters. I feel ridiculed and put on every time I meet one. Carl thinks that will go away in time.
My academic mentor, a beautiful woman also with dark silk hair like a raven, thinks it is a privilege that Carl spits in my soup, which means he thinks I am ready to be pushed. I believe her reluctantly.
I miss writing in longhand, the way I missed the neighbor’s girl—her eyes when she caught me watching her, her grace as she smiled, and kept swimming away. The way my head was hot and my breath caught, the weight of the silence as the sun reflected in the water, and I went away. She visited me that evening on the roof. There was a summer breeze and taste of stolen kisses that kept me awake for nights to come.10
After the measles stopped scratching my teacher Mrs. Schwartz takes me to the Barnum and Bailey’s Circus She takes Me none of the other girls This is my first circus I am so tired because I couldn’t sleep Mrs. Schwartz drives and sings Frére Jacques and then we both sing Frére Jacques A woman drives next to us and smiles I move close to Mrs. Schwartz I want the woman to think I am Mrs. Schwartz’s daughter
When we get there two clowns are smoking cigarettes outside One sees me and squeezes his big red nose Behind a curtain I can see a bearded lady who is smaller than I am There are pictures of man twins that share one body and dead babies in jars that I do not want to see elephants wear flowers around their necks and march in a circle one big tiger climbs up a little ladder I feel sorry for it A man with a big curly mustache wants him to jump through a ring of fire The tiger does not want to jump so the man cracks the whip41
Prudencia? I startled her as she sat at her desk staring at her hand. Dios! she said, then began to cry. Prudencia had been married briefly to a wealthy man who divorced her after their year-old son died. My mother sympathized but fired her with severance and a letter of recommendation. Grief and teaching don’t mix, she said.
Madeleine and Maude
Madeleine and Maude were a year apart. They had pocked skin and big breasts that felt hard when I leaned against them. When I conjugated a French verb correctly, Madeleine said, Oui. Then Maude said, Oui. When I made a mistake, Madeleine said, Mon cher. Non, non. Maude said, Mon cher! Non, non! I called them the Parrot Sisters.
Hermosa, small as a child, came to us from a girls’ convent. She wore her hair in plaits. So fine, she’d murmur, pinching the fabric of my clothes between her fingers. One weekend Hermosa visited a sick aunt. I opened the door to her room where I was not allowed. One of my porcelain dolls, eyes snapped open, feet in shiny spats, sat propped against the pillow of her bed.
Justine wore her dark hair in a tight bun, oily at the part. She was thirty when she came to us. Never married. Clever girl, she’d say, when I recited the times-tables zero to 10. When no one was home to disturb us, she’d sit me on her lap and kiss my hands.54
Looking down from high places don’t bother me at all but when I have to look up at things like buildings it makes me nervous ’cause it feels like some kind of force like a magnet or something is going to pull me up and lift me off the ground, which is a lot worse than falling ‘cause if you’re falling down you know you’re falling and that’s that, but if you get pulled off the ground and lifted into the air you’re not falling but you could fall at any moment, and there’s no end because if you fall you have to land but if you’re lifted up it could go on forever, and I hate that.4
It happens every New Year’s Eve. It’s always at the same restaurant. Twenty Cinderellas sit at tables set for two. Their thoughts move like minutes, anxious for love to strike before midnight.
Plates and wineglasses occupy their tables. Knives, forks, and spoons wrapped in napkins wait for action. On each plate, a box of “Happy Nude Year” condoms. In each vase, a single red rose to keep the women company. The scene is the same each year, except for fashion, aging, and newcomers. Only a few will toast the new year with a mate.
I’m one of these twenty women. Our faces are lined with screwed-up stories. I sit before my rose, observing the quiet desperation. My smile conceals my anxiety. I take out my compact and lubricate my lips. I see the same desperation on my face. The rose is in Prozac withdrawal.
My watch reads 11:35 p.m. Two of the newcomer women are leaving. Their 20-something smiles radiate. Their Prince Charmings did arrive before midnight, but how long will their lipgloss, condoms, and euphoria last?
My rose is in striptease mode. It will be January 1st in a few minutes. No one has entered the restaurant since those two women left.
I decide to leave. As I rise, the tablecloth slides. The plate, wineglass, and vase crash. The knife, fork, and spoon scatter. The condom box and napkin bathe in wine. My rose lies naked on the floor.
I exit the restaurant. At the sports bar next door, the ball drops on a flatscreen TV. I head for the subway and crowd in with the drunks. Leaning against the door, I zone out the noise. My thoughts tell me not to return. But that was last year’s resolution and the years’ before.10
So sick and sycophantic dancing moonbeams stand, whoever saw the light waltz? Moody recombinant thoughts fracture fractal refractory factory-scented air-freshener, computer-generated garbage run amok within the fragmentary discourse left of my feathered mind, dripping down the avenue evening: punked-out crowd, music, people. Women hula-hooping on street corners, harnessing the drunken power of male gazes in beery hazes while videographer teens trade cell-phone numbers. All locked together in cellular decomposition. Recombinant thoughts. Along slick marketing lines. Whoever saws through fragmentary discourse. The light moody waltz, but feathered on the left, dripping down the evening-minded avenue. The crowded street corners run amok. Ideas fractured within computer-generated women who watch. Drunk with media, people playing the part to play along. Fractal refractory factory-consumerism cell-scented air-freshener in decomposition. Phone numbers locked up. So, in all conclusions, the phrase dancing moonbeams stand to hear Bertolt Brecht sing Bakhtinian heteroglossia, ruptures of social fabric shredded amid burning torches, dialogic strains, broken vessels cracking light.
after the storm
I alone survived the storm, the sea, and the whale’s ancient might. He walked by. She walked out. They never glanced at each other. A car growls. She sips wine. He looked at street people. He was late picking Joe up at the airport, having screwed Joe’s wife. Orphans another found, only children missing her—after searching, retracing her—Rachel. Beak-sheathed sea-hawks sailed, their savage mouths padlocked as they soared. The drama over there, over here, over—the drama finally is done. Once princess-kissed, an (in)human trans(formation), and taking her to bed, that old frog woke at dawn and skipped out with the spell-making witch. Might ancient whale have survived storm, sea—me alone at night. Sea waves crash over us all.18
“What can I get you, Iarlaith?” asked Mike.
“Just give me a short beer,” said Iarlaith. “I just stopped in for a minute. I was looking for Feargus.” Iarlaith needed Feargus’s help in bringing an old wardrobe steamer trunk to the consignment shop. Iarlaith had finally emptied it out of Barb’s old clothes and figured he could get a few dollars for it. He’d seen similar ones on eBay going for about three hundred dollars. Normally he’d have asked his son, Marco, to help him, but Marco was off scavenging for material for one of his assemblage sculptures and wasn’t around. Iarlaith wanted to be done with the damn thing. It would help him purge his life of the last remnants of his life with Barb, she whose tongue was as sharp as her name. He thought of selling the clothes, too, but he was afraid someone would buy them and then wear them around town. That would just bring back those memories. So, he’d tossed the clothes in the giant dumpster behind the grocer’s and had poured a bucket of sludge that was sitting next to the dumpster right on top of the clothes. He was sure no one would want them after that.
As he nursed his beer, he began overhearing the conversation between the tourists. They spoke with a funny accent. It was not foreign but it was from some region of the country he didn’t recognize.
“As eye sand to my t-shirt, eyes dessert a bed degrade.”
What the heck did that mean? He looked at the men. They were in their early twenties and were well dressed, kind of preppie, in cardigans, no less. One of them had brown hair in a little boy’s cut with a nice part on the left side of his head. A cowlick stuck up where the part ended at the top of his head. Iarlaith chuckled. He was always amused by grown men wearing little boy haircuts. The other man’s hair was black and was slicked back. Cowlick was the one who had made the statement about eye sand.
A bed degrade? That had been life with Barb in a nutshell. She’d been the nut, and she shelled him like he was the enemy almost every day they were together, at least at the end.
Slick looked at Cowlick and shrugged. “Degrades a mint in Kershaw.” Oh, great, he talked all mush-mouthed, like the other one. Kershaw? Doug Kershaw, the great fiddle player? Louisiana was a long way away from here. Was he playing nearby? Maybe in the Quad Cities.
“Hey, Mike, you hear anything about Doug Kershaw playing in the Quad Cities this weekend?”
“No, Iarlaith. I wouldn’t know. I don’t get a chance to go see shows. I’m always here.”
“You got Kershaw coming here, then?”
“Who needs to pay for entertainment when I got you all?” Mike laughed and turned around to wash some glasses from earlier.
“Dough-kneeded coarse mint,” replied Cowlick to Slick.
Iarlaith shook his head. What the hell were they talking about? But they mentioned mint twice, and their drinks were green. Okay, Iarlaith had to know.
“Mike, come over here.”
“Want another beer, Iarlaith?”
“Sure, but make it a mug this time. What the hell are those drinking?”
“Oh, those are mint martinis. They’re popular in the cities.”
“Mint martinis? Blecch. I hope they at least had the decency to have their martinis made right. With gin, I mean.”
“No, they wanted vodka.”
“That’s not a martini, then. It’s a kangaroo. A mint kangaroo. Disgusting.”
“Hey, I always say be a purist, not a tourist. But the tourists like this kind of stuff.”
“Dell your t-shirt off,” said Slick to Cowlick.
“Shed flail meat, oh,” replied Cowlick.
Mike brought Iarlaith his beer, and Iarlaith downed it in two giant gulps, slapped the mug onto the counter loudly, slapped four dollars onto the bar and left, shaking his head in complete confusion. Wherever these tourists were from, Iarlaith knew he never wanted to go there.
Iarlaith was sitting in the bar when he noticed the woman next to him was ordering apricot brandy.
“What’ll you have, Iarlaith?” asked the bartender after serving the woman.
“Iarlaith?” said the woman. “That’s an unusual name. How do you spell it?”
“A pint of Guinness, please,” said Iarlaith to the bartender. Then he turned to the woman. “I-a-r-l-a-i-t-h,” he obliged.
“I thought so, but why do you pronounce it that way? I have seen the name before, but I thought it was pronounced, ‘EAR-lah.’”
“No, that’s the way my father and mother pronounced it in their Gaelic brogue. My classmates couldn’t say it right. Having a weird name was hard enough, but expecting the idiots I went to school with to pronounce it the old way would have been silly.”
“So how do you pronounce it again?”
“‘YAR-layth.’ The way it looks.”
“You shouldn’t run scared of the right pronunciation,” said the woman.
“You shouldn’t drink apricot brandy,” said Iarlaith, and he took his pint and moved to a seat at the window rail.
Apricot brandy! Blecch! He remembered apricot brandy.
When he’d been a young man, only married a handful of years, he’d gone on a camping trip with his wife, Barb (she whose tongue was as sharp as her name), and their son, Marco, just a toddler at the time. That was back in the days of the belief in freedom, and Iarlaith had worn his hair long and had a large beard at the time.
They needed some supplies from the local town, a rural community built on a North Woods lake. It was a small place, only a couple of thousand residents, and they had a general store for sundries. Iarlaith, Barb, and Marco entered the store under the announcement of a shopkeeper’s bell. They were going to pick up a few items, but what Iarlaith really needed was aspirin. Iarlaith had an enormous headache from hearing Barb yell at him all morning for one thing or another. Barb had also insisted that they get some lens cleaner paper because her glasses kept getting smeary. He also thought he’d get a little toy car or something for Marco, who’d been behaving very nicely on the trip.
The shopkeeper, a 300-year-old woman, stopped Iarlaith in his tracks. She stepped right in front of him, gave him the once-over, and said, “I guess you’re looking for apricot brandy. We don’t sell that.”
That was much too abrupt a non-sequitur for Iarlaith to take in all at once. What was she implying? Did she think he looked like an alcoholic because he had long hair? That didn’t even make sense.
“Actually, all I need is aspirin and lens cleaner paper,” he said, a bit defensively. He didn’t want to mention the toy because he didn’t want to disappoint Marco if the store didn’t sell toys.
The shopkeeper made a pffft sound of disapproval. As soon as Barb sensed the scorn of the shopkeeper, she grabbed Marco’s hand and told Iarlaith, “We’re going to wait outside. Hurry up.”
“We don’t sell lens cleaning supplies,” said the old woman. “You’d have to go to Dieckman Optical for that. And we don’t have aspirin pills, either. We only sell Goody’s Powders.”
“Never mind,” he said. “But I hope you have plenty of adult diapers to match the way you express yourself,” he said, and he left the store.
From the sidewalk, he saw Barb driving off with Marco in the car. The windows were rolled down, and he heard Marco yelling, “But Daddy loves us!”
That’s why Iarlaith hated apricot brandy.
Iarlaith lounged on his garden chaise longue on the back porch and watched the river flow by. The day was sunny, so he wore his papyrus brim hat, his favorite, and the Hummer sunglasses his son Marco had found by the riverfront path one afternoon the year before.
A family of wood ducks decorated the lazy water as it meandered on its way. Occasionally a stick or leaf floated by. The yellow and red maple leaves were especially pretty. Occasionally a Japanese beetle would fly by and bug Iarlaith, but the day was pleasantly free of mosquitoes and gnats. So, the beetles were tolerable.
Just as Iarlaith was certain that life was perfect that day, he saw a larger object floating down towards the ducks, who quickly scurried out of its way. Iarlaith squinted against the glare to see what the object was. It looked like a small dead dog, perhaps a terrier, bloated, coasting along, closer to the far shore than to Iarlaith’s side.
Iarlaith was too comfortable to get up and move by the shore to look more closely. The dog got caught in an eddy and began to spin counter-clockwise. That struck Iarlaith as quite odd. Why would the spin be counter-clockwise? He pondered the symbolism of it. Heraclitus said time was a river, so that meant that rivers by definition moved clockwise. The dog was dead, so it had moved clockwise. The eddy defied logic. Perhaps it showed that the shapes of nature itself offer some sort of natural resistance to death. Iarlaith nodded in assent to his own thought. Yes, that must be it, he decided.
Just then the dog spun out of the eddy back into the mainstream. Disappointed, Iarlaith pulled the brim over his eyes, slouched back in his chaise longue, and decided to take a nap.
I knew this woman, some called her contrary. She was my neighbor; I called her Mary. Bill called. Mary had called him.
She said, “I’m getting messages in my teeth. They’re after me and you, Bill.”
This woman I knew, mother of two, ex-wife of one, she called my brother and do you know what she said?
She said, “Bill you have to help me! The aliens are talking to me! The government is talking to me! Through my teeth! My divorce is final and I’m making a crazy quilt. Oh yeah, and they said you’re next Bill.”
Mary’s marriage was a good marriage until she decided to improve it. Mary and Dave, Mary decided, needed therapy. Dave fell hard for the therapist and Mary got the kids.
It was all a preparation, like the making of a quilt. Mary was textile. She was fabric. Okay—she was remnants, but she was a part of the plan. Hemmed in, you might say. You might say, stitched up.
Well, what about the children, you ask? They were boys, of course, miniature Davids. And when they went to visit their daddy and his therapist for the weekend, the big David asked the little Davids, “How is your mother?”
And they’d answer, “You know, dad. She’s acting kinda strange. She’s painting flowers on the porch. She’s hanging foil-paper in the foyer. She’s painting the woodwork, dad.”
“Actually, dad, I’m worried,” said the twelve-year-old little David.
“Me too,” said the ten-year-old little David.
“And furthermore dad, I think mom is, well—she’s just not well! She’s nutty as hell! Are we going to the movies? Will you buy me an iPhone 8? Dad, will you take me? Will you take me? Can I live with you?”
And the twelve-year-old little David said, “Yeah dad, me too.”
So Dave went to a Judge.
He said, “Your Honor, I knew this woman; I married her too. She was okay at first, then she just kinda blew. I tried sir, my therapist tried, too. And I don’t want my boys with her. And neither would you if you knew what I knew.”
Dave said, “She paints flowers on the floor of the porch. She grows herbs, Judge. And what’s even worse, when my sons come home from their school, she is dancing in the living room like a crazy fool. Or else she is sewing a quilt. Look at her eyes, Judge. Do you see them say tilt?”
The Judge looked into the eyes of this mother of two, he said, “Okay, I’ve heard from him, now let’s hear from you.”
Mary said, “I do this one stitch that looks like bird’s feet or maybe claws. I’ve stitched it all using just that stitch.” And after a pause, she said, “I’ve stitched and stitched, like a mad quilting fool. The yellow is sewn and the orange, too. But I’ve not found it in me to sew up the blue.”
The Judge said, “Mary,” in a most soothing voice. “I have a tear in my robe and I’m sure it’s your choice, but will you sew it? Will you mend it for me? And oh, by the way, I’m giving David custody.”
And Mary said back, in a yet milder tone, “I’ll be happy to sew it, Judge, sir. I’ll have lots of time. I’ll be all alone.”
It was planned that way. I read the script. Planned and saved up for, like next summer’s trip. The government planned it. The aliens too. They called it Experiment Number Five-Forty-Two.
And such a relief! Now they can control women using only their teeth! I knew this woman. Her story is true. She stitched in all colors—green, red, yellow, and orange, too.
And in the end, she stitched up the blue.9
Eric and I were lying side by side, naked on his twin bed in his tiny college dorm room. He had a steady girl back in Bedford, Maine. I was dating his best friend, Steve, who roomed two doors down the hall.
“Give me a mustache,” Eric said.
“What?” I asked.
“Give me a mustache.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Sit on my face.”
“No,” I said in disbelief, “I’m not gonna.”
He laughed. I was glad he wasn’t angry.
Eric gently pressed his lips to my cheek as his hand traced me from shoulder to wrist to hip, before gliding his palm below my belly to rest between my legs. I’d already had an orgasm, so I was glad his hand relaxed and rested there.
I looked away from him, over to my chemistry textbook on his desk, next to the silver scale where he weighs pot for his clients.
“We should get up,” I said. “Steve may be home soon.”
Eric whispered into my ear, “I don’t care.”
Things had started up just the other day. The sun was out, it was one of the first days of spring. Steve drove the three of us to the park in his old station wagon. I sat between them in the front seat. Windows were open, seat belts were off. I had a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream and was feeding the guys and myself spoonfuls. The cool sweet flavor filled our mouths. Steve’s eyes stayed on the road as he drove, but Eric twisted his waist to lean back against the door and face me. Each time I lifted the spoon for Eric, I’d watch it move slowly into his mouth, his lips closing tight as I gently pulled the spoon back, leaving the frozen cream behind.
That’s when it happened. I looked at Eric differently. I noticed his golden brown eyes and his blonde hair that looked so soft. Setting the cold pint between my legs, I reached my free hand out and gently brushed the bangs out of his eyes.
Two days later it was raining. We borrowed Steve’s car to go for burgers. We pulled into the lot, but Eric didn’t park near the entrance, he drove around the back. The lot was empty, he pulled into a space in the farthest corner. He turned off the engine and the two of us sat there silently. The rain was coming down harder, pounding on the rooftop. I watched as the rain rivulets took over the windshield.
I looked over at Eric and he looked at me. We were silent and we weren’t smiling.
“Do you want to move over here?” Eric said.
I slid my hand over the seat towards him. He laid his hand on mine. Then he lifted his arm and I slid my body over. His arm wrapped around me and I rested my head on his shoulder. We just sat there, I don’t know how long. The rain slowed until there was just a ping-ping here and there on the roof and I could see through the windshield again. There was a big green hedge in front of us.
“Do you still want to eat?” He asked.
“Wanna go?” I asked.
Eric took his arm back. I slid away from him. He started the engine, headed to campus, and dropped me at my dorm. Even as I closed the car door and walked up the stone steps, I knew I only resisted cheating on Steve to cover my future transgressions with a wisp of innocence.
The next day, I skipped morning chemistry lab and went to Eric’s dorm room. The door was open. Eric was lying in his bed. He didn’t seem surprised or say a word as I closed the door behind me and placed my chemistry book on his desk. I turned to face him and took my clothes off. He lifted his covers and I climbed in beside him. I rested my cheek on his chest, a hand on his belly, and a bended knee on his thigh. And all I felt was good.16
I like my painted nails. They’re painted red, Cha-Cha-Cha-Ching red, according to the little bottle of polish at the salon. I imagine what can be done with my red nails. There’s a particularly handsome man, Michael, whose brown complexion would look lovely with red. Red-tipped fingers stroking his neck, massaging the tight muscles beside each shoulder blade, pressing down to the small of his back. But right now these nails are typing, tapping on a computer keyboard. The fluorescent lighting causes them to shine, but not with a romantic moon glow. These nails belong somewhere else.
Michael gets to work around nine. That is why I’m always in the lobby at nine. If the timing is right, I’ll see him arrive. He’ll greet me with a charming smile. I’m always disappointed to see him greet others with that same warm smile.
Last month I asked him out to lunch. We ate in the cafeteria. The whole time he never mentioned a girlfriend. He talked about Mondays he shoots pool at McKinnon’s bar, weekends he usually plays football, and he thinks he’s due a promotion by spring.
My red nails have stopped typing. I’m still picturing them on Michael. He works on the first floor; I’m on the third floor. I think about an errand I can run. I make up an errand I can run. I walk downstairs and as I near his row of workstations, I pull my shoulders back and raise my chin. Glancing down the aisle towards his desk, I’m disappointed and relieved. He’s not there. I walk by his desk. The computer is off, several folders are stacked on his chair. He’s not in today.
Back at my keyboard, I strategize. I’ll send him an e-mail. My red nails type as I draft and re-draft.
Hey Michael, how are things going?
Short, succinct. It will be dreadful if he doesn’t respond.
I’m sitting at home leafing through Glamour magazine. I have a movie playing which I half listen to and occasionally watch. The phone hasn’t rung. It’s sitting by my feet. I’m expecting a call. Brad is married, but sometimes he comes over. I left a message on his work phone. I told him I had red nails and I thought he’d enjoy them.
The phone doesn’t ring.
The movie is halfway over. I know because we still don’t know who the bad guy is, but we’re so close to finding out. I know because there’s a timer on my DVD player and it tells me the movie has been playing for sixty minutes.
My shoes are off. I observe my toes. They are painted red too. I like my feet. I had a roommate in college who hated her feet. Mine are lovely. The skin is white, “translucent” someone once described them. I think my painted toes look bejeweled as if I had a ruby placed on each one. Someone should enjoy these toes.
I dial Simon’s number. He’s always home with his cable TV and his yellow cat. Long ago I spent two years convincing him to open up to me. He did. He had not had sex in eight years, we had sex. He was excited about it and we would meet once or twice a week. After about six months I wanted us to go public. I wanted us to go out on dates and tell our friends and family we were an item. He got tired of the conversation and told me not to contact him until I could forget about it. So I did forget about it and I did contact him again.
Now we have sex about four times a year. I call him more than that but he’s only in the mood about four times a year.
His phone is ringing. His answering machine answers. I wait for the beep and start to leave my message:
“Simon, it’s me. I just got my nails painted and …”
Simon interrupts. He’s home! We chat. I tell him I’d like to come by, he says sure.
Hanging up the phone, I rise. Stretching one arm straight out, pushing my palm forward, spreading my fingers to make a fan, I admire my pretty red nails.19
I’m more animal than human. Perhaps that’s why I shy away from people. Spent a lifetime drifting from town to town. A loner. Some call me vagabond, others thief.
When I suppress the wildness in me, I linger in one place for a while.
Once stayed in a town called Kailua, worked in an abattoir, but left after a month. Couldn’t face killing my own kind.
In Zanoni, I tried to join the police force. They rejected me for my short stature and other deficiencies. Met a woman there, but she left saying she found me cold.
Must have been my reptilian endocrinology.
Things have looked up since September. I found a hospital job, measuring brain waves to see what’s happening in people’s heads.
I like my work.
On Sundays, I serve tea and soup to the homeless, people who’ve lost more than I ever had. It erases the stain on my character.
Lately, I’ve been getting pains in my head. Lifting things is a struggle. Tea bags can get awful heavy, especially Earl Grey and rooibos.
I ought to see a doctor or a vet, but that could end badly. I’d likely wind up being dissected in a laboratory once they discovered my cat’s heart and chicken pancreas. From the outside, I look like anyone else, but people see what they want to.
They need you to be like them.
I sense their duplicity through compound eyes.
The doctors I work with have bushy beards and crisp dry-cleaned skirts.
‘Fetch me those reports,’ they say. Or, ‘Today we’ll be busy Do we have enough electrodes?’
We discover what makes people sick and check their medication.
But we can’t tell if they’re sad by analysing their alpha rhythms, or whether there’s such a state as true happiness.
One evening I struggle to pull the plastic cover over the electroencephalograph. Feeling faint, I clutch my head in both hands. Dr. Exter walks past the door.
‘Are you all right?’ His face is creased with concern.
‘I’m feline fine.’ I say. My joke is lost on Exter.
‘Something’s wrong,’ he says. ‘Shall I check you over?’
Exter’s stethoscope twists from his neck, a rubber serpent with ears where its teeth ought to be.
‘No − no, please − ‘
I wake to a monotonous hum, recognise the cylindrical contours of an M.R.I. scanner.
Vague outlines shift in the control room, where a fracas of sorts takes place. Raised arms. Heightened gestures. I see their lips move, but can’t hear what they say.
Can they see my camelid teeth? My pygmy shrew kidneys? My lonely thoughts? Do the lepidopterous lacrimal glands show on the screen?
It doesn’t matter. They’ll know I’m crying anyway.
A butterfly tear creeps across my cheek and drips towards my ear. I roll out my proboscis and lick its salty sadness.23
One of your hairs took me by surprise.
The first snow fell, duck-down light, blue-white and directionless.
I slipped my woolen coat from a hanger, musty from its summer hibernation. The camel-colored Burberry promised warmth and protection. It was heavy with the scent of tobacco and yesterdays.
A single hair poked from the cashmere pile, an auburn coil protruding like an accusation. I pulled a hand’s breadth and more. The uncolored root was last to escape the weave, as if resistant to exposure.
My own is short and the color of earth. I knew the hair wasn’t mine.
One of your shirts caught me off guard yesterday. It must have slipped between the bed and wardrobe, cast aside in a fever of love. I extricated the fabric from the guts of the vacuum cleaner, its tissue separated in my fingers, like lightly cooked egg white.
One of your books demanded I read it. I thought I’d given them all away. The leather-worn spine held the promise of pages still warm from your touch.
A memory of something you’d cooked on a wet Sunday tickled my taste buds. I found the recipe and made beef ragout without the anchovies.
I don’t have anchovies.
I don’t have you.
Your skin flakes collect in forgotten corners. In spring, I catch you in dust motes and sneezes.
When I drink coffee instead of tea, I taste your caffeinated kiss.
She wears a felt cap to bed when she ovulates. Her husband feels like he is sleeping with Celestine V. There is a sort of digital rhythm to their lovemaking, an explosion of corpuscles like a Rorschach test. The solfeggio thrums in the background, aiding the vibrational vortex, but mid-thrust and they lose their will. Populating the world is not a Roman holiday. They both long for the Prussian blue light that would bathe them into their twilight sleep. A seedbed of truth will need to be tended to in the morning.7
His manners were restrained, like a dog tugging on a leash. Her wore a faded military uniform, and made elaborate gestures of obeisance to all the wrong people. When they first met, she intuited a hidden charm, a secret he was hiding. He cooked dinner for her. Used his best bone china set, inherited from his mother, a woman who broke every rule for living right. It stirred something primitive in her. After dinner, she fondled his rusted buttons, massaged his drooping epaulets. Set her dish on the floor to let his mangy dog lick it dry.6
I’d been in his house a week. I still didn’t have a key. I missed my old place and wondered if it missed me, too. The night was a cold one. Windy, too. I imagined it was the windows and doors of my place, unoccupied for the foreseeable future, howling in grief, wondering when I would return. I used to think things like that. It was another life.
He reached across the crumpled flannel sheets for me. I felt the weight of all of it. Crooked spine to crooked spine he slept. I stuttered in the darkness.
I walked the foreign hallway and tried to and reached for a doorknob that was higher than it needed to be. I sought my own level, but I was out of fashion. I wanted to hold a steaming cup of something in my hands. Anything that could penetrate layers.
He told me that my loneliness had a life cycle and that he would take care of it. Just watch, he said. My whole life I wanted to believe. Miracles were only coincidences, flinty things.
My feet were so cold on that tile floor, but I welcomed it. I needed to feel.
Leaning against the sink I felt his presence, turned to him. I wasn’t guilty. But I was no innocent, either.
He flipped the kitchen lights on. In a flash, I wore pale, malignant yellow. My eyes watered.
Can’t a girl think! I snapped. My mouth stretched, large and ugly.
I saw a shadow like a rare eclipse pass over his unshaven face. It burned at the corners.
Kidding! I laughed. I held the steaming cup to him. It was my best offering.
He took it. Turned his back.
Walked away from me.5
She lit the votive candle. Spires of red shadowed the wall. She closed her eyes, felt a surge. She drew her limp, green skirt around herself and shuddered. She felt caught between the solstice and the equinox. He watched her then stood up, touched a thick finger to a vein in her neck. He wore a gold cross that hung from a chain, nestled in the thick hair of his thin chest. He wore the dust of a long day on his clothing, eyelids. She had kaleidoscopic ideas that only needed the right time and place. On the table the bitter herbs, still with pieces of earth clinging to them; the bitter drink. His shoes, forlorn at the doorway where he abandoned them as he walked over the threshold grew in size. Her best ploy was to always be offended. His best defense calling it tradition. On paper, it all made sense.
In the real world, less was usually more.6
Henry came to the Mojo looking for something – work, a familiar face, his old seat at the bar or piano – but found none of the above, instead, an angel, sick with tremor and babbling, beads of blue-white light dripping from her eyes, a tune, subheard but fully present between fluid and murmur, an incantation against All and Nothing Else. In the puddle on the table before her, Henry could make out, but just barely, a viral shine, music personified, a landscape of mutinous slivers, fighting themselves and the universe that built them, and it brought to mind a dreaming moment wherein he understood the truth, the value of seeking the unmentioned and unpromised. For a moment he missed the rhythm of life behind bars. The sound of other men’s screams. The faulty sense of finality. Now he knew he’d go on living. He nodded at the angel, left Mojo, and began walking,
By the lost light of the laughing godhead, I’d come to a place above my former fears and faulty concerns (remember the dream of heavy empty things pressing up against me) and began taking pleasure in the losing path, covered in burnt bridges and brambles and other mythological creatures, coming to a place I no longer recognized as a place at all
Someone had torn his heart out once (no, wait, please, I assure you the rest of this sentence contains no clichés) massaged the aorta, left ventricle, replaced the superior vena cava with that of an Olympian, the inferior with a piece of synthetic something or other and dropped the whole thing into the all new and eternally experimental Nutri-Gel; now the world waited to find out the fate of the once and future celebrity car wash owner, Caleb King.7
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The performance piece Communal Calligraphy took place on 10th June 2017, during the “Fringe Arts Bath Festival” in Bath, UK, as part of an exhibition/event entitled “On the tip of my tongue”, curated by Alice Ling and Bryony Tilsley at the home of a local resident, Chrissy Philp.
The exhibition of sound, multimedia and performance work, aimed to consider “the conversations we struggle to have [and] the things we never say”, in a residential setting. Communal Calligraphy aimed to explore what can and cannot be put into words, and the communicative potential of written marks in social contexts.
During the performance, seven invited participants sat at a circular table making single marks on sheets of white paper with black marker pens (fig. 1). The paper was then passed to the next person in a clockwise direction. The next participant then made another mark, interpreting, responding to, and developing the first. The paper was then passed again until a full circuit had been made. Participants were free to make whatever mark they thought appropriate and challenge or elaborate upon previous marks as they wished.
After approximately 1.5 hours the performance ended. The word-compositions that were produced were displayed at the exhibition venue and subsequent visitors encouraged to make further marks as they saw fit (fig.2).
Once the exhibition had finished the word-compositions were discussed, selected and digitally scanned (fig.3, fig. 4). A Photoshop file was then composed of the various compositions—each as a different layer. This was then made available on the internet for the original participants to edit. Fig. 5 (at the top of the page) shows the final text/composition.
Editors & Contributors
To browse the whole issue, click on cover image.
journal of literary and visual art
Krysia Jopek – Founding Editor and Publisher
Meg Harris – Managing Editor
Nate Maxson – Poetry
Thato Andreas Mokotj – Poetry
Kinga Fabó – Poetry
Dale Houstman – Art
Technical, Design, and Layout Editor
Except where otherwise noted, all works ©2017 by the creators.
Diaphanous ©2017 Diaphanous Press / Krysia Jopek as a whole.
Diaphanous—Fall 2017—Vol. 1 No. 2
(Only contributors who provided biographical notes are included.)
Javad Ahmadi is a poet, painter and a teacher. He teaches at Teachers College Columbia University, where he is enrolled in a Doctoral program in Art and Psychology. He was born in Iran and has been living in the United States for forty years.
Tina Barry is the author of Mall Flower, poems and short fiction. Her writing appears in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The American Poetry Journal, The Best Small Fictions 2016, Drunken Boat, Blue Fifth Review, and Exposure, an Anthology of Micro-fiction. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prize and several Best of the Net awards. Tina is a teaching artist at The Poetry Barn and a writing tutor at SUNY Ulster. In 2014, she received her M.F.A. in creative writing from Long Island University, Brooklyn. Find her online here.
Amy Bassin, New York fine arts photographer and Mark Blickley, writer, work together on text-based art collaborations and videos. The works published in this issue are excerpted from their series Dream Streams, which was featured as an art installation at the 5th Annual NYC Poetry Festival. Their video, Speaking In Bootongue, was selected for the London Experimental Film Festival. Earlier this year they published a text-based art chapbook, Weathered Reports: Trump Surrogate Quotes From the Underground (Moria Books, Chicago). The publisher sent their resistance book to the White House and members of Congress. Bassin is a co-founder of the international artists cooperative, Urban Dialogues.
Ruth Bavetta’s visual poems have been published in Rattle, Verse Wisconsin, Yew, and the book Splitting the Genre (Six Arrows Press) and others. My conventional poems have been published in Rattle, Nimrod, Tar River Review, North American Review, Rhino, Poetry New Zealand. She has published three books, Fugitive Pigments and Flour, Water, Salt (FutureCycle Press) and Embers on the Stairs (Moontide Press). A third book, No Longer at this Address (Kelsay Press) will appear in late 2017.
Rachel Blau DuPlessis, poet, critic, collagist is the author of Drafts, a long poem written from 1986 to 2012 and published in six volumes by Salt Publishing and Wesleyan University Press, Post-Drafts books include Interstices (Subpress, 2014), Graphic Novella (Xexoxial Editions, 2015), Days and Works (Ahsahta Press, 2017), and the forthcoming Numbers and two chapbooks: “Churning the Ocean of Milk,” 2014 and “Poesis” (Little Red Leaves, 2016). Recent and forthcoming journal appearances include Poetry (Chicago) Conjunctions, Chicago Review, Cordite (Australia), Hambone, Journal of Poetics Research, VLAK, Po&Sie, and alligatorzine. She has received poetry fellowships from the Pew, Rockefeller and Djerassi Foundations and a fellowship for literary criticism from the National Humanities Center. She lives in Philadelphia.
Mark Blickley is the author of the story collection Sacred Misfits (Red Hen Press) and his most recent play, The Milkman’s Sister, was produced last Fall at NYC’s 13th Street Repertory Theater. Blickley is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. He recently published the text-based art book, ‘Weathered Reports: Trump Surrogate Quotes From the Underground.’ (Moria Books, Chicago). The publisher sent copies to the White House and members of Congress.
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of TANGENTS, a poetry collection published in the UK in 2010/2011, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals (online and print). She was twice winner of the Goodreads monthly competition, a new poetry collection (‘From the Ruhr to Somewhere Near Dresden 1939-1949 : A Child’s Journey) has been published by Aldrich Press in May 2016, and another new collection (Peru Blues) is about to be published by Kelsay Books.
Karl Bogartte is both a poet and a visual artist, schooled in anthropology, photography and various esoteric traditions. He has been an active participant in international surrealism for more than 50 years. He presently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His book of poems And Still The Navigators is forthcoming.
R. Bremner writes of good sense, innocence, crippling mankind, incense, peppermints, and the color of time. And Absurdism’s the name of his latest flame. (It’s the only poetry that makes sense to him in an absurd world.)
Roland Buckingham-Hsiao is an artist and researcher based in the UK and Taiwan. His work investigates the boundaries of language – text/image, text/body and text/object relations – often via East-West cultural exchange. His creative practice is interdisciplinary but revolves around calligraphy and performance. He studied Art at Universities in Canterbury, Belfast and London, U.K. and Mandarin and Chinese calligraphy at University in Taichung, Taiwan. He has exhibited artworks at many museums and galleries around the world including Tate Britain in London, UK and is currently engaged in practice-based doctoral research at the University of Sunderland, UK. His blog is here.
Patricia Carragon loves cupcakes, chocolate, cats, haiku, and Brooklyn. Her recent publication credits include Bear Creek Haiku, One Hundred Voices, Vol. III (Centum Press, 2017), Sensations Magazine, Sensitive Skin, and others. She is the author of Journey to the Center of My Mind (Rogue Scholars Press, 2005) and Urban Haiku and More (Fierce Grace Press, 2010). Her most recent book is Innocence (Finishing Line Press, 2017). TheCupcake Chronicles is forthcoming this fall from Poets Wear Prada. She hosts the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology. Patricia is a member of brevitas, PEN Women’s Literary Workshop, Tamarind, and Women Writers in Bloom. She is one of the executive editors for Home Planet News Online.
DeWitt Clinton is the author of two books of historical poetry from New Rivers Press and six chapbooks. Recent poetic adaptations of classical Chinese poetry have appeared recently in The Arabesques Review, Meta/Phor(e)Play, Diaphanous Press, Verse-Virtual, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and Peacock Journal. On A Lake by a Moon: Fishing with the Chinese Masters, a book collection of his adaptations of Kenneth Rexroth’s 100 Poems from the Chinese, will be published by is a rose press in 2018. A second collection of poems, At the End of the War, has been accepted for book publication by Kelsay Books, scheduled for release in late 2018.
Theresa Darling writes, creates pastels, and takes photographs in the Green Mountains of Vermont. While living quietly with her husband and two spoiled cats, she is working on her first book of poetry, Secrets, Silence & Shadows: An Examination of Rape & Marriage. She has been published in Bailey’s Beads, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Hellbender Journal, and Napalm and Novocain, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Michael Dickel has authored six published books and chapbooks of poetry and short fiction and over 200 individually published poems, short stories, and non-fiction pieces, in addition to book-reviews and academic articles. He works as a freelance editor for publishers and individual authors, co-edited Voices Israel Vol. 36 (2010), and served or continues to serve as an editor of one sort or another for several print and online literary periodicals, including design and technology editor for Diaphanous. He has taught writing, literature, and English language in higher education in both the U.S. and Israel. Michael publishes an online blog-Zine, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play. He is the past chair of the Israel Association of Writers in English.
Miguel Escobar composes folk/rock music and lyrics as well as rather feverishly writes experimental, language-centered poetry— in as much of his free time as is humanly possible. By day, he is an information technology professional, specializing in a non-arcane, granularized niche. His poetry has been published mainly on social media in conjunction with art and literary theory. He resides in the northern California city of Sacramento, at the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers, where the currents can often be tricky to navigate, and where they’ve not yet heard of artist whisperers.
Eckhard Gerdes has published books of poetry, drama, and fourteen novels, including Hugh Moore and My Landlady the Lobotomist (a top-five finisher in the 2009 Preditors and Editors Readers Poll and nominated for the 2009 Wonderland Book Award for Best Novel of the Year). He has won the Bissell Award, been a finalist for the Starcherone and the Blatt awards, and was nominated for Georgia Author of the Year. His most recent books are a tongue-in-cheek work of creative nonfiction, How to Read, published in October 2014 by Guide Dog Books, and a novel, White Bungalows, published in August 2015 by Dirt Heart Pharmacy Press. He is also the publisher of The Journal of Experimental Fiction and runs it associated press, JEF Books, and its Offbeat/Quirky imprint. He lives near Chicago and has three sons and three grandsons.
He’s author of linear poetry, asemic stuff, photography, experimental prose pieces. Some linear texts in English: “A gunless tea” (2007, also available as a download), “CDK” (2009, see), “anachromisms” (2014), “white while” (2014).
Four e-artbooks (as differx). Paper books of asemic works: Sibille asemantiche (Camera verde, 2008), This Is Visual Poetry / by Marco Giovenale (ed. by Dan Waber, 2011), Asemic Sibyls (RedFoxPress, 2013), Syn sybilles (La camera verde, 2013). Visual works in anthologies: Anthology Spidertangle (Xexoxial, 2009), The Last Vispo Anthology (Fantagraphics, 2012), An Anthology of Asemic Handwriting (Uitgeverij, 2013), A Kick in the Eye (Createspace, 2013). One sibyl is inThe New Concrete. Visual Poetry in the 21st Century (V. Bean and Ch. McCabe, eds; Hayward Publishing, 2015).
His site is here.
Carolyn Gregory has published poems in American Poetry Review, Seattle Review, Cutthroat, Main Street Rag and many others. She has published two full-length volumes of poetry, “Open Letters” and “Facing the Music”. She has been a music and theatre reviewer for the last twenty years.
Meg Harris has published short stories, poems, and essays; some of her writing can be found on her blog. Her chapbook, Inquiry into Loneliness, is available from Crisis Chronicles Press. She recently completed training in the Patchwork Farm Guided Writing Process and she is the managing editor at Diaphanous Journal. Meg Harris serves on Connecticut’s State Independent Living Council and she is a 2004 graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Roger W. Hecht is the author of a collection of poems, Talking Pictures (Cervena Barva Press) and editor of Freemen Awake!: Rally Songs and Poems from New York’s Anti-Rent Movement (Delaware County Historical Association). His poems have appeared recently in Yes Poetry, Prick of the Spindle, and Sheila-Na-Gig on-line. He lives near Ithaca, NY with his wife, daughters, cats, and American Eskimo dog.
Thomas Robert Higginson, a poet from New York who has taught poetry at various US colleges, has written a number of chapbooks and much-unpublished work. Of note is a collection he and Thylias Moss collaborated on, Aneurysm of the Firmament, available for Kindle. He is a quiet man who has said he prefers to be in the background, on the sidelines, cheering Thylias on and working in collaboration with her. The essay “fuckinmuse” is a journey into the Moss-Higginson collaboration.
Dale Houstman was born there, moved here and there, and inevitably settled for here. Some artifacts have been published. A poetry collection, A Dangerous Vacation [Caliban Bookshelf, Lawrence & Dee Dee Smith, editors], and sundry texts and images in such publications as The Poetry Bus [Peadar & Colette O’Donaghue, Ireland], The Southword Journal [The Munster Literary Center, Cork, Ireland], Eleven Eleven Literary Journal [California College of the Arts], Blue Feathers [surrealist magazine, Minneapolis, MN], Caliban Magazine, Peculiar Mormyrid [online surrealist magazine], Diaphanous Magazine, and a host of other venues. As Confucius didn’t say, “Behind every “good” man there is a “better” absence.”
Kim Howlett graduated from California State University, Sacramento with a degree in Graphic Arts. She has made jewelry, handwoven fabric with looms, taught mask-making, designed and painted floor and wall murals worked in Venetian plaster and built an off-the-grid home from the ground up in Grass Valley. However, her passion is painting and she takes every spare moment on weekends, lunch hours, and breaks at work to capture emotion on canvas. Kim lives in Vallejo California, and when she is not painting, works at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Khader Humied teaches Computer Aided Design art Rockland Community College. Trained as an architect, he specializes in designing green and sustainable buildings. He is a specialist in computer-generated architectural images. He was an artist-in-residence at Marquis Studios in Brooklyn, where he worked with children to create model houses and other projects. He holds a BS in architecture from CCNY and is studying for an MA in learning and emerging technologies from Empire State College.
Alta Ifland is the author of four books of prose poems and short stories: Voice of Ice (bilingual French/English, Les Figues Press, 2007, Louis Guillaume Prize); Elegy for a Fabulous World (Ninebark Press, 2009, finalist for the Northern California Book Award in Fiction); Death-in-a-Box (Subito Press, 2011, Subito Press Fiction Prize); The Snail’s Song (Spuyten Duyvil, 2012). She has received fellowships and scholarships at numerous writers’ residencies and conferences, including Sewanee, Juniper, and MacDowell.
J. G. James enjoys making things up and the feeling of accomplishment when she fills blank pages with stories. Besides writing, her other forms of escapism include: eating dark chocolate, watching puppy videos, and sleeping late on weekends.
Krysia Jopek’s poems have appeared in The Great American Literary Magazine, Crisis Chronicles Cyber Litmag, Gone Lawn 19, Meta/Phor(e)Play, Syllogism, Split Rock Review, The Woven Press, Columbia Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Phoebe, Murmur, Artists & Influence, and other literary journals. She has written reviews of poetry for The American Book Review and The Wallace Steven’s Journal. Her chapbook Hourglass Studies was published in 2017 by Crisis Chronicles. Maps and Shadows, her first novel (Aquila Polonica 2010), that reads like prose poetry, won a Silver Benjamin Franklin award in 2011 in the category of Historical Fiction. Founding Editor of the e-journal of literary and visual arts, Diaphanous, she is an advocate of the finest poetry, visual art, and very short fiction she can find. She is an avid gardener; collector of antique glass, plastics, china, typewriters, and desks. Her latest passion is hip-hop poetry performance to cello accompaniment in her nightgown. Don’t mess with her. She is fierce of late.
Jennifer Juneau’s work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, the Million Writers Award and a Sundress Best of the Net and has appeared in journals such as the American Poetry Journal, Cafe Review, Cimarron Review, Cincinnati Review, Columbia Journal, Evergreen Review, Live Mag!, Seattle Review, Sensitive Skin, Verse Daily and elsewhere.
Her poetry collection, More Than Moon, is due out 2018 from Is a Rose Press. She lives in New York City where she is active in poetry and prose readings in Brooklyn and on the lower east side of Manhattan.
Laura Kaufman has exhibited nationally, including a solo exhibition at BAU, Beacon, NY, and numerous exhibitions in New York and New England. Her work was shown at Marquee Projects, Bellport, NY; The Garrison Art Center, Garrison, NY; The Dorsky Museum of Art, New Paltz, NY; University Art Museum, University of Albany; Matteawan Gallery, Beacon, NY; Salisbury University, Salisbury, Maryland; Woodstock Artists Association & Museum, Woodstock, NY; Biers Gallery at Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, OH; Field Projects Gallery, New York, NY; Wassaic Project, Wassaic, NY; AIM Biennial, Bronx Museum of Art, Bronx, NY. In 2012 She received an outdoor sculpture commission on Randall’s Island, NY as part of the First AIM Biennial and with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation. Awards and residencies include Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, Artist in the Marketplace, Bronx, NY, Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT, and in 2008 Kaufman was named Museum Educator of the Year by the Connecticut Art Educators Association. Her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Outdoor New Yorker, and the New York Daily News. She received an MFA in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI and a BA in Studio Art from Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY. Email / Website
Fiona Legg was born in England and moved to Canada at an early age. Always interested in the arts, she has tried her hand at a wide variety of media over the years. She quit her 25-year career as an occupational therapist in December 2016 and is now a full time mixed media sculptor. An emerging artist, in the past three years she has participated in a wide variety of exhibitions around Ontario and beyond. Her work is primarily political in nature, and consists of mixed media objects, often with a fibre component.
gary lundy poems have appeared most recently in Cleaver Magazine, In Between Hangovers, The BeZine, Fragmentarily/Meta-Phor(e)/Play, and Vallum. His chapbook, at | with was recently published by Locofo Chaps. His first book, heartbreak elopes into a kind of forgiving, was published last summer by Is A Rose Press. His new book, each room echoes absence, is forthcoming from FootHills Publishing. He is a retired English professor and queer living in Missoula, Montana.
Barbara March’s poetry and interviews appear in Dispatches, Denver Quarterly, The Missing Slate, Concis Journal, Occupoetry, Yemassee, Mudlark, Berkeley Poetry Review, Orion, Caesura, Cascadia, Poetry Flash, The Transnational and other journals and publications. Her manuscript Here is a Woman was a finalist for the 2016 Off the Grid Prize. She is a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the Northern California Book Reviewers and co-founder of the Surprise Valley Writers’ Conference.
Joan Mazza has worked as microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and has been a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. She is the author of six self-help books, including Dreaming Your Real Self. Her poetry has appeared in Potomac Review, Rattle, Slipstream, The MacGuffin, Mezzo Cammin, and The Nation. She ran away from Florida hurricanes to be surprised by the earthquakes and tornadoes of rural central Virginia, where she writes poetry and does fabric and paper art. Website.
Leslie McGrath has been called “an oral historian of the alienated” by critic Grace Cavalieri. She is the author of two full-length poetry collections Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage (Main St Rag, 2009), and Out from the Pleiades (Jaded Ibis, 2014), and two chapbooks. McGrath’s third collection, Feminists Are Passing from Our Lives, will be published in the spring of 2018 by The Word Works. Winner of the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Gretchen Warren Prize from the New England Poetry Club, she has been awarded residencies at Hedgebrook and the Vermont Studio Center, as well as funding from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts and the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation. McGrath’s poems and interviews have been published widely, including in Agni, Poetry magazine, The Academy of American Poets, The Writer’s Chronicle, and The Yale Review. She teaches creative writing at Central Connecticut State University.
Thylias Moss, multiracial Professor Emerita at the University of Michigan is the author of 13 books including the romance novel, New Kiss Horizon, about her time with Thomas Robert Higginson, also a poet. Poems they wrote together in their extensive collaborations have been published in the Fiddlehead of Canada, and the Wayne State Literary Review, among other journals. He has taught poetry at various colleges in his extensive travels. He knows the world. And their combined knowledge and interest in connecting with more manifests in a poetry of interwoven lines and thoughts. She has received numerous awards and honors, including two nominations for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship, frequent appearances in the Best American Poetry series, and an NEA grant, to name a few. She is retired and at work on a book to her father who died in 1980. She loves the world and all that populates it. She developed “Limited Fork Theory” and has made websites dedicated to this notion of making, and sharing, especially The Mid Hudson Taffy Company
Nod Ghosh‘s work features in various New Zealand and international publications. Further details.
Jennifer Peterson holds an MFA in poetry from Albertus Magnus College. Her poems have appeared in Pembroke Magazine, Cumberland River Review, and Apeiron Review. She lives in Oxford, MS with her husband and two daughters.
Michelle Reale is an Associate Professor at Arcadia University. She holds an MFA in poetry. She is the author of9 collections of poetry including the forthcoming Confini: Poems of Refugees in Sicily, 2018 (Cervena Barva Press) and Behold My Laminate Life (Big Table Books,) 2018. She is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Ovunque Siamo: New Italian-American Writing and the Book Reviews Editor of the Rag Queen Periodical.
tree riesener is the author of Sleepers Awake, a collection of short fiction, winner of the Eludia Award from Hidden River Arts, published by Sowilo Press. In addition, she has written a collection of poetry inspired by astronomy, The Hubble Cantos (Aldrich Press), and a collection of ekphrastic poetry, EK (Cervena Barva Press). Her chapbook Angel Fever will be published in 2017 by Ravenna Press as part of their Triple series, and her collection entitled Quodlibet will be published in 2017 by Diaphanous Press. Tree has published poetry and prose in numerous literary magazines. Her achievements include three first prizes for fiction at the Philadelphia Writers Conference, finalist for Black Lawrence Press’s Hudson Prize, finalist in PANK magazine’s Fiction Chapbook Contest, the William Van Wert Fiction Award, the semi-finalist in the Pablo Neruda Competition, three short stories staged in the Writing Aloud Series of InterAct Theatre, Philadelphia, a Hawthornden Fellowship at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland, and three poetry chapbooks: Liminalog, a collection of ghazals and sijo, Inscapes, poems of interior landscapres, and Angel Poison, views on contemporary life. She is former Managing Editor of the Schuylkill Valley Journal and former Contributing Editor to The Ghazal Page. Her webpage is here; she is on Facebook and Twitter, and she loves to hear from readers.
Kate Roberts, originally from North Wales, lives as a nomadic freelance theatre practitioner, educator, and writer. Kate’s first play, ‘Hacked Off’, is a darkly comic tale of a woman’s revenge. Since its debut at The Crown, Denbigh in 2005 she has performed the play at venues in North Wales, the Republic of Ireland and Crete. Kate has performed her poems at poetry slams and events on many occasions at various locations. In recent years Kate has focused on working as a theatre practitioner providing drama-based corporate training courses for companies and organizations, as well as teaching English through Drama in the UAE and Greece. Kate is currently working on a poetry collection – ‘Domain’, three flash plays – ‘The Rebecca Syndrome’, ‘Bliss’ and ‘Nuts’, and a series of erotic short stories – ‘The Adventures of V V Wilde.’
Jack Ryan comes from the land of Billy Joel and Glassjaw and now works across the Sound managing a substance abuse clinic. His fiction has appeared in Ghost Town, Sex and Murder, and Chicago Quarterly Review. He hopes that micro-fiction will prevent the digital age from destroying the collective imagination.
Mark Savage is an English artist who takes photographs and paints on his iPad to relax—usually with a few beers, in an English pub or bistro in Paris, where he visits often. Then he posts his art on facebook to see what the world thinks.
Chris Stroffolino is an American poet, writer, musician, critic, performer, author of 12 books of poetry and prose, and best known for working alongside Steve Malkmus and David Berman on The Silver Jews American Water album (1998 Drag City). Stroffolino, (born in Reading, Pennsylvania March 20, 1963) attended Albright College, Temple University and Bard College, The University of Massachusetts Amherst, before receiving a PhD at Suny-Albany with a dissertation on William Shakespeare in 1998.
John Swain lives in Louisville, Kentucky. He has published two book-length collections of poetry: Ring the Sycamore Sky (Red Paint Hill) and Under the Mountain Born (Least Bittern Books) as well as the chapbooks White Vases (Crisis Chronicles) and Rain and Gravestones (Crisis Chronicles). He was a featured poet in OCT TONGUE 1 (Crisis Chronicles). His work has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.
John Sweet sends greeting from the rural wastelands of upstate New York. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, in painting as ascension and in the need to continuously search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections are APPROXIMATE WILDERNESS (2016 Flutter Press) and BASTARD FAITH (2017 Scars Publications).
Paulette Claire Turcotte is an author, visionary and outsider poet and artist. Her art has been exhibited in Ottawa, Hull, Toronto, Curve Lake, Peterborough, and in Salmon Arm and Victoria, B.C. She has been involved in the arts for more than 40 years and her poetry and art have been published in numerous journals and anthologies in print and online, as well as video. Forthcoming works: What the Dead Want, a book of poetry; Then I Shall Have a Name: the memory project – experimental poetry, prose, and art. Her latest hybrid artworks are the results of years of combining techniques and experiments as well as her many years of experience in painting and drawing.
Andrew Turman is “Touched by Fire,” in the immortal words of Kay Redifield Jameson. Just another bipolar artist. He is not that bad and attests that he is evolving. He has a page dedicated to his art: W. A. Turman. Check it out and become a fan!
Alice Steer Wilson’s, (1926-2001) first love was portraiture. Trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, her plein air watercolors of Cape May New Jersey’s renaissance in the 1970s-80s brought her fame. She studied the light and captured the landscape and historic buildings, which were published as prints and notecards beginning in 1977. Her work is collected internationally and cataloged in the award-winning visual biography, Alice Steer Wilson: Light, Particularly, by Janice Wilson Stridick. Steer’s self-portrait first appeared in her daughter’s book. The portrait also appears with the poem Mother’s Self-Portrait with Hair by Janice Wilson Stridick in the book Extraordinary Gifts: Remarkable Women of the Delaware Valley, 2014 by PS Books.
For more of her work visit South Bound Press.
Steve Yau is a Connecticut resident who enjoys cycling and photography, a hobby that turned into his passion. He has photographed bicycle races and weddings in the New England area since 2001. He also enjoys cooking and appreciates the art of holography.
Fall 2017 Index
By Genre, Sorted by Title as It Appears in the Issue
To browse the issue, click on cover image.
Editors and Contributors Spring 2017