when the self, J.I. Kleinberg
Stage of Isolation: Hunger
Getting It Down on Paper
I left a message with Saint Brigid
at her sacred well, lit a candle
in Rocamadour and made a wish.
Maybe you write about small moments, too—
like this morning’s lumpy oatmeal,
or the clock in the belfry ticking double-time.
Yesterday a bear crossed Stackpole Road,
galumphed into posted woods that shouted
Keep out. This means you.
I write to break and enter meaning—
bear, woods, earth, sky—
to appease Pelé when she erupts
in my gut, when talking takes too much effort
or because a dragonfly lingered on my arm.
I want to muck around in heartache,
what my first love called his little blue room,
my own sad samba. I want to taste
the sweet-salt tang of words that bite.
Autumn’s come again
with its cha-cha leaves and peach juice sky.
Can you taste the words, threads of red streaming through?
–> Pamela Ahlen
Poem swings her big butt down the hall,
disappears into the break room.
Poem is the office,
drudge-y and dreamy.
Poem carries on three conversations at once.
Poem’s got fast fingers, doesn’t wear glasses.
Poem ramps up the heartbeat, overheats the room,
takes over the meeting.
Poem follows me home.
Texts me. Tries to Facetime.
I don’t answer. I’m asleep.
Poem hates me.
Poem bangs on the door, batters the lock,
floats outside the window,
spies on me.
At work, I call a window washer to
sway thirty floors up, to wipe off
the sex, the message. And Poem’s breath.
Poem shows up unannounced, crowding into my cube.
I offer Poem coffee, decaf, chai tea,
a double espresso.
I can’t tell the difference between Poem and my desk,
between Poem and the fluorescent lights,
between Poem and the keyboard,
between Poem and my breath
between Poem and being alone.
–> Buffy Shutt
Letters Home: Ovid In Exile
Dear friends, you would be gratified to hear my exile to this furthest and most backwards edge of Empire has not seen the decline into melancholy that you foretold. Of course you would be gratified. I can picture your faces. I can hear your voices, almost hear them, murmuring approval, perhaps even offering gentle criticisms of how I occupy myself in solitary confinement.
I have nothing in common with the locals, barbarous of speech, of low esteem, barely able to leave their world, except I am intrigued by a craft or pastime of theirs, where the wild is tamed and made beautiful. It is referred to as gardening, about which I shall write more presently.
I have started work on the home of gardens itself, lawned, I think, with vistas of their ruins for contemplation. And in a nice touch, I have used humans for the spadework, though they prove reluctant and keep dying. I shall record images of my efforts as I progress, though I do not know why.
I continue as if these letters will be read one day, as if the gardens I make have worth in themselves and do not need the gaze of others to be real. I have heard that writing without an audience is like dancing in the dark. Here, I am the barbarian, understood by nobody. I notice I have taken to talking to myself. I wonder if I am losing my gift.
These locals have a myth about the first garden, and I have begun a project in which it is fashioned down to the smallest detail, complete with creatures, apple trees and a flaming sword. A garden, I think, must be more than the wilderness tamed, it must have a theme, like the art that it is. In this context, I am the invisible hand of god, the cause hidden, the effect visible to all.
The curse of the solitary. Upon reflection, my work seems flawed and pointless. Even my Adam and Eve keep escaping. Is it true that art cannot be created in isolation?
Their Saturn system was a wilderness, but after clearing out a moon or two, its rings could be coloured in the sequence that is called in human speech, a rainbow, after the tale of some petty god; next, a portrait of myself covering the Earth’s barren satellite; then the planet Mars, transformed from a desert to a shiny metal ball, most pleasing.
It is as I feared. The locals have a word, vulgar, and I see that I have committed the error of confusing a grandiose vision with what is simply beautiful. Being solitary corrupts, absolute solitude corrupts absolutely.
What would they have me do, these voices in my head? Trust yourself, they say, but the work is hard, and if there is no one to hear you, then surely silence is as worthwhile as speech.
Even so, here are more words.
So I Howl
it creeps in again
as I consider the fresh rejects
in my inbox
and ponder which editor’s throat
I’ll cram them down next
how much poetry
can the world stand?
aren’t we already drowning in it?
pages and pages of futility
that have changed nothing
that are but a pleasant distraction
from inevitable decay
maybe I’m not a poet, anyhow
maybe that’s the wrong way
of looking at it right now
tonight I’m just a stray dog
trapped behind a fence
and the moon is full
there’s nothing else
I can do
so I howl
and then I listen
can’t you hear it?
–> Brian Rihlmann
“What is allowed us is disagreeable, what is denied us causes us intense desire.”—Ovid, Amorum, Book 2
“Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!”—William Shakespeare, Othello
Foraging in the jungle for coconuts, you trip over something sticking out of the ground. On close inspection you realize it is part of a wooden chest, swollen with age. You manage to pull it out and break its rusted lock. Within you uncover stacks of rotting manuscripts,
all illegible, save for an unopened envelope
marked with the word:
Open the envelope
What would you like to try next?