Posts Tagged ‘THERMOS 6’

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
            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

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

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

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


“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



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