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naropa university The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics Copyright 2013 The Naropa Press All rights

s revert to individual authors upon publication ISBN: 978-0-9835873-4-7 Design and Typesetting: HR Hegnauer Cover artwork: Nicole Peyrafitte Please see our website for submission guidelines. Bombay Gin can be purchased at Small Press Distribution, on our website, and at the address below for $12 per issue, plus $3 shipping. Back issues are $8 each, plus $3 shipping. Subscription pricing below includes shipping costs. Bombay Gin The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics naropa university 2130 Arapahoe Avenue Boulder, CO 80302 subscriptions Individuals, Institutions & International One year (two issues): $20 Two years (four issues): $36 For more information, visit Bombay Gin at:

Bom b ay Gin : Vol. 3 9 , N o . 2

Editorial board and staff JLyn Chapman 


Michael Malpiedi  Associate Editor, Graduate Assistant for Publications April Joseph Eric Fischman  Brenna Lee Sally Smith June Lucarotti Chris Shugrue Jade Lascelles  Anne Waldman

Associate Editor Associate Editor Art and Layout Editor Marketing Editor Marketing Editor Web-Content Editor Book Review Editor Contributing Editor, Naropa Audio Archives

BOMBAY GIN 3 9 : 2

Con t en t s

Letter from the Editor . . . 1

april joseph

Offer a line that could cry . . . 7 A Devotion to Spheres . . . 11 Our Bodies in Reverse . . . 13 Sinkhole . . . 15

Brent Armendinger

Elyse Brownell HR Hegnauer

f r o m When the Bird is Not a Human . . . 25

P ort f olio 1
Caity Lee

f r o m Se Retrouver . . . 31

P ort f olio 2
Laura McAllister

Untitled . . . 35

Travis Macdonald, j/j hastain, Michelle Taransky, an d Joseph Cooper

f r o m 4Play . . . 40

Tracie Morris

w it h april joseph grateful sounds: the body . . . 43 f r o m Tanka Diary . . . 51 Sacred and Profane Paths in African American Literature . . . 53 six engagements . . . 70

Harryette Mullen Akilah Oliver

Akilah Oliver, Rachel Levitsky, and Tisa Bryant Shannon Ongaro JH Phrydas

Akilah Oliver and the Poetics of Grief . . . 79 Levitation . . . 95 Hu! Hu! Hu! Hemna d O / O! O! O! Women of O . . . 100 Celle qui cherchea / She who seeks has . . . 102 f r o m New Organism . . . 104 Bronze Knobs . . . 111 They Wait for Carriage Pins . . . 112 The Skepper . . . 113 Hollow Strakes . . . 114 Two Trees . . . 115 Small Beer . . . 116 f r o m remnants . . . 117 Err to Narrow . . . 120 f r o m Cat Girl/Cure House . . . 124

Nicole Peyrafitte

Andrea Rexilius Joanna Ruocco

Ariella Ruth

Alicia Salvadeo

Eleni Sikelianos

Christina Vega-Westhoff

& The Time Between History . . . 126 Unanswer . . . 128 Falling Eagle or Vulture . . . 129 Sappho . . . 130 Matching Half . . . 131 Akilah Walks . . . 132 Lament Our One . . . 133 Reading through Akilah Olivers Tressles of Hair, She Said . . . 136 Elision 13.5 . . . 138

Anne Waldman

Indigo Weller

Jennifer Firestone, Flashes
Reviewed by

Charlotte Annie . . . 163 Sarah Richards Graba . . . 167 Sally Smith . . . 171

Laura Walker, FollowHaswed

Reviewed by

Dorothea Lasky, Thunderbird

Reviewed by

Min Jung Oh, Body in a Hydrophilic Frame

Reviewed by

Ariella Ruth . . . 175

Contributors . . . 179

L et t er f rom t he E d i t o r

In an interview with Coco Fusco, Akilah Oliver (1961-2011) said, There is a sacredness in the profane, a spirit in the material and they intermarry. This marriage is present in Olivers earlier work, a(A)ugust, The Putterers Notebook, and the she said dialogues: flesh memory, as a logic, an aesthetic, a political choice that makes audible the contradictory and the unstable. In Olivers more recent book, A Toast in the House of Friends, this binary of sacred and profane arises as a dialectic of mourning and violence, as in the lines from the poem murdering, if I am to engage antiviolence work then by necessity I enter into contract with violence, / no shy slipperies here. Yet, the richness given over by the marriage of the sacred and profane is also troubled in these poems as they explore the simultaneity, for instance, of cardamom and radiation, pasteurized milk and captured tribes. But the questions remain: how do we interpret these contradictions? what do we do with grief? how can one love the world and not kill it? One way to read the ghosts that haunt the poems are as responses (not answers) to these questions. The speaker suggests that the dead are released from the logics of this world as when she writes, Perhaps no one escapes this latched binary except the unattached, the dubious lucky. But also we have lost historical perspective, we are unconscious of the horror of destruction and need a recognition of ghosts, as Horkheimer and Adorno argued in response to the atrocities of WWII. Oliver addresses this very issue in her meditation on graffiti. She writes, I recognized in it an ugly ecstatic, a dialectics of violence, a distortion of limbs, a hieroglyph. It was only later when I read the names of the dead that I then saw the path of ghosts charted there; its narrative of

loss for the visible unseen whose place in history has been fictionalized and rendered unseen under the totalizing glare of history. To feel the ghost is to attend to that which hovers over dichotomy as well as to live alongside, in proximity with the absent. In February, we asked you to submit work that explored flesh memory, a concept the late Akilah defines in her introduction to the she said dialogues. Grounded in dance and performance art, flesh memory becomes an embodied practice, an expression of culture and ancestral memory, as when Akilah writes, This text is situated in the on-going work Ive been doing in performance with the concept of flesh memory as it relates to a critical interrogation of the African American literary/ performative tradition. Your breathtaking responses indicate that our friend and teachers presence changed the flesh of this world. I have asked Associate Editor april joseph, whose MFA critical thesis was focused on Akilah, to introduce flesh memory in the following pages. For now, let me draw your attention to work by Akilahs former students, friends, and colleagues, such as Shannon Ongaros essay, Akilah Oliver and the Poetics of Grief, and Travis Macdonald , j/j hastain, Michelle Taransky, and Joseph Coopers selections from their collaborative project, 4Play. We include work by Eleni Sikelianos and HR Hegnauer, as well as remembrances and a lament from Anne Waldman. Rachel Levitsky and Tisa Bryant engage discursively and poetically with excerpts from an unfinished and unsanctioned draft of an unpublished work by Akilah Oliver, as they say. In conversation, april joseph and Tracie Morris take up ancestral trauma, the othering of the self, and performance. Weve also included a talk Akilah gave in 2000 for the Religious Studies Department. I want to thank Bobby Taylor for transcribing the talk and for working with me to retain the lilt and cadence of Akilahs voice. In this talk, soon available through Naropas Audio Archives, Akilah invites her audience to open up and let Blackness into your heart, the energy of Black, if it can enter you. Akilah recalls her childhood and then asks her audience to relate their experience with Blackness, to deny nothing because in that matrix of Blackness theres a lot of complexities, and theres pain, and theres anger, and theres fear, and theres shame. Akilahs response is one of compassion and grace. We are also excited about the work that comes directly out of the Jack Kerouac School and the work from beyond this community, such

as Alicia Salvadeos Err to Narrow, the title of which is an anagram of War on Terror. I want to draw special attention to Indigo Wellers Elision I3.5, which documents the plane crash of Iberia Airlines flight 062 in 1967 in the garden of his childhood. Weller describes his work this way: The piece explores insubstantial memory: body: abscission: memorialization: archive as erasure: to feel: to touch what grows what mutates what is left behind. The mix of the bucolic and nostalgic resonates with our art portfolios striking interpretations of flesh memory. Caity Lees images of the human body and Laura McAllisters photographic documentation of a hog kill in Dayton, Ohio draw an uncanny proximity to the human and animal body, the body we live in and the body we consume. As Akilah writes, no shy slipperies here. This is also the last issue in which I serve on the board of Bombay Gin. Three years ago, I began as the Book Review Editor then was invited to act as Editor-in-Chief in 2011. It has been an honor and satisfaction to work with each student board and to bring this lovely and thoughtful creative work into the world. The labor of publishing is vital to an arts community, which it builds, archives, and promotes. This labor is also equally inspiring and exhausting, and it is for this reason that I welcome rest and personal time so that I may contribute to this community with my own makings. I am so thankful for the support of my community and especially the students for whom I have so much admiration. JLyn Chapman

April Joseph

Off er a lin e t hat c o u l d c r y 1

Akilah Oliver

I arrived at Naropa University shortly after Akilah Oliver passed away on February 20, 2011. She, a black lesbian woman, radical performer poet instructor, came from the hoodLAand became an integral part of Naropa University. Since death and somatic and ancestral memory consume my work my father, Robert Edwin Joseph, died on March 9, 2009, and my grandmother, Mary Louise Rodriguez (Gram), who raised me and then slowly developed Alzheimers, died on February 15, 2011I was instructed (by Bhanu Kapil and JLyn Chapman) to read Akilahs the she said dialogues: flesh memory.2 Akilahs theory of flesh memory and the notion of ancestral trauma began to come to light (life). This is what I read: Flesh memory is the bodys truths and realities everything that weve ever experienced or known, whether we know it directly or through some type of genetic memory, osmosis or environment. Olivers flesh memory creates a path toward healing ancestral wounds. In this way, awareness of the language activated in the bodys memory can translate into the truths of our ancestors, somatic hieroglyphs that

1 T  he line is taken from Akilah Olivers MFA lecture: Rapture and Rupture at Naropa University, 7 July 2008, during the Summer Writing Program, week four: Performance, Community, Politics of the USA and in the Larger World. 2  The spelling of the title, the she said dialogues: flesh memory, and Akilahs name is lowercase as well as the i in the textperhaps to indicate a re-writing, re-imagining of the self. This could be representative of Olivers feminist approach: how to re-write the language of the father or how to challenge this patriarchal language.

we perform in song, mourning dialogues that Akilah Oliver writes into the pages of flesh memory. Oliver also discusses flesh memory in an interview (1995) with Coco Fusco: Our body holds its own truth and its own reality that may or may not correspond directly with what actually transpired in any given situation. We are trying to tap into the multiplicity of languages and realities that our flesh holds. Flesh memory is more than just memory, its the way we re-invent scenarios and worlds and languages and images to transcribe what we see, what we feel, what we think. Its a language thats activated in our bodies. Flesh memory holds actual experiences, it holds imaginary experiences, it holds memory that may or may not be a direct result of what weve lived. The question I want to bring to bear upon Olivers flesh memory is an inquiry into the inherited, transgenerational memory, the ways in which ancestral traumatic memories are embedded in the living and can sometimes function as repetition and replacement compulsions disordershysteria.3 Furthermore, the notion of possession can be taken up: the ways in which we make the dead alive again or feel what the dead felt when alive. Thus, Olivers flesh memory sparks the
3 F  rom Bessel A. van der Kolks The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma: Re-enactment, Revictimization, and Masochism. Charcot, Janet, and Freud all noted that fragmented memories of traumatic events dominated the mental life of many of their patients and so built their theories about the nature and treatment of psychopathology on this recognition. Janet thought that traumatic memories of traumatic events persist as unassimilated fixed ideas that act as foci for the development of alternate states of consciousness, including dissociative phenomena, such as fugue states, amnesias, and chronic states of helplessness and depression. Unbidden memories of the trauma may return as physical sensations, horrific images or nightmares, behavioral reenactments, or a combination of these. Janet showed how traumatized individuals become fixated on the trauma and show difficulties in assimilating subsequent experiences. He writes, it is as if their personality development has stopped at a certain point and cannot expand anymore by the addition or assimilation of new elements. Freud independently came to similar conclusions. Initially, he thought all hysterical symptoms were caused by childhood sexual seduction of which unconscious memories were activated when, during adolescence, a person was exposed to situations reminiscent of the original trauma. The trauma permanently disturbed the capacity to deal with other challenges, and the victim who did not integrate the trauma was doomed to repeat the repressed material as a contemporary experience instead or . . . remembering it as something belonging to the past.

investigation of ancestral traumathe ghosts in your genes 4 and the power of ululation. I write in my notebook, is thiswritingtaking up, tracing ancestral memory an effort to heal the dead, the living; is this the way to speak to and remember the dead? Is flesh memory a reminder to create mourning songs to let the dead die? what do i want. so many more winters. what do i want. so many more winters. what do i want. you in so many more winters. how the sun worships the lovely ones. who goes into the frozen river alone to search the ice for friends. it is the time of a new letting go.5 Is this new letting go a way for a writer to work with deep memory and what it means to be a sentient beingsufferingseeking a way to be a benefit, to see the way out of the loop and take the next steps toward -kiniforever? 6 As a writer opening to the liberation, a bodhisattva, a da work of another writer who has recently died, a writer who herself took up these themes in her own workis this then what it means to settle the unfinished, to complete the fragmented sentence, forever?

4 Refer to the documentary The Ghosts in Your Genes. 5 Excerpt from the she said dialogues: flesh memory, she said, treasure it (Oliver 75). 6 F  rom Rupert Gethins The Foundations of Buddhism, the bodhisattvathe being intent on awakeningdwells awaiting the appropriate time to take a human birth and become a buddha (18).

w o r ks c i t e d Edou, Jerome. Machig Labron and the Foundations of Chod. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1996. Print. Gethin, Rupert. The Foundations of Buddhism. Oxford: University Press, 1998. Print. Oliver, Akilah. the she said dialogues: flesh memory. Boulder: Smokeproof. 1999. Print. , et al. Sacred Naked Nature Girls. Interview with Coco Fusco. Bomb 52 (1995): n. pag. 30 Oct. 2008. Web. . Rapture and Rupture. Naropa University, Summer Writing Program. 7 July 2008. Audio archive lecture. van der Kolk, Bessel A. The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma: Re-enactment, Revictimization, and Masochism. Psychiatric Clinics of North America. Vol. 12, No. 2. June 1989. 389-411. <>


Brent Armendinger

A D ev ot ion t o S p h e r e s

The book before the book was a round desire. It was honeycomb inside the hollowsall sound is plucked from how a person lost their way. It spins between our time and time is carved by softest teeth. A bee sees more colors than the human eye can bear. It chews the field so it be paper, a house that turns. A nest becomes the author of its hive, a language of wings. What is an invention? According to some sources, the first piece of paper was made by Cai Lun 1900 years ago. He was fond of bees, and in my mind he tried to live among them, surrounding his naked body with scraps he had cut from mulberry, bark, and fishnets. He was a Eunuch, and so could serve the Emperor without suspicion. What is a net without a fish inside it? This is the rule of paper. Every creature is multiplied by the ghost it leaves behind. The sugar in which a word might resonate, the shelter. Before Cai Lun, some documents were written on bone, which made them difficult to transport. I like to think of bone as a kind of language, the bodys poem. Only death can read it. Belonging flows in only one direction, ink rising out from paper. I try to claim that color as my own, attach my name, as if I had given birth to it. An outer thing, I crook its neck to face me, beloved. I sew buttons where its eyes should be. Lets take a walk and have a look. Thats me over there, clinging to the roof, climbing up and down the idea, unable to open the door.


It goes on and on this way, my almost way of touching you. I walk on stilts to reach the beginning of what you said. Someone lost their way. I guide my hands forward by telephone wire. Each word gives off too much heat, burning up the someone that precedes it. The feeling in my fingers. The distance doubles at precisely the moment I apprehend it. I make it creature, holding it close against my hollow. How it continues, long after the death of speaking, just like an artery.


O u r Bod ies in R e v e r s e

Now the men are returning inside the fatal air to shed the gap between the people and returning the experience from its worst procedure. This fall of others but also made of self as the wounded that once stood from which the vowed did not at least the people the vowed did not return. The years gather behind the longtime evening. It approaches widely, fast into the gulf of hunger behind its early birthday for which almost was an island. Essentially a people: as a way to discontinue, as a way to shed the killing, to press for others more than several, to spill the songs into the several for which the vowed had vowed not to contain.


The tiny patches of human light in our trouble The tall grasses made visible by their swaying The catch of color so near the flaking of which (erased) the hesitant by the multiplying dark As if my slowly so near the hole in memory is dark as interrupting paper, the ink with which antennae to light the human in the rock inside our middles so crept upon and swaying


Elyse Brownell

S in k hole

After a black hole is formed


I am standing in the kitchen next to the sink reading the news. A man was swallowed by a sinkhole somewhere in Florida.1 Sinkholes form when acidic rainwater dissolves rock beneath soil. Acidic rainwater leaves a void. The large void collapses when it is no longer able to support the weight of what rests above.

The sink near me is a hole used to hold water. Inside this hole is another hole. Inside that hole are four small gaps used as a filter. Water cannot be trapped when there are holes. A Canadian tourists body was found in a water tank at a Los Angeles hotel.2 The decomposing body was found after 19 days floating in one of the hotels water cisterns. The hotel guests brushed their teeth. The cells separated from the body, from skin, from bone, combing through their hair. She was only discovered after the water pressure stopped to trickles.

The one bed-room efficiency is at ground-level. When the neighbors upstairs run water it trickles down the pipes behind the walls. I feel this house was built on a lake. The floorboards rise as the water gushes through the pipes. When I touch the floor my hand leaves an imprint. Within moments it is gone leaving only droplets in the sink. I look for her in my sink. What disappears is quality more than fact.3 One hotel

1 A Man Was Swallowed by a Sinkhole CNN, February 28, 2013 2  How Did Womans Body Come to be in L.A. Water Tank? CNN, February 26, 2013. 3 Taussig, Michael. Fieldwork Notebooks, 2011


guest said the water was salty, dry, unlike anything she had tasted before. Another hotel guest stated the shower spit black water before turning to normal again.

Black water is a phenomenon found in rivers when dry vegetation in waterholes breaks down, releasing tannin and reducing oxygen levels in the water.4 Tannin is what causes the dry and puckery feeling in the mouth after consuming unripened fruit. The hotel guests began to complain about the taste of the water.

It started in the bedroom. It took the floor of the bedroom and he on his bed. Now, he is somewhere underneath the house. His brother tries to convince himself that he hears his voice, but there is only silence and darkness. I want to see lightness, but the void swallows my vision. A week later another sinkhole opened up in Bethlehem Township.5 The family was forced to evacuate the premises. I hear the gushing of water miles away. I want to move away from it, but there are no rats to follow. The ground is warm, a heat that is damp and suffocating. He is a hole inside of a hole, a life still breathing beneath the ground. He is presumed dead. He is a missing person.

4 River Flows Help Flush Out Black Water ABC News , March 7, 2013 5 Family Evacuates Home After Giant Sinkhole Forms The Express Times, March 10, 2013


A missing person is a person who has disappeared. A person whose status as alive or dead cannot be confirmed as their location is not known. Life in a sinkhole: a lost object: a memory deformed by its own presence. A missing persons assets can never be claimed. A persons missing assets can never be found. Before the rainwater comes I am starving. Acidic water eats away at rock. One hole acts like a vacuum while the other starves. There are pictures of the demolished house in Florida. One of the pictures shows the removal of a table from the debris. I make black water with the coffee grounds in the morning. Officials are unsure whether the man in Florida will survive the hole. His brother says there is too much dirt. He envisions there is an air pocket for his brother to stay alive underground. When the Canadian tourists body was found in the water tank, she was floating near the bottom. The hotel guests complained of black water in their showers. After the body was removed, the water tank left a hole from her water. The hotel continued with their normal operations. Most guests were unaware of the body even after it was removed.

The man hopes for an air pocket in the hole where his brothers body resides. He is presumed dead. When Sister gave birth they opened up her stomach. A caesarean section is a surgical procedure performed when a fetus, alive or dead, must be removed. The black hole was removed from Sister after it had formed in her body two weeks prior to the incision. Cracks appearing in the walls of a home are a sign that a sinkhole is forming.


Oxygen and hydrogen form to make water molecules. Lungs filled with oxygen operate with fluidity. Lungs filled with water prevent the body from receiving oxygen. Covering a hole with a cup creates suction. When suction occurs, the air beneath the cup is pushed out and creates a vacuum. This vacuum will only last until the pressure on the outside of the cup becomes lower than the pressure on the inside of the cup.

There are holes in the walls attached to wires. The gender of a connector is determined by the presence of one or more recessed holes. When a connector is disconnected or removed, the electrical conductors are not directly exposed. When bodies lose a connection to an external object, such as a journal, they are unable to accidently touch or be touched by its presence again. A door that does not open or close properly is another sign that a sinkhole is forming.

The house in Florida was demolished shortly after the earth yawnedopened. The mans body has not been found. Officials indicated they were waiting for the hole to stabilize. When memory and trauma intersect, the body becomes unstable. When all that is left is bone: a memory lives in limbo: in the air pockets beneath the ground. A dead womans journal was pulled from the remains after the sinking.


After a sinkhole is filled with concrete gout,  sinkhole. In order to prevent this from ground to install steel piers: Florida has not been located. lives is not worth the risk

a new sinkhole can still form over the old happening, a hole must be drilled into the a house on stilts. The mans body in Officials have said that the risk of many of one life.

The Canadian tourist was last seen on the elevator security camera. She was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and pushed the number4. She was peering through the windows of the elevator looking for something or someone. I peer through the hole in my stomach and find black water. I locate an empty space in my body that I will never fill. If an image touches the margin, it will bleed when the page is trimmed. If a memory touches another memory the frame will shake. My body holds more than organs.

Lies form bridges over the gaps in our memories.

I trace the outline of the hole in my stomach remember her. She is breathing underneath  pocket. I pull facts from this body because  and turn them into facts. A sinkhole is a fact. what happens when acidic rainwater and rock meet.  the sinkhole in my stomach to reach for the

and remember mother how I want to the ground beneath my memory in an air I can rely on them. I pull lies from this body  A sinkhole is scientific proof of I cannot argue with science. I touch facts:


f a c t:  The Canadian tourists body is decomposing somewhere in Canada. f a c t:  The hotel now has a waiver for the hotel guests to sign, which states: You do so at your own risk and peril. f a c t:  A mans body resides in a sinkhole. It is unknown whether he is dead or alive. f a c t:  A missing person is a person whose status as alive or dead cannot be confirmed as their location is not known.

I stitch up the hole in my stomach and toss the memories into


(black water).

Mother gave birth to a hole. She held it close to her breast. The hole wouldnt stop screaming for 36 hours. A missing persons report can only be filed if the person has been missing for over 48 hours. She covered the hole with a blanket to keep it warm. She left an air pocket open so the hole could breathe. After the sinkhole opened up and took the man, his brother jumped in after and tried to dig him out. growing. He said he could hear his brother The hole kept


Sister gave birth to two holes. One was a black hole. The black hole was floating inside her for two weeks. Black holes form at the end of a collapsing stars life cycle.

Sister knew the day one of the holes turned black. She felt a shift inside her and then nothing; an echo of thunder to a mute sky; a light emitted from beyond the horizon. I held the black hole and kissed the layer of skin around it. The black hole has a pair of pupils filled with black water; the erosion of rock beneath soil. The hole that lives covers the black hole. When sister touches the hole in her stomach, she lives in the memory of the black hole. The ground beneath the man in Florida opened-up. The ground of the past is full of air pockets where memories reside.

The black holes name was Lona.


it can continue to grow by absorbing its surroundings.


HR Hegnauer

f r o m When the Bird is Not a Human

The White-Crowned Sparrow

To look at a thing is quite different from seeing a thing.

oscar wilde I lookeddidnt I look, look, look Yes. This is what I did. Dear bird, dear fluttering one at my window, I wanted to see you, but you have flocked. And so I ask but of no one in particular is there providence in the fall of the sparrow? Yes, yes of course there is, says no one in particular. And so, ss I am all of wanting, here is my call to the hamlet: While youre gone, I will navigate my human limbs along all the crevices of this house and along the eaves of this attic, and I will search out your nest. Dear sparrow, I cannot see you, and so Ive placed my body Between where the mountains meet the grasslands, and I listen for your thin, sweet whistle.


The phenomenon of dialect is the focus of my attention. What does a two-second song pattern sound like? It sounds like fluctuations. It sounds like a striped crown like all of the syllables I cannot say, this is what it sounds like to see a thing.

The White-Crowned Sparrow was first published in A Poetic Inventory of Rocky Mountain National Park (Wolverine Farm Publishing, 2013).


The Stairwell

To spill wooden sounds into the morning like this place is the most accurate stair and that place is just full of lung space until this stair follows that stair. Theyve always been like this: these stairs. One stepping upon another. This is how we built them. And this is how well weather them: Ill touch this lip until its smoothed itself over in an oiled way. Youll touch the next lip just the same, and when we compare the weather, I will close my eyes.


The Baby

After the last time we made love, I gave birth to a still-born boy. A dream in the bed of failure. The dark-haired man is dead.


The Dark-Haired Man

I dont see him as dead as I see him as a shape-shifter. Thats what the thought looked like from the brown chair once the thought had been accurately revisited. It looked like a dark flash. That is to say, it did not look like a path, but it looked like a destination, and somehow the thought knew that it could hold this contradiction, and somehow it did.


The Baby, Revisited

After the first time we made love, I dreamt I was reading a story, and in the middle of the reading, I gave birth to a blonde-haired boy. I had never seen his face before this night. His vivid eyes. He spoke to me the way feathers speak in wisps. Trust me, for I cannot translate this.


P ort f olio 1

Caity Lee
f rom S e R et rou v e r





P ort f olio 2

Laura m c allister
u n t it led s er i e s
a rt is t s not e : I believe that if people are willing to eat meat, they should be willing to take part in the process and understand where their meat is from and how it is being cared for. These photographs were taken at a farm in Dayton, Ohio. The pigs were raised in an 8-acre woodlot, free to roam and forage naturally. Taking part in the butchering process was difficult for me, so I used my camera as a sort of shield and coping mechanism.






Travis Macdonald, j/j hastain, Michelle Taransky, a nd Joseph Cooper

f rom 4Play


Saying over to himself a song written on the back of a stripclub coaster. I remember xir most from the backside of vast. Ships that go for miles past the capsized horizon to unravel them then to map the undone. I had been doing that all along but had somehow forgotten (between the click and the clit, between the hilt and the tip, the swollen sway, the hierophant, the humped, the impenetrable...) that without a seam the skirt may not speak: I no longer have the courage to answer your questions or ask you any of my own. Oracles, regrets, restrictions and an apple held over the headshot throughlike an idea.



Tiny, tender tandems excavate your quantum singularity width further. Unpleasantness in the multiplication tables. And if my anger in the beginning makes you too angry to go on from there, well I never needed you anyway. Dear reader: dont go... I mean, having already gone, please: come back. I care about you, but not your tenderness when weighed against each edits contextual demands. When I die, dont come at my funeral, promise not to be sad. Say the kaddish like Ginsberg said it Like Ginsberg wanted to. Say it. Denote for me more than the rituals of mourning, the shouting and the crying out, the genderless agenda of fear.



Thinking any line could be bird or a boat. This works to free the edges of a scene. Regardless of the cue, the endless originality of human loss gathers loosely in the threadbare hem of breadth. Come to the secret of that form. Come with your skin off and your hard on. I will not acknowledge that not every vessel or curve is an arc/k, but every bird is a noir memory of when we were a stark initial. Choked circuit Names are changing, here: supposing a structure emerged like Walt Whitman from the Camden fog like the contradictions he is claiming will take us all home.


Tracie Morris
with April Joseph

g rat ef u l s ou n d s : t h e b o d y
During the Summer Writing Program at Naropa University, July 2012, Tracie Morris and Anne Waldman performed a memorial for Akilah Oliver, former professor and community member of Naropa University, who passed away on February 20, 2011. Anne and Tracie brought Akilah Olivers presence into the room using sound poetics/song/chanting techniques, and we were reminded of Akilahs legacy: What are the limits of the body? Prior to meeting and witnessing Tracie Morris and Anne Waldmans performance, I listened to Morris Africa in preparation to take her workshop. Africa inspired my enquiry of the possibilities of healing embodied ancestral trauma (in Morris work: enslavement, tracing the past through the present) and channeling the dead (inside the living body) with sound poetics. On January 3rd, 2013, I contacted Tracie via email to ask her questions about sound poetics, as well as her connection to Akilah Oliver and her consideration of flesh memory, which Akilah Oliver defines in the she said dialogues: flesh memory as the bodys truths and realities everything that weve ever experienced or known, whether we know it directly or through some type of genetic memory, osmosis or environment.
a pr il j o s ep h :

In her MFA lecture, Rapture and Rupture, during the Summer Writing Program 2008, Akilah Oliver says, By body I mean language and by language I mean poetryand by poetry I mean all writingI am my own other. We are always our own other; each of us is someone elses other.


Can you expand on this notion of I am my own otheris this an extension of an internalization of otherness that is imposed upon us by patriarchy?
Tra c ie M o r r is :

I guess you could say so, and I see this another way too. The ruptured/disrupted body, the body in trauma, as the site of trauma, disassociates. We shift our memorys perspective of where we are when we recall it. We become out of body. Like the many recounts of near-death experiences, the traumatized body feels petit morts as a constant hum. I do mean that in a gendered, sexualized way too. The disrupted, caught-up breath implies a body in a stressed state. The mind, I think, literally is beside itself. Thats how I also see ones own other. The question that raises though is, who owns this other?

a. j .

Im curious about your thoughts on ancestral trauma that is passed downinherited memorieswhich are carried in the body, in the earth, which can be expressed in sound poetics or performance. Do you find an ability to express and heal from ancestral trauma through sound poetics? Your performance of Chain Gain at SWP in 2012 embodies this trauma, and also serves as a piece of truth that reflects on the memory of this modern lifeportrayal of racism and other cultural wounds. I also wonder how it feels to perform these works? What inspires you to perform and create these works?

T. M .

Hmmm. Thats a whole buncha questions that are and arent directly related. One by one then:
1. D  o

you find an ability to express and heal from ancestral trauma through sound poetics? I guess Id say that Im searching for, rather than finding, this ability. Im trying to intuit these memories that arent directly mine. Thats why the sound poems are livebased and improvisational. Im feeling them out every time Im performing them. Healing I dont know. Catharsis is a double-edged sword, isnt it? I dont think its my catharsis, by the way. Its more like Im being the spokesperson, the rep, if you will, of it.



I also wonder how it feels to perform these works. Well, I dont know. Sorry to be evasive. I mean, to be superficial about it, I feel just fine. Its a workout though. I think the work is my energy/ frustration of trying to get at these sounds, these articulations. Sometimes the emotions bubble up, but theyre not my emotions. I dont feel sad myself, I express sadness though. I also am jarred by the energy of the audience, the energy that I receive from them. I reconstitute that too and so its like a double-duty workout of my viscera. Its the innards for sure. I guess Im not personally as emotional for myself because I have a job to do: to expel, to show. I have to be alert to do that. Not drowning in a sea of my own feeling, making. What inspires you to perform and create these works? They show up.  In my mind a little thoughtll sneak in and Ill just wait and wait for it to get to the front of my head. I try to catch it, accept it, by sounding it out. I dont try to determine it. Those poems have minds of their own. The biggest job is to accept the assignment and cultivating the shoot of the poem so it can fully flower.



This also ties to Akilahs Summer Writing Program lecture in 2010, Eros and Ethos, which focuses on activism and the BP oil spill. Akilah mentions: The past as an extended a contrary companion...a continuous moment, the present is a part of that moment. Akilah asks, which I also wonder in regards to ancestral trauma, How do we enter into historyas artistsperformers activists?Do you consider your work as a form of activism?


Thats a great question. I think it lets me off the hook too easily to say its a form of activism, so no. Its a form of activity. Saying the unsaid, the unspeakable (as words) is helpful but theres always more that can be done thats not based on me patting myself on the back because I make art. As an artist, I feel my job is to get out of the way and let the poem fully make itself, irrespective of subject matter. I guess I say that I accept history. The history that I know. Youre making


me think of something else though: I think part of my job is to read, to keep up with the present, to make connections. One of the effects of the deluge of information is, to create an awkward term, the hyperatomization, decontextualization of significance. I think I have to keep up with whats going on in the present to make connections with that enduring past moment you attributed to Akilah.
a. j .

Extending on the pastour concern with historyas well as the sense that (according to Akilah) our coming was expected on earth, or the past has expected us, what does this mean in terms of a claim to power or empowerment ofpast generations connection with the presenta secret agreementethicsa duty to investigate why we perform, composethe purpose of our work?

T. M .

Well this is intriguing. I think I have to address this comment in reverse order. It gives me the opportunity to talk about something I dont think Ive discussed in print quite clearly, and that is the advantage of growing up and growing into adulthood as a thinker, influenced by the Black studies, Black Arts/Black power, civil rights, labor and feminist movements (and later Queer activism even as a non-Queer person). These movements helped me to understand my own placement and saved me from an individualist, nihilist viewpoint. To know that youre a part of some community gives you a sense of how that works, what it means. When I became part of various artistic, social, cultural, activist movements (either through active seeking or, as with the Language poets, by adoption), I had a feeling what that meant because of this grounding I had as a child that carried on into adulthood. The expectation part is one that bewilders me. As I mentioned in one of my poems, I was born a very sick baby and was touch-and-go for many years of my early life. Im so grateful for this experience looking back because I think a few times I had a choice about my own living rather than just bumbling along. I wont pull out the tiny violin by telling you the whole story, but I was really ill. I guess the idea of presence, of being on earth is something I had to think about as I wavered. I dont know if I was expected or welcomed but Im glad to be here. I do think about being here rather


than just assuming I will be. I think part of my comment on the body and disassociation is based upon that. Im so grateful to inhabit a body. This one of mine. All its imperfections and its vibrancy makes me grateful for it. And on the rare occasions that I get sick now, I resent that state, but its so easy to put it in perspective. In sickness and in health, I appreciate the body. The precious precariousness of life and death, of living, that Akilah addresses so elegantly, that state of wonder, is a form of stasis, of expectation. We expect for the best on earth. We wait. The notion of ancestry, and African American ancestry, is this hopefulness of our past honor but also our future hope. That hope of living, successand rebellion. Hoping that the one who comes next has a fighting spirit. That the weight of oppression doesnt crush that child. Ellison, Killens, and many other authors have talked about this in fiction. The tension between raging against the dying of the light and living a full, happy life. During slavery and segregationist times, I think this was the hope of our ancestors: that those who come can strike this balance and find joy. As a mother, Im sure Akilah felt this. She said that her son was standing when he died. This meant a great deal to her.

Akilah also mentions the idea of mourning (from the Eros and Ethos lecture: Has the earth always mourned?). Akilah asks, (which again, I struggle with this question myself): How not to get lost in grief and mourning?


Its tough. I guess thats why I answered one of the previous questions as I didabout how I deal with my own sound poems. I cant get lost. Its like falling down on the job. Its almost like being part of the rhythm sectionYou know one time, briefly, I played an instrument. A cowbell for a college-based group of the great Frisner Augustines La Troupe Makandal. Seriously? I was there for like, two minutes. I was completely out of my depth! Mr. Augustine was a likeable, friendly teacher. He recently passed away. He was a giant in traditional percussion, particularly Haitian percussion


I was playing cowbell and two things happened: my skinny little arms got tired and the drummers were so good, I wanted to groove with them. Long story short, I got off the cowbell beat and started some other kind of beat. Now Troupe Makandal had all kinds of huge beautiful drums including congas and djembes, if memory serves, and other percussive instruments. Were rehearsing this big tune and Frisner stops and looks at me. A tiny voice in this thing. He said: Oh you cant stop! You have to hold the beat for the whole band! (Not too much pressure!) I thought he gave me the bell because it was small like me. Well, maybe, but my role was to keep that beat. I wasnt there to play around. Thats how I feel about not getting lost in the poems. Its irresponsible to my job as an artist. The audience can get lost, sure. I have to be grounded. I do that by, I guess, getting my own maudlin emotions out of the way. To keep the channels clear, open. I remember hearing Jane Fonda, in an interview, describing acting in this way, and thats exactly right. (Funnily enough though, when I actually act and perform other peoples dramatic texts, I dont feel as if my job is to channel.) Has the earth always mourned? I wouldnt presume to say, and I wont presume to know Akilahs framing. I can chime in with my own idea that the earth has always accepted, taken in. I think the Dogon spiritualists and Ana Mendieta would agree about this point. To say the earth has always mourned is to say the earth is reacting. I think the earth accepts, and rejects.
a. j .

Can you expand on Akilahs notion of reconciliationwho and what is to be forgiven? andWhat is unforgivable? Some things are not irretrievable. Do you consider your work, or what you consider to be, to have poetical-ethos? Hm. This is one of my primary meditations. I do hold grudges. I have to work on that. I guess I think of them as something the body/ my body holds on to. Holding grudges is a form of sentimentalism, truth be told. Im way too romantic. I also feel that we, as women, have so often been taught to let things slide that it often ends up being disempowering in a world where that choice is seen as weak.

T. M .


I learned so much from the South African Truth and Reconciliation commission. How knowledge trumps anger/emotions/righteous indignation. Truth = power. I dont know if we always need to forgive. We more often than not, though, do need to let go by however means. I think my go-to for not forgiving are crimes of injusticebut whatever the rationale, the lynchpin to holding resentment needs to be investigated, reframed, and probably rejected. Im working on it. Unconditional love is hard as hell. Its good to work on though, its healthy. Incorporating righteous indignation into the body can kill you.

Do you believe that composition/performance can help one not get lost in grief/mourning? A way of holy forgiveness?


To me those are apples and oranges. The not getting lost thing Ive already addressed. Can one let go/release that energy through a performance? Oh, absolutely. When Im present in my performance, I manage to solve a lot of internal problems through this alchemical interchange. Its yogic, that stretching. that reflects sound poetics and flesh memory, or what are the limits of the body? I believe your work continues Akilah Olivers legacy as you continue to work as translator of the body and transform the notion of flesh memory.

a . j . Can you share a piece from your latest work, Rhyme Scheme, something


Rhyme Scheme is out and available via Small Press Distribution. It has a CD of sound poems as well as text. Heres one of the poems I referenced in my answer to one of the questions. This is about my being a sick baby. In fact, its the first poem in the book, so that gives you a sense of how attached I am to it.


Preemie: Baby girl Morris, 2 lbs., 0 oz.

Born to death, to prayer. Angels, egun, mother Huddled-over glass box rubber sealing circles, plastic hands smooth comfort, wither-skin I prissily eat this air Coating, color of artificial sun, bored with repetitious day, asks me: Whats night like? We need to be reminded, brief was our stay. Recall warm, though. Deep brown, Aerodynamic gas, white light blazing through glaze of unready lids, rays promises of multi-hues, shapes, shade. Who is who here? teeny tubes tie me to: fists, little nails extend/curl. Globes, pustules, bubbles, sphere here. All convections of heaven.


Harryette Mullen

f rom Tanka Diary

What do we call this chimerical creature possessing hair of a dog, rabbit foot, shark fin, elephant tusk, and rhino horn? Remember summers loafing in a hammock between two trees while a citronella coil burns itself into an ashen snake? Favorite sandals, constantly worn, that remembered the shape of my feet lost in a whirlpool as I crossed the roiling water. Even in this landscaped paradise people buy fresh-cut flowers, considered more aesthetic than the ones growing in the yard. Upside-down reflection on the ponds clear surface that I saw before noticing the deer itself, camouflaged in muffled woods. Climbers on Everest, so fixed on reaching their goal they press on beyond fatigue, passing their predecessors, the frozen dead. One thing after another: a tired old tree topples over in the yard, turning on the water faucet and flooding the lawn.


Neglected, lapsed in memory, declined, dilapidated, fallen into decay, crumbled into dust, returned to nature. You could survive to antiquity and die alone like hundred-year-old tortoise just passed away on Galapagos Island. After official autopsy, carefully preserved remains of Lonesome George are bubble wrapped, duct taped, and stored in a freezer. Guys in white robes with pointy hats, picking up litter beside the road? Has the Invisible Empire adopted a highway? As you have forgotten, so one day might you remember how to be wild and bewildered, to be wilder and be wilderness?


Akilah Oliver

Sac red an d P rof ane P a t h s i n Af ric an A meric an L i t e r a t u r e

Lecture given during the Religious Studies Department series, Sacred and the Profane: Celebrating Paths of the Spirit, April, 19, 2000 So, welcome to this circle. What Id like to do today is talk about, is not talk aboutId just like to read you some poems. Id like to read you some poems from the 1900s up to about 1979, a couple of poems here and there. And, I was thinking about this lecture (participatory circle session)the title is Sacred and Profane Paths in African American Literature or something approximating thatand what I started to think about is that dichotomy is so false, that dichotomy between the secular and the sacred, the sacred and the profane, and that in fact its a matrix that entwines and dances in and out of itself at any given time in any given context. And the matrix that Im interested in is the matrix in the signifier called Blackness in this particular session. Blackness meaning: a definition thats open to your input; definitely Blackness is signifying culture or race since were dealing with literature of a specific people, African American people; Blackness as it signifies memories, associations, how you touch upon that, how you weave in and out of that sense of Blackness. So, what Id like to do today is open up that definition to everybodys input. And one of the reasons Id love to do that is because when I think about Black literatureand Im going to use that term instead of African American literature, I dont even know why I said African American literature, I guess I got caught up in the political dictum Im much more interested instead in the specificity of what we call African


American literature, in Black, in Blackness, because I think that opens up so many more possibilities and so many other realms of ascending, senses of essentialist definitions of Blackness or African American as a culture. And [I want to] really begin to open that up, even as it was used some time ago and maybe still is in parts of England as more of a political signifier so that Blackness became a term that was adapted or adopted by many peoples to signify more than simply an ethnicity or a race or an association but to signify a sense of struggle, ascension, and unity. So, today what I want you to do is open up and let Blackness into your heart, the energy of Black, if it can enter you. To me Blackness and what that signifies is intricately related to language and specifically poetry and jazz. Those are primary matrixes for me. My first language I always say was jazz music: John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Ella Fitzgerald, some Billie Holiday, lots and lots of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington. These were my associations of blackness as a very kind of physical, visceral thing. We lived in a little house in Los Angeles on Normandy and 81st street. And it was a little yellow bungalow on the corner, and it didnt get a lot of light, and so the house always seemed as if it were full of shadows because it was. Everything was very shadowy. It was very, that kind of texture where you almost feel like you can touch a ghost or something in the room because of the texture and the balance or the absence of light. So, as a very little kid I remember my first associations, or identity with how Im embodying myself on the earth, was very much shadowy and there was this incredible sense of light and lightness in that shadowiness. As well, there was this heaviness within the confines of the room and the absence of light. And throughout the time that I remember this houseand I was very little probably, from whatever state, I was in a crib from about four or five years oldwe didnt have a lot of language it seemed because my father was the babysitter for us during the day, and the man did not talk. I mean, to the day he died, if you went out to dinner with him, it would be really difficult for him to probably sustain conversation more than about five, ten minutes, and that was it. So our language in that house was music. It was constantly on. So we had music and the textures of Coltrane, and the textures of Miles Davis. Charles Mingus was constantly filling the room. So, my first sense of


language was jazz, was music, or tonalities and rhythms, and the voices of instruments coming in and out and that language became my primary association with the sense of identity, the sense of the world, the sense of Blackness, signifying these multiple positions as music does, as well as later what would become my introduction to poetry, which was an extension for me of that kind of texture of the shadows, of the layered blackness that I came to associate. And thats what I always thought of literature as being, as this kind of multi-faceted language that weaves in and out of itself, that comes to complete itself, touches upon something and realizes its not there, and then moves to something else, some other sense of rhythm and language. So, the first thing I want to start by doing is playing John Coltrane throughout the rest of this talk and lecture so that Coltrane will be accompanying us in the background. And this is from the CD album A Love Supreme. So, well just let it keep going throughout the whole thing and let the texture of this move as we move. So this is what I first heard. This was my first sense of literature and Black language. So this would play in the shadows of the house that was shrouded in this kind of texture that you can almost feel but couldnt quite pick up and grasp, but yet I guess I did. This was the first language. Take a minute to write for yourself: what signified Blackness for you? What were your first signifiers of Blackness, first associations of Black? So we had this house, a bungalow, where this kind of pure energy and sacred music played in the daily midst of our rather mundane and sacrilegious lives on a daily basis. The second association for me with Black literature, and this again was the language that kind of permeated me and stayed with me, was church and church spirituals and music. We went to church every once in a while and then a little bit more regularly, every Sunday. My mother became pretty religious after a while. But church was a big part of my experience growing up, whether I was in St. Louis visiting relatives or in Los Angeles; and we went to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which is really not quite as lively as a Black Baptist church, a little bit more restrained, the choir is a little bit more, I dont know, rehearsed maybe. There was no falling out in the aisles and talking in tongues and that kind of thing, but yet there was this intense presence of language, whether it was how the preacher, the minister, articulated and the kind of way the voice would kind of rise and fall and


the kind of trembling that would happen inside of the voice, and you know the gesturing, and all of this became language that was a live, fluid kind of thing. The old women with their church hats onyou know these weird kind of plumes and feathers, and the little velvet hats, or these white straw things, and stiff white stiff dressesthere would be the church mothers in the first three rows and they always had these very stiff white dresses, starched dresses on and white shoes, and white stockings, and their job was to be the church mothers because in spite of the fact that the preacher was not going to fall out, somebody was in the church at some point. Somebody would get the Spirit. It would overtake them, and they would fall out, and it was usually during song or Psalm. And so spirituals became the first sense of language and poetry. And the first sense of that sacred sense of language is having languagethis force that moves people beyond themselves and beyond their bodiesand outside of that, language as being this collective, unifying energy that takes us beyond ourselves. And I want to read a spiritual, one of the early spirituals that I heard as a child, and I never associated it as being a spiritual before. And when I talk about that sacred-profane dichotomy to me it was just a bedtime story that my mother told us. And I didnt know it was actually considered a spiritual song, and its called This Little Light of Mine. Oh, this little light of mine Im gonna let it shine This little light of mine Im gonna let it shine This little light of mine Im gonna let it shine Let it shine, shine, let it shine All in my home Im gonna let it shine All in my home Im gonna let it shine All in my home Im gonna let it shine Let it shine, shine, shine Let it shine


God, give it to me Im gonna let it shine God, give it to me Im gonna let it shine God, give it to me Im gonna let it shine Let it shine, shine Let it shine This little light of mine Im gonna let it shine This little light of mine Im gonna let it shine This little light of mine Im gonna let it shine Let it shine, shine, shine, let it shine Everywhere I go Im gonna let it shine Everywhere I go Im gonna let it shine Everywhere I go Im gonna let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine And the church people would start, you know, clappin their hands. And there was another verse that went with it like: All in my home Im gonna let it shine You know peopled get to shakin their heads and stuff, and that was one of the primary senses of literature. Then there was another one. And this one I remember not so much from the church that I went to but more from the churches that I used to visit, the Baptist churches: Oh freedom. So that often there was this sense of the signifier letting a light shine as being. When you think of the mythic northern star that led the slaves


from southern plantations to the North, to freedomso these songs were couched in, since they came out of slavery, they were couched in these coded meanings, and the songs often had meanings about the Lord and God but also about the human spirit and about accessing that spirit. And there was always this sense of freedom imbedded in the songs as freedom being not just an ethereal kind of thing like when I die and go to heaven, but also freedom as being something worth struggling for or worth dying for. So even within the spirituals, there was never a real kind of distinction between the everyday, or the sense of struggle, or how one asserted oneself in relationship to mastery, or relationship to power. It wasnt really that separate from the sense of the spirit because the spirit came out of ones sense of its relationship to oppression in so many ways; or the spirit had to negotiate its very real physical bondage so that the sense of the sacred and the sense out of the ordinary were very much tied together. And heres another spiritual: Oh Freedom Oh Freedom, Oh Freedom, Oh Freedom over me And before I be a slave Ill be buried in my grave And go home to my lord and be free No more moanin, No more moanin, No more moanin over me And before I be a slave Ill be buried in my grave And go home to my lord and be free No more weepin, No more weepin, No more weepin over me And before I be a slave Ill be buried in my grave And go home to my lord and be free Theyll be singin, Theyll be singin, Theyll be singin over me And before Ill be a slave, Ill be buried in my grave And go home to my lord and be free Theyll be shoutin, Theyll be shoutin, Theyll be shoutin over me And before Id be a slave Id be buried in my grave And go home to my lord and be free Theyll be prayin, Theyll be prayin, Theyll be prayin over me


And before Id be a slave Ill be buried in my grave And go home to my lord and be free So those were my first influences of literature: spirituals, and John Coltrane, and Miles Davis, which is interesting because there was often this dichotomy between church folks in the old days and blues and jazz folks. Those blues and jazz people were out there sinnin and doin these kind of, you know, bad stuff. Then later, by the time John Coltrane got to this stuff, it was like, almost, even not understandable and rejected even by traditional jazz circles. So there was always this sense of this dichotomy that began to assert itself in a weird kind of, to me, an always kind of not quiteI dont whythere became this real dichotomy later between what is sacred and what is sacrilegious, or what is street, or what is, oh, worldly is a better word. Whats worldly, and what iswhats godly, and what is sanctified. But, of course, we knew that those same people in church were sanctified and falling out on Sundays, praying and very holy and sacrilegious. You know wed see them around the corner on the block, you know, little bottle of gin or something or thered be this little gossip about who was sleepin with whose husband and that kind of thing, so, of course, the dichotomy was always false. But it began to be asserted at some point. I began to read poetry at a really young age, and one day sometime later we were no longer in the little yellow bungalow, and the shadows were different in a different house. And my mother one day decided to walk myself and my three, two sisters and brother, to the local library, which we did. So we walked our thirteen-and-a-half blocks up to the library, and we got a library card which was to me like the most wondrous thing. Its like I had this little passport and I was filled with, I was, I entered this world where there were these rooms. It was a very small library, so it was more like a big room sectioned off with shelves, and there was the smell of books. I mean, I cant even begin to explain just what the aroma of books was like at that point. It was, you know, very intoxicating, and it felt as if I were being given this gift, you know, into this other world. We got that little thing called the library card, and we were told, you can check out up to twelve books, which was just amazing, like twelve


books at one time, and so we did. And for some reason both my sisters and myself, both of my two sisters and myself, besides other stuff we checked out, you know, Are You My Mother (the little ducky is one of my favorite books still), we begin to check out a lot of poetry, and I still dont know why, but we did. We began to just check out a lot of books of poems, and we would sit around in the kitchen, and for some reason the kitchen was a gathering place. I dont know why. The kitchen has all these signifiers for Black women, especially in the days when we used toand for many people, these still are the daysI guess Im just not in that day because hair was such a ritual; and the cleaning of the hair and shampooing of the hair would take an entire day, especially if there were three girls in a family, because then you had to Ill just tell you this little process because this gets to how we got to the kitchen and why we were reading poetry there. So the process of doing hair, called doing hair, for three girls would be: one, you have to take out whatever was in, the little pony tails and the rubber bands. And then you have to comb it out so the hair is straight already, its pressed. And then you have to go through the process of putting it under the kitchen sink cause thats where we got our hair washed, under the kitchen sink. And, of course, the hair would then kink up so it become something like this. Then there would be the process, if youre shampooing it. But you then had to get these really big combs, and, you know, you can probably still find them in Wal-Mart and stuff, these big black combs, they were always blackI dont know why. It was always the big black comb. Go get the big black comb. So, you go get the big black comb, and you would go get the Ultra Sheen, which is one of my favorite hair oils (I still use it today), and then youd go back and then thered be the process of combing through the hair. So this would take, you know, if youre tender headed, it would be a little bit of a trial. So youre sitting there combing through the hair, and then the hair would be oilednot yet, Im getting ahead of myself. Then you would have to, then if you comb through the hair, its, you know, its hard, it hurt, and then you would have to braid the hair into all of these little sections, and the purpose of that was so it would dry. And then youd walk around in braids for a couple of hours and maybe youd get under the hair dryer for a little bit, and then your hair would dry. So this would be, like I said, an all-day process with three girls.


Then the next process would be to take the braids out again so that you can then do the pressing process which always took place in the kitchen by necessity. The hot combwhich is an iron, a hot comb, like a regular comb, like the big black comb except its made of heavy iron, and its put on the stove, and there has to be a flame. So, youd have these flames going. Youd have the pressing comb, and its getting hot, and its very hotits gotta be, I dont know, its gotta be over seventy, eighty degrees in order for it then to go through the process of getting your hair nappy in order to clean it. Now youre gonna reverse it again, so the next process will then be to take the hot comb or the hot comb and then to take it section by section and to press through it so that its then straight again. So, that itself would be about an hours process, to do the pressing process, and then of course youd have to do something with the straightened hair once again. Thats when the Ultra Sheen came in. Then you would do the parting of the hair and oiling of the scalp, and then you could put it in rollers and make Shirley Temple curls. So it was quite a weird kind of process. We had to have something to do during this time, so one of the things that we did was read poetry, read quite a bit of poetry. So then again we have this very odd process of, you know, straightening of the hair, denappifying the hair, or taking it out of its original state, putting it into a social code, you know, a state, and then, what are you gonna do with ourselves all that time. So, during this ritual of the hair, because it was a ritual every other week, we would make a ritual of language and a ritual of poetry and, of course, there was already a ritual of language going on with the women talking and all of that; so on top of that youve got women in the kitchen, youve got all this talk, youve got the smell of burnt hair, which can be quite endearing sometimes, and then you had stuff like, If We Must Die, which was written by Claude McKay, one of the Harlem Renaissance poets, so this is one of the poems we used to sit around and read to each other, recite: If we must die, let it not be like hogs Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, Making their mock at our accursed lot.


If we must die, O let us nobly die We used to clutch our breast at that point, If we must die, O let us nobly die And very dramatic about the whole thing: So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain; then even the monsters we defy Shall be constrained to honor us though dead! Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe; Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave, And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow! What though before us lies the open grave? Like men well face the murderous, cowardly pack, Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back! And that used to really arouse our passions and we used to have these little contests about who could remember it line for line, and especially the part at the end, like men pressed to the wall, dying but fighting back, that used to always somehow excite us. Another one we read was Langston Hughes The Negro Speaks of Rivers: Ive known rivers: Ive known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and Ive seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.


Ive known rivers: Ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers. Or another favorite of ours Mother to Son: Well, son, Ill tell you: Life for me aint been no crystal stair. Its had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor Bare. But all the time Ise been a-climbin on, And reachin landins, And turnin corners, And sometimes goin in the dark Where there aint been no light. So boy, dont you turn back. Dont you set down on the steps Cause you finds its kinder hard. Dont you fall now For Ise still goin, honey, Ise still climbin, And life for me aint been no crystal stair. Langston Hughes was a big favorite, maybe because hes so accessible in so many different ways? At least he was for us as kids. But, Ill stop with Langston Hughes. Another one was a poet thats not as well-known from the Harlem Renaissance period, named Countee Cullen, Yet Do I Marvel: I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind, And did He stoop to quibble could tell why The little buried mole continues blind,


Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die, Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus To struggle up a never-ending stair. Inscrutable His ways are, and immune To catechism by a mind too strewn With petty cares to slightly understand What awful brain compels His awful hand. Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: To make a poet black, and bid him sing! Thats one of those poems where we had no idea what they were talkin about, but there was something about the rhythm of the language that we liked very much, that we could take with us from us Countee Cullen. Heres another one that was more accessible in some kind of ways, Incident: Once riding in old Baltimore, Heart-filled, head-filled with glee, I saw a Baltimorean Keep looking straight at me. Now I was eight and very small, And he was no whit bigger, And so I smiled, but he poked out His tongue, and called me, Nigger. I saw the whole of Baltimore From May until December; Of all the things that happened there Thats all that I remember. Sometime later, we moved yet again to the last house, and we then discovered the poems of what was then called The Black Arts Movement,


which was contemporary to our times at that point. So, as all this amazing amount of literature, and plays, and poetry that began to come out from probably 1964 to about 1974 or so, I would kind of ear-mark that as the Black Arts Movement, and, of course, a lot of it was built upon the reassertion of Blackness. Nappy was back. We had afros by then. So the rituals of the kitchen and the pressing sadly (or happily) ended. We had a new kind of ritual with the afro comb and, you know, Watu Wazuri use Afro Sheen was a song that used to come on the radio: Beautiful people use Afro Sheen. So its kind of interesting to know that Johnson and Johnson, a black-owned company of the hair oil that we used, was one of the first to use black signifiers in a commoditized way to promote products. So, there was this whole sense of a return to Africanism, and Africa, and that period, and we began to read poets like Nikki Giovanni. Nikki Giovanni. Nikki-Rosa was one of the poems that was our favorite: childhood remembrances are always a drag if youre Black you always remember things like living in Woodlawn with no inside toilet and if you become famous or something they never talk about how happy you were to have your mother all to yourself and how good the water felt when you got your bath from one of those big tubs that folk in chicago barbecue in and somehow when you talk about home it never gets across how much you understood their feelings as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale and even though you remember your biographers never understand your fathers pain as he sells his stock and another dream goes And though youre poor it isnt poverty that concerns you


and though they fought a lot it isnt your fathers drinking that makes any difference but only that everybody is together and you and your sister have happy birthdays and very good Christmases and I really hope no white person ever has cause to write about me because they never understand Black love is Black wealth and theyll probably talk about my hard childhood and never understand that all the while I was quite happy And theres lots and lots of other poems from that time period: LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka who I think were probably most familiar with at the Naropa school etcetera, and we were very enchanted by that period of Black Arts, and the parks, and the Black festivals in Black, and Angela Davis, and Free Angela and all of that, and we were just little kids and not really able to participate on a real level outside of sitting on the back fence and dreaming about running away to the revolution as we often did, but that passed, and we just ran away into ourselves, eventually, I guess to new revolutions that we keep inventing. But all that reminds me of, or brings me back to, is what signifies Blackness? What are the signifiers of Blackness? For me its the hot comb, the iron hot comb that was black, the big black comb. To me it was the frying of the hair, it was the shadows, it was the texture, it was John Coltrane, it was spirituals, it was traveling with my hippie father quite a bit, reading Henry Miller in Acapulco. It was all of these complex things, going to Kiev and Russia and studying Marxism when I was fourteen. It was Janis Joplin. By 74, Coltrane in the Pantheon of the jazz musicians had been joined with Janis Joplin, Jethro Tull, and Jimi Hendrix, and Joni Mitchell. So it was all of these complexities that made up these identities and associations. First time we drove through Coloradoand how you could see all the stars and how black it was at night hereand some song coming on the radio about a girl named Oh Kimmy Sue, which is my little sisters name and me saying, Im gonna go back to


that land one day. I like it here. Im gonna live there. It was all these complexities of shadows and people and a grandmother and the feel of her hands and the arthritic gnarled hands and how that felt touching my skin. It was the energy of the exchange of one of my first girlfriends and feeling the energy of white on black, sexuality, and what does that excite? And what does that bring out? It was all of these complexities. It was a little kid reading books and any reference to black or darkness was always associated with evil. Its the dark side. Its the light side. Its all these different complexities. And I think that the literature of Blackness is always being written in this country. I think its always going to be incomplete as long as its always written from the position of an essentialist definition of identity, i.e., Blackness equals a particular or only. Because it does equal a particular, and I dont want to take its source from itself. It does mean Negro and Afro American and nigger and it means African American and all those kinds of essentialist definitions, but I think that it also means something so much bigger than that in our culture, and until theres a way we can all enter the Blackness and add to the written literature of what is Black, it will always be a position of opposition to something nebulously called White. So, what Id like us to end with is opening that up, and one way to open that up is to read what you wrote, or not, or just go burn it and talk about something else. One way to open that up is to deny nothing because in that matrix of Blackness theres a lot of complexities, and theres pain, and theres anger, and theres fear, and theres shame. For the Black Arts Movement was a great period, but theres something that just didnt quite carry us through 2000 with simplistic slogans like Black is Beautiful. Though Black is more than just beautiful, its dangerous, its scary, its fear, its beautiful, and it can be all of these things at one time. So, Im just going to be quiet for a moment and what Id like to do to end is to open the circle, and anyone who wants to say anything or go from your little notes: what are your signifiers of Blackness? What would you add to this literature that were making up cause that to me is the most exciting part about Black literature right nowthat were still writing it, and unlike the poem, Nikki-Rosa by Nikki Giovanni, I think white people have to start writing about Blackness in order for us to transcend our dichotomies and simple positions that we can lapse into at


any given time when it comes to identitydarkness/light, black/white, master/slavebecause of so many ways theyre false dichotomies with historical truth and present day realities. So, everything I say Im going to contradict it. So, Ill be quiet and open it up now and I think we probably have about maybe five minutes. I know you guys have to go to class. The night sky was one of my first experiences of blackness and I was afraid of the dark as a little kid. I grew up in a small town in Colorado where there were very few, no Black people in town, and I rarely ever saw them. I remember one of the first times I went into the city and seeing Black people and being frightenedbecause I think, as you were speaking, my association with the night was fearful and they were different than me. I was fearful because of some of things my father would say, and then as I started to grow older some of my first sexual attractions were towards Black people and one of my first boyfriends was a Black man, so now it has a lot of association around sexuality and excitement for meand music as well.



Growing up I had a younger brother who was Black. My parents had friends who lived in Harlem and the friends name was Jerry and wed go into the city every few weeks to visit Jerry and I remember his apartment and the smells in there. There was always weird jazz music that I didnt really understand in the background. Hed sit us down and talk to us about the revolution and Blackness and his wife would braid my hair. There was this liberating feeling that I got in that apartment and thats my personal Blackness. Cool.


AUDIEN CE MEM BER: I grew up in Germany, and I was probably a teenager when I first saw a Black person. It was somebody the same age as I was. And to me it was fascinating just to meet somebody who had different skin color, and later I met a few more as I grew up. Actually, I had to come to America to experience racism and it was the reverse


racism. I was living in a community where the caretakers of the yard and everythingthey were Black and I didnt really like that so I moved into a Black neighborhood and I was not accepted. And that was the first time I realized what that was, what racism actually was.

Thanks for sharing.

I just want to end just letting this [music] fill the room as it goes off. Thats it. Theres more but thats it. So, thank you for coming. Thank you for sharing and listening, and being a part of the circle. And I invite you guys to continue writing your own literatures of Blackness, which I think will help all of us demystify or get over our fear to talk or to enter the space of Black.

In printing this, we thank the family of Akilah Oliver.


Akilah Oliver, Rachel Levitsky, Tisa Bryant

s ix en g ag em en ts
my repeating themes dont seem to come out the same way thrice

akilah oliver By which we engage discursively and poetically with excerpts from an unfinished and unsanctioned draft of an unpublished work by Akilah Oliver, provisionally titled: The Putterers Notebook: An anti-Memoir, or alternate title: Then I Became Strange to Myself: An anti-Memoir And in so doing, we revisit the spirit of our first meeting: a conversation with and about Akilah Olivers flesh memory: the she said dialogues published in How2, Vol. 1. No. 3, 2000.




spitting out prophecy as if it were bad grammar, back in those goblin days before T____ spelled out in Oakland, before i had expanded my vocabulary: decedent, aporia, Sheol, elegiac, switchblade, otiose.

hegemony, foal, reify, autochthonous, Manchineel, occlude. Mispronunciations of youth and time, first words learned from college kids chewed with scraps of pita gulped down between pauses, sounding out impossibilities, this one soothes; that, hammers. The individual. The State. No pretender to the thrown, follow shadow, mouthing litany, step behind, moving forward. Oh! She ohs. It was here you_________. Thusly. Secreted yourself. Site. Unforeseen.

Why when I say outside history I mean anything I mean to reconstitute an Other. Why when I say belated beloved I infer a politic, I reference a street sign on the bad side of town.

Third time looking up that word, otiose, or tenth if you count the times preceding. I dont remember what I say or do. On good days I am reminded. What does it matter that certain strains dont stick, all that which is said or done or thought through, throughout, poorly or well. Writer, note-take, collector of objects, delineatingso she will not fall. She

In the charlatans clothes I collect epigraphs to mark this form as urgent




Who reflects the dead?


Shocks and awes. We crumple over the surface, avoid mirror moments that dont quite pass. The cat on the other hand carries her, them. I want to know who feeds them & how do we help them grow.

The desire is for sprouting semi-colons, interrogatives worming through the weedy wonder of thought, exclamations inverted, dots floating skyward pollinate the strangers next breath. As another emphatic tongue might trill, might lisp, might thicken, drop a vowel, come for you. All the lovers. Now words and wordless. As quoted speech set off not by fangs but by carats doubly laid aside: less than, greater than. What you said. What time allowed. We repeat.

Hearing her own echoes & text as a galaxy of signifiers ____________things catalogued: cross-referenced as -_______, again crime maximus:




People commonly think of me as two. That is the job then, to sit and contrive. The making of figment.

A front porch, sweating glasses. Ours, on magnetic tape. Plainspoken. Disavowal. Insistence. On native agency. Organic mind matter. An erotics of _________. Lived exchange and exhortation: step into your skin. It is the waiting world. Your work to do.

The figment the figure the fragment walks on alone. This is not how seen and how storied. Unwritten, unfollowed because the paths divide and circle. That banality, the reason [given] to cut [she] off from desire from pleasure. All the causes of death combine. We seek theoretical advance meaning letting the cat out of the bag. Who can imagine black working class lesbian warrior Pat Parker lovemaking, the fall of her blonde lovers hair. Make no mistake, whether we say punishment or cost or simply whats exacted exiled intellect and uncommon desire kill.

In which pocket did I leave that I? Is I ever a thing to miss, a personage to mourn, if the I still lives in the physical body and is capable of re/articulation?




a landscape that lends itself to the sense that anything can happen, at any moment, that would allow an/other experience to emerge, then merge with the perception of the bodys feet in shoes on sidewalk,

Like a homing pigeon I end up on your street, without thinking, without meaning. A block before, gasp. Its coming. Is it? Cumber. An obstruction. Obstacle. Something in the way of deliberate knowing, determined arrival: I am going to your house. It is here. The tree roots tenting concrete. Low door under stairs: red? Church. Land. A block past, look back. Was that it?

rose petals strewn beneath, a carpet of trophies randomly on DeKalb


to get to, one had to pass through a portal, not a door exactly, more like a veil, it was duplicitous in its appearance, both sensuous and repelling, quicksand like, pleasure in the going down, the limbs indistinguishable from the souls, a man who was neither good nor evil seemed to be the sentry

I read to let go in place of to get to. What is the relationship between letting go and getting to? Every dream attempts both.

Is this a one-way? Turning. So as not to be surprised by this nation of memory looming, a fort in desperate fall, greenless winter. Cannot free,


cannot freeze imagining. Remember instead a party. The last time before the last time. Which is every time. Wander, pulled, strutting along. Over and over. Flight descends and the cage opens. Your writings, now, an open site.

who would I talk to in this old, old landscape, and which language might capture the petals commonness and her best clothes.



If it desires mirrors? History? Or and then narrative sensibility. If the mirror breaks one can buy another. Consume then recreate then resume an/other I.

Renee spoke of the questions so I know the questions matter and mutter. Uttered muster. Finding the question is the driving. Holding the question, driving it, in it, building it around you like a house. Gender, repair, the particular details that build you the city build you into this city, mesh your surface into its own. Poetic interrogative the version that suggests shift, surprise, unending response. If we cant change our minds, and perhaps we can, if we cant make our minds, and perhaps we can, if we cant set our minds to and perhaps we can, we can aggregate. This is no landfill, its devotion. Questions and notes, a song.

Saucer eyes, trance and the trace of looking, never absent, ever open. To Jen, I said, Ill readEvent Factory again. Re-readingThe Putterers Notebook, now. Touchstones for the question, What is it to be a Black lesbian experimental writer in a predominantly white community? Who asks this question and really thinks about it? What is the effect of this isolation on others; whose, whos to re______? These are my questions; may I make your words witness? Choose your verb. With what does one counter the conceit of dominant white culture? Straight culture. Segregation is one sad response. Assimilation, and the illusion of honorary whitenesscum-wellness-cum-normal(you should be fine, why arent you fine?), is another. Pokerface required. Theoretically. Continental. To still the welling. With code-switching accuracy. I disappear. Vision becalmed. Seeing from the bottom up.


VI. Re-d


(This fragment found in red, meaning notes to be returned to, re-addressed later.) The persona as redeemed, or heroic, or narrative midget laboring under a banner: bad teeth, as in Frank McCourt, a recurring trope that incites sympathy

The Putterers Notebook is As (Akilah Oliver, AO) book-length work in progress that was both a poem and a theory of lamentation. In it A theorizes both death and/or the death of the ego, the singular I, which if not expired, killed, allowed to pass, is an object constantly [being] put under a process of [impossible? flawed?] redemption, of being repaired, corrected, made better. This quoted line above, about the narrative midget, comes from Chapter 7: Notes on Memoir and Parafunction, in which A tackles most directly the memoirs posture of Redemption, defined in part as repair, return, rendition, reconstitution. On April 3, 2013 at Pratt Institute, Deb Olin Unferth, in a presentation which could be [and was by some present] identified as anti-feminist, proposed something interesting that was placed beside Hindu notions that seem to contradict it but that perhaps do not. She said that Time = Death by which no doubt she implicitly means Body + Time = Death. Which means that Death = Time + Body. The plus sign here can also mean the conjunction and or the preposition with. The equals sign can also mean requires or. As in: it/body/dead body takes time to unfold. To move in all its stages, to move outward, to return again in half-familiar form, something larger or huge. Rendered, returned. As work-body ensconced in a computer in a storage facility in Baton Rouge. Buried. A coffin from which its juices will leak. And seep. She



Stages of being set apart. How seen, the grief not, initially caused of bodily death, but iterations of the social kind of killing. Her stare now. Taken off. Inserting itself elsewhere.

Up here, airless but tight, flying not like a bird, rather, entrapment airborne, ulterior contradictions, air below clouded cushioned, a scenery that has seen itself but likes reminiscence.


Shannon Ongaro

Akil ah O liv er an d t he P o e t i c s o f G r e i f

In a 2009 interview with Susie Ford, poet Akilah Oliver said that in her book of poems, A Toast in the House of Friends, she was trying to transcribe rapture. I mean that in the ecstatic sense of the word. In this collection of poems, she enters and searches the tracks of grief, adoration, horror, light, suffering, and peace. There are even moments in which she manages to sustain multiple and conflicting states of mind/being. For example, from Crossover: i was so unprepared for the earths / grace as it disintegrated before me (Oliver, Toast 34). What is most confusing about these contradictory statesgrace and disintegration is that they are not really confusing at all; rather, in the face of deepest loss, loss and love buoy one another and occupy the same space. In transcribing rapture, Akilah enacts a bodied response to the machinations of the grief experience. Hence she establishes an interzone wherein the physical realities of living and dying meet, overlap, and converge with the sometimes watery, sometimes airy emotional responses to loss and loving. The poem is not just a text about something (i.e. tragedy, resolution, weather); it is something. It exists as a body with legs and arms, with intention and desire, and also with conclusion. Akilahs flesh/text is a traversing of skin to get to heart where we may reside for a time, a temporary state. And then in the course of imagination, we get kicked out of the text and must reacquaint ourselves with our own bodies. Bliss and loss merge as if through an osmotic mechanism of the grief experience, each reaching across the divide. As critical terms, bliss and loss deserve further interrogation. Working with the subsets Body, Dream, and Death, the complexities of bliss and loss nourish the fertile


flesh/text Akilahs poems so tenderly cultivate. I imagine a grid with bliss and loss on the x axis, and body and text on the y axis. At any given moment, I exist as a point, albeit a moving point. The divine geometry is the temporary arrival in the exact center, surely an impossibility.
BLISS: The Body

a love language, that is: a language gasping for consonants shape the unspoken as in: you are my first love, as in: seeing eyes, as in: you witnessed me i wept you
from Crossover in A Toast in the House of Friends

Akilah Olivers text, A Toast in the House of Friends, is a trellis, bound and unbound, that explores her experiences of grief and mourning. And yet there is a lightness in these poems, something uplifting and revelatory. The tragedy of losing someone loved is complicated by the non-universal and non-totalizing experience of that very love. Love itself slips through language and its tidy presumptions. In the tragedy of loss, the bliss of love confuses the grief process, and the experiences come to mirror each other and blur. Bliss then is an articulation of love, the cloud of experiences, daily and extraordinary, and cannot be limited to personal relationships. Bliss encompasses the entirety of a love experience, the sensations associated with loving as well as other less-tangibles like memory, hope, revelation, and imagination. In A Toast, Akilah engages the bliss of love to articulate not only her love for her son but also to uphold and explore the majesty of language, a love language (77). Bliss and loss must be exact experiences, the chaos of something torn away and replaced by memory or the desire for memory. Does bliss live in the memory of the present moment? Bliss in the body is the body in rapture, but rapture perplexes just as it suggests seemingly contradictory universes. To be in rapture is to be


in a fit of ecstatic delight, a transport of mind, and a mental exaltation. In the Christian tradition, the rapture is the transport of believers into heaven at the second coming of Christ. Violence and ecstasy exist, not alongside each other, sequentially, or even simultaneously; they are the same imperative. Simultaneity would imply that they are still separate creatures occupying shared time/space. Indeed, rapture is the moment of unity, oneness between violence and ecstasy. In The Visible Unseen, Akilah writes, Because what is the body, if not a complex temple, an unstable site through which to negotiate subjects, materiality, economies, gods, and modes of representations? The site where we are all already belated (Toast 59). To be bound by this body, the flesh text, is to be resurrected every moment to the present state of sensory experiences and their interpretations. The negotiations always regard desire and the possible satisfactions or disappointments of those desires. And yet it would be incomplete to say that satisfaction necessarily triggers a bliss moment. There is the possibility that disappointment catalyzes a euphoria of struggle, as well. To consider the body/text as a field for sport and for battle might suggest the notion of the well-adjusted, evolved being whose self image/ esteem/confidence/et cetera is healthy or appropriate. But the body is gruesome, especially the aging or diseased body, with its humours and other extravagances. Life and its death are revolting matters, ones that are negotiated at every juncture, directly and indirectly. The bliss moment seems to mock the containment of this flesh vessel, the body. To this conundrum, Roland Barthes, in The Pleasure of the Text, contests bliss cannot be expressed in words. Perhaps that is the horror of bliss: no matter how much we strive to paint, write, perform bliss, it is only striving toward the impossible. And yet to stab at bliss, to attempt to say, this is what bliss is/means, is an act of gratitude, deep appreciative gratitude. Thus, the cycle of bliss continues only momentarily disrupted. This is writing. This is desire. That is, i adore the object (my love) so i must contain it so i can derive pleasure and power from my own gaze. Because perhaps one likes the way a bird flutters around in a cage because thats the diverted power of the landless (Toast 84). The bird in the cage is devastating and lovely; neither of those terms achieves a hierarchy over the other.


The erotic impulse of writing stems from the addiction to the containment of knowledge; after all, is not the power of knowledge the most persuasive of aphrodisiacs? Eroticism then is the knowledge of the body/text, its curves and vulnerabilities. Akilah plies her words at the outset of the The Putterers Notebook: Burnt alterity / Ill never leave you no matter what / when I saw you your sad/ architecture I shook / I architecture shook, a house a dangerous weave, house a dagger a dagger (3). Here, desire moves in the direction toward self, an alternate self, which is not another way of saying shadow self. The alternate self is a mystery; she can be a fantasy or a nightmare. She is brave and vulnerable at the same time and has different memories. There can be multiple versions of her. The shadow self on the other hand is a known entity, but she lingers in darkened spaces. What makes the alternate self desirable is that she is unknown; she has not yet been contained; she is wild. She has not been confined to the text. Speaking of this alternate self, Akilah writes, I gave away a plot a plot I as spectatorial gaze posit a stripped subject, a migratory Other to eroticize my loneliness (Putterers Notebook 12). The Other is not outside herself; it is an interior Other, a mysterious self who is the object of her own gaze. Hlne Cixous calls this type of work idealized reflection or reconstruction, the arena where self/ alternate self swap memories; some memories fall away and some are born (12). In the act of re/creating memory, multiple selves may develop: the fantastic self, the alien self, the self who talks to ghosts. Akilah enters the arena again, as rapturous becoming/unbecoming/ greeted with violence/ i take permission to extend this grace (47). For example, Akilahs performance of Hyena (An Absolution Chant for the Beloved Community) is especially moving. By matter of course, every performance must be unique. The angle of light and accent on phrase shifts with each incantation. Often simply called Ashe, this piece utilizes repetition and rhythm, like a song. And truly it is a song, one of worship, a cautionary tale, a sweeping net around neighbors and lovers. As a song, it works on the body as moon tides work on the sea, a rolling and building, a crashing onto the shore. Ashe pits me in collusion with an entire community of bodies, ones that love, hide, lie, want, and kill. The you in this poem is me and not just me. It is all of my troubles and desires, but it is also the work of my cosmic situation in which I am


always in relationship with others. Our bodies exist in proximity to one another. We are a holy mass.
BLISS: The Dream

and i took the childs hand and was led to the thirteenth dream child and the thirteenth dream child radiated light and fire and invited me on a journey, so i walked through the radiant fiery light and walked to the tears
from A Toast in the House of friends

Speaking of magic, the dream of bliss is the zone of ecstatic wisdom, outrageous compassion, porous resolve. Ecstasy carries a lighter load than rapture. Where rapture is bodied and earthen, ecstasy is weightless and fantastic, fantastic as in fantasy, fantastic in the sense of the impossible and the irrational becoming verifiable and legitimate. We enter the dream and the constraints of waking life fall away. When we enter the text, it is the same. An agreement is made wherein gravity and other absolutes become subject to interpretation. In ecstasy, the soul is out of place. In that sense, the soul is un-bodied, free to wander, and capable of flight. The soul and the imagination operate like a double helix, always linked but sometimes moving in opposite directions. The beauty of this arrangement is the endless possibility for transcending ordinariness, as in the section in A Toast beginning with, the first dream child was the dreamer of dreams (49). In this part of the longer piece, Akilah seems to move through multiple layers of not just consciousness but also layers of the imagination, as if falling through the ceilings of creative moments and visions. The dream children bear gifts and have diverse skills; they are bodied, tellers of tales, keepers of clouds, dream children who make memories and dream dreams. The ultimate dream child, the thirteenth dream child, is the one who invites Akilah on a journey, an invitation she accepts. All of the dream children, but especially the final one, function as guides and teachers, escorting Akilah like Dantes Virgil and Beatrice through the circles of awareness of ones heaven and hell.


After the thirteenth dream child, Akilah walks through the radiant fiery light and then to the muses and then to the enchanted lords of the clouds and continues. The dream is blissful because it rejoices even when the visions are difficult or scary. In the forever dream, Akilah articulates an out of body-ness by taking on another name (becoming strange to herself) and then by being recognized by the children (becoming known to herself). Her forever dream is a transcendent time of shifting between self and alternate self, between bliss and loss, between dream consciousness and how the dream plays out on the page. The dream on the page is poetry. The dream, however, can only become a known variable when it is put into one of languages many forms. If the dream goes unarticulated, then it disappears or, at the very least, is relegated to the zone of thought/memory. But language has a way of maneuvering itself into all kinds of crevices, even that slippery memory zone; after all, how far is the distance from thought to language? For now, I suggest they are one and the same. Perhaps the dream is articulated to oneself, or maybe it is expressed as a poem or a painting or some other outward manifestation. Regardless of shape or form, the articulation of the dream is dependent on language for its potency. The question is: how does the dream of bliss change when it makes its way into/onto the text? It is an act of translation and surely much is lost in the process, but the vitality of the dream on the page perseveres. Barthes says that, pleasure can be expressed in words, bliss cannot (21). I resist this statement. I want words/language/text to perform works of art and magic. And that is what it would take to confine bliss to the page. Perhaps revisiting definitions of bliss will help to muddle the construct: perfect joy or felicity, supreme delight, the perfect joy of heaven, the beatitude of departed souls, paradise, glory. Bliss then can occupy my body, it can occupy my dreams, but how could it ever be still long enough to stay on the page? How could it possibly submit itself to language? It cannot. The dream of bliss remains out there, and it is the job of artists and poets to make stabs, to attempt to hook and steal bits of bliss, to flirt with us, we the readers and interpreters, and then to leave us wanting more. When Akilah makes an offering to me, her reader, like, at my purest once / in response to what do you want / i said / i said i just want to know god, I encounter an expectation for gloriousness (Toast 24). The dream of bliss is always a reaching toward, a gaining ground, but never an arrival.


BLISS: Death: An Interlude

i looked out the window at the baby tearful snow i moored i mourned i morned like a visiting rainbow i looked thru the window and saw the entire world on deck i looked thru the window and saw the entire world bedecked i looked thru the window and saw inlaid jade
from A Toast in the House of Friends

One of the central themes, if not the driving theme, of A Toast in the House of Friends is the vast and varied experience of grief: the way it moves through a body, how it exposes new aspects when confronted with language, and importantly how it can operate as a rupture, or an opening for moving deeper through an experience. In an article for The Tolerance Project: An Archive, Akilah had this to say about her work in A Toast in the House of Friends: In approaching the subject, the death of the beloved, I enter into an investigation of the ecstatic in the dual sites of rapture and rupture. For me, an absolute rupture occurred at the time of my sons death, so that the world broke open, in a sense, and I decided to follow the opening wherever it led, rather than try to patch it or close it. The opening, this rupture, this state of the world breaking open and me, being broken open, did not lead to any one rapturous state (as if rapture, or bliss, were a desirable closure), but rather led me to want to continue to go there, off, beyond the limits of language and cognition to rapture (an intense pleasure of transportation from one place to another, as in heaven). I think for many poets, at least for me, to write is a kind of difficult dance with rapture; it is a way to beckon the day as a beloved, a way to talk to the dead, a way to collapse the known world into the impossible.


LOSS: The Body

headless breasts. imaginary eye. object. objectify. objection. abject. abrupt. disruptive image. she opens out to a blank space who you be woman who you be clean carefully between the toes. lesson number one. walk.
from Feral Feminina

In her important text Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag enters and analyzes the spectators gaze in the arena of violence. In considering how photographs offer skewed perceptions of violent acts (see: human injury, atrocity and death, war), she warns the reader, No we should be taken for granted when the subject is looking at other peoples pain (7). So too are we readers advised to remember that we readers are an amorphous mass, one of mysterious tastes and memories. There are moments in A Toast in which I posit myself as viewer of tragedy, as if my readerliness forces an imagined distance between myself and the depths on these pages. But instead of imagistic horrors, like the grainy old photographs of Nazi death camps or the lynching of blacks in the South of Sontags essays, in these poems, I go with Akilah into the rupture, and I also go alone into the rupture, the one whose interior canals are molded by my own histories, desires, and disappointments. I do not mean to equate these postures, the photographic and the poetic; rather, I suggest an overlay or a meeting between vision/gaze and poetry/interpretation. What is the poetry of a photograph, and what is the image of the poem? Is this a sort of literary or artistic synesthesia? My body takes these leaps regardless of my conscious practice. The body is always on the verge of losing control, especially when the body and text meet and become enamored. Barthes says, The pleasure of the text is that moment when my body pursues its own ideasfor my body does not have the same ideas I do (17). I and my body. This formula would seem to suggest a binary or a duality at the very least. Instead, however, it speaks to the dishonesty of monolithic consciousness, as


in the presumed and specific tasks that correspond to the mind and the body. I and my body are always multiple and often contradictory. The exchange of information is so fast as to be immeasurable, but the responses will always be multi-faceted, family-like affairs, family in the sense of connected but distinct. From In Aporia, I his body is disintegrating, I his body is ossification. Death my habit radius, yeah yeah. I his body cant refuse this summons. I cant get out this fucking room. Tell me something different about torture dear Trickster. To be bodied is to be always either dying or not dying. Throughout In Aporia, the first poem in A Toast, bodies are blurred. The I/his construction, like a chant, is shifty; my eyes (and other senses) do not know where to rest. Then, back to the poem, Who is the dead person? Is Im sorry real to a dead person?.... Am I now the dead person? Dead person, dead person, will you partake in my persimmon feast? (Toast 10). Here, the body is already decomposing, and because I have made the agreement to enter the text, my body too is decomposing. I and my body. It also signals a sort of madness. Maurice Blanchot in The Writing of the Disaster writes toward understanding both the damage done by writing as well as what it takes to write about tragedy. The easy assumption is to consider the writing process an act of building up and restoration, one that enhances and beautifies. And perhaps these notions are sufficient for certain goals. But Blanchot works on another angle: what does writing do to the thing/person/ place/event that is written about? To enact language is to cloud vision, to press ones fingerprint, to lay a drape and mold things in particular ways. That which is written is always at the mercy of the writer. When Akilah wonders, how do you speak of children without memorializing them or lying or praising, she acknowledges languages limitations, as well her own particular blurry memory making processes (Toast 96). But the disaster Blanchot speaks to is more than mere limitation. In this poem toward the end of A Toast, Akilah pulls up and sifts through select


memories, questioning both the memories themselves as well as her own ability to remember. Blanchot offers this regarding the disaster of memory, The disaster is related to forgetfulnessforgetfulness without memory, the motionless retreat of what has not been treated the immemorial, perhaps. To remember forgetfully: again, the outside (Blanchot 3). These penultimate and ultimate poems in A Toast are a poets way of running a hand over a lost childs skin, wiping his tears, and hearing his footsteps in the hall. The memory of this will always be insufficient and incomparable to the lived experience of caressing a loved one. And the text that attempts to remember those moments will always be a rupture. Kristin Prevallet calls this the speculative text, the text that grieves. She continues, If the body of a text has suffering at its root, then language too will take a fragmented, torn-apart form, as if it too is suffering. Poetry that seeks this kind of engagement with language is positioned to absorb the brokenness of grief (Prevallet 50). A Toast is exactly this kind of text; while it is rich with a light that seems to transcend grief, it is still steeped in the horror of the death of the beloved.
LOSS: The Dream

grass, canvas, walls, bodies, boxes, memories, sidewalks offer a range of possibilities for addressing subjects as i was falling downstairs I did not feel any shots
from Green Fibs

In Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, a collection of lectures given at the University of California Irvine in 1990, Hlne Cixous traverses the conscious and subconscious worlds in search of the text, the one that exists within and throughout. In The School of the Dead, The School of Dreams, and The School of Roots, she respectively engages those landscapes for considering ways of writing and how those environments influence the work. She writes, My writers, my sisters, my guides, what do they have in common? They have all written by the axes light.


They have sought bliss in savage conflict and have found it (Cixous 72). The poems in Akilahs A Toast shine in the axes light because they occupy loss, fearlessly and creatively. Loss is. It seems ridiculous to attempt to corral loss or to suggest that it is definable, particularly a format such as this. Surely words like rupture, fragment, aporia, grief, and disaster figure into the lexicon of loss. A draining away, to be broken, absence, loneliness: these are some of the ways loss sculpts experience. Still, it feels impossible to configure an acceptable and universal understanding of loss because it must necessarily be individually experienced. Loss just is. And it is the poets task to wrestle loss into a corner and stare it down, and there the poet or other creative worker can reckon momentarily with the wound. The dream of loss makes the conundrum even more profound because it is in that dream zone where notions and images and their supposed meanings become even more slippery. In Kill, Akilah enters the sleep, and there, transgressions, distress, dreams, sadness, and any number of ex-lovers become the soup of her sub/conscious world (Toast 91). In the dream of loss, the dreamer cannot discern real dangers or pointed insults; this unknown is the nightmare. The dream of loss is the poem. The ultimate act of translation is the dredging up of the dream and sinking it, cementing it into language. Hence another pothole or portal of loss: what is left behind when the dream image is transferred from the ephemeral to the archival? Memory is fallible, and so the writer strives to contain the mysteries of the recesses. The disaster of memory and its storming, brooding sister, translation, provide the gaping mesh for containing the breath of the poem. Kill weaves varied influences: reports of Peruvian miners, critical theory, fantasy, dream, and song. These are the things that remain, but where do the fragments that do not make it onto the table go? What is it to be a forgotten fragment? What if, on the other hand, one could remember everything? The fantasy of that suggests a type of creative combustion, or perhaps it is more like an implosion where all beauty and destruction become absorbed into the ether.


LOSS: Death: A Transference

in my own way there was a time when i stumbled over a tense: says/said now, bereft, in anticipation of how night collapses into its own effluence i conjugate occasions, ask for just time, just a little time, to get love right
from Go

One could not be faulted for thinking that death and loss are obvious partners in the marriage of experiences. The two modes seem to complement each other: death being a mechanism of loss. I often think in equations, the result of parochial education throughout the eighties and nineties. Armed with well-flexed math skills, the wave of thought regularly seeks the orderly currents for excavating and coming to some kind of understanding of the world; hence, the geometric structure of this essay, which was also inspired by the structure of Hlne Cixouss Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing. The grid, its points and axes seem so clear. I can drop a theoretical pin on the map and know exactly where I stand in relation to other pins, theoretically that is. It is a tidy mess I have created here. Still, the visual quality of the grid is helpful for observing proximity and the potential for movement. The problem with such a grid is that it is full of holes and tricks. To use a notion explored by writer Richard Froude, my grid is a Hoax. As soon as I begin to lean too heavily on a pin, it sinks and disappears, and then I have to locate another pin for my attention. And then that pin sinks and disappears. The Hoax is the moment when one observes the multiple and steps into the threshold, and lingers. Imagining death and loss in conflation is The Hoax. In each of the preceding sections, practice and theory have agreed to participate. Practice, that most rebellious teenager, has conceded to the game theory offers. Surely it could dive in any direction at any given moment, but it has temporarily behaved. But now, practice and theory have turned


to oil and water thus refusing to get along. This is perhaps my favorite moment, when the text before me slips on the track, a hiccup. Akilahs experience of the death of her son is the passageway for approaching the rupture. In the interview with Susie DeFord on Bombsite, Akilah talks about the emotional states (grief and others) that surround grappling with death. About grief, as an interpretive term, she says, Maybe it isnt so much that the term fails to encompass a range of emotional states, but I think also death itself, as an event, as a limit, as a field of investigation, is too many things at once. Its solid and its slippery. In In Aporia, Akilah pays homage to the influence of Jacques Derridas celebrated text, Aporias, an influence that is discernible in many of the poems throughout A Toast. What I find interesting here, however, are the distinct ways these two writers approach the difficulty, one of the commonly used definitions of aporia. For Derrida, the coarsest understanding of aporia is the limit of language to conceive, express, and foster perceptive moments. For Akilah, aporia is a zone to embody. It is the passageway that does not allow passage (etymologically, aporia can be understood as a- without poria passage) and remains a field of investigation where Akilah surveys and digests her poetic experience. Death does not cooperate. It comes quickly or slowly, sometimes it is foretold and other times, it screeches in unannounced, takes over, and creates chaos. When Akilah talks about the solidity and slipperiness of death, she witnesses both the finality of the flesh body as well as the magnificent power of memory to transcend such finality. Perhaps it is because death and loss are so compatible that it becomes difficult to engage them separately. The concern is that they will become so conflated that they then lose their respective powers. As a term of inquiry, loss is the gap in consciousness, the place to enter absence, whether it is absence as loneliness or absence as emptiness. Both are vital experiences particularly in exploring grief moments. Loss can initiate Fanny Howes notion of a poetics of bewilderment by stripping away standard assumptions of ones existence. Loss can also have an erotic impulse; like Barthes writes, Is not the most erotic portion of a body where the garment gapes? (9). The rift exposes the skin beneath, and we cannot look away regardless of the beauty and possibly the horror that rests beneath the drape.



language is a skin memory is a skin forgetting is a skin lie is a skin fear is a skin desire is a skin tongue is a skin doubt is a skin whip is a skin absence is a skin
from Feral Femina

Body, rapture, loss, rupture, dream, love, bliss: these are the minerals in the ground Akilah has created and tended in A Toast in the House of Friends. At times, it is the wild forest of critters and flesh-eating plants; one must tread with awareness and caution. Other times, it is a manicured botanical feast. One strolls the flowerbeds lazily, admiring all the regular blooms. It is a sweet and peaceful time. Throughout this work, bliss and loss only appear to be ends of the spectrum of experience. I would argue they are the same experience. Is it mere oversimplification to suggest their implosion? In order to arrive at this juncture, I must wrangle some clarity by distinguishing these states independently. For example, I suggest that bliss looks a certain way in the body and in dreams, and that loss follows its own separate trajectories. The process is sufficient for animating nuance, focusing light, and otherwise organizing my thoughts around grief as well as my interest in Akilahs work. Identifying bliss and loss separately is a way to examine their particular vocabularies, yet I do not wish to create an impossible duality in which the zones of bliss and loss miss each other. I too have been in the dark spaces of grief, and like Akilah, I have seen majesty in those very darkened spaces. The shock of death is the solidity Akilah speaks of, but memory, imagination, and fantasy shake


that foundation. Thankfully, there is a poets vision for undermining the division of bliss and loss. Akilah: What comes to mind with the idea of artist as warrior is that the artist shape-shifts, that the artist is able to occupy multiple sites, not necessarily simultaneously, but able to occupy multiple sites The artist can shape-shift in many different ways, so that theres a graciousness to warrior spirit, instead of an absolute space of power that only challenges or disrupts other spaces of power, that is only alive in conflict. That the space of artist-as-warrior is an open space of power. And in that space theres community. (Hold the Space) To think about the artist as a shape-shifter means that the artist has the power to reconfigure, unveil, and rebuild ways of remembering. We walk courageously into the rupture of loving and leaving behind, for the potency of grief dissipates if we do not wrestle with and succumb to the magnitude of love.


w o r ks c i t e d Barthes, Roland. The Pleasure of the Text. New York: Hill and Wang, 1975. Print. Blanchot, Maurice. The Writing of the Disaster. Lincoln, Nebraska: New Bison Book Edition, 1995. Print. Cixous, Hlne. Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing. New York: Columbia UP, 1993. Print. DeFord, Susie. Akilah Oliver: Good Grief. Bomblog, 26 Aug 2009. Derrida, Jacques. Aporias. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1993. Print. Howe, Fanny. The Wedding Dress: Meditations on Word and Life. Berkeley, California: U of California P, 2003. Print. Oliver, Akilah. A Toast in the House of Friends. Minneapolis: Coffee House, 2009. Print. . The Putterers Notebook. Brooklyn: Belladonna Books, 2006. Print. . the she said dialogues: flesh memory. Smokeproof Press, 1999. Print. . Hold the Space: The Poetics of Anne Waldman. Jacket Magazine Online Journal. and Tyler Burba. Ashe Ashe. Solas Bar, 6 Feb 2009. Video recording. Prevallet, Kristin. I, Afterlife: Essays in Mourning Time. Athens, Ohio: Essay Press, 2007. Print. Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Picador, 2003. Print.


JH Phrydas

L ev it at ion

bodies separate in a space of law. rooms designate mirrors of the phenomenal world, gravity their main structural component. if rooms resist bodies float and collide. instead, they must shift, masking each others subtle movements.

our body reacts. cantilevering aggressive thrusts: heavy shifting. we leave the body, dream of sitting in a mothers lung. walls breathe. still. no windows. permeation occurs interiorly, a closed system of events. in darkness words seek warmth. sites to slow down.


two bodies in a room: a structure of organization. in speaking they break down what they mean, although they havent spoken yet.

when one body breathes the other exhales, sentences gain attention when surrounded by soft threads. sentences were invented in breath. air patterns change. a shirt heaves, or else the hair, the skin. under the floorboards, the body is not a heart


until the moment of touch: two bodies remain lit merely for affect. instead, recreation occurs. revelatory structures written into the wet of it.

what can one body do that, in doing, shifts status like a push? in thinking of you membranes separate, allow air to enter, particles contract against an unarmed advance. secretion occurs. the cozy nuzzle of two distinct bodies, one made of flesh, the other: air.


is body always presence, a thrust in void? in certain rooms, voice carries the body further than its limit. in the yard, among heaps of sweet-grass, enunciation forms something else, arising like anthills. we cannot see this as real, not admitting other logics.

in residual casting sequence becomes paramount to this lamp here and a wall, once, there. to speak of anarchic tides, the way rock tends to find the lowest elevation, make it float in reversal why believe in causation one can never invert? suspended, absence is felt on the skin in waves.


floors words form transmit more than techne. these walls hem in sound. there, an expanse leads at every break to the horizon. how a step matters depends on its footprint, whether it will last. others sit, silently discussing other contexts.

structures leave marks on bodies carried for years. we call this when the space where inside and outside of topos: meet.


Nicole Peyrafitte

Hu! H u ! H u ! H emna d O

Ua incantacion via e per Alem Surre-Garcia

Hu! Hu! Hu! Hemna d O Hu! Hu! Hu! Hemna d O Hemna al serp Hemna ante diluviana Hemna pirenenca Hu! Hu! Hu! Hemna d O Hu! Hu! Hu! Hemna d O Lan volguda hemna deth pecat Lan volguda hemna de luxuria Lan encadenada als capitels romanics Hu! Hu! Hu! Hemna d O Hu! Hu! Hu! Hemna d O Peira viva Peira de movement Peira de car Hu! Hu! Hu! Hemna d O Hu! Hu! Hu! Hemna d O Peira hitta!


O ! O ! O ! W om a n o f O

An incantation via & for Alem Surre-Garcia

Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! Woman of O Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! Woman of O Snake woman Ante diluvian woman Pyrenean woman Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! Woman of O Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! Woman of O They made her woman of sins They made her woman of lust They chained her to the romanesque capitals Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! Woman of O Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! Woman of O Live stone Moving stone Flesh stone Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! Woman of O Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! Woman of O Raised stone Peira hittta!


Celle qu i c herc h e a

Au risque de me perdre avant de me trouver je me spcule sans assurance sans logique sans grater sans scruter je pntre mes tnbres ma forme propre ma lumire naturelle ma vision de nuit vers limagination plagique ma bance lgante ma bouche sevre


S he w ho s eeks h a s

At the risk of losing myself before finding me I speculate my moi no assurance no logic no scratching no scrutinizing I enter my darkness my own shape my natural light my night vision towards pelagic imagination my weaned mouth my elegant gap


Andrea Rexilius

f rom New Organism

Grief sensations touch the body the way light reverberates across water. It is on it, but one cannot grasp. The night of the ordeal of the grief one remembers the moon. Not the, the moon. Was yellow. The moon. Tendrils. Clouds brushing the face. The sky not black, but navy. The moon, elongated. Harsh. Gloriously alive. The moon not the, the moon. Hot, sharp air against the face. The sky pressing the face. Thinking there is no difference, between what air is and what I am, except the pressure I put on it. The form I form around it. A critical theory of form. To breathe the word, air. To sculpt it invisible against, the sky. To birth the moon from ones mouth. To birth a dark, heavy wound and heave it toward, the sky. One born within you. One born upon you. Acted upon, your body. Acted upon, your birth your moon. If light assaults the surface of your skin. No if light, and not the skin shatters the way you face the moon in the sky.


If light shatters the way you face the moon in the sky, it is important to say the word stone. To feel heavy in your belly the deep, brutal stone. The gallstone. The kidney stone. The many stones the body pockets as grief. The size of footballs. The size of baseballs. The size of a tiny marble. The heat stone. The life stone. The brittle salt of the bone stone. To lick the enamel across your teeth. To bring to the surface all that magma, that marrow, of the just beneath the skin stone.


I want to think like a magi; the way stones underwater reflect grief. How images capture tone, and temperature of what is glimpsed. To glimpse why the root is made desperate by inability of its capture. Why, for instance, the word woman holds its own intention. One day on the street I found a fissure. I thought it was my sex. I thought it looked like the sea. An amoeba. I was not afraid to be seen. I was afraid to be dismembered. Do you see? The scene is one of red pooling into clear water. Men want to see you bleed, my mother said. Like a gutted fish, she said. Like a submerged memory. On the surface of the water I see an article. Perhaps the nuance is unintentional. Is it a verb? Is it a noun? The way female bodies surface. But I like the way a woman looks possessed, like a new organism under water.


We must move on to the rhetoric of women, one that is anchored in the organism, in the body (Duras). Pushed back by the flood of a veiled history. The earth. A monotonous violence. The error. For we have not learned a thing. The pulse of testimony a vow to dream the intention. The pulse of testimony no longer requires illumination. It is illuminating this polished shore to hopefulness. Witness here, and answer. What is the female bodys landscape? What is the rhetoric of her landscape? A shore. A margin. Coral reef. A rift. A fault. Yes, a faultline. Where land meets shore. A divide occurs. Where continent advances and deposits its silt. A slit in the I. The essence of an enemy felled. It is not a matter of passion. Storms, impoverishments already revealed in Scripture. It is to split the body of the body. To treat it as if it were a condition.


The act of adoration is a condition. An expanse. The water opening a window. Bottomless pain at the juncture. The act of transport a very likely condition. Retelling in every instance, what prevailed. I am unable to detail a personal history. Merely gesture toward air that circulates around the crux of it. That there was nature, murky water, dirt seems important. I do not wish to tell, but to expos. Not to expose, but to create exposure. I take photographs of water underneath the water and the photographs are ruined. I have nothing left to say and I am saying it, now. These are the repercussions of language.


The repercussions of language taste like stones. Dream stones that have been inside the ears. Body stones that have been inside the gallbladder, the silt of the liver. To know truly what a sediment is. To know it is residue, but not of the land. Of a sentiment. An emotional field. The place where wildflowers bend in the wind. The place where perspiration becomes. I balance stones on a precipice. My body lunges and heaves pulled by the tide.


They say if you are a woman you are pulled by the tide. They call you a lunatic, hysterical because the moon, full, makes you bleed. They suggest a hysterectomy. They suggest you stop troubling yourself with a vote. There is no need for a voice when you have an animal between your legs.

I want to think like a magi was first published by American Academy of Poets PoemA-Day on January 15, 2013


Joanna Ruocco

Bron ze K n o b s

The girls who fell through the ice on St. Lucys day were buried when the weather warmed, but at midsummer they were seen in their white gowns and candle-wreaths standing among the birches on the hill. The next morning, a small boy circling the pond on hobbyhorse found candle stubs in the cups of marsh marigolds, and between the leaves, on the silt, a salamander all of wax. Before the farmers fields could be reaped, the millers wife, ten years in her grave, ran through the grain with sickles on her feet, and the grain flew into the millers barns. The goodwives dead in childbed climbed cold between the sleeping mothers and their babes and dangled their black teats until the babes drank lustily. The mothers woke, sons and daughters black in their arms, skins unyielding. As soon as the frost came to sweeten the apples, the babes themselves appeared in crates of fruit, tearing holes in the flesh with long teeth and nails. On Michaelmas, the gardeners son follows his father to the churchyard. His father holds the basket of spring-blooming bulbs. Blackberry bushes grow through the fence into the churchyard, and the gardeners son cuts them back, black juice bright on his hands. Behind him he hears the thud of his father dropping bulbs into holes.


The y W ait f or Carria g e P i n s

There is nowhere to take the waters, and no shops. Josephine walks the vineyards then pays a visit to the pheasantry. She passes through the gates to the hill where the women dig horseradish. They draw her attention to the peculiar ticking of the beetles in the fenceposts. The sun is very hot. At the tavern, the talk is of the fowlers daughter, and Josephine is compelled to praise the endives before retiring. The next day, Josephine postpones the silver mines and goes to tend the girl in her extremity. She dares to open the bedside window, and when the wind stirs her hair, the fowlers daughter opens her eyes. She asks Josephine, What is a postillion? and There is dancing? Soon she sleeps again, and Josephine rummages within the schrank chest. The netting is broken, but the feathers are among the loveliest shes seen, large and golden. She would set them quaintly in the diamond foliage of a headdress. Sitting, Josephine reflects that, although she had imagined her vigil enlivened by a demitasse of coffee, she does not mind the dreariness. The side-slits in her gown permit the air to circulate, and she imagines a prince with his lips on her skin, sneezing. Madame, is that horseradish? It is all so amusing.


T he S k eppe r

The cold has put the bees to sleep or killed them. The gardeners son listens beside the woven hives. The night is silent, and the gardeners son smells rime and pine and niter. He tries to remember when last he saw gold between ivies on the garden wall, or in the ditches, tipping umbels of angelica. Its no good. This year the flowers stood empty. Inside the hives, bees crawled in spirals up and down the coiled straw. They would not come out. They built combs and filled the cells with venom. The gardeners son removes the combs and collects the drippings, green and thin, to stir into his tea. How his kisses will sting! The girls lips will split around their swollen tongues.


H ollow S t rak e s

The day the daughter dies, airing, Mother finds inside the chest six dressed skins. Unrolled, the first is a child known to her. Hung on wire armature and broom, with a cabbage head and the daughters own hair, the child wants speech, but that recalls the daughter, often silent. Mother latches shutters. She closes chest and closet door. She descends the narrow stair and takes a slice of cold stump pie into the garden. She stands chewing near an iron bench. Last nights fog still lingers. The damp pansies are dull as mud, but a bright eft moves slowly toward standing water in a broken pot.


Two T rees

A cotter is passing slowly on a nag, and Josephine begs a crust of bread. My bread is old and tough, the cotter warns. Eat it straight away or come to harm. He hands Josephine a piece of rock. She rounds the bend in the road. A girl is filling a paper basket with berries. I will trade you bread for berries, says Josephine, but before the girl can answer, the bread slips from Josephines hands and cracks the girls skull. Josephine collects the scattered berries. At the fork, two trees, each with two limbs pointing, one eastward, one westward. The road is brown and bare, but beneath the trees, grass grows thick and green. There, the chicory blooms and cleavers. Josephine picks chicory. The gibbet baskets had been made of wicker and hoisted high with chains. The chains remain, large links caked with orange rust or threaded through with marigold. The bones in the grass are stained. Josephine gathers bones and goes straight home. In the pot, the rock will not soften nor the berries lose their thorns, and the bones make a din, clattering, clattering. Josephine clips off her ears and adds them to the broth. She is so hungry she spoons up every drop. Her mothers thimble is the only thing left, silver, enameled with roses. With the thimble on her finger, Josephine takes her sewing to the window. She adds another patch to the counterpane.


S mall Beer

For twelve summers the girls were just alike, but then one girl dwindled in the middle, until her waist was as the narrows of an hourglass, and the other filled, until her sash was as the bilge hoop on a barrel. Yet you are the one with a nose like a spigot, complained the latter. Both girls ate barley sugar by the spoonful, but every morning their tongues showed coats of white foam and tasted like hop-cones. They scratched two lines into each others bellies with scissors from the garden shed and measured the space between with string. Would the lines grow apart or grow together? All of their dresses had bloodied. When they walked in the streets, dogs padded after, dropping their tongues through their jaws. Sometimes the girls collapsed on the cobbles and rolled over, playing dead, but their bodies were too fresh and their scents too sharp for the dogs to be fooled and gobble.


Ariella Ruth

f rom remnants

remnants one : Barbara Allen

[i want my child to have memories] screen door falling from its alignment. wood stove holds on claw footing. pear tree fades & brightens from nearby hovering & she cant remember how & where the hands were placed. she is lightthe first wordraven hair running on wooden planks. her foots arch remains soft, delicate, [poet in the womb] the snow that weighs the ceiling. yard of blue moving sea & green buds swelling to vines. it is hard to leave in such good light.


through a shining lens [flitter of light flecks] a crowd of hands reaches underneath for her. moment to empty out. not a cry from her two blue saucers, eyes scream of ocean as the storm passes. waves recede below her shoulders. slowly, pull the curtain back. [slowly, slowly] pure, homogenized air. water awake held tight in back of a throat. discouraged rock, a long line of seaweed, unblinking salt. her heel dug in & turned around full circle in sand. nothing can be willed to wash away. bleed for the moons that have passed. she reaches for tiny outstretched limbs, treading water.


[hold swan song for years pacing seaside]

there is birth & death & birth again.


Alicia Salvadeo

E rr t o N arrow
To err | To air

a war on

but we

are human ones smoke signals you can see the bay from outer space

Here I am

you are


to hunter

return in kind leaves to fall toward colder full well a-day


Pink moss

full sprout

togetherto slip full snow full hunger

Lists of names numbers run off gray on fingertips flying with small amounts (the heart was)

On the embankment, arguing with year born in moon loop born in



(the heart was)

I hear: Should turn himself in, etc. I hear: I think I was unprepared for war No lone wolf O new world o new world a January wolf moon

Either from lust of gold or like a girl Im ringing want Im ringing out the narrowing of


Ringing: Manhattan Karbala Haditha the heron the herring

The heart was a tidal object bobbing in waters there it goes a barge beneath the Verrazano

the longest bridge in the world the year my father was born

It reached all the way to the other side then


Eleni Sikelianos

f r om Cat Girl/Cure House

Rock, flint, rattlesnake, Lucite, dance. Now dance. Through millennia of rock being worn to sand. Watch the woman interpret the slow massacre, the pulverizing hand of wind. Watch her out there in the horizontal crush of the desert. Shes got her leopard suit on. Body the one thing standing upa blackened figure, a small tornado dancing like crazy across an endless tawny line. Shes making J-tracks, like a Mojave Green, through the dust. A fire-scar, a cat-face, a tree burned out at the bottom. (Thats the body.) A good hole for hiding. Leaving every burnt rock behind her. How do the humans keep walking out here? How do they get up, pick themselves up off the desert floor and walk away? Any lost soul needs a companion to lead them on to the next way station. The woman had a mynah bird, a goat, guppies, Sand transported long distances rocks, chicks, scorpions, ghost towns, three by water or wind will be rounded, with abrasion daughtersi , some tumbleweed. She didnt get patterns on the grain surface. too far. There she is, wandering the corridors, trying to walk toward something, but she keeps bumping against the soft, dark walls. Before we step past this landscape and into the middle zone, I have something to say about it. You may think everything in the deserts dead, but dying is not the same as dead.

Let me name them. Yvanne, Elayne, and Trina.


Every shape here is flat, and it all moves sideways, forward and back. It undulates like a sandy sheet, the whole crust of the Mojave lifted up; shake it at its corners as you would a blanket; thats the story: the dust like agitated electrons up to no good. It may seem like a still-life, but if you look closely youll see that everythings on the verge of impact. Hovering between gravel and silt, grains of rock and mineral hang in midair, about to fly off. If youre on a train, the windows wont shut; youll need a bandana to cover your mouth. Endless grit in the nose and the teeth. Blackened particles and splotches of red bleeding into sand. The shimmering aluminum trick of sun on asphalt. There is a creosote telephone pole for interruption. Black electrical lines strung up. Before the desert, there was a tin-colored frozen horizon in the heartland, a steel-hued slick of ice on which every shoe slipped. No one could stand up. They all went down on their asses, sliding across the ice, past the ramshackle dance halls. Hard to walk with a bruised tailbone, a busted ass. Felt a brain click, a little piece of the mush on the front left lobe tick like a toy metal beetle; it was an idea; the idea was: lets all move to California. The letters of it so pretty, like yellow hills gliding across the page, greasy butter stains humped up in sunlight. Lets go burn the ice right through to the middle of the earth. Push a hand into the warming dirt, like reaching into a living gut. Take an axe to the ice of the soul. But the desert doesnt work that way. It thaws something, but then theres a burning fist rummaging around in the pit of your liver. Thats the story in a nutshell. And in between the folds of ice and desert, the Leopard Girl danced.


Christina Vega-Westhoff


as a radical shift and the time of its cyclical return and the insistent signsnight blooming cereusthat there is something other than horizontal or vertical at play here and we are opening outside of ourselves I call to you from a night that will returnanother lover tears the heartbeats promise I call to you as I swing from the nights great organunraveling in my handshold my body in halfnight skyI will turn from you to turn towards you and play at death like a young monkey wrapped around a tree branch the people tell the origin story one time it seems, and everything after is hearsayout of my own hands, a cradle to rest the self beckon me back to my own empty womb. The umbilical chords gentle stretchthe sky woven in my hands. This is how it feels sometimes to fly a wooden bar between my hands, between my legs as welllike a giant watershed, the bodys release, making room to carry. How the sky told the men in boats. Death aboard. A tapestry over my parents brick. A silent canoe ride with bodies craving spines, feathers, carved as if to carry them. Looking into the hands, my bodys mirror. Not a bit of tracery. We become a star, a constellation, a traversing body. Some sharp descent when death would reign. We try to hold the space for you, mother. Ever fearful of nothing woken. As the arcing tree, we bend down to earth and return to it. So holy fire sprung from the sky lighting our housethis light of devastation or creation envelops the rows of limes/lines. The prayer in the closet counting. The bodies erupting to death and life in the same instance.


And still there is some sacrificethere must be something that you give, the artist, the lover believes this too, but goes so far as to say to give must be to sufferassigns a yes or a no or platitude.


If I call the woman a country and I call the country a tree and the tree is laid out flat across the creek and I am holding the ankles and the trunk suspends horizontally If children in the pasture, her own overtake her Drops of her daylit clothing Layers of padding in three milks A list of nouns now firing Morning Holes Feet Lights left on, windows rolled down (.38 under the bus seat)



so that one is facing in another direction

Bated chordless dangle of song, caught then sent off tasseled by loss canopied; Medea the dancer in white. Children near, slapping her red with paint.

after goethe


Chord caught dangling, Medea slaps her children with red

Grandpa lands poolside bated breathless armful anxious one lose everything;


Anne Waldman

S appho

for akilah inaugurating a politics of modernity she wonders origins of gender taboo? how or where and what might be loved suppliant with purple silk sandal next to the plinth cool Aeolian breeze we might walk into and a bare life cyborgian centuries hence


M at c hin g H a l f


ak ilah W alk s


L amen t O u r O n e
after the Tsumshian Indian / February 24, 2011, NYC
In which pocket did I leave that I? Is I ever anything to miss, a personage to mourn

a.k. and now the words and now the words I am grieving all by myself all by myself and then with others shes alone on the bed, dead in her clench without all warning I am grieving and now the words Yee Ayee A keeee kee kee kee La La La A kee kee kee keel La La La keel, even keel, keel over and on to ballast a great homegoing a great homecalling without all warning whats the meaning of what Im saying what in the world hears the death of a poet who in the world hears the death of a poet because poets never die thats what they say up in heaven & below in hell, poets never die


Ill force the river to run upstream Ill force the sun to go out stars will shatter & fall from their spheres then we will know a poet never dies true true a poet never dies me sick at heart & the others crying on their sleeves everything bright in her bardo on her bardo sleeves where she moves keep it moving inside all hearts, heart of us crying on each other, crying on the time time stops and theres a clench without warning on her time to do what I cant do cant undo cant do undo A kee kee kee La La a cant do cant undo take her back, take back her time reset her time to sooth, and then we would laugh to sooth to sooth and then we would laugh little woman at the corner of the sky all lit up with life for nothing, but laugh like a girl little child in the sky waiting Im way down like the rest of you why talk now? to think of talk, its nothing the child is waiting will come will come home now to its mother


A kee kee kee La La La A kee kee kee La La La to make her spirit dance Ill pound this lament Ill shriek in lament what does it cost to lament a poet she is inestimable nothing to equal her spirit & all poets teach how to lament a whole life away from you watching it grow cut short watching it grow this song of moaning of mourning sing your name Akilah she was a one she was a one she as a one she as a one she was a one she was our one and now the words and now the words and now the seed syllables A kee kee kee La La La she was a one she as a one she is our one she is our own


Re adin g t hrou g h A k ila h O l i v e r s Tres s les of H air, S h e S a i d

[Middle English tresse, from Old French, perhaps from Vulgar Latin -, rope, from thrix, trikh-, hair.] *trichia, tricia, rope, braid, from Greek trikhia [A trestle (sometimes tressel) is a rigid frame used as a support, especially referring to a bridge composed of a number of short spans supported by such frames] write this down or the past may forget its part in the current, Akilah said a double consciousness is a braid is a consciousness is a hunger is food is a chorus is a query where that god be at is a bridge is a transgression is a trace is a valley is whats allowed and whats forbidden is the love that bridges not its name but the girl writing speaks its new name for now she is come to the warm time that speaks not a name in tresses but she said she said this is a tressle of hair. it carries it supports it covers ground she said clap and so she did. clap. as in a performance. and twist of an appropriation for the white slave bitch who speaks another name she says she says and leave that body right here to be sucked and fucked and it screams for the dialogue of she says she says in the valley unharmed yea yea twist of the air as it torques down relative space in naming her desire that is not a name that is speaking but in a car she rides the rope the trick rope the braid the road the support of desire to say this and know it as the singing hair knows its name will be evidence as she does when she does all the naming all the characters in the fairy tales will not hold back their desire behind eyes. but hold rupture in writing for girls who seek a double name in a valley that is a soul place. clap. as in this performance that writes its way out to refashion the tongue. American.


and in her African that is American identity. tress that is a stress. that is a span for this new naming. what is the racial gain what is the terminology of relationship in a white tee shirt or fairy tales with animals in them what is a base desire what is a performance. clap, she says. in a polaroid picture frame. snap. the hair between the legs. girlword. how do they feel what is not permissible to feel and that is the tress that is the tressle is the vessel is the crux to cross this girl in her writing of first same desire and cross that color barrier for desire. tressles. that makes a way like girlword like a double conscious word-world that stops mind in a matrix of hot mortality in a language necessary to voice alive alive o: tressles of hair.


Indigo Weller

E lis ion :13.5

1: 1

f ig. 1 t he hil l


There are a series of aerial photographs. Each denotes a survey of land, a twelve-acre garden that slopes and tapers. A monochrome schematic of a container and the garden in which it is located: its moss-covered underpinnings, the flat-roofed out-house, the green-brown lawn, the glass-green-house, the fig tree, the oil-tank, the neighbors cottage, the neighbors walled garden, the gravel-drive, and the adjacent wood-shed. All pre-extension. Pre-childhood. Post-occurrence. Post-tragedy. Postpost-crash. Trying to articulate. The unfamiliar perspective provides a certain distance: 1000ft reduces to a series of lines surrounded by leafy provocations: a chip-blue filing cabinet sometimes visited. The space of trying to write about a garden in which most of a childhood happened the garden is an assortment of grass-mud conduits that funnel to swell, funnel to a rust-fence boundary. The whinecrumble gate marks the border. There is a constant presence of water: boggy streams, tarplined pools and a heart-shaped pond all channeling silt licked-water in a downward direction that never arrives: the pervasive trickle: the allover bulge of shrubs and forest: the windblown ferns: the cold petals on bare feet there is a hesitation toward re-knowing a hesitation of the body


2: 2

JB: h just ex, Blackdown Hill. At the A3 Hin d cross roads. The radio burst into life quoted Blackdown, near Woking the location sounded more like south of Haslemere. und our way to the scene from the fire glow in the y. advised control room ocation low-worms fuel. Short bee orn off as t officers. They had many the cra a small flame infolding snap twigs and stump grind chips convulses wilt to erect flickers between Laughs are shared All huddled the clammedburn of stiff knees and close-fitting quads It is building Dusk makes colors brighter a spectrum of blue to white the emergent sibilance of damp floor The flame explores a neighboring pile Cigarette cherries circle and cross It is building Medium flares bite adjacent cut branches and leafy bulge The sky deepening to a purpled-blue air


[L/S section of fuselage laying amongst bushes] a bonfire in-gargantua tasseling un-felled trees licks singes darkened greens scented cackles A collective run scramble of wheelbarrows buckets and wine glasses you bloody idiots A line of plunge and retrieve Dowsing dowsing dousing un-quenched flash orange rapeseed yellow drums and blaze* emptyfull the pond line reseeding a trail of water root and weeds Wet denim Rubbing seams [C/U shoes laying amongst leaves and twigs] A soggy pile an ultrastructure of brittle-black** cross and weaved cross and weaved after-day embers the slight melting of soles cling to ash scolding  gum and tack [angle shot ditto]

* in an unkempt corner of the garden next to the rust fence boundary he and his friends lit a small fire at the edge of a bonedry pile with lighter and bleach-lined paper the flame took to the wood chips with ease ** Productivity: one effect of fire on plants that sprout after being burned appears to be increased vigor and growth rate. This phenomenon is well known in grasslands, to the extent that there is a general belief that regular burning is required to maintain grass in a healthy condition. Observations of increased productivity also extend to forest trees where there are reports of increased girth increments after some fires.


1: 3

f ig. 2 t he discard of t he zone

metal cuts a wide cutting through the wound Fractures propagate along several paths for short distances Flanks shards rivet aluminum sever mar cuts that keep cutting through jet fur burn Bonfires cut heavy fog choke sirens cut valleynight silence a Sibilance of char branch fuselage body cut the canopy green turned to hiss brown cut to black the forest cut to clearing charcoal of wood organ cloth bone mast cutting communication wall spat gashcut to roof scoop gravel sting cut sharp short breath rumblecutting a raze all map of cuts linger to pulsate


A metal opening of supple world the abscission wound left all ragged-looking

CcccccccccccUuuuuuuuuuuttttttttttttT: the number of bodies


2: 4

BC: had been Haslemere an as no unit availa firework. He made his way to the top of the hill at He had no personal radio. The battery in his torc sheep. He then walked into something tha turn paraffin. He stood under a tree while he t dripped on. This turned out to be body fl probably better left in the past. An air line the passengers crew. Surrey and S Cemetery. Nobody had reco ion fuel gave him flash-ba on door opens to a tumbled lump  diaphragm flub into tightened throat fecal hovering [L/S dead sheep laying in field] running to collapsed scream door left open a starched body rapt in linen and towel its going to be ok you are home now heat sealed folds of ear and eyelid gaze fixed in Frosty darkness a pointing arm ruination the door left ajar ring cycled-close melody [Repoter - Caravelle Jetliner came to earth]  eye-bags-red holed textile covering the stiffened bod repeat knee drop to address the double lock en-boxed the patio table distressed white a smudge of shell and sage a cyclic entice seeping a codex the stretch of marbled-brown whites


 the spiraling of close-line flecked blue-lino-floor the litter of detergent sinks deep-sunk buckets of bleach fabric The round door is cracked open the box aflame steamcloud of cotton fur likens to burnt toast a reveal of skin and scorch* scratched bucket wets a partial cineration [C/U a half-buried wheel] the flurry patting of palm to torso repeat the undoing scream the tumble door part open the yecchy tang of heavy the fixed glare of heat-birthed cataract re-boxed buried next to a boggy stream on the right-side of the garden the gardener dug the hole deep enough to deny a scavenging


f ig. 3 t he al p hab e t of a body

* t  he truth was revealed a year later by a passing comment it was originally told that it got hit by a car on the road behind the house she still cries when its mentioned he still remembers the smell the body aflame the short-breath-shock how time meant that we all could laugh


Foxtrot Lima Uniform India Delta Sierra Rub* forefinger middle and thumb rub bring to nose to smell novel rub to remove rub trousers to delete rub fact to forget report rubbing Body rub sweat clench rubbing sleep to rub night palms crack suspend rub tree rubbing belief rub fingers to grip cyclic rub repeat rubbing to pebble exact to rub back rubbing flash soil fire wheel twig leaf rustle metal bodies to litmus Delta Romeo India Papa Papa Papa Papa Papa Papa Sierra Sierra Sierra Sierra Sierra See Air Rah Sierr Sier Sie Si S S S S s s s s s clothing scatters sublimates biology to bodyless** the blackbox tracks an object through a space: the blackbox does not record body memory

* The environment in which a body lies is critical to the rate at which it will decompose. The climate and soil conditions play a part in how quickly decomposition will occur. Decomposition is not necessarily a uniform process and may be quite asymmetric. For example, decomposition will occur more rapidly in areas of injuries. If a body is struck on the head and the skin is torn in that area, decomposition may be much more advanced on the head than the remainder of the body. ** the first officer to the scene had an accident in a police van soon after followed by what was thought to be a nervous breakdown he was off sick for a period and on his return was given the job of Crown Court officer at Guildford nobody associated his mental problems with the air crash



JB: The air Watching traffic at the A3 Control room quoted Bla Said to Colin that the locatio as wrong). We found ou hicle on scene. We advise at looked like large glow-wor on light by the aviation fuel. S The wings had been torn of Speak to the local officers. They had With him. He pointed out many features t e remains of the tress J burn quiet quebec uniform india echo tango whispered rush of brilliant torch scanning half-circle to periphery and back Avoid mutter to evade the lumen shard tip-toe  thin trees guttering silver-black* veiled embody a desert rat feel of cold petals on bare feet** a squint of pliable soles navigate earth cheek to rough cheek to rough

* climbing within the brittle canopy he found a metal shard what looked like a piece of cockpit window the branches had enveloped its sharp edges once cut and retrieved he left it on the step the next day it had gone he was told to forget what he had found that some things are unexplained the only remnants were the tiny cuts on his fingers the one on the side of his fore-finger remained ** The response of skin to sheer forces can be measured by applying a torsional stimulus. A typical twisting device has a central disk within a thin annulus. These are stuck to the skin and the inner disk of skin is twisted through a few degrees (usually 10 or less) while the torque required to achieve and maintain this rotation is monitored (or a set torque is applied and the angular displacement monitored).


Patch of dead holly the ensuing freeze spotlight awaiting to be called body the shivery imminence full belly relief  we inch forward [Reporter - Rescue workers searched throughout the night and following days for the black box] hugging the serrated edge of bush and grass parting the all-over bulge of rhododendrons pink white milk blue swivet a distant velociraptor cry increasing pass of torch then dark [C/U dead rabbit]   backdrop of living room fire the cavernous wicker basket of dried wood TV reflect flickers almost evade detection moss-covered step body lit up eyes-shut fuchsia-lidded and  frozen



f ig. 4 t he ab scission zone the clearing awaited: a reassertion: the garden resumed: the zone: the flight-recorder: an object through a space: the abscission wound revisited: the blackbox of thirteen minutes: and a half: the garden opened: absence of body: the clearing: a new sign: the flight recorder: catatonic memory: the garden is a wake of the unnamed: the zone: an insistence: the blackbox: no answers: of 37 bodies only 19 were remembered knitting a burn the absence of a social identity means that memorialization of an unfamiliar body does not take place


each body still born foiled and crumpled infolding jet fuel and glow-worm strimmer  radio bursts skin as vista pleating spaces between phalanges to tibia press the density of the stand

only a body vectors from wholebreath the phenomenon of being garden the limits of sinew foxglove and blue-bell nervous system no intercellular spaces a wake of unnamed messaging front to back woody to vascular lave rendering life lived the coppiced clearing implies a returning

2: 8

BC: at home. Fire ontrol Room at HQ to say that a very ould he go on his motorcycle to investigate? He se ill at Fernhurst (less than a mile into Sussex) and parked his mo torch faded. He tripped over something that on feeling around fou at turned out to be a large wheel. He had noticed a smell of wha tried to work out in which direction he had l n l y fluids from bodies lodged in the tr Bill liner had crashed on top of the h d Sussex officers eventuall og d


big toes pressing skirt board arms reach  tap turns armpits sense the pressing lip water cold to hot temperature now in between lather tumble left over right fingers slip  roll turn and lace upward creeping shadow a fierce short burn noise look up a basket under a balloon of red yellow  vertical zig-zag stripes golden slow moving  near grazes roof smile hands washed pat and rub roaming down to end of garden burner burning orange into yellow lifting over rhododendrons pines silver birches* toward the rust fence boundary [C/U tattered airmans jacket on ground] running dew drops rising up trouser lee mah echo golf crunchtickle of twigs shoots toward the balloon dappling  leaves cross to new greens tip-toe over cattle grid the whine of gate huddled tight around its hinges**  rustle gusts of wind balloon lands in neighboring field toward [C/U wreckage] damp fingers running over  the bumpy edges of wicker basket blast valve quiet weighed down sand bags picnic bubbles do not disturb a fierce short burn noise to lift under the moving shadow sun light  reclaims

* an old man and his wife were living in the house as the plane struck dedicated his whole life to his garden dug small ponds and streams planted a surface of shrubs trees and flowers along with his grandchildrens log cabin where he stored his whiskey after promising his wife sobriety ** after many years the gate was replaced the cattle grid painted racing green the rust fence boundary reinstated there were plans to create a winding driveway through the garden the idea was soon abandoned the pile of gravel was all that pointed to what could have been


1: 9

[Flight Magazine - Evidence against the possibility of a simple misreading of this sort is the message from the aircraft ATC reporting passing FL145 indicating that at this time the crew knew that the crew knew that they were below 16,000ft]

blackbox transcription of thirteen and a half minutes:

pulse-Romeo-India-Papa-aluminum-oxygen-drop-hand-body-eyesfixed-full-braced-fuselagebellygrazed decline to clearing the abscission liquid all petal-rosing

[but it does not dispose of the possibility that the crew subsequently suffered a mental loss of sequence and transposed themselves in time and space back to some back to some altitude above 16,000ft]



JB: worms running about in a field Short while later Sussex units arrived and  he whole scene was too bi fuselage slid further into the wood We ca ak tr opped. He s e were lo at the rem chasing grill charcoals ablaze black to white-grey lawn pulse skin of drum awaiting oranges in between  clap rattle amassing on sage darkening observance fashioning of paper slit glasses  winding the switch-backs Blackdown Hill* dialing four directions

Tennysons temple of winds** 

[Reporter - But the grim task of recovering personal belongings had to continue]

* Crash forces often cause local crushing of the fuselage at the point of contact with the ground. The aircraft structure needs to provide an intact shell around the passengers for a survivable impact. Larger planes are safer because of the larger crushable volume. ** he was once told that Tennyson wrote his poetry overlooking the downs when the sun dial was eventually replaced we carved our initials on each side underneath the lip of the stone slab there is a semi-circle stone bench where we each would gather to catch our breaths after the steep root-laden climb the cold surface on the backs of swinging knees the unending view a textile of fields trees and a dusty satellite dish on a clear day the expanse reveals the beginnings of the sea


seat carved stump envelopes* fern greens Vista dips


Kicking dust a silver-black** ray swoop reseeding

penumbra-en-penumbra to resume

shadow total 

golf al fah see air rah pah pah

* Impact velocity = square root [(64.4ft/sec 2 ) x (drop height)] ** he was told his father collapsed on the hill and had to crawl down elbows and hands to get help it wasnt until dark that he returned



10.02 p.m. on Saturday, 4th November travelling in a north-easterly direction Sud Aviation Caravelle SE210, named Jesus Gurudi 7.30 p.m. it left Malaga 10.10 p.m. estimated time of arrival at Heathrow Airport FL160 piloted by Captain Harnando Maura 37 years, an experienced Pilot he dreamt of being a chef cooked every possible meal an assemblage of world spice vegetable herb and a filet of a once lived thing served in front of the tele all garnish and piping FL100 misty with intermittent drizzle it appeared to be flying along its correct path but at a significantly lower altitude he navigated the school playground wore a black hoody in summer an empty table feared words from unfamiliar faces walked deep into the garden crossing the rope swing bridge swept leaves out the log cabin liked the shock of electric fences got snagged on barbwire in the field at the end of rust fence boundary this Hill at its highest point is 902 ft. above sea level a total complement of 30 passengers and 7 crew


1: 1 2

the altitude changes everything

debris from the aircraft was scattered over the whole of the 355 yards of its passage



there is a memorial stone in Brookwood Cemetery the all-spanish crew, and the passengers comprising 25 British, mostly returning from holiday in Spain, two americans, two spaniards two australians of the 37 who died only 19 British bodies were remembered the abscission wound all-void looking

f ig. 5 t he ab se nce


1: 1 3 . 5

to remember is to calcify repeat to synthesize is to negate this text cannot avoid cutting the garden re-landscaped the house demolished only the mulberry tree remains the grass border denotes an absence repeat to document is to leave behind the plot awaits a reassertion this text has left out the wall knocked down remembrance is forgetting the bodies still unnamed to archive is to erase repeat the rope bridge crumbled the come and goes of bluebells and foxgloves to remember is to restructure to make is to discard repeat the text is to remember is to calcify repeat to synthesize is to negate this texture cannot avoid cutting the garden re-landscaped the house demolished only the murmur tree remains the grass border denotes an repeat to document is to leave behind the plot a reassertion this text has left out the wall knocked down remembrance is forgetting the bodies still unnamed to archive is to echo romeo alpha sierra echo repeat the rope bridge crumbled the come and goes of bluebells and fractions to remember is to restructure to make is to remembering is to discomfort repeat the thinking is to repeat to combine is to negate this text cannot avoid cutting the graze re-landscaped the house demolished only the museum tree remains the grass border denotes an repeat to document is to leave behind the plot awaits a reassertion this text has left out the wallow knocked down remembrance is forgetting the borders still unnamed to article is to erase repeat the rose bridge crumbled the come and goes of bods and foxgloves to remember is to resubject to make is to disclosure repeat the thought is to remember is to calcify repeat to synthesize is to negate this text cannot avoid cutting the gash re-landscaped the housetop demolished only the murmur tang go row me oh eck oh eck oh remains the grave borough denotes repeat to doorway is to leave behind the pock a reassertion this text has left out the wall knocked down reminiscence is forgetting the bodies still unnamed to archive is to associate repeat the rumor bridge crumbled the come and goes of blueprints


and fragments to remember is to restutter to make is to discard repeat the texture is to remember is to clot repeat to join is to negate this text cannot avoid cutting the garden re-landscaped the house only the remains the grid boundary denotes an repeat to document is to leave behind the plot a reassertion this thing cannot avoid darkness the wall knocked down knocked dream is forgetting the bodies still unnamed to archive is to erase repeat the rove bridge crumbled the come and goes of bluebells and fringes to remember is to restrum to make is to discard repeat the text is to remember is to repeat to is to negate this text cannot avoid dancing the garden re-landscaped the house demolished only the mulberry tree remains the grass border denotes an absence repeat to document is to leave behind the plot awaits a reassertion this text has left out the wall knocked down remembrance is forgetting the bodies still unnamed to archive is to erase repeat the rope ek ho ro me oh alp ha see eh rah you nee form ro me hoh ek hoh remains the grass border denotes an repeat to document is to leave behind the plot awaits a reassertion this text has left out the


Book R ev iew s

J en n if er F ires t o n e

Shearsman Books, 2013

Review by

Charlotte Annie

We are on the couch without clothes, and we have a right to show our bodies to the light. We fly up the food chain. We bait bleeding minnows. This is the abstract world Jennifer Firestone invites us into in Flashes. Still, it is with refreshing clarity that she touches downgrounding us again and again in reality. We are at once in an abstract world, but we are never left without a guide to the realities of this place. We are simultaneously the girl wrapped in plastic, and the woman who is so aware of the burning flesh from the war surrounding her, she must conceal her eyes. It is uncommon to experience a work that is genuinely frank, yet often intangible; however, this is precisely what we find in Firestones writing. She takes us into a world where trees are infrastructures, buildings block buildings, and windows never opena world reminiscent of the concrete trees and cement cities in Renee Gladmans Ravicka series. Like Ravicka, Firestones city is in conflict. It is a place where architecture parallels language, a place where public and private space is distinguishable. And as we navigate these spaces, our guides remain nameless as they walk among ghosts. Firestones text reads as a single poem. Only blank pages signal thematic divisions; and while these themes appear in the abstract, they convey real social issues. The first section considers American culture in the twenty-first century and how, in the era of late capitalism, culture and economy are indistinguishable. The second, the geographical pivot of the book, takes stock of city life in a time of change. Next, Firestone uses the concept of screens to critique the media as a mouthpiece for our political and cultural establishment. Then, Americas aggressive foreign


policy is compared to changes in our domestic life. She describes the reinforcement of Western values at home and in the world. Finally, in her coda, Firestone synthesizes the previous sections. On culture, Firestone notes the intersection of the economy and everyday life. In capitalism, there is no productive slippage: When productions down / the idea of slowing is preposterous. Thus, we are late for employment and struggle to meet our deadlines. What connects us, of course, is technology. And our technological connections form a kind of ecological network: We flip silver communicators open our compacts press our tiny palms were linked in one huge network migrating gray upon gray. Firestone moves quickly between nature, technology, and the city. She does not identify this city. In refusing to do so, readers can think of any city in a state of change. Amidst rich details of urban life, class divisions shine through. The gap between bourgeois and proletarian well-being can be seen by where you grill your food. For those less well-off, you are in a lot with cans, cats and alcoholic beverages. / You are plastering the tar with frankfurters and forks. The next section introduces the motif of screens that reappears throughout the rest of the text. Firestone uses them in two ways. There are window screens that let in air from the outside world, even though we sometimes prefer the artificial over the real: The windows never open some are without screens and we cant find some that fit or we did and it cost too much and wed rather have generated air. There are also television and computer screens that deliver news. These purportedly portray the real world, but Firestone personifies them to show that they are but an interpretation of the world.


In her descriptions, the screen is perverse and reflects elite representations of events. For its part, the screen cares more about aesthetics than content: Every channel doing its job every haircut placed among features. For our part, we trust the screen: The screen said do you and I said I do. Still, there are limits to our trust. In her final section, Firestone expresses our ability to talk back: Are you listening screen / this is about you and me living. Sometimes, the screen must be surprised that we believe its message. Firestones simultaneous discussion of foreign affairs and domestic life is held together by the screens attitude of cultural superiority: Barbarians, thieves, uneducated, uncivil / why should a pact be held for such sects. The screen reproduces Western values in the name of universalism. We consume this like any other product. In a passage reminiscent of 9/11 rhetoric, we are reminded of our commonalities in the face of tragedy: Unpoured like animals from the ark we became friendly like old days, we offered each other liquid put away green bills, undid our jackets clustered. This is what chaos looks like. This is the unforeseen. This is the amalgamation of the disparatea coming together. The unexpected ease of an unfamiliar glance. Implied in Firestones words is the sociological principle that, in the face of calamity, societies come together to confront an external threat. It can manifest by cruelties abroad, as in the apparent reference to Abu Ghraib: Masterful plan of medieval torture / I watch the bowed men kneeling. Yet, this abuse also comes with a domestic purge. In the midst of flights and foreign policy, Firestone calls attention back to class and gender inequalities at home. It is a reminder that labor fares poorly at largescale retailers: He made a dollar more than her / in a store that saves us bucks. Not only do lower classes receive fewer economic rewards, but women in particular are shortchanged even further. Firestones pairing is thus similar to Silvia Federicis claim that the rise of capitalism was coeval with a war against women.


Moving through Flashes, the reader goes through stages of grief. To confront terrorism and inequality, we must experience such psychological reactions: anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Firestones concluding sense of hope leads readers to think that, perhaps, a more equal world is imaginable. In addition to the political message and cultural verdict, Flashes is a pleasure to read. Amongst the chaos of postmodernity, there is something delightfully quiet in Firestones language. This sense of unexpected composure is somehow infectious. It is authentic, a language careful and sharp. We have our noses against the wall. This is how close we are. We live in the very world Firestone writes about; however, we enter as if we are outsiders. We are somehow protected by the language; we are at once at a distance, but also so close we can feel the heat of the screen. Like Gladman, Firestones work is poignant and smart. As we read the text, we experience events in sequence. At the same time, however, we intuit visible gapsspaces between pages, between silences. These gaps allow for a more individualized explication. As we travel into a world filled with paranoid people and derailed passengers, where flowers are people flying on bikes and the air is boxes lived in, we conceal our eyes to the sadness that sits on curves of letters. This is the world she has created. This is Firestones world, but it is also ours. It is a place where birds are so desperate they scratch tree branchesa world where nothing is happening, yet everything repeats. It is a world where people simultaneously attach themselves to chairs on sidewalks and rev up their bodies to lift into space. It is a place of chaos and destruction. It is also a place where trees indicate light, where people construct a language consistent with architecture. As she weaves us through these worlds, Firestone speaks with a raw, authentic voice both poetic and witty. Her gift is this gesturean attempt at recognizing the shark within us, so that we too might bait the hook.


L au ra W alke r

Apogee Press, 2012

Review by

Sarah Richards Graba

In a world of woods and ghosts, of ocean and war, Laura Walker spins a book of poems concerned with absence. Her formal constraint is her use of the OED volume that gives this book its title. In her authors note at the start of the book, she warns her reader: These are collaged poems: each poem is composed of fragments of a single entry from Volume VI of the Oxford English Dictionary, FollowHaswed...Titles are the entry words. Line breaks indicate a jump within the OED text. Thus, Walkers poems are simultaneously concerned and not concerned with definitions. She uses a dictionary for fodder but, through erasure, fractures the entries until a new definition remains. While a single entry for an OED definition can range from a few paragraphs to a few pages, Walker reduces these entries to wiry, lean poems, taking only a few select words from the original entry. There is a gesture toward narrative in the poems: there are settings, characters, actions. Early in the work, we meet a few characters (a woman and Christ) in a storm on the sea. We follow the woman to meet a soldier, and we learn of war. There are fish and birds, knees and faces, forests and farms. Christ appears and disappears throughout the text, sometimes accompanied by loaves, fishes, or Mary. Other times, we encounter the counterparts: goblins, devils, and demons. And between all of these, space. Walkers lines do not extend beyond the page but perhaps dip into it; we see only the surface of the iceberg


below. Some poems are only one or two lines long, while others, though they continue for five or ten pages, employ only three or four lines per page. The scarceness of the words in this text is in sharp contrast to the copious words of its lineage, the OED. The words that remain in these new, poetic forms are the few genes that have been passed down from the parent text. Though this leaves the book sparsely populated with actual words, it is rich with images. Walker and the characters/speakers in the poems are preoccupied with steering a ship, with battling, with flying or digging holes. But arising like a bubbling wave out of each story is absence. Walker writes in furlough, the third poem in the book: believe leave give leave and leave There is always someone or something leaving in these poems, poems that are so full of space and breath. Birds trying to escape. A maid waiting for a lover to return. Bees reddy to flye. A river. There is silence when someone leaves. These poems, in their sparseness, reflect that silence in the few words left behind. Walker insists on this absenceto hold a space for it, to consider it and she does so in many ways. While characters often take their leave, so do the words, through Walkers use of erasure. The erasure of words in each OED entry creates space, but also occasionally breath, pause, or release. On some pages, the space indicates an intake of breath; on another, an exhale. In some lines of erasure, we might see the ghost of the words that are now missing, while in other lines it is as if they never existed. All of these are absence, but the nature of this absence fluctuates with each passing poem, each page, each scarce line. While concerning herself with absence, Walker also finds a subject in boundary. When there is space, what is the boundary of that space? Where does the space end? In her pieces set on the sea, we think of the boundary as a container. When she sets us down a path in the woods,


we think of the boundary as the tree line. The war pieces provide clear boundaries, yes, but when she writes of evil, what side of the boundary are we on? She writes: in the silence of the night we expect evil the firmest minds keep it or at variance Is evil always the other, thenthat which is not us? In Walkers poems, evil varies, even for the firmest minds. These spaces, these gaps, between what we think we know going into the book and what we come out with on the other side, are where Walkers poems play. In this world, the world created by these poems, the boundaries are shifting, mutable, or intangible; perhaps this is true not only in the world of the poems, but also in the world of definitions from which these poems spring. In playing with boundary and gap, Walker puts the question to the dictionary, a symbol of concrete, unquestionable knowledge: Where are your boundaries? Are they shifting and mutable as well? Walker even forces gaps toward how one must approach the book. Most readers might think, after reading about her constraint, that this is a book of poems whose titles span from follow to haswed. However, the entries are scattered, out of order, and sometimes repeated as separate poems. Walker ruptures not only the individual definitions of these words, but the definition of a dictionary. Look up the word go, and you will find seven entries, each with a different story to tella different definitionof varying lengths and concerns. They are not listed one after another; you must come to them with gaps in between, with other entries and other stories to follow, before you can arrive. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of FollowHaswed is the second word in the title. Haswed is a word that Google will not recognize. It will only bring up Walkers book and Vol. VI of the OED. If you search for the definition of this word in Walkers book, you will find the following:


marked or got or fer a-wei or got or marked marked with or The stuttering stop-start of this entry, which reaches for the words but does not find them, is perhaps a microcosm of what Walkers book is all about: absence, most notably the absence of words. Even with one of the most sophisticated dictionaries in the world, with enough definitions, histories, quotations, and etymologies to fill an entire volume with just 36 English words between follow and haswed, we still are unable to find words. The absence in this book is the leaving of these words. The words that leave us, constantly. And we, in their absence, in the silence that follows, can do nothing but wait.


D orot hea L a s k y

Wave Books, 2012

Review by

Sally Smith

Thunderbird, the latest collection from poet Dorothea Lasky, is an exploration of flight: the poems inhabit air. With this work, Lasky dives deeper into the questions of embodiment, language, and meaning that she encountered in her previous collections, Awe and Black Life. The voice emanating from the pages is at once epic and casual, dramatic and witty. Such sustained contradiction allows the text to balance between the spaces of confession and philosophy. Through precise diction and vivid imagery, Lasky weaves a text of interrogation, deconstructing the animal body, death, and language. Laskys questions are straightforward, her tone direct, bold, and urgent. Her innovation isnt in form; the poems read as traditional free verse. Rather, Lasky is a poet whose voice no one can hear and forget; she demands attention. The verse form does function as the perfect crystal goblet, allowing Laskys unique voice to ring through with bold clarity. Her sharp enjambment and deft breaks serve to amplify the poetic voice, transcribing breath. This sense of a clear container is echoed in Laskys almost total omission of punctuation at the lines end. However, Thunderbird is a work of cerebral experimentation. The boundaries transgressed by the text are in the contentwhat poetry can ask and what poetry can answer. The contradictions sustained in this collection are illuminating. Lasky balances images of death and birds, immortality and flight. The title references the Native American legend of the thunderbird: a creature so powerful, the beating of its wings is the cause of thunder, the flashing of its eyes the origin of lightning. The bird has the ability to affect weather and inspire awe, demanding a


revision from beyond a symbol of freedom and openness to one of epic and magical power. For Lasky, the thunderbird is also the airplane. In the poem, Plane Crash of the Thunderbird, Lasky explores the power of the airplane as she shapes an allegory of plane as living monster. With the image of the haunting hybrid swallowing innocent passengers, Lasky shoves the normalized activity of air travel into a realm of foreignness and horror. Addressing the beast directly, the speaker of the poem says, you flatten / time and space, calling the readers attention to a plane as an encapsulation, as a means to transgress the limitations of human physics, as a form of time travel. The airplane enables the passenger to transgress human limitations, and the reader is reminded that this is also the function and purpose of a text. In this same way, many of the pieces in this book explore human and animal embodiment; however, Zombies and What if I Lost All Those Things? both explore the body through the consequences of disembodiment. If disembodiment is the self devoid of the body, zombification is the body devoid of the self. In the poem, Zombies, Laskys speaker explores an animated animal body devoid of the human mind. The speaker asserts, some people are zombies. This particular poem dramatizes the horror of disconnection with ones body by discussing what its like to live with, to be, to relate to, a zombie: one who seems to be devoid of self or spirit, one who acts without feeling. In What if I Lost All Those Things, the speaker asks, what if I were just a corpsewould you still love me? In splitting the speaker into a body and a self, she is asking a lover where loyalties lie. With this poem, Lasky begins to explore the idea of reduction to the body as a form of objectification, creating a correlation between the undead and the objectified female body. Interacting with the female body as just a body is equivocated with interacting with a zombie, with a corpse. This poem paints an environment of dark night and anticipation for a timeless sun, taking residence in the speakers grave. It interrogates the reader with the second person, omitting the question mark, asking what if the sun were gone / would you hold my body in the dead of night. Lasky further pushes the readers conceptual boundaries of objectification and abjection, asks how far patriarchal society is willing


to push the objectification of the female body. If society is willing to push the female body into the space of objectification, is it willing to sink to necromancy, to embrace the corpse? Through the use of grotesque hyperbole and questioning, Lasky exposes how the final limit of objectification is the corpse. In addition to the zombies function as an image of embodiment and disembodiment, it also powerfully enacts what it means to be undead: an animated dead, a dead that walks. Many of the poems in this collection tease the edges of death. I Want to Be Dead, ends with the two lines I am already dead / I am already fucking words. The final line could be read as linguistic coitus, a sexual connection with words, but also as emphatic expletive. Either way, death is equated with language, with the ultimate union of the body and language, be it final or climactic. Lasky traces death over language, explaining that the speaker of that line is dead, the line itself is dead, the book is dead. The person we are as we write evolves past our dead, static works. The act of reading a (dead) text is like the reanimation necessary to create a zombie: the reader puts a spell on the (dead) text, allowing it to perform, to break out of the page, to communicate. Through her earnest communication, Lasky dismantles the fourth wall and invites the reader to examine the function and purpose of literature. In How I Started Off, the speaker explains an evolution of literary perspective: from loving the thing more than the people to now, when I love the people /more than the thing. Here, Lasky exposes the futility of interacting with the text as an end, rather than a line of communication connecting the author to the reader. She goes further, declaring, I dont love the words, a statement seemingly blasphemous to the poet. However, transgressing the love of words and beginning to love the people allows poetry and language to use the page as a means to transcend the page. The poems in Thunderbird breathe both the air of physical space and the air of distance between author and reader. They inhale, drawing from the reader compassion and empathy, and they exhale, offering the reader questions to answers. Laskys poems cross-reference and illuminate one another. As the individual poems bleed into each other, stretching and overlapping images and themes, they form a single landscape of an entire


world. Lasky has transformed herself into words, transcribed her breath in a dead text, commanding the reader to Tear up this paper / Burn this paper. Having exposed the limits of a dead text, recognizing that the paper and the words arent the true content, Laskys Thunderbird ends, and the reader emerges in continuing interaction with the disembodied text, the text that exists past the closing of the book.


M in J u n g O h

Body in a Hydrophilic Frame

Monkey Puzzle Press, 2012

Review by

Ariella Ruth

On page one, we step into the walls of a written home. We are welcomed. We are unsure of our footing and are not yet aware of the colors, sentiments, or reactions that are to come. We are scared, but we are ready. On page one, we are asked to accept our vulnerability. This is the only way we can safely enter this world of buoyancy and changing tides. Body in a Hydrophilic Frame, the first chapbook from Min Jung Oh, challenges the idea of a perfect self housed in a perfect body. By stepping into this books opening breath, the reader engages a home of bruised walls, slanted doorways, and questions that line the floorboards and echo from room to room. The reader must enter into Ohs words in order to learn how to exist without physical shape. The reader is addressed from the very beginning, which allows one to enter physically and emotionally into the book and play a pivotal rolejust as in theater, when audience members feel themselves become a character in the show, the true success of the work shines through. Throughout the journey of these poems, where violence and a blurring of senses comes and goes, the ocean appears and reappears: each bounce against the waters surface / sheds invisible layers. In a sudden moment of chaos, water cleanses what it can of the immediate trauma, though it continues to resonate throughout the work. Hydrophilic, having a strong affinity for water, defines the shape and periphery of this work. When a climax hits, the water appears to make peace and clear the space in the tides, even if momentarily. This sentiment is portrayed in the cover photo of Body in a Hydrophilic Frame, which shows a nude woman covered in black text wading in the water. After sitting with this book


of confessional, experimental writing, then revisiting the cover image, the sensation of looming waves in momentarily-still water becomes even more apparent. Covered in vulnerable text, the woman in the image stands in the penultimate moment before washing off the words and all that was once written. Ohs language begins as raw and almost uncomfortably human. Then she shifts from this feeling of small, timid beings to an exposed animalistic tone: brown curls of bark / brittle yellow feathers. Only a few pages later: pass your scorn, your shame, your laughter across water to the inner mother she will take care of them Oh goes on to describe sensations such as nervous trembles and manic turns. The self, subtle and sweet, becomes lost, and she slips away. What is left is an inherent sense of survival, a being completely aware of its surroundings and grappling with that notion. As Oh switches modes from the italics of her dear reader: sections to verse filled with blatant struggle and feelings of exposure, the lines of human and animal blur more and more. The sections, which seemingly have separate voices, become distorted as the opposing selves sound more similar. Scenes change back and forth, showing flashes of fear, terror, and loss of speech in brief glimpses. In Ohs fleeting glimpses, a metaphoric curtain moves in the air just enough for the reader to catch a tiny but crucial moment. The woman, the focus, is altered in a way that cannot be understood immediately because it is not something that should be seen or spoken. This is a view from a keyhole into this writers mind, or more so, her writing of self and the world which surrounds that self. The words of Body in a Hydrophilic Frame jump into the intensity of a writers life, with all of its challenges and moments of darkness. Intensity exists within the world of this woman, a world that centers on brokenness and repair. This is only the beginning of her story. This book concludes as Oh delves into ideas of departure and arrival: escape, movement,


change, and newness all relate to place and self, hint at more to come. One of Ohs pages ends in italics, which function as an aside or a whisper beneath the main text: that tears are the ultimate form of communication. This rings true in every breath of this work. Ohs language troubles the difficult, trembling, and treacherous language of the body as it moves through the world and seeks survival. In the process of seeking, the woman is faced with the past, with the bodymemories stored in every muscle and vein. As in the excerpt below, memory is shown in many ways throughout this text, all of which are vital threads that weave through the work: 2. MEMORY: a) a tool specifically designed for deconstruction b) a process in which self travels itself c) to think with the tongue, e.g. to follow the broken curving lines of strawberry ice cream and madeleine cookies This section, in list-form, serves as the beginning marker of the second section: 1. BREAKDOWN and encompasses the trajectory of the work. Ohs Body in a Hydrophilic Frame creates a cyclical motion where the self takes a walk and ends up back in the same spot, only facing in the opposite direction. The light has also changed, and the entire scene appears different. The importance here is in the travel and the examination of the traveled space. As with any impending rupture, peacefulness will always inevitably return. When in doubt or fear of self and inescapable memory, water always finds a way of refreshing the cycle and starting new.


Con t rib u t o r s
Ch a r lo t t e A n n i e is a poet from Maine. She received her MA in English from Trinity College and her MFA in poetics from Naropa University. Before becoming a writer, Annie studied law. She now studies the mitochondrial metabolism in hibernation. She also studies migration. In her free time, Annie enjoys reading, bird watching, and running with her team in Boulder. She teaches writing in Denver. See also Bombay Gin 38.2. B r ent A r me n d i n g e r is the author of two chapbooks, Archipelago (Noemi

Press, 2009) and Undetectable (New Michigan Press, 2009). His full-length manuscript, currently titled The Elsewhere Radio, will be published in 2014 by Noemi Press. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Aufgabe, Bateau, Colorado Review, Court Green, Denver Quarterly, LIT, Puerto del Sol, Volt, and Web Conjunctions. In the summer of 2013, he will be a resident at the Headlands Center for the Arts. He teaches creative writing at Pitzer College and lives in Los Angeles.
E ly s e B r o w n e l l was born and raised on the shores of Lake Superior in Marquette, MI. She is an MFA candidate at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Elyse is a writer, performer, and curates the monthly performance series, Bouldering Poets. Her work has been published in several journals includingMonkey Puzzle Press, Emergency Index, Line Zero,Hoarse,and her self-published chapbookFloating Awaywas released in 2012. Elyse also won the 2011 Summery Poetry Award for Line Zero.Her current project involves sinkholes, memory, and lost postcards. T is a B r y a nt is the author of the hybrid essay collection Unexplained Presence (Leon Works 2007), and co-editor of both the cross-referenced literary publication, The Encyclopedia Project, and the anthology, War Diaries (AIDS Project Los Angeles, 2012). Her writing has recently appeared in the exhibition catalogs for visual artists Laylah Ali, Jaime Cortez, Wura-Natasha Ogunji and Cauleen Smith, and in the journals Black Clock and Mandorla. A novel, The Curator, is forthcoming. She teaches in the MFA Writing Program at the California Institute of the Arts, and lives in Los Angeles.


Jo s eph Co o per is currently writing and teaching in Princeton, WV. He is the author of the full-length books TOUCH ME (BlazeVox 2009) and Autobiography of a Stutterer (BlazeVox 2007), as well as the chapbooks Here Come the Groovies co-authored with Andrew K. Peterson (Livestock Editions 2010), Memory/Incision (Dusie 2007), from Autobiography of a Stutterer (Big Game Books 2007), and Insuring the Wicker Man Shadow Created Delusion co-authored with Jared Hayes (Hot Whiskey 2005). Sa r a h R ic h a r d s Grab a , a Colorado native, has been living, writing, and

teaching in the Boulder area all her life. Despite falling in love with many locales while traveling, she never plans on living anywhere than under the shade of the Rockies. She graduated with a BA in English creative writing from CU-Boulder, and spent five years teaching language arts, creative writing, and journalism to high school students. Now an MFA candidate at the Jack Kerouac School, she is currently investigating identity through hybridity, memoir/anti-memoir, territory, and body writing.

j/j h a s t a in is the author of several cross-genre books including long past

the presence of common (Say it with Stones Press), trans-genre book libertine monk (Scrambler Press) and anti-memoir a vigorous (Black Coffee Press/ Eight Ball Press (forthcoming)). j/j has poetry, prose, reviews, articles, mini-essays and mixed genre work published in many places on-line and in print.

HR H eg na u er is the author of the book Sir (Portable Press, forthcoming 2013), and the chapbook Sir (Portable Press, 2011). She is a book designer and website designer specializing in working with independent publishers as well as individual artists and writers. HR is a member of the feminist publishing collaborative Belladonna*, and shes part of the poets theater group GASP: Girls Assembling Something Perpetual. She received her MFA in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University, where she has also taught in the Summer Writing Program. apr il j o s eph is called a clarinetist-poetess, who traveled from California

(redwood ocean) to work on her MFA at the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University, where (s)he also co-teaches a BA creative writing course. Her writing has appeared in Bombay Gin, and collaborative chapbooks: Forum, Bellow, Heart-Lip Spider, and Lunamopolis (forthcoming). april (and belloher trusty sidekick) can be found frolicking around the mountain-town of Nederland, CO. interest in photography at a young age, she began formerly pursuing the medium throughout her teenage years, taking courses at Parsons, RISD, MICA, and the International Center of Photography. Presently, she is an undergraduate student of Photography and Written Arts at Bard College.

Ca it y L ee was born and raised in Manhattans West Village. Developing an


R a c h el L ev i t s k y is the author of a novel, The Story of My Accident is Ours

(Futurepoem, 2013), two books of poetry, NEIGHBOR (UDP, 2009) and Under the Sun (Futurepoem, 2003), as well as a number of chapbooks including Renoemos (Delete, 2010). She is a member of the Belladonna* Collaborative, a feminist avant-garde hub for interventions in writing, reading, engaged discourse, and activism. In 2010 with Christian Hawkey, she started The Office of Recuperative Strategies (, a mobile research unit variously located in Amsterdam, Berlin, Boulder, Brooklyn, Cambridge, NYC, and Leipzig. She lives in Brooklyn and teaches at Pratt Institute.

T r a v is M a c d on al d is a poet, copywriter and maker of handmade books who

currently resides in Philadelphia. He is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, The O Mission Repo [vol. 1] (Fact-Simile) and N7ostradamus (BlazeVox), as well as several chapbooks, including Time (Stoked Press), Title Bout (Shadow Mountain Press), BAR/koans (Erg Arts), Hoop Cores (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press), Sight And Sigh (Beard of Bees), and Bashos Phonebook (E-ratio). Other poems and prose have appeared in places both real and imaginary.

L a u r a McAl l i s t e r is a Farmer/photographer living and working in Minerva, Ohio. She graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with an Associates of Science in Photography degree in 2006. After graduating, she spent time visiting organic farms around the country, learning how to live off the land by growing food and raising animals. She currently manages a small organic farm in Ohio where she sells vegetables and eggs, and attempts to simplify her life. T r a c ie M o r ri s is a poet, performer and scholar. She holds an MFA in poetry from Hunter College, a PhD in Performance Studies from New York University and has trained at RADA. Her latest poetry collection is Rhyme Scheme (Zasterle Press, 2012) with several books and recordings forthcoming. Tracie frequently tours as a sound poet/vocalist around the country and internationally and collaborates often with other experimental artists. She is Professor of Performance + Performance Studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. H a r r y et t e M u l l e n is the author of several poetry collections, including

Recyclopedia, winner of a PEN Beyond Margins Award, and Sleeping with the Dictionary, a finalist for a National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her poems have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Polish, German, Swedish, Danish, Turkish, Bulgarian, and Kyrgyz. A collection of her essays and interviews, The Cracks Between, was published in 2012 by University of Alabama Press. Her Tanka Diary is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2013. She teaches American poetry, African American literature, and creative writing at UCLA.


Ak ila h O liv er was a poet, performance artist, and teacher. Born in St. Louis, Missouri and raised in South Central Los Angeles, she later moved to Boulder, Colorado, were she raised her son, Oluchi McDonald (1982-2003), and served as faculty in the Jack Kerouac School and the Summer Writing Program at Naropa University. Akilahs books include A Toast In The House of Friends (Coffee House 2009) the she said dialogues: flesh memory, which was published by Anne Waldman and Brad OSullivan through the Smokeproof Press/Erudite Fangs Editions imprint and received the PEN Beyond Margins Award, and the chapbooks An Arriving Guard of Angels, Thusly Coming to Greet (Farfalla, McMillan & Parrish, 2004), The Putterers Notebook (Belladonna 2006), a(A)ugust (Yo-Yo Labs, 2007), and A Collection of Objects (Tente 2010). Her album with Ambrose Bye and Anne Waldman, Matching Half, was released in 2008. Akilah passed away in her home in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, New York in 2011. Nic o le P ey r a f i t t e is a Pyrenean-born multidisciplinary artist whose writings,

paintings, singing, videos, and cooking are often integrated into multimedia stagings. Her latest project, Bi-Valve: Vulvic Space I Vulvic Knowledge, is a performance project that includes 17 texts, 17 visuals, two videos, and one recipe. The book with CD will be published by Stockport Flats Press spring 2013. In 2012, she produced and co-directed (with Miles Joris-Peyrafitte) the documentary film, Basil King: Mirage. She has authored two CDs, The Bi-continental Chowder and Whisk, Dont Churn (with Michael Bisio, bassist); the DVD, Sax, Soup Poetry & Voice, with Pierre Joris and Joe Giardullo; and three chapbooks of writings (Ride the Line, The Calendar, and Homage la Vnus de Lespugue). She has also illustrated and created covers for a number of books by Pierre Joris. Her performance Remember-Reflect-Mark was documented in Emergency INDEX 2011 (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012). More info:

JH P h r y d a s is a current MFA candidate in Writing and Poetics in the Jack

Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. He is originally from Atlanta, Georgia and received his B.A. in English Literature from UC Berkeley. Phrydas was saved from a life of bartending and wayward travel with generous grants from the Endeavor Foundation for the Arts and the Anne Waldman Fellowship at Naropa. He is the founder of Fair Warning! Press, co-founder and editor of TRACT / TRACE: an investigative journal, and has forthcoming work in Gesture Literary Journal and Something on Paper. Phrydas currently resides in Boulder, Colorado exploring how to write the distance between two hands, nearly touching. Machine, 2012) and To Be Human Is To Be A Conversation (Rescue Press, 2011). For three years she was assistant/associate editor of the Denver Quarterly. She has worked with elementary and high school students as a program coordinator and poetry

Andr ea R ex iliu s is the author of Half of What They Carried Flew Away (Letter


instructor for Writers in the Schools, America Scores, and After School Matters, and has taught literature and creative writing at Regis University and University of Denver. She currently teaches BA & MFA courses at Naropa Universitys Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics where she also coordinates the JKS Summer Writing Program. With Eric Baus, she co-edits Marcel Press.
J o a nna Ru occo co-editsBirkensnake, a fiction journal, with Brian Conn. She is the author of The Mothering Coven (Ellipsis Press), Mans Companions (Tarpaulin Sky Press), A Compendium of Domestic Incidents (Noemi Press), and Another Governess / The Least Blacksmith: A Diptych (FC2). Toni Jones, her more athletic alter ego, just released her first novel, No Secrets in Spandex, from Crimson Romance. A r iella R u t h is a poet from Boston, Massachusetts. She received her BA in

Poetry from The New School and her MFA in Writing and Poetics from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. She is the Co-founder of Roots + Limbs, a collaborative project with artist Jeremy Jacob Schlangen (www.rootsandlimbs. com). Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Other Rooms Press, Epiphany, The Pulchritudinous Review, Bombay Gin, Esque Magazine, Eleven and a Half Journal, and The OR Panthology: Ocellus Reseau. She writes story-poems on the blog www.

A lic ia S a lv ad e o grew up in New York and now lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her poetry and criticism has most recently appeared or is forthcoming in Sentence, DIAGRAM, The Volta, and Phantom Limb. E leni S ik el i an os is the author of a hybrid memoir (The Book of Jon, City Lights) and seven books of poetry, most recently The Loving Detail of the Living & the Dead (Coffee House, 2013). Forthcoming is another hybrid memoir, Cat Girl/ Cure House, from which this excerpt is taken. Sikelianos has been the happy recipient of various awards for her poetry, nonfiction, and translations, including a National Endowment for the Arts and the National Poetry Series prize. She has taught poetry in public schools, homeless shelters, and prisons, and is on guest faculty for the Naropa Summer Writing Program, for LEcole de Littrature in France and Morocco; she also teaches in and directs the Creative Writing PhD program at the University of Denver, where she runs the Writers in the Schools program. S a lly S mith is an Appalachian feminist experimental writer. She currently

lives in Colorado and will receive her MFA in Writing and Poetics from the Jack Kerouac School as this issue prints. In 2012, she published her first chapbook, Rivers and Swans, in Naropas Harry Smith Printshop. Her full-length manuscript, Molt, is an attempt to expose the process of becoming human, of self-actualization, as a process of gradual and traumatic molting. Her work has been published by Ampersand and Gesture Literary Journal.


Mi c h elle T a r a n s k y is the author of Sorry Was In The Woods (Omnidawn 2013) and Barn Burned, Then (Omnidawn 2009), selected by Marjorie Welish for the 2008 Omnidawn Poetry Prize. Taransky teaches writing at Penn, works as reviews editor for Jacket2 and co-curates the reading series Whenever We Feel Like it. Ch r is t ina Veg a-W e s t h off is a poet, translator, and aerialist living in Tucson. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Fieralingue, Spiral Orb, The Lumberyard Magazine, 1913: A Journal of Forms, Witness: A JLP Anthology, and The Dictionary Project, and her translations of Panamanian writer Melanie Taylor Herreras work in Ezra, Metamorphoses, and PRISM International. Anne W a ld ma n and Allen Ginsberg founded The Jack Kerouac School of

Disembodied Poetics together at the Buddhist inspired Naropa University in 1974. She is the author of more than 40 books, including the mini-classic Fast Speaking Woman, a collection of essays entitled Vow to Poetry, and several selected poem editions, including Helping the Dreamer, Kill or Cure, and In the Room of Never Grieve. She has concentrated on the long poem as a cultural intervention with such projects as Marriage: A Sentence, Structure of The World Compared to a Bubble, Manatee/ Humanity, and the monumental anti-war feminist epic, The Iovis Trilogy: Colors in the Mechanism of Concealment, a 25-year project in three volumes, which won the 2012 PEN Center Award for Poetry. Her forthcoming book from Penguin Poets (2013), Gossamurmur, is an allegory of Doppelgangers, Deciders, and a romp through Heian Japan and Vedic India with reference to contemporary Morocco. Waldman is the recipient of the prestigious Shelley Memorial Award and is a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets.

In d ig o W eller is a junior at Naropa University where he is currently pursuing a BA in Writing and Literature and Contemplative Psychology. His current projects consider the essays of Beatriz Colomina and Elizabeth Grosz and explore orphaned space and the topographic body.



THE NAROPA PRESS ISBN: 978-0-9835873-4-7 $12.00

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