Archive for the ‘THERMOS 6’ Category

THERMOS 6: Cassie Donish

Las Escaleras, Oaxaca” led off our spring 2011 issue, my favorite issue of all. It’s representative of the poetry Cassie has written in the past decade — an extended sequence, concerned with place and people. Soon after writing this poem, Cassie went into a program in Human Geographies. We’ll publish some new poems tomorrow. — AS



Las Escaleras, Oaxaca



the play is called “dance of the indigenous stairs”


the plot involves a native species of maize
(wide
            as an emblem star)


it grows out of staircases, or soil where
stairs used to be


I stomped all day on ruins, the sun burned just my shoulders
two roses bloomed


the tall, wide stairs climbed up and up
till their ear-of-corn legs ached



*



you opened up


the upstairs, all around us again
the smell of herbs, all around us were vases
of black clay, barro negro and a repeated


line: I’m off course, of course


for one thousand years, or far
more, how women would bring gray rounded pots
to the river


they’d carry them between head and shoulder
back to the mountains white with little white


blossoms and back
to everywhere



*



the characters are totally obsessed
with whatever play they’re in


from across the field, say, one screams
this play is called dance of the indigenous stairs!


it’s frightening to know the many-acre field
is a small bandstand


where who you are is simply being performed


you’re surrounded by a plaza and trees you can’t see
or you face an audience, people dressed up and disturbed
in the darkness, in their anonymity


or you’re center stage, facing away, they’re behind you


how are you to know, this could even be an opera
and you don’t know you’re singing—


all you see: a field, and someone else across it
and you call



*



in the basement of the building
a man asked if he could kiss her stomach


she said okay and lifted her shirt a little
her back against an out-of-tune organ
she watched him kneel


meanwhile, up the stairs and out the door
                  in the plaza:


thorns on the trunks of pochote trees
ladle moon on a slanted roof
outdoor theaters projecting films
in inadequate dark—


                  the streetlight thrown from over the wall—the branches’
shadows cast on the screen—the thought
of what lay before us
                                                beamed—


it’s done before we have the time to ask
but there’s a place we’ve now been second-hand


                                and through a space of years a brass band played


in the street as we
were passing by


we stopped to listen, we went beyond
to the false pepper trees



*



to recommend a film
repeat a word: gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous


how about a romantic lunch?
one of us was cold
I gave him a scarf or I gained a scarf


we wrote verse about the shore, as if the state we’re in
has two coasts, we wrote twice
the state we’re in


black vases lined up in rows, they can’t hold
water because they’re not totally sealed, there’d be some filtration


but they can hold dry herb branches
hierba santa, cilantro, epazote



*



the method was discovered by dona rosa


fire the pots for only nine or ten hours
instead of the traditional thirteen or fourteen needed
to seal the clay


then with clear quartz burnish them


it was a windy day
my skirt kept flying up


we started saying the owls on the walls
to mean we felt watched


the man didn’t use a pottery wheel, but two clay plates
and the tone made by tapping a pot with a stick
depended on the amount of time in the kiln


the glossy black ones made a shallow sound
without resonance or richness, and they couldn’t


hold water of course, the designs have holes
so you won’t forget


but the people come and pay


in the van I slept
I dreamt of flor de calabaza
I dreamt of epazote


we arrived at the buffet



*



a story such that
you (the character) open your eyes and realize your eyes
are still closed


floating in a black philosophy


a small plain shell opened up to show a vast blank interior—


though you still have the capacity to see
the man using various tools to shape
                                                                the pot before the crowd


piece of cow hide
reed from the river
a gourd, a stone


started wondering if the capacity to make art
originated in a random variation
a glitch that was spark, a strange way of
                                                            selectively focusing


for instance not filtering out all stimuli unnecessary
for physical survival


what is “just an organism”



*



ear of corn, cereal that is a spike


“but what’s an inflorescence? the flower cluster


                the arrangement of flowers on the flowering
                axis of the plant”


they say without maize
there is no song
whatever’s growing
is growing for a reason


we walked beneath the nispero trees
at the fruit, spit out the seeds


we passed back and forth as if flame trees
and little cafes burned two o’clock signs


it was a windy day
unripe walnuts blew down off the tree


whatever’s growing
is growing, for some reason
on the cement walkway


green shells crushed underfoot



*



the dull gray pots were also used
to carry mezcal or milk
and if you tap them the sound
fulfills richly


I found a bell made from barro negro


you’ll ring it for the dogs
you’ll say lines that are either already in the script
or that will be after you say them


and I miss the organized outline
                                the profile I once recognized offhand
I wanted you there called out between the lines
as if a parade could force


we’re off course
outside the city, weeds grow in the maize
they’re messengers, they carry the most
important information while we’re busy
destroying everything in
the garden we’re busy not seeing in



*



each day I meet the last living speaker of a native language


we interact on the bandstand and then step down
for intermission


gorgeous weeds in her hair



*



at midnight all the church bells tolled


under the tops of fireworks, I heard


your words a crowded river in the dark


street dogs started barking


                at stars white with steam



*



the cement gleams as we step through it
as if on our way toward something unlocatable


the dialogue becomes a call and response—


will or would or had
“a freeze frame waterfall”


a dance that ends where it began
a corn maze, and many ways to say the night
will soon be over / will
not end


“a long-night plant”


                and ways to say you’ll find


yourself here once again


an old woman’s tamale stand, the smell
of masa rising, the music droned on all night, a wind
was up again


the idea that anything can be a flight of stairs—
that anything should be


there’s a wall of sweet corn growing I couldn’t
see anything


the voices keep calling in the field
out of the dark toward the dark


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THERMOS 6: Nik De Dominic

Nik De Dominic teaches in Orleans Parish Prison and in the Bard Early College New Orleans program. He’s an editor at The Offending Adam and New Orleans Review, and my favorite poet living and publishing in New Orleans today. — AS



Ataxia


We wait at the toll behind a train
of cars along the side of the highway


a work truck pulled over a man
stands in an empty field high


grass to his knees he stares
up at a billboard its planks


of plywood weathered curl
base and top to center


here we they meet



from here
I can only see the river how we cross


how it snakes through the city
an empty field:



*



here is the line the beauty
in its crossing


sound across the bay         holy roses
wrapped up in burlap bed sheets


the image an icon
your name on it don’t leave


California license plate key chain
bleeding


in the bed
an empty glass
rolling in the linens


let’s build a church here
the bottom



*



from place from place
from roadside fires and Waffle Houses
from the man-sized pines that litter


the highways of the southeast
places I’d never been I’d been before
fantastic things happened the night before:


You set fire to the cattle last night.
The whole field orange in the dark
the headlights of a passing truck.



*



Behind the school a small alleyway
fenced off from the sidewalk
sits a magician’s trunk


here is the line
to divide to limit space:
nine men wrestle


a round a foul
trains of birds
in molt in mid


dle in heat in
deed only action
in tents and in purses


each holds
ache holds
the other


sectioned
in threes by
brass hardware:



*



locks and hinges—draped
in a child’s purple sweater


dusted wood shavings
collapse chain-link
separate myself from you


separated in three by the woven steel
when I remove my hands already
I know what they’ll look like



I keep asking if we have gone.



*



Here is the line


to delineate symbol & thought:



red hat


spent book


matches


jar


content spill


the asphalt:


countless rubber bands


rubbers the bands


child’s skull


metal electroplating


metal salad bowl


cupric cupid


water-insoluble


rust



*



A church


sides the roadside


tinny bodies


all ten ears


grounded await


charge/change


in currents


a brief


electrical storm



*



You’re body your body underwater the smell water the smell chlorine your body body underwater body water each particle its taste tilt-a-wheel spin cycle washing machine maker heat comes pools body you are body so many bodies left here her to this holy roadside.



                  When did it start raining?



                  when we wake it is still
                  night close to light our bodies


                  in damp the taste your mouth
                  a burnt field barren dry without



                  then its hot glow the scar tissue raised
                  white floats above your hipbone


                  under your breasts circles areolas down
                  the spine under the jaw rope burns


                  here is where the body parts father
                  would say looks like you got into a hatchet fight


                  without your hatchet but you are not
                  I know this in fever dream



*



would say you look like you that we don’t like this but the night of cars along the side of the highway. Under the jaw rope burns. Here my father. Heat comes pools your body and singular. When I remove my hands already sectioned in threes with brass hardware: locks and hinges. The scar tissue raised white, floats all of them and the round’s on him. Left here to her this holy roadside how it snakes through the city there sits a magician’s trunk. He stares up at an empty billboard:



                  This is a body.



Last night
we met a guy who was a mobile glass guy:



                  drive to your house replace windshields et cetera
                  on your car as you wait—or don’t wait.


                  Leave a lot of receipts in newly sealed vehicles
                  insurance invoices et cetera.



*



Yeah I do of course when I install
large panes and everything is pre-cut at the shop


before I drive out of course et cetera. So I just slap it in
seal it and leave. But I don’t wear gloves pre-install


during the clean up the vacuuming et cetera of course
and the shit gets everywhere like glitter—even


the safety glass like glitter and now with the sun out
as it is et cetera my skin gets cut gets into my socks


in my chonies everywhere my whole body glows
et cetera et cetera et cetera et cetera et cetera et


here is the line



*



to catch and direct the eye over a given course
take me to the river orient a city from it watch


as we’ll go mad running our mouths out
filling our mouths with mouths


the ice cream truck loud
outside won’t you


you spare us
a quarter a field a billboard.


This is a vehicle.
This is the limen.



*



show position in space and/or time


Aboard about above across after against along amid among anti around as at
Before behind below beneath beside between beyond by


Down during
Except excluding


Following for from
In inside into


Like
Minus


Near
Of off on onto opposite outside over


Past per plus
Regarding round


Save since
Than through to toward


Under underneath unlike up upon
Versus via


With within
Lastly, without.



*



I knew a girl called Lila yeah yeah yeah
Here is the line to produce grey or tonal gradation:


we enter here from a place that looks like the others
its cheap patterned carpeting and leather-backed chairs


sectioned so we cannot sleep even if we wanted to
outside the window concrete divided


by yellow small carts wheeling around
the plane looks the same this one


perhaps smaller someone eats graham crackers
this is the first time that’s happened:



*



above us nothing


below the sectioned


patchwork of country


a singular body the line


to create arrangement


THERMOS 6: Rusty Morrison

Rusty Morrison’s books have, in the singular and in total, been among the most generous and important works of poetry I’ve read in the past decade. That she’s co-publisher of one of the most impressive poetry presses in operation, Omnidawn, and a tremendous advocate for poetry generally, makes me all the more grateful for her presence. These five poems, from a collection titled “Ill-timed,” first appeared in our spring 2011 issue. The titles are quotations from Maurice Blanchot. — AS



Ill-timed



“an enclosing that leaves one utterly exposed”


The illness has no color, but to accept it as my illness,
this is white.


Photograph on my bathroom wall: a white horse on a white hill
in an evening of shadows
I’m always living through,
and always on the verge of living.
And have never lived, never understood.


Let my illness be a measure of the depth—but not the element itself—
that I wade through.


Years later, says the horse’s eye
when I take its expressionless stare
as my own
mirrored in the framer’s glass
and watch myself walk back into the kitchen, and pour my coffee,
and make a list of what is needed.




“to formulate the fear of disaster still implies a faith in the future”


                The grocery store, the checkbook, the eight anxious people in line behind me, the aggrieved clerk, the pen that he offers me but I will not take—how many people today have used that same pen? How susceptible has my illness left me today? The rudeness of my not accepting his pen
                closes its eyes, like a cat that does not turn its face toward the sound of its name.
                I cannot explain. My quiet is chronic. I will find my own pen at the bottom of my purse. This will take some time.




“the disaster always returns, even as a silent, harmless return, whereby it dissimulates itself”


                It’s not my hand that signs my name, but the talent within my hand for navigating—with each turn and loop back, with each twist and dive—
                my history, which I don’t see, but that my signature must fit around and between, in order to take its ground.
                Today’s signature, from the first downward drive of the ‘R’, is digging in deep today. On its way to China. Knowing there will be no China. No grave either. The body of my signature must lay itself bare, entirely exposed in the open air.




“in the midst of absence, everything speaks”


A woman has fallen down, right here, inside me. But I need to think it through before offering to help.




“it is not disaster, but repetition that destroys the present”


    When I look at an object—here is my new pen—do I see it
or only the constancy of its movement, with me, through time?
    Is it the coincidence of our equivalent temporal speed
that makes an object appear more quickly to me when I look for it?
    Maybe I only lose objects in my house, in my purse, in my life,
that accelerate into the future at a slower or quicker rate than I do.
    Maybe objects won’t remain comfortably in the present to me because of
a disparity in our situational relation to infinity.
    Nonetheless, the objects most important to my survival might be
those I can’t easily see,
    those that don’t simply duplicate, and thus let me ignore, the rate
of the present’s disappearance from me.


THERMOS 6: Julie Carr

From our spring 2011 issue, some poems from Julie Carr, one of my very favorite contemporary poets. These ones aren’t in a book you can buy yet, but you can buy her other books here, and should. — AS



from Think Tank



& I’m an O without a figure


no fool but an egg


with yolk eaten out


by he who swaps


the kiss of god


for a speaking tongue


at night’s noon. Blank


went the candle




*




A part of a whole, apart from a hole, is the pit of the soul,


the apex of soil. From you I might hang


babies, babies, babies



A mother’s gorges: her cheeks and her hair. Her hallowed




*




A man walks into a party


because poetry is a semiotic fortress


My sex is so quiet, it needs no song


At the Saturday playground:


O conscience, you florid surge


And poetry is an alphabet of hunger


The beast takes its pleasure, but what is pleasure?


Shoulders of the sick:


on the right and left




*




Ponderer:


Joyousness fled and sex fled: something had to restore these things


Civic volunteer plum trees,


like grieving orphans, defended nothing


“One has a secret self, a rather delicate pondering inner person


Much of poetry exists to communicate with this entity”



“Life is a plot to make me move”




*




I must effort to remember this


girl-baby on her back


Wind up and the water grew hotter. Her visage more


or less fair, fairly sound, sweetly fair


Where is my fool? I think the world asleep


In my mother’s mossy little mirror


the freedoms of fire


vaporized. We’ve altogether


forgotten her


Is this, then, the place?




*




One to two to one to two to one to two to one


goes regeneration’s


math. There, the door opens for: sun, road, behold


five–a perfect gaggle of kids


Apples, potatoes, pigs, and birds. Bread, milk, sugar, and eggs:


Feed my kids. The cow feeds my kids. The truck. The flame feeds


my kids. The bag feeds my kids. Plum and butter and nut and hen:


nothing so kind as a warehouse




*




& the windowpanes rattle in the bad news/good news format,


a way of displacing or troubling the triumphal narrative of the emergence of a rational-critical sphere


THERMOS 6: Robert Fernandez

We close the first week of our Robert Fernandez feature today with this sequence of poems from our sixth issue. Written while Robert and we were in graduate school together, the poems are now nearly a decade old — and while Robert’s work has changed significantly in that time, these still hold surprises in them. What astonished us ten years ago astonished us when we took them three years ago, and does so again today. Our feature will continue all of next week, beginning Monday with some writing about Robert’s work done by Alex Walton. — AS



Child of the World



I


Suits, plural with hive-dope


        phlox,
wasps skin woundlets to shone-


blank: oval hemmed.
Sun: ping of graphite


in the stadium of the blind spot,
dithyramb of the virtual theatre.


Blood finds a fellowship
in freshwater / euthanizes


will / undressed and lain:
girded by the river’s shadow.




II


By holes we mean graphemes,
        cords of silence: the after (synesthet) of


verb: Lyrælis.


Augustine: allflesh in luster pockets,
    Thanatos of the gallery fugue.


            Slavish glottal            leash harried,
                your name of weather passing into


ibis nets: the herringbone stitch of the horizon.
    Thirty is twelve,     so visit us     sfumato.


          GANGSTERISM
serviteur closing his hands.




III


Atrophic languor slumps to June,
rots vortice hips in cherry groves


VORTI©ISM
of clicking sandals


Red cell of cordite powder
in which we seduce power


and conjure up the tree




IV


Week by week
I find my shape–


if the wound is cold
fire that smells like silk


rock of estuary,
jetty of perception


noon of
ordinary shapes,


but never Sunday
in a white poker dress


never on, like female
magistrating, never


globe-thread
or fuck-spot,


white prune or spoke,
brachycatalectic fascination,


judicious matter
or gender vine–


in time, we die because
the bull’s hooves are white




V


broad robe is a powdered
heat             a cup bearer


                  Hermes,
the feet have swollen shut


chiasmus alters the face,
      tongue of aspic snow


A book of hours
tells you its maiden name




VI


Zombie: white face, red hair
                Arthurian lacquer


The sun undoes its belt:


do not forget the threat level
or to peck into the anus of the ruby




VII


Promiscuous millet of the rain:
it never stops. There are only flowers.


They are each named Mary.


I tend the wound, clear the air.
The sun a federal prisoner in Miami, beside Noriega.




VIII


Homelessness is our liberation proposal,
the true quantitative revolutionary art.


Diamonds splinter but cannot flower.
The splinters carry the entire sky


and move collectively like airy brussle stalks.
I will be thirty-one when the blade changes to male/


All parentheticals, eternal.
Noon.




IX


The way the thunder trapped me:


grey glade,
eucalyptus:


cormorant like an oiled Hades
and heron traversing the scrim:


scissor buds,
SWAT roses:


forgive me, spine like
red jade I’ve carved


a dolphin across your
leaves




X


In our own hands,


in our own art,
I become other


white alligators




XI


Clamor: charmed,


constellated tree.


Traylor’s pig with corkscrew tail:


the bladder a lantern


swaying over Hialeah.


Hatred courses through the bardo–


charm splits its lamp lights:


wet tattoos on the arms of Adolfina.




XII


Noon:


blade that sends out spokes,
mandala in a sun-pocket,


thorny guitar,
mellific hive of a body.


I will not have had a drink.


The blank totem poem will have had too many.




XIII


Fear unwraps its calves. They
are banana leaves: sweet millet.


free canary muscle soup
                                    on Sundays


at the shelter. We burn coal.
The air is rich with peace.


I have invented a homeless body.


It is called Bromine, child of the rocks,
hardness of flowering mathematical life.



THERMOS 6: Shannon Burns

When I was a graduate student, Mark Leidner came to the bar one afternoon with a few copies of a chapbook called Preserving the Old Way of Life, just published by Factory Hollow Press. He said it was his favorite book, and it only cost a couple bucks. I opened it up to “Love Poem” and fell in love. I’ve taught poems from the book many times since, to the delight of unsuspecting poetry students each time. Jay Thompson was there that day, and he later asked Shannon for these (different) poems. Here they are, online at last, and I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. — AS




Prince of Persia


I’m in the desert but I have an idea
and the sand is fragrant. I’m forwarding grains
to other territories. The sand is strange but
I’m pushing on it.


Strands of elegant gold strewn on a knurled old tree
begin to rock and shudder and quake — it’s a party
or someone’s wedding, and a field of will comes
over the tree like a medicine and turns the gold
into a smooth, bright sand that rains on your face.


Somewhere your children shriek on a trampoline —
Even good children shriek!
and their shrieks turn to sand inside their mouths
and sandy their lips
and sandy their teeth
and they cough and spit
sand and shriek and shriek.


At home you find you are reclining on a knoll
of sand and roll duly onto your belly. The sand
roughs your cheek and goes in your ear forever.
Your repose is heavy on the knoll and changes it.


At dinner you begin to feel your knees rise
to meet the underpart of the table. Says your date
“You always look sad when you’re eating.”


A chair, collapsing beneath you, puts you
face-to-face with a dog. Do you know the dog?


In the not-great distance, a screen of sand
conceals the gathering speed of your enemy.


You’ve lost your hands. Withdraw them from the sand.


Please do not spend hours roaming
your hot house in the summer looking
for the things that have become sand.


Do not watch it form in the wake
of your lover’s noisy withdrawal.


I am only hollowing out a little groove
here in the desert that I may have a house
and fall around in it as you do.




Futuristic City


I’m looking everywhere for you
in a futuristic city. I see you through
a poisonous fog! Now I’m screaming
that I see you and howling.


The lights are horribly bright —
I rub my eyes hard until I’m
spiritedly massaging my face
and have forgotten you.


Acid rain falls on me and
I have forgotten you.
Futuristic debris is mauling me and
I have forgotten you.


My face is irritated and bigger.
My head is the futuristic moon but
gentle, flaming balmily like a past moon.
My eye sockets itch beneath my eyes
and spark dully. You are circling my swollen
lambent face and I have forgotten you.


Damn you’re suspended upside-down
from a hovercraft and trying to kiss me! But I am,
unbelievably, still massaging my face —
I have forgotten even politeness.


This city is a bitter joke, a cloud of bolts,
forget me. I am lost to my itchy familiar
moonface. Your hands are a blue odor-
less tumbleweed. I can’t quite feel you.




This Explains Everything


Last night I thought I felt a worm in my stomach. I thought it was a worm with a needle head and a needle tail. Not a snake. A fish. This explains everything. Every time I think I feel something extracurricular in my body I think for one second, this explains everything. There’s a knife floating in my neck. My bicep is ruffled. My heart is in my leg. This explains everything.

THERMOS 6: Carolyn Hembree

Another terrific New Orleans poet, Carolyn Hembree’s first book of poems, Skinny, came out with Kore Press in 2012. She is the poetry editor for Bayou, the literary journal produced by the University of New Orleans, where she teaches. The poems that follow are from the sequence that closes Skinny. — AS



from The Venus de Milo Tree



               ~I’ve always been fascinated by the secret life of horses….~


you see for once everything one                 eye on the fence
one on the horizon jump               your abdomen and front               legs swimming
jump on                              tiptoe your shadow           does not show you           tremor
               jump       gimme a minute jump                your ears pinned back fly
throw your head                                             to the side keep the tree               limb in
focus the wooden                        beam slams your ribcage                the fence posts
going to pieces half boards splinters flying fifteen feet or more behind as if they
were detonated from underneath                           your gums pulling back begin
getting dry          the hock joint under a bunch of boards               crisscrossed on
your side
                                                                           heave                      heave




               ~Time and Space Collapse! (as our narrator and soldier battle the elements)~


A soldier in my dream:
a puffed-up knuckle
through them driving gloves
driving a scraper
over the windshield,
dumping a bucket,
driving a scraper,
the drifts hither and yon….
Us jimmying [rupture] a truck handle.


First killing frost
you can’t with a brogan
with a steel toe
with a spade–
hell no!–
break.




               ~Intermission: (you know Mamie was always the toast of every evening)~


The chain spread-eagle, the briolette’s million faces making little lights on the walls–


A fistful of bone meal won’t help. It won’t help us, Venus.


There’s a spot I carved you’ll never spot!


At her throat (where the briolette would go) twist and pin a rosette.


Gentle Reader, what are ladies’ hands for? Why, for playing gospel and setting spit curls!


Don’t wire and drape a tree to look like a god and a woman.


Hands too for handing down handmade heirlooms and for keeping faces soft and new (buttercream is best).


Don’t try and put a head on nature.


A briolette, a mind on the wing–


Lost you lost in this lost that you see that you got that you and that you in that




               ~Details for Fortifying a Winter Tree~


November, use 10-gage galvanized steel to wire Venus from tree-rats, inch your way up from the roots to make it last until the north side where the bark’s gone thick and if it’s damn cold get an old sheet to drape it.




               ~Mamie daydreams of springtime~


Mamie’s face gone
                                               from babyish to serious, minuscule under her comforter.
Weeks now the right one (her side that works) sliding around under the comforter,
crinkling in the bed pad. Were she to grab the dresser to stagger up.


Draw it on the sawmill walls. A circle, five feet in diameter, of skin and liquid on
the linoleum. Our roan under a blanket spins and spins on its side to stagger up.
Pulls the glove off by your teeth run your fingers over the spotty coat, the spine, the
sacroiliac joint, hip joint, all jutting. The leg’s broke. Fast, get under it. Gripping
the cabinet door for leverage. The roan’s throat on our jeans, its skin pulled shiny,
mouthing like it were bitted, Who’s the martyr here?


                                 There’s a nest in the lowest branch of the Venus de Milo tree.