I begged for tongues the way that I was taught—: hanala si ke andana—: whispered close. Was this the Holy Spirit that I sought?—: Bashful tongue drawing silence from my throat. Trinity lesson, clicked behind my teeth, Welling like memory I stood to receive There at the altar. Blood that flowed beneath Scripture an ocean gave me to believe. Atlantic, how you sing to me my own! Rhythm of roar and stillness, treasured still, Hushed in my marrow ] shut up in my bones! [ Less like a fire than crash and salt of will Preserving as the sunset breathes the sky, Parsing the wave’s lip pressed into a sigh....
meaning that the moon will pass over the sun and blank it out. in that moment the corona will appear to become brighter. it “appears” because it does not actually become brighter; it “appears” to be so in that moment grasses will whisper and the stars will turn red, blue, green and maybe even speak—what will they say? SETI will pick up a message from beyond newly discovered possibly planetary bodies. there will be a low beeping and crunching sound that seems to emanate from all over, but most likely from three blocks away where men are directing a bulldozer to tear up the street and it sounds so omnipresent, we were all talking about it this morning. it is small yet momentous, how molecules jostle one another to carry the sound of their jostling over often enormous distances. in that moment of eclipse the phone rings, have you seen it, are you seeing it, I finally understand what we’re doing, in this moment of glowing darkness I understand what I put in the water I drink the water and if together we are all getting hot we are making it hot and I must find my way to the water from the bed through all the squares of darkness and back again through treachery of light
“I would have gone back,” the voice full of shells, gravel, liquid washing stones, back meaning lost island or calendar, a thing rigged with bones unbending, unfolding past the hard symmetry of clocks, vertebrae of thought moving now in real time, home a word hollow as the bone of birds—tody, cling cling, gaulin, euphonia—“That dream was over.” Such oneiric geometry, “The Blue Room” built by Miles, his horn a grail from which you sup the saudade of marine might-have-been never-will-be, embouchure unthought, no better than Vidia for leaving. So we leave, skein of shadows, silent psalms for how our scourge was beauty, home; brightboys fleeing the estate for another on that other island, jolted by the freight of shame. Mas Hall, thanks for the company on the volte-face voyage, stingy-brim on which we sailed, migration of monarch butterflies. Landfall at Port of Avonmouth in a scene from Hardy, landfall at Tilbury Dock to step off the caravel in white gloves, stout ties, leave to remain vagrant. Lonely Oxonians together, oak hatch of the Bod we’d shade, then off to All Souls to cram for mods, toiling in Codrington we leaf through Thistlewood. And so we are marked. Is it Marx or Douglass with that beard? Bound to become Judas-Brutus, blood diamonds paid us in arrears to try the line of Hopkins, Auden, Eliot, Donne. Evensong at New Chapel to ease the medieval weight of failure in the refrain of white robes, one brown seraph alone: “O hear us when we cry to Thee for those in peril on the sea.” ’Gainst the towers most colored I feel, dear Stuart, in these duds, our hide, sub fusc aeternum. You grasp browning leaflets on the stump; O betraying beauty of brown: bankra, Barbancourt, Venetian ducats, dhalpuri, khaki, Gauguin. Remember the strange fog a night on Broad St. as if below Friedrich’s Wanderer? But, as you taught, who more Wanderer than we, the evicted on the victor’s turf, playing the past, loss a force centripetal? All praise to your mind a sextant, darklit as Diwali. You bless our kin severance. How I wish to forget your sister strapped to the sugar mill, charged with spoiling the color scheme: sedition. Ah, compay, even leaves of the croton sprout from our eyes. There is no going back. Thinking translucence you say, “Bend the stick,” different than Lenin or United Fruit. The rank of Bombay mangoes exceeds all migrations. The lignum vitae insists on itself. Navel string toughens to twine with the rhizome, portal in the ground.
—with Kara Springer’s “Repositioned Objects, I,” primer on wood.
Seems lak to me de stars don’t shine so bright, Seems lak to me de sun done loss his light, Seems lak to me der’s nothin’ goin’ right, Sence you went away. Seems lak to me de sky ain’t half so blue, Seems lak to me dat ev’ything wants you, Seems lak to me I don’t know what to do, Sence you went away. Seems lake to me dat ev’ything is wrong, Seems lak to me de day’s jes twice es long, Seems lak to me de bird’s forgot his song, Sence you went away. Seems lak to me I jes can’t he’p but sigh, Seems lak to me ma th’oat keeps gettin’ dry, Seems lak to me a tear stays in ma eye, Sence you went away.
O God, my dream! I dreamed that you were dead; Your mother hung above the couch and wept Whereon you lay all white, and garlanded With blooms of waxen whiteness. I had crept Up to your chamber-door, which stood ajar, And in the doorway watched you from afar, Nor dared advance to kiss your lips and brow. I had no part nor lot in you, as now; Death had not broken between us the old bar; Nor torn from out my heart the old, cold sense Of your misprision and my impotence.
Green pincushion proteas grow in my memory, swaying faintly in today’s wind. Memory snags me through the pink pincushions I bought this morning from the auntie in the doek by the Kwikspar who added a king protea to the bunch, all spikes and pins in reds and maroons, so regal that as a child I didn’t know they were alive and did not water them. My mother’s remembering remembers them into me. Do you remember, she asks, and then I do, green pincushion proteas this small? She slowly makes her fingers turn and bloom green flowers the size of large coins that we found here among the rocks and grey sand under tall trees unnameable in memory, reaching their roots into the house’s foundations, subtle threads stretching closer and closer. All tangles and snaggings and swayings, green pincushion proteas prick into my mind, thicken themselves stitch by stitch into a place that was not, but is again. The grey sand of memory now fervent with colour, green blooms clamber over the rockery and we, who did not know their beginnings, move them to another part of the garden, and they withdraw, and then withdraw from memory until now, a new species of green blossoming and unmoved. They died, she recalls. They don’t like their roots to be moved. Do you remember, she asks, and the green coins bud into the first bush long preceding us, and careless we wrench them from their original rocks and they die a little and then fully. Why did we move them to another place, we, who were removed to here? Do you remember, she asks.
3. (Jeong Seon’s Album of Mount Geumgang)
Jeong Seon began his career
in the low-ranking position
of adjunct professor
of administrative iconography.
Breaking with convention,
he diligently studied the birth of a brushstroke
by gazing at
the surviving itinerary of an unrealistic river, at the
rippling rapport of vegetation and rain.
He preferred to observe and preserve
the essential concerns of a superfluous calligraphy
and thus did not succeed
in his civil exams.
When he was thirty-six years old,
northern border of poetry and astronomy,
repeatedly painted a series of eccentric circles
and so gained access
to the crystal bridge
between ink and atmosphere.
His artist name became
Magistrate of Waterfalls, and
Jeong was said to have annotated
the nine-bend stream of time.
Analysis of Jeong’s preeminent painting,
The Four Horsemen at Big Dipper Pavilion
wished for figures in revolutionary mansions—
a remembrance external to its style.
is a spiked and turquoise perspective
and a diagonal
dismemberment of silk.
The painting was able to route
Jeong’s identity around
a dominant focal point, along wavy and uncertain patterns,
through environmental conditions of blue.
One can grasp
his aesthetics of juxtaposition
as long as one is covered in mist, or enriched
by hemp-fiber clouds, but
horizontally in the heart of the sea.
In Transmitting the Vertical Immensity of Coniferous Light, characteristic
of his more mature style,
Jeong’s command of a
rhythmically surging semicircle
evokes the overwhelming
how a higher philosophical plane could be
so astounded by the mundane.
Here, the twelve thousand pillars of basalt
do not overwhelm the composition;
rather, they commemorate
that sunrise is a landscape’s subsidiary entryway into the
verdant flow of the visible.
A yangban painter once
“According to where he sits, Jeong Seon
resembles a rugged jar-shaped diamond,
an arrangement of Mi dots,
or a panoramic dichotomy in detail.
Now at age seventy-two he is
much more than an amplification of the massiveness of soil.”
beautiful example of Jeong’s expansive style
is today known as
A Documentary Record of Aristocratic Time Travel,
the reinterpreted bodies
of a great-great-grandfather
and his great-great-grandchild
listening to the collision of dark energy.
Jeong’s strong lines here
impart a wide-angle awe
that connects the flow of inner color
to outer air, a sense that even hawks could survive
in our world
of dissimilar forms.
Literati writing under a predated nom de plume
compiled ninety-six poems about the painting
and published them in the Album of
By the time the colophon was written,
the appended poems
had been vicariously exaggerating
their own images
—as if they were looking
through the zoom lens of a camera
at a human eye.
And then smelling it, feeling it before the sound even reaches him, he kneels at cliff’s edge and for the first time, turns his head toward the now visible falls that gush over a quarter- mile of uplifted sheet- granite across the valley and he pauses, lowering his eyes for a moment, unable to withstand the tranquility—vast, unencumbered, terrifying, and primal. That naked river enthroned upon the massif altar, bowed cypresses congregating on both sides of sun-gleaming rock, a rip in the fabric of the ongoing forest from which rises— as he tries to stand, tottering, half- paralyzed—a shifting rainbow volatilized by ceaseless explosion.
Pauline Opango Onosamba Lumumba 1937–2014
When it is finally ours...this beautiful
and terrible thing...
—“Frederick Douglass” by Robert Hayden
we like to imagine that liberation comes in the natural order of things
carried on such fabled winds of change that
even in the heat of assassination
slaughter and awesome dying for right of millions, or
else some solitary
beautifully ordinary brother
cannot be missed or misconstrued
but there are so many added costs and taxes
as to trip us up quite easily
in all the clamor and bravura of this liberation business.
and then, of course,
the grief-stricken bared breasts of pauline lumumba—
no half-century long enough to bury
the blank and heavy forward-propelled pace
widow flanked on two sides by men
aching to protect her and she
already worlds beyond—
who among us looks on those breasts
and is not bowed?
beloved companion the letter begins
we are not alone
and history will one day have its say
how does one look into the frank, unstoried eyes of one’s child and say
we are not alone?
how does one address the letter that reads
whether i am free or in prison alive or already in death’s maw?
to what khakied and accursed postal worker falls the task of bearing
so hard and heavy final and unbearably dear a letter?
in what corner of
one’s dank and filthy cell is it written?
where do the flower petals of one’s springtime dress fall away to on receiving it?
and what is the weight of those hands, slim-fingered and otherwise empty
full now of driest air
coming slowly slowly
from neighboring forest and savanna?
when does the gnawing of marrow begin to tell
the ages-old story
of the death even of hope
when after everything
we are not alone?
month of the wolf
month of solemnities and annunciations
as good a beginning as any
january then surely was seasonable enough for death by torture by beating by
shooting by three adept and clearly necessary firing squads for three men already half-dead
fully bloodied from head to heels
orifices swollen to proud flesh ripe-red for the plucking
one at a time in a row from that tree
buried unburied dismembered doused with acid how
how many ways to kill
men whose ideals
clearly were that much more costly than
seasonable for mourning-time—
assassinating martyr-making widowmaking time of year
they liked in those brief months
they liked to report on your loveliness, didn’t they?
european press couldn’t get enough of you—
your slight waist and native grace
the pretty way you held the pretty child
how you held to the arm of the young hero-husband
so clearly perfectly patently marked both for victory and for early death
eyes wide with all the world could then imagine of vicious and
pretty young wife and mother become symbol become widow
to generation and to continents history and biographers—
nothing said of the shambled life from center to border
flight into egypt beyond and back again
death-startled children in tow.
what will they write in a single decade’s time of how
you yourself chose the warm tenth-month of
sacrifices and of minor feasts, lesser saints
fewer and requisite number of martyred virgins
told no one of your journey—
december and death in your own bed —
asleep alone as ever you were
leaving now fully alone continents grieving
contemplating now and forever, again
bared grief-flattened breasts
as at the inevitable and deliberate coming
of end times
On TV, someone is selling the idea of buying by way of a happy family by way of a cleaning product. I want—, I say. Then your mouth on my mouth. Your mouth on my belly. And then. I was never good at being a girl. All those hands made dirty work. Once, my grandmother scooped the Tennessee soil, put it in my mouth. It tasted true. I wanted more. In my steepled city steeped in song, I pitied that christian god his labor. He made marrow and astonishment of us. We made bludgeon of him, bland bread of his son. My neighbor used to be a missionary. Now he spends days painting a bird pecking at the eyeballs of a dead girl. In the painting, you can only see the bird. See how the artist probes the light so the feathers shimmer. Beautiful, the TV mother says to each guest as the house burns down. She sashays through the parlor, stopping to nibble on a stuffed mushroom, dab sweat from the brow of a dignitary. Everything is a metaphor until the body abuts it. Even then. Metaphor with blood. Metaphor with teeth. Metaphor with epinephrine. I name each blow desire. Look how your hand revises my form. Extraordinary ability. Prodigal child. You leave and take your weather with you. I take your language to polish my wound, but rarely do I dare to mean anything at all. A poem is evidence of nothing. You cannot prosecute with a poem. I thought your violence made me good. I thought your desire made me beautiful though the signs chirping wanted all had your face. Maybe you’ve named me innocent after living so long in my mouth. I, for one, always fall in love with the person holding the pen. What will you bring me when I tell you what I’ve done? Lobster, slant of light, doilied petition, blond girl playing scales on the violin? Oh, I will reach right through her. I will extract her best music.
Hand trembling towards hand; the amazing lights Of heart and eye. They stood on supreme heights. Ah, the delirious weeks of honeymoon! Soon they returned, and, after strange adventures, Settled at Balham by the end of June. Their money was in Can. Pacs. B. Debentures, And in Antofagastas. Still he went Cityward daily; still she did abide At home. And both were really quite content With work and social pleasures. Then they died. They left three children (besides George, who drank): The eldest Jane, who married Mr. Bell, William, the head-clerk in the County Bank, And Henry, a stock-broker, doing well.
If I had a million lives to live and a million deaths to die in a million humdrum worlds, I’d like to change my name and have a new house number to go by each and every time I died and started life all over again. I wouldn’t want the same name every time and the same old house number always, dying a million deaths, dying one by one a million times: —would you? or you? or you?
para mi abuela en la isla A hurricane destroyed your sense of home and all you wanted was to pack your bags in dead of night, still waving mental flags, forgetting the nation is a syndrome. All that’s left of the sea in you is foam, the coastline's broken voice and all its crags. You hear the governor admit some snags were hit, nada, mere blips in the biome, nothing that private equity can’t fix once speculators pour into San Juan to harvest the bad seed of an idea. She tells you Santa Clara in ’56 had nothing on the brutal San Ciprián, and yes, your abuela’s named María. Thoughts of Katrina and the Superdome, el Caribe mapped with blood and sandbags, displaced, diasporic, Spanglish hashtags, a phantom tab you keep on Google Chrome, days of hunger and dreams of honeycomb. Are souls reborn or worn thin like old rags? The locust tree still stands although it sags, austere sharks sequence the island’s genome and parrots squawk survival politics whose only power grid is the damp dawn. There is no other way, no panacea. Throw stuff at empire’s walls and see what sticks or tear down the walls you were standing on? Why don’t you run that question by María? Beyond the indigenous chromosome, your gut genealogy’s in chains and gags, paraded through the colonies’ main drags and left to die. So when you write your tome please note: each word must be a catacomb, must be a sepulcher and must be a cradle in some sort of aporía where bodies draw on song as guns are drawn, resilient, silent h in huracán. Your ache-song booms ashore. Ashé, María.
(from Negro Mountain)
Wolves came up the driveway and through the side yard of the old house—this was in kindergarten time—and I stood still though I was frightened to be in their midst and they took note of me but did not bite or threaten me. The light was light I had known—by then— having seen it in the hour before a thunderstorm: dull, bitter light, and everywhere though without apparent source. The wolves had ragged gray pelts—bad fur, tufts of it—and their hindquarters were skinny in comparison to their very big shoulders. They’d come in apparently from the street, Liscum Drive, and onto the property (which was nearly an acre and had once been a farmstead), and they parted around where I was standing. It was almost literally a wave of them, those wolves, as though they’d come up the hill from West Third Street or somehow got through the chain-link fence of the V.A. cemetery that traced the hill on Liscum Drive. A white friend wrote to me, the human figure passes through the animal pack unharmed. And she said that she saw the dream as being not about the wolves as much as passing through adversity, this exchange decades after the dream itself, which had been a thing of moment—visual, tinctured with obvious anxiety—and current in my memory for that time before the year she and I met. Make no mistake, dear and articulate friends, I knew it was an unstable moment. My thumbs were different, I’d seen, from one another. Beyond the driveway had been pear and walnut trees. One passes through a wood, or a track does. A dull feeling overtakes you in the field. There had been a gate at the driveway but only the posts remained, grown through by the hedges that stopped on either side of the entrance from the street. What do hills summarize? Origin stories? Right and left separated long before this. Bait me, love —I can pass until I speak.
Our “I”s. They are multiple. We shuffle them often as we like. They can tag us. We can untag ourselves. We’ve got our to-be-looked-at-ness oh we have got it. We peer and cross. Go lazy. We’re all girly. We’re pretty selfie. We write our poems. We write our manifestos. While sitting in the photo booth. While skipping down the street. We think: if only my camera could see me now. There is a tranquil lyric but we recollect emotion with the speed of the feed. We pose to show the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. There are no more countrysides. There are no more churchyards. We smudge our vistas. We flip the cam around. What is burning in our little hearts? Hashtags of interiority licking like flames. We had been reflective. We have been reflected.
from an inherited notebook (I) How many teeth does the snail have? tens of thousands upon the tongue. thousands those who fell loose from within my home. a flesh so soft so full of bite. I molar– EXCEPTION––you the fangs. (II) How many words does English have? tens of thous- ands & tens of thousands obsolete.–––EXCEPTION FOR you I earned –– a credential in what was said to break in the mo uth. (III) Who are the candid
entsates for president of the USA? contra. crisis. turning point: . نقطھ عطف on the contrary. ca da paso que das. civil. The ali en must establish–––.good ness. In good faith. in case you wonder. admissible. Marr red. marriage. EXCEPTION ––. I feel like––to:–– I’m in the mud to doing s. thing. an anniversary. flow. fire fourth of july. (IV) What happened at the how do you mean.–– all those days for mastery & yet money is–– EXCEPTION––. invisible & power. to make a living. for your teeth I ghost wrote a letter so that they would un derstand. every one fallen meant new ones that I would someday give to you. flow ship. restoration. what should i do if i want to continue.–– the future. what we take as return. precious common porcelain. (V) What color of the earth from out of it home is the faint brown of a martyr’s soil. bend your head before it. salat.––sal t. it is possible that––it is– is both? alien. citizen snail. IN GENERAL––. if it is holy then one must bend before its purity. like our flesh so soft. so full. so much for repair.
Three days into his wake my father has not risen. He remains encased in pine, hollowed- out, his body unsealed, organs harvested, then zippered shut like a purse. How strange to see one’s face inside a coffin. The son at my most peaceful. The father at his most peaceful. Not even the loud chorus of wailing family members can rid us of our sleep. My mother sits front center. Regal in black, her eyes sharpened as Cleopatra’s. Her children, grown and groaning, quietly moan beside a white copse of trumpeting flowers. The church is forested with immigrants, spent after their long journey to another country to die. Before the casket is to be closed, we all rise to bid our final farewells. My mother lowers herself, kisses the trinity of the forehead and cheeks, then motions her obedient children to follow. One by one my siblings hover, perch, and peck. I stand over my father as I had done on occasions of safe approach: in his sleep, or splayed like a crushed toad on the floor, drunk. I study him, planetary, distant presence both bodily and otherworldly, a deceptive kind of knowledge. His beauty has waned but not faded, face surface of a moon, not ours, I turn pale, shivering, I place my hand on his, amphibious. While my mother places her hand warm on the cradle of my back, where I bend to fit into my body. Her burning eyes speak, Do it for me, they urge, Kiss your father goodbye. I refuse.
The cataract whirling down the precipice, Elbows down rocks and, shouldering, thunders through. Roars, howls, and stifled murmurs never cease; Hell and its agonies seem hid below. Thick rolls the mist, that smokes and falls in dew; The trees and greenwood wear the deepest green. Horrible mysteries in the gulph stare through, Roars of a million tongues, and none knows what they mean.
Who would decry instruments— when grasses ever so fragile, provide strings stout enough for insect moods to glide up and down in glissandos of toes along wires or finger-tips on zithers— though the mere sounds be theirs, not ours— theirs, not ours, the first inspiration— discord without resolution— who would cry being loved, when even such tinkling comes of the loving?
No tears No tips No meters No nips [well mayb] No Lyft No Uber No 1-8 hundo But he do wanna kno How yu been? Where’d yu go? & yu kno yu best talk harder 2 pin his desire Even tho we didn’t start the fire yu wait 4 the punchlite The lines of blinker Yu ask of Mom & Dad & late nite D sires—dimes o’ lite Till so close yu must b Southwest Delta American Air lines Here here is gud don’t worry So he pop the hood & yu roll in Left ‘em full gud on the queerer questions of queer kin -ship What danger cost 2 much patron saint of patrón? Pain 2 paper alchemy? Skycap’n of the pitiful sellin’ out damn spot!? My politic ain’t got a pot dealer 2 piss off I’m peppery—I’m emphatic as an amphetamine Can’t cut myself out of me in2 the blank holes of nite The whole pre-fires The whole —Okay okay I started the firelol boring in2 the air via port Bony-ass horizon I’m drug poor I pay my way
(the passports curled up) (it was so humid in our rented room) (travel to forget the criminal element) (in my bad blood) (Nothing very significant at the cemetery) (an unremarkable lunch salad) (The thrift shop closed six months ago) ((We lit candles for a man who died) (rusted cellar grate)) (near to home) (I was afraid (and I made my friend afraid too)) (another woman altogether said they may be (murderers)) ((I'm more worried about) being backed over by construction vehicles) (in other places) (I do pray for my family's safety) (mother says it isn't working)
imagine your heart is just a ball you learned to dribble up and down the length of your driveway back home. slow down control it. plant your feet in the soft blue of your mat and release it is hard but slowly you are unlearning the shallow pant of your childhood. extend your body—do not reach for someone but something fixed and fleshless and certain— fold flatten then lift your head like a cobra sure of the sun waiting and ready to caress the chill from its scales. inhale—try not to remember how desperate you’ve been for touch—yes ignore it—that hitch of your heart you got from mornings you woke to find momma hysterical or gone. try to give up the certainty she’d never return recall only the return and not its coldness. imagine her arms wide to receive you imagine you are not a thing that needs escaping. it is hard and though at times you are sure you will always be the abandoned girl trying to abandon herself push up arch deep into your back exhale and remember— when it is too late to pray the end of the flood we pray instead to survive it.
Dichroic. Glass: half-empty, half-full. As in my paperwork glowered; my paperweight glowed. A hard drive. Backing up. By the hour. We cannot be bought. But, we flower.
Flour to coat the bottom of a pan. Sometimes a moment, I understand! A window. Light. Diachronic. Glass: mourning, This, too, shall pass.
But my loyalty points—my purchasing power. Nothing. But my economies of scale, my digital compression :: companionship. But my all- you-can-eat loneliness, my rail- rapid integration. But my market- driven love handles, my accrued vacancy. But my taste in artisanal bootstrapism. But my choice of protein, of pit-baked avarice, of indulgences. [CHURCH collects as does CAESAR.] But my supply side floods, my O’ so buoyant home staked and sandbagged on striving’s pebbly shore. But my internal combustion, my miles, my carcinogenic Kingdom Come. Nothing. But my fast casual history—every morsel wrapped in a bank notes’ blood-sketched hagiography. But my user-friendly righteousness, my Gross Domestic Amnesia. [In place of the old wants … we finds new wants.] But my comfort, my tariffed aches, my engorged prerogatives. [I made this money, you didn’t. Right, Ted?] But my ability to believe that what I’ve paid for, I have made. Nothing to lose, except ownership of this wallet-sized tomb— these six crisp walls.
Fearless riders of the gale, In your bleak eyes is the memory Of sinking ships: Desire, unsatisfied, Droops from your wings. You lie at dusk In the sea’s ebbing cradles, Unresponsive to its mood; Or hover and swoop, Snatching your food and rising again, Greedy, Unthinking. You veer and steer your callous course, Unloved of other birds; And in your soulless cry Is the mocking echo Of woman’s weeping in the night.
Under Mirabeau Bridge the river slips away And lovers Must I be reminded Joy came always after pain The night is a clock chiming The days go by not I We're face to face and hand in hand While under the bridges Of embrace expire Eternal tired tidal eyes The night is a clock chiming The days go by not I Love elapses like the river Love goes by Poor life is indolent And expectation always violent The night is a clock chiming The days go by not I The days and equally the weeks elapse The past remains the past Love remains lost Under Mirabeau Bridge the river slips away The night is a clock chiming The days go by not I
Shiitake, velvet foot, hen of the woods, wood ear, cloud ear, slippery jack, brown wreaths of Polish borowik dried and hanging in the stalls of a Krakow market—all these were years away from the room where I lay once, studying the contours of your sex as if it were some subterranean species I’d never encounter again. Because I hadn’t yet tasted oyster—not even portobello— when I thought mushroom, I meant the common white or button, the ones my mother bought for salads or served in butter beside my father’s steak. First taste of love, or toxic look-alike, there was your stalk and cap, the earth and dark, our hunger, wonder, and need. Even now, I can’t identify exactly what we were, or why, some twenty years later, learning you lay dying—were in fact already dead, suspended by machines if not belief—I thought first of your living flesh, the size and shape of you. My amanita phalloides, that room was to exist forever, as a field guide or mossy path, even if as we foraged, we did not once look back.
Did not but didn’t not or did not not did? Woke up a rando hour in that ol’ double-bind of suspicions of activity (didn’t not did, did not’d). No sich thang ez reppytishun. Didn’t not not’d no such thing as. Only insistence, amplification of. Rigor, please!—I’ve been in a steady residency studying doing sans getting done (-) in. When abroad for the conference RE: conspiratorial unsuspicious activity, I insisted our syncopated metrics tender on the International Measure Exchange. To the registration: “Our data tight AF, Boo-Boo; toot sweet with my tote bag,” my lanyard swang Jesus piecey as I crooked bootied to the keynote. I sat in the not doing of doing what I did not. By&by came Q&A, I Q’ed: “can self-disciplined inactivity be considered inactivity as the disciplining of the self is a praxis and—.” In come Security a rented roughshod, all There they are, misconjugating where I stood. I stayed to rephrase my Q. I believed this a discourse. Security fixed to quantize my “offed” conduct with they copse of batons. I was a present ruckus, recused for actively inactivating me by vice and versa. This collabo took the discipline to the next level!
Turns out lots of lines prove blurry I once thought sharp. Some blur from further away, some from closer in. Plant/animal, for instance. On which side, and why, the sessile polyps, corals and sea anemones? Same problem saying why my self must be internal. Where do I see those finches glinting at the feeder? To experience the is-ness of what is, I’d need to locate the here-ness of what’s here. Or be located by it. Or share location with it. There’s a line I want to blur: between my senses and my self. And another: between my senses and the world. That anemone looks more like a lily than an appaloosa. Looks, and acts. I feel that fizz of finches sparkle on my tongue, the back of my throat. I don’t say these words until I hear them. My voice visits. Is visitation. I would choose the role of visitor over visited, if I got to choose. Those finches trill and warble in sequences of phrases. I can tell there’s pattern, but not what the pattern is. I can say I hear them (I do hear them) in my sleep, but I can’t say what that means. Their twitters and chirps start early, before I wake. I can say they chatter all day (they do), when I’m hearing them and when I’m not, but I can’t say how I know that. The back of my hand always feels as if it’s just been lightly touched.
Sometimes you don’t die
when you’re supposed to
& now I have a choice
repair a world or build
a new one inside my body
a white door opens
into a place queerly brimming
gold light so velvet-gold
it is like the world
when I call out
all my friends are there
everyone we love
is still alive gathered
at the lakeside
my honeyed kin
beneath the sky
a garden blue stalks
white buds the moon’s
marble glow the fire
distant & flickering
the body whole bright-
with the hours
of the day beautiful
nameless planet. Oh
friends, my friends—
bloom how you must, wild
until we are free.
When the dead return they will come to you in dream and in waking, will be the bird knocking, knocking against glass, seeking a way in, will masquerade as the wind, its voice made audible by the tongues of leaves, greedily lapping, as the waves’ self-made fugue is a turning and returning, the dead will not then nor ever again desert you, their unrest will be the coat cloaking you, the farther you journey from them the more that distance will maw in you, time and place gulching when the dead return to demand accounting, wanting and wanting and wanting everything you have to give and nothing will quench or unhunger them as they take all you make as offering. Then tell you to begin again.