! :: wendy videlock

Dear Writers, I’m compiling the first in what I hope is a series of publications I’m calling artists among artists. The theme for issue 1 is “Faggot Dinosaur.” I hope to hear from you! Thank you and best wishes.
—Ali, editor, Artists among Artists

I think that I shall never fear
a brontosaurus that is queer,

iguanodon as fetisheer,
a mammoth bringing up the rear,
an astrodon with extra gear,

metrosexual squirrel and deer,
a breeder with a dance career,
a fruit with cauliflower ear,

a lesbianic Chanticleer,
a grinning limpish-wristed Lear,
the weird one or the mutineer,

but those who perfectly adhere,
stay clear, stay clear, stay clear, stay clear.

frightening things :: david mura

After wandering years
Basho returned
to gaze at his umbilical cord
pickled in a jar. Plopped
in brine years ago
like the frog in the pond
in his famous haiku.
Of course
fame meant nothing
to him. He stood
in the blazing rain
in his family graveyard
and as a crow squawked overhead
the stones proclaimed him
the last of his line. He
kept feeling inside his
straw raincoat for a missing
limb or the hole where
the wind and rain
flew in. I’ll get drunk
tonight, he thought,
and his eyelashes glistened
as he trudged back
to his hermit’s hut
to gaze again at the jar.

[the predictability of these rooms] :: ben lerner

The predictability of these rooms is, in a word, exquisite. These rooms in a word. The moon is predictably exquisite, as is the view of the moon through the word. Nevertheless, we were hoping for less. Less space, less light. We were hoping to pay more, to be made to pay in public. We desire a flat, affected tone. A beware of dog on keep off grass. The glass ceiling is exquisite. Is it made of glass? No, glass.

a work of artifice :: marge piercy

The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.
Every day as he
whittles back the branches
the gardener croons,
It is your nature
to be small and cozy,
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.
With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.

vacating an apartment :: agha shahid ali

1
Efficient as Fate,
each eye a storm trooper,

the cleaners wipe my smile
with Comet fingers
and tear the plaster
off my suicide note.

They learn everything
from the walls’ eloquent tongues.

Now, quick as genocide,
they powder my ghost for a cinnamon jar.

They burn my posters
(India and Heaven in flames),

whitewash my voicestains,

make everything new,
clean as Death.

2
When the landlord brings new tenants,
even Memory is a stranger.

The woman, her womb solid with the future,
instructs her husband’s eyes
to clutch insurance policies.

They ignore my love affair with the furniture,
the corner table that memorized
my crossed-out lines.

Oh, she’s beautiful,
a hard-nippled Madonna.

The landlord gives them my autopsy;
they sign the lease.

The room is beating with bottled infants,
and I’ve stopped beating.

I’m moving out holding tombstones in my hands.

a private singularity :: john koethe

I used to like being young, and I still do,
Because I think I still am. There are physical
Objections to that thought, and yet what
Fascinates me now is how obsessed I was at thirty-five
With feeling older than I was: it seemed so smart
And worldly, so fastidiously knowing to dwell so much
On time — on what it gives, what it destroys, on how it feels.
And now it’s here and doesn’t feel like anything at all:
A little warm perhaps, a little cool, but mostly waiting on my
Life to fill it up, and meanwhile living in the light and listening
To the music floating through my living room each night.
It’s something you can only recognize in retrospect, long after
Everything that used to fill those years has disappeared
And they’ve become regrets and images, leaving you alone
In a perpetual present, in a nondescript small room where it began.
You find it in yourself: the ways that led inexorably from
Home to here are simply stories now, leading nowhere anymore;
The wilderness they led through is the space behind a door
Through which a sentence flows, following a map in the heart.
Along the way the self that you were born with turns into
The self that you created, but they come together at the end,
United in the memory where time began: the tinkling of a bell
On a garden gate in Combray, or the clang of a driven nail
In a Los Angeles backyard, or a pure, angelic clang in Nova Scotia — 
Whatever age restores. It isn’t the generalizations that I loved
At thirty-five that move me now, but particular moments
When my life comes into focus, and the feeling of the years
Between them comes alive. Time stops, and then resumes its story,
Like a train to Balbec or a steamer to Brazil. We moved to San Diego,
Then I headed east, then settled in the middle of the country
Where I’ve waited now for almost forty years, going through the
Motions of the moments as they pass from now to nothing,
Reading by their light. I don’t know why I’m reading them again — 
Elizabeth Bishop, Proust. The stories you remember feel like mirrors,
And rereading them like leafing through your life at a certain age,
As though the years were pages. I keep living in the light
Under the door, waiting on those vague sensations floating in
And out of consciousness like odors, like the smell of sperm and lilacs.
In the afternoon I bicycle to a park that overlooks Lake Michigan,
Linger on a bench and read Contre Sainte-Beuve and Time Reborn,
A physics book that argues time is real. And that’s my life — 
It isn’t much, and yet it hangs together: its obsessions dovetail
With each other, as the private world of my experience takes its place
Within a natural order that absorbs it, but for a while lets it live.
It feels like such a miracle, this life: it promises everything,
And even keeps its promise when you’ve grown too old to care.
It seems unremarkable at first, and then as time goes by it
Starts to seem unreal, a figment of the years inside a universe
That flows around them and dissolves them in the end,
But meanwhile lets you linger in a universe of one — 
A village on a summer afternoon, a garden after dark,
A small backyard beneath a boring California sky.
I said I still felt young, and so I am, yet what that means
Eludes me. Maybe it’s the feeling of the presence
Of the past, or of its disappearance, or both of them at once — 
A long estrangement and a private singularity, intact
Within a tinkling bell, an iron nail, a pure, angelic clang — 
The echo of a clear, metallic sound from childhood,
Where time began: “Oh, beautiful sound, strike again!”

one boy told me :: naomi shihab nye

Music lives inside my legs.
It’s coming out when I talk.

I’m going to send my valentines
to people you don’t even know.

Oatmeal cookies make my throat gallop.

Grown-ups keep their feet on the ground
when they swing. I hate that.

Look at those 2 o’s with a smash in the middle—
that spells good-bye.

Don’t ever say “purpose” again,
let’s throw the word out.

Don’t talk big to me.
I’m carrying my box of faces.
If I want to change faces I will.

Yesterday faded
but tomorrow’s in BOLDFACE.

When I grow up my old names
will live in the house
where we live now.
I’ll come and visit them.

Only one of my eyes is tired.
The other eye and my body aren’t.

Is it true all metal was liquid first?
Does that mean if we bought our car earlier
they could have served it
in a cup?

There’s a stopper in my arm
that’s not going to let me grow any bigger.
I’ll be like this always, small.

And I will be deep water too.
Wait. Just wait. How deep is the river?
Would it cover the tallest man with his hands in the air?

Your head is a souvenir.

When you were in New York I could see you
in real life walking in my mind.

I’ll invite a bee to live in your shoe.
What if you found your shoe
full of honey?

What if the clock said 6:92
instead of 6:30? Would you be scared?

My tongue is the car wash
for the spoon.

Can noodles swim?

My toes are dictionaries.
Do you need any words?

From now on I’ll only drink white milk
on January 26.

What does minus mean?
I never want to minus you.

Just think—no one has ever seen
inside this peanut before!

It is hard being a person.

I do and don’t love you—
isn’t that happiness?

(Hear an older version.)