The New Census: Sarah Vap

Our feature of Rescue Press’ new anthology of contemporary poetry, The New Census, picks up today for a final installment: new work from Sarah Vap. She’s included a statement on the poems, below. Please feel free to visit the full feature here, and purchase the anthology here.


These poems were taken verbatim from the dictionary feature on the Investopedia website, and are part of a longer manuscript called Viability — the whole effort of which rolls around in Capitalism’s mechanisms and certainties of owning certain kinds of people, creatures, communities.

from Viability

Lindsay Lohan Stock Index: A stock index comprised of companies associated with actress Lindsay Lohan. Investors might correlate the popularity of Lohan with increased sales surrounding her related products. Firms involved with Lohan endorsements, advertising or movies are included in the index.

Fans may see Lindsay Lohan use a certain product, such as her Mercedes Benz, and rush to purchase one for themselves. The increased demand will usually drive up a company’s sales, merely for being associated with Lohan. Companies involved in the index include Disney (NYSE: DIS), who produce many of Lohan’s films, Daimler Chrysler (NYSE: DCX), and Mattel (NASDAQ: MAT).

As with most celebrity-related terms, buzz words such as this usually have a shorter shelf life and may become irrelevant.

Sleeping Beauty: A company that is considered prime for takeover, but has not yet been approached by an acquiring company. A company may be considered a sleeping beauty for a variety of reasons, including large cash reserves, undervalued real estate, undervalued share price, attractive assets or strong growth and earnings potential. A takeover, or acquisition, is typically characterized by the purchase of a smaller company by a larger firm. The acquiring company generally offers a cash price per share, thereby purchasing the target outright for its own shareholders.

In relation to mergers and acquisitions (M&A), a sleeping beauty is a company that is “sleeping;” that is, one that is ripe for takeover to achieve its full potential. A sleeping beauty might be a new company that has great potential but has not yet been noticed, or it could be an established company that has not been managed well, and is therefore not maximizing its potential. A sleeping beauty essentially lies in wait until a takeover occurs, at which point the company theoretically would be able to live up to its potential.

Leading Lipstick Indicator: An indicator based on the theory that a consumer turns to less expensive indulgences, such as lipstick, when she feels less than confident about the future. Therefore, lipstick sales tend to increase during times of economic uncertainty or a recession. Also known as the “lipstick effect.”

This term was coined by Leonard Lauder (chairman of Estee Lauder), who consistently found that during tough economic times, his lipstick sales went up. Believe it or not, the indicator has been quite a reliable signal of consumer attitudes over the years. For example, in the months following the September 11 terrorist attacks, lipstick sales doubled.

Skirt Length Theory: The idea that skirt lengths are a predictor of the stock market direction. According to the theory, if skirts are short, it means the markets are going up. And if skirts are long, it means the markets are heading down. Also called the Hemline Theory.

The idea behind this theory is that shorter skirts tend to appear in times when general consumer confidence and excitement is high, meaning the markets are bullish. In contrast, the theory says long skirts are worn more in times of fear and general gloom, indicating that things are bearish.

Although some investors may secretly believe in such a theory, serious analysts and investors—instead of examining skirt length to make investment decisions—insist on focusing on market fundamentals and data.

Philadelphia Poets: JenMarie & Travis Macdonald

Our place-based and occasional series on Philadelphia poets continues today with 4 collaborative poems from Bigger On the Inside by JenMarie and Travis Macdonald. Look for more in the future, curated by our resident Philadelphian, Zach Savich.

Statement on the Poems

We once conducted a collaborative interview with Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop about their collaborations, and, at one point, Rosmarie said, “It is true that our collaborations do not quite sound like either Keith’s poems or mine. Which shows once again that the BETWEEN is fertile ground … our reality is no longer substances, but systems of relations, ‘no longer things, but what happens BETWEEN things,’ as Charles Olson paraphrases Whitehead.” And at another point we quoted Jacques Roubaud who said, “when Keith and Rosemarie write poems together, whose are those poems? They are the poems of a third poet, whose name and gender and origin and language we do not know.”

What we mean to say is that, while we are not comparing our poems to Keith & Rosmarie’s in any way, we are getting to know the fertile 3rd person sitting between us. When we trade a notebook back and forth between us we’re writing on the lap of an intimate stranger.

Because we are collaborating on poems while binge-watching Doctor Who episodes, we’re also writing in the space between entertainment and ekphrasis. Rosmarie said, “The most obvious way relation affects our language when we collaborate is that we allow ourselves to play with the other’s manner.” And we do play with one another’s manner, but we are also playing with the manner of the actors, the television writers, the scenery and costume people. The whole of the BBC. etc.

On how many strangers laps have we written? And who is it exactly that lurks in the gaps between the letters on each line?

The empty presence of the third poet in collaboration is the same way we feel about the characters on Doctor Who. They are real enough that our mind (for fleeting one-hour periods, at least) imagines them actually living in the world. Or if not THE world, then a similar intermediary space that we, the perceivers, create between our perception and the screen, between every single exchange of the page between us.

What are they up to right now? The Doctor and our third voice? Both are too real, too present to only exist at the sites of evidence: the computer, the poems, the stranger sitting between us…and then you there, reading this.

The Exterminator’s Downfall

The children of time work
against us with words dipped in rift.

What’s the last thing
you remember? The descendants assume

formation. The medusa cascades
and swallows the trail
of the bees’ disappearance.

A sentient piece of software
stands by its actions. Home
at the end of the world,

the subwave will
bring us together.

Falling in Flight

And the earth was no more
or less responsible for the last
transmission’s charge,
raging the rift and slant
against. The end of everything
is strong enough to hold the paradox
box open, long enough
to get out and pick the ring
up from the ashes of the ending.

Stuck in the center of the dingy
Titanic x-mas skyline.

Stay here while I ascertain
the information angel damages.
Cauterize your time
wound, tossing off its razorblade halo
into the host’s lonely drift.
Reflected in the doctor’s grimace:
an echo of atoms kissed.

Inform the Cage: We’re Headed Down

Patch us in. The com
system fell to earth. On Ascension
Island, patent a binary

vascular current. Calculate one
hundred thousand million combinations
in a second flat. You’ll get rusty
following the primary
order of instinct. Drag

down and label the stars.
They’re all dead
because of you

and contaminated, saved.
Function locked and loaded, I can feel
so many ideas. Exterminate my sickness.

I win.

Vashta Nerada

The library runs on
wishes. Never land on Sundays—boring!
A million million life forms’ silence

left a note from the courtesy node:
count the shadows if you want to live.

Cry for help with a kiss and a screwdriver
that won’t do
wood or resurrection
banks. Pick a face for your security
camera consciousness.

I thought we were an exclusive expedition? Tear up
your experience contracts. It’s death
for the river song. Spoilers

flying off the shelves
hold an impression: the brain waves
in a footprint tide pool.

Let’s all meet the shadow meat
feeders ghosting, a swarm
in a skeleton suit. Move
the console signals if

there’s a teleport bridge
collapse. Your imagination escape plan

hatches and builds
a nest of its own.

Philadelphia Poets: Michael Loughran

Our place-based and occasional series on Philadelphia poets continues today with two poems from Michael Loughran. Check back Wednesday for another entry in the series.


No one cares
about the painting of the orange rooster.
I hang it up and remember
whatever I want,
maybe what Kafka said
about me.
What a rooster he was
and how orange,
all those inclinations,
the black urge
to stroll through the hallways
of some other house,
every desire
an illicit constitutional.
Rooster! Don’t be funny!
Let me think!
Soon I’ll be
under the tongues
of the streetlights
at 60 m.p.h.

New Jersey

Hay bales!
The ones we prefer.
Golden stomachs
we drive past
about our mothers.
Future auditors
of the heart,
what we liked most
was to make
the hay bales blur.
We liked Rousseau,
whose epitaph
pleads he devote
his sacred
leisure to the light.
He painted no hay,
perhaps there is
no hay in France?
France! You have nothing.

THERMOS 10: Hunter Deely, “Dobro Lathe Bone Star Bryophyte Observatory”

This is the final poem from our special issue of THERMOS featuring Hunter Deely’s poetry — and also the final poem Hunter completed prior to his death. For an introduction, see here.

Dobro Lathe Bone Star Bryophyte Observatory

He set up the telescope on the gravel path and trained it on the north star, explained to the boy that once set the gears in the telescope would turn it precisely along with the rotation of the earth, so they could watch the moons of Jupiter all night and not have to worry about moving the lens, because within the machinery of the telescope was a perfect microcosm of the machinery of the universe. Not a day goes by I don’t think of you. She was a fan of Lolita, kept the movie poster above her bed. The electroshock made her forget me but she remembered Lolita. They watched the moons of Jupiter till morning, also their own moon, and a satellite spinning. As they walked back through a field of dry grasses wet with dew, smelling of dew, he looked down at his feet and saw the body of a luna moth, perfectly dried and dead there caught up in the feet of the grasses. He lifted it gently from where it was tangled so as not to crush it and showed it to the boy, showed him the two white antennae that look like feathers and the black spots on the wings and explained their purpose. Years later I thought of this as I sat with you in the town graveyard while we injected each other with white gardenias. The houses there curved up at sharp angles like a skating ramp, and leaned over dogfighting rings full of broken glass the color of an iris. Her hair started to fall out from the medication, which they purchased from the company her father defended in court. He wore beautiful white suits and had a beautiful daughter with dark eyes that had trouble seeing because really they belonged in the skull of a deer.

The birdbaths froze over some time that night, and he woke early and showed the boy, first the sycamore leaves that had got stuck beneath the ice, their image refracted so the fractal edges extended to the edge of the water, and second how to scrape the ice away and refill the bath with a pot of warm water heated up on the yellow stove, to keep the birds from freezing as they cleaned their feathers. Then they split some wood to add to the ever- burning winter fire and set a black cauldron of pinto beans over the flames. The worst part is, if you ever said you loved me, I would never believe it. You were never there in the graveyard, you were down by the docks with another man. But the idea of you was there in the form of another, as often happens in these kinds of situations.

Later in the day, as they walked down toward the river, they encountered a long rattle snake trying to swallow a mourning dove. The dove was halfway down the throat already, and all its feathers had fallen out. They spread out to form an iridescent halo around the head of the snake. The naked dove struggled. He promptly cut the snake’s head off with an axe and set it along with the rattle in a jar with salt on the bookshelf next to a slim volume on the medicinal uses of the wild herbs of central Idaho. It was too late for the dove. I wonder if herbs would have been enough for you. That is a fallacy. They went to the river and he taught the boy how to swim, the names of the fish and the water birds: kingfisher, mallard, egret, heron. The river was green and the riverbed was made of soft clay. The boy used the clay to fashion small figures that resembled wolves with dragonfly wings. I was upset by the morning light, because it meant you were leaving. I got a job in a microchip factory and saw your reflection in the red sheen of the silicon twelve hours a day.

Her condition improved, which only made it harder for her to identify with her identity as it was comprised of the person she had been some- where between ten years and ten minutes prior. He began to get attacks of vertigo. Walking along a path lined with mockingbird skeletons he had to lean against a tree, and he laughed, wondering if he had somehow become drunk without drinking. Then he realized he was not standing, that he could not stand no matter how hard he tried, and he decided to see a doctor, but there were no doctors there, then, so he died, and explained to the boy the proper method of burial.

I have dirt beneath my fingernails. After we finished with the gardenias it became very difficult to take the intersecting angles of telephone wires, insect wings, and sunlight. They make me want to say that I love you. But you know I love you, so why say it? That is not really the point, anyway. She smelled a bit like orchid soil. Not a day goes by I don’t think of you. He showed the boy how certain plants grow on tree limbs and live off what they can gather from the air. This, he said, is a very good way to live one’s life. Just remember that it can be very difficult to accept only what is given. Just remember that that is all we will ever have.

THERMOS 10: Two Poems by Hunter Deely

These two poems are from our special issue of THERMOS featuring Hunter Deely’s poetry. Check back tomorrow for a final poem. For an introduction, see here.

For the possibility of the dead

These are the avocado seed cities,
                            tomatoes and chocolate in the streets.
              When our reflections in the blue glass
                                of office buildings begin to remember
their pilgrimage. The young men on the streets of Piedras Negras
                                          with Virgin Guadalupe tattoos, unsure
                            from which dream they are waking.

I have eyes in the back of my head that detect
                            the scent of approaching frogs, swarms
          of spider flies. These are the cities we burned
              as we recited the different types of clouds:

We don’t have an immigration problem,
we have a capitalism problem,
                                    we have a problem
                                    of biting into tomatoes
                                    and being covered in blood.

              He has a coffee stain on his forehead
              which functions as a violent cipher.

We suffer from the reverence of rebellion,
                              suffer the coffee burning red
          and black stars into our chests – the image
          that lets us sustain the deadly abstraction.

The power plant is made of bones.
                      Coal butterflies tumbling over the lake.

For the possibility of the dead, we divide sycamore leaves by their veins.

No, it is not a metaphor – we do receive these messages,
                      the trees are covered in gang tattoos.

She made love to me in an elevator
                      and drank a bottle of eyedrops.

She made love to me on the beach
                      and cut her hand open with broken glass.
She made love to me in a pecan orchard
                      and used the insecticide for contraception.

These are the vaults of undying fruit. We
                      took their possibility for granted,
              forgot how soft her avocado felt as I
                pushed it through my teeth. Let it go.

Just let it go. The truth is what we call it.
                                              The lake is dead, peopled by ghost turtles
              and heavy metal. From the checker tile mansion
we sneak into the labyrinth, open the vault door
                            out to a beach of coal.

                            Chocolate drops from her eyes.
              Chocolatl. Avocatl. When she speaks Nahuatl
                            she does it softly.

Ocelots line the streets of border towns.
Everyone will be forgotten. Everyone
will be forgotten.

She made love to me in the bowels of Yucca Mountain.
With my finger in her ass she vomited uranium, our half life
                      approaching in the eyes of ocelots.
            I disgust myself. In the city
                                          of electrical bones the clairvoyant reminds me
    I have chosen to receive these words.
              These hieroglyphs on her bloody cheeks.
    Her turquoise teeth.
Ah, the taste of her eyes.
The taste of her bloody, chocolate eyes.
Everyone will be forgotten. Everyone
                            will be

After the Flood / The Nest

Fossil hunting on a hill, I found a book
my mother had left in a sudden shower
when she still had strength to climb.

It had warped and caught in mountain laurel
branches, and it seemed very hard, yet light.

The binding flaked onto my fingers,
and its brittleness showed how much rain
it really had drunk: down to a cavern
emptied and refilled at the center.

There would be a Great Mystical Significance
to whichever poem I read. A shared meaning
would curl palpably in the air above the outcrop
of limestone. As soon as I knew the words,
pieces of the universe would fly together to show
that there is no space between any two things.

When I split the spine termites poured
over my hands like escaped letters, pages
ground down at the edges and excreted in a fine
dust that settled brown at the mountain laurel’s roots.

I couldn’t remember the sound of her voice
caught in the silence of the nest of dead words,
in the shriveled, hollow shell of a paper mask.

THERMOS 10: Hunter Deely, “Hush, hearse: arise” (Notes by Pat Deely)

This poem, along with a commentary by Pat Deely, come from our special issue of THERMOS featuring Hunter Deely’s poetry. You can check back every day this week for more of his poetry. For an introduction, see here.

Hush, hearse: arise

Stop. Smell oranges, taste fog
                off the swamp. Ask
directions at the gas station-cum-funeral
home in Norco.
                                That None Shall Perish
on staccato windows. Hush
the cormorant’s wing. Time
hush, moss hang
                like vapor from a rusted crane.
                                                Crane rust.

You with a head of morning
                                glory describe
the nameless lovers in your hair.
                                Name love.

Name: How the goats did sob, Emiliana,
in brittle marsh trees, in lilies.

                                East hush, to leave behind
the needle, platoons of corn like terra
cotta soldiers. Suck
the mud from my arm like chocolate,
                                liana, rung with thorns:
                That None
                                who pass
                                as grace, with rust
Shall Perish. How
these crops and wildflowers,
                                cormorant, goat,
                                –refinery, incinerator,
                                crane, hearse–arise
from silt, through duckweed / Nitrogen and
                how creation breaks down: Black
abscess pulse
                                                a separate life, That None
                                you swore, what saturates the flesh,
                Emiliana my junkie. What burns it.
Move. Push
the orange in my
                mouth like a nipple.
                                                                Shall Perish

On “Hush, hearse: arise,” or “emiliana my junkie”

I have vacillated over the meaning of this poem. Thinking about it one way leads me to believe the speaker is traveling with the woman, but another view leads me to conclude that the speaker is lamenting her death. Either way, the commanding tone and religious theme resonate strongly in me.

The title – “Hush, hearse: arise” – reminds me of a line in W.H. Auden’s poem, “Funeral Blues”: “Stop all the clocks . . . .” The hearse – a funerary vehicle that transports a dead person from a church or funeral home to a cemetery – is ordered to stop and someone is ordered to “arise” invoking a biblical image such as Christ’s raising Lazarus after he had been buried for four days (John11: 1-46), the rising from death to life of those who heard the voice of God’s son (John 5: 24-29), or Christ’s own ascension after three days of entombment (1 Corinthians 15:4).

Implying movement, the command to “Stop” as the first word in the first line jolts the reader into experiencing the senses of smell and taste. “Smell oranges”; orange being a color associated with sexuality and the aroma of the fruit an aid to reducing anxiety, nervousness, and stress. Tasting the swamp fog suggests a still, heavy atmosphere and that the speaker is lost, which is reinforced when the speaker has to ask for directions. And a swamp or marsh is a common symbol of the decomposition of the spirit.

The place for direction is a dual-purpose building: a gas station for refuel- ing and a funeral home for preparing the dead for an afterlife. And this “gas station-cum-funeral home” is located in Norco. Norco, Louisiana, is a small refinery town west of New Orleans on the eastern edge of the large Bonnett Carre Spillway. The town’s name is an acronym for New Orleans Refinery Company. Refining is the conversion of oil into gasoline and related hydro- carbon chemicals. Norco also was the site of the 1811 so-called German Coast Uprising revolt of 200 slaves led by free person of color, Charles Delondes. So, the building and town represent places of conversion or transition.

The next line is dropped down with words offset and in italics. We are read- ing the words “That None Shall Perish” that are printed on the abrupt and disjointed, “staccato” windows of the dual-purpose building. This phrase is sort of a punch line for the rationale underlying apostle Peter’s argument to those denying the prophecy of New Testament scripture that the world will come to an end by pointing to the fact that it has not happened. Peter’s argument is that the Lord is patient, wanting everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), so “That None Shall Perish.” Repentance can be summed up as the act of viewing one’s actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs and in Christian theology, to turn to God.

The speaker commands that the cormorant’s wing “hush” as well as “Time.” The double-crested black cormorant is common to Louisiana. Often seen perched with wings half open to dry, Christians see the bird as representing the cross. The fact that it dives under water to catch fish makes the cormorant a common symbol for “transformation,” but in this poem the speaker wants any transformation and time to stop. Why does the speaker want the hearse, time, and the cormorant’s wing to stop? Suspended by these commands and images the reader is directed to moss hanging from a rusting crane. An operating crane lifts and moves objects. This crane, how- ever, is in a degenerative stasis.

The speaker then shifts the reader’s focus to another person and her hair; her “head of morning glory” (I say “her” because in a few lines we learn her name). The morning glory often is a symbol of the Resurrection. The woman describes the “nameless lovers” in her hair full of morning glory. The speaker then challenges the reader to “Name love” and begins a new line with the word “Name” at which point the reader is introduced to the name of the other person in the poem: “Emiliana.”

In primitive thought, the name of a person is not merely an appellation, but denotes what he or she is to the world outside him or herself. The name, Emiliana, which means to strive, excel, or rival, most famously belonged to one of three aunts of St. Gregory the Great. She and her sister, Tarsilla, lived in their father’s house as if in a monastery encouraging each to virtue by discourse and example. Tarsilla passed on to heaven on Christmas eve and, a few days later, appeared to Emiliana and called her to celebrate the Epiphany in heaven. Emiliana died on January 5th.

We are given Emiliana’s name in a scene with goats sobbing in “brittle marsh trees” like the thicket in which Abraham caught the soon to be sacrificed ram (Genesis 22:13) and among lilies, which symbolize purity to Christians and chastity and virtue. The goat is a popular Christian symbol for the damned. The speaker suggests that the damned are sobbing because they have given up the “needle”; quit using heroin. The metaphorical connection of “platoons of corn” – corn being a symbol of sustenance, staff of life – with “terra cotta soldiers” – a reference most probably to the collection of terra cotta sculptures of soldiers buried with the first Emperor of China (Qin Shi Huang Di) to protect him in the afterlife – emphasizes the significance of heroin in the speaker’s life.

The speaker then commands Emiliana to suck the mud from his arm “like chocolate.” “Mud” is slang for heroin as is the Aztec word for a chocolate- like concoction, “chocolatl.” The poet splits the woman’s name with the word “Sun.” A few lines before, the poet commanded that the “East hush,” which could be a reference to the rising sun. Now, the woman’s name is part of the “sun,” which is a common symbol for the soul rising to heaven, and her head is “rung with thorns.” In Christian symbolism, thorns represent the fall of man, sin, sorrow, etc. Woven thorn branches were placed on the head of Jesus before his crucifixion.

The poet reiterates the funeral home window phrase, but inserts the con- cepts of those people “who pass as grace, with rust” to underscore the concept that those who have sinned, those who have “rust,” but experience grace – an unmerited gift of the divine favor in the salvation of sinners, and the divine influence operating in man for his regeneration and sanctification – shall not perish.

The speaker then reflects on the broader cycle of life – how these plants, animals, machines arise – and how it all degenerates: “breaks down.” These creations “arise from silt, through duckweed / Nitrogen.” Duckweed is an aquatic plant that fuels its growth by rapidly removing necessary minerals from the water on which it floats. It is especially adept at removing phosphates and nitrogen, particularly ammonia. Nitrogen is an element that is a constituent of all living tissue and a major element in plant nutrition.

The break down of life is symbolized by the black abscess signifying a separate life; that is, a life under the influence of heroin. “Black” is the color of darkness, depression, death, and mourning. “Abscess” is a localized collection of pus surrounded by a black ring and reddish inflamed tissue that is common among injecting drug users.

Then, the speaker presents the funeral home window phrase, for the third time, split by yet a larger aside. The speaker appears to be admonishing Emiliana because she swore she left the needle behind and the drug that “saturates the flesh,” “burns it.” The speaker then commands Emiliana to “move” and “push the orange” in his “mouth like a nipple” conjuring up the image of a mother giving vital sustenance to her baby. But there is no evidence that Emiliana can move.

P.S. The poem is saved as “emiliana my junkie.” An earlier rough draft is clearer about the ending eating an orange connecting the beginning: “We the smell of oranges…” the “mud from my arm like chocolate” referring to heroin by following “chocolate,” which is Mexican slang for heroin and that Emiliana has not quit heroin: “You swore you were cleaned-up.”

                ‧ Pat Deely

THERMOS 10: Hunter Deely, “salmon river, idaho”

This poem is from our special issue of THERMOS featuring Hunter Deely’s poetry. You can check back during the remainder of this week for more of his poetry. For an introduction, see here.

salmon river, idaho

ah the dead pig’s ghost
ambles down the riverbank
every morning, blessed be

on a burned stump the
hummingbird clung
to his flannel

the burned trees piercing
the mountain sides
like feathers, hunting
grouse all morning

he used to shoot up cocaine,
still a purple gnarl
on the inside of his elbow
where he hit, a kind of slug
or flower

a kind of amnesia, blessed
be, in these hills, the open
knife with its taste buds

i am waiting for a living
man to die so i can ask him

they kill the pig each fall

and when he looks down
the barrel, does he see
the eye of his father

does he see the tree of dark
metal twisting in the night

saying blessed be, here
twenty two nez perce were
massacred in the night

ah there is blood all over,
watch the trees, watch
the hummingbird

do not forget that omens
are real, that they touch us


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 80 other followers