Bardo, by Peter Gizzi

I’ve spent my life
in a lone mechanical whine,

this combustion far off.

How fathomless to be
embedded in glacial ice,

what piece of self hiding there.

I am not sure about meaning
but understand the wave.

No more Novalis out loud.

No Juan de la Cruz singing
“I do not die to die.”

No solstice, midhaven, midi, nor twilight.

No isn’t it amazing, no
none of that.

To crow, to crown, to cry, to crumble.

The trees the air warms into
a bright something

a bluish nothing into

clicks and pops
bursts and percussive runs.

I come with my asymmetries,
my untutored imagination.

Heathenish,

my homespun vision
sponsored by the winter sky.

Then someone said nether,
someone whirr.

And if I say the words
will you know them?

Is there world?
Are they still calling it that?

 

Chirality, by Rae Armantrout

If I didn’t need
to do anything,
would I?

Would I oscillate
in two
or three dimensions?

Would I summon
a beholder

and change chirality
for “him”?

A massless particle
passes through the void
with no resistance.

Ask what it means
to pass through the void.

Ask how it differs
from not passing.

 

ninth: a conversation between Annabot and the Human Machine on the subject of overpowering emotion, by Anna Moschovakis

(Note: Though Annabot is ostensibly downloadable, the attempt to open her produced an error, a string of errors.)

ANNABOT: What now?

HUMAN MACHINE: The Brain, the brain—that is the seat of trouble!

ANNABOT: My brain, whose brain? Those who feel, feel.

HUMAN MACHINE: On the blink?

ANNABOT: Or, discipline. The brain is a machine of habit. The heart is a hell.

HUMAN MACHINE: “The secret of smooth living is a calm cheerfulness which will leave me always in full possession of my reasoning faculty.”

ANNABOT: But I am not cheerful.

HUMAN MACHINE: I ought to reflect, again and again, and yet again, that all others deserve from me as much sympathy as I give to myself. I place my hand over your heart.

ANNABOT: I cannot feel your hand.

HUMAN MACHINE: I cannot feel your heart.

This is the language of simple, obvious things
The conclusion and the part before

Anna held her hand out to feel the cold
It was cold

Then, nothing

Teaching the Ape to Write Poems, by James Tate

They didn’t have much trouble
teaching the ape to write poems:
first they strapped him into the chair,
then tied the pencil around his hand
(the paper had already been nailed down).
Then Dr. Bluespire leaned over his shoulder
and whispered into his ear:
“You look like a god sitting there.
Why don’t you try writing something?”

Prefix: Finding the measure, by Robert Kelly

Finding the measure is finding the mantram,
is finding the moon, as index of measure,
is finding the moon’s source;

if that source
is Sun, finding the measure is finding
the natural articulation of ideas.

The organism
of the macrocosm, the organism of language,
the organism of I combine in ceaseless naturing
to propagate a fourth,
the poem,
from their trinity.

Style is death. Finding the measure is finding
a freedom from that death, a way out, a movement
forward.

Finding the measure is finding the
specific music of the hour,
the synchronous
consequence of the motion of the whole world.

Poem Interrupted by Whitesnake, by Timothy Donnelly

That agreeable feeling we haven’t yet been able
to convert into words to our satisfaction

despite several conscious attempts to do so
might prove in the end to be nothing

more than satisfaction itself, an advanced
new formula just sitting there waiting to be

marketed as such: Let my logo be the couch
I can feel it pulse as the inconstant moon

to which I’ve come to feel attached continues to pull
away from earth at a rate of 1.6 inches

every solar year: Let my logo be the couch
where you merge into nights until you can’t

up from the shadows of a factory warehouse
in historic Secaucus built on top of old swamp-

land I can feel it: Let my logo be the couch
where you merge into nights until you can’t

even remember what you wanted to begin with.
Let my slogan be the scrapes of an infinite

catalogue’s pages turning over and over until you
find it again.

In the air above Secaucus

a goldfinch, state bird of New Jersey, stops dead
midflight and falls to the asphalt of a final

parking lot. Where it lands is a sacred site
and earth is covered in them. Each is like

the single seed from which an entire wheat field
generates. This happens inside oneself

so one believes oneself to be the owner of it.
From the perimeter of the field one watches

as its workers undertake their given tasks:
some cut the wheat, some bundle it; others picnic

in the shade of a pear tree, itself a form of
labor, too, when unfolding at the worksite.

A gentle pride engilds this last observation like
sun in September. Because this happens

inside oneself one feels one must be its owner.
But call out to the workers, even kindly,

and they won’t call back, they won’t even look up
from their work.

There must be someplace

else where life takes place besides in front of
merchandise, but at the moment I can’t think of it.

In the clean white light of the market I am where
I appertain, where everything exists

for me to purchase. If there’s a place of not meaning
what you feel but at the same time meaning

every word, or almost, I might have been taught
better to avoid it, but

here I go again

on my own, going down the only road I’ve ever
known, trusting Secaucus’s first peoples

meant something specific and true when they fused
the words seke, meaning black, and achgook,

meaning snake, together to make a compound
variously translated as “place where the snake

hides,” “place of black snakes,” or, more simply,
“salt marsh.”

Going moon over the gone marsh

Secaucus used to be, I keep making the same
mistake over and over, and so do you, slowly

speeding up your orbital velocity, and thereby
increasing your orbital radius, just like Kepler

said you would, and though I keep trying not
to take it to heart, I can’t see where else there is

to go with it. In German, a Kepler makes caps
like those the workers wear who now bundle

twigs for kindling under the irregular gloom. One looks
to be making repairs to a skeletal umbrella

or to the thoughts a windmill entertains by means
of a silver fish. Off in the distance, ships tilt

and hazard up the choppy inlet. Often when I look
at an object, I feel it looking back, evaluating

my capacity to afford it.

Maybe not wanting
anything in particular means mildly wanting

whatever, constantly, spreading like a wheat
field inside you as far as the edge of the pine

forest where the real owners hunt fox. They keep you
believing what you see and feel are actually

yours or yours to choose. And maybe it’s this
belief that keeps you from burning it all down.

In this economy, I am like the fox, my paws no good
for fire-starting yet, and so I scamper back

to my deep den to fatten on whatever I can find.
Sated, safe, disremembering what it’s like

up there, meaning everywhere, I tuck nose under tail
after I exhaust the catalogues, the cheap stuff

and sad talk to the moon, including some yelping but
never howling at it, which is what a wolf does.

Poem Entering the Apple Valley Target, by Lynn Melnick

Into the fluorescent rough country
headlong into bulks of flesh

impatient to outspend me

and who wouldn’t fold real quick
under the weight of America’s sales and specials.

I believed then I didn’t

that I was different than I am
in my own skin in this infinity

mirror, instructed such
to seduce myself, to go on.

I am sorry

about the space I take up
about the panic

running around my aspect and my hunger

although it’s nothing

these racks of acrylic winter apparatus
won’t dazzle out of my head.

I’ll take several. I’ll take fistfuls.
I’ll tuck it into my mouth at night to keep me quiet.


 

About this poem:

I wrote this poem because I find myself terribly overwhelmed by the experience of shopping, by all the stuff and all the people, and all the people in a frenzy over all the stuff. I get confused and I can’t breathe and I can barely remember who I am or what I want. And then I buy something I don’t need.”

Lynn Melnick

Things Between Themselves, by Heidi Lynn Staples

…to have been things among things between themselves and all others who live…
…to travel widely beyond the seas…
…to arrive one half king, one half informer…
…to appear o how atrocious soever…

…to present all the disabilities…
…to demonstrate an investment in kin…
…to show an interest real or personal in this…
…to uncover such estates…

…to expose ourselves as foundlings, nursed, clad, and taught…
…to observe ourselves founded by experience…
…to perceive ourselves discovered where unfounded…
…to receive the legacy and the gift…

…to forsake reckoned heavy sorrow…
…to suffer the penalties and become…

 

Sonnet [Nothing was ever what it claimed to be,], by Karen Volkman

Nothing was ever what it claimed to be,
the earth, blue egg, in its seeping shell
dispensing damage like a hollow hell
inchling weeping for a minor sea

ticking its tidelets, x and y and z.
The blue beneficence we call and spell
and call blue heaven, the whiteblue well
of constant water, deepening a thee,

a thou and who, touching every what—
and in the or, a shudder in the cut—
and that you are, blue mirror, only stare

bluest blankness, whether in the where,
sheen that bleeds blue beauty we are taught
drowns and booms and vowels.  I will not.

Knot iii.VII, by Stacy Doris

If people could feed on themselves which they can, whether in despair or

Pride, time becomes a circulation, reduced and expanded to that, imitating

Digestion. Ingesting decomposes any scrap into functions, whereas eating

Something other than yourself disprove wholeness. What rewards

Rewording might be justice. Then does response outrun responsibility,

Overthrow it, so all government’s automatic, total, a model of control based

On nature? If retribution’s normal, rule’s always enforcing, twisted and

Abstract: flexed. Then days are contaminated by law, and life’s a code,

Dead yet lethal. Even putrefaction would be saturated thus: the severed

Hand molder on schedule.

Perhaps in this way all living’s starvation, programmed to regurgitate itself,

So cutting off supplies would free, while goods stifle. Thus the excuse

That oneness means bodiless, that what has parts is too bulky for unity.

Indivisible then implies a corpus subtracted, or, origin in amputation. Any

Bomb curls back on its unleashing, so mirrors cause and denies effect.

So repeats; is a refrain. Like all waves, destruction won’t break. If so,

Nobody needs to be alive to go on. State equals machine, but runs only

By crashing. Each project attacks what may be in place with the corrosive

Burn of potential. Passivity’s the only order: ordains. But breathing counts

Down. Each movement of respiration encodes terror, which flourishes in

Everyone thus, in the midst of hunger and abundance, in the speed of love.

No tourniquet dispels it.

Poem for circulation, by Anselm Berrigan

Things surrounding things
fill my Wicked Tuna grid

heart with a swishy austerity-like
intention. I cut my post-fleshy

forearms & bleed a serious parallel
echo chamber reading everything

to approve of nothing. I massage
my anterior cruciate ligaments

to celebrate a hard won royal flush.
This mind is slick-like and easy-like

and music-like and gesture-like
and, as I am the dappled heathen

you’ve been given internal permission
to dismiss from your sacrosanct

barricades and bounty systems,
coy, and shit-like. A second first-person

recapitulation does not defiantly
buy shape rightly here. Sane

continuity is your trashy blues
making progress out of heart’s lack.

How should I know you’re not
there bleeding, respectably

to conclude a moist relentment
and make my evil labors clear?

 

To be the thing, by Dorothea Lasky

To be the name uttered, but not to have the burden to be
To be the name said, but not heard
To not breathe anymore, to be the thing
To be the thing being breathed
To not be about to die, to be already dead
To not have to disappoint
To not have the burden of being late
Or punctual
To not eat, to not have to eat
To not feel anything
To not be the one whose affect is criticized
To not pick up the fallen over boxes
To be everywhere but the boxes or plates
To not break the plates
To be beyond breaking
To have been broken
To not bear the burden of not being present
To not have to feel the pain of being hurt
To have transferred that pain over
So that hurt is only part of the imagination
And the imagination is everywhere, is every color
To not contain color, to be color
To not make sound, to be sound
To not have language, to echo, to plan language
To be the stream of words
To not be sad for
To not have those to be sad for
To not eat alone
To not fuck those who do not find your corpse attractive
To not fuck
Or stuff
To be ashes and non-placed
Not displaced, but to not be in any place
To enter the ocean on not a whim, but a physical force
Where there is no center
Where there is no safety
There never was
There was never any anger
There was never anything to look at
I never looked at anything
I just went and walked
I tried to love
But love is hopeless
And I have lost all hope, so bleak I am beyond
I am beyond what might be considered low
There is low nor high, space or time, I have
Gone away from that which is uttered
I have not burdened to be spoken of or spoken for
To croak everyday to the livelong bog
I do not speak a thing
I exist
No, no I don’t
I never did
And you may have
But I never did
And you may have called out for me
But I was already gone
And I am already there
That which you speak of
I am already spoken for
In a world of light and ashes
They all call my name
They have waited for me
And now I know
I was always
Already there
With them

 

High Tide at Race Point, by Charles Bernstein

for Norman Fischer
A commercial with no pitch.
A beach without sand.
A lover without a love.
A surface without an exterior.
A touch without a hand.
A protest without a cause.
A well without a bottom.
A sting without a bite.
A scream without a mouth.
A fist without a fight.
A day without an hour.
A park with no benches.
A poem without a text.
A singer with no voice.
A computer without memory.
A cabana without a beach.
A bump with no road.
A sorrow without a loss.
A goal without a purpose.
A noise without sound.
A story without a plot.
A sail without a boat.
A plane without wings.
A pen without ink.
A murder without a victim.
A sin without a sinner.
An agreement without terms.
A spice with no taste.
A gesture without motion.
A spectator without view.
A slope without a curve.
A craving without a desire.
A volume without dimension.
A Nazi without a Jew.
A comic without a joke.
A promise without a hope.
A comforter without the comfort.
The certainty without being sure.
Stealing with nothing stolen.
The might have beens without the was.
The Mishnah without Torah.
The two without the one.
The silken without the silk.
The inevitable without necessity.
Logic without inference.
Suddenness without change.
A canyon without depth.
Fume without smell.
Determination with no objective.
Gel without cohesion.
A cure without a disease.
A disease without a trace.
A mineral without a shape.
A line without extension.
Persistence without intention.
Blank without emptiness.
Border without division.
A puppet without strings.
Compliance without criteria.
A disappointment without an expectation.
Color without hue.
An idea without content.
Grief with no end.

Call Us, by Sally Van Doren

Let’s use our nicknames
When we apply for this next job
Even though it’s past our bedtime
And our current paycheck

Can’t shut up the muse
Who mewls at the dinner table
Begging for a crust of bread
To sate the nightly terrors.

For they come, don’t they,
Leaving empty spaces numbers
Are supposed to fill. Buddy
And Chip loaded their coffers

Before the hard freeze.
The ice burns our tongues
As we swallow prosperity
One parched drop at a time.

 

The Poem as Mask, by Muriel Rukeyser

Orpheus

When I wrote of the women in their dances and
wildness, it was a mask,
on their mountain, gold-hunting, singing, in orgy,
it was a mask; when I wrote of the god,
fragmented, exiled from himself, his life, the love gone
down with song,
it was myself, split open, unable to speak, in exile from
myself.

There is no mountain, there is no god, there is memory
of my torn life, myself split open in sleep, the rescued
child
beside me among the doctors, and a word
of rescue from the great eyes.

No more masks! No more mythologies!

Now, for the first time, the god lifts his hand,
the fragments join in me with their own music.