On Loving Helen

April 28, 2019

one. All of this was written in the stars.
Don’t think for a moment that you are the one
holding the pen. Don’t think for a moment
that the skies aren’t already laughing.

two. When you first see her, she will be light
refracted, splintered divinity, some unlovely portrait
of a goddess misremembered. Go home.
Ready the ships. Practice swallowing the sea.

three. You won’t remember much about the war.
All you’ll know for certain is that now and forever,
every word you say will be a battle cry.
Every day you will be careful with
your earthquake hands.

four. She will not let you touch her
at first. Instead she will ask about
the city, burning. The men turned to ash.
She will ask you if you remember their names.

five. Your voice does not drown out
her beating heart. Your words do not muddy
her pulse. Come to terms with this quickly—
no, it doesn’t get easier. Lay down. Be still
for once in your life. Let her tread over your chest.

six. Love will arrive unannounced
on a Friday night; love will catch you trembling.
Love will take the golden apple from your hand
and into its mouth. Love will smile.
Love will bite down.

seven. You will bleed.

eight. When you watch her sleeping,
as you’ll no doubt do, convince yourself
she is a statue. Tell yourself
the swan’s egg she was born in never cracked.
Call it marble. Call it pure. Someday
you will stop looking for the lie.

nine. Recall that you are being watched
and the fates are getting bored.
At night you think you hear them,
passing the scissors back and forth.
Don’t let them fade you to black just yet.
You owe her at least that much.

ten. On the bad days, show her your hands.
They haven’t unlearned the cataclysm
that they are and will always be.
The ground beneath your feet
will still bend for them. Tell her
here I am.

eleven. And remember: you will bleed.

Christina Im

up her ass

April 28, 2019

Adrian had always found it amusing that a guy could be drilling Stacia up her ass while she considered herself to be a virgin. Her intent had been to present herself as such when she found “Mr. Right.”

Jess C Scott
Master & Servant

Concentrate on sex

April 28, 2019

Today I received a telephone call. A voice said, ‘It is fine. But leave out the poetry and descriptions of anything but sex. Concentrate on sex.’

Anais Nin
Delta of Venus

In probing my childhood (which is the next best to probing one’s eternity) I see the awakening of consciousness as a series of spaced flashes, with the interval between them gradually diminishing until bright blocks of perception are formed, affording memory a slippery hold.

Vladimir Nabokov
Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited

Yearning for the Other

April 25, 2019

One writes because one has been touched by the yearning for and the despair of ever touching the Other.

Charles Simi
The Poet’s Notebook: Excerpts from the Notebooks of 26 American Poets, eds. Stephen Kuusisto, Deborah Tall, & David Weiss

dislike the young

April 25, 2019

I wouldn’t say that I dislike the young. I’m simply not a fan of naïveté. I mean, unless you have an erotic interest in them, what other interest could you have? What are they going to possibly say that’s of interest? People ask me, Aren’t you interested in what they’re thinking? What could they be thinking? This is not a middle-aged curmudgeonly attitude; I didn’t like people that age even when I was that age…

I always liked people who are older. Of course, every year it gets harder to find them. I like people older than me

Fran Lebowitz
A Humorist at Work

It is only thanks to your good looks
I can take part
in the rites of love.

Mystical ecstasies,
treasons delightful
as a crimson lipstick,
a perverse rococo
of psychological involutions,
sweetness of carnal longings
that take your breath,
pits of despair
sinking to the very bottom of the world:
all this I owe to you.

How tenderly every day I should
lash you with a whip of cold water,
if you alone allow me to possess
beauty and wisdom irreplaceable.

The souls of my lovers
open to me in a moment of love
and I have them in my dominion.
I look as does a sculptor
on his work
at their faces snapped shut with eyelids,
martyred by ecstasy,
made dense by happiness.
I read as does an angel
thoughts in their skulls
I feel in my hand
a beating human heart,
I listen to the words
which are whispered by one human to another
in the frankest moments of one’s life.

I enter their souls,
I wander
by a road of delight or of horror
to lands as inconceivable
as the bottoms of the oceans.
Later on, heavy with treasures
I come slowly
to myself.

O, many riches,
many precious truths
growing immense in a metaphysical echo,
many initiations
delicate and startling
I owe to you, my thigh.

The most exquisite refinement of my soul
would not give me any of those treasures
if not for the clear, smooth charm
of an amoral little animal.

Anna Swir

translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan


we eat it

April 21, 2019

We eat the year away. We eat the spring and the summer and the fall. We wait for something to grow and then we eat it.

Shirley Jackson

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

look all round me

April 21, 2019

I have read your poems with my door locked late at night and I have read them on the seashore where I could look all round me and see no more sign of human life than the ships out at sea: and here I often found myself waking up from a reverie with the book open before me. I love all poetry, and high generous thoughts make the tears rush to my eyes, but sometimes a word or a phrase of yours takes me away from the world around me and places me in an ideal land surrounded by realities more than any poem I ever read.

Bram Stoker

Letter to Walt Whitman February 1872

The urge to write

April 18, 2019

“The incurable disease of writing,” the Roman poet, Juvenal, called it. “Many suffer from” it, he notes. There is in fact a term used by mental health professionals for extreme cases of the need to write, “hypergraphia.” It’s usually applied to people who have a severe mental illness, they literally can’t stop writing, and who often include drawings in their scribblings. Hypergraphia is associated with epilepsy and temporal lobe disorder.

But it’s an open question whether that clinical term can be applied to prolific writers like Edgar Alan Poe, or Dostoevsky, or Isaac Asimov, or in contemporary times, Joyce Carol Oates, (who has published 40 novels, plus novellas, volumes of short stories, poetry, plays and non-fiction.) Notably, Oates has said that she is able to write when she’s in the car—when someone else is driving—and even when she’s got the flu.

For some of us the need to write is so profound that if we can’t do it we are quite miserable. Yet the life of the writer is mined with struggle and disappointment. “Ever tried. Ever failed,” Samuel Beckett wrote. “No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.”That about sums it up for some of us. The professional writers’ life is not necessarily a happy one—our personal happiness, if possible, is usually achieved through friends, lovers, spouses, children, pets, sex, a good meal, a stiff drink. Happiness from writing does come momentarily when an agent calls to tell us she’s sold a novel. But even that happiness is often followed by a year—or a year and a half!—of anticipation and worry—will the novel get good reviews? Will it get reviewed at all? Will it sell! Then comes the day of publication, and another moment of happiness—the nice book party and the congratulations of family and friends. But that’s perhaps three hours’ worth of happiness, and then… on we go.

Dinitia Smith

Writing and Madness