Hey Nin! I’m getting a serious kick out of this feature. How did you come (no, we will not stoop to such low lying pun-plum) upon this idea for this particular installment in the continuing adventures of O?
As you might know, the first book I ever wrote was The Book of Orgasms. Ever since I have suffered the consequences. Because you can’t just write a book like that and expect that anyone will want to hear or read or publish anything else you write. It’s a problem. When I give readings, people want me to provide an orgasm or two. Sometimes I don’t feel like it. Maybe I have a headache. I ate too much. Or I am wearing the wrong outfit for an orgasm. And really, you can’t just keep having the same old orgasms over and over again. One night I decided I’d had enough. I announced it at the beginning of a poetry reading, I’m so sorry. But tonight there will be no orgasms. One red-faced man protested loudly. A woman in fishnet stockings got up to leave. A student in the front row raised his hand and asked, Why do you think we’re here?
Clearly, I needed to write new orgasm poems. But I had this fear. What if there is a limit to Nin Andrews’ orgasm poems? Or worse, a limit to the appeal of Nin Andrews’ orgasm poems? Granted, I used to pride myself on the idea that the orgasms chose me and only me. I even had this mini-poem on my desk, a take-off on Frank O’Hara’s “A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island” that went like this:
The orgasm woke me this morning, loud
and clear, saying, “Hey, Nin Andrews,
I’ve been trying to wake you for hours.
Don’t think you can ignore me. Because
you’re the only poet I’ve ever chosen
to speak to personally.”
But I decided I needed to introduce the orgasm to other poets, poets whose work I admire, whose words and attitudes and ideas have moved me so deeply, they’re wandering around in my brain late a night, sometimes having moonlit snacks or sipping martinis in the dark, other times sitting down at my desk, chatting or fooling around with my lines and dreams. And I, with theirs. The orgasm, of course, was only too happy to enjoy a three-some. I have to admit, I was a little sad to realize I wasn’t the only poet the orgasm enjoyed.
Ah, Ms. Nin, as much as your agile wit and charm do dazzle me near dumb, this series reveals not only the prodigiousness of your imagination, but a deep intimacy with these poems; no doubt a result of your novitiate residency within the body of each to which you pay homage. It’s clear that like the Dude, you have abided, long eye/ I; only a devoted scholar could note such meticulous architectural detail.
Now, in this particular series of Orgasm poems—hey…why are there fewer words for the female orgasm than for female sex organs…is it a Taoist thing like what can’t be seen can’t be named…the unnamable is the eternally real? … and why the proliferation of words for that tacky evidence of male orgasm; they sound like hip-hop frat boy-nicknames; Jissom, Jism, Jizz, lil’ Spunk, Spurt, Spooge and, of course, Squirt.
Orgasm, to me at least, sounds like an unfortunate implosion of organ and spasm, and looks like an orange, gourd-shaped organ writhing on a tree branch in a Dali landscape…intermittently gassy…hmm…but I digress…
Yes, I think you’re correct. The female orgasm is that which cannot be named. And why would it want to be? Consider the male names you have listed, and you know it doesn’t want any part of that conversation. After all, it was Adam who named everything, and thereby limited his experience of all that is. Eve had nothing to do with it.
The female orgasm likes to live life incognito. She’s like a member of the CIA. She doesn’t allow a definition, not even another word for orgasm. She doesn’t want to get mixed up with names or ideas or hairstyles or the wrong kinds of people. You know who I mean. After all, she has so many lives, and inside each one, there is another, each one defying definition.
But I have to tell you, you aren’t the only writer who has complained to me about the word orgasm. The late Eleanor Ross Taylor once asked me the very same thing. Nin, she said, I like your Book of Orgasms, but that’s such a vulgar word. Can’t you call them something else? Like fish? Or horses? We tried, but the orgasm would have nothing to do with fish and horses. You can try it, too, and see what you think. Call them lemons, Buddha, Sarah, Miso soup, it makes no difference. The orgasm won’t respond.
Mitchell: Well, I’m honored to be in such esteemed company; tell me, did Miss Eleanor, a southerner like myself, call you Nee-yen with our entrenched, generous penchant for making a lil’ ole one syllable two?
Andrews: Oh, Eleanor. She was so lovely, so well-spoken, so smart. She did have an accent but not as strong as that. And she wasn’t a natural admirer of the orgasm. She made allowances for me.
Mitchell: Again, I digress
Now, if I know anything about Lady O—no; you’re right; it won’t work; she’s not even batting an eyelash—she wants what she wants; she wants who she wants to come inside. Like Lola, what O wants, O gets, but never by asking.
Male or female, speaking or spoken of, the O in these poems lures us across the threshold into what appear to be familiar, faithful, dutiful homages to prosody, device and even ars poetica. Unless we pay close attention—to distract us, O has slipped a mickey into our drink, queued up all our favorite tunes, surround sound, but not too loud-that comes later— we’ll miss that O has made just a few renovations…oh, ok, maybe just knocked out a wall or two…to the original.
As I don’t want to deny the pleasures of such discoveries to our readers, I’ll note just a few examples:
In the Orgasm Supermarket; yes, we know its after Ginsberg’s A Supermarket In California, and we understand the inclusion of Lorca alludes to Ginsberg’s address, but it isn’t until your poem’s second stanza’s as if I were walking the aisles is contrasted with Ginsberg’s I went into the neon fruit supermarket do we realize O has split the scene, although the previous stanza is strewn with clues: and a loneliness/brought on by my persistent longing, the full moon and longing for you.
Yes, O has hijacked Whitman’s ferry, re-purposed it with oars and eloped with Lorca! Yes, I’m afraid O has kicked poor Mr. Ginsberg to the curb, left him howling with a headache under a full moon with only a crust of Shwebel’s bread to last him the infinity of unrequited longing.
And do we, can we blame O? Who would choose to mingle with pointy bearded, lonely grubber(s), poking meats, fruits greasy with the sheen of neon’s ghastly gleam if one could flee to a sentient province where one sobs and leaves sing in the wind, rain begins to fall, dogs howl and dust cries out beneath our bare feet?
Yes, the orgasm prefers to end up with Lorca. He is irresistible, right? I remember years ago, sitting in a class with David Lehman, one of my all-time favorite professors—his passion for poetry runs so deep, it’s contagious—and he began quoting Lorca. “When the moon rises/the ocean covers the earth/and the heart feels like an island in infinity.// No one eats oranges/ under a full moon./ One must eat/ fruit that is cold and green.” Hearing that poem for the first time, I thought I was going to break open. I asked David to repeat it, and he did. What I felt then—it wasn’t that my whole body went so cold, no fire could every warm me, but quite the opposite.
I’ve seen that Lorca poem translated in different ways—the last line, for example, as “one must eat green fruit and ice,” maybe a more literal translation. But every translation makes my heart ache. Just the sound of the title in Spanish,“La luna asoma,” it’s enough to make me swoon.
Do swoon dear, and I’ll swoon right along with you! Oh, yes, Lorca, and homages to two of my favorites, Vallejo and Jiminez …ah, boys…you and your Spanish with its perfect sexual symmetry; no mystery why we find O in tributes to this holy trinity.
In the poignant, tender and funny In Orgasm in Therapy, after Jiminez’s Sea, we find O’s little rowboat in the above poem has foundered on the rocks; premenopausal, wracked with a crisis of confidence, she fears she’s no longer that kind of orgasm who, without even a companion or a compliment could enjoy the pleasures of naked solitude without at least a cover-up or a caftan! O pleads for help I need an iron, a hair comb, a masseuse/ to smooth the endless mess in myself and in doing so has the orgasm’s nerve to ask of the poem the unthinkable: to compromise its poetic integrity and suspend Jimenez’s principal of non-adornment. Yet, the audacity of that request is redeemed by the absolute fidelity to Jiminez’s signature tone of desolation.
Like Madeline Kahn sings in Mel Brooks’ classic film Blazing Saddles, shttps://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-05BWHilRBA “ she’s tired:” But now, in her mature years, so much effort is required/just to exist. Exhausted, she petulantly kvetches Some nights, panting, /she wonders, What is this? Childbirth?
But even this rich humor can’t disguise the pathos of her crisis; we empathetically despair at the therapist’s useless platitude to Just be your infinite matchless self:
our arm around O’s shoulders in solidarity we both look out at the window at the sea/ with its smooth waves rising and falling, and together ask But who is that? And the unequivocal answer we get, the gulls screaming like women in grief, is an image so utterly, heartbreakingly gorgeous it borders on blasphemy.
Nin Andrews, thank you, thank you; this conversation has been an unprecedented delight, and your poems a double pleasure; true homages, they respectfully and faithfully return us to that which they pay tribute.
Orgasm Poems: Nin Andrews
after James Wright
You might think by now the orgasm would be used to it. After all, he has seen the annual crop of young lovers pull off the highway in Poland, Ohio and step over the barbed wire fences to lay their blankets in the empty pastures. He has watched them closely, their eyes lit with anguish and desire as they gasp for breath. He has grazed freely on their nude skin, there beneath the willow trees.
But when all is said and done, when the lovers return to their clothes, their minds, their cars and homes, they slough off the orgasm and leave him outside like a peeping tom to peer through their windows at what was so briefly his: the slender legs, the bent swan necks, the soft flesh of inner arms. And the orgasm realizes how alone he is. How he has no soul to call his own, no body to break open again and again or to shuck off like a husk of corn. There is no such thing as a blessing, he sighs, as his mind darkens with twilight, as the wind sweeps softly through the grass.
Henrietta’s Dream Songs
after John Berryman
God damn college guys!
They’re all rats, Henrietta says.
In her head is romance. She’s not shy.
She’s not lonesome. Much.
But tonight is a Friday night solo
in her twin bed
in the dorm called Rockefeller
(everyone calls it the john)
and her sweet little ass is itching.
Pityish, it is. So maybe she is just
a regular American woman, not
the wild girl in her dreams
always out with some boneheaded guy.
I wonder, one of her boneheads says. Doubtful.
But let’s you and me investigate this.
Come, Henrietta. Diminish me.
College men, Henrietta thinks, are boring.
She’s sick of thinning & games of guess
and, moreover, she says, My mother told me
you gotta’ suffer to be gorgeous.
That’s why she’s gorging on chicken
paprika and rice. And God,
I want to scream, she’s gross.
At least eat with your mouth shut! I say
and go faint with disgust, but she tells me
the bonehead of her dreams
likes his woman hungry, all right?
So when Henrietta stands up and pirouettes
(she’s wearing a gauzy purple skirt
and a leotard that clings to her bra-less breasts)
the college boys turn and gasp.
(They’re such low-lifes, yes?)
One whistles & shouts, Hey Babe,
Want this? He points at his dick
& Henrietta feels almost as delicious
as a greasy chicken leg.
The orgasm, Henrietta tells me, is God.
She’s smoking dope on the chapel steps
I watch the wind lift her black hair
as she inhales deeply, like she’s sucking it all in
and in. And in. Then she gets all weepy
and sleepy and hungry, and says
she wants to eat this boy called Hans
who put his hand in her panties. Wet and hot-like,
she sighs, I could eat my Hans
whole. I could eat my Hans Solo.
And then adds,
I’m a poet. Yep, Henrietta’s a burning hot soul!
It’s true. Henrietta is on fire.
Henrietta is stripping off all her clothes.
The Similarity Between My Life and an Orgasm
after Robert Bly’s “The Resemblance Between My Life and a Dog”
I never intended to have an orgasm. Believe me—
it just showed up. I had no choice
but to act like a dog, panting and wagging my tail.
It’s good to accept the orgasm. But I’m not one
to watch it in the mirror. It deranges my face.
I never look as pretty as I’d like.
I always expect to have time
but the orgasm is gone in a flash.
Don’t think about it, I tell myself. Then I think about it.
The orgasm is like a bird.
If I try to hold on, it flies away
or breaks into wild singing.
Some days I fear the orgasm is abandoning me.
It’s flown south for winter.
I wonder if it ever loved me,
Or I, it.
The Orgasm in Therapy
after Jiminez’s “Sea”
It seems the orgasm is struggling to find herself.
(And I, her, alas.)
Oh, she whines, my life is such a mess!
I need an iron, a hair comb, a masseuse
to smooth the endless mess in my self . . .
To show me once again
the pleasures of naked solitude.
She thinks how it used to be simple
without even a companion or a compliment.
She was that kind of orgasm. And proud of it.
But now, in her mature years, so much effort is required
just to exist. Some nights, panting,
she wonders, What is this? Childbirth?
Just be yourself, the therapist suggested.
Just be your infinite matchless self.
But who is that? she asks
and looks out the window at the sea
with its smooth waves rising and falling,
the gulls screaming like women in grief.
But I Am That One
I am that one hovering
above you whom you don’t see
(or pretend not to)
who sometimes manages to visit you,
but who, too often, you forget.
(Or say you do.) Oh why
did I have to fall in love with you,
who remains calm when I whisper,
who ignores me when I beg, who walks away
tossing her long, black hair behind her
sashaying into the night,
her soft white skin,
cold as the moon?
In the Orgasm Supermarket
after Allen Ginsberg and Garcia Lorca
What thoughts I have of you tonight as I walk the suburban sidewalks of Poland, Ohio under the flickering streetlights with an ache in my bones and a loneliness brought on by my persistent solitude, the full moon, and a longing for you, love, yes you whom I picture again and again in all your lovely shapes and sizes and flavors
as if I were walking the lit aisles of my supermarket of desire, selecting orgasms from every you, or rather from every occasion with you, orgasms as ripe and red as these heirloom tomatoes, as illegal as dark chocolate, as ordinary and soft as a loaf of Shwebel’s bread, and some so cold and green they must be eaten under the stars on a night like this
when I look up at the sky and see not the stars or the moon but a thousand faces of you, a thousand shapes of you, each so soft, so nude, so white, I sob out loud until the leaves sing in the wind, the rain begins to fall, and the dogs howl with me as the dust cries out beneath my bare feet, and my heart becomes a rowboat in infinity.
I Know a Man
after Robert Creeley
the orgasm says,
and he’s, like, always talking,
so I say to him,
Hush why don’t you?
Enjoy the night!
The stars are shining.
And he says, Baby
I can’t see a fucking thing!
And I say, Slow down
for Christ’s sake.
And he says what a man
always says, even if
he doesn’t say it:
baby. I’m driving
this GD car—
so you hang on
as long as you can.
Let the wind fool with
your red hair.
In Memory of the Female Orgasm
after W. H. Auden’s “In Memory of Sigmund Freud”
There are so many of us to mourn.
Our grief, after all, has never been made public.
For we do not wish to expose our frailty and anguish.
Besides, who would we talk to? And who would listen?
Some old orgasm doctor? Another male
to threaten or flatter us or ask our obedience
as if it were as simple as that?
Or to enter our shadows with a flashlight
and seek the fauna of the night?
And would he cure us? If so, how?
By analyzing our parts? Our past?
By causing us to abandon our wardrobe of excuses,
those masks and patterns of frustration,
and wishes for revenge?
All that rage against men who thank God
instead of us?
Would the doctor question our posers? Our Fakers?
Those among us who let out such convincing utterances,
their features replicating bliss,
their one word, Yes! a fib?
Should we explain such protective imitations?
How the female orgasm has lived among enemies too long?
That even our honey is nothing but fear and worry?
We are calmest when assured of escape,
or lost in the grass of neglect—lonely yes
but safe to feel precious again, and the need for love
when no one is looking.
What delectable creature we become then,
our large sad eyes opening in wonder
begging dumbly of the evening air with each gasp.
To the Orgasm
after César Vallejo
Love, I no longer look for you
or feel you in the warm breeze of a summer afternoon.
Nor do I worry how long you will stay away
or where you’ve been hiding all this time.
Nor do I seek you out
or call for you at dusk.
For I am outside my body now
watching the sun set over the water,
remembering how we used to play
at this late hour.
Nothing could stop us,
not the neighbors stomping overhead,
not your boss’s voice on the answering machine,
not the bill collector banging at the door.
Sometimes, remember? You made me cry.
Other times we screamed and danced.
And many other times we simply sighed
But gradually we grew calm. Or I did.
Yes, calm, like an evening prayer,
a ritual at the end of the day.
We held on to one another
lingering at the entrance of night,
as if we could keep each other
from sinking into that dark lake.
The Six Realms of the Orgasm
after Claire Bateman’s book, The Locals
In the first realm of the orgasm, a vote is taken to see which humans are allowed entry.
In the second realm of the orgasm, also known as the suburbs, all orgasms remain silent and offer only controlled doses of euphoria.
In the third realm of the orgasm, also known as the business district, orgasms are tracked, counted, and rated for their annual performances. In this realm orgasms occur three times a week, and never on a Monday.
In the fourth realm, also known as the government offices, orgasms take balletic leaps into the dark. What happens next is classified information.
In the fifth realm, also known as the Vatican, orgasms call out to God and moan about the fleeting nature of existence. Some seek newer and younger lovers to ward off feelings of mortality.
In the sixth realm, or the grave, the orgasm wakes to discover one of three things: a) it has been reincarnated (b) it is but a ghost or a memory of yesterday’s orgasm, or (c) it is with the angels now, setting the sky on fire.
The Sleeping Orgasm
after Larry Levis
Once an orgasm clung to a man’s shoulders for dear life. Why it chose this man’s shoulders from a long line of shoulders, it couldn’t say. Only that the man went on working without looking up, without looking back. So the orgasm took the shape of a wren and flapped its wings. It took the shape of a hat and sunk down over the man’s brow. It took the shape of a small sun and warmed the man’s neck. But the man still didn’t notice it.
How could he? He was too busy, working over the gleaming machinery at Tyson’s meat factory, slicing and packaging birds into drum sticks and thighs and breasts while he thought of his ex-wife who left him with a pile of unpaid bills, like the bad weather—the Polar vortex bringing record cold to his town, like the Iraq War, which was just beginning. At least he was packaging dead chickens, he thought, not dead Iraqis. He sometimes looked on the bright side.
On the way home from work, the orgasm still clinging to his shoulders, the man walked briskly over the town’s bridge. He listened as the river called out to him, Jump! Please jump! But the man did not jump, even as the wind stung his face, even as a feeling of inconsolable despair wrapped around his heart. Is this all there is to life? he wondered as the orgasm hovered above him, afraid of what might happen next.
The man simply tucked his head in his coat and walked home to his doublewide where he flopped down on the couch, too tired to take off his work clothes, and fell into a deep sleep. But oh what a sleep it was! Only then could the orgasm cover the man like a warm blanket and listen as his breath became a raspy hum. The man dreamt he was a boat in the sea, the waves were rocking him, slowly at first, then washing over his toes, his legs, his belly. He cried out again and again, but didn’t wake to hear his own high-pitched voice. Sleep, the orgasm realized, was the only orgasm this man ever had.
Some Relevant Originals
The Resemblance Between Your Life and a Dog
I never intended to have this life, believe me—
It just happened. You know how dogs turn up
At a farm, and they wag but can’t explain.
It’s good if you can accept your life—you’ll notice
Your face has become deranged trying to adjust
To it. Your face thought your life would look
Like your bedroom mirror when you were ten.
That was a clear river touched by mountain wind.
Even your parents can’t believe how much you’ve changed.
Sparrows in winter, if you’ve ever held one, all feathers,
Burst out of your hand with a fiery glee.
You see them later in hedges. Teachers praise you,
But you can’t quite get back to the winter sparrow.
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
I Know a Man
As I said to my
friend, because I am
always talking,–John, I
sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what
can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,
drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.
In Memory of Sigmund Freud
H. Auden, 1907 – 1973
When there are so many we shall have to mourn,
when grief has been made so public, and exposed
to the critique of a whole epoch
the frailty of our conscience and anguish,
of whom shall we speak? For every day they die
among us, those who were doing us some good,
who knew it was never enough but
hoped to improve a little by living.
Such was this doctor: still at eighty he wished
to think of our life from whose unruliness
so many plausible young futures
with threats or flattery ask obedience,
but his wish was denied him: he closed his eyes
upon that last picture, common to us all,
of problems like relatives gathered
puzzled and jealous about our dying.
For about him till the very end were still
those he had studied, the fauna of the night,
and shades that still waited to enter
the bright circle of his recognition
turned elsewhere with their disappointment as he
was taken away from his life interest
to go back to the earth in London,
an important Jew who died in exile.
Only Hate was happy, hoping to augment
his practice now, and his dingy clientele
who think they can be cured by killing
and covering the garden with ashes.
They are still alive, but in a world he changed
simply by looking back with no false regrets;
all he did was to remember
like the old and be honest like children.
He wasn’t clever at all: he merely told
the unhappy Present to recite the Past
like a poetry lesson till sooner
or later it faltered at the line where
long ago the accusations had begun,
and suddenly knew by whom it had been judged,
how rich life had been and how silly,
and was life-forgiven and more humble,
able to approach the Future as a friend
without a wardrobe of excuses, without
a set mask of rectitude or an
embarrassing over-familiar gesture.
No wonder the ancient cultures of conceit
in his technique of unsettlement foresaw
the fall of princes, the collapse of
their lucrative patterns of frustration:
if he succeeded, why, the Generalised Life
would become impossible, the monolith
of State be broken and prevented
the co-operation of avengers.
Of course they called on God, but he went his way
down among the lost people like Dante, down
to the stinking fosse where the injured
lead the ugly life of the rejected,
and showed us what evil is, not, as we thought,
deeds that must be punished, but our lack of faith,
our dishonest mood of denial,
the concupiscence of the oppressor.
If some traces of the autocratic pose,
the paternal strictness he distrusted, still
clung to his utterance and features,
it was a protective coloration
for one who’d lived among enemies so long:
if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd,
to us he is no more a person
now but a whole climate of opinion
under whom we conduct our different lives:
Like weather he can only hinder or help,
the proud can still be proud but find it
a little harder, the tyrant tries to
make do with him but doesn’t care for him much:
he quietly surrounds all our habits of growth
and extends, till the tired in even
the remotest miserable duchy
have felt the change in their bones and are cheered
till the child, unlucky in his little State,
some hearth where freedom is excluded,
a hive whose honey is fear and worry,
feels calmer now and somehow assured of escape,
while, as they lie in the grass of our neglect,
so many long-forgotten objects
revealed by his undiscouraged shining
are returned to us and made precious again;
games we had thought we must drop as we grew up,
little noises we dared not laugh at,
faces we made when no one was looking.
But he wishes us more than this. To be free
is often to be lonely. He would unite
the unequal moieties fractured
by our own well-meaning sense of justice,
would restore to the larger the wit and will
the smaller possesses but can only use
for arid disputes, would give back to
the son the mother’s richness of feeling:
but he would have us remember most of all
to be enthusiastic over the night,
not only for the sense of wonder
it alone has to offer, but also
because it needs our love. With large sad eyes
its delectable creatures look up and beg
us dumbly to ask them to follow:
they are exiles who long for the future
that lives in our power, they too would rejoice
if allowed to serve enlightenment like him,
even to bear our cry of ‘Judas’,
as he did and all must bear who serve it.
One rational voice is dumb. Over his grave
the household of Impulse mourns one dearly loved:
sad is Eros, builder of cities,
and weeping anarchic Aphrodite.
To My Brother Miguel in memoriam
César Vallejo, 1892 – 1938
Brother, today I sit on the brick bench outside the house,
where you make a bottomless emptiness.
I remember we used to play at this hour of the day, and mama
would calm us: “There now, boys…”
Now I go hide
as before, from all these evening
prayers, and I hope that you will not find me.
In the parlor, the entrance hall, the corridors.
Later, you hide, and I do not find you.
I remember we made each other cry,
brother, in that game.
Miguel, you hid yourself
one night in August, nearly at daybreak,
but instead of laughing when you hid, you were sad.
And your other heart of those dead afternoons
is tired of looking and not finding you. And now
shadows fall on the soul.
Listen, brother, don’t be too late
coming out. All right? Mama might worry.
The Poem Returning as an Invisible Wren to the World
Once, there was a poem. No one read it & the poem
Grew wise. It grew wise & then it grew thin,
No one could see it perched on the woman’s
Small shoulders as she went on working beside
The gray conveyor belt with the others.
No one saw the poem take the shape of a wren,
A wren you could look through like a window,
And see all the bitterness of the world
In the long line of shoulders & faces bending
Over the gleaming, machined parts that passed
Before them, the faces transformed by the grace
And ferocity of a wren, a wren you could look
Through, like a lens, to see them working there.
This is not about how she thew herself into the river,
For she didn’t, nor is it about the way her breasts
Looked in the moonlight, nor about the moonlight at all.
This is about the surviving curve of the bridge
Where she listened to the river whispering to her,
When the wren flew off & left her there,
With the knowledge of it singing in her blood.
By which the wind avenges. By which the rain avenges.
By which even the limb of a dead tree leaning
Above the white, swirling mouth of an eddy
In the river that once ran beside the factory window
Where she once worked, shall be remembered
When the dead come back, & take their places
Beside her on the line, & the gray conveyor belt
Starts up with its raspy hum again. Like a heaven’s.
“I Am Not I”
Juan Ramón Jiménez
Translated by Robert Bly
I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see,
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives, gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.
Juan Ramón Jiménez
Translated by Mary G Berg and Dennis Maloney
It seems, sea, that you struggle
—oh endless disorder, incessant iron!—
to find yourself or that I may find you.
How incredible that you should show yourself
in all your naked solitude
—without ever a companion
neither a he nor a she—projecting
such an image of our
entire world today!
You are as if in childbirth
—with so much effort!—
of yourself, matchless sea,
of yourself, just yourself, in your own
solitary abundance of abundances
. . . to find yourself or that I may find you!
Dream Song 4
Filling her compact & delicious body
with chicken páprika, she glanced at me
Fainting with interest, I hungered back
and only the fact of her husband & four other people
kept me from springing on her
or falling at her little feet and crying
‘You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry’s dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance.’ I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni.–Sir Bones: is stuffed,
de world, wif feeding girls.
–Black hair, complexion Latin, jewelled eyes
downcast . . . The slob beside her feasts . . . What wonders is
she sitting on, over there?
The restaurant buzzes. She might as well be on Mars.
Where did it all go wrong? There ought to be a law against Henry.
–Mr. Bones: there is.
Dream Song 13
God bless Henry. He lived like a rat,
with a thatch of hair on his head
in the beginning.
Henry was not a coward. Much.
He never deserted anything; instead
he stuck, when things like pity were thinning.
So may be Henry was a human being.
Let’s investigate that.
… We did; okay.
He is a human American man.
That’s true. My lass is braking.
My brass is aching. Come & diminish me, & map my way.
God’s Henry’s enemy. We’re in business … Why,
what business must be clear.
I couldn’t feel more like it. .Mr. Bones,
as I look on the saffron sky,
you strikes me as ornery.
Dream Song 14
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.
Nin Andrews is the author or twelve poetry collections including The Book of Orgasms, Spontaneous Breasts, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum , and Southern Comfort. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the Belgian poet, Henri Michaux. Her most recent book, Why God Is a Woman, a series of inter-connected prose poems about an imaginary world where the women rule, is just out from BOA Editions.
Nancy Mitchell, a Pushcart Prize 2012 recipient, is the author of two volumes of poetry, The Near Surround (Four Way Books, 2002) and Grief Hut, (Cervena Barva Press, 2009) and her poems have appeared in Agni, Poetry Daily, Salt Hill Journal, and are anthologized in Last Call by Sarabande Books and Make it Sound True, a teaching exercise using sound as a poetic device is included in The Working Poet (Autumn House Press, 2009). She is Associate Editor for Special Features with Plume poetry journal, and teaches Eco-Art in The Environment Program at Salisbury University in Maryland.