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.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

NEW! Poem by Marcus E. Darnell

Marcus E. Darnell


The cat's head is mashed by the wheel;
it steams,
the fluorescence devours.

The luncheon meat flowers up the fridge,
the roach sniffs beneath the fridge,

assumes: fresh kill.
A cloud from the pig factory
is bait to the bats,

while sister chicken prays
in the guillotine shed.
Mrs. Schurman is doing a

wrist job into the bathtub.
What would dead Mr.
have said, seeing these

home-cooked, fresh bleeding
lips on her wrists?
The roach smells her juice:

it must be the juice
of Jesus, he longs
to eat Jesus.

Bats pick gnat meat
from the pig air.
They faint, drop

when too much pig cloud
has come along.
It's raining mice.

The chicken hears
the rabid downpour,
thinks the bathtub lady

has come for her eggs
or meaningful guts.
The luncheon meat world

and the bathtub
blood heaven
yank the roach's soul apart,

who to eat and find peace in.
The Mrs. dizzies out:
why did he leave me

alone to eye the death
of this dry neighborhood
while he is munched

in the ground
on that fucking
Holy Hill?

I can't hold his sweaty
hand on the porch
anymore while behind

yellowed shades
stains are being made,
oh my thin Lord!

She feels nothing for
the cat brains swarming
with bats rejuvenated

by the pig cloud.
They swarm like the gnats
they bagged.

The fluorescence is hungry
again and angel-wings out
to that salty,

sexed pig air.
The factory lurches
inches closer, but

only at this preyish
time of night.
Inside the factory

unholy things happen
to meat--
the chicken knows,

and the Mrs. would
have known had she lived
to whack off

the chicken's humanly
begging head, but
the factory is another

sphere with its own
foul disciples
harpooning sacrifices

through the eyeballs.
The factory is
a honey-cured hell

blessed be.
The chicken shits
an egg in an effort

to be saved.
The bats flee to
chimneys--they've had

too much pig air.
The kitty bones
still steam.

The bats activate
their upside-down acids.
They dream of snouts.

The fridge's hum
begins to stutter
and choke: the ham thinks.

The Mrs., drained,
doesn't leave herself
as long as she is flesh.

The fat in her brain
quivers, the roach
chooses religion

between her legs;
he'll live like a scarab
in her coffin till

Ra tells him otherwise.
The chicken is the last
awake in the night.

Her eggs cracks open
before she can squat.
She has the privilege

to see her abortion
as the golden Eye.
It is not meat

but it smells of pig.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Nathaniel Tarn on "difficulty and obscurity"

"While it is true that the great discoveries of modernism preceded the academicization of 'creative writing,' my sense is that the progression of 'writing' toward unreadability has been helped by that academicization. Many have commented on the disappearance of a true avant-garde and its replacement by avant-gardism... [see Paz quote below] I see this as a prolongation of experimentation usually leading further on from collage and montage into ever-increasing fragmentation and eventually into a degenerative disease which, adapting an already common usage, I call 'disjunctivitis.' The argument, used by some producers who, correctly locating the seats of available power in the academy, have ensconced themselves therein every bit as much as the establishment 'mainstream,' to the effect that the disruption of the common linguistic coin is part of a war against 'late-capitalist' discourse is singularly inept. I do not see oppressed workers of any kind devouring the products of avant-gardism. The death-of-the-author thematics, as commonly adapted, are another inanity: when society does its very best to homogenize us, what is wrong with a strong, knowledgeable, and responsible ego crying in the darkening wildnerness?"

At the beginning of the piece, Tarn quotes Octavio Paz's "Corriente Alterna" (1973): "If imitation becomes mere repetition, the dialogue ceases and tradition petrifies; if modernity is not self-critical, if it is not a sharp break and simply considers itself a prolongation of 'what is modern,' tradition becomes paralyzed. This is what is taking place in a large sector of the so-called avant-garde. The reason for this is obvious: the idea of modernity is beginning to lose its vitality. It is losing it because modernity is no longer a critical attitude but an accepted, codified convention ... it has become an article of faith that everyone subscribes to ... all this raking of the coals can be reduced to a simple formula: repetition at an ever-increasing rate. Never before has there been such frenzied, barefaced imitation masquerading as originality, invention, and innovation."

from "Octavio Paz, Anthropology, and the Future of Poetry" (1999) in The Embattled Lyric (2007)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Nathaniel Tarn on "competitiveness"

"Bored to death on the one hand by the interminable repetitions of the MFA clones of their MFA teachers and, on the other, by the unreadable so-called writing of the reigning avant-gardists, the last general reader left, faced in addition with this lemming-like overpopulation, has a desperate need of selection. This leads straight into the terminus of competitiveness: the winner-take-all syndrome, another familiar 'late-capitalist' life-enhancing marvel. The award system is the crowning glory of this syndrome. It is deleterious not because it is unjust (nothing human is perfect) but because it inflicts an apparently consensual body of opinion on a public not usually aware of its options. The moneybags, playing it even more safely than the universities, select a group of allegedly trustworthy canonizers and mainstream writers conveniently gathered in a number of 'Academies'--a group in whom the public can be induced to trust since they are already, are they not, 'so trustworthy'--and regularly disburse large sums ... almost always into the pockets of the already fortunate."

from "Octavio Paz, Anthropology, and the Future of Poetry" (1999) in The Embattled Lyric (2007)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Nathaniel Tarn on interdisciplinarity

"...while everyone today in the academy pays lip service to interdisciplinary work, such work only has to appear on the scene for it to face almost insuperable difficulties in being consumed, respected, taught, published, and generally treated as a part of culture. Our specializationism, to coin an awful word meant to double-underline the depth of our classificatory disease, is that strong."

from "Translation/Antitranslation // Culture/Multiculture," in The Embattled Lyric