-- for Simone White
All I was thinking or would ever think was happening and it couldn’t be stopped. Some of us were in the pond as the level went down. Fish flung ashore and died. We were lovers and friends but it wasn’t enough or it was barely too much (timing, etc.), so what to do? Some fucked anyway, off in the reeds. Some watched television underwater, speech upon speech, sung from the bullfrogs’ throats. Believe me, they said, and some did, and we believed ourselves for a while. It was night but there was too much light, who knows from where, and some closed our eyes against it while some closed our mouths instead. There was an agent among us who was trying to work, phone hoisted in air, afraid because nobody was green-lighting anything, jobs were scarce or paid to scale, the agent was in tears and then the phone went dead. There was something dead about the whole scene, unless you were actively friending or fucking, or thinking actively about friending or fucking (sincerely!) then writing it down. Writing was gone though, or soon it would be, so some were actively becoming bodies again, while some did the opposite which no one could explain. The light became brighter and we closed and closed, we believed ourselves more and more. Our belief had a smell to it, or some other thing to it, which meant we attracted and multiplied. The level went up with each newcomer, so we closed and closed and friended and fucked and wrote sincerely as if writing would end, which it would. And some were in plain sight and some off in the reeds, and when plain sight became intolerable again, we closed and the reeds shook, they won’t stop shaking.
I like dreaming about that river, you know? Bones
at our feet. Today the count is low but you
say wait, prisoners
bide their time. I can’t
abide the structure, Aristotelean
TV. My grandmother’s
name was Ismene. I don’t want
to relive the past.
This is a draft for a longer poem / polemic / pararevolutionary scroll. I’m just warming up, but our metabolisms should be on fire by now. They’re not, we’re not, it’s a mess and no one will tell me what to do. Sometimes I just want to point to the books that everyone should read. The dog sighs and is perfect, love, my loves, don’t go—I’m here I swear, I’m just not legible yet. Wait.
I’ll read the paper, fine.
They’ll question attachment
again, autonomy, whatever. I’ll end
the poem Meanwhile scientists
fight crab for mysterious purple
orb discovered in California deep.
Gunman, man-at-arms, my dream: don’t tell me the water is foul. I have six hands of victory under my belt, tiles to kill for, export-quality fur. But governor—dream—don’t go.
Lesson one: try to land.
Lesson two: reflect.
Lesson three: when you catch yourself saying
pull the trigger
pull the trigger.
Man-at-arms, dream: take your leave of one after one of me (belt me up, see?)
This is what’s meant. This is what was meant. This is how we write it down. We write with our trigger finger, with our six hands. The water smells sweet,
we made it, we’re making it now.
Work should be made easy, congenial and uninterrupted: exactly! But this is a threat. Some of us collaborated anyway, warping and wefting ’til reeds made roof. We built a house, at least the thought of one: collapsible, invisible, gold. The gold was seasonal, as we all were by then, futurity gone and paralysis with it—good riddance—but still we had to eat. Drops fell slowly through the grey-gray sky to the gray-grey surface which reflected, for an instant, the number we’d become. I stopped breathing. Somebody said Let’s play trust and we all went below and practiced catching ourselves. Well, not all: the agent and a few others had found an old razor and were shaving their legs, singing Bob Dylan and Sade—I’m not kidding—while blood trickled over their toes. But that was fine, everything was fine, we’re all fine, just learning to live without oxygen again. And work—work was everything writing had been and what fucking and friending could be, sometimes were. Some of us lit up at it and some dimmed down, but that was about the drugs we’d liked before. It was fine! We would be able to defend our shores—biorhythmic variation meant someone’s always awake. This was only until things got ugly. There was still some silver in the grey- gray; it shimmered. We floated to the surface and returned to our stations. The house we were building was beautiful: every corner to be used in such a way that it could not be used up.
We do a drug of no texture and argue to lose. Trust what.
Shivering: one can count on that. That inner
text the experimental
cineaste calls motion. I call it
recompense. Now you’re talking
cuz no, I’m not leaving this beautiful rectangle I woke up in. We get high and chest-bump, forget in the morning, shy smiles. We share! I told you: I’ve got nothing left.
The sign says We’re headed to Vegas, are you?
Okay. I’ve been turned on by that glow before.
One day I’ll write a play to be performed by nonprofessionals.
You be Loser.
I’ll be Loser 2.
The things we think we can touch aren’t there. That’s why we fall in love. It isn’t exactly that people paired off, though there’s no law against that (or anything else). Some of us did, tugging at waterlogged clothing, waterlogged hair. Some chose to paddle to the middle, alone, take our pleasure in through our eyes. What we could touch confused us: dark hunger, mute fear, the notable absence of smalltalk. We just had no appetite for niceties anymore; we laughed with our mouths closed. That’s what winning means, the person behind me said, hoisting something necessary to the roof. Later we’d gather, most of us, to argue our next move. The arguments were academic: our ranks had stabilized and we weren’t yet worried about much, besides the obvious of course. It was an okay time. It was a time; we lived it. It changed us and, eventually, we changed.
Yeah don’t believe in suffering. I.O.U.
Forget the terms
of the arrangement, else
dig a hole, climb inside with me.
I read that one about the water wars too.
The one about bugs: ash-borer, oak wilt,
hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA). In our hole
we eat blight, it’s so pretty! Patterns to make
The question is always the same: whether to go it alone or not. Sounds so embarrassing when you put it that way. Like reality TV, or that parlor game where a chance operation picks your adjunct paramour. Just think what you’d do with it now, loves: three minutes in the closet, three more of us in the hole.
Go it alone? There isn’t a particle
for that. I felt your autocorrect
and moved on. This is self-care
I’m taught to believe; so is riding
our bike past the union jack.
Never so angry in all my life. Right.
Here is a list of things to undo:
(the tyranny of sunshine, the tyranny of leaves that shiver on-screen and IRL, the tyranny of trying, the tyranny of wits, the tyranny of editing the sentiment out, the tyranny of resonance, of non-resonance, tyranny of lists)
It was so light it hurt. We were so light we had to give up bottom- feeding, which came as a relief. The realization of risk arrived late, as is does. Some of us swam around chanting Marco Polo or Every minute proves that reality is conditional, while some idly stroked our clits. We had the sensation of building up to something, but all that language in the air made it impossible to think. We handed out roles and swapped until everyone was happy, or provisionally happy: not me. I was trying to change into something that hadn’t been named, but embarrassment held me back. I looked at the rest of us—Flack, Carnival—and suddenly started to cry. It was everything I’d wanted, sun-showers and rainbows, and still it seemed out of reach. Or that was just hunger: stocks running low. The agent had already all but given up. The house had been finished but nobody went in. We were afraid to. It was shelter, and we’d only just emerged.
Every day the opportunity to decline the obligation will arise.
We’ll field it, hand over hand.
This one took twelve years to form: watch
me destroy it in a heat of passion.
I mean children—they’re like bookmarks, right?
Somebody invented an emotional test. You take a steel pipe—any diameter will do—and brace it against the corner of a room. Then: lean in. If you don’t have an interior corner to use, additional risks pile up. People don’t like to see blood. I once used a tree, but I lost my bearings and tumbled down the hill.
The results are scored on a numerical scale:
One means Yes
Two means No
Three means Only if duty demands
Is this where you leave me, loves, where I
Some of us closed and some who couldn’t close broke. Some of us left the pond altogether. The leaves fell too early and all at once, making it hard to determine a route. The smell of their rotting formed a definition—expressing origin; expressing separation; expressing agency— and we revised it with every step. That was good. That was okay (it was only a draft). We weren’t in a hurry, though time was short. We carried writing at our sides but we couldn’t say why. We paused now and then to look back at the pond, whose level had sunk to an all-time low. Some of us saw us, friend to friend. We waved, we drowned, we waved, we drowned, we waved.
This poem cycle incorporates one line
from each of the following writer-companions: Simone White
Sarah Uribe (translated by John Pluecker), Farid Matuk, Vzevolod Meyerhold as quoted by Ohad Meromi, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Maged Zaher, Jennifer Nelson, Lyn Hejinian, Mary Burger, Sean Collins.
I thank them!
Anna Moschovakis is the author, most recently, of They and We Will Get Into Trouble for This.