Blackberries spilled through her front yard,
lanterns full of dark sugar. She wore
her pink skirts among the bushes till they bled.
School was a different story
every day: Balboa discovering the Pacific,
Petrarch discovering love. When Madame Curie
discovered radium she died of cancer.
Her name was Lúthien, and her feet twinkled like stars.
Her name was Eva, and she got blamed for everything.
Her name was Ann, and she lost her head.
We use this phrase for love as well as murder.
Her name was Portia, and Solomon was an admirer.
Oh, one day Virginia really did lose her head
in the valentine sense, blindly. She loved everything.
Her lucid hips and the way the salt ducked
over the bow of her sailing boat delighted her.
She loved men: they bowled straight at answers
and their chins were like mown lawns.
She loved women too, their smart hands, the hearts
full of tiny rooms opening into other rooms.
Today she thinks: I too have such a heart.
Mercedes walks a street made of billboards.
She weaves a family from a spider web of compromises.
Over her shoulder Madame Curie glows
like a quarantined star, queasily brilliant. By that light
she reads Aristotle and by it she comes home
in the early mornings, stockings askew.
Something hardens - anger or a barnacle.
Suddenly she is always shouting. The doors
in her heart close two by two by two.
She loves everything, everything.
One day she will kill herself by walking
into an oven with stones in her pockets.
To read only children’s books,
To have only childish thoughts,
To throw everything grown-up away,
To rise from deep sadness.
I am deathly tired of life,
I will accept nothing from it.
But I love my poor land,
For I have seen no other.
I rocked in a distant garden
On a plain wooden swing,
Tall dark fir trees
I recall in a hazy fever.
Very busy sensing there’s nothing down the train tracks except remembering
there are only five remaining speakers of Mohave. There might be a loose and
rusted spike, a smashed bottle of Bud is likely if I walk long enough into
picturing a basketball team of old men and women in a gym in Oklahoma
bouncing an orange ball against a team made up of how the rest of the world
can’t understand them. Coal trains come through here, taking across the
mountains what we’ve taken from the mountains, I think this is like walking over
cows while eating a burger, and feel filled up on the empty feeling night is good
at bringing to me like flowers before a date. Here, night says, I brought you this
bouquet of gone, and it occurs to me these are the flowers of negation the man
who spent a night in a foxhole with a dead Viet Cong was handed over and over.
He doesn’t talk about that, there’s not a single speaker I know of the language called
“this is what it’s like to dig a hole and be alive in your death with the
example of what that looks like.” Nor am I the last speaker of the language called
“I will too often use crows to express my deepest self,” which it turns out is only
centimeters below the surface, now that we’re trying to go metric. The gravel
sounds like breakfast cereal eaten straight from the box. If night is crows
touching wings somehow in place, stars their eyes and the moon a hole in the
patient of crows to obliterate, only the air, with its high absorption rate for dead
languages, could speak of this to the past, which I’ve been trying my whole life to
get in touch with. So the last speaker of Mohave will soon be sitting on the edge
of her bed, noticing for the last time the beauty of cups, the entirety of their
existence the honor of holding and giving over, emptying fullness into the empty
mouth, and she will whisper a word the cup has heard many times over, and
when she’s dead, someone will take the cup away without putting it to their ear
to listen to the last, the entire ocean of what is left of a people. They will be gone,
the cup taken to a new life full of waiting for water to come. I understand that
sensation most of all, feeling there should be something inside me there’s not a
word for in English or Urdu or Wichita. In grunt, perhaps, in the language I’ve
called “heat this blade upon the stove and press it against your forearm,”
absolutely. If languages have to die, kill that one. Every time I walk it down these
tracks and leave it, it drags its way back and kisses the neck of my sleep with its teeth.
Dean Young, from The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction
Blacksmith in love hoists the 9-lb hammer, forges a coffin the size of her fist. When it cools, she sets two mice inside: bodies entwined, bones dried. She seals the box with barbed wire locks, a gift for her lover as he weeps for his sister: the Green River Killer’s next-to-last murder. Picking me up from the airport last August you drove the shortcut down Sea-Tac strip. Dozens of girls by the side of the road, bridges and brides in overgrown green. Remember the river and the names in the river. You drove for miles while I begged you to stop. That night a noise woke us, coyote or shot. Your flashlight led us through sharp grass, saplings sprouting where we’d gorged on cherries. When the stranger ran past us the sheet slipped her shoulders until she ran naked down Rural Road. This was not a dream of the river but waking life: the bloodstained mouth, a scattering of seeds, saplings crowding each other to breathe.
Your next-door neighbor was always crying. One afternoon she stood in the grass cutting her hair, which vanished as it fell into the thick of green things. In case you’re wondering, I have a web cam. People pay me to have sex and then cry. She brewed herbal tea with leaves from her garden, mint so sharp it brought tears to your eyes.
Translated by Elzbieta Wojcik- Leese
you were burning dry branches and weeds
– I heard fire rustle in the receiver, your whistle when the dogs
once again tried to get at the mole-hills where yesterday
we picked plums from among the rampant grass;
evening drew near – the wind blew breath
into its puppy muzzle.
The sticky prunes, we ate them for supper.
I was leafing through a book on water gardens, photographs
of marsh plants – I wanted to memorize their names: marsh marigold,
sedge, floating pond-weed –
when suddenly you said, “I would like to die
In your country house, yesterday, I watched you fall asleep
reading – sleep like a backwash
sewed up the oar of your body.
I took the book out of your hands, switched off the light.
The rib of night
was shining in the branches
My mother is laughing in the hallway with her friends
I don’t like much, maybe the numbers runner
who gives me dollars to go see movies
while they fuck, a mattress blocking the doorway
where there’s no door. I know what’s “fuck”, and “dick”,
and “pussy”. They’re “tipsy,” she says, they’re
a good time. “Don’t I deserve a good time
now and then?” I’m looking through the telescope
I just got from a catalogue, while they
break out the Tanqueray; I don’t know what
that is. They’re putting on some records, it’s
1970, Nixon’s president; there’s a dock in one song
and I don’t know how to whistle, but I know
what’s a dock, and a bay. There aren’t many stars
because of the streetlights, it’s the Bronx,
and the singer sounds sad, he’s dead. My mother
says, “you know, I went to high school
with him back in Macon,” and everybody says
“I’ll bet,” and she laughs too. I wish I was his
son, I wish they’d all go home. It’s late and I just want
to go to bed, but she just wants to have a good
time. I turn my telescope on the Puerto Rican couple
fighting, kissing in a window across the concrete
courtyard, three parrots escaped from the loading
dock freezing in a trash tree, it’s
November, neighbourhood kids throwing rocks
at each other from bicycles, my mother standing in the
with a paper cup of Tanqueray, or lying
in the hallway in a pool of her own shit.
Does anyone who can read Arabic script follow me? I’d appreciate it if you could pop your email address in my “Ask” box, so I can double check a word with you! Thank you.
He couldn’t help himself;
there was too much laughter in the garden,
too much lightness. And didn’t everything
need a contrary, a counterweight?
He’d come up with gravity so the birds
couldn’t return to heaven, created
hairless skin so the feathered and soft-furred
wouldn’t feel envy for the man he made.
Sorrow, God said, sorrow.
He started small, a sparrow with a broken beak,
flapping at the woman’s feet. Not knowing
this was something new,
she sat beside it, waited for it to rise and sing.
A mole came next. Then from the lion
a coughing that wouldn’t stop. He thought
he’d gone too far with the dog and pulled back
a little, concentrated on one more way to make a beetle.
Finally Adam blamed her for all that happened next
and turned from her touch in their nest of yellow grasses.
God knew if he weighed their hearts at rest, they’d be
heavier than before. Sorrow, he said, thinking.
The lily pond grew fetid, the air smelled of rotting fur.
For a year Adam wouldn’t say her name.
When all animals have died
even the ones in books
grow frightened, their eyes
like wormholes. Their spines
not so much broken, but the hide
abraded and peeling. The gutters
filled with debris,
plucked feathers, old yellow tape.
No one was there
to hear their last song.
And in between the last pages
were two old brown leaves
speaking in a language
only other brown leaves would know.
After the great destruction, looters came with their loose eyes
and desire for oil and marble.
They wanted beauty in her old disguises, like statues of
ancient cities before
they were taken by marauders. The fractured hands before you
belong to the conquered gods.
The tapestry in the hall tells an old legend, the tale of the woman
warrior with her twisted dagger,
and the many arrows in her quiver that warmed themselves in
the bodies of her enemies.
Here lies her spear and shards of the hunted. When you roam
the dark corridors bring her weapons
made from molten and steel, for once men stole their brides
mistaking possession for love.
Hide your body in her armor. Hide your heart in an empty grave.
When you leave here, take nothing.
Never look a gift horse in the mouth? But what if on the horse’s tongue there’s a tiny little man playing piano? Why would you not look at that? That’s incredible. —Dan Cummins
It’s why the gift horse is a gift,
and there is always a tiny man inside,
though sometimes more than one.
You should look; peer as far back as you can,
because if he’s not playing piano,
he and his friends might be sharpening
blades inside that dark, inside
the horse’s belly, inside your sleeping city.
Twenty men crawl out of the gift: you’ll want to see this;
you’ll want to see how they spill into the city,
and open the gates, and paint everything
the color of burned flesh.
The war is ending. Achilles is dead.
Paris lives on in shame.
And one man
plays piano as the city burns.
I’ve been there. And because I didn’t look,
I never saw it coming.
The phone calls in the middle of the night.
Hospital beds. Friends staggering in,
and the world on fire. The horse’s mouth.
Pry the jaws back
and stare through the phlegm that falls
between the teeth and the hallway of the throat.
Whoever told you not to look at this is hiding something,
because the world is beautiful,
haunted, and begging you to receive its offering.
May you never find such music again.
The Australia Day Tent Embassy Protest - was one of the Nation’s gravest political security threats? A bit of an over reaction? A media beat up perhaps? Or was there something deeper going on….
The protests were sparked by comments made by the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that those at the Tent Embassy “move on” after celebrating its 40th anniversary. Some 200 activists from the Embassy traveled to a nearby ceremony honouring emergency service workers, which was attended by both Abbott and Prime Minister Gillard. After several minutes of chants and window banging, the Prime Minister’s security team decide to bundle both Gillard and Abbott out of the ceremony, where Gillard tripped and lost a shoe in the drama. Both leaders were put into cars, allowing for their departure.
It didn’t take long for the moral panic to begin. The protests were “violent” and a “shame” on the Nation, lead by an “angry mob”. Countless column inches were taken up with estimates of how far the protests had sent back the cause of reconciliation. Was it 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? Some went even further. David Penberthy called for the closure of the Tent Embassy, as did Menzies House, apparently seeing no conflict between that and their defence of the free speech rights of Andrew Bolt last year. Speaking of Bolt, he saw fit to use the protests as an excuse to call an end to reconciliation altogether. As Amber Jamieson noted in Crikey almost every major paper led with the image of a clearly frightened Gillard in the arms of personal security accompanied by headlines like “Prime Threat” or the offensive appropriation “Sorry Day” (I’ll come back to that). Laurie Oakes seized on a handful of vile comments to label all those involved in the Tent Embassy as “morons”. Meanwhile, Bob Carr had my favourite piece, seemingly having a brain haemorrhage and going on a bizarre red-baiting rant:
Anyway here we have again the bankruptcy of the old Leftist approach: throw a demo. Every time some respectable body does this – the ACTU or Unions NSW or a pro-refugee group – the same thing happens: on the street the extremists take over. The Trots love a blue, “the worse things are the better they are” and by radicalizing everyone and breaking heads it all hastens the World October, onto revolution, comrades.
Must have been pretty bad right? The black hordes attacking our first female Prime Minister like a scene out of The Birth Of A Nation, right?
Well eyewitness accounts come across quite different to those of the commentariat. Melbourne based writer Wil Wallace was able to interview Embassy activist Sam Castro, who gave a very different account of the days events:
The morning started with speeches being made at the Tent Embassy on a range of subjects until one person stood up and explained to the crowd that Tony Abbott had remarked to the media that he believed the Tent Embassy was no longer relevant and should be packed up and moved on; information had just come through that Tony Abbott was at The Lobby, a restaurant near the Old Parliament House, and the suggestion was made that the group should go there and ask Abbott to talk to the crowd and explain himself.
A contingent of about 100 protesters made their way up the road to The Lobby and surrounded it. Though they were loud and noisy they were non-violent. Security blocked the protesters from getting close to the restaurant for a while but it didn’t take long for a few protesters to break the line and soon the rest had gotten close up against the restaurant’s walls. As the walls of The Lobby are made of glass the protesters could look in and see Mr Abbott and the others pretending not to hear them and, after about ten or fifteen minutes Julia Gillard’s white jacket was recognised and the protesters realised that she was in there along with Mr Abbott.
The conduct of the police and security team is also notably different in Castro’s account:
As more protesters made their way to the restaurant, the riot police charged out the doors, practically dragging Ms Gillard along, while the onlookers began to shout “where are you going?” and “why won’t you talk to us?” As the cars drove off, some people threw plastic water bottles and water at the cars.
At this point things began to get fairly nasty; one protester was knocked into the rose bushes and one gigantic cop started brandishing a can of tear gas or capsicum spray (reports differ on this point) in people’s faces and shoved Sam, another girl and a female photo-journalist in the head.
This account is supported by-and-large by another Embassy attendee, Amy McQuire, who detailed her experience in Crikey, as well as organiser Mark McMurtie. Writing in The New Matilda, Ben Eltham noted that 3AW’s reporter on the scene, Michael Pachi, reported that the “violence” was in fact most loud chanting, whilst participants again reiterated that they only wanted Abbott to make a speech to the crowd. While these claims are obviously subjective, the authors at least have the benefit of actually having been there, something not shared by Penberthy, Bolt, Oakes or Carr.
On top of these accounts is the video of the event. Judging by footage provide by NineMSN, it’s pretty obvious that no protestor ever came close to either leader, and that the only civilians that did were those involved in the media.
Whilst protestors were banging on the restaurant windows, this video shows that it was still far short of anything violent.
Indeed, the only video evidence of physical violence is that committed by the Police, as was claimed by the eyewitnesses mentioned above. Footage shows police inciting and threatening demonstrators and the media, punching protestors and repeatedly ignoring complaints of abuse.
Considering all of this, it’s difficult to see how the protestors formed a credible threat to either Gillard or Abbott. After all, not a single person was arrested at the protest, and as of yet, no one has been charged with any crime. That says a lot about the nature of the demonstration, especially when you consider 20 people were arrested during the crackdown on Occupy Melbourne, which was no where near any National leader.
The reaction to the Tent Embassy protest, by Gillard, Abbott, the Police and the Media provides a uniquely raw glimpse at how the powerful view and treat Aboriginal Australians. Firstly, serious questions have to be asked about why neither Gillard nor Abbott made any attempt to address the crowd. After all, that’s what Anthony Albanese did when a 500-strong crowd (i.e. well over twice the size of the Tent Embassy protest) confronted him outside his Marrackville office in September 2011 over his comments about the Convoy of No Confidence.
Then there is the question of whether the actions of police and security were even necessary. It is difficult to claim the protestors represented any clear physical threat to either Gillard or Abbott. The threat was at least no greater then the aforementioned Albanese protest, or another recent action against Immigration Minister Chris Bowen by Refugee adovcates. Neither protest attracted any where near the amount of Police attention as did the Tent Embassy action.
But then again, it’s not like the Police have the best relationship with the Aboriginal people. Earlier this month saw the death of Terrance Daniel Briscoe, a 28 year old Aboriginal man, within Police custody in an Alice Spring gaol. The official reason given by the Police, that Briscoe had sustained a head injury prior to being locked up, amounts to little more than gross negligence on the part of the Police. Sadly, Briscoe is just one of almost 300 Aboriginal persons who have died in custody the deaths in custody Royal Commission in 1991. As Igna Ting has reported in Crikey, deaths in custody have risen by 50% since 1991 despite some $400 million dollars being allocated to implementing (some) recommendations of the Royal Commission. Between 2000 and 2009, Indigenous incarceration rates increased by 50%, whilst non-Indigenous rates increased by 5%. The proportion of Indigenous people in prison system has nearly doubled since 1991, going from 14% to 26%, whilst remaining just 3% of the population. Indeed, based on the raw statistics, Australia imprisons Aboriginal men at 5 times the rate Apartheid South Africa gaoled Black men.
And this brings me to my main point. In almost all the coverage of the Tent Embassy protest, there has been a deafening silence about the social context it undeniably exists in. The fact is that the Aboriginal people have faced historical and systematic racism that continues to have consequences and is still well and truly alive. Is it really a surprised that this occurred on Australia Day? Despite the best efforts of nationalistic apologists, it still marks the day of the initial invasion of the Aboriginal people, sparking well over a century of attempted genocide and assimilation, all for the cause of starting a massive penal state. That might just be a little offensive.
Similarly, little was said about the present day attacks on the Aboriginal people, the clearest example being the bipartisan Northern Territory Intervention. Started in 2007, the Intervention consists of a serious of policies implemented in 73 remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. There is little evidence to suggest these policy have helped these communities at all, but are more likely to have driven the people further in poverty and stigma.
Efforts to build housing has been notoriously slow, with up to half the funds eaten up by administration. Even with the program beginning to get on track, it is unlikely the Government will meet is occupancy rate (9.3 people per dwelling) without massive waste.
Social funding is being concentrated into “growth hubs”, effectively forcing people off their land despite the known health and social benefits of living on one’s homeland. School attendance has decreased in proscribed areas due to poor facilities and abolition of bilingual education, and despite the use of punitive welfare measures.
On top of these failures comes income quarantine. Those receiving welfare payments automatically have 50% of their income withheld and placed onto a “BasicsCard”, which can be used to purchase necessities at selected stores. The evidence suggests that the BasicsCard has had no effect on consumption patterns of food, soft drink or cigarettes. The cards can only be used in major supermarkets, hence many locally owned small shops have gone bust, whilst forcing people to travel long distances at great costs to shop in the larger towns. There is also evidence to suggest that people are pressured and humiliated into accepting the BasicsCard when they no longer have to. A study of Aboriginal women using the BasicsCard found people were generally confused about why they had been put under income quarantine, that they felt a loss of “respect and dignity”, that they believed Centrelink staff often had paternalist views of Aboriginal People and that many women had stopped reporting abuse out of fear of further quarantining. Income quarantine also uses massive amounts of funds that could be used for social services, with estimates that its administration costs almost 9 times the amount spent on aiding the unemployed find a job.
The NT Intervention has sparked a serious and significant declines in the living standards in the prescribed Aboriginal communities. Under the intervention suicide and self harm, incarceration and child removal have all increased. Is it any wonder that the Intervention is opposed by Elders across the Northern Territory as well as the United Nations. Yet despite all of the failures associated with the Intervention and the stigma it breeds, the Government is committed to see it last for at least another decade under the “Stronger Futures” name. Indeed, income quarantining is planned to be rolled out around the country.
I mention these things because they must be acknowledged to understand what happened on Australia Day. The Aboriginal community continues to suffer the consequences from historical dispossession. Dispossession from the land, their culture, their wages and their families. Hence we have “the gap”, the massive disparity that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons in terms of wealth, education and health.
But the social context goes further than that. What the Northern Territory Intervention shows is that attempts to “assimilate” the Aboriginal people continues until this day. As a consequence, the racist and paternalist attitudes that justify policy responses like the Intervention are legitimised, strengthened and reproduced. This is especially the case when elements of the media are so explicitly racist. Take Mark Knight’s cartoon in the Herald Sun the day after the Tent Embassy protest, which uses genocide as a punchline. Or the aforementioned “Sorry Day” headlines; because losing your shoe is apparently on par with remembering the thousands of children stolen from their families. Both things are fine if you think the suffering of people based on their race is funny and/or insignificant.
That’s the key for understanding what happened this Australia Day. The harsh truth is that those in power, be they the Police, the Media, or Politicians, have consistently and actively disadvantaged the Aboriginal people ever since “settlement” in 1788. That’s why the Tent Embassy still exists. It’s also why Tony Abbott’s comments were so offensive and able to arouse such fury so easily, because 40 years after the first Tent Embassy, Government’s (and their megaphones in the Media) are content with rolling out policies that do so much damage to Aboriginal communities.
In such a context, is it any wonder that the protestors would be so angry and maybe, sorta, kinda actually didn’t at all harm our Nation’s leading Politicians? The fact that an action where protestors attacked no one and caused no property damage yet can still be labelled as violent displays a distinct authortarian political outlook on the world. While the commentariat cries crocodile tears for the state of the Nation’s political dialogue and the “dignity of the Office”, we should remember that these same centres of power have shown little to no respect for the Aboriginal people.
I’m glad Neil wrote this, because I am disgusted and furious about the reactions to the Tent Embassy protest. People who think that Aboriginal people have no right to be angry and should all “behave” so they don’t alienate us from their cause. The conservative tongue clackers (especially those that dare call themselves left or progressive, what a joke) are not helpful to any cause but that of white assimilation and watered down rights that are centuries overdue.
Neil clearly demonstrates here why people have a right to be angry and how little has changed for the better. Why shouldn’t some Aboriginal people be extremist about their rights? Let’s remember that in other countries, extremist means actions like suicide bombings. Instead we have an epidemic of Indigenous suicide and a small protest being called a riot.
I want our leaders to cower and be afraid, because no matter how many protests we have, nothing changes for the better. There are also a lot of people up in arms about the Australian flag being burnt. Really, if you’re more upset about a flag being burnt than you are about the injustices Neil has outlined above, you are someone I wouldn’t even piss on if you were on fire.
When interacting with someone, or thinking about interacting with someone, assume that your existence does not benefit them, that they don’t want to interact with you, that interacting with you is not one of their evolutionary or existential needs. Doing this will cause you to be more considerate, more inclined to improve yourself so that you may become more desirable and have a larger chance of being reciprocated, and less likely to resent the other person when they don’t reciprocate your affection or communications in an equal or—in especially belligerent cases—greater manner.
Be aware that if someone has not responded to your email or Facebook message they either don’t want to or simply haven’t done it yet, naturally and without ill-will, due to the nature of time and space, that one unit of matter cannot occupy more than one space at one time and that time is unidirectional, which results in “having priorities”—an unavoidable method of existence for non-schizophrenic humans that, in its more deliberate forms, is inherently considerate, in part because it decreases the chances of misleading people. Be aware that someone may not respond to your email even if you are amazingly considerate to them (via never pressuring them to respond to you, continuing to support their endeavors in a non-pressuring manner by participating non-pressuringly in their projects, never expressing or implying they’re causing you to feel sad or lonely or abandoned or unimportant) for 15 years after sending your email. If this happens do not feel negatively toward the other person; try to focus on liking someone for reasons that aren’t “because they like me” or “because they’re giving me attention.”
Accepting non-reciprocation quietly, without suddenly and nonsequiturly “hating” the person, is not only considerate but also productive, in that it’s probably the most effective, if not the only, way to “convince” the other person—some day, maybe, in some form—to sincerely reciprocate. If you feel jealous of who or what has been prioritized over you, or if you begin to feel resentment toward the person who isn’t reciprocating your affections, then you’re operating on the assumption that you own someone or that you’re defaultedly owed things and are being “cheated” out of those things—that the other person, or the universe, is “wronging” you. Behaving in this manner is illogical (in part because if people owned what they desired you would need to continually relent your desires to be someone else’s possession) and will cause people to dislike you and want to disassociate from you, increasing the amount of emails you send that receive no response.” —Tao Lin, How To Be Considerate On The Internet on Thought Catalog (via thoughtcatalog)
I am not your constant, I am not even moon phases.
Everyone thinks I am a poem
written for them and stopped
in mid sentence
but no one wants to lie down beside me
and help me sleep.
I don’t even check my voicemail
on good days
so please stop calling.
I don’t know how to be
anything if I am a body
not being touched.
I forgot how to stop kissing you.
I don’t know how to write to
tell you where I am.
I am tired. If the poem
I got a kick out of dying.
1 i will put a bee under your bed
2 every day for a year
3 so you do not perceive the increase
4 of bees under your bed
5 and become unconsciously accustomed to their activity
6 which at its culmination
a. (364 bees)
7 will be substantial
8 you will lay down over a large, undulating field
9 of meticulous noise
a. their dark purr will comfort you
b. you will require their delicate sludge to sleep
10 until i sneak
11 into your bed
12 and take away the bees
13 then you will sense a disturbance in your slumber
a. the solitude of the night will pierce your mind
like a piercing mind-knife of solitude
14 and you will cry and sweat
15 and produce other sad fluids in the night
16 and roam the earth in distress
a. one day
18 we finally meet
19 and i say
20 i am the man you’ve been searching for
21 all your life
22 and you say who the hell do you think you are
a. you are distressed, i forgive you
23 and i say
24 i’m the man
25 with all the bees under his bed
Comet Hyakutake’s tail stretches for 360 million miles—
in 1996, we saw Hyakutake through binoculars—
the ion tail contains the time we saw bats emerge out of a cavern at dusk—
in the cavern, we first heard stalactites dripping—
first silence, then reverberating sound—
our touch reverberates and makes a blossoming track—
a comet’s nucleus emits X-rays and leaves tracks—
two thousand miles away, you box up books and, in two days, will step through the
invisible rays of an airport scanner—
we write on invisible pages in an invisible book with invisible ink—
in nature’s infinite book, we read a few pages—
in the sky, we read the ion tracks from the orchard—
the apple orchard where blossoms unfold, where we unfold—
budding, the child who writes, “the puzzle comes to life”—
elated, puzzled, shocked, dismayed, confident, loving: minutes to an hour—
a minute, a pinhole lens through which light passes—
Comet Hyakutake will not pass earth for another 100,000 years—
no matter, ardor is here—
and to the writer of fragments, each fragment is a whole—
I have been a bee-keeper for six thousand years
And for the past hundred years an electrician.
Once I retire I shall keep bees again.
Something should hum for me, oh hum for me,
Hum and hum and hum
Just for me.
Heels of the shoes worn down, each
in its own way, sending signals to the spine.
The back of the knee as it folds and unfolds.
In winter the creases of American-made jeans:
blue denim seams worried to white threads.
And in summer, in spring, beneath the hems
of skirts, Bermudas, old bathing suit elastic,
the pleating and un-pleating of parchment skin.
And the dear, dear rears. Such variety! Such
choice in how to cover or reveal: belts looped high
or slung so low you can’t help but think of plumbers.
And the small of the back: dimpled or taut, spiny or not,
tattooed, butterflied, rosed, winged, whorled. Maybe
still pink from the needle and the ink. And shoulders,
broad or rolled, poking through braids, dreads, frothy
waterfalls of uncut hair, exposed to rain, snow, white
stars of dandruff, unbrushed flecks on a blue-black coat.
And the spiral near the top of the head—
peek of scalp, exquisite galaxy—as if the first breach
swirled each firmament away from that startled center.
Ah, but the best are the bald or the neatly shorn, revealing
the flanged, sun-flared, flamboyant backs of ears: secret
as the undersides of leaves, the flipside of flower petals.
And oh, the oh my nape of the neck. The up-swept oh my
nape of the neck. I could walk behind anyone and fall in love.
Don’t stop. Don’t turn around.
I know the names of almost
not the bone
between my elbow and my wrist
that sometimes aches
the plumb line
from the pelvis
to the knee
less ache than hum
in my nineteenth year
a knife blade slit through nerves
and nicked a vein
leaving the wall intact
so the blood kept flooding out
a nurse on evening shift
opened the wound
and made me whole again.
I have no words
for chambers in the heart
the smaller bones
the seat of gravity
or else I know the names
but not the function:
the mental foramen
in our old school library
a book down from the shelf
and opened it to stripped flesh
and the cords
ribbed and charred
like something barbecued
the colours wrong
the single eye exposed:
a window into primal emptiness.
I sat for hours
as if I had been asked to paraphrase
this body with the body I possessed:
hydraulics for a soul
cheese-wire for nerves
a ruff of butcher’s meat
in place of thought.
I’ve read how Michelangelo would buy
a stolen corpse
in the dark
the movement of a joint
or how a face
articulates the workings of the heart
how Stubbs would peel
the cold hide from a horse
and peer into the dark machinery
of savage grace
but I have never learned
nor wished to learn
how bodies work
other than when they move
is less to me than how a shudder starts
and runs along the arm
toward the wings
that flex and curl
between the shoulder blades
- so I will lie beside you here
until my hands recover from your skin
a history of tides
a flock of birds
the love that answers love
when bodies meet
and map themselves anew
cell after cell
touch after glancing touch
the living flesh
revealing and erasing what it knows
on secret charts
phone me in care of the blues.
all this talk of how it could be.
sometimes my cunt is throbbing
like a bass guitar.
you get the people worried for you.
you slip their hearts a song.
then you take them in.
it is your skin which takes them in.
they cling to you like wet cotton clings.
you phone me from six hundred miles.
oh you mean to say you’re lonely now.
sure. i’ll wait at the tarmac.
sure. i’ll lunch with you.
sure. i’ve made this handgrenade sandwich
The sidewalk will end in the belly of a girl.
A Chevrolet will stamp her abdomen
with stars, and we will watch her
wilt, motionless. Today
Fills the streets with yellow
fish. Smells from the market swim
down boulevards, gather on corners
with guitars and saxophones and fire
barrels wishing another day of rain.
Trees rejoice, limbs free
from overcoats, roots shaking
their chains. People stop
to watch water turn to steam and rise
angelic from the sewers. Tomorrow
beneath the city, the girl’s golden hair.
Her brain will bloom an apple tree.
Her belly will swell with bees.
The first time I saw my mother, she’d been dead
fourteen years and came as a ghost in the mirror,
plucking the hair beneath her arms, and humming
a bossa nova. She lotioned her chapped heels
and padded her bra as if she were alive in the old way.
She said I was born with my cord wrapped
around my neck like a rosary, and she knew God,
the doomed father of her days, wanted us both.
Before midnight she plaited my hair, hemmed my skirt,
sang lullabies she’d learned on the other side of the flood.
She lifted her dress to show her bones shedding light
on a stillborn fetus accidentally raptured into her ribs.
She said she’d choose her death again, obey any pain
heaven gave her. Years ago she watched a man ride
a diving bell to the bottom of the Amazon to face
the mysteries God had placed there. The chain broke,
and they pulled him to the surface smiling, stiff, refusing
to open his fists. They broke and unpeeled his fingers.
No one wept or fought to hold it. She covered her eyes
so she wouldn’t see what God, in his innocence, had done.