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Five Queasy Pieces

I want to come to terms with my vaulted

and faulty

interior, with the clocks stacked in my kidneys,

with my face of a radish

draining tears into a tile sea.

And I do not want to come to terms with this vaunted

faculty, with these mer and men maids

calving right below consciousness.

Fuse and refusal,

torque of the Vallejo legacy.

To mince the baby wind—

to feast on nothing.


When I was a woman

I smiled, the arrows bristling from my face,

an old-fashioned woman, a rooted flow.

Then I became a winged pilgrim, intestinal offerings

bumping along the ground as I flew.

My ambivalence worked my negations on looms.

Now I am gutless,

peristaltic in ascent,

radiant with memories of menstrual wastes.


Sitting under this outcropping, thinking at

the speed of limestone, I hear waiters below

struggling with diners, diners sparing with food,

a breeze sweeps up the sound of gardeners

locked in combat with shoots, swimmers intercleaved

with the spermatic flex of yesterday’s wind.

A workman shears the earth’s head, revealing

its timed skull, limestone time, openly dead,

not closed like we are, fighting with

everything we touch, trying to become headless crosses,

gods below the horizon, gods of the mystical hollow earth.


The reason you came here

has dropped away. You have butter on your fly.

You write because your beanstalk is raced by giant Jacks.

Because the midden strata at Laugerie Haute

strikes you as the origin of fashion.

At best, a zipper meshes dualities,

the zipper of the mind interlocking its own bite.

How moving it is to hear someone say

something veined with

reflective and suffered pleasure.


Awake as if drunk with the last dream,

ready to remake whatever

—my life, my vision, my love—

to see through is to have nothing to resist,

is to lose the resistance for which one secretly lives.

Poetry from the beginning is posited,

based, on resistance, is a work against,

whether with flint or with quill

it is to convert one’s boring into a lateral spell,

an ecstatic wandering in which one lives

as if weightless on the hunch of a finger tip—

hunchwork wondrous release of the body

poised on the burin of itself.


Clayton Eshleman


The Brooklyn Rail


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