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October 3, 2016 | Poetry

Five Poems

Elizabeth Cantwell

Five Poems photo

How Come No One On Twitter Is Talking About This

The eye   a camera humming across the top of the earth : cavern  
gully    ravine    gorge    Far below    a tiny man jumps into a tiny pool    Black
pool    wet pool    pool pooling around itself    a
shimmering thing in the night    Did I mention the night    Hot and dry
on our faces    Another word for dry is incommunicado    I am not
going to apologize for this
anger    This eye like a knife cutting through the hair : gray    gray    white   
underneath the brown    Bone sticking out oddly    A small mesh screen between
ourselves and the truth    the truth holding onto an orange phone    repeating
some version of I didn’t do it    I know we are running out of time is a cliché
so I try to re-phrase it    to say it some way you’ll understand : have you seen
our dog    the way he worries his paws    the dry
skin like a snake on his belly
    I know you care about the dog    But when I go outside
to find you    to ask you if you’ll bear witness to our sky’s empty    convulsive
grief    you’re nowhere to be found    The june bugs hitting themselves
against the siding    The eye still performing its fruitless
scanning    The somethings
whistling roughly through the tops of the palms    And overhead    a dark pool
gathering    dropping nothing of itself    refusing to yield even one syringe full
to the yellow door growing bigger and more luminous in our minds


It’s Weird And Pissed Off, Whatever It Is

The dry bleached mountainsides waiting to ignite.
Don’t fight it, it’s supposed to burn.
We’ve been waiting here for our drinks for entire minutes.
If you are feeling overwhelmed tonight by
contemporary life
there is a QR code in the kitchen you can scan.
Really, it’s our own human presences that have forced
the natural rhythm of things to this unlit staccato.
Don’t ask me what it does; I haven’t tried it,
I lied.
I ate the piece of rotting cactus someone threw
over the fence.
I don’t remember the last time he kissed me.
What we wore when we decided it was over.
The mountains again: fuck you
for wanting to conquer them, their symbolic whatever.
Did you hear those clouds.
I wanted to write a poem about Kurt Russell
in THE THING but this is the best I can do: cold and far
away, perhaps inhabited by something other,
staring across the landscape and awaiting
the quiet end no one feels good about.


It Works In Any Space, From Bedrooms To Kitchens

I have spent some time wondering
about the condensation gathering beneath
my legs at night    I have draped my window
with ocean print cloth    It’s a very versatile
print    consisting largely of red octopuses and
chartreuse kelp and a single off-center
jellyfish    Sometimes I look at the jellyfish  
It seems off to me    I touch it
It feels like nothing    It feels like nothing you
have touched for sure    I worry that
my fingers are too rough or angry    I think about the
jellyfish    injured    assessing
the damage    finding itself lopsided    lining up
the crosshairs of its floating mind with
some intended central point    It once had a home  
It once took note of a
butterfly    The jellyfish has had no water
for a long time    It feels cold    It feels
very far away    It is old    older than you know  
How cold do you think you
would have to be before your fingers
forgot how to work    Should you try it    Should you really
get that deep    Should you have
another latte    another selfie    Should you write
that blog post    How much time
before you have to meet the guy at the hip
experimental art bar    Do you think you could
get cold enough before then    Do you think your skin
could go all blue and transparent    Do
you remember how to stop the
noise    In the selfie now you look quite still    You look
like someone else’s imagined
idea of the north pole    The infinite
imagined to be curving in on us all the time    There
was a ghost horse sent up into space    Galloping
in an arbitrarily large radius    You heard it once
below you    As if projected onto an underground
inverted screen    You heard it
in zero different  ways    We observe the sky as it appears
blue and cold and without sin    More of me and
more of me and more of me and more of me
is seeping into the land    My hand raised up
with nothing in it    It comes from the ocean  
There is too much of it to weigh or count  
Sometimes it can build up inside a person like a
storm    It can make your flesh hard
It can be used to mark the difference
between silence and awake    If you would like
to stay here I have built you a display case    You cannot
grow at all here or learn the alphabet or
the stages of grief    But you can love me    And
you can touch my skin    And isn’t that a way
to stay alive until tomorrow?


It’s This Again

I think I was in love with Mozart in another life     these recycled sunrises    these
tired trees layered limply on top of their own ghosts    out of the corner of my eye
a shoreline    and out of the shoreline    nothing    suppose you could
touch it    suppose you could try: that moment you knew there was something

to be tasted    that it was worth it    the ragged edges of forced laughs    the filtered
image of the couple    some nightmare version of us    on the beach    with those
stupid hats    suppose   
you could make your mouth into the shape of me

in my mind I have devoured all the screens    I have seen us
together in unlit rooms    the perfume of something irresistable creating
a seal around us    mesh around tangerines    rotting tangerines    soft when you
touch them    too sweet    I have seen your lips on mine    and

in the mountains impassible tides    and in the tides
phosphorescence
the world I can imagine you in is all streetlights    weird pine trees    you would
never have climbed one    you would have waited for me    you would have

climbed one but only halfway    you would have spent a long time looking
for it (the right one)    you would have climbed it in order
to come down    you would have filled entire hours with someone else
in a house I’ve never seen    you would have taken it and made it palatable:

diminutive    hardy    green    I know that things go on
no matter what their form    the red-faced boy I bore    the sweaty fern
outside your door    the volcanic thing aching in the lonely ocean of the night    age-old
atoms stuttering through some kinetic memory event

trying this time for closure    for a formal ascension to place    I have never wanted anything
but the last three symphonies    as loud as possible    searing through the beloved’s flesh


Another Inexpensive Solution With A Big Payoff

We bought a house recently so now I have a house    I want to stress
that this is not an allegorical house    This is a real live house
One thing you have to do with houses is decorate them    make them
look like they are real places where real people live and love each other and have
“inspiration”     This “inspiration” often takes the form of vases and cleverly arranged
unread books    Did you know that when you are decorating a house
you are also helping to shape its personality    Every house has a personality    Some
are Type As pretending to be “chill”    Some are immigrants    Some
are cool blue pools with nothing inside and no bottom    Some
are anxious to see you leave    Some are sad    withdrawn    high high up  
so interested in turning on the fan and closing their eyes    I don’t
know how to live in a house or how to inhabit
space    I don’t know what shade of tinted primer to use    I am a tall strange
silence with no feet    Everyone keeps telling me about “self-care”    Most
mornings I wake up and I fucking hate myself    which seems positive    it seems
like a step in the right direction    When I was younger I wanted to go
off the grid    to leave society and live in the wilderness in a cabin in
Maine    and now here I am    I just bought a house in the suburbs    I drink
kale smoothies and I like them    I enjoy going to Target    I follow
Kim Kardashian on Instagram ironically    In my house    when you
enter    I want to have a big skull and a defaced portrait of Lee Harvey Oswald  
just very casual-like    displayed above a tasteful brown urn full of
baby’s breath    I want to fill one room entirely with pieces of confetti
on which I have printed the word “fuck” really tiny    so only a tiny person
could read it    I am probably going to go with neutrals for the living room and
dining room areas    From the backyard I want some spiders to
creep in    They will be wet    They will look like
they have been through a weather event    I want the bedroom crammed
with empty glass cases    I want the kitchen angry and
thick with steam    I know I cannot avoid mirrors    I put on
three layers of skincare products this morning
sensitive skin eye cream    anti-wrinkle moisturizer    tinted sunscreen  
I am obsessed with thinking about what The Thing is that will come
into my life and destroy it    will it be cancer    will it be the death of a child
will it be An Accident    It Was Just A Normal Morning and    We Had Coffee
Like We Do Every Morning And Then    will it be the suicide
of a friend    will it be the slow attrition of passion until I can no longer
bring myself to chop avocado    touch my husband    read a novel    laugh
by accident    until I am a slow dark cradle rocking somewhere beneath
the continent    I am trying not to think like this    I have a house to decorate
 

image: Ian Amberson


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