We have been so much. And what has been deleted! Especially what’s opulent. A yawn. A warm January. A nice man. He had something in mind. I did not choose to be lined with filth. I wanted to place some colors against the water. I remember not answering. Leaking leads nowhere. I ate quietly. Small amounts of anything I wanted. The door to the building where I lived with hundreds of people was propped open. Dead bodies sat in chairs. I denied wanting. I denied to myself a feeling. I used white. It ached. I let it ache. I seem fine. On the map I marked all the lakes along the way. My husband. I collected pinecones aimlessly. Where we had walked and argued. Now I am quiet. I have split myself. For love. Not for great art. Not for peace. Not for everyone. I have wasted time. A flag I didn’t recognize. A swarming field where I looked for something and found nothing. I will keep me away from you, I think. I’ll appear to myself. In the ice. Even in animals’ bodies. For love. All eyes seem like glass eyes, I have heard. It is still winter here. I have worked a long time. Two hours away my husband lives. The loud cry, or laugh? It is not for everyone.
The Come From
One feeds oneself the just-for-nows, beans and lay-downs, blotted retrospections, until giddy pastel trees and dove-lowered crowns descend, next month, I bet. The main bird chants and the faint bird mocks back. It’s your mind, christ, the leaking between them. The bowl’s bottom trills when I scrape it. Hunger just lifts one’s curtains. That sharp quality of a man’s quaking paw on a lady’s yellow ruffle edge— what do I know of love, that which issued from a cold corner of history (what fools! the key edict uttered over our foreselves) when some bean split his seam turning sex over, mindwise, one too many times.
I Felt Oppressed
There were crystal facets. Small living lights. Sky-blue cottons. The past on any leaf. Final signals. Chalk-like chests. Plumes of pale orange smoke. Bones so old. Doors so open and the dark dark fatty green of long forests, green like the brain.
In the bottom of a rowboat I awoke oarless: a flap of a shadow overhead, a sharp bark, no life vest, no reed trap: nap-worn, studying the shore for motion, maybe help. First, willows, then sycamore, grotesque oak, and then all of it, the glassy mind of nature blank to suffering, blank to luck, the hot felt of sun like the first bald fact to render us to each other. I knew I would drift until I hit. I listened to the huge stone of my old self.
We Lie Down in the Clearing
Part of you is text and locks between other parts. Like a string can be wound, no matter what. Rock and snake, each each other’s festoon. Low mountains feel alien, even upon them, even a foot from their clear rivulets and combed grass. If a thing is alive it is weak. Unholy kind of help, forgiveness is so soft, so easy to reject. A cloth over a face is a face. Brooms forget, good ones especially. Moss spores branch and die, go solid as trash, back into atoms, some soil, blue with dark space, small in lungs and hovels. You know, neglect is liberty, until it is not liberty, then it is really very much liberty. Like water lathers around boulders, recognizing itself for once, astonished. Good love creeps up. I am awake but it is evening. I hear your name peal no name at all. The only name.
Code for Day One
In the very middle of the back bridge. A call. An unknown word. Blood jumbles. Sun pushes cells. Still unknown. But love is a pattern. Me against me. Which part is afraid? Which part is me. Waves. Outcropping of sand, rushing. Pick a foot. Left. Ok now pick a foot. A nag on the scale of a rodent. Rushing down. Vinegar smell. A sturdy truck. Water rises into the air. Mixes with dust. Flies over. Water falls from the air. Particles merge brainlessly. Door to indoors. Grid of floor of Laundromat. Pamphlet. Pink nails. Watching justice shows. A sad song by a man. Imagine a concrete floor painted dark blue. A soft chair hated by its owner. Prickling. While you are asleep. Before you awake. It comes on. Intermittent gifts. Old thread. Hand hairs. A girl you hurt. On purpose. Her irritating innocence. A fertile emerald. Fake. But perfect. Dream of walls, men in a line, erect. Mouse fur. Wafers. Ice water. Key cards, magnets, gasoline. The going. A lever everyone touches. Drugs. Your particular gate. Lipstick. Small panels of talking, panes of talking, cards of talking, given and changed, turned over, stacked. Hoped for. Weak upper half. Weird lower half. Fitting fabric over it. Warming. Peeling clothes off. Gripping fat parts. Licking dark things. Lick. Tart. Look. Rapid, with eyes closed. Guts slosh. Sound. Sound. Good sound. War. Good war. Hold, then white gloves. Text. Texture of baked apples. Idiot matter. Column of fog. Fake smile. Nice though. Authentic now. Shifting upper arms. Dent in chest. Genius matter. Singing. Can you see down the line. Way down the line. Past you. Past past. I see you. Inconvenient lamp switch. Saggy cushions. Boy odor. Dim. Never this happy. Never. First, the wristbone. The crown. The god point. Note it. Press it permanently. Stain of purity. It braids in. It grows over. Absorbs beams. Concentrate. It funnels light. Then fractures light. It shows. It rations just enough nothing. Think of the staircase, for example. Box a word and leave it and mysticism creeps in. Pages so thin you can read the one behind. Internal. Near to where a tense hand reaches into a black sweater. It finds perfect working organs being poisoned, soft muscles overtop, sweet thin skin overtop, benevolent hairs, a radiation, and a want for the hand, and a revulsion, a hunk of fear, a revulsion and want for the hand, a secret small light from this torso no one has seen before, dear as hell, a portal really, minute, clean bright pain, joy itself, and they both look and straighten up and laugh.
Do you live like hands, blind and exact, dirty as knives and as needy, weak, the body’s weird dwindling finish, lost but to each other, of pinks and old threats, universe to each other, unknown to each other, can I price that, can I lift away still attached, can I clap for my money?
The surface of a pond affirms a surface of the atmosphere. It rained here at night, twelve hundred years ago, on granite, shrubs, sleeping reptiles, so plainly. Minnows feel the pond grow. Us in a bed, my petty wishes listening. You say nothing and say nothing twice. How a spot bores a pit to light, pale light under rocks, an utterness. I didn’t know I was. I never saw me. Rain begins like pointless talking. It dotes, and catalogues surface in gloss. A kind of sleep. You show me your canines. A mindless churning in the atmosphere, an urge, my welling urge to eat your body, my own fright and mute law. From a slow twelve thousand years. Then towers, the moon’s habitat. Eels in muck. A new white unearthed in the Cyclades. The skin you are kissing. A great hall ground down to it slabs, blushing.
Floor and ceiling and around and around of blood, good blood. Some years I’d wince in mom’s hug. Some years, sturdy chairs, some years I’d just sew, double occult in bed in night, and finally not waiting. There is a bell to ring. At first it does not ring. At first it does not ring.
Some fought for their lives, others hid, yet others carried themselves across the uprising on daylong clouds of delusion. These you’d see peeling their last banana, not admiring the crepe print white flesh, almost scentless, having traveled aboard truck and truck to cold Toronto, to be recklessly unappreciated a little longer.
Actually I don’t feel like talking. Daylight sinks on its cold coil, every serpent is tucked up. Actually I have never heard my own voice. Elaborate survivors can’t carry everything in one kind of body, see: coupling, photos. Fire opposite of trailhead. Stripes of fog behind the unclimbable ridge where we once grew tired and quit. Data spread between us, even. Ardor slips in degrees. Photos opposite of everything. Photos melted back into ideas then back into nothingness. They were once paper messages to drop in a box then hope they’d ferry to the ideal reader, who once bet my voice sounds nice. I still have a photo of a donkey braying. A tin sacred heart clattering in a willow with lance-wound, etc, a bird boring into a saguaro between spines, a photo of that too. Where was I? The hope, dropping it all in a dark box, hope, the purpose of that.
A lot of noise around pain— most of it unilluminating, some of it poisonous: that anything ought to come back to you. Space itself is expanding. The marshmallow white puppy you rescued last week comes dragging in a black coyote carcass. You shoo them off. They don’t come back.
MOLLY BRODAK published a full-length collection of poetry, A Little Middle of the Night (University of Iowa Press, 2010), a memoir, Bandit: A Daughter’s Memoir (Grove Atlantic, 2016), and three chapbooks of poetry. Her most recent collection, The Cipher, won the 2019 Pleiades Press Editors Prize. Before her death in 2020, she taught writing and literature at numerous institutions, including Emory University, Savannah College of Art and Design, and Georgia College and State University. An accomplished baker and recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Brodak’s poems appeared in such publications as Granta, Guernica, and Poetry Magazine.
Artwork by Jack Felice.
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