selected poems

Endless, Beautiful, Exact


Paradise is here         on a beach of bones a bell fracturing air.

        This is no document of barbarism

                of clotted blood and glowing flesh

        its shine too bright for too long.

It is seeking resonance, the broken things,

falling sunflowers, the fractured pipe, strands of her hair

                about to break into ash.

It is the air of atrocity,

a kind of garden like a flat sea         cities burn behind us

        thin with the need to escape. Maybe it was a mistake,

I can taste the blood still.

 

For CORDITE 33.1: THE REMIXES. Work sampled: Simply by Sailing in a New Direction, Garden Piece, Doppelganger, The Walker, Inadequate Stovetop, Kerb Side Collection, Litany, Just Lexicons, Quietly Off-Key

Variations on Want: Sequence III


We must assume it was haphazard                irregular up to dawn

        this craving for infinitude, this longing beyond attainable.

It possesses momentum, will push against

the object it hits,

                        move towards it as if it were attracted,

        and will be broken up by impact.

        …
        
Whatever else may decay there remains

a type of permanency;

        the crest of one will coincide with the trough of the other,

        and the two waves will cancel each other, and this process

        is called interference.

______________________________

[13] Sex (from Latin secus, indecl.; from seco, cui, ctum, care, 1, v.a., to cut; to cut surgically, to cut off or out, to amputate; to divide, cleave, separate).
______________________________

 

I lay then all tame and passive        betwixt grief and joy

began to twitch         to insinuate

        and at length to force an introduction.

I breathed with pain

                        twisted my thighs

squeezed and compressed;                

                could not conceive its being possible

        this rage of delight, this unquietness of motions,
                        
too tender the wound, too          bleeding fresh.

                I held in my breath, and bit it through.

        …

______________________________

[78] See in vol. iv of these Studies (“Sexual Selection in Man”), Appendix A, on “The Origins of the Kiss.”
______________________________

 

She would spend long hours                 kissing a thread of silk

which she held between her fingers

                afraid to allow sleep as it might be attended

        with bruises, if not with fractures.

        Darkness was by no means perfect;

                the shattered water                the blinding shock.

A ring, worn long on the finger, becomes thinner;

a water-drop hollows out stone.

        …

______________________________

[223] See for a summary of various statistics in several countries, Havelock Ellis, Man and Woman, 5th ed., 1914, p. 174; also ib., “The Psychology of Red,” Popular Science Monthly, August and September, 1900.
______________________________

 

                        One cannot conceive of movement

when there is nothing that can be moved;

        that gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential

so that one body can act upon another.

        …

By “continuous” is meant that there are no interstices;

        that it is constituted like a jelly,

                only not made up of distinct parts,

        so there can be no such thing as separating one

from another,

                leaving a vacuous cavity or rent between them.

        …

______________________________

[58] “Every pain,” remarks Marie de Manacéine, “produces a number of movements which are apparently useless: we cry out, we groan, we move our limbs, we throw ourselves from one side to the other, and at bottom all these movements are logical because by interrupting and breaking our attention they render us less sensitive to the pain. In the days before chloroform, skillful surgeons requested their patients to cry out during the operation, as we are told by Gratiolet, who could not explain so strange a fact, for in his time the antagonism of movements and attention was not recognized.” (Marie de Manacéine, Archives Italiennes de Biologie, 1894, p. 250.)
______________________________

 

It was thought impossible                the attempt an absurdity,

        the common theory of an inert body

being one that is wholly passive,

        having no power itself to move or do anything,

        except as some agency outside itself compels it.

        …

                Whether or not it does work on another

depends on the rigidity of who it acts upon.

It is a simple mechanical action—

                body A pushes upon body B,

there is no need to assume anything more mysterious.

        …

______________________________

[106] In the chapter entitled “Le Vol Nuptial” of his charming book on the life of bees Maeterlinck has given an incomparable picture of the tragic courtship of these insects.
______________________________

 

Gummy streams poured down his sweating forehead,

        My head was against flesh; that flesh

was all about me,

and there was so much chalk in the wrinkles of his cheeks

        my mouth and nose embedded in hair,

or something scrubby,

that you might have mistaken his face for a roofless wall,

        a pair of hands suddenly clutching,

dragging me up on the pillow

from which the plaster was crumbling in a rain.

        …

______________________________

[7] Féré, Comptes-rendus Société de Biologie, July 30, 1898. We may perhaps connect this with an observation of E. Selous (Zoölogist, May and Sept., 1901) on a bird, the Great Crested Grebe; after pairing, the male would crouch to the female, who played his part to him; the same thing is found among pigeons. Selous suggests that this is a relic of primitive hermaphroditism. But it may be remembered that in the male generally sexual intercourse tends to be more exhausting than in the female; this fact would favor a reversion of their respective parts.
______________________________

 

“Don’t challenge me,” she continued, “I am not cruel,

but I don’t know whether I may not become so

and whether then there will be any bounds.”

        …

The first thing I remember is when I saw blood

dripping from my hand,

        and she asked apathetically: “Did you scratch me?”

“No, I believe, I have bitten you.”

______________________________

[1] “Between the ‘me’ of to-day and the ‘me’ of yesterday lie night and sleep, abysses of unconsciousness; nor is there any bridge but memory with which to span them.” – Unconscious Memory, p. 71.
______________________________

 

First published in Ping Pong.

Excerpt from the book-length poem War Rug


War Rug is a work of documentary poetics in the form of a book length poem. Multiple interwoven narratives explore life within zones of conflict as viewed through the lens of current warfare. The narratives range from passages inspired by journal entries, firsthand accounts, and news reports to poetic constructs collaged from military doctrine, Freedom of Information Act released government documents (like CIA interrogation manuals, and detainee autopsy reports), and numerous other sources.


from War Rug

Flash                        a body reduced to beads of glass
                        
fused in sand at the blast point’s edge.

                        Filigree             

the lace of an exposed cheek
over tooth and jaw;                        
                                                impossibly white.

Pause                        the space between light
                        
and the rush of sound that crushes breath
from Kevlar and rib;                         
                                                a moment of clarity

            before the market erupts, before
            the Humvee pitches, then drops to its side.

                        Afterimage

a thickening of scar tissue, the absence
of expression, of an eardrum,
                                                            of an iris.


                                    ***


[ Definitions

            Enucleation: Complete surgical removal of the eyeball.

            Evisceration: Surgical removal of the contents of the eyeball
            with retention of the sclera or cornea and sclera.

            Exenteration: Surgical removal of all the eyeball contents
            which may include the removal of the eyelids.

            Ocular Prosthesis: A plastic or glass fabricated eye
            that replaces volume of the enucleated eye socket. ]


                                    ***


It begins with a photograph and a rug; that so much can be woven
into both, one in dyed wool, the other scar tissue against the undisturbed
surface of her hand. It’s in her eyes. I know it’s cliché but look, there is
something there—unsaid. Resignation, resolve, or just “God damn it,
we’ve planned this since high school, you will not take this away from
me too.” She is in white, he a dress uniform, three-quarter view. The eye
facing the camera is glass—impenetrable.

The rug is tribal, meant for prayer. It is one of the few things I kept.
They say the weaving of bombs into its borders, machine guns and tanks
began during the Russian occupation; now the images are of planes en route,
buildings on fire, the flag—American.


                                    ***


How do you move 1,000 pounds of concrete,
separate bodies from debris,
                                                twisted as steel bar
at the exposed edge of a wound;

            in the expanse of aftermath, broken pieces
a uniform shade of red,
                                    
            how do you know your own;

how do you reconcile

the hand held is no longer attached, phantom pain
is the body missing limb, not the reverse;

            that you still wake in your clothing
between adrenaline and exhaustion,

            that the year begins as it ended, will end
as it began?


                                    ***


The T-shirt reads Kill ‘em all. Let God sort ‘em out; skull on black cotton,
3XL. They say 20,000 to 100,000 were killed, the exact number in dispute.
What makes this a crusade, what number a massacre? In 1209 AD crusaders
asked how to tell Catholics from heretics—the response, from the Latin,
Kill them all. God—will know his own.


                                    ***


[ IMAGE:
            
            Relatives of the victims with corpses
            outside Baghdad’s al-Kindi hospital. ]


                                    ***


[ Emergency Condition Responses

            Code Green: cut hand, scrape, broken arm, nausea,
            and headache.

            Code Yellow: decreased level of consciousness,
            chest pain, unconsciousness for unknown reason,
            loss of feeling/motor skills in an extremity.

            Code Red: penetrating trauma to the torso, severe
            loss of blood, severe head injury, and chest pain
            followed by unconsciousness.

            Code Blue: no breathing/no heartbeat.
            
            Code Black: Rigor mortis, Post mortem lividity,
            decapitation, decomposition, etc. ]


                                    ***


Black                        the ash from a burning car

            the color of lung tissue, of sutures,
dried blood where glass

                        made ribbons of skin;

it is what deepens over ribcage,
tells of fracture, of the grind

                        of bone against bone;

it is a body wrapped in cellophane,
packed in ice, the bag

                        in which it is zippered,

the color of digging to the height of a man,
of clawing one’s face, that of soil
                                    
                                    held tightly in hand.


                                    ***


[ CARTRIDGE, 7.62MM, ARMOR PIERCING

            used in rifles and machine guns against personnel
and light armored or unarmored targets;

a hollow cinder block, both sides of a car body,

            internal walls, partitions, plaster, floors, ceilings,
office furniture, home appliances,

                                    and bedding can be easily penetrated. ]


                                    ***


Bedding. Penetrated. The Bushmaster Chain Gun™ meets the warfighter’s
needs. The brochure tells that it is more flexible, reliable than others;
among its attributes—scaleable lethality.

Again black; the background of a magazine ad, glossy stock. It reads
Over 120 models with one thing in common... inspired by the human hand.
The image is of fingers curled around nothing, suggesting the grip of a gun.
Is it the gloss, the implied wetness that is allure? Or the fingers on the verge
of tightening—the spasm that would follow.


                                    ***


Ten paces from this doorway
a hollow of stone
                                    not so much shelter

as a wall against which
to flatten my back
                                    continue to count

a breath of a pause, six round burst
            two second hold, one
single crack

            and twenty more paces

                        from this wall to his body,
his body to doorway, my back
to that wall.


                                    ***


[ Definitions

            Penetration: The tissue through which the projectile passes,
            and which it disrupts or destroys.

            Permanent Cavity: The volume of space once occupied by tissue
            that has been destroyed by the passage of the projectile.

            Fragmentation: Projectile pieces or secondary fragments of bone
            which are impelled outward from the permanent cavity
            and may sever muscle tissues, blood vessels, etc. ]


                                    ***


– First published in XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics
   and in LUDWIG (translated into the Italian)