Posts Tagged ‘Nik De Dominic’

Nik De Dominic: From Henry Sturgis’ Essay “The Iron Spine” from Old Adventures of the West

The following is a poem by Nik De Dominic made via a process of erasure on the text named in the title. It is published here for the first time. Nik provided this statement on the project:

“I xeroxed pages out of a book my mother had sent me that had a pretty cover, yellow and green. I’d had it for years and had never looked at it. I hadn’t written for awhile and thought I would try my hand at an exercise I often work through with students, manipulating a found text, to generate, to get me out of my own head and tics and language and habits and techniques and the things that were probably causing the block in the first place, the me. I eliminated phrases, redacting away with a black chisel tip marks-a-lot . I felt like a spy. Or rather a person who redacts things for spies. It felt good. When I was finished I sent it to my friend Andrew Wessels and told him I’d made an erasure. I wanted his approval. Andrew is much smarter than I am. When he read it, he wrote back, “This isn’t an erasure.” I could imagine him shaking his head and judging me. I asked why not. He said, “erasures (that at least seem to work best to me) are works that find an otherness in the text, an unintended result of the problems of circumscription in the derridean and/or de manian meaning of that. difference/difference/etc. i think reddy (either written somewhere or just in conversation) has mentioned it as a ghostly voice within the are finding your own story/poem there. the original text as generative for your own purposes. this poem feels like a nik de dominic poem/story.” I said, but Andrew, but I erased shit.”

From Henry Sturgis’ Essay “The Iron Spine” from Old Adventures of the West

          the raw afternoon

both oceans


                                                      a bystander



                                    the hissing
                                                      at the junction point

    “Dot, dot, dot.”

                                                                                          aswarm from headlight to cab

    now truly – physical –

                                                                                                            driven home.)

          each other’s pockets

                                                      and laying         under

them foolish. Nevertheless,


                                                      and lumbering along

                  Good Hope.
                                                                                         in the lush


                                    :a wagon            halts

                                                                                                                              the well-connected



                                                      Iron                  one         fate would scorn

                                                                              The job called for

                                                                                                                                                                  recalled years



I’m going to have         to do     it.

                                                                                                            probed deeper
                                                                                          the magic
                  tried to convince those who would listen

                                                                                                                                                as     harmless if tire-


now preoccupied

                                                                        he handed in

the mountains



                                                                                                                                                                        an old

and the Nevada flats beyond. That was it—
                                                                        for tunnel hogs and blasting crews.

Judah charged back                                                                         to his headquarters at
the drugstore.

                                                                                                                                                Judah went chumming
for bigger fish.
                                                                                          a number of fruitless meeting

                                                                                                                                                among them were

                                                                        a manipulator, a money raiser


                                                      a railroad to the Missouri.

                                    Judah told his wife

                                                                                                            “It’s about time


                                                                        in the construction of this road.”
                  a distinct asset:


                                                                                          the most wild-eyed

elephant.                                                       we can harness                                     up.
              What Judah did not know was

                  arm twisting

                                                                                                                                                                  Judah was

                                                                                                                                                                  alluvial soil

The cronies were                                                                         an eye

                                                                        later estimated

                                                                                                                              a number

                  Judah                   boarded a steamer for the East,

                                    he died.

the widow.                       got on with     heir business


                  prime mover.

                                    ,                       (seated, third from left) .

                  schemes afoot. For Instance,

men in the field.

You are about to build                                                       a country that has
neither law nor order.

                                                                        he was ordered to
pacify some of the more troublesome
troops of horses.

                                                                                          “Nobody knows where he is but everybody
knows where he has been.”

railroads could                       issue

                                                                        the Missouri River
The Lord           so constructed

                                                                                                            fit to belong
to the profession.” There were, however, two major hazards: distance and Indians.

                                                                                          “Away she goes!” Then,         the
                  rail boomed

                                                                                                                                                the spikers and clamp-
ers                                                                                                                                           carried iron rods,
steel bars, cable, rope, switchstands,


                                                                                                                              A reporter from
the                   Deseret
                  the flatcars;

Some                                                                                                             work                   in the High

So efficient

                                                                        one mile of

                  frantic race

                                                                                                                                                                  to their
considerable joy
                                    gamblers, peddlers, and prostitutes, all eager

                                                                                                                                                  the pleasure-mon-


                                                                                                                                                “Watchfires gleam
                                    “while inside soliders

                                                                                                                              a fellow creature

Sierras.                                                                         the terrible                                                       everyone.


                                                                        in daylight unwhipped

                  In                   daylight                                                       gliding through

                                                                                                            slung to                         waist.”



                                                                                                                                                                  passing out
riffles                                                                                           his toughest ironmen, walked slowly
through town one summer night.

there in the graveyard

Several small advance parties of
trapped                                                                         in the flaming

                                                                                                            an iron horse alive


fused with magic
medicine rope                                                                                                                                       swept under
the wheels


little or no damage

                  the work of road                                                                                           the work of


                                                                                          the ink
The fact


                                                                                                                                                the                   good

                                                                                          The securities

                  The kited profits

                                                                                          The referee


changes my line I’ll quit the road

                                                                                                                                                                  the road

                                                      We all want                   to say with the road.


                                                                                                                                                                  there was
                                                                        the line

                                    no trouble at all –
                                                      passes to ride                                                       and

                                                      the assault

                                    Roaring                                                                                                                             cease-
lessly, bragging, bullying

summit passes

                                                                                                            Flat on his back

                                                                                                                              shouting profane


                                                                        scheme, and the remaining

                                    (standing under bird cage) settled the quarrel between
                  evening                                                             s
water, boiled

                                                                        sheer                                     rock                   miles from the
                                                      wove baskets of reeds

                                                                                                                                                while the nitro blew.

                  the fall

                                                      hitched                         to

                  death in canyon bottoms:

                                                                                          The                   ordeal was over.

                                                      the                               boys spurred ahead.

              When they came     rivers or ravines,

                                                                                          Snow and even                   river ice
                                    laid rail                                                       so narrow
in the water

                  to carve parallel                   within sight of each other.


                                                                        of the nonsense

                  on a junction point

                  from sunup to sundown                                                                         for
ten miles and two hundred feet.

                                    it began to rain

                  the mud to champagne
                                                                                                                                                The track hands
                                                                        drunk                                                                         ramshackle

                                                                                                            rails met

                                                                        What was it the engines said,


                                                                                                                                    this was one hell of a way to
build a railroad.

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


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

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

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



content spill

the asphalt:

countless rubber bands

rubbers the bands

child’s skull

metal electroplating

metal salad bowl

cupric cupid




A church

sides the roadside

tinny bodies

all ten ears

grounded await


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


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

PXP 2013: Schedule of Events

THERMOS’s editors will all be in New Orleans Nov. 7-9 to host the second annual Poetry Exchange Project Symposium at Tulane University and at other locations in the city. All events are free and open to the public. If you’re in the area, please stop by. — AS

Friday, Nov. 8 (Tulane campus, St. Charles Ave. side)

11:30am: PXP presentations, Norman Mayer Hall, Rm. 125
            Students from Tulane, University of Georgia, and University of the Arts deliver
            presentations of completed PXP projects.

1:00 pm: Panel A: Poetry Beyond the Classroom (Norman Mayer Hall, Rm. 200B)
            Moderator: Dan Rosenberg
            Panelists: Nik De Dominic, Melissa Dickey, Anne Marie Rooney, Jay Thompson
1:00 pm: Panel B: Poetic Lineage (Norman Mayer Hall, Rm. 125)
            Moderator: Andy Stallings
            Panelists: Peter Cooley, Robert Fernandez, Carolyn Hembree, Laura Walker

2:00 pm: Panel C: The Life of Contemporary Poetry (Norman Mayer Hall, Rm. 200B)
            Moderator: Zach Savich
            Panelists: Matt Hart, Mary Hickman, Paul Killebrew, Teresa Villa-Ignacio


3:30 pm: Ian Zelazny Memorial All-City Student Reading (Norman Mayer Hall Rm. 200B)
            25-30 students from schools and universities around the city and region read poems.

6:00 pm: PXP Keynote Reading (Rogers Memorial Chapel)
            Robert Fernandez, Matt Hart, Mary Hickman, Paul Killebrew, Anne Marie Rooney and Laura
            Walker read new poetry.

9:30 pm: Party and Concert (2433 St. Claude Ave., Entrance on Music St., byob)
            Students and symposium participants are all invited!

Saturday, Nov. 9 (Buddhist Community Center, 623 N. Rendon St.)

12:00 pm: Hunter Deely Memorial Reading
            Brief readings by Carroll Beauvais, Megan Burns, Carrie Chappell, Peter Cooley, Nik De
            Dominic, Melissa Dickey, Cassandra Donish, Maia Elgin, Rebecca Morgan Frank,
            Elizabeth Gross, Michael Jeffrey Lee, Kay Murphy, Brad Richard, Dan Rosenberg,
            Zach Savich, Shelly Taylor, Jay Thompson, Afton Wilky, Mark Yakich