"An open door says, “Come in.”
A shut door says, “Who are you?”
Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors.
If a door is shut and you want it shut,
why open it?
If a door is open and you want it open,
why shut it?
Doors forget but only doors know what it is
"Like silent naked monks huddled
around an old tree stump, having
spun themselves in the night
out of thought and nothingness—
And God so pleased with their silence
He grants them teeth and tongues.
How long have you been gone?
A child’s hot tears on my bare arms."
BY LAURA KASISCHKE
"But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one's longevity and the other's daring.
Tonight, in the infinitesimallight of the stars,
The trees and the flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them--
Thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me."
by Sylvia Plath
"Just as in the horror movies
when someone discovers that the phone calls
are coming from inside the house
so too, I realized
that our tender overlapping
has been taking place only inside me.
All that sweetness, the love and desire—
it’s just been me dialing myself
then following the ringing to another room
to find no one on the line,
well, sometimes a little breathing
but more often than not, nothing.
To think that all this time—
which would include the boat rides,
the airport embraces, and all the drinks—
it’s been only me and the two telephones,
the one on the wall in the kitchen
and the extension in the darkened guest room upstairs."
Source: Poetry (July/August 2008).
"How it is fickle, leaving one alone to wander
the halls of the skull with the fluorescents
softly flickering. It rests on the head
like a bird nest, woven of twigs and tinsel
and awkward as soon as one stops to look.
That pile of fallen leaves drifting from
the brain to the fingertip burned on the stove,
to the grooves in that man’s voice
as he coos to his dog, blowing into the leaves
of books with moonlit opossums
and Chevrolets easing down the roads
of one’s bones. And now it plucks a single
tulip from the pixelated blizzard: yet
itself is a swarm, a pulse with no
indigenous form, the brain’s lunar halo.
Our compacted galaxy, its constellations
trembling like flies caught in a spider web,
until we die, and then the flies
buzz away—while another accidental
coherence counts to three to pass the time
or notes the berries on the bittersweet vine
strewn in the spruces, red pebbles dropped
in the brain’s gray pool. How it folds itself
like a map to fit in a pocket, how it unfolds
a fraying map from the pocket of the day."
Source: Poetry (February 2012).
"the names are written on signs/the growth is tall and thick in
the garden everything finds its name/full with held breath
what shall I say in a garden where everything has a name
yet another question: what
can I say?
justice requires imagination/requires
exposure/thus truth becomes profusion/it merely states what is there
once more and nothing else
in a garden where everything has a name nothing
does everything have a name?/does that garden exist?
in a garden where some things have names and some do not everything is
possible/everything humanly possible
in such a garden
nothing nothing human is foreign to it here is precisely
inside the fence/what can I say?
buttons, fringes, umbels, leaves, bulbs, and pods their names to
enjoy them all the more and hear them rustle as the
buttons, fringes, umbels, leaves, bulbs, pods,
they are/and let them banish my dejection
a garden where I have called everything by its proper name
where I can give things their names/only at night at night is
enough/it is sudden salvation
here I will quench my namethirst
here I will rest armtangled
where I have called by its proper name/all that should be called
and let the rest be
a waiting rustling place/what does it wait for? what does it wait for?
to speak of things that have no names
yet/which are so small/or to think of things so evil they no longer
have a name/with held breath/not
allowed to have a name anymore
human be foreign to me? I hope so or else
I hope not
the profusion is always there/even when it is a
profusion that no one seems to need
everything may have a name but
I could come up with new ones for the lot if I wanted because
I am awake alone so
green fans red beads blue/veils and reveals/healthy and unhealthy
night with steeplehigh lightning
and even universal laws feel voluntary/now
small tortoiseshell/dwell in my tiny tortoise
gardens seem more humane than
humans/with all their costumes
the special order
neither too much freedom nor too little
to speak is so human it is like the
avenue of sphinxes/speechless faces/stoneheavy meaning not one
word over the lips/while all forms/the trees the houses flowers and windows
and the neighbors’ curtains and the living rooms behind them maybe they are quiet
quiet living rooms
no one is innocent but some are pure and many
many do have wings
but the costumes
reality/which is why the unadorned is sphinx-like/like a thing without a name
the garden grows thicker and thicker
more and more hanging/full/dry
nametangled/is all that just ornament? it is
profusion/excess/ornament if ornament is inevitable/what can I say?
the garden is quiet before fruiting/tonight the names set
© 2010, Ursula Andkjær Olsen
From: Have og helvede
Publisher: Gylendal, Copenhagen, 2010
© Translation: 2010, Thom Saterlee
Publisher: First published on PIW, 2010
Remembering the past
And gloating at it now,
I know the frozen brow
And shaking sides of lust
Will dog me at my death
To catch my ghostly breath.
I think that Yeats was right,
That lust and love are one.
The body of this night
May beggar me to death,
But we are not undone
Who love with all our breath.
I know that Proust was wrong,
His wheeze: love, to survive,
Needs jealousy, and death
And lust, to make it strong
Or goose it back alive.
Proust took away my breath.
The later Yeats was right
To think of sex and death
And nothing else. Why wait
Till we are turning old?
My thoughts are hot and cold.
I do not waste my breath.
Taking advantage of the relationships and interaction, which actually exist between what happens
to her and her desire, she creates some metaphors both obvious and opaque, as screens of rays crisscrossing
the landscape in which herself and what she expected from you in the way of support coincide,
so that I and you resemble each other, now. The way they light the land like infrared without a trace
on film, really, part of your image was linked so closely to my desire, it remained inside my body.
It never reached the emotions, which tend to damage the body, but which memory requires.
Thus a formal device was discovered for detailing information that was intimate and largely unacceptable
to what I thought I required from you, regarding beauty in idea and form. She expected distress
to automatically bring about this beauty, like a woman’s theft of fire rope from your house,
but not her hanging in the orchard by the house. She was a stranger to you.
She was never in your consciousness. Hence she was never forgotten.
She is in you the way direct experience generates consciousness, adding the energy of its materialization.
To live another person’s biography is not the same as to live his or her life.
She constructs a story line or cluster of anecdotal details, like clothes around the body,
instruments of both defense and expansion, which give meaning to fluctuations, such as in pleasures
occurring between herself and you. Her sunglasses swathed in feathers express
the contingency of a light and a space, so that the anecdote of a hanging could be utilized
as colorist or combinatory data, instead of her instinct for the imaginary in which what she imagines
represents what happens, whether or not it misrepresents it.
Sometimes it happens during a routine she represents by evenness of light on the land
or when things usually mean nothing, like harmony in light, what happens and something to mean
join accidentally. The thing isn’t what it is, but it is like what it is.
Like a fake, it doesn’t mean anything, although there is something to mean,
so that her solitude is the guise of unending repetition of a hanging or her relationship with you,
in which all that is to be included will find a place. This is empathy or sharing her intuition with her.
You look into someone’s eyes as if you were seeing through the face.
Because it’s not possible to absorb more than one insight at a time,
there seems to be a contradiction between the visual or space, and the context or meaning.
She felt deep uneasiness with the image of this sunset of unnatural energy, its sinister expression
of an order of impossible beauty we thought we lost, accounting for the intensity of yellow light on the hill,
which is not a thing, and it is not a metaphor, the way your life is not a metaphor to her, or
the way intense light on the hill is a recollection en plein air, in the sense that it happened.
Soon the background turns gray and the hill regains its natural color, but there are three dimensions of gray.
This is a metaphor for the fact that the hanged woman actually made contact with you, although you never knew her.
There is a link with her appearance, as with sex, or the way a name is attached to something
after naming it, by the occurrence of its name, in this case linking with the appearances
or biographies of a whole parade of lovers, so what she thinks of as human help from him
is no longer dependent on changing her desire for him in the present, but is a substitute for it.
The landscape is empty and it is immanent. The context of the woman in its reality
may differ from the context in which the viewer thinks about her, the element of transparency.
The way the viewer thinks about her is the way low clouds extend a landscape. The viewer
is acting on the landscape in consideration that the context of the viewer distinct from the context
of general human help could be a metaphor for itself.
There were yellow-leaved trees behind a screen of green ones at the edge of the orchard.
They are not a border between organization and decay of autumn trees, which are organized.
The yellow leaves around your feet have an impossible beauty that was achieved and then lost.
A way you can define a woman is to remember everything the woman is not.
If you move your head fast enough, you can all of a sudden discern the whole structure
of the surface of each leaf, and it links in your stomach, as with sex.
If you remember not desiring her fast enough, you can all of a sudden discern her whole body.
You can feel in your stomach the way any moment that happened and in which you think about her goes
a long way toward convincing you of the autonomy and pre-existence of her form.
Her concentration became a direct experience of his life, an erotic concentration.
Her biography of her persistently locates the point of impact of one’s own system of representations,
insofar as vision itself is a representative operating on what she sees,
and for which a particular light can represent an initial condition. Even the slightest movement
of a hand or a finger is controlled and emphasized as by a spotlight of this sensitiveness,
the way repetition is a cessation of the potential for conscious experience, or death,
visiting the same places during the same seasons, at almost the same hour,
so that landscape could be a simple repetition, which thrives on reproduction,
in order to resolve what is happening into its own combination or name of words in the form of its time,
and in order to defer the story.
In a way, her memory is a theory about how the hanged woman looked to her in the orchard,
which she has to respect, in the sense that the landscape’s immanence is an organically developing
failure of its language to speak its content. The connection between word and idea corresponding
to the landscape is retained, but the connection between the word and the landscape is lost,
so the shadow of a hill stays dark during lightning. How she sees the lightning
is a time lapse into the planar dimension, a hierarchy of grammar or deference
by way of the word belonging to her such as lady suicide or woman suicide,
because the woman doesn’t die in her own absence or in effigy, so that
no existing philosophy and no philosopher will know soon, enough points with enough speed
to handle the richness of her reconstruction of her or him for long. He starts to see
patterns in the words and the patterns are pretty to him and distract him.
It is well known that lightning is attracted to body heat, a person on horseback
or a large saguaro, the way a racket of birds in the morning is a kind of empathy for two people.
If we retain the belief that her image of him or her, let’s say him, is a pre-requisite for
gaining consciousness of the unknown person, we suppose there is no direct channel of communication
to the unknown person, with the result that facts about him or her must exit into the world,
before a life can be perceived between the light and dark of function or the object, and desire or the image.
At any time one can turn into its opposite, like desire or a screen, and the object
or her story and him, who does not so much convey an image as a background
to the biography. So, he says, she must emphasize references and conditions of her own life
over its memories, or what she sees of the landscape by the manner of its illumination,
unless she says it is illuminated within the arms of a great cottonwood, yellow or green,
a faith of imaginary or real connotation repeating itself from him, like alternating current
or radioactive dirt being turned up that registers on her without marking her.
Her persistent observation, even after the frost, is of each leaf coinciding with its luminousness,
because of its structure as a lighted space and which shows brightness in idea and form,
so you have to maintain your own consciousness in order not to be unconscious with me.
Even if we can uniquely bridge the gap between the fact of a frost and the value
of luminousness, and even though these intrinsic properties of the plant may not be what it feels.
What it feels may be a space with pillars, so with light the space extends, as in what you believe
to live with. A belief is a word-like object. You can focus your attention on it down to a point,
like desire or memory of a strong feeling. You have a certain amount of control over your feeling
about general human help by changing what you believe, which embodies the memories
your speech is empowered to represent, she says.
Space is material, but seems to open up a beyond, which is thought to defy material in its failure
to speak its content. It still cues this content by links or desires, as to a form of physical appearance.
To the extent that she can reconstruct a context or pornography in her body suitable for a hanged woman,
a contingency is beaten back, critically. In the sense that events happening at the same time are
meaningful, but not connected, there are events which mean nothing, though there is something to mean.
This is an easy way to expect with desire from moment to moment, while the woman was hanging herself,
as if consistency and the quest for certainty were not emotional,
as when a person begins telling a story, leaves move.
He believed that when a life is valuable, there is further value when it is responded to
as valuable, but this could occur through evaluative judgement, without his attendant emotion.
The product is in one case consistent manners, in the other, beautiful manners.
Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, "Forms of Politeness" from I Love Artists. Copyright © 2006 by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press.
"I looked for a sign and found myself no where."
They're out of the dark's ragbag, these two
Moles dead in the pebbled rut,
Shapeless as flung gloves, a few feet apart ---
Blue suede a dog or fox has chewed.
One, by himself, seemed pitiable enough,
Little victim unearthed by some large creature
From his orbit under the elm root.
The second carcass makes a duel of the affair:
Blind twins bitten by bad nature.
The sky's far dome is sane a clear.
Leaves, undoing their yellow caves
Between the road and the lake water,
Bare no sinister spaces. Already
The moles look neutral as the stones.
Their corkscrew noses, their white hands
Uplifted, stiffen in a family pose.
Difficult to imagine how fury struck ---
Dissolved now, smoke of an old war.
Nightly the battle-snouts start up
In the ear of the veteran, and again
I enter the soft pelt of the mole.
Light's death to them: they shrivel in it.
They move through their mute rooms while I sleep,
Palming the earth aside, grubbers
After the fat children of root and rock.
By day, only the topsoil heaves.
Down there one is alone.
Outsize hands prepare a path,
They go before: opening the veins,
Delving for the appendages
Of beetles, sweetbreads, shards -- to be eaten
Over and over. And still the heaven
Of final surfeit is just as far
From the door as ever. What happens between us
Happens in darkness, vanishes
Easy and often as each breath.
By Sylvia Plath
A SOFT-EDGED REED OF LIGHT
"That was the house where you asked me to remain
on the eve of my planned departure. Do you remember?
The house remembers it – the deal table
with the late September sun stretched on its back.
As long as you like, you said, and the chairs, the clock,
the diamond leaded lights in the pine-clad alcove
of that 1960s breakfast-room were our witnesses.
I had only meant to stay for a week
but you reached out a hand, the soft white cuff of your shirt
open at the wrist, and out in the yard,
the walls of the house considered themselves
in the murk of the lily-pond, and it was done.
Done. Whatever gods had bent to us then to whisper,
Here is your remedy – take it – here, your future,
either they lied or we misheard.
How changed we are now, how superior
after the end of it – the unborn children,
the mornings that came with a soft-edged reed of light
over and over, the empty rooms we woke to.
And yet if that same dark-haired boy
were to lean towards me now, with one shy hand
bathed in September sun, as if to say,
All things are possible – then why not this?
I’d take it still, praying it might be so."
© 2008, Julia Copus
Publisher: The Spectator, London, 2008