Monthly Archives: June 2010

Notes on the Work of William Morris

binding the blinding the flesh
etched into lace with lines
like stone the bone the skull
the bird beak hooked
like the nose the lips
silent and closed the spear
that will never inflict
injuries the face tattooed
with wounds the eyes
of awe empty and upturned
hollows of blind eyes
perceive the numinous
as backlit ears hear
translations of sensation
the beard of bone the tongue
of bone desiring the wig
of beads rattling with
every move with desire
absence becomes a throbbing
in retinal depths
the shells that open
writhe close the shield
behind the skin that is
the sternum grown
enormous the spear
before it does not defend
but pulses with purity
and absence of desire defines
that lifeforce based in breeding
and seeding that transmutes
as it achieves height
out of sight and light
filled still flesh

– PF Anderson, 2003, in response to the exhibit of his glass art at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA

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To Conquer is to Cleave

“To Conquer is to Cleave,” Replied
the Cow to the Gray-Maned God,
“And to be Conquered … ”

Beasts with cloven hooves
have cloven bellies
a chambered stomach
in an abdomen entire.

No, my chambered heart
does not drink you in,
does not devour you.
Yes, my hands split with holding

you, and yes, my heart.
The cloven heart sheds
a clutch of memories, ghosts,
hopes. I lead you, now.

– PF Anderson, ~1984

Corn Chowder

Someone asked me for this in April when I wrote the meatloaf poem, but I couldn’t find it. Now, following a, well, not a flood, but significant water damage in my basement following the nearby tornado last weekend, a silver lining is that I have located draft copies of a few of my early poetry collections, on paper, smelling rather of mildew, slightly crinkled from mild water damage, but readable! Before I lose them again, I am going to try to archive a few each week here for a while, until I catch up. I’ve lost all my electronic copies, so feeling a reprieve. However, remember these are REALLY old, and I was much younger! Who knows – maybe they were better off lost.


CORN CHOWDER

Each cob in June is a small sweet spear —
leaves as soft as peach fuzz,
green and unbearded —
then August comes with each cob swollen
in its sheath. The rough leaves
grab back at my hands as I strip
them away. I yank the beards off,
search out each strand of silk
back to each one’s root in the seed.

Cob after cob after cob is added to the heap.
My hands are sticky with juice and hair
and dirty from the newsprint tablecloth.
I pick up the shortest sharpest knife,
push it down and away, watch
the kernels spill from the cob,
the sweet sticky milk spurt as the knife
passes thru each seed, milk running
down the sides of my hands.

Daughter, when I fed you as an infant,
sometimes you snapped your head away
and my breasts would spurt milk sweeter than corns’.
Sometimes we were separated. Then I would squeeze
milk from my breasts like water from
a stone (my breasts hard as rocks and heavy
as a cob breaking loose of the stalk
without a hand to help it,
its own weight pulling it free).

You, seed of my body, have broken
free so many times already, so many
yet to come. For now, I must be content
to feed you what I have — corn
and cream for calm and riches,
onion for the tears I do not shed,
and potatoes for the earth
we all rise from, we all fall to.

– PF Anderson, written sometime between 1984 and 1988.

White Alyssum (Temple of Flowers)

i. in the bleak midwinter

Midwinter calls a longing for midsummer, midsummer
and midwinter tangling in the mind, unified by white,
white pictures, white noise — whispering snow in the whistling air

or shifting wisps on the ground, white alyssum hiding in
dark corners, petals as small as snowflakes; the sharp clear scent
of burning cold as sweet in its own way as that of white

alyssum (aroma penetrates into open space
misleading hunters, a masquerade, camouflage, this scent
so far from the source that the small bloom beneath is not found).

ii. frosty wind made moan

We all turned our coat collars against the wind, and huddled
together in the corner of the yard nearest the street,
hands as deep in our pockets as they could go, stomping on

the hard crust of the snow. One of the littlest tugged at
my sleeve. “I’m cold. I want to go in. Can’t we go in yet?”
I shivered, but looked at the house warily. They all hushed.

I could hear the cries still coming from the house — guttural,
high, thin, notes with crisp attacks and long decays. “No, not yet.”
No complaints. They just shivered, turned their backs to where we lived.

iii. earth stood hard as iron

“I’m so lucky,” she said lightly, in the kitchen only
a few days later. Her hands were swollen almost double,
mottled white and purple like shadows or dark leaves among

pale blossoms. Somehow she managed to wash dishes just fine.
“This happened just at break. Now I have a few weeks to heal.
I could never play piano like this.” The implied sound of

“Mazurka in D” threaded through silence as if it was
far away, as if sound was a scent fading as someone
passed by before deeper memory stirred to words, or questions.

iv. water like a stone

Even in the chill rebuke of silence, scent lingers — sweet,
elusive, persistent. The mind tangles cold with sweetness;
water freezes with waves in place. As blossoms fade and curl

under, new blooms push through to the top of the stalk, each new
cluster crowns as the old crown lets go and falls to the ground,
a supply of scent that seems as infinite as shark’s teeth.

Scent insists there was a moment beyond longing, hunger;
a moment floating in still waters like sound with lapping
and shivering dispersed into surrounding water, air.

– PF Anderson, sometime in 2004-2005

Myelin

Curling into a cocoon
of butter or fur.
Soft.
Forget myelin is the skin
of my numb brain—
when it itches,
feel it everywhere
but where it is.

Myelin Challenge Poem

– PF Anderson, June 3, 2010

This poem was written in response to a challenge from the @MyelinRepairFdn on Twitter.

Amnesia Poem

“The earth hath bubbles, as the water has,
And these are of them. Whither are they vanish’d?
Into the air; and what seem’d corporal melted
As breath into the wind. Would they had stay’d!”
Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 1, Scene III.

i.
Electricity, air, eyes, the heart, love —
all those things you take for granted
and don’t even notice until they fail.
Invisibility is a kind of trust, you know.
The act of remembrance is such a default —
we are entirely unaware
of its physical sensations, the body-feel
of remembering. Swift as skiing
down a mountainside on a sunny day;
familiar as coming home at the end
of a busy day, distracted with musing —
a path you know and will follow
even with inattention. Around a sharp bend
there was a rockslide. Before you notice,
there is no path beneath your skis,
you are suspended in midair
and there is no other side to this gap.
You are falling even before you panic.

ii.
Lucky you! That mental bungee cord
snaps you hard back against the wall
of the memories that have not eroded.
Here’s the way it works: find the gap, and snap,
even as your heart starts its battering ram
against your ribs, and your lungs suck air
as if the fast wind of your fall
is pulling the very breath right out of you.

iii.
No one around you sees that you
are suffocating. You don’t know it,
but you are standing perfectly still,
not cascading brokenly down a cliff.
You don’t know it, but you are leaning
against the nearest wall, clutching
a nearby chair or table edge — anything
solid — with a white-knuckled grip.
You hear the wind whistling past your ears
at high speed for hours, but really
it is only a few seconds before you
breathe, before your eyes focus
on those around you, smiling and saying,
“Sorry about that. Dizzy spell. Where were we?”

iv.
Boiling cranberries for sauce, they pop
and gurgle, but more and more slowly. Or soup,
really stew, hearty and thick, the bubbles
barely reaching the surface and not so much
popping as stretching slowly flatter and
flatter, thin and distorted, until they blend
into the surface tension without truly
disturbing it. Or a deep mud puddle after
a child in frantic almost-happiness
has a seizure of stomping, then stops, suddenly,
with a wild-eyed rictus of pleasure, frozen
feeling the bubbles tickle up their arch and ankles
until they reach the surface and pop, or not,
subsiding once again into the gummy depths. This
setting the child off again into another fit
of puddling, smashing all the bubbles down.
Or hives swelling minisculely up under the skin,
itching faintly and then furiously, but still
distantly enough that surprise is the result of
a distracted scratch that brings away blood.
The brain has bubbles, as the water has,
but slow enough to glide, and push away.

– PF Anderson, October-November 2006