Everyone in it dead now––Dad,
three, in a skirt––and I see her
again, the unnamed woman. She
is me. No one to introduce us:
Hello, Me. Unruly eyebrow woman,
eyes sepia but blue––they must be;
hair pulled slant, frame bent
lensward, skeptical mouth
smiling––I know you. How did you
leash your mind, when you
looked through the small window
or stared through water
at your veined hand?
Liz Rosenberg is the author of the novel Home Repair and five books of poems, most recently The Lily Poems from Bright Hills Press and Demon Love from Mammoth. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Paris Review and elsewhere. She teaches English at the State U of NY at Binghamton.
Epithalamium with Rust
I remember the dream of rust on its own vague terms:
dredging the canal as though it were oneself,
hoping for trinkets that fix life to a landscape of flowers and trash,
and settling for bothering the levee with a stick,
notching my time card in the holy city.
In the margins of sky and dust––distance specific to the dream of distance––
the thought of water comes on like vanity. It is error,
as are the certainties of children, to make much of the dumb bend of sun
on copper, to heed what God writes in the sand with his pretty little feet.
Crows flood from the factory shell and out over trump ground,
into the easy marriage of actuality and nothingness that is the long patina
of days, drunk on lawn seed and disquiet.
I remember it again, but differently. Archipelagos of debris and glow,
stars fashioning what light benefits the dead…
Brandon Kreitler‘s poems have appeared in Boston Review, DIAGRAM, Web Conjunctions, Indiana Review, Eoagh, Sonora Review, and Maggy. His criticism has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Proximity, and Village Voice among others. He was a winner of the 2010 Discovery / “Boston Review” award and a finalist for the 2010 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. A native of Arizona, he teaches at Queensborough Community College and is working on a manuscript of poems.
He’s like those children who take apart a clock in order to find out what time is
“Fog forgets. Fog is forgetting.”
This was hard for the drunk man
on the shuddering train to say
clearly, but he managed in fits
and spurts—thoughts through
a kinked hose. In a past life,
when you wiped the counters,
the dogs stared up with saucer
eyes from the hardwood floor
as if you were a cleaning deity.
I was in the kitchen, too, waiting.
You’d stare into the vacant lot
through a window on the socially
awkward sycamore disrobing amid
frozen beer bottles and losing lottery
tickets. You were your own
undocumented fog. Years pass.
I’m still an inverse of the spiritual—
still feeling merciless forgetting
can’t mean joining cosmic order.
Above, a building rakes sky
as if it were the obscure index
finger of want, losing its end
in a belly of low, concise cloud.
Evan Hansen lives in Portland, Oregon, where he is a public high school teacher. He has work forthcoming in Issue 50 of The Cortland Review.
Symptoms of Island
Sometimes in the morning your hand
finds the dip in my side. For the moment
we’ll call it happiness. This does not
account for weeks spent cursing
the apple trees, their sticky bloom.
The man on the bus gaping
at my slack lip knew. Plump dumb
stone in my mouth. I’m sure of it.
That afternoon you were a brisk,
starched thing. We slipped out
the back way, screen door banging
cruel on my slim-boned grim. Today,
like most days, my mind arrives
an island, tongue-numb, child wishes
ivied onto me. God takes away,
it’s said. Call it what you will.
Camille Rankine is the author of Slow Dance with Trip Wire, selected by Cornelius Eady for the Poetry Society of America’s 2010 New York Chapbook Fellowship. The recipient of a 2010 “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, she is featured as an emerging poet in the fall 2010 issue of American Poet. Her poetry has appeared in American Poet, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM and POOL: A Journal of Poetry. She is Program and Communications Coordinator at Cave Canem Foundation and lives in New York City.
You do what you want,
I’ll do what I want,
and we’ll see which one of us
gets to the twenty-dollar window
in time for the fourth race at Del Mar.
On the goddamn radio
that’s always playing
in my bitch’s kitchen,
I heard some East Coast big-shot author
say he needs to jerk off before he can write.
All is I can say is fuck that shit.
I hate poets who beg you
to like them because you feel sorry for them.
Do not feel sorry for me.
I won on Bitches’ Brew in the fourth
and went home and drank
a fifth of bourbon
and got laid.
David Lehman is the editor of The Oxford American Book of Poetry and series editor of The Best American Poetry. He teaches at The New School.
[Do you get any reception here?]
Do you get any reception here?
I think if you face West.
You await silent sadness to filter in.
Or if you shut it off you will be the same.
Cracked open and with a scar.
Light getting in through chinks at night.
Bits of information like a glorious blanket over the sky.
A window box of purple basil.
A dried chili in a bowl of water.
Blossoms exchanging news across the rooftops of the city.
Matthew Rohrer teaches at NYU and is the author of A Plate of Chicken and Destroyer and Preserver (forthcoming), among other books of poetry.
A dead CEO admonishes me to do
what I love, which he can’t see me
doing. I need only a clean place to lie
around, to see a few decent things.
You’re lucky if you have half
of that, but which half. Also look
up to see everything has gone
a shade of purple which should
only last a few minutes but goes
on for an hour because of the clouds.
And why is that, an equinox
or its afterbirth staining everything
some of the other words there are
for purple. Go find them for me
and keep maybe one for yourself,
give them to me and invent more
and I will acquire them, hand over
the ones you were making and I will
tell the world I invented them. They are
mine (Lilac™, Violet™) and I will kill
you to impress upon you that I can.
Mark Bibbins teaches at The New School and Columbia. His books are The Dance of No Hard Feelings (Copper Canyon, 2009) and the Lambda Award-winning Sky Lounge. He is poetry editor of The Awl.
M.A. Vizsolyi’s first book of poetry, The Lamp with Wings: Love Sonnets won The National Poetry Series, selected by Ilya Kaminsky, and is forthcoming in the fall 2011. He teaches ice hockey and ice skating lessons in Central Park, and lives in New York City with his wife, the poet, Margarita Delcheva.
Ode to the The
I liked that you were small and thick,
easy to recognize. I think
I thought you were married to and, who was often
somewhere in the sentence, holding things
together, while you would be standing, a tin
soldier, the rifle barrel of your h
sticking up over your shoulder. I felt a little
sorry for you, always announcing,
never the thing itself. When I looked
you up, they said your meaning is “controlled
by the notion ‘previously recognized,
noticed or encountered,’” and your Indo-European
base is *-to-, and *-ta-, each of them
the’d with its asterisk. O the,
I have never thanked you, guardian of the noun,
worker ant, moving things along as if
from underneath–river of the,
wheels of the. Thank you for always
being yourself, never adding
a letter to make a scary face
from within the phrase. All honor to thee,
enduring grammatical gristle, plain
flourish, stalwart bugler–the the of this song.
Sharon Olds is the author of many books including Satan Says, which received the San Francisco Poetry Center Award and The Dead and the Living which was both the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983 and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her latest collection is Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980-2002. Professor Olds holds the Erich Maria Remarque Professorship at NYU.
AN AGREEMENT REQUIRES
AN OFFER AND ACCEPTANCE
I came here to get you excited.
We have an accidental stare-down.
No bees, no money. No one says this.
I am so frightening. No one is impressed.
It’s all, a duck’s quack doesn’t echo
and no one knows why. You think
you are whispering when you are not.
We are experts at distributing distorted
information. This is how it might feel,
take hold of something between
your finger and your thumb and twist it
sharply. Make a slight adjustment.
A logical consequence appears
to arrive, a bar, a partition, a stick.
I am hitting rocks with a stick.
What do you believe to be important
points of convergence? Vegetables.
Electricity. The extremely challenging
sky. To show adoration with the eyes.
To say something necessary. I avoid
my eyes. I think I mean it.
Emily Pettit is the author of two chapbooks HOW (Octopus Books) and WHAT HAPPENED TO LIMBO (Pilot Books). She is an editor for notnostrums (notnostrums.com) and Factory Hollow Press, as well as assistant editor at jubilat. Her first full-length book, GOAT IN THE SNOW is forthcoming from Birds LLC.
Today we’re featuring two poets who I have an incredible amount of admiration and who I am very excited to share with you today.
I did want to write a brief observation about what I believe both these poems–different as they are–share in common: both are built around a relational core of emotions; both poems climax with the impossibility of speech. Both poems, however, do it in very different ways: Colie through image, Maya through syntax. My observations follow the poems (and below that are author bios).
The Paper One
By Colie Hoffman
It helps to understand there were two realities
and words were in the paper one.
The other was made of clouds
and sometimes whatever animals
or feelings clouds made with their shapes.
The cloud world had giant one-way windows.
You couldn’t see inside and it was very, very dark out.
Your own face sent
out a search party for you.
The limitations of our brains and other body parts
kept rapping on the glass as we danced.
I could never tell which was you
and which was me
and if that simple touch
was some girl’s thighs
or the wings of a moth.
The paper world had words available
but none were the right ones. Later at the bonfire
people threw all the words in
and soon the entire world burned down.
Afterward we kept
talking but one of us kept glancing
at something over
the other person’s head.
You said it was to watch
for predators. I said what’s “predators.”
You made a cloud with your index finger
in the shape of a person whose language had words
for every complicated feeling.
I made the shape of that person’s insides
and internal organs
and started an electrical storm
that would never stop.
By Maya Funaro
Now I’ve heard for the last time.
It doesn’t snow today but October has laid its hands upon my shoulders.
We’re swaying now side to side as if we’re waiting something out.
But I have heard and we are no longer waiting.
It is October and you are gone.
In the air there is a long slow sigh.
In the air a surety dances like smoke.
I can be certain you are gone.
Still my knowing you pulls at me and turns a corner.
In October a life tries to fill itself out,
Searching pigment for even the loneliest spaces.
And death seeps in, a persistent stain,
Overflow of time outside of time.
An aberration, death speaks of saturation.
For this reason there is never enough.
For this reason you come to be all light and all shadow.
I’ve caught your laughter like a headcold.
All day and into the next
Grace tracks me down, looks me in the eye
While awkwardness takes my hand like an old friend and looks away.
What I’m trying to name here I can’t say plainly enough or with enough severity.
Colie’s poem enters into emotion through the backdoor. It’s a bit like wandering into an enormous and sparkling ballroom during an elegant affair, but only after having woven through a maze of underground hallways, each stretch full of doors opening to various rooms containing strange sights. Amazingly, Colie never loses control of the poetic “camera.” Somehow, almost suddenly, what has seemed to be a continual shell game of emotional deferral takes us straight to the heart of the matter, and we are amazed at the path we’ve taken (at least I always am), surprised to find that this whole time she’s actually been preparing us (in the strangest way possible) for a moment of open emotion. Colie’s poems are worth going through again and again, not because they “yield something new” every time (though that’s probably true), but because the poem works every time, the way a great guitar solo never gets old.
There are two things about Maya’s poem that I find worth noting. The first is that Maya’s poem, unlike Colie’s, does not defer any emotion. Beginning writers are told, “show, don’t tell.” And this is true to some extent with Maya: she knows how to imply emotion via objects and such. But Maya also tells a lot. Even the lines that “show” seem to tell (the emotion awkwardness, for example, is cleverly personified–it both shows and tells). The very climax of the poem is a direct statement of the theme of the poem: “What I’m trying to name here I can’t say plainly enough or with enough severity.” It takes a certain craft to openly discuss emotion without being labeled maudlin, especially in an age such as ours that has replaced vigilance of mawkishness with a cynicism of emotion in general.
The second thing to notice about Maya is her lines. Many poets “do” long lines, but I often find myself feeling that such lines wear out their welcome. As a poet, I’m inherently lazy and easily frustrated when I am forced to read across a whole page! Not so with Maya’s poem. There’s some metrical dark matter that sustains it far beyond where my poetic instinct tells me lines should go. It’s magic. I find myself continually amazed that Maya’s lines don’t run out of gas before turning the corner. Indeed, I think there’s a relationship between these two things I’ve noted. You may see that there is an almost direct relationship between the length of the line and the “telling” of emotional content. The longest lines are the ones that seem to carry the most emotional weight (some might disagree with me about that, but I think I’m right anyway!). I can’t imagine Maya cutting the last line of the poem up into 3 lines. Somehow, that would be mawkish. Instead it comes out in a great rush, like an arrow that has been shot into us. I do not know if Maya’s long lines work because of the content, or if the content works because of the long lines. The ghosts of form and content haunt each other mutually, I suspect.
Both Colie and Maya have found a way to enter into emotion that are worth learning from. This, among many other reasons, is why I share them with you.
Colie Hoffman is a copyeditor by day and poet by night living in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her poems have appeared in Blood Orange Review, Obsidian: Literature in the African Diaspora,and elsewhere. Thanks to a grant from the M Literary Residency, she is currently working on her first book at Sangam House in Bangalore, India.
Maya Funaro was born and raised in South Jersey, and currently makes her home in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Her chapbook Setting in Motion was released in 2009 by Fox Point Press. Her poems have appeared in Ekleksographia and Ology.
Listen to Joe Weil’s album of original poetry and music, recorded with the help of Vic Ruggiero.
I’m happy to announce that we are rebooting our Poem of the Week feature here at THEthe. Every Thursday, THEthe will post a poem by an author that an editor has solicited. Every month, one of our contributors takes a turn at being the editor. Hopefully this will guarantee a nice diversity of tastes and styles. We hope that you enjoy this feature in the future as much as we think we’ll enjoy posting it.
I (Micah) will take the reins for the remaining Thursdays of November. The inaugural poem of our relaunch is by Rosanne Wasserman. Enjoy!
Ow, why are walls so hard?
Somebody’s mom could walk through them:
Not every dream sequence needs dwarves,
Though I get giants, like that Trevor Winkfieldian
Unfolding himself from a pillow in Louisville,
Half of a scissors-pair, wearing a boot,
Human face inside handle-loop.
We questioned him like an oracle:
“What’s going to happen next?”
But he just stared and said, “There is no future.”
Later I figured, “After all,
He’d just pulled himself out of a pillow,”
Rationalizing, and wondered
If his wings were wet, in folds—
But he was pretty much nothing but
Cold gray steel. What else could
Happen to something like him, anyway?
But the busted hardware drawer
Won’t do for an oracle.
He had a point.
Just one point, yes, but sharp enough,
Even in that Doc Marten’s.
He was right, for the half he spoke for.
He was a knife now, but Atropos used
Whole scissors: past and future
Meet, then there is no present. His other
Half’s no dream. Wake carefully.
To celebrate the forthcoming ¿What Where? Chapbook Series from The Corresponding Society, there will be a reading at Unnameable Books featuring Anselm Berrigan, Ryan Doyle May, Christie Ann Reynolds, Ben Fama, and Robert Fitterman. The event will be hosted by Lonely Christopher.
Details: Wednesday, November 17th, 8pm.
600 Vanderbilt Ave (at St. Marks), Brooklyn, NY.