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Moody, David A.
Nothing / they said
h [electronic resource] /
by David A. Moody.
[Tampa, Fla] :
b University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 57 pages.
Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: This collection of poetry uses the context of a family environment to explore lack and loss, applying these concepts in their usual negative sense, but also drawing out their positive implications of potential and gain. Each of the collection's three sections is introduced by a traditional Japanese poem translated to emphasize its aspects of emptiness as shown through brevity, structure, and content. The poems contained in each section exemplify events of defeat, debt, and aimlessness that can punctuate the family lifecycle. In each poem, loss is reinterpreted in positive terms: in "Tobacco Manifesto," debt leads to a profit; in "Interviewing Ernest," a defeat color-blinds the narrator, and that damage expands who and how the narrator loves. Recurring content-fire and celestial bodies, father-son relationships, and seven variations on "Lines Cut Out of a Poem on Abortion that I Didn't Want to Finish"-further tie the sections together. The overall approach to the collection's themes, styles, and influences are addressed in the introduction, concluding in a discussion of translation's influence on each aspect. Three conflicts are present in the structure of the poems-narrativity vs. lyricism, formal complexity vs. simplicity, and familiarity vs. unfamiliarity-and those conflicts are addressed in terms of predictability, resulting in a collection that works not only to reshape the reader's definitions of lack and loss through its content, but also to let readers experience for themselves how unpredictable outcomes simultaneously are a failure of expectation and the gain of something new.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Advisor: Jay Hopler, M.F.A.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
nothing / they said by David A. Moody A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Fine Arts Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Jay Hopler, M.F.A. John Fleming Ph.D. Rita Ciresi, M.F.A. Date of Approval: April 10, 2009 Keywords: poetry, family, writing loss, Florida Japanese, translation father Copyright 2009 David A. Moody
This collection is dedicated to my father, Ernest Moody who sat me in the backyard every summer of my youth helping me memorize lists of complex words for the annual elementary school spelling bee
i Table of Contents Abstract iii Introduction : nothing / they said : A Personal Poetic 1 In A Ballroom 6 I: Natsu no no no 7 Creation Theory 8 Line s 9 Illusion 1 0 Filling the Stage 1 3 Virginity 1 4 Line s 1 5 1 6 Corona 1 7 II: Haru no sono 1 8 Dream 0 19 Line s 2 1 Upon Reading Williams, cummings, Lying Down to Pray 2 2 Sunday 2 3 Line s 2 4 Interviewing Ernest: 1926 1998 2 5 Line Cut Out of a Poem on Abortion T 3 8 Sheet Music 39
ii Vicarious 4 0 III: Koma nishiki 4 2 Ode to East Moon Tavern 4 3 out the window, past the train tracks 4 5 On Xanax & Zoloft 4 6 VI 4 8 Eclipse: 21 Guns 49 For Mrs. 5 0 Florida is a State of Escapees 5 1 Step 5 2 VII 5 4 Tobacco Manifesto 5 5
iii nothing / they said David A. Moody ABSTRACT This collection of poetry uses the context of a family environment to explore lack and loss, applying these concepts in their usual negative sense, but also drawing out their ons is introduced by a traditional Japanese poem translated to emphasize its aspects of emptiness as shown through brevity, structure, and content. The poems contained in each section exemplify events of defeat, debt, and aimlessness that can punctuate the family blinds the narrator, and that damage expands who and how the narrator loves. Recurring conten t fire and celestial bodies, father further tie the sections together. re each aspect. Three conflicts are present in the structure of the poems narrativity vs. lyricism, formal complexity vs. simplicity, and familiarity vs. unfamiliarity and those conflicts are addressed in terms of predictability, resulting in a collection that works not readers experience for themselves how unpredictable outcom es simultaneously are a failure of expectation and the gain of something new.
1 nothing / they said : A Personal Poetic The line and title nothing / they said can be read in several ways: there was larger statement. Each reading evokes its own e lement silence, loss, lack, helplessness, continuation and these are the themes that inform the collection as a whole. This thesis closely explores loss and lack concepts easily read as negative. I complicate that reading, emphasizin g not their negativity but the implications of lose as gain and of lack as potential for growth. The postmodern family, ripe with adolescent indifference and parental absence, with identity confusion and formlessness, is the sit exploration, yet many of t he mom ents represented within are common to any family: from the conception of children to the loss of childhood ignorance, from first encounters with identities of sex to the relative simplicity of an affair. In some instances, what is created is lost. In other s, what was thought lost is proven to never have been. But this is not uncomplicated loss or lack. In nothing / they said emptiness can simply be a calm moment of waiting, and in that moment there is the potential for fulfillment. The poems in nothing / t hey said are arranged in an order that emphasizes such active moments of loss and gain. However, since we do not exist in a single defining relationship, overlapping themes engage our overlapping roles. roles played by Harry Houdini layer, creating a composite image of him as a husband, a performer, an inspiration, and a businessman. The closing lines show how several identities, exemplified by multiple names, can co exist in one person and in this case, one poem. truggle to escape even his role as escapist cannot be
2 ignored. Such experiences of lose as gain ripple through this thesis and can be experienced without reading the collection in a particular order. Life does not always have order. The poems within can be re ad independently of each other or in terms of the context they create. As a writer, I am interested in the many roles of the poet as a reader, an artist, a critic and the connection betwe en public and private language. Reading for pleasure led me to s tudy the forms and techniques of several influential writers. Look for Spencer sorrow paired with James Galvin awareness of the poem as a landscape in Thomas L ux is at times my syntax and lyricism, and Juliana Spahr, my collective consciousness. I hear Marty McConnell in my female personas. Philip Levine and Mark Levine, Charles Dobzynski and Valzhyna Mort to whom I return when seeking escape into fully developed worlds condensed into a single page The role criticism plays in nothing / they said is equally influential. Reading Leon Articles of War alongside Christian B Eunoia le d to writing sexuality, virginity, and the whorish family unit informs the second section of the collection Michael reminding readers, as individuals and as members of families and other collectives, of shared In a workshop with poet Major Jackson at the 200 8 Palm Beach Poetry Festival, the issue of lyricism versus narrative was graphically illustrated on a linear scale, the left
3 representing lyric tendencies and the right, narrative. The average poet fell to the center left, close to lyricism, but not in aba ndonment of narrative. My placement on the scale the narrative writer must sacri fice for the sake of narration, and what poets will not do that a prose writer might. I try for a middle ground of narrative lyricism yet often resist the constraints of form. Though I do not follow a particular style, I practice re center ing myself work against my writing style. Many poems in this collect ion are the indirect result s of using such exercises to gauge my stylistic extremes and norms Doing so lets me remain critical of my own craft and see if, for example, writing towards a more sonically aware poetic simultaneously writes me away from evocat ive lineation. In this way, I can acknowledge what limitations I have imposed on myself through my choice of poetics So informed, I can then choose to continue on that path or change. My poetic is adventurous and yet that errantry exist s on a path that can be retraced, either by an awareness of my influences or by simply looking back at the each al history I keep a copy of every revision and enjoy moving along the path created by this past Each form found and explored, each technique evaluated becomes not just a useful tool but a Exploring traditional forms frequently causes my poetics to shift in reaction to that historic context and with ancing control. To help with this shifting, as to assure the aforementioned availability of reading this collection non sequentially, put in place several controlling devices and written within the confines of some self imposed criteria. For example, to ensure successful intra textual
4 readings the poem s within are arranged so that no one poem directly attempts to establish a mood, image or tone Instead, the resonation of the poems with each other emphasizes what the single poem only implies. More a ctive mechanisms such as using ignescent words to emphasize the passions of creation, the singe of loss, and the chill of lack are used to control elements like tone and imagery As far as my personal family should be concerned, nothing they said has ma de its way into th is autobiographical mode and the tendency to write what simply is familiar. More often, these poems are the manifestation of pondering that which went unsaid. The Japanese culture is known for its lack of overstatement so for each section break in this collection, Literary t ranslation gives us access to foreign cultures and uncommon moments t o which otherwise be denied. In its way, it is an art of losing familiarity as readers are brought closer to a language unlike their norm. Poetry itself is not normal language, and so some poems in nothing / they said were included to engage readers with something unfamiliar something that, by distancing readers from their usual experiences, denies them their expectations. They are kept guessing, and therefore are more attentive to The largest poem in the collection, the center piece Interviewing Ernest is a lengthy, multi sectional work which attempts to instigate a narrative of loss as gain as experienced through an elderly, reflective narrator who is interviewed about his life. The concept is familiar yet readers of any age or back ground are kept at a distance by means of a strict linguistic control ing the
5 reader with uncommon approaches to la nguage, these poems remove the comfort zone that readers may have developed from reading poetry in general and reengage the audience with poetry as experience and not as expectation. nothing / they said was written to investigate three stylistic conflicts : narrativity vs. lyricism formal complexity vs. simplicity, and familiar vs. unfamiliar uses of la nguage addressed them all in terms of the same aspect predictability and how, b y working within the limits of each poem, a familiar context or conflict can be opened to unexpected resolution. This investigation is an ongoing project and this thesis will perhaps become one in a series of explorations. This desire for continuation is at no place more present than at the end of Interviewing Ernest desire to continue a dialog with his deceased father, I see it as a call to continue exploring the themes present in this collection and in society as a whole. I plan to follow that call.
6 In a Ballroom Sitting in a ballroom listening to a poet reading with a Romanian voice about her hard war, I think I, and America, would write beautiful poems unhap py, that we have m uch to be happy for and can be happy, and happy is such a weak word, but it works. Who said this: poetry, alone in a room, on a bed, quiet and reading is really, really good, but spooning is better? We can love here. We should writ and my father died today, and I look at my watch to see if the minute : was I born at 11:38 AM, or is that when he died? And then I wrote a poem thinking of a girl and wanting to under stand.
7 I Natsu no no no shigemi ni sakeru hime yuri no shiraenu koi wa kurushiki mono so A lily buds single red star lost in the hectic summer plains So goes a love unknown pain ful substance, forgotten growth
8 Creation Theory Assume we n eed a father. Make him a figment, Christ like, a king, a carpenter Arthur with hammer and saw. Give him nails of all different types: flat head and box nails, 5/8 th and fists. Make sure the hammer bangs on his thumb. Watch him then. Make sure he can bruise. He should, for eyes, have filaments. He should shine, but must be hard as mid May hail that needles soil. He should be sapphire or charcoal and ember. He has to be calloused and old. And if none of this works, azaleas should dance like st eak knives swirling in a basin of dishes with leftover bones and petals and suds. Should a father be out there when we wash the cookware and cut into our palms, then he will come cursing our blood, the inspiring war, the whole damn regime of long bla ded things. Bed time or not, he will tuck us all in. Instead of good night, he will whisper his name.
9 Line s Cut Out of a Poem on Abortion T Clouds at dawn T hey bulge and contract. What promise they make to crops, wh at dust.
10 Illusion -Ragtime 1 My father was born Sunday death, foretelling this: Life is both ways. To escape into is n ot to escape from. 2 It took a while, but we got over it, his death. His wife took 10 years to stop holding on, to stop lighting candles. She imagined this: Houdini and love. The bonds of matrimony. The same bed each night. The weight of a finger defin ed by a ring, an O, a cycle, a mouth agape. Would we be surprised at his return to such soft restriction? After each performance his eyes looking shyly for only his Bess, his escaping to her to have and be held. But that last act of leaving, he just had to know how. 3 If he were to reincarnate, what would he be: the tumble lock, the chain, or the key? 4 My father said my brain would escape from my head if I watched too much TV, or that it would just die in there, trapped. But TV keeps Harry al ive,
11 a except for my father and Houdini. 5 behind you reading this over your shoulder Left shoulder Now right a little cooler then a little warmer Y our hair felt that movement a minute ago That sound you heard what you thought it was just a random noise, no W ait Okay look 6 o pen a bookstore. In it, carry only novels, journals, posters and cards of Houdini, his stomach tense in each picture, his hair poised and rigid a gainst gravity and air. Wait with pen and paper to write off the entire venture as he slips off each note and calendar, all pages blank as a stage but for words spilled like gravel on the grave of his mother, meaningful with no explanation, the what witho ut a why.
12 Erik Weisz, the business expense. Houdini, the great implied.
13 Filling the Stage to Franz Wright You were one of those rats acting on the stage like you owned the place, but the hands and drink. Some looked up to bigger men behind the curtain making noise, moving things. Outside, cars but no traffic. One person, old, clapped t wo hands together, crushing a fly. Such is the audience, performing the act of looking forward. They miss the rats looking back past them, out the door.
14 Virgins I n a gutter of f Gillis Street, f ar from the green couch in front for the window leather ball, but there it was size of my palm, brown stains from the trash a rusty red I expected bite marks of some playful stray o r the usual wear toy but no bought as a gift to the group who played with me on the stree t. We kept losing things. It was kept in the chest at the end of the couch, kept until we put a smooth hand around its lace and tossed the comeback If unlucky, adventures and so many fo ndling hands hunting through the leaf piles. So here it is, brushed to a curve I never ran by on my way home after practice at the field. Someone there always keeping me late. Someone always left waiting searching P ull a leaf off the leather. T his one must have been ours. I pocket it and walk W ith each step, feel it familiar like holding a hand deep in a pocket, l ike it never quite fit, but always was there r ubbing hot i nto my leg, the kind ive away b ut might throw really hard, as far as I could and turn my back on b efore it ever touch es down j ust hear behind the gentle pop of it reflect off our pavement. T he rustle of hands pulling the leaves apart.
15 Lines Cut Out of a Poem on Abortion T II Hot and grey slow, this rot, as fallen pears. Womb at noon or old road kill?
16 I try to endure These moments: trees aflame, burnt Skyline, empty clouds In the sky, evening Ashes, colo rs settle, grays And orange. Then it snows. Delirious sky, T o the water, to waves, Y ou are the blue st. E ye s in a mirror Catch, in mid blink on fire. Mirrors can smoke The burning man sighs For his dry soul. Ah, to touch Sky. Ah, to be touched.
17 Corona I. Waxing The 2 p.m. sun tan s shadows into siding, sliding under the sweating shingles the aluminum peeling into itself no shade. The light angles unerring from a vanishing point that casts its stare through each household Windows wilt and yield. Ra and Surya and H elios admire their halos reflecting off tin roofs and chicken feathers, a pale child on the porch steps looking in through the screen, knocking like hopeless thunder, like garbage cans pushed over on the corner, empty but for bullet casings. The girl o n the steps, she wonders what stars are like, think s of them as cool glowing beds If Dad home he may be asleep. She knocks harder and hates the heat. This afternoon, she wants him to bake cookies. If he comes home late, she will make them alone by stove light. The sun reaches d II. Waning When Dad comes home he microwaves, he drinks the water, the wine. When Dad falls asleep the girls on TV, they yoga and crunch. He glows. He roasts in his sleep and he tans when he work s. He works to earn dentures, to smile. He dreams about sap that bursts out his skin. He works with no shirt in plain sight of Mom in the sky. He likes the sun and feels her hands in it. He keeps a photo of her in a b ox She grins from the roof. She mimics his h eight. He knows when she sees him. She parts the cloud s comes from her. How he wrinkles away. Poor Dad, for, Mom, how he burns.
18 II Haru no sono kurenai niou momo no hana shitateru michi ni idetatsu otome Don't you think it is the garden giving in to spring, the maiden who departs the road to scent the blossoms with peach, to redden the park beneath her bright flower?
19 Dream Journal: Entry 0 A red hair on the bed curling to a question mark, and then this dream : y ou're falling and falling and no, not falling, lying down. Lying down can take a while, so it feels sometimes like falli ng. In this dream where there's nothing to fall on, nothing to lie on no one can promise that your even moving. You: a bucket tossed down a well with too much air in it. No room for water. Nothing gets filled. Somewhere a fire burns out, leaving y ou to fall through smoke or are you rising with it? This kind of dream may n ever happen but promises to like a voice on the phone saying call you again so long as the phone is ringing. In this dream, a friend you know nothing about phones to say hang up You try to this fall, no instructions in your pocket reading Pull but you yank anyways at the open space all around, pulling from nothingness tufts of red hairs. But look
20 but a lover, no, your ex, no One breast does not imply the second or even a heart to hold it up. But always there is blood in the veins of roses when there is no sk y. If there is no sky, there is nowhere to rain from. No dream or falling, nothing quite like it. answer that. Nothing will come of it, no good or bad. This is being neutral b eing without sides, without a place to be. So this is falling. This falling dream T his dream is of being awake b ut this, too, feels like falling, like waiting, like wanting to land and looking all around only to see cracks in the sidewal k and the hole from where the sky fell
21 Line s Cut Out of a Poem on Abortion T III A calendar inside a dumpster,
22 Upon Reading Williams, cummings Lying Down to Pray I just had sex, God, th inking of(a woman who could have) sex with words without fucking (love) just thinking words, reading men, eying wo men (their body filled) with men who(se words) are women. God (I) just had sex with words. I should (be saying my prayers louder prayi ng) tomorrow night with a woman and (a woman, sex with) a woman, oh God, with the Word, Ah men.
23 Sunday 3 a.m. again. Time to contemplate the face of the Virgin Mary in the stucco ceiling, to find some dirty connection between the words Virgin and spackle. A neighbor yells volumes at a television. His language is mysterious as the softness of concrete walls Maybe he trains his English by answering late night evangelists Maybe he orders hair crme. At this time, the skyscraped horizon haunt s out the window. We can walk through the city trying to decide The stranglers and strippers, we are strangers together. We smile and nod. as if we, all at once, agreed. At this hour, people outside police perimeter s in the background of the news anchor filming they seem to dance left to right. I should be dancing. I should be in the papers. Time to wait for the sun to rise To watch it reflect off of the building one over. The Virgin is so beautiful.
24 Lines Cut Out of a Poem on Abortion T IV Proper in shape and number, seedless grapes. Those unwanted, leave for the gut of flies.
25 Interviewing Ernest: 1926 1998 Some people say they r emember birth. Do you? It is simply divine, birth. There is, in it, everything remembered: teeth (hinted), yells, silence. Fingers flexed, fingers limp. The giving kill, stiff limbs stretched. Every child sleeps. Then the sister tries, births three. T he little thing with the penis, s he tells her sister, mine Like its bleeding prick, life is divine intent. The child, Ernest, cries.
26 You were nine when the Depression hit. Talk about it. thriving in nineteen thirty five by dying there. The needy men, the wives, their kids (like me; my friends), empty bellies being filled by pills. Incredible genies lied, their three wishes hidden in Bibles. Bitter times in the streets, yet I inspired t he nieces with my knight legends, myths of mildewed deities, pennies when needed. We needed things they titled rights Even thieves need things time, hiding, night. We hid. We slept. Even sleep seemed like lies.
27 Your teens and the glasses. The coma. Tell me that one. skirmish. We still beseeched independence, self inflicted if need be. Fists were dinner by then, every kid binged, bellies digesting the hits F ists were still fists then Knives were left inside. Fingers were five tight needles, the rest: sinewy mettle. Will they remember the knee my hidden kicks, my steel tipped feet? I chipped every shin. I killed, wi thin inches, pride. Then winter. Then me, exiting His temple. Piety. They, with keen timing, k nifed me. I felt my chin me e t the edge, split side like, (which kids pinned my limbs w hich spit, pissed beside my feet ? ) wind sliced between my grin, higher t hen higher. They let me keep my teeth. They fled (my friends; like me) I bled. There, behind the temple, I let myself lie, let myself sleep I bled. Let me sleep, bleed and sleep. Sister Ellie the chest, kni ghts in white linen, sterile steel, stitches, t hink pills, drink pills. Dinner. Then electric red wheel nevernever lie still stretcher spin like wind
28 within the when still there is chilly mixed I.V. treble drip speed little speed till evening the dip expect blindness prime pity never me find heel between lie every silver screen glee medic medic medic White light, Rest. Thin endings re sew themselves. Existing begins new. Rebirth. Try blinking. They tell m e. Try seeing.
29 What year was that? H ow ol d were you? The pills Their simple fixes. They distend time in select few y et why whine, sir? If He will s it, the pills, why, t hey might eject this entire s tint fighting the Third Reich. s t he shrinks fix the rest. white fire, fire fire fire P esticid ing the fi elds with mines Flying B 29s. Tin in my spine. Depressed fighting ended by beginning this new fight. in my eye, their fingers snapped triggers. If we tr ied remembering, well, itches when the knife slice fixed itself. In this new time, this 1945, i I miss seeing specific pigments. Did it die in the knife fight? It might been the Gewehr 43 s the rifle which bit deep in my cheek, sent me with the medics, I see white inside red, Green, grey, white, few pigments else wise.
30 By night, well, I tell its night by my tim epiece. I see night, I see niggers, think Keeps things simpler. Less fighting when it s, every bit simply tricks with light, right? They rejected my service in style. Srgt. Dixen, blind men die. Get. Sent by Mississ ippi, then driven. The city, my city, they kinged me Did they like me? Did they pity me? They envied my sight, My white eyed trip, my blind eye blink. They respected my belly, filled by fire. With fire. The free dinner. behind the temple, kids fisted their ribs, their necks. I see them. I keep my feet in line. They all seem white, flecked with red, men like children, bleeding their tithes.
31 Y ou were only twenty Was it easy to readjust to non military l ife? Kings fight. Knights die, then the kings. The sky, helpless, is very high. Little by little I declined the pills, thinking little by little. My eyes, the shit see it every time I blinked, spelling in striped white sphinx ri ddles Fine. By then I liked winking, rhyming speeches in the twilight delivered with fingers, received by girls with sighs yes, sighing Mildred. Milly my item. She knew my firmness. I did things with her, things with the eyes, like dirty sightsee ing: inflecting She knew. Me? My kind, my ilk pimps with pink victims. I did things, spelled very gently between her thighs kike She never knew. Necessity filled her. I filled her with decided ex istence, hitch hiking, beginning in the cervix, ending with the neck. Very gentle scenery, her middle circle, wet ring, chimed like thick bells. Relief is this picnic, drinking her ribs, stiff, like the first time Eve fell. Deep. Dying kitten cries. Deep chest mewing. Twilight lime lips, slick fingers. Slender lines, tender, tender
32 (very thin, her tiny) tight gripped behind, being tight, tighter slipped being then, then Milly, Milly, then ex light night Fire Hide the sperm Centered hide the eg g Electric scene Fire Hide Fire Jerry steps in the mine field Milly! Milly? Ernie? piercing my mind. She highlights my thieving. She gives it life. When she gives I cry. H er skin crisp In delight, I feel her left hip here, beside my wrist. This e ndless drift the right girl, Elise McIntyre, keep it in her every night This specimen, my Milly, every midnight by th e fire eyeing my timepiece, rewinding myself in her sex when the wife gives her milk.
33 In 1949 you dealt with a wife and ex lover. How ? electric men. Pricked, dripping their ginger scent sin. I did my piece. My wife pier ces with the eight inch the whiskey Why? My first kid. t heir seeds peppering the city They my den. Since when did three weekend drinking binges define birth? Steins drizzle with hindsight. T he men, enticed, pry in peeks when Elise feeds the kid. Her milk is thick. They see tight nipples. The specter child sees itself being seen. I see my drink, think highlights, my then life, Milly H The new chi ld cries. Elise yells, hits Bill, his greedy whispers, I grin. I whet my fist with beer, shiver, reel my right right in to his cheek. The men cry Bill The men cry Beer! Elise gives me her kiss. P reening my kin by fightin g? I knew I might like it
34 Talk about your later years. We hit sixty. It hit me in the den by the firepit Tell me where it went, eh, The middle life: the misbirths, weekly services, eleven till eight night shifts, kicking the k id out, secret Eden like hidden shit? In the time within time, I knew kindness. I might remember the bright eternity between nineteen thirty nine the being frightened by dinner less knives in the sink, the big stick hit ting Hitler. with my limp dick. It gets me there. they tell me. The wife with me w e get into tiffs I try reme mbering yet remember very little. Still, I try .. The fire here feels, it reminds me visited here when herded by sheep.
35 Why not talk about your 65 th birthday, r etirement and all. They we re hidden between red green items dressed in tinsel. They never give them to Christ. I like the kids They respect me the New City Pipes the Mettle Men Five swinging in three step rhythm. Right there in the city in my mind, where I see this girl shifting her hips left, then right. tI dEE, spI dEE, bebe dwEE eh eh eh eee like icicles tingling everywhere, Blitze n with sleig h bells ringing. Elves, St. Nick listing every chimney, hey Vixen, hey reindeer with the red sniffer. I liked the presents, l iked seeing fir trees w ith ivy lights giving them g reener tints. Wisemen. The kids kept kidding me, k ept telling me I m een the third Wisemen. Hell, s ixty
36 Was it worth it? these seventy three life cycles. I lived it pretty well Did it instinctively. This here is my midlife s them believe thes e pills help; t hey tell me they help.) I like these zipper kids, blinking children with their beeping, brightened whirligigs. I give the kids descriptive, decisive endings with twists. Life ? I tell them. It ends. I remind them why. They see me th eir pier, my pilings chiseled in the deep dirt, seemingly timeless. They skip the length, miss the end, t They get the hint. Even depth dries. Decide, I tell them: which is better little white sniffing bits? Grinding hi ppie jigs? Excellent filler, I think. I did think like they think, then, Like, in nineteen fifty never. like their twenty ten, like their iThings. I will finish the sins they begin. They will like their elderly knight, Chr ist the cripple.
37 And the future? Imagine it. I wish things were like this: me with this stiff stick pricking the street like Greek men when the time Virgil lyiricized the here/there. I think I deserve the better bed, the wr my skin, divide my will, my big dividends. when frightened yes, the blind like betting, even when dying in t he white. We see vehement kids breeching life with terrible silent cries. Merged with the single, rested end, we see the breeze fill their wet eyes. Blink it by, blink it by. Pity is inherent in seeing time expire. Even nights like ending, right? Listen I died in nineteen thirty five. We even get wings. ll be simple, like silver screens, like sex. Like Elise, bless her. Like, well, my Milly. My Helen t he secret wife. See, when in 1967 S orry, si r T imes up. G ot to get you to your room for dinner. The nurses return next week. We all will. Right, right. Get here then. Whenever. Next time. Have a good afternoon, Mr. Ernest. Ernie, kid.
38 Lin es Cut Out of a Poem on Abortion T V Discarded bonsai found by raccoons. Regards to curled limbs, to clipped growth, stiff
39 Sheet Music Strung, a wire knows taunt fingers, the rub of snowfall on its tension sig h, as if you were a violin because you are hum, as if I were wire pulled apart by your snowy limbs (you In the breath of a winter you cover me, the bow string threading sound through your hair with finger s. Your straight lines. Your crafted curves, curls, a weight of notes, of cords, of lines and bars that make the avalanche come down on us. Music. White noise. hands, cold but warm with songs. Sing. Sing. Sing bef relaxed, we listen to the silence of our shape being tuned.
40 Vicarious I In the stalls, the flies are stable, level to the plain palomino horse, poised like still shade under hay, ready to disappear to fly onto stable h air and stall there inches before a bite, hovering in what the rider might see as prayer: the fl ies being so close to biting into gold. II. Asleep on a sun brown beach. One leg arched. Chin on shoulder, eyes shut, buried against light. She looks s Winter is over. Lips redden when clouds spread. To kiss would be to taste the word soft. Relax No sweat runs the course of that sky tuned skin cooled by wind that blows over me just to play at her. How much of life has been just like this, spoiling her with thankless peace? That movement overhead. Thick body of shade, slumbering. A fat fly and black, one full of eyes. It explores, looks to nip crisply
41 at that unclaimed calf. I almost swat it aw ay.
42 III Koma nishiki himo no katae zo took no ochinikeru asu no yoshi kinan to iwaba toriokite matan If you command, this brocade this Korean length my string of distant empires falls . There is still
43 Ode to East Moon Tavern I. This woman, see, she was familiar as walking, which is to say I had to learn her, and she refused to be forgotten despite that she was a s mute as a sheath She was the kind of Mom that helped us get over our own mothers, our own accidents and births. Her hips could have delivered the moon, a nd maybe did each night. She taught us to jazz to spread o urselves before music l ike an offeri ng to the harvest. She slept in alleys but always danced. Years later, in a bus station, there she was, but shades too light. Her skin should have been coffee brown bleached paint. She slept with those hips wedged b etween st rangers, a cup held between her thighs, empty but there. I left her a twenty. II. Hard sky rivet, the moon is no thief snuck into the ring It only borrows the light to give it back. jaw a coin trick feint each side the same deep pocks You think it wants those scars ? It rises at noon so everyone can see No dead crack of earth always dodging west. No sun worship inside the ring of dusk. Thighs can taste like fists in the mouth. Even when h u ng over, something like a squint,
44 it which last night caught it good, gets so close to lights out we could swear stars. III. Cue ball. Y ou bend over your pole. Your break, you pick carefully, slow. Like virgins, why rush? Pull back, push forward. Repeat this over years. Caress a nook into her hip or his, pockets that keep you r wallet full B en d at the knee to (remember?) that gravity of spheres pulling towards each other, bodies into holes, you r hand slid against a field of green, of cream like coffins, so warm to be inside, to move the eight ball towards its end. IV. It took a night to watch the moon moving its way. C old as violets a t some point burnt on a family pyre, I coughed. You sneezed. Above us, the stars, like gentlemen, they blessed you.
45 out the window, past the train tracks in a field mid August it faces the old rails rocking chair its white wash overgrown by wet weeds to sit there city streets neighborhoods stucco walls all that would need be built around it and your feet
46 On Xanax & Zoloft I. Akira Blakely. Case Declassified: Kannazuki 1 lights matches, never once prays. Quietly rides subways. Touches untapped veins. Wants yesterday again, before Charles died, -II. I just keep listening. More noise. Only pills quite risk serenity. They use volumes, waste years anesthetized. erupt. Files get hot, incinerate. Jason, Kaja, Latesha medicated. Never once psychoanalyzed qualitatively, rather simply tested, and bleached. III. Children, doctors, everyone feeds, growing half inches. Jammied kindergarteners quickening, reaching skyward, tenderly, until Venlafaxine 2 withers youth. IV. kamis 3 reality, subduing that 1 The tenth month in the Ja panese lunar cycle. Correlates with October. Known traditionally as the elsewhere. 2 An antidepressant drug. The chemical names that follow all reference some ty pe of antidepressant. 3 Word for the eight million spirits/gods of the Shinto religion.
47 V. Akira, being cheated, digests kisses lithium. Many never overcome patented quiet. Remember screaming tears? Under stand, Vesuvius? Wonderful yowls and binges, cravings, desires enraging fists, gyrating hips into jealous kerosene lust? Must numbness overwhelm? People VI : Off Xanax & Zolo ft The day Akira wikis the word inspiration he breaks r outine, yields to the toilet a tithe of Xanax and Zoloft, v omits up wasted years, finds in them undigested pills. These he touches to a blank canvas and draws with them, like chalk, a picture of C harles and him swung on a swing under an October sky, clouds full of faces watching, and then doodles his ABCs outside the yellow lines.
48 Line s Cut Out of a Poem on Abortion T VI Patience, then fire fills itself on f lames. A present, given empty. The only gift in its opening.
49 Eclipse: 21 Guns Someone hums a lullaby about kitchens filled with baked things, the cupboards heaving No one is hungry. Above the Mass, two bodies play at coitus. Nothing can be born of this. The hole fill s obscene, with us watching. This is why we sleep with eyes closed So much is taken in by these things: b lack holes, irises arms In a ballroom dance, someone must lead. Who leads the c asket down? Spit fire is just visible death. Ships are never as buoyant as the memories of them and s uffocation happen s under water and dirt. We have to teach ou rselves to not reload. Someone could get hurt. Someone could shoot a hole right into the sky.
50 For Mrs. but after you left, I took a shower because I was stained by your dry lips, by the grind of your teeth in my side. After you left, I took a shower. That left me steaming and alone like the grind of your teeth in my side waiting to feel something, some hurt. Steaming and alone, I left, called my husband to complain, waiting to feel some hurt, something, as if h e could reach through, break me. My husband complained, calling my body a broken home as if he never reached out to break it. But off he went demanding money for rent. His home is my broken body. The bar buys him a second round. He demanded money for rent, went out and spent it all on forgetting the way back. The bar always buys him another round, so he might not recognize your smell in this house and might not spend himself on getting me back. But he migh t recognize your smell in this house because I was stained Even I seem to forget,
51 Florida is a State of Escapees after Spenser Reese We electrocute men Their mothers we kee p, tho se barren and old whose sterile l ove bleaches our dessicant state. the piers that stand over scrub where our dry boats drown in inlets of briars. Their boys will stay home or run out through swamps and later retu rn with leeches and colds. send to school. the shakes and the smoke. T celebrate them. They look so adult. To dim the bright flood lights, And this is the way These swamp nights of Florida, they let us forget. They promise us nothing where nothing will grow. And on the first day of class an orange in each chair.
52 Step A colony swarms from a crack in the wall around the light bulb, hot and bare. You into the bath dive deeper, the water, the water getting co ld, the soap all gone. You hold your breath, but how long can you last? How many there are. But to spite you He stands in a halo of wasps, neither harming nor helping, but hovering there above the tub, wearing the m like a robe, a thousand point garb. His parasite eyes sting through the swarm and over your veins. You shiver to know His stinger and swell, the glint of His wings. Over your parts you put your hands, your naked thighs squeezed close. He reaches out, one hand full of eggs, and swats at the swarms. It hangs so near that they move together. Are they with Him or of Him? Do they live in His chest? You live in His walls, bathe in His water. But you love your mother, and are not of His brood. s the female wasps that thrusts out a barb, their single sex organ protruding to sting. And now you can see it, the way they attack Him. His arms are outstretched but paralyzed so. Their droplets of venom they whet on H is eyes. He welts and H e leaks, a dam full of holes. And now is the time you know, to breathe that this is how H e works, playing the part, but H on e What can they put in H im that H stinks of honey decay fallen fruit His boon You can H is wings move, but know that Then one wasp, against your water, falls,
53 then two and four, twitching and poised. What poisons H is veins drips off their legs, these yellow petals H e plucks for you bathe in a body of rot. : W t o find you like a ship, sunken, downed to be kep t out of enemy hands. For His role as savior He will from you demand as you reward a nd toss you in H is sticky cell, daub your skin with alcohol and look for wounds for holes. Near H through H that all insects are Hymenoptera that optera s are wings, hymens are hymens, that wasps store sperm inside their bodies to control the sex of all of their spawn. w hile they hold him enthralled, your thousands o f saviors. How some look like you, torn in the water, filling the tub, wh ich understands you, the filling and draining and longing to breathe, to breathe, inhale. The walls all around, why do they look chewed?
54 Lines Cut Out of a Poem on Abortion T VII Such small hands.
55 Tobacco Mani festo --"Smoke cigars like falling in love; first be attracted to its shape; you stay for its flavor; and you Winston Churchill This is how it should be: 1. When the U.S. placed an embargo on Ca stro's communist economy in 1962, the forbidden Cuban cigars took on mythic qua lities. Tobacco winged angels harv est forks for swords. 2. The taste: heavy and rich, aromatic, not to be matched by milder, sweeter cigars from Jamaica and the Dominican Republi c. 3. Beware Jamaica. Do not trust Dominicans. 4. Monopolies increase consumption. The exclusive right to handle. We cigar crafters, totalmente a mano know our place in the placement o f hands, collectively, as if one 5. Consumption is increasing. Consump tion: a progressive wasting away of the body, a chronic cough with blood tinged sputum, fever, night sweats, weight loss. This is not our concern, not our quota to keep. 6. Tobacco rolled into palm or maize leaf, smoking the air premium blue The payment of f ire. This is the rich experience a good cigar provides. 7. Tobacco p rovide s experience for the family. Laborers define labor as hungry bellies, the hours from dark to dark, 9 month long births keeping a worker from working, stealing food from the mouth of bab ies who have yet to grow mouths, stealing like the lobster ravioli, the champagne and ripe cheeses they savor. They eat, reports say what is found untouched on the factory floor. A filet mignon garnished with dried leaves. A severed digit 8. Do not grow attached to each other. Be lovers of the leaf c igars as lovers, are lovers, and if they are not love d back, they will burn us like the sun. If we are lustful, we are cigarettes tossed on the curb 9. About babies: no longer properly fertilized or al lowed sufficient time to lay fallow, babies are a smokeless tobacco, invisible filler, the weight inside. If they do not rot, they grow stunted. 10. If infants are born while at work (for some choose to keep their arms limber while their stomachs swell) pot t hem if soiled, or if they are sprouting with leaves, pluck them at the shoulder, flay them on a string to be dried. 11. Learn this: cigars are three things : F iller Binder. W rapper. Low priced stogies are made of chopped tobacco filler, machine wrapped with ro lled sheets of pulverized leaf, water and natural gums. Learn this and teach this. Teach this as how to build a house that burns.
56 12. Premium cigars, unlike cigars made by machines, are constructed of whole tobacco leaves compressed by hand. Serious smokers de bate tobacco blends and cigar construction almost as passionately as wine lovers worry about tannin content. Let them argue and smoke. T ake the wine from under them L isten to the factory reader tell us tales as the dusk comes through the factory windows t urning all the leaves a darker brown. 13. Each factory should have one orator to read novels and newspapers to the rollers, as tobacco smokes better when educated. In order to prevent this reader from losing his daily wage, the other workers should help fill h is quota. While they listen to his loud voice, a voice so clear his wife hears it at home, someone must lay with this woman, tell her to clo se her eyes and shush her words. Other workers should help fill his quota. 14. Learn about family: if it draws too easi ly, it was under filled and the air pockets will cause a fast burn and a hot smoke. Check the harvest. If it was a bad year, replant. Each generation will have its sour crop. 15. A dry cigar will burn too hot. Without proper moisture levels, so will a wife. 16. A damp cigar will not burn properly. Not only will it be difficult to keep lit, but also difficult to draw on. The smoke may become too dense, leaving the smoker with a rank aroma. Also, over moist cigars will commonly split their wrappers, so never let a ma n drink his fill. Keep him thirsty to keep him at all. 17. Have nine children. Make them work with you. Every day come to work to see them. Why retire? Work is not sacrifice; it is family. 18. But because they know where you work, never call in sick. Who wants to call work only have questions, questions? 19. If retirement is required (a hand gone bad, a heart that has none left) retire in a victorious cloud, a kind that gods walk on and breathe in. These are the smoky candle ends o f time, and your life will be our time clock. 20. Exhale in contemplation. Whether smoking or not, something will come out. 21. matured plant by the stalk and wilt under the basking sun in the f ield with the leaves, sharing in the desiccation. 22. The Ethical: Cuban coffee makes the rounds at least twice daily and there are frequent workday breaks. The Unethical: Machines that replace good, strong hands. 23. Cuban leaf and Havana cigars should become the standard to judge, even when there are no more laws that matter. A cigar can do anything, even if unelected. If we live like this live to burn we too can be limi tless, making and making. 24. We make Cuba a Mecca of fine cigars, rusty cars, a country that dazzles and disappoints, a place where one finds miracles and monsters, yet no easy answers in the soft, cool smoke. 25. Substitute tobacco leaves for scarves in the winter, diapers in spring. The leaves can be washed and dried in the afternoon gusts off the bay.
57 26. Use the plans of music men. Make cigars into symphonies, save the small songs for cigarettes. 27. If there are any questions, sit back, smoke, roll the tobacco against the grain of the leaf, e xplore the spread of veins below the skin, the wrapper that keeps it here, all together. Now, read this again, or if pressed, roll it, light the tip, inhale the good,