The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2017

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APR 2017 Issue



That Kind of Poem


It's lovely no more radiation treatments though ev-
eryone prefers being alarmed about politics
to poetry and that's a mistake      But it's a crisis of
course. I'm so happy not to go to l'Institut Curie
at least for months I dreamed of an empty body
last night a decision as to what necklace should be

put inside it. Last June you knew all this was
coming yes and every day writing poetry creating
the real Real World. I answered the phone to
a telemarketer on Thursday and a voice says in French
'I'm calling on behalf of Monsieur Lorenzo the Medium'
I hung up laughing and thought of Lorenzo Thomas

after he died 2005 I dreamed he burst out of his coffin
in Chicago the Diversey St house where we first bonded '72
he was wearing a shower cap but seemed to be
exhorting me to . . . what? and dust there was
dust on him it was a long time of agos       Vietnam
my brother's just back I said to him

who would have thought the poem says I'd be
still alive and in Paris, France for the health care
this dusty form is my beauty crystal neck-
lace you're smashing Lorenzo great poet who
we were I can't figure what lasts on a tiny
planet of phantasmagoria except one's love











You may have become too detached
knowing how to do things though
you can't stop      like literacy
those other shoes I haven't worn much
high      Why in that production of
Agamemnon did Cassandra wear
platforms? and something about spit
No reason to accept the story you're

given, right? I went to the play in 2011
The chorus was the same face projected
on a screen numerous times with vocal overlap
I have I have never and I refuse have been to
be in a chorus I cannot be the chorus the com-
munity I reject the concept though
there you are      Prose is when you
say what's approved or condemned

I mean poetry that's really prose and in the
chorus you approve of prose though you
speak poetry unknowingly all your life
At that time I but what? As in
theater the lines invade the actors
you in life cannot resist your lines
Bad poets talk about guilt and you nod
but guilt is inarticulateable so the real poet

leaves it out and expresses my anguish at being
in a theater alone speaking French to some-
one who turned out to be English dressed up in
black I remember how to be Cassandra I
remember disliking the mirror-image politics
of disagreement allowing cruelty pretense of
being wronged and you do get it? I don't ever
and don't hit back or click tongue callously

given? was it given can you stop what-
ever no I re-enter my apartment do you
and do you win remember the hoax you have ap-
proved I don't approve of anything what
I saw coming was only masses of wrong-
headed traffic air-killing foolish hurrying
home everyone hurrying home from it inside
is nothing changing inside where you are . . . No?

have you changed yourself inside Yes I have
working on it in the most incomprehensible
way the chorus wouldn't what about the spit out of
which spit was created      And then I find I'm
no common humanity good out of focus
the building is old and the play is older by
Seneca whose life moral question she walks
and I walk out of that theater having no more lines

no more chorus the community is a hoax then?








Alice Notley

ALICE NOTLEY's latest book is Certain Magical Acts.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2017

All Issues