apartment :: rae armantrout

1

The woman on the mantel,
who doesn’t much resemble me,
is holding a chainsaw
away from her body,
with a shocked smile,
while an undiscovered tumor
squats on her kidney.

2

The present
is a sentimental favorite,
with its heady mix
of grandiosity
and abjection,
truncated,
framed.

3

It’s as if I’m subletting
a friend’s apartment.
Even in the dream,
I’m trying to imagine
which friend.

And I’m trying to get
all my robes together,
robes I really own and
robes I don’t

imaginary places :: rae armantrout

Reading, we are allowed to follow someone else’s train of thought as it starts off for an imaginary place. This train has been produced for us—or rather materialized and extended until it is almost nothing like the ephemeral realizations with which we’re familiar. To see words pulled one by one into existence is to intrude on a privacy of sorts. But we are familiar with the contract between spectator and performer. Now the text isn’t a train but an actress/model who takes off her school uniform piece by piece alone with the cameraman. She’s a good girl playing at being bad, all the time knowing better. She invites us to join her in that knowledge. But this is getting us nowhere.

chirality :: rae armantrout

If I didn’t need
to do anything,
would I?

Would I oscillate
in two
or three dimensions?

Would I summon
a beholder

and change chirality
for “him”?

A massless particle
passes through the void
with no resistance.

Ask what it means
to pass through the void.

Ask how it differs
from not passing.

exact :: rae armantrout

Quick, before you die,
describe

the exact shade
of this hotel carpet.

What is the meaning
of the irregular, yellow

spheres, some
hollow,

gathered in patches
on this bedspread?

If you love me,
worship

the objects
I have caused

to represent me
in my absence.

*

Over and over
tiers

of houses spill
pleasantly

down that hillside.
It

might be possible
to count occurrences.

errands :: rae armantrout

The old
to-and-fro

is newly cloaked
in purpose.

There’s a jumble
of hair and teeth

under the bedclothes
in the forest.

“The better to eat you with,”
it says,

and nibbles us
until we laugh.

*

An axeman
comes to help.

*

“To, to,”
birds cheep

to greet
whatever has come up.

“To, to”

transactions :: rae armantrout

1

What do we like best
about ourselves?

Our inability
to be content.

We might see this
restlessness

as a chip
not yet cashed in.

2

You appear
because you’re lonely

maybe.
You would not say that.

You come to tell me
you’re saving money
by cooking for yourself.

You’ve figured out
what units you’ll need

to exchange for units
if you intend

I know I mustn’t
interrupt

3

Hectic and flexible,

flames

are ideal

new bodies for us!

yonder :: rae armantrout

1

Anything cancels
everything out.

If each point
is a singularity,

thrusting all else
aside for good,

“good” takes the form
of a throng
of empty chairs.

Or it’s ants
swarming a bone.

2

I’m afraid
I don’t love
my mother
who’s dead

though I once –
what does “once” mean? –
did love her .

So who’ll meet me over yonder?
I don’t recognize the place names.

Or I do, but they come
from televised wars.

scumble :: rae armantrout

What if I were turned on by seemingly innocent words such as “scumble,” “pinky,”
or extrapolate?”

What if I maneuvered conversation in the hope that others would pronounce these
words?

Perhaps the excitement would come from the way the other person touched them
lightly and carelessly with his tongue.

What if “of” were such a hot button?

“Scumble of bushes.”

What if there were a hidden pleasure
in calling one thing
by another’s name?

Enjoy the audio at poets.org

unbidden :: rae armantrout

The ghosts swarm.
They speak as one
person. Each
loves you. Each
has left something
undone.

Did the palo verde
blush yellow
all at once?

Today’s edges
are so sharp

they might cut
anything that moved.

The way a lost
word

will come back
unbidden.

You’re not interested
in it now,

only
in knowing
where it’s been.