after reading you so, i've decided some things. you have won my love with your lily mud, your muskrats and birdstart, your weight of lake water. the granite pail grace of words you tumble down the page like stone-skipping, outflow flood, or like pouring your eyes out into folded, and i am cranberry bush, cupped paper palms waiting.
your pressure-pump is water-bird and i drew a small heart near that. and your father's trees and your mother's ropes and the road are what you know. you talk about the plumbing. about the oven. fishpole & leafbloom. that beautiful poem last (about louis?) that dwindles in everything~ down and down until it's nothing or mine.
red mars / rising
i'm writing this in a letter because how can i not. it's the only rightly quiet thing to do, me & you.
what to do, watching the birds.
i was in the grass with the book and i kept writing things like alliteration. and slant-rhyme. and "sound"."sound"."sound". there was sun and a swirl of film-thin clouds and writing those sorts of things makes me tired. my toes sifting pine needles i wanted to write about "she who knew boats and ropes". i want to write "you have been on my mind / between my toes / agate" or "leafing towards you / in this dark / deciduous hall". i could write "Rock = Blood / Nature = Body / Body = Compost?" i could write, "
sound. pace." or "image & sound." but i want to
write everything else, your "sweet cedar pink", the "July, waxwings" and "the little / thin things /
paul". i want to write "spoon-tapped water glass", a "strawberry
letter" and "you weed / you pea-blossom weed / in a folk / field". i
want to write that your heart was flooded and you measured it out in
thimblefuls, careful, spelling out in pinches, dashes, delicate as to not spill
any excess on the page. that you were wedded to the worms and the water in the
maybe you held the papers there by their trees, in the light. maybe you were content or lonesome. maybe you saw yourself only as a reflection in a lake. silver minnows, sharp and swallows darting in your eyes.
the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named
(e.g., cuckoo, sizzle).
• the use of such words for rhetorical effect
onomatopoetic, ey, i don't know how to say that. do you? the pronunciation doesn't translate fonts. it's written in the right font of Gertrude or Marisa, the wrong font of everyone knows this strange word and you can't remember it what's the matter with you, but i'm pasting it for us into my crumpled scrap paper-bit basket in the small font of pearl-flowered, your maples to swing from / pewee glissando / sublime / slime / song. you can hold me at the distance of an arm, or a pond, or a thick winter window patterned with frost, keep me there evenly, even with your I but the sound smoothes out the reaches, pull us together like a bent green branch. a pine bough. the handle for a basket. "Get a load / of April's / fabulous / / frog rattle / lowland freight cars / in the night".
wandering in your head, wondering your island, your blood-heart rustles like leaves.
"descending scale / tear-drop-tittle / did she giggle / as a girl?"
( took a lifetime
as a girl, i found a picture of you dressed up like Pocahontas. you had two thick blonde braids with ends jagged as horse-tails, shimmery twisted like the surface of a lake from underwater. you stood there, timeless on your island, laughing in black and white with the big grey sky behind you. caught in that catching a moment, like a fish. "if in danger, run," you say in silence of smiling, "to the woods."
Pound's definition of the image was "that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time." Pound defined the tenets of Imagist poetry as:
I. Direct treatment of the "thing," whether subjective or objective.
II. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
III. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not
in sequence of the metronome.
pale and sharp, my pencil in the margin. your reflections reflected in musings down the page.
a glossy blade of grass, split.
my life by water
i've wasted my life in water, you said
i've spent my life on nothing
my life is hung up / in the flood
( "the solitary plover / a pencil / for a wing-bone" )
quiet in isolation. quiet because some seasons shift in silence. quiet like island are quiet. like the mud and collected fallen-things at the bottom of a lake are quiet. quiet like an old faded painting of yourself with bare trees and water behind you. quiet in lines dangled in space, like watching fish faint submarine back & forth between the murk and surface of the pond, "lilacs, vacant lots," your white the gulls / in grey weather, your pouring wine over cabbage. lakewater lap and leaf rustle. hold your pencil like a reed, a wand. wait for letters, weather, hush.
Sleep on horseback,
The far moon in a continuing dream,
Steam of roasting tea.
In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
"I learned / to sit at desk / and condense" you said. condensing moments to their essentials, push your pencil at the essence of a moment – like a secret – taking a moment and unlocking it like the flat door of a box – looking to see the particular shape of its heart. letting out a little, the breath of it. breathing. the breath of birds filling in the white space that surrounds you. an antique looking-glass on the dresser. a lunar moth hidden in plain sight on a doorframe.
autobiography of voice or stitched together like:
my mother, thorn apple bush
my father catalpa tree
I rose from marsh mud
I'm swamp / as against a large pine-spread
raped by the dry
a weedy speech / a marshy retainer
a wave-blurred portrait
sit for two months on six lines / of poetry
I was job-certified / to rake leaves
something in the water
like a flower
in blood the minerals
of the rock
Water lily mud
"...deciding what's interesting is about as subjective as things get...Here, for me, is the last word on interesting, from a short story by Abigail Thomas:
My mother's first criterion for a man is that he be interesting. What this really means is that he be able to appreciate my mother, whose jokes hinge on some grammatical subtlety or a working knowledge of higher mathematics. You get the picture. Robbie is about as interesting as a pair of red high-top Converse sneakers. But Robbie points to the mattress on the floor. He grins, slowly unbuckling his belt, drops his jeans. "Lie down," says Robbie.
This is interesting enough for me."
- from Bird by Bird ("Character" chapter), by the inimitable Anne Lamott
when he breaks your heart, you will read everything lorrie moore ever wrote. and lydia davis. you will only cry at the happy parts.
you won't be able to stomach music at first. none of it. there will be too many sounds suggesting too much. eventually you will try to return to it ("he can't have music," you'll say out loud to yourself, wobbling across your new living room, "it doesn't belong to him.") but even the stupid songs will remind you and you'll keep shutting it off.
when he breaks you, you won't eat for 48 hours. then a week. then a month. you will be as hollow as a conch shell with the distant impossible sea inside. nobody will press their ear to your body so nobody will know.
"you're breaking our life," you'll say when he breaks it. "why are you breaking our life?" he always looked so tired, you'll remember. his memory yawns, languidly, shrugs, and putters out.
leaf-rustle and dried fern a ball sits abandoned in tall grass bleach-lit by a star
autumn seeps up from the corners of august as dried roses dirt patch flight of crows invisibly tidal
birds are who birds are meant to be
all the spirits of maple the spirits of morning of backyards telephone wire sky set belly full of living seeds
we watch them sit are patient are waiting for what to leap for summer poppy daisy hibiscus we are
moss-crawl of memories over stone seep sudden or tender
if my tongue catches in my mouth like a latch
if swallows twist down the horizon like
if i watch walls waiting for you
the scene on my shield will survive me. i am growing a good army in the center of
my chest. i am trying to shine
my heart open.
is this where we came from? all of us? this war story love story
second story window staring?
i need to know some things.
1. do our memories make love behind us and make new ones
2. the color of the spaces between bodies (mine, yours)
3. the nuance of weather (effects on reading, looking, interior sound)
4. feral animals (tracking)
5. how to squelch worry
my mother had an imaginary friend named Worry who lived in one of my grandmother’s pink plastic curlers. this is my lineage. this is the plant i flower from. if you need more context, look in your own grandmother’s mirror. notice how she is curled along the odd color mapping the ring of your eye, flecking outward.
the definition doesn’t count. we reimagine language in order to communicate.
we unhook our tongues from their closures and look inside.
squelch |skwel ch |
verb [ intrans. ]
make a soft sucking sound such as that made by walking heavily through mud : bedraggled, we squelched across the wet grass to seek shelter.
• [ trans.] informal - forcefully silence or suppress : property developers tried to squelch public protest.
1 a soft sucking sound made when pressure is applied to liquid or mud : the squelch of their feet.
2 (also squelch circuit) Electronics - a circuit that suppresses the output of a radio receiver if the signal strength falls below a certain level.
ORIGIN early 17th cent. (originally denoting a heavy crush, a fall on to something soft): imitative.
we don’t, but we want to.
undoing and being the mistress of my own undoing, a tie that un-binds, what does that mean? i sniffle myself awake, my room is filled with pollen from having left the trapdoor open in the night, where someone snuck in and unraveled something.
a glutton for contraband correspondence, i dispatch a small rebel-band of words, tiptoe, mousetrack, prayer-flags waving, something sweet and swollen with mischief, inching its way under the fence. pick-pocketed; a parley in the garden. exposition of our brewing coalescence.
how about i'll smuggle something and you smuggle something, and we'll trade.
jars and jars of stolen flowers, i keep coming across. sailing my little boat down the channel between our windows, the blocks that keep us wondering. so far i've only been collecting Devil's Paintbrush, alias: (ORIGIN late Middle English : from Latin, ‘at another time, otherwise.’) Butterfly Weed, Chiggerflower, Fluxroot, Paintbrush, Posy, Orange Milkweed, Yellow Milkweed, Swallow-wort, Windroot--
so far also the memory of lilac. so far a chigger is a tiny mite who lives on or under the skin of a warm-blooded animal. so far always lilac for how it stirs up the middle of something, aching of innocence, abandon. how do you recall a smell?
scent-memory of flowers, a most important kind of memory. probably symbolic of dangling. re-collecting the scent of a someone, or a season you misplaced so many years back: leaf pile, bruised apple on the floor of the orchard. sharp way the sun smells in late october, a wooly elbow smell, a crisping between branches and their long shadows, looming taller as the sun dips down into four o'clock mountains. against twilight, the mountains turn purple. smell a cold starburst. last leaf smitten to its tree in a brilliance of crimson, preparing to fall.
i have a problem.
i'm pretty sure i was an animal in my most recent life. i'm not sure how to be in this one. big eyes filled with new blue moon or water, my blood swimming, ceaseless migration. my delicate drape of veins a netting, a webbing, a cradle. my clear heart hot, a bell jar for a lightening bolt.
here's the thing:
exposition |ekspə'zi sh ən|
music. the part of a movement, especially in a sonata, in which the principal themes are first presented.
the title of my musical seems to be reasons for reaching or, trying not to get carried away, or i have a problem. here's the thing: when you look at me i see water, lapping at a dock, or a canoe, or a blueberry bush. been around forever. i'm trying not to see things i'm not supposed to. i'm trying not to imagine too far under, but the set smells familiar, can't help it. i hide a sneak of honeysuckle. i'm tiptoe, magpie. something under the skin. pirate on a life-boat, castaway extra. before i go, step into the light. tell me your name again, like we only just met.
stand up straight, and let me get a look at you.
a classical composition for an instrumental soloist.
"Hope and Memory have one daughter and her name is Art, and she has built her dwelling far from the desperate field where men hand out their garments upon forked boughs to be banners of battle. O beloved daughter of Hope and Memory, be with me for a little."
~ William Butler Yeats
from The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore
~ William Butler Yeats
from The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore
the soft white buried sprout, the clock in which time sits like a prisoner, which time sits here like. you found a path, so followed it. for every moment, you are the moment doubled.
you were struck by a lightening of words, and wanted to say everything. being the architect of your own seraphic collapse, you risk tearing the pages when you turn them. i am growing from the ground up. sapling, whereabout, a few living blossoms. we understand each other.
when you are sleeping, you are able to stand outside logic. or you sit inside a different validity, at least, lay your head inside a book and recite its scenery like psalmody, your yawning forest a silhouette of becoming lost. landscape rotates on an internal axis, your sugared mountains pulsing an edge, lung-colored, illegible, shaped like the inside of a dark idea. when you open your mouth, what flies out?
only as long as we have no history, we look backward, pluck a bewildered wildflower and wait. in this way we document the moment, in this way we stand inside of it, pushing our breath at its edges that separate us from so many sleeping others. we escape hours, glint, shifting, sifted like salt through the gaps in our warm grasp of fingers.
you say home and point away, beyond the surface of the window. you try not to be a dangle of barnacles. you try not to be trapped in water. the gentle neck of your old map is bent, a fog gathers in the valley between mountains, and the mountains breathe in and out with the supposition of dreamers, clouding your feathered bed with the coming of morning.
haunting your heart whole, your voice rises in silence with roses and mud. this is how you challenge the shadow of the bridge, water-shaped, pennyweight. hybrid wild daffodils leap up from the ginger indents of your apricot feet, looking, seedling, the soft ground where you fashion a path. hollow and lucid, your eyes filled with spilling, cracked open like eggs. this is how you learn. this is how you are loving yourself loveless.
unscrolling history, you sift your dream for reasons. i carry photos of my absences, fashion them in a flower with bright lemon petals and a green tunnel for a stem. wave it at the sparkling skyline like a weapon. "how will you begin?" you asked, before now. my belly is a botanical garden, i said, a goldfish fountain for lost coins, glinting in some underwater nowhere. sometimes one wish at a time, and sometimes all of them at once.
your body is like making a pathway through the forest. you sing a ladder down and climb inside. time is heavy but we weigh the same in feathers. against the backdrop of sunrise, pine bough's needled silhouettes edged in light frost like powdered sugar, a dusting of pollen, how coral release their eggs into a warm current. you lust for warm mornings, long to leave the window open, stand on one foot at the threshold of summer, wearing your nightgown like thin milk, like an aura of all lost things soft and dried, rippling on the line of recollection.
you can't cut water, your insides blossoming, bolting, dropping seeds. your body shifts through seasons with the moon and the tides. if you drink enough rain, straight from the tap of the sky, will something flower? my belly is a dreaming city, you say, a wet architecture of gardens, i sleep near a sinkhole to somewhere else. in dream, i plant the seeds that fall. in autumn, i watch them go under where i wait all winter, clean and quiet, holding my breath.
words can't accomplish your wanderings. you put it in quotations. apples blush when you walk by, your mouth watering. both before you and behind you is listening to snow falling at night. you look away, hiding your smile, becoming a closet with two doors, two voices on a page. i wonder how different it is to learn something when you're only sugar and skin, lacking the words to learn it with.
prayer-flag for a new image, you come from the hills, you spout long vowels into the breath of the city, trim the tall wind like so many ghosts of dandelions, bluebirds, your mouth makes an empty shape of kissing. i go through your long words and find replacements in another language, bending my mouth to imagine. through with asking, we spit our small, old ghosts onto a lingering slipstream. watch them loop up in flutter like bright flowers gone to seed, dreaming the hollow of warmth between us.
you collect my voice in scraps like newspaper cuttings. brightly cut grasses a disarray of dialogue, our flimsy history riddled through with soft holes in speech where we pull apart like wet paper. my gray-haired words, each for all their limping, make it across the gully between us later, heaving bright-eyed like elephants to the other side of an hourglass. as breathless and dumb and beaming as stars.
you hold on to your idea of affection like an ancient rainy sidewalk book. hard covers closed, threadbare at the corners. you consult it later, flipping pages like copper coins in the warm cup of your palms, one so worn you can't tell a face from a building. eyes from architecture, you look out like you're looking out a window, raindrops smear me like a city that fills the distance between us, pulling the sky down with gravity, boundless, unapologetic.
you sing, you read, you listen, you look. you rearrange the pieces, little water-filled jars of stolen flowers, a heavy copper heart, a poem about birds, framed and faded. photo of a moveable city with all her drawbridges lifted like the trumpeting trunks of elephants. a miniature canon. a cut piece of garnet, violet in the dim desk-light. in the window, a glass bird, so blue when the sun shines through at dawn, as if you were afloat beneath a glacier, some oceanic dream, a return, a charm for lost days found, you make a connection by color and something lights up, you move on. you tie yourself to what becomes untied, listening for cracks. it's your way of being in the world.
motionless and unnamed, perched in your birdless aviary, a lofty idea freezes on a branch-tip, hangs there in an icy dangle. your feet grumble along the ice, long for friction to keep from a slip. you clutch a flush cloud high above the clothesline, trying to lift. your fists curled in tight, bright knotted petals like roses, knuckles stuck out make a mountain range, hard bounds of bone cold against a frosting of yellows and blues, our flesh-tinged peaches of morning.
rain pools and pushes you to abstraction, like evening does. all your specific boundaries blur, edges of unlike things rub together like stray cats, rub the city skyline new and sparkling. this is an analeptic drink for dreaming. a teaspoon filled to spilling with rainsounds when they hit the window, reflect everything falling at once. even our breath in and out, and the words that linger there and what they hold. permeable vessels with no tops or bottoms. i hold the teaspoon out the window, reach past a stormcloud to pull a star down, drop it into the spoon before i drink it to feel it spark on my tongue like a broken memory, then fizzle out.
by what lost reason you bend your steps, by what gnarled footpath through what forest, alive with listening. i'm here. in this moment, in this, one cupboard of your story, my body displaced by a medicinal dream. the walls of the forest make a drape around your singing limbs, conceal you from all else under a snap of twigs and dried leaves. stray feathers are a black flip indigo in a broken shaft of sun sinking. you make up so much when you're asleep, you want to say, your mouth with its edges like damp paper, soft and blank and folded, without the words to leap from, your lips having lost them for not looking.
your body is a living apothecary shop. in the city of lost steps, you stand on a corner squinting into my sun's pink plummet. a breeze dips in from the mountain, some dark fold swings open, and little jars fill you. half-empty with bright sprigs and tinctures, hidden elixirs, you weather a botanical dream tucked against the roots of your chest, despite your lack of light. when i ask you what you have for being lost, either impetus or antidote, you look at me with a last glint of your snowy somewhere falling through your eyes, like pearls slide off a string into a glass of water. you turn back toward the horizon, saying nothing, having dissolved your voice in my jar of words.
trickled ceremonial of daylight through cypress, knotted arms that reach away in one direction. on one budding branch, a solitary bird perches, to swallow the seeds of an imaginary flower. real petals pale, falling around your feet, you take a deep path over the old wooden footbridge, you move under a cloak of leaves, become a breath beneath the canopy, your departure sealed by a sediment of ghosts. this old bridge is the shape of your heart, this path the shape of my body, crossing it. this is our moon shot, starboard, impossible bottle, history of a myth system listing to port. this is where we linger, in a slippery drift, where you look and i look where we close my eyes looking, where the starfall glints silver, where we all become water, where water becomes a cloud becomes a dream, which the star-bellied bird, leaning high on the horizon, displaces.
it may be your nimble sense of smell that makes me a mountain, that troubles the electric space between us. where your eyes reach for the folds of my body, which is getting smaller as it gets colder, as the world turns its long face toward winter.
“what does it mean,” i said, “thick as thieves? i mean, what would you think if i said that?” you were bent in half at our translucent door, clumsily, squinting through a keyhole into everything you ever wanted.
“well, since you put it that way,” you mumbled, your face pressed up against the edge, the hard, clear boundary of the way in, or out, depending.
we were both quiet. me on one side, you on the other.
“i’m hungry,” i said. i leaned against the door like a lampshade. my heart was growling like a lawnmower. you moved aside like a pile of leaves, so it could growl around them. we were mulch-making. my good idea burst like a bulb, some smoke wafting from its charred socket. you looked at me with a long, green lawn in your eyes.
“it’s autumn,” you said. the leaves on the lawn said. your voice wanted to clink against my lips like a teaspoon at a glass. like we were making a toast. “it’s the end of something,” you said, “and the start of something else.” i wondered if your back would stay that way, bent. it wasn’t good. even though you’re so much taller, we were equally matched. we were standing on a level.
“i can’t,” i said. i was afraid of the words in my mouth. “i don’t know what to want.” it wasn’t going down right. i tried to sip it but gulped instead. hard swallow. something swooped. another petal fell. my belly felt sick inside, like i’d eaten too many sweets, or was about to.
you shook your head, but fixed me with the eyes. i watched you straighten out, then start to tip the other way. wish-heavy, that small seed growing something strange and wild in the thickets of your ribs. you couldn’t keep your balance. you wanted to stretch yourself over the mountain for me like a peppermint taffy.
you were bending over backwards.
my inside clock fluttered, then puttered and stuttered and stopped. you wanted me to pull a secret chain, to unwind us like a soft ball of yarn. the sky flashed a rosy golden. i mean, my cheeks did. my sticky heart. i started back up.
“what does it mean?” i said.
you tried to see past me. you couldn’t. thick as thieves; you didn’t know. you tried to see through me.
“no,” you said, “i didn’t.”
“WHAT DOES IT MEAN,” i hollered into the frozen hinge. it smelled like iron. too many irons. that cold metallic. nothing you’d want in your mouth. just in case your tongue got stuck. just in case your tongue got stuck.
“i didn’t,” you said. “i’m sorry.” a piece of paper slipped under the crack. a draft. a cold draft wafted against my feet, then up my leg, then up my skirt. your hands must have been freezing.
i unfolded the paper, careful not to slice anything.
“(As) Thick as thieves,” i read, “Informal. (Of two or more people): Very close or friendly; sharing secrets.” i groaned. i had a headache. i pressed my fingertips into my forehead like i was testing it for ripeness. all my soft places went belly-up, sighing. throwing me back, back, back to the beginning. a broken record. old love tunes, lullabies, church hymns. spells, curses. rebel anthems. war songs. all skipping together on a path to nowhere.
“Old English thicce, of Germanic origin,” you said, your voice muffled with all its upset pressing, “related to Dutch dik and German dick.”
“dick?” i said, “you can’t be serious.”
“no,” you said, “i can’t be.”
the door groaned under the weight of us both leaning our foreheads on it from opposite sides. you were heads, and i was tails, i thought. you were so much taller, and i was always tails. everyone would tell you to get out. that it was all in your--where is that, exactly? we were like mountains poking up above the shift of the weather. you cut to a sudden silence, like books do when our eyes startle away from them. i looked out the window, saw a bruise-colored cloud chase a cloud-colored cloud like a cat chasing its tail, saw the whole sweeping world as the negative space around us. maybe you are heads, i thought, and i am clouds.
“maybe you are,” you said. you sounded hollow, almost over it, your voice’s leaves crisping on the long, dark tree of your throat. this is where the root rots, i thought. this is why we can’t move without making sound. you nodded, sorry, soundless, and were gone.
a cordial for the heart, this little
bell of blood, swell of secret in
scarlet. split-cherry, spit-smeared.
pulled-petals of memory, my body
a tonic for unfurling
flowers. red winter warning, that
bodily want, blood spills like berries
against the silent white
snow. collect me against this
cold, i want to grow, i want to be
gathered up in your hands and
harvested. it is now, as it
has been, cordially
sometimes it takes a week to rip off a band-aid. sometimes more, because you ripped it off so fast, because you were trying not to rip someone else off, and you ripped your self off in the process. now there’s this raw-red welt where fawn-brown skin was, sticky and bitter as a bruised apple. now you have a bellyache, but you never took a bite. here’s the scabbed-over bite / mark in your heart to prove it. see?
we finish our dreams, slippery, push each one into each other’s mouths like warm berries. there are only two stories, he says. a small, wet knot holds him together. someone new shows up, or someone goes on a journey. it’s the same thing, i think. our blueblood hearts, the horizon berry-colored. he squeezes it, and a dream drops out. there’s only one story, he says, and looks right at me, which is like looking away. someone loses something.
...one's own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give. This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art." -James Baldwin