after Anthony Opal’s cento sonnets
In the wet dreaming room seventeen and a half boys masturbate on seventeen and a half make-believe beds, sleeping hands tied round seventeen and a half blue roses blooming to the organ-grinder’s song. In every way, they are their sustained melodic breakdown, un-adorned emotion cast off outside our atonal scudding. O let me dream not the logic of boats but of rooms billowing with brackish wine, you and me lost at sea, reed-deep in the technical journals. We are a helpless make-believe presence deteriorating except in alcohol. Do you want me to take off my human myself? Sailboat, frail boat—ugly and marvelous body! There [...]
[come to me, sweet stranger]
come to me, sweet stranger, and make of me a moment, a nostalgia, to give to the wind, to give to the one, who is standing there, at the meeting place, where the safety is immense, and not to tangle with, where the sentence can arrive, as though through a spaciousness, surrounding her, through its particulars, through its split, integument, intangible, what she will take, what she will have, to wander, with, over the paths, with their names in tow, in time, a morning, a motive,
come to me, sweet stranger, and make of me a ruthlessness, out of the fatigue, a furlough or [...]
The Stag and the Quiver
Once there was a deer called stag. A white breasted, a many pointed. He refused to still when he halted, the hooves in his mind were always lifted. Everything comes close, the branches slide. In a clearing made of cleavings, stag sees another stag. They watch each other, they share no story. I will not cross you and you must move on. There is nothing else. It reminds me of some tale, stay with me to remember, it reminds me of where I was going without you.
The hunter sinks his arrows into the trees and then paints the targets around them. [...]
Way before the title fights, I dressed in my older sister’s Clothes I stole and danced And hummed and kicked up Dust for neighborhood boys— As they sat in Hawkin’s field, Rolling corn silk in newspaper To smoke, while I, in reverie, Began a whorling version of “Are You Washed in the Blood?” For the last smithereens of me To be born beyond a god of mine.
The Valley of I Hate Myself
After a few years of You can have me if you don’t hurt me and You can kiss me if you promise to leave soon, I pack my stuff and head south. I drive past the ranch style homes of I like to watch it burn and the freakish dust bowl of If I can’t have you no one will, and into the valley of I hate myself. Forget the bad weather and the dead weight of ghosts, the plus sides make themselves immediately clear: if you plant something, it is almost certain to grow, if you want to live off the land, there [...]
Hallmark meteorology: a little what-if weather sworn over time to the ridgeline conditions the basiners downvalley to the lucky look of trouble. In an updraft apprehension replenishes the cloud, a steady sort of borrowing
against promise. Welling at bottom, a slow spring fills centrally where it plummets, a sump and font that fills
convexity out to its inky meniscus, whether there the landmark melancholy were owing to the mirror it lends the blotted sky or to the condition of abysses. A cygnet is drawn anyway, milky, apprehensive,
to water’s edge, to study his launch, and fixes his look across the curvature, a creature whose rarity may—look
again—enrapture each round-turning [...]
Blue Water Navy
Darling, the world, it will come at you with the migrating eyes of flounder traveling through the matter of their own heads having reimagined axis and ground. There is a certain parasite that turns a crab from male to female, or is it female to male? The average male armadillo’s penis is larger than that of some gorillas. I can’t help it if most facts are, in fact, facts about sex. Don’t bother pretending; don’t try to fix this for me. We acquire debt. An animal is able to live in captivity which is where we take our measurements. Watching them go at it sometimes we like [...]
Aubade While Falling
From here, the smallest increment above the sheet, I plummet. We know the law: we are all repulsive. Nothing touches anything else. A café and some version of you, impatient, dressed in furs, but this alleyway circuit board. I never know who’s chasing me. Define close as nearby though not imminent: you are close, but not here. The warm vacuum between us, not your skin, but the sensation of force. I am a magnet. I am a pole. In this mountain village, gravity is a lie we tell to feel connected. I know what’s coming. Pigeons scatter. Nothing solid in the stairwell. From this height, I watch [...]
Vince Neil’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua, As Transcribed by Josh, in a Crowded Hotel Bar One Afternoon, Being a Poem Spoken in the Future, During the Upcoming AWP Conference of 2014, in Seattle, Washington
Of the latter heroes I was most supine, handed out warnings to women who were pregnant or were likely to become pregnant, hope tucked bloodless into saddlebag, neither hunter nor borrower, sometimes referred to myself as It— as in charity is its bird machine—a strap-on fashioned out of bits of the foregone cross coming at me from the future in the tiniest and the most lineal of dreams, my preferred haruspex pondering her retirement and [...]
Sockets You feed yourself frothy maple Greek
mousse whip. Each bite a virgin.
Promiscuity and sloth no longer sins
after what you've done.
Or you have perfect understanding
of past events which no longer
seem unjust. Your “Oh”
a sphere, a song.
But in the afterlife,
roots rip from your sockets,
new brains in their tips,
scouting for water
Rae Armantrout's most recent books of poetry are Just Saying (2013) and Money Shot (2011). Versed (2009) received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. She teaches at the University of California, San Diego.
A Life in the Theater
I was wrong, I shouldn’t have picked up the phone
just to read you the line you already knew from the review
the reviewer wrote that said you were no good in the play I can’t remember
and only came to see because it was you alive somewhere else in it—shining below the fake sun
and I was in love with something you said or thought or willed into being
because of just being back in the boat with the living after swimming too far out and for so long just
to meet living again. I struggled to get on board and join the [...]
I will not think about tripe. I will not think about tripe and its opulent crate of brown sponge. I will not think about tripe because I don’t want tripe to be a thought of me stored in my dimpled entrails. I don’t want to be tripe boiled and thought about or fattened with grotesque drippings of phrene from head bending like tripe and its deep tube of encyclopedic justice. If tripe plumps I don’t want to eat just the fleshy leaves of cabbage growth. I don’t want your vegetable and arborescent creed to halve the pomegrantian blisters filled with red tropes and white homeomeries of advancement. When I [...]
54 Prince There exist 54 Goldilocks planets 54 planets not too hot 54 planets not too cold 54 planets where the living is juuuuuust right in that particular planetary zone
54 planets like Earth but not Earth Similar not the same 54 planets close but different Different except for Prince
Assless Pants Prince High-Heel Boots Prince Purple Rain Prince Paisley Park Prince I Would Die For You Prince Ejaculating Guitar Prince Jehovah’s Witness Prince Needs A New Hip Prince Wrote Slave On His Face Prince Took An Unpronounceable Symbol For His Name Prince Chka Chka Chka Ahh Prince
54 planets each with a Prince and every Prince exactly [...]
The Storm We Call Progress
Strum and concept, drum and bitterness, the dog of history keeps being blown into the present— her back to the future, her last supper simply becoming the bowels’ dissolving memory in a heap before her. A child pats her back and drones there-there while under her lifted skirt is a perfect today where a cult of ghost-lovers predicts a rapture but instead remains to inherit varicose veins, rubber knickers, douches with bulbs, douches with bags, girdles in a choice of pink, red or white, and in rubber, silk or twilled linen, enemas, clysters, oils balms, and other Benjamin etceteras burrowing like scabies into the [...]
It’s a cold rehearsal before we all drive off. The ride out is mindless and short on goodbyes. And in the flurry of parties she lost her passport. A slow smoke, a think in the old car… how they moved through their places and phrases and onto the bedroom where mostly we kept it all in. People won’t tell you, but if you lose enough things you do become something. All day the water endlessly filters so it’s not the same pool. In the morning our photos looked darker than us and the subject we were was a gamble (I know). The night winds came through and the [...]
The War Vase
None of the words in my voice are my own. What I can see I see only through your eyes: the tempera gold leaf—my vessel, my vim. The accumulation of all my reflections; your face is older now too. Still, I am rash— a prize above the fray. Spared in the minds of those who will not spare each other. Emanation is a light that can shine from one’s own body. But ruder powers do the job I cannot do myself. My only enemies are those who will not fight for me. Thomas Devaney is the author of The Picture that Remains (The Print Center, Philadelphia, [...]
Like a Prayer
Everyone must stand alone with other loners. The black lace
veils from every other chapel- goer, all the doves mourning
a boy-star petered out too soon. Heaven help me slip through
the bars of this brick house shattered by blue light, glum moon
fidgeting with shadow. The boy’s black light vision. His sideways
ways of painting wings, crowns, anointed words and words
backtracked. Track back a beginning, what the cave muralists
meant. Not the death of the beast but the brilliant red, the rigid white
of bones. Raise folded hands and a fur-gilded skull. Crown yourself
with horns, most elegant weapons. And with slowly going embers
Consider Yourselves All “Debbie”
Dear Debbie, why is it so hard to understand? The accident was me. It was in me, it was on me, it keeps getting written all over my face. Watch your tongue, you might say, or, go ahead and fix your face. But help is on the other side, Debbie, my good one, it’s stuck in profile, Debbie, it’s not on its way. Use our arms as your arms, the ditch lilies beckon. There, they say, now you know what it’s like to be pleasantly ignored. We keep all the wrong appointments, Debbie. Sunday bleeds into Monday and unlike flowers, Monday will not be ignored. Because. [...]
Day My Father Died
Friday, June 24th. It’s easy to remember, being halfway before and after. Record low temperature. November 22nd draws close. By now, in 2005, he told me he needs to go somewhere. The day my father died, I could not cry; my mother did. His face on the pillow in the faux moonlight. Rote morning, black and white, I was walking home from the library carrying nine books. That’s the way my memory sees it, but I can’t know exactly nine. “It was the worst day of my life.” The Day My Father Died (updated with pictures). Rate: 36 Flag. Explain why. We laid flowers on [...]
Poem Ending with a Phrase from Federico Garcia Lorca The last time I saw Lorenzo he was wearing a blind man’s glasses and holding the leash of a seeing-eye dog
though he isn’t blind and he doesn’t have a dog and his name isn’t Lorenzo but Bruce.
Who can explain why a man might dance on the ledge outside his office five flights above the Hudson River?
The city with five boroughs and two thousand bridges fits on one side of the coin my father gave me to give to a beggar.
It remains in my pocket as I look out the window on the day of my [...]