Something Bright, Then Holes

Something Bright, Then Holes

THE MUTE STORY OF NOVEMBER

Living as if every moment announced a beloved
and it does

Then the bleeding-off

Maybe you are the sea to me, or me to you
A reasonable enough supposition

Can’t you see, I’m busy
triangulating

Gingko leaves at my feet
A flood of questing yellow

They say that everything that is growing
will stop growing soon, maybe

this weekend, the first deep freeze
The season of falling

will give way to the season
of brittle upturned sticks

Who cares, it’s all equally gorgeous
and last night, a lunar eclipse

Immaculate white moving in and out
of a rusty red rind, I pulled

a sheet of Plexiglas over
the hole in the roof

so I could watch it from inside the boat
The boat from which we ride the sky

Nothing can go wrong, do you understand
Nothing can ever go wrong

This is what happens when you cease
your management

The blue and gold of the morning
just appear on the sidewalk, ongoing drift

of garbage, a tire is good to sit in
A window pane may flake in the wind

The mute story of November

I don’t even have to steal
your words, you give them to me for free

So strange to know that you can and cannot hurt me
My heart just can’t break any more, now that

it has changed substance, is full
of fluid and fire and air and turning

like a little wheel in its broth

And I can and cannot hurt you either, now that
I am utterly virginal, preposterous

as that may sound, it’s also true
Sometimes you get to start anew

The pages of my book wet and limpid
with tea, on a Sunday, the spidery plants

reaching haphazardly in all directions
from their dilapidated mobile, it’s part

of the magic here, and the painted green
cement floor. What part of this autonomy

am I not supposed to like?; I too have been
much lonelier. Maybe in eleven rooms

you’ll find some sort of home, or base, it’s like
there’s this enormous surplus of feelings and/or words

and we prick at the tarp, letting little pinwheels of light come in
but never really touching the source

So little time, really, we’ve eaten some food, slept badly
swam in jumbled waters, very little coming

I don’t even know you, shadowed by the knowing
The knowing that has nothing to do

with life-stories, their wicked specificity
Sometimes my speech moves so fast inside me

before it hatches, and I know I’m about to flop over
into tongues, but I don’t care: this is the speed

at which I run, and you run fast, too, so I let you
touch me with one hand while the other steers a car

through midtown Manhattan, it’s almost as if
none of this has ever happened, it just shines

then gets enclosed in an envelope decorated with faded blue stamps
from the Belgian Congo. It’s such a relief

when tears come from the cold, like yesterday
on River Street, all the men lined up in their idling cars

by the power plant, what are they waiting for?
With all due humility, I have to say

I know it now, or it knows me
the peace-feeling

that stays even as the body races and pants
above or along it, when the team suddenly does

a jazz square in unison, when a dream repeals
an impediment overnight, when the whole world

The whole world is strobing

 

ON THE DAY OF YOUR LEAVE-TAKING

On the day of your leave-taking
I wouldn’t want to see you anyway
I want to be alone with my vagrant ugliness
Want the bridge suddenly to double its span
so the only parameter becomes the vanishing
of my already thin-soled shoes
On a Friday night, one girl hangs from a trapeze by her shins
You think it looks scary but having lived among them
I know there’s always a safety (in this case, the toes)
Another girl enjoys bars with themes
Another is painting bunnies in Kentucky
I am taking my welts to the tub
hoping the porcelain is free of blood and hair
The blood and hair I left there, streaking
the pale pink soap melting into the brick wall
which grows black and green with companions
People continue to grind the veiny fat into the asphalt
with their feet, it’s only nine degrees, my river rocks
now bearded with ice. So the fat freezes and a spoon
wedged into the cement glistens, I keep wanting
to pick up every hard and bright object I find
and put it in a Mason jar, then add blue pigment
and shake. Gnarled hand of green glass, leftover
confetti, petrified pieces of pizza that appear
near the trio of homeless men who watch a shaky TV
hooked into a generator in a parking lot, it’s where
I get my news these days and why not, they always
know the score, the five-day weather report. I can see you
boarding your jet plane, see you with your hat on crooked
as if you recently tumbled onto the planet out of the carapace
of a rumpled goddess. I hear the gulf is a little bellicose
but beyond that, livable, despite the depressing stats
from that part of the world, and you know I’ll be here, perched
into blotchy corners, not knowing what life
could possibly mean without its soundtrack
so I can hum along to its pain, as if its humdrum
or shared nature could possibly dim its particular
luster. But it’s the cold that makes my mascara pool up
around my eyes and gives a shock to my quads
as they push forward, the only idiot crossing the bridge
at sunset, but you have to march across the span
while you can, before winter’s sweet cocoon
gets punctured and happiness presents itself
as an option, and I have to accept the possibility
of another body in my bed. I keep dreaming it’s
someone else that’s paralyzed, a childhood friend
I’ve fallen out of touch with, I keep dreaming
we’re fucking but somehow never alone, sometimes
I think it would be so hot to fuck you with another
and other times I know I’m just making the best
out of a bad situation. Have I mentioned I’m watching
a man softly cry as he searches for a lost pill
under the pillows of a sage-colored couch, he has
a cough that comes from the Underworld, one lens
of his glasses dramatically cracked. I want
to hold him, the way I want to hold anyone
who seems contagious. Maybe we could
keep each other warm. And you emptied yourself
twice into my throat and I remain utterly starved
for more, the smell of one sex intimating the smell of another
but who am I kidding, really, on this January day
that has dwindled into the single digits, in which
we have to pin the drapes shut with safety pins
and stuff towels into the honeycombed walls
I just want to be called out as the greedy whore that I am


  Maggie Nelson  is the author of nine books of poetry and prose, many of which have become cult classics defying categorization. Her nonfiction titles include the New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award winner The Argonauts (2015), The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (2011; a New York Times Notable Book of the Year), Bluets (2009; named by Bookforum as one of the top 10 best books of the past 20 years), The Red Parts (2007; reissued 2016), and Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (2007). Her poetry titles include Something Bright, Then Holes (2007) and Jane: A Murder (2005; finalist for the PEN/ Martha Albrand Art of the Memoir). She has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction, an NEA in Poetry, an Innovative Literature Fellowship from Creative Capital, and an Arts Writers Fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation. In 2016 she was awarded a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship. She currently lives in Los Angeles.  Photo by Tom Atwood

Maggie Nelson is the author of nine books of poetry and prose, many of which have become cult classics defying categorization. Her nonfiction titles include the New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award winner The Argonauts (2015), The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (2011; a New York Times Notable Book of the Year), Bluets (2009; named by Bookforum as one of the top 10 best books of the past 20 years), The Red Parts (2007; reissued 2016), and Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (2007). Her poetry titles include Something Bright, Then Holes (2007) and Jane: A Murder (2005; finalist for the PEN/ Martha Albrand Art of the Memoir). She has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction, an NEA in Poetry, an Innovative Literature Fellowship from Creative Capital, and an Arts Writers Fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation. In 2016 she was awarded a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

Photo by Tom Atwood

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