“you should roofie her and tell her it was a poem”
Stooping in the dooryard the boy saint picks up the body. He is curious, he begins to massage the tissue around the eyelids; begins to pluck, feather by feather, then the skin–a deeper massage–pulling awawy from the cranium. It is not his firm pressure that accomplishes anything, he is merely part of a larger process that would take longer were it not for his assistance.
He does not think sparrow.
He thinks, vaguely, bird. He thinks, more specifically, skull: it’s the bone he wants, near shimmer, its pallid shoal.
His own hand is a skeleton reaching after a skeleton. This is the first lesson of desire: like to like. The fruit comes later.
Time passes. He thinks it is wrong to laugh at clowns because his grandmother tells him they were born that way, delivered from the hospital with bulbous noses and orange hair. Later he paints clowns, faces copied from financial magazines, glossy inserts, TV Guide. He dresses them up in his mind, applies the pancake and mascara, the outrageous prosthetics. He tells himself he chooses these faces because they are strong faces. They are all male.
He paints women too, many women, first as nudes, then flensed, then as skeletons. He paints hominids painting. He paints painting apes. He paints a male chimpanzee bent over his easel and palette, sketching a female nude.
He does not think of painting a female chimpanzee sketching a male nude.
He paints a woman from the neck up. He paints a woman from the neck down. He paints three women as they pass a peach from hand to hand. He etches a woman cast upright in snow: sex, navel, eyes, breasts.
He becomes a teacher. He argues that all art is figurative; that the figure ceases to matter only when we cease to be human. He is very sure of this. He thinks all art occurs in its own time. He memorizes: fossae and tibia, coccyx and acetabulum, calcaneus and teres.
He paints his wife slipping out of the musculature of her upper back as from an evening gown. He paints himself holding his own skin.
He paints a python, curled around a branch, straining to draw a hunter’s shaft from its body with its own bloodied mouth.
No perfect metonym, no pure distillation.
Every wall I raise
is broached before I set my soldiers at the arrow-slits.
I missed that high school lesson:
letters cared into the bark of an oak, immense,
A child travels further
and further from self, wild terrain rising in altitude,
inland brush fading from basin to basin.
The child is immaculate.
She will never grow old, she presses the blank face of a dream
to her tired eyes and thin lips. She is the absence
and repository of all signifiers.
Ecce faber, then.
To invest the soul in imagination,
in the prescribed economy. This patch of earth.
Pity is no more than distance wrapped in sentiment,
collusion with the expanding universe.
Pity is but distance wrapped in sentiment,
collusion with the universe, ever expanding,
signalling uselessly back to us.
I reject pity, its compound
of distance with sentiment.
--The argument thusfar ]
affixing some stray resonance.
She is the absence and repository
of all signifiers. She is hungry. She walks
or is carried
a long way, through sandy hills.
–Do you want to believe this?
(And what does it mean, then, being a child?)
Do you want to believe she wanted to return.
Do you want to be certain, do you want
to propel that single photon along it’s journey
to the mirror.
presuming, for the moment, the existence of a lid
we call time. Presuming, for the moment, its suspension:
the flat rocks of the falls,
salt tang giving way to bearblossom.
And will when matter,
so that I can call it rape for you; is that
what you’re thinking. Your finger
loose on the trigger.
Do you want her to survive.
Or, do you want to be the mirror. Or,
do you want to be that certain.
The brush of green blades against her footsoles.
Do you want this to be about race.
–When I open my heart
there’s an infinite paper cut-out
strung accordion-like, hand in hand, every figure
its own simulacra.
–When I open my heart
I think the tree gap in the south line
holds the last coal of available perfection.
I could reach with my left hand, cover that space
where the light gives all
appearance of failing. Babies know this, like poets
reaching for the moon’s flat disc.
–When I open my heart
two moths flutter from the wound, wet and pulsing.
One light, one dark.
Or, do you want this to be about sacrifice.
The fact of the body, ineludible.
[Meaning: the wheel is false
(the burning spokes) (the revolution)
Or, the hair on which I travelled to this place, that slender
ear of wheat, ripe in its dull cairn.]
The rain came later that night.
I was feeling my way past a yew hedge.
I was feeling my way past a wall of smooth stone.
And then a sudden lowering, as a bird
declines in altitude through a series of calibrated
toward its goal. Coda of uplift.
At first there was a flatness, and I wanted to join it,
to extend my body through the three point that define a simple plane.
Her figure in powder blue (1937).
The foliate pyrography. A continuous weave–
(call this purity–)
her triumph, my long home.
I sat before my glass one day,
And conjured up a vision bare,
Unlike the aspects glad and gay,
That erst were found reflected there -
The vision of a woman, wild
With more than womanly despair.
Her hair stood back on either side
A face bereft of loveliness.
It had no envy now to hide
What once no man on earth could guess.
It formed the thorny aureole
Of hard, unsanctified distress.
Her lips were open – not a sound
Came though the parted lines of red,
Whate’er it was, the hideous wound
In silence and secret bled.
No sigh relieved her speechless woe,
She had no voice to speak her dread.
And in her lurid eyes there shone
The dying flame of life’s desire,
Made mad because its hope was gone,
And kindled at the leaping fire
Of jealousy and fierce revenge,
And strength that could not change nor tire.
Shade of a shadow in the glass,
O set the crystal surface free!
Pass – as the fairer visions pass -
Nor ever more return, to be
The ghost of a distracted hour,
That heard me whisper: – ‘I am she!’
The thing is, every child’s a walking reliquary –
shake one and see the blood flow before your very eyes.
In the meantime I have enormous dependencies.
Cut me and I bleed. Poison me and I die.
The only difference between me and Narcissus is that I’m still running,
ninety percent of me anyway. The rest is salt and malice.
I keep confusing names with numerical sequences
so if I refer to you as beloved I’m just being mathematical.
What attracts me to a system is precision,
the extent to which it bolsters my arguments with the dead…
By now it’s time to graduate to games of strategy from games of chance.
I’m mounting an offensive against you.
I’m using all my weapons: the text, the foundation, the knife.
There’s a boat resting on the far bank, and there’s a reason
I’m telling you this, even if all you are to me now is shadow on a
struck set’s painted flat.
I could change. You could still reach me. Please:
if self is a refuge, then say which.
Gaze: An Exploratory Essay
1250 words, due Oct. 6
Complete the Gaze readings I have assigned in time for a class discussion (Mulvey, Berger, Dinosaur Comics, “Women Recovering Our Clothes”). After our discussion, select a piece of visual art (ex: Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, Dali’s Temptation of St. Anthony, a Heironymous Bosch triptych, Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam, a Cindy Sherman photo – anything, really) for which you feel a personal affiliation or distaste and write an exploratory essay examining how “gaze” (your own and your society’s) filters and informs your understanding of it. Take into consideration your age, race, gender and sexual orientation, your class status and your personal interests as you respond to this piece of art. How do you receive this art? What is your gut reaction to it, and how does your response to it change? What stories do you tell yourself about what’s going on in the piece? Does the piece tell you something about its creator?
Feel free to conduct your own research about the time period in which the art exists and its critical reception—but make sure to respond to the information you gather. I am far less interested in what someone has said about the piece than I am in what you think about what has been said about it. Remember that an exploratory essay is a progression of questions in which, through excavating answers, the author winds up generating more questions. Have a lot of questions, even questions you don’t know how to answer. Dare to implicate yourself .
In a field
I am the absence
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.
When I walk
I part the air
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.
We all have reasons
to keep things whole.
…And this morning is an excellent morning.
Yesterday I kind of mooned around the apartment, reading my original Vampire Diaries books circa 1994 (OLD SKOOL) and taking baths and feeling weepy, and then I put on some clean clothes and pulled my hair away from my face and put on a little mascara and rolled over to the Pink House (a rickety three story turn-of-the-century affair, in which 3 MFAs and 2 other grad students live) for pumpkin ziti and salad around a dinner table, it was kind of amazing.
And then we all piled in the car and rolled down the Strip, where drunk football fans were peeing in bushes and staggering out of bars and into other bars, and screaming ROLL TIDE at each other, and made it safely to the other side, where Alex and Kit and their new teeny tiny Petra (who likes to chew and slobber all over my knuckles with her rubbery baby gums every time we hang out) hosted Erasmus Gould’s Irregular Lecture Series, maybe my favorite extracurricular activity since I’ve gotten to Tuscaloosa (I almost typed Santa Fe, weird). Kit played a movement from a Mozart symphony on the violin, and lectures half-surreal and half-deadly serious were delivered on the lost art of Auric Braille, America’s Corn Bubble and Mustaches as historical/political/cultural/personal phenomena. (Side note: I thought for the next lecture series I might try to give a talk on Vampire Fiction — it seems to resurge and then fade out every few years, but it’s definitely a standard right now and OBVS I really like it…anyone have any thoughts?)
We slipped over to the alcove after, swinging from the chandeliers until 4am being not-so-advisable in a house with a new baby, where I had a couple of really exceptional conversations with the writers there — including a long BRO-DOWN with a poet from my workshop whose poetry REALLY excites me and who told me she is enormously interested in what I’m doing (mutual admiration society!)– and came home late feeling happy and hopeful and maybe connected for the first time since…beaches? Maybe?
I can be expansive and daring, I can love what everyone is doing, I can stay on my own path, I CONTAIN MULTITUDES ETC but srsly, it’s all such a relief.
And now I have STAGGERING amounts of reading to do OKAY BYE
Hey, so I just googled my name and found that “Martha Graham…”, which I’d sent out LAST YEAR and promptly forgotten about, was taken by a online journal called 13th Warrior Review, and the editor never bothered to tell me he was going to publish it? Moral of the story: GOOGLE YOURSELF.
Update: he totally emailed me here, in my gmail. How did I miss this! Apparently he’ll be taking another one of my pmz for next issue. Huh!
Is there some cosmic law about the ratio of love, and receiving back all the love/affection/acceptance you release, tenfold?
Because I feel like there should be.