Conversari

A dialogue in poems and photos with blogger Rachel Rawlins.

This entry is part 1 of 29 in the series Conversari

Do I smell of dalmatian?
Are these damned spots
in my vision ever going
to shrink? I should stop
watering them with tears—
putting my head out
the window as we drive
& facing into the wind.
Surely at this speed
I should be seeing stripes?
But no, these little blanks
are everywhere I look
& sharply delineated, like
a stray cat slinking in
to drink milk: lapidary.
Impossible to catch.

With thanks to A.R. for the opening line.

See the photographic response by Rachel Rawlins, “clean dried.”

This entry is part 2 of 29 in the series Conversari

From her phone’s camera, the orange & pink blur of an ear
pink noise is often used as a reference signal

My words boomerang back & vanish in a storm of static
blue noise — good for dithering

Later, at a party, I drink enough to hear a sort of surf
blue noise is also called azure noise
violet noise is also called purple noise

My ears ring from an hour & a half of singing
brown or red noise is also known as
“random walk” or “drunkard’s walk”

Back home, I notice huge gaps in the sky where stars used to be
black noise is also called silent noise

*

Phrases in italics are from the Wikipedia article, “Colors of noise.”

See the photographic response by Rachel Rawlins, “Bucket.”

This entry is part 3 of 29 in the series Conversari

Facing backwards on the train
like a waxing moon, hidden wheel
of my belly a little wobbly,
I watch the hills pile up, blueing
as the gulf between us grows.
Who knows when or if I’ll pass
this way again? And then
I focus on the close-at-hand,
& realize all this time
I’ve been staring straight through
the reflection of a girl
who faces forward, pale
& attentive, hair the color
of autumn fields. We slow
down. The intercom crackles.
A station platform assembles itself
around us & stops, & the doors
slide open. What place is this
whose name requires two
clearings of the throat?

*

See the photographic response by Rachel Rawlins, “eye.”

This entry is part 4 of 29 in the series Conversari

The inhabitants of my planet whistle in unison — I hear them through the airlock. It is their first & only dawn, & they emerge with joyful shovels & shadows. When they dance it looks like walking & when they walk it looks like the swaying of a drowned woman’s hair. Pennies from heaven fall into their pockets until, weighed down, they drop to their knees. Or so I imagine. They are too small to see, these natives, most of whom didn’t even exist at the beginning of this sentence. They subsist on a diet of pure sugar spun from sunlight & a few other ingredients (which are proprietary information & therefore may not not be listed). Despite their complete immersion in what passes for primordial soup, they have no time to bathe. It’s already noon. The metronome by which they breathe has slowed enough to permit the formation of a thought: I AM, or some such absurdity. Soon there will be letters of fire where before only lightning had graffitoed the clouds. They will look for ways to reproduce that don’t involve budding, which is frankly beginning to seem backward & provincial. They will discover the others who have been there all along, & what big teeth they have. They will head for the exits.

*

See Rachel’s photographic response: “Bottle of dreams.”

This entry is part 5 of 29 in the series Conversari

Cutting words:
so warm at first & then
such a chill

*

The fewer the words
the more sensibility
surrounds them

*

Every word is a clearing
that grows
out

*

The absence of language
is not silence
but wilderness

*

If you want a sacred text
use a branding iron

*

Only through poems
can I get all
the way naked

*

Time
is my
eraser

*

Notes: These are not haiku. They are simply poem-like things short enough to fit on my back if shaved with a small razor. To enact these properly, I would need at least one assistant, possibly two — one to cut the words, the other to record the process on video. A time-lapse photo sequence of the words growing in and disappearing each time would probably also form part of the final video document. Maybe someday when I am a proper silverback.

(UPDATE 2/5/12) See the photographic response by Rachel Rawlins, “Buddleia.”

This entry is part 6 of 29 in the series Conversari

1.
Not heat but warmth — what doesn’t burn, what can safely be clutched to the breast. No ring of fire, frantic with popping & hissing & quick to burn out, but something charcoal-slow & full of mysteries: a cup of tea, a mug of black coffee. A love that rewards long looking: sunglasses aren’t required to cut the glare.

2.
In the middle of my life I don’t dream of sun-drenched olive groves but that dark & pathless wood whose charm was sadly lost on Mr. Alighieri, where if you stand still & listen, you can hear like a distant waterfall the wild bees murmuring overhead. Up there the heat & the unseen flowers. Down here, I wake to a mouse tugging on the warm thatch atop my head, reminding me we are never truly alone.

*

See the photographic response by Rachel Rawlins: “For you.”

This entry is part 7 of 29 in the series Conversari

No more answering the phone
with my tongue, she says—
I have new gloves
whose fingers conduct electricity.
I am dendritic as lightning,
altering everything I touch.

I’ve been where she’s going
& she’s been where I’m going.
I raise my styrofoam cup to her
as we pass on the escalators.
She clutches the bottle-shaped bag
tighter to her breast.

We debate whether the lives of others
are ever fair game for art:
the moment, decisive or otherwise, when
the trap springs shut.
Perhaps we should be less like cameras,
more like leaves.

If I am the truffle, fruiting in secret,
these must be your roots with which
my hyphae are intertwined.
Who trammels whom? I think
I like this sugar spun from sunlight.
I will kill us some springtails,
harvest the fleas from the snow.

The sun moves out
from behind the house & dazzles me,
but its glare isn’t steady—it flickers
like a movie projector’s beam.
Small birds must be passing in front of it:
juncos, tree sparrows.
Refugees from the long boreal night.

*

See the photographic response by Rachel Rawlins: “Sparrows.”

This entry is part 8 of 29 in the series Conversari

The cold is a mother
as generous as the space
between the stars. I gave her
my discontent & my distance:
all those older & more restless selves
who are still out there, moving away
at the speed of light.
I grinned for Polaroid & single-lens
reflex alike, but inside
I was wincing. Cold.

I learned how to knit
when I was seven: scarves
& sweaters, socks & gloves, maps
& pastures & that long deep lake
I later loved. By then I’d crossed
oceans, no mere mermaid;
you couldn’t touch me without noticing
the scars from ships’ propellers
& orca attacks, the stubborn barnacles.
On land I was a sycamore, rich
in baubles no one wanted,
struggling to peel down
to a warmer skin.

*

See the photo reponse by Rachel Rawlins, “Advert for a summer holiday.”

This entry is part 9 of 29 in the series Conversari

Pennsylvania Dutch used to celebrate Thanksgiving
not with a turkey but the stuffed
stomach of a hog.

When eating smalahove—Norwegian sheep’s head—
the ear & eye must be consumed while still piping hot,
before their abundant fat starts to congeal.

Belgians prefer their cow tongues warm
and their pig tongues cold
with a vinaigrette.

Testicles are among the most versatile of foods,
delicious sautéed & sauced,
fricasseed, battered & deep-fried, put in pies,
poached or roasted.
The penis, or pizzle, is mostly
just fed to dogs.

According to the Talmud, tractate Berachoth,
the spleen is the seat not of anger or melancholy
but laughter. The Greeks roast it
over an open fire: splinantero.

Eating humble pie originally meant
eating a meat pie made with umbles,
originally numbles: those glistening parts
in which no one takes much pride.

Sweetbreads, which are offal,
should not be confused
with sweetmeats, which are mere confections.

I hate your guts, we say
to someone so detested
even their innocent viscera seem repulsive.

The lungs when put
to culinary use
are called lights.

*

Updated 1/25/12 to add a new sixth stanza, prompted by a comment from rr, as well as a new eighth stanza.

Rachel’s photographic response: “Brain.”

This entry is part 10 of 29 in the series Conversari

1. England

I fall asleep early with the laptop still on, wake to five kinds of weather visible by turns through the net curtains: all-the-way grey but no rain; rainy lowering grey-yellow; blue with large scudding clouds; cloudless blue, bright with low sun; & now a smeary dark grey with wind. I shall wind a green scarf around my neck & go out.

2. Pennsylvania

Brightness wells from the new-fallen snow; the overcast sky seems worn & tired by comparison, like the face of a mother who has just given birth. The snow is a great muffler of sound, though it does squeak faintly under my boots. I’m a moving smokestack, emitting white clouds of breath. Just as I round the last bend toward home, my shadow joins me.


See Rachel’s photographic response: “Frost fur.”