The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2019

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MAR 2019 Issue



The Accident of Living in a House

Money is common We find it
in ourselves by accident

Our selves are tiny
accidents weary of
imagination When I
say selves you say

This is the sort of construct of language that wearies our selves

We cannot leave this word behind
this word that sounds like
money that sounds like body that
sounds like selves that tip and dump
their books onto the floor

That sound is like change hitting a hard counter
hardly means enough for us to know
what makes the counter sound

Feeling like money is common
We find money on the streets inside ourselves

Poetry is a vacuum I scream into as if to assure myself I am not alone

But I am alone
holding my rent money to prove it
sleepless when I should be dead
in a home when I should be turned out of all homes
blessed and guilty when I should be lost
looking for you  all of you
anyone who is hungry too

This sort of language should turn us out of our houses and into
the streets outside ourselves

We should turn into the streets outside ourselves
and believe our own words when money
bleeds into something more believable than grief
for this becoming we are  people who know

what time it is  We have cell phones to prove it
We have no need for mirrors We see
each other in real time and we
all look so fine not dying no
none of us dying It is too
early for that and we all find
a way to pay the rent because
we are poets and never poor
because we were smart
enough to be poets

When we listen to the poor they do not
talk like this and they are too weary
of us to be weary of language we strut
into the streets inside ourselves and hide
on bookshelves no one will ever reach

We have cell phones to prove it failed
CVs and a list of horror stories no
one will make a movie of because
what will pay our bills or at least
buy us another round of lies
at the bar where we have our
cell phones out not even stopping

to ask Why is it I live in a house
We Wikipedia Bernadette Mayer
We Wikipedia so much beauty
and truth our eyes better burn out

But we better slow down We
have to go to our jobs tomorrow
We have to wake up feeling blessed
hating the president and eating
whole foods sustainably raised
because our selves on the streets
inside ourselves somehow are so
poor  so despicably poor that we
believe we can burn this world down
and no one has a right to own it




In an Apartment Too Small

In an apartment too small for far off footsteps
in the room where no one is coming
I fail to fall back asleep and sail
in my skin on the morning air
coming through the window
and through the sheets  which part
from the mattress in little flipping
soundless songs settled without my help

Nothing cold can touch the organs
that are my final possession today
The window is cold and I have been evicted
from apartments in past lives with other
lovers I lost in the rush of changing weather

I have learned the body of another
can go through the motions of its internal
molten weather  the heat we try to keep
cannot get out sometimes  so we bake lamb
and listen to the same exultations
of Sunday morning on the radio
We sleep with other lovers and we dream
one body and another body are the same
body and different bodies and that our breath
has settled in the air around a single person
who is actually here in our skin
that is quaking from an internal light
that cannot go dim though our eyes
have blanked into the colors
that emerge shortly after birth

We can reside in the skin  on the surface of the skillet
in the curve of the ladle for so long
without bringing the entire cosmos down to rest
upon the skin our Teutonic hearts blast out against
and meet another force that is not it  that is not
what the heart knew  that is what we die for

I hold still in this swatch of morning
on my face  shaken to stillness
by the proximity of someone else’s voice




Forget to Breathe

Now I will say where
the clouds go in their easy loss
of form  the shape I want

my muscle memory to find in constant
flipping over to keep me upright
at the desk where I work

where I am not chained but have yet to be
articulate in noises as others
pass me throughout the day

their faces like greasier clouds
their eyes like marbles made of former suns
None of this is dark or sad but I do not know how

to show the heaven in which not being
present becomes another presence
at one with the recycling bins

and the copy machines  I won’t say so
because one of you will say But what about
and we can say nothing back  You are not here




Another Coda

Each thing in me that is broken
walks in my hands like a bone-
structure that cages the air
where my memories keep pace
with the crumbing buildings
and my face immersed in myth
my face slowly dripping into the book
I hold with hands floating into
other peoples’ bones The wilderness
knows my song but has no ears
When someone speaks of the teeth
of the wind I know it only blows so
in a mind that is not ready to be empty
Take this vessel I have folded from
your old letters and bless it with
words I will never hear Drop your
name into an empty bucket
when I am gone and know
I will hear it in the ringing of a bell



Matthew Henriksen

Matthew Henriksen is the author of Ordinary Sun (Black Ocean 2011) and co-editor of the online poetry journal Typo. He lives in the Arkansas Ozarks, where he organizes The Burning Chair Readings and works at the Dickson Street Bookshop.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2019

All Issues