I was in 7th Grade

and you told me that you dreamed of us dying, the ozone layer failing, and all of our lungs struggling. Our faces were blue, eyes popping cherry vessels. You want to poke more holes in our canopy.
This could be a litany or a jeremiad.
But I know that I’m an asshole.
I scream at cars. It is easier. I chase them.
What would you do if you caught one?
I would wrestle the axle to the blacktop, twist the leg of the tire into a bowl, and throw the thing away. I would find my breath and apologize. I would accept my fault in this argument and fold my hands back into the pockets of my khakis.
I would ask for forgiveness for this mess. I would apologize for saying it.

Blushed Pale

The blushing blood rushing to the surface grasps harder when set on gray and green. My darling. How sick. I sold you under-cooked chicken and sugarless gum. I told you it was raw, organic, free, and home on the range. Imagine tufts of feathers playing with deer and cantaloupe. No, leave the feathers out. Imagining this meat with movement and body warmth can churn a city stomach. Don’t worry; it’ll all be up and over soon.

The turn of leaves

To this is the point of a pin covered in angels without end, folded over a neutron, a quark. A woman’s face framed in brunette, lying in a field. What a tune. A fish? I cut strings with the gap of my teeth. Gargle this smile, the smell of cauliflower warming in plastic. I like you better peeling and the skin of you—fake leather—gashed and thrown away. The use of a single electrical socket full of slim fingers. Yes, 200. This is the turn of leaves in wind waiting for the coming storm as my temperature breaks and falls back in a wave—sucking out the oxygen.

On understanding: a quick note

I hold all truths to be self-evident.

I need not think further. I turn
in a stream of concrete
and polaroids encased in superglue.

What is the meaning of thirteen
blackbirds? To peel
the wings off? To pluck
the feathers?

To tear the beak off?
To rip out the ribs and find some pearl hidden in still-hot entrails?
Will a jewel give this meat

Will will will words worthy winnings?

The meaning is that it is.

The misconception is that all things are here for you. Not everything is made for you to consume without thought or work. Not every smattering of words is made for you to cut up and find A Meaning. Some things are here as nebulous and relational. You get out what you put in, filling the mortar between the rough stones to complete the wall. Don’t be so stupid as to suggest that something is bad because you aren’t spoonfed an easy story.

Lyn Hejinian’s enjambment and thesis statement

The image of a portion of the cover of a book, "The Book of a Thousand Eyes" by Lyn Hejinian, published by Omnidawn Press. ISBN-10: 1890650579

I recently made my way through Lyn Hejinian’s “The Book of a Thousand Eyes.” Coming out over 300 pages, this work is a lengthy and interesting meditation on sleep, night, perspective, and narrative.

It is tempting to take a poem and hone in on how it is or isn’t an example of language poetry, but I want to look at a specific poem. It is the first poem that ends with the first indicated break at “Of a mummy! what sort of individual is that?”

What made my ears perk up as I read this poem was not the “language” aspects of the discussion (though, her use of words and categories as poles of the poem is remarkable), but I was drawn to the ends of lines and the enjambment that she uses to craft a poem that leaps from line to line. Further than that, Hejinian starts the poem switch-hitting: she throws us a line that acts as a thesis statement or summation of the content and action of the poem. This first thought inhabits and haunts much of the rest of the body of this poem.

Let’s look at a few lines in particular to see how this enjambment works.

Mounted on a sorrel rocking horse

Whose reins are made of braided hair

And whose saddle is slipping like a continental plate

Around a diamond

Because the girth is loose and we’re bound

On a crash course. . .

Her bag full of images are impeccable, even in this middle section. She gives us things that loosely connect: a sorrel rocking horse, reins, braided hair, saddle, bound, crash. There’s a continental plate, a diamond, and a crash course that are also loosely connected. But there is no final punctuation; this is, presumably, part of one long sentence with many disparate images that play off of and against one another.

However, notice the way that Hejinian stitches them together!

The final word of each line is the needle and thread that holds this multi-chambered thought together. It is comparable to Gregory Pardlo’s Pulitzer prize winning “Digest,” which used enjambment to make the final word of each line the pivot point of two divergent clauses. Hejinian uses these images and words as the thread that binds lines together (to both immediately adjacent lines and even earlier lines of the poem). “Horse” obviously ties to its own line, and stitches “reins.” “Hair” connects to “horse” and “reins” while stitching “saddle.” “Plate” to “diamond.” The poem goes on and on like that, using the enjambment of these huge, grammatically questionable sentences to piece together the conflicting images into constellations.

I didn’t forget about that summary that precedes the poem!

What a curious convention to break. Amateur poets give summary lines at the end that spell out too much of the magic of a poem. Unpracticed poets don’t trust the audience and kill the animal by picking it apart and giving it an anatomy chart stapled to its back. Hejinian makes a rookie mistake on purpose and has this summation carry the poem forward, rather than killing the end. Hejinian takes a conventional no-no, thumbs her nose at it, and turns it on its head.

“Ideas cross empty spaces in a game” begins the piece. This lays out the play of the poem, the constellations of ideas versus images that circle around rural or farm life, around county fairs, around childhood, around tragedies, around girlhood, and around womanhood. This first line sets up the disjunctive of the poem by setting ideas (mental constructs) apart from things (perhaps these are merely physical objects) and then telling them to march to the things. Ideas must move back into place in this game. There is a disconnect that must be resolved or played within.

And we see this tension continue in lines like “The rider will be thrown” or “When it fails to accord with her ideas of what a county fair should be/—Timeless!” Here, “Timeless” serves as a capitalized idea that fails to match up to what is. How things ought be must reach for what is. Even the final lines play out the tension between idea and thing: “Impressions/Of a mummy! what sort of individual is that?” Impressions being held as ideas and the question that points to facts—individuals are not impressions or mental objects.