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The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2020

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JUNE 2020 Issue

Lunar letters

between Kiran Bath & Catherine Chen

   New moon

Bath to Chen

I start low, from underneath the rise. In these aspects a lifting may never be contemplated.

What are acts of self? In the dark of the moon I blend frankincense, lotus, calendula.
Two armed, I intend. Four armed, I give her up. I give her. An altar. Someone decided on the meaning.
Vedic bodies came together, agreed on forward messages.

Vedic bodies came together, agreed on forward messages.

Do you trust the moon?

Maha tells me new moons are for menstruation. I am supposed to begin. Red bindu.
(As always, I begin late)

Another interpretation says this blank phase is inauspicious. Begin nothing. Digest no meat. Cast spells
(I can cast)

In the time of the Sattasaī, the new moon’s shade was a bed sheet. Conditions for hiding lovers.
Smoke veil. Wrapping limbs. Crickets and bells.
(Now we cross continents) (begin again)

Under a post-colonial moon we’re told to set new intentions. Adopt wiccan.
(We had no choice but to repeat a beginning)

Here is the arc I offer:

Base notes - A prayer for honey. Three drops of lotus essence.
Mid notes - Threads of music. A vision of a well.
Top notes - I will lay on the floor, arms gently rattling. Dried lavender. Something burning.
I will slowly rise and carve her out of myself: the next phase.

   New moon

Chen to Bath

I cannot bear the scent of my body let alone its ‎essence its touch

I licked my right inner forearm knowing I’d encounter a breakthrough

Regarding the translation as typo can you tell me how the moon ends?

Do not hold doors do not trample grass do not disturb dreams of infancy

Writing my manner of thinking requires a sensibility I have seriously degraded by spending
most of my life in spaces neither equipped nor inoculated to handle any degree of nuance
likewise wearing my sentences to their point of exhaustion means every paragraph is an
indicator of becoming more and more spent

In English I pen my signature on official documentation in Chinese I write thank you cards to aunts
I haven’t seen in over 10 years

A sense for free form gesture or everyday calligraphy requires repetition

She reaches for my left temple then strokes my hand then turns around

Much like a noose I’ve always wanted to transform a painting, e.g. vandalize it

[Shukla Paksha]
   Waxing phase

Bath to Chen

I have no light source for origins. Even the Moon relies on the Sun. In the dream there was something about cultivation. What is dependence but a devotion to survival? I’ve taken shame in lesser things. I have my tics which I conceal so well now that no one questions my poise. Wince. Lunartic. Neck-tilt. Lunatic. Who gave me these gestures? Spasms. No one showed me what to make of my pieces.      I developed a contrology via mudras. What my palms can do. Vedic hand gestures.

                (Use Abhaya mudra to receive protection and alleviate fear)

Like this, ring finger and pinky in forward flex. Palm thrust. Religion of moon. I hold the mudra. I hold whatever is waxing. I find the opposite of distance. I recall that love is activated on a cellular level. I dip, I cull, I swallow the beams. Religion of moon. It ended on my collarbone -- his favorite exposure -- my heart was too full to hold anything else.

[Shukla Paksha]
   Waxing phase

Chen to Bath

placing my pen where the border ------ begins with bovine lovers i drag the ink down your spine ritual isnt easy like so you fold the pages hamburger style remarking bodies arent all that bad through thick and thin ive managed to retain most of it easily lasting dreamwork singular shrunken meaning reveals a heart slowly unstitching its surgical progress can we unpack its just tea tension in the/// late mesozoic atmosphere standing at hoyt st reminds me im still waiting for the six still sitting across from you at the kitchen table sticky with mullein ripe like fishheads at the time you licked the perimeter of yr lips then my face loving each other isnt an act of collusion so much as it is running revenge we ran the entirety of your grandmothers boardwalk tits out in the dream im shucked dry mussels for muscles rinse dry repeat opening the bottle entering the rooftop balcony of wanting pacing the border of the park begging with the snake let us cross let us coexist i named the lunar eclipse after your favorite room a mode of living im assigned a friend is my friend every poem reveals my failure to write to you every poem is a transference here it lies in full shadow savoy repose


Kiran Bath

Kiran Bath is a Sydney-born poet and essayist. The recipient of fellowships and support from Poets House, The Vermont Studio Center and Kundiman, her work has appeared in wildness, The Adroit Journal, The Boiler Journal and elsewhere.

Catherine Chen

Catherine Chen is a poet, performer, and author of the chapbook Manifesto, or: Hysteria (Big Lucks). Their writing has appeared in Slate, The Rumpus, Apogee, Anomaly, and Nat. Brut, among others. A recipient of fellowships from Poets House, Lambda Literary, and Sundress Academy for the Arts, they're currently working on a libretto.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2020

All Issues