from Atopia II
The pines are broken.
They lie parallel to the earth.
The upturned palms rot from their centers outward.
Their cores are full of swerving insects that move in delight.
In form, they are the godhead; in subject, they are a cannibalism.
The same house blows away over and over again until you can’t stand it.
Do you have any beer here?
In a field lives a man.
He has cleared away the debris that he can and has planted a vast garden.
The man caresses his cannabis plants.
They are his pride and joy.
He has come into town to meet a friend for dinner.
They eat ribs together slathered with a dark red sauce.
The world turns, wild-eyed, on its axis.
He tells his friend these plants can cure anything.
When the waiter asks what he wants to drink,
he orders water. They talk about the diseases
passed between lovers,
a collector of songs
and not nostalgically.
Charred picture of the moon, stretching gauze over your cold face. The empty spot of mother, a little girl buries a small, cracked egg. Hand in the heartbroken soil, poppies in place of persistent shame. Charred picture of the sea, smoke spiraling from a terrible ship. The chronicles of several centuries, the stern practice of never crying. Your wild, revolutionary hands, an order dissolved by someone in charge. The law and its collapsed travesties, let’s hold hands and buy ice cream together. The law and its collapsed travesties, let’s make dinner and invite all our friends. The law and its collapsed travesties, anyone can break a window. The law and its collapsed travesties, we should go break a window! Charred picture of the moon, a child’s nightmare is never over. Charred picture of the sea, the landlord of Thetis won’t greet me. The chronicles of several centuries, may I touch you where water meets skin? Your wild, revolutionary hands, I will teach you to identify the edible plants. The stern practice of never crying, the ascorbic pleasure of sealing an envelope. An order dissolved by someone in charge, you are crying anyway and that is okay. Smoke spiraling from a terrible ship, your warm, revolutionary eyes. Poppies in place of persistent shame, a knot in the chest unravels at sunset. A little girl buries a small, cracked egg, her mother screams in the background. A child’s nightmare is never over, the cormorants form a checkmark in air. The restaurant is closing and we are the last ones here, I will bring you home and give you a body. The landlord of Thetis won’t greet me, hold up your wild revolutionary hands. You are crying anyway and that’s okay, a child’s nightmare is never calculated. The ascorbic pleasure of sealing an envelope, a knot in the chest unravels at dawn. At dawn the cormorants form a checkmark in air, smoke spiraling from it’s terrible origin. I will teach you to identify the edible plants, a small cracked egg screams in the background. The mother is dissolved by someone in charge, poppies in place of persistent shame. The restaurant is folding into its origin, may I touch you where water meets skin? Ascorbic Thetis and her life of salt, will you bring me the pills by the terrible ship? In your wild revolutionary hands, my body dissolves the cormorants in air. Formed by the place of persistent shame, your warm chest unravels at sunset.
The poet sat by the sea for she was making studies. I will make you poems in the vast light. The cold air smelled of kelp. The birds grew jittery. The white light foamed on the distant rocks slick with a watery violence. Inland, fruit could no longer be picked anonymously. Oh, the tenderness of this debt!
Your rough face like someone who has spent too long at sea in an ancient century of strange metals smelting the insane days together. Like a man who has come back crazed with an amulet in one hand and a swarm of bees in another. And I am not the maker of song anymore but merely one who mindlessly transcribes under the shade tree. ______, make it stop! Or make the song come back to me, the song that walks too close to the sea cliff’s absurd valences. Is she the one,__________, who sat in the gentle grove? Is she the one,__________, who tied her hair in knots? Is she the one,__________, who composed on the night shift as the moon’s corona grew like a rope around the throat? Is she the one,__________, who wrote sweet Georgics by the pools? The gulls dipped into the liquid fire and the liquid salt, always coming up short.
Your rough face like barnacles on a whale’s back, the miles and miles they travel. Tell me,________, is she mere singer or has the sunlight twisted into another story? I choose you. I choose you in the collapsed erotic light of some villagers in France in 1873 clubbing away blindly at the panic birds. The incredible flash and smoke of my song. Those villagers who will never quite emerge. They who swing furiously at the thickening gold and black shadows. They are not like you. They drown at sea, drown in time, drown in cloud. But you, my love, are not among the dead and falling birds and you must remember that forever.
Soon this land will be on fire. But for now, the hills are verdant and the sheep cluster like tears. Virgil asked his friend to burn the Aeneid and by a fire, the friend agreed but did not do it. An improbable story arose. That he, on his deathbed, unhappy with his unfinished EPIC asked for the A to be burned. (See AENEID, BURNING OF).
_______, I saw a pod of whales from high above on the highway, looked back at the green hills behind me and Poof! you were gone. How could you be gone already? We barely had time to memorize the color of our eyes.
Soon this land will be on fire. But for now, we must revisit the rivulets of literature, how each song bursts from the throat as poppies burst from roadside.
Kafka asked that, upon his death, his books be burned, one laid on top of the other, the second erasing the first, the third erasing the second, etc.
Was it because he felt the world was not good enough for his art or was it because he loved the flame?
Did you fall into the green hills because you knew I would run after the song or was it because you were carried off by a sentimental and false tragedy?
A thesis on the vanishing of words, letters, until they become nothing but impulse, the split second before an orgasm.
A thesis on value, its coordinates and occasions, and a thesis on the scattered half lines of ancient poems,
how to fill in the blanks with flame or grass or instance.
For she made studies by the half-light of a half- hearted, professional sounding email.
Dear SANDRA SIMONDS, Barclays values your opinion in helping us continue to improve the products and services we offer.
Sandra Simonds is an award-winning author of seven books of poetry: Atopia (Wesleyan University Press, forthcoming in Fall, 2019), Orlando, (Wave Books, forthcoming in 2018), Further Problems with Pleasure, winner of the 2015 Akron Poetry Prize from the University of Akron Press, Steal It Back (Saturnalia Books, 2015), The Sonnets (Bloof Books, 2014), Mother Was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2012), and Warsaw Bikini (Bloof Books, 2009). Her poems have been published in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Best American Poetry 2015 and 2014 and have appeared in many literary journals, including Poetry, the American Poetry Review, the Chicago Review, Granta, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Fence, Court Green, and Lana Turner. In 2013, she won a Readers’ Choice Award for her sonnet “Red Wand,” which was published on Poets.org, the Academy of American Poets website. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida and is an Associate professor of English and Humanities at Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia.
Illustration by Aliya Smith.