— George Saunders, “Escape from Spiderhead”
Song by Adrienne Rich
You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.
You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely
If I’m lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawn’s first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep
If I’m lonely
it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning.
your sternum is a divining rod
for both passion and grief. because the tongue is the body’s
strongest muscle, make it say
joy. make it say I am a factory of splendid things. make it say
the octopus is the smartest animal
in the animal kingdom, and I am an octopus. I am an octopus.
I am happy. my survival
was not an accident, or purposeless."
— Marty McConnell, “Zoo” (via speioritur)
like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.
I remember when the sky
was all the rage,
like last night and how it felt
like a bundle of letters
flung into the air
over the apartment
where you and I slept
like two keys in someone’s pocket,
the same sky
as this morning but now it’s more
like a sheet that’s been
lifted like rice over a wedding
party. Jumbo jets
are swimming through the clouds
and you are driving
with your son asleep
in the back, every microcosm
of his body is initialed
with your name, with the sound
and wet mouth of your skin.
I’m getting ready
to walk through this city
for the tenth billion time, getting
ready to be a person
who is not like an empty building,
who is not like an emergency
kit, the swabs and needles,
the antiseptic and Band-Aids,
today I will be the way
I always wanted to be, someone
drinking coffee and being
kind of knowing
the difference between making
love and putting on
his shoes. The way I smile,
with the dental dam
of death clouding up my teeth
is something you always
knew about me, something you liked
a little in the left part of your body
which is the part that has water
and trees, puddles of blood
and planets of organs. I want to know
just what kind of a person
goes to sleep with one name
and wakes up with another, my inner life
has so many passports
I don’t think it belongs to any particular
Nation, nor would it be saved
if all out war were to appear over
the hedges like a mother
appearing in the middle of a Mall
where her lost child
has been watching a strange man
do a trick with a quarter,
a pin, and his thick hands. Whenever
you go, I am sawed in half
in front of an audience of one,
before the two boxes of myself
are wheeled back together and I get
to stand up again, and bow, and walk away.
and the milk tip is brimming
and each machine is working
and I will kiss you when
I cut up one dozen new men
and you will die somewhat,
again and again."
— An excerpt from “Again and Again and Again,” Anne Sexton
— ― Alice Munro
As I Was Saying
Old maple leaves barely able to hang on green, go
What will they do in tomorrow’s red dress?
soon to mulch or scatter down the street with
garbage. What is this conversation, this little
Crunch the bone of it to cake flour.
dance of when-we-can-what-we’ll-do? Are we
low, long, reverberations of dialogue about
the real dressed as the mundane? We’ve forgotten
A kind of play?
our native tongue, so speak with fingertips close to lips or
pressed into the small of my back. You whisper in
I want to float with those three in your key,
that breath span between release and reconnect. We are
let them curl under my chin.
closer to it there. That is our conversation.
(“As I Was Saying” appears in Monroe’s chapbook, Something More Like Love.)
Go for a rain walk with towels. Place bets
on puddles we’ve not seen since January
and may never see again. Let’s be serious
for a moment—let’s not! Count buds on maples. Let’s break
the window of the house across the street with our hands.
Let’s climb trees slick black, grab the crow at the top by the tail.
Let’s pray! Let’s not. Let’s beg! Let’s not.
Let’s let each other have our way with each other. Let’s do this again
real soon. Let’s create strange verses. Let’s try to pick ourselves up
off the floor after so much whiskey—so many whiskey kisses.
About Jenn Monroe: Jenn Monroe is executive editor of Eastern Point Press and co-founder and an editor/educator for Eastern Point Lit House. She is the author of Something More Like Love (2012, Finishing Line Press) and her poems have been published in a wide array of literary journals. She lives with her loves in New Hampshire.
See more of her work here: www.thepoetgirl.com
"Nothing much happens in Watteau’s paintings, aside from an endless round of flirtations, a grandly pleasurable buildup to pleasure or to the possibility of pleasure. There is also, however, a confounding or distracting or confusing of amorous signals, so that love’s arrows, far from ever flying straight, do corkscrew curls, ricochet, bounce, float, zigzag in a scattering of patterns that are like noting so much as the diagrams abandoned by a mad scientist on a blackboard. So how are we to understand these paintings that are a never-ending plot of come-ons, importunings, seductions, rejections, equivocations, retreats? What precisely does flirtation mean? I found myself thinking about all this after a friend, standing in the middle of his office heaped high with books, gave me his new one, The Flirt’s Tragedy, a quickening excursion through Victorian and Edwardian fiction, which actually begins in the present, with Milan Kundera’s novel Immortality and the thought that “immortality does not adhere to romantic passion perse but rather to passion’s calculated postponement.” Reading that sentence on the bus back from my friend’s office, I realized that in a sense passion’s calculated postponement is Watteau’s essential subject, so that his paintings become a meditation on the possibilities and impossibilities of love, a meditation on the chance that two people might come together, might for at least a time be turned into one.
Watteau’s paired lovers, locked in their agonizing, delicious indecision, are emblems of the ever-approaching and ever-receding possibility of love. You may argue that Watteau’s paintings of his contemporaries are an exploration of the possibility that love can change the world, and in this sense they are, like many works by Titian and Poussin, responses to love stories from classical mythology. But with Watteau the story is never complete. You try to join your destiny with another’s, but you can’t. Or at least you fear that you can’t. Flirtation becomes for Watteau’s men and women a perpetual process of becoming—a myth for modern times. As the young lovers fritter away their afternoons in the charming gardens, the old romantic love stories are collapsing. And the lover’s gestures—the touching, the looking, the looking away—are a fracturing, an abstracting of love’s grand narratives, a fracturing that shatters the authority of the narrative, creating curiously enigmatic images. What we are witnessing is something like the death of storytelling, or at least the thickening or slowing of storytelling, until the parts of the story—the young man’s arms extended in a near embrace, the young woman’s head turned away in doubt—are so magnified as to refer only to themselves. All of love becomes a sketch, a rehearsal, an episode in an experiment that can never be completed.”
(with thanks for this post to Christopher Calvin-Pollard)