Her Name was Name, by Matt Hart

I had a girl, I named her soap.
I had a soap, I named her cat.
One day I played the accordion on paper,
and it sounded like a birth certificate
drifting into the sun, a disintegration station
in a vast bewildered wilderness—
which sounds like a slide whistle at first
but later like the back porch flytrap I named
jungle. I have never before mentioned
these names in the airway, and neither has the girl
I named name ever faltered—
though the question of remains
in the hallway remains: Does one’s imagination
also disintegrate, or does it flutter forever
like a boa constrictor, circling the world
or a warthog? The warthog I named babe;
the boa constrictor I called pasture.
The last time I found myself ensnared
in the pastoral, I imagined a rope
and escaped by climbing up it.
Then I named it laminate, but I called it
overwhelming. Me and overwhelming
covered in skulls. One superhero
to another to another. I boiled a lobster,
I named it travel. I had an agent,
and I named her mob.
Then I took out the garbage
and went running with my dog
ostensibly to prove my existence,
if not also my purchase. I made a purchase,
I named it purpose. There is nothing so bright
as a toddler on fire. We don’t need no water…
I named the water deathstar.

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Hey Allen Ginsberg Where Have You Gone and What Would You Think of My Drugs?, by Rachel Zucker

A mouse went to see his mother.  When his car broke down he bought a bike.
When the bike wore out he bought skates.  When the skates wore down he ran.
He ran until his sneakers wore through.  Then he walked.  He walked and
walked, almost walked his feet through so he bought new ones.  His mother was
happy to see him and said, “what nice new feet you have on.”
—paraphrase of a story in Mouse Tails by Arnold Lobel

hey, listen, a bad thing happened to
my friend’s marriage, can’t tell you
only can tell my own story which
so far isn’t so bad:

“Dad” and I stay married.  so far.
so good.  so so.

But it felt undoable. This lucky life
every day, every day. every. day.

(all the poetry books the goddamn same
until one guys gets up and stuns the audience)

Then, Joe Wenderoth, not by a long shot
sober says, I promised my wife I wouldn’t fuck
anyone, to no one in particular and reads a poem
about how Jesus has no penis.

Meanwhile, the psychiatrist, attractive in a fatherly
way, says libido question mark.

And your libido?
like a father, but not like mine, or my sons’—

“fix it.”

My friend’s almost written
a good novel by which I mean finished
which means I’d like to light myself
on fire, on fire
with envy, this isn’t “desire”
not what the Dr. meant
by libido?
I hope—

not, it’s just chemical:
jealousy. boredom. lethargy.

Books with prominent seraphs: their feet feet feet I am
marching to the same be—

other

than the neuronic slave I thought anxiety made me
do it, made me get up and carry forth, sally
the children to school the poems dragged
by little hands on their little seraphs
to the page my marriage sustained, remaining
energy: project #1, project #2, broken
fixtures, summer plans, demand met, request
granted, bunny noodles with and without cheesy
at the same time, and the night time I insomnia
these hours penning invisible letters—

till it stopped.

doc said: it’s a syndrome.        you’ve got it,
classic.

it’s chemical,
mental

circuitry we’ve got a fix for this
classic, I’m saying I can

make it better.

Everything was the same, then,
but better.

At night I slept.
In the morning got up.

Kids to school, husband still a fool-
hardy spirit makes
me pick a monday morning fight, snipe! I’ll pay for that
later I’m still a pain in the
elbow from writing prose those shift+hold+letter,
I’m still me less sleepy, crazy, I suppose
less crazy-jealous just
ha-ha now at Jesus’ no penis his
amazed at the other poet’s kickass
friend’s novel I dream instead about
the government makes me put stickers
on my driver’s license of family members
who are Jews, and mine all are.  Can they get us
all? I escape with a beautiful light-haired man,
blue-eyed day trader, gentile.

gentle, gentle, mind encased in its
blood-brain barrier from the harsh skull
sleep,  sleep and sleepy wake and want
to sleep and sleep a steep dosage—

“—chemical?”

in my dreams now every man’s mine, no-
problem, perhaps my mind’s a little plastic,
malleable, not so fatal now

the dose is engineered like that new genetic watercress
to turn from green to red when planted over buried
mines, nitrogen dioxide makes for early autumn
red marks the spot where I must
watch my step, up one half-step-dose specific—

The psychiatrist’s lived in NY so long
he’s of ambiguous religious—
everyone’s Jewish sometimes—
writes: “up the dosage.”

now,
when I’m late I just shrug
it’s my new improved style
missed the train? I tug
the two boys single file

the platform a safe aisle
between disasters, blithely
I step, step, step-lively
carefully, wisely.

I sing silly ditties
play I spy something pretty
grey-brown-metal-filthy
for a little city fun.

Just one way to enjoy life’s
trials, mile after mile, lucky
to have such dependable feet.

you see,
the rodents don’t frighten I’m
calm as can be expected to recover left to my
one devivces I was twice as fast getting everywhere but
where did that get me but there, that inevitable location
more waiting, the rats there scurry, scurry, a furry

till the next train comes

“up the dosage.”

Brown a first-cut brisket in hot Dutch oven
after dusting with paprika.  Remove.  Sauté
thickly sliced onions and add wine. (Sweet
is better, lasts forever, never need a new bottle).
Put the meat on onions, cover with tomato-sauce-
onion-soup-mix mixture, cover. Back in a low
oven many hours.

The house smells like meat.
My hair smells like meat.

I’m a light unto the nation.

I’m trying
to get out of Egypt.
This year,
I’ll  be better.

Joseph makes sense of the big man’s dreams, is saved,
saves his brothers those jealous boys who sold him
sold them all as slaves. Seven years of plenty.  Seven
years of famine.  He insomnias the nights counting up
grains, storing, planning, for what? They say throw
the small boys in the river (and mothers do so). Smite
the sons (and fathers do it.) God says take off your shoes,
this holy ground this pitiful, incombustible bush.

Is God chemical?
Enzymatic of our great need to chaos?

We’re unforgivable.
People of the salted
cheeks.  Slap, turn, slap.

To be chosen
is to be
unforgiving/ unforgiv-
en, always chosen:
be better.

The Zuckers are a long line of obsessives.

This served them well in war time saw it
coming in time that unseeable thing they
hoarded they ferried, schemed, paced, got the hell
out figured out at night, insomnia, how to visa—

now, if it happens again, I won’t be
ready

I’m “better.”

The husband, a country club Jew from Denver, American
intelligentsia will have to carry me out and he’s no big
man and I’m not a small girl how fast

can the doctor switch the refugee gene back on?

How fast can I get worse?  Smart again and worse?

Better to be alive than better.

“…listen:” says the doctor, “sleeping isn’t death.
All children unlearn this fear you got confused
thought thinking was the same as spinning—”
Writes: “up the dosage.”
don’t think.  this refugee thing part
of a syndrome fear of medication of being better…

Truth is, the anti-obsessional medicine works
wonders and drags me through life’s course…

About this time of year but years ago the priests spread
rumors of blood libel. Jews huddled in basements accused
of using Christian babes’ blood to make unleavened bread.

signs and wonders.
Christ rises.

Blood and body and babes.
Basements and briskets
and bread of afflictions.

I am calm now with my pounds of meat
made and frozen, my party schedule, my pills
of liberation, my gentile dream-boy, American
passport, my grey haired-psychiatrist, my blue-
eyed son, my brown-eyed son, my poems on their
pretty little fleet-feet, my big shot friends, olive-skinned
husband, my right elbow on fire: fire inside deep in the nerve
from too much carrying and word-mongering, smithery, bearing
and tensing choosing to be better to live this real life this better orbit this Jack

Kerouac never loved you like you wanted.
Blake.
Buddha.
Only Jesus and that’s his shtick,
he loves

everyone: smile! that’s it,
for the camera, blood pressure
normal, better, you’re a poster child
for signs and wonders what a little chemistry
does for the brain, blood, thought, hey,

did you know that Pharaoh actually wanted
to let them go?  those multitude Jews
but God hardened Pharaoh’s heart against them [Jews]
to prove his prowess show his signs, wonders, outstretched
hand, until the dosage was a perfect ten and then
some, sea closing up around those little chariots
the men and horses while women on the far shore shook
their tambourines.  And then what?  Forty years to get the smell
of slavery off them.

Because of this. Bloody Nile. My story one of
the lucky.  Escape hatch even from my own
obsess—

I am here because of this.
Because of what my ancestors did for me to tell this
story of the outstretched hand what it did for me this
marked door and behind this red-marked door, around
a corner a blue-eyed boy waits to love me up with his
leavened bread, his slim body, professional detachment,
medical advancements, forgive me my father’s mother’s
father was the last in a long line of Rabbis—again! with this? This
rhapsody of affliction and escape, the mind bobbing along
in its watery safe. Be like everyone. Else. Indistinguishable but
better than the other nations but that’s what got us into this, Allen,
no one writes these long-ass poems anymore.  Now we’re
better, all better.  All Christian.  Kind.


 

More by Rachel Zucker:

Hey Allen Ginsberg Where Have You Gone and What Would You Think of My Drugs? — A mouse went to see his mother. When his car broke down he bought a bike. When the bike wore out he bought skates. When the skates wore down he ran. He ran until his sneakers wore through. Then he walked. He walked and walked, almost walked his feet through so he bought new ones. […]

Poem — The other day Matt Rohrer said, the next time you feel yourself going dark in a poem, just don’t, and see what happens. That was when Matt, Deborah Landau, Catherine Barnett, and I were chatting, on our way to somewhere and something else. In her office, a few minutes earlier, Deborah had asked, are you […]

Diary [Surface] — Spring is not so very promising as it is the thing that looking back was fire, promising: ignition, aspiration; it was not under my thumb. Now when I pretend a future it is the moment he holds the thing I say new-born, delicate, sure to begin moving but I am burned out of it like […]

My Daughter Among the Names, by Farid Matuk

Difficult once I’ve said things
to know them this morning
the lights above the tollway all off
at exactly 7:36
all “we took our yellow from the pewter sky.”
But we have so many
things!   Stories
about our diction, the leather couch
some trees and our ages.
What about all the rooms the sky makes—
she tried several
spaces today, under a desk, a nook
bent to her.
I thought of picking a fight
with dead Bachelard.
Her small body a new host for
waters, spaces brought round
for viruses, their articulations, their ranges.
Think of all the products
left behind by a shift in design—
iPod cases, dancers called spirit rappers
sites where “women, negroes, natives were acted out”
for Rev. Hiram Mattison “vehicles of impurity.”
“My children too have learned
a barbarous tongue, though it’s not so sure
they will rise to high command”— Tu Fu or
Bernadette Mayer on Hawthorne’s American Notebooks
a boy tried to hang a dog in a playground, she said.
O structural inequalities!  O explanations!
The owner of the desert house we rented
plants butterfly bushes, cenizo, and columns
of dark leaves where birds go.
Sharp sweet dung smell off the horse trailer
after it pulls away.
What about all the rooms the sky makes?
Faint blue expanse
a long far line of electric poles
a mountain I can see.  Dog yelps almost digital
maybe from inside a car at the Dollar General.
She made her first marks today
on this page
rain    hand      here

Poem, by Rachel Zucker

The other day Matt Rohrer said,
the next time you feel yourself going dark
in a poem, just don’t, and see what happens.

That was when Matt, Deborah Landau,
Catherine Barnett, and I were chatting,
on our way to somewhere and something else.

In her office, a few minutes earlier, Deborah
had asked, are you happy? And I said, um, yes,
actually, and Deborah: well, I’m not—

all I do is work and work. And the phone
rang every thirty seconds and between
calls Deborah said, I asked Catherine

if she was happy and Catherine said, life
isn’t about happiness it’s about helping
other people. I shrugged, not knowing how

to respond to such a fine idea.
So, what makes you happy?
Deborah asked, in an accusatory way,

and I said, I guess, the baby, really,
because he makes me stop
working? And Deborah looked sad

and just then her husband called
and Deborah said, Mark, I’ve got
rachel Zucker here, she’s happy,

I’ll have to call you back. And then
we left her office and went downstairs
to the salon where a few weeks before

we’d read poems for the Not for Mothers Only
anthology and I especially liked Julie Carr’s
poem about crying while driving while listening to

the radio report news of the war while her kids
fought in the back seat while she remembered
her mother crying while driving, listening to

news about the war. There were a lot of poems
that night about crying, about the war, about
fighting, about rage, anger, and work. Afterward

Katy Lederer came up to me and said,
“I don’t believe in happiness”—you’re such a bitch
for using that line, now no one else can.

Deborah and I walked through that now-sedated space
which felt smaller and shabby without Anne Waldman
and all those women and poems and suddenly

there was Catherine in a splash of sunlight
at the foot of a flight of stairs talking to Matt Rohrer
on his way to a room or rooms I’ve never seen.

And that’s when Deborah told Matt that I was
happy and that Catherine thought life wasn’t about
happiness and Deborah laughed a little and flipped

her hair (she is quite glamorous) and said, but Matt,
are you happy? Well, Matt said he had a bit of a coldd
but otherwise was and that’s when he said,

next time you feel yourself going dark in a poem,
just don’t, and see what happens. And then,
because it was Julian’s sixth birthday, Deborah went

to bring him cupcakes at school and Catherine and I
went to talk to graduate students who teach poetry
to children in hospitals and shelters and other

unhappy places and Matt went up the stairs to the room
or rooms I’ve never seen. That was last week and now
I’m here, in bed, turning toward something I haven’t felt

for a long while. A few minutes ago I held our baby up
to the bright window and sang the song I always sing
before he takes his nap. He whined and struggled

the way toddlers do, wanting to move on to something
else, something next, and his infancy is almost over.
He is crying himself to sleep now and I will not say

how full of sorrow I feel, but will turn instead
to that day, only a week ago, when I was
the happiest poet in the room, including Matt Rohrer.

Diary [Surface], by Rachel Zucker

Spring is not so very promising as it is the thing
that looking back was fire, promising:
ignition, aspiration; it was not under my thumb.

Now when I pretend a future it is the moment
he holds the thing I say new-born,
delicate, sure to begin moving but

I am burned out of it like the melody underneath
(still not under my thumb)—
was he ambiguous, amphibian?

Underneath, his voice, the many ways
he gathers oxygen; it will not stop raining
until the buds push through the brittle trees.

If they fail we will not survive,
washed and washed with rain, will we?
No,we are not there yet.

She is pushing me two ways until
I am inside the paradox, the many lungs,
and they’re at it again, gathering oxygen;

no wonder I am wrung out
holding out for the promise of
something secret, after—

For Once, Then, Something, by Robert Frost

Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

A Green Crab’s Shell, by Mark Doty

Not, exactly, green:
closer to bronze
preserved in kind brine,

something retrieved
from a Greco-Roman wreck,
patinated and oddly

muscular. We cannot
know what his fantastic
legs were like–

though evidence
suggests eight
complexly folded

scuttling works
of armament, crowned
by the foreclaws’

gesture of menace
and power. A gull’s
gobbled the center,

leaving this chamber
–size of a demitasse–
open to reveal

a shocking, Giotto blue.
Though it smells
of seaweed and ruin,

this little traveling case
comes with such lavish lining!
Imagine breathing

surrounded by
the brilliant rinse
of summer’s firmament.

What color is
the underside of skin?
Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened
into this–
if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,
similarly,
revealed some sky.