These Are a Few of My Favorite JewsPlaylist by Anna Gurton-Wachter
With antisemitism on the worldwide rise and attacks in my hometown of Brooklyn, NY scaring people in ways they may have not imagined would reach such startling heights, it seemed an appropriate moment to highlight and give praise to some of my favorite contemporary Jewish poets. Recently Ariana Reines described in a characteristically heartfelt post that she felt grateful for a review that highlighted and understood her within a context of Jewish and Judaic thought in part because it highlighted something that can sometimes feel closeted even when loudly proclaimed or pronounced. While I make no claims to try and know or understand what each of these poets' relationship to their religious background might be, I've often wondered what might bring us all together, if there could be such a thing as a Jewish poetic sensibility and what is at stake, what it means to even have the inclination towards this question? Just last night at the Poetry Project David Henderson said that if you live in New York long enough you are basically Jewish. I'm sure we've all heard some coy version of this half-joke before and while we Jews may seem aplenty in NYC, this comment struck me as particularly unaware of what it is like to be Jewish in any city or state right now. And maybe, though I'm not letting Henderson off the hook entirely, in some way it is because we talk about our jewishness so little. So I ask again, what does it mean to claim or divvy out jewishness for a city? for a mindset? for a poem? This list is just a sampling, for there are many more Jews that I love that did not make this small playlist, many more that I don't yet know exist.
“At least no one is keeping me alive” – Matvei Yankelevich, “[At Least]”
i.We were cuffed in the backof the van andSomeone said, “well, if you’re a poet could you / give us a poem?” Mind gone forFear of its end, exhaustionAs the notation of affectiveSimilitude that courses through the steelWalls, that conductivity of fear allPeople feel, perhaps, as the extensionOf dream – the sleep paralysis, thatknowing sour bulge of airWhat stings the nostrils or hangs onIts left leg, anear, a lobe of surety thatTomorrow will be worse, that whenThey have brought you to yourKnees you will not knowWhat time it is, nor thatday has passed andDay will have erased itselfas judgement and spitin your face, trained youto ward off and ever.Historyis a nightmare from which itcannot wake Ididn’t know what time itwas / as I have beento the future and we are notremembered / thefuture / remembers notime / but its orderedsputter / Even so. A / silence ofattribution / of – attrition -a brittle point / the worldsheds and so, when theycome, and they will come, when theycome, and they will come, theywill come / the stent,what has been stoked notin the flame but in the moldabout the monumental lip.
ii.The Sole at Footfall or Toward the Nightmare of Directive
I’ve got a good mind to give up living, and go shopping instead - B.B.King - Paying the Cost to be the Boss.
Inscription, its present undonedipped my hand into it and it returns to methe privacy of it &ndash how much of itthe incapacity of it–: it all, in your poor mind.It all. It all, established against the long wavesof (timing was everything, you know – didn’t itcome to you?) Where else where? We feel that we
choose and will, but that we are choosing what is imposed on us andwilling the inevitable. Or :: We are hellbent on watching ourselves live.The memorial function-crystal the soothing pernicious wrenchwhat’s in a (this is as the already having been burnt out, have been, kept alive(I want to have seen ourselves already inseeing ourselves and the dread of the inevitable past of seeing the future’s memory of itself – again? Still. Searching around on the floor for the keysthe sudden memory of a dreammemory of a memory, having beenwhat is internal to it? Again? Still.)How do we talk about it? How much of it?The Great Systems of Cumulative ThirstAgain? Still. The flexibility of it, then the this of) a passing gradualwatching the ever more malleablewriting cudgel commodity no deferent - than the petro-firmer whoBrings forth grain from the groundMeat in a vat. Who’s a - we I sayDuncan refused to publish during the warWar being permanent – what does this say forThen, they republished all his workas the descent the descendant the dissent caved(we did – we were always tending)to this global civil war, that static set inendemic to a thinking of sociality as conference of thinking over and above con frere for affinity conferred – and by. Whom?There’s a coronal haze that surrounds this speaking of not speaking, the capability that wantedonly for its mutability to bend the mute chorus spoken of what are we speaking about, or are we?There’s a constellated sense here – thatif we could rearrange the noise, or if wecould dwell in it – ASMR, teleology of affectthe word folks steadily increasing in usageover the past hundred years – as in, that’s all; Where does your money go?That deliberate hygiene of writing – not sanitation, but hygiene whereby the self (watchingoneself live / live) becomes the externalized site of disposal (take a dump) all elseto assimilate these microbeads, these– (take a dump) flush against the reproductionof the frontier capitalization zone (take a dump)as another tiny kitchen video, the painstaking pancakes, sushi, minion bob cake.
In the bathroom ofthe bar the graffiti used to read“RIP Ike Turner.” This had been crossed outand next to it someone had written:“RIP Desmond Decker.” Both of these havesince been painted over and the wall now reads,“my dick is made of dog shit.”
Let’s talk about dead labor,which we can all agree on. How well doesthe financialization of pain assimilate the violenceof the border?Put your debt in writing.Make your money work.Let’s say this is a part, too – of…? Here,Though the question ofaction – direct, or otherwise, is not one of writingand has never belonged to it even less so the non-space of aggregate selfhood – manageable isworse than governable, and ever after [see above]How is thatnon-space – as with any other, not as the junk that Rem Koolhaas might have wanted us to thinkbut as a space of imagined contribution –ATMs, conventions, professional associations.You want to, it says – caughtin the klieg lights fixed, as ever,on the alien craft, perched in thatterrestrial junkspace they’re always landing inopen fields, etc (alternately: here itcomes, caught in the headlights – other – other other? Big Other?I know what regime I’ve got on the low burner.)So here we are in the blinders of non-space of the permanent biometric standard flotsam highabove the measure of movement – isn’t writing,as program…incremental? Aren’t you tired ofworking so hard?…something about the hell of the cursor? The man beside me in the airport mewling into hisPhone: “I think they’re creating events that would have occurred without them.” He’stalking about handbags? And from the bar – “sameas it ever was.” One of my collegeprofessors recounted how the dayDuras was expected at the writers’ conference, no one couldfind her. She had spent a week at the airport in Chicago writingThe Malady of Death. A few years later, another professorTold the exact same story about Tadusz RuskewiczSame as it ever was, same as it ever was.What is the age of the monkeywrench in the death throes ofprofessionalism? Howdoes the state appropriatethese deadwinds of non-space in this modelcountry of the democraticswindle?
iii. Anchored at Sands (briefly, anyway)
“Capital appears to be ascending to a form of sovereignty without a sovereign, that is, without an anthropomorphized God at its heart.” – Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty
They want to defend us against the west?Groaned the (largely) automated house, lunching, asPer usual, at its desk– I mean,They want, really, to beExplicative in the capped sine wave whereThe limitation of transparency is the transcriptionOf noise? Again, pointed above to the questionOf sovereignty, a customer picks up fourOrders of shrimp cocktail at three A.M.What is it about setting that makes aWork perceptible as all the morerighteous in its affectiveQuality? Is it that you’ve been hereWith me, or that transparently obvious needFor language as other than surface, other thanA rehearsal of the diasporic present so commonTo an ever-growing population ofMemories transmuted across the impossibleSurface of innumerable temporalities and spatialities?They say we are going to be a little lateBecause of some VIP action on the tarmac, butThere’s an easy enough answer – gaseousAnd antithetical to the space of the self, theBloviating cancellation of language in theSuspended body of the sovereign asBorder or a return to these signifiers butMight substitute other than, if only the liquidNature of the post-sovereign capital what is orDeclares an other-than sovereign did not also recurIn the thousand-fold reproduction of power as aControlling model of architectural multiplicationAcross the landscape of Slabs© in a terraformedDream an eye permanently at or of the horizon.Ghastly, really, these asides but what can one doBut watch over the daily specials, wonder at whoOrders the filet mignon or makes theirWay through sixteen scoops of vanilla ice cream.In other words, the aside is a means of perpetuatingThe work until an easier time, a time withoutSettings where one might imagine the poem carvedInto a tree or a rock or perhaps transmittedSolely by muscle memory of the mouth, handOr, to some extent, the eye. But then, once we haveBegun to speak of the feast the feast is ended;The recurrence of the lysogenic virusDigging in the wrong place – the virusHaving, as always, been a vector of selfhoodAnd illness, itself a cheap mockup for a territoryOf contestation per a linguistic or poeticSleight of hand, rendering the truth-serum ofPost-ideological nihilistically chirpingFalsifications of meaning moot.
iii. Coda, alt. The Atrophied Cordon (Plugging the Strophic
“The expression and effectuation of the world and the subjectivities included in there, that is, the creation and realization of the sensible desires, beliefs, intelligence precedes economic production. The economic war currently played out on a planetary scale is indeed an ‘aesthetic’ war for many reasons.” – Maurizio Lazaratto, “From Capital-Labour to Capital-Life”
Imagine a life so bored it squanders the flowerAnd blissed out on the parquet stuffs itsPocket full of ash, the jokebeing the cops are univocal and grab hold ofThe final articulation of strength, wear outThe belt of the observable world – one ofThe particulars, of the known, of theObservable world. Is this poemtired? Is it practiced, anticipated? Can itImagine that ideological void, thatTurn in the knot of meter? Cupping aForged new in the cordite of itsPast. Zoological garden; homonymSilt washing into the cup’s conic base.Is this poem tired?Particularized, there’s no revolutionHowever time proceeds it’s by itsPolar root and tousled fromBeneath, it wills the skivingEnds up from and shoreline, article and breath.I am reaching in the etchedFungal alphabetHay’s milk an eye closed toParcel out the noiseis too much with usHow is it in the languageOf its funders? How’s it muscleOut the roots? Whereshould I bear you down along to leaveand how should I come toKnow you if and this poem is, then,Tired? I can’t breathe beside theH to praise the dead the muleThe eye the dog tradesFor marble in a glass – wornWorn out the plug, amnioteHomebody a chore like stuckOr studied the warp aMuffled disc – is this poem tired?Aren’t and chase the radishRoot back down the leadAnd its a rare, and it’s a sorrelAnd it’s the leavened share ofCankered root. And or ever andTo press and pull the blinkered midgeAphorescent pulled from the loamThey said it was as though seven hundredAcres of white birds had come to rest alongThe open pit. They said the more wasWild, to cultivate the sound ofsands as they stretch out toward theNight. What to be numerous of diffuseSpeech, what to curse the dawnAnd break the stinging nettle, clove, and wheatWhat of it – the home theater, the remedialDunce, the pay stub, the onlyOne of us left is stroking the pin, turning theLump over in our hands and over inOur hands, over and against. Is thisPoem tired? And aren’t, and aren’t toAddress you knew I meant, or aren’t I aren’tLoam and ash, pin and salt the rockingMouth, the coast to island out the porous dunceGet making the billing come nestedPry the open like a handful and note. I toBill the salt of lush and turnip stents, faucetAnd come to in a wrenching dawn; stomaticSunning and fielded, I know it’s late butSense me, make sense me, is this poemTired? Is it tossing against the bridge?
creating usefrom the word lovingor of itof that action of a windowagain and againas if to learnwhat could be lazewould be worth notingnotating or takento a garden full of radiant cabbageanxious for employmentwindows of working
the garden weepsin the airas sleeping is finesometimeson a wrack of openingpointsthe monologue walksto the center of the roomwe are listening drinking in circleswe like babiesbabies with books in their teeththey walk clappingfor apparent newnessin drift
reason washes on the substitute sublimeits taste of hair and salt for a calendaris in its actionhours that will comepromising a hem a hema root a root
A letter in seven arguments.
1. On Lies
In another poem a man compares me to pussy, and then it happens again. Rosario says straight men don’t even like pussy, an attack so devastating I took it vicariously. Cause of death: personal correspondence. Do I care about straight men? The question is maybe misplaced.
Anyways they care about me. That coy interval between gays and trans women is good for a couple things, one of which is giving the lie to hetero protestations about themselves. I don’t even believe them, culprits of their own desire, though as Cam says I think they believe themselves.
This thing is multiform, contingent, ambivalent and I call her my sex. Even if I make choices I still like everything. I like myself and you, but the hole we share accuses us both. I’ll call it autofiction; on its head it accuses the world.
2. On High School
VISITING HOURS ARE OVER FOR THE BLOODBATH, PLEASE
3. On Being a Wife
Q: Are you polymorphously perverse?
A: No, I am betrothed to the present.
Consider the wife. Desperately Seeking Susan: Rosanna Arquette, wed to a jacuzzi and skimming the personals, rearranges the opposite side of the bridge. Anybody can be Madonna, so everybody’s a wife in Fort Lee. Even the tubs dull the senses into a staycation. Arquette wants to be a club kid too, and briefly succeeds—at the precinct, in a gutted loft. Get into the groove and rot there, oh comely bohèmes! You’ll even like it.
You say wife like style or you say wife like rifled through someone someone else’s stocks or you say wife like wages. Wearing only animal print and plump in the right places. Dear Kay. Suspicious, you delayed wifery. Now you wear it like a polymer mink. Anybody can be a wife in the country like everybody’s a piece in town.
Q: Does everybody feel this way?
A: I suspect they do, the fuckers
4. On Joie de Vivre It comes out of me like ohhhhhhhh
5. On Beauty
“By origin or not I am ‘of’ the city until I can’t be—a choice, as choices go, made within constraints, one of which is surely beauty.” I’m saying beauty like a person, not aesthetics like a grad student, though for my sins I’m the persona of a grad student and I’ve been one for long enough it feels like a condition.
You say aesthetics like style or you say aesthetics like a pretty face or you say aesthetics like a brand. Brecht says you can’t write poems about trees when the woods are full of cops. An aesthete says you can’t write poems about sex if the city’s full of brands. Or: art has no vocation after 1991. Or: beauty is a fixing for the wealthy, a commons in a paywall. Do I like this world and what it’s full of? Like hell but there it goes, spitting you in the face and waiting for you underwater. You don’t refuse to breathe, do you?
Meanwhile behind this handwringing the hushed suggestion that women, gays, transsexuals are especially to blame for the miseries of brands, or what the metropole inflicts on everybody else. Hello, I hate it. Or: how interesting, the smack of the feminized in buying and selling.
Dear Kay, hi, I’m waging a sub rosa war. Who loves me will know what I mean.
6. On Grief
It comes out of me like god fucking damnit……
7. On Lies
Desire is the suture of a new (say it) world–I’ll fuck you till your
dick is blue–following Jackie’s lead it won’t be one of winners in a virtuous game, or letting agency skid off your ethical shoulders, or of sharing your toys based on a common Rx.
What are you and what does it mean for me a question nobody could stop asking if they wanted. Re: perversion you meant to say and follow it with something about bodying forth the new but Rachel heard one word played together like a chord. Say it’s the same old sex bent double. It’s mine now, and goes between me like a stent.
Dear Kay. I’m writing the same letter always, let me try it again. Here’s a fable in the perfect tense: some friends—perpetually adolescent and vengeful, with a weekend off and no particular reputation—make the drive to bully a medium-famous writer. He’s speaking at a private college for a couple hundred bucks a pop, the subject “modernist difficulty” or you get the idea. They’ve got a megaphone, which they use to frighten local wildlife. The poets they intended to swirlie have all scattered to satisfy their appetites on bowls of seasonal produce. Or maybe the Rimbaldian creatures enjoy their promised encounter after all, irritate the Tenure out of every mom and dad. Campus cops usher them off the handsome private greens. Over fries the maudit kids hum some poems about difficulty, poetry, and rent, which makes them feel a little better–even triumphant!
Two of them are dating, and sort of clocky. En route back to a dingy apartment in the ‘burbs some guy on the train resents the way their faces look, how they touch each other. He’s got a couple slurs to share—his parting shot to “stay away from that AIDS.” Which missile, however graphic, lets something slip.
I’d like to say that he got his but actually he disembarked at Newark without consequences. It’s a shame for words to be more vibrant than sex—and sexier, too, says my enthusiastic boyfriend. Write back with something genuinely new, I won’t be disconsolate or have anything unkind to say, palpating that world in a caress, your palpatrix on call,
A book of memories is not only a recording.
It is a faith that balances itself
only in the praxis of interpretation, only
in interpretation of the traces
If our faith is for redemption
then our faith arises
only through interpretive forms.
The meaning of a faith
that depends from the manifesting
interpretation of the traces
of interpretations, is it
a gathering for the short span of here and now
slightly away from an accentuation
of singular presence, for what? for
the simulation of wisdom? for
the arrival of itself?
The idea is that we are alive and living
in some eternity, some historical
particularity, beyond ourselves,
they are returning this
knowledge we say we must
already know against us.
For example, when we are witness
to a force of death that seems to control
a drive for violence against us
we somehow don’t go to hell,
but descend instead to some
morbid kind of freedom b/c
we believe our writings have
a living existence even beyond
what we’ve understood of them,
a living text that can’t both be killed
& have the killer know its death
b/c it belongs to eternity’s historical form.
When it appears to be gone is
a sign of its transformation
(the letters rise from the burning book
& recombine in the air).
Thus, the gravity of loss is what
roots us to a textual ground.
No. Yes. Us?
Praising ideas is,
and the ideas we might
feel good in praising are,
never a simple thing.
Their strength, to be
imported across contexts
as though without context,
is confusing, becomes confused
with programs of
subjugation they meant to oppose,
and in the measure of their growth
as they begin to dream of
a coalition, of a power, they
subjugate interpretation to a forecast.
So why do we keep on believing
that the place we’re in exerts
an idea we must already belong to?
We layer a fateful secret in our place
as though it determines us, as though
it absolutely is us beyond us, as though
it must continuously embrace
or eventually reject us, a
s though there were an eternal
void below language instead
of this ground of body & earth.
Does this place love us still
we ask ourselves as though
we were only ourselves, or
does it choose us
the other others
to represent a burrowed,
self-serving, passionate will
which secretly structures that
wake of lost power
breeding its hate?
A knowledge of another person we meet
is only a knowledge insofar as it’s a question,
a movement of rearrival into interpretation.
When the stakes of this question
are reduced to knowing myself,
I get really worried.
I imagine this worry is the only
reward I’ll receive for being
from our violences, which are
more alive than what
we can say of living where we …
we are made strange to ourselves by
the hierarchy of any
nation, any place, even our own.
I hope you got some cool mountain air tonight
glamping with you is better even than sharing a coke
I hope you are setting a new record for summer coziness in a sufi commune on an old shaker farm
on the bus ride home the divinity of travel blurred into the divinity of habitation until I became fleetingly translucent
well what are saints for if not to break the distance between the things around us and the words we use
breach sonata, the highway is the radio is or weather or even news, though the news is bad we feel and say so much and can never understand this sweetness of all language
lately when I travel in the u.s., I imagine each state is its own country, as though that had happened and we’d all survived it
though in fact survival is allocated under terms we detest and the roads are full of holes aching
still new york state has some of the most beautiful woods how lovely are thy tents et cetera
in brooklyn a subway is becoming a pokéworks
the canal where that dolphin died and I texted Joseph and he put it in a poem is steaming from its green glassy surface
there’s an army of poets here who carry poetry instead of money wear poetry instead of clothes occasionally throw each other down staircases and
if you’re not listening to the six-minute twelve-inch dance mix of walk like an egyptian, you’re totally missing the song
this weekend Ada said to us, you’d be good to be friends with in a genocide
she remembered passing into north american life as the phrase ethnic cleansing was passing into english
and how during that war the litanies of strife summoned danger and you might swap your coffee with someone in case it was poisoned
not because you more deserved it but to lay a claim on the power of allocation
decide to share even violence
which is everywhere losing its shame
there are minor poetries, but as Daša Drndic´ says there are no minor fascisms
or there is minor art but no minor politics
the weak universalism of the avant-garde dreams a sign of victory that recedes ever deeper into the other part of sleep
we speak darkness backward into the heart we’re waiting to hear about in hospitals, lofts salvaged from industry, crumbling houses salvaged from capital
we know all kinds of buildings
in turkish saray means palace, a word the northern slavs of russia twisted mockingly to mean shack and the southern slavs of bosnia borrowed for their capital
Himzo Polovina sings a song about sarajevo, I can’t pronounce it but it’s dunjalucˇe golem ti si
golem ti si means you are enormous, and dunjaluk means the mortal, material world, a saeclum that can solvet
from the arabic dunya and the turkish luk, and the form dunjalucˇe means the world is being spoken to
though in fact we’ve mostly forgotten a world can be spoken to
the psychiatrist sets chairs around a table
hello world I am speaking to you now the soft science of contact or mystery of convection
hello world you’re going to want to sit down for this
the world idea walks like a crab into the heart of a greasy pond
Maria writes that she’s seen a big, windowless paddywagon, high-tech, it worries her, in the streets
when harm looks to the sky the stars it sees are different
chattering teeth, victrola amid rubble, knife buried under a hill
between what we know we know and what we can bear to think we know
homesick for a world culture that has never come into being
that homesickness Tsvetaeva said we acquire in becoming adults
hey world you’re wide and you’re hot and you’ve fed me a lot
woodward avenue simply beautiful, the empty bullring pastoral
hey world you calamitous thrillbox you zoetrope of glamors and subversions you bear in garbage city
hey world distinct from the infinite I think I found some infinity here despite you
the psychiatrist carries a lute and when one day he dies everyone will ask what the last song he sang was
you and Ada and Rachael caught in the red light on the hill by the fire this was real life only days ago
we stopped for egg sandwiches, it was totally yolkadelic
later alone at night in a tent on a mountain, ulterior economies pooling in our happiness
a frog gets in
treat every earthling as an invitation to gentleness
down the hill and past the fields, buildings of every description, cars piloted by lunatics
a juice shop with four options: wake up green monster for you hippocrates
the windowless paddy wagons grunt down alleys unseen
I guess I mean to say we are homesick for meaning
harm clothes itself in bare aesthetics (in the pleasured air, Peter Dimock says), sic transit vocoder off to the side road
later still your words gather at the bus window like real breath
in 1565 Ivan the Terrible created a new force for the allocation of violence
he called them the oprichnina, men who rode in black cloaks like monks, carrying severed dogs’ heads and brooms
(to sniff out rebellion and sweep it away)
oprichnina means the widow’s share, that a greater politics had died, the sovereign that was its wife laying claim to some remainder
police seek to inhabit every affect
mere enforcement is loosed on the world
and anyone will drink rather than go thirsty
bastards will steal even your grief if they can get it
hey world there’s no definition of violence we all agree on
hey world politics died and we have no lute to mourn it by every song is last
on facebook everyone’s a monk you can put down that dog’s head
hey mortal, material world, you are enormous
a tear opens up in the fabric of scarcity and a thousand tissue paper flowers fly out
run from bee mistaken for frolic heaven’s on fire et cetera
the brittle joy of being finite is to end and to begin
thank you to verbs for everything you do
thank you to whatever it was, sand or water or shade, that kept time
the bus pulls in and I walk to the train, city at its usual polyrhythm
it’s hard to find a name for the experience of caring about people in a time of totally cockamamie civilizational collapse
an age of dog’s heads and brooms
mostly I still just wish you were here and hope you come to an agreement with the moths
I settle into a ritual of zany hummus flavors and oprah clips
the horizon bends across a night sky to touch you
as for everything that’s happened so far, if we cannot retrace it
after all the forgetting that language requires
utopianism’s yelp page will be hearing from me
The following is drawn from a manuscript tentatively titled Reversi: a group of letters written to Em Bohlka, who died in the 2016 Ghost Ship fire. Reversi also engages with Othello as a core text, jumping off from that play to explore its difficult history and the questions it raises around race and gender. As I grieve Em, these letters hold space for our conversation.
Leonard Alfred Schneider, AKA Lenny Bruce, had a famous routine sorting Jewish from Goyish: “Kool-Aid: Goyish. Instant potatoes: scary Goyish. All Drake’s cakes are Goyish. Pumpernickel is Jewish, and, as you know, white bread is very Goyish….Macaroons are very Jewish—very Jewish cake.”
So maybe I already wasn’t a woman in the way that Jewish women aren’t, exactly. We’re large, with our big asses and the horns on our heads, caging our tiny men behind the aprons spread across our girthy knees. Lusted after by our Others, spurned by our own, those archetypal shikse-chasing Portnoys and Alvie Singers.
The off-Broadway play Jewtopia was advertised as “the story of a gentile who wants to meet a Jewish girl so he’ll never have to make another decision.”
When a question was bopping around Facebook, “Which author have you read the most of?”, I totaled my numbers and found: #1, Shakespeare; #2, Octavia E. Butler. I was amused by that but also kept it to myself, embarrassed by Shakespeare #1 and what it said about my attraction to prestige properties.
Em, you wrote me (talking about poetry): “I don’t mean to come across as some overeager young protege.” It made me uncomfortable, that you named the power relation between us. That I had the ability to give you something. That I enjoyed or desired this.
It also made me feel old, and a bit snippy. You weren’t that young yourself, seven years younger than me, sure, but mostly young in your feelings. In your declension toward the poetry world, you felt belated, as did I. So maybe rather than both old we were both young, or young-old, unsure of how to put on or how to drop our authorities.
It occurs to me that Othello’s drama is set in motion by the general’s choice of protege. Othello picks Michael Cassio as his lieutenant over Iago. Iago is left as the ancient, or ensign, hoisting the flag. Honest, jealous Iago. If you were my protege, you would what, become me? Partake of my authority, stand in for me? Who was the lieutenant and who was the ancient?
I haven’t touched on–though it’s one response to the question someone could easily ask me, “Why write about Othello?”–how the play mingles with my oldest writing friendship.
I first met R in Iowa City in our so-called office, a room jammed with desks. He was obsessed with Robert Duncan, Ronnie James Dio, Captain Beefheart, Joanne Kyger, and Iago. We met boyishly, geeking out over music, Big Star. R was living on the football side of town with no car, undergrads tailgating on his lawn. Tony and I would scoop him up maternally and take him across the river.
We took a Shakespeare class together in which we gave bratty nicknames like “Monarchist” and “Evil Duh” to the academic grad students we found condescending or authoritarian. In spring, we met up to thumb through books, then wander around town looking for other little groupsicles to merge with and part from. We found one another in ways that allowed me to combine three of my favorite gender roles: enthusiast, doting parent, and flâneur.
We bonded during the George W. Bush days, a time among many of American imperial huffiness. I was reading Wallace Stevens’ Collected Poems and trying to write like a metaphysical banker. R spent his time at Iowa looking at fields of black-eyed Susans and thinking about evil. One form evil took was Iago.
Though unquestionably a dick, Iago fessed up to it, to the audience, at least. That interested us in contrast to the disavowal we were used to, the customary fascist, democratic, civics-101 techniques of scapegoating, state speechifying, axis of evil.
R’s poem “What is Outside” was written then. Its first word is Oleander: not having been to the West Coast, I asked what it was. R couldn’t imagine: “It’s the California highway plant!” We learned that our states were uncommon to each other.
“What is Outside” continues “I had and have no heart/Daws, hungrier than I am/screech for interiority.” Referring to Iago’s speech: “For when my outward action does demonstrate/The native act, and figure of my heart/In complement extern,/’tis not long after/But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve/For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.”
One of our MFA teachers responded to R’s poem with, if I remember rightly, a mild dismay: “I could never say I had no heart.” She was a lovely person so I doubt R had the heart to tell her she had no heart. But of course she didn’t, as I had no heart, and R neither. We were artists competing for fellowship money. We lived in the US.
It’s this kind of thing–the articulation of one’s relationship to power–that makes honest Iago, the ultimate liar, ultimately honest. If you really listen to Iago, he has a lot to say about resentful entitlement casting itself in the victim’s role. An only quasi-rogue figure, he’s a skeleton key to evil’s mystique, how it combines the romance of authoritarianism with the romance of wayward, paramilitary boyhood.
Think about the way the play ends for the Venetian state, thanks to Iago: they’ve been rid of “the Moor”–dangerous outsider–and the disobedient daughter–without any blood on their own hands! Playing out the state’s desire precisely to the degree he disobeys the letter of the law, Iago is special ops; a militia volunteer policing the border; the corporate fixer you can hand the project off to when you don’t want to know too much about how the sausage gets made.
So more than my own insights it was my conversations with R starting 15 years ago that got me thinking about Iago-nature. Superficially, the moment that started me in pursuit of this book (before you died, Em; before I had a form) was while I was driving and listening to NPR some commentator referred, off-hand, to Iago’s evil and its lack of cause: in Coleridge’s formulation, Iago’s “motiveless malignancy.”
Primed by talks with R, at that moment I thought I don’t understand how “they” (NPR, & as I’ve since learned, the apparatus of Othello criticism) can keep repeating that Iago’s evil comes from nowhere, when he’s the enforcer of patriarchy, of state rule, of race and gender hierarchies and the play comes out and says that, so why should it be that invisible…though I guess I know why, I’ve been writing about why for six years, but to have such a twisted and oblivious read on Iago really undoes the point, I said to myself (in the car, to the radio) of Othello, the point being that it’s one of the few canonical works of art that tells you the same hidden obvious thing that horror movies tell you: that the call is coming FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE. Inside the house, people!
So, R, I guess I’m the one who’s your eager young (old) protege? Yours, too, Em. I would never have made a shape for this writing had I not needed a secret place to talk to you after you died. And both while you were alive and after, it was in relation to you that I learned to think about being non-binary.
The aspect of myself I shared with you, Em, that was quick-witted, quick-tempered, quicksilver, shifting; conversational and rangy, capable of endless talk, desiring the feeling, in fevered tumble of conversation, of what could be better, how to ascend toward a rhetorical goal, to pirouette around it, bat it back and forth like a feather; of knowing, never enough knowing; of interpersonal deference combined with aggressiveness in debate: I thought of it as my secret masculinity. For you, that thing (mode of our mutual enjoyment) was the femininity you were beginning to unfold.
It’s nice to have someone with whom you can clasp hands and exchange roles, cordially.
My beloved author Eve Sedgwick talks about how there are so many different taxonomies, ways to organize ourselves, we could use other than homo- & hetero- sexual if we so chose. Like the Borges division of animals into those that belong to the Emperor, embalmed ones, suckling pigs, those that have just broken a flower vase, etc.
I think that’s one reason the poets and queers love astrology so much. It’s what Sedgwick calls a “nonce taxonomy,” our mundane, daily inventiveness about how people and roles work. We use it to navigate the social world, and as a way to sort, connect, and distance ourselves that’s not founded on the hierarchies most obviously connected to power.
Emji and I might be opposites (Aries and Pisces) but I connect to their Pisces rising. All my Scorpio friends are private. The group needed one water sign to balance all that fire: first it was Zoe, then it was me.
After you died, Nat and I talked for days, and one of the things we decided was that I was you–Em was Lauren–and Nat was Tony…there were commonalities across the partnerships: one person fiery, emotional, quick, and mercurial, the other cooler, steadier, stronger, more stalwart. Now this is a category that I use to classify people in their partnerships–are you an Em or a Nat, a Lauren or a Tony.
We are built of characters we’ve met. One way to say that Tony is my life partner is that he is so deeply imbricated into my classification system as to be my opposed category, or perhaps my matched one, even though we aren’t opposites any more than we are the same.
Iago is one of the characters I’ve met, in different guises. His work is pedagogical. He is going to teach Othello about what a woman is and what it does, saying, of Venetian women, “I know our country dispositions well”– i.e. (since Iago is nothing if not a Borscht Belt comedian)–“I know how our Venetian women dispose of their cunts.”
In the Lou Sullivan book I worked on, there’s a moment when Lou is trying to get hormones when his transition counselor asks him “How many masculine vs feminine things do you do in a day?” He says something like “So I swore (masculine). And then I got home and cried (feminine).”
Part of the chip I have on my shoulder about Othello comes from Iago whispering to me about my disposition.
There’s also a moment in the Lou Sullivan diaries where Lou, post-transition, looks at the other men around him and longs to be secure as he imagines they are. To be a man continues to recede. In this melancholia, the experience of enjoying gender becomes one of being seen having it, of fending off rivals and threats to one’s perfect embodiment.
When he says I am not what I am, the actor can smile with satisfaction, scorn, or resentment; he can be expressionless, confidential, or secretive; or he can openly mock himself for pretending to give away his secrets.
Joel came to work with a thin red line down the side of their chin, a shaving mishap. It made them look like a movie villain. Which raised the question of why having a sliced chin makes one look like a dime-store movie villain.
The Lou Sullivan book taught me that it was in my deep insecurity that I was most masculine. And that strangely what is both most masculine and most feminine is one’s ability to make a surface. That in this work of comparison is where gender holds taut. Between imaginary poles, interlaced ribbons.
In Proust, reading is one of the systems that bind readers in a “secret society.” Marcel’s gentle, well-mannered grandmother and the fierce, hieratic, extremely gay Baron de Charlus seem as distant as characters could be but are drawn together based on their love of the writings of Madame de Sevigne. Their bond isn’t occasioned by being readers in general, literary types; it’s that they met inside the landscape of one particular book.
Audre Lorde writes about herself and her friends this way, too, as acolytes of the word. Nonce taxonomies don’t erase the others (race, gender, class) but they do, I think, cross-cut them.
Are you a person whose favorite Elizabeth Bishop line is “with grammar that suddenly turns and shines/like flocks of sandpipers flying,” or a person whose favorite Elizabeth Bishop line is “derived from the rocky breasts forever, flowing and drawn, and since/our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.”
Marlon Riggs when making Ethnic Notions said he heard a woman’s voice (his own voice) narrating it to him.
For a woman, to manifest any desire of one’s own was to be immediately a man. But to desire excessively was womanly (due to lack of logic, of the rationality that could hold one’s desire in bounds) and a man who wanted too much was effeminate. So in my wanting to be other than I was, which I thought was called a man, I became a woman again: to turn and turn and then again begin, letting the eternal note of sadness in.
R was my first Bay Area poet and I imagined the Bay in his image: shambolic, warm, secretive, and pastel. You, Em, were, I suppose, the writer in transition, and both of you (what I love in both of you) I tried to become, over time, in my halting way.
Having no heart also means to have no certain kind of inside, which I don’t. I’m not a fixed sign but a mutable sign and I have not the man kind of inside nor the woman’s neither. In lieu I offer but a few scabrous strings of connection to lovingly entwine about your waist.
In Shakespeare class, R and I would have joked “Life–it is a mingled yarn”…
Fruit salad is Jewish. Lime Jell-o is Goyish. Lime soda is very Goyish. Underwear is definitely Goyish. Balls are Goyish. Titties are Jewish. Mouths are Jewish.
To write and write and never make a body.
It’s civic because it has a surface. It’s worse than it seems, but at least it keeps seeming. Though I become butter in the face of such hard-knifed buildings, I’d like to locate a harmony that does not equal plan. That doesn’t tilt the map toward a penthouse. Now might be a good time to tell you. If it can’t be faked, it is not our city. It is not our city. It is time we faked it.
It’s civic because it has a surface. A week of hangovers takes the shape of string lights. The top of the DHL truck so rusted it gives the yellow a margin to fry in. To watch the light die and pull out a seat for its caption. A flam hits two points of time in the circle of one note. All my life I keep telling you. This interview is over.
It’s civic because it has a surface, which may disclose interior truths, or alternatively falsify the documents. Bricks extend back into the pre-war you’d guess. But I watched workers carve them out of plaster, then paint them red. Am I free now to read from my chest hair a missing chisel? It’s civic because it has a surface. You’ll have to live with the work that’s done to get it.
It’s civic because it has a surface. Whose surface remains pertinent. If we repeat the same elements, a cartilage. Did life give you lemons? File melons. Music spills into the street. Two different tempi flint a third by way of prodigal hi hats. Towards what miracle, what migraine I don’t know. For your hunger. Not the dish. Stick a fork in the fork.
Late I say it begins—the window pillows. Elbows seem to stoke the street, lost twin to our houses. The pavement is not 0, but pit. The men splitting peanuts on their elbows do not talk in the ordinary sense. It is more like holding the door open after you pass. The sky, I insist, is not our destination, but hinge. As opposed to trompe l’oeil, for me there is no greater magic than the wall that flattens into passage, if you give your hands a way to meet its weight. Asshat, the sign says push.
It’s civic because it has a surface. Gnat climbs into my nose in real time. This link is no longer trampoline. A screw converts surface pressure to depth. You must download the errant street sound, or be cursed to wander your thoughts without footnotes. The scent of latex stays on the skin long after the condom has been removed. After a few years I stop calling it my city. I stop calling it a city. But I do not stop calling it.
It’s civic because it has a surface. Thank you for your service. Who do you say it to? I felt which of the below a) left out b) left of center c) like I’ve returned d) to sender. Needless to say I didn’t feel in a grid. I too am a guilty plan, fall into loud blocks when you ask for an answer.
Rent your energy from a baguette. Spend it like a mallet on clean little spasms. A kind of nail which undoes a foundation when hit. Men are always screaming at women on the street. Why? For making them angry. It’s civic because it has a surface. But the waitress keeps passing. Will you ask for the check. Are you mad. Are you mad at me.
It’s civic because it has a surface. Wherefore art thou what’s his face. Show me in the bright wall I cannot see next to. The surface is blinding. Rewind it back for me, sugar. The lining is perfect. It’s the buttons I hate.
When night falls, glass starts to double the fluorescents. Which doesn’t leave a lot of room for you. The abyss calls back. Box full. They is only you in a mirror. No, that’s a window. Whoa. That’s a window. Night kiss its own lips. Self-smacking surfaces. We’re guaranteed to line up, not to get in. Because it has a surface, it’s civic.
The albatross has been abused by poetsby being compared to them.
Poet’s goat.Not through gates of the templeled by priests, passedfrom booth to ceremonial booth,does the albatross await sacrifice.Sea is the anteroom.
The sea, spool of junk, similar to landabides by plastic the albatross eats.A lighter in a jug, submerged fire-crackers. Shiny streams of steadfast blueoverlap the wave’s face, oily as fisheggs to the albatross eye.
At the nest, a sandy trash disc, babyfeeds upon polymer lanyard, moldsits own belly into an altar.The beach shelters the ribsof chicks once they burst with plastics.By maggots their confetti shivers.
The maggots say:Ye shall be clean.The poets look dirty as yesterday.They go home and attempt to splita mussel through metaphor.Their beards left to grow, grow.
Neighbor is a long page
about the neighbor
why it is called “Confession”
or if it’s called “My Neighbor”
or what, if anything, I am.
I have ideas.
At the time I type this
I’ve been at it for one year
the last six months
completely in my head all in my head
where there are many levels.
The problem is whether they
are connected or if
they are levels
at all. “A level” may connote a
piece in a unified structure,
or unity of disconnected parts
firmly housed. By what?
The State or me
or if I am the State.
I am a collection
And so there is Neighbor
and then there is my neighbor.
In the book called Is My Neighbor
I am the object
of the relationship I’m in
to which I have distance.
(between walls and / or levels).
Distance is domain.
I share it with the I
of I that I
am aware of. When I confess
I make this distance.
I nearly wrote detachment
but it is not detachment.
Detachment is the thing
I create when I
am not aware of the I
I am aware of.
Detachment is the thing
I make when I love.
Love is a more complicated thing
when I am speaking of my neighbor
who knows I’ve rejected him on numerous occasions
to whom I’ve been lately inexplicably nice.
Love is a complicated thing
when I speak of my neighbor,
crazy, though committed to the logic
of life, currently of being a good mother.
Why then do I say
she is crazy when
crazy is how we name
those who refuse.
But I love my neighbor
I am sure I
love the closeness / mediated
distance we collaborate / corroborate
I wrote distance not detachment
we never attach / to begin.
Already I am telling you about the neighbor
who today asked where was I going?
Sly look in his eye—
Which naughtiness are you tonight.
For Lorenz Hart
Clovers will rot. An intimacy conjured by the crucialSighs and words that surround us. We’re not, after allIn this concealment for nothing like all pornos it’s aFamily act picking our favorite words to cloak our non-Sentiments. Not being able to trespass knowledge, theMarker of infidelity. TheBridge is left always so unformed. BecauseNo poet emerges on second thought. VanessaFounders on the edge of a shoe. Helen Keller didVaudeville too. She’d puppetWhat she said too. A grimace was enough. I droppedThree pounds and called it a day. Plotting, scheming toMake all my money back. Some words we cherishSeahorses and seesaws make us forget. They try tooHard to unearth every last bit of tinsel from herShelled out anatomy. False eternities conveyed inHer lyre. False and utter helplessness in her teardropsThis little girl blue went out to market and stayed thereThe piggy went home and hid under the bed. Some sayLocked deep inside her skull, when her green ribbonComes untied, we see her actual emotional vomit.The more mute, the more you are a muse, the moreFisting required, the happier to see you my dear.Blanket falls right on cue to wrap him. Right asSnow hits his face. Bullies make him feelAs if it’s like he is no less who he already is. That’sRefreshing. Note well that he confuses prison withPsychic torment from yellowed privilegedMemory. My head cannot convinceMe otherwise. Disintegration is always playful atFirst. The opaque kernel of torment that gullibilityBreeds is always filtered out by thePrecise repression machines bedimmed myEarly onset urge to leerThisBecomes it.ToPlay forever. That is hell. Where aHermeneutics of suspicion becomesBaseless denial of self. Withoutvision, I flop. An agnosticPeacock glides in and out of jargonAnd fails to subsist. Showers of tranquilColors finally crown me. And knockMe down to size. A caffeinatedPhantomThumb stuck in his own pie. AlwaysGrosser than you’d think. The onlyThing left that’s undreamt is sleep.Shuddering at the Shoah.Apples and honey and macaroniCraft projects. All visions pang.And a lonely viper storms intoShower and relief. Climb intoBed on top of a sweet plumeNo fear in sight, lengthenedBoundary, warding off allNatal reminders of causalityA collective scream is hardTo turn off, scrambles myCeiling. I climb three vinesShaped like tears and reachA tarn swarmingAs soon asI catch sight of the tareIn river reflection, ISeek to unrouse myselfAnalytically, loosen upMy winter-bright mindBut there is nothing leftThat isn’t damp and coldItaly is worse than I thoughtAnd I can’t convince myselfOtherwise. Stifled by lowMist and gondolas, oneGets the sense thatFelix, if only, yourBalmy eyes…It’s okay to be richIn some things andEmpty handed inOthers. A new-moonSlants light on aPuddle and I’m
I can’t tell down spruce miles from this avenue perspective motion away from motion approaching
running versus chasing away someone parallel walking what if I were the fear figure contemplating target running Franklin Avenue locomotions: centuries shuttle watch for gold a different set of transit constraints the gravel and the chain gang other people’s public traffics how do arterials converse
/ I only meant to worry havoc in chaincataloguing trusts how far reach to the things I cannot see
There trusts connect invisibles
unsealed non- sense:
If then[OBJECT PERMANENCE] –> [—]Gravity may continue in propertiesWhether I can see through a wall to the other endI know the spines facing colors hard cover words
walls the size ofa bathroom contains a bedroom
a whistle alarms
replacement batteries the whistle then the apartment unit complex of candles Next year I will be fasted
safety precautions test a new way to toe the edge lit in dust cover zoom out calculating other routes
can’t withstand a solid summer the beach is ok once you try but I could get used to this rye in warm roast sand in the corridorthe toast grit sunshine machined time scene and sand in pocket I smelled the glitter only in place of dog is A Course on Miracles
The gears are producing opposing miracles
never to beach again so many drawings skinned the sand stranger than suits who are these creatures beaching another kind of cloth covering
cloud cover and shade too I had a genuine now an inventing moment home sand under a pocket hand in head in
kept in the deeper far out with stranger levers in my head in wave temperate in sky again in under the pocket sky swimming to Cambodia
these clouds in my mouth I can particular the salt chop deeper
party unit the hang tide alarmed shrill sand underfoot and the crash back in the region devoid of guarding only urban park ranger’s games for sun sand surf garbage I was served board complaints I am the particle rock the irritant sand in the scalp gendered sand when encountering rage stands by
breaking the boundary laws back on ground (I mean sand) but still shifting in space (water)
on wood ground more oak cups more mice summer visitorsdiscrete collapsible spine if the mouse can I want to/ocan’t I find the concrete to crevices Really the sand couldn’t stop me the sea glass the splinter wood toothe boards fled surf and I under sky must be way out there where is and back and form in the wave machine / invisible bones melting hard lines no particle now no boards participant-time under the volcanoand a helicopter private machine and I thought this helicopter just for me this helicopter search
found before registered search light quadruple sunset and the sunset comparison slides in two nights in two timeshares oldest landmark for prayer Javits centered Marketplace for the World eyes on the sun drop power pointed
Earlier in land marked services there are times when I fall off surface tension
I stood up too early I think me myself approaching concrete never reaching concrete I thought several times (because there were times for several thoughts) the shofar longevity the star team dispatched to find pyrite remnants particulared from the category sky burden of the perimeter g-d associations prefer another code system hidden values alter the personified sky
emerge represent forces to belong in vaguer termsI can’t talk about what I think I know, approaching concrete, never reaching concrete
I was enamored by the avocado ice and the strange pickledother percussives from small contained wood
Thad nun Tapestries at the far end of the monastery wallThe brutal murk sat, portend against the statuary’s fallI think of Stalin shattered, Hitler’s fallYou should’ve caught his legless sprawlChad ad noun: “`meek’ in `blessed are the meek’ is an ad-noun” –oh, I get it! I think.And where he fell, one might forever seek, empyrean to sinkAlong with Hitler’s call, unanswered, no one now, on whatever brink –A terza rima ruined in a blink! and boy does it stink!Within the burk of time, we’re all gone in a wink,Please save us like from the slime, Stephen Hawking,remember there’s no time sublime, let’s all keep talking!“the cursed obsequious and that their folly” like, when an adjective is nominalized!and then resurge the riverrun ‘s elsewhere, the world is cauterizedfirewise with redundant undulations, mark my wild surmise!ad-noun: “The shined of equal 3 paired your vision” impair my vision, three-person’d goad! what are you waiting for?and shattered, vision’s lost, four killers down. The dank moatreflecting only monstrous, bulbous, watery bloatwhile I and billions like me missed the boat,baiting, and then there’s more – we with love over hatred racing much havejoined embracing closed friends’ derision” oh may you be ever saved from such.(Which burns against revision’s ism, raved, and then there’s touch.)She left the house in pink stilettos and a fuschia clutch.A date with Stephen Hawking, going dutch.Nightshaded night’s sweet realms murk now left aubergine yam”alas, bright Hades sight! meet helms lurk, wow! bereft young Ondine’s ram’stusk! Suck’d down the intertext’s gory hole, madame!Both coddles seethed; she, left in the warrenhusk-clothed bodies breathed were bereft of the barrenresults of the Warren Commission, history’s repeating by and by,and bees pervading, invading a starry indoor dome-sky!Hurtle, bled mates cursed in song on beach! Bother Scylla’s mantissa’s glowed motes,mortal led hates pursued among each other’s ribald fantasies and low notes”And here again, the bloated body floats…Among the plasticined debris, endangered stoats –A hounded sitter’s word-horde gathered! A crow’s beak? Bother, brother of glowed girl!wounded fitter’s sword’s swart-slaughtered war’s bleak mother and mother-of-pearl”A sister’s as good as twelve four-eyed hounds with jaded collars all aswirl!Was Speer really good or evil damned, a murderous churl?“Sharp heightened, fathers descend in nacreous smoke-ringed shimmer”With harps sighted, bothered! Portend in cresote this unhinged glimmer!With blind wing’d harpies, descend on the smoky ones, asleep in their timor.East or west, the world is burning, friends,“heist daughters makes amends” thorn adnoun” and with a little cuddle thrown inMost daughters make amends, shorn and grown, a bit muddled, like brutal kin::and who would fault a rhyme that ends in fathers’ sin?with too much blood and gristle, the planet’s thistle crashed within?adnoun: mortal-led sitter’s “halo “th east bereft”> barefoot and bereft, but wearing a beret swearing and swimming today; they pray for prey empyrian, sinkbitter’s other”> greater than sour, than savory, than douras if flour made a difference with pi? three point one point four point carp!No pi for prisoners, round and round we go, waiting for the next harmonious blow –And Please defer the lyric as you would defend the harp!Oh Oedipus, to whom else can we now turn? within your narrative trainwreck we, all destitution, burn!“Tharp “theist mother”> Th’Adnoun descend”> what part of speech are you?armour amends”> amour demands paramours’ indecent descents, mortar’d,hurtled among the Alpine mountains where rulers go to pout, find themselves out,exhausted, the mad clown calls: How to live among the ruinsim/mortal’d > “th’Alpinic “th’eastern th’ology juices itself outexhausted, the ad-noun fallsinto itselfinto itselfinto itself
the dark tower humsthe dark tower comesthe text ends here, we’re dead, nothing comes to mind
Let me ruin it for you in sayingWhen bolts snap on your spine’s taser
Poetry pools in the outer, more angelic plume,Material numeral’s fluid firewall.
A gust juliennes my catsLeaving two fur chandeliers
Lit by future movements, sun’s installedAnd socket-shaken glare
Beating from bone’s mirror as thoughtEnters and exits its dock.
Their fresh event now whirs to that limitAround the room, twin atlas volumes
Read like flip books whose vile jellyWindows into paper guts—
We see through them but they’re still there, I’mSure as frost fakes your words
In other of Earth’s clawed curtains.At what hour should we call it night?
Pointing north and south, a reassembled freedom,Poetry’s architectural history grows
Fungal on the number one. I’d love to goDown facing stars, such mud.
The gathering environment told myContagion that these were friends.
Certain portals, happily, just hang around:
closed, they’re open:
hinged but limpid
the engravings just teem from their surfaces.
Yet one lusts for a material language.
Air as still as a sad suitor
who inwardly, alas, oscillates
before such portal, in the swollen interval of doubt.
Who sees none of those fluid but inalterable forms
spawned just there, swimming outwards.
Is it the Queen of Thought that is
maladroit, or are those your own rough renderings?
Mood caws, swift to project a wall.
A crow as black as tea leaves, but
it’s with hot tea that nature kneels to human action,
cups of porcelain fill with running life —
In which each ripple of light opens a door.
Like that sitting rock I’d rejoiced over.
Or that moist sapling delicately anchored
on the far-off hill.
And when it comes time to name
those manifold willows whose frail bodies
each weep differently, for a different sun,
all immense beneath the creeping curtain of fire,
Then from the marvelous river-banks
lifts a single silken bridge.
A white moth, this evening’s motif, hunts its mate
through orientalized labryinths of lace