Thursday, November 29, 2007

NEW! Poetry by Nathalie Stephens

Nathalie Stephens

from T H E S O R R O W A N D T H E F A S T O F I T

The dead warn copiously against love.

I spent the last of winter emptying sand from my shoes. From end to end of a single long shore interrupting the sea. Walking. As though cobble could account for grief. And my feet could subdue the sovereignty of retreat. It was a moment of many moments with my two arms swinging and my hands tied. The water ran over and sifted me. Weathered me. Until I became dark rock and the hard waters below. It was a whole edge of earth splintering. Where skin split runoff endangered me.

All the waters of the world run to the sea. To where the earth is comfortable and worn.

We wash the dirt from our hands. We are that cowardly.


Just as I was leaving.

The citydust fretting the street. It was a book of many fragilities. The sanctioned, the vilified, the meek. J. said an inhumanity. For the poised the poisoned the constancy. I wanted to touch what was underneath. To dislodge the body from performance gesture from posture. To make the heart the first place. Before even the mother. Before even the sea.

It was the brother’s voice came after me. The son of the mother. The brother of la fille. It was the book’s spine breaking the weight of my fingers. It was the body’s weight subtracted from the body’s breach. A hollow hollowing. Sutured. Stuttering. A book marked folded. Smouldering.

It was unloved smothering. The small hands gathering spit sleet. The momentum of the thing coming at me. The many faced years pressed up hard against concrete. Night ground into me. The broken the breaking.

Whoever said Nathalie founded that trajectory. Threaded me l’aporie. Then said pointing an ugliness a discrepancy. A girlness unremedied.

It was sleep unsleeping. Edging body from earth. Mouth from an architecture of misery. The soft words from the soft place unheeded.


Say: Distance is only distance insofar as it displaces you. Desire as it broadens you. The wide pall of earth is an emptiness, a yearning. Listen for the call of the beasts. For the light pad over wood of animal feet.

Say: What sacrificed want for need weakened humanity.


Every distance is a walkable distance.

The city designed a body of conjecture. A body of seemingly. Took the bone-crack of grief and laid it alongside the iron railings, the steel spikes, the concrete reefs. Grafted that relief onto a sublimated geography. Made distance decisive, unmysteried. Pushed what was splayed in deep. Wanted for a certainty. A fantasy of free.

So walk with me. To the cut edge of winter. To the carved out memory of sleep. Set fire to the cities welling out of me.

We fashioned ourselves of genealogies. Of bloodshed. Falsified the familiar gesturings.

I will tell you: The thing kissed into me. The thing made the city unsightly.

Ran. Runs from me.


[ … ]


Must I defend the maddened against the maddening?

Truss the unruly legs of speech for the sanctity of the bindery. Touch what became unsheathed. The language of what is unspeakable. Unseen.

The body anticipates its own retreat. Furrows into the blood drained carcass. Opens itself along a thin edge of steel. Beckoning defeat. Something more wild. Less complete.

There is a savagery to telling. How the body becomes disorderly. What is held, then misled. The mother foresaw the first disgrace. From inside years of the same wounded tirade. Etched like this finely on the body’s page. It is nothing worth reading. It is all the torn paper from all the worn books rutting the many bookshelves. It is all the cities burning. It is all the water running from all the mouths into the charcoaled streets. It is the very plague that surrenders grief to some implacable enemy.

So how will you guard against the frayed edge of sleep? The brother’s breach? How will you love what is unloved in the first place? Trace the blooded furrows to where the body has no need for names?

It is too much anticipating. The climb and then fall. The cut and then bleed. The hammer then cleave. The language then call.

What was madness was simply the sound of bones breaking. And the noise that buried them.


Say to me: Nathanaël the thing I held in the palm of my hand. It was the play of light on water. It was the same stone buried twice. It was the drought and the waterfall. It was the dry desert of the mouth. And the knot of desire hardened in the groin. It was the body unfolded from its pain. It was the overgrown streets and the whole earth in rain.

Say to me again and again: Nathanaël you were not born into this. The wind came and I touched your name. Nathanaël. Again and again. Nothing remains.


I hadn’t intended for.

The thing coiled at the base of the spine.

I stand at the foot of Gordon Street and beckon the rivers to me. It is as close as I will get to remembering. But for the hollow on my tongue and the cleft in my chest. The heart grows a wilderness and the dogs roam freely. I offer them the impartiality of suffering. The throb of some memory beneath a plate of steel. A finely etched carving suffocating the body’s ability to feel.

What then? Touch the place beside me. It is full of having been. That whole length of living. From the lake to O’Connor and no place in between.


Who do the wounded wound?

Who wanders a finite distance along a dark road up a steep hill to a rock jutting out to sea? Says: Steal into me. Wake me from sleep. Spill out of me.

The drowned are drowning here in this hemisphere. We’ve discontinued the waters for something less deep.

There is a symmetry of rutted and bleed. In this particular fantasy the train derails and we walk on. It is not so much a courage as it is an insistence. To touch what doesn’t want touching. To maim ourselves any way we please.

Says: History girded me. Placed reinforced walls right in the middle of me. It was up and then over. And again and again. With a small knife in my teeth that I swallowed each time I fell. Where were you when the earth came at me? When the sweep of that particular dream left? I held your voice from the phone and the eight words you wrote. It was the many pages tearing. It was the many lines stopping. It was the many gardens stifled by the earth hardening. It was the swell of your organs against a particular memory. It was all the ways for leaving. And again and again. You might have caught me. It was up and then over. Every time I fell.

Doesn’t say: Make me.

Our bones break when we drop to our knees.


The book began as a misgiving.

As an obstruction, albeit pliable. It was possible, then, to lean into it. To crease the unworn face and speak it from a particular sensorial fold. It was open even as it closed. It was a whole earth that wanted rescuing. And the waters that submerged.

What a place.

What goes in is one thing. But what came out hung on the way the jaws of little dogs do. So I hung on too.

What have I to show for it? Book shelves lined with Celan, Kofman, Pizaranik. And a long white scar from breastplate to groin. It was the heart wanted bisecting. All that bile spilling out. It was the fingers wanted evidence of some soft bloody thing. The blade was rusted. The wooden hilt came off in my hands. Not so much what washes off as washes under.

The day you arrived you placed your two hands against a pane of glass. For the light. For the viscosity. It might have gone something like that. Had it not been for the little dog’s jaws and all that water.


Where the beasts run the skin folds over and over. It is what is wild to begin with, the fall of hooves, the shiver of the whole earth, the whole earth shivers, that certainty. And the question that follows. The sky unanswering and our dark eyes closing. What touches is less certain than the word set against it. Is a rush of water over land that migrates into the sea. Is the mind’s inability to recall even the simplest of things. The mouth emptied of its names. A body unfolding. A voice demanding Surrender me. Body to mouth. Earth to atmosphere. It is all the ways in which we come apart. It is all the ways in which we agree to leave.


There is not enough night until morning.

The blood gorged vessels open what is closed. The tightly fisted muscle loosens its hold. A surge of sound from the viscera.

We run our hands through the ravages. We touch the relic of a thing once whole. As though the hands in that thick liquid foraged a wildness that might yet be human, a substance that needn’t yield to form, a heart, the shape of which is unknown.

Who wanted for that fantasy? For the command of what is fearsome forlorn. For the rending the rendering.

The place where we walk is already miseried and our feet heed the lament of the fragile ground.

What might enter what is open that might be offering? That might bleed for the bloodied and kiss the earth’s swollen mouth in mourning.

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