Archive for the ‘THERMOS 3’ Category

THERMOS 3: Sarah O’Brien

Today we return to our third issue for a sequence by Sarah O’Brien from her National Poetry Series award-winning book Catch Light, published in 2009 by Coffee House PressSarah’s sonic sense and aesthetic geared toward pure doses of beauty have always impressed us — as has her baking, and not just us: visit her bakery, The Little Tart, next time you’re in Atlanta, and see for yourself. — AS

A Manual of Photography

Chapter 1: An Overview

The window was more obvious than the camera. Vocal ghosts made explicit in lens and call. Although this goes without saying, images must be fixed, before they come to light. Whole histories of keep. Emulsion, albumen, and water. There will be paper, and shadows, and a heart traced where the body would lie. There will break open. What is not here, haunt, if I remember, you are a saint in the sun my windowpane.

Chapter 2: The Camera Body

A certain amount of light passes through the camera body. It touches the whole face at once. And the eye, the lens, everything else. Picture a ghost in a white room, that potential. Held us to the wall, stay we say but the going. Bodies between hands and stilled, sill. The photograph allowed us to imagine our insides better, such a flimsy skin now not of paint or flesh. A heart beating there, or it did.

Chapter 3: The Camera Lens

Always this is happening in a field, it is dusk, open mouth to an invasive sky. A photograph is afterlife. Images do not stick to windows. Light must be bent, to return, come back. We think burn, etch, ingrain. Imagine a sear and a sound imperceptible but still. The sound it takes to stay. First there is the equivalence of light to time, and light to brands on your arm an image. Fractions of seconds for shadow, more for detail in the lights, one for sun blown out. Here gone equals one, a photograph emerging of pure white.

Chapter 4: The Shutter

The tense of a muscle or the first time a running horse is frozen, all the legs lifted. The lid of an eye is timed, leaves opening, a levee and a window, curtains thrown back, the water comes in, it is hard to leave a window so bare, so wide, things still make it in past the glass and settle in here, shift and shadow and stay. The shutter blinds the eye behind it, glare, lens flaring. Close the curtains, you say, as the parade passes by.

Chapter 5: Film Exposure

If you can imagine a system based on the subtlest of difference. A test, the surface of a shell. Where the light pools, or pulling the dark. If you had found an hour and watched it. Which bears repeating: the exact moment of a photograph is never exactly again. Dead like a second, build-up and brink. Sun-sought in a sea, in a turning cheek. Consider: in the face of sky-glare, heavy snow and sand, given more light, they white, and the dark mane, holding back it blacks in.

Chapter 6: The Negative

A sky as opposed to its cloud, eye to its iris, inverse ghost. On a thin strip emulates, the fruit of that tree showed up all white. But it wasn’t. In some cultures, photographs are terrifying things.

Chapter 7: The Print

A room without windows is essential. And a radio for sound other than light coming out, imagine it, how you can’t help but hear now that the room is so still given to whisper. And you turn the music down every now and then to confirm it. The photograph coming up from the chemical, a face, a fiction, all of us now still in our skin. Hello, I’ve been looking for you. Most photographers will tell you, emerging with a newly fixed photograph – I am now unaccustomed to the light.

Chapter 8: The Light Meter

One photographer always read his wrong, believed the world to be darker and so underexposed it that way. The people became dark imprints of a human looking form, looking lost on the land, which therefore, though dark, is imprinted with spots of brightest white, blown out, nothing there except the door.

Chapter 9: Presentation

The spot on the photograph where the eye lingers. Must have caught a glare, a glass, a new ring. A curiously blind sun in the face. The photograph is the past so dearly. Even now in your hands. I think it does hurt, a little, to be photographed. I think it does sting a bit in the sun. It must. Hold it, hold still, says the photographer. You could place your hands on it, but never around.

Appendix A: Beginnings or the History of Photography

The eyes are the last to go. In the photograph the dead mingle among dripping trees and incandescent weather. There is no hint of what’s to come. A photograph cannot, in itself, divine. In some cultures any power so great without a voice is suspect. So the photographer was split, his camera handled as a curse. Too great to be destroyed, so buried in the field. When we go there now and hear nothing at all. We handle the old photos by their edges. We whistle softly at the ghosts.


THERMOS 2: Dan Rosenberg

I like the way Dan Rosenberg treats family — in his poems, and in his life. I like the way Dan Rosenberg treats his friends. And I like his poems, which are at this point friends. You can find these two in The Crushing Organ, his first full-length collection of poems, out from Dream Horse Press. — AS

Reason For Surrender

Long Island again, in the yellow-light time of year:
Your family home juts up like a silty arm.

The dead have no reason to eat,
but they eat. The horizon crumples like fire.

Long Island smelling of your grandmother
in the last hospital days. The drip won’t stop

until it stops. You want to say, “The cathedral is a dildo.”
You can’t trace the reason of your own mouth,

the wet path around home. And you swing
the front door shut like a hammer. Their faces.

“Our past is bracing for some blow,”
you want to say, your feet scraped clean

on the family carpeting. You pile too much
on the edge of the fall. Red-veined maple leaves

leave. They sway into the pool and curl. The grown woman
is a shopper, not a sister. Long Island air

pollinates your head. You remember a sparrow nest.
It crumples and turns. Familiar faces. The cankerworms

silk down from the canopy like psychoactive pills
slugging down your throat.

Sugar Glider

I’m no swimmer but I can skim. A fat mile
of water flaps between us like a beggar’s

self-directed maledictions. It beats
the ground under a frayed curtain of clouds

hanging up to dry around the sun. These days
taste endless on my tongue. I come down

hard on the rhododendrons, feet pacing
my property in the mitigated light until the horizon

clamps its lonely fever down on me. I’m not
healthy all night, curled on one side and shivering.

Come here, where light drools on my face
while I make excuses for myself, for how hurried

the sun was to get here, for how the world is
a set of damp and mismatched jaws.

I think we fit in the cracks between the teeth.
Together, a sour residue, the slow corroding,

the irreparable spill. I toe gingerly into the water,
you turn away, my little blood pump jumps.

THERMOS 3: Isaac Sullivan

These poems by Isaac Sullivan are among the strangest I’ve ever read, and even now, four years after I first encountered them, I continue to puzzle over them, pleasurably of course, troubling myself with the perfection of their imperfection, the absolute precision of their linguistic failures. I find them, honestly, amazing. — AS

She is Good

he thinks of the many
different positions he has seen
his grandmother in.
the setting and time is in winter.
the mood is very plain, almost
boring. grandmother feels
a great lost to lose
her sight. she is suffering
from not being able to see.
she has lamps, stove, beadnecklaces
to show she is good at building things.
she keeps her room in the dark
probably because she might not want
to have any light on her
until she can see again.


some like to be
in the inside and some
in the out.
what the goverment
should do is, have two
differnt classes, one
for the kids who like
to be in door and
the other for,
the out siders.
students will lrean much
when they see what
there lreaning about.
if student go out and explor
they will be more indrasted.
I’m a type of girl
who like to: explor,
camp-out, see differnt
typs of thing. if were
just in door what are
we going to lrean.
our birans arnt going
to know if it real or not.
just Questions, and Questions
need to be anwerd.
if not it can drive
people insan. so many
beutiful thing out there,
food we never imagen.

He is Out of Control

OK basically
he feels he is out of control
feels weightless and says
things happen and how
it happened it show
the horse is holding
energy like a spring.
first line of the second
he in control or safe.
the second is describing
a line weight less,
he coasting and says
things happen
due to music
he doesn’t really know
what’s going, the feeling
is excitement, fear and
the horse is very mad.

God is a Jealous God

in gulf in vision
imagine a sea
of geriatric, concentric
semicircles, a glowing
screen repeating.
its gaze focuses on its viewers,
condensing a wild current.
how special to engage
in amusement, a scattered
abstraction of nightmare.
do I look
like the general electric man?
God is a jealous god.
he said, “put no idols
before Me.”
you will lose sleep
and make less informed purchases,
pervert, welcome to the source of television.

THERMOS 3: Nico Vassilakis

Nico Vassilakis is a mighty and prolific force in Seattle’s avant-garde poetry, visual-poetry, and art communities. I first read a chapbook of his poems, Species Pieces, when he donated it to Seattle’s Zine Archive and Publishing Project. The next year I heard him read, with John Olson, a poem of all vowels to a schoolbus of scared onlookers. The work below was featured in our third issue, in 2009. — JT



Nglish (Excerpt)

engage the pica of Utah

the voyage of spots of gathering of drainage of mussel suitability that sad feather
inside deeply the ghoul of geese a goose permanent I come to you above the miles yards

drive out the rats that rate the old advertisement of raveled
material of spots of pin of tear to once that’s the
chance in the drill it goose ghoul a rent of v I come to you or me
from the yards

the old woman’s tear in the praise of spots to a chance
that I make tic TAC it them geese go a
rent of v I come to you or me from the yards





some divisions clique intent an octave higher.

seeds are caught better in the castanets.

the hive is a piece – thick oil-base paints inch in addition to

– a representation of radio, a native of monolith I of burial in the
constant of bottom of tended page of
slipping of a link ahead of an Alpine exit is next right in
front of us

they say that a house is a framework which they also say is more conjecture about the
blue ice at the perimeter

thank you to speak the radios by radio about talks.

my generator, it is nowhere near from here.

THERMOS 3: Michelle Taransky

Philadelphia poet Michelle Taransky has published two full-length books of poems with Omnidawn,  Barn Burned, Then (available here), and Sorry Was In the Woods (available here), along with the chapbooks The Plans Caution (co-authored with Richard Taransky, from QUEUE) and No, I Will Be In the Woods (from Brave Men Press)She once won a New Jersey tennis championship by frustrating her opponent with lob serves. These poems originally appeared in our third issue, and are from the series of poems that makes up Barn Burned, Then. — AS




No you haven’t seen
pictures. No you never were born
in the barn. Yes
we will go to the
no it is not a story. Here
the sentence needs
to be completed. It was the sentence
the detective decided
the robber



Bank Barn

The barn built into the land is a small child
Speaking for the cattle’s tracks
Like a bride this window grazes
It’s beautiful, not lucky
A buyer who doesn’t need
To check a harvest before
Trading. Not even a mountain
Could have a barn like this
A view of everyone
Else’s spotted horses
Drinking oceans
What about them
Can’t be followed



Barn Burner, A Call

He owns the field

Memorial for conviction
Place where split beckons

Between stage and the stag
An unsharpened knife used

In house making church

I said it’s from the lost chapter

And an invention— delusion of caw
Asking yes saying label

Siren from segment
From departing

Fence of breathing
Salute of sharecrop

Minion had been used
Was scansion

As I was told

The same place will
Father idea, stand for the
Stanza, a house

Where replacement flowers
Invention is numbered
Temple, the scare,
Third moment about courage teacher

Difference between red and bird is
One is red

THERMOS 3: Sierra Nelson

Co-founder of Typing Explosion and the Vis-a-Vis Society, long-term admirer of cephalopods, co-author (with Loren Erdrich) of the lyrical choose your own adventure chapbook I Take Back the Sponge Cake (available from Rose Metal Press), Roman wanderer, whimsically wonderful and seriously delightful Seattle-based poet Sierra Nelson offered these poems to us back in 2009. Please enjoy them again with us today. — AS



On the Difficulty of Conveying One’s Feelings in Words

Do you ever feel, my love, as though
you’ve alighted in a many-branched tree
in the early morning light, and slowly all
around you there come creeping
many small but intent alien creatures
who even now are surrounding you and
your tree, closer, ever closer, closer still, and you
stay still in their silence – while not too far
away there is a house, a house filled
with sleeping robots, surely as many robots
as there are aliens around you – and in your
quietest, most hopeful, and needing-of-help voice
you call to them, over and over:
Wake up, robots. Wake up, robots.
And the light grows brighter. And still the aliens.
And still the robots sleeping. And something like
beauty fills you as you sing: Wake up.



Eating Lightbulbs For a Living

Even the sun’s got a parasol
These hungover days. On the streets, roaming,
Too bright, too parched, too many problems to solve.

In this town I’m unknown
As the new moon, regardless
Of previous history, how many hearts overthrown –

And who calls Venus heartless?
Every planet’s got its problems: we’re all just trying
To get a little more for less.

Look, I like my stars like I like my rye –
Neat, with just a splash of candelabra.
There, there, it’s no use crying,

I say to my friend, the empty bar stool. Abracadabra!
Make this life disappear faster than a brassiere!




Night Air

Sticky pearls, come here,
Gleam like sticky pearls –

Let me brush you sweet and warm.
Regrets shoved under the pillow

Slide through the window.
Night comes nearer

The air, Madame,
And your sigh glides through.

Recite this at the top of your lungs:
Talk is different than song.

Although it’s feeling glum,
Night takes up its stitching.

While rocking the cradle

Curse the river,
But soon curse

The wind saying Yes
Like a dam.

Down the door, breaking it.
Spring, my dear, is breaking.

THERMOS 3: Lucas Bernhardt

Lucas Bernhardt, a recent father, wrote these five poems and gave them to us a few years ago. I’ve used the first one in classrooms a number of times, and the success of that endeavor is one of many reasons I’m grateful for the set of them. — AS


Allegory of the Drivers’ Ed Vehicle

Mr. Hall, in the passenger seat, rests his foot
lightly on the instructor’s brake pedal.
Mike, a reticent, even-handed stoner,
has us stopped at a red light. Lisa
and I sit in back, looking out
our respective windows at the dead
wild hay on the edge of town. The light turns,
but Mike is elsewhere and does not
accelerate. I dig my knee into his seatback
and he comes to. The car moving,
Mr. Hall sighs through his teeth.
He had been my middle school gym coach,
and also, by his own account, a world
class wrestler cut at the last minute
from two U.S. Olympic teams.
Once, in international competition, he played
a trick on a stronger, more skilled
opponent. Certain he would
otherwise lose the match, Mr. Hall dug his finger
into his own eye socket and popped out
his eye, then pinned the other
wrestler in his “Dutch” vomit.
I know almost nothing about Lisa,
just her dull brown hair.
I could not look at any other
part of her. She had been
scolded earlier for repeatedly failing
to come to a complete stop, to look both ways,
to cover the brake. Mr. Hall
asked her to pull over and delivered
a humiliating lecture. You do not have to drive,
he said, You can always walk or ride a bike.
Mike pulls onto the freeway as directed.
His posture less rigid,
he seems to enjoy the freeway.
Gaining on a semi, Mr. Hall says, Easy.
Lisa sits as far from me
as the back seat allows. A rabbit leaps
from the shoulder into the hub
of one of the semi’s double wheels.
But for a spray of grey-brown fur,
it disappears. Mr. Hall laughs, nervously
at first. Lisa shifts and looks further away—
I really like her.
Mike, staring deep
into the wheel of the truck, says, Sick.


Some Notes on the State of Romantic Pessimism

I hadn’t planned on describing the immunization clinic, but the woman across from me in the waiting room began taking rapid notes as soon as she sat down; she is about my age, maybe younger, wearing black pants, socks, and shoes and a lavender High Sierra jacket. Her purse looks like it’s been to Guatemala. If it is in poor taste to sketch down one’s impressions only in the presence of the poor and infirm, perhaps my notes on her note taking will cancel the fault.

Weltschmerz, a word I learned from watching the national spelling bee on ABC, means sadness caused by comparing the actual state of the world with an ideal state. I would like to know its antonym, a term for the world outstripping an ideal, and I would like to know what that feels like. If all this doesn’t sound like sanctimonious nonsense, I should add that the woman looks familiar, like we had a long talk at a party once or I bought staples from her many times. I’m what they call bad with faces. Perhaps this is a feature of a more generalized weltschmerz: strange faces are never strange enough, friends somehow unfamiliar.

The woman was just called in to see a nurse. Her name is Aurora. A toddler with a rash on his upper lip takes her seat.


Manifesto of the Atemporalists

The mirror in the mirror is the mirror in the mirror.
We are still human, wheel within wheel. Accept
the illusion of “Dinner at seven!” wryly, and be reminded
of the fates of the multitudes of counterrevolutionaries.
Time is eternity’s shop floor. Eternity is time’s tokenism.
The cog knows sameness of expressions is not sameness
of feeling. The pendulous need only sway. As we know,
confronted with what they can neither renounce nor achieve,
those allied with time are sure to die. We recognize
all temporal measures are drastic, uneven, unfair.
In plotting its approach, retreat, and utter stagnation,
the four Williams of the apocalypse proclaim
reality is indivisible. Ulysses never left home.
Mohammed loved disloyalty. Life never suffered
death’s imposition. The wrapper tears awake.
Search, research, and comprehension defy syntax.
Nations and institutions refine and restrict fictitious bodies
inscribed with the sign of Augustine.

Though you often feel confused and drowsy, speak
reasonably. As the first William’s He did not go in
eagerness, He comes up the lane fast,
 and as a loan
and used it though he would not have had to
 occur in
the uncertain distance wherein perspective fails
the barrier, analytics fail perspective, and trust
dissmells—Augustinian time is here. As the second William
bathes the fall in corrosives, Augustinian time is here.
As the third William admits, I went into deep water,
and admits, I went in too deep water,
and in both instances, Trying to get home,
Augustinian time is here. Augustinian time, the eye
in the wheel, sequence and collapse—as one hog
waits for another, we await the fourth William.



A girl in a red silk dress
tries to cross the street,
though no one I know
is making her. On the porch
above her trouble, who can I tell
about the girl and the dress
while a birthday labors through,
again, the Al Green record?
Down there a girl who bought
a dress with money her parents
hoped she would keep
involves the street
in predilections of silk
and legs of wine. Honestly,
I’m glad I have imagined
rather than lived seventy-
thousand sexual encounters,
and so is she who,
all throughout the dress,
and before her plastic cups,
was my girlfriend.


Infidelities of Coal

The difference between
saying What’s funny
about having
a reputation
for doing things you
regret at parties is

and thinking first
of confidantes
beneath leaves, napping
like gnats in the
afternoon, swarming
toward dusk, then of
the smoldering, always
approximating self,
more hooked than
awhirl, a thread
of ash looking back
at the crawling
coal, and finally
of regret itself
resting with its wings
tucked across
its back like a
closed pair of scissors,
housed in the eye,
glinting in the facets
of the eye, is
that our words
outsmart us the way
a diamond out-
smarts a seam,
a miner outsmarts
a diamond, a boss
outsmarts a miner,
etc., and even
if the diamond-cutter
does sometimes
grimace, there we are
atop the fiance’s
finger wondering
why, if our lives
are so important,
they should be
so proscribed.

THERMOS 3: Sam Reed

Here are three poems by Sam Reed, taken from our third issue. Sam’s poetry and person are integral to the ideas we’ve always held about THERMOS, and it’s a pleasure for me to read these four again now. — AS


Come Here

When the Hopi discovered the Spanish cavalry
Nearing the pueblo walls, just after dawn,
The elders who went to meet them made a line
Of inviolable cornmeal on the ground.
The Spanish read an edict from the Pope.

What do you think you’re looking at.

A wave of wind through the lined-up horses—
Spraying their manes, one after the other, and
Breaking, invisible again, across the world?

It was a wave of cruelty and sorrow
Called the world that brought me you.

Invented neither cruelty nor sorrow,
But he did invent

Cities sprang from deserts, whole
Aquifers of blood. When he looked
At his brother, right then,
In the field,

What do you think you were looking at.
Here, at the edge of the city

It’s almost dark.

It’s not summer yet.
The creek’s still flowing.

I can feel your hair in the wind in mine.

I can see it in the dark.
Come here.


Six Months Later, We Met

Late light streamed like water through a snag
Past the old torqued cottonwoods filled with it
And filling it with translucent seed-fluff drifting
In languid scattershot. Clear hard heat
Lay flush on open ground for shimmering miles,
But here, in watered bottomland, seemed shelter.
I followed you. There was a thing you’d seen
Wandering by yourself not long before
Back from the road, back from any trail (your sheer
Bluest warning, flecked opaquer grey)
Just come. We crackled through thigh-deep grass
With the lowest branches dipping to brush our chests
From overhead depths of saturated green,
Ruffling beneath the reptilian croak
Of herons, half-glimpsed, straining from their nests
Atop the canopies. I followed you
Imagining the face I couldn’t see
Just steps ahead—suffused, conversant, mute
With leaf-flap, with every rustling disappearance
And each shifting constellation of cotton-motes,
Afternoon thick as night whose dark was amber.
To watch you unaware was all but pleasure.
In the window recently you were on your knees
And absorbed, profile shrouded in your hair,
In making a small mound of stones and duff—
Sculpting, smoothing, sprinkling the ground—
And didn’t say anything when you came in.
(Later I poked at it—some old deer jaw.)
I’d never have stopped there if you hadn’t shown me.
Nearly hovering, perched on the X
Two slender twigs that wouldn’t have held a sparrow
Made crossing by my shoulder, woven from
Cottonwood seed and spider webs and down
Was a creamy, glimmering, pipe-sized little bowl.
The rim just barely caved, so that who looked
Up from inside would have had a whole sky
Encircled in his roof; the walls, at dawn,
The close-pressed ruddiness of sunlight through
Shut eyelids. I went to move in on it
But you caught me, then—your expression, backlit
Though I heard what in your voice I might not have
Ignored, had it been any less plain—why
Don’t we just
I don’t know, but please—till shrugging
You I stretched over thorns to see inside.
I thought, at first, now where your shadow was
Some odd joke—a raisin?—or that a beetle
Nestled in what then appeared shards of egg,
And I tried digging it, fingertips fumbling,
Huge—as I heard you level, at my back,
My name—scraped, picked, and finally pinched out
A gnarled, blackened hatchling hummingbird,
Wispy legs tucked up and wings clapped tight
In nearly indistinguishable relief,
Its beak no more than a burnt splinter’s tip,
Deep divots for its eyes that almost touched
In tunneling. I held it out to you,
So slight I couldn’t feel it in my hand.
It grew as if heavy there. You never glanced,
Staring and staring and staring me out across it
Into where, dim, hooded with light, a face
So bared itself, so bald,
Boredom with the last hurt I could do
On older, fresher anguish burying so little
What blanched beneath
I couldn’t look, hard as I tried, at last,
Away—then you did and, with a half-turn,
Went. Is that who I am. Your grief was all
My curiosity. I wasn’t young.


Regarding the Domestication of the Horse

So this is dusk in west Asia
I realize watching my mother ride
Like a loose scrap of flower in a snowmelt flood

This is the prairie of shale and arrows
Where daylight and thunder trample each other trying
To be the sky
Gods who make everything but promises
This is someone forgetting for a moment
Her life to stare out at the fluid puzzle

Of the herds
Where one glances back
I can see them

Early spring violence and a still thing inside it
Wherever they travel a horizon follows
And the wind does not deserve them



It wants in. It wants in
All over, and in now
—Inside, already, the animals
Inside it, wrenching
Each ponderosa root
Closer—even the rocks
Look swollen
And when I kneel,
Reaching for one,
My hand’s run through
With cold. It’s fall now, but
It’s always winter,
Far enough upstream.
Far enough upstream
Is what’s already happened, just hasn’t
Happened yet—
Like snow that’s fallen
And hasn’t hit the ground,
Like the quiet, quiet peaks
Where it has.
I watch them for a minute
And when I look back down
My dad’s hand is dripping
At the end of my wrist.
Skinnier, too smooth,
But there it is.
He must be up there
On a trip we took once.
He must be waiting
While I go to find water,
Silent when I say I’ll be back—
Propped against a rock
In shorts and soaked shirt,
Falling asleep
With his backpack on
When a dark June front
Lathers up out of nothing
And pours in over the pass,
And he doesn’t really care,
Or doesn’t really know,
Sitting by the rock, by himself,
When the first implausible,
Scattered, and half-frozen
Snowflakes disappear
Into his legs.
A jay shrieks.
I should be getting back.