To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Marthe Reed: Three Poems from “Nights Reading”

[Scheduled for publication later this year by Lavender Ink: a major coming forth]

Gazing at Plums
Though the reasonable man does not have doubts, the condition of woman is perhaps less certain. A question of where
A box of pens, a wooden bowl, desk littered in open books: the uncertain truth of propositions
Light penetrates the shadow of night jade. A hawk rending the black-flecked back of a bear. Can we rely on our senses?
A prescription of dialogue. Such talk gets it’s meaning from the correspondence between doubt and longing
Explanations signal: a book of fables, illustrated herbals. The interchangeable nature of service and servitude demands precision, the roots, red and potent as the flowers
Scheherazade’s inventions. She prepares a tisane of chamomile, dried quince flowers. Though it is not a matter of seeing
An open field, a page of writing. To confirm an hypothesis, again and again
Does she have a body? Married to interrogation, herself predicated on the firmness of flesh, her teeth tearing through it, the sweetness of its juice
A place she enters into
At the feet of the king, her body “less and worse than nothing”
She incites the space around her
Blue walls of the bedchamber border the chronicle she narrates
Fragment and calyx: he takes her to bed
In response to such bluntness, we must enter by force of imagination. The heart of the rose opens
Like wine poured from a silver ewer
Dizzy with delight, we wonder, what was she saying?
Threaded texts of the loom lining a room, master and slave abandon their accustomed roles. In a certain sense invisible
Her finger traces the circumference of his eyes, his lips, curve of an ear
Whispers, like a muezzin’s blessings. He will not
Woman and scheming inseparable
Narratives bend upon themselves, refusing source and closure
No teleology, “A cup of wine, oh beloved?”  He cannot answer, his grief manufactured and reproducible
She dips her fingers into the cup. “I shall tell you a story”
The immodest splendor in which she subsists. Beneath such petals he does not, or cannot, speak
A tailor, a hunchback, a bite of fish, a cunning wife. Displacing the traumatic thing, night jasmine enters through an open window. He can no longer control the foci of his attention
Still he is caught, neither inscribed nor spoken. Yet
Dawn rescinds night’s license. Another code, another bed, proposing temporary reprieve
If he must have her, what will she do with him?
A jew, a muslim, a christian, a king, the possibilities apparently endless. The thirteen versions, each verse more fantastic than the last
Language nourishes a lack for which it is the only recourse
What will happen this time? You never can tell. Let’s see how it begins.
Italo Calvino
a disclosure, silk’s transparency
how can he contain himself
though the invitation into the text is conditional
curiously preemptive
the king and his bride in the dark
manipulating continuity
more elaborate and more ornamented
inducing a state of disequilibrium
her leitmotif
she reappears
tarot cards: Calvino unable to begin
she unable to stop
her jeweled bodice
her flowing trousers
Ars combinatoria
or thematic rubrics
her laughter adduces a lyric analog
four notes of a descending scale
coherence a matter of repetition
waves growing and retreating
then Allegro molto
no obvious point of arrival
her true genius
deftly tying everything together
will you write this down?
a jest
yet in the pas de deux, he ravishes her
calligraphy haunting the text
the delicacy of her limbs
the probability of his embrace
a woman in possession of her head
plays upon your memory
“eager to know”
she swoons expectantly
“what comes next”
an arbitrary convenience
that much we were certain of
absent from both the frame and the framed
not a narrative
an occasion :: gravitas and ego
what music, what frame?
her Shariyar
subdued and tormented, into the interstices
“you turn the book over in your hand”
gesturing at certainty
themes and variation
beyond doubt an oriental narrative
her stern husband
:: an ordered repetition
[note.  Of the preceding poems & of the work as a whole, by way of a poetics: “Engagements with the Thousand and One Nights, gender, narration, and Sir Richard Burton, as well as other writers’ takes on the story-cycle, the collection is marriage of several impulses, coalescing upon the nature of narrative and Scheherazade as narrator.  The original story cycle posits Scheherazade as redeemer of not only herself and her sister virgins of the kingdom, but of just rule and King Shariyar’s humanity; the poems explore tropes of gender and of the seemingly powerless (women, slaves, blacks) to erode and challenge the status quo.”  Scheduled for publication later this year by Lavender Ink.]

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