Women resent him,
or he draws them as if they do—
eyes bored and angry,
slumped spines opening
to grimly spread legs.
Or those heads, elaborately etched,
nearly breathing on the page,
into an uncertain stream,
No context for nakedness:
each figure suspended
on blank ground, stripped of meaning
apart from Schiele’s lust.
The self-portrait’s plaque tells you
he was my age when he died.
His work still controlled
by the lewd solipsism
of the very young:
hunger to consume
each body we see,
furious at the world’s refusal
to be possessed.
I’ll draw you a different scene.
Yesterday I hid in a tea house
from a rain so determined
it beat my red shoes pink.
A man paced near me,
black hair forked and dripping
down his forehead, fingers twisting
in relentless anger,
chilled as a drowned man
— enraged and so contained
I couldn’t help but want
to mouth the clenched tendons
of his neck, palm
his rigid shoulder,
close the few, endless feet
between my gaze
and his body. And look,
even now, see how I draw him:
all sex and no story,
refusing to give back,
even in my own words too distant,
so resentful I must set down the pen,
let the white background speak.
Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.
Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
She says, “I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?”
There is not any haunt of prophesy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
As April’s green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.
She says, “But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.”
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.
Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
The History of Everything Including You
First, there was God or gods or nothing, then synthesis, space, the expanse, explosions, implosions, particles, objects, combustion, and fusion. Out of the chaos came order. Stars were born and shone and died. Planets rolled across their galaxies on invisible ellipses and the elements combined and became.
Life evolved or was created. Cells trembled and divided and gasped and found dry land. Soon they grew legs and fins and hands and antennae and mouths and ears and wings and eyes — eyes that opened wide to take all of it in: the creeping, growing, soaring, swimming, crawling, stampeding universe. Eyes opened and closed and opened again; we called it blinking.
Above us shone a star that we called the Sun and we called the ground the Earth. So we named everything, including ourselves. We were man and woman, and when we got lonely we figured out a way to make more of us. We called it sex and most people enjoyed it.
We fell in love. We talked about God and banged stones together, made sparks and called them fire. We got warmer and the food got better.
We got married. We had some children. They cried and crawled and grew. One dissected flowers, sometimes eating the petals. Another liked to chase squirrels. We fought wars over money and honor and women. We starved ourselves. We hired prositutes. We purified our water. We compromised, decorated, and became esoteric. One of us stopped breathing and turned blue, then others. First we covered them with leaves and then we buried them in the ground.
We remembered them. We forgot them. We aged. Our buildings kept getting taller. We hired lawyers and formed councils and left paper trails. We negotiated. We admitted. We got sick and searched for cures. We invented lipstick, vaccines, Pilates, solar panels, intervensions, table manners, firearms, window treatments, therapy, birth control, tailgating, status symbols, palimony, sportsmanship, focus groups, Zoloft, sunscreen, landscaping, Cessnas, fortune cookies, chemotherapy, convenience foods, and computers. We angered militants and our mothers.
You were born. You learned to walk and went to school and played sports and lost your virginity and got into a decent college and majored in psychology and went to rock concert and became political and got drunk and changed your major to marketing and wore turtleneck sweaters and read novels and volunteered and went to movies and developed a taste for bleu-cheese dressing. I met you through friends, and didn’t like you at first. The feeling was mutual, but we got used to each other. We had sex for the first time behind an art gallery, standing up and slightly drunk. You held my face in your hands and said that I was beautiful and you were too, with all the streetlight behind you. We went back to your place and listened to the White Album. We ordered in. We fought and made up and got good jobs and got married and bought an apartment and worked out and ate more and talked less. I got depressed. You ignored me. I was sick of you. You drank too much and got careless with money. I slept with my boss. We went into counseling and got a dog. I bought a book of sex positions and we tried to least degrading one: the Wheelbarrow. You took flight lessons and subscribed to Rolling Stone. I learned Spanish and started gardening. We had some children, who more or less disppointed us, but it might have been our fault; you were too indulgent and I was too critical. We loved them anyway. One of them died before we did, stabbed on the subway. We grieved. We moved. We adopted a cat. The world seemed uncertain. We lived beyond our means. I got judgmental and belligerent. You got confused and easily tired. You ignored me. I was sick of you. We forgave. We remembered. We made cocktails. We got tender. There was that time on the porch when you said, “Can you believe it?” This was near the end and your hands were trembling. I think you were talking about everything, including us. Did you want to say it, so that it would not be lost? It was too much for me to think about. I could not go back to the beginning. I said, “Not really”, and we watched the sun go down. A dog kept barking in the distance and you were tired, but you smiled and you said, “Hear that? It’s rough, rough,” and we laughed. You were like that.
Now your question is my project an our house is full of clues. I’m reading old letters and turning over rocks. I bury my face in your sweaters. I study a photograph, taken at the beach, the sun in our eyes and the water behind us. It’s a victory to remember the forgotten picnic basket and your striped beach blanket. It’s a victory to remember how the jellyfish stung you and you ran screaming from the water. It’s a victory to remember dressing the wound with meat tenderizer and you saying I made it better.
I will tell you this. Standing on our hill this morning, I looked at the land we chose for ourselves. I saw a few green patches and our sweet little shed. That same dog was barking. A storm was moving in. I didn’t think of heaven, but I saw the clouds were beautiful and I watched them cover the sun. Jenny Hollowell
by taking it back. What a bargain.
Like being young for a while. We are
allowed to visit hearts of women,
to go into their bodies so we feel
no longer alone. We are permitted
romantic love with it’s bounty and half-life
of two years. It is right to mourn
for the small hotels of Paris that used to be
when we used to be. My mansard looking
down on Notre Dame every morning is gone,
and me listening to the bell at night.
Venice is no more. The best Greek Islands
have drowned in acceleration. But it’s the having
not the keeping that is the treasure.
Ginsberg came to my house one afternoon
and said he was giving up poetry
because it told lies, that language distorts.
I agreed, but asked what we have
that gets it right even that much.
We look up at the stars and they are
not there. We see the memory
of when they were, once upon a time.
And that too is more than enough. Jack Gilbert, The Lost Hotels of Paris
the way the scientists describe it—photons streaming through bodies, caroming off the air, the impenetrable brick
of buildings an illusion—sometimes you can feel how porous you are, how permeable, and the man lurching in circles
on the sidewalk, cutting the space around him with a tin can and saying Uhh! Uhhhh! Uhh! over and over
is part of it, and the one in gold chains leaning against the glass of the luggage store is, and the one who steps toward you
from his doorway, meaning to ask something apparently simple, like What’s the time, something you know
you can no longer answer; he’s part of it, the body of the world which is also yours and which keeps insisting
you recognize it. And the trouble is, you do, but it’s happening here, among the crowds and exhaust smells,
and you taste every greasy scrap of paper, the globbed spit you step over, your tongue is as thick with dirt
as though you’ve fallen on your hands and knees to lick the oil-scummed street, as sour as if you’ve been drinking
the piss of those men passing their bottle in the little park with its cement benches and broken fountain. And it’s no better
when you descend the steps to the Metro and some girl’s wailing off-key about her heart—your heart—
over the awful buzzing of the strings, and you hurry through the turnstile, fumbling out the money that’s passed
from how many hands into yours, getting rid of all your change except one quarter you’re sure she sees
lying blind in your pocket as you get into a car and the doors seal themselves behind you. But still it isn’t over.
Because later, when you’re home, looking out your window at the ocean, at the calm of the horizon line,
and the apple in your hand glows in that golden light that happens in the afternoon, suffusing you with something
you’re sure is close to peace, you think of the boy bagging groceries at Safeway, of how his face was flattened
in a way that was familiar—bootheel of a botched chromosome—and you remember his canceled blue eyes,
and his hands, flaking, rash-reddened, that lifted each thing and caressed it before placing it carefully
in your sack, and the monotonous song he muttered, paper or plastic, paper or plastic, his mouth slack,
a teardrop of drool at the corner; and you know he’s a part of it too, raising the fruit to your lips you look out
at the immense and meaningless blue and know you’re inside it, you realize you’re eating him now. Kim Addonizio, Quantum
Lord she’s gone done left me done packed / up and split
and I with no way to make her
come back and everywhere the world is bare
bright bone white crystal sand glistens
dope death dead dying and jiving drove
her away made her take her laughter and her smiles
and her softness and her midnight sighs—
Fuck Coltrane and music and clouds drifting in the sky
fuck the sea and trees and the sky and birds
and alligators and all the animals that roam the earth
fuck marx and mao fuck fidel and nkrumah and
democracy and communism fuck smack and pot
and red ripe tomatoes fuck joseph fuck mary fuck
god jesus and all the disciples fuck fanon nixon
and malcolm fuck the revolution fuck freedom fuck
the whole muthafucking thing
all i want now is my woman back
so my soul can sing
My love and I are inventing a country, which we
can already see taking shape, as if wheels were
passing through yellow mud. But there is a prob-
lem: if we put a river in the country, it will thaw
and begin flooding. If we put the river on the bor-
der, there will be trouble. If we forget about the
river, there will be no way out. There is already a
sky over that country, waiting for clouds or smoke.
Birds have flown into it, too. Each evening more
trees fill with their eyes, and what they see we can
One day it was snowing heavily, and again we were
lying in bed, watching our country: we could
make out the wide river for the first time, blue and
moving. We seemed to be getting closer; we saw
our wheel tracks leading into it and curving out
of sight behind us. It looked like the land we had
left, some smoke in the distance, but I wasn’t sure.
There were birds calling. The creaking of our
wheels. And as we entered that country, it felt as if
someone was touching our bare shoulders, lightly,
for the last time.
I keep singing into my hands
for just a second
before I have to get up and turn on all the lights in the house, one after the
other, like opening an Advent calendar
My brain opening
the chemical miracles in my brain
I can hear
You think you’ll be missed
it won’t last long
I’m not dead but I am
standing very still
in the back yard
staring up at the maple
thirty years ago
a tiny kid waiting on the ground
alone in heaven
in the world
in white sneakers
I’m having a good time humming along to everything I can still remember
How we’re born
Made to look up at everything we didn’t make
make grass, mosquitoes
or breast cancer
We didn’t make yellow jackets
I didn’t make my brain
but I’m helping
to finish it
Carefully stacking up everything I made next to everything I ruined in broad
daylight in bright
This morning I killed a fly
and didn’t lie down
next to the body
like we’re supposed to
We’re supposed to
Soon I’m going to wake up
There is only this world and this world
What a relief
over and over We Did Not Make Ourselves by Michael Dickman
You will be out with friends
when the news of her existence
will be accidentally spilled all over
your bar stool. Respond calmly
as if it was only a change in weather,
a punch line you saw coming.
After your fourth shot of cheap liquor,
leave the image of him kissing another woman
in the toilet.
In the morning, her name will be
in every headline: car crash, robbery, flood.
When he calls you, ignore the hundreds of ropes
untangling themselves in your stomach.
You are the best friend again. He invites
you over for dinner and you say yes
too easily. Remind yourself this isn’t special,
it’s only dinner, everyone has to eat.
When he greets you at the door, do not think
for one second you are the reason
he wore cologne tonight.
In his kitchen, he will hand-feed you
a piece of red pepper. His laugh
will be low and warm and it will make you
feel like candlelight. Do not think this is special.
Do not count on your fingers the number
of freckles you could kiss too easily.
Try to think of pilot lights and olive oil,
not everything you have ever loved about him,
or it will suddenly feel boiling and possible
and so close. You will find her bobby pins
laying innocently on his bathroom sink.
Her bobby pins. They look like the wiry legs
of spiders, splinters of her undressing
in his bed. Do not say anything.
Think of stealing them, wearing them
home in your hair. When he hugs you goodbye,
let him kiss you on the forehead.
Settle for target practice.
At home, you will picture her across town
pressing her fingers into his back
like wet cement. You will wonder
if she looks like you, if you are two bedrooms
in the same house. Did he fall for her features
like rearranged furniture? When he kisses her,
does she taste like wet paint?
You will want to call him.
You will go as far as holding the phone
in your hand, imagine telling him
unimaginable things like you are always
ticking inside of me and I dream of you
more often than I don’t.
My body is a dead language
and you pronounce
each word perfectly.
Do not call him.
Fall asleep to the hum of the VCR.
She must make him happy.
She must be
She must be his favorite place in Minneapolis.
You are a souvenir shop, where he goes
to remember how much people miss him
when he is gone.
The language of dinosaurs
is full of synonyms for “how we disappeared”
its grammar all shell-eggs and footprints
like swimming pools, thwopping forward
with heartbeats in each step til the valley
bends like a clay bowl.
Their love songs
have fossilized to dusted moans, though
panting treble clefs still edge across
the desert on all fours.
The dictionary of dinosaurs does
not know whether “human” comes before
or after “hunger.”
Its skeletons cannot be slabbed
together after death in the stale light
of museum stockrooms.
Because in two million years
our letters may be fossils
for other kings,
sung by trees
whose branches shake forgotten human murmurs,
This is a Jurassic daydream.
Strum out my name in raindrops,
trace the skin on my back with shaking claws.
We are not the final frontier.
We are just two triceratops hanging out in a sinkhole.
Little bit of moonlight.
Marta was afraid
of walnuts pecans almonds
and all pistachios she couldn’t
crack with a fingernail
her son Charlie
trashed her tomato plants
and sealed her in Missoula
City Nut House.
Blue Plexiglas blew her skin
like rain for seven days.
The radiator’s orangutan moan,
pinkies in electric
wars with iron faucets,
the roommate Beth who sang
hymns to million dollar
Sweepstakes and saved cereal
shavings for future murals.
“Are you an artist?” Marta asked
when Special K flakes bloomed
a small island on the armoire.
“Used to be” Beth said with a war
veteran’s resignation. In her sleep Beth
screamed like a general assembling
men. Marta pondered context.
In the morning they shattered
the window and hung on the grate
with hands spuming red. It was art
they leapt with cereal boxes on their arms,
sailed three miles clear over the Roadhouse
and BJs parking lot. Aisles of cornfields and branflakes
far as the eye could see.
tweet (howlage to ginsberg)
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by character limits, cramming hysterical accounts of pedicurists,
dragging their phones through shiesty back alleys in search of a few bars
fedora-wearing hipsters looking for wifi under fluorescent
lit up bus stops and the tilted ceiling panels of crowded mall Sbarros,
who, insomniatic and stricken with carpel tunnel, typed subtly in the pew during their sister’s wedding, floated through house parties like robo zombies contemplating tagging @ some lucky guest,
who bared their brains to followers large in breadth and varied, laying their diatribes down in dashboards at the palms of other humans,
who passed through universities with the smug light of ironic detachment glowing on their forward-leaning faces,
whose dexterous fingers crackled on keys like fireworks for revolution
who got busted in Stats class for bravely publishing a photo of the teacher mid-nose-pick
who ate LeanCuisines defrosted from the back corners of snowy freezers and flipped through the Facebooks of various middle school nemeses at night,
with dreams of glory, with eyes stretched and acerbic, surface encounters aired as other beings melted to pixels and pictures, the twists of their histories laid bare for any hand to click in jealousy or in jest,
inside jokes passed between Monday mouths, eternal 3AM drunk dialogues frozen in archives, perhaps curled side by side resting their eyes because we never could,
to return years from now, I am told, when we try to get corporate jobs, each uncensored mouth to rot at their good graces in the minds of potential employers with forehead lines bent in unimpressed anguish, precluding any source of income and exiling us thus to the basements of our childhood homes, furiously scanning eHow articles on how to make and sell jewelry,
all these warnings aside I am currently more plagued by the tendril of possibility that several middle school nemeses are happier than I am now, the last mega-popular prom picture commented on by scores of fellow beings, the last tryhard-satirical tweet, a single text box of biography for this raw red wad of neurons and synapses pulsing and carrying signals,
Ah Zuckerburg, you are not safe I am not safe and now we’re really in the total html soup of time –
who will click my name when I am gone in a sudden flash to a world without reblogs or wifi?
who will dream and retweet my impressions in space & time through images juxtaposed to align the noun and dash of my consciousness with Kim Kardashian’s as she asks the world in earnest “why can’t I ever sleep?!!!”
to recreate the syntax and measure of mediocre human prose and then to stand before you dumb and full of words, checking status updates between classes, rejected yet confessing the inner soul so unidentified faces may nod along and smile,
the fedora-wearing hipster the thirteen year old with One Direction plastered all over her wall typing out here what might be left to say, the absolute heart of the tweet slinking out of our restless minds good to remain a thousand years, or however long it takes to delete that shit and go outside.
I would like to know the dumb joy
of trees, their misspelled love notes,
bs and ds facing the wrong way
and still they are standing.
I think they like their feet wet.
They can stand in a sob all day
and in the evening not think once about lumber. Michael Chitwood, part of Don’t Complain
Trees talk to each other at night.
All fish are named either Lorna or Jack.
Before your eyeballs fall out from watching too much TV, they get very loose.
Tiny bears live in drain pipes.
If you are very very quiet you can hear the clouds rub against the sky.
The moon and the sun had a fight a long time ago.
Everyone knows at least one secret language.
When nobody is looking, I can fly.
We are all held together by invisible threads.
Books get lonely too.
Sadness can be eaten.
I will always be there. Raul Gutierrez, “Lies I’ve Told My 3 Year Old Recently” (via words-in-lines)
we who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting
as a group
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift
your analyst is
in on it
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us
in announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
indeed against ourselves
but since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
then for the good of the collective We Who Are You Closest Friends by Phillip Lopate