There are glorious entertainments in this miserable world, could we find them out. The ancient mask looked astonished before the man sledge-hammered it. “Authorities worry the iconoclastic group of ISIS will destroy the ancient city of Palmyra.” 1981: tiny women, shawls thrown over their bent backs, leaned to kiss icons in Novgorod's “working churches.” No one wins the zero-sum game. My second grade teacher's teacher was ninth in line when the Gestapo shot every tenth man. Shorten the sums: kill every fifth man, because every fourth will betray him. Then gin up for the sixth. Surely someone believes your grand idea, but you can't see through their half-closed eyes. The penal colony's deathly invention kept me awake at night. I'm told it's funnier in German.
—20 May 2015
But there are a sort of Saints meet to be your companions...but that they be concealed. My desire to unseal them makes me sleepy. The eyelid is a drive-in, my body the car into which an old cord winds. Keep windows open to receive the dented sound. I'm down to words, the ones that float like feathers after bird-storms. A small bundle of curly hair in the bathroom means my husband cut his hair. Phone call means a colleague died. After long sickness, a sudden fall. I pick up the taut curls, deposit them in the trash. I put the phone down, scratch a kitten, try to summon his voice.
—23 May 2015
They will exchange Souls with you. He remembers her as the girl from his village. He remembers his house by a red circle on the photograph. He remembers that she eats papaya, and he remembers her nose. India, he tells us, migrates north, as Tibet settles to the south. Kathmandu is the paper plate on the surface of a pool. Aftershocks are earth's grief. A man's head emerges from the rubble, white as stone, like my mother two hours after her death. Two metaphors do not make my mother a statue, the Himalayas a section of black foam, cut in ragged halves. The shock is that land dies, too. Mountains are bodies of evidence, stick to earth's slip. Mt. Everest just shrank an inch. “We cannot stay here, but where is there to go?”
—26 May 2015
Men busy themselves only with pots and cups and things at home, or shops and trades and things in the street. Prepositions propose a world: if we're in the street we don't hang above it. If at home, we're not away from it. If we're next to a table, we're not on it, though a kitten might be. In her sleep she chews on an image. We were at the Soviet border when young soldiers took an old woman off the train. One carried her luggage up a narrow path. She had typed pages on her person. She stayed in; we went out. Or: she was kept out and we got in. The preposition floats in a river full of dead construction workers, while a dreamer rises to the surface. Surface is only skin deep, as is skin.
—28 May 2015
O let me so long eye Thee, till I be turned into Thee. He sees their stringy, hairy legs twisting in his head, and birds that kamikaze the heart. He sees them in his bedroom, weaving. They float in air, cause small eclipses of the sun on their dew-drenched webs. What we see as beauty in the woods is horror in the mind. The doctor would have preferred hiding from students their diagnoses of schizophrenia. Mind is not intended to be world, but to enter it like an insect. We crawled on the forest floor, pretending to be ants. Now ants have invaded his head; everything that moves disintegrates. When you tap the web with a stick, the spider sends thread into air and sails out upon it. This is call and response, when you are not yourself the spider's keeper. When nothing's left, you will know you're real.
—31 May 2015
Those cheeks are shades, those limbs and members clouds, that hide the glory of Thy mind. I wrote a book that no one wants to read. One's too young to read it; another just moved and can't find the box; a third walked out of the reading before it started. My mother, she explained. It's too sentimental, a critic asserts, who admits she couldn't read it. Her husband, you know. The book is a form of knowing that none of us wants to claim. The book stands in for illness like sail for boat. The book is the material space of a suffering you don't want to live. It was easier to write than to edit. Something about addition rather than reduction, about being there instead of visiting. This is not tourism, this guidebook to unraveling. There's no sea wall you can build to keep the shore intact. The closer you get to the break, the more you want to beat it with your paddle. Don't resist, Pema writes. But that's what makes the world better, a commenter responds.
—2 June 2015
ContributorSusan M. Schultz
Susan M. Schultz edited The Tribe of John: Ashbery and Contemporary Poetry (Alabama, 1995). She has written elsewhere on Ashbery, as well. She is author of several books of poetry and poetic prose, including two volumes of Dementia Blog (Singing Horse) and four of Memory Cards (Potes & Poets, Singing Horse, Vagabond, Talisman). She lives and teaches in Hawai'i, and cheers for the St. Louis Cardinals.