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I was in New York City last month, and from my seat on the N train crossing the bridge, I looked at the Lady. Hello, Lady.


The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tosst to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

-- Emma Lazarus
elisem: (Default)

Praying Drunk

Our Father who art in heaven, I am drunk.
Again. Red wine. For which I offer thanks.
I ought to start with praise, but praise
comes hard to me. I stutter. Did I tell you
about the woman whom I taught, in bed,
this prayer? It starts with praise; the simple form
keeps things in order. I hear from her sometimes.
Do you? And after love, when I was hungry,
I said, Make me something to eat. She yelled,
Poof! You’re a casserole!—and laughed so hard
she fell out of the bed. Take care of her.

Next, confession—the dreary part. At night
deer drift from the dark woods and eat my garden.
They’re like enormous rats on stilts except,
of course, they’re beautiful. But why? What makes
them beautiful? I haven’t shot one yet.
I might. When I was twelve, I’d ride my bike
out to the dump and shoot the rats. It’s hard
to kill your rats, our Father. You have to use
a hollow point and hit them solidly.
A leg is not enough. The rat won’t pause.
Yeep! Yeep! it screams, and scrabbles, three-legged, back
into the trash, and I would feel a little bad
to kill something that wants to live
more savagely than I do, even if
it’s just a rat. My garden’s vanishing.
Perhaps I’ll merely plant more beans, though that
might mean more beautiful and hungry deer.
Who knows?
                   I’m sorry for the times I’ve driven
home past a black, enormous, twilight ridge.
Crested with mist, it looked like a giant wave
about to break and sweep across the valley,
and in my loneliness and fear I’ve thought,
O let it come and wash the whole world clean.
Forgive me. This is my favorite sin: despair—
whose love I celebrate with wine and prayer.

Our Father, thank you for all the birds and trees,
that nature stuff. I’m grateful for good health,
food, air, some laughs, and all the other things
I’m grateful that I’ve never had to do
without. I have confused myself. I’m glad
there’s not a rattrap large enough for deer.
While at the zoo last week, I sat and wept
when I saw one elephant insert his trunk
into another’s ass, pull out a lump,
and whip it back and forth impatiently
to free the goodies hidden in the lump.
I could have let it mean most anything,
but I was stunned again at just how little
we ask for in our lives. Don’t look! Don’t look!
Two young nuns tried to herd their giggling
schoolkids away. Line up, they called. Let’s go
and watch the monkeys in the monkey house.
I laughed, and got a dirty look. Dear Lord,
we lurch from metaphor to metaphor,
which is—let it be so—a form of praying.

I’m usually asleep by now—the time
for supplication. Requests. As if I’d stayed
up late and called the radio and asked
they play a sentimental song. Embarrassed.
I want a lot of money and a woman.
And, also, I want vanishing cream. You know—
a character like Popeye rubs it on
and disappears. Although you see right through him,
he’s there. He chuckles, stumbles into things,
and smoke that’s clearly visible escapes
from his invisible pipe. It makes me think,
sometimes, of you. What makes me think of me
is the poor jerk who wanders out on air
and then looks down. Below his feet, he sees
eternity, and suddenly his shoes
no longer work on nothingness, and down
he goes. As I fall past, remember me.


-- Andrew Hudgins, The Never-Ending: New Poems
elisem: (Default)
Lion and Angel Dividing the Maple Between Them

Easy to see
that the lion and angel
are one visitation,
but how do you come
to offer your throat to either?
In autumn, the trees
learn to drop off
both their disguises,
what finally fills them is simple.
The heart's deepest
affections will equally be devoured.
And still we go ankle deep
into that carnage, lifting first one,
then another part up to the light.
As if we were looking for something simple.
As if what we wanted
were not the thing that falls.

- Jane Hirshfield, The Lives of the Heart


I have loved this poem for a long time now. And I love Jane, who is my friend. Also this poem makes me remember another friend, Sharon Bishop, who loved the trees in winter best because then she could see their innermost shapes.
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I'm going to do this thing. Might not manage it every day, but I'll do a bunch of days. To start, since I am in an indescribable mood, here's Richard Siken:
 
 
Visible World
 
    Sunlight pouring across your skin, your shadow
                                                                   flat on the wall.
         The dawn was breaking the bones of your heart like twigs.
You had not expected this,
                 the bedroom gone white, the astronomical light
                                                    pummeling you in a stream of fists.
     You raised your hand to your face as if
                   to hide it, the pink fingers gone gold as the light
streamed straight to the bone,
       as if you were the small room closed in glass
                                                 with every speck of dust illuminated.
         The light is no mystery,
the mystery is that there is something to keep the light
                                                                                 from passing through.
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"Poetry survives because it haunts and it haunts because it is simultaneously utterly clear and deeply mysterious; because it cannot be entirely accounted for, it cannot be exhausted." -- Louise Gluck, in the foreword to Katherine Larson's "Radial Symmetry" (Yale Series of Younger Poets).
elisem: (Default)
Yep, I'm the new poetry editor for Apex magazine.

Right now, I'm writing the submission guidelines. In another venue*, I found myself musing on what ... OK, ranting on what people shouldn't send me. I thought I'd better bring it over here for your reading delectation.



Don't Send Me:

1) Anything you wrote after thinking, "Oh, speculative poetry must be
an easy sell, especially for a mainstream poet like myself. I'll just
stick a unicorn in it or a spaceship or something. After all, there
cannot possibly be a vibrant poetry culture already going on there,
with some kick-ass poets."

2) Anything whose remarkable element is merely that it is speculative.
(It may be remarkable to you, but it's bread and butter to us.) Don't
just wave a neat idea or a set of atmospheric phrases around and call
it a poem. Go somewhere with it. No, take us somewhere with it. Or
bring that somewhere to us. Or make us see that it's been here all
along, underneath.

3) Anything written from a position of apathy about or contempt for
the genre of speculative fiction. Love the genre of speculative fiction
because it speaks to you. Or love-hate it because it speaks to you but
leaves you out much of the time -- and then write me something that
brings your speculative cosmos into focus.


However, if you really want to triumph, break any of these rules by
writing something so brilliant that I have to buy it anyhow. (This is
known as the Mike Ford method.)


*The WELL, if you were wondering.

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Elise Matthesen

January 2017

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