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Kathleen Ossip

Kathleen Ossip is the author of The Do-Over (Sarabande Books, 2015). She teaches at The New School and lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

By This Poet


The Cold War [excerpt]

                                             Craft is a synthesis: thought in the service of
                                             understanding. Think hard in order to open to
                                             understanding: that is craft

K. was hungrily made.

K. is an American creation.

K. cannot recommend realism.

K. cannot recommend surrealism.

K. cannot recommend plain speech.

K. cannot recommend free association.

K. can recommend song:

      The tug of the past.
      Don't let go so fast
      of what you're haunted by—
      It'll last till it lasts.

                                 The former things                      pass away

Craft will take us through this wood.

"I'm afraid of death"

I’m afraid of death
because it inflates
the definition
of what a person
is, or love, until
they become the same,
love, the beloved,

I’m afraid of death
because it invents
a different kind of
time, a stopped clock
that can’t be reset,
only repurchased,
an antiquity.

I’m afraid of death,
the magician who
makes vanish and who
makes odd things appear
in odd places—your
name engraves itself
on a stranger’s chest
in letters of char.

Your Ardor

To dream of your ardor
is much joy and much happiness.
Your ardor tells me that
I am making a mistake
by not taking hold of what
is offered to me.

What I mean when I say
“your ardor” is stenciled on
the air that surrounds
your big face. The force
of your ardor pushes strangely.

All that matters now
is your ardor. It solves
a most formidable equation.
How old is your ardor?
I think it was born when
it met me.

You should heed your ardor.
It will scoop you out, little melon:

       Your ardor as good as its master
       Your ardor tomorrow and your ardor yesterday
       Your ardor in January
       Your ardor dripping sharp as vinegar
       Your ardor dripping pale as ashes
       Your ardor with its quick reply
       Your ardor and your hot hard argument
       Your ardor with a hatchet
       Your ardor
       Your ardor drinking and talking
       Your ardor local and authentic
       Your ardor of lost fame
       Your ardor that hits the button and initiates
       Your ardor stronger than your pride
       Your ardor in squalor
       Your ardor that squeaks
       Your ardor that spends and spends

Your pen is my lure.
Your ardor my wire.

The night your ardor first beset me I cried
“Zyer! Oh, zyer!”
Who cares what I meant.
I don’t retain facts.
We hate facts, don’t we, they never did a thing for us.

Behind the screen of your ardor
lies the globe of the Earth
above which the eagle can be seen
soaring up toward the sun, which
has my face. It grins high in the purple sky.
On either side stand two allegorical figures,
the Way of Virtue and the Way of Vice.

Your ardor comes on like a pun,
making the most of
all possible significances.

Your ardor so close now to my ardor.
Our ardors twitch, so sensitive to control.
I just want your ardor to have fun in there!
What next, what next, oh ardors?

Here it is.
Here’s what we call the Red Spot.