A poet must be smart enough and patient enough—syntax supple enough, terms subtle enough—to make the lines and sentences in the poem reflect all the cross-pressures and refractions by which the object turns into a fleeting mental construction, and that construction into what we remember and know.
It can be done, though. Right now it’s being done—
THREE POEMS BY WENDY XU
It’s Almost My Birthday Don’t Tell Anyone
I go to sleep and wake up
different. You make a lengthy
drive across Iowa to find
the other end of Iowa, its fields
hung silent in iron sky. Claims
are always being made
about precision. If I were a bird
I would mean to be
the small kind. What is going on
in that room where
no one lives? It might fill
itself with delicate things,
some very nice iron bowls,
twelve miniature trees, all
of them aflame. How
many times did they tell you
you’d never make it? One day
is never longer than
the next, untangling film
from a canister. Somebody
means to measure you
by needle and light.
I take a quiet kind
of panic to the river.
That the stars pull a wave toward
other coasts. That wolves are something
else until you meet one
in his own room. What was that story
about transgression? Wolves that lick
their gums and smile. Those same
stars I do not understand. The cold
has left me in it and the plants
are dead holding each other in the back seat
of a car. I didn’t mean it. Sometimes
you have no choice but to drive
to Connecticut. I know my hands fold
on their own. I know falling
to my knees still means something.
That basin of cool water still answers
the moon. Here you are. Here
you always have been.
If You Aren’t Busy I Think I’m on Fire
I worry that someone is right about the end of the world.
If we performed an elaborate ritual
to prevent it, who could say we didn’t succeed? The deer live
on to cause another traffic jam, white tails flaring
in the sun. There is no way to disprove
you are infinite. I walk into a yellow house and a calendar
says 1973, the ceilings drag wires from room
to empty room. If we ordered the total annihilation of other people,
would we still need other people? Sunlight coming down
like a yellow tambourine of leaves.
* all poems from You Are Not Dead, Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013.
Robert Pfeiffer reviewed The Mimic Sea on H_NGM_N.
“It’s hard to know where to begin with a book like Erica Bernheim’s The Mimic Sea. Why that is, I’m not exactly sure, but perhaps something resembling answers will emerge here. Let’s start at that most simplistic level: is it good? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Perhaps even an all caps “YES,” preceded by an expletive.”
You can read the full review here.
THREE POEMS, THREE POETS
Your eye fixed
on a gray or red chair.
Eucalyptus, smelling of cats.
Two eyes see much
too much in corners.
of a surviving wall.
Silent film with
stalked by a stuffed
No end after death.
The draped mirror
tries to contradict me
Pregnant and Far Gone
–Jorie Graham, “The Sense of an Ending”
Make me a hollow in the mountains –
gone where so many others have,
and each alone.
Make me a den
to fit this body, tight-skinned, strange,
filled up with a stranger.
Make me a land where everybody knows
this pain with mindless rhythm,
the long tired rhythmless day
and day and night and day.
Make me a hollow in the mountains,
where now and then the child will laugh
like a cold spring, shine as nobody
ever has. And love like the clean
ax that leveled this meadow
split me open.
was green boutonnieres
all the way to the mountain.
There must be fields
of croutons then, of salad tongs
in another state.
She and I left the highway
and the car,
her hair still going
seventy miles an hour.
I was floating a bit
with travel inside me,
with planes inside
and the varicose veins
of maps and the mints
hotel pillows dream.
Gravel talked to our shoes, we walked
on grinding teeth, on the earth
mulling things over.
We just wanted our legs again,
to let our feet
taste gravity beside a field
where lettuce is born.
Someone had taught the desert
to rain with sprinklers
as tall as me when I stand
on my shoulders, mist
from the parabolas of water
was rainbowed by sun
and kissed our skin,
There was one
that broke with rhythm
or row after row,
I called him Louis
Sixteen and wished
him well in his escape
from the revolution
on the horizon,
the brown hands
of boys decapitating
*all from Field 70 (2004), Ed. Linda Slocum
THREE POEMS BY FRANZ WRIGHT
For Frank Stanford
The scheming and chattering
mind’s abrupt sense
in the night of its being
surrounded by mind,
dwarfed and encircled
by mind whose voice
is silence, utter
kind . . .
The first bird
talking to the last stars—
maybe it was you
who woke me today in the dark;
I know you’re still around here somewhere.
I love you, therefore you are here.
For the first time in days I got dressed;
and I walked outside this morning,
and I saw a new heaven and a new earth.
For Larry Levis
Among the dead I cannot find you.
Let me rest here a minute
beneath these six leaves, crippled
tree slightly taller than I am
in a Manhattan sidewalk like a streetlamp
in a forest where I’m lost.
Mother of space,
with no one face—
See them flying to see you
be near you,
* all poems from God’s Silence, Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.