Sea Lullaby

June 16, 2019

The old moon is tarnished
With smoke of the flood,
The dead leaves are varnished
With colour like blood,

A treacherous smiler
With teeth white as milk,
A savage beguiler
In sheathings of silk,

The sea creeps to pillage,
She leaps on her prey;
A child of the village
Was murdered to-day.

She came up to meet him
In a smooth golden cloak,
She choked him and beat him
To death, for a joke.

Her bright locks were tangled,
She shouted for joy,
With one hand she strangled
A strong little boy.

Now in silence she lingers
Beside him all night
To wash her long fingers
In silvery light.

Elinor Wylie

Killing the Spring

April 16, 2019

I could not see the spring.
I could not hear the spring.
I could not touch the spring.
Once upon a time a young person
died for no reason.
I was the same.

Anne Sexton

your gash

March 23, 2019

I drink from your gash
I spread your naked legs
I open them like a book
where I read what kills me.

Georges Bataille
From: The Collected Poems of Georges Bataille
Trans. Mark Spitzer

The Truth the Dead Know

March 21, 2019

for my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

Anne Sexton

in east texas, i learned that my body
is less girl and more elephant graveyard.
here, i am the back pages of a history book;
i am a cathedral of almost-lovers.
i am where you go to abandon your dying.
it will be like kissing, just not as violent.
come here to bury your dead.
all that aching must be heavy—i’ll carry it.
i have always been beast of burden:
pack animal.
buy a family plot behind my ribcage.
lay three generations of not good enough
down to rest.
you can love me like a slot machine, here.
shove yourself inside for the chance
of getting poetry out of it.
i can be lucky sevens, i can be anything.
i can be the first bar you got drunk in.
i can be a stomping ground for old lovers
who only loved the parts of me they could put their fingers in.
i’ll be the sycamore behind the high school soccer field
and they’ll carve their names in me with the stems
of broken wine glasses and call it love.
i can unlearn photosynthesis while they
drink fireball whiskey and tell stories of how
i wanted to be touched.
yeah. i wanted to be touched.
guess my soda fountain heart was bad at being a wishing well;
all those copper pennies only ever tasted like blood.
and hope tastes like arcade fodder. it tastes
like the bottom of a mason jar.
does it even count making wishes in cities
too bright to have stars?
bodies are supposed to be temples, right?
well i sure did ransack mine good.
in my defence, marble is marble and stone is stone.
in my defence, nobody ever taught me that i could be holy.
in my defence,
wine coolers in texas summer can taste like praying
if you hold your mouth right.
so i’m the graveyard and not the dead.
forget this bone business and
for god’s sake, just let me live.
my body is a temple,
and my gods
drink vodka and gin.

Ashe Vernon

Let crazy terror take my head, nobody could fend off an attack more powerful than the idea of power.

It’s not what one thinks it is. It’s not what one doesn’t think it isn’t. It’s not what one thinks it isn’t. What is most unlikely is what’s most probable. The unthinkable trembles my heart, I call it “fear! fear!”

The illness comes into being again, I change it, and all this without the slightest calculation. One day one the next the other. I’m convinced I make myself sick one illness after another without being able to do a thing about it. Thinking I know this is an illusion of the ill. It’s no help at all my knowing it. All the same, no complacency. Each illness makes me doubly ill 1) with the illness 2) with being sick of being ill. Every time I make myself sick, I always make myself sick again but I see perfectly that I do this on the same model, it’s always the end of being, generally it’s at the bottom of the garden this happens, the way the death of my father took place, starting in the garden’s northeast corner which suddenly fills up with this terrifying substance, invisible but substantial, tactile, perceptible perceived as brushing as growling, this colossal quantity of void that one hears sighing if one could hear it (but one doesn’t want to, one is petrified), not breathing but sighing, as if the garden our daily body were suddenly occupied by a body too big diffuse internal and thus hollowing out of our usual compact and limited body bottomless pits of visceral caverns and this content, this monster is a nightmare in broad daylight without a hope of waking, the vanguard of Regret that already fills up all the available space, that spreads out into our eyes our throat our lungs great doses of bitterness and sobs to come. I am perfectly aware that the misfortune is my fault, I call upon no one, but taking advantage of my deficit of vigilance during sleep the illness spreads into every inch of me like a building going up without any estimation of its internal or external resistance and I am its even before I open my eyes. The minute I’m up, I lack everything, daylight, courage, sturdy legs, everything necessary to life: movement, confidence, habit, the solidity of things, the loyalty of vital beings! So far as I can see everything betrays me. No one I can count on. Death is the first to come along. I see it everywhere, far more overwhelming than my mental debility and it picks and chooses, according to probability or improbability.

Nobody can fend off a hurricane, it grinds up and kills at random, that I am at the origin of it doesn’t in the least lessen its impact.

Hélène Cixous
Translation Beverley Bie Brahic

The Desk

February 19, 2019

Fair enough: you people have eaten me,
I – wrote you down.
They’ll lay you out on a dinner table,
me – on this desk.

I’ve been happy with little.
There are dishes I’ve never tried.
But you, you people eat slowly, and often;
You eat and eat.

Everything was decided for us
back in the ocean:
Our places of action,
our places of gratitude.

You – with belches, I – with books,
with truffles, you. With pencil, I,
you and your olives, me and my rhyme,
with pickles, you. I, with poems.

At your head – funeral candles
like thick-legged asparagus:
your road out of this world
a dessert table’s striped cloth.

They will smoke Havana cigars
on your left side and your right;
your body will be dressed
in the best Dutch linen.

And – not to waste such expensive cloth,
they will shake you out,
along with the crumbs and bits of food,
into the hole, the grave.

You – stuffed capon, I – pigeon.
Gunpowder, your soul, at the autopsy.
And I will be laid out bare
with only two wings to cover me.

Marina Tsvetaeva
Trans. Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine

A Fantasy

February 5, 2019

I’ll tell you something: every day
people are dying. And that’s just the beginning.
Every day, in funeral homes, new widows are born,
new orphans. They sit with their hands folded,
trying to decide about this new life.

Then they’re in the cemetery, some of them
for the first time. They’re frightened of crying,
sometimes of not crying. Someone leans over,
tells them what to do next, which might mean
saying a few words, sometimes
throwing dirt in the open grave.

And after that, everyone goes back to the house,
which is suddenly full of visitors.
The widow sits on the couch, very stately,
so people line up to approach her,
sometimes take her hand, sometimes embrace her.
She finds something to say to everybody,
thanks them, thanks them for coming.

In her heart, she wants them to go away.
She wants to be back in the cemetery,
back in the sickroom, the hospital. She knows
it isn’t possible. But it’s her only hope,
the wish to move backward. And just a little,
not so far as the marriage, the first kiss.

Louise Gluck

all forms of eroticism

January 26, 2019

Poetry leads to the same place as all forms of eroticism – to the blending and fusion of separate objects. It leads us to eternity, it leads us to death, and through death to continuity. Poetry is eternity; the sun matched with the sea.

Georges Bataille
Eroticism: Death and Sensuality

Death itself

January 26, 2019

And it was Death itself who stood behind me, with his arms wrapped around me as tight as iron bands, and his lipless mouth kissing my neck as if in love. But as well as the horror, I felt a strange longing.

Margaret Atwood
Alias Grace